because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Putting All Our Houses in Order

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Tomorrow, the person formerly known as TechSupport (formerly known as Monkey) will be graduating from high school. For about a week, he’s been furiously packing up his belongings to get ready to go to summer camp again this summer.

Except this time, he’s not just packing for camp.

This time he’s boxing up all this belongings because while he is working as a counselor, his childhood home will be sold to another family. This summer, after he says goodbye to his friends and his campers, he will have only a few days to eat, sleep, shower and do laundry before he has to turn it around and head off to college, six hours away, in another state.

At the same time, his father is renovating a new house. (Like our son, he has to figure out where to put all of his things because his place isn’t ready yet.) I’m not quite settled yet either, having to figure out where my remaining boxes of stuff can live since I don’t have room for them in my apartment.

We are all, each of us, scrambling to put our houses in order, literally shuffling around the physical things we accumulate during our lives. Being scattered all over the place feels terrible because without order, one cannot find peace.

In addition to dealing with the physical stuff, yesterday I had to deal with another mess.

I had to put my big girl panties on and do what is right for me.

It involved long lines and metal detectors, hours of waiting in uncomfortable chairs and piles of paperwork.

It involved telling my truth, which I know means forcing someone else into an uncomfortable reality.

It involved putting up boundaries and getting my psychological house in order, people.

Because without order, there can be no peace.

(i know. it’s about time, right?) 

In 2 Kings 20:1, it is written: “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah, the prophet came to him and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’”

I’m almost on the other side of some very dark days.

For a while there, things were way out of balance.

I lost my purpose, my way, my self.

I almost died, twice.

But I’ve come back with a vengeance to fulfill my purpose on this planet.

I hope my son knows that – just as my parents before me and their parents before them – I have done my absolute best to give him what he needs to put his own house in order, that he may always find a balance between logic and emotion, passion and calm, body and mind. (And if he ever needs a reminder, he can look HERE.)

• • •

And speaking of celebrations: Today marks my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary. I feel fortunate to get to watch these two navigate their ship thru calm and stormy waters.  They live by their own guiding principles, their own sense of order, and they are at peace in the sea of love. Tomorrow, the three of us will smile and cheer as my son, their grandson, graduates with Honors. I’m lucky that my parents continue to show up for me, to sit beside me and support me, even when I make mistakes. (And believe me, I’ve made some doozies over the last 9 months.) I hope you enjoy this video I made for them days before their 50th anniversary, one month before I became sick as a result of the treatment of and the withdrawal from a dangerous anti-anxiety drug I had been prescribed.)

Like my writing? Read more of it on My Patreon Page For $1 month, you can read the first draft of my memoir about what brought me to benzodiazepines, what my life was life while on them, during withdrawal and now. You will also see content that is not available anywhere else.

Many Happy Returns Of The Day

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Today is my parents’ anniversary. They’ve been married for 52 years, and they still really enjoy each other’s company. This is a video that I meant to share on my blog shortly after they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to make it live. Better late than never, right? Please join me today in wishing my parents continued joy, love and acceptance. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.

The Purrrr-fect Gift

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The dog formerly known as Mojo, 2009

In 2009, around this time of year, we got a dog. The world was white and unbearably cold, and getting a pet seemed like a wonderful idea. We were dogless and surrounded on all sides by barky-barkers. We figured, how hard could it be, if everyone has them? Hubby researched carefully, making sure to find a breed that would be a good fit for our family.

Looking back now, it probably wasn’t the best time to read Marley and Me. I was nervous about lineage and more than a little anxious about making sure to pick the right dog from the litter.

In the back of my mind, I remembered how my friend Cindy had brought home two freaky Wheatland terriers, and she hated them. Hated. Them.

“Do they smell? I feel like they smell,” she kept asking.

I swear she lost 10 pounds in the few days she had those dogs, and they quickly went back to the breeder.

I told my family I was nervous about our decision to get a dog. I told them I’d never had a dog, that I didn’t really want a dog, but my husband and son promised they would help with everything. They would pick up the dog poo every day. They would feed the dog. They would change the water. They would play with the dog. I wouldn’t have to do anything except enjoy the  dog.

I know people love their doggies like family, but I kept thinking of them as eternal babies, and I couldn’t figure out how we would ever be able to take a spontaneous day trip ever again. Everyone kept telling me I was just nervous about the unknown. I don’t think that was it at all. In fact, I think I knew exactly the right amount.

What I knew was that I didn’t want a dog. I just wasn’t great at vocalizing my truth because I didn’t want to upset everyone.

Eventually, I did though. And yes, everyone was upset. But I knew that as mom, ultimately I would be the one who would have to care for the family pet. The truth was I’d wanted a cat for my entire life, but Hubby was allergic, so I figured the whole cat thing was never going to happen.

Fast forward 4 years. Almost to the day. Hubby called to say he’d been to a breeder, someone who specialized in hypoallergenic Siberians.

Oh no, I thought. We’re talking about dogs again.

But we weren’t talking about dogs at all.

Hubby had been looking at cats.

He'd been looking at this guy.
He’d been looking at this guy.

He wanted me to go with him to see the latest litter.

“But you’re allergies…” I stammered.

They say good things come to those who wait.

And in our case, our good thing showed up as a tiny, white, long-haired kitten. He was purr-fectly perfect in every way. He loved to be cuddled and held and hugged — and he always went in his litter box, so none of us had to go outside in the bitter chill of winter. Mo loved to chase wadded up balls of paper and string. He seemed to love us, and we all fell in love with him.

One year later, Mo greets us each morning with emphatic meows; an exquisite snuggler, he pushes his head against our hands to let us know he’s in the mood for attention. He gazes into our eyes, plays tag, and soothes us with his purr. This boy gets lots of love.

Mo hanging out on a favorite chair.
Mo, 1 year old.

We are truly fortunate to have Mo as a member of our family.

If you’ve always wanted a cat, but you’re concerned about allergies, look into Siberians. And check out our breeders’ website HERE. Laurie knows what she’s doing!

How did your pet become a member of the family?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Moving Beyond Where I’m From

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The place I grew up. My parents still live there.

i’m from a little gray ranch hidden behind overgrown bushes on a steep hill.

i’m from beneath the willow tree and a field-stone wall, peopled by imaginary friends.

i’m from high expectations. from complex equations left unfinished on the backs of paper restaurant menus; from pink plastic flowers; a bedroom with curtains that matched the wallpaper and the bedspread.

i’m from praise whispered in one ear and criticism hissed in the other. from “stand up straight” and “every penny counts” and “be a big girl.”

i’m from confuzzled truths and secrets and lies.

i’m from strong Judaism watered down. from Torah and tallit and kippot, lox and bagels, noodle kugel and matzah ball soup. from a broken Borscht Belt, stories of what once was, memories of a dark pew in a fire-bombed synagogue.

i’m from want. from a hot-headed Polish Papa who once threw his plate on the apartment floor. from his ketchup and eggs, like bloody clumps soaking into the carpet. and my Nan who silently cleaned up his mess.

(don’t tell me this isn’t true. i was there.)

i’m from a fractured family of brothers who tried to make a business work. from Muriel who nurtured her garden but didn’t do as well with her children. from Ruby who spent too many hours at the store and on the golf course, and smoked too many cigars.

i’m from cracked paint and faded couches; the girl hiding under a blanket in a drafty room.

i’m from a crooked house on a steep hill that rarely houses guests. from parents who were present but also not. from powerful magic love that made me feel invisible.

for too long a sense of obligation tethered me to all that grey.

i am done trying to please them.

time to take care of me.

Where are you from? Throw me one line.

• • •

This meme was very hot a while back, but I was not confident about sharing such a personal piece. Since then, I feel less afraid.

Thanks to Jenny Hansen for encouraging me to move beyond the first sentences and to Sharla Lovelace for inspiring Jenny. If you go to HERE, you will see this exercise is based on a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From,” and if you’d like to try it yourself, the original link is there.

Friday Dance Party: A Birthday Dance For Dad

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For as long as I can remember, my father has sent me a birthday limerick. These poems are never naughty (because that would be creepy), but they definitely rhyme – and I always get a kick out of them.

My father’s birthday falls just a few weeks after mine.

This year I’ve decided I’m tired of giving him pajamas.

This year I’m feeling more creative.

So I’m giving him a dance.

(Not that kind of dance. That would be creepy.)

Let me explain.

Growing up, I remember my father singing two songs. The first is called “A Song of Safety.” Actually, I don’t know what the song is called. That’s just what I call it. Somebody must’ve created a public service announcement for children back in the day to make sure they weren’t crushed by cars. You know, “Always use the crosswalk and look from left to right” that kind of stuff. Because my father used to sing this wacky song me, I know all the words in the first stanza.  I don’t even know if there is a second stanza.

Anyhoo, I scoured the Internet in an effort to find this song, but absolutely nothing came up.

And we all know if it’s not on the Internet, it isn’t real.

The second song I remember my father singing to is the one I’m featuring today.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.01.15 AM
Click on my nose to see me dance.

Happy B’day, Dad.

Hope you enjoy the song and my dance of appreciation and adoration.

And my big ole mane of hair.

What are some of your favorite birthday traditions? 

tweet me @rasjacobson

Wordless Wednesday: My Kitty Cat

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Could there be a more gorgeous cat?

Like a doting puppy, our Siberian waits at the door when he hears the garage door buzz. Mo joins us in bed for morning snuggles, and he kneads my tummy with his chubby paws. Mo plays with traditional toys, but there’s obviously nothing better than a box or a bag or a tray or a battery. He eats his kibble, but he really appreciates a rogue piece of raw chicken or shrimp.

Growing up essentially pet-less (besides a couple of goldfish and that one gerbil), I can tell you that I’ve never known anything like the pure, uncomplicated love that I have for my Mo-Mo.

I mean seriously. Look at dat face?

Tell me about one of your beloved non-human family members. If you have a link to a photo/video/painting, please feel free to include it!

tweet me @rasjacobson

PS: There’s still time to win an original piece of art. Interested? Click HERE.

The Gift of Magic To My Son Away at Summer Camp

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It’s Tech’s birthday. He’s 14 years old today.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know, he’s not home.

He’s at summer camp.

I wasn’t planning to write today, but my sister-in-law happened to be at camp earlier this week when she unexpectedly ran into our son. Knowing she had only a few minutes to chat, she asked him to tell her what he wanted for his birthday. He shrugged and he said something like “I don’t want anything. The two things I want my parents are already getting me.”

This was my response:

1

Because I had no idea.

Also, I had no plan to send anything to Tech for his birthday.

I knew from his previous summers at camp that Marilyn, the chef, would make him a chocolate cake to share with the other kids in his bunk.

I figured that was enough yummy frosted birthday goodness.

I asked my sister-in-law if she knew what Tech was talking about.

2

I couldn’t help it. I called the camp and asked the assistant director to see if she could squeeze some information out of our kid.

A few hours later, I received a text message.

Rhonda note

Poor thing. To her ears, it must have sounded like my kid was speaking in tongues. I can imagine Tech waving his long arms and yammering about “life points” and “damage” and “mana”.

The boy who graduated from LEGO to Minecraft has a new addiction: Magic: The Gathering.

From what I understand, Magic is a card game that involves battles between wizards (“planeswalkers”) who use spells, items and creatures depicted on the cards to defeat their opponents.

Or something.

Apparently, Magic appeals to math lovers. And it involves more complex rules than most other card games.

Why am I not surprised?

Of course my kid would love a game with tons of rules.

My kid loves rules.

And he loves math.

Duh.

I can’t believe the game hasn’t been featured on The Big Bang Theory yet.

It’s that nerdy.

All I know is when we walked into Millennium Games and Cyberstorm Lounge last night (the equivalent of the comic store where Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj hang out), Hubby and I were the only people without pierced septae.

{septae? that looks weird. but you know what i mean, right?} 

Anyway, we were painfully uncool.

{or possibly we were the coolest people in the room}

Because we were 100% illiterate when it came to Magic.

The others?

Knew. Everything.

Wall of Magic Cards in Henrietta, New York
Wall of Magic Cards in Henrietta, New York

Luckily, the kind (and uber patient) people at Millennium Games were more than happy to school us.

Thanks to them, I now know:

  • Magic was introduced in 1994
  • Some playing cards sell for as much as $3,100
  • This year’s Magic tournament held in Las Vegas hosted over 4,500 players with $40,000 going to the top player
  • About 12 million geeks people play Magic worldwide

So.

Our package is en route to our son. He’ll get it later today.

Tech rarely asks for anything.

{which is probably why I jump when I hear there’s something he wants}

More than anything, I hope my son’s friends make him feel special today. Maybe the staff will sing to him over the PA system and make him skip around the room.

{twice}

Hopefully, he’ll have chocolate cake with his bunkmates.

And hopefully, our kid will kick butt with his lightly played Chandra the Firebrand card.

{whatever that is}

What unusual gift requests have you made/received?

tweet me @rasjacobson

This post was not sponsored; however, I imagine I’m going to be spending a lot of money at Millennium Games over the next few years, so if they’d like to offer me a discount, I wouldn’t complain.

Mid-Summer Sunday Report

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Two weeks ago, Hubby and I attended Visitor’s Day at our son’s camp. Eager to see us, Tech waved his long arm at us as we approached his village. After he introduced us to his counselors, showed us his bed, and shoved the treats we’d brought into his trunk for safekeeping, we went for a walk. As we strolled, Tech explained that a bunch of campers had been temporarily quarantined because they all had bumpy rashes on their torsos.

Tech stopped in the middle of the road and pulled up his shirt. “Check it out,” he said, pointing to his midriff.

Hubby inspected the boy’s belly.

“Looks like heat rash,” I said dismissively.

“But it could be something,” Hubby said.

“The Health Department let us go,” Tech said.

“The Health Department was here?” Hubby and I said in stereo.

Rolling his shirt back down, our son resumed walking down the road. “They said it was nothing. The nurse told us we could go back to our bunks.”

Despite the fact that Tech seemed fine, I found myself arranging for him to have a throat culture.

As you can imagine, the Health Department was right.

All’s well that ends well, yes?

At noon, the boy came home for intersession: a few days where folks go home and drink and sleep and do laundry before returning to camp for the remaining three weeks. It’s a LoveFest over here.

And by that I mean, the boy is loving his technology.

Once in a while, I seem to manage to get a smooch in.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 5.37.56 PM
Spotted in natural habitat.

How’s your summer going? And to those of you with kids who went to camp, what’s the word? Any weird rashes?

tweet me @rasjacobson

PS: Check out what my kid has been doing!

http://www.cslsummerblog.com/2013/07/end-of-july-2013-video.html

My Mother Was Hot Stuff

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pink&yellow
My mom & I circa 1970.

My mom was hot stuff when I was little.

She was pretty and had straight teeth.

She wore pink hoop earrings and wore floppy hats.

She did cartwheels with the girls who lived in the white house across the street.

My mother is in nearly all of my earliest childhood memories. She encouraged me to paint, explore calligraphy, and use pipe cleaners to make frogs and ladybugs. She loved when I sang and danced and rode horses and did backflips off the diving board. 

When I was sick, my mother brought the black-and-white television into my bedroom along with a little bell, which she told me to ring if I needed anything. On those miserable days, I watched My Three Sons and The Don Ho Show until my mother emerged with green medicine and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup served on a swirly green and blue plastic tray.

One day, I didn’t want to be my mother’s twin anymore.

Pink and yellow were not my colors.

I remember shouting and slamming doors: the tears.

I saw my mother throw her hands up, exhausted, not knowing what else to do.

I felt powerful then. Driving her to pain and chaos was fun.

Now that I have a teenager in the house, I want to tell my mother, I’m sorry. Because I see how precious it is, that time when our children are young. And what a gift it is, to let a mother hold on to the little things for another day, another year.

Because it hurts when our children reject our cuddles.

Because it was cruel to play with her heart.

Even when I didn’t give her any credit, my mother has remained steadfast, guiding me with an invisible hand.

She still is.

I suspect she always will be.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Hey mom, you have two good hands. And from the looks of this photo, you knew how to style your own hair. Do you think you could have done something with mine? Seriously. Also, if you still have that hat, can I have borrow it? xoxoRASJ

Tell me something you remember about your mother.

tweet me @rasjacobson

When Vacation Lowlights Become Highlights

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florida

The other night, I asked my son to tell me his favorite memory from our recent vacation in The Happy House. It was a good one. We swam in the pool and the ocean. We visited with neighbors and spent a day at Magic Kingdom. We planted palm trees and went bike riding. We even had a dinner party where guests came over to watch Syracuse University get crushed by the Wolverines in The Final Four.

“Sitting in my rocking chair and eating pie,” my son said.

Seriously. That was the highlight?

But then I remembered.

When my brother and I were young, we went on a family vacation to Florida with our parents. For weeks, they told us we were going to have the best vacation – ever.

After a long flight and what felt like an even longer drive, we made it to our hotel It was nighttime, and we were all exhausted, so my father left us in the car and went to check in at the front desk. After a while, he returned with a map, a compass, a walkie-talkie and a survival guide.

Not really, but it would have been nice if he’d had that stuff.

Because we walked in circles forever, trying to find The Nepa Hut.

Apparently, the clerk had given my father explicit instructions. We were supposed to walk down a path to where the crushed shells ended, take a left, then a right, being careful not to fall off the pier into the ocean. Eventually, we’d see a gecko sitting on a rock. Or something. I don’t really know.

What the guy at the front desk should have given us was a flashlight.

It was so freaking dark, we couldn’t find our damn room.

Dragging our bags behind us, we wandered back to the lighted lobby where my father confessed we were lost.

My mother must have caused a fuss because we ended up with a guide.

Once in the room, we started to unpack. Someone went to the bathroom.

I heard the flush.

And then I heard my father. “Oh no! he begged. “Omigosh! No!”

homeguides_articles_thumbs_how_to_prevent_an_overflowing_toilet.jpg.600x275_q85_crop
Click for photo credit

You guessed it. The crapper was overflowing. Water poured over the lip of the toilet, spilling onto the floor until the tiles were soaked.

Though my mother threw towels onto the tile floor, the icky water would not stop, and the carpet outside the bathroom door was soon drenched.

While my father dialed housekeeping, my mother chastised him for using too much toilet paper.

My brother and I couldn’t stop laughing. The poopie geyser in the bathroom? That was the best.

He and I danced around the ever-widening wet-spot as our father warned us to keep away from the bathroom door.

It’s one of my favorite vacation memories.

Memories are weird. If I think about it, I suppose it isn’t so much that I love the fact that our toilet overflowed. It’s more that my parents had set this expectation that our vacation was going to be totally awesome, and even when things didn’t go to plan, we found a way to make the most of it. I love the memory of all of us being together, flailing around, figuring things out, being perfectly imperfect with each other.

I suppose if my son forever remembers kicking back in a rocking chair eating a slice of raspberry pie, well, as the kids say, that’s the shit.

What is one of your weird vacation memories? What about memories involving toilets?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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