because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Coming Clean About My Age

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My birthday is coming up, y’all.

Yup, this summer girl was born in November.

You know what that means.

Yes, my parents got busy around Valentine’s Day.

But it also means this year I turn 55.

Whaaat?

Well, kind of.

Lucille Ball once said:

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”

How much do I Love Lucy?

Here’s the 411.

When I first started teaching, I was just a few years older than some of my 12th grade students!

When I introduced myself, I made a point of tacking on a few extra years.

I said I was 25.

(Seven extra years seemed like the right amount of padding.)

When I moved to New Orleans, I maintained this tradition. I felt I needed the cushion, so parents would nod and smile instead of raise disapproving eyebrows. Also, so my students would believe I was seasoned and complete my assignments without giving me grief.

I never lied to my employers. The Headmaster and English Department Chair at Metairie Park Country day School knew precisely how green old I was when I was hired.

This year, I realized I’ve been in my 40’s for nearly twenty years.

And that made me remember my grandmother who told people she was 29.

For decades.

After she stopped wearing wigs and wore her thinning hair in loose ponytails wrapped in twine, she was 29. After her eyes dulled and her skin wrinkled, she was 29. After her toenails yellowed and her remaining teeth fell out of her mouth, she was 29.

It was ridiculous.

No-one bought it. It was silly and a little pitiful.

I vowed to go the other way.

So I padded.

This year, I could tell people that I’m 55.

Because if you tack on five extra years…well, I look pretty good for 55, right?

And yet.

I feel I’ve kind of caught up with myself.

These days, I am grateful for this body that continues to get me where it needs to go – even if I sometimes have headaches and get dizzy and fall down. I am grateful for my eyes, which still appreciate all the beauty around me – even if the view is a little blurry. I’ll never have pretty model’s hands, but I have four fingers that help me to tap out what I want to say. Fingers that help me punch buttons on the phone to speak to old friends and new. Fingers that are attached to hands that reach out to offer assistance, to squeeze shoulders. Hands that are attached to arms which can swallow people up in hugs. And even if my vocal cords are toasted, I realized I have these things called ears that work really well, too.

So the jig is up.

Lucy, we’re back to living honestly.

Tomorrow, I’ll be 50 years old.

Right where I’m supposed to be.

A daughter.

A sister.

A mother.

A friend.

An artist, writer & teacher.

A contestant on Survivor.

Just kidding about Survivor.

But a girl can hold onto her dreams, right?

Have you ever lied about your age? How are you doing with this growing older thing? 

I’m Going to Be on SURVIVOR!

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Sorry, I didn’t mean to trick you.

But I am going to be on SURVIVOR.

Eventually.

You know, probably.

Because I tried out to be a contestant on SURVIVOR.

Again.

This time auditions were held just 20 minutes away, right outside of Rochester, New York.

{So, of course, I’m thinking this is mine. Because, seriously, why would CBS come to Rochester to hold a casting call if they weren’t there to get me, right?}

I assume there would be thousands of people camped out, waiting for registration, which was scheduled to begin at 11 AM.

In anticipation of looooong lines, I get up early, eat a healthy breakfast, gather up a the necessary provisions – snacks and water — fill up my gas tank, and make the easy drive to Victor. I assume parking will be difficult, so I wear my sneakers. I’m prepared to go the distance.

You can imagine my surprise when I see the short line of people ahead of me.

Like ridiculously short.

The line at 9:30 AM. Super short.

Pulling into the lot, I learn I’ve arrived early enough to be able to park in the lot adjacent to the filming location. When they count us out, I’m #67, one of my favorite numbers.

{You know, ‘cuz I was born in 1967. Confirmation that the Universe is working for me.}

I go to the back of the line where I meet a couple that had driven in from Little Falls, New York (about four hours away), a pharmacy technician named Mindy, a prison guard named CJ , a flaky millennial who has never seen a single a episode of the show before, and some dude who has tried out about 17 times.

“When I have to go to the bathroom, will you guys save my place?” the bearded millennial asks.

We quickly form an alliance and agree to help each other out.

There isn’t much to tell.

The lines get longer.

By noon, there are probably a thousand people waiting to audition. Maybe more.

I wait 2 and ½ hours before being moved into a garage, where I wait some more. There is a nice breeze and a cardboard cutout of Jeff Probst.

Eventually, I make it inside where I hand in my release waiver, stating I allow CBS to use my likeness on social media – or for whatever purpose they like. I provide my phone number and email address.

After that, we go back outside to another area of the garage and, after another wait, we walk back inside. Some of us stand; some of us sit in blue office chairs.

This is the first moment where I start to think about what I will say. I know I have just ONE minute to make my pitch. There is no panel. Just me and a twenty-something wearing trendy thick black glasses.

This is a summary of what I believe I said. Obviously, I was nowhere near this clear or succinct. I did my best to stand in front of the camera and smile and laugh and act natural.

In August of 1999, I saw a trailer for a new show called SURVIVOR, and I was immediately interested: a show like that was right up my alley – physical competition paired with emotional challenges and a social game? Sign me up.

Then I looked down at my ankles, which were super puffy because I was super pregnant (due to deliver any day), and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate for a long time. I promised myself that if the show was still on the air when my kid graduated from high school, I was going to try out again.

So here we are, nearly 18 years later. I’ve never missed an episode and I’m making good on my promise. A lot has happened in my life over the last 4 years. I’ve bounced back after a brain injury, which occurred after I was incorrectly weaned off a prescription medication. There’s more to tell, of course – and you’ll have to call me back to Los Angeles if you want to learn more. Suffice it to say I’m funny, flirty, and fit. As a former teacher, I’m a good communicator, which wins me points with adults and makes me relate easily to a younger generation. As far as I’m concerned, you guys came to Rochester to get me. Here I am, pick me.

Trendy black glasses holds up his hand, indicating I have 5 seconds left.

And I break out into a little dance.

{Cuz, you know, I do that.}

Before I leave, an older gentleman tells me that I’ll only receive a phone call if the producers are interested in bringing me out to Los Angeles.

{So you know, any day.}

What did you do yesterday? Or… what show would you like to be on if you didn’t have real life responsibilities?

XOXO

 

Oy Vey! The Matzah Balls!

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Looks good, right?
Looks good, right?

A few years ago, I did a crap load of cooking. I was preparing for Passover, so I was doing what Jewish mothers do — cooking up a storm. I was Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray and Betty-freaking-Crocker — except the Jewish version.

So picture frizzier hair and a bigger nose.

That year, I made 3 times as many matzah balls as I usually would, to make sure that my family would have enough to eat for the entire week. It took hours, but no big whoop, right? These are the things we do for love.

After the brisket went in and the noodle kugel was finished, I realized I didn’t have enough room in my freezer. So, I asked my kind neighbor if I could use a little space in the freezer that she keeps in her garage. She said of course.

Passover comes and so do all the guests. I’m serving the soup, and I’m like where are all my matzah balls? I look in the freezer, in the refrigerator, in the garage. It’s cold enough. I’m thinking, maybe I stashed them in the trunk of my car. Sometimes I stick things there. I look everywhere. I only have 18 matzah balls. The thing is this: that year? We have 24 people at the house. Picturing, standing in the kitchen, confused and cutting matzah balls in half.

I believe it is written in the Torah.

Thou shalt not run out of matzah balls.

But I did.

I apologized to our guests.

Time went by.

Spring came and went.

Months after the holiday ended, I was sitting on my driveway in the sun when my neighbor asked if I would like to have my matzah balls.

“Because isn’t Passover coming up?” she asked.

You guys, I didn’t even remember giving them to her.

Suddenly I was like: Should I be worried? Should I call the doctor? Do I need to check about early dementia? Seriously, how did those balls get over there? Did they roll across the street on their own?

I followed my friend into her warm garage. She opened her freezer and next to the ICEEs, there was my long-lost Tupperware container filled with frozen balls. All 9 bazillion of them.

I obsessed about forgetting those matzah balls.

And then I got sick. For 15 months, I couldn’t cook or clean or even leave my house.

I couldn’t even think about making matzah balls.

It’s been a few years since I hosted a Passover meal.

At 32 months off Klonopin, I’m doing really well. I’m grateful to be alive, grateful to feel Spring in the air, hopeful that one day I will feel even better. I know all of this is part of G-d’s plan.

And this year, I plan to enjoy someone else’s balls.

#IYKWIM.

tweet me @rasjacobson

Gingerbread House Rules: Wordless Wednesday

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We’d never decorated a gingerbread house before so we don’t know the rules.

All I know is that we decked out our house (kinda) and set it on the counter to live.

Almost immediately, chunks of gingerbread started disappearing. The base was the first to go. Then the people. The walls crumbled, and eventually we were left well…this.

The state of our gingerbread house last week.
The state of our gingerbread house last week.

Do you decorate gingerbread houses? If so, what are your rules about decorating? And eating?

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates.

tweet me @rasjacobson

4 #SoWrong Moments by Steve Warner

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SoWrong
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I stumbled on Steve from Brown Road Chronicles nearly 2 years ago when I saw a funny comment he’d left on someone else’s blog. I decided to click over and, well… that was the day I found the man I call “Cowboy.” You guys, he was singing a love song to his wife. {Or maybe it was to one of his goats. I actually can’t remember. But it was good.} I read a bunch of his essays, and I caught myself adoring this doting father and devoted husband from Michigan who tells stories about country living, old houses and dirt roads.

• • •

4 #SoWrong Moments by Steve Warner

My wife Kim and I are relatively experienced parents. We have two children, a soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter and a soon-to-be 13-year-old son. In parenting years, if the average kid moves away around 22-23 years old, I guess you could say we’ve been at it awhile. Parenting is not easy, but it’s not as hard as lots of people would have led us to believe when we started this journey.

On the other hand, we’ve had our share of mishaps and like most parents we’ve had a few #SoWrong moments along the way. We laugh about them now. Here are a few.

#1: SCARLET FEVER IS A THING.

My daughter and son have had their share of strep throat episodes. Kim has gotten so good, she can now diagnose strep throat approximately six weeks before they actually become infected. That wasn’t always the case.

It’s just Scarlet Fever. These antibiotics should help.

One of the first times our daughter had strep, being inexperienced with the whole “diagnosing your kid’s signs” thing, we kept putting off seeing a doctor, thinking “it’s just a little sore throat, it will clear up in a few days”. Eventually, our daughter developed this nasty rash all over her body and Kim took her to the pediatrician.

Later that day.

Her: Doctor says she has Scarlet Fever.

Me: SCARLET FEVER?! ISN’T THAT LIKE SOME DISEASE FROM THE MIDDLE AGES OR SOMETHING? LIKE THE BLACK PLAGUE? WE DON’T NEED TO PUT LEECHES ON HER LEGS OR ANYTHING, DO WE?

Her: Doctor says antibiotics should clear it right up… but next time to please bring her in a little sooner.

#2: KIDS ARE LIKE PARROTS

parrot
“STUPID BITS!”

When my son was a toddler, we noticed when he’d get angry with something he’d say “STUPID BITS!” When he’d try to fit the square peg in the round hole: “STUPID BITS!” When Thomas the Train went too fast around the wooden tracks and his Caboose derailed and tipped over the whole train: “STUPID BITS!” Like much of the undecipherable shit that comes out of your kid’s mouth at that age, we didn’t really think anything of it.

Until one day my wife figured it out.

Her: You know what he’s saying, don’t you? When you get mad, you say “STUPID BITCH!”

Me: C’mon, I do not.

Her: Yes, you do!

Me: Next time the mower breaks down in the middle of the yard: “STUPID BITCH!” Next time I smash my thumb with a hammer: “STUPID BITCH!

Me: Accepting Father of the Year Award…

#3: FATHERS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO SLEEP UNTIL 3:00 PM.

3pmYou know that thing… where you’re at a party and you’ve had a few drinks and someone offers you a shot? Yeah that.

You know that thing… where someone offers you another shot. Yeah that.

A few years back, this happened and I ended up throwing up all over the place in the passenger seat of my wife’s car on the ride home — with my son sitting in the back seat “taking notes.” Thankfully he was young enough to not really understand the whole episode. But the next day I was sicker than I’d felt since my college days. I woke up around 8:00 a.m. New Year’s Day, somehow managed to hose off the car mats and clean out the car, then went back to bed.

I’ve blocked out many of the memories of this night but I will always remember hearing my son from downstairs, while I was lying in bed upstairs, ask: “It’s 3:00. Why isn’t Dad up yet?!”

#4: SOMETIMES SANTA CLAUS BRINGS BOOKS ABOUT SEX.

One Christmas morning, Kim and I sat around drinking Mimosas while the kids alternated between playing with their new toys and eating candy out of their stockings.

pocketscientist
Should come with Parental Warnings

This particular year, Kim had purchased books for our kids called “Pocket Scientist.” She hadn’t read through the books; she’d glanced at them and thought they looked like good, educational, stocking stuffers. There was a Blue Book and a Red Book and they explored all kinds of stuff: dinosaurs and animals and fossils and caves and climate and rainbows and the water cycle and trash and the environment and machines and rocks.

As we still had at least one “believer,” we labeled them “FROM SANTA.”

It was quite a surprise when we learned there was a section on how babies are made! Our children giggled aloud as they read how “the mother and father cuddle each other very close and the father’s penis gets stiffer so it fits comfortably inside the mother’s vagina.” Who could’ve guessed we’d have a conversation about erections on Christmas?

Believe me, I’ve got plenty more stories like these, but I don’t want to overstay my welcome  and, frankly, I have two teenagers: another #SoWrong moment is surely just around the corner!

What #SoWrong parenting moment do you most want to forget?

tweet us at @stevetwarner & @rasjacobson

The Devil Made Me Do It: A #SoWrong Moment by Jess Witkins

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Jess Witkins is a fantastic blogging-buddy. Funny and friendly, she is honest and tells it straight. Jess is an adventurer who will do anything for a good story, as you will see today.  A glutton for all things pop culture, Jess is on a quest to listen better, learn better, write better, love better, and sleep better. Check her out at The Happiness Project. Follow her on Twitter at @JessWitkins.  Thank you for being here today, Jess. xo

SoWrong
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The Devil Made Me Do It by Jess Witkins

What you need to know is that I came crashing into the party on a Friday night fish fry just before my parents’ 40th birthdays.

They already had a family.

They weren’t planning on doing the diaper thing again.

Because I grew up surrounded by people much older than me, I’m mature for my age. I got A’s in school, graduated college, found a well-paying job, and I pay my own bills!

I am a picture-perfect citizen.

One would assume I have control over my bowels.

Let me explain. My boyfriend and I take a vacation together each summer. We’ve traveled to Portland, Oregon and eaten Voodoo Donuts; we’ve visited Toronto, Ontario and viewed the skyline from the CN Tower. Last summer, we decided to take a road trip out west. Starting in the Badlands, we made our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a fabulous trip.

Except for the day we toured Devil’s Tower.

That August day, the temperatures climbed into the 90’s. Being a mature adult, I was prepared! I packed and wore sunscreen. I drank water all morning. I used the bathroom before we left.

It didn’t matter.

DSCF0717
This is Devil’s Tower.

We started our hike around the base of the tower. We weren’t too far in when I felt something rumbling in my gut. We sat on a bench for a minute, enjoying the view.  I considered telling my boyfriend to go on ahead so I could quick run back to the bathroom.

That’s what I should’ve done.

But nah, the pain went away, and I figured I could hold it.

DSCF0724
Jess wearing sunscreen & sporting water like a responsible adult.

It became crystal clear, halfway around the tower, that my mind and body were not at peace. In fact, they were in deep negotiation. And things were getting heated.

When the cramping got so bad that I had to sit down again, I started weighing my options.

You see, I couldn’t skulk off somewhere: there were other hikers. One poor unsuspecting family was giving their children piggy back rides nearby. I couldn’t take a crap behind a tree, they’d see me! It was either stay on the bench and breathe or walk right over the cliff behind us.

I wish I’d chosen the cliff.

Because that’s when I pooped my pants.

The worst part was telling my boyfriend what had happened. How would he ever look at me with any sense of romance or mystery again? I consider myself a dignified person. But I’d just crapped my pants. In public. And we still needed to hike halfway around Devil’s Tower.

Nothing will ever compare to the cold, wet, mall-walker sprint that I made during my descent from Devil’s Tower. And my boyfriend, wonderful man that he is, tried to cheer me up on our journey.

“You’re almost there! You’re doing good! On the bright side, I don’t smell anything!” he shouted.

Making my way to the crowded public bathroom, I took note of the collateral damage. Well, the underwear was a goner. It didn’t stand a chance, really. I was just lucky I wore full coverage cotton panties that day and not a thong.

I shimmied out of my undies, wrapped my soiled mess in TP, and dumped everything in the plastic bin where women leave their unmentionables. Then I said a little prayer for the park custodian, cleaned myself up, and walked back to the car.

So the moral of the story, kids, is sometimes even the best of adults crap their pants. Oh, and always bring an extra pair of clean underwear when traveling.

Or, you know, a diaper.

Has this ever happened to you? Of course I don’t mean YOU, but someone you know right? Besides me and Al Roker? Huh?

 tweet us @rasjacobson & @jesswitkins

NOTE: The winner of the GoGoSqueeZ giveaway is Brown Road Chronicles! Congratulations Steve! Send me your mailing address within the next 48 hours!

Don’t Lick The Minivan: A Review and #Giveaway

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Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 1.14.19 PM

When my son was an infant, I knew I was doing everything wrong.

I was sure of it.

Looking around, I saw smiling mommies bouncing quiet babies on their knees.

Meanwhile, I had The Screaming One.

I was failing Motherhood-101, and I had no one to confide in.

Leanne Shirtliffe’s book Don’t Lick The Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say To My Kids has hit the stores, and — boy oh boy — do I wish I had it 13 years ago.

While living abroad in Thailand, Leanne gave birth to twins, William and Vivian. After a bit of a rocky start, Leanne found the babies (she lost them on the way home from the hospital), the right nursing bra (not so easy in a country where boobies are slightly less bodacious than ripe Canadian ta-tas), and she started to find funny everywhere.

You know those days when you’re feeling like you’re the world’s suckiest parent with rotten-good-for-nothing kids?

Leanne teaches us to find humor in those low moments.

She tells us how:

  • Her husband left the babies with drunken strangers. (Sorry to throw you under the tuk-tuk, Chris.)
  • William liked to pee. Everywhere. On everything.
  • Vivian drew on the dining room table. Using a Sharpie. (The permanent kind.)
  • The twins carved their names into her minivan’s paint…with rocks.

She sucks at crafts.

She’s anti-glitter.

She let her son sleep next to a turd.

Leanne has this way of making us see the humor in the exchanges we have with our kids. When you are suffering through life’s most unfunny moments, remember we are all partners in this ordinary, extraordinary thing: raising tiny humans. And Leanne? She reminds us it’s okay to laugh with them – as well as at them.

Because Leanne is yummypickles, one person is going to be able to win a copy of Don’t Lick The Minivan.

What do you have to do to win?

Leave me a comment telling me a naughty thing you did as a child that you thought was hilarious OR tell me something naughty that one (or more) of your kids did that was heinous at the time, but you can look back at now and laugh. Kind of.

Can’t wait to win a contest? Buy Don’t Lick the Minivan on Amazon.

Buy Don’t Lick the Minivan at Barnes & Noble 

They even have an audible version. Listen to the sample.

tweet us @rasjacobson & @lshirtliffe

NOTE: This contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only. Random Number Generator will be helping me on this one. One winner will be announced on my blog on May 27th. If that person doesn’t contact me within 24 hours, I’ll select another winner. Don’t be that turd.

• • •

Ain't she cute?
Ain’t she cute?

Leanne Shirtliffe’s book, Don’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to my Kids, has received glowing endorsements from Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Jill Smokler (Scary Mommy), Kirkus Review, and others. When she’s not stopping her eight-year-old twins from licking frozen flagpoles, Leanne keeps a blog at ironicmom.com and teaches English to teenagers who are slightly less hormonal than she is. Follow her on Twitter at @lshirtliffe.

NOTE: Michelle from Steadily Skipping Stones recorded a fun interview video with Leanne on her blog! When you are done reading this post, click HERE to hear Leanne answer silly and serious questions from her fans.

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!”

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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

challenge106I’m linking up with Yeah Write, a wonderful community of supportive and talented writers. If you’d like to click on the badge, you will be magically transported there. You might even consider submitting your own piece — under 600 words.

 

My Sleeping Bag Coat

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When I moved to Rochester from New Orleans in 1995, the sunflowers in my backyard turned their yellow heads to face a blue, cloudless sky. That fall, the leaves on the maple trees turned red and yellow and brown and fell at our feet, but the sun stuck around. One October weekend, my husband and I hopped in his car to scout out a grape festival. Everyone kept saying how unseasonably warm it was. We hardly heard them as we scooped gobs of pie directly out of the tin and into our mouths. Standing there in our short sleeves, it seemed the warm weather would never end. Clearly, moving to Western, New York had been a delicious choice.

One October afternoon, a friend came to help me unpack the last of my boxes.

“Where are your coats?” she asked.

After five years in New Orleans, I didn’t have many. I held up my denim jacket, a green raincoat, and a few sweaters.

She shook her head. “You’d better get a good coat. Fast.”

But I ignored her. Because what did she know? Everything was so cozy in our apartment, and the afternoon light never stopped streaming through the stained glass windows of our apartment.

And then it happened.

One morning, I went outside to find everything blanketed in white. Shivering, I brushed off the windshield and hopped inside to turn on the heat. And after work, I drove directly to the nearest mall to buy my first sleeping bag coat.

Let’s be clear. My sleeping bag coat isn’t pretty. It isn’t fashion forward. But once the temperatures fall below 40 degrees, I am never without it. Black and puffy and filled with down, I wear it all the time. While I make breakfast. While I do the dishes. While I run errands.

I have even slept in my sleeping bag coat. Several years ago, we had a major ice storm. Trees cracked and power lines went down. People lost power for over a week. It was mid-April, and I could see my breath in my house.

Recently, I realized sleeping bag coats are kind of a Rochester thing.

Everywhere I go, there they are.

In the grocery store.

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 In a restaurant.

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Out for a walk.

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At Target.

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At the pharmacy counter.

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And again at the pharmacy.

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I know some ladies will argue that fashion should always come first. In my experience, these women are usually in their 20s. They often live in warm weather climates and wear bikinis with 5” hoochie-mamma heels.

In Rochester, we have to be pragmatic.

Because when it is cold for nearly six months of the year, we have to wear boots.

And hats. And scarves. And mittens.

We do the best we can.

We really do.

Cut us some slack.

Eventually it will stop snowing. The daffodils and tulips will dare to poke their heads out of the cold hard earth, and the trees will decide to sprout leaves. Things will green up. The thermometer will register above 60 degrees. Then, and only then, will I dare to step out of my sleeping bag coat.

What is the signature look in your neck of the woods?

I’m linking up with the fabulous folks at Yeah Write. Click on the hat to read good stuff from other peeps.

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tweet me @rasjacobson.com

The Annual De-Gift and Re-Gift Party

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Some of you might remember the Seinfeld episode where Tim Whattley re-gifts a label maker that Elaine Benes has given him. That dang thing ends up getting passed all over town. If you don’t remember, here’s a quick refresher:

Don’t remember that?

Well then surely you remember when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer accidentally lands on “The Island of Misfit Toys,” where unwanted playthings with cosmetic or physical flaws live until the island’s ruler, King Moonracer, can find homes for them?

Why am I babbling about old label makers and effed up toys?

For several years now, the members of my neighborhood book club have gathered after the winter holidays and, in lieu of discussing a book, each of us brings one gift that is so freaking craptastic we just have to get it out of the house.

And give it to someone else.

You know, because one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

Last night was our Annual De-Gift & Re-Gift Party.

After everyone ate their fill of yummy nom-noms and slurped down some wine, our host told us it was time to get to it. We circled her coffee table where all the bags of horror sat sagging in their repurposed wrapping paper. The rules for this year’s swap were quickly established.

Same as last year.

  • We would go in numeric order.
  • When it was someone’s turn to pick, that person could either select a new gift or steal a gift that had already been opened.
  • Once an item had been swapped three times, that item could no longer be stolen.
  • Don’t leave unwanted gifts at the host’s house. Or else.

Our host handed us numbers that she had scribbled on slips of yellow paper. I must have been born under a star or something because I got the highest number, which meant that I was going to see most, if not all, of the goods that came before it would be my turn to pick, thus ensuring my victory would be sweet.

Here’s how it went down.

Kate went first. Reaching into her bag, she revealed two pairs of holiday socks and the windshield scraper Santa might use on his car. You know, if he didn’t have a garage and the reindeer were tired, and Mrs. Claus needed to pick up a few items from Bed, Bath & Beyond up there at the North Pole.

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After she showed everyone her goods, Kate burst into laughter and confessed that she’d picked the gift she’d tried to dump on us brought to the table last year. Like the mythical holiday fruitcake, Kate’s bag o’crap had returned to her.

Bonnie wound up with some fabulous sunglasses and other sundry items. Every single item in her bag was solid gold. Unfortunately, they cannot be shown here. (Look, I am not a fool. And I know not to look one particular gift horse in the mouth.)

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Liz unwrapped a frog ring, which broke the instant she put it on her finger. But she also got the Wine Bottle Sock Monkey, which she assured us would make a great puppet for her sons to play with.

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Cindy #1 took home the enormous cranberry scented candle that thought it was a lamp. Seriously, check out that shade. The thing weighed eleventy-six tons. Look how excited Cindy is!

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Cindy #2 scored a pair of faux-gold earrings circa 1986. And look! She’s set for Valentine’s Day with the Spin-The-Bottle-Button.

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Lori got the Garden Gnome Salt & Pepper Shakers. I know that someone out there would love these. But probably not Lori.

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You cannot really appreciate the bedazzled, super glittery handles on the faboo 4-piece cheese spreader set that Mary Jo landed. At first, we thought the handles were filled with Goldschlager. But no. Everyone agreed the spreaders were very functional and stabby.

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Theresa selected a well-endowed snowman whose nether region consisted of three different color candles. When this fact was called to everyone’s attention, the embarrassed snowman promptly lost a leg. (Look at the poor snowman’s face!)

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I peed in my pants a little when I won the box of Whitman’s chocolates. I told you my ending was sweet! That’s called punny foreshadowing, people.

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No matter what we tossed in the donations pile brought home last night, we were all winners because caring is sharing. No. Because each time the members of book club get together, we learn more about each other. Once, I Tricked My Book Club Into Writing. (They forgave me.) So whether we yadda yadda yadda about books, share life lessons, or trade playthings from “The Island of Misfit Toys,” it is always a delight. I am blessed to have these women as neighbors and plan to enjoy our ever-evolving reindeer games for a long time.

Anyone else have non-book-related book-club traditions? What else do you do in your book club besides drink wine talk books?

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