because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

The Blessing of The Ugly Casserole Dish

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NOTE: Mine was actually much uglier than this. I kinda like this retro thing.

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me.

I attended a wedding recently after which I was invited back to the family’s home and had the opportunity to see the bride and groom open some of their gifts, and I couldn’t help but remember how, the day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. Yellow and chipped, it was actually even a little dirty.

“Who would give us a used dish?!” I ranted.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer disliked the old, used casserole dish. I actually loved it. From that moment forward, I always put sweet things in it, like apple crisp or blueberry cobbler.

Several years ago, that casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

These days, whenever I attend people’s weddings — while I don’t give them something used — I nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by a talented, local potter, and I attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish. I always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in.

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?

How I Fell in Love With Words

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For a period of years, I exchanged letters with a boy. He was smart, and I felt flattered by his long-distance attention. I loved the way his words looked on the page, and after devouring the content of his letters, I would stare at his penmanship. His handwriting was distinctive; long, thin strokes in the “T’s” and “L’s”; his vowels undersized, tiny and tight. Very controlled. My “P’s” and “L’s” wanted to loop. My vowels were large and open, like my heart.

During this period, I focused on composing the best letters I could. I explained – dissected – deconstructed and reconstructed the world for him in an attempt to get him to see things through my eyes. I showed him the beauty of the cigarette butt left on the filthy street corner and wondered about the woman with the orange-red lipstick who had held it in her mouth. I addressed my envelopes, licked my stamps, sent my poetry and prose. And since there was neither instant messaging nor Skype nor Facebook nor email in the 1980s, I had to wait  . . . and wait. . . and wait for the postal carrier to (finally) bring me a long anticipated envelope. And always his responses were wonderful: filled with answers and more questions, more observations which led to more thinking, reflecting, writing.

Through our correspondence, I fell in love. With words. I learned how, in English, multi-syllabic words have a way of softening the impact of language, how they can show compassion, tenderness and tranquility. Conversely, I learned that single-syllable words could show rigidity, honesty, toughness, relentlessness. I saw how words could invoke anger, sadness, lust, and joy. As an adult, when speaking, I sometimes feel like I did not say quite the right thing. But when writing, I have time to be careful, to ponder, to find a new way to say something old. I can craft something magical.

I have always said that the best writing is born in obsession, rooted in a specific place.

My favorite word is “apricot” because it invokes a specific sense of smell, of taste and touch – but for me, it also reminds me of a particular morning in a particular place when the sun rose and made the world glow. It is a juicy word. A sweet word. A golden word scented with summer. I use the word “apricot” to show my students how one image can hold a lot of weight.

Some day I will thank that boy who made me want to revise, who made me want to give him only my best, most delicious words, my most ferocious images. Wherever he is, I hope he is still writing, too.

What are your favorite/least favorite words? And what do they evoke for you?

On Thunderstorms & Children: Reflections on a Rainy May

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When my son was a wee thing, still wrapped up like a burrito, every time there was a thunderstorm, I carried him outside to the worn wooden bench perched on our front stoop, and, together, we sat and listened to the boomers.

As my burrito grew, he morphed into my l’il Monkey. Whenever we heard thunder or saw that first flick of lightning, we raced to the front door. He’d mastered deadbolts by then, and he turned the knob furiously as if the ice-cream truck were sitting in our driveway. Once outside, we piled on the old bench — my son sat on my lap, holding my hand with a combination of anticipation and fear while I counted: “One-one-thousand, -one-thousand, three-one-thousand…” And when the world shook, we laughed and he begged for another so we waited impatiently for the next thunder-clap to shake our world.

For years we watched the skies darken, the clouds quicken, felt the air grow heavy on our skin. We listened to water slap our sidewalk angrily, and we both came to see how it works: how storms can be furious and yet temporary. He learned that even the scariest storms pass.

I know children who are terrified of thunder and lightning – kids who put their hands over their ears and cry or hide, but my son was raised up on late May storms: flashes of light and all that racket.

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d taking a shower.

{The way my Monkey was starting to take showers.}

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d needed to fill up the oceans.

{The way my Monkey was starting to have responsibilities.}

Maybe it’s because he imagined G-d stomping around looking for something He had misplaced.

{The way Monkey misplaced things and got all stompy and frustrated.}

Maybe it’s because he liked talking about G-d and trying to relate to Him.

“G-d makes rain. And rain makes the world grow, Mommy!” l’il Monkey told me as he stared at the yellow lilies, thirsty for a drink.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that with each summer storm, my summer-son was getting “growed up” too.

One May, I saw my son needed a new raincoat and boots for puddle stomping.

“I don’t need a coat. Or boots,” Monkey said as a matter-of-fact.

And he ran out into the downpour.

Unprotected.

Now I’m not saying it’s smart to go outside and run around on a lawn during an electrical storm, I’m just saying that we did. Okay?

We made up goofy dances, sang ridiculous songs, and chased each other around the yard in our bare feet until we were mud-spattered and drenched.

In no time at all, my little burrito will have graduated high school and turn 18.

We live in an apartment with a less inviting front stoop, so we don’t do the thunderstorm thing anymore.

He doesn’t need require as much from me: a meal, a bed, a place to plug in his computer and charge his phone.

Soon, he won’t even need me to provide these things.

While natural, these changes come at me, pelt me, like hard rain on my skin.

One day, when I am an old woman and I hear the distant clatter of thunder, I will remember tiny yellow rain coats and tiny yellow rain-boots. I may not remember much else, but I will remember those little moments — perhaps as one long blurry moment — when the world turned chocolate pudding and everything was positively puddle wonderful.

What do you remember about thunderstorms? What little moments do you cherish?

If you’d like to see my art, check out my SHOP or LIKE me on Facebook.

Letting Go of Love: On Grief and Dirty-Faced Boys

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When I was in elementary school, I liked a boy whose face was always a little dirty, a boy who wore corduroys that were always patched at the knees. Somehow, I sensed he had less than I did in this life, and for some inexplicable reason I felt a connection to him.

One afternoon, this boy and I held hands during a roller-skating party in our school gymnasium. It was wonderful, the way he whipped me around the room. His fingers tightly gripping mine, I felt alive, chosen.

I started bringing candy to him, assorted caramels rolled in colorful wrappers, and he happily took my plastic baggy filled with sweets, eating everything hungrily and without much appreciation.

I brought him treats for a long time, until I realized it was the candy he liked, not me.

Apparently, I haven’t learned much since my elementary school days.

Because I did it again.

This one knew how to clean himself up well-enough. He told me that he’d stop smoking cigarettes someday and shared enough secrets to make me feel like I was special. I liked the way he curled around me at night, pulling my body against his, making me feel delicate. I loved watching him sleep, hearing his breath, studying the curve of his face, his perfectly shell-shaped ears.

But nothing was easy. Our conversations were filled with miscommunications, and he was forever hanging up on me when we spoke on the phone.

And yet.

I encouraged him to follow his dreams, helped him with his business, opened my home to him, gave him my heart, my body. Some many offerings.

The point is I see it now, this old pattern, this longing to save someone I like. To make him love me.

I want to say that I’m hopeful that one day I’ll find my person – someone who is willing to accept responsibility for hurtful words, someone who apologizes and makes an attempt to change his future actions, someone who is willing to fight for me rather than with me, someone passionate and affectionate – a partner who possesses all the attributes I dream of and which, at one time, seemed so simple.

Time for me to stop offering up what little sweetness I have left.

Time to love myself and eat all the chocolates.

Ever stayed in a bad relationship for too long? How did you know when it was time to end things?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Letter to My 12th Grade Son, 3 Months Before He Graduates High School

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Dear TechSupport:

You used to shout at your friends before playing Capture The Flag.

“No burying the flag.”

“No jailbreaks.”

“My house. My rules.”

My son, you love rules.

But over the last few years, you’ve had to accept that man-made laws are not perfect.

Because people are imperfect.

Each night, you watch the news and shake your head.

Now you understand people create laws that can lead to atrocities of human suffering.

Know the question to ask yourself is always: “Would I want this to happen to me or someone I love?” Know also that the answer to this question connects you to the deepest place in your heart as well as all of humanity.

I remember you, slim and long, holding a saber in your hand. Moving with a sense of purpose, you lunged and parried and reposted. This sport – a maddening game of mental chess — requires patience, athleticism, chivalry and grace.

Know that you possess all of these qualities.

That you are able-bodied and strong.

Even if you never fence again.

Know the question to ask yourself is always: “How can I use my strength to help others?”

I’ve always known you’re wicked smart. I’m not bragging. I’m just quoting from the comments that your teachers have made over the years.

Student is a critical thinker.

Student asks important questions.

Student is a leader.

Though I’m forever encouraging you to go with your gut, you’re a scientist, analyzing situations from every viewpoint and trying to make the best, most rational decision you can.

Dude, I don’t understand how you got 100% on the Integrated Algebra Regents.

I mean, I know that you did it.

But you know how I feel about numbers.

To me, numbers are the enemy of words.

But you see magic in numbers.

You love the number 8 because it’s even.

Because it is divisible by 2 and 4, both of which are even numbers.

Because the number is made of two circles. And circles have no sides.

And infinite sides.

If you tip over the number 8, it becomes a pair of glasses.

And the symbol for infinity.

You love how infinity goes on forever.

Like Pi.

Believe me, I’m over the moon that you’ve made friends with numbers.

Please, just don’t become obsessed with 100.

Know that greatness is not about always having the right answer or pleasing others. That greatness is about asking important questions and doing what is right and good, even if you have to stand alone.

{That said, it’s okay to let other people hide the flag in a non-obvious location during Capture the Flag. Seriously, Bubba. It’s a game. Not the time to take a stand. Pick your battles.}

At the end of this academic year, you’ll be heading off to summer camp.

And then to college.

I’m already grieving losing you.

I’ve hardly had time to make sense of it.

I think it started the day I realized you are taller than I am.

Of course, I’m here for you.

But you’ve gotten quieter, less interested in sharing your words with me.

You hand me a Rubik’s cube and tell me to mess it up.

Your fingers touch mine for a nanosecond before you pull away.

I get it.

You’re expending your energy elsewhere these days.

These days you’re probably thinking about that girl and how she uses a green headband to keep her hair off her neck.

Stuff like that.

How did we get here?

Wasn’t I just cleaning up spilled Goldfish crackers and taking care of ouchies.

Explain to me how we got here, my number loving son.

And tell me that I did a good enough job.

That all the formulas worked.

You’ve been on this earth for 6430 days.

I’m paying close attention because I get it now.

This time won’t last forever.

I want you to know that you, my son, have been my greatest teacher.

But can I tell you just one thing?

People don’t ring the doorbell asking you to hang out because they want to see me. They don’t cheer your name when you walk into a room because they like the shirt you’re wearing. They do these things because you are that guy: the one who builds people up and makes them feel accepted and loved. You make weird card games fun.

You win with humility and lose with grace.

Except when it comes to Capture The Flag.

Dude, that game is your undoing. Cut people some slack. Seriously.

I know that’s more than one thing.

Do me a favor and cut me some slack, too.

Love,

Mom

Unfinished Business

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Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 8.38.01 PM

On the day we met, we were damaged.

Bruised fruit, I heard someone say,

and yet I could see how delicious

we could be, if we focused

on our sweet parts. And, for a time, we did.

Each morning after coffee and canned peaches, we

paced the perimeter,

with each step I learned more about

the nature of your heart. So broken,

both of us, there, in captivity,

love-notes, plopped clumsily

into my hands, your lap,

the perfect place for a head to rest,

if only we could have tabled together, found a patch of green

under that hot Arizona sun.

 

At least we had popcorn and iced tea,

that one full moon,

when our bellies pressed

against each other, gleaming

side by side. That night, I imagined

eating chocolate animal crackers

on Wednesdays

the sifting sun

through your windows

an old denim couch

in an endless summer, the two of us

cool and cuddled for hours

back rubs on bad days

when you would kiss

the freckles on my shoulders.

 

Now look at us.

Me, a shadow in your life:

A lonely girl on a lonely journey

In a land peopled by strangers.

I could be holding your dusty hand

Laughing and loving so greatly

But you asked me to let you go

And not wanting to violate

your boundaries, I did.

Still, I can’t help hoping

That someday I’ll convince you

It’s better to enjoy one bruised piece of fruit,

Than no sweetness at all.

Did you ever have an unrequited romance? Do you still think of that person? That moment? How long has it been? And how do you let it go?

tweet me @rasjacobson

 

 

 

 

Do You Know Your Love Language?

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Back in elementary school, when we were essentially forced to make Valentine’s cards for each other, we never discussed love or compassion. We were taught that a good partner should intuitively know what would give the other person happiness.

We were definitely not instructed to ask for what we want.

Ideally, we are supposed to to put aside own egos and give what we know would bring our partners joy.

Even if we aren’t totally into it.

That kind of sacrifice is called love.

Compassionate love is hard to sustain.

But without it, relationships fail.

No doubt, cutting out construction paper valentines was fun, especially when paired with a cupcake and a nappy.

But it taught us the wrong message.

Store bought cards signed without any sentiment aren’t enough, even if paired with a handful of Hershey’s kisses.

If we really want to show someone that they are important to us, we need to think about what they want and be mindful to do so in a way that they will most appreciate.

Several years ago, I read Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. In his book, Chapman asserts that it’s rare for two people to speak the same primary love language, and we become confused when our partner does not understand what we are communicating.
Chapman reiterates that the euphoric high of the honeymoon stage wears off after about two years, and while we still try to express love, the message may not be received because we often speak to our partner in what is, essentially, a foreign language.
In order to have a successful relationship, Chapman says it’s necessary to understand one’s own primary love language as well as that of our partner. And he asserts we must attempt to express love in his or her primary love language.

What Are These Love Languages?

Chapman identifies the five primary ways that people show love:

  1. Words of Affirmation:  You feel most cared for when your partner is open and expressive in telling you how wonderful they think you are and how much they appreciate you. Basically, you need people to remind you that their world is a better place because you are in it.
  2. Acts of Service:
    If your partner offering to watch the kids so you can do what you’d like to do gets your heart racing, then this is your love language.
  3. Physical Touch:
    If you like to hug, kiss and touch a lot, and/or if naked time with your partner makes you feel most loved, this is your primary love language.
  4. Quality Time:
    This love language is about being together, fully present and engaged in the activity at hand, no matter how trivial.
  5. Gifts:
    If you feel most appreciated when your partner takes the time to buy you something you’d really like, this is your primary love language.

When I took Chapman’s test in the back of the book, I learned that my primary love language is “Physical Touch” followed by “Quality Time.”

Chapman asserts that we have to figure out what our partners really want based on their primary love language. When our unique needs are met, he asserts, it feels like “our love tanks” have been topped off; however, if our needs aren’t being satisfied, we will feel drained and experience health problems.

What am I doing this Valentine’s Day?

1) Treating myself to a pedicure. 2) Celebrating my son’s 16 & 1/2 birthday; and 3) Remaining hopeful that one day I’ll find someone who understands me… and my love language.

Which language is your love primary language? What about your partner? What would you most love to receive for Valentine’s Day? Are you willing to do something different this year in the name of love? I’d love to hear from you!

 tweet me @rasjacobson

 

GIVE – a 4×4 canvas – just $25

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This year I promised to spend more time cultivating relationships with people who bring me happiness and less time with negative and/or rude individuals. I’ve tolerated that for too long.

When you fill your life with people you love, giving isn’t a chore, it’s easy.

To that end, I’m offering GIVE today.

IMG_0771

This 4×4 acrylic canvas is just $25 and that includes shipping & handling anywhere in the United States! (Friends in Canada, you just have to pay a little bit extra.) I accept PayPal, so payment is secure and easy.

Interested? All you have to do is type SOLD in the comments, and I’ll contact you.

I wish you all a year of easy loving and giving relationships.

xo

 

What does HOME mean to you? #giveaway

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HOME, a 4x4 canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Makes a great gift!
HOME, a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Makes a great gift!

Enough snow had fallen so Thanksgiving felt festive, but not so much so anyone had to worry about getting from here to there.

I was looking forward to going around the table and sharing with everyone all the things for which I am thankful.

How lucky I felt: to be there – all of us all together – in a warm, cozy home where there is always a comfortable place to sit and a plate of delicious food to eat.

I wanted everyone to know that it’s true what your grandma said: your health really is everything;

That being home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.

It’s a green toothbrush on the bathroom sink. It’s his bowl left on the kitchen table. It’s the sound of the garage door going up at the end of the day. It’s warm zucchini bread cooling on the countertop, the cat lying in that spot on the landing, the laundry twirling in sloppy circles.

If there’s one thing we share – no matter our race, income, religion or beliefs – it’s that we all want a place to call home, a place filled with love.

I’m getting back into the swing of the holidays by offering HOME  to one lucky commenter. how can you win?

Leave a comment in which you tell me what you think of when you hear the word “HOME,” then click HERE for additional information.

This contest is open to residents of the United States only. Enter as many times as you want between now & December 6th. One lucky winner will be announced on my blog on December 15th at 9 AM, so be sure to check back. If I don’t hear from the winner within 24 hours, Random Number Generator will select another winner.

tweet me @rasjacobson

LOVE inspires art

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I’ve received plenty of positive feedback regarding my art work over the last few months. What started off as a distraction – something to help me get through the days while I was in physical and emotional pain – has turned into a wee business. It’s hard for me to accept the idea that it’s okay to make money doing something I like to do, probably because I’ve always had to work ridiculously hard for the few dollars I’ve made. I think I feel a little guilty when receiving money for my canvases because I genuinely enjoy making them.

But that’s a blessing, right? To genuinely feel passionate about one’s work?!

As I heal, I see now how LOVE is the most important thing we can offer others in this life.

A heart connection.

When one operates from a place of LOVE, all of our connections are enriched.

As a way of giving back, each Monday from now until the 2015, I’ll be offering one 4″x4″ mini-canvas. For just $20, everyone can afford to have an original piece of art. (If you live in the United States, I’ll waive shipping & handling fees.)

Featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium, LOVE, a 4"x4" canvas is just $20.
Featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium, LOVE, a 4″x4″ canvas is just $20.

If you’re interested in purchasing this piece, email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com or, if you prefer, type SOLD in the comments. I’ll contact you as soon as possible, and you can have LOVE in just a few days.

Interested in customizing a piece? Drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

If you’d like to see other things I’ve done, check out Rasjacobson Originals on Facebook.

Thank you so much for sticking with me, y’all. Your comments mean the world.

What’s something you do that you would feel strange accepting payment for?

tweet me at @rasjacobson