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.

BAGGAGE: First Chapter of my Memoir Posted on Patreon

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I just posted my first chapter, BAGGAGE, on Patreon.

In this piece, I write about early childhood trauma that confused me and made me feel home was not a safe place. I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and was already inadvertently set on the path toward putting other people’s feelings/needs before my own.

For $1 a month, you will have access to all the chapters that I post.

I’ve posted a PREVIEW chapter for free.

My art is there, too ~ and people who subscribe to different level will receive some cool perks, including recognition on Facebook, coloring book pages, original art, framed prints as well as the opportunity to win prize packs up to $25 in fun WHIMSIGIRL stuff.

Check it out.

 

 

 

 

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.

Candle 1 of #Hanukkah Hooplah

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Please visit The Culture Mom’s blog and read Holly’s stunning post,  “Hanukkah Hoopla Story.”  If you’ve ever had a difficult time as a parent, you’ll appreciate Holly’s honesty regarding her special needs son.

Comments are closed here, but leave her a comment if you want to win some of her #cyberswag.

tweet this post for a chance to a non-denominational holiday gift from me!

4 #SoWrong Moments by Steve Warner

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SoWrong
Click on the eyeball to be directed to other writers who are participating in this series!

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

Wanna Watch Me Chat?

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Image courtesy of Gigi Ross aka @KludgyMom!

Today, I participated in a Google+ Hangout with several other mommy bloggers where we discussed how we help our kids follow their bliss while managing a sane schedule for ourselves.

Gigi Ross of KludgyMom was our moderator.

If you spend eleventy-twenty skillion hours shlepping your kids around, or if you struggle with other issues around managing your children’s extracurricular activities, you’ll want to listen to the conversation.

We broadcasted live at 1 pm EST/10 am PST.

But you can watch it here:

How do YOU balance extracurricular activities in your house? Which is more important: school or extracurricular activities? How do you teach your kids to enjoy the thrill of victory but press on despite the agony of defeat? How do you gauge the right activity level for your kids? And seriously, how do you get everyone everywhere and still make dinner? 

tweet me @rasjacobson

NOTE: If you haven’t entered to win a 9-pack sampler of GoGoSqueeZ, there’s still time. Click HERE for details!

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

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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.

My Mother Was Hot Stuff

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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 Your Kid Is Smarter Than You Are

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Many summers ago, our family went to a local art festival, and while I visited another booth, my son found a turquoise and green glass pendant and, though he only had eight dollars in his pocket, he convinced the vendor to sell it to him.

We coined the piece of jewelry my “compliment necklace” because every time I wore it, I received kind words from strangers who gushed over the glass that glowed in the sun.

I loved my necklace like nobody’s business, and I wore it every day.

Recently, while we were vacationing in Florida, the glass pendant slipped off its silver chain and smashed on the bathroom tile.

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“NoooOooooo!” I wailed, falling to my knees. “NoOoo! No! NoooOooo!”

Carrying the jagged shards in my open palm, I showed the pieces to my son who happened to be sitting in his brand new rocking chair, reading a book, and eating a slice of pie.

Standing, my boy put one hand on my shoulder. He’s taller than I am now, so he looked down at me a little. Stepping aside, he pointed to his new rocker, not 24-hours old.

“Come. Sit down. Have a little pie. You’ll feel better.” He offered me his plate.

I shook my head. Because I didn’t want any pie.

I wanted my glass pendant back.

“You bought it for me when you were 7,” I complained. “Every time I wore it, I thought of you.”

My son settled back down in his rocking chair. “If we didn’t lose people and things we love, we wouldn’t know how important they are to us.” My son shoveled some pie into his mouth and pointed to his chest. “Anyway, you don’t need a necklace to think of me. I’m right here.”

At home, TechSupport doesn’t let me tuck him into bed anymore. But, the night my pendant smashed, my son let me cuddle with him for a few minutes. As I stroked his spiky crew cut, I saw a silver thread in his hair.

I tried to pick it out, but it was attached.

Turns out, my 13-year-old has a gray hair.

My husband and I have said our son is an old soul. To us, he’s always possessed the understanding, empathy, and kindness of someone with more life experience.

As a youngster he always shared his toys. He was comfortable with rules, and sometimes, as I explained things to him, he eyed me suspiciously, as if to say: Of course we don’t write on walls, or touch hot pots on the stove, or stick fingers in electrical sockets. Of course, we don’t bite our friends. Or push them. Duh.

Over the years, I’ve complained when he’s been overlooked for awards. It kills me each Friday when his middle school publishes its list of “Great Kids of the Week,” and his name never makes the list. Meanwhile, he doesn’t care. He tells me he doesn’t need his name announced over the loudspeaker or his picture posted in the hallway. He knows about his good deeds, and that’s enough. A stellar student, he doesn’t like me to mention his grades. When he was bullied in elementary school, he refused to retaliate. Even when his father and I gave him permission to kick the bastard who was bugging him in his cahones, our son told us he believed in nonviolence. Like Gandhi. How did he even know about Gandhi in 5th grade? Though middle school can be an unhappy time as teens jockey for popularity, Tech has maintained a core group of smart, kind people who are loyal to each other.

Our son has never been interested in material things.

He has simple requests.

A bed.

A book.

A rocking chair.

A slice of pie.

That one single silver strand of hair on his head confirmed it for me: proof positive that my kid is an old soul — unusually understanding, wise and empathetic beyond his years.

Don’t get me wrong: he’s a teenager, too. He eats constantly, hates putting away his laundry, and making his bed. He laughs at dumb YouTube videos and would play Minecraft all day, if we let him.

But he knows how to talk me down when ants are crawling across the kitchen floor. Or tonight, while I held my stomach as I listened to the news, crammed with voices, the President talking about justice and violence and terror — again.

This is the world I brought you into, my son. A world where things are always breaking. And nothing is solid.

But he has the right words. Reminds me that most people are good people. That G-d hears prayers and love transcends zip codes and time zones.

“Kinda makes you realize your necklace wasn’t such a big deal,” he said.

What will I ever do without him?

Have you ever lost a sentimental something? Do you put on a strong front for your children? Or do you let them see you cry?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Not a Tale for Children

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Recently, I had to make a decision about whether or not to call Child Protective Services. The boy involved is a smart boy. He is not a troublemaker. The people who needed to be reported were the boy’s parents who left him, alone, without any organized adult supervision for several days. In the end, I decided not to do it, but I have fretted over this decision every day since. This is my way of working it out a little.

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Not a Tale for Children

His face is not a face. It is an onion to be peeled, a puzzle to be pieced together. His pain is so deep under the surface even he cannot find the center, the source. He remembers very little, but he recalls two sets of hands. The woman’s hands first: long, slender fingers pointing to her chest, and a heart beating there. These hands lifted him when he was tired and could walk no further; these hands ruffled his locks even when he hadn’t bathed; these hands felt like sunshine warming his knee.

The other hands were different. Those hands had fingernails sharpened to claws. Those hands had scarred knuckles. Those hands smelled metallic and gripped a gun with a feeling that he imagines is something close to love. He remembers bruises and fists and, finally, he remembers no hands at all.

He remembers the smell of grass vaguely, but then he is not sure. Maybe he is recalling warm bread with apricot jam, or the scent behind a baby’s knees, or the memory of a thick yellow comforter on a soft bed. A real bed. A place to rest a body or a head.

He remembers he used to have wings, feathers that extended from the center of his back, in the place where his shoulder blades met. His wings were eggshell-colored and silky, too — of this he is certain.

He remembers the day his wings caught fire.

It was the twenty-seventh day after they noticed the wind had stopped moving across the land. Twenty-seven days since the last orange butterfly visited the blue flowers that puffed out purple tongues. On that day, he felt a fist of fire cracking its way up his back and then his wings — which he had always been taught to believe could fly him away from the cracking cement and the muffled rumbling in the distance, the rubble — his beautiful wings turned brown and curled into wispy tendrils of dust.

It had not been a slow burning. His wings exploded into flame and the air around him turned brown and green. He remembers the smell of burning flesh.

Because he was ashamed of his loss, he hid for five days, coming out only at night to scavenge amidst the wreckage, searching for marshmallows and sunflower seeds and bits of cheese. After a while, he forgot what he was hiding for and emerged, small and pigeon-toed. Amazingly, no-one seemed to notice that his wings were gone. Tall, crooked shadows curved over his tiny frame and then rushed past, leaving him questioning if he had ever had them in the first place.

tweet me @rasjacobson