because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

The Day I Got It All Wrong

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When I teach, I come to class prepared. In fact, I sometimes come to class with a Plan A, Plan B and an Emergency Back-Up Plan. I think this stems from the days when I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. Case in point: Many years ago, when I was just starting out, students were completing their last day of oral presentations. One girl was standing up before the class doing her thing and a small group of boys were being – well, let’s just say, a little bit disruptive. Nothing major. They just weren’t really interested in the symbolism that she had found so riveting in Ordinary People.

I tried to get the attention of one of the boys. No luck. I tried to make eye contact with another. Nothin’. Finally, I took my pen – a Precise V5 extra fine tip pen in hand and attempted to throw it so that it would hit the main offender: Let’s call him Hugo. It should be noted here – and you can’t make this stuff up – that Hugo happened to have one good eye, having lost the other eye years earlier, although I never found out the circumstances surrounding how it had happened. Anyway, I tried to aim for Hugo’s leg – to get his attention without disrupting the entire class. I figured he’d feel the pen tap his leg, look at me, I’d give him “the death eye” and he’d stop screwing around. It seemed foolproof.

I don’t know how it happened because I usually have pretty good aim, but anyone who was in the class that day would vouch for the fact that the pen did not hit Hugo on the leg. That pen had a mind of its own and fueled by green ink, it launched itself upwards right into Hugo’s face just below (or maybe above?) his good eye.

Hugo stood up before the entire class holding his face, “What the hell are you doing?” he shouted (and with good reason). “You could have blinded me!” And with that, Hugo announced that he was going to the nurse, the principal and, then, he was going to call his mother.

I had done precisely what I had set out not to do. I had disrupted the class completely. At the time, I was pretty sure that I was going to be fired. After apologizing to the student presenter for creating such a commotion, class ended, and I hustled up to the Upper School principal to whom I confessed all my terrible, unforgivable sins. She clucked her tongue at me, told me to call Hugo’s mother, and explain what had happened. Thank goodness, Hugo’s mother was wonderful, supportive and understanding; she even joked that sometimes she wanted to poke out Hugo’s good eye. Later, I also apologized to Hugo who apologized to me for being disruptive and disrespectful.

I have often thought about my experience with Hugo. As a new teacher, I was trying to figure things out. After throwing a pen at my wonderful student, I learned many things: First and foremost, I learned to never throw anything at anyone in class ever again. But I learned a lot of other things, too. Over time, I discovered more creative methods to communicate with students about their behavior without making the class come to a grinding halt. I learned a great deal about respect that day and how quick actions can lead to terrible consequences. I learned that sometimes teachers need to apologize to their students because sometimes teachers are the biggest twits of all. We learn from experience.

Oh, and I didn’t get fired.

What’s a not-so-great thing you did on the job that turned into a huge learning moment?

When Writers Meltdown

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Not too long ago, I lost it.

I mean, I totally lost it.

Clay Morgan of Educlaytion posted a piece “3 Keys to Managing Your Life,” in which he wrote about how he works to achieve balance between his professional aspirations, his need for family time and sanity time, and how he squeezes works writing into his days.

And I felt my lip start to tremble because I had really been struggling with my juggling act. Balls and plates had been falling for days.

Clay instructed:

Get with someone who will both push and understand you, a big-hearted person with a pom-pom in one hand and metal ruler in the other.

I read his words and I went a little bit whacky-jacks. Because, sometimes, I don’t feel very supported. Sometimes, I feel like I am lost in The Sahara, caught in a sandstorm without a guide, alone with this writing thing. Here I am, working on a blog (alone) and a manuscript (alone) and a query letter (alone).

And I thought: Who do I have? Who’s my support person?

I posted a full blown vent, a rant – really – that ended with me wondering if I should just put down my pen and stop writing.

I said I felt like I was wandering around in the desert and that I was floundering.

Lord, I wrote, a little sign would be nice.

I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic.

In grad school, I did a little stint as a back-up singer and — later — as a dancer on a hydraulic lift. In college, I was in some obscure shows. In high school, I had speaking roles in Mame and Hello Dolly! In middle school, I had a bit part in Cheaper By the Dozen. One August, at summer camp, I landed the lead role as Peter Pan after I sang “Happy Birthday To You” to the Drama Director. Another summer, I sang a bunch of cabaret songs including “I’ve got Steam Heat.” I was in plenty of plays in middle and high school. If you you want to go back to elementary school, I was Flower #6, Bird #3, and eventually I worked my way up to Glinda from The Wizard of Oz.

Why am I giving you my acting resume?

I don’t know?

Where was I going?

Oh yes, to Best Buy.

The day I posted that horrible post, I needed to find a new camera because Monkey was taking my old almost totally non-functional one to summer camp. Buying a little camera should have been a job done in under 30 minutes. And it should be noted, the people at Best Buy tried to help me decide between the Canon and the Nikon; I just kept crying.

It was one helluva performance.

Except it wasn’t a performance.

It. Was. Ridiculous.

Later that same day, Leanne Shirtliffe a.k.a Ironic Mom alerted me that my comment had brought a lot of support at Clay’s place. So I went back to peek. And then I really started weeping.

Because I had asked for a sign, and all day I had been receiving cosmic signs.

I just didn’t know.

One sign from the universe came in from Kelly K at Dances With Chaos when she showed up with a post at Red Dress Society about that terrible inner voice that tells you that you are not good enough to be a writer. And I started wondering, “Did she just whip that off for me?”

And Carl D’Agostino just so happened to call me that night. And Leanne emailed and offered to Skype. And Chase McFadden emailed. And Eric Rumsey from I Swear We’re Not Crazy sent me one of those little invisible awards where he said, “Without Renée, I wouldn’t be blogging.” And TamaraOutLoud said something similar. And a new friend, Clay Watkins, from Making The Days Count told me he was inspired by a few of my posts to write two of his own: this and this. And then I saw Kathy English had run a post on Mom Crusades inspired by something I had written, and I figured, well, sheesh, if this many people are digging my stuff, I have to be doing something right. Right? And then Jeff Goins showed up with a manifesto which offered me some major piece of mind.

That day could best be summed up in a scene from “A Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Only I was playing Sissy Spacek playing Loretta Lynn in the scene when Loretta is on tour, running around everywhere, trying to be everything to everyone. And there is a part where Ms. Loretta Lynn kind of looks blankly out at the lights and calls for her husband: “Doo…” she says, “Doo… Things is happenin’ way too fast…” and then she collapses right there on the stage in her fancy blue dress.

That’s how I felt that day.

Only I looked out and I didn’t see any Doo. (Okay, I know that doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean.)

I read Clay’s blog and realized I have been so focused on writing writing writing that I have lost my balance. I have been on red-alert, code-red, mayday-mayday, “we’re-going-down-with-the ship” mode. Which is not like me. I’m the cheerleader. I’m the happy one. I’m the shimmy and shine girl.

Except on that day.

That day I was an old piece of crap computer that had gone into severe meltdown mode.

And I really appreciated everyone’s kind words because they did help me to feel less alone.

I had asked for a sign, and my Blogosphere Inner Sanctum delivered. I was blessed to have:

8 cyber-friends on one blog offering support

4 different cyber-friends contacted me via email

1 phone call from Florida

1 phone call from Calgary

3 private messages on Facebook

A heckuva lot of tweets

And I would be remiss if I did not mention:

1 best friend in real life reminding me to breathe

1 Monkey who made me a homemade ICEE and let me use the rest of the blue-raspberry syrup, which everyone knows is the best flavor

1 Hubby who brought home an extra large pizza for dinner that night.

That day I learned there is a voice that a lot of us writers have that sometimes is still and sometimes cannot seem to be silenced. It’s a critical voice that whispers in our ears. It’s the voice of judgment and self-doubt. It’s the voice that makes us consider giving up.

But we won’t.

We can’t.

Writing is the closest thing I come to having an addiction.

I can’t not do it. And, as Monkey pointed out, “Even if you stopped blogging or stopped working on your book, you’d still keep scribbling in journals, so why not just keep the blog since you have met so many nice friends there?” (Monkey was careful to emphasize “friends” with air quotes.)

Since that day, I’ve had time to reboot myself. Resurrect myself.

Let me introduce you to the new and slightly improved rasjacobson 2.0.

I now come with state-of-the art anti-virus software that can better detect struggling-juggling and critical inner voices.

So the next time that voice starts tapping at my noggin, I will try to smoke it out. I know now how well-supported I am. Kelly K. was kind enough to let me borrow her duct tape so I can hog-tie The Terrible Voice and bury its dark, invisible carcass once and for all.

That’s one murder I wouldn’t fret about.

And I guess if a person is going to meltdown — at least — summer is the right time.

What do you do when you feel yourself melting down?

Lessons From Eight Junes

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Photo from dalesmith @ flickr.com

June is definitely a time for endings and beginnings. Proms. Graduations. Weddings. New jobs. June has got me thinking about all the Junes in my life. My parents started their married life together on June 23, 1963. My son will become a bar-mitzvah next June. One of my grandmothers died in June. And one of my friends, too. I tried to think about some significant Junes in my life, and this is what was born:

• • •

Once upon a time, a November baby learned that she loved June. She played with bubbles and chased butterflies, rode her bicycle, played kick the can, and stayed out until the fireflies guided her home.

One June, the girl snapped her well-packed trunk and clipped her khaki duffel bag ready to spend seven weeks at overnight camp.

One June, the girl went to a prom in a ridiculous dress with ridiculous hair.

Four Junes later, the girl was no longer a girl. She graduated from the college she’d loved and, as she drove west in her beat-up Plymouth Volaré to live with a man she loved – prepared to insert herself into his house and into his life – she was terrified that everything was going to be different. And it was.

One terrible June, the girl sat in a room staring at a casket, and no matter how many people told her that the air conditioning wasn’t on too high, it felt like winter in that place.

One June, the girl found herself in New Orleans. She had finished her first year of teaching in a city that smelled like magnolias and crawfish. It was the hottest summer of her life and it lasted until November.

In a blink, it was June again. This time, she looked in the mirror and saw she was no longer a girl. She was seven months pregnant; her hands and ankles had swelled in the heat. As she fanned herself, she daydreamed about the future. Also, she ate a lot of watermelon.

One June, the November girl moved – along with her husband and her son – into a home nestled in a neighborhood with flowers and trees and children. And as she hung up her summer sundresses, she remembered bubbles and bicycles and butterflies, and she knew she was home.

This June, the woman knows there are wrinkles around her eyes – but she is less focused on herself. She sits at the computer and listens to her son, now almost 12, as he practices for his last piano lesson. The music is familiar. The clothes in the dryer bump around noisily in the background, everyone’s stuff mingled together. Hopefully, for many, many more Junes.

Can you share one particular memory from one particular June?

Prom Gen iY: Same Thing, Just Better Dresses

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Photo from jepoycamboy @ flickr.com

Recently, my family was chomping on chunks of bread at Outback Steakhouse, a place we often go after I announce that I didn’t make it to the grocery store.

As I sat in my old jeans, the thick, pine doors parted and in paraded boys wearing tuxedos with cummerbunds flanked by girls in fancy dresses with sparkles and sequins. I was bedazzled…

…and instantly transported back in time. To the mid-1980s. To my own school formals.

TB and me. Junior Prom, 1984.

I went to Junior Prom with TB, a boy I had spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, however, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I sort of figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

Here’s what I remember about that prom. First, let’s just establish TB looked awesome in his tux. Done. Okay, now let’s talk about my dress. Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside my dress. All I knew was that I felt like Madonna in that dress. Seriously, from the neck down, I totally looked like Madonna.

Shut up, I did.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up. Just a few months prior, I had butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was – tragically – a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. The in-between stage lasted for years. In an effort to try to make people not notice my heinous hair, I stuck an over-sized silver safety-pin through the extra hole in my left ear lobe. Because I was that stupid cool.

JMo and me. Senior Ball, 1985.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared. First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux. Done. Now, about my dress.  As it turned out, my big poofy dress from the year before was really uncomfortable. The crinkly crinolines had filled the entire backseat; it had been hard to walk, and did I mention that I was decidedly not hot? Senior year, I decided to tone down my attire and wear a really simple yellow dress. Alas, there was no teenaged version of “Say Yes To The Dress” because somehow I ended up looking like I had been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a second vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, most people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while simultaneously ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final. (That proved to be a big mistake.)

I did not do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered. I was clean.

Not too long ago, I went on Twitter to see what people were saying about prom. Here is a sampling:

and

and

People were freaking out. About shoes, about fingernails, about limos, about dress fittings. Dress fittings?

Whaaaaat? I bought a dress and I put it on. As you can see, it fit.

(Okay, so there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

Unlike the tweeps, I did not worry about prom for days in advance.

Time spent preparing my hair for Junior Prom: zero minutes.

For Senior Ball, I actually had hair, so I did use a little mousse which, thankfully, had been invented earlier that year.

I do remember some mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I still wanted the romance of the evening. I still wanted my dates to ask me to slow dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

Ask me. No don’t ask me.

Please ask me. Wait, I don’t know what I’m doing.

One year, I remember the band playing Foreigner and mouthing the words: “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.”

Because, really, I had no idea.

But I so wanted to know.

Somewhere between 1986 and 2011, dress designers realized that high school girls did not want to look like Victorian dolls in ginormous hoop skirts nor did they want to look like mothers-of-the-bride. Thus, the prom dress industry was born. That night at Outback Steakhouse, the girls looked so beautiful; their dresses complemented their body shapes and each dress represented a stripe of the rainbow. Each young woman looked like a contestant from America’s Next Top Model. Each had a signature walk. Each looked so confident.

For a minute, I felt envy. I mean, I was decidedly un-hot at junior prom and kind of potato-sacky at senior ball. But then I realized, to the outside world, I probably looked confident, too. Even with the bad hair. I found myself wondering about the girls at Outback – and all the girls who go to formal dances these days. They are so well-put together, so styled, so prepped. Outwardly, they appeared so mature. I wondered if they would be able to look back at themselves in 30 years with a sense of humor and recognize that they were also at a tipping point. Or had they already passed it?

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where parents hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment (and often did).

I think of prom as that awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we just hold onto each other in our fancy clothes and spin around in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And it was good.

You know, up until I learned I had failed the Trig final.

Because that sucked.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Really?

Lessons From Fictional Mothers: A Guest Post From Julie Gardner

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Julie C. Gardner. Looking fancy. No kids. No dogs.

Back on May 13th, I celebrated my one year blogoversary. I had it in my head to surprise the person who posted a comment closest to my original launch time with a gift card for $20 to his or her favorite bookstore. I also decided that this “gift” would come with strings attached, as I planned to ask the recipient of the reward to write a little somethin’-somethin’ about the book he or she purchased. (Seriously, how manipulative is that?) As you can imagine, depending on your perspective, this “gift” could have been considered a heinous curse. Thankfully, the fabulous Julie C. Gardner responded to my May 13, 2011 blog at 5:21 PM, and became the winner of my extra-secret super-stealth-mode-blogoversary-contest. (*Cue the paper streamers and the cheesy horn.*)

But Julie was so gracious! She was not only excited to receive my offer, she took control of it. She told me not to fuss with purchasing a book or even a gift card; she would buy the books herself. She simply asked me for a few recommendations of titles – and I shot her a check in the mail. FYI: Julie Gardner is the easiest person in the world to shop for. Ever. She is also an amazing writer. When you visit her blog, By Any Other Name, you will see what I mean. Julie gets people to confess things. She knows stuff about me that some of my friends don’t know. How does she do that?

So, thank you, Julie, for giving me the best blogoversary gift: a piece of writing, inspired by a few books that I really loved, a reminder of the love we mothers have for our sons, and a mutual appreciation for truth-telling in writing. And now, here’s Julie. Call her “Awesome.”

• • •

So I’ve been reading. A lot. And not simply because I’m an English teacher-slash-writer; or because Renée bought me a few books* to celebrate her blogoversary. (Hooray!) No, to me reading is legal procrastination. It implies I’m serious about my work; researchy, even. (I know “researchy” isn’t a word, but neither is “complainy,” and I use that one frequently. I’m an English teacher. I take liberties. With frequentiousness. Or whatever.)

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes. Reading. A lot. More specifically, three books with a common theme:

Mother + Son = Complicated Relationship.

(That’s the only math in this post. You’re welcome.)

And now, cue the gist, with no Spoiler Alerts necessary:

First, in Emma Donoghue’s Room, five-year-old Jack and Ma are prisoners in the storage shed of their captor, a kidnapper who “fathered” the little boy. Young Jack has spent the entirety of his life inside Room believing nothing real exists Outside; until his fifth birthday when Ma decides he must attempt an escape, thereby risking a separation that’s unimaginably terrifying.

Next, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the aftermath of a Columbine-esque massacre. The story unfolds entirely in letters written by Eva (the mother of the teenaged killer) to her estranged husband, Franklin. Having nothing left to lose, Eva admits to feeling ambivalent about motherhood, horrified by Kevin’s darkness, and ultimately resigned to surviving the downfall of the family she feels unsuited to embrace.

Finally, Lisa Grunwald’s The Irresistible Henry House follows the life of an orphaned baby named Henry who is “mothered” by a series of college coeds in the (historically accurate) Practice House of a well-intentioned university’s home economics department. Abandoned by his biological mother, Henry is adopted by Martha, the childless head of the program who treats Henry as her sole reason for being. This string of disproportionate attachments hinders Henry’s ability to connect and trust as he becomes a man.

Got it? Good.

Because I spent three weeks engrossed by these mothers and sons; three weeks witnessing their disasters; three weeks during which I’d pause and think, “Crap, I’m glad this isn’t my life!”

(Except in fancier words because I am, after all, an English teacher and therefore fancy.)

Like this: Woe to these women confronting fear and loneliness and death! I can’t imagine such depths of despair!

And also this: Hope leaks from them until they lose the will to fight the loss. What have they to do with me?

(Or whatever.)

Indeed, it’s easy to compartmentalize these mothers as Fiction-Only. Such tragedy wouldn’t happen in real life. Except it did. And it does.

The unlikelihood is irrelevant; because the best novels carry us to the unexpected, the unfathomable , the extreme; while holding up a mirror and daring us to look.

Despite my comfortable “separateness” from Martha and Ma and Eva, I couldn’t help noticing similarities between these wrecked women and me. (And not merely of the “I have a son, too” variety; although I do have a son who will be fourteen next week.)

…These mothers have good intentions. Hey. I have good intentions!
…They’re redefined by the very existence of their sons. Most definitely.
…They commit themselves to their tasks; make sacrifices they question but endure; struggle with their own incidents of selfishness. All right. This is true for me, as well.
…They are, at times, disappointed by their sons. Yes. Sadly, yes.
…They have needs and desires; battle insecurity and pride; display strengths and weaknesses exacerbated by their sons. And, oh yeah, I do too.
…They learn that death is not, in fact, the worst dénouement imaginable. Because it isn’t. If you think hard, it’s not.

These three books chafed me with their honesty. Martha, Ma and Eva say what most mothers never dare to in words that made me nod and blush and fold the pages for revisiting.

Mothers do not often admit to having resentment or favorites or paralyzing regret. We foolishly expect to control our human frailties once we become parents. But then we don’t. Abandon our frailties, I mean.

In fact, our flaws announce themselves in stark relief against the backdrop of perfection we imagine.

These authors, however, tear down the backdrop and expose what parenthood – in its most distilled moments – can teach us:

That hope and love can be more difficult than loss.

But oh. We cannot ever give it up.

The hope, I mean.

And then, of course, the love.

What did you think you knew about parenting but have found yourself questioning? How has the truth of parenting been different from what you expected?

• • •

*NOTE: There is no way that Julie could have purchased all three of these books from my paltry $20. So thank you to Julie for subsidizing some of my blogoversary present. Seriously.

Only The Names Have Changed

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photo by raysto at flickr.com

June is a month to reminisce. I decided to challenge myself to think about the very first memory I could recall from kindergarten through 12th grade. And while I have changed the names (actually, I substituted them with the names of some of my most favorite bloggers), the facts are true. So true that some people may be able to identify themselves, or others. It is not my intention to have people name names. However, I would love it if you would think about your own K-12 experiences and share one moment that pops into your head.

• • •

In Nursery School, Julie, Ellie, Amy and I liked to play on the whirlybird, a contraption that consisted of two crossed bars with four attached seats as well as foot pedals for each rider to pump. Once everyone was in sync, riders could spin in circles. Once, Julie decided that she and the other girls were “three witches” and wouldn’t stop spinning, even when I cried. At some point, I slipped off my seat and landed on my back under the whizzing blades. I remember the breezy whir of their skirts as they spun over my head.

Jeff was in my class from kindergarten grade on up, and he once spilled an entire bottle of blue acrylic paint on my dress during art class. That was how I knew Jeff loved me.

In first grade, Paul wore a leather, fleece lined aviator hat to school. He often had black eyes. It never occurred to me to ask him how he got them.

Leanne was my friend in second grade. She lived over a beauty parlor and her bedroom smelled like burning hair.

In third grade, Knox was one of two only black students in my class. He could turn his eyelids inside out, which was creepy but cool. He called me on Saturday mornings and we sang disco songs together.

Chase sat behind me in fourth grade. On the first day of school, I said I had a pair of blue flip-flops at home, and he said they were actually called “thongs.” From then on, we disagreed about everything.

Piper was my best friend from fifth until eighth. We walked around the local shopping mall after and created an elaborate game out of touching people who wore fur coats. Points were awarded if the fur coat wearer did not notice the touch. If you were caught, you lost a point. Terri eventually threw me over for the Deadheads.

Eric was class president in sixth grade. He kept my gerbil when we my family went on vacation, and it died. He cried when he brought back the empty cage.

In seventh grade, there was a girl named Tamara who had something wrong with her face, some kind of palsy that made her mouth twist in a scary sort of way. One day she announced that she was “going to get her face fixed” and that the next time we saw her she’d look completely different. We never saw her again.

My best friend in eighth grade got her ears pinned back and taped aluminum foil antennae on top of the huge white bandage on her head. Everyone thought she was very clever. She once kissed me on the lips during an overnight when she thought I was sleeping.

Kim was the popular girl all through high school. She was also mean. In ninth grade, she used henna that made her hair turn a horrible shade of orange, but no one laughed at her. Instead, we all told her how pretty she looked.

Clay got in trouble in English class sophomore year and had to go to the library to write an essay on angels. Later, he went to some Ivy League school and got in trouble for selling fake IDs.

Wendy and I double-dated when we were juniors. She talked “baby talk” to her date all night long. He seemed to dig it. It. Drove. Me. Nuts.

During my senior year, I dated a boy who was more serious about me than I was about him. When I finally broke up with him, I was rather dismissive. He excused himself and disappeared behind the door of the green bathroom of my parents’ house where he cried for a long time. I know this because I went in the den to watch a one-hour television program, and – intermittently – I heard his sobs. When he finally came out, my show had ended. His eyes were red and he looked ruined. Looking back, I didn’t handle that one very well.

Some guy named Tyler wrote in my yearbook: “May your tail fall off and your hair shrivel into snakes. I’ll never forget you.” I seem to have forgotten him.

Can you remember one specific moment from one specific grade and share it?

Class Pictures: The Aftermath

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That's what I'm talking about!

Yesterday for School Photo Day, I wrote about how I was voted “Class Flirt” my Senior year in high school.

A few hours after my pictures went live, Monsieur Flirt contacted me.

Actually, that is not exactly true.

Earlier that morning, I put out a call on Facebook asking friends to help me track him down.

It didn’t take long.

He responded to my blog – at first a little defensively – and we ended up privately emailing back and forth all day.

Short little emails.

He’s still funny.

And charming.

And he told me I’m funny.

(No duh!)

Somehow he forgot to mention that I am hot.

I don’t know how that happened.

Anyway, during our correspondence, Monsieur Flirt requested that I post an updated picture of him today. I guess even PMo got a little trapped behind the burden of those Senior Superlatives. Like me, he has grown up. He’s a man. A responsible and doting father with a job: a mortgage, bills. He is the same but different.

And he would like to show the world how he has morphed.

So you saw him in 1985; here he is in a photo taken in 2010.

Twenty-five years later.

PMo in 2010

At the end of our day of emails, PMo tapped out a quick last note:

Always fun bonding with you…

And I thought.

Yup.

PMo and I will always have that high school bond, a shared history where he was the studly-stud in the leather bomber jacket and I was the boobless babe in the short, red cheerleader skirt.

Thanks for being such a good sport, PMo.

If Photo Dude were taking our picture today, I’m sure he’d get a better shot. We would unlikely turn our backs to each other, and we would definitely smile.

In fact, I’ll make sure to get that picture at our 30th reunion in 2015.

Anyone else have any “Morning After” School Photo Day stories? Or am I just the lucky one?

Tweet this Twit @RASJacobson

Lessons From School Picture Day

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A few weeks back Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom), Clay Morgan (EduClaytion) and Keenie Beanie came up with a brilliant horrifying idea. To go digging back through old school yearbooks and encourage other bloggers to post pictures of ourselves on our pages, along with a little write-up. They would call it:

I wanted to participate in Leanne’s, Clay’s and Keanie Beanie’s brain fart child, but I was saddened to realized I had actually scribbled all over my face in nearly every picture. Think I’m kidding? I’m not. This is my Senior picture.

Worst. Picture. Ever.

I was really into the Grateful Dead at the time. Please note my fancy spelling of the Dead, my little rose at the top of my picture, and my penned in peace-sign earrings.

I did find one picture in that same yearbook that stood out to me.

It was the picture taken for Senior Superlatives, a tradition at my high school. Members of the Senior class voted for their choice of male and female representatives in 12 different categories like Best Looking, Best Dressed, Most Friendly, Most Artistic, Most Athletic, Most Musical… you get the idea. (I wonder if they still do that.)

Scroll down to see what I got.

Monsieur Flirt and I were on-again, off-again friends during high school. During this picture, I think we were off. Yeah, definitely off. The week prior he had intentionally backed into my tan Plymouth Volaré as we waited at a red light. Honestly, he just lightly tapped the front bumper of my car with his rear bumper. Problem was my mother was also in the front seat of the car, and she did not think the whole “bumper cars” thing was very funny. She was pretty pissed.

She also has no recall of this incident at all.

Anyway, the day for photos came and Monsieur Flirt and I weren’t really friendly. I think he might have punched me that week. Or maybe he was mean to one of my friends. I don’t know. All I know is that the student photographer kept saying, “Get into a more flirtatious pose!” And neither one of us could muster it. I mean, we just couldn’t. Could there be stronger body language that says: I do not want to be in a picture with this person? But our relentless, young photographer was on assignment and kept making suggestions like, “Why don’t you dip her?” and “Why don’t you pretend to kiss?” Horrifying.

Finally, Monsieur Flirt and I decided to go with the back-to-back thing. Actually, I don’t think it was really a decision. As you can see from Monsieur Flirt’s face, if Photo Dude wanted a picture, that was what he was going to get.

When the yearbook came out days before graduation, I stared at that photograph for a long time. I thought about the words: Class Flirt. I did not think of myself as a person who “made advances.” I did not consider myself a vamp or a vixen or a seductress. But it made me realize that a lot of other people saw me that way. I mean, they voted for me. The idea made me squirmy.

I didn’t like it very much.

The idea stayed with me as I headed off to college. So did I completely reinvent myself? No. I am still a little coquette. I still bat my eyelashes and wear high-heeled shoes. I still chat it up with the boys. But I’m not interested in giving anyone a “come hither” look nor am I interested in stringing anyone along. That is not a sport in which I like to dabble.

These days, I’ve got Hubby. And Monkey is my photographer. He calls the shots. He holds the camera and tells me to be myself. And so I am. In pictures and in life. I still enjoy a fabulous double entendre, which is probably why I have a thing for The Bard. But there is so much more to me. There always was.

Photo taken by Monkey at age 11.

If you want to participate in School Picture Day, it’s not too late! Read the instructions here. Then post a picture, write a little somethin’-somethin’ (or just leave a caption) and go check out the school photos of some other bloggers like Clay Morgan and IronicMom and KeenieBeanie. If you posted a photo on your blog, please include a link in the comment section. I promise to visit. Even if you don’t do it today. I figure you have the rest of the week. For the purposes of my blog, it is School Picture Week! 😉


Locked and Partially Loaded for Fall 2011

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Look at all the out of print books. Sigh.

I recently found out what I’m teaching next fall.

I am elated.

It is the perfect schedule.

Then I went online to select my books.

The books that I have been using for the last four years.

Only two of the three of them were there.

My reader – the collection of essays upon which I have come to rely – is now out of print, so I will have to reinvent the wheel.

Hurgenflurgenshlurgen.

Women will understand this: this is akin to how we feel when we go into the store and find out that our favorite lipstick – the one that looks perfect on us, the one we have used for years, the one that helps to create our signature look – has been discontinued. Guys, I don’t know. This must be what it is like when your sports event has been preempted for A Sex in the City marathon and both your DVR and your computer are broken. So you can never see the game. Actually, I don’t know what this is like for guys. Maybe it’s like when they stop making your favorite hot sauce.

You get my point, though, right?

Immediately after I learned that my book was out of print, I received a lovely, gentle reminder that book orders are due as soon as humanly possible.

Right now, I’m in desperation mode.

I might chew off someone’s arm.

Part of me is considering not using a reader at all and just book-marking all the amazing blogs here in the blogosphere and having my students read them and respond to them. Perhaps use them as writing prompts.

It would definitely save my students a boatload of money.

And it would eliminate those annoying beginning of the year conversations:

Me: Where is your book?

Student: My financial aid hasn’t come in so I haven’t been able to buy some of my books.

Me: How about a pen? Where is your pen?

Student: Yeah. I didn’t have the money.

This conversation generally transpires while the bookless student is gripping the newest and most uber-expensive cell phone, leaving me to think: You manage to shell out $80 a month for that, right? The smartphone you can afford? But not my book? Yeah, you are goin’ places.

But this is just my desperation talking.

Because, you know, I have to revise my entire syllabus.

Which, in truth, isn’t the worst thing.

It’s good to freshen things up and shake things around once in a while.

Because no matter what materials I end up using, there are things that always remain the same.

I may be delusional, but (I think) most of my former students will tell you that I give off the vibe that I find them endlessly fascinating. Which, by the way, is true. They will probably tell you that I give them solid feedback and that I am willing to help them. Day or night. The reality is, I am good to them as long as they do not heckle me.

Because I am the show.

Yeah, yeah, I can run a writing workshop. I can create interactive activities for them. But if students want to excel in my class, they need, first and foremost, to have a good sense of humor. After all, I’m working my butt off to provide them with culturally relevant, fresh material. But my show only runs three days a week, so they’d better not miss my routine. Once they are invested, I expect them to work their tails off to try to impress me with their thinking and writing. I want to see those synapses a-firin’. Because nobody sees my show for free.

I was not a cheerleader in high school for nothing. I was in training. I was a gymnast and a dancer and I even danced (briefly) for money on a hydraulic lift. (Don’t ask.) I performed in plays throughout my life and, in graduate school, I got up on stage to sing. Why? Because secretly I wanted to be Stevie Nicks. Because I was honing my craft – learning how to deliver my lines, to speak with authority, with presence, with passion, with humor, with humility. I was learning to be fearless,  – so my students would,  one day, dare I say it, actually want to do things for me.

That sounds dirty.

I don’t mean like that, you pervs.

I mean students can tell when a teacher has prepared; they can tell which teachers genuinely care about what their students have to say, which teachers value their words, which teachers are working to give their students the skills they need to succeed in the future. And when students feel this, they generally want to please.

So my beloved book of essays is out of print.

It’ll be okay.

Things are looking good right now.

I’ve checked things out and my room for the fall does not have a pole in the middle of it, like the classroom I had last year.

Don’t get me wrong, the pole was fun. For a while.

But “obstructed view” is never the seat you would want at a kick-ass concert.

In this room, every seat’s a good seat.

Can’t wait to shake my groove thing.

So for now, I don’t rightly know exactly what I’m doing in the Fall of 2011.

I can only say with confidence, that the show will go on.

And now that I think about it, if I’m shaking things up, it’s probably time to get a new lipstick.

I’ve been wearing Malt for way too long.

The Hideously, Fabulous Sneakers

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Monkey's sneakers

My son has these ridiculous shoes. They came to us as hand-me-downs from friends whose son who never wore them. Apparently, the sneakers were custom-made for our friends’ son, but he exhibited some kind of advanced fashion sense and never wore them.

Because they are kind of ludicrous.

I mean, they are blood-red, white and royal blue.

Yup.

Clown shoes.

Anyway, my son fences. (No, he does not steal. He is a saber fencer.) And last weekend, his foot suddenly didn’t fit into his fencing sneakers. (How does that happen? Friday, good. Saturday, not so good?) Anyway, one hour before the big tournament, all we had were the clown shoes. Monkey tried them on and they fit. Like a glove. (Okay, that’s a terrible mixed metaphor. They fit like a pair of fabulously comfortable pair of whacked-out clown shoes.)

Thrilled, Monkey immediately ran upstairs and grabbed an ancient pair of unworn royal blue soccer socks. (You know, to match.)

And he kicked ass. (And by kicking ass, I mean he did better than he ever has before: He did not win, but he did not come in last place either.)

Meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, everyone commented on his shoes.

And Monkey (who tends not to be an attention whore like his mother) actually liked the attention.

Those wigged out kicks gave my boy a little swagger.

Frankly, the patriotic Nikes seemed to be a constant and very visual reminder that he needs to move his feet.

Which is something his coach often reminds him that he forgets to do.

As stupid as it sounds, the clown shoes made for a great weekend moment.

Of course, now we have to go to the mall.

You know. To buy sneakers.

Tell me about that one ridiculous piece of clothing to which you were very attached as a kid. Or tell me about something you have to tackle on your to do list! 😉

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