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We were outside, standing at wooden easels that were taller than we were.
“Your tree is really good,” I said, pointing at her paper. She’d managed to draw a maple with yellow leaves that actually looked like leaves. There was even a squirrel inside a knotty bough.
Mary came over to consider my canvas. “Your tree doesn’t look real,” she said, “but I like it anyway.”
A lifelong friendship was forged.
Over the years, we performed in school plays together, stayed after school for roller-skating parties, attended carnivals and festivals and fairs. We loved singing in music class with Mr. Metz, and we were in the same reading group all the way through fifth grade. In middle school, we served numerous detentions together and rode the same late bus home; and while our closest friendship circles did not always overlap, we always remained devoted to each other.
Fun fact: Mary was my first kiss.
(And no it wasn’t like that.)
We were practicing for a boy we liked, so we helped each other ‘prepare,’ each of us offering extensive feedback on the other person’s technique.
We trusted each other and were honest with each other about everything.
Mary and I remained in touch long after we graduated from high school. We celebrated the births of each of our children, and when Facebook came around, she and I were among the first to sign on. We loved sharing stories and, later, photographs.
We went through difficult times together. Her divorce. Then mine. Loss. Injuries. Illnesses. We loved each other through it all and remained loyal to each other.
When Mary told me she was moving to North Carolina, I was devastated. Knowing she was just seventy miles down the Thruway was of of great comfort to me and, during her last few years in Syracuse, whenever I was visiting for an extended period of time, we would meet up, even briefly, for coffee and connection.
We would reminisce about the ’70s and ’80s, about how, whenever I stayed overnight at her house, we stayed up late, pressing our noses against the glass of her bedroom window, which overlooked the giant screen at the DeWitt Drive-In.
We had no business watching those movies, but we did. And we made up entire conversations about what we imagined the characters were saying.
To this day, I can’t watch Jaws without hearing Mary’s take on the voice of the shark.
“I’m biting off your leg!” she’d announce. “Chomp chomp chomp!”
Then we’d scream and remind each other that the severed limb drifting to the bottom of the ocean was just a special effect.
“It isn’t real,” she’d say. “It’s not real.”
Today, though, the scary thing is real.
And I hate it.
I don’t have any wise words.
I could rant about how COVID-19 isn’t a hoax.
That it took my friend, the sweetest, most loving and good person I have ever known.
In each of her roles — as wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, grandma — Mary was extraordinary. She was straight and she was gay and then she was straight again. She was an artist and a teacher and a friend and a Christian. She was the most inclusive, least judgmental person I have ever known.
Her love was big, and it knew no sexes or shades. She wasn’t about this side or that side.
Mary lived passionately and with great integrity every single day — which isn’t easy in a world where people judge you for being even the tiniest bit weird.
When she and Jerry were cleaning out their house before their move to North Carolina, Mary came to see me at my parents’ house. We laughed about how we used to dress up in matching white nightgowns and sing into our hairbrushes.
“I’m giving you all this crap,” she said, depositing four enormous bags of supplies into the trunk of my car.
“What am I supposed to do with all of this?” I asked her as I sifted through bags of ribbons and buttons and tissue paper.
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “But I know you’ll make something beautiful out of it.”
I’ll try, Mare. I’ll try.
But, honestly, I feel like someone just told me they have discontinued phthalo blue — and you know a painting isn’t worth a damn thing without a little phthalo in it.
It took many years from me to heal my brain after withdrawing too quickly from clonazepam, a powerful anti-anxiety drug.
How I wished there was someone I could see and talk to who had been through the experience!
I promised that if I ever got to the other side of this injury that I would do something to give back to those who are still struggling.
To that end, I am joining forces with Reverend Heather Elizabeth of Bye Bye Benzos, and the two of us will be co-facilitating a one-hour ZOOM call to talk about our stories as well as information about some of the modalities that helped us — and continue to help us — as we move through complicated trauma.
Participants may join with or without video at 11AM EST, but we must be able to see your real name. (People with “nicknames” will not be allowed into the call.)
Heather and I will join the meeting at 11:11AM EST.
The ZOOM call is 100% free, and there will be an opportunity for Q & A.
If you are interested in joining us, please go to Rasjacobson Art, LIKE my page & click GOING or INTERESTED and you will receive the link & the password on the morning of the event.
In the meantime, you can hear more about my story HERE and HERE & hear Heather’s story here HERE.
Not too long ago, I went on a long walk with a stranger.
He was someone new, and I was excited to get to know him, so I asked a lot of questions.
He told me about his parents. His friends. How he fell off his path. His recovery. He cried, and I hugged him.
For a time we walked in silence and, after a while, I asked him one more question.
“Is there anything you’d like to know about me?”
He looked at me with confusion. He was so baffled by the question he actually stopped walking.
“Not really,” he said.
That was our first and last walk.
• • •
This interaction was shocking for me because, as most of you know, I’m a connector.
I find other people endlessly fascinating, and I ask a lot of questions when I’m interested in someone or something.
But I like to have an exchange.
And I’m *really* missing the exchange these days.
I hunger for intimate conversation, and I miss sitting across from and looking into another person’s eyes.
One of the ways that I share myself is by sharing my art, and the lack of festivals this year has been really tough.
Since COVID started, I’ve been making art in isolation.
To show you who I am.
So you can tell me who you are.
So we can have that exchange.
Sometimes the lack of exchange feels a little like when that guy — that stranger — had nothing to ask me.
To me, that response felt a lot like: ‘I don’t care about you.’
I am truly having to dig deep to mind that gap and ignore that stupid, stupid voice.
‘Cuz I *know* folks care about me, whether or not they buy my artwork.
• • •
If you are so inclined, please check out my latest offerings on my website. I’ve got new magnets, and I’m offering gift cards this year, including some cool bundles for the upcoming holidays — and I’m going to make some cute ornaments, too. So stay tuned!
PS: MyZOOM ART CLASSES are going well, so if you’d like a private class or you’d prefer to work in a group, drop me a line or leave a comment & I’ll send you the details. I’d love to connect with you in this way.
• • •
What are you doing to stay mentally strong during these confusing times?
I’ve finally uploaded a whole bunch of new artwork to my website.
If you click on my new category, WATERCOLOR ART, you’ll see pieces I’ve created since March 6, 2020.
Since we’ve all been physically-distanced from each other.
For those of you who have been with me since 2014, you know I’ve moved through different stages with this art stuff.
First there were hearts.
The the critters showed up.
Then the girlies were born.
And now my artwork is changing again.
There is an emphasis on lines and movement and connection.
Because I am sooooo missing connection!
As always, if you are looking for a special gift, please check out my website because now — in addition to magnets & prints & masonite tiles & original acrylic work — I am also offering affordable original watercolors.
And when you click over, you’ll notice that I have included the story of how each piece was created!
As you probably know, all festivals in New York State have been cancelled thru the end of July due to COVID-19, and I assume more cancellations will follow.
One thing I knew before COVID-19 that has become even more obvious during this weird time is that I really miss having daily contact with people in real life.
To cope with the isolation, I started painting LIVE on Facebook.
Having people watch & comment while I paint has been a lifeline for me, and so many people started following along with my lessons that I decided to offer individual & group online painting classes via ZOOM, which have been surprisingly enjoyable!
I’ve developed an eight session curriculum which includes:
BASIC COLOR STUDY (1 session)
BASIC FACES (1 session)
WHIMSICAL CRITTER (1 session)
WHIMSICAL HUMAN (2 sessions)
SQUIGGLE PAINTING (2 sessions)
COMBINING PAINTING WITH LETTERING (1 session)
And, once we get thru those lessons, we can continue to create together or you can go off-roading yourself!
Soooooooo if you are interested in:
• gifting a class to someone
• scheduling a class for yourself
• scheduling a ZOOM party/group gathering
— all you have to do is respond to this post and we’ll figure something out.
(And, no, you don’t have to commit to all eight sessions. You can just try one and decide from there.)
Most classes are 1-hour, but I also offer ZOOM parties!
Email me for pricing & a recommended supply list.
This masterpiece was created by 6-year, Gavin, from Houston, Texas. PS: Those gray things are anteaters. Duh!
Finally, my WEBSITE is stocked, so click over to see if there’s anything you’d like to purchase.
And for free intermittent lessons FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK.
Thank you so much for your continued support!
I’m so very grateful to each and every one of you!
From the moment lifestyle restrictions were deemed necessary in an attempt to “flatten” the infection curve associated with the COVID-19 virus, many people began reporting experiencing dystopian dreams.
I have suffered from nightmares for decades, and it is not unusual for me to awake in the middle of the night terrified.
I’m sharing a most recent dystopian nightmare here to maintain a record of what I’ve been dreaming about, and also as a way to encourage others to share their own scary dreams so that we can process them together.
In my dream:
I’m on the way to the Home Depot, to pick up a few small items — some wood trim and a big box of air filters for my furnace.
The parking lot is completely full, so I follow a red truck all the way to the back where there is one empty spot adjacent to a big, open field.
I mean to park alongside the field on the pavement, but I accidentally hit the gas and end up rolling onto the field.
But the field isn’t a field.
It’s a muddy bog — and my car immediately begins to sink.
In a moment, cold, heavy mud pours in from atop my open sunroof, burying me.
It’s dark and I can’t move or breathe.
I think of my parents and my son — and realize no one will even find me, lost in the bottom of this muddy bog.
• • •
I wake, gasping for air, and unintentionally call out the name of someone who used to hold me when I had nightmares.
But he’s not here.
Where I used to turn to a partner for emotional support, now that I alive alone, I’ve had to learn strategies to calm myself after a night terror.
So I wrap my arms around myself and allow myself to feel the feelings: the fear, the sadness, the surrender, and finally the gratitude.
I am alive.
I am safe.
I’m doing the best I can do.
While many people believe dreams are meaningless, I know dreams are powerful medicine, evidence of the night mind trying to make sense of what the conscious mind cannot understand during the waking hours.
There is so much confusion right now.
So much change and so few answers.
So many conspiracy theories and so much cognitive dissonance
We’re being told this is our “new normal” and learning how to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
What kinds of weird dreams are YOU having during this pandemic?
POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: WordPress automatically changed the title of my piece to “Things Pro-Choice Proponents Should Never Assume,” — which feels creepy to me. I have manually gone in and changed the title back. I hope you will will read to the end for the larger purpose of this piece.
The beauty of our country is that we have the right to agree to disagree. We can resolve things through voting and debate, but some topics strike such a tender chord with people, it is sometimes difficult to have any dialogue at all.
When I was in college and graduate school in the late 1980s – early 1990s, I believed that every educated person was Pro-Choice.
It seemed obvious.
I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this assumption was actually built into the course syllabus.
Folks with higher degrees were The Smart People.
And Smart People were, of course, Pro-Choice.
Pro-Lifers were religious zealots.
In 1991, I landed my first job teaching 3rd grade English as a Second Language. I worked with a teacher whom I adored. Kathy was smart, generous, kind, and warmhearted. She treated every child equally. She arranged the desks in neighborhoods and talked about community responsibilities. She bedazzled her bulletin boards and spent a lot of time doing little things she believed mattered to her students.
And her students loved her.
In the spring of 1992, as the debate over Roe v. Wade heated up, an event was planned in front of Buffalo’s GYN/Women Services. My friends and I agreed it was our obligation to ensure that women were able to make their appointments free from harassment from the notorious rabble-rousers who were coming to town. After all, GYN/Women Services provided prenatal care and regular obstetrics appointments for its many patients. It was not a killing field. It was a medical office that mainly provided routine office procedures like breast exams and pap smears in addition to providing legal abortions.
I went to the rally with two friends.
It was pandemonium.
People screamed at each other from both sides of the street. On both sides of the issue. I didn’t like the things the Pro-Choice people were chanting: things like “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” and offensive rhymes which dragged religion into the issue. My friends and I didn’t have a problem with anyone’s religious practices, and we didn’t want to be associated with all that noise. So we wandered across the street to CVS and bought some electrical tape.
And we taped our mouths shut.
Truth is, we had been just as offended by what people on “our” side of the street were chanting as we were by the 7-foot images of partially formed fetuses that the folks on the Pro-Life side were holding.
And we wanted to separate ourselves from the rhetoric.
It would have been nice to have had an opportunity to express that. But no one asked for our story.
Reporters and photographers were busy looking for one cool image.
And their camera lenses landed on us.
When our picture was published in LIFE magazine, I brought a copy to school to show Kathy, my teacher-friend. I wanted to talk to her about the caption which read “Women tape their mouths shut to represent The Silent Majority who favor safe, legal abortion” — and how that didn’t quite capture the whole story.
I wanted to tell her about how proud I was for standing up for my views, but how — at the end of the day — when the news vans with their giant satellite dishes had driven away, I felt a little like a pawn in someone else’s chess game. How it had occurred to me everyone had an agenda and we, women, had been pitted one against the other by religious leaders and politicians, by media spokespeople who encouraged participants from both sides of the street to shout louder when their cameras were rolling.
Kathy looked at me coolly and said:
“I guess we were on different sides of the street that day.”
Honestly, it was the first time I realized that intelligent people — really intelligent people — could be on the “other” side of the issue.
Kathy and I worked side by side for the rest of the year, but our interactions were different. I learned so much from her: how to treat children with dignity, how to walk the fine line between friend and disciplinarian, how to integrate non-native speakers of English into the larger class: so many things. One afternoon, I tried for the umpteenth time to discuss the the topic with her. I so wanted to make things right.
“Let’s just agree to disagree,” she said.
I never realized an issue could be so divisive that it could destroy a friendship.
But it did.
Kathy taught me to keep politics and religion out of the workplace.
To be silent about “personal” matters.
But the personal is always political, and thirty years later, we are seeing what happens when people stay silent.
I still believe women must continue to have the right to make their own decisions regarding anything that impacts their bodies. I still believe that abortion must remain a safe and legal procedure for women who find themselves having to make difficult, life-altering decisions.
And I also realize that many other people still believe something 100% different.
Which is annoying.
And this is what happens in a democracy.
It is, however, possible to be vocal & respectful when expressing oneself with regard to a controversial topic.
If nothing else, Kathy taught me there are many legitimate sides to every issue. It is essential we understand that in acknowledging the opposing sides of the argument, we are not weakening our own stance.
Unfortunately, I believe that we are in for many more dark days ahead as for as the political situation in our country. That being said, we can only control ourselves, and while *certain leaders* may be normalizing disrespectful behavior and uninformed rhetoric, it behooves us to sift through the rhetoric of our politicians and remember to be civilized with each other.
Ever lose a friend as a result of political or religious differences? Which, if any, of your core beliefs have changed over the last 20 years?