Writing Life

March 18, 2013

Anxious About #BlissDom? You’re Not Alone!

In a few days, I’ll be attending BlissDom, a blogging conference in Grapevine, Texas. I’m excited to network and meet some cyber-buddies,…

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March 8, 2013

Dangerous and Unseemly: An Interview With K.B Owen

It is with great pleasure that I introduce author K.B. Owen. Kathy has been a wonderful cyberfriend, and our appreciation for women’s…

Read More…

February 12, 2013

Getting to Gnome You: Valentine’s Day Stories

Remember these guys? My neighbor won them at my Book Club’s Annual DeGift & Re-Gift Party. Well, as it turns out, Lori…

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November 22, 2012

Gratitude: It Is Decided

I am beyond grateful today. When I asked people to help me to design a new header for this blog, I didn’t…

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November 19, 2012

People Gave Good Head(er)

Maybe I could have pimped this contest more aggressively. But honestly, I didn’t think anyone was going to design a new header…

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November 16, 2012

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! My 45th b’day faves!

Holy shizzlesticks! My birthday weekend started off so much better than last year when everyone in my entire family forgot about it!…

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October 15, 2012

Can You Give Good Head(er)?

As you can see, I pushed the button and have a new & improved theme. Squeee! Thank you, Coraline. Meanwhile, you probably…

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October 10, 2012

Change Is A Comin’!

Still no word from Temple, Texas on the status of my hard-drive. Maybe it might be deemed undead by Halloween? But I’m…

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October 9, 2012

Lessons From Ants: Rebuilding After The Storm

Have you ever watched ants after a storm? They don’t stand around. There are the egg-movers and the sand-shifters. Maybe there are…

Read More…

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I just got back from Blissdom ’13 in Dallas. While I’ve been blogging for almost three years and have built somewhat of a following, this was my first blogging conference.

Ultimately, what motivated me to attend this conference was my desire to connect with three women bloggers I admire: Erin Margolin, Kiran Ferrandino and Greta Funk. While some women opted to have individual rooms during the conference, I’m a summer camp girl. I knew I would feel better if I had a few women I could count on to be my home base, and I couldn’t have picked better roomies.

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Erin, me, Kiran & Greta

I woke up at 5 AM and traveled seven hours to get to Texas. I was exhausted when I got to the Gaylord Texan Hotel.** As I mentioned in a prior post, I was anxious about attending BlissDom. But the moment I checked in, it was game on. This brings me to the first thing you have to know about going to a conference for the first time.

1. BEING A NEWBIE IS TOUGH

As a teacher for over twenty years, I’m used to speaking to groups of people and (sometimes) flying by the seat of my pants. I’m pretty good at mixing and mingling, but even I found BlissDom a little overwhelming. The hotel was large and initially difficult to negotiate. I suppose I’d forgotten what it feels like to do something new.

Being at BlissDom reminded me of my very first day of school. Remember how you worried you would never figure out how to find your classes, how you prayed someone would ask you to sit next to them in the cafeteria, how you were in awe of the older students who seemed to know exactly what they were doing and where they were going?

An extrovert who is generally energized by people, I felt drained at the end of each day. I can only imagine what some of the more introverted folks felt.

As a newbie, I worried a lot. Was I in the right sessions? Was I missing opportunities? Was I talking to the right people? Sometimes when I’m exposed to something new and scary, one of my least appealing coping mechanisms kicks in. I click into teacher mode and look for mistakes, little flaws and inconsistencies, to make the internal me feel a little bit superior and less out of control.

Case in point. The first night, conference goers attended a Kick Off Reception as well as a Partner Meet & Treat. I knew that there would be corporate sponsors, but holy swag!

I watched people cramming tote bags with towels and hair care products, applesauce and raisins, lip balms and bug spray, diaper ointment and Duck tape. Women were tweeting and Instagramming furiously, trying to win sunglasses, a vacuum cleaner, a cruise, furniture.

Because I felt out of my element, I turned up my nose.

So much stuff.

So much hoopla.

So many cupcakes.

(And no Canada Dry Ginger Ale!)

After a while, I remembered that the Meet & Greet was exactly why people were there. The gathering represented an opportunity. Clearly, sponsors were crossing their fingers, hoping bloggers would fall in love with their products and continue to buy them, maybe even blog about them for their readers. And bloggers were thrilled to directly network with sponsors who were open to hearing different ways of exposing their products to different markets.

Coffee Cup

Luckily, I caught myself being a Debbie Downer.

Seriously, if I met someone with my attitude, I would have wanted to smack that girl upside the head and serve her with a tall-glass of boot to the face.

Part of the problem was that I kept hearing the voices of all the people who told me I should have attended a writing conference. Truth be told,  I don’t think I would have felt any different at a writing conference. I would have been intimidated and out of control and worried I had made an expensive mistake.

At BlissDom, I felt pressure to make sure that I was getting the most bang for my buck. After all, conferences aren’t cheap. I wanted to make sure I was maximizing my time.

And all that pressure was exhausting.

That’s why it’s important to…

2. BE PREPARED

If you are going to a blogging conference, make damn sure you know how to answer the following question:

“What do you blog about?”

Because I soooo didn’t.

I’d say:  “I’m a writer. I write about everything. I like to play with words.”

But this concept did not transfer well in the blogging world.

Many of the first people I met had faboo products they were trying to sell: spectacular jewelry and cool aprons and yummy soaps and felted wreaths. Some people baked doggie treats or people treats. And some people focused on hair and makeup and fashion. But everyone asked: What do you blog about? So I had to figure it out. Right there.

imagesWhat in the hell is my blog about? What am I selling?

Eventually I realized, I am the story behind my blog.

Me.

And if folks like the way I tell a tale, well, maybe some of them might want to read my book one day.

Duh.

It only took me forty-seven hours to figure that out.

3. YOU ONLY NEED TO MAKE A FEW GOOD CONNECTIONS

In his keynote speech, author and motivational speaker, Jon Acuff said the most important thing to do at any conference is to meet a few good people. Not a hundred. Not fifty. A few. Prior to the conference, I had 500 business cards printed. Two-hundred would have been more than ample. I only gave my card to people I genuinely liked, folks with whom I could see myself having future contact.

Unless you are a graphic designer who specializes in business cards, you don’t need to collect eleventy-two jizillion business cards. You’ll meet a few people you like and feel comfortable with. It is with these people you will want to exchange cards. It will happen organically.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet someone who has read your blog and be excited to meet you. You will remember these people forever. You will want to buy them things.

You’ll  probably meet a few people you admire, people who might be able to teach you a thing or two, people who seem willing to help.

These people will become part of your network and…

4. NETWORKING IS THE REASON YOU ARE AT THE CONFERENCE 

I met many talented women at BlissDom.

Aimee Broussard makes the freaking cutest aprons.

And Angela Youngblood. How can a chick with a bod like that have four kids? Kind and funny, she is also one helluva writer.

And Gigi Ross is an even bigger rock star to me now that I have met her in person.

Did I love every session? No.

Did I click with everyone? Of course not.

But each of us found our people.

That’s one heckuva magic trick.

And now I shall leave you with a tip.

5. ENJOY THE VENUE

Once I stopped trying to fix BlissDom, I started to enjoy what it had to offer.

There is much to be said about letting down one’s hair.

And that is probably how I ended up in the Alberto VO5 Hair Salon.

It started with an innocent question about how to control the frizzies.

But somehow I found myself in a chair, getting my hair flat-ironed and styled.

Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 1.07.10 PM

And while I was there, I had my make-up done.

And did I want fake eyelashes?

Um, yes please.

Because why not?

Who knew I was going to have a mini spa-day in the middle of BlissDom?

BlissDom was unlike any conference I’d attended before.

It offered attendees head to toe rejuvenation to its attendees, most of whom are women.

And what woman doesn’t need a little TLC?

I could do as much or as little as I wanted.

I was free to engage with new people without the pressure of having to report back to a principal or department chair.

I was only accountable to myself.

I didn’t have to follow the feet.

I didn’t have to cook or clean.

Thank goodness I recognized how much joy I was missing out on by being judgmental with plenty of time left to enjoy the conference.

Teachers are taught to think critically, to look for the cracks and the inconsistencies. We are trained to listen for the wrong answers. But sometimes, we are too ready to deduct points with red and green and purple pens.

Sometimes it’s more about the process than the product.

All conferences are about growth and self-improvement.

But Blissdom was about feeling and dreaming and connecting and, hopefully, igniting something inside of us.

Personally, I felt like I went on a vacation.

I obviously needed one.

Did the earth move for me?

I don’t know.

But maybe it didn’t have to.

Maybe having that realization is enough.

Now I’ve seen what a blogging conference is all about.

Engaging. Networking. Connecting.

Hopefully, I’ve learned from some of those bigger kids and I’ll start off more relaxed at whatever conference I choose to attend next.

blissdom @ gaylord 0313_7DN1063

What do you want to know about BlissDom? Or if you went, what was your experience like? If you wrote a post, leave a link so I can come check you out!

tweet me @rasjacobson

**Much gratitude to the folks at the Gaylord Texan. If you’re going to the Gaylord in Dallas-Fort Worth, ask for room 7090. Four women with five suitcases stayed there comfortably for 3-nights with more than ample room. The staff even delivered extra hangers, towels and coffee to our room for us! How nice is that? Thank you Gaylord Hotels!

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In a few days, I’ll be attending BlissDom, a blogging conference in Grapevine, Texas.

I’m excited to network and meet some cyber-buddies, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being nervous, too.

For weeks, I’ve read posts about what people are doing to prepare for this thing. Some bloggers wrote about how they plan to get to the conference early so they can have their nails done & have their hair cut and colored before the keynote on Thursday night.

{gulp.}

Some women posted pictures of what they plan to wear to the conference. Others mentioned they received sponsorships from clothing companies that not only paid for their tickets to the conference, but also gave them cute outfits to wear the entire weekend.

{gasp.}

I’ve read how about how important it is to pack properly for this conference. Apparently, I need earplugs and Band-Aids and duck tape and snacks and comfortable {yet stylish} shoes. And an iPad. And gifts for my roommates.

Holy moley, Spicolli.

I know y’all mean well, but y’all are making me want to hide at the pool, and I haven’t gotten on the plane yet!

For those of you who haven’t met me yet (and that would be everyone since this is my first blogging conference), I figured I’d come clean right now.

I will not be the girl with the make-up or the nails or the pretty outfits.

Coming from Rochester, New York, I live in a puffy, black sleeping bag coat between November and April. We all do. It’s a thing.

So I probably shouldn't wear this, huh?
So I probably shouldn’t wear this, huh?

Also, I operate under a probably misguided belief that I look adorable in jeans worn under a sundress.

With cowboy boots.

So I will probably be wearing something like this:

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This works, right?

Everyday.

I might also be wearing a hat.

On account of my crazy hair.

Here are some things I would appreciate if you would do when you see me at BlissDom:

  1. Check my teeth. I have this one area where food always gets caught. Friends generally tell me if there is something nasty up in there. Seriously, I will love you if you lean over and discreetly tell me my lunch is stuck in my grill.
  2. Dance with me.  I plan to tear it up on the dance floor. I don’t need any alcohol or drugs or anything to get out there. If you want my drink tickets me to love you forever, dance with me. Don’t say you need ten drinks first. Just come join. I promise I won’t make you stand on the bar. Probably.
  3. Ask me if I know where I’m going. I was not born with an innate sense of direction. When traveling alone, I am 100% dependent on Google Maps, which probably won’t help much inside the Gaylord Hotel. If you see a woman weeping in a corner, chances are I have to pee and I can’t find a bathroom. If you can just point me in the right direction, I’d be much obliged.

Help me on any of these fronts, and I’ll pretty much do anything for you.

I’ve got my business cards and my iPad.

This Yankee is packing her big girl panties and her cowboy boots.

I promise to bleach my mustache for you.

But I’m not getting a spray tan or micro-demabrasion or liposuction or Rejuviderm or Botox.

{Unless someone is offering to sponsor that. In which case I totally am.}

Get ready, BlissDom.

I’ll be the 45-year-old shaking her badonkadonk on the dance floor.

What are the most important things you have ever brought to conferences — writing or otherwise?

tweet me @rasjacobson

It is with great pleasure that I introduce author K.B. Owen. Kathy has been a wonderful cyberfriend, and our appreciation for women’s history and chocolate connected us long ago. I love reading Kathy’s blog and following her on Twitter, and now her mystery Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery is out, you guys!

D&U cover2
Click here to buy at Amazon!

You want to know what K.B.’s book is about? Okay. It is 1896. Professor Concordia Wells must discover who is behind malicious pranks and attacks at her college, before she is the next target.

RASJ: Receiving a college education was pretty new for women when Concordia was around. I attended Hobart and William Smith College, a coordinate college, where women had dormitories separate from the men. What is Concordia’s living arrangement like? And what challenges did she face?

KBO: Although Concordia is a professor rather than a student, her living situation certainly poses some difficulties. At Hartford Women’s College, there is little separation between one’s teaching duties and one’s personal life. Women teachers are required to live in the cottage dormitories with their students and act as surrogate mothers/chaperones. They are assisted by house matrons – one to each cottage – who have light housekeeping and supervisory duties. What is grossly unfairly, of course, is that the male teachers have it easy, and aren’t given such responsibilities. This is the norm throughout all women’s colleges at the time.

faculty room WellesleyConcordia has faculty quarters in Willow Cottage, which houses about two dozen female students. Her rooms, which consist of a study and a bedroom, are on the ground floor, so she is subjected to a lot of noise from the heavy-footed students above her. While she enjoys spending time with the girls in her care, they can be a rambunctious lot. They play pranks upon each other, engage in illegal cooking in their rooms (fudge, hot cocoa, etc), and have a heightened sense of drama when things go wrong. Concordia’s greatest challenges are managing her time, and keeping her students out of mischief.

RASJ: Rambunctious girls? A heightened sense of drama? I can’t imagine what you might be talking about. *ahem* While living in the dorms, I had to share a bathroom with a lot of women who were always trying to look their best. Back in the 1980s, I wanted to be Stevie Nicks, so I dressed in flowing skirts. Who would Concordia have wanted to look like? What was the fashion like back then?

KBO: Concordia isn’t exactly a fashionista, although she likes to look fashionable for special occasions, such as balls and teas. She and the other female academics typically wear simple shirtwaists (blouses) with serviceable full skirts in wool or cotton lawn, depending upon the season. She is especially fond of smart-looking jackets, however, especially if they are trimmed in an attractive braid or the lapels are faced with a contrasting color that complements her outfit.

Bicycling;_The_Ladies_of_the_Wheel,_1896
Wikimedia Commons

Since she is a redhead with a pale-freckled complexion, she’s very aware that certain colors look dreadful on her. The 1890s style is leg o’ mutton sleeves and tapered waists, with a significantly diminished bustle. The 1896 sketch at right, titled: “Bicycling: The Ladies at the Wheel,” by Francois Courboin, gives a good idea of what the typical outfits looked like.

RASJ: When I wasn’t in class or studying, I danced in an on-campus organization, that’s still around today. I wore leg-warmers, a leotard and tights. Fraternity life was a big part of the social life on campus, as sororities were not allowed. At night, I studied in the library, then — later, after hours, I went to local bars to dance and, even later, I came back on-campus to attend fraternity parties. What was a woman like Concordia allowed to do for fun in the late nineteenth century?

KBO: There are limitations to what proper 1890s ladies can do. Their skirts are their leg-warmers, LOL. And a bar? Never. There are ladies’ restaurants, tea shops, and soda/ice cream parlors where women can go for refreshments and to meet with friends. Several of the ladies’ restaurants in Hartford (the setting of my story) are located in department stores like G. Fox and Brown Thomson’s, so it’s a win-win: shopping and lunch! All of these are just a quick trolley ride away from campus. The street rail system in Hartford has just been upgraded from horse-drawn to electric-propulsion, so it’s even more efficient.

SophCrew Wellesley 1879There are events on campus: teas, socials, play productions, recitations, picnicking on the grounds in the nice weather and “coasting” (sledding) in the winter, hikes, bicycling, lawn tennis…the list is endless. Concordia, for example, is an avid bicyclist. The one challenge for students, of course, is that they have to follow the “ten o’ clock rule” – in bed, lights out, by ten p.m. This is standard practice at women’s colleges.

RASJ: As a student, I developed close relationships with female faculty members at my college. Toni Flores was a Women’s Studies professor, and I babysat her children. Deborah Tall was a poet who helped inspire me to publish my first poem. Both of these women became mentors whom I could go to if I needed help. When Concordia finds herself in trouble, in whom does she confide?

KBO: The mentoring and friendships one develops in college/grad school are wonderful, aren’t they? It was that sort of atmosphere I wanted to create in the novel’s college, too. While Concordia does her fair share of mentoring troubled students, she finds herself needing confidants to lean on in the story. Lord knows she’s faced with enough difficulties: the college as a whole is dealing with arson, malicious pranks, threatening notes, and other bits of skullduggery that I won’t spoil for you, and compounding that is Concordia’s personal trouble with her mother and sister, and a mysterious death close to home.

Her best friend is Sophia Adams, a very unconventional young lady (the same age as Concordia), who lives and works in the settlement house in Hartford. She works with the poor and advocates for women’s suffrage and other progressive social issues. Sophia is someone Concordia enjoys spending time with, and can turn to in times of trouble. Two other people she relies upon are Chemistry professor David Bradley and Lady Principal Hamilton. Although the “lady principal” designation is becoming outmoded by this time, it’s still in use. A lady principal is second in responsibility and position to the college’s president, and she is in charge of matters dealing with the faculty.

RASJ: How is Dangerous & Unseemly a story only you could have written?

KBO: I have always been a mystery-lover, especially of the classic, detective tradition. I wanted to write a book that I would enjoy reading myself, so that’s why it is in the “cozy” style.

I taught literature and writing for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, so that gave me plenty of experience with eccentric teachers, student peccadilloes, and some of the unique faculty-student interactions. I have a doctorate in nineteenth-century British literature, which provides me with a good background in the time period, although I still had a lot of research to do in writing the novel. I lived in the Hartford area for five years, and fell in love with the locale and its history. All around, it seemed a good fit for me.

RASJ: What do you love about this book?

KBO: I thought at first that I would say I love the plot, but in thinking about it, I love the characters even more. They stay with me: their convictions, their inner demons, their eccentricities; and I love how they respond to events in the novel. It’s cool to be puppet-master. Bwahaha.

RASJ: Oh, Kathy! I know mystery lovers and folks who enjoy women’s history would like your novel as well. How can people get it?

KBO: Well, they can click HERE to buy at Amazon or click HERE to buy at Scribd or click HERE to buy at Barnes & Noble.

• • •

And now a little mystery fun. Remember the game “CLUE”? Each stop in K.B. Owen’s book launch tour features a mystery question to answer. When you have them all, unscramble the answers to which ROOM, WEAPON, and SUSPECT, and email Kathy at kbowenwriter (at) gmail (dot) com. Click HERE for details on how the game works. She’ll announce the winner (chosen from the correct entries) on the last stop of the tour. Then she will email the winner!

What can you win? A free ebook copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, and a $25 gift card of your choice to either Starbucks, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble! If you run into a few stumpers – no problem! Check out K.B.’s Mystery Quizzes page for links to the answers. If you’ve joined us in the middle of the tour, the complete list of Book Tour hosts can be found at kbowenmysteries.com. Good luck! (Deadline to email K.B. with your answers in April 1, 2013.)

The special question for my readers is as follows:

Nate the Great, a “soft-boiled” kid detective from a popular children’s series, eats a favorite food when he needs to think out a case. What is it?
Q) hot dogs
R) pancakes
S) Doritos
T) broccoli
Happy sleuthing, and congratulations to K.B. on her new book!

Go ahead. Ask K.B anything about women in higher education right around the 1900s. I’ll be she knows the answer!

tweet us @ rasjacobson & kbowenwriter

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Remember these guys? My neighbor won them at my Book Club’s Annual DeGift & Re-Gift Party. Well, as it turns out, Lori wasn’t wild about the gnome salt & pepper shakers. And guess what? She gave them to me! And just in time for Valentine’s Day! Read on  to see what you can do to win them!

Valentine’s Day in kindergarten was simple. My teacher wore a red sweater with pink hearts on it. We ate cupcakes. And then we napped.

In 3rd grade, Valentine’s Day became a bigger production. Valentines needed to be made for every person in both sections of the grade. Forty construction paper hearts, people!

My mother brought out a the colored construction paper, handed me a pair of scissors, and I got busy cutting out small, medium and large-sized hearts for my friends.

The people I liked the best got the biggest hearts.

And since I was not stupid, I made my teachers big hearts, too.

{I needed all the brownie points I could get.}

In 1976, I was crushing hard on two boys. I took tons to time make sure both boys received double-matted cards – pink construction hearts glued on top of red construction hearts – and I carefully wrote the same note to both boys. And signed my name.

{In pen.}

652c57167a11a778b4884059789232d2
Image courtesy of Antonio Rodrigues, Jr. Click to see his beautiful booklet!

I didn’t think much about signing my cards.

It was Valentine’s Day.

If ever there was a day to use the word “LOVE,” that was the day, right?

Um, wrong!

Once the cards were delivered, it was discovered I loved not just one but two boys.

That day I learned about monogamy. There were rules, and I had broken them. It didn’t matter how much Herbal Essence Shampoo I used, girls were not supposed to love two boys at once. It didn’t matter if Savallas called Mary and me on Saturday mornings to talk about Soul Train. It wasn’t okay for a girl to like two boys.

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Photo courtesy of Antonio Rodrigues Jr. Click on the image to see more of his work.

In high school, the pressure around Valentine’s Day increased.

Students bought flowers for friends {and the people with whom they hoped to become more than friends} for the bargain-basement price of $1 per stem.

While I  always received a few flowers from my closest friends, the popular girls made a big show about carrying their dozens of carnations around, toting them from class to class like it was a chore. It was hard not to feel inadequate sitting next to Miss Universe over there, holding two-dozen pink and red carnations on her lap as she copied her vocabulary words off the blackboard.

And some people didn’t get any flowers at all. That had to sting.

When we were in the “I-so-want-to-impress-this-woman” phase of our relationship, Hubby made an amazing dinner at his friend Brian’s house. (Okay, maybe Brian made the dinner, but I’m sure Hubby helped). It was a long, late leisurely meal. I tried escargot for the first time. And ate filet mignon alongside a green salad. We all drank wine.

Later, I smashed an irreplaceable wine glass (hand blown in Germany and borrowed from Brian’s mother) on Brian’s floor.

Anyway, Hubby wasn’t mad at me.

{Brian’s mother probably was, but Hubby made me feel okay about being human.}

Years later, when I became a high school teacher and saw girls parading around with their carnations, I decided celebrating Valentine’s Day in school teaches students the wrong message about love.

The implication is that love is something you can buy.

That the person with the tallest pile of cards or the most flowers is the winner.

Hubby helped me unlearn that lesson.

And for that I am grateful.

Tell me about a best (or worst) Valentine’s Day memory. It can be fact or fiction or hybrid.

*If you are interested in winning those gnomes, include the word #GNOME at the end of your post! And tweet me for an extra chance to win!*

Winners will be announced on Friday 2/15, after I do all the figuring. I imagine Random Number Generator will help.

tweet me @rasjacobson

I am beyond grateful today.

When I asked people to help me to design a new header for this blog, I didn’t think anyone would do it.

As usual, I have been surprised by this wonderful writing community.

I communicated with all of the people who submitted entries to my contest, each of whom insisted that if I wanted to use the header that he or she designed that I could simply use it.

Steve from Brown Road Chronicles told me he didn’t even know there was a prize involved when he made the header in the first place and suggested that I make a donation to our local food pantry. Val Erde from Arty Old Bird thought that making a donation sounded like a great idea, as did Jules, who told me to hold onto her header and use it whenever I want. The two other bloggers insisted they remain anonymous, but agreed with everyone else.

So I made my decision.

If you look up, you will see my new header.

I love it.

And, shockingly, I love that I am not wearing my hat.

Who’da thunk it?

After Thanksgiving, I will make a donation at my local food pantry in recognition of all the participating bloggers’ names.

Even the anonymous ones.

In a few hours, my house will be filled with family. My parents are traveling to be with us. They will find a cozy place on the couch and plant themselves there. My nephews will talk about medical school and college, and I will cling to my eldest niece, knowing she will be heading somewhere fabulous in the Fall.

I will look at my son and his younger cousin, my niece, and feel a sense of awe. Too soon, they — like their older cousins — will leave home. My hope is that everyone comes back once in a while to share in this family tradition. In a few hours, while the men shout about how the damn TV remote isn’t working (because our TV remote totally sucks), I will be drowning in love and potato peels.

I am thrilled to host this year’s feast, which means Hubby and I are offering our house, preparing the table, making fifteen pounds of mashed potatoes, a bunch of side dishes, and a dessert or two.

Because like Jenny Hansen and Susie Lindau, I have major turkey anxiety.

I would rather set the table and wash all the dishes than be responsible for the bird.

There are the tables, ready to go.

May we all eat well and remember the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us.

I feel so fortunate right now. Truly, I wish I had long enough arms to give everyone in real life and this blogosphere a big hug.

With much gratitude,

xoxoRASJ

Maybe I could have pimped this contest more aggressively.

But honestly, I didn’t think anyone was going to design a new header for me.

I prepared to write a conciliatory speech on Thanksgiving Day and then beg TechSupport to fill that space with his mad Photoshop skills. I knew he would demand full creative license and banish me from hovering about while he worked. We would have a power struggle but eventually come to an agreement whereby I would be allowed to check in a three times for 2.2 seconds each — just to make sure he was on the right track. And, of course, he would demand the $25 that I’d promised the winning entrant — but he would negotiate to receive his pay in  iTunes cards.

Thankfully, five people actually entered the contest to design my new header.

And herein lies the problem.

I love all of them.

Seriously. I adore them.

Do you know Steve from Brown Road Chronicles? Steve lives in Michigan where he writes about country living, old houses, dirt roads, raising kids with his hot wife and other amusing anecdotes. He also sings songs that will make you swoon. He made this:

Val Erde from Arty old Bird made two totally different headers. An artist herself, Val is incredibly generous and allows people to use work from her blog, so long as you follow the guidelines regarding attribution listed there. If you are looking for fun posts and fresh images, you will want to visit Val’s place. She made this:

And this:

Jules from Go Jules Go is my sweet chipmunk-loving pal. Even though she was busy getting interviewed by WordPress as a featured Blogger while taking night classes on web design, and living without electricity after Hurricane Sandy, she still had time to hide out in her mother’s house send me this piece of work.

Adding text so you can see the white border.

Then I received entries from two people who said they would prefer to remain anonymous. Can you imagine? No linky-love? No mention of their names on my blog? Just happy to do me a favor. I have great friends.

So I need to thank SuperCoolPerson#1 for this:

And SuperCoolPerson#2 for this:

I want my header to be something that I love and find visually appealing.

And I can’t give everyone the prize or I’ll be in the poorhouse!

I know who my winner is.

I think.

Come back and find out on Thanksgiving Day when that header will be in place.

Unless I screwed up and gave everyone the wrong dimensions. Which would suck.

Holy shizzlesticks! My birthday weekend started off so much better than last year when everyone in my entire family forgot about it!

On Saturday, I found out that I had been Freshly Pressed for my latest post about Coming Clean About My Age.

Tagged for “aging.” Nice.

Everyone knows that the folks at WordPress smoke crack never pick your best piece to be FP’d, right? But, hey, I’m not one to look a birthday gifthorse in the mouth, so I’ll just say: Yay! *fist pump woot woot* and welcome to my new subscribers! And to you new peeps, I beg of you to click on anything else. Seriously, go back into the archives and just click on something. That piece was not representative of my writing prowess. *rolls eyes*

But I still retweeted their tweet! Don’t judge me.

Before he left to go golfing this morning, Hubby brought in Saturday’s mail, and I saw I’d received 17 holiday catalogues, a few bills, and an envelope filled with coupons for hair removal.

But.

There was also a card from my parents which included their traditional gift: a check made out in the amount of the number of years I’ve been on the planet plus one extra dollar for good luck. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to DSW at some point this week. The card also contained sentimental words from my mother and the annual birthday poem composed by my father. (Last year, my parents sent me an empty envelope. It’s true.  But my dad emailed me my birthday poem a few days later.) As I was reading their card, they called to sing “The Birthday Song.” Thanks for sharing 50% of your DNA with me, Mom & Dad!

I got a lot of Facebook love and a bunch of sweet tweets. But a really great one came from Dawn Sticklen and Amy Stevens. I kind of played yenta and helped to connect them out there in Missouri. They obviously met up for a cuppa Joe and sent me a little birthday love!

Thanks @AmyStevens_ & @JoMoBlgger! You two talk amongst yourselves!

Later our very hot FedEx guy came bearing a package from my brother and my sister in law and their family.

Gorgeous b’day flowers.

While I was outside, I saw I’d received another package. It was just sitting there all lonely on my front stoop. I ripped into it and found an autographed copy of Fabio Bueno‘s new book Wicked Sense. I can’t wait to start it — right after I start finish this month’s neighborhood book club selection.

Back in the house, I showered and dressed in my long purple gown. You know the way you would on the Sunday morning of your 45th year. I went outside to chat it up with my neighbors when who came sidling up my driveway? Jeff Probst! I was like: Whaaaaaat?

That’s when he told me I am going to be a contestant on Survivor25.

Can you believe CBS let Jeff come over on my birthday?

Or Amber West sent me this sweet picture which made me smile and consider what life would be like as a brunette.

I swear, I’m chortling in my joy.

Who knows what the rest of the day might hold in store, but so far this has been a very good day. Thanks to all of you for staying with me to celebrate yet another birthday! I’m closing comments because I feel like I already got plenty of comment love HERE.

As you can see, I pushed the button and have a new & improved theme.

Squeee!

Thank you, Coraline.

Meanwhile, you probably notice that very boring prominent picture of dewy grass under my name.

Clearly, that has absolutely nothing to do with my tagline.

This is because I am technologically challenged when it comes to creating things like headers, and it will take me infinity years a while to create one.

Meanwhile, Tech created an awesome header for me.

In under 30 minutes.

You’ll notice, he emphasized the fact that I am a mother, a writer and, of course, my hotness.

According to my son, now I can write about all the things that I think are hot.

Like the sun and my boots and summer.

*ahem*

And while that may be be true, I’m still not convinced the header he made is doing it.

Let’s be clear. I am grateful my son made a header for me. It astounds me that my 13-year-old was able to figure out how to create a header in the first place, let alone one that flashes.

In under 30 minutes.

And while I totally appreciate that he believes that his momma is hot (that’s called the power of repetition folks), it doesn’t exactly go with my new hoo-ha.

Or maybe it’s that it looks like he is advertising my hoo-ha.

It’s kind of porny.

I mean, seriously.

It’s pretty flashy.

{As in: Nay Nay, your header is giving me a seizure.}

Not really what I was going for.

And then it occurred to me.

There are a lot of really creative people out there who are not technologically impaired the way I am. Why not ask my friends and readers, my peeps on Facebook, and my tweeps on Twitter to see if they want to take a stab at it?

I mean there are actual graphic artists out there who might be interested in whipping something up in exchange for some street cred.

Here we go.

The Rules.

Design a new header for my blog incorporating something that you think represents the concept of my blog — Because Life Doesn’t Fit in A File Folder. So if you are new here, you might want to read a couple of posts.

Here are some things to know about me:

  • I have sparkly reading glasses.
  • I like words. Especially double-entendres.
  • I am a mom.
  • I am a teacher.
  • I hate clutter.
  • I am hot. (It’s a delusion, but go with me on this.)
  • I love Canada Dry Ginger Ale. (“It’s not too sweet.”)

Specs.

Your design needs to fit on into a Coraline header: 990 x 180.

And I’d like you to integrate my avatar into the header in some way.

Please put this in the header somewhere.

Submit your images via email in .JPG or .PNG files. When you submit, please be sure to identify yourself and let me know if you are attached to a particular blog or Facebook page, so I can link up to your fabulousness. (If you would prefer your submission to be anonymous, just let me know.)

Multiple submissions allowed.

The Deadline.

Thursday, November 1, 2012, 12 MIDNIGHT EST.

The Grand Prize.

Prominent linky-love on my blog on a tab called Header Credit. That’s right, every time someone clicks to see who made that header, they will know, you did.

And a $25 gift card to any place of your choice. As long as I can get the gift card at my local grocery store. But seriously, they have everything. (And just in time for the holidays!)

Why Don’t I Just Hire Someone?

Some folks might say I’m crazy to put something like this into the hands of the people. Well, it’s an election year. And I have faith in the people.

Faith that people will want the best header to represent my blog. Faith that no one will do anything too wonky so as to damage my new & improved platform. Faith that people will do near anything for some linky-love and a $25 gift card.

As this is an election year, I believe it is only fair to listen to the people…

But seriously. This is my header, people. I can’t slap anything up there!

Entries will be shown during the month of November and a I will announce the big winner on Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 22, 2012, 6 am EST) because I will be filled with so much gratitude.

Spread the word. Tell your friends who are graphic artists or professional artists know how to do something awesome with Adobe and Photoshop and Picnik and Gimp and all those other cool programs about which I know absolutely nothing.

I have no idea what kind of magic folks might come up with.

But I have faith in some of you.

I’m already peeing a little from excitement. Sorry, that happens sometimes. That probably shouldn’t be in my header. Maybe.

Do you have what it takes to make a header? Or are you all about the words? What kinds of words/images would you like to see included on my header? Is all that flashing giving you a migraine yet?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Still no word from Temple, Texas on the status of my hard-drive.

Maybe it might be deemed undead by Halloween?

But I’m not holding my breath.

In fact, I’m moving forward in the wake of my heinous computer crash.

As promised, change is a comin’.

First Things First.

You regulars may have noticed that I have changed the name of my blog.

I know, some of you are yawning.

Like big whoop.

But I had to make that decision before I could make other decisions.

When I was still deciding if I should keep the name Teachers & Twits, I asked TechSupport for his opinion.

Tech said:

“Mom, everyone knows you by Teachers & Twits. It’s your brand. You can’t change it now.”

(I swear, he said it just like that. He actually said “brand,” leading me to believe he has been reading Kristen Lamb’s blog?)

I understand what he means.

I’m definitely a firm believer that anyone can be a teacher (or a twit) on any given day.

I mean that was the premise of this blog in the first place.

But other folks suggested I blog under my own ridiculously long name.

Many bloggers do that: authors & writers I respect.

I’m trying to grow my freelance career.

Eventually, I will have a book.

(It is scheduled to be released moments before Hell freezes over. But still.)

No, seriously.

I want people to recognize my ridiculously long name.

So I hope you like the changes you are starting to see.

And writing under my own name doesn’t mean I can’t have a cool tagline.

Because life doesn’t fit in a file folder fits.

Now I can write about anything, which feels liberating.

Hopefully, you will continue to think of me as that hot girl with the sparkly glasses.

And the hair.

Who uses all those words.

Wait, you don’t think I’m hot?

Did you not see THIS?

Listen, I won’t always be in the classroom.

So it makes sense to drop the teacher part of things.

And while I may do some goofy things and enjoy a little naughty wordplay, I’m not a twit.

I never was.

Get psyched to be part of the changes.

A new header is a comin’.

Get ready to exercise your right to vote.

tweet this twit @rasjacobson

photo from Jason Bolonski via flickr.com

Have you ever watched ants after a storm? They don’t stand around. There are the egg-movers and the sand-shifters. Maybe there are a few complainishy-ants who stomp their six legs or shrug their thoraxes, but I suspect ants just accept things. Their instinct tells them to get to rebuildin’.

It’s what they do.

By now, most of my regular readers know my last computer died in August.

If you are new here, you need to know I was stupid and didn’t have a single thing backed up.

But let’s go back to the ants, shall we?

Unlike ants that tend to construct what appears to be essentially the same structure after each storm, I realized (after a lot of crying) in being forced to start over from scratch, I was given an opportunity.

My blog was unaffected by the great crash.

Don’t get me wrong, I lost a boatload of unfinished blog posts that I had not yet uploaded to WordPress.

But as I waited for the new computer to arrive, I realized I could just keep going along as I have been.

Or I could use the opportunity to shake things up here, too.

Things Have Changed

Some of the information on my blog is not up-to-date. First of all, I’m not currently teaching. And while it hurts my head and my heart to call myself a “former teacher,” I have to get over that and face reality. Right now, I don’t have a classroom. Or students.

And helping my niece with her college essay last weekend doesn’t count.

(Or does it?)

When I started my blog, my initial concept was to create a place where education and parenting collide. I wanted to tell stories about great teachers and teachers who bit the big one. I wanted to share my favorite stories from the classroom from decades ago and explain what I was seeing in the classroom now.

I wanted people to know that on any given day anyone can be a teacher, and the guy with three PhDs can be the biggest doofus in the room.

And that worked. For a while.

But then I found I had other stories to tell.

Stories that were not education related.

And if they didn’t fit at Teachers & Twits, I felt compelled to post them elsewhere.

Like I could be funny at Ironic Mom’s or Jamie’s Rabbits. Or I could talk about the grittier aspects of my personal life at The Monster in My Closet or I Survived The Mean Girls. Or I could be naughty and expose my inner chipmunk at Go Jules Go.

And while guest posting has led to wonderful cyber-friendships, I want my blog to be the place where I feel like I can write about anything.

Last year, best-selling author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb, told me I needed to rename my blog. She even gave me the tagline! It went with the book I was writing and it would have allowed me a lot of freedom to write about anything and everything.

But I was scared.

I wasn’t ready.

The crash has provided me with time to think.

What do I want? How can I be better? What do I want my blog to look like? What are my writing goals?

I looked carefully at my blog and my content.

What Did I Learn?

  1. I’m terrible about following up on posts that could use follow-up.
  • For example, after I wrote Helplessly Hoping David Crosby Notices Me, something magical happened at the concert! Did I ever write about it? No! Why? I don’t know. I mean, I do. I was planning Tech’s bar mitzvah and time got away from me. And then it felt like it was too far away. But still, I think I should follow up.
  • Oh, and remember I’m Sorry The United States Postal Service Wrecked Your Christmas? I wrote that when the package I sent to my niece and nephew never made to them. Yeah, there was follow up there, too. And I should write about that. But maybe I should wait to tell you until it’s closer to Christmas. See? That’s what I do. I have to just write the piece and not worry about the timing of the post.

2. I need to get better at following up and linking up to people who inspire some of my posts.

  • Recently, MJ Monaghan wrote a piece about internet problems and shoes. And Mark Kaplowitz wrote about really expensive high top sneakers. And I just wrote about my new boots that are effing killing me. Well, I need to remember to link up to those people! But I forget. How do people remember to do that? I need a strategy. Meanwhile, feel free to check out these pieces now. Great writers., the both of them.

3. I need a hook. Something that people know is my thing. Something that I can write about all the time and that I can love enough to commit to writing about regularly. I have ideas, but I’m open to suggestions.

4. I can’t realistically post 3 times a week.

  • I am a very slow typist. It takes me a ridiculously long time to craft a post.
  • I am a busy mother and wife.
  • Over the last few years, real-life friendships have suffered because of the hours I spend sitting at the keyboard. I am a hard worker, but I need to nurture real-life friendships, too. And exercise.

5. I am fortunate.

  • I was able to afford a new computer.
  • My husband realizes how important my writing is to me.
  • My son is a miracle. He set everything up – including my new external hard drive — and I’m pretty sure he could earn a solid living right now by offering twits like me technical support.
  • So many people helped me during this difficult time. Kelly at Dances With Chaos offered to have her husband take a look-see at my hard-drive before I sent it to Temple, Texas where it is currently being checked for signs of life. Kathy Owen checked in with me regularly via Twitter and telephone to make sure I was okay. Amber West introduced me to Google Docs and has captivated me with a new project! Gene Lempp responded in great detail to a comment I’d left on his blog, offering feedback that has my mind churning. In a good way.
  • And El Farris of Running From Hell With El managed to dig up a copy of my fiction manuscript from before the crash and was gracious enough to send it to me. So I have a place to start with when I’m ready to start working on that again.

Nobody freak out, I’m keeping my URL.

No links will be broken.

I’m still rasjacobson.com.

But.

I’m also renée a. schuls-jacobson.

Welcome to my blog.

Come sit over here. I have cupcakes. 😉

Some other changes are a-comin’.

And I’m excited.

But nervous.

Like a wee ant, I am starting from the ground up.

So the task feels big and scary.

And I want to get it right.

I watched a lot of Laverne & Shirley growing up, and there were plenty of episodes where one or the other of them would end up crying over something that seemed monumental at the time, but that was actually not that big of things given the larger scheme of things. And one of them would end up singing to her friend, to remind her that she could do whatever it was that seemed insurmountable on that day.

I guess I’m Shirley singing to Laverne.

Or that ant singing to myself.

Or something.

I hope you’ll stick around and hold my cyber hand as I slowly roll things out.

I’ve already made a few, do you see them?

I’ll be making changes slowly over the next few years weeks.

I’ve got high hopes that the decisions I’m making are good ones. Maybe.

When’s the last time you squished an ant? Cuz they are pretty freakin’ smart. 😉

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson