because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

A New Bikini & Art #Giveaway

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Back in July, I decided I needed a new bikini, so I went to Target.

While in the changing area, I met a woman who was also trying on bathing suits. We discussed how short the swimsuit season is here in Upstate, New York and commiserated over our perceived physical imperfections. You know, all the things that make women feel uncomfortable about wearing bikinis.

Somehow, we got to talking about what we each did for a living.

“I’m not just a professional bikini model,” I joked. “I’m also a teacher. And an artist.”

“I’m a graphic designer,” she said. “And my husband is a web designer.”

Standing in next to nothing, Katie Hunt and I exchanged phone numbers, and a friendship was forged.

For the next three months, I worked with Katie and her husband David of Bleu Bird Studio, here in Rochester, New York. We had many conversations about my artistic vision. We discussed what the pages would look like, and how each page would function. As you can imagine, I was terrified that all my blog content would be lost, but Dave was confident that there wouldn’t be any issues, and — of course — he was completely right. Everything exported to the new site seamlessly.

Dave spent over 30 hours working on my site, and Katie helped me to retool my new logo – which is simple, yet stylized. The two offer free technical support for the first year that my website is up and running, and Dave seems to enjoy reporting on my analytics.

I encourage anyone who has been considering creating a website to contact the folks at Bleu Bird.

Meanwhile, if you would like to check out my website and offer any kind of feedback, I would be grateful. I really want the online shopping experience to be an easy one for buyers. What do you like about my website? What do you not like? Any comments of suggestions?

I don’t have much to offer, but I’d like to offer something. First, if you place an order of $50 or more before December 10th, I’m offering free shipping & handling to anywhere within the continental United States, a $10 value.

And…

I haven’t done a giveaway in a long time, but I’d like to do one now.

ivy-beats-the-blues
IZZY BEATS THE BLUES (c) 2016

If you’d like to receive a FREE 11×17 print of the painting above, leave me a comment about an invisible obstacle that you’ve have to deal with during your time on this planet. Tweet this post and receive an extra chance of winning. I’ll announce the winner on January 1, 2017.

tweet me at @rasjacobson

A Reason To Hate Communal Mirrors

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Image by Deric Bownds

I stood in my minuscule dressing room in Nordstrom’s Marshall’s, looking at the dress I’d put on thinking, Not bad for $49.99.

I ventured out to find the large three-way mirror located all the way at the other end of the long hall of individual stalls.

I know the psychology behind communal mirrors.

Stores want shoppers to come out because they are hoping you will get a compliment from a stranger.

According to an article in Real Simple Magazine,

Such praise doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself; it also helps forge an attachment to the product. Once someone gushes over the top you’re wearing, you’re more likely to “become emotionally invested in the item and have more trouble leaving it behind.” 1

As I twirled and inspected myself from all angles, a woman standing outside the changing rooms decided to give me her unsolicited opinion.

“That dress makes your ass look fat,” she said.

I felt like I had been zapped by a taser.

I stared at the woman but, for the life of me, I can’t provide you with one descriptive characteristic about her.

I tried to imagine how devastating an unsolicited comment like that could be to someone in a fragile place. I thought about all the young women suffering with eating disorders or low self-esteem who could’ve come in contact with this woman. I thought about how a woman who’d just had a new baby might have received her words. Or someone battling depression.

I decided to say something.

“You know, I feel good about myself these days,” I said. “And I’m pretty sure there were ten ways you could have told me that you don’t like this dress rather than criticize my body.”

I expected the woman to apologize profusely.

I expected her to be embarrassed.

I expected her to look down at the white-tiled Marshall’s floor in shame.

That’s not the way it went down.

“I drank a lot of coffee today,” she said. “I was trying to help you from making a expensive fashion faux-pas.”

I know all about toxic people.

I can usually hold my tongue, but I chose not to.

“I hope you don’t have daughters,” I said as I slipped into my dressing room to change.

I never saw the woman or her friend again. They disappeared.

But another woman in an adjacent stall knocked on my dressing room door. I peeked my head out.

“I heard that whole exchange,” she said. “Are you okay?” Her brows arched with concern.

I assured her I was fine.

“You are really brave,” she said.

“Not really,” I said suddenly feeling guilty. Because I’ve never really struggled with my weight. Or my self-esteem. I was channeling someone else. “Thank you for checking on me.”

The woman smiled.

I thought about The Golden Rule.

You know: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I know I have my own personal rules regarding etiquette in dressing rooms.

I’d love to hear yours.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I bought the dress.

And my ass looks fine.

I think.

1 Durante, Kristina qtd. in “Communal Mirrors.” Real Simple: 151. April 2012. Print.

What do you think about communal mirrors? What are your rules regarding giving advice in the dressing room? Is buying new clothes fun? Or is it torture for you?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

How Could We Have Known?

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Who knew, this person would become ...

He was tentative. A boy who

walked ahead but

always looked back to be sure of me.

At night, his pinky-finger

curled neatly beneath his chin,

He was gentle.

Too gentle, we worried.

He didn’t like team sports, games with balls or pucks.

He said they were not games.

That games were supposed to be fun.

That some sports were mean.

“There’s too much, too fast,” he said.

“And so much yelling.”

Still, we made him try.

Made him put on uniforms.

Made him get on the field.

On the court.

On the ice.

We told him to have fun.

To get dirty.

And he came home, quietly peeled off his outer layer

and (without complaint), he took a scrap of soap

to wash his hands.

He was delicate, a white moth fluttering against the night window.

But he knew something that we didn’t.

He knew it with certainty, something

we could have put all our faith into.

If we had only been listening.

He knew

That he would grow into himself.

... this person?

This piece was written for Galit and Alison who asked us to share the “MEMORIES WE CAPTURE.”

Note: I am thrilled to announce that I actually was the lucky winner in the “Memories Captured” contest, and I can now select any image that I love and have it transformed into a  16″ x 20″ canvas from Canvas Press! Yay! Can’t wait to show you the results!

Damage Done: Guest Post by Leonore Rodrigues

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Leonore Rodrigues

Today’s teacher story comes from guest blogger Leonore Rodrigues from As a Linguist. Leonore and I connected because of our love of language, weird words, and proper punctuation. As it turns out, we have quite a few real life things in common. 

Leonore’s a teacher and she just wrote a lovely piece called Intermission. It is exactly what I’ve been feeling recently, and she wrote it so beautifully. Please check it out after you read what she wrote here today. Also feel free to follow her on Twitter at @asalinguist. Thanks for helping me out, L.

• • •

Damage Done

I can remember the names of most of my teachers I’ve had from kindergarten until graduation from high school, which is something about me that freaks out my boyfriend just a little bit. I try to tell him that there is still plenty that I don’t remember about school, but then I go and spoil it by mentioning that I also remember most of my first-day outfits.

I don’t know why these details stick, but the truth is that I do remember not only names, but little details about most of my teachers: my second grade teacher hated when we used short pencils; my fifth grade teacher showed tons of film strips; my ninth grade English teacher used the word ‘bitch’ on the first day of class and we loved her for it; my eleventh grade trig teacher smelled like cigarettes, coffee, and chalk; and my twelfth grade Calculus teacher was sweet and flirty, but was probably just a stone’s throw from being a dirty old man instead.

These details stand out but they don’t mark the teachers as being particularly great or terrible. When I do think of my favorite teachers, different memories arise. My sixth grade Math and History teacher’s silly manner made his classes fun and interesting. My eleventh grade American History teacher taught me how to write clearly and concisely, and he took me seriously, which helped me gain more confidence in myself and my ideas. My twelfth grade English teacher – who is probably my favorite teacher of those years – built on that confidence and challenged us every day with thought-provoking lessons.

Unfortunately, not all of the memories were good.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. G. was rather stand-offish, which in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t win her many supporters, either. Her lessons were straight-forward and predictable, which for me usually meant boring. I thrived when a teacher gave us unusual projects or pushed us with harder material. Even clumsy classroom manners were forgiven as long as the teacher had passion and energy to inject into the lesson. Mrs. G. gave us neither creative nor passionate lessons.

Sockcat

The moment that stands out in my mind was the day she assigned a project to make a puppet. It didn’t matter what kind of puppet it was – it could be a sock puppet or it could be a 10-string marionette for all she cared. It could be a princess, a dog, or a prison inmate. We were left to our own devices and given no examples, guidelines, or criteria.

I’d seen some dolls that T, my best friend, had in her house that her mother had made. We talked about it and she said she was probably going to do a puppet similar in style to the dolls. Not having the slightest idea of what kind of puppet I could even hope to make, I asked Mrs. G if T and I could do the same sort of puppet if I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

She not only told me “no” about the puppet project, but she also quite bluntly told me that I depended too much on T, that I should be more original and not just copy my friend, and that it probably wasn’t even healthy for us to be such close friends anyway. I came away from school that day with the sense that my teacher thought I was a parasite and a fake. Not knowing any better, I thought she must be right. I felt like a girl with any real talent, intelligence, or integrity wouldn’t need to get ideas from anyone else, and so it must be true that I’m useless on my own. Nothing she did for the rest of the year ever disabused me of that notion.

At the end of the year, Mrs. G. assigned T and me to different fourth grade classes so we could break our apparent co-dependence on each other. We stayed just as close as we’d been, despite the separation. Slowly, I began to repair the damage that had been done to my self-esteem. To this day, however, I find that there’s still a tiny voice in the back of my mind that ask, “Was she right? Was I really just getting valid help with a project, or was I copying? Am I really just a hack?”

A teacher’s influence can indeed be deeply-felt for many years afterward. I wish my 9-year-old self had gotten angry and fought back, but I was lucky to have good teachers in the following years to combat the damage done. It took a long time, but at least now my 40-year-old self knows how to fight back.

Was there a teacher who really sapped your self-esteem? Did you ever get it back?

 • • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!