The Early Days of Benzo Withdrawal

Part III of my account regarding my struggle to survive after weaning off clonazepam, a powerful anti-anxiety medication. To read Part I, click HERE.

• • •

When it became apparent that I couldn’t take care of my most basic needs, I called my parents and begged them to allow me to heal at their house, sixty miles away from my husband and son.

They agreed, none of us imagining the mess we were getting into.

On the ride to my parents’ house, I laid flat on the backseat, crying and shivering and praying. While they talked quietly in the front of the car, I felt every bump. Every swerve. Squeezing my eyes shut, I braced myself for the wreck.

My brain — off the anti-anxiety medication and in acute withdrawal — perceived everything as a threat. I was certain I was going to die on the ride to Syracuse, and I braced myself for the car accident that I knew would end my life.

I wept with relief when my father pulled into the familiar rectangular driveway. Returning to my childhood home, I saw little had changed since I’d left over 25 years earlier: the house was truly a time capsule. The exterior was still painted gray with white trim.  The bushes – always lumpy and overgrown – had fused together to become lumpier and more unkempt. Inside, the living room featured the same gold couch; in the kitchen, the same green carpet — now splitting at the seams — sprawled before me. Faded curtains covered the windows and dusty figurines stood at attention on the shelves.

During the first few days, my parents were happy to have me home. My mother ran to the store to buy me clothes, and she made me homemade chicken soup. My father rubbed my head, trying to get me to relax.

But I was jacked up.

Stuck in a fear state, my body shook uncontrollably all the time. Unable to sleep for more than an hour or two each day, I prowled around my parents’ house, like a crazed animal.

Historically, sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture during times of war. Going without sleep is intensely stressful — with unpredictable short and long-term effects. When I got to my parents’ house, I was already suffering from visual and auditory hallucinations, but things quickly got worse. Deprived of sleep, I lost the ability to act and think coherently.

I developed new fears.

In the pink and green bedroom of my youth, I noticed tangled extension cords, into which my parents had plugged numerous gadgets — a clock, a fan, a cellphone, a television, a lamp, and stereo components — and I obsessed about dying in a fire that I was positive was going to occur as a result of the overtaxed electrical outlets.

I worried that I would be trapped in my bedroom over the garage. The windows painted shut, I worried how I would escape when the fire started.

My father tried to convince me I wasn’t going to die.

But fear isn’t rational.

One sleepless night, I roamed from room to room, upstairs to downstairs, until finally, I went outside to sit alone in the darkness. The air was thick and hot, and I was the only person outside. I wished for a forest or a desert – someplace I could disappear.

"Moon" on behance.com. To see other work by Gunel Gasanova, click HERE.

“Moon” on behance.com. To see other work by Gunel Gasanova, click HERE.

I looked up at the moon, full and round and white, and thought to myself: I know why crazy people stare at the moon.

Because the moon didn’t burn my skin or my eyes, not like the sun did.

I thought about how I’d always loved summer. How, as a teenager, I waited for the days to unfold like a fan. How, even just one summer prior – while my friends sat in folding chairs in the shade – I’d sprawled out on the newly blacktopped driveway like a weird heat-seeking lizard. I remembered how the asphalt felt hot on against the backs of my legs, how I loved to watch my winter-white skin turn golden brown.

I remembered the days when sleep came easily, how I loved to wake slowly, surrounded by the comfort of warm sheets.

In an effort to mute my despair, I pressed one hand over my mouth and sobbed on my parents’ front step in the middle of the night, in so much physical and emotional pain, I was certain I’d never sleep again. Or see another summer.

I actually can’t believe I survived the initial days of acute withdrawal. I really cannot.

I now know many people commit suicide during withdrawal.

I don’t know why I didn’t.

That’s not true.

Even in the most horrifying depths of acute withdrawal, I had a feeling that everything was happening the way it was supposed to happen. That G-d was with me. That the Universe was supporting me. That my suffering would one day make sense.

{I’m continuing to express appreciation to the people who carried me when I couldn’t walk. These people made me realize angels walk among us; they just happen to be disguised as humans. Today I am grateful for K.B. Owen, Jess Witkins, Rishi Hein & Blanche Fenster.}

When The Bottom Fell Out

I’ve spent the last 8 months healing after weaning off a powerful drug: one that was prescribed by a doctor. It was a medicine that immediately did everything I wanted it to do — until it didn’t. Like a good patient, I took my pills as they were prescribed — nightly for 7 years. What I didn’t realize is that over time benzodiazepines destroy the neurotransmitters in one’s brain. To read Part 1 of my story, click HERE. This is Part II.

• • •

Beginning in October 2012, under the guidance of my psychiatrist, I slowly tapered from 2 mg of Klonopin (clonazepam) daily to 0.25 mg. When I couldn’t reliably make cuts by hand anymore, I switched over to an equivalent dose of Valium (diazepam) and continued to wean.

Ten months later, while my doctor was out of the country, I became confused. I’d always followed her notes regarding how to withdraw from the drug to the letter. Ever the compliant patient, I noticed her written instructions ended at .5 mg of Valium.

I assumed that meant I was supposed to stop taking the medication.

You know what they say about assumptions, right?

Big mistake.

What I didn’t know was that my doctor had planned for me to continue weaning using the liquid form of Valium.

At first, I didn’t feel anything.

I remember doing a little dance the morning I took my last pill.

Because I thought that was it.

Two weeks later, on what started out as a perfect August morning, I sat in my friend’s backyard, quietly freaking out. I was jittery, my heart pounded, my teeth chattered, and my body buzzed. The world didn’t seem real. I felt like I was watching a movie unroll before me. “I’m not feeling right,” I said.

Nothing could have prepared me for the hundreds of horrifying withdrawal symptoms that began ten days after I took my last bit of Valium.

Suddenly, I was like a snail whose shell had been ripped off its back; I was utterly unprepared for what it was like to be so raw and unprotected. Everything was too much. The world was too bright. Too noisy. People’s hands were too rough. My spine burned. My gums receded. My muscles wasted away. I developed memory problems, cognitive issues, emotional issues and gastrointestinal problems – none of which were present before taking the medication.

I started to document everything I was experiencing in black and white composition notebooks. When I look back at what I wrote during withdrawal, I’m aware my words don’t come close to capturing my desperation. My hideous symptoms read like a laundry list. I’ll try to explain things differently here.

To see other work by Luke Toth, click HERE.

To see other work by Luke Toth, click HERE.

Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had: the nausea, the diarrhea, the muscle aches, the exhaustion, the inability to move. Got it? Now add in the worst headache you’ve ever had: one of those doozies where the lights are too bright, the sounds are too loud. Occasionally, I suffered from brain zaps, which felt like someone touched my brain with an electric cattle prod. Electronic screens pulsed with a weird energy that hurt my brain. Got that? Now add in a urinary tract infection infection: involuntary spasms forced me to go to the bathroom dozens of times each hour. Even in the middle of the night. Got that? Factor in a never-ending insomnia. Every time I tried to sleep, I was awakened by a ringing in my ears. Or the sound of an imaginary door slamming. Or the sound of an imaginary train. Or muscle cramps. Sometimes I drifted off, only to awake a few moments later having had a horrifying nightmare. Now add in a crushing depression. I didn’t want to be sad, but absolutely nothing brought me joy. Nothing. Got that? Now imagine you’ve slipped a disk and thrown out your back. You know how awful that is, right? Well, that’s how deep my spinal pain was. Paradoxically, despite the pain in my lower back, I was unable to sit still. I sat criss-cross applesauce and involuntarily rocked for hours.

This went on for 90 days.

If the physical pain caused by stopping the medication was a journey to Hell, the psychological symptoms triggered by the withdrawal were equally terrifying.

Suddenly, all these intense fears I’d never had before bubbled to the surface. And while a part of me was aware that my fears were irrational, I was powerless over them.

I’ve always been a social person, comfortable speaking and dancing and generally carrying on in front of large groups of people; suddenly, I was certain everyone was looking at me and wanted to harm me. As a result, I became unable to leave the house and isolated myself for weeks.

Suddenly, I was afraid of the car. Driving was impossible, and it was equally awful being a passenger. Each time I had to go somewhere, I was certain I was going to die. I gripped the front seat, white-knuckled, and wept.

For a while, I developed hydrophobia. Normally a lover of a long, hot shower, I was afraid of water and avoided bathing for days.

Everything I put in my mouth had a weird metallic taste or smelled like cigarettes, and I developed a fear of food. I also lost a lot of weight and became dehydrated.

After two weeks of existing without sleep, I found myself alone and sobbing in the basement in the middle of the night. I crept upstairs and awoke my husband who had been fast asleep. I told him I was afraid and asked him to hold me.

“I can’t do this,” he said. “I don’t know what to do to help you!”

After my husband went to work, I squinted behind burning eyes, researching “benzo withdrawal” on the Internet. I was shocked to find entire websites and thousands of threads in chatrooms devoted to the topic. I called my psychiatrist’s office to inquire about what I could do and, the on-call doctor encouraged me to go to the Emergency Room if I thought I might hurt myself.

Somehow, I had enough sense to know that if I went anywhere I was going to be locked up, possibly restrained and probably poly drugged with all kinds of psychiatric cocktails. I worried ER doctors might reinstate the Klonopin, the medication I’d worked so hard to stop taking. That thought scared me to death.

I figured I just had to hold on until the withdrawal ended.

It can’t last forever, I thought to myself.

 

In Case You Want To Know Where I’ve Been

Some of you may have been wondering where I have been since my blog abruptly stopped back in August 2013. Let me assure you, I was not having a good time and this post is likely to be a rather harrowing read.

In order to explain where I’ve been, it’s necessary for me to provide a little background.

Image by Benjamin Kranzusch. Click HERE for other amazing images.

Image by Benjamin Kranzusch. Click HERE to see his other amazing projects.

Almost 15 summers ago, I gave birth to a beautiful son. It was a traumatic delivery that culminated with my losing nearly 70% of my blood when my uterus didn’t contract. At that time, I was rushed into surgery for an emergency procedure. I should’ve know I was in trouble when I was still in the hospital after a week. I should have known I was in even bigger trouble when my insurance company agreed to reimburse for a personal care aide. My husband returned to work while I was still in the hospital, assuming I was perfectly fine with the assistance of the aide.

After 3 months, my blood was tested and it was determined that I was fine.

The reality was that I wasn’t fine at all.

My crippling insomnia was coupled with a horrible tightness in my throat that felt like I’d swallowed a pebble.

After years of struggling with little sleep and the feeling that my throat was going to close up, I finally went to see my primary care physician. We tried several antidepressants, each one revving me up more than the last. (I now know that some people have a paradoxical reaction to antidepressants; instead of calming me down, they made me even more anxious.) Eventually, my primary care doctor wrote me a prescription for a few little yellow pills.

All my symptoms magically disappeared with that first pill. Suddenly, I could sleep again. And I could breathe.

I was referred to a psychiatrist who asked me what hadn’t worked and what had.

“The last stuff I took was amazing,” I said. “I think it was called Klonopin.”

The psychiatrist opened the top drawer of his desk to retrieve his prescription pad. “Good choice,” he said.

Over the next seven years, no doctor ever suggested I should discontinue using clonazepam, that it is actually a medication recommended for short-term use only.

That the stuff does terrible things to one’s neurotransmitters.

Everyone was so casual about my clonazepam use, I never questioned its safety. I should have known not to trust anyone who promised Paradise in a pill, but I’d always trusted my doctors. There was no reason to think that he was prescribing something that could hurt me.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

(NOTE: I’m so glad to be writing again. More about where I’ve been for the last 7 months to come. I’m doing this very slowly. In installments. With a lot of time to breathe in between because it’s all still very fresh.  Much gratitude to bloggers Misty’s Laws, Molly Field, Lisha Fink, Nina Badzin, Rivki Silver, David Walker, Kitt Crescendo, Ruchi Koval & Erin Margolin for their steadfast support over the last 7 months. Appreciation for my real life friends & family will be given in an ongoing way, for the rest of my days on this planet.)

Jerry Springer and Other Omens : #SoWrong Moment by Amber West

So thrilled to have Amber West here today. Amber is not only one of my favorite blogger friends, but she is also the author of The Ruth Valley Missing, which is a real thriller! Today, Amber shares a less heinously embarrassing moment than, perhaps, some of the other bloggers in this series, but hers is a poignant story just the same. If you don’t know Amber — omigosh — why not? Super-talented, super kind, super sensible and just… super, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @amberwest.

SoWrong

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

• • •

Jerry Springer & Other Omens by Amber West

My tale of first love starts shortly after high school.

What can I say? I was a late bloomer.

Not to say that I didn’t have crushes in school. There was the crazy smart, somewhat eccentric guy from the crew team with steely blue eyes who looked like a young Mel Gibson. (You know, the pre-crazy days.) And the guy I knew since I was 12, who grew into a charming, adorable flirt, who looked like a young Tom Cruise. (Also, pre-crazy.)

Maybe my affinity for boys who resembled nutso celebrities should have been a clue as to how first love would go for me.

Apparently, I was not good at reading signs in my teen years.

Joe* was five years older than I was. We met through mutual friends and got along great. Funny and very sweet, he was the type of guy who opened doors for you, who asked you how you were and paid attention to the answer. He looked like a young Matthew Broderick. (You know, pre-cheating).

He moved to Florida from Maine, giving him a cute Northern boy accent, and a way about him that reminded me of home. Being around him was fun and cozy.

And he paid attention to me.

Being a middle-child with poor self-esteem and pretty naïve in the boy department, I thought we were just friends.

One day, he showed up at my office with roses. Not the roadside bouquet wrapped in cheap plastic and a paper towel. A dozen, long-stemmed, perfectly deep red roses, wrapped in fancy paper and cellophane.

The reason?

“You said once no one’s ever bought you flowers. And that’s just wrong.”

I may have swooned a tiny bit in that Florida office park. And then he added, “I haven’t bought flowers for anyone in X years, Y months, and Z days.”

From previous conversations, I knew what this meant.

He hadn’t bought flowers for anyone since the last time he had his heartbroken by his last girlfriend.

Girlfriend.

Is that what he thought of me?

I mean, guy friends bring you flowers, right? And they give you extra long hugs and tell you you’re pretty and keep a photo of you in their apartment…

Girlfriend?

No. Couldn’t possibly.

But, well, just maybe…

Our “friendship” had the added pressure of disapproving parents (mine, not his), so we never said we were dating. We spent time together with mutual friends, stealing moments here and there for deep conversation, smiles across the room, and lingering hugs goodbye.

One day, he came by my office to take me to lunch.

Sitting in a TGIFridays, waiting to order, he nodded his head to indicate there was something behind me.

“Look over there. Jerry Springer just sat down.”

I rolled my eyes and looked back down at my menu, deciding between something fried with something fried on the side, or something fried on a bed of greens.

“Seriously, look.”

“Do you really think I’m that gullible?” I smiled.

Not smiling back, he replied, “Why would I lie?”

Giving in, I turned my head to see that Jerry Springer was indeed perusing the menu a few tables away from me. I laughed and turned back to Joe. “Oops.”

“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t look,” he said.

I quietly sipped my drink, unsure of what to say. What did I do? I thought we were joking around, but apparently, I’d committed some major sin.

It took a bit before moods lightened again, but I spent the rest of lunch picking at my salad, not sure what had happened.

As time passed, we had more of these moments.

Moments where he questioned our “friendship”.

And finally, there was the phone call.

Apparently, someone told him I’d been spreading rumors about him.

About him and a girl.

At first, I was apologetic. I didn’t know why anyone would say that, given the fact that I would never utter a bad word about him, but I was horrified that someone made him feel that I did.

He pressed. “Why would someone tell me that if you weren’t saying anything?”

And I snapped.

Well, for me it was snapping. It should be noted that I was never much of a snapper.

“I don’t know, Joe. All I know is that I’ve heard the rumors and the only thing I might have said is that you wouldn’t be stupid enough to be involved with her.”

We didn’t talk after that.

Some months later, I got the news.

He’d run off** and married the girl from the rumors.

I’m not the type to embarrass easily, or at least my brain does an excellent job of blocking out those moments.

But that moment? I felt that flush of humiliation.

This guy who once made me feel important and pretty and wanted managed to make me feel like nothing.

I’d been silly enough to fall for him. It was all my fault.

Or at least that’s what I told myself.

Older and wiser, I don’t kick myself for falling in love anymore.

But if any of you know if Adam Arkin has done anything crazy, let me know.

The hubs, looking Arkin-y.

The hubs, looking Arkin-y.

*name changed to protect the not so innocent

**when I say “run off”, I mean it – she was young enough that they needed to head to a different state to get married.

• • •

tweet us @amberwest & @rasjacobson

A Real Whack Job: A #SoWrong Moment by Lisha Fink

It is with great, swelling pleasure that I have Lisha Fink of The Lucky Mom here today. I got to spend a while day with Lisha in real life when I was in New Orleans a few years ago. Lisha is the mother to three sons and the wife to one husband. As far as I’m concerned, they are the lucky ones. An advocate for education, Lisha’s heart is huge. A volunteer in her children’s schools and an active member in her church and community, y’all, this woman walks the walk. Everything she writes is sublime. Don’t believe me? Read her blog. Then follow her at @lishafink.

SoWrong

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

A Real Whack Job by Lisha Fink

There are a few things in life you can count on with certainty. The sun will rise every morning, it will set every evening, and if you go to Wal-Mart on Saturday you’ll see something crazy.

As I pulled into the parking lot on that blazing August day I saw it: the coveted shady spot.

I took the key out of the ignition and opened the door.

That’s when I saw him.

Wearing a t-shirt and flip flops.

The jar of Vaseline in the shotgun seat made his intentions clear.

“Really?” I said aloud.

My first instinct was to leave. I sat back down and put the key back in the ignition.

Then I got mad.

How dare he? How many other people had he freaked out?

He wasn’t going to make me leave.

Because you don’t get away with being a pervert around me.

And because I really wanted that parking spot.

So I put my keys back in my purse and turned in his direction.

And stared him down.

In hindsight, I regret the staring part because the image of what I saw is now burned forever in my mind. And because he got a good look at me, too.

I left my car, determined to find someone to tell. As I approached the police officer on duty at the store entrance, I wondered what I was going to say.

Now, I know quite a few euphemisms for what he was doing. But in the anxious moments as I approached the officer, I was trying to decide which awkward words were going to come out of my mouth.

“Um…. excuse me. There’s a guy in his car over there….”

The officer looked at me with a blank stare.

“He’s all by himself…”

I just couldn’t find the words. So I pointed.

“He’s in his car. That blue car over there next to the red SUV.”

By this time the cop was started to get irritated that I couldn’t seem to get my message out.

“He’s… um… enjoying himself. In his car. By himself.”

His surprised look told me that he got it.

I gestured toward the car and he assured me that he’d investigate.

I was thinking that somehow this guy was going to find some pants and get dressed and drive off before the cop got there, with my license plate committed to memory and my dumb stare memorized. Then I’d be looking over my shoulder for this deviant for the rest of my life.

Grabbing a cart, I looked back at the officer approaching the car, radio in hand. Hoping that good would prevail, I filled my cart with Cheerios and fruit roll ups and an extra bottle of wine.

I paid for my groceries and headed for the door.

Outside, I saw the car. Still there. Parked next to mine.

There was no way on earth I was going back to my car if this guy was there.

Waiting for me.

Frantically, I searched for the cop I had already talked to, but he was nowhere to be found. There was another officer, but then I’d have to explain again.

Once more I stood there frozen, trying to decide what to do. I could call my husband to come get me. Or take a cab. Or abandon $100 worth of groceries and just walk home.

But that was stupid. I had to get to my car.

So I approached the other officer.

“Ummm…. When I got here, there was a guy parked next to me.”

Blank stare.

“He was in his car. By himself. Anyway, would you walk me to my car?”

Blank stare. He must’ve thought I was crazy asking for a police escort in broad daylight.

Just about that time, the other officer approached to inform me that Mr. No Pants had been arrested. Something about outstanding attachments, and that by now he was getting settled in at his new home in jail.

So I went to my car, loaded the groceries in the back hatch.

As I walked around to open my door, I couldn’t help but look in.

Vaseline smeared everywhere, flip flops abandoned on the floor.

I couldn’t shake the image of him getting tossed into a police car wearing just a shirt.

I picked up the phone and told Mr. Wonderful to be ready to help unload groceries.

And to have a glass of wine ready for me when I got home.

Any *ahem* embarrassing moments in a parking lot?

tweet us @lishafink & @rasjacobson

Warts and Unwelcome Surprises

My feet, without warts these days.

My feet, without warts these days.

I was certain I’d contracted the stupid wart during my time spent barefoot on the slippery deck of the middle school swimming pool, where we girls were required, by law, to take ten days of instructional swim.

After weeks of applying Compound W with no visible improvement, I pulled off my sock and showed the offending bump to my father and, a few days later, I found myself sitting in his car. As he drove down the Boulevard, he warned me that the doctor was probably going to have to burn it off. He told me it might hurt.

But I wasn’t worried.

I was tough.

I’d had a mouthful of silver fillings put in without Novacaine.

Besides, that wart was gross.

I wanted it off.

Dr. Stone’s office was dark and cluttered with odd pieces of furniture, weird lamps and gadgets. An olive green corduroy jacket drooped from a hook on the back of his door. After inspecting my foot for less than .3 seconds, the doctor walked across the room to retrieve a silver thermos from a cooler. Uncapping the top, white swirls of smoke escaped as he took an extra long Q-Tip swab and stirred it around in whatever magic solution was in there.

I didn’t flinch as the liquid nitrogen sizzled against the offending wart.

When he was finished, the doctor explained what was going to happen and what I needed to do.

I hardly heard him.

But then my father piped in. “While we’re here, doctor…” he started. “She’s got something in her left ear…”

What is it? I wondered. Is it a tumor? Why hasn’t my father mentioned it?

Dr. Stone flipped on his headlamp and leaned in to get a good look, his face too close to mine. His chair creaked.

“Ooooh!” The doctor pushed back in his rolling chair. “She’s got a big ole blackhead in there.” I swear the man giggled as he jumped up to get his instruments.

I was horrified. The wart was bad enough. I didn’t want another ailment. “Dad!” I whispered, covering my ear with one hand. “How long has it been there?”

“I don’t know.” My father shrugged. “A while.”

The doctor returned with an instrument of torture, which he used to scoop out whatever was inside my ear. This second procedure took forever. Every once in a while, the doctor made happy noises.

I sometimes think back to that day in the dermatologist’s office.

Back then, I thought the worst thing that could happen to a person was getting a wart. Or a blackhead in her ear.

Now I know better.

tweet me @rasjacobson

A Chance to Vote and A Winner Announced

A few exciting tidbits today.

One of my guest posts has been selected as a finalist in Kludgy Mom’s Best of The Bonfire Series. Gigi went back through her archives and re-read all of the posts that have been written for this series and chose twelve of her favorites.

I can’t even imagine doing this because … nearly every post resonated with me.
Also, I can’t believe I’m a favorite.

Anyhoo, one of the selected posts will be chosen as the Bonfire Post of the Year.

I wrote about a former boyfriend and how he wanted me to…um…go down on him before I was ready. Some of you may remember it.

{no? i’m guessing *Tad does.}

Click on the badge to travel over to Kludgy Mom’s.

If you feel like voting for “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” as your favorite in Gigi’s sidebar, I’d be mighty obliged.

Click HERE to go to Kludgy Mom's!

Click HERE to go to Kludgy Mom’s!

• • •

Also, Tech is home from summer camp and he’s selected his favorite handwritten letter out of all the letters that were sent to him while he was at summer camp.

Before I announce the winner, please let me express my gratitude to everyone who wrote to my son this summer.

You really have no idea how much you helped me this summer. And yes, my son thought it was fun to read kooky letters, but I especially loved learning a little bit more about each one of you.

The blogosphere has introduced me to so many wonderful, caring individuals.

I mean, who has time to write someone’s else’s kid? And during the summer? Shockingly, a bunch of you did! And even if you didn’t, I still appreciate that you continued to read the letters that others had penned. Each letter was representative of the heart behind the hand.

Yesterday, a snail showed up at our home. I strapped some moolah along with Tech’s handwritten response to the critter’s back and sent him on his way.

Since I don’t want to ruin the thrill for our lucky winner, here is a tiny excerpt from Tech’s letter.

Congrats! Your letter was my favorite out of all the letters my mom’s crazy “friends” sent me! Your decision to not use pretty paper and stickers disappointed me, but it set my expectations low which made your corny humor great.

Of course, Don of All Trades, that naughty little rule breaker won my son’s heart. Big surprise. Congratulations to Don! If you haven’t already checked out his blog, please do. Don is consistently funny, and it comes as no surprise to learn there’s a tender heart beneath all that burly man-hair. Tweet him up at @The_DOAT.

Here’s Don’s complete letter to Tech.

Scan

Scan2

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tweet me @rasjacobson

One August

Click HERE to see more work by Poly Cinco via behance.com

Click HERE to see more work by Poly Cinco via behance.com

One August, a man I loved tried to kill me.

Only he didn’t kill me.

Earlier that day, we had gone kite-flying.

I stood quietly by his side watching the blue of the kite blend with the blue of the sky, watching him control the kite, make it do what he wanted it to do.

Later that night, he took my body and showed me that his was stronger.

That he was in control.

His leg weighed tons, and I couldn’t wiggle out from underneath him. At first, I thought he was just fooling around but he wasn’t laughing and he didn’t get off of me even when I told him I couldn’t breathe.

Afterwards, he took my head and tried to make me believe that he wasn’t a monster.

But he was.

Even though he sent me long, love letters filled with apologies.

Even though he put a heart-shaped rock on the windshield of my car.

Even though he tried to make me remember sweet, summer peaches.

I could only picture them bruised and split down the middle.

I remembered how he pushed me under water and tried to drown me.

How it almost worked.

Except it didn’t.

Every August, for over twenty years, I find myself remembering this man.

And, strangely, I feel an odd sense of gratitude.

Because that night, in a stranger’s room, in a borrowed bed, I learned that I could be broken.

But I also learned that I could put myself back together again.

And somehow, it’s August again and I find myself in a park wrestling with a kite.

It is windier than usual and tough to fit the cross spars in their slots because the kite fights me impatiently.

I think it knows what I have planned.

Finally, I stand up. The tails snap, wanting.

I run backwards, feeling the pull.

I run, turning my back to the wind.

With the front of the kite facing me, I release it into a gust and pay out line and pull back to increase the lift.

In thirty seconds the kite is far out over the lake, pulling hard.

I run around the muddy field, making the kite dip and soar, dive and swirl.

From the ground, I control that rainbow diamond in the sky -  make it answer my commands.

I remember how he hated things that refused to be controlled and so it is with great swelling pleasure that I release a new kite each year.

I like to imagine him chasing after the dropped driftwood reel, his hands outstretched, the Screaming Eagle kite a quarter of a mile up, blazing.

Blazing.

Like me.

NOTE: This piece originally appeared on Deb Bryan’s blog. I needed to call this one home.

What Your Teenage Son Needs In His Closet For Fall

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Shopping for clothes is fun! Said no teenage boy. Ever.

Well, maybe some teenage boys like to shop, but I didn’t get one of those.

Ever since Tech was a wee thing, he wanted to exit the mall as quickly as possible. He’d find one pair of pants that fit and start walking toward the checkout counter. “Get five of these,” he’d say.

Truth be told, that ethos worked for me because I’m not a big shopper, myself.

But the kid had a major growth spurt last year. He sprouted six inches, people! Six! During the last academic year, he outgrew his jeans 4 times!

When he came home for a few days between sessions of overnight camp, we assessed his closet and — just as I suspected — he needed everything.

It was overwhelming, but we made a list and rallied.

So whether your son identifies himself as a prep or a jock, a skater or a Goth, a hipster or a geek (or a combo pack), he’ll probably need this stuff in his closet this fall:

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1. ON THE FEET. It’s been said that a person can judge a man by his shoes. If this is true, my kid was in bad shape because he came home with one muddy pair of sneakers and one pair of stinky flip-flops. Nothing else fit. We took care of that.

  • Sneakers. 
  • Dress Shoes.

2. ON THE LEGS

  • Jeans. I don’t care if they’re straight or slim, boot cut or skinny. Boys are going to grow out of them before the end of the year.
Tech in his new Levi's jeans in a dark wash.

Tech in his new Levi’s jeans with a dark wash.

  • Pants Other Than Denim. Jeans are great, but not every day. Khakis and cargos are must-haves, especially in Western New York, where it gets cool early into the academic calendar.
  • Shorts. Cargo shorts are staples and should hit the knee.
  • Gym shorts. Yes, please.

3. UP ON TOP

  • Causal T-shirts. Sooooo many fun graphic T’s out there.
  • Short & long-sleeve shirts.
  • Button-up shirts. Can be worn open over t-shirts for a casual look, or buttoned for a more dressed up look.
A few of his new shirts.

Just a few of his new shirts.

4. OUTERWEAR

  • Coat.
  • Hoodies.

5. INVISIBLE ESSENTIALS

  • Underwear. Yes.
  • Socks. And yes.
  • Belt. Find a reversible brown to black leather for the win!

6. DRESSED UP

  • A Suit. (If not a suit, a good jacket.) Because you never know.
  • Button up shirt & tie. Because you need the fixins to go with the suit.
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The suit is black. Not purple. I was trying to be a wee bit artistic, people. After all, I don’t usually hang suits in the garden. *wink*

7. ACCESSORIES

  • Wristwatch. If you’re my kid, you won’t leave home without it.
  • Backpack.

What essentials did I forget? Besides dress shoes. Oy.

NOTE: This is a sponsored post from the good folks at Kohl’s, but the opinions expressed here are mine. I still despise going clothes shopping, but Tech got a lot of great stuff! Click HERE to check out more great back to school stuff that you may have missed.

Also, check out this hot mama to read about another #KohlsBack2School shopping experience. Because. Two little ones. Wow. 

The Last of the Handwritten Letters!

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The final entries in the Write-A-Letter-To-My-Son-While-He’s-At-Summer-Camp-Contest will, no doubt, tickle my boy’s funny-bone — although in profoundly different ways.

photo copy 3

Four pages like this one. On 12″ x 12″ stationery.

The first letter came from Michelle of Steadily Skipping Stones.

Y’all, Michelle shared a four page story about how she went to Camp Long Gone, in which she explained in elaborate detail how she and her bunkmates let their sleeping counselor drift down the lake on an inflatable raft and how a furious Miss Carlene confronted the girls after she stumbled out of the woods.

Michelle wrote: “She was all scratched up and there were twigs and leaves and stuff stuck in her hair and all. Really.” Later, Michelle recalled an unfortunate incident at the campfire. Apparently, Miss Carlene wore this shawl thing that was “kind of knit or crochet or something — you know, one of those things that’s made all out of yarn.”  Anyhoo, Miss Carlene’s shawl caught on fire while roasting marshmallows.

And then Miss Carlene quit.

It was one disaster after the other with mean Miss Carlene.

Terrible, but delicious.

At the end of the letter, Michelle shocked me when she wrote:

“Okay, so I have to admit I made some of that up. Well, all of it.

Truth is, I never went to sleep-away camp. And the truth is, it’s one of those things I would have liked to have done, but was too chicken to try. I’m glad that’s not you.

Even though I might not have summer camp memories, I have a lot of other memories I treasure. I hope you’ll write down some of your camp memories and get your friends to record stories for you, too — real or imagined. You’ll have a nice souvenir, and when you’re 43, you’ll be glad you have it. Even though you’ll read some of the names and you won’t remember who they are to save your life, you’ll be able to recall flashes of scenery and snippets of conversation and the texture of everything — the smell, the sound, the joy of it. And one day, you’ll be driving to work and some small shifting of light will bring your camp memories back to you. Only they’ll be real.”

Are you crying? Because I was.

If you don’t follow, Michelle, check out her place or follow her on Twitter @skippingastone. Really.

• • •

The grand finale to this series comes from Don of Don of All Trades. Don’s blog is not about anything in particular. He’s not promoting a cause. He doesn’t bather on about his kids. He doesn’t have a disease. (Anything Don has contracted can be cleared up with a double dose of penicillin.) He’s just a regular guy  – who’s sometimes a little over the top.

Before I received anything via U.S. Postal System, Don warned me emailed to say he’d understand if I didn’t forward his letter to my son, but he’d written the kind of letter he’d write to a 14-year old boy. Admittedly, his one is a little more naughty than some of the other letters. But it had to be included.

Because Don’s writing voice screams summer camp. *ahem*

Don basically disregarded all my suggestions.

In his letter, he encouraged my kid to do things that would definitely get him kicked out of camp. He used tons of double entendres, and poked fun at my suggestion to use cute stationery! Don opened his letter by writing:

“Your mom said to use pretty paper and stickers and such, but since your a 14-year old boy and not a 5-year-old girl, I thought I’d pass on the pretty. I’m writing this on lined paper to spite your mother because she’s fun to heckle. Did you know she can suck on a cherry pit for like 30 minutes?!” 

He goes on:

“I promised your mom I’d not share a funny story about a time when I was 14 and met a girl at at Six Flags Park. She was 16 and had a 66 Ford Mustang. I loved that Mustang. I rode her real good and hard, let me tell you!! They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. That 16-year old girl made me a man by teaching me how to drive a stick.”

{Oy.}

And, of course, Don had to take things further. He had to write about this time he couldn’t seem to stay on a horse named Sugar Cane, a mare who wouldn’t let him ride. This is the part of the letter where Don used profanity. He also drew a picture to show what a good time he had:

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Did you know Don of All Trades is an artist AND a writer?

Don, as usual, you are the icing on the cake. The cherry on top. The happy ending.

If you love these snippets from Don’s letter, check out his blog or stalk him on Twitter at @THE_DOAT.  Trust me, Don’s not afraid of stalkers. Or pervs.

Much gratitude to Don & Michelle for writing these fun handwritten letters. Tech will be home in a few days and after he has been deloused and declawed, I’ll wrestle him down and make him select one winner! I’ll get back to you soon!

• • •

To see other posts in this series read letters from:

Maria of BrickHouseChick

Stuart Sheldon

Misty of Misty’s Law’s

Rivki Silver of Life in the Married Lane

Daile of Kiss Me Out of Desire

Naomi Hattoway of Box 53B 

Pleun of La Vida Loca

Clay Watkins of Making the Days Count

Ange

Nick

tweet me @rasjacobson