Monthly Archives: February 2012

I’ve Been Recruited for Leap Day!

Back in October of 2011, Katie Sluiter asked me if I was interested in writing for her blog.

I think I peed.

Because I adore Katie Sluiter.

First of all, Katie is a high school teacher of both English and Spanish. How cool is that?! ¡Muchos Coolos!

(Sorry, Katie. I took French.)

I found Katie when she just had one little boy, and I squeeeeed aloud when she announced she was pregnant!

So when Katie asked me to write for her, I was all: “Yes! Yes! Now! Now!

(If you know what I mean.)

But Katie and I ran into some scheduling difficulties.

Finally, she told me to just pick my date.

So I did.

And then I freaked out a little.

Because I picked today, February 29th – Leap Year – a magical day that happens once every four years.

And I figured I’d better do something really special.

And now Katie is 9 months preggers, y’all. It’s practically go time for my beloved Katie.

Anyway, I did a little time traveling…

Come see what I wrote for you at Sluiter Nation.

I’m Afraid

this morning

the little things scared me

i remembered

i’m afraid

of the dark and

dirt under my fingernails

stepping on thumbtacks

and the windows of my car getting stuck

in the down position

or the up position

i remembered that i’m afraid of rats and

cheese aged over 100 days

roaches

microwave rays

i’m afraid of potatoes

because i see

a similarity

between them and me:  i have too many eyes

work in disguise

have felt the earthy rot

from within

i fear i’m too noisy

and then {i fear} I’m leading too quiet a life and

i’m afraid

of that man

who enters daily

through my eyes

{he could leap out of bed and never return}

i’m afraid of dying

in an absurd place

near a tobacco stand or

on a street corner where

old people linger.

i’ve a fear of drowning

being held upside down

under water, tangled in seaweed

and ocean.  i’m afraid

of dawn’s outstretched arms

and the morning which screams

a promise between overlapping teeth

I’m afraid that

“Chicken Little” was right

{and the sky is falling}

i’m afraid no one will keep

the door open for me and

i’m afraid of being alone on the other side of the door.

i’m afraid of standing

beside buildings, so tall

not because they might fall

on me, but because cigarette smoke

and hate

drift upward

choke the sky

i’m afraid of the way my heart dangles carefree

on a string

and i’m afraid

that if you look in my eyes

you might see some ancient madness there

i’m afraid of being wrongly accused

afraid that i haven’t suffered nearly enough

but mostly i’m afraid of

my right hand, the way it guides me.  It is

much older than i, comes down gray as

an eyeball

is godless

and without it

i am not here, never was.

My mother once told me

that i should

never tell anyone

what scares me the most

that they would surely

use it against me

so if you ask me

if i am afraid,

i will deny everything.

Truly, I am afraid of posting something that is pretty controversial. I am afraid that I will lose subscribers. I am going to do it on 3/13. But I’m really scared. Tell me what you are scared of.

What the Deuce Does Huffaloftus Mean?

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Today we continue with Made-It-Up Mondays where I throw out a 100% made-up word and ask you to:

  • define it
  • provide its part of speech, and
  • use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because it’s fun.

And because someone gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World.

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I just make one up.

The last time we did this the word was “grievenstall”. While several people guessed the word was a verb, having to do with intense grief, one person understood that it also had to do with a car when she tapped out this sentence:

My sad little sedan went and grievenstalled this morning.

Here’s the real story behind the word. I used to date a guy with an orange VW Bug. It was a great little Farfenugen. Except it used to stall all the time for no apparent reason. It drove me nuts. Eventually, he dumped me and got a new girlfriend. And I found I actually missed his dumb VW. One day, I was crying about the end of our relationship and someone asked me what was wrong, and it just slipped out: “I’m in a grieve and stall!” Now any time I’m in a car that stalls (or I see an orange VW Bug), I shout: “Grievenstall!”  —  really loud.

Tori Nelson is the smartypants who got both the grief and the car. Go and check out her blog The Ramblings. She is funny. And, in addition to other things, she is doing a thing called “My Very Bloggy Wedding” which is coming up in April 2012! Enjoy!

I’d like to continue alphabetically, but don’t have a made-up “H” word.

I know, weird, right?

So I’m really going to make one up and then just pick the definition/sentence combo that I love the best.

So this month’s 100% made-up word is:

HUFFALOFTUS

What the heck is that? Define it. And give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. ;-)

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

.

February Mashup Of Awesomeness

Love was in the air this month and lots of people wrote lots of posts about Valentine’s Day. And chocolate-covered love. And wine-coma love. And 13 things they love most about their lovers. And love is awesome. Don’t get me wrong. These posts are slightly less lovey-dovey.

From the English Department

Trish Loye has 10 Ways to Know You’re A Writer.

From the Math Department

Annie from Six Ring Circus writes “I Need To Learn To Count to Four.”

From the Science Department

Jenny Hansen gives us the down and dirty on having babies later in life in her piece “When the Conception Journey is a Rock Filled Canyon.”

From the History Department

I find the situation in the Middle East very confusing. Piper Bayard’s partner Holmes has been writing a multi-part piece on Iran that is a must read. There are several parts. Start at the beginning and don’t stop.

From the Language Department

From The Home Economics Department

August McLaughlin gives us “Foods For a Beautiful Brain.” Good to know I eat most of these. Except flaxseed. I’ll have to get on that.

From The Technology Department

Leanne Shirtliffe tells us about The Best iPhone App for Writers.

From the Art & Health Departments

When Elena Aitken wrote 8,000 words in a 2 day period, she posted “Writers Wrist and Other Afflictions.” To go along with it, she posted a must-watch Elmo video. Everyone will love “I Make Art.”

From the Music & Psychology Departments

Rivki Silver does a Cool Music Experiment that shows what happens when you take the same piece of film and pair it with 3 different types of music. Really neat way to understand the power of music!

Christian Emmett wrote a lovely tribute to his band teacher in From Music to Life.

From the Physical Education Department

I’ve got nothing. If you have a post about somebody shaking his or her groove thing. Share it. Otherwise, you can watch this video of me dancing.

Whaaat? I got excited when it finally snowed!

From the Awesome Sauce Department

Elizabeth from The Writer Revived wrote a great piece called “Lessons From Barbie.” Y’all know I’m big on lessons, and I think that Elizabeth is spot on here.

From the Snark Department

25 Things I Want To Say To “Aspiring” Writers by Chuck Wendig.

From the Faculty Lounge

Math teacher Tyler Tarver makes me laugh out loud. I watched his hilarious video “St*$ff High School Students Say” at least 4.7 times. I was really mad when my son interrupted me that last time.

From Music To Life: A #LessonLearned by Christian Emmett

Hi Christian!

I love Christian Emmett’s blog Adventures and Insights because he is Australian and many of the things he shows me, I haven’t seen before. Plus when I read his posts, I hear them in an accent that sounds incredibly sexy. When I’m wearing six layers of clothing here in Rochester, I like knowing that it is summer Down-Under.

Christian writes with heartbreaking sincerity. Whether he is writing about Christmas remembrances or favorite bands or old lovers, I admire this about him. Please read one of his most wonderful pieces “Something Needs To Be Undone.” And follow him on Twitter at @ChristianEmmett.

• • •

Click here to see main schedule!

A Lesson From Music To Life

When I started high school, coincidence had Mrs. Smith change teaching jobs. She had been my music teacher during primary school and when I showed up for my first music class in 1989 I was greeted by the very same woman who taught me to sing “Day-O” and had our concert band watch “An American Tail” so that we could better play the song “Somewhere Out There”. Naturally I was a little surprised to see her but at the same time there was a measure of comfort in having a familiar face in a new environment.

In addition to being our music teacher, Mrs. Smith also assisted with the school bands. She had a real love for music, something that she tried to pass on to all her students. Her passion for music was balanced with a no-nonsense attitude, which made her a brilliant teacher – at least in my mind.

In high school, I was introduced to the tenor saxophone and became part of the concert band. The majority of my time was spent playing support to our talented altos, and I didn’t mind it at all. It meant that I could afford to be a little lax with my practice because all I really had to do was perform simple, fluid combinations of notes that were never designed to be heard above the other instruments.

The band played concerts and eisteddfods, competitions were won and lost and all the while I continued to cruise through the whole experience. Much like life, however, the concert band can be an unpredictable creature and there came a time when I faced a significant challenge. One of the songs that had been chosen for the band was “Wipeout” by the Surfaris and I was to play the most important part.

I took the music home and proceeded to completely freak out. I practiced as best I could but knew I needed more before I could do justice to the tune and the band.

Is this the instrument upon which Christian jammed?

When we started practice the next week, things began well enough. We played through our opening pieces successfully and I felt somewhat ready for a run-through of our signature tune. Of course, when life wants to test you it never does half a job. I may have been ok if I had been able to remain seated like everyone else. Instead, our conductor told me to stand up so that I could best perform my solo through better posture.

Nerves overwhelmed me. I stood up as the band began to play. I took the mouthpiece between my now parched lips and began to blow. Stricken with panic, my fingers spasmed over keys as the sound of a dying goose emanated from the bell of the instrument. Things went from bad to worse as I struggled through my solo and as the conductor called the band to a halt, I gave in to embarrassment as decided to quit the band.

It was at this moment that Mrs. Smith stepped in. We took a short recess and she guided me outside. She asked me about my practicing and I sputtered out that I had practiced but I couldn’t do it. I told her that I was no good and that I wanted to quit the band. They would be able to find someone to replace me easily enough.

For the look I got from her, she may as well have slapped me across the face. Mrs. Smith shook her head and spoke simply, her calm voice reeling in my sense of failure and replacing it with some common sense and compassion. I had always pressured myself to be the best and on occasions where I was put on the spot I always faltered. Mrs. Smith told me that all I needed to do was keep practicing. To relax, try again and not to worry about what everyone else was doing or thinking.

I did just that. I practiced that piece until I could almost do it blindfolded. We rocked the Eisteddfod that year.

I never took the time to thank Mrs. Smith for her support in that crucial moment, but I walked away from the experience armed with the knowledge that even though I will occasionally fail – it’s okay.

It’s Mardi Gras & MyNewFavoriteDay!

There are TWO awesome things about today.

First of all it’s Mardi Gras, y’all.

When I was in New Orleans with Lisha Fink (The Lucky Mom) a few weeks ago, I made it to a bunch of small parades, and — yes — I lugged home thirty-five pounds of beads. Why are you looking at me like that? Those things are like gold. Do you see that one I’m wearing with the purple heart? Yeah. That’s a really good one. And the baseball beads my husband snagged? Also, outstanding.

There is definitely a hierarchy when it comes to Mardi Gras beads. I don’t wear just any old plastic beads. They have to be long and chunky. They have to shine. Does this sound crazy to you? I know. It kind of is. The thing is this: everything is topsy-turvy during Mardi Gras. Especially when it is a little dark outside and you find yourself jumping up and down in front of slightly scary looking masked people, begging them to throw you a little something.

As far as I’m concerned, I came home victorious.

{My fancy crap currently resides in a yellow bag in the basement.}

Hubby & I looking fancy!

And you know what else is awesome about today?

I’m at Shannon Pruitt’s blog “It’sMyNewFavoriteDay!”

I met Shannon at a Super Secret Underground Facebook Blogging Society.

She has a huge Facebook presence — which is incredible, and I can’t believe she even noticed me!

Shannon’s goal at her place is to have people recognize the most precious moments in their lives so that moments don’t pass us by so we can appreciate all we have in each day. You should totally follow her at @newfavoriteday.

But for now click HERE and check out the fun interview she did with me.

Do I sound like a dorkus or what? Tell me at Shannon’s place.

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

A Wee Presidents Day Quiz

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

Image via Wikipedia

Sadly, most Americans are pretty ignorant about our history, especially when it comes to our presidents; however, if we think of former presidents as characters (and many of them were!), they really come to life.

While he was actually born on February 22, Presidents Day is celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of our first President of the United States: George Washington. This year Presidents Day is today: February 20.

And while I am not a history teacher, I was feeling teacherishy, so I figured I’d give a little quiz to see what you might know about some of our former Heads of State.

• • •

 Question 1:

Which President never lived in the White House?

 Answer: George Washington. (It wasn’t finished being built yet. Duh!)

Question 2:

Yankee Doodle was born of the Fourth of July. Can you name 3 presidents who died on July 4th?

Answer: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both kicked the bucket on July 4, 1826. (How weird is that?) James Monroe died in 1831.

 Question 3:

Who was the first president to have a beard?

 Answer: Abraham Lincoln. Did you know he was the one to declare the last Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving Day? It’s true. This year, you can remember to thank Abe for the turkey.

 Question 4:

Who was the first president to wear long pants?

 Answer: James Madison. But it should be noted he was also the shortest president. Standing in bare feet at 5’ 4”, it’s possible that he was a little too small for his britches, and perhaps started the fashion trend.

 Question 5:

Which president put a little Dick in his mouth?

 Answer: Thomas Jefferson had a mockingbird named Dick that took food from Mr. President’s lips. (What did you think I meant, you pervs?!)

Other presidents born in February include Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), William Harrison (February 9, 1773) & Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911).

Which president was in office when you were born? What is your earliest memory involving a president?

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

Thanks For Reaming Me Out: A #LessonLearned by Ermine Cunningham

Ermigal with some of her former students

Odds and Ends from Ermigal is a fabulous blog. A recently retired English as a Second Language teacher, Ermine Cunningham’s favorite years were teaching students from all over the world. (See them up there?)

One of the things that I love best about Erm’s blog is that she writes about everything and anything under the bed. You didn’t see that coming, did you? Well, that’s what it’s like at Ermine’s. One minute we are talking about salsa lessons and the next thing we know, she admits “Herman Cain Made a Pass At Me, Too.

If you like a good surprise, you will love Ermigal.

• • •

Click on the teacher lady's nose to see other writers who have posted about lessons learned as well as the schedule for who is coming up!

Dear Miss Brown: Thanks for Reaming Me Out

As a greenhorn seventh grader trying to maneuver my way around the unfamiliar world of Junior High School, I was introduced to the new concept of “Slam Books” in Miss Brown‘s homeroom one morning: a spiral notebook with names of kids written at the top that was passed around surreptitiously for anonymous comments — positive or negative — a prehistoric version of internet bullying or sucking up, take your pick.

Eagerly, I became the first taker on a brand new Slam Book in Miss Brown’s homeroom and tried to be clever and cool with my entries. My summer growth spurt made me taller than most of the boys in my class, and I’d been spotted wearing an undershirt in the locker room after gym, as my mother pooh-poohed wearing a bra until I “needed one”. Stationed at my vantage point on the fringes of acceptance, I took a stab at being popular; carefully dressed and wearing a bra I’d purchased at K-Mart, I wanted to fit in.

On the page with “Ginny Bloss” written at the top, I had written, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

I passed the book along and went to my locker before the bell rang to switch classes.

I was on my knees digging in my locker when my teacher faced me, her large green eyes blazing. “Did you write this?” she demanded, pointing to the page with Ginny’s name.

I remember this classmate as small and quiet in class–definitely not one of the “popular” kids. I’d figured out that some kids were cheerleaders or student council material, definitely the ones whose group I wanted to be in. Ginny was not anywhere near being a part of this select bunch; she even paid attention in Mr. Foster’s science class while a group of us fooled around and passed notes.

“Yes,” I whispered. My stomach churned with a feeling of impending doom.

Miss Brown proceeded to go up one side of me and down the other. I distinctly remember when she asked me furiously:

“Who do you think you are?”

That feeling of shame and regret, along with those words, have stuck with me. To this day, that moment in the hall influences how I view other people; on that long ago morning, I learned — in a most basic way — that we are all equal and worthy of respect.

It didn’t hurt that my parents reinforced this trait in me also, but Miss Brown brought it home in a way a thirteen year old could learn from if she chose to do so. My life has been, I hope, a reflection of what I learned that day.

Thanks, Miss Brown.

Have you ever had a “public shame” moment? What did you do? How was it handled? What did you learn?

Getting Lucky in N’awlins

The grinding groan of the landing gear signaled our descent into the New Orleans Airport. It also woke my sleeping husband long enough for him interrogate me.

“Are you still planning to meet that Internet stranger while we’re here?”

“She’s not a stranger,” I said. “She’s The Lucky Mom.” I paused. “The person who won the bracelet giveaway on my blog?”

My husband stared at me without the tiniest spark of recognition. “When they find you dead in an attic, I will come and identify your parts.”

On the day Lisha and I agreed to meet, New Orleans experienced a cold front. It was like my husband and I had packed Arctic air in our suitcases. As I pulled one turtleneck sweater over another turtle neck sweater, I wished I’d brought mittens. I pulled on the coat my husband had teased me for packing and took the elevator down to the lobby to wait.

Lisha told me she’d be driving her husband’s green Prius, and I think I jumped into her car before she actually came to a full stop. Once inside, we squeeeeeeed and hugged like old friends.

{Or like people who have never actually spoken but only communicated via comments’ boxes on blogs and Facebook pages.}

“Hi Lisha!” I said, all confident.

And that is when I learned I had been pronouncing Lisha’s name wrong in my head for months.

It isn’t Lisha. {Like I just caught a FISH-a. Or I just broke a DISH-a.}

It’s Leeee-sha. {Like I have to PEE-sha.}

I made the necessary mental adjustment.

“I’ve gotta get a hat,” I told Leeeeeeeeesha. “It’s freezing outside!”

“Let’s go down to the Market,” Lisha said in her awesome raspy, super sexy Southern drawl.

I hadn’t been to the French Market in a decade, but some things never change. If a person wants two Saints tee shirts for $15, that’s still the place to go. You can find hand-painted scarves and voodoo dolls and magnets, feather boas and feather masks, and anything with a fleur-de-lis.

I just needed a hat.

As we walked and talked, I realized I was creating a blog post in my head.

So here are 5 Things To Make Sure of Before You Meet a Blogger In Real Life based solely on my day with Lisha.

1) Make Sure To Dress Alike. On the day we met, both Lisha and I wore orange coats. It’s not like Lisha called to say: “I’m going to wear orange. Do you have anything orange?” It just happened. If you took a poll, I’m guessing one in fifty people might have an orange coat, but he would probably be in jail. That said, it was cool and we look excellent in our photos since we are color coordinated.

2) Make sure one of you knows where you are going. When I lived in New Orleans, I always got lost. This is because I was born without any internal GPS system. Meanwhile, Lisha was born with a Garmin implant or something. We went all over the place and she never got lost.

Lisha brought me to the Lower 9th ward where things are still in pretty bad shape, but she didn’t complain when I got a little trespasser-ishy.

3) Make sure the blogger is Southern. I forced Lisha to go with me to look for a hat. And a voodoo doll. And a bunch of other stuff. Lisha was brimming with Southern hospitality, so she probably would have let me shop all day, but our hands were freezing. And because Lisha is from the South, she was beyond generous. She paid for our parking, our lunch, and all the gas we used driving around the city. I’m not sure I said thank you enough. {Thank you, Lee}.

4) Make sure the blogger is sassy. Some dude followed us to the River where we planned to sit and chat for a while. He tried to get us to fall for one of the oldest gags in the New Orleans book of tricks. He asked: “You wanna bet $5 I kin tell where you got yo shoes at?” Lisha looked the man right in the eye and politely said, “I’m from here.” She wasn’t rude or anything. She allowed the man his dignity. But she set her boundary. And seriously, that is the oldest trick in the book. See the * if you don’t know the answer.

5) Make sure the blogger will give 100% of herself to you. If our interaction was representative of the kind of person Lisha is in real life, I can tell you she is a patient, devoted friend. We bloggers tend to be plugged-in sorts. But for five hours, we ignored the cell phone bings and pings and push notifications to enjoy the other person’s company: To listen. To laugh. To look into each other’s eyes.

The more I listened to Lisha, I realized she’s got it backwards. Sure, her blog may be called The Lucky Mom, but really, the people who have her in their lives are the lucky ones. This is the woman who lights up when she talks about her husband and her three sons; the woman who served as a full-time caregiver to her mother for years until she passed away; the woman who is planning to have her eightysomething-year-old mother-in-law move in right after Mardi Gras. How many people open their arms that wide? And that often?

Lisha was apologetic about having to leave me on a corner four blocks from my hotel. I’m sure she felt she was being rude, but she had to leave me there because it is Mardi Gras season: a parade was a-comin’, and there was no way to cross the route. After having lived in New Orleans for many years, I promised her I knew the drill. We pressed our faces close to each other and hugged goodbye.

We took this picture ourselves. Can you tell?

As I made my way back to the hotel, stopping to catch flying beads, plastic cups and doubloons, I felt like I’d gotten lucky.

Not only had I not been chopped up into tiny pieces like my husband had predicted, but I think that — quite possibly — I had the best blind date. Ever.

I met a wonderful blogger {and person} — in real life in my favorite city in the world.

Oh, and I found that hat.

Click HERE to read Lisha’s account of our meeting.

Color-coordinated. With hat.

If you could pick a blogger to spend 5 hours with, who would you want to meet?

* “Yo shoes are on yo feet. That’ll be $5.”

Tweet This Twit @rasjacobson

On Valentine’s Day & Half-Birthdays

It’s Valentine’s Day, and the person below is officially 12 & 1/2.

This poem was written in celebration of him.

the boy is all cheeks. 

he sits on a slope, fingering the grass

along the edges of an old flower box, grass

the mower blades always miss. 

tall green spikes with tips

still intact and pointing upward, stretching

toward sky, the daffodils open

their yellow mouths, lean in toward the boy

sing-songing words

only rocks understand.  

he is speaking of his contentment,

telling the triangular lupines about his day:

his pancakes at breakfast,

his discovery about doors (that they open

and close), about the milky smell of his blanket, or

how right it felt to be held

the hour before. it is a moment

without the crunch of car tires, a moment

without demand. no one needs

to be fed or wiped or comforted. it is a moment

without clutter, no toys on the floor,

no books needing to be stacked. 

nothing to straighten or fold. it is a moment

to keep. the boy is mine. 

the world is purple flowers.

Do you celebrate half-birthdays?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson