Category Archives: When Life Doesn’t Fit in a File Folder

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.

 

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

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.

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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

Handwritten Letters From Clay Watkins and Other Folks!

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Guess what everyone? My mailbox has been flooded with letters from readers, so I’m bundling a few together or I’ll end up dragging this summer contest  into the middle of the first academic marking period! Speaking of school, Clay from Making The Days Count is a middle school teacher. We bonded back in 2011 as fellow teachers, and we’ve followed each other’s blogs ever since. A writer and lover of literature and history, Clay attended Boy Scout Camp only once as a kid. He remembers that it rained every day… except the day he had to leave to go home. Despite the fact that he was only there for one week, he still managed to earn merit badges for swimming and marksmanship.

Back in the day, Tech’s camp offered riflery as a hobby. According to former campers, the guns went away when the Vietnam War started.

{I’m guessing kids made out read a lot between 1965 and 1975 .}

I know Tech reads tons while he’s at camp. In his letter, Clay mentioned a book that Tech hasn’t yet read.

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Great handwriting, yes?

Clay knows my son starts high school in September, and he included some helpful advice from his 15-year-old who just finished his freshman year.

• Make new friends. Keep the old ones, but meet new people.
• Get involved. Join a club or clubs, play a sport – get involved in the school – don’t forget the clubs you were in either.
• Don’t procrastinate. Do the work before it’s due. Or your mom and dad will go nuts and take away your phone.
• Remember. You don’t have to like your teachers, just do the work they assign. And do it well.

But that’s not all!

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Seven postcards! Whaaaat?!

Clay included postcards from six different states he visited this summer: from Illinois to Alabama, Arkansas to Tennessee, Mississippi to Michigan!

And he wrote a short note on the back of each postcard! You guys, he basically sent Tech EIGHT letters! Faboosh, right?

Clay believes in making every day count, and I’m grateful to him for helping to make my son’s time at camp even more special! If you’d like to read the words of a wonderful educator filled with positivity, check out Clay’s blog. Or chat with him on Twitter at @makingdayscount. You won’t regret it.

• • •

Ange told Tech about the summer she spent all her free time slaving away over composing long, handwritten letters to her son while he was away at overnight camp – only to learn that he had been turning them over to his counselor to read.

“Because they’re too long,” her son complained.

Luckily, the counselor really liked her letters. And what of that son these days? He hardly writes her… unless he wants something! Check out a little piece of her letter!

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• • •

Liz got her son to write a little letter! That Liz is no fool. Who can resist emerging handwriting? It’s soooo scraggly and cute. Nick packed a lot of punch into his letter, considering it’s only 41 words! In a tiny little space, he managed to reference plenty of things that Tech loves: camp, LEGOs, Robotics and Minecraft! Will the handwriting win Tech’s heart?

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Many thanks to Clay, Ange, Liz and Nick for taking the time to write these gorgeous handwritten letters. They’ve been sent off to the boy in camp.

• • •

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

tweet me @rasjacobson

Handwritten Letters From Naomi, Daile and Pleun

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Three deliciously yummy letters arrived from exotic places last week: entries in this summer’s Write-My-Kid-a-Handwritten-Letter-While-He’s-At Overnight-Camp Contest.

The first letter came from Australia and was authored by Daile of Kiss Me Out Of Desire. At 29-years, Daile told Tech a little bit about herself, like how she started her blog as a place to challenge herself to do 30 things before she turns 30 in December — kind of like a bucket list, without the dying part.

In her letter, Daile explained there aren’t summer camps where she lives.

Summer camp is foreign to me as it’s not something we do in Australia. We love camping and we also have summer, so I’m not exactly sure why we haven’t combined the two…  All I know about American summer camps I learnt from books like Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High (both of which I’m sure you’ve never heard of because I doubt a 14-year old boy is reading teen girl books from the ‘90s).

Daile claimed her Persian cat, Bixby looks a lot like Garfield. I was skeptical, but she included photographs. Um, put a lasagna in front of that cat and it’s him, right?

Look how grumpy Garfield is?

Look how grumpy he is!

She also introduced Tech to her two rats.

Apparently, they have freakishly long tails.

Apparently, Betty & Veronica have freakishly long tails.

• • •

A second letter came from Naomi Hattaway of Box 53B. After living in India for three years, Naomi and her family relocated to Singapore – and they just returned to the United States!

Naomi sent a cute Opus ‘n Bill card.

You know. This guy.

You know. This guy.

Instead of Telling Tech about herself, she asked a zillion questions.

She was all:

What’s your favorite part of camp? What do you miss most [about home]? Are there girls? Who’s your favorite super hero? My kids love angry birds. Do you get to use electronics at camp? My middle kiddo is 10-years old. What books would you recommend for his summer reading? 

Pssst. Naomi, in case you missed it, Tech recently recommended scads of good books for teens and tweenaged boys. I’m assuming your middle will dig any of the titles on that list.

• • •

Finally, Pleun of La Vida Loca wrote to say hola because she lives in Mexico and that’s how you say hello south of the border!

A sample of Pleun's penmanship.

A sample of Pleun’s penmanship.

I forgot to tell Pleun that Tech has 3 years of espanol under his belt, so she could have peppered her letter with a little Spanish.

Drat!

I totally blew that! She could have written her  letter in Spanish and quizzed Tech to see how well he is retaining his Spanish vocabulary.

But Pleun is nice. She isn’t interested in turning summer vacation into summer school.

And Pleun is smart. Clearly, she knows my boy is picking the winner in this contest and so she sucked up to him showered him with praise. She penned:

I think you are an awesome kid. I realize I can only judge you by the stories you mom writes about you, but even if you take away the “mom bias,” you come out pretty well compared to other kids that I equally don’t know. And I’m going mainly on the story where you gathered and gave away books to kids at another school. Not because you had to, but because you wanted to share the great things that can happen to you when you read.

Let’s be honest, kids. This comment earned bonus points with me, too. I didn’t even know Pleun had been reading my stuff for that long. That post about how Tech donated 1,300 to Rochester schoolchildren is over a year old! Thanks for being a loyal reader, Pleun. Seriously.

Muchas gracias and thank you to Daile, Naomi and Pleun for taking the time to write these gorgeous handwritten letters. I am over the moon smiling, imagining each of you hunched over a table, pen in hand, writing words to bring my boy so much joy.

• • •

To see other posts in this series read letters from:

BrickHouseChick

Stuart Sheldon

Misty’s Law’s

Rivki Silver

tweet me @rasjacobson

Rivki’s Old Fashioned Letter

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Y’all, I’ve forwarded another stunning letter to my son in summer camp in the Write My Kid an Old-Fashioned Letter” Contest!

This one comes from Rivki Silver of Life in the Married Lane.

Rivki blogs about being a mother, a wife, a woman, a musician, a friend, a writer. An observant Jew, Rivki combines the big stuff (religion, ethics, personal development) and the little stuff (laundry, dishes, meal planning). Because that’s the challenge, right? Making meaning amidst the mundanity.

In addition to being a wife and mother, Rivki is also a musician. She plays the piano and the clarinet — maybe other instruments, too.

I’m telling you, that Rivki is so clever!

She integrated her love for music into her letter.

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One side of her letter features the Yiddish folk song “Tumbalaika”; the other side, her handwritten letter to my boychik! Here’s an excerpt:

The song I included here is one of my favorite Yiddish songs. The gist of it is that there’s a boy who asks a girl a number of riddles:

  1. What can grow without rain?
  2. What can burn & never end?
  3. What can yearn, cry without tears?

The girl responds:

“Silly boy! Why do you have to ask?”

  1. A stone can grow without rain
  2. Love can burn and never end
  3. A heart can yearn, cry without tears.

Now I don’t know about the whole “growing stone” thing. If you have insight into that, I’d welcome your input. Also, I don’t know why the girl was so sassy in her response; they seem like reasonable riddles to me. My suspicion is that the girl has a crush on the boy & that’s why she was being a little rude. I don’t know if you’ve discovered that yet. Girls don’t always make the most sense (even to ourselves, sometimes) buit we’re great anyways! Keeps life interesting, right?

In her letter, Rivki not only teaches my son about the balalaika (a traditional Russian instrument with 13 strings), she also gives him some cool lyrics to think about and she aplies them to his life as a teenager!

And just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. Rivki included artwork from her children! Oh yes, this letter is a treat for anyone who loves the arts! Check out piece #1.

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I call this “Ladybug, Stars, Scribble Scrabble People”

Somehow Rivki remembered Tech will be celebrating his birthday in August, while he is away at camp, and she got her little guy to make my son a birthday card in advance! Look how hard her little guy worked to make all those 14′s! That’s a labor of love.

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I call this one “Fantastic 14 & Falling Bananas.”

So you’re probably thinking, that has to be everything, right?

But it’s not.

Rivki included another letter.

This one was written to me.

I won’t share her words here, but I will say that I pressed the pretty lavender card against my cheek before I ever read it. And I sighed aloud — several times — alone, to myself, in the room as I read her words, and I promise I felt a bit of Rivki’s spirit being transmitted right through the ink.

Because that’s the way it’s been.

Reading everyone’s handwritten words has been a profoundly personal experience for me. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this eventually.

For now, I’ll just express my gratitude to Rivki by adding these few sentences. If you’re trying to get organized, trying to figure out what to feed your children, if you’re a lover of music, or if if you’ve someone interested in reading one woman’s views about Orthodox Judaism, consider subscribing to Rivki’s blog. Her posts are so beautifully crafted.

Just like her letter to my son.

• • •

To see other posts in this series read letters from:

BrickHouseChick

Stuart Sheldon

Misty’s Law’s

tweet me @rasjacobson

Misty’s Old Fashioned Letter

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Y’all, another bloggy friend submitted a beautiful letter to my son in summer camp in the Write My Kid an Old-Fashioned Letter” Contest!

This one comes from Misty of Misty’s Laws.

Here’s the thing you have to know about Misty. The girl loves to send cards. This isn’t the first card that’s shown up via snail mail from Misty. She sent me a birthday card when I turned 45, and I got a little verklempt. Besides my mother and my husband, I don’t think anyone else gave me a handwritten card. Oh, I received plenty of Facebook comments on my timeline. And I got a bunch of texts. But the electronic stuff can never replace the joy of receiving and opening a personal letter.

In her letter to my son…

Misty writes as if she is a former bunkmate who didn’t return to camp this year.

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Click HERE to see Misty’s letter bigger-er!

Here’s an excerpt:

I remember all of our previous camp experiences, don’t you? Like that time we all went hiking & silly Mikey walked through all of that poison ivy. He was itchy for days! Ha. And do you remember when we went canoeing & our boat got stuck in those marshy reeds? It took forever to get out of there! And who knew mosquitoes really liked marshy reeds? Talk about itchy. Yikes. Ah, good times.

Misty “remembers” singing John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt, roasting marshmallows, and canoeing out to the marshy reeds where the itchy mosquitoes live. She hopes my son isn’t living with He Who Shall Not Be Named — which is perfect. Because everyone who ever went to camp knows there’s always one kid in the bunk you’d like to paddle out to the marshy reeds and leave with the mosquitoes.

Misty’s postscript is going to destroy my boy.

P.S: As I know you are suffering without your beloved Minecraft, in your honor, I have vowed to play an extra 2 hours of video games every day to make up for it. You’re welcome. It’s really nothing. I’m a giver.

The thing is Misty really is a giver.

If you read her blog, you know Misty goes all out to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and takes care to make everyone feel special. She buys silly stuff she knows readers of her blog will enjoy and hosts fun giveaways on her blog from time to time — just because. And she gifted me with a most delicious guest post when she shared her #SoWrong moment not long ago.

Thanks to Misty for making my kid’s summer camp experience even funner-er.

Whaaat? It’s summer. I can break a few grammar rules.

• • •

To see other posts in this series read letters from:

BrickHouseChick

Stuart Sheldon

If you’d like information about how you can win a $25 gift card by writing my son while he’s at summer camp, click HERE.

tweet me @rasjacobson

Stuart Sheldon’s Old-Fashioned Letter

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Guess what, everyone? I just shipped off another letter to Tech as another bloggy friend has submitted an entry in the Write My Kid an Old-Fashioned Letter” Contest

This one traveled all the way from Miami.

When I tore open the envelope, I found a miniature piece of art because this little card? It’s hand-painted on one side.

Remember that guy who was following me on Twitter? @Stuart_Sheldon? I wrote about him HERE? Well, Stu wrote a letter for my kid. How cool is that?

I call this one “For a Bro.”

Because Stu penned “For a Bro” in ink on the front of the card.

See?

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Letter 2 – From Stuart Sheldon

Stu’s letter contains some profound advice.

On the surface, Stu’s advice may appear to be for the heterosexual male.

But.

If you look deeper, you’ll understand that his words are really a life metaphor for anyone of any sexual orientation.

In fact, Stu’s letter is so profound, the counselors at Tech’s camp should read it to all the campers in the village and then launch a 3-day mass program based on his words of wisdom.

Check it out.

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Click to make Stu’s words bigger-er!

In case you can’t read Stu’s words, I’ve translated here:

So Tech, here’s the thing about camp –

Talk to that girl you think is ALL THAT. You know the one! She makes you feel all shy cuz she’s so pretty and nice and natural and smiley. And maybe you think, “I could never talk to her; she’d never like me. She’s out of my league.” WRONG! She will like you and think you are kind and a gentleman…BECAUSE YOU ARE. Worst case, she will be your friend. Best case…who knows.

But life is about marching up to what you desire most and introducing yourself.

Trust me, little brother. I got your back.

Stu. 

Are you crying? I kinda teared up a little when I read Stu’s words.

The tone found in the letter is a lot like the one in Stu’s blog where he writes beautiful, heartfelt pieces about being a father to two young sons. About being a husband and a father, a writer and an artist, a thinker and a dreamer, finding his way in the world.

I know it’s easier to type or text these days, but typed letters don’t feel the way a real letter feels in your hands. I don’t care how many emoticons you use.

There is intimacy in the ink.

I love Stu’s loopy letters, the lightness of his hand in some places, and the places where he chose to linger and make things dark. 

For emphasis.

And I love Stu’s message, too. And I assume Tech will, too. Once a counselor reads the letter to him. You know, because he can’t read cursive since they don’t teach it in school anymore.

Read Stu’s latest piece HERE, and poke around a bit. He likes that.

Who sent you the last handwritten letter you received? Do you feel the difference between typed and handwritten letters the way I do? 

tweet me @rasjacobson