Category Archives: Writing Life

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.

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tweet me @rasjacobson

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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 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

Cracking Writer’s Block with EMDR

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Thanks to Val Erde for letting me use this image. Click HERE if you’d like to use her images, too!

As a child, I was supposed to keep my room neat. My bed needed to be made the moment I awoke each morning; hospital corners were not optional. My clothes were to be folded and put away while they were still warm. Fortunately for me, I excelled at neat.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 2.16.10 AMI remember watching the 1976 Summer Olympics with my father. Sitting next to him on the couch, I wore a yellow leotard. He pointed to Nadia Comenici as she waved to the crowd after earning her first perfect 10.0 on the uneven bars.

“You see!” my father said. “Being perfect is possible.”

In my house, failing was not an option. No one told me it was okay to mess up. No one ever said people learn by failing, by falling, and getting up again, that it takes a different kind of strength to persevere despite sucking.

I learned that sucking brought misery. When I sucked at trigonometry, it meant I had to complete endless math problems written on the back of placemats at restaurants until the meal arrived. Feeling my father’s frustration comingled with his disappointment, by the time our food came, I often felt like vomiting.

“It’s not that hard,” my father would say.

But it was that hard, and I didn’t get it. And I hated feeling dumb.

I learned if I sucked at something, I needed to avoid that thing at all costs.

So I stuck to my strengths and only tried the things at which I could excel.

You want someone to sing or memorize lines? Awesome. Need a crafty-critter? No problemo. I can make pinch pots and macramé, turn beads and fishing lures into jewelry. Watch me sketch and draw and paint fearlessly in watercolors and acrylics and oils. Need a dancer?Check out my smooth moves. Seriously, I can hustle and shimmy and shake my groove thing. I can twirl and do pirouettes. I can do back-flips off the diving board and handsprings on the lawn.

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There were 3 of these! Three!

In 2nd grade, Mrs. Church told I could write. She loved a story I’d written about a red-breasted robin, and she made me to read it to the “big kids,” in a different wing of the school. Later, Mrs. Oliver told me a poem I’d written moved her. It moved her. In middle school, Mr. Baron drew three big stars in my notebook next to the words “squishy red beanbag chair on the lime carpet.” Three stars.

I dreamed of being a writer.

In college, I received attention and praise, earned awards and validation from my professors.

I felt like a magician, able to amaze people with my words.

In December 2012, I found a writing partner. We worked together for six months, sending each other pages of our fiction manuscripts to read. We provided feedback for each other. I poured myself into her project, believing that – eventually, she would give mine the same kind of love.

Last May, I took a hiatus to prepare for my son’s bar mitzvah. My writing partner knew this when we started working together. I reassured her I would be back in the saddle after the festivities ended.

“I’ll be here, pardner,” she promised.

She promised.

When I called to let her know I was ready to start collaborating again, I caught the hesitation in her voice.

“I had so much momentum, I couldn’t stop! You know how that is, right?” she said. And then she told me she’d found a new person to work with.

My legs shook when I hung up the phone.

Besides feeling abandoned and betrayed, I felt like her actions said something bigger about my abilities as a writer.

The cosmos provided me with the words. I read between the lines.

My writing must have really sucked.

Because if it didn’t suck, she wouldn’t have been able to stop working with me. She wouldn’t have been able to put down my manuscript.

To make matters worse, my computer crashed shortly after my former partner dumped me.

I didn’t have anything backed-up, and I lost everything: twenty years of teaching curriculum, twenty years of photographs, decades of poetry and short stories.

A non-fiction manuscript. And a fiction manuscript.

Gone.

For most of my life, people have made me believe I could do magical things with words. But this past year, I’ve felt like someone took my black hat and my cape and my wand. Like someone stole my white rabbit.

Suddenly, what had always come naturally for me has became dreadfully difficult.

Recently I wrote about how I’ve been paralyzed with trying to be perfect with my writing. How some days, I worked 4 or 5 hours on a piece, writing 5,000 – 7,000 words.

And then I deleted everything.

Because every word sucked.

That’s how I ended up doing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) with Vickijo Campanaro.

I’m not going to try to explain the theory behind this kind of therapy. Let’s just say EMDR is often used with individuals who have suffered major traumas, sexual or physical assault, combat experiences, accidents, the sudden death of a loved one: any kind of post-traumatic stress, really. But EMDR therapy has also been used to help athletes, performers and executives to achieve a state of “peak performance.”

If facilitated properly, EMDR helps people replace negative or stressful thoughts with positive ones.

Or something like that.

During my first session, VJ took a detailed history where we focused on what I perceived to be the major traumatic events in my life. I thought about the things I’ve been through in my 45 years on this planet and realized I had a lot from which to choose. She demonstrated a breathing exercise, which was familiar to me from my experience with yoga.

Then she had me hold these little buzzing paddles, which felt like cell phones set to vibrate.

Apparently, some therapists have clients track flashing lights but, over the course of her career, VJ said she’d found pairing the gentle, rhythmic buzzing from the paddles with conversation just as effective.

On my third session, Vickijo instructed me to put the buzzing paddles under my thighs, and she asked me to tell her about what I perceived to be my strengths as a writer.

I couldn’t think of one.

Not. One.

Unfazed, VJ asked me to close my eyes and describe a writer I admire. I thought about one particular blogger. “She can write about anything. She has amazing range: sometimes she’s funny; other times, she’s serious. She uses fresh images. She knows how to tell a story so it is unique and yet universally true. She responds to everyone. She’s generous, and her audience loves her.”

“You can open your eyes,” VJ said, so I did. “Do you think you possess any of the same qualities as this writer?”

I wasn’t sure.

Earlier in the session, I had talked about how much I sucked.

VJ asked me to think of an affirming sentence to replace my negative thoughts.

It was hard.

The voices were loud in my head.

“Let’s start with: ‘I suck,’” Vickijo suggested. “Can you turn that on its head?”

I closed my eyes and feeling the slow, rhythmic vibration of the paddles under my thighs, I saw myself sitting at a table, eating words. I literally ate the word ‘apricot’: chewed on it and swallowed, while my hand moved, scribbling letters inside a black and white composition notebook. I saw all the words I’d ever written in my life penned on a cozy fleece blanket and draped over my shoulders. I read the words I’d written on the lined paper.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

Except when I said it, there were eleventy-seven question marks at the end of the sentence.

“You’re a writer,” VJ said it as a statement. “And what does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “For me, writing is like eating or pooping. I can’t not do it. Whether or not I ever publish a book, I’m always going to write. It’s what I do.”

Vickijo laughed. “And that’s because?”

“I’m a writer.”

When I said it the second time, I believed it a little bit more. Weird, right? I have a hard time explaining how or why it’s working, but it is. EMDR combined with 5 minutes of daily meditation has been doing wonders for me.

And my writing.

For CREDIT click HERE. It was VERY hard to determine the origin of this image, but i have done my very best.

I’m feeling less compelled to be perfect.

In fact, perfect hasn’t even been on my radar.

I know it sounds whack-a-doodle, but the science supports this stuff. It’s incredible to me to think we have the ability to reprogram the way our brains have been hardwired to think. If you have suffered a trauma — or any kind of anxiety — EMDR can really help.

A few months ago, I would have felt like a bad person because my bed isn’t made, I’ve got a sink filled with dishes, and very little food in the refrigerator.

But today? I’m soooo not.

Progress.

•••

Here’s a video I found on YouTube that does a good job explaining EMDR, if you are interested.

Have you ever heard of EMDR? If you’ve tried it, did it work for you? What do you think about the idea of reprogramming your brain to think happier thoughts?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Check out my friend, author Kasey Mathews’ post on her experience with EMDR. We’ve known each other for decades, she guest posted on my blog HERE, and can you believe we’re both having positive experiences with EMDR?

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

When Perfectionism Gets In the Way

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I’m not going to lie.

I’ve been having a tough time.

I’ve already deleted those two sentences twice.

While I don’t have OCD, I do have some obsessive traits which sometimes strangle me.

Has anyone noticed I haven’t been posting very much?

No? Good, that’s awesome.

Except it sucks.

Because I have actually been writing prolifically.

For days.

Last night, I was up until 2 AM working and reworking a piece about summer camp.

But I just can’t seem to bring myself to push PUBLISH.

When I first started this blog, I wrote with reckless abandon.

I was fearless.

But now I feel paralyzed.

So many of my cyber buddies manage to blog and publish books. While I am, of course, thrilled for them, I feel less than. I can’t understand what’s wrong with me. I know writing a book isn’t a race, but seriously? This thing is taking forever.

Clearly, I’m suffering from Comparison’s Disease, a 100% made-up syndrome coined by my husband to describe one of our friends — we’ll call him Tom — who is forever comparing one thing to something else.

Say we’re sitting at an outdoor cafe when a limousine blows by. Tom’ll be all: “Do you guys remember when we got caught behind that hearse?”

“Yeah,” I might say. “What’s your point?”

“Well, they’re both long and black.”

And then we’d laugh.

Because Tom’s Comparison’s Disease is funny.

Mine is different.

I’ve subscribed to a lot of blogs. Probably too many. Instead of inspiring me, I find myself losing steam.

Angry voices in my head shout at me.

The voices are pissed off and alternate between reminding me that I need to write better and faster and telling me that I suck. They tell me my words aren’t good enough, that I’ll never finish my book, that I should close up shop and get a job selling erotic toys or smoothies. Or something.

This post isn’t meant to be profound.

I just needed to confess that I’m feeling like a fraud.

Frankly, I just needed write something in 20 minutes.

To prove that I could.

I’ve been here before.

I’m sure I’ll dig my way out of this hole.

I just need to stop trying so hard for perfect.

Because perfect is the enemy.

I know this.

I just need to finish.

And look, 43 minutes later, I did.

Are you a perfectionist? What tricks do you have to keep moving forward when your brain is telling you everything you do is a terrible mistake?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Where She’s From

Tomorrow, my eldest niece will graduate from high school. And in August, she’ll head off to college. Unlike her brothers who chose campuses closer to home, Miss Thang will be flying further away from the nest.

Today, I’m sharing one of the essays Audrey authored during her college application process. Because tomorrow, we’ll celebrate her: the person she is and the person she’s becoming. My niece knows who she is. Tenacious, kind, funny and smart: I’m excited for her to strap on her invisible wings and take them for a spin. Can’t wait to see where she lands.

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Photo by Florian Komorowski

Where I’m From by Audrey Jacobson

I am from ballet shoes and muddy sneakers.

From two older brothers, playing on the driveway.

I am from high expectations and never giving up. From surging on the canal path and running in circles.

From a box of Nike spikes, sweaty locker rooms, a blue and gold uniform and eleven varsity letters.

I am from “suicide sprints” and layup lines. From dropping balls and picking them up again.

From “Eat the hills for breakfast!” and “Keep your head up!”

I am from going out of my way, from hard work. From camaraderie, spirit, and supporting my teammates.

I am from ten summers at sleep-away camp. From fearlessly leaving home, a wee thing toting a humongous duffel bag.

I am from broadening my world, from making new friends, from unplugging from technology, and connecting with nature. From waterskiing and tetherball.

I am from giving back. In song and dance and conversation. I am from conflict resolution, positivity, and motivation. I am a hand, a shoulder, and an ear.

I am from bell-ringing on winter nights, from lugging boxes of books to children who have none, from making bracelets with broken souls.

I am from long nights of studying at my kitchen island. From Multiplication Fast Facts in 3rd grade to Logs and Limits. From Phospholipids and Buffers and Titrations.

I am from High Honor Roll. From parents with great genes. From brothers who showed me the way.

After seeing my name in the newspaper for academics and sports, people have told me, “You’re the whole package.”

Whatever that means, I’m not sure.

What I know is that I am from tutus and jazz shoes.

From getting dirty and meeting new people.

From the love of learning and the love of the game.

From playing hard and winning trophies, but not being afraid to lose.

I am from taking risks.

I know where I am from.

These are my roots.

What no one knows is that I have this box of wings that I’m ready to try.

tweet us @rasjacobson & @audjacobson

What’s essays do you remember being assigned to write? Where are you from?

NOTE: I helped Audrey back in October by providing her with the “Where I’m From” meme when she was in the throes of essay writing, but all the words are her own. Thanks to Jenny Hansen for sharing her piece and to Sharla Lovelace for inspiring Jenny. If you go HERE, you will see this exercise is based on a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From,” and if you’d like to try it yourself, the original link is there.

Click HERE for details on how you can enter to win a $25 gift card. 

Write An Old-Fashioned Letter To My Kid At Camp

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Last year, Tech went to overnight camp for a month. When he got home, he ate and slept. And then he complained that I hadn’t written enough.

You guys, I wrote a lot of letters.

Seriously, I wrote one every other day. That’s 14 letters, if you round down.

My son claims some kids received mail every single day.

This year my son is going to overnight camp for the entire summer.

That’s seven weeks, people.

I don’t have enough going on in my life to write him a letter every stinkin’ day. I know what you’re thinking: use your imagination. Believe me, I sent that boy plenty of creative letters, but there’s such a thing as burnout.

Plus, I’m old-school in that I believe there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned letter. One that someone wrote with his or her own hand.

Those types of letters take a little longer to craft.

So I’m appealing to you, my friends from the blogosphere. You’re readers and writers. You’re funny and smart and creative. You have pens and stamps.

WILL YOU WRITE TO MY KID WHILE HE’S AT CAMP?

Last year I asked you to write to Tech at camp, and you did! I gave him all your letters on Visitor’s Day, and he responded to people in a 3-part post when he returned home. If you’d like, you can check out Part I • Part II • Part III

This year, I’m begging asking you to write my kid a handwritten letter.

Partly because I think it’ll be hilarious for Tech to receive letters from people he doesn’t know.

But also because I’ve noticed how few people send letters anymore. Sure, we have email, mobile phones, and Facebook, but sometimes it’s nice to go to the mailbox and find something with your name on it.

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ALSO, IT’S TIME FOR A CONTEST.

Here’s what you do to enter:

  • Write a letter of any length, appropriate for a 14-year-old boy.
  • It must be handwritten. Typed letters will be disqualified.
  • It must be legible. Please print neatly. 
  • It must be pretty. No boring white paper. Be creative.
  • Send the letter to me between now & July 31, 2013. If you send it after that, I won’t be able to get it to Tech in time as U.S. Postal Service to camp is wicked slow!

When I receive your letters, I’ll steam open the envelopes to check out the submissions. That’s right, I’ll review each letter for originality, creativity, and visual appeal before forwarding it to the boy at camp.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

I’ll feature my favorite letters on my blog, and include blurbs about their authors. 

One of you stands to win best letter writer. That person will win a $25 gift card to somewhere awesome.

Tech isn’t in the dark. He’s agreed to respond to the winner. In addition to sending a handwritten letter to the winner via U.S. mail, I’ll post his illegible, yet handwritten response on my blog.

When writing a kid at camp, there are 3 rules.

Rule #1: Don’t be sad. Never tell your child that you are missing her so much that it hurts. That’s a disaster. And if your kid writes to say he is homesick, don’t get all hyper and tell him you’ll pick him up. Oy. He’s just venting.

Rule #2: Don’t be scary. At overnight camp, kids are completely cut off from the outside world. They really don’t know what’s going on, so it’s not funny to say the family pet died. They don’t need to hear about shootings or death or illness. A zombie apocalypse isn’t funny when you are away from the people you love.

Rule #3: Be funny. Camp is fun – and your letters should be too. Tell stories. Take a moment from your day and embellish it like crazy. When I write to Tech, I try to entertain him. Suggested topics: 1) girls, 2) Minecraft, 3) fencing, 4) Euchre, 5) technology (since he won’t have any), 6) tips on how to live with mean kids, 7) tips regarding how he can keep track of his socks.

If all else fails, tell him about what you used to do when you went to camp.

Unless you set things on fire or got girls pregnant.

In which case,  don’t write about that.

*smiles*

If you’d like to write a handwritten letter to Tech while he’s at summer camp, please indicate your interest in the comments section. I’ll contact you with the necessary information. Don’t wait. You know what happens when you wait. 

tweet me @rasjacobson