Tag Archives: friendship

So You’re Trying to Get to Cleveland for New Years Eve and The Thruway Closes & You’ve Got to Pee

New Years Eve 2012

For years Hubby and I had a long-standing tradition of spending New Year’s Eve with friends in Cleveland.

Some people might be thinking: Cue the sad-sounding trombones.

The reality is our New Year’s celebrations in Cleveland have been wonderful.

Some years we dressed up all fancy-schmancy and traveled to decadent restaurants while other years we huddled beside the fireplace in our jammies and fell asleep before the ball in Times Square touched down.

One year as Hubby and I set out to make our annual trek, the weather looked hairy. But we were young and stupid, so we packed up our car and pressed on.

After we passed Buffalo and got on the Interstate, the snow started pelting the car so we couldn’t see.

We turned on the radio.

Yes, the radio.

It was either that or Hubby’s tape-deck and collection of mixed-tapes featuring Kenny G.

My husband gripped the steering wheel. The snow was blowing the car around and we wanted to know if the whole trip would feel like we were driving through a wind tunnel beneath the heavy feathers of a rapidly molting white bird.

And then we heard it.

The Thruway has been closed from Buffalo to Erie.

As if on cue, the cars slowed and stopped. We turned off the engine to conserve gas. There was nothing to do but wait.

And listen to mixed tapes.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was two months pregnant at the time.

I don’t know about how it goes for other women, but during that first trimester, I had to pee.

A lot.

After sitting for three hours in my husband’s tiny black Honda Prelude, I panicked.

“I have to pee.”

The windshield wipers swished back and forth and, for a moment, we could see.

“Well, you’re going to have to hold it.”

I looked out my passenger side window, at the stillness of it all and contemplated how I was going to make it to a bathroom when I couldn’t even see an exit ramp.

But this need to pee was non-negotiable.

I tried to explain it to my husband so he would understand.

“You know how you don’t like to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast?” I said. “Well, I don’t like to pee on myself.”

In my experience, any time someone tries to ignore a biological urge, that urge becomes more urgent.

I popped open the car door. Snowflakes fluttered onto my lap.

“I see an RV ahead,” I unbuckled my seat belt. “I bet they have a bathroom. Either they’ll let me in, or I’m going to have to cop a squat.”

I walked down I-90 between the rows of stopped cars, glad for my hat with the earflaps. People saw me coming and rolled down their windows to ask me questions – as if I could tell them when the snow would stop, how much longer until we would start moving, about what was causing the delay.

I only knew I had to pee.

I slogged through the snow that came up to my knees and kept my eye on that RV with the Canadian license plates.

Knocking on the door with urgency, I was greeted by a man in a red ski-mask with cut outs for the eyes and nose.

I explained to the masked man that I was pregnant and that I had walked really far in the snow.

Because I had to pee.

The man in the ski-mask walked back up the steps and gestured for me to come in.

I looked back at my husband’s car, a white lump in the distance. Before I’d left, I told Hubby once I was in that he should give me ten minutes, that if I wasn’t out in ten minutes, he should come get me because someone was cutting me into small pieces.

So I followed a man in a ski-mask into an RV.

Surprise! The RV was filled with Canadian hockey players who were super-friendly, eh?

After I used their facilities, they offered me snacks and told me not to hesitate if I needed to come back.

On my way out, I wished them a Happy New Year, and they held up mugs and shouted something unintelligible in Canadian.

Several hours later, we got moving again, but traffic was diverted back to Buffalo where Hubby and I were forced to spend the night in a Microtel, which felt much too micro after having spent so much time crammed in such a tight space.

We didn’t make it to Cleveland for New Years that night. Instead, we had spaghetti and meatballs at one of our favorite restaurants.

I was pretty hormonal, and I remember crying as I pushed pasta and meat sauce into my mouth.

Our waitress appeared with a tiny bottle of champagne.

So long ago, not everyone was even born yet!

“This is for you,” she announced. “From your friends in Cleveland.”

And then I really sobbed.

Because I missed them.

And because I couldn’t drink champagne.

Except I probably could have.

But it was so lovely of them to remember us.

Stranded on New Year’s Eve.

Last year we made it.

And we ate raclette.

And everyone made it to midnight.

And it was positively perfect.

Last night, we got about 10 inches of snow.

It better melt really fast.

Or else.

Hope to see everyone soon!

What are you doing to ring in the New Year?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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Acquaintance is not a Dirty Word: A #LessonLearned by Nina Badzin

Click on the teacher lady's hand to see other writers involved with this project.

It’s fantastic to have Nina here today writing about different types of friendship because Nina and I met through a “shadchan,” the Hebrew word for “unprofessional matchmaker.” Our pimp matchmaker was the fabulous Julie C. Gardner. Julie told me to go and check out Nina’s blog.

Best. Click. Ever.

Because when I landed at Nina Badzin’s Blog, suddenly I felt all shivery. Immediately, I knew I wanted to play Mah Jongg with this woman. Seriously, I loved Nina’s writing voice right away. She explained Why She Might (Or Might Not) Follow Me On Twitter and  Why Marriage Needs To Come Before The Kids. She even told me about Why I Needed To Eat Her Grandma Suzie’s Brownies. So my cyber-crush quickly developed into a collaborative project, and I am so happy to report I won her cyber-heart. Two months later, I was able to get Nina to commit to a date… to write a guest post. I’ll be at her place next week.

Seriously. I’m going to Minnesota.

If you aren’t following Nina, all I can say is big mistake. Huge.

(Actually, Julia Roberts said that in Pretty Woman.) But it applies here as well. Except Nina is not a prostitute who just bought a lot of clothes. Follow Nina on Twitter at @NinaBadzin.

• • •

Acquaintance is not a Dirty Word

Once upon a time (like a year ago), I over-analyzed the relationships in my life no matter how casual and fleeting. When I was an English teacher, for example, I worried about putting too much time into my colleagues since I knew I’d stay home with my kids within three years. I shied away from getting too chatty with the other moms in various Mommy & Me classes since I already had a few close friends in town. I wondered why I was still keeping in touch with long-distance friends when we would probably never visit each other now that we all had young kids.

It was as if every woman in my life had to fulfill all of my friendship needs. In the past year — probably the cause of having my fourth child and less social time than I had in the past — I’ve accepted that it’s normal, mature, and expected to have different friends for all kinds of reasons. Not everyone needs to reach BFF status. “Acquaintance,” I discovered, is not a dirty word.

Of course we should treasure the close, intimate relationships in our lives. I’m simply suggesting that a friendship is worth something even if it doesn’t fit the Oprah/Gayle standard. I’ve learned to enjoy each kind of friend.

There are friends of convenience.

These friends inhabit your space: co-workers, neighbors, yoga buddies, church friends (synagogue for me), parents with children at the same school. In the past I took the simplicity of these friendships for granted. Take my former colleagues, for example. I probably would have enjoyed our lunches together more had I not worried about whether or not we’d ever transcend the initial stage of friendship. The love of fiction, a hate of the vice principal, and fifth period free should have been good enough for me.

Look how cute Nina is! Tell me you wouldn't kill to be any category of friend to her.

There are friends we simply “really, really like.”

I consider myself extremely lucky to have many friends who fall into this category. Several of these women are people who would probably become even closer friends of mine if we ran into each other more, had more time to spend together, or if each of us had more openings for “very close friends.” See Rachel Bertche’s wonderful memoir MWF Seeking BFF for more on the topic of the “friend card” and when it’s too full.

There are “group friends.”

All of your friends are friends so before you know it, you’re friends too. Birthday clubs, cooking clubs, book clubs—these all have the makings of group friendships.  My mom has been in the same monthly bridge group for 40 years. Does she consider every person in the group her closest confidant? No. But she wouldn’t dream of missing the opportunity to help host their kids’ bridal showers, to attend the weddings, send gifts to the grandchildren, and organize the shiva meals for elderly parents and spouses. She wouldn’t analyze whether the friendship only exists because of the group before helping her friend celebrate or mourn.

There are friends bound to us by history.

She stood by you when you had acne, bad hair, embarrassing accessories, and strange taste in boyfriends. Bottom line: she got you through a more vulnerable time. You might not choose her at forty, but you’re friends for life –especially if you’re both on Facebook. But seriously, these friends are keepers no matter how infrequently you see each other and no matter how awkward those first moments of telephone small talk after months or even years of not talking. The quality of the sporadic phone chats or in-person visits with these friends are what help you accept the somewhat surface conversations with your friends of convenience. Different friends for different needs. That’s what I’m preaching here!

There are best friends.

These relationships rise above circumstances, convenience, group status, history, and distance. The only thing problematic about them is their potential to make you devalue the other friendships in your life. Not all friendships get to this level, nor should they. It would be impossible for every relationship to maintain the intensity of the “best” friend.

One last category to appreciate: Internet Friend

If you’re an active blogger and/or Tweeter, then you probably spend more time “talking” to your virtual friends than even your most beloved BFF. Internet chemistry can be felt across the screen, and it’s special. Renée and I clicked as soon as we “met.” And I’m so grateful she let me come here today to talk about valuing each kind of friendship for what it brings to our lives.

Do you appreciate having different friends for different needs? Or do you find yourself over-analyzing your friends?

Back in 1985

Me & my BFF's circa 1985. I'm the one in blue with the green lei.

In my last post, I wrote about my nephew Alec’s recent high school graduation.

As I sat waiting inside the local college field house, miles away from the actual school my nephew attended, I couldn’t help but think about my own graduation in 1985.

First, I have to admit that I have absolutely no recollection of who spoke at my high school graduation. (My sincere apologies, Mr. or Ms. Graduation Speaker. I am sure you were very good.)

I do remember sitting in my white cap and gown. (The boys wore red.)

I remember looking at my fabulous white high-heeled pumps and thinking about my tan. My tan was very important to me, as tans were to many of us back in the mid-1980s. We were not a very serious bunch. I mean, we were serious but in an 1980s kind of way. Which was not very serious. Yeah, we were going to college – but we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. At all. Maybe that was just me. But seriously, I don’t think so.

Where my nephew’s graduating class was focused, we were distinctly goofy. Of course some of us were more self-propelled than others, but as a class, we were more about fun. I may be making this up but I kind of remember someone pretending to trip and possibly even staging a fall as he walked to get his diploma. I wore a green lei around my neck during the graduation ceremony. On two separate occasions, the vice principal told me to remove it (and I did), but I slipped it back on before I walked across the stage for hand-shaking and hugs.

In 1985, I was more interested in the social interactions that high school had to offer than its academic challenges. I joined the “fun” clubs. I was a cheerleader. I danced and rode horses. I also got a lot of detentions; I even managed to earn myself a 3-day in-school suspension. Hell, I wore blue to graduation when we were clearly instructed to wear white or light colors. As a group, we did a lot of pushing the proverbial envelope.

In contrast, my nephew and his peers seemed pretty serious.

Maybe they have to be.

Given the current economic prognosis, they can’t afford to mess around the way we did in the decadent 80s.

I mean, it’s good to be thinking of more than just developing “a great base tan.”

The night of Alec’s graduation, as we celebrated his accomplishments with pizza and watermelon, I was surprised by how content Alec was to just hang out with his family. He played his ukulele, chatted with his grandparents, sat outside on a chunky patio chair with the men, their voices blending together in a low hum.

He seemed unfazed that he was leaving for camp the next day. He said he wasn’t too worried because he knew he would be able to keep in touch with his closest friends.

Immediately after my high school graduation, my clan of Best Friends Forever (The “BFF’s”) gathered in a parking lot to sip champagne from plastic glasses, and I remember feeling a tremendous sense of relief and freedom.

Along with a side order of sadness.

Because I really didn’t think I was going to see any of my them ever again.

Let’s forget for a moment that the 1980s featured a lot of apocalyptic songs which suggested that we were all going to die in a nuclear war. (Think of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U” or Rush’s “Distant Early Warning”; Genesis’ “Domino” of  Modern English’s romantic ballad “I’ll Stop The World and Melt with You.” Oh and Nena, the chick who brought us “99 Red Balloons.”)

Seriously. I didn’t think we were going to make it to our 10 year reunion.

But on a less morbid level, there were no cellphones back in 1985. No Facebook or Twitter. No texting.

I remember smiling big but feeling internally frantic. I could feel change on my skin as sure as I had felt the sun baking my shoulders for all those weeks leading up to graduation. Just like my nephew, I packed my duffel bag and trunk and headed off to (same) summer camp where I planned to work for 8 weeks as a counselor. Unlike my nephew, I felt loss in my bones.

I imagined myself standing in line waiting to use a dormitory payphone. But I knew I would never have enough quarters to call my friends as much as I would like. I also knew that even if I called, the odds were, they would not be around.

I knew I would have to find new people, and that I would have to work to make new friends. But I also accepted this as the natural order of things: growing up meant breaking bonds to form new ones.

After speaking with several graduates of the class of 2011, I realized that they are less sad than we were. With the advent of social media, friends need never disconnect from one another. Unless a person wants to become invisible, it is absolutely possible to remain in touch with one’s friends from high school. On a daily basis.

It remains to be seen if all this connection will be a blessing or a curse. I wonder if today’s students will remain perpetual teenagers, clinging to their childhood friendships, finding it difficult to move on and forge fresh bonds with new people, or if they will plunge into adulthood, embracing new opportunities while maintaining constant contact with old friends from back in the day.

As I watched graduates from the class of 2011 pose for photographs, then stop to text someone, thumbs a-blazing, I thought about what graduation really meant for me.

I was able to go to college and start fresh.

I made a conscious choice to stop being “the flirty girl” and reinvent myself as “the studious girl.” Would such a transformation have been possible if I had people from high school constantly reminding me of my flakiness? About how dumb I was in math? About the time I spilled the bong water? Or the time I started cheering “Block That Kick” when our team had possession of the football?

Is it possible to move forward and evolve when people are urging you to look back and stay the same?

What do you remember about your high school graduation? How do you think social media will impact future generations?



Prom Gen iY: Same Thing, Just Better Dresses

Photo from jepoycamboy @ flickr.com

Recently, my family was chomping on chunks of bread at Outback Steakhouse, a place we often go after I announce that I didn’t make it to the grocery store.

As I sat in my old jeans, the thick, pine doors parted and in paraded boys wearing tuxedos with cummerbunds flanked by girls in fancy dresses with sparkles and sequins. I was bedazzled…

…and instantly transported back in time. To the mid-1980s. To my own school formals.

TB and me. Junior Prom, 1984.

I went to Junior Prom with TB, a boy I had spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, however, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I sort of figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

Here’s what I remember about that prom. First, let’s just establish TB looked awesome in his tux. Done. Okay, now let’s talk about my dress. Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside my dress. All I knew was that I felt like Madonna in that dress. Seriously, from the neck down, I totally looked like Madonna.

Shut up, I did.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up. Just a few months prior, I had butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was – tragically – a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. The in-between stage lasted for years. In an effort to try to make people not notice my heinous hair, I stuck an over-sized silver safety-pin through the extra hole in my left ear lobe. Because I was that stupid cool.

JMo and me. Senior Ball, 1985.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared. First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux. Done. Now, about my dress.  As it turned out, my big poofy dress from the year before was really uncomfortable. The crinkly crinolines had filled the entire backseat; it had been hard to walk, and did I mention that I was decidedly not hot? Senior year, I decided to tone down my attire and wear a really simple yellow dress. Alas, there was no teenaged version of “Say Yes To The Dress” because somehow I ended up looking like I had been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a second vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, most people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while simultaneously ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final. (That proved to be a big mistake.)

I did not do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered. I was clean.

Not too long ago, I went on Twitter to see what people were saying about prom. Here is a sampling:

and

and

People were freaking out. About shoes, about fingernails, about limos, about dress fittings. Dress fittings?

Whaaaaat? I bought a dress and I put it on. As you can see, it fit.

(Okay, so there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

Unlike the tweeps, I did not worry about prom for days in advance.

Time spent preparing my hair for Junior Prom: zero minutes.

For Senior Ball, I actually had hair, so I did use a little mousse which, thankfully, had been invented earlier that year.

I do remember some mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I still wanted the romance of the evening. I still wanted my dates to ask me to slow dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

Ask me. No don’t ask me.

Please ask me. Wait, I don’t know what I’m doing.

One year, I remember the band playing Foreigner and mouthing the words: “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.”

Because, really, I had no idea.

But I so wanted to know.

Somewhere between 1986 and 2011, dress designers realized that high school girls did not want to look like Victorian dolls in ginormous hoop skirts nor did they want to look like mothers-of-the-bride. Thus, the prom dress industry was born. That night at Outback Steakhouse, the girls looked so beautiful; their dresses complemented their body shapes and each dress represented a stripe of the rainbow. Each young woman looked like a contestant from America’s Next Top Model. Each had a signature walk. Each looked so confident.

For a minute, I felt envy. I mean, I was decidedly un-hot at junior prom and kind of potato-sacky at senior ball. But then I realized, to the outside world, I probably looked confident, too. Even with the bad hair. I found myself wondering about the girls at Outback – and all the girls who go to formal dances these days. They are so well-put together, so styled, so prepped. Outwardly, they appeared so mature. I wondered if they would be able to look back at themselves in 30 years with a sense of humor and recognize that they were also at a tipping point. Or had they already passed it?

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where parents hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment (and often did).

I think of prom as that awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we just hold onto each other in our fancy clothes and spin around in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And it was good.

You know, up until I learned I had failed the Trig final.

Because that sucked.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Really?

Posts That Shimmy & Shake: Abby Has Issues, Paul Waters & Kristen Lamb

This is the fun part of the show where I get to tell you about some great reads that you might have missed this week. As usual, I try to get one from the chicks and one from the dudes. This week, I even have one from “The Queen.”

From The Ladies: Abby Has Issues is a hilarious blog by Abby Heugel. This week she wrote a piece called My Marriage Proposal that had me considering the concept of a Sister Wife. I decided I really wanted Abby to move in with me – and my husband. Why? Because Abby has decided she would like to be a Consolation Prize Wife, which is not to be confused with a Trophy Wife. Abby’s totally cool with being a consolation prize, and she gives a lot of convincing reasons why you should be too. Let’s just say, she had me at Swiffer Wet Jet.

• • •

From the Dudes: Paul Waters has a very funny post for all you little history buffs in the house. Or for folks who like naughty words that aren’t supposed to be naughty but they totally are. Poor Bastards. His piece is called “Are You SURE You Want To Take His Name When You Get Married?” I can’t say more without ruining the funny. Paul is one of the very first people I met when I landed here in the Blogosphere, and I have been enjoying his writing for a year now. It’s time to stop hogging him to myself. Read more of Paul’s stuff at Blackwatertown.

• • •

From The Queen: If you haven’t yet been introduced to Kristen Lamb’s fabulous blog Warrior Writers, today is your lucky day! Thank goodness for premature button pushing! This week Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  accidentally released one of her dazzlingly gorgeous pieces of brilliance a little earlier than expected. Let’s just say, the unexpected bundle of joy entitled, “Sacred Cow-Tipping: Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad”  was received with much head-nodding and agreement that her spawn is, indeed, breathtaking. KL’s post explains why writers should not create blogs that are exclusively dedicated to writing about writing.

I am so glad I did not make the mistake about writing about writing. But I almost did. A teacher for 20 years, when I decided to start blogging, I figured I’d write about writing. My son (age 10 at the time) rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, that’s so boring. You don’t have to always be the teacher. You can also be the dumb one.” And he was right. I have so many stories where I am the Chief Twit-in-Residence, so instead of always having to be Mrs. Smarty-Pants, I can also be the wisenheimer. So instead of being locked in to talking about commas and semi-colons, I left room for options. Which is one of Kristen’s points. They don’t call her “The Queen” for nothing. (Well, they don’t. But I do.)

Before you check out these amazing writers, can you explain what’s up with that cat?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

And Since We Are Talking About Pencils…

Image from art.com

My friend Carl D’Agostino and I often have Vulcan mind-melds. This week while I was tapping away about how much my Monkey loves his Ticonderogas, Carl simultaneously posted a pencil related comic on his blog, “I Know I Made You Smile.”

Check out Carl’s funny here, then come back and tell me about a mistake that could not be erased.

I’ll start: Congressman Anthony Weiner’s decision to send photos of himself in his grey underwear via Twitter. Whooopsie! Good luck with that one, dude.

In Praise of the Pencil

Google Images

In 5th grade, Mr. Zych lectured all of his students about how to properly sharpen a pencil. He wasn’t messing around. His speech was not short, and he covered everything from how to properly grip the pencil to the cranking motion – how it should be smooth and continuous, not jerky. He even discussed the perils of over-sharpening, which could lead to premature tip-breakage. Mr. Zych turned pencil sharpening into a science.

Personally, I have had a love-hate relationship with pencils. I first learned how to print my alphabet in pencil and then I learned how to write in cursive in pencil. That was Paradise. Finally, a way to write all the stories stored in my head. Later, I preferred to write with pens – preferably ones filled with purple or green ink. But ever since my son started school, he has been forever in need of pencils; they seem to always be around, and so I returned to the yellow pencils of my youth. I had learned to appreciate the feel of a pencil in my hand again. I even started to like the scratchy-scratchy sound of the graphite as it dragged across the page. After I recently stepped on a pencil, I became suspicious of them again and switched back to pens.

Meanwhile, my son is still on a steady diet of pencils. In middle school, the kids seem to devour them: literally and figuratively. I know my son nibbles on his; I’ve seen the teeth marks. I’ve watched him crunch while he contemplates before committing to writing an answer on paper. But sometimes I wonder if he actually eats them, too. I mean, where do they go? How many pencils does one kid need in a school year?

A few weeks back, Monkey came home in a tizzy.

“I’m out of pencils again,” he announced.

Nonplussed, I told him there were under three weeks of school left and that I was pretty sure he could make-do with his nubs until June 20.

He started at me with contempt.

“Are you serious?” he questioned. “I have exams! I need pencils! Ticonderogas. Now!”

He was not messing around.

The next day while in the grocery store – to my horror – I found plenty of office supplies, but they were only generic pencils. And even I know that those erasers don’t do the job. You need another eraser to get rid of the smears those lame pencils leave behind.

So I made an extra trek, this time to Staples – home of the Ticonderoga pencil – and invested in the Bulk pack. (Because that was all they had.) Let’s be clear. Ticonderoga pencils are like platinum. They cost a fortune. The only way a pencil could be more fabulous would be if you printed your name on pencils. A Ticonderoga is the Hum-V in the wonderful world of pencils. Teachers definitely prefer them. Definitely.

I rationalized that I could spend $15.77 + nearly 9% tax on pencils because they are non-perishable, so it is not like they will ever rot or mold. And I figured whatever is left at the end of the school year, Monkey can use in 7th grade, thus saving me some back-to-school shopping hassle.

A few days later, a good friend of mine called me and reported that her son – also a 6th grader – had run out of pencils. While requesting to buy more, she said my name was invoked. Apparently her son said:

“Can you just be like Mrs. J. and get the Giant Pack of 72 Ticonderoga pencils?”

Apparently Monkey had been bragging about his new stash.

I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Bragging about pencils?

And then I thought about how I had come full circle. Just one week before, I was cursing pencils as my husband dug around my heel with a needle in an attempt to get the lead out. (I know, I know. Pencils are made of graphite. I was going for the funny.) But now I found myself saying a silent prayer on behalf of all pencil-loving children everywhere. Uncharacteristically, I clasped my hands together and thought to myself:

Lord, may this be the worst thing my child ever desires. May this be his worst addiction. May he never see cocaine. May he never use LSD or heroin. May he avoid cigarettes and alcohol. May he avoid the ‘shrooms, the X, the meth. May he never huff. May he find the strength to avoid the Oxycontin and Adderall.

May he always be addicted to Ticonderoga pencils.

Because, honestly, I’ll happily help Monkey score his Ticonderoga pencils forever. I’ll even help him sharpen them. Mr. Zych schooled me on that a long time ago, and I feel confident I can help my son with his #2 pencil fix without any need for an Intervention.

Tweet this Twit @RASJacobson

Class Pictures: The Aftermath

That's what I'm talking about!

Yesterday for School Photo Day, I wrote about how I was voted “Class Flirt” my Senior year in high school.

A few hours after my pictures went live, Monsieur Flirt contacted me.

Actually, that is not exactly true.

Earlier that morning, I put out a call on Facebook asking friends to help me track him down.

It didn’t take long.

He responded to my blog – at first a little defensively – and we ended up privately emailing back and forth all day.

Short little emails.

He’s still funny.

And charming.

And he told me I’m funny.

(No duh!)

Somehow he forgot to mention that I am hot.

I don’t know how that happened.

Anyway, during our correspondence, Monsieur Flirt requested that I post an updated picture of him today. I guess even PMo got a little trapped behind the burden of those Senior Superlatives. Like me, he has grown up. He’s a man. A responsible and doting father with a job: a mortgage, bills. He is the same but different.

And he would like to show the world how he has morphed.

So you saw him in 1985; here he is in a photo taken in 2010.

Twenty-five years later.

PMo in 2010

At the end of our day of emails, PMo tapped out a quick last note:

Always fun bonding with you…

And I thought.

Yup.

PMo and I will always have that high school bond, a shared history where he was the studly-stud in the leather bomber jacket and I was the boobless babe in the short, red cheerleader skirt.

Thanks for being such a good sport, PMo.

If Photo Dude were taking our picture today, I’m sure he’d get a better shot. We would unlikely turn our backs to each other, and we would definitely smile.

In fact, I’ll make sure to get that picture at our 30th reunion in 2015.

Anyone else have any “Morning After” School Photo Day stories? Or am I just the lucky one?

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Lessons From School Picture Day

A few weeks back Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom), Clay Morgan (EduClaytion) and Keenie Beanie came up with a brilliant horrifying idea. To go digging back through old school yearbooks and encourage other bloggers to post pictures of ourselves on our pages, along with a little write-up. They would call it:

I wanted to participate in Leanne’s, Clay’s and Keanie Beanie’s brain fart child, but I was saddened to realized I had actually scribbled all over my face in nearly every picture. Think I’m kidding? I’m not. This is my Senior picture.

Worst. Picture. Ever.

I was really into the Grateful Dead at the time. Please note my fancy spelling of the Dead, my little rose at the top of my picture, and my penned in peace-sign earrings.

I did find one picture in that same yearbook that stood out to me.

It was the picture taken for Senior Superlatives, a tradition at my high school. Members of the Senior class voted for their choice of male and female representatives in 12 different categories like Best Looking, Best Dressed, Most Friendly, Most Artistic, Most Athletic, Most Musical… you get the idea. (I wonder if they still do that.)

Scroll down to see what I got.

Monsieur Flirt and I were on-again, off-again friends during high school. During this picture, I think we were off. Yeah, definitely off. The week prior he had intentionally backed into my tan Plymouth Volaré as we waited at a red light. Honestly, he just lightly tapped the front bumper of my car with his rear bumper. Problem was my mother was also in the front seat of the car, and she did not think the whole “bumper cars” thing was very funny. She was pretty pissed.

She also has no recall of this incident at all.

Anyway, the day for photos came and Monsieur Flirt and I weren’t really friendly. I think he might have punched me that week. Or maybe he was mean to one of my friends. I don’t know. All I know is that the student photographer kept saying, “Get into a more flirtatious pose!” And neither one of us could muster it. I mean, we just couldn’t. Could there be stronger body language that says: I do not want to be in a picture with this person? But our relentless, young photographer was on assignment and kept making suggestions like, “Why don’t you dip her?” and “Why don’t you pretend to kiss?” Horrifying.

Finally, Monsieur Flirt and I decided to go with the back-to-back thing. Actually, I don’t think it was really a decision. As you can see from Monsieur Flirt’s face, if Photo Dude wanted a picture, that was what he was going to get.

When the yearbook came out days before graduation, I stared at that photograph for a long time. I thought about the words: Class Flirt. I did not think of myself as a person who “made advances.” I did not consider myself a vamp or a vixen or a seductress. But it made me realize that a lot of other people saw me that way. I mean, they voted for me. The idea made me squirmy.

I didn’t like it very much.

The idea stayed with me as I headed off to college. So did I completely reinvent myself? No. I am still a little coquette. I still bat my eyelashes and wear high-heeled shoes. I still chat it up with the boys. But I’m not interested in giving anyone a “come hither” look nor am I interested in stringing anyone along. That is not a sport in which I like to dabble.

These days, I’ve got Hubby. And Monkey is my photographer. He calls the shots. He holds the camera and tells me to be myself. And so I am. In pictures and in life. I still enjoy a fabulous double entendre, which is probably why I have a thing for The Bard. But there is so much more to me. There always was.

Photo taken by Monkey at age 11.

If you want to participate in School Picture Day, it’s not too late! Read the instructions here. Then post a picture, write a little somethin’-somethin’ (or just leave a caption) and go check out the school photos of some other bloggers like Clay Morgan and IronicMom and KeenieBeanie. If you posted a photo on your blog, please include a link in the comment section. I promise to visit. Even if you don’t do it today. I figure you have the rest of the week. For the purposes of my blog, it is School Picture Week! 😉


Guest Post by Abby Fendler: In Memory of Ronnie

Today’s guest post is by Abby Fendler, a former student at Metairie Park Country Day School. Earlier this week, Ronnie Frazier, Buildings and Grounds Supervisor, unexpectedly passed away, shocking the entire MPCDS community. While Ronnie wasn’t officially a teacher, he sure did mentor a lot of people. That man touched lives. My condolences to Ronnie’s wife, Rubie – whom Ronnie adored.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Choquette

How many people can say that their school janitor was – without a doubt – one of their best friends, heroes, and idols of all time? Rest assured, thousands of students, graduates, faculty and parents of Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana, can.

Born in Ferriday, Louisiana in 1957, in a town of 5,000 people, Ronnie had an English teacher aunt who stressed the importance of reading. As a result, Ronnie grew up articulate, politically acute, and knowledgeable. The day after he graduated from high school, he joined the army and, after his stint, he came to New Orleans looking for work.

“There weren’t many jobs available,” he said, “so I took a part-time job working in a grocery store warehouse, but I wanted to get into management training.” Although there were many stumbling blocks to his being admitted into the program, he persevered and eventually became assistant manager. Only then did he discover that the job did not pay a livable wage. Through a friend, Ronnie heard about a position with benefits and the possibility for career advancement at a well-known private school in the city, Metairie Park Country Day. “I felt that I’d found what I was looking for. In the past, I had only held jobs for short stretches of time, but at MPCDS, I felt like I could be happy,” Ronnie said.

Ronnie’s official job title was “Building and Grounds Supervisor” of the Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana, but Ronnie was also the head of maintenance, a bus driver, a woodworker, and a do-anything-and-everything-man-for-anyone-and-everyone on campus guy; in actuality, he was every student’s greatest hero – a real life “Superman.”

Graduate Traci Berger said, “Not one student at Country Day thought of Ronnie as ‘just the janitor’; he was like every student’s unofficial psychiatrist, funny uncle, favorite teacher, and best friend all wrapped up in one enormous, smiling package.” To the people who knew Ronnie, he was not merely a maintenance man; he was a fixture of the community, the real heart and soul of Metairie Park Country Day School.

An imposing figure at six feet five inches tall, dark, muscular and two hundred twenty-five pounds, Ronnie was a commanding presence at the school. Mallory Bohn, a thirteen year veteran of Country Day, remembers her first encounter with Ronnie Frazier as a kindergartener and new student:

I remember carrying my new “Barbie and Ken” lunchbox and an empty “My Little Pony” book bag, and from what I remember there was no one around to help me, but just as that first tear rolled down my cheek, Ronnie appeared from out of nowhere with this gigantic, welcoming smile. He’s was always around, to high-five when you were up and to commiserate and help when you were down.

Every faculty member and student has a fond memory of Ronnie Frazier. In 2004, graduating class president, Ben Fendler read these words in his speech. “I learned many things at my school – Math, Science and English – but the real lessons of life were those that I learned from watching Ronnie Frazier. He works hard without whining or complaining; he never quits. He’s a confidant, but not a snitch. He shines at a job that many would consider beneath them, and makes it all worthwhile and even enviable. Ronnie says that to succeed in his job requires diplomacy, flexibility and level-headedness, and that the kids make this easy for him because of all of their energy and inherent goodness. Although I think all of you would agree with me that it is not the children but Ronnie’s own character that accounts for his success.”

Ronnie worked at Country Day for 20 years. He once said being a member of the Country Day community was “like a vacation” because he was able to make a good living and get to watch wonderful kids grow up. “I get to drive them around, watch them play their [sports] and get paid for it. And, at the end of the day, I get to go home and know that I may have helped a student… That makes me so thankful.” Ronnie said. “I may not have the highest paying job in the world, but nothing is as rewarding as knowing that a child looks up to me and that, in his or her eyes, what I have to say really does make a difference.”

Does anyone recall having a bond with a person who worked at a school? Not a teacher but someone else who made a difference in your life? I’d love to hear your story.

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