Tag Archives: Gratitude

5 Things I Remembered About My Husband


1. He Has Shpilkes.
What? You don’t know Yiddish? Don’t worry; I’ll help you. The dictionary defines “shpilkes” as sitting on pins and needles. Well, that doesn’t really capture it, does it? When you say someone “has shpilkes,” it implies that person has a nervous energy, an impatience. Simply put: Hubby can’t sit still.

While I slept late on morning two of our vacation, Hubby got up and rented a truck. His goal? Transport two humongous palm trees to The Happy House. But that’s not all. He dug two huge holes, added soil, and rolled the huge trees into our backyard.

Then he mulched and watered.

Then he golfed 36-holes.


After that, he bought a mountain bike and went zipping through unfamiliar terrain. When he came home – in the dark — he showed me his ripped up his legs.

“The trails are awesome!” he gushed. “But I should probably get a helmet. And a headlamp.”

During vacation, Hubby burned 8,673,412 calories.

I burned 17.

2. He’s Losing His Hearing.
Apparently, I’ve started speaking at a decibel that only dogs can appreciate.

3. He Snores.
At home, I’ve got ear-plugs. But I forgot to bring them to The Happy House. Let’s just say, that’s been rectified. They’re there now.

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Thank goodness for these!

4. He Relaxes. Eventually.
It takes my man a bit of time to switch from work mode to relaxation mode. On our last day, after he’d watered his new trees, unplugged all the electronics, turned down the hot water heater, and adjusted the air conditioner to AUTO, he gathered up all our garbage and drove it to some gas station where he filled up the gas tank of our rental car.

When he got back, Hubby brought his breakfast outdoors to the lanai. Putting his feet up on a wicker table, he shoveled spoonfuls of granola and yogurt into his mouth.

“Look at those palm trees,” he said, admiring his handiwork. “Now it looks tropical down here.”

{you know, as opposed to before, when we could only admire the stand of palm trees on the far side of the man-made pond.}

“Did you have a good time?” Hubby asked.

I nodded.

Because how could we not have a good time? The Happy House was made possible by my husband’s hard work. Hubby is a worker bee and, truth be told, he’s happiest when he’s busy. He works hard, so he sleeps hard. He thinks the beach is boring. Plus, he’s practically an albino, so even SPF 1000 doesn’t quite do the job. And nobody likes a sunburn.

But you know what?

5. He’s that guy.
After all these years, he still carries my suitcase to the car. He holds my boarding pass and watches my bag when I have to pee. He’ll buy the curtain rod, and then return it because his crazy wife decided it wasn’t right, and then he’ll go back and buy it again because his crazy wife screwed up and, yes, that first curtain rod was right after all.

When she was pining to leave Oz and return to Kansas, Dorothy Gale closed her eyes and said: “There’s no place like home.”

How many people are lucky enough to have two places that hold their heart?

And how many girls are lucky enough to know home is wherever we are, as long as I’ve got my ear plugs we’re together?

What little things drive you bonkers about your partner? What things do you love the most?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Happy anniversary, Hubby. Eighteen years. You knows I loves you. Do you think we can get stock in ear plugs? Is that a thing? If so, maybe we should look into that.


My Blogging Report Card: The Year in Review

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Yesterday, WordPress sent its bloggers our end of the year report cards, which provide us with some fun statistics. I stopped looking at the numbers a while ago, so it is fun to see how this year compared to last year.

According to one part of the report:

About 19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In 2012, there were 165 new posts, growing the total of this blog to 460 posts.

The busiest day of the year was November 17th with 1,103 views. The most popular post that day was Coming Clean About My Age.

Hello, Jay-Z? Did you hear that? Eight sold-out performances. You might want me on your tour. Just sayin’.

For me, 2012 was a mix of highs and lows. There were a lot of best of times. And I didn’t have anything that I would count as a “worst of times,” and for that I am fortunate.

In January, when I learned that my niece and nephew had not received their holiday gifts, I wrote I’m Sorry The US Postal Service Wrecked Your Christmas.  Just in case you were left hanging, wondering: Did the kids ever get their present. A month later, the box came back to my house. Apparently, my sister-in-law has a really cranky mail carrier.  This year, we got it right. I think.

In February, I Got Lucky in N’awlins when I met The Lucky Mom in the city that holds my heart. We only spent about 5 hours together, but Lisha has become another angel who lives and breathes in The Crescent City.

Color-coordinated. With hat.

In March, I showed you some emails from my students in wotz da big deal cuz u no wot i mean. It hurt to write that the first time, and it hurt again now. Please remember to read to your children. And as they get older, please try to hold off on letting them texting until they have mastered basic rules of spelling and grammar. No matter what anyone says, their teachers can tell the difference. And yes, it matters.

In April, I started  shopping for dresses for my son’s upcoming bar mitzvah and gave you A Reason to Hate Communal Mirrors after a stranger gave me a few unsolicited words of advice.


In May, I went to an outdoor yoga event in memory of an old friend who died of brain cancer. I found myself wondering Why Did I Stop Yoga? And I’m proud to say that is one mid-year resolution I’ve kept.

In June, I started to obsess about TechSupport’s bar mitzvah, which took place at the end of the month, just 8 days before he left for a month an overnight camp. I wrote Channeling Atticus Finch, a flashback where I remember being very-pregnant with the person who would become my only child. It’s hard to believe that I have a teenager now, but those of you who have been reading recently, know that I sooooo do. Because he sooooo is.


In July, I asked Is It Wrong To Type Thank You Notes? After Tech’s bar mitzvah, he had a lot of gratitude to show. But his penmanship is atrocious. The comments in this post were interesting and helpful. I also kvelled a bit as I wrote how I felt about my son’s bar mitzvah in To My Son, One Month After and The Happy Hora and A Gift from Grampy. I don’t usually write about religion; perhaps this is why these posts are so special to me.

Doesn't my ginger ale with lime look fancy?

In August, I got some photographs back from the photographer! So I was able to show you some pictures of Tech’s science-themed bar mitzvah in What It All Looked Like.

Life was good. Everything was ladybugs and sunflowers. I thought it could last.


And then, things kind of fell apart a bit. In August, my writing partner dumped me. And my computer crashed. I lost a very important relationship along with twenty years of teaching curriculum, all my photographs, all my writing, as well as the first draft to my recently completed novel.


A month later, after I stopped crying, I wrote Rebooting Myself After The Great Computer Crash: You’ve Got To Back That Thang Up. Consider this a Public Service Announcement. If you have a computer and you don’t have an external hard drive, please buy one for yourself. Now.


In October, a girl at my son’s school used social media to announce that she was going to commit suicide. I wrote When a Walk in the Park is Not a Walk in the Park after my son and I took a walk where he opened up to me a little. That was rough.

In November, I gave myself a blog mini-makeover, and some blogging friends offered me some faboo headers from which to choose. I survived another birthday, and wrote Coming Clean About My Age, which was Freshly Pressed.  *Sarcasm on* So you know it was one of my very best pieces of writing. *Sarcasm off* But for real, being SquishedFlat brought a lot of new readers to my blog, and for that I am grateful.


In December, I wrote Make a Wish: It’s 12:12 on 12/12/12. Because my father turned 75 on that day, and the world did not end nine days later either. So it’s really good that I didn’t give him any of the Doomsday gifts that I considered in that post.

Oh, and I also retired from teaching in December. Forever.

I didn’t write about it. I just walked out of my classroom. After twenty-two years as an educator, I’m burnt out. It is hard to write those words because so many of my happiest days were in one classroom or another.

And yet.

I am craving new adventures.

And I want to finish my book.

That is the only resolution I am making for 2013. I am going to get it done.

Oh, I need to thank everyone who follows my blog. Even the person who follows me from Zambia. (Whoever you are, thank you!) However you find me, please know I am grateful that you are reading my words. I love your comments, and I encourage you to leave them! Why? Because each one is like a non-caloric yet astoundingly delicious piece of caramel dipped in peanut butter and rolled in chocolate. Who wouldn’t want that?

Lessons Learned CE

I am grateful to each of the guest bloggers who participated in my Lessons Learned series. Because of their generosity, I had 29 amazingly diverse voices, each sharing a valuable life lesson. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click on the link above or check out Giddy About Guest Posts in my sidebar.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve. May 2013 be the best yet, for all of us.

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May this white stuff stick around for a little while and then melt.

You know, like my hard-drive back in August. 😉

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Gratitude: It Is Decided

I am beyond grateful today.

When I asked people to help me to design a new header for this blog, I didn’t think anyone would do it.

As usual, I have been surprised by this wonderful writing community.

I communicated with all of the people who submitted entries to my contest, each of whom insisted that if I wanted to use the header that he or she designed that I could simply use it.

Steve from Brown Road Chronicles told me he didn’t even know there was a prize involved when he made the header in the first place and suggested that I make a donation to our local food pantry. Val Erde from Arty Old Bird thought that making a donation sounded like a great idea, as did Jules, who told me to hold onto her header and use it whenever I want. The two other bloggers insisted they remain anonymous, but agreed with everyone else.

So I made my decision.

If you look up, you will see my new header.

I love it.

And, shockingly, I love that I am not wearing my hat.

Who’da thunk it?

After Thanksgiving, I will make a donation at my local food pantry in recognition of all the participating bloggers’ names.

Even the anonymous ones.

In a few hours, my house will be filled with family. My parents are traveling to be with us. They will find a cozy place on the couch and plant themselves there. My nephews will talk about medical school and college, and I will cling to my eldest niece, knowing she will be heading somewhere fabulous in the Fall.

I will look at my son and his younger cousin, my niece, and feel a sense of awe. Too soon, they — like their older cousins — will leave home. My hope is that everyone comes back once in a while to share in this family tradition. In a few hours, while the men shout about how the damn TV remote isn’t working (because our TV remote totally sucks), I will be drowning in love and potato peels.

I am thrilled to host this year’s feast, which means Hubby and I are offering our house, preparing the table, making fifteen pounds of mashed potatoes, a bunch of side dishes, and a dessert or two.

Because like Jenny Hansen and Susie Lindau, I have major turkey anxiety.

I would rather set the table and wash all the dishes than be responsible for the bird.

There are the tables, ready to go.

May we all eat well and remember the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us.

I feel so fortunate right now. Truly, I wish I had long enough arms to give everyone in real life and this blogosphere a big hug.

With much gratitude,


O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! My 45th b’day faves!

Holy shizzlesticks! My birthday weekend started off so much better than last year when everyone in my entire family forgot about it!

On Saturday, I found out that I had been Freshly Pressed for my latest post about Coming Clean About My Age.

Tagged for “aging.” Nice.

Everyone knows that the folks at WordPress smoke crack never pick your best piece to be FP’d, right? But, hey, I’m not one to look a birthday gifthorse in the mouth, so I’ll just say: Yay! *fist pump woot woot* and welcome to my new subscribers! And to you new peeps, I beg of you to click on anything else. Seriously, go back into the archives and just click on something. That piece was not representative of my writing prowess. *rolls eyes*

But I still retweeted their tweet! Don’t judge me.

Before he left to go golfing this morning, Hubby brought in Saturday’s mail, and I saw I’d received 17 holiday catalogues, a few bills, and an envelope filled with coupons for hair removal.


There was also a card from my parents which included their traditional gift: a check made out in the amount of the number of years I’ve been on the planet plus one extra dollar for good luck. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to DSW at some point this week. The card also contained sentimental words from my mother and the annual birthday poem composed by my father. (Last year, my parents sent me an empty envelope. It’s true.  But my dad emailed me my birthday poem a few days later.) As I was reading their card, they called to sing “The Birthday Song.” Thanks for sharing 50% of your DNA with me, Mom & Dad!

I got a lot of Facebook love and a bunch of sweet tweets. But a really great one came from Dawn Sticklen and Amy Stevens. I kind of played yenta and helped to connect them out there in Missouri. They obviously met up for a cuppa Joe and sent me a little birthday love!

Thanks @AmyStevens_ & @JoMoBlgger! You two talk amongst yourselves!

Later our very hot FedEx guy came bearing a package from my brother and my sister in law and their family.

Gorgeous b’day flowers.

While I was outside, I saw I’d received another package. It was just sitting there all lonely on my front stoop. I ripped into it and found an autographed copy of Fabio Bueno‘s new book Wicked Sense. I can’t wait to start it — right after I start finish this month’s neighborhood book club selection.

Back in the house, I showered and dressed in my long purple gown. You know the way you would on the Sunday morning of your 45th year. I went outside to chat it up with my neighbors when who came sidling up my driveway? Jeff Probst! I was like: Whaaaaaat?

That’s when he told me I am going to be a contestant on Survivor25.

Can you believe CBS let Jeff come over on my birthday?

Or Amber West sent me this sweet picture which made me smile and consider what life would be like as a brunette.

I swear, I’m chortling in my joy.

Who knows what the rest of the day might hold in store, but so far this has been a very good day. Thanks to all of you for staying with me to celebrate yet another birthday! I’m closing comments because I feel like I already got plenty of comment love HERE.

What It All Looked Like: The Last Bar Mitzvah Post. Probably.

I know, right? You’ve had it with the bar mitzvah stuff, haven’t you.

If you want to read about the service and how we felt, read THIS.

This is the part of the show where I vomit pictures and thank people.

Two years ago, when we learned Tech’s bar mitzvah was going to be on June 23, 2012, he immediately announced he knew he wanted a science theme. Once I embraced my inner geek wrapped my brain around the whole science thing, I got excited as it was an opportunity to be creative! Tech told us added that he also wanted things to feel summery, so green became our inspiration color.

You know, like perfectly new grass. And laboratory slime.

Thanks to Rishona Beck Myers, my old summer camp buddy, for helping me with the invitations. Rish is a serious event planner down in the Philadelphia area, and I was so lucky to have her help me with Tech’s invitations. If you are down the Philly way and you are looking for some help with any kind of event, check out RM Creative Events Management, Inc. I had to futz with Tech’s real invitation by taking off his name which was in big letters across the bottom, but you get the gist of what it looked like.

We found lime-colored kippot from skullcap.com. And, I’m telling you, those yarmulkes lit up the sanctuary!

The evening party was held at Irondequoit Country Club. Stacey and Tara did a great job helping to make sure everything went off without a hitch. To help make the room feel more science-y as compared to other nights of the week, I contacted Tooters to get plastic test tubes, which I filled with green m&m’s, and everyone got one at his or her place setting. I got the cork stoppers from Lake Charles Manufacturing.

I have to brag a little. The test tubes cost $13 for 100, so I bought 300. We had enough leftover so the bartender was able to make appletinis for the adults, which was super fun way to get everyone into the science mood! Please note, the cool plastic rack which I got from Tooters, too.

Don’t they look yummy?!

But we needed more science! Luckily, my friend Dina (a professor at the University of Rochester) told me about VWR Labshop. They hooked me up with all my flasks. These Erlenmeyer flasks were on the tables as centerpieces on the kids’ tables. Notice, this was the Platinum table.

The flasks were great outside,too — filled with colorful liquid, at the bar!

I found a garage sale where someone was selling beakers. I bought six for $2. Why didn’t I buy the other 12 beakers for $4? They make such fun barware!

Doesn’t my ginger ale with lime look fancy?

Oh, wait. You should look at my hair. Please, please look at my hair. Because it will never look like that again. I have to thank Dew Point and Humidity and Rochester Weather for being really cooperative. Thanks, you guys. But also, I heart Michael Livernash, the owner of Isobel. He is genius with color. And I have to thank the folks at Scott Miller, specifically my beloved Mary Kay Rox for giving me the best cut ever. (And I say that every time. Even though she’s been doin’ me for 13 years now. Oooh, that sounds naughty.) Thanks also to Kay for the fabulous finish. Because I never do that. Ever. (And that sounds naughty, too!)

I have to thank my friends at our local J.Crew for providing me with all those awesome shirt boxes last September. Sure, they looked at us like we were crazy, but we were able to get some great decor out of them. It’s hard to get a sense from this picture, but with the magic of PVC and spray-painted styrofoam balls, Lance Rightmyer of ViaComp was able to create portable structures which flanked the dance floor.

Lance also made these cool vinyl decals for the windows.

I have to hand it to my husband for making TechSupport’s Periodic Table of Cookies.

They forgot to put out the pink and green smiley face cookies. Ooops.

We could have spent $1,000 on special order cookies each featuring each different element from the Periodic table, but we decided that was crazy. And even though the staff didn’t quite understand how to put the cookies on the platform so it was truly representative of the different kinds of elements, whatever. It looked great. The yummy cookies from Cheryl’s came in pink, green, blue and yellow and plain chocolate. Frankly, people were stoked about the portable Abbott’s Ice Cream sundae bar, where my father made good on a 13-year bet and ate real ice cream for the first time since 1988.

Photo by Bert Maloff

When it came to getting people to their tables, I was a little stumped. I originally planned for the test tubes to serve as seating cards, but the stoooopid stickers kept coming off! Thank goodness for the Internet! I Googled chemistry inspired bar mitzvah,” and found Angela from Invites & More. Angela could tell I was desperate sent me the exact template she used for the Chemistry bar mitzvah. For free. Seriously? Who does that? If you are looking for great ideas, Angela is your girl. And if you live in New Jersey, you are ever luckier. Look at Angela Shafer’s Facebook page. Angela can make anything. Below are the name badges I created by using Angela’s template. This is the palette from the kids’ tables…

…and we used the reverse palette for the adults! Some people actually wore them!

Once inside, people saw the centerpieces made by Jimmy from Kittleberger Florist. Jimmy understood our theme immediately and suggested we use green table runners which gave us major impact. He also had an idea for how to integrate live flowers in a minimalistic way, which was tricky as my son didn’t want flowers. Jimmy nailed it with these funky, masculine orange whatever-they-ares. People couldn’t tell if they were real or not! They were!

Jimmy popped one giant purple allium in each rock-filled flask. Talk about pop!

The Bar Mitzvah Boys & Turner Music Productions kept everyone hopping. The party started at 6:30 pm and people were still on the dance floor at 11:30 pm! Our dancer, Eva, was one of Tech’s former babysitters!

And the Lord said: “Let them dance!”

Bar Mitzvah Boys also provided us with a Photobooth and captured  some hilarious candids!

There were really 4 pictures per strip, but you get the idea.

Our friend David from Proforma made sure the kids had great-looking bags to hold all their crap giveaways. He delivered the box filled with green drawstring backpacks featuring Tech’s logo right to my door. Whaaat? He did! Okay, he lives one neighborhood away, but still! That is service, people!

Bags hung on the backs of all the kids’ chairs for even more color!

I used Einvites thank you notes to coordinate with Tech’s invitations. Interested? Check out the post, I wrote about them HERE.

Hopefully you can appreciate how awesome the decor was. Our photographers from Kracke Photography did a nice job helping us to capture some very special memories.

The day felt wonderful spiritually, and everything looked beautiful, and tasted delicious, too.

Who could ask for more?

“Best weekend of our lives!” Hubby said.

I can’t disagree.

Ever plan a huge bash? What went right? What went wrong?

Celebrating 13

Tech’s 13th b’day cake • Yup, Kit-Kats & M&Ms & chocolate cake!

It should have been a day for parades and singing and whooping it up and flowers.

I was sure there would be balloons.

Instead there was a vacuum extractor.

It doesn’t surprise me that my son is as cautious as he is. His introduction to the world was of rough and tumble handling, of being ripped away, and I believe that it left its mark on him – though he knows none of the details.

In a hazy dream, I saw blood fill one of those pink plastic hospital basins and wondered: Whose blood could that be?

I am told that my son stopped breathing five times after he was born.

I think he innately senses that life is fragile, unpredictable and doesn’t always turn out as planned.

It was not in the birth plan for my uterus not to contract.

{Who knew I had a feisty uterus?}

It was not in the birth plan to lose so much blood. It was not in the birth plan to be rushed to away for an emergency hysterectomy.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t have a birth plan.

But I had plans.

I’d planned to go home with my newborn and revel in his newness. I’d planned to be up and around within 24 hours. I’d planned for people to marvel at us in the grocery store: “Up and around already?” they’d say.

I’d planned long, lazy, late summer walks with our fancy-schmancy new stroller. I’d planned to bring my son outside and show him the world, let him feel the August sun on his cheeks.

On my eighth day in the hospital, my OB-GYN stood beside my hospital bed.

And while a moyel read blessings and performed my son’s circumcision, my doctor sobbed.

What is it?” I asked. “You must have seen sixty-five bazillion of these.”

My doctor wiped her eyes and her mascara smeared over her nose.

I don’t know why I remember this, but I do.

“There was a point where I thought I was going to lose you both. I’m so happy you’re leaving the hospital as a family.”

And we did leave the hospital as a family.

{And we figured out how to get the $@%&! bucket in $@%&! carseat.}

And the sun went down and it came up again.

And thirteen years later, my husband and I have this fabulous son.

And I know it sounds all braggy and everything but he is incredibly smart, so we like to tease him how much smarter he might have been if he hadn’t lost all those brain cells in the NICU.

We are fortunate to be able to laugh about these things.

Because it could have ended in another, completely devastating way.

And now, as my ever-lengthening teenager heads out each morning, he still gives me a smooch — even in front of his friends.

He still thinks I’m cool.


He still twirls my hair and tells me I’m pretty and that he’s glad I’m his mom.

{Right before he falls asleep.}

Who could ask for more?

I believe we will keep him.

Tonight he will eat something sweet.

We will push him up against the measuring door to see how much he has grown.

You know, on the outside.

People say 13 is an unlucky number.

But I feel so dang lucky.

And balloons or not, we celebrate his life every day.

Because why wouldn’t we?

What was the last thing you celebrated? Anyone else have a feisty uterus? Or a tough delivery?

Is it Wrong to Type Thank You Notes?


I didn’t think it was a big deal.

In fact, in my view, it was a no brainer.

My kid’s handwriting is illegible.

Now that schools basically move kids from block print to the keyboard, very few students ever really master cursive. In fact, cursive penmanship is considered a “font option” in our district rather than an important life skill that children should be required to master.

No matter how you slice it, Tech’s handwriting sucks.

But he is a whiz on the computer, so he found a program which allowed him to create his own handwriting font, and he used it to type his bar mitzvah thank you notes.

That’s right.

I said he typed his thank you notes.

I figured he would be able to write more personal notes on the computer as opposed to the standard:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. So and So:

Thank you so much for the thoughtful gift and for sharing the day with me.

Insert illegible signature here.

I have to be honest, I was actually thrilled by the level of personalization Tech employed into his thank you notes. In many cases, he thanked people for little things like smiling at him while he was on the bimah, or dancing with him Saturday night at the party. He thanked people for the baked goods they provided for his Kiddush lunch at the temple, and he thanked other people for coming to our home on Sunday for brunch. He thanked out-of-towners for making the trip to be with him on his special day and he thanked people for funny cards.

But he would never have done all that personalization if I had him write every note out by hand.

I had to get Tech to write those notes while he was still feeling the magical vibe of post-bar mitzvah bliss as he was leaving for overnight camp on July 1st, just 8 days after his bar mitzvah. He was so wound up after eating so much sugar all weekend all the compliments he received, he didn’t even complain when I told him on Monday morning he’d need to write twenty notes notes each day in order to complete all his thank you’s before he went to camp.

The boy composed all his notes without any complaints.

He also addressed the envelopes (by hand) and affixed the stamps.

Still, I got the criticism and the hairy eyebrow.

“I can’t believe you let him type his thank you notes.”

I feel slightly guilty as I tap out this sentence, but it’s true: nearly every thank you note we receive ends up in the recycling bin 2.3 seconds after we read it. I save very few these days and only the ones that feel personalized in some way. Given that most thank you notes written after large events are extremely impersonal, what does it matter if the note is typed or hand-written? Aren’t the words the most important thing? Aren’t thank you notes all about expressing gratitude? Would you rather receive a dull, illegible note by hand or a personalized, typed one? Does it even matter?

I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts on this? In 2012, is it acceptable to type thank you notes? Or would you prefer a handwritten one? And if you want a handwritten one, can you explain why?

The Best Card My Son Received For His Bar Mitzvah: When Hilarious Meets Holy

A small sampling of the most popular cards Tech received for his bar mitzvah.

Apparently, there are 7 different store-bought cards a boy can receive for a bar mitzvah.

And don’t get me wrong; they are all lovely.

Friends and family wrote wonderful messages to Tech, who insisted on reading each note before looking at the gift.

After a while, we did start to keep a little tally to see which card would be designated the “most popular card to receive on your bar mitzvah day.”

This was the one.

Tech got a lot of those.

There were waaaay more cards for a girl celebrating her bat mitzvah.

Like this one.

Tech received this card from his grandmother.

I don’t think she was trying to be funny.

But it was extremely funny. *smiles*

Hands down, the best card, came from one of my husband’s oldest friends.

Neil is known for his kooky gifts. It’s his thing. He once gave Tech a sushi stapler; the child looked like he had won the lottery. Another time Neil had just returned from a trip overseas and gave our son a black baseball cap that had “Fukuoka” embroidered in white on the back. Wearing it, made Tech feel like he was getting away with swearing when really he was simply advertising a city in Japan located 1,100 kilometers from Tokyo. More recently, Neil brought us an enormous jar of Polish pickles.

So of course, it should have been no surprise when we saw Neil’s card.

Yup. He penned it on a rubber chicken.

It was awesome.

Especially this part:

In case you can’t read it, it says: “Butt seriously, pardon the fowl humor. Congratulations on your Bar Mitzvah.” Very punny, no?

When I told Neil how awesome it was that he took the time to find a rubber chicken, that he even had the idea to write on it, he waved his hand dismissively.

Like it was no big whoop.

Except it was.

He found a way to make Tech’s bar mitzvah – which was already amazing – even more memorable.

In Judaism, we are taught to be mindful and pay attention to the smallest details because G-d is everywhere and in everything.

Though Neil would shrug and call me meshugganah, I believe that in paying attention to the smallest details, Neil helped remind us even the most seemingly insignificant act can be something that connects us to G-d, to the rest of humanity, even the universe.

The chicken card was a small detail.

It was hilarious.

And holy.

I know Tech will never forget it.

None of us will.

What little things have people done for you that have stuck with you?

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Ingrate Spotted With Invisible Awards

I feel like that woman who comes out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked into her pantyhose. Except it’s not in my panty hose, it’s in my underwear. Because I don’t wear pantyhose. Oh, and also, there is toilet paper on my feet. Because I forgot to wear shoes into the bathroom.

Seriously, that’s how embarrassed I am today.

I have been fortunate to receive some attention over the last 6 months.

You know, those sparkly invisible awards that you are supposed to put on your cyber-mantle?

Yeah, well, I didn’t.

Because I don’t have a cyber-mantle.

I don’t even have a cyber-fireplace.

So while I appreciated the awards, I didn’t do anything with them.

I sort of shoved them in a cyber-footlocker.

Which was actually very inconsiderate, and I feel like shitake mushrooms about this.

So I would like to thank a few people.

Waaaaay back in June 2011, Save Sprinkes from How Can I Complain gave me the Sweetest Blogger Award. Only I didn’t see this award until January 5, 2012. (How lame is that?) I just wrote Sprinkes a note letting her know how much I appreciated her recognition. Because I do. And I can’t believe I missed that blog post because Sprinkes is awesome. She hasnt posted in a while, but she was one of my very first subscribers, and I miss her.

I think for that award I was supposed to tell you 7 things about myself and suggest 7 other bloggers for you to read.

In September 2011, Jess Witkins from The Happiness Project sent me a Liebster award. What is a Liebster, you ask? I understand “liebster” is German for “dearest” — and so there is sweet Jess, trying to tell me that she considers me a dear friend. And what do I do? I shove her love in my cyber-footlocker. Nice, right? Four months later, I feel it, Jess. I do.

For that award I was supposed to link back to the person who nominated me and suggest 5 bloggers for folks to read.

Two people gave me the Versatile Blogger Award.

The first person to extend this kindness was Lorna Earl from Lorna’s Voice. A sociologist by training, Lorna started writing about her past when her future looked grim due to chronic illness. Her observations are keen, and I enjoy reading her posts.

The second person who found me versatile was Melissa Ridley Elmes from Cerridwen’s Cauldron. If Sarah Jessica Parker is my Celebrity Doppelganger (Ha ha. Yeah right!), then Melissa is my real life evil twin. She’s a teacher; I’m a teacher. She’s a painter; I’m a painter. She likes bad girls, I like bad boys. I’m telling you, it’s spooky!

For that award I think I was supposed to tell you 7 things you did not know about me and suggest 15 blogs for you to read.

Any math teachers out there?

I think I’m -21 facts and -47 recommended bloggers.

Do you see why I am hanging my head in shame?

Miranda Gargasz of Scattering Moments showed up to tell me that she had nominated me for the Awesome Blog Content Award. I hadn’t even heard of that one before, so I had check it out. When I did, I saw that it had no rules.

Thank goodness. (I like Miranda so much for that!)

I thought I was going to have to go through the alphabet and choose a word or phrase to correspond with each letter and use that to describe myself.

I started planning:

A is for Astoundingly Average.

B is for Beyond Belated.

Somebody should throw me in the Blogosphere Slammer for lack of gratitude.

A day later, one of my favorite bloggers, Gigi, from Kludgy Mom wrote a post called 12 Bloggers to Watch in 2012, and I almost died. Because there I was, on her list with many of my most favorite bloggers. I kept wandering back to the computer and looking at Gigi’s post all day, just to see if it was still there. I also checked this post from my iPhone and my iPad, too. Finally, my husband suggested I print out the article and stick it in my Happiness File that always makes me feel better when I am freaking out about a failing student, or sobbing hysterically about being out of Kona coffee or worrying that my writing has turned to lumpy oatmeal.

Not that there is anything wrong with lumpy oatmeal.

In fact, some people prefer their oatmeal lumpy.

I’m just trying to make a point.

Later that same day — the same day, people! — I was reading a faboo blog post, by the faboo Julie C. Gardner — a woman whose writing makes me “Squeeee!” like a little piggy, I see that Julie has written about how good it feels to be home after doing all her cyber-traveling this last year. (She was a busy little beaver blogger in 2011, and she was taking a moment to kick back and enjoy her home page. And her home life.) At the bottom of her page, she expressed more gratitude, thanking all the folks who had hosted her at their pages this year.

And she listed me.

Which felt like I had won an award.

While simultaneously making me feel like a dooj.

I mean, duh!

I should have totally done that.

And because I am a copy-cat great believer in the adage “Better Late Than Never,” I would like to thank the following writers for making my blog a richer place this year. My fryber Clay Morgan of EduClaytion continues to be a source of support and inspiration as does Leanne “Shirtsleeves” Shirtliffe of Ironic Mom.

The folks who posted for TWITS (Teachers Who I Think Scored/Teachers Who I Think Sucked) provided something special to unify my blog. Some people opted to glorify teachers while others remembered lousy teachers and opted to kick them in the pants. Either way, the variety of voices worked. So special thanks to the following writers. If you have never heard of these people, please consider giving them a look-see.

Jessica Buttram

Save Sprinkles

Steven Hess *

Piper Bayard

Zach Sparer

Larry Hehn

Dances With Chaos

Tyler Tarver

Tamara Out Loud

As A Linguist

Mark Kaplowitz’s

The Decorative Paintbrush


Penny Thoyts *

Some Species Eat Their Young

Life & Times of a Self-Proclaimed Saucy Bitch

The Mom Crusades

Six Ring Circus


I hope you will accept my belated gratitude.

I will try to be less sucky in 2012.

Or, in the very least, keep my skirt out of my underpants. 🙂

So what should my penance be?

Lessons From Laryngitis

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I get sick once a year.

Without fail, I get The December Glurg with a side order of cough that generally lasts until Groundhog Day.

Sadly, this year, things are off to the same hideous predictable pattern.

On the second to last day of classes, I showed up with serious laryngitis.

It’s a good thing my students were doing presentations; otherwise, I would have been sunk. Overnight my normally robust voice had changed into the squeak of a zit-faced boy going through puberty.

And I knew the cough was bad when my husband — who is ultra-tolerant when it comes to illness — moved all three of his striped pillows and disappeared into the guestroom.

None of this would have even been a big deal if I could have just gone home and gone to bed and rested for a week. Or three.

Except, I couldn’t.

I had to catch a plane to Florida the day after classes ended.

It was not a trip that could be rescheduled.

So I became one of those passengers.

The ones we all hate.

The ones who cough and snurgle and hork up luggies during the entire trip.

And remember, my voice was gone.

I carried around a small pad of paper upon which I had written this message:

I figured it would come in handy.

Inadvertently, I had become a walking, coughing sociological experiment. Because I soon discovered that when a person can’t talk, people respond with an awkwardish awkward awkwardness. Which is ultra-weird: kind of like layering the word awkward three times.

Folks fell into four categories:

1. The Avoiders

These people could see I was crazy mad-cow sick and kept a wide girth. They avoided me and my pile of balled up tissues. They pointed me out to their children and said words I couldn’t hear but I imagined were something like: Stay away from that lady, darling. She is sick — maybe even dying — and I don’t want you to get whatever she has. The unfortunate woman who had to sit next to me on the airplane pleaded loudly with the attendant to have her seat changed. Alas, the aircraft was full, so she leaned away — her face toward the aisle — during the entire duration of the flight. Actually, I’m, not sure if that is true. I fell asleep about 13 minutes after takeoff.

2. The Whisperers

When I got to Enterprise to rent my car, I took out my confirmation materials and my little pad of paper. While I tried to whisper, no sound came out. I pointed to my sign. Strangely, the agent – lovely as she was — began whispering to me. She whispered all the rules about renting the car. She whispered my options for insurance. She whispered for me to sign here. And here. And here, too. I was amazed my her bizarre mimicry, which made me prompt her:

She laughed and corrected herself. But this happened several times during my time in Florida. Still, I would pick The Whisperers over the next group any day of the week.

3. The Shouters

While the whisperers adjusted their volume to low, the shouters went the other way. They seemed to assume that my lack of-speech meant that I was deaf and that by screeching at me, they might be able to break through my silence – or something. Or maybe they thought I would be better able to read their lips if they were screaming at thrash rock concert decibel. Again, I took out my little pad of paper:

One day, in need of tissues and cough syrup, I went to the closest Publix. A stock-boy was replenishing the inventory near the pharmacy, and I figured he would be the best able to help me. I showed him my note, and I could tell he was befuddled. It became obvious that the stock-boy was not a native speaker of English, and I wondered if he did not know what “laryngitis” meant, so I added:

I wondered if maybe the colloquialism of “losing my voice” confused him. (You never know.) So I turned a page on my pad and added:

His melodic accent had a musical lilt.

“Are we on hidden camera?”

I shook my head to indicate that we were not. He frowned, disappointed. I began frantically scribbling a message about what I was trying to find in the store, but before I could show him my words, he became hysterical. He shouted: “I don’t know how to help you! Go find someone else!”

4. The Rescuers

Thankfully, there are always people who try to help.

Amazingly, an elderly woman who actually knew American Sign Language materialized in the Publix and offered to interpret for me. I showed her my pad of paper indicating that I wasn’t deaf, that I simply had laryngitis.

She looked at the stock-boy at Publix like he had eleventeen heads.

“For goodness sake,” she said, “This girl has laryngitis! Just read what she writes on the pad and answer her questions.” She looked at me with gentle eyes and offered advice: “Drink lots of tea and rest up.” Then she doddered away.

Like the elderly woman willing to act as my interpreter, help also came in the form of a black man with a broad mustache who helped to lift my small bag into the trunk of my rental car. And a patient tattooed girl in Chipotle, who waited for me to write out my order — even though a line was thronging behind me. Help was the housekeeper in my hotel who gave me a few  extra towels: the Latino man at the main desk in the hospital who helped me find a certain room. He was at the gas station when the pump didn’t work, and she was in the airport when I really needed a Snickers bar.

Now that my voice has returned to normalcy and my husband has come back to our bedroom, I see that having temporary laryngitis was a gift. Being sick away from home made me think about the role I want to play in other people’s lives when I see them struggling: the roles we choose to take on every day in each others’ lives.

Back in 5th grade, I learned about the Holocaust and was amazed by the different choices people made. Later, as I taught novels like Lord of the Flies, I have tried to help students recognize that each of us has the capacity for awesome goodness as well as tremendous cruelty: that we can all be bystanders, victims, perpetrators and rescuers. It is like putting on an outfit: How much bystander do you want to wear today? How does cruel look on you? What about kind? How do you look when you slip into a little kindness? It is simply up to us as to which role we wish to play.

In general, I want to help.

Sometimes, helping wears me a little thin. But I am willing to get a meal and deliver it, pick up a few groceries for a friend: even if I get coughed on or exposed to her germiest germs. Even if there are no germs, just ugly, scary illness, I want to help if I can because I know how much I appreciate those little moments where people go out of their way to make things a little easier for me.

How do you respond when you see someone struggling? Do you try to avoid the interaction altogether? Do you get angry? Or try to help?

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