Tag Archives: Home

What does HOME mean to you? #giveaway

HOME, a 4x4 canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Makes a great gift!

HOME, a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Makes a great gift!

Enough snow had fallen so Thanksgiving felt festive, but not so much so anyone had to worry about getting from here to there.

I was looking forward to going around the table and sharing with everyone all the things for which I am thankful.

How lucky I felt: to be there – all of us all together – in a warm, cozy home where there is always a comfortable place to sit and a plate of delicious food to eat.

I wanted everyone to know that it’s true what your grandma said: your health really is everything;

That being home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.

It’s a green toothbrush on the bathroom sink. It’s his bowl left on the kitchen table. It’s the sound of the garage door going up at the end of the day. It’s warm zucchini bread cooling on the countertop, the cat lying in that spot on the landing, the laundry twirling in sloppy circles.

If there’s one thing we share – no matter our race, income, religion or beliefs – it’s that we all want a place to call home, a place filled with love.

I’m getting back into the swing of the holidays by offering HOME  to one lucky commenter. how can you win?

Leave a comment in which you tell me what you think of when you hear the word “HOME,” then click HERE for additional information.

This contest is open to residents of the United States only. Enter as many times as you want between now & December 6th. One lucky winner will be announced on my blog on December 15th at 9 AM, so be sure to check back. If I don’t hear from the winner within 24 hours, Random Number Generator will select another winner.

tweet me @rasjacobson

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My Mother Was Hot Stuff

pink&yellow

My mom & I circa 1970.

My mom was hot stuff when I was little.

She was pretty and had straight teeth.

She wore pink hoop earrings and wore floppy hats.

She did cartwheels with the girls who lived in the white house across the street.

My mother is in nearly all of my earliest childhood memories. She encouraged me to paint, explore calligraphy, and use pipe cleaners to make frogs and ladybugs. She loved when I sang and danced and rode horses and did backflips off the diving board. 

When I was sick, my mother brought the black-and-white television into my bedroom along with a little bell, which she told me to ring if I needed anything. On those miserable days, I watched My Three Sons and The Don Ho Show until my mother emerged with green medicine and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup served on a swirly green and blue plastic tray.

One day, I didn’t want to be my mother’s twin anymore.

Pink and yellow were not my colors.

I remember shouting and slamming doors: the tears.

I saw my mother throw her hands up, exhausted, not knowing what else to do.

I felt powerful then. Driving her to pain and chaos was fun.

Now that I have a teenager in the house, I want to tell my mother, I’m sorry. Because I see how precious it is, that time when our children are young. And what a gift it is, to let a mother hold on to the little things for another day, another year.

Because it hurts when our children reject our cuddles.

Because it was cruel to play with her heart.

Even when I didn’t give her any credit, my mother has remained steadfast, guiding me with an invisible hand.

She still is.

I suspect she always will be.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Hey mom, you have two good hands. And from the looks of this photo, you knew how to style your own hair. Do you think you could have done something with mine? Seriously. Also, if you still have that hat, can I have borrow it? xoxoRASJ

Tell me something you remember about your mother.

tweet me @rasjacobson

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,

xoxoRASJ

On Marriage & Changing My Name: An Unusual Anniversary Post

Romantic, right?

The woman behind the counter looked at the diamond studded watch that squashed her wrist, making it look like a fat sausage. She drummed her fat fingers against the counter top. She was in a hurry, and I was holding her up.

Though my fiancé and I had been engaged for eighteen months and I had more than ample time to think about it, talk about it, and make that decision, it wasn’t until we actually went to get our marriage license twenty-four hours before the wedding that I realized I could no longer defer reality. I had to make a choice.

I was torn.

Part of me wanted to keep my last name.

“Schuls” is the Americanized version of my grandfather’s Polish name. But it is hard to pronounce and no one ever spells it correctly on a first try. Still, it is my family name, linking me to my parents and my brother.

Anxiety prickled as I thought about my nickname?

It would be strange not to be RAS anymore.

I briefly entertained the idea that a new convention should be created where the man and the woman take a new name, perhaps join their names, and blend them in the name of holy matrimony. I proposed “SHAKE-OB-SON” and “JEWELS” to my fiancé, telling him we could go down into history like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Henry Stanton who forever changed the institution of marriage by omitting the word ‘obey’ from their marital vows.

“We can be innovators, too!” I told him, grabbing his arm.

My fiancé laughed and called the idea ridiculous.

I pouted and wondered why I had to give up my identity.

Why I was the one who had to sacrifice, hassle with changing social security forms, medical records, credit cards, magazine subscriptions and insurance forms.

But the other part of me.

Oh.

The other part of me liked the idea of being lost in love.

Or something.

After all, I loved the guy.

I bit my lip and considered; it would be easier to spell.

The woman’s click-clacking fingers tapped faster, faster. A line had formed behind us.

I stared at her watch and felt time move too fast and too slow all at once.

Two other couples waited patiently to fill out their forms: other women had decided these things already.

“I’d like to hyphenate,” I declared.

And taking a breath, I said aloud it for the first time: “Renée Ann Schuls-Jacobson.”

Then I signed the papers, knowing that no one would ever say that whole mouthful.

It was official.

It doesn’t fit on a my driver’s license.

Or any of my credit cards.

And my students call me Mrs. Jacobson.

But, like I said, I loved the guy.

Still do.

Happy anniversary, Hubby.

Me & Hubs in 1995. Trust me: His mullet was hot.

Would you encourage your daughter to keep her own name or take the name of her spouse? If you had to do it again, would you do something different with the names thing? Or just make fun of our picture. Whatever floats your boat.

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When Your Freezer Breaks

So our refrigerator broke down.

More specifically, our freezer stopped freezing.

The ice cream could not be saved.

Neither could the meat.

Of course, this happened at the worst time.

But then is there ever a good time for your freezer to go on the fritz?

Remaining, calm, I did what every person with a broken appliance would do.

To which Lenore responded:

But it was way too late for that.

At 1 pm, I was feeling optimistic.

And then something magical happened!

So instead of focusing on how much meat I’d just thrown away, I focused on this:

Treats from Pittsburgh!

Because I won this contest that Clay and Leanne Shirtliffe did a while back.

It was nice of Clay to include a crumpled up bag of Starbucks coffee. It made the box smell really good.

Then I read Clay’s note which explained that if I return the empty bag, the folks at Starbucks will give me a free coffee.

He also included this:

Because I'm worth it!

Thank you, Clay! 😉

Unfortunately, the coffee would have to wait.

Because I couldn’t leave the house.

At 2 pm, the repair guys still hadn’t come.

And I had a terrible realization:

Whaaat?

So I was in my jammies at 2 o’clock in the afternoon?

It was my day off!

Don’t judge me!

One tweep invoked Murphy’s Law:

I stuck this on the front door — just in case:

Time dragged like the time my brother dragged me by my hair.

And then it all happened so fast.

I so wanted to get a picture of Patrick, my freezer repair guy.

But I never even had a chance to ask for it.

Or explain why I wanted it.

Or get his permission to post it.

He was in and out of that freezer so fast you’d have thought I hadn’t showered or something.

Which I did, thank you very much.

Anyway, he’ll be back next Thursday.

Meanwhile, tomorrow the student who gave me the tip on how to bet in that hockey contest will be getting a little somethin’-somethin’ from me.

Whaaaat?

I mean chocolate from Pittsburgh.

Sheesh! Y’all can take something innocent and delicate and gentle  — like hockey — and twist it like the towel Patrick used to dry out my dripping freezer, and turn it into something nasty.

And, by the way, that towel is nasty now.

What is the last appliance you had to service? And how many times did it take for the repair-person to come back until it was really fixed? And what do you think about extended warranties?

To Get Up or to Zzzzzzzz

alarm clock, bought from IKEA

Image via Wikipedia

Monkey started 7th grade this year. When I think back to 7th grade, I recall I awoke each morning at 6:30 AM with the help of my digital alarm clock which I had carefully set to 62 WHEN the night before.

Once showered, I made myself breakfast — either a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal or a bagel with cream cheese — and by 7:15 AM, I quietly walked into my parents’ bedroom, took four quarters from my father’s dresser (with his permission), so I could buy lunch. I then kissed my mother and my father who were sprawled in their king-sized bed beneath a giant comforter. I was generally met by sleepy sounds, sometimes a little muttering, and bad breath; it was a daily routine, and it worked. They got a good night’s rest, and I got to watch The New Zoo Revue on our 7” black and white television, uninterrupted, for about a half an hour.

Eventually, depending on the weather, I put on the most appropriate outdoor coat — if it was cold, I popped on mittens and a hat. Since UGGS had not yet been invented and boots were totally uncool in 1978, I always wore my clogs. From there, I made opened the front door carrying whatever I might have brought home for homework (read: nothing) and walked about 1/4 mile from my parents’ little house to the closest bus stop and waited with a cluster of other neighborhood kids.

Fast-forward 30 years. Monkey completes a similar ritual where he wakes, dresses, makes his breakfast, gathers his stuff — paper stars, drawings of dragons, pencils, books, two huge binders filled with worksheets and completed homework — and crams it all into his backpack.

I hear Monkey moving around starting at 6:20 AM, and I stick my pillow over my head. Unlike my parents who stayed in bed, confident in my organizational abilities — or never really even thought about if I had everything I needed or not — I feel totally guilty for staying in bed. I mean I suppose I could drag myself downstairs at that unseemly hour, but I am just so dang tired.

And warm.

I don’t know why I feel I should go downstairs and smooch Monkey before he leaves the house. Maybe I feel like I should make sure his clothes match – because he’s not very good at that. Or maybe I feel I should check to make sure that his hair is brushed – because, to be honest, he is pretty lax in that area, too. Maybe it’s his teeth I’m worried about. You know, I just like to make sure that he in minty-fresh before he heads out the door because, again, the whole hygiene thing is currently not his forte.

I don’t do this though.

So typically Monkey does just what I used to do. He comes upstairs to announce he is leaving.

Except some days, he doesn’t.

Some days, the kids he walks with show up at our sliding glass doors and I hear the glass doors roll across the floor followed by a slam. I lie there, imagining him walking down the back steps, towards the enormous school that looms in our backyard. (I know it was designed to look like a dairy farm; still, it looms.)

On those days, I miss him.

My husband wonders what is wrong with me.

He says I should be thrilled that we have raised an independent person who can make cereal and bagels and waffles and eggs and (sometimes) remembers to brush his teeth and hair.

And I am.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not working against some weird maternal energy that wants to “just check” on him.

My parents never sweated over this stuff.

At what age did your parents step out of the picture so you could start doing things independently? How are you about completely stepping out of the picture? And more importantly, what morning TV shows did you watch while your parents were sleeping?
© Renée Schuls-Jacobson 2011. All rights reserved.

The Hybrid Accent

Map depicting United States East Coast

Image via Wikipedia

So I was checking out Jessica Buttram‘s blog, per usual, and I realized she was participating in a funky experiment about accents, a prompt which she got from Jamie’s Rabbits who got it from someone else.

And so on… And so on… And so on…

Those of you over 40 are probably having flashback to the commercial for “Faberge Organic Shampoo”

Yeah, me too.

Anyhoo, I’ve spent most of my life above the Mason-Dixon line, but you would be amazed how five short years in N’awlins got all up in this East Coast girl’s upbringing and influenced my dialect!

This probably happened because I so wanted to be a Southerner!

Lord, I loved everything about the South. I loved etoufée and crawfish. I loved how the giant roots from the oak trees pushed up rebelliously through the cement walkways. I loved the scent of magnolia that wafted around. I love that men wore seersucker suits, and nobody laughed at them. And I loved that the women wore enormous hats. I loved eleventeen-bajillion other things, too.

And as a lover of language, I especially loved the way people in N’awlins pronounced certain words.

So it is with great excitement that I share my piece of this experiment.

Yup, I’m bustin’ in with some hybrid pronunciation. For real. This is what happens when you take a Northern gal to the deep south for a few years.

First a few quick things:

  • I’m Jewish. I talk with my hands.
  • Sorry I became a little distracted and ridiculously repetitious at a few points. My husband and son were making pasta and I could hear them whispering in the background. They were trying to find the marinara sauce. Just so you know, in case you are ever visiting my house, the marinara sauce is in the pantry — which is where all cans and jars live until they are opened. Once they found the jar of Prego, it was much easier to focus.
  • You will hear the microwave beeping.
  • Yes, I like throw pillows.

The Words: Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting Image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught, Insurance (added for Jamie).
• • •
The Questions:
  1. What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
  2. What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
  3. What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
  4. What do you call gym shoes?
  5. What do you say to address a group of people?
  6. What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body & extremely long legs?
  7. What do you call your grandparents?
  8. What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
  9. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
  10. What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

What words do you think I pronounced “weird”?

The Power of a Swift Kick #twits

Piper Bayard

I am fortunate to have Piper Bayard as a guest blogger today. I met Piper when I was learning how to tweet. She was the first person to actually recognize my flailing say hello to me in a civilized manner, and kind of introduce me to her friends in the Twitterverse. I so appreciated that. Since then, I have read Piper’s words voraciously. She is a real researcher and she knows how to weave some great fiction in with some real-life facts. I guess that means I’m trying to tell you that Piper is a fabulous writer.  So enjoy and comment on Piper’s tale today and, and then head over to her place “The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse” HERE. You can also Twitter stalk her at @PiperBayard.

• • •

The Power of a Swift Kick

I took my daughter to school one morning last spring. Like most middle school girls, she’s convinced my mission in life is to embarrass her, and I take my work seriously. It’s not enough that I walked through the school doors pronouncing that Miley Cyrus looks like a two-bit hooker on Discount Day in one of her videos. No. I even talked to my daughter’s classmates. . . .

“Jordan,* stand up straight. You’re far too pretty to have poor posture. . . . Kyle, do not spit in the presence of ladies. That is most ungentlemanly behavior, and you’re better than that. . . . Young lady, you seem like a nice girl, but are those shorts legal? How do you expect the boys to learn anything in math with you looking like that? . . .”

Now, you’d think these kids would have told me to %*!# off, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t. Jordan grinned and stood up straighter, Kyle blushed and muttered a shy, “Yes, Ma’am,” and the young lady in short shorts laughed and rolled the legs back down to where they were when she left the house that morning. That’s when I realized that it had happened. I had grown up to be my mother.

I don’t mean my biological mother, Big It rest her soul. I mean the woman who saved me from being the queen of a double-wide trailer with five kids and four baby-daddies going to court every week for child support. That would be my middle school music teacher/mentor/friend/other mother, Elmarine.

Piper's Elmarine

Elmarine knew all about surviving life’s apocalyptic events. Born in 1917, she had polio as a child. She spent a third of her childhood away from her family at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Shreveport, Louisiana, undergoing nine operations to help her walk. Let’s face it, those guys may wear funny hats, but they do amazing things for kids.  . . . Without tv’s or computers, Elmarine entertained herself and the other kids by riding around in her wheelchair, playing her ukulele. . . . I threw that in to let you know there really are ukulele players out there. Who’d have thought?

She married an engineer who developed the welding process used on ships during WWII. He died suddenly, leaving her in poverty with two daughters to support. Lucky for me, she went back to school and got her teaching degree in music.  At that point, she wore a brace and sometimes used crutches, and back in that day and time, employers actually said outright that they wouldn’t hire her because she was ”crippled.” She kept at it anyway. . . . What else could she do? . . . And finally she found a school district two states away to give her a chance.

During her many years at my school, she was anything but crippled. She taught us stray cats proper posture, proper social interaction, and, more importantly, self-respect and perseverance. There wasn’t a sob story we could tell her that she couldn’t relate to, and she always had the same answer. “That’s tough, Kid. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

Over the years, I’ve found her singular reply to be the answer to all apocalypse in a nutshell. “That’s tough.” Acknowledge the problem. “Now what are you going to do about it?” Meet it with action. Sometimes, the action is to face myself and/or others. Sometimes, it’s to change my ways. Sometimes, the only action possible is to endure one more day. But she did all of that and tolerated nothing less from me.

Elmarine dished out loving ass-kickings. I think those kids at my daughter’s school can tell that’s what they are getting from me, and that’s why they always smile and say hello when they see me. I’ll bet you Jordan stands a little straighter next time, too, and Kyle will at least only spit behind my back.

I dedicate this blog to all of the teachers whose loving ass-kickings keep stray cats from having four baby-daddies.

Who gave you your “loving ass-kicking”? What were the tools they gave you?

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Last week: “Read the Books”

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.

Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

Gazpacho for Muchacho

Gazpacho (Spanish liquid tomato salad).

Gazpacho (Spanish liquid tomato salad). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, it was a warm, breezy summer night and our family was having  supper outside at our heavy black wrought-iron table, under our umbrella in the backyard. It was a light meal: a little bread, some cheese and fresh fruit. And gazpacho.

When we finished, Monkey pushed his chair back from the table and patted his tummy.

“Mom,” he said, “I’ll bet no matter how old I am, whenever I think of summer, I’ll always think of your gazpacho.”

And before I could smile and say how good that made me feel, to think that I could feed him something healthy that he would forever associate with a specific time of year and –perhaps, maybe — a place and a feeling of family, he added: “And now that I’m thinking about it, can you give me a recipe? Because one day you’ll be dead, and I want to be sure I know how to make it!”

Ahhh boys.

So sensitive.

I know Monkey meant his words as a compliment. And I know he loves my gazpacho — which is really a recipe from my old friend Allison. When we lived in New Orleans, she made her recipe one summer and I remember reacting just like Monkey. It is divine. For me, Allison’s gazpacho is all about hanging out with teacher friends during the off-season.

Here’s the Allison’s Gazpacho Recipe for those of you who love easy meals:

  • 2 cucumbers, reserve about 4 tablespoons
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 small can black pitted olives (drain the juice)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • dash of Lea & Perrins
  • 1 bottle of V-8 (I use regular; some people like it hot)
  • dash of Tabasco sauce

Put all ingredients into a food processor in order listed, pulsing gently — until you get to V-8. Pour V-8 and Tabasco into a gorgeous tureen, then add all the ingredients from the food processor. Garnish each bowl with a few cucumber chunks. Let sit 1 hour in fridge to chill. Serve cold. Easily serves 8-10 people.

What food(s) do you associate with summer? What do you see? Feel?

What to Do If Your Kid Says “I’m Bored”

Toilet in german theater munich

Image via Wikipedia

It only takes once.

If your child says, “I’m bored,” this summer, here’s what you do.

First get all worked up into a thrilled frenzy. Then, in the most madly excited voice you can muster say:

“You are! Because I have the best thing for you to do, and I was just waiting for you to say you wanted to do something new.”

Take your bored child gently by the hand and guide him to the bathroom.

(Ed. note: *The brush needs to be there already or else he will try to escape.*)

Have your child stand before the toilet and hand him the brush.

(Ed. Note: *You must gush here. Very important to ooze gush.*)

Start swirling.

At first, your child might like this activity, especially after you add all the bubbly cleaning supplies and let him swish them around – but after a short while, as we all know, this task loses its magic.

He will want to stop.

When he moans or complains or asks to stop, look positively bewildered.

(*Seriously, you must appear profoundly confused. Furrow your brow, but only briefly. We don’t want to leave wrinkles.*)

“But you said you were bored…”

Don’t forget to remind your child that you have X more toilets to clean if you hear him say he is bored again.

Ever.

Monkey has not said “I’m bored” since he was 4-years old.

On a down note, for the last 7 years, I have been the Chief Cleaner of all Things Porcelain.

What tactics do you employ when your child complains that he or she is bored in the summer?

• • •

Today marks my 200th post. To show how much I love the folks who comment and to make sure you are not bored, I have a fun little exercise: If you leave a comment on today’s post, I will create a fabulously fun post which will share how we met. Of course, all the content will be a lie. That’s right, I will create a piece of fabulous fiction to include each one of you. If you have a blog, I will even show you some linky-love. So let’s have a little fun! If you’ve never left a comment before, this is the day to do it!