See You Later, College Boy

See you later

At least twice a week my eighteen year old son announces one form or another of his countdown. Thirty-six more days until he leaves for college. Twelve more days he has to make lunch or chance eating school food. Five more days of high school classes. And when he didn’t care for what I made for dinner the other night, he gently mentioned all the choices he will have on the meal plan in his dorm in, yes, thirty-six more days.

This probably sounds like I am not happy about his new endeavors. I am thrilled to see him move along life’s highway in the intended direction we envisioned for him from the moment he came bustling into the world. Each accomplishment, each milestone is another feather in my cap. I jumped up and down as each college acceptance came in the mail, grinned until my face hurt watching him accept his cords for graduation and will not let him see me shed a single tear  as he and his friends leave for the prom tomorrow night. It is all exhilarating.

It was exciting watching my daughter do it all three years ago too. Here is the difference though: I wonder each day as he edges closer to the independence that we strived for him to acquire, whether he could just do it with a little more finesse that would at least let me believe that he will call once in a while or possibly even miss us a little. I now believe wholeheartedly that although girls today are hopefully bred to also be independent and strong; they still have a sense that leaving for college doesn’t have to be so cold cut.

When my sister and I were little girls our mother had two good friends that had only sons. I remember going into one of their homes where the mothers were going to visit while the kids played.  Our mother stopped my sister and me on our walk up to the front door and asked us to give her friends big hugs when we got inside. I asked why, of course, and never forgot Mom’s answer.  She gently told us that her friends would never know the warmth of a little girls’ hug and although they had great sons, they didn’t know what they were missing. We complied and moved on to the playroom for a solid game of Battleship and never gave it another thought until I had my own children.

I knew my mom was a brilliant and perceptive woman, but she isn’t here now to commiserate with me as I am packing my son up for college. And I am fully aware that some of my friends that have only boys are over-the-moon happy to not have daughters to contend with. I will be the first to admit that either way raising children, regardless of gender, is amazing, wonderful, and full of surprises and occasionally a little tsurus. I only wish that saying goodbye felt a little more like a see you later when it came to my son. Going to miss the way you make us all laugh, the kiss disguised as a head butt as you walk out the door and a whole lot more.  Feel free to skype into dinner any night, Matthew. Your seat will be vacant.

READ FULL ARTICLE

Tweeting Down

Get this. I hired a tutor to teach me about social media. Yes, it was over a year ago and being a diligent student, I believe I have progressed in a positive direction. I now understand the value of social media to promote one’s business. I get that it is beneficial to have many followers on Twitter and even greater when those followers retweet your tweet.  I know that Twitter is timely and that my (non-personal) Facebook page need only be updated once or twice a day with the hope that what I write is so witty/inspirational/informative it will entice followers to share. I am aware of the abundance of other sites that can be used to promote whatever it is that needs promoting as well. Goodreads, for instance, is a great place for a writer to stimulate sales…..somehow. And Pinterest, what fun; only all I generally get when I peruse Pinterest are new recipes or a unique way to redecorate my kitchen/family room/bathroom. Not sure that is going to sell books. I am not too confident any of it will. Yet, I am afraid to discontinue tilling my brain to come up with creative and thrilling things to say. I’ve developed this unusual innate pull to intrigue others through social media enough that, in turn, potential folowers may buy, recommend, review or somehow endorse my book.  I can’t seem to stop playing the game. I have become addicted to various websites that keep me current on the on-goings in education and adoption – prominent topics in Shades of Gray. That part is pretty cool. The fact that I then feel the need to post all this stuff (and I use that word loosely) feels a little like going back for that last chocolate chip cookie even though I know my stomach would be much happier without.

I often try to reexamine why I wrote Shades of Gray in the first place and none of my answers lead me back to Instagram or Twitter. Frankly, the only real reason I dabble on Facebook is to stalk my children (nope, not ashamed to admit it). I’ve said before that I think life was simpler before people were glued to devices. Being on the beach without cell/internet service are some of the most invigorating and thought provoking moments of my life. The peacefulness of the beach inspires me. Other novels inspire me. Walks through a bustling city energize me. Some of the articles/tweets/inspirational quotes I read enthuse me to want to write more as well.  What does not arouse the creative juices are the knots in my shoulders from being glued to a screen while wondering if I am being inventive enough to promote something. I wrote Shades to share my story. I am still hopeful that my book will be read by many and even better, inspire educators and parents or parents-to-be. I hope that word of mouth will get it out there, particularly because I believe it is worthy, but also because I miss idle talk.  I still want to hear about a good book from friend, not just a website. So, I am going back to writing more and worrying about social media and sales less. I never wrote to be rich or famous. Nothing personal for those of you who have that innate app I am apparently missing, but for now I am tweeting down. For now.

READ FULL ARTICLE

The Mom in the Picture

Mom, Shell and me

One of my favorite times of the day is when the family has been fed, the dog has been walked, the washing machine is going and I take ten minutes to sip a cup of green tea, plan my day and sort of re-group. Sometimes this is done by perusing a magazine, which delivers a yoga-like Zen, providing the articles are airy and upbeat. Sure, there are those moments when I come across an article that I wholeheartedly believe could change my life as I am sure if it worked for the woman in the magazine, I too can lose fifteen pounds in fifteen days. I tear out recipes I have every intention of attempting. I make note of advice I must remember to share with my sister, my friend, my children. And then, my teacup is empty and I retreat to my little room in the back of the house to write until the children come bustling back through the door and the routine begins again. It isn’t a bad schedule really. Generally, I feel pretty darn fortunate for the predictable regularity of my life. I like routine.  I like time alone too. And I love tea and that my life includes the opportunity to savor it most mornings. Rarely do I think about what makes me like these things; what made me who I am. Seldom do I note that my mother never liked tea. She actually called it puch water.

While flipping through a magazine the other morning and I came across a picture in an ad that stopped me from turning the page. I cannot tell you what it was promoting – gardening supplies, or comfortable shoes perhaps, but I will tell you that as I began to turn the page disinterested in whatever it was trying to sell me, the woman in the ad struck me. I won’t get all eerie on you and tell you that she spoke to me in some way or that she winked at me, but somehow she looked back at me and an image of my mother; who died over thirty years ago when I was a teenager, was there. Now I have photos of my mother; not many though, because she never liked having her photo taken – big mistake by the way, and I know what she looked like. I have memories too. This marketing model was a reincarnated version of my mother as I have conjured in my mind over the last thirty or so years and she has been following me all week. I know full well that the lady in the garden, or golf course or floating on a cloud for all I recall, is not my mother. Sadly, my mother is still gone. Yet, many years later I have all new questions for her that this glossy stranger has managed to dredge up. I stared at the photo for quite a while and wondered if my mother liked riding bicycles. I remembered she couldn’t swim, but insisted my sister and I learn. I know my mom loved reading, but did she ever write? Can she see how amazing my kids are? I met an old cousin a few years ago that insisted I had your mother’s eyes. Did you ever notice that?  The questions came faster all week. Suddenly I was on the speed train of memorabilia, rather than the more even slow chug of the local.

I believe in symbols. I take comfort in thinking that some things happen for reasons beyond our control. I wonder if that picture came across that day, because I was supposed to see it. Perhaps my mother felt the distance growing a bit too vast and she didn’t want me to ever forget her. Maybe it befell a message that all was fine in her Garden of Eden, and that Dad was there now too and they were happy. Or maybe, no definitely, I am still missing my mom thirty-two and a half years later, because a person never stops needing their mom; they just learn to move on.

In case you are wondering, I did not save the advertisement. I thought about ripping it out many times; even pinning it up so I could see it whenever I wanted. I even considered mailing it to my sister. But, I decided to stick with the memories I have and just be glad I got to visit with her one more time – if only in my mind. I’m still quite sure that it all transpired for a reason though – probably to remind me how lucky I was to have such an awesome mother, if only for a short time and that she is still watching over me.

READ FULL ARTICLE

Dress the Part

flip_flops

This morning my youngest daughter was getting ready for school and announced that some teachers give extra credit if you dress professionally. My first thought was that was absurd. My second was I wished schools required uniforms. And then my third thought, as I am clearly one to continuously recycle even the most mundane ideas in search for some deeper meaning; brought me back to a time when I taught in New York and received a grant to teach summer school and pay our students to come to school.  Essentially, their summer classes, while also providing them with necessary credits towards graduation, became the students’ summer jobs.  If they came to school late, we docked their pay.  If they didn’t hand in an assignment, we docked their pay. If they did extra work, came in early or stayed to clean the classroom, a small bonus found its way to their paychecks. We tried to require them to dress more workwise, both to make a point as to the importance of dressing respectfully at a place of employment, but also to cut down on the inappropriate garb that managed to skillfully get past their parents’ eyes each morning.  That is; if their parents were paying attention. I realize that being able to regulate our students’ attire, etc. was somewhat idealistic in a generally unrealistic situation. It worked though. As to whether the message we hoped it would impart had any effect, we can only hope. The point is, optimistically they later understood the importance of being prompt, fulfilling one’s responsibilities and dressing suitably for a job, all matter.

I have to admit I am still surprised at the way even adults dress, particularly in a place of employment. I know casual Friday has found its way into Monday through Thursday in many offices, but even informal can mean buttoning one more button, no? At open house at the high school recently, my son’s math teacher greeted us in shorts and flip flops. Now I will be the first to admit that teachers are severely underpaid, but she couldn’t find something a bit more apt to the situation? How did she expect us to take her seriously when she didn’t have the decency to respect her own position enough to dress the part of a professional? If you want to be valued, play the part. Unfortunately, we live in a society that thrives on visual impressions.

I wonder how some kids make it out the front door in a few of the outfits I’ve seen entering the middle and high school and recall my niece showing me how she wore her shorts out the door at one length, but when she arrived at the bus stop, she conveniently rolled them up to a length that her father would have had her strung up for. Yet, somehow, said niece managed to make it into adulthood, rather successfully, and unscathed both by her father’s admonishment for inappropriate dress or a reputation that may have deemed her better suited for a job that required a pole. As my daughter rushes past me, my attempt at a goodbye kiss barely reaching her hurried cheek, I hold my tongue about the lip gloss that glistens a bit too much for my tastes or from a reminder to refrain from changing her outfit after she leaves (because I have already convinced her that I have spies all over town). I remind myself that I have drilled into her my favorite saying in regard to attire, “Don’t advertise what you’re not willing to sell,” and that I don’t want to go overboard and be faced with utter teenage rebellion (although I am not one to shy away from a just insurrection). I pray that school dress codes will back me up. While it is true that there are days that I wish my kids never saw a music video or any sort of media for that matter, I hope that we have reached a happy medium between respectful and inappropriate dress, because whether we want to believe it or not, how we present ourselves portrays an image that is difficult to erase.

I’ve rethought my opinion on the teachers that give extra credit for students that dress more professionally and want to thank them for attempting to keep the idea of demanding respect through one’s appearance alive. I concur that it is unfortunate that we all fall prey to visual influences, but until the world truly begins to see things in shades of gray, please reserve the flip flops for the beach.

READ FULL ARTICLE

I’m Not Done

Although Shades of Gray is in print, bound and on the shelves, I am never completely done. One of the great upshots of publishing a semi-autobiographical novel is that people are actually interested in my opinion on various topics my book touches upon. I’ve visited a few colleges to meet with their social work and teaching programs and loved every minute of being able to talk about that time in my life when I was in the classroom, inspiring young minds to keep at the grind and stay in school. I have said it before and I will say it again; loudly, teaching in a dropout prevention program was the most gratifying job I ever had (although I am still beholden to the auspices of motherhood). The college classrooms, filled with teachers-to-be, are brimming with energy that I can not only remember, but feel each time I open Facebook or hear from an old student. The satisfaction of knowing I did some good and now I am able to, hopefully, impart a little of my wisdom and a lot of my enthusiasm is a true delight. The college classes don’t know it, but as they ask questions like how to keep kids’ motivated; I am basking in a glorious reminiscence each time I share my stories. My overall message is to keep the love in the classroom. I try not to sound radical or unrealistic when I preach to find a way around the ugly red tape that binds the hands of teachers today, so they won’t be afraid to hug a student or get somewhat personal. A shoulder rub or hug on the way out the door may be the only one that your student may get all year, I remind them. Be firm, but loving and I assure you the love you will get in return is like no other and certainly nothing a larger paycheck could afford you. I find that talking with these soon-to-be teachers makes me miss the classroom sometimes too, but if sharing my history inspires and encourages, than I will keep visiting and writing and hope that this is enough to play a part in spurring more young minds to not be afraid to get in there and teach, regardless of the red tape, tough schools and pathetic pay (I had to say it, because at some point we all have to realize that one the reasons we don’t have more earnest teachers is, because not all great minds are willing to work for peanuts.) When I began Shades of Gray, I never thought about its possible impact. I wrote a story; part of it mine, part the fictional Olivia’s. It didn’t occur to me that its last page was not the end and I couldn’t be happier to not be done.

READ FULL ARTICLE

The Good Parts

If you read my last blog, you must be wondering how the Justin Bieber concert was. Great. He is adorable, knows exactly what all the girls (yes, the audience was predominantly female, except for a few earplug wearing fathers) want to see. He has the pouty, innocent look down pat and exposes just enough of his toned abs to get the girls to swoon. Enough said, because in reality, my true opinion of the concert is both unimportant and a disgrace to my daughter’s more significant assessment.

The more unprecedented out-take on the evening was that although my 14 year old wanted to know why I was going with, rather than dropping her off; I went. Did I really have any desire to jeopardize my hearing by the outcries of wailing girls or bemoan her outfit choices? Not really. I did, however, cherish the fact that although I tried to give her space to enjoy the night with her friend, I was able to watch her dance and sing every song. Through muted ears (earplugs) I listened to Justin sing Believe and my daughter’s eyes got teary, her smile radiated and I knew it happened again (third time, as I have two older children) – an unforgettable moment had been made.

We, as parents, can bemoan these flashes of time or we can embrace them. As much as I wouldn’t mind a little coddling from my fellow whiners about how fast life seems to go once you have kids, the look on my daughter’s face that night screamed joy and a lump formed in my throat that I couldn’t deny. I thought of the days when I had a box full of pictures of David Cassidy and the glorious feeling I had each time David sang I Think I Love You. I am certain I was as serious about my star crush as she about JB, but more importantly, I recognize wholeheartedly that those feelings are some of the really good stuff that life has to offer. While some of us may complain that our teens seem more interested in their friends; I have learned to embrace the fact that not only is that normal stuff, but it is also the stuff that memories are made of – the good kind.  The kind that later in life, when her own child is crazed and fixated on some intangible vice, she will realize how happy that child is and with a little luck that same lump will form in her throat for the same reason that watching her bop to JB’s (interpretation of) music made me kvell (Yiddish for gush with joy; extraordinarily pleased). Living vicariously through our kids is the icing on the cake.

So, how was the Justin Bieber concert? I can only surmise, because while my daughter couldn’t take her eyes off of him, I can’t discharge the spell she has on me. The fact that she became the ultimate paparazzi when he removed his shirt (but so did girls as young as five) is a whole other topic that for today, I would rather not think about.  I am still basking in the delight of my little girl’s bliss.Sarah, Maddi and JB

READ FULL ARTICLE

A Blogging Megaphone

megaphone

A dear friend of mine blogs often.  Actually, daily.  She blogs really well too (that is she is shrewd, witty and generally on top of the news – even the not so important stuff.) There is no real theme to her blogging, but indubitably her opinion on just about any subject prevails. I follow a few other blogs as well, but they, for the most part, are themed in one direction, i.e.: education, parenting. So, I am thinking it may be time to branch out.  I too have deep-seated opinions on various topics. I no longer feel the need to stick to dropout prevention or how the gray confusion over that salacious Fifty Shades has changed my social profile. As a matter of fact, those people who know me well may actually say I generally have a hard time keeping personal judgments to myself. I prefer to think of it as trying to save the world, one recommendation; one person at a time. (My children may not agree, but don’t listen to them.)

Perhaps a blog is simply an opportunity to up the ante by reaching a more massive population with one’s relevant advice; kind of like Dear Abby, without the requests for guidance. This could speed up the process.  In other words, providing more people read these said, upcoming blogs, I could have folks jump onto my various bandwagons and share in my rants. Together we can save the world. Writing a blog is like offering a dogmatic writer a virtual megaphone.  Now, I must decide where to start. Today my friend wrote about fashion disasters caused by drawstring pants on women under 5 feet 10 inches; among other style faux pauxs. I’m thinking I am going to start with a topic of greater significance. Perhaps I will write about how a nearly fifty year old mother of a teenager sacrifices her questionably perfect hearing by sitting seventh row at a Justin Bieber concert. This could be fun; the blogging I mean.  Right now I must get to the store to buy some earplugs. Purple, of course, lest I be accused of lacking enthusiasm for JB. I will be back; bullhorn in hand.

READ FULL ARTICLE

Notable Author Susanne Jacoby Hale Launches New Video

(Delray Beach, FL) – Fiction author and Indie Excellence Awards finalist Susanne Jacoby Hale launches a new video with featured interviews from her former students. The video highlights stories and experiences that inspired Shades of Gray, her debut novel.

Shades of Gray is inspired from Hale’s previous experience as a dropout prevention teacher in New York City, filled with stories of teen pregnancy and struggle. The main character and teacher, Olivia Dalton, went the extra mile to mentor at risk youth. Hale took the experiences she knew as well as friends’ stories of infertility to write Shades of Gray.

Recently, Susanne interviewed former students from the ACE dropout prevention program from Martin Luther King High School in NYC as well as co-teacher Gabriel DeAngelo.

“Writing Shades of Gray gave me the opportunity to revisit an exciting time in my life. I’m hoping it will be an eye opener for teachers of at risk students as well as people considering adoption. Teachers can change lives. I’m so proud of my former students as they are now productive members of society”, says Hale.

Shades of Gray is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To view the interview video, go to http://YouTube.com/user/ShadesofGrayNovel.

About Susanne Jacoby Hale: A former dropout prevention teacher in a New York City high school, Hale earned a master’s degree from New York University in education and creative writing. She currently lives in south Florida with her husband and their three children. Shades of Gray is her debut novel. http://SusanneJacobyHale.com

READ FULL ARTICLE

Boca Book Club

A week ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying a local women’s book club in discussion of what inspired Shades of Gray. I also had the opportunity to discuss past and present education issues with teachers and moms. It was a great experience and I’m grateful to The Boca Babes Book Club for welcoming me.

photo book club Jan  7

Buy Shades of Gray: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

READ FULL ARTICLE

I is for Idealist

At a book club recently the usual questions as to which parts of Shades of Gray are autobiographical
ensued. I enjoy those questions as they allow me to reflect upon a wonderful time in my life filled with
learning and love. Then, thrown into the mix like peanut butter in your basic chocolate chip cookie,
someone asked the question that sounded something like, “Wouldn’t you say that Olivia is a bit too
good? Can someone really be that good?” which was, of course, preceded by questions relating me to
the main character, Olivia, in my novel.

Oddly, I didn’t get my defenses in a tizzy, but instead reverted to a deep and thoughtful mindset as I
quickly pondered, as best you can ponder with fifteen sets of eyes on you, as to whether I am actually
Olivia or better yet just that good. Is anyone really that good? We have all fallen prey to a social faux
pas or a white lie here and there. And who doesn’t hope for world peace? I imagine, anyone who took
the time to get to know my students back then, when I taught in the ACE program, the program that
Shades of Gray is based on, would have done many of the things I did to generate success throughout
the “at risk” population. Anyone with a heart that is.

My response, and I am sticking with it, is that Olivia – and I – is not unrealistically good, but instead an
idealist. By definition an idealist is someone that rejects practical consideration in search of perfection.
I would like to believe that we all, not just fictional characters, have enough optimism within to at least
keep hope alive. So, perhaps, in my haste to claim myself, and my fictional counterpart, an idealist, I
should have prefaced it with, I am a person with a big heart. I know I am not alone in this utopian vision
of the world and I was wondering if you would care to join me.

READ FULL ARTICLE

    Check out my book on Goodreads


    goodreads.com