Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy Old Year! By: Karen Pilarski

My husband and I ringing in a new year.
On the cusp of a new year yet it still hinges on the old. Many embrace it with resolutions and cheer. I always have moments of melancholy with a sip of champagne.

Somehow the concoction leaves the stomach jumbled up and in knots.

My family's New Year's Eve consisted of eating junky and fattening treats. Dick Clark's Rockn' Eve was a requirement to our night.

On a piece of paper I secretly wrote out wishes for the next year. The wishes were always to get out of the poverty conditions we resided in. Foolishly and with childlike aptitude, I wanted to win the lottery.

As time neared midnight we found pots and pans with large wooden spoons.

No expensive shiny hats or noise makers, just children on an extreme sugar high. The plan was to sprint out of the house and make a raucous for a whole minute.

The ball dropped in the newly born year in New York. My younger siblings forgot the East coast was a hour ahead of Wisconsin. They started to grab jackets and were quickly corrected about time difference.

The ball dropping was aired again at 11:30 to allow other locations to have the countdown. As the ball dropped there was a rush of activity. Jackets and boots were flying around as little feet ran through the house. The wooden spoons and pots clinked and banged against walls.

 5,4,3,2...thump, thump, slam! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Screaming and banging pans, jumping up and down on the porch occurred. We shouting and yelled until our throats hurt and the people across the street told us to shut up.

There would always be a drunk neighbor sprinting through the snow banks with bare feet joining in. When the minute and our moment of freedom ended, we were told to shush and get back in the house.

Oddly, I felt sad about previous year. Even as a school girl, the year felt unfinished. What had I accomplished within the past year? What would happen in the new year?
Me, my niece and nephew and step daughter.
Resolutions seemed trivial to me. Self made promises to do something differently but why was it not attempted before?

If unsuccessful there would be either a period of unfulfilled feelings or indifference.

Equally as foolish was putting all my energy to wishing for my family to strike it rich. It is wonderful to have hopes and dreams.

I still have outlandish wants and hopes. It is what keeps looking forward to a new start.

The old year is often rejected and tossed out like yesterday's news. Of course there are year in review articles and reflections in the media. What about on a personal level? 2013 wasn't my greatest but can anyone say they had the best year ever?

A year in our lives is similar to melancholy and champagne. The taste had a splash of regret, with a burst of fizzy hopeful feelings that tickles the nose. Somehow the concoction gives due to the old year but the new energy flows like a cork after it is popped.

The mind altering sensation goes to the head and the room feels as if it is spinning. Drunk on happiness and excitement the new year is warmly welcomed.

The next day instead of acting depressed, New Years Day is spent with anticipation. However, let us not forget the residue of last year in the form of a hangover and greasy pizza boxes.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Milwaukee Family Christmas By: Karen Pilarski

Over the past decade I have felt more Scrooge/Grinch than Cindy Loo Who or Tiny Tim. I used to love Christmas even though underneath the fake tree was empty most years.

As a poor family we didn't have much. My mom did manage to buy gifts for us but my father's holiday spirit was misguided. He would let us kids have our holiday gifts weeks before Christmas.

The toys weren't even in Christmas theme wrapping paper yet. Mom would cry "There, Christmas is ruined!"

When Christmas Eve would come, I would wish Santa would visit our house. A child of a mere eight years of age would tip toe across the cold hard floor. Head would drop down in sadness when nothing would be underneath the tree.

All the holidays were not that bad. My favorite Christmas memory was when we lived in West Allis,Wisconsin.

At that time my parents were renting a big house by City Hall. For whatever reason my father stayed in check with his 'generosity.' I'm not sure if it was because my parents had just remarried each other. Whatever the case was, dad was on his best behavior.

The rage at the time was Cabbage Patch Kids. Those hard heads with yarn hair. The dolls buttocks were signed by the adoption guy. My two sisters and I wanted one in the worst way.

My brothers enjoyed He-Man and Inspector Gadget cartoons and wanted action figures. The younger siblings wanted a playhouse to escape to.

Christmas Eve mom put out platters of cookies and other treats. It is funny that even as an adult I still crave those food items mom used to make. There is not a fudge on earth that holds a candle to mom's fudge. She just found the recipe on a can of evaporated milk. My grandma's orange chip dip. Not as in the fruit. It had a orange hue to it. My personal favorite was the powdered sugar sandies.

My sisters put out cookies and milk with a note. "Dear Santa, Are you real? We love you, can we have a puppy?"  

That evening we watched Christmas movies and suddenly mom turned off the television. "If you want Santa to come you need to go to bed." Thunderous feet ran up the stairs. I shared a room with my sisters. My brothers shared a room to. Think the "Brady Bunch" but not so much Brady.

My older brother peaked downstairs at one point and ran in the girl's room "I saw him, I saw Santa!" We laughed at him and told him he was overtired.

In the morning my younger sister was flicking my nose with her finger. "Get up so we can open presents." Groggily I walked in the hallway and was greeted by all my other siblings.

We tiptoed down the stairs. Maybe we were afraid somehow Santa was still enjoying cookies and may snatch the gifts away.

The Christmas tree had the popcorn strings along it that we made the following week. Tinsel was twisted with the blinking tree lights. Glass ornaments sparked and brushed up against the real pine needles.

Underneath the tree were gifts and stockings with each child's name on it. The plate of cookie had crumbs and half eaten cookies. The glass of milk was no reduced to dried milk residue at the bottom of the glass. The note said "Dear kids, yes I am real. I love you too. No puppy, nice try."

My parents came into the living room and allowed us to open gifts.

 It is funny as an adult watching other people opening gifts. Most people have a system in place. Each person takes a turn opening a gift. In my family, it was a bit unorthodox.

We rummaged through the gifts and started tearing open wrapping paper. Giggles, shrieking and paper flying everywhere.

My sisters jumped up and down holding a package with wrapping paper still stuck to it. They were clutching their Cabbage Patch Kids. Inside I was fuming. Where the hell was my doll?!! Crestfallen I kicked a empty box. The younger siblings were enjoying running in and out of the playhouse. My brothers were making Inspector Gadget fight battles with their He-Man figures.

"There is a box under the tree skirt Karen." My mom smirked. I looked and there was a box with shiny red and green stripped wrapping paper. The handwritten tag read "To Karen, From Santa," I opened up the box to find my Cabbage Patch Kid.

My older sister's doll was white with blonde yarn hair. She filled out her adoption papers. The name on the paper was Amber Elizabeth. She changed it immediately to "Chrissy Tripper."

Years later we made fun of her for mixing up the name of Chrissy Snow on "Three's Company."

I was given a black doll. She was beautiful. Her brown yarn hair was in pony tails with white ribbons. Her blue corduroy jumper was in front of a white top with a lacy collar. Her white shoes and white socks had no sign of use. Her dimples with the blushed cheek made her smile the more warm. Her brown eyes like mine were big and sparkled. I named her Cherry from "Punky Brewster" television show. 

Mom also gave us homemade doll clothes she made and some doll furniture.

That Christmas stood out to me not because of the gifts, but the warm feeling from the togetherness.

 In my adult years I miss having all my siblings together. Even when there were no gifts to open, there was something special about having people to commiserate with. I loved saving up babysitting money and buying gifts for people in my family.

As it happens with many families there are hurt feelings, spats and geographical distances that keep people apart. There were a few years in college when I spent my holiday alone in my dorm room.

Sometimes a sibling would have people over but not all of us would be in the same room. 

After I was married, my husband worked many Christmas days. On Christmas it was just me and my husband until he had to work.

His family has the traditional Christmas Eve party which helps. The familiar giggles and loudness put a band aid on the sore spot. However, I still long for the days of all my siblings sitting around the living room acting goofy.

My stepchildren spend Christmas eve with us but go home that night to their mom. My husband insists they take turns opening one gift at a time. Maybe one day I can get him to go rouge and allow the flurry of boxes and paper to fly around like a tornado.

We just moved into a rented house and all of our money was spent paying rent, getting a Uhaul truck and countless other expenses.

Gifts don't look like an option for the kids this year. Even though they get many gifts from their mom, relatives and my relatives. I feel horrible because I know what it feels to wake up with nothing under the tree. Maybe this is a good lesson for them. There are many people who are in worse shape than I was in my youth.

My stepchildren are not little kids, 13 and 15 years old. I had an idea last night. Perhaps each of us take some money and spent it on someone else for a change. Christmas is not about gifts but about togetherness. Maybe this is the year I shed my Scrooge like attitude and fully get into the spirit of the holidays.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Guest Post: Walking in a Single (Winter) Wonderland By: Melany Berger

I am so honored that Karen (a total Rockstar btw) wanted me to do a guest post on her blog. It took me long enough but my word is my word and here it is.

When asked what topic she wanted for the post she quickly replied with, “What life is like being single during the holiday season?” and I know a thing or two about this topic (unfortunately or fortunately).
In a perfect world I would love to have a kickass companion, boyfriend, mate, or husband along with a perfectly trained dog to spend the holidays with (aren’t they the same? No? Oh).
In this ideal world, I envision a magnificently prepared turkey with all of its delicious accompaniments (and no calories), fantastically decorated tree and/or a beautifully lit menorah, frolicking in the snow and smooching under the mistletoe, and someone perfect to plant a huge kiss on at the stroke of midnight welcoming in 2014.
 But, let’s be honest. Who really has that? Isn’t the grass always greener? 

The holidays (all of them) bring so much pressure to find the perfect gift that it becomes another job to people.
For example, yesterday I was pushed out of the way to buy a new microwave at Best Buy. People are frantically rushing around like rabid squirrels trying to get the newest, best and biggest nut for their loved ones.
No thank you!
I did not even wait for the salesgirl to roll the mic out of the door because she would rather be anywhere else than working during the holiday season.
 I could tell this because of the 8 bites of cake I saw her shove in her face while impeding her sticky fingers from ringing me up at the register. Transaction complete. So, I did what any independent/annoyed person would do. I bent down like a weight lifter (from the waist), grabbed the appliance and ran out of there to get home and away from all the madness on the road.
I can do this because I don’t HAVE to get a significant other a present because I am single. Joy to the world. And, I don’t have to pretend to like a present from my significant other that I secretly hate and will re-gift to my #1 frienemy for her birthday next year.

In addition to the quest for the perfect gift (that your mate will end up storing on a shelf somewhere in their garage or wear to the company holiday ugly sweater party) there is the pressure of creating a perfect date night, dinner, trip or whatever grandiose idea you think you SHOULD do to celebrate the holidays. The lines are long, service is horrific, drinks are watered down and the food always sucks.

Being single is great because I don’t have to wear nylons, heels, or makeup and I can eat whenever and however much of what I want without worrying about spilling or losing the curl in my hair or the gloss on my lips.

Also, I don’t have to worry about getting a ride home and I actually get to see the ball drop at midnight because there is no one else watching TV in my house besides my dog, Teddy Brewski.

But, the best part of being single on the holidays is kissing someone new (or more than one if you are lucky) each year when the ball drops and clock strikes 12:00. So, cheer up my single comrades. Also, Mom always said you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince…, don’t argue with her because she knows best.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Y" By: Karen Pilarski

Of all the words in our world the one with the biggest effect is 'why'. The smallest words are often heavy with meaning.

Such a short word but causes the most conflict and uneasiness. I've been inquiring 'why' frequently over the past year. My moods go up in down like a bumpy ride, my trip is traced along the 'w' in 'why'.

Reflecting back on the Sandy Hook shooting my brain is overwhelmed with all the anger and pain of those little ones being taken from their families. My heart aches for children being abused or molested.  

Why do adults hurt children? 

How was I to fathom a mere six months later the same thing would be asked again? Only this time it struck closer to home.

When bad things happen there is more questions than answers beyond reach high above the 'h' in 'Why'. From my own experience the ones in the wrong simply pull excuses out of a hat and present it as fact.

If the contents of my head could be revealed it would show question marks and exclamation points. 

At the root of the term is the connection to the person saying it.

What it comes down to is the urge to know the reason something happened. If the term 'why' is spelled out phonetically, there is an emphasis on on the 'y' that sounds like 'I.' We want to know because it helps us to cope with emotionally exhausting ordeals. 

I want to know why.

I tend to say I don't know when asked why. I'm not indifferent nor insensitive to the person requesting information. 

With all my heart I want to understand what goes through people's heads and why choices are made. That is their cross to bear.

I'm not sure which is more troubling, the not knowing or the burden of knowing why. The trauma of both outcomes lingers and hangs there like the 'y' at the end.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Um, No One Asked You. By: Karen Pilarski

To be a successful writer a person needs to develop a thick skin. The tidbit of advice was offered to staff writers on my college newspaper when I was editor. An editor's main job is to make articles for a newspaper polished and ready for print.

In my experience as a writer and editor there have been people who lacked the tough and firm skin needed to accept constructive criticism. In the career of a writer, the ego has to be left at the door.

There was a student who wrote an article and it needed to be punched up a bit. I chewed on a pencil and started typing away. Sentences were shortened and cleaner language was inserted.

Her article was published in the paper but she was not a happy camper. Sobbing she ran to the faculty adviser of the paper. The protest and wailing was over the use of a few words she didn't know the meaning of. The article was not an editorial but a feature article.

The next day the faculty adviser mentioned to the whole staff what an editor does. An editor's job is to make the writer look good.

My work has often been edited and changed up. Once the work is delivered to the editor it is literally out of the writer's hands.

I did a feature story as a freelancer about a local festival a few years ago. I was able to detect a bigger story than just covering a day at the fest. Through interviews with organizers and volunteers I found that the proceeds were shared with other organizations.  I typed up my story and emailed it to the editor.

When it came out the article was different than what I sent to the editor. She had polished it and added splashier terms. You know what? I was happy that she took the time to make my writing shine.

My story was published on the front page!

One of my pet peeves is someone rudely correcting a person's grammar. That and inconsiderate pedestrians who don't say thank you when the door is held open for them. Both irritants make me want scream until lungs no longer produce breath.

The topic is hot button issue for many writers.  Recently a journalist friend posted a link to an article by Hillary Kelly titled "The Best Response to Grammar Nazis, Ever Stephen Fry nails it."

She discusses the annoyance of random and anonymous finger pointers. The non writers with too much time on their hands who pick part every error.

Kelly stated "  It's occasionally embarrassing, but I can usually shrug it off. After all, I'm not the only one who has accidentally made up a word." She fought back the urge to fight back after being attacked. I understand her pain.

Everyone has that one (or a few) obnoxious friend, husband, uncle that will call you on a language blunder.  The usage of "I seen" or "I saw" suddenly becomes life or death situation that needs to be shared. The so called grammar of greatness suddenly becomes the editor missing from your life.

It is not so much the statement but the delivery that reddens eyes and blow steam from ears.

I don't mind constructive feedback and a mentioning of errors. I welcome a less rude form of pointing out mistakes.

Recently I had a reporter friend offer to edit something for me after reading it. This was fine and appreciated.

Kelly's article included a creative work of art from writer Stephen Fry. Watch the video for yourself below this post.

What it boils down to is the intentions of people suggesting things. Do they really care about prose and quality of the written word? Could it just be a case of an insecure person who wants to feel a sense of superiority? I'm leaning towards the latter.

 Stephen Fry's  "Kinetic Typography"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In the Middle of Some Age By: Karen Pilarski

I'm the dork in blue with the bowl cut.
In my childhood and early teens years the mall wasn't the hip place to be. Cough, at least for me. My brothers enjoyed walking with a swagger up and down the floors of the crowded Southridge mall.

Greasy smells from the food court and near toxic cologne sprays ambushed shoppers upon arrival. Gold chains, spiked hair and loose pants were used as ploys to catch a honey's eye or digits. Pagers beeping randomly and flirty laughter kept the ambiance in tact. There was a McDonald's that had a forest decor.

When I did go to the mall it was with my friend April who lived across the street. Her mom drove us there sometimes.

April tended to keep up with the 90's styles. I was content with the non hand me downs. We would peruse gaudy earrings and skimpy. Her mom would arch her eye brow in a disapproving way but within a second we were checking out the overall bibbs and jean jackets.

Over the weekend a time warp occurred.  My thirteen year old was making me look at clothes in the mall with her. Evidently the style that is in is the 90's.

 Had I saved my wardrobe from decades ago my stepdaughter would be set.  Colorful and skimpy clothes hung on hangers and other teenagers remarked how cool the clothing was.

From our mini excursion to the mall I felt the following three things.

1. Fat- The clothes were tight and the sizes were small. I haven't observed a number that small since looking at the calories in a Tic Tac mint.

2. Broke- Geesh, was clothing always this expensive? We bought jean jackets and bleached then or cut holes in our own jeans. I don't miss clothes from the turbulent teen years. That is one bouncy and bumpy ride I don't have the urge to recreate.

3. Old- Where did the time go? Now April and I are taking our kids to the mall and being dragged around. We are now the embarrassing adult in sea of mopey adolescents.

I felt a bit granny-ish but by Monday I felt better. That evening I attended a fancy dinner. My husband Jason wanted to us to sit with a colleague of ours. My husband and the older woman knew each other very well from church. She brought another lady from church as a guest.

As I networked with a fellow table mate, the church ladies were engaged in reminiscing about my husband's former wife. "Jason, remember when you and *** taught bible study together?" Awkward!  Then the conversation settled on personal family matters. I nudged my husband (hard) and asked him to knock it off.

The church lady out of nowhere said "The first time I met you I thought you were twelve." Ouch. She could have said I looked very young or she was unsure of my age.

Church lady was flapping her gums with no realization of my increasing annoyance. "I told someone that I thought Jason was sitting with a child". I excused myself from the table before my plate of food landed on her head.

After my return the church ladies asked where I worked. "So Karen, what do you want to be when you grow up?" I snapped "I am grown up thank you." That silenced the church lady chit chat. My husband and I made our exit shortly after that.

How did I go from feeling ancient to feeling like the Shirley Temple back in the day? I forgot to cake on the blush and put my long straight hair in tight spiral curls. The ruffled dress was at the dry cleaners, my apologies.

Jason said I take things to heart and am hard on myself.

This morning I had an epiphany about the statement. I may take myself seriously but only because not many people take me seriously. One glance and it is assumed I'm a girl who is wet behind the ears in terms of writing and life.

While the trends from my youth have been made to look brand new, my age hasn't. What tired eyes don't see is a published writer, wife, mother and master's degree holder.

 Somewhere between being an old spinster, a dimple faced child  or mall loving hipster, resides me.

                                         "Lets Go To The Mall." How I Met Your Mother (CBS) 2006

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Married People Have Crushes By: Karen Pilarski

Marriage is work. I hear single people complaining over their status often. On the flip side attached people complain about the opposite.

It seems no matter how long a person has been involved in a relationship, there is always some small speck of something missing. What happens when a married person starts to search for the missing piece in the form of a forbidden crush?

After some online research I discovered more information about married people having crushes.

It seems perfectly normal for people to have crushes. As long as it stays just a fantasy. An attraction highlights the point that crushes manifest for women who are stressed either from motherhood or live complications.

There is some truth to this theory. Awhile ago I struggled with anxiety and stress over grad school and lack of fulfillment. My husband and I were dealing with serious setbacks and struggles.

Suddenly I began thinking of another man in a romantic way. My 'crush' was in a serious relationship and the fantasy seemed safe. He seemed be dismissive or aloof towards me in our limited interactions. He was a nice guy just reserved.

Over a few drinks I confessed to a girlfriend about my secret admiration this unsuspecting person. Giggling as if we were teens it felt exhilarating to discuss this newness of the feelings.

 I revealed being curious about his lifestyle and wondering about intimate aspects of him. Laughing hysterically we pondered what it would be like if he unexpectedly kissed me.

There was other inappropriate talk suitable for a locker room but I won't divulge. Oddly enough the friend admitted she was attracted to another man too.

Maybe there is something in the proverbial water cooler, or it is natural to feel the electricity of an unintentional attraction?

I felt immensely guilty as if I was having an affair. However, it was all contained in my confused head. I felt immensely horrible that I researched if it was normal for someone in a committed relationship to have these scandalous thoughts.

Apparently according to my go to 'therapist' called Google, it is completely normal for people to have crushes. While the diagnosis was reassuring, it still weighed heavily on the heart.

One evening I broke down sobbing to my husband that I had a crush on someone. When he found out who he just chuckled. Not the reaction I was anticipating.  Strangely, I was put off that he wasn't a wee bit jealous.

He explained that due to our different shifts that I probably have been feeling lonely. Also due to finances we couldn't afford for me to have fertility treatment.

 I was attracted to someone I thought could provide me with the solution to my sorrows. Maybe even a distraction from the problems.

The object of my affection was similar to my husband. Both men are smart, nerdy in a cute way, sensitive and yet very confident. In addition, both of them could be irritable and moody.

What it comes down to was I developed a crush on someone not my husband, yet exactly like my husband.

That figures..

I deeply missed the excitement of unrequited love and the powerfulness of a crush.

Thankfully, I never put myself in a bad situation and it actually worked for my marriage.
 My husband and I would try to send each other cute messages or spice up our evenings together.

As far as my husband is concerned, he finds other ladies attractive but the biggest crush he has is on me. Secretly I fantasize my husband will reveal his feeling by planting a huge smooch on my warm lips.

Ah, the crush cycle continues.

The Apartment By: Karen Pilarski

It seems like yesterday we moved in the apartment surrounded by weeping willow trees. Only it wasn't yesterday but seven years ago. Years of memories and boxes of the past compacted and sealed shut. As I put away our things, a flashback will zing my head like a ice cream headache.

 The wedding veil my mom made for me is tucked away in the living room closet. Five years ago after our wedding, we forgot to pack some items for our honeymoon. We walked through apartment parking lot in our wedding attire.

Strangely no one batted an eye at the woman wearing a golden specked wedding gown and gold slippers. A few weeks ago I hurt my ankle and the only flats I had were the golden slippers from that day.

Looking out the window I remembered strolling out the door with luggage in tow and heading to the airport for one of our trips. The annoyance in your voice when I asked a dozen times if you locked the door.

In the nightstand were pictures the kids drew for us. Tiny misshaped hearts and misspelled words on loose leaf paper. I found a note from one of the kids apologizing for being disrespectful. Smiling and reminiscing about the years when they were shorter than me.

The old apartment has been the backdrop of this life we built together. I'd like to think if the walls could talk they would haven taken my side when we quarreled. Although angrily hurling our wedding cake topper at the wall wasn't the best decision I could have made.Then again the reason why it was chucked wasn't the best choice you made too.

Every Christmas the kids and I would put up the Christmas village. When we started that tradition it was a few houses and a Santa figure. Now there is enough items to make a city!

In all honesty, I have always resented the Charlie Brown tree that was from your first marriage. Yet, I never tossed it out or bought another one. Somehow the tree was perfect and small enough for the crowded space.

Our apartment has big disadvantages, for example it is above the boiler room. The bathroom floor burns bare feet in the winter. The windows have to propped open in the dead of winter. Heat is included in the rent, but is not a benefit since the heat is never turned on.

The dishwasher doesn't do an adequate job of cleaning our plates. Often dried stains are on the bowls. The ceiling fan in the dining room creaks and cracks when turned on.

The other apartments doors have a peep hole but oddly our door does not.  People randomly knock on our door to try to sell something or they knock on the wrong door. 

We can hear everything the neighbors say and do. I mean EVERYTHING. From fights to love making the apartment has heard it all.  We can't be self righteous in that department. Hence the wedding topper incident.

The past year or so hasn't been the greatest in the chapter of our story. Some highs and miserable lows have been encountered. 

In the meantime the old apartment is poised to become someone's new home. I hope it will provide the same shelter and warm tidings to the new occupants. It certainly has served us well.

Next month we are moving into a house. That has always been our dream. Although we are still just renting, I feel we have moved up in the world. Even if only slightly. Perhaps this is the beginning of good things to come?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Puppy Love By: Karen Pilarski

Freckled face and long lashes suited Sean well. When we first became acquainted we were pipsqueaks in Mr. Mansfield's fifth grade class.

Sean had brown hair with blondish strands. His eyes were warm and inviting. Together we sat and worked on assignments together. In the age of written communication notes were used instead of texts.

Scribbled in pencil, with doctor type handwriting I put my pitter pattering heart on the line. Mind you this was in grade school. "Dear Sean, I kinda lik you." While Mr. Mansfield was chalking up the board I enlisted a classmate to give it to him just before recess.

Afterwards I was given a note with his shaky handwriting "Hi Karen, I sorta lik you two." Over the unintentional sexual innuendos and bad grammar we were in the midst of serious puppy love.

That is where the crush was left, somewhere over the stinky coat room, grotesque cafeteria food and monkey bars outside. We didn't cross paths again until middle school.

The whole school knew I had the hots for Sean. There was relentless teasing that ensued during middle school. Sean had hit a growth spurt and towered over me. Damn he still had the boyish good looks. I was still a stumpy looking girl who was underdeveloped and scrubby.

Somehow he still thought I was cute and sweet despite my lack of height and breasts.

It was the 90's so he wore his cute track suit, often. I think that was his uniform. Mom agreed to let us older kids have a boy/girl party one weekend. Nervously I invited Sean who seemed happy for the invite.

The party was not roof raging or high school level of partyhood. Bowls of M&Ms, chips and soda cluttered on the kitchen table. My twin who thought he was the cat's meow wore his bright red jeans.

As soon as Sean was spotted nearing the house on his bike my brothers sprang into action. "Karen, your wannabe boyfriend is here!!" This was followed up by kissing and lip smacking noises. Funny that the boys announced his arrival and not my giddy girlfriends. Wusses.

For two hours we all did the typical middle school dating dance. Boys in one room and girls in the other.

Suddenly Color Me Badd was blaring from where the boys were congregating.

"A tick tock don't stop (stop to the).."

My friends and I were in the kitchen when we heard yelling and things moving.

" (Ooh a tick tock don't stop) I wanna sex you up.
(Ooh a tick tock don't stop) All night."

My bully brothers were trying to get Sean to kiss me. The pushed him into the kitchen and took off his shirt in the process. One of the macho guys screamed "Sean wants to sex you up!" How mortifying for us both.

He laughed it off as I did too. I was too young to be offended that a male recoiled at the thought of kissing me.

Somehow we ended up being a couple. In fourteen year old code that meant nothing more than maybe holding hands and saying I love for the sake of proclaiming it.

For our first date we went to see "Home Alone 2, Lost in New York." Only it wasn't just the two of us. All five of my brothers were required to go with me. Sigh. He did give me a bear with a heart on its tummy that said "I love you" when squeezed. 

During rollerskating I made him hold hands with me. His hand was sweaty and clammy. A bit disgusted I wiped my hand on my jeans. He just looked plain uncomfortable.

As it turns out with puppy love, it lasts exactly the same lifetime as a fruit fly. Sean dumped me and went out with my friend. As a erratic teen, I played Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" as I clutched my Sean bear and sobbed.

The last time I interacted with him was when we were sixteen and working at a fast food place. He had a nice girlfriend who was expecting his baby. He was going through the rock/punk stage and had long dark hair. No more cute boyish looks. Just a man flipping burgers and trying to support an impending family at a young age.

In high school I had my share of crushes and boyfriends. I even broke a few hearts myself. My thirteen year old step daughter is in that weird stage of life where everything is a big deal. One slight from the heart's desire feels like a deep wound. From the story above, it happens to the best of us.

Honestly, even as adults people have crushes and feel devastated when the feeling isn't reciprocated. It would be mocking to her if I didn't admit that crushes happen to the best of us.

The ones we become infatuated with may take awhile before we get to the "What the hell was I thinking?" stage. I think it is actually worse to get to that point. How exhausting it is knowing you wasted so much time and energy on some lame jerk.

I could say that her crush doesn't know what he is missing. However, rejection is part of life. As much as it hurts me to see either one of my kids in personal anguish, that is the truth.

In the movie "Sixteen Candles" the father is listening to daughter Samantha's problems. She confesses to having a crush on Jake Ryan and being upset he didn't seem interested. The sympathetic father consoles her by saying "That is why they call it crushes, if it was any easier they would call it something else."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cynical or Realistic? By: Karen Pilarski

Hoaxes and scams create a splash of embarrassment that washes over it's victims and spreads like a virus. Soon the aftermath spirals onto others. 
The first big scam I remember clearly is when I was in middle school. On the news in Milwaukee, WI was the story of Kitty Wuerl who claimed to have found a syringe in her soda can. 

Everyone was terrified if the tab of soda was opened they might discover a needle bobbing within the fizzy drink.  Due to this, I only drank clear soda from a bottle for awhile. Her claims made a sensational news piece. Unfortunately for the local newspaper she worked at, it was a false sensational story. 

Wuerl's hoax was uncovered but not before the damage was done.

After Wuerl was found out, people were steamed. First she caused public fear, hurt the newspaper and the soda company's reputation.  Although silly nonsense, my siblings and I would often say "Kitty is off her whirl" when her picture would appear on the news.

As a receptionist while in college, I had random people come up to me. Frequent scams were quick change artists, people who claimed to have 'run' out of gas and needed money.

One incident that made me furious was a lady kept coming around saying she was an alum and was starting a new job. She said she didn't have gas money. I told her I couldn't help her and that she should try contacting a friend or family member.  She managed to swindle other receptionists who worked different shifts and locations out of money.

This 'alum' changed her story and conned a few more employees out of money. I swore if I found her I would tell her off and threaten to call the cops. How dare she take advantage of hard working women and friends of mine?!

I mentioned to my colleagues and friends that they shouldn't give money to everyone with a sad tale. Yet their big hearts would hear none of my cold cynicism.

Turns out the frizzy haired lady with pants on fire was caught and someone must have beaten me to the punch. I never noticed her around again. She is lucky.

Every so often I receive emails and tweets about some sob story about an alleged illness or some guy in a foreign city that needs help. Let me first state I'm very compassionate and care about others. I just refuse to be conned if I can help it.

This past week there was an interview on ABC's Nightline showcasing country star Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley.

In the interview the couple admitted to being duped by a person claiming her daughter was dying of cancer.

Williams-Paisley mentioned that the woman who reached out to her was able to prey on her love for children. As a mother herself she was able to identify with the other mother's plight. During the interview she stated "As a mother, wanting my kids to be okay, she hit my softest spot."

As it often turns out the Paisleys weren't the only victims of the scam. Other celebrities fell for the bait.

Tonight I was discussing this with my friend Ellen and she said she has fallen for scams. She figured karma would get those who were frauds. "God knows the good I did." I told Ellen I wish I could be like her.  Ellen made a brilliant observation after I said I can't pinpoint why I'm cynical of people's motives. "You tend to think the worst. Perhaps because you have actually seen the worst. " 

If friends or people I know are in need I'm willing to lend a hand. I support cancer charities and children's safety initiatives. As a writer I want to inform people and inspire. Many celebrities use their fame to do the same.

 "That's a huge part of why I do what I do is so that I can use my influence for good and to help," Kimberly Williams-Paisley said. "And if there is someone that I can help, I will help."

The lesson is to not distrust everyone, just be a bit cautious and protect the most valuable thing. Your heart.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bee Stings By: Karen Pilarski

Summer of 1986 in Milwaukee was a scorcher. The kiddie pool was pulled out of the damp garage leaving dirty streaks as it was dragged from it's home. Pairs of chubby hands kept slipping as it was rolled onto the front yard.

Soft giggles and ponytails hit the back of sun kissed necks.

Colorful fishes with smiles adorned the wall of the two inch deep oasis.

Dad, Mom and her friend Cheryl lounged on the plaid weaved mesh lawn chairs. Sweaty legs stuck to the material leaving imprints pressed on skin. In their hands a icy dark colored beverage in frosted A&W glasses.

*Miranda, my oldest sister was teasing me. My brothers chased us around the pool with the hose. Shrieking and giggling and cold splashes of water made the intolerable weather tolerable.

"Stop bothering the little ones!" yelled my intoxicated father.

Pieces of grass and dirt tickled under our pruned feet. I was no more than an inch away from stepping into the pool when I felt it.

A sharp needled object jabbed into my bare foot. "OWWWW!!" I hopped up and down on one leg bellowing in pain.

It is funny to think of it now but right away my parents put blame on one of other kids. "Who did it?" My dad yelled firmly. My brothers and sisters stood frozen as if they were to blame.

A small whimper came out of me "It was the stupid bee, I stepped on it." Then proceeded to sob as I clutched my swollen foot.

Out of nowhere Cheryl swooped in and picked me up. She put me on the ledge by the porch. "Put mud on the bee sting, when the mud dries the stinger will pull out." Even though I was small, I wasn't stupid. "No mom, (hyperventilating) hu..rr.tttt!"

 It was no use for old wives and their tales. Cheryl found a wet mound of mud and slathered it on the inflicted area. Sniffling and hair dripping wet, I slouched down on the ledge with my muddy foot danging. Miranda smirked as if to say "ha ha."

To add insult to injury as I watched my brothers and sisters continue with their afternoon of water fun. Until it happened again.

Miranda let out a scream and with a big thud landed on the ground in a hysterical fit. Apparently my bee brought a date to our pool party. The date stung my sister on her foot. 

Over Miranda's high pitched seal calls I heard Cheryl voice. In true superhero mode she said "I'll get more mud."

We sat with dried mud on us and scowls at the happy colorful fish on the walls of the kiddie pool.

Shifting over a bit I noticed a wet mark from where my bottom was on the ledge. "My butt made a spot." Soft giggles erupted as we kept inching along the ledge making little wet butt prints along it.

The next time I was stung  I was nineteen. My older boyfriend stood on my porch and declared that we had nothing in common and broke up with me. Which was code for he was over twenty one and could get into bars and hook up with slutty chicks.

Already in pain, I felt a familiar stinging sensation on my foot."Son of.. a bee stung me!" The unfazed ex lover said "oh, maybe you should go and take care of that."


By then I knew that bees die after they sting so I felt a bit vindicated. From the bee anyway.

Instead of mud I lathered wet baking soda on the it and was fine after a hour.

 I only wished I could say more for my heart. The sting of rejection lingered a bit longer than the bee sting.

The last time a bee stung me was over the past summer. There was trouble brewing with a family member. My husband and I took his mom and sister to take care of some personal business.

That day I wore a sleeveless loose green and black stripped shirt. It was sheer so I had to wear a black camisole underneath. I jumped back into the van and the car moved along the bumpy road.

Then I felt it. The same sensation I recalled from a decade ago. "Uh I think I was just stung by a bee." I could feel my back swelling and the pain increasing. The breeze sending airy waves through my shirt didn't assist me in any capacity.

My sister-in-law looked at my back and confidently said "yup, you were stung, but there is no stinger." My husband looked down my back and made me take off the sheer green top.

There entangled in some loose threads was the bee, still alive. The stinger was stuck in the shirt.

"Ugh, kill that thing!" I screamed.

My husband who was more impressive than the former flame, jumped to action. He shook the shirt until the bee fell out and landed on the concrete. With an impressive swift motion he slammed his foot down on it.

Crunch! Damn right, that is for all the bees that stung me!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Processed, A Food Love Story By: Karen Pilarski

I read an article in The New Yorker written by actress and writer Lena Dunham titled "Deliverance."  

She discusses being raised on delivery food. Dunham and I must be kindred spirits or MSG twins. She has the other half of the greasy finger printed locket.

 Staples of my childhood were frozen pizza, macaroni and cheese and fish sticks. All generic brands, thank you very much.

I call it not, poor people meals -- but survival food. When times were impoverished, I would eat a can of corn or powdered sugar by the spoonful. In a family with nine children, my mom lacked patience, culinary skills and money. 

Today, I'm the apple that didn't fall too far from that tree in those three areas. However, my husband and kids never had to resort to such desperate means to eat. 

Dunham and her siblings often wore the parents down in the effort of fast food success. She said her father would say, “It’s a waste of money. It has too much oil. We have a fridge full of really nice, healthy food. But they can take only so much resistance. When the food arrives, I insist on shoveling it right out of the container, eyes trained on the TV." 

My siblings and I did that to our parents to escape the processed food cycle. Instead, we begged for McDonald's or Pizza Hut. Somehow we thought the meals would taste better than what was usually plopped and slopped down in front of us.

My dad loved learning about different cultures and would cook up different dishes. The kitchen was usually thick with smoke. "Dad must be cooking again," we would bemoan. 
I almost wished for SpaghettiOs and cool ranch Doritos. 

He would prop open the front door to air out the smelly air filled with seasoned salts and boiled fish. Opening the door meant letting the humiliation in. Neighbors would gawk and friends would yell in to see if I was around. 

"Dad, can we pleaseeee close the door?!" 

He would shake his head and make us turn on a beat up window fan. The food appeared and tasted detestable. My dad would make banana fritters that had brandy in them. He made Hungarian Goulash. By the evening's end our family looked forward to burnt Pop Tarts and Stoffer's TV dinners. 

On, writer Jeff Sherman discussed in his blog area restaurants that closed.
 He named several that he personally missed in Milwaukee. However, he may have skipped one. 

As a treat, my parents would take us to Shakey's Pizza in West Allis, Wis. Since I was eight years old, we would pack in the car -- if we had one at that time. It was a buffet-style restaurant that had smorgasbord of options. There was a salad and dessert bar. The freshly-made, non-processed pizza was a delight.
The pièce de résistance was the Mojos. It was thinly sliced potatoes lightly fried to oily goodness.

Every time my family went, we were given coins to use in the bubble gum machine. However, Shakey's Pizza didn't just have stick-on tattoos or the parachute guy. It had a Flintstones bubble gum machine. We lovingly named it the 'brock brock machine.' A big Fred Flintstone was in the middle, next to a worn out Dino. As soon as the coin drawer snapped in and out, the lights around it would be lit. Dino would twirl in a circle and Fred would shout, "YABA DABA DOOOOO DINOOOO LOVES YOUUUUUUU!"  

Plunk! A colorful egg would spit out.

As the years went by, the machine and Shakey's Pizza changed. The food choices at that location diminished and a rickety game room similar to Chuck E Cheese was created. The 'brock brock' also showed it's age. Dino's purple painted fur was dulling and Fred Flintstone smile was rubbed off. 

For old time’s sake, I put in a coin and pushed in the metal coin holder. The lights were burnt out. Dino didn't spin around and it sounded like Fred was possessed. "Yab Dooo, Din..O.. you." It sounded as if he was under water and gasping for a breath. It took forever and a day for the colorful egg to plop out. Clunk! A half green and purple cracked egg was the reward. 

Shakey's was a great place for my family to sit around a table and dine like a normal family. We celebrated birthdays there and bridal showers at that specific location. The last time I was there was for my own bridal shower in 2008. My aunt and my mom planned my shower while my aunt was dying from cancer. She died a few weeks before the event. It closed down shortly after I was married. 

Ironically, after my parents split up, my mom miraculously became a good cook. Apparently divorce and a new boyfriend worked wonders. I only got to indulge in her new found skill a handful of times as an adult. My husband prefers unprocessed foods and homemade dishes. However, I still crave a can of Ravioli from time-to-time like no one's business!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Grass is Always Greener By: Karen Pilarski

 There is an old adage that goes "The grass is always greener on the other side." When a person, thing or location is outside the normality of our lives, we tend view it as something far more spectacular. It is a sneaky aspect of of the daily grind. A seed of  irregular thought is planted and within days or weeks becomes a wild and untamed idea. The happiness and beauty of our own garden looks like weeds and brown grass in comparison to the other person's picturesque yard.

If the irrational thinking is not tended to then sore feelings start to fester. Eventually time and work invested was for naught. Icy glares and jealousy sprays a frost over what was planted. That is the precisely the second love and aspirations begin to die.

*Simone, a raven haired beauty wore her banged up heart on her sleeve. I felt a sisterly connection to her. She was street and book smart, dreamed big and loved hard. Those traits were things I admired about her. I could see my own past self in her warm brown eyes.

She enjoyed dancing and carefree days in her busy city. Simone ferociously tried to make her garden flourish yet heartbreak took a toll. Soon thoughts became frozen like flowers under wet snow. She thought a warmer climate would mean better conditions and a chance to thaw.

*Brenda, a married television writer was struggling to make ends meat. She worked at low rated television show. She had talent and promise to turn the show around. Her colleague was smart, kind and intelligent. He wasn't married but was seriously involved with another person. While her husband was handsome, smart and funny, he seemed to lack motivation.

She began to wish she was with her colleague and was jealous of his relationship. The colleague had money and a nice home. Brenda could barely pay the bills. While Brenda would never step outside her marriage she felt stagnant in her life. She wanted to a senior writer on a late night show that was highly rated. Someone she felt her successful colleague would provide her with what was missing.

In both cases the grass looked brighter and healthier. However, the reality can be deceptive. Often what is observed is not really what is there. Simone could move out of the area and be penniless and homeless. Brenda could hook up with the colleague who might turn out to be a controlling cheap jerk. The grass might actually be AstroTurf. It is tempting to run from problems and bad storms on the horizon. The truth is problems are like weeds, they seems to pop up where you least expect it. The weeds twist into dried knots and are impossible to pull out of the ground.

 Life and love take work, like a garden. It is fragile and valuable and if you are lucky worth all the thorny patches to make it grow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don't Be A Follower In Life By: Karen Pilarski

Follow the leader was a childhood game played by everyone. There is a chosen leader and behind the leader are the followers standing in a line. Everything the leader does, the followers have to mimic it. My older siblings were often the leaders and would tell us to reenact embarrassing motions. It felt increasingly stupid to slap my head or yell "poop." Fortunately, the thrill of that game wore off after awhile.

My step children's mom and I were talking to my stepdaughter about the perils of Facebook. Freshly thirteen she was allowed to create an account. However, lately it was apparent she was blindly liking pages and videos that were not appropriate. The newly minted teen excels in school and in sports. She is kind and has a great sense of humor. Her mom blew me away with what she said next. "You are a leader, do you really want to be a follower?" I was very impressed by her words. It took me back to something I told my sister when she was in high school. My sister was caught doing something irresponsible and I accused her of not being original and being just a follower.

The internet is addictive and intoxicating. News filters through wires faster than breaking news on television. Not only do people have to worry about how people perceive them in reality but now they have a 'social media presence.' I use Facebook and Twitter as networking tools. I re-frame from using vulgar language and mean spirited remarks.

Recently I heard of story while watching "The View." There was an article in The New York Post about a college aged student named Rachael Sacks. She posted a rant about how she felt she was judged on a recent shopping trip. She wrote an essay titled“I’m not going to pretend that I’m poor to be accepted by you." The post went viral and now her icky sentiments are coming back to bite her. Her actual message was drowned by her insensitive verbiage.

She stated in The New York Post article "Maybe I didn’t frame it in the right way because people are missing the point: Which is no one should have to pretend they are what they aren’t." I read her original essay. Sacks seems to feel insecure about how others view her. This is not an unheard of emotion. Everyone feels insecure. She says people have been mean to her throughout her life. However, she doesn't explain the statement and it was bogged down with rude comments.

The reality is she isn't rich. Her father, an infertility doctor is wealthy. Sacks is young and immature. I have heard other college students say dumb things. One day she will grow up and have children of her own. The impulsive essay is going to follow her. The rambling created this nasty opinion of her. I certainly don't agree with her lack of concern for people in worse economic shape. To my surprise many people on social media made snide remarks about her looks. When there is a disagreement is it fair to attack a person's features? That only fuels the fire. Be up in arms about her values and beliefs but don't make degrading remarks about how she looks. Like any social media platform, there are people who blindly follow and repeat the same things.

"Boy Meets World" star Danielle Fishel recently tied the knot over the weekend. Instead of well wishes she was bombarded with hateful comments about her looks and weight. She took to Twitter to defend herself. She tweeted "I hope you'll look at your own miserable lives and learn to stop judging others on their weight and looks. Love and happiness wins again." In the stream of comments there were kind and beautiful words. Yet there were crappy comments calling her ugly and fat.

Powerful it feels for the losers hiding behind the veil of a screen. Their words are dirty and sticky like their keyboards. Perhaps hurling jabs at people helps keep the night alive, yet do they understand the impact? Amusing as it may be to screw with people, words have a habit of becoming like strings of chewed gum. Stringy filthy lines connecting to the mystery writer. The gooey substance like glue sticks to their social media presence. These low life people who follow the leader, well the gum is stretched and they are all caught up in the sticky mess.

Be a follower and go along with the pact or be the leader who rises above the immature and hateful behaviors. If being a follower is the right path, than find a good and trustworthy leader who does great things. The choice is in all of us.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween, 90's Style By: Karen Pilarski

Crunchy dried leaves pushed in piles by a little foot. Walking on them sounds like crispy and crunchy potato chips. Random splotches of colorful trees underneath the gray undertones of the sky. Ghoulish and scary decorations on houses. Carved pumpkins on steps and balconies. Cute and terrorizing costumes in stores ready to be purchased. I love this time of year. No longer the dog days of summer and now there is a chill in the air.

While that was a highlight of my girlhood so was trick or treating. My favorite costume was the plastic Tinker Bell mask and the plastic dress with an outline of her body. There was breathing holes for the eyes, nostrils and mouth.  As I mentioned before my mom was creative and one year she took an old white coat and made me into a bunny rabbit. I detested that costume! It was very Ralphie from "A Christmas Story." Although not pink, it was a nightmare. I shared in his pain.

Nothing was more exiting than zig zagging from house to house in no particular pattern. After my brothers and sisters gathered our bags of candy, we dumped them out in the living room floor. We traded and made deals for the candy swap. The least liked candy was smarties and those black and orange wrapped taffies.

When I was in middle school Beverly Hills 90210 and Color Me Badd were the rage. No longer babies, trick or treating was pushed aside. Instead friends would have random Halloween parties. My childhood friend Tracy threw such a party in sixth grade. The plan was to dress up in costumes and watch slasher films and play the Ouija board. I was excited and told my mom that I wanted to Snow White for Tracy's party. Due to my family's strained economic status I was told it would have to be a homemade costume.

Fast forward to the night of the party, the bathroom door swung open and there was I. My eyes closed tightly in sheer embarrassment. I was dressed up as my mom's mini me. My brown hair was ratted and I wore one of my mother's baggy shirts. Underneath the shirt was made to look like I was expecting. You see my mom was pregnant at the time with baby number nine. This was eons before "Teen Moms" and "Juno." I waddled down the street with a sleeping bag and my dignity dragging on the floor.

During the shindig my friends pigged out on teen party necessities such as chips, soda and sugar. Tracy's mom said the first slasher flick was called "Offerings" (1989). Tracy and her mom teased there was going to be a surprise at the end.

We played a game where each of us were blind folded and had to stick our chubby little fingers in different bowls. First I put my hand in a bowl and felt something squishy and wet. When I pressed down something would spray my hand. I was informed it was 'eye balls.' Everyone shrieked. Next was someone with an eighties puffy perm. She put her hand in 'brains'. Screaming and wild laughter ensued. Blindfolds were ripped off in anticipation. Some 'liver' ended up smeared on my mom's shirt. Turns out the body parts were grapes, spaghetti noodles and liver from the store.

All my school friends took turns telling spooky stories. Although some were ripped off from Alvin Schwartz
"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark." A good read by the way!

The night turned darker and we all changed into our nightgowns and spread out the sleeping bags in the rec room. Tracy's mom announced the pizza would be here soon. "Offerings" was started. Basically this was a slasher film were the man was befriended by a pretty blonde. He was severely hurt and disfigured in an accident. He comes back and sends 'gifts' to the blonde in the forms of body parts of people who wronged him.

The pizza arrived and as we all picked up a greasy slice of cheese and meat heaven we noticed in the movie a pizza was delivered. The deranged man gave his love interest a pizza with ears on it! One of the girls at the party dropped her slice and it plopped on her plate. More shrieking and screaming and Tracy looking smug.

I miss the days of pretending to be someone else for at least a day. Long gone are the days of eating nothing but sugar concoctions without worrying about calories and cholesterol. I can't even live trick or treating vicariously through my step children anymore. They are now in middle and high school. There are many times I feel my childhood well..blew. When thoughts turn dark, I can think back to being a kid. I'm happy I have the memories of my youth to make a cold fall day a little bit warmer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

There Goes My Hero By: Karen Pilarski

 Every year during Oscar Award shows mom would sigh over the memorials. "Oh, not so and so!" As a kid I would shake my head. I didn't recognize the faces as the somber music played.  It wasn't until I was older that I understood why she was upset. It is hard coming to terms with a role model becoming older.

Fans and parents have been up in arms over Miley Cyrus sticking out her tongue and singing about drugs. When she was younger she portrayed a glittered and blonde superstar named Hannah Montana. Her 'normal' self was a chocolate haired and casually dressed girl. Hannah's hijinks were tame compared to real life shenanigans of younger people in the public eye. Eventually the Disney tween grew up. Yet her fan base seemed reluctant to let go of the old persona.

As most teens do, Cyrus rebelled  but her battle was against the typecast. Her hair now shortened and bleached blonde. Lips are painted a sultry color. Her style of music, clothes and dance moves are revealing and raw.

Parents are typical in the resistance of letting their children become adults. In older eyes little ones still have missing teeth, bruised arms and scratched off fake tattoos. Even though Cyrus is not their daughter, she is held up as "America's daughter." Forever fourteen going on fifteen. The pint sized group who grew up watching Cyrus have trouble seeing her as an adult.

Last week I read on Twitter that radio host Casey Kasem was having significant health problems. To my bewilderment, realized Kasem was in his 80's.

As a kid I loved listening to the radio countdown on Sundays to see if my favorite song hit number one. Kasem would read the long distance dedications. He was my radio hero, with his way of invoking empathy through the radio lines. Tears would stain my cheek listening to the person's situation. The beat of each word he spoke had emotion in each syllable. He was my radio hero.

Kasem had a soothing voice . His show was relaxing and hip and cool.  I couldn't get over the fact that he was in his 80's. I knew I was getting older by the aches and grey hairs. Foolishly I never contemplated my heroes aging. Just like my mom, I would become saddened when I would hear of of a sudden passing of a personal favorite like Bea Arthur or Don Knotts.

The situation with Cyrus is not different. We remember others in a certain light and it is a hard concept to shake. When people think of child star Macaulay Culkin often the picture of a fuzzy red sweater and hands slapped on the face is envisioned. Culkin is a tad younger than I am now. It is hard to think of him as an adult and struggling actor even though I too am a struggling artist. Cyrus is a talented singer wanting to stay relevant in a main stream society.

Foo Fighters had a song called "My Hero" in the 1990's. The song is about someone the singer looks up to however, it is astonishing to realize the hero with all the bells and whistles of super powers is actually a normal human being. 

Cyrus and Kasem are typical people who change and become older in time. It doesn't diminish their influence and accomplishments. Reality diminishes the facade that all heroes remain young and frozen in time. All role models lose their way or change their tunes. If we remember that notion, than we can mature along with our beloved heroes and allow their legacies to live on. More importantly, allow the ones we idolize to develop new talents and accolades. Otherwise we are no different than parents who can't cut the umbilical cord and let their kids go. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Turn That Frown Around By: Karen Pilarski

Julie Andrews was very wise in the "Sound of Music." She sang about her favorite things to pull her out of her funk. This afternoon was icky which worked out perfectly since I felt sick. My husband found out he has the flu. I've been engaged in a to the death battle with germs all week. As if that wasn't bad enough someone sent a snarky email about me without realizing my email addy was still attached to the message chain. My muscles hurt immensely from working out with kettle balls. I can't sit or stand without wincing. Ouch.

I spent my evening putting a cold compress on my husband's forehead and going on Twitter and Facebook. An award winning writer named Molly Campbell (@mollydcampbell) tweeted the following "There is a $20 bill on my bureau. I leave it there so I can always feel a tiny bit rich. " It was funny and made me think about the small or silly things that make me smile or feel better. Julie Andrews was onto something inspirational in that movie. I pondered a few minutes and wrote down things that make me happy.

1. Hot Green tea with honey- It is comforting and soothes my parched throat. I feel cozy when holding the hot cup.

2. Ratty pink robe- While it isn't being worn, it is laying on my bed like Linus and the blue blanket.I figure if I feel ratty, I might as well look like it. My pink robe is my security blanket.

3. Comedy Central Roasts- There is something victorious when the one being roasted turns the tables on the insulting comedians.Sure it is scripted, but it shows how these brave roastees take a punch. Yet, they punch back harder.

4. Braiding wet hair- I don't own a curling iron so I substitute it with putting damp hair in tiny braids. I let it stay in braids over night. In the morning I have crimped/wavy hair.

5. Random cash discoveries- While not like winning the jackpot, it is small wins that cheer me up. Excited and astounded to dig in a pocket and pull out a few crinkled dollar bills. I call this coffee money.

6. Chilled Peppermint Patties- I adore the scent and taste of mint. The cooling sensation on my tongue when biting into a minty wonderland. My sweet husband buys them and hides them in the fridge for me. A double surprise.

7. Antique stores- I'm a struggling writer who is low on funds. My financial situation doesn't block me from window shopping. My creative mind creates a story of older items. What is the history of these vintage things. Who owned it before?

8. The View-Whoopi Goldberg is wonderful. She has wit, tact, and wisdom. Most of all she is amusingly honest. While I'm educated with a MA degree, I'm not a political person. Her explanations are helpful for people like me who lack that type of knowledge.Her shoes are awesome and splashy. She just simply rocks.

9. Zumba- Sure it is mortifying to shake my butt while others are watching. I do feel a sense of sensuality when I swerve my hips or roll my arms in a sexy way. The base of the music thumps so loudly I forget I'm in a gym and not in a nightclub. A major plus when working out is my husband raises his eyebrows and a flirty grin appears. Oh I still got it.

10. Coffee talk- I love my stepchildren equally. I love that my stepdaughter and I have time for girl bonding time. We walk up to the local coffeehouse and talk about anything. My heart is happy we have that tradition to look forward too.We laugh about how dorky boys can be and she fills me in on the drama of middle school.

I left a few things out of my list but that is fine. While thinking about my icky day I realized there is so much that puts me in a better mood. A glass of red wine or doing crosswords. Blogging is my therapy. So many wonderful things that suffocate the ill tidings from my day. In the midst of documenting what makes me smile, I forgot about the small things that made me feel icky in the first place. As Andrews sang "When the dogs bite and the bees sting, and when I'm feeling sad. I just think of my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad."