Monday, April 29, 2013

Walking in Tight Shoes By: Karen Pilarski

"Momma always says there's an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going. Where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes." Forest Gump said this statement in the beginning of the Academy Award winning movie. Shoes give support, comfort and balance as we tread the roads in our journey of life. The evidence of the journey can be found in the cracks, dirt, holes in the shoes. A slight inspection can bring up many observations. What the person enjoys doing, where they have traveled and where they would like to be in the future.

Toddlers are insightful. They try to mimic their mother or female role model by putting themselves in their high heeled shoes. The little one wants to see how it feels to be at a different height and bigger shoes. Amusingly they try to walk in them only to stumble a few times. My niece used to do this when I came by after work. She was intrigued by my high heels or even my sneakers. What a symbolic gesture I wish people would keep within them. The ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes not matter how difficult it is. 

I have encountered people who just couldn't see where another person was coming from or where they have been. They could only think about themselves and how they felt. Instead they continued with the same thinking, like a shoe too tight to let anything in to breathe. It is suffocating and causes soreness that could have been prevented. 

When shoes become too small or destroyed it is time to get brand new shoes. If only people could make the connection to thinking. If an idea no longer fits or gets destroyed it is time to have new thoughts. Don't be the one stuck in a size six when you are a size nine. Try to avoid being stuck in dirt and manure because thinking has stalled and stuck on the way things used to be. 

Shoes like the mind is very similar. Not all ideas stay the same. They transform and grow as most people do. People change. What life was a decade ago may not be the same way. The LA Gear shoes I wore as a child are no longer comfortable like wearing flip flops in the sand as an adult.  

My shoes are worn from the dance classes I have taken and the walks I have done. There is dirt beneath them from different paths I have taken. In a split second I can place myself in someone else's shoes. I can wear toe pinching ballet slippers or heavy and clunky hiking boots. I can see where a person is coming from. This doesn't make me some medical marvel. This makes me compassionate and respectful of people's histories. I just wish some people close to me could have the same ability. I guess they are still wearing Sesame Street character shoes instead of high heels. Big toes slice through the material and blisters form due to rubbing on the arches. If only they could cut off the old shoes and try on a new size. Maybe life would be less difficult in the long run?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Reason to Believe By: Karen Pilarski

When I was a kid my parents never  made a commitment to a specific church. The urge to pray came and went as fast as the changing trends in fashion. When our large brood lived in Bay View we went to a local catholic church. All of my siblings were baptized Lutheran. I'm not knocking on anyone's religion but a catholic mass to a non church goer is boring. My little sister and I would giggle at the older parishioners singing as bad as an American Idol audition. The sermons glazed over once bright eyed and awake children.

 We were signed up for confirmation classes and I started to get excited about wearing a mini wedding dress. Without warning my parents pulled us out of those classes and we never were confirmed.

 After that short religious experience we avoided going to church. My father experimented with other religions. He once took us to a Mosque. It was pretty unique with the colorful rugs and washing of the feet before a meal. What makes me scratch my head is that we didn't learn about our Jewish heritage. Maybe I just don't remember it. From then on I was open to different religious view points and beliefs. 

 The other day someone said something harsh to me. I was told I wasn't god parent material because I don't have a belief system. Which sounds absurd because everyone has something they believe in. I grew up with god parents. They didn't tell me to go to church or give me spirtual guidance. I think they were just back ups if my parents were to suddenly die or become committed.My god parents never gave me a bible. 

From my own religious experiences I came to the belief that I think organized religion isn't necessary in my life. When I married my husband we went to church when told so by his family. The sermons brought me back to my youth when my eyes would glaze over and I would become increasingly sleepy. 

I would glance over to my husband and father in law. Both of them had their eyes closed and were in a semi unconscious state. When they would sing it sounded like two fog horns in competition to see who was loudest. This made me regress to an eight year old and I laughed. I also wrote notes to my step children to make each other smirk. During the sermons and singing my eyes would roll. It was evident I should never be allowed in church.

  While I'm religion challenged, I am spiritually in tuned. I believe there is a purpose and reason for the things that happen in life. My feeling is when things are at there bleakest there is glimmer of light trying to streak through. I believe in a higher power such as God. My heart is comforted that one day I will meet God and my loved ones in heaven. 

 I believe in trying hard to get what I want. I don't believe a person should put it all on God. I often hear "God will provide." Yes, God will provide love and guidance but at the end of the day the power is in all of us to make our lives better. While I would like to think there is only good intentions and general goodness, it isn't true. There are bad apples out in the world. I strive not to let a few bad apples spoil how I feel. In order to have a belief system one doesn't have to be Ned Flanders from the "Simpsons." No one should be expected to thumb through a bible every second of the day. I don't believe in forcing a specific religion on a person. 

 I believe everyone is important and are loved. I think good things will happen but only if work hard and do my best. I have always had the belief that I will weather any storm as long as I have faith. It doesn't matter what others say or feel about me. I believe in myself and that is the greatest power of all. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Time to Make the Dough (nuts) By: Karen Pilarski

Fred the Baker from the 80’s Dunkin Doughnuts commercials was a symbol of that decade. He was hardworking and determined to do a good job. Every morning, a sluggish man would drag himself out of bed to make some dough and doughnuts. He appeared exhausted and not happy about his situation. Rain, snow or wind would prevent him from following through on this commitment. A contact brought up a thought provoking question last night. Did the character of Fred the Baker ever take a leap of faith? 

I reviewed the commercials on YouTube last night for nostalgia and to look at it with new eyes. When the ad first came out I was a runny nosed kid. Fred the Baker had a house and a wife. I wonder since he was older if it was possible he used to work in another industry and then retired? In the current decade it is not unusual for people to retire and then take a part time job somewhere.   

When I thought about the question I became a bit annoyed. Just because Fred worked in a doughnut shop didn’t mean he never took a leap of faith. Granted the job was not glamorous but how many of us can say our jobs are trendy? There have always been dips in the economy and job market. People earn degrees and never do what they studied for as a career. It stinks, but the reality is a person needs to make a decent living to make it in this world. Fred the Baker sounded like a responsible guy (since the pastries counted on him alone to make them).

As someone who has both a  BA and MA degree, I have tried to land a writing position. My current job is not trendy but I make money. While I take a leap of faith in applying and putting my name out in the writing world, it doesn’t mean someone who doesn’t has not taken a leap of faith. 

Fred the Baker’s leap of faith was the belief that his work was meaningful. The dough wouldn’t rise unless he did every morning in the wee hours. His leap of faith was the notion that his work provided happiness to the Dunkin and Doughnuts franchise. If we could bottle up a small drop of that feeling I think there wouldn’t be so many disgruntled employees.  

The cute old man in the uniform left more than floured rolling pins and dirtied aprons. He gave the underdog hope and reassurance that each person’s work no matter how unglamorous has importance.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Heaven Phone By: Karen Pilarski

Someone posted on my Facebook a picture of a phone. The caption read: “I wish I could call heaven to hear your voice again.” Something stirred within me.  

 Emotions strong enough to blow over rows of cars buried down, now erupting. Over the past week I thought about family trees and how in order to grow there is a need to know where the roots began. Sadly many of my relatives have passed away. As a child I never took advantage of learning about my heritage or family history. 

My mom often supplied us children with ample embarrassing stories of my relatives. For example the story of my aunt wearing a wig and coming home drunk.

My grandmother asked her if she was drunk and my aunt said no. My grandmother slapped her face and the wig went flying. To this day that story tickles my insides and causes a soft giggle to erupt.  

Then was the story of my mom hiding out like a bandit in the bushes to avoid school. Like my mom, I have funny stories to share with others about life in a big family.

The selfishness in me wants more knowledge. I’m jealous of friends that have their relatives still here. They can ask questions and remember better know that they are older. I missed my chance. 

My grandfather used to work for the Milwaukee Sentinel as a printer press operator. What made him go into that line of work? Did he enjoy the newspaper industry?  What was my grandmother like as a child? Why did my uncles become police officers? A burning question is who else besides me used to write? Do I bare a resemblance to other relatives? 

If there was a heaven phone I would certainly take the opportunity to ask any question that has lingered since they departed to the pearly gates.

My phone would be a Mickey Mouse phone for my aunt. I remember when my mom would make us call our grandparents as youngsters to thank them for the five dollar bill in a birthday card. Soft spoken I would ask “Hi uh hi, is uhhh Grandma there?” There are nine children in my family and somehow my grandparents would know our voices! 

My first attempt with the heaven phone would obviously be to inquire how they are doing and if they are happy. The goofy part of me would ask if they bumped into Elvis or Elizabeth Taylor. As a writer I would attempt at getting some hot dead celebrity gossip. I would vent about my job and family drama (in-laws or my own family).  

Knowing my relatives they would tell me to have fun and be fun. Oh and I’m sure they would tease me like relatives do.  I would tease back calling my aunt, auntie big nose or tell grandpa that I refuse to drink Tab soda. Ever. Again.

 Possibly they would tell me they are proud of me and my accomplishments. I’m sure they would lecture me on my self doubt or arguing with my mother.  Maybe my great grandparents would get on the horn and chat to introduce themselves to me. 

The thing that has always bothered me about the phone is I can’t see people only hear them. I would love to feel my grandmother’s nails on my arm or my grandfather messing up my hair (against my wishes). I miss feeling my aunt giving me a hug and kissing her cheek. I miss my uncle patting me on the back. All the new gadgets and technology in the world couldn’t compensate for that personal touch.

I think of all the tragedies that have occurred such as 9/11, Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. Even if it is a small consolation, a phone call beats talking out loud to an empty house or a picture of a loved one. It is a comforting to think about the chance to hear the voice on the other end and other side. 

What we can do now is respect our history and ask questions while our loved ones are still alive. If god forbid they leave this world too early, we can at least keep the memory alive by talking out loud to the sparkling stars above and to the ones left behind.

Closing eyes tightly and listening closely to the wind, there is a hint of a voice within the breeze.

Trying to reach you.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Blemished Life By: Karen Pilarski

Purple and brown swollen patch appeared on my arm.  I had the foggiest idea where it came from or how I caused the infliction. To my knowledge I didn’t even realize it was there until I felt soreness when I touched my arm.  The bruise stuck out like a sore thumb. Even though I knew it was there, people continuously pointed it out as if I didn’t look at my arm ever. My unfortunate incident inspired me to think about blemishes/bruises. 

In vanity we want to look attractive. This means not having acne or splotches of redness on our faces.  Luscious full lips, Curled locks of hair with stray hairs pinned down.  In reality there is a desire for others to have a similar perception of perfection. 

Often people want others to see us as having it all. Having it all means a big house, faithful spouse, behaving kids and a rewarding career. The interesting thing about having ‘it all’ is that it is sometimes an illusion. The illusion is similar to caking on powder to cover pimples and sun spots.  The ugliness is hidden from view so that life appears to be in order. How unsightly would it be if there was a cheating spouse, evil spawn children and late bills? Other blemishes could include working as a stripper, sleeping with a colleague or stealing. 

Recently Reese Witherspoon was arrested after her husband was caught drunk driving. For decades this Academy Award winner was viewed as the ‘good girl.’ One bad choice and she now has this blemish on her mostly flawless profile. In time the bruise of her judgment call will fade. As do all bruises or blemishes. They may hide from view, but they are still there. 

My own bruises/blemishes have come in the form of growing up poor. I was bullied and teased for my big family that couldn’t afford much.  Like Witherspoon I too have made mistakes that were masked away. I’ll wait on confessing until I write that tell all book I keep threatening to do.  There is no such thing as perfection or a perfect life. 

At night makeup is scrubbed off and hair is let down. In the wicker waste basket are napkins with smears of blue glitter, red lipstick and black mascara. On the sink counter are damp clumps of hair stuck to the brush.  In morning’s light upon waking, the true face is shown. In natural form we look clean and pure. Exposed and letting it all hang out.  If comfortable a few close to us get to see us in our true form.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Buyer Beware or Buyer’s Remorse: A Conundrum By: Karen Pilarski

In life one of the early investments made is buying a car. At sixteen the ideal dream is the own a hot car. The horn blares to let others on the road know to get out of the way. Giggling friends gossip in the backseat and dish about what went down at school. It is symbol of wealth and popularity. Usually what happens is the teen gets an old jalopy that clunks and squeaks.  No matter if it is a hunk of junk or a brand new car the age of sixteen is sweet. The refreshing inhale of freedom and the jingle of car keys in denim pockets made life pretty damn awesome. The engine revs up and wheels start to spin. The car sputters at first and then takes off like a shot.  The wheels spit dust in the tire’s wake.  In the driver’s seat, the person is in charge of the direction and path that is taken.

Another big investment is in relationships. In both cases there is a desire for something fancy, brand new and fast. The first big relationship is often where caution is tossed to the wind. Nothing is too good for the beloved. Money is spent keeping the vehicle of the relationship in shape so that it keeps on moving. Vision is often obscured by rose colored glasses worn while in the driver’s seat. Slowly over time scratches and dents become increasing larger. Love’s newness dulls the heat of the engine. Once running like a race horse now has stalled like a stubborn mule. On a frigid winter’s eve, it dies like crushed flowers under frozen snow. The impact of the death is felt in financial and emotional strain. 

Fast forward a few years and suddenly reliability, durability and stability are sought after attributes. It is reassuring when some coins and a washed five dollar bill are found in worn out pants. Due to change in direction, the investment is in a used car. Not as fancy or fast but it gets a person where they need to go. There is still an electrical charge and heat is felt on the engine. Care is taken to try to make it is treated like brand new. For some reason all the work has made this experience much better than the first car. 

Relationships are the same way. Sometimes love conquers all or it expires along the road. If there is a chance to try something new or switch gears, hopefully it would be met with support. While the past like the first car may have been fancy, fast and exciting, it now resides in the past. It may be tempting to refuse to make room for new memories. From my own personal knowledge, it gets a person as far as a dead car on a winter’s eve.  In matters of the heart, It is not about the destination but about the journey to be happy in the driver’s seat.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Writer's Insomnia By: Karen Pilarski

Drip, tick, drip, tick. The leaky faucet and clock are reminders it is the middle of the night. The stickiness of the heat is resolved by a quick kicking off of blankets. Tossing, turning to get the body in a relaxing state.  My brain won’t stay on silent. Rapid and fast visions flash like lightening. What should I make for lunch tomorrow? How am I going to pay that bill? What did so and so mean on Twitter? Why can’t I get a writing job? Then suddenly a snore erupts from the sleeping lump beside me. Blushing green with jealousy that he is in a dreamy state and I failed at a good night’s rest.

Somehow I drift off for a mere moment and this cluttered mind hits recharge.  Thoughts fire off like a shot.  How do you get gum out of clothes? I wish I lived in New York. I don’t want to deal with the stack of files on my desk. Eyes strained red and bags under them adding to the heaviness of my face. 

In the morning I somehow dress myself. I consume several cups of coffee and try to appear as if I am functioning. My thinking is fogged and words slowly spoken. It takes tolerance not to scream at people who suggest counting sheep or drink myself into unconsciousness.

The mildew of the day stains and strains the heart. Often tragic stories such as a fatal fire, bombing, random shootings replay in my jumbled head. The current job market, economy, loved one’s health issues weigh my body down.  I fear and crave the night because that is when it is quiet enough to be with my own thoughts.
Stress and anxiety are evil conspirators that wreck havoc in the sleep pattern. A doctor once prescribed me with a sleep aide. Only those work temporarily.

My only saving grace is writing and meditation.  All writers have some torment that jabs our sides until we are awakened. Insomnia to a writer is a way of saying “write this down or ponder this”. As a writer I could use my condition as a handicap or a tool in my own creativity. I would rather spend my night writing than listen to the sound water dripping from the faucet and pinging a bowl in the sink.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Single-Married Girl by: Karen Pilarski

I'm a typical lady working hard during the week. Most nights after work I do my dance class. I go home and make myself dinner. Usually it is a frozen dinner or a sandwich with soup. On Fridays I might make myself some pasta and salad with a glass of wine. I watch taped episodes of "The View" and clean up a bit around the house. I go on Twitter and Facebook to do some networking. I stay up watching shows from when I was a teen on Nick at Nite. Take a shower and get ready for bed. Maybe somewhere in the night I get a call from my husband. Yes, I'm married. The first part of this post made it sound like I live the single life. I actually do for the most part. The term should be called "Single-Married."

To make ends meet couples often take whatever job can help pay the bills. Sometimes the work shifts are at different times. For my husband of five years we have always worked different shifts.Somehow over the years we have made it work. Between school schedules and having the kids every other weekend we have had a normal marriage.

At first glance it might seem like the perfect situation. He has custody of the house during the day thus making it a man cave. I have full control at night where I demolish the newly created man cave. He gets to watch his ESPN and his science fiction shows. Lazy and sprawled on the couch leaving an imprint of his body. At night I can put on YouTube videos of Zumba to workout too. I can shake and shimmy without fear of embarrassment or my husband making crude sexual remarks.

Some nights I miss having the companionship. Snuggling on the couch and light kisses. Eating a nice dinner at the barely used table we purchased a year ago.Wrapping a cozy warm blanket around us and eating a bowl of frozen yogurt while watching a mutual favorite show. Completing a few crossword puzzles together. When I take a shower my husband sometimes peaks in and says I love you. Reading in bed and discussing current events. If the mood is right we make love. I would take a less calming evening. A food fight breaks out in the kitchen or we goof around in the living room. Just being together would be better than nothing. I long for randomness and comfort.

Then there are points when we are around each other too much. Each person wants control of the television or a habit gets annoying. Like how he bites his fingernails or how I text friends on the phone. The messiness of the house or how he forgot to do dishes. He becomes annoyed that I'm more interested in watching 'Sex and the City' than recreating the scenes ourselves. Frazzled and annoyed with people from the day makes me in no condition for some foreplay. Frustration and irritability spells no sex for a few days.

I'm not sure what is the better arrangement. I would prefer us to work the same shift so he could be home with the kids and eat dinner with us. Unless he gets a new job, I don't predict a change in the coming future.

For the time being we make the most of the time we do have together and the time we are apart. One day the single-married term will dissolve and we can go back to just being married.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pink Ribbons and Hope By: Karen Pilarski

Boobies, Fun bags, puppies, girls. There seems to be a strange obsession with nicknaming breasts. Often men are seen with their mouths hanging open at the sight of a huge rack. 

Throughout her adolescence *Dolly had had big breasts. She wasn’t afraid to show them off. Low cut shirts and bras that pushed her boobs leaving little to the imagination.  Dolly’s older relative *Elizabeth had always been surrounded by top heavy women such as her mother.  Elizabeth never was ‘gifted’ in that department.  Her brothers constantly teased by chanting she was as flat as a board. To hide her insecurity she often wore padded bras and stuffed them with tissues. Even know her breasts are a bit of a touchy subject.

Dolly grew up and had a thick bottom and a busty chest. While Elizabeth had curves, her boobs were small in comparison.  Dolly unconsciously flaunted and flirted with her body as Elizabeth hid behind bulky sweaters. Men would talk to Dolly but their eyes would be fixated on the mounds underneath her shirt. 

One day the Dolly announced she found a lump in her breast. It had been there for months but she thought it would just disappear on its own. Everyone tried to make her feel better and that it was probably a cyst or benign tumor. Fast forward a few days later and discovered she had breast cancer at 29 years old. 

Over the past few months she had undergone chemo treatments and it was as if someone sprayed Pepto Bismol everywhere. Everything was adorned with pink ribbons, ribbons, shirts and shoe laces in support. Someone even shaved their head to make her feel better for losing her hair. 

Today Dolly is having a double mastectomy after a few rounds of chemo. She is in good spirits despite losing her breasts.  I suppose if I was in the same situation I would just be happy to be alive. Only it is hard to lose something that is a symbol of womanhood no matter how big or small they may be. Breasts make women feel sexy to the opposite sex. Breasts are also a source of nourishment for babies.  The painful part is not having the opportunity to one day nurse a baby. 

All wasn’t lost. After Dolly’s diagnosis a few others found lumps in their breasts and don’t know what to do. Dolly provided guidance and most importantly an example of hope as a survivor of cancer.  
In the weeks to come she will undergo breast reconstructive surgery. Everywhere around her will be covered with sprays of pink flowers and well wishes.  When this all said and done she lost her breasts but not her life.