Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thank You For Being A Golden Girl By: Karen Pilarski

Decades are often defined by a cultural statements. The 1960's were depicted as suburban life and fallen heroes. The groovy 1970's were about revolt, free love and peace.

 The 1980's was an era of standing out and being unique. Normal didn't include cookie cutter appearances. Music was louder and provocative. Music videos were a visual for audiences to connect to the sounds.

Television was a source of comfort in trying times.

The beloved characters on television shows became family to audiences.

Television shows changed with the times and thus the neat and tidy images were shattered. Notably with shows such as "Full House", "Dynasty", "Cheers", "Alf"and the "Simpsons".

A family show didn't necessarily involve parents and a son and daughter. The setting could be at a bar or a spaceship. Many beloved series were about friendships and the evolving dynamics of interactions.

One show that was ground breaking with "The Golden Girls".

Who could have fathomed a show about four older feisty women would have struck gold?

Shoulder pads, high teased hair, glitter and bangle bracelets were the fads of youth.

However, in this sitcom the popular fads were showcased as well. There was bookish teacher Dorothy (Bea Arthur) with her shoulder pads, her sassy Sicilian ma Sophia (Estelle Getty), dimwitted and easily duped Rose (Betty White) who loved fuzzy and colorful sweaters and puffed out hair. Lets not forget sultry and seductive Blanche (Rue McClanahan) who wore spiked heels and shimmery and flashy attire.

The besties were roommates in hot and vibrant Miami, FL. The theme song "Thank You For Being a Friend" was a poignant symbol of the trails and tribulations faced by the characters.

The show touched on issues that all ages could connect with and comprehend. Sure there were jokes about pensions, depends, dementia and menopause. Intertwined were a mixture of issues that any age range could be exposed to.

Rose experienced pill addiction, threat of HIV through blood transfusions, inferiority of intelligence and sexual harassment by a randy dentist.

Blanche dealt with her daughter's artificial insemination, an abusive beau, a gay brother and conflicted feelings over donating her kidney to a sibling.

Dorothy dealt with a philandering ex husband, an undiagnosed illness, unemployment, caring for an elderly parent and self esteem issues.

The 'matriarch' of the household, Sophia's issues were a son who was a transvestite and eventually died.
Other topics Sophia episodes highlighted were suicide, remarriage, heart alignments and funny get rich quick scams. Remember "Grab That Dough?"

Sophia was also striving to win independence against her age. That  issue alone hit home to the young at heart and adolescents who yearned for control over their own lives.

The 80's and 90's certainly had an abundance of shows that dealt with friendships ("Friends", "Perfect Strangers" and "Will and Grace"). Today there are similar formulas with "New Girl", "How I Met Your Mother" and "Big Bang Theory."

However, "Golden Girls" is still unique in a new era were trends are redundant and cookie cutter again. Social media, new technological gadgets and pushing the envelope reality shows have shifted the focus away from being different in an inspiring way.

The current decade is about having the best and fastest way of communication. Days of sitting around a table at 3am oinking out on cheesecake and commiserating have fallen by the wayside.  In its place are texts, Facebook pokes and Twitter streams.

In "Golden Girls" era, it was not considered bullying to pick on each other and trade insults. The funniest episodes were when they would tease each other. It seemed like such an innocent time in a time frame were loud and being 'out there' was the cool thing.

The one element that hasn't changed is the need for wonderful friends who support and back us up if need be.

Viewers are constantly searching for characters to identify with and be the 'friend' they are in need of at that time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fact or Fiction? By: Karen Pilarski

I love reading memiors. There is nothing more entertaining than hearing another person's life story in flashbacks and humorous antidotes.

 Last night I started reading a book about a comedian/actress. Some of the stories seemed a bit out there. Don't get me wrong, the tales gave me a chuckle and it was well written. Something irked me though. The stories of her grade school years seemed a bit outlandish.

How many older individuals can remember life as a five year old? I'm lucky if I can pinpoint where I put my purse tonight (by the couch). often I remember vignettes or small fragile memory pieces cracked with time.

In grade school I wasn't fond of a jerky classmate. In all honesty I don't know how he ticked me off. I had a few brothers by then and maybe I grew worn out by boys.

It was early spring and he took off his winter coat during recess. I picked up that moldy smelling coat and swung it into an icy puddle.

Splash! It was soaked. That is where the memory fades.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Burnheart was awesome! I can't remember what she looked like, but the name sticks in the brain as noodles stick to a pot.

During reading time each student had to go in the hall and read to her. I was reading a ridiculous book about a bird. The sentence went something like "The baby bird asked Mama bird to help her fly." I didn't read it as ask. I read it as 'ass.' Oops?

When looking into the mirror of the past, I remember other embarrassing things too.

Those humiliating moments sure stay etched in the psyche.

It was hat day at school and we were too poor for me to buy a cool hat. My mother's solution? Make a hat out of a paper plate, ribbon, and yellow peeps.

 It wasn't a hat.

Nope, it was a flimsy Easter basket on my head! Of course adorned with plastic grass and jelly beans. The ribbon was tied under my neck. Perhaps it was supreme humiliation that was chocking me.

Don't ask what happened to it, I blacked out after sitting in the auditorium wearing it.

The earliest figment of time I can remember is kindergarten. All I remember is the bubble alphabet characters. That is it!

 I remember the witch teacher I had for 1st grade. I had horrid penmanship and she would rip the paper out of my little fingers. Then that evil demon would bunch up my paper in a ball and toss it at me saying it was 'garbage.'

I was in a bookstore today with my husband and kids. Engrossed in the biography section I was skimming titles and flipping eagerly through pages. A question occurred to me. How true are these recollections? This is not to say people live dull and uneventful lives. How much of the biographies are 100% accurate depictions of what was?

I suppose family members and friends can fill in the holes with details.  Possibly a diary or journal was kept. As a writer I'm ashamed that I never wrote in a diary. My family would remember only the embarrassing or unflattering details. The probability of them not even being able to recall is actually high.

Maybe after reviewing some of my past I can understand why 'creative editing' might be a good idea when writing a memoir. Other people may remember things differently but it can be a good thing. It is similar to hearing the story of I caught a fish and it was thisssss big! There are variations of the truth and there needs to be deeper research to uncover the details. Otherwise do what I did when I raced my sister in a store and did a face plant with a shopping cart. Deny it or pretend as if it never happened.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Weathered Kite by: Karen Pilarski

Youth is fleeting and yet there is a lack of respect and willingness to hold on to it. At thirteen, dreams of proms, weddings and popularity send hopes sky high as if kites flying above.

 Romantic strings connecting and intertwining without a care in the world. Mismatched shapes and bright kites sailed through the air. Grass stained and scraped knees from running along the grassy hills.

Bubble gum, sparkled nail polish and short term crushes floated us through the teenage years. Dreaming and wishing about love and sex until it actually happens. Somehow between Jellies, Now and Later candy and graduation there was a shift in the air. Reality let out a gust of change that blew the kite out of loose hands.

Twenties were a chance to experiment and test new waters. Self discovery through higher education or just struggling to make ends meat defined early adulthood. Ups and downs in matters of the heart still determined moods and actions.

Frosted tipped hair and treasure troll collections were throwbacks to being a kid at heart. Instead of Cabbage Patch Kids store aisles amplified Tickle Me Elmo's nauseating giggle.  Brain crushing hangovers were appropriate reasons to stay in bed all day. Tequila breath and blistered feet from dancing were just nonchalant reminders of a night well spent. Strangely thoughts of weddings and careers sobered up the drunkest minds.

The warning sirens sounded but over the partying and working it was muffled. Thirty hit like a thunderbolt ripping through the kite. By now many acquaintances had wedding bands and babies. Those who didn't have those things listened to the ticking of the biological clock and mother's fingernails tapping impatiently. On top of that school loans, mortgage payments and the simple task of buying a gallon of milk became draining. Instead of consoling over coffee with a friend there was Facebook and Twitter. To catch up to speed on family members and chums a quick breeze through a stream did the trick. Good friends no longer spoke over the phone but texted instead.

The familiar feeling of crisp pages of a newspaper was replaced with websites and catchy tweets. While the world and technology certainty evolved, the concept of youth felt disillusioned between clicks and status updates. Media platforms dried up in drought like fashion. While today's youth didn't seem to mind, the situation was devastating to writers who grew up in the 80's and 90's.

As the years went by there was the need to make everything easier for the Earth's population. However, convenience shifted to inconvenience. Backlash over posts, terrified over online predators and internet hacking created a dark cloud above everyone. No one had motivation or inkling to try flying the kite again. Too many distractions such as blinking, beeping and brazen messages cut the stings that connected at one point.

Mid thirties appeared out of nowhere like a rainbow after storms. The abandoned kite takes flight and floats over soaked rooftops. There was still pining for the free movement of being a kid. Slowly the clouds parted and thinking like the skies became clearer. Newly formed aspirations and dreams patched up holes and rips. Miraculously the weathered and torn kite still has the ability to soar. Kids of yesterday and today have the opportunity to move where ever the wind takes them. Only if they hold onto strings tightly. Once and awhile when nostalgia hits, still run through the tall blades of grass carefree.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Turquoise By: Karen Pilarski

Last night I didn't get much shut eye. I was anxious about a few new developments in the sordid saga called my life. I'm not sure if it was a lack of sleep or other mitigating factors that caused the sullen mood. 
Today my frame of mind was fuzzy. 
My thinking and reasoning seemed convoluted as if I was held underwater for long durations.

Somewhere in the span of time emotions mixed like paint. A hue of blue to symbolize sadness and despair. Five years of understanding, love, adversity and comfort blended and intertwined with new shades that seeped in. Emerald green of envy took over. Jealousy over situations beyond my control and in my control. A speck of brown to highlight guilt over bottled up feelings. In my lifetime I have never felt as jealous and corked as I do right now. Shame beats my head against the wall until bruised and bloodied.

Kermit the Frog sang "Bein' Green." After thirty-four years I finally understand the song's deeper meaning. It is hard to be heard when your personality is camouflaged in the backdrop. When not heard it is easy to feel jealous or 'green.' There needs to be contentment with yourself to be happy. To be perfectly honest I have felt 'green' for awhile.

The silliness of my shyness and timid nature annoys even myself. I wish my color was outlandish and screamed to be noticed. My gentle manner won't allow me the delicious freedom.  Possibly it is my conscience producing a head splitting migraine when wanting to swerve off course. Although not a a hint of sainthood, I attempt to walk a straight line at the current moment of time. To be honest, I rather stumble and fall over than keep on marching to the same tune.

While feeling jealous over what I want and can't have somehow melted in with feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Not fully leafy green or blue like the skies it appeared turquoise. It is a tricky shade to define. However, it is more blue than green.

There seems to be a richer stain of angst than actual envy. The somber mood dictates and controls moods and feelings. To get at the root there needs to be peeling back the coats of paint to get at the truth.

If you ever closely inspect a turquoise stone you will find an oddly shaped item. There are green splotches and black lines invading and bleeding through the creases. The stone has seen some wear within the elements. The stone seems to represent the state I linger in.

I try to be my own person and honoring individuality. I'm generally happy for people I care about. However, I am human and have moments of the green eyed monster. The black lines are the battle scars when trying to raise above the jealousy.

 The weathered stone is emotions and experiences that changed the size and shape of my heart. Indents of green are the effects of waves of jealousy that came crashing though leaving residue of the occurrence. While the stone is disfigured and flawed, it is still beautiful in it's own right.Truthfully there are things I need to work out, but it doesn't distract from the beauty others see in me. Nor the beauty I see within myself. Flaws and all.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When Bad Connections Happen to Good People By: Karen Pilarski

A bad connection causes wasted energy like static. It zings and zaps the one who is making the attempt. There is nothing worse then feeling time was not put to good use. Social media is about networking and sharing ideas. In the past six months since I graduated with my graduate degree, I have utilized this tool as much as possible. I have made many online friends and met up with a few for coffee.

 I'm currently reading and enjoying former Cosmo editor, Kate White's book "I Shouldn't Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know." (2012, Harper Collins). One of great tips she shares is the importance of networking. White says " You need to keep your networking going at full throttle. The chance to meet, talk, and get to know new people not only provides you with ton of great info but also many of them can become valuable resources if not today, at some point." White's idea is right on. The intern that is barely known in the office may seem like small potatoes now, she may become someone everyone wants to know within a year.

Remember when you were a child in preschool? You sat in the warm and crowded sandbox as another tyke waddled by. Without hesitation the following questions spills out of your mouth "Want to make a sand castle?"  The other little one responds "sure." Fast friends in two seconds flat. Being an adult tends to make people lose the spontaneity and unrestricted conversations. White also encourages 'chitchat' which means making small talk and expanding the discussion to include other topics. Use humor and connect to other people's interests and activities. In order to step outside the sandbox, learn about connection's backgrounds and what inspires them. When using a social media site I read the bio and profile descriptions. I identify a few similar patterns that can be used as a conversation starter.

Careers are uncertain and molding and morphing over time. The top person at a newspaper could be laid off and have to start back at the bottom of the stairs. The person who was stepped on along the way won't easily lend a hand. The tried and true adage is treat people how you want to be treated. As I have said in previous blog postings, I have met amazing people who are supportive and really take an interest in their connections. In life there are a small few bad apples that try to spoil the bunch.

I recently added a person as a contact using social media. The person is an writer and editor. The following was my message:

"Thanks for adding me on ****. I can only imagine how busy you are. How did you get your start in the writing business? Out of all of the respected accolades you earned, what meant the most to you professionally and personally?  I look forward to seeing how we can network together. Have a wonderful week! "

 It was short and sweet and frankly to the point. Expressing interest is an excellent way to get to know someone. If someone is busy they will respond with a quick thank you and talk to you soon message. Little did I know there was a rotten apple in my connections. This was the response I was emailed.

"My start is conventional: I studied journalism in college, worked on campus publications, secured newspaper internships and later full-time jobs. The accolades question I will pass on.   

Sometimes I accept *** invitations from people I do not know because most folks are looking to network professionally. Sometimes, I get queries from folks that, out of the pressure to be polite, I answer.


Respectfully, these out-of-the-blue queries that are meant to start conversations, well, I just don't have time for that. Of course, I will advise a student or professional transitioning into journalism. But I don't have time for aimless queries, and I think they are poor etiquette in an era when we are all pressed for time.


I wish you so much luck in your writing life. If you have a more direct question about how you can get into journalism, I will answer that. But, sorry, I don't have time for just getting to know people here on ***."

The person was so busy yet there was suddenly time to fire away with this snarky response. Secondly, why participate on social media you don't have time to get to know someone? Needless to say, this soured me on networking or even making small chit chat with this individual. Clearly the nameless person felt he/she was more important then he/she probably is. I would have preferred not receiving a response than having the rudeness put a damper on my day.

While bad connections happen from time to time, giving up on networking is not the answer. Recharge, relax and keep building relationships. For every jerk there is a person who will give you the time and their expertise to help you make your career dreams come true. Every successful person has been at the bottom of the stairs. They understand the struggles, obstacles and frustration that distracts the climb to the top. They also know the victorious feeling of making it past all those flights of stairs.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Very Hungry Human By: Karen Pilarski

Hunger is a basic need. We need to eat to survive and to grow. Everyone can recollect the childhood story of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” By Eric Carle. The caterpillar was bright and colorful.  His head was red and yellow circles for eyes. His body was a lush green shade with tints of dark and light undertones. Although he crept around, he was on a mission to satisfy his hunger.  No matter what he consumed he was still famished. The illustrations were realistic enough to make a person have a craving to bite through a pie, sausage and watermelon.

I have been thinking about the hunger for success or some attainment of a dream. When the prize is won and bellies are bulging with fullness, why am I still hungry for more? The caterpillar ate and ate until he was stuffed. He took a nap in his cocoon and transformed into a beautiful butterfly. That is the ultimate change. He fluttered away as a happy as could be. Why when individuals are free like an airborne butterfly, there is a feeling of being stuck to the ground? I hear complaints from friends they are stuck in the same job, relationship or location. I’m also guilty of feeling trapped in something I have grown tired of.

When I complain about feeling grounded, I hear “be happy for what you have.” It is human decency to show appreciation. Similar to the caterpillar, there are changes that happen within all of us. The beloved item from ten years ago may not be cherished to the same degree.

What worries me is the feeling that I will forever be hungry for something else. There is something whirlwind and exhilarating about newness. However, it is comforting to know that familiar face, scent or location has some meaning to me.  

The beauty of Carle’s story is when people least expect it, transformation occurs. Like a blossomed butterfly, there needs to be an adaptable spirit within wanting the change. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hair! By: Karen Pilarski

A college chum recently noticed how long my dark brown hair has become. 

What a feelings for the soft mane to dangle down to the middle of my back. 

A woman's hair is as important as the polish on her nails and the shoes on her feet. It makes the package complete.

As little girls, my sister and I yearned for long hair. Short hair made us appear to be tomboys. For some reason my mom put a cold metal salad bowl over my head and hacked my hair.
Oh how the sobbing ensued! 

My younger sister *Ann invented games to play. We pretended we were characters from the 80's show “Inspector Gadget”. I played Penny, who had blonde long ponytails. Ann said she was someone named Quansoka.  Ann apparently invented names as well. 

If a younger brother insisted on playing we made him be the dog, Brain. It was the 80's and everyone was obsessed with wild untamed hair. In my girlhood we had Bon Jovi and hair bands (Warrant, Whitesnake and Tesla). Even the men were able to grow their hair out! 

Since this was puberty, Ann and I were obsessed with cartoons. All the rage was “Jem and the Holograms”. She had layered pink hair and red flashing earrings. Oh, she was truly outrageous! Then there was Barbie and Princess of Power. Everyone seemed to have luminous, silky strands of hair.  

Besides imitating cartoons, Ann and I would put long shirts on our heads as if we actually had long hair. Looking back my face is flushed with embarrassment. Our oldest sister would howl with laughter. The oldest *Amanda would blow her brown hair out and dye it different colors sporadically.

Her bangs were curled, teased and hiked up sky high. There was a contact high from all the hair spray she used just on her bangs. 

Amanda was into Tiffany who was a popular singer in the decade of colors and sparkles. Tiffany had flaming red hair. Amanda dyed her hair red to emulate the pretty singer. I yearned for the feathered engine red long tresses.  

My hair grew at a snail's pace. My mom decided I should now wear ponytails. She yanked and pulled my short dark hair into two ponytails secured with rubber bands. She didn't believe in hair ties. Every last strand felt like it was being ripped from my scalp. 

Oddly enough it felt satisfying to feel the ponytail hit my face. I would whip my head back and forth to feel the smooth hair flying and tickling my neck. I desperately wanted my hair to grow beyond my chin. I would tilt my head back to feel wet strings of hair make contact with my upper back. Of course the oldest sister thought this was amusing too.

My mom used to make me wear saddle shoes and hideous sundresses with fruits on it. She even made me wear bell bottoms. To my horror the kids would tease me by screaming "Ding dong."

Through my teens and twenties I experimented with my locks.

 I cut it super short and dyed it black. When working as a cashier a little girl pointed and said "Look mommy, Posh Spice!" The Spice Girls were a big deal during the late 90’s. Although a close family friend, Pedro thought it looked good. Thanks for having my back man!  

My hair has been red, purple, black and unfortunately blonde. Someone had a good idea to bleach my hair in order to make my hair a hot red shade. 

I was living in the college dorms at the time. A maintenance person noticed the blonde tresses while on the elevator to get a soda. He said the blonde look hurt his corneas.
 At some point I was warned if I kept dying my hair it would fall out from all the abuse and chemicals.

Now in my thirties my hair is long but ironically I want to chop it off. Previous boyfriends begged me not too.
Maybe men and women share the same belief about hair. While it is merely decorative, it completes the look of a person.

 I feel the same emotions about clothes. I choose how to represent my physical self into the world. On occasion I still wear my hair in (low hanging) ponytails or in a braid. Is it a throwback to my younger days or just plain laziness?

 It is my choice how I want to look, whether it is a bowl cut, Cher’s hair or Whoopi Goldberg's dreads.
For me I don't think of my hair as a symbol of femininity. It is a source of freedom and creativity.
Anyway you want to wear it.

Tiffany "Feelings of Forever"

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mapping Out Marriage By: Karen Pilarski

My wedding day wasn't the dream wedding all little girls dream of. It was early June and quite humid inside the stuffy church. We didn't have much money when we decided to get married. Luckily some friends and family members chipped in and paid for a light lunch reception in the fellowship hall. I didn't even pick out my wedding cake. I had a horrid migraine and told my willing groom to pick out what he liked.

 I lucked out finding a clearance price prom dress that could work as a wedding gown. My mom made my veil. My childhood friend April helped me make wedding bouquets out of freshly cut roses. My groom wore his work pants instead of renting an actual tux. Our wedding was a small affair.

The big day didn't start out without a hitch. My bridesmaids were late for the ceremony, the wedding cake was not done correctly and I was heading for a Bridezilla meltdown. Somehow the wedding managed to start. I hate being the center of attention and was a bit fast going down the aisle. Some may think I was rushed to get hitched. Whatever the case was, I heard "SLOWWW DOWNNN."

The Pastor who did a few marriage counseling sessions with us wrote a sermon for our wedding. He had a map and a water bottle. My groom and I locked confused eyes. Unfortunately our wedding wasn't video taped or audio taped. The recollection of the sermon now is quite fuzzy and distorted. My makeup was melting off my face and the water bottle was looking more appealing than saying my vows. He asked my groom to hold the map. Eyes glazed over and fighting the urge not to give into heat exhaustion the sermon finally concluded.

We said our vows and had some cake. No flower toss or garter flinging. We barely got in a dance (no DJ or band) before people complained they wanted to eat cake.

It is funny to think about the map and water bottle five years later. My husband and I have certainly had ups and downs. Through it all we discovered a love of traveling and exploring what the world has to offer. He is the one who took me to New York for the first time. I used to think I would never get to experience the Big Apple. Some trips were better than others. We have fun not even leaving our hometown. One of my favorite memories was looking for a new table and going to a warehouse store that sold sale items. We goofed around and it was fun to make a big purchase together. Another highlight is taking the kids on their first plane ride to DC in the month of June. It was hotter than the sun but we learned so much. I even lost ten pounds from sweating so much.

We enjoy crossword puzzles, picnics, looking at books and antiques. He knows me so well. I as well. The bad part of knowing someone by heart, is you know when something is amiss or they have done something unacceptable. While everyone loves to hear that they were right, it seems more of relief when you are proved wrong. I carry blame for some things that have gone astray. We are mere mortals trying to survive.

Right now the road we travel seems to be filled with more bumps than flat surfaces. I worry there is a nail waiting for us to run over. It is hard to hold onto the feeling of forever when crashes keep us banged up and unable to move forward. Yesterday I was so upset that I packed up most of my things and was ready to leave him.

He sat on our bed with his head hung low as I put things in a suitcase. Then I remembered Pastor's sermon. When lost on a road a map or navigation device is needed. There are so many paths and arrows insisting a person moves a certain direction. Lines merge or split off into another lane. If all the static and noise is zoned out, a voice from within the heart leads us where we were meant to go. Anger is a powerful road block. If I took a step back, sipped from the water bottle and relaxed I would think more clearly. No matter what, I want my husband by my side. While five years ago the sermon bored me to tears, I know appreciate the words of Pastor. I look forward to where my map takes me, no matter where that might be.