Sunday, September 29, 2013

All Fall Down By: Karen Pilarski

"When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough." -

It was a nice warm day in late September. I was attending a bridal shower in a friend's newly purchased house. The house was huge with hardwood floors and yellow colored walls. I wore a black dress and black heels to the bash. My wardrobe choices were more appropriate to attending a funeral. People cheerfully drank and ate. Ribbons and flowered pattern wrapping paper were ripped to shreds.

I felt lonely since the house was huge and familiar faces seemed to have disappeared. I went searching for someone to talk to. I spotted a group of girlfriends hanging outside. Clumsily I missed a step and fell down. Hard. My leg was scratched up and the vein in my leg swelled. I jumped up as if I was just clowning around. My friend laughed as I whispered I really wasn't fine. I spent most of the early evening with my date the ice pack. The lousy thing was that I was very sober. No excuse or reason for the nasty fall. It made me think about choices, accidents and pain (physical and emotional).

The next day I attended a birthday dinner and heard about other people's incidents. A friend got into a car accident another friend became intoxicated and caused property damage. Another person's little daughter had lice and the night was spent shampooing her hair and picking out nits. Someone that is like a mother to me has been ill and was having more reoccurring health issues. Another person was struggling with the aftermath of divorce and the effects it has on her oldest child.

 "Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes."

Depending on the degree of the wound, it is patched  up with a band aid. Maybe the cut is too deep to stop the blood from oozing out. Self medication in the form of sex, drinking, smoking or eating is used to numb it. For a small duration the wound is forgotten. In the mornings after the indulgences is pity and shame. All the bitterness and sadness returns. We need to look at what is the source of the pain and confront it. Rip the band aid off and let wounds mend. If we fail in doing so it is no different than picking scabs off unhealed skin. The wounds end up becoming fresh again.

Then there are the thoughtless accidents. Mind is clear and thinking is rational, yet still mistakes occur. If if usually careful there is element of risk. We may take a stumble or trip up and it isn't our fault. All that we can do is dust ourselves off and keep moving.

 "When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on." -REM

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

La La Land: Population 1 By: Karen Pilarski

Good evening folks. Please keep those seat beats securely buckled. Why not sit back and relax? It is a quick flight there and back.  Today's flight plan is to La La land.  Ah La La Land, not as in glitzy Los Angeles or neon Las Vegas. This destination is never that far away.  The location is a few inches above the clouds. The scenery resembles icy snow drifts or endless scoops of vanilla ice cream. Dreaming is not the subject at hand. I’m talking about daydreaming. 
One of my brothers was being a goofball. On social media he posted that he was in Ireland and even tagged himself in locations there. I was stumped since he didn’t have a passport or funds to buy plane tickets. In a matter of minutes his profile indicated he was on his way to London and then Tokyo. A mutual friend tried to refute his alleged vacay bonanza. His response  was “I wanted to take a vacation.” To which my snide remark was “in your head!?”  At first I brushed it off as my younger brother acting immature. However, I kept thinking about it. It is nice to shut tired eyes and take a mental vacation somewhere pleasant.
 I found myself preparing dinner last night and zoning off into space. I was feeling under the weather and perplexed. I don’t know where my head went but noticed the water boiling and snapped back into the present. I normally day dream when working out on the treadmill. Some thoughts are romantic, some mean spirited and some well, I'll just keep to myself.
In all fairness, actual trips are not cheap these days. Vacations are frustrating with the planning, packing and family squabbles over what to do. I would love to flitter off to New York or France but sadly my bank account refuses to allow it. 
A split second vision of telling off someone that upset you is healthy. The therapeutic  aspect of daydreaming is to live out those few seconds in the mind and distress. Think of it as venting inside the mind.
A speedy mental vacation can break up a dull workday. It can also spark creativity and improve morale. My writer spirit is touched by things observed and by becoming lost in thought.  A song or a conversation jolts my poetic soul and I envision vignettes. Jotting down my thoughts allows the ideas to set in and turn into a writing piece.
This mental vacation theory reminds me of a story I read in grade school, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” I hear this was made into a movie starring Ben Stiller. A man who grew bored of his waking life daydreams of living out his desires.  However there are a selected number of people who decide to take a permanent  mental vacation (see my blog post “Bursting the Bubble”) from life. There are intense moments when fantasy does seem more appealing than the real world. However, the fantasy is not real. I’d rather physically and emotionally experience events.  While the daydream is certainly refreshing, it is more fulfilling to live out dreams in real life.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What to Expect When You are Not Expecting By: Karen Pilarski

A month ago I wrote a post about the perils of infertility. I received positive feedback from others who faced a similar emotional story. The touchy subject was pushed aside as I dealt with other stressful situations. Last week a friend brought her adorable baby into the office. I held the soft skinned baby in my arms. A small gurgle came from the sweet infant. Without an inkling suffocated feelings suddenly become spry once more. The rest of the day a heaviness seeped in and dark clouds hovered above me.

The past few weeks have been filled with turmoil. My stepson has been flippant with me and my husband. At fifteen he seems to be mirroring his father's youthful years. He is dating someone who is older and informing people he is 'engaged.' I'm sure readers, you can understand the anxiety and concern. When confronted he threatened to never visit his biological father again.

Friday both stepchildren were supposed to come home for the weekend. Only my stepdaughter arrived. While red face with anger, the impact of his absence is felt. Without my stepson at home it feels as though part of the foundation of our family is missing. The teenage years I detest with a high degree. When the frustration boils over I'm a bit relived to have to deal with it only for a few more years.  Imagine conceiving and have the torture years yet to come.

The mood swings over the past few weeks have been sullen and irritable. Money worries and unruly children certainly were poured in the mess. One minute I want to escape to New York away from all the problems. Then I realize that wouldn't set a good example for my troubled stepson. Besides soon both children will be adults and my husband and I can move wherever we want. If there was a baby it would be more difficult to pick up and go.

My stepdaughter, husband and I went to a street party where I grew up. Women with huge pregnant tummies waddled up and down the street. Strollers whizzed by with tiny creatures sleeping in them. I held back tears that welled up. I longed for my own pastel colored stroller to push and a small being to belong to me.

We then went to a concert that was put on by my alma mater. It was located in the park by my former high school. Kids screamed and threw fits around the park. Mothers and fathers yelled at the offspring to knock it off. On blankets couples snuggled and drank tea and chilled wine. The brisk air smelled of apples, hot popcorn and dried leaves. The mood was interrupted by a random wail or pouting. In my head I was thankful my stepchildren were no longer that small. However, the occasional fit or shrieking does come from the them at times. For the most part when the bad behavior erupts it is nice knowing they go back to their biological mother. If there was a baby it would be with us 24/7.

Over the past year I have gained weight. I have been trying to eat better and do Zumba again. The weight won't shed. I think if I became pregnant that would be extra pounds to lose. However with pregnancy there is a baby as a reward.

 In my own way I try to rationalize and make myself feel better for the dream unrealized. I try to focus on the other wishes such as writing for a living or taking a trip somewhere tropical.  I no longer have grad school to keep myself busy. I make up new distractions to keep the eyes from the blinding truth. Glasses of wine or yelling at my husband certainly has its advantages and disadvantages. The frantic up and downs, back and forth and constant reasoning make me dizzy. It just goes with the territory of dealing with infertility I guess. All these unique emotions I have grown to understand and to expect, while I'm not expecting.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bucket Vs.Salt By: Karen Pilarski

"Cheer up Charlie" sang Charlie Bucket's poor and disheveled mother. Viewers wept with him and rooted for the impecunious Bucket family in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The weak grandparents laid in bed holding onto hope that Charlie would win the prestigious golden ticket.

As it turned out for Charlie, his generosity put out the fiery competition.

Augustus Gloop, Mike Teevee, and Violet Beauregarde succumbed to temptation.

Who could forget bitter and greedy Veruca Salt?

When all the sugary dust settled, Mr. Wonka made Charlie sole owner of the factory. Credits rolled as bottled up fuzzy warm feelings exploded like syrupy fizzy soda.

Veruca was a snotty and privileged young lady. Most of the film was Veruca shrieking at her defeated father and making outrageous requests.

I am yet to fully comprehend what exactly a bean feast is.

I can relate to Charlie and even sympathize a bit with their plights.

Charlie Bucket was poverty stricken and I identify with growing up with little to eat. My large family ate food that could be compared to gruel.

As an older girl, it was my responsibility to tend to the younger children and help my mom. There was a candy store in my neighborhood to buy cheap treats.

Veruca Salt lived the life of luxury. Her father had a staff of workers unwrapping candy bars and wasting perfectly delicious chocolate.

She held her daddy in the palm of her bony hand.

The aspect of her that I admire is her assertiveness and eagerness to make things happen. Somehow the determination was weighed down with the greed.

Her journey went askew and she was labeled a bad egg.

Charlie's grandpa riled him up by saying he deserved the golden ticket "because he wanted it more." However, didn't all the children want it equally the same, albeit for different agendas?

Certainly the 'stage' parents were bad influences. Even saintly Grandpa Joe talked Charlie into goofing around in the bubble room.

At times I can act restive and irritable like Ms. Salt. I feel compelled to retrieve my own damn golden ticket. I have waited and worked hard my whole life.

 I just want a win.

On more than one occasion I have been hushed with a "You need to learn some patience." However, behind the towering shadow of impatience is fear. I'm scared of turning gluttonous and lazy. Most of all, I don't want to be sedated from accomplishing my goals.

It has been said patience is a virtue. A high level of goodness human beings should attain. My short stature doesn't allow me to reach that far up.

Similar to the character of Charlie, I also am the bearer of a heart of gold.

The reality is an imperfect world I dwell in with cracks in sidewalks and crooked smiles. Within me is a Bucket and Salt.

I ponder what happened a decade after the glass elevator burst through the windows of the factory.

Charlie and Veruca probably matured into adults. One day there was a sudden spark of attraction. Veruca pushed Charlie to have some assertivenss and he taught her kindness.

They were wed in a lavish ceremony complete with cream buns and doughnuts. Also served was fruitcake with no nuts and gourmet gruel for the Bucket side of the family.

Veruca wore her chocolatey brown hair in long braids per her request. Charlie wore one of Grandpa Joe's jackets.

Willy Wonka himself officiated.

The couple drifted down the chocolate river with bells ringing and tears of happiness flowing.

Charlie hired Slugsworth to manage the factory while he and Veruca settled down in a modest home in the outskirts of town.

A short time later they had their own Bucket/Salt. The blissful couple welcomed a daughter, Josephina (after his grandpa Joe). Josephina was a mixture of sour and sweet.

The baby was even tempered but her anger would get the better of her. 

The steam from her ears was hot enough to melt wax.

Ironically she was sweet to those less fortunate then her.

Like any normal person, she had sincerity but also a pinch of salty assertiveness to pave her way to what she wanted. That is the hidden message of the movie.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back To The Past By: Karen Pilarski

This past weekend felt like I was back in high school and college. I had vacation hours to burn so I took Friday and Monday off. On Friday my friend and colleague *Maria asked me to go over to our friend and colleague named *Susan's house for happy hour. We sat outside and gossiped and drank beer. Normally I prefer red wine but a cold brewed beer sounded appealing.

I am the one in the green pants.
The iPod blared classic rock tunes. Susan's husband offered to run to the store for snacks for us. Maria asked for puffy Cheetos. He came back with a huge bag. Moistened orange fingers kept reaching into the bag. Snorts of laughter and guzzling down drinks kept us occupied.

Susan mentioned her neighbor who was borderline psychotic. As women over thirty we proceeded to run down the street and making noises and giggling loudly by the neighbor's house. So this wasn't our best hour but it was fun to cut loose and act immature. Later in the evening we ordered Pizza Hut and gossiped some more about work, our husbands and family. On the way out the door I snatched a beer to put in my fridge at home. I laughed that I 'scored' some beer.

It reminded me of spending time with my friend April when we were kids (minus the beer). I would run across the street to her house and we would play with our Jem dolls or dance to records. We made homemade pizza and goofed around with Nintendo. Although I never was into video games. April's dad would rent a VHS for us to watch with them. Embarrassingly I remember working out to Alyssa Milano's exercise tape. We also ordered on Pay Per View. Back in the day we watched New Kids On The Block live in concert on there. We would go outside and taunt the stuck up girl named Julie who lived next door to April.

Saturday I went for a walk with my husband and then went to the mall with my brother. That night I went to my brother's house and had a small family party since it was his birthday weekend. My siblings brought out Super Nintendo and proceeded to play Mario Cart. Screaming and shrieking ensued. It took me back to being kids and being caught up in the thrill of beating each other.

My husband brought up the point how our children won't experience the same things we did. There are events and items from our lifetime that they don't even know existed. When we were younger MTV actually played music videos. Now it is all reality television shows and an occasional throwback cartoon like Beavis and Butthead. Children of today never had to deal with literally waiting by the phone. The phone was secured to the wall and it was unheard of to have a phone in your pocket. They never heard of a floppy disk or a heavy tape recorder. As kids we played outside because being inside was really dull.

In the current youth there are things we never thought would actually exist. Many of us in our thirties and beyond weren't able to comprehend 'twerking' or 'Gangnam Style.' People lose their minds over "Game of Thrones." In the hay day of my youth it was who shot JR on Dallas. As I aged it was about Ross and Rachel on "Friends."

The funny thing about nostalgia is it passed onto the next generation. My stepson still has pillows from when he was a toddler and a VHS of a Disney movie. My stepdaughter keeps her stuffed animals and mementos from when she was a wee baby.

Everyone has traditions that are passed on. My mom put on Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and other holiday staples from her younger years. My stepdaughter and I love watching my dvd of "The Thorn Birds." The kids also get a big kick out of playing trouble the Zolo (my maiden name) way. This means when a peg is jumped, the player gets to chuck it across the room. My stepson was turned on to the Beatles and Weird Al from family members.

While the years and technology speeds along it is reassuring that every so often there is a throw back to the past. It is what keeps us connected to what was and what will be.

Vintage MTV commercial from the 80's.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gone Fishing By: Karen Pilarski

Me in high school (senior prom)
Last night I watched "13 Going on 30" (2004) with my sister and stepdaughter. The plot involves a 13 year old wishing she was 30. The wish is granted and she (as Jennifer Garner) finds life isn't as wonderful as she thought it would be. My nephew and stepson are 15 and 16. Both think they have all the answers yet lacking the actual test. In teen land parents are evil and controlling. Siblings are little minions to be rejected or annoy. Homework is a useless form of punishment. Family members are humiliating.

In the teen years a romantic interest can change a few times in a month or week. While the feelings of lust and love are intense, it doesn't last forever. If only teens would understand, as parents we don't have all the answers. Just life experience no matter how stupid it appears to them. The young hearts refuse the notion that there are a million fish in the sea. Every perspective partner is not a great catch. I have been 'fishing' since my early teens and from experience I know this well.

When I was a teenager I had the same immature ideologies. My first real boyfriend was a big loser. *Jake had long dirty and greasy hair and reeked of 'Molly'. He dropped out of school and worked at Pizza Hut. My dad hated him and even tried to have him investigated. My siblings referred to him as "dirty Jake." The song "Leader of the Pack" was played to tease me about my tough and dangerous sweetie. After a fight one day Jake bent down and asked me to marry him. His pledge of eternal love lacked a ring and was preformed next to dog poop, but whatever. I agreed but was scared to tell anyone I was engaged at fifteen.

The daydream of mine was to get married by the time I hit my early twenties and have five children. On a Pizza Hut salary this wasn't going to happen. On top of that he lived with his pot head buddy and there were cockroaches crawling everywhere. I told him to quit smoking weed. He obliged. After a few weeks my sister admitted to me that Jake came up to her one day and confessed he was high. Then a close friend mentioned she helped him score some pot. I sent my friend on her bike with a note breaking up with Jake. At least I didn't have to be Mrs. Leader of the Pack.

At eighteen I was dating another guy from high school. My dating preferences went to the other end of the spectrum. His name was *Greg and he was a bit of a geek. His brown hair was spiked high. His face was full of acne. My brothers referred to him as "spiked zits." He spoiled me with gifts. He was very nice to me but I knew I would never go all the way. I was really horrible to him. My home life was rough and after graduation we lived together for a few months. So young and dumb. The breakup wasn't a big surprise to us or anyone in our sphere of influence.

Nineteen and working hard in retail I met a guy who was eight years older than me. *Josh was a singer and very charming. My family warned me that was a bad idea. He had been divorced and had a daughter he didn't see. As you probably guessed, he was bestowed a nickname too. "The lounge singer." I'll admit that nickname was clever. We dated three glorious weeks and I gave into him pressuring me to go all the way.

One night I was sick of the nagging and begging and lost my virginity. It wasn't romantic like I thought it would be. No slow music and satin sheets. There was no kissing or gentleness. Afterwards he drove me home.The next day I was promptly dumped. Only I heard about the break up at work and not from Josh. However, I kept going back to him even though he didn't want anything serious. I was far too stupid to realize this. In college I still hung onto my intense infatuation for Josh. I even dated a guy in his band. It didn't end well. I cheated on the guy from the band with Jake. I dated a few other people but it was short lived.

I was in my middle twenties when I met Jason who would be my husband. Even that didn't start off the greatest. I had to throw him back in the sea a few times. Finally after one fishing expedition, Jason became a catch.

Often people become stuck on the ones who make the stomach fill with fluttering butterflies. If I had settled on the first 'fish' I caught I would have been miserable. It took a bunch of bad relationships and years of mistakes to get to the one.

 Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff.  "Parent's Just Don't Understand."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bursting the Bubble By: Karen Pilarski

At times we can all live in our own bubbles. A place where everything beyond the soapy exterior fails to exist. Light bounces off causing the vision to be full of pretty colors. It is understandable there is no rush to have clearer eyesight. In happiness, the bubble floats and bumps along with the breezes that whirl around. The downfall while residing in the bubble, we often forget about the feelings of others and act inconsiderate. There are three types of bubbles: Living in the past, Living too much in the present and living in the fantasy.

Living in the past. These are people who want their timeline to stall. Maybe it was a less traumatic time or was a blissful span of years. Comfort lies in the familiar. An example would be an ex husband who can't move on from divorce. The ex wife is now remarried and he is still eating canned ravioli and crashing on his friend's ripped couch. Every night he watches his scratched up home video of his Vegas wedding.

He has a new girlfriend but all he can think about is the past. There is no harm in holding onto precious memories or reminiscing from time to time. It becomes problematic when there is no willingness to let other people into the bubble. How awful for the new person who keeps getting hit over the head with the past. At times the person becomes dizzy from all the aspects of past hitting and smacking the face.

Living too much in the present. The days are busy and so much needs to get done. Picking up the kids from soccer, making it to a meeting on time and putting dinner on the table. There is just not enough hours in the day to get it all done that other things tend to suffer. Like manners.

Best friend A has a full time job, three children and a marriage. Best friend 2 has a similar lifestyle. Best friend 2 planned a dinner date and best friend 1 cancels a few times in a row. All could be forgiven if someone would pick up the phone and ask how she was doing. What is inconsiderate is inviting a friend to go for drinks simply because another plan didn't work out. Another thoughtless action is meeting up with the hidden agenda to skip out early to do something else.

Living in the fantasy. I'll admit my mind wonders off and I daydream about being rich or owning a newspaper. Almost immediately I snap out of it and clear my head. There are those people who have a certain veiled view of themselves. Friends who think they are prettier than Miss America or smarter than President Obama. Family members who know it all. Colleagues who belittle the ones they feel don't measure up to their level of intelligence. While the fantasy is often better than the reality, it is no picnic to be around the person who lives in this bubble.

Maybe there needs to be more honesty in our lives and with each other. If someone does something that is rude or thoughtless, call them on it. There is no need to be harsh or ridiculing. If the relationship didn't matter the hurt feelings wouldn't exist. If the bubble is still there, then maybe let it float along on its own. One day the bubble will burst but then they have to figure out how to live in the now.

Have and Have Not By: Karen Pilarski

Stacks of self help books about writing and job searches placed on the desk next to notepads and highlighters. Hours spent on social media creating a 'presence.' Each week typing up an inspirational blog post to share. Sending out innovative resumes in the ongoing quest for a writing position. Aiming high as the sky by submitting things to The New Yorker or other publications. Understanding that I'm doing everything right and that one day it will all pay off.

I hear of friends and acquaintances buying homes and having babies. They post pictures of the new bundle of joy or standing in front of a new house on social media. The news is exciting but tends make the ones who don't have these things feel stagnant in their wants. The 'have nots' tend to bog down the determination. At times when hitting a brick wall, I am left feeling quite dejected.

No one can say I don't try my best. My mom and teachers always said "Karen tries hard or doesn't give up." School wasn't easy for me. Math was a skill I didn't have within me. Those word problems were tricky and confusing. Anything involving a train A and B or packs of chocolate chips sent me screaming for the hills. Add (ugh) algebra into it and my brain went into a tailspin. Throughout all the F's I was not defeated against the equations. The conclusion was passing with a 'D.' It was a hard earned D. I got through the difficulty and succeeded.

After high school I fell into the work trap. I worked at a department store and had a regular paycheck. The continuous flow of money felt wonderful. However, as a few years past I noticed how many of my high school classmates were finishing up college. I felt jealous I wasn't doing the college thing. Anytime I heard a friend say they were tired from studying or partying I pitied myself.

The final straw was when my colleague Amanda took me to see her dorm room at a local university. It looked like a mini apartment. I lived near a private college and due to it being close to my house I applied. I even took a tour of it and even stayed overnight. I was hooked. Now I have a Bachelors Degree and a Masters Degree.

Hard work doesn't scare me. Failure does. It is as dangerous as smoke is to lungs. The blackened caked on soot of rejection makes it hard to come up for air. I am not one to let a dream die under such depressing circumstances. I'd rather try every path possible to find the location in life that I seek. The journey is daunting and discouraging when others soar right to the top. It seems they don't even have to try. There is a sense of unfairness in the whole process. For once I would like get what I want quickly. Sure, it is said when things come too easy it is not as greatly appreciated. When the sticky residue of losing lingers I feel less compelled to even make another attempt.

I truly believe the motto that anything worthwhile is difficult. One day the stars will align.. In the meantime, I have support of family and friends who care about me. I have lovely people who read my writing and pass it along. I have a belief in myself that diminishes the ugly 'have not' emotions that darkens the heart. A belief that the struggles, frustrations and failures I'm enduring will not define my spirit. It will not define the successes I will find.