Monday, January 27, 2014

Wrap It Up! By: Karen Pilarski

Karen Pilarski, future Oscar winner!
“Wrap it up!” The message on the monitor flashes and blinks, like a stop light. Eyes bug out in sheer panic. Drops of sweat drip down the powdered forehead.

Clumsy hands clutch the golden award as toothy models surround the stage. The statue is heavier than at first thought and slippery. 

Whatever happens, don’t drop it or the “F” bomb.  

“Wrap it up!” 

Somehow a voice cracks and squeaks. A few words manage to escape the mouth as the orchestra sounds.  

Fighting off sobs, musical notes and time, the winner is unceremoniously ‘played off.’  

Then there is the dreaded fallout. 

The spouse seems agitated and an agent appears miffed. Cast members barely make eye contact. The Media reporters are still scratching heads at the last few comments spoken. 

In a pace of what seems like the speed of light, who was forgotten? Can gibberish be transcribed?

It has been said there are no do-overs in life. That is certainly true in award acceptances. Minus the violins and microphones that are observed dropping from sight. 

While many of us don't live in the limelight like super stars, I certainly can relate to being put on the 'spot.'

I have sympathetic feelings for all the entertainment notables during award season.

Especially for Taylor Swift, who at last night's Grammys  had a slightly embarrassing moment. She and her team were cheering until they heard another name being called for best record of the year. 


I had my money on Swift. I admire her songs and the meaning behind them. There is something real and personal about her music. I suppose I don't blame her for thinking she had won. 

As a writer, I'm more at ease typing on a keyboard than I am speaking in front of people.

In college I have had timed presentations. 

Once I spoke on my media study about missing children in the media. I was cut off and I had so much meaty subject matter to share. 

While not accepting an Oscar or Emmy, I know what it feels like to be played off. 

 I felt empathetic for Cate Blanchett during her shining moment in the SAG awards.  Matthew McConaughey (a beautiful man) was talking about Neptune and the acting process. 

Due to the producers of the show, Blanchett only had a fraction of the time to accept her award. She was humorous and her words touching. Even as the music faintly started and grew louder, she finished her speech.

We all have nervous energy and snap decisions are based off of being rushed. 

It is a wonderful feeling to win such a coveted award. However, what people remember in the years later is who said what. 

I can learn some life lessons from award shows. Be humble, show appreciation and remember you are human. 

Remember there is a message waiting to be shared. Make it count and make it memorable. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Gender Illusionists By: Karen Pilarski

Jared Leto‘s riveting portrayal of  “Rayon” in Dallas Buyers Club has earned him many accolades. From the inspirational to the amusing, here is a list of other notable gender bender roles in film.

1.       Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry , 1999)- Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon


Swank’s  emotional and vulnerable portrayal of Brandon/Teena. Brandon was a transgendered young man who was murdered in 1993. Swank won her first Academy Award for the role. 

2.       Jaye Davidson The Crying Game , 1992)- Dil


Dil was being protected by her dead boyfriend’s friend. During a passion infused scene it becomes abundantly clear that Dil is actually a man.

3.       Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975)- Dr. Frank N. Furter


Curry’s kinky and depraved role as "a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania."  

4.       Patrick Swayze (To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, 1995)- Vida Boheme


Vida and her pals make over a small town. They impart their pizazz and fashion lessons on the suffering residents.

5.       Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs, 1991)-Buffalo Bill-

A serial killer who murders obese women in order to use their skin. Remember the scene in front of the mirror? Enough said.

6.       Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, 1982) Dorothy 

An arrogant actor who couldn’t catch a break.  That is until he created “Tootsie” and won over the sudsy sinners on and off television.

7.       Nathan Lane (Birdcage, 1996) Albert Goldman

 A flamboyant drag queen who headlines the nightclub that he and his lover own. Albert has to stifle all the glam and glitz to appease his boyfriend's son's future in laws.  

The moral of the story is to be true to yourself and don’t allow society to cage in who you really are.

8.       Anthony Perkins (Psycho, 1960 ) Norman Bates 

Managing the Bates Motel and peeping on cute blondes doesn’t set Norman Bates apart from the other names on the list. 

His hears his deceased mother’s voice telling him to murder. In true homage to the homicidal matriarch he dons a bun styled wig and a tattered dress. 

Blood shed aside, why he wouldn’t even hurt a fly. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bad Vision By: Karen Pilarski

Crackled spectacles, lenses scratched up around the rims. Eyes squinted, tried to brush the sleep out from the edges. The universe looks blurry without proper vision.

 Moods cold like the winters, layering frost over eyesight. An honest truth, we see ourselves in how we think others see us.

Ralphie from "A Christmas Story."
Perhaps it comes growing up with a heavy handed father who never provided a morsel of praise or encouragement. Family environment was stuffy and crowded with siblings.

The self is the worst enemy. I'm very hard on myself.

Lately I've had a slight fog of depression clouding above. The conditions press me down. I keep hearing whispers of "Your ship will come in" and "Don't lose faith."

While it is nice to feel supported, I still feel horrid that I haven't accomplished my goals. On top of that realization is the observance of others having their dreams come true.

Deep down I know things come easier for some for a multitude of reasons. I would never take away someone's victory of success. There is defeating sensation that I can't attain a similar victory.

The real failure is that I allow the decreasing sense of my own talent. I rain on my own parade. Thoughts that shower down are I shouldn't bother or that it just won't happen for me.

No one can say the lack of winning is for a lack of trying. Being a hard worker is a strong suit of mine. I've always struggled with math.

In eighth grade I was assigned the dreaded Mr. Bitasche. Students despised the frumpy guy with weird curly untamed hair. His demeanor was not unruly like his mane.

By the books and strict with a personality of a wall. The nickname bestowed upon him was 'Mr. Bite Ass.'

His math class was hell. The chalky residue on fingers from all the equations the class had to solve.

Those with a lower level of math aptitude felt on the spot and stupid. Especially when chalky hand prints showed up on the back of dark colored pants.

Even though I had a rough teacher and lack of mathematical genius, I still managed to try my best. Mr. Bitasche took me aside on the last day of eighth grade to tell me I passed, barely.

He said "You are a very conscientious student and young lady." Then he gave me an innocent pat on the hand. I never forgot what he said. When I feel the world is against me or feel like a failure I remember the praise.

The inclination that strikes me is not what a person did or said but how they made me feel.  The notion sticks with me when I feel slighted or tossed aside.

Then it hits me like an icy snowball in the eye. I should care less how I think people see me and more work on how I see myself.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Fighter By: Karen Pilarski

It is strange to think about cancer. How can the body turn against itself? Why can't humans figure out a cure?

It has no prejudices or qualms about who it strikes.

The deadly disease took away so many loved ones. It threatened my mom, sister, my sister-in-law, friends and colleagues. When I hear of people having cancer, it makes my heart ache. In a childish way, I can only stammer "It's not fair."

Dreaming of the day when it is no more and no one would be put in the ring to fight. Awaiting the day when the boxing gloves could be hung up and retired.

My sister in law, a true cancer fighter and survivor.
If only tears of sorrow and hope could dissolve into liquid and form an antidote. A vaccine of superpower potency and sheer inspiration. The medicine would be warm like the human spirit and taste of chocolate and wine.

No more drippy candles and rose petal splashed coffins. No more long somber goodbyes.

There is much ugliness and suffering that defines cancer. However, it doesn't define those who have battled. In everything there is beauty and victory.

A bloodied boxer, swollen eye and bruised lip still stretches out hands to punch. Even if knocked out temporarily the boxer pounces up and keeps swinging.

Crowds cheer then hush in dramatic pause. An upper cut slam and the the opponent falls to the ground in defeat.

Even if the fight was lost, it doesn't make it less victorious. In fact, the losing shines a light on the constant battle against cancer.

All the names of souls that ascended up to heaven, become spectators of other battles. They watch above us understanding the journey that lays ahead and rooting us on as a cheering section.

The memory of loved ones are like a warm robe after the final round. It comforts the fighter and cools down sweat drenched skin.

That is how I envision a person's fight against cancer. The fight is motivating and the way human kind bands together is nothing short of a miracle. At times the person is the underdog against cancer.

My money is always on the underdog. I place my bets on the fighter.

Causes that I support:

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin

American Cancer Society Relay for Life

 Mesothelioma Awareness

Angie Mack Reily, a writer friend of mine needs help with cancer reconstructive surgery costs.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Biz By: Karen Pilarski

Someone close to me has been experiencing a rough time lately. Without divulging her name or situation I'll just leave it that she needs to find a job.

 I called *Susan while she was glossing over the classifieds. She seemed sad that she didn't have the experience needed to find an office job. She spent her adult life being a wife and mother.

We chatted about the horrific job market. I too had observed the hardship and painstaking journey of finding a decent job in my field. Susan stated "How do you get the experience if no one is willing to give you the chance?"

Susan knew my ordeal. I had two degrees but lack of 'years' of  so called experience haunted my search.

Susan is a very fun person. She is outgoing and borders on flirtatious if the right moment comes upon her. She is devoted and passionate.

 In the past she worked as a manager in the fast food industry and countless ofter valuable customer service roles.

 I shared my own job history with her.

After high school I fell into the work trap. There was a routine that I fell into. Work most of the week and get a paycheck. I didn't start college until I was in my twenties. Susan fell into the housewife trap. She married young and her husband brought in the bacon.

Susan worked in various jobs and found some great skills. She was a great customer oriented person. She could sell and haggle like no one's business.

I hate to brag but I even took Susan along when I bought my last vehicle. She scored me a good deal!

On the phone call last Friday I told her she should find a job that highlights her skills. She is modest and downplays her accomplishments.

 This lady is shark at deals and is out for blood. "I don't have experience." She whined. In the 45 minute conversation she disclosed fantastic employment history. She was a top seller in her design sales.

She sold many pieces and won accolades. She worked in a tanning salon and was a crucial part of customer service. I said "Wait, you have no experience yet you just shared all this great pieces of job history?"

Susan needs to go into business herself. I mentioned in earlier posts that someone told me I should invest in myself. Well, Susan is sitting on a goldmine!

She could be the "Negotiator" I joke. She is a people person and has a way with making people at ease. Susan is fun and energitic. She has all this hidden talent but no opputunity to let her shine.

I know the feeling. I've been told I should just be my own business. Susan could be a buyer at a company or an advisor to help land a person a deal. She knows how to schmooze and be relatable. She loves travel and getting deals while traveling.

 My passion is writing. I could teach a class on writing a letter to realtive or a compaint letter. I could charge to write love poems and notes for socially inept people. If I really focused I could write a book.

Susan is inspiring and talented. I'm organized, passionate, sensitive, responsible and creative. She is innovative and resourceful. She is a terrific people person and sales person.

Someone would be a fool not to hire both of us. If anyone could thrive on their own business it would be her. For someone who puts themselve down, she is actually inspiring and one of the best busienss sssavy people I know.

Her best assets is being herself wich means she is valuable and remarkable.

A fool for anyone who wouldn't hire her. I could learn alot from Susan. Oh wait, I have.

I'm a richer person for knowing her.

If anyone is interested in hearing more about more about "Susan" or myself , feel free to message me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thirty-Four Going on Thirty-Five By: Karen Pilarski

"You wait, little girl, on an empty stage
For fate to turn the light on
Your life, little girl, is an empty page."

Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music. (1965)

Hair raised in fright, ghastly shrieks echoing from the bathroom. A silver strand of hair was observed and I nearly had a heart attack. That was when I turned thirty years old, my appointed scary age.

Despite the unfortunate discovery, my birthday was uneventful. Homemade birthday cards from my stepchildren and flowers from my new husband. My thirtieth birthday was celebrated with heckles from younger colleagues and family members.

Quietly I reassured myself that I was still young and that I could panic when I turned thirty-five. Tonight is the eve of the scary age birthday.

My husband amuses himself by pointing out the grey in my dark brown mane. "Hey, hon I found three more" he would cackle.

Disgusted I looked up at the mirror in the car, there they were. Glistening and shining almost screaming to be noticed. Recoiling, I recalled my mom inspecting her dark tresses frequently when I was a pipsqueak.

"Remember, if you pull one, many more come to it's funeral."

That didn't prevent her from engaging in a strand-a-thon. In the white porcelain sink there were a few gray hairs matted down by a pool of water.

You know what, she was right. A million more did come to the funeral. She couldn't pluck out those suckers fast enough. The follicles were untamed weeds taking over her scalp.

Of all the funny nuggets of wisdom from my mother, I remember the grey hair one the most. Oh and don't be bringing home any babies.

Eventually she grew accustomed to hair dye but it took a few scary ages for her to get to that breaking point. Perhaps she grew tired of unclogging the sink drain.

Where the hell did my youth go? I recall when I was able to pull an all nighter before an exam. Talking on the phone to a boyfriend until the wee hours and being able to function on a few hours of shut eye.

The energy disintegrated within the sands of time. Back in the day I could get by on a hour of sleep ready to conquer the world. In my thirties a lack of sleep equals a lady drooling and groggy.

Anxiety and turmoil was interspersed along the years. However, it worsened after my twenties. In grad school I developed a nasty insomnia spell.

 I envied my stepchildren and how they stayed up till the cows came home. They probably had the opportunity to take a snooze in a boring class. I had no such luxury.

In the past I have written about my fertility issues. Soon after we were married, my husband and I went to a reproductive specialist. We didn't have the money to go through with treatments. The doctor said "You are still young, you still have time."

When leaving the doctor's office all I could think was "Awww, he said I'm young." The rest of the defeating news was an afterthought. My stepchildren are now teenagers and frankly a new reason for the insomnia and grey hair. The desire to have a baby has taken a backseat to getting through the horrible teenage years.

January 7th, I turn thirty-five. Why are the thirties so tormenting? Is it because of the 'life check' we all do? Life check means interrogating ourselves by asking the following:

1. Am I where I should be at this age?
2. Do I need to make a change?
3.How close am I to completing a goal?

I'm sure by now I may have alienated readers over thirty-five. Trust me when people say thirty is a scary age it feels like several sharp harpoon stabbing at once.

I'm with you when you over hear a twenty something declare they are old. I too want to slap the youth off them.

Am I where I want to be? Well, no. I don't thing anyone at any age can say there are where they want to be. Even when dreams are realized it is without 100% happiness.

Hiding beneath the surface like those grey are regret, yearning and unsatisfied emotions. In a vulnerable state of being, those feelings make themselves known.

So here I am on the eve of my birthday, living how I'm supposed to be right now. Successes are coming but not without hard work. I'll make the rest of thirties count, one grey hair at a time.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Year of the Self By: Karen Pilarski

My year has been tough in terms of life, love and career. I've made a point of consistently writing blog posts hoping it would build up my career and become a therapeutic tool. 

It has been a year since I completed grad school and I still have yet to find the job I want. I have networked, wrote emails, sent resumes, even contemplated going back for another degree. I surrendered to my fear of social media.

A novice at first, I have managed to learn the robes to the fast paced social media like Twitter and LinkedIn.

When my LinkedIn account was created, I observed several people saying they work at 'self.'

At first I thought that was silly. Foolishly I assumed it was because the person was unemployed or looking for another position. However, reflecting back I now think it is poetic to say one works at 'self.'

Who doesn't want to be in charge of their own career and life?

This whole complicated process has left me feeling like my former teenage self.  Self loathing of having restrictions and boundaries placed on my aspirations.

While I have many contacts and followers who find my heartfelt words comforting, I have also been bombarded by criticism and bullies (online and offline). A few times written words have been used against me.

A typical teen cares immensely about what their peers think and the desire to be seen as cool. I'm very guilty of possessing similar qualities.

Insecurity and wanting to be part of world of journalism has been commonplace. Often it is as if I'm grounded at home watching successful writers play from out the nose smudged window.

Second guesses about the amount of talent within me lingers in the air. The air becomes so thick with frustration and toxic thoughts.

Doubts slip through the cracks of the door and freezes confidence. Every rejection letter is a disappointment that barricades me in place.

I rather break the glass window and be done than continuing to struggle for breath. Wanting to give up, the pen is tossed on the floor.

Despite it all, with intense might, I still try. At times I can be my own worst critic.

On an especially grueling day I told someone about feeling depressed about the lack of movement in my career. His response? "Go into business for yourself."

He then told me how more and more people are building their own personal company or brand. The economy is in poor condition and jobs are thinning out. Employers look at extensive experience and higher degrees for hiring. It appears talent and determination are put lower on the list of great qualities.

Chuckling to myself, I recalled the term "selfie." The social media trend where a person (mostly teenagers) takes their own picture and plaster it online.
While some aspiring writers may give up the dream, I'm not one to surrender to fear and rejection.

Writers are special in that we feed off misery and struggle. As a writer, my mind figures out the mess and translates it into beautiful words. There is no shame of taking a 'written selfie', meaning posting our blogs or advertising ourselves.

Why not make 2014 about the self? If I can't secure a full time writing job, than I can keep working on my writing and supporting other writers. 

When all the doom and gloom is dusted away, it is realized the door was always open. A new attitude was the key to unlocking it the whole time.

Strife inspires me and shoves the dropped pen back in my trembling hand.

"Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield