Monthly Archives: April 2017
Objectively speaking, writing hasn’t been going well lately. Blog posts are late. Everything else has stopped entirely.
This is in spite of the fact that I have a plethora of new experiences to draw on. I have a new part-time job I love; I’ve been attempting freelance writing; I found a bakery, a restaurant, and two bars I enjoyed; I even changed my own tire.
Theory one: The problem is the writing itself. Looking back on the work I did last year, I was experimenting with styles and that made it fun to write and fun to read.
Theory two: While I have been finding inspiration in my hometown, the environment in which I actually write (my desk/writing corner) is intimidating, making it difficult to work.
Theory three: My emotional state has left it difficult to find the energy to do things and write about them.
Theory four, and this one has legs: Some combination of the three where the problems compound so it becomes impossible to overcome any one of them.
Other things happening right now:
- Thanks to my AMAZING employee discount, I own a $600 bag but my debit card got declined for a $13 purchase at the grocery store. The irony. But I still haven’t used my credit card since I got this job, and the purse was a MILLION percent off, so I don’t feel bad about it. I just find it hilarious.
- Brad Paisley’s new CD came out last week and, for the first time in years, I haven’t bought it yet and don’t know if I will. I didn’t love the singles “Without a Fight” or “Today,” which was unusual in itself.
- I’ve been feeling sick lately. No water + no vegetables = sick Kari. Time to go back on Weight Watchers because it’s the best way I’ve found to keep me personally accountable to healthy eating and exercise.
- After going through old “keepsakes,” I got rid of a ton of papers from high school and all but three trophies. It’s funny, the things that mattered back then: the grades, the test scores…I kind of wish I’d done more stupid things at that age.
- The new Power Rangers is a fantastic movie, and you should go see it in theaters. I also really loved Sense and Sensibility, and I miss Alan Rickman SO much.
- Planning to do some fun things in May, leading up to something REALLY COOL in June. There will be a blog post about it, but if you want pictures or specific updates…
This is going to be a little different than other Book Club Thursday posts. This is the academic essay I wrote for my Columbia University application. I was asked to write a response to a recent book I had read.
I believe no two people ever read the same book; we each bring our own experiences to our readings. If you’ve never lost anyone, for instance, Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home may not speak to you as loudly as it does me.
Brunt’s story handles loss beautifully. Like grief, the book starts out heavy, almost too heavy to read, and becomes lighter as it goes. The first-person narration allows the reader to traverse the grief process as the main character does, but its true brilliance is how it includes her family’s grief as well.
Finn, the man whose death starts the story, creates a painting also titled Tell the Wolves I’m Home, prompted by his AIDS diagnosis. When he asks his niece to sit for it, he simply says it’s because she and her sister are “at the right age” (pg. 106). Since it’s clear by the time it’s completed that he painted it because he was dying, it can be inferred that he has gone from denial to acceptance during its creation (pg. 1). In his final days, he asks his partner Toby to add five buttons to the portrait, sending him and his nieces on their own journey through the five stages of grief (pg. 42; 183). June, the narrator and youngest niece, begins to understand its purpose when she finds a wolf in the painting’s negative space. Her uncle, the artist, taught her to see what wasn’t there through the things that were, just like she could see her uncle’s absence in the rest of her life (pg. 114-115).
June, her sister Greta, and their mother Danni are all mourning Finn’s death, but they have lost other things they must grieve for as well. As they pass through the five stages of grief, the portrait undergoes its own changes.
When it is first brought to the girls’ home, shortly after the funeral, Danni is not ready to remove it from its black garbage bag wrapping. Thinking of Toby, she says, “Just thinking about him…You’d think things would turn out a little bit fair.” (pg. 26). As the book progresses, it becomes obvious she blames Toby for the AIDS that killed her brother and her brother’s insistence on “coming out” as gay, even banning him from the funeral. She is in denial, believing she can separate her brother from his sexuality.
Eventually the painting is put into a safety deposit box, but June and her sister Greta are given keys so they can view the painting whenever they want (pg. 104). June doubts Greta will go, so she’s surprised when she sees the painting again and realizes Greta has done something to it. She has added the outline of a skull to her hand in the portrait (pg. 130).
At this time, Greta has been offered a role on Broadway. While her parents see it as a “dream come true,” she sees it as an early end to the childhood that was already cut short by her skipping a grade (pg. 283). Only sixteen, she feels cheated. She becomes irritable, pushing away her friends, drinking too much, and ignoring the things she once loved. These symptoms and the skull she added to the painting signify her depression as she mourns her lost childhood.
In response, June paints gold strands into both girls’ hair so they look more alike. June and Greta were close until June developed a close relationship with their Uncle Finn. When Finn dies, June feels truly alone. She is mourning all the love she’s lost, both Finn’s and her sister’s. With Finn gone, she begins to go to Greta’s parties and play rehearsals, even trying to accept some of the horrible things her sister says about Toby. The whole time, she is bargaining: “If I give up my singular claim on Finn,” she’s asking, “Can I have my sister back?”
But Greta felt the loss of their relationship before June did. She has already reached anger and changes the portrait again, painting her lips red. June finds she “looked fearsome” (pg. 268). It reminds her of the day her sister destroyed all the gifts Finn and Toby gave her and inspires her to think of the words from Requiem: Dies Irae, day of wrath (pg. 269).
With the destruction done, the girls are able to work through their grief together while their mother’s simmers privately. She cannot move past it until the portrait is removed from its safety deposit box.
At first, seeing what the girls have done, she gets angry. But this explosion sets events in motion for the family to finally reach acceptance. Seeing another side of Greta and Toby, truly, for the first time, Danni realizes she has to accept it. She can’t change what the girls have done to the painting any more than she can change what their grief has done to them. Toby, the love of her brother’s life, is going to die alone if she doesn’t welcome him. And Finn is gone. When she chooses to accept these things, Danni, a great artist herself, adds her own touches to the painting: a silver necklace for June and a birthstone ring for Greta (pg. 349).
Finn was a great and famous artist, and a museum offers them a great sum to display his final work, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, but it must be professionally restored first. When complete, only Danni’s changes remain, but June swears she still sees the buttons’ shadows
Loss leaves us all changed. Though the world may only see the pretty parts, anyone who has suffered a loss like June’s – or like mine – will never forget what they endured to reach acceptance.
While June’s grief is clear in Tell the Wolves I’m Home, I believe each reader finds their own in what isn’t explicitly stated, in that negative space where June sees her wolf. I see my dad. Though he died eleven years ago, I still see the buttons too.
The book I read this week is NSFW, so this post will also be NSFW. Proceed at your own risk.
I don’t typically read plays. They are created to be seen, not read so reading doesn’t allow for the full experience. But I was so intrigued by the alternate title of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room that I had to make an exception.
It’s the vibrator play.
I don’t know what I was expecting from it. The story is set in the 1880s, at the dawn of electricity, and features a doctor who treats “hysteria” with his new invention – what will eventually be called a vibrator.
The treatment scenes are interesting (and undoubtedly would be even MORE interesting upon seeing the show live), but the true appeal of the play is its emotional resonance. The treatments throw a harsh light on the problems in the doctor’s relationship with his wife as well as his patient’s relationship with her husband. Through these treatments, the women discover the things that bring them physical pleasure and it allows them to search for more in their emotional lives as well. Though Dr. Givings is hesitant to use the invention on his wife, they soon find it isn’t necessary when they allow themselves to feel the passion they had been repressing.
Ruhl explores human sexuality thoroughly and openly. Mrs. Givings has a passion and libido that her husband isn’t satisfying. Mrs. Daldry finds that the machine only works on her when Annie uses it. Elizabeth is the one to tell them that sex with your husband is supposed to be good.
Symbolically, the play takes place in two rooms simultaneously: the operating theater, where the doctor uses his device on his patients, and the living room, where his wife interacts with his patients emotionally. When they come together in between them, the scenery shifts to a snow-covered garden. The imagery couldn’t be clearer. By allowing themselves to be passionate and try new things, they are able to reach a new connection that allow them to be physically and emotionally intimate with each other and to enjoy it.
Ruhl makes the reader question the characters’ sexuality and relationships so they can reconsider their own. It shows the importance of physical intimacy in a relationship. But, mostly, it’s about passion, about opening yourself up to another person in order to find something truly beautiful.
April is Stress Awareness Month, which seems kind of pointless. I’m aware of stress, guys. I am SUPER aware of it.
Here are 50 ways to get rid of it. Results may vary.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Take a nap.
- Write a to-do list. Organize it based on priorities so that you know what parts aren’t so important.
- Write a list of things more important than your to-do list: i.e. family, health, etc.
- Have a drink
- Read a book.
- Call a friend.
- Listen to music. No, I mean JUST listen. Without doing anything else or using it as background noise. How often do you do that?
- Pet your cat. Or someone’s cat.
- Pet a dog. Doesn’t have to be yours, as long as it isn’t a service animal!
- Make your bed. (Unf*ckyourhabitat SWEARS by this, and you’d be surprised how having one clean surface makes everything else a little easier.)
- Talk to a child. When you have a hard time being carefree, it helps to view life from little eyes.
- Buy yourself something nice. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be dollar store nail polish. But give yourself a little treat.
- Paint your nails.
- Go for a walk. Which is kind of like exercising, but it guarantees your outside in the fresh air.
- DELEGATE. If somebody else can do it, let them.
- Watch a children’s movie.
- Watch a really BAD movie.
- Watch your favorite movie.
- Therapy. Yes, I said it. I mean it.
- Go for a drive.
- Sit by yourself for a while.
- Sit with a friend for a while.
- Sit outside for a while.
- Deep breathing exercises.
- Do something artsy with your hands: paint, sculpt, crochet, knit, sew, etc.
- Unplug. Get away from the devices for a little while.
- Eat something sweet.
- Kiss somebody sweet.
- Let someone else read to you.
- Chew gum. (This is a good one for immediate relief in a stressful situation.)
- Light a candle. Especially a scented one.
- Count. Again, for an immediately stressful situation.
- Get a massage.
- Punch something…preferably a pillow or punching bag.
- Have a cup of tea.
- Get rid of things you don’t need. This is a double win: you get some clutter out of your life, which will make you feel more at ease in your surroundings, and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something.
- Watch something that will make you laugh (and here are my go-to videos).
- Drink water!
- Be grateful for the little things.
- Get rid of the stressful thing, if possible.
- Be gentle and forgive yourself.
There you have it. 50 ways to de-stress. I’m sure not all of these work for you, but hopefully you can find a few in the list that will.
I’m not very good at keeping up with sports schedules. I love the Tar Heels, but I didn’t watch any of their games in March.
I know. I’m awful.
And the truth is, even when I manage to turn a game on, watching it on television just isn’t much fun for me. The Carolina-Duke game was the first one I had seen in a while, and I watched it at a club in Charlotte with other members of the General Alumni Association. I wasn’t sure I’d even see the championship…until a friend, who’s a lot more committed in general, said she was going to watch it in Chapel Hill.
Huh, I thought. There’s an idea.
I was lucky enough that things worked out. My Tar Heels made it to the final game and my new job gave me Monday and Tuesday off. I had just enough money left over for gas and I had a friend in Chapel Hill who offered her futon. I would get to see the final game in the Dean Dome surrounded by my fellow Tar Heels.
It was everything I love about seeing a game live. If you saw it, you know how close the game was. In the past, there have been several games Carolina lost because their heart wasn’t in it. In the first half of this one, they had the opposite problem: they wanted it so badly that they over thought every move. What finally put them over the top was that they started to get mad.
People started to rush the court – and run out the door – before the final buzzer, when Justin Jackson dunked the ball and the lead was big enough that we knew we had won. We all screamed as we ran towards Franklin Street.
I’ve never been able to do that before. We didn’t win a championship when I was a student.
The street was packed. People were climbing trees and light poles at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia. Someone had set a couch on fire.
I drove downtown the next day and the celebration was still happening, just in a different way. Every parking lot and garage was full. People were shuffling through various t-shirts and the stores that didn’t sell them had some sort of special going on.
All in all, it was crazy fun and it felt like going home. A trip that was totally worth spending my two free days and my last dime on.