Author Archives: wordsmithkari

About wordsmithkari

"Whatever we choose it has to be grand - I can't think of two thirstier adventurers."

Postcards From the Edge

Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

But in another world, Carrie Fisher died with cocaine, heroine, and ecstasy in her system.  She self-medicated for her mental illness and lost the fight to addiction.

Fisher was a brilliant actress, but she was also a brilliant writer.  Her first book, Postcards from the Edge, proves this.

From the very beginning, Postcards is…uncomfortable.  It follows Suzanne as she is hospitalized for her addiction and goes into recovery.  Once she leaves the hospital, it shows her recovery and attempt to re-assimilate into the real world.  Her writing came from a place of pain, from someone who has experienced it before.

The format – part diary, part third person – emphasizes the tone.  The diary entries are a place of reflection, a day-to-day log of her time in the hospital with other addicts.  It simulates for the reader how she feels she belongs there.  When she leaves the hospital and the story is told in third person, it emulates her outsider status.  This section also shows how hard recovery can be.

At first, it was hard to get immersed in the story, because of the awkwardness.  But after a few chapters, that became the appeal.  That, and Suzanne, who is an appealing character it’s easy to relate to, especially if you also suffer a mental illness.

Rest in peace Carrie, and thanks for the story.

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Heroes

The Wonder Woman movie finally came out, after years and years of waiting for it.  I was worried.  For one thing, I have hated almost ever DC movie I’ve ever seen.  The most recent, Batman Vs. Superman and Suicide Squad, were exceptionally awful.

And yet, Wonder Woman was incredible.  Gal Gadot was the perfect actress for the role, playing Diana Prince as a powerful warrior whose kindness and compassion are her strength.  Chris Pine stole hearts and subsequently broke them as Steve Trevor, who is an actual nice guy who respects Diana and believes in doing the right thing.  The movie was populated by well-rounded characters, many of whom were also strong women, and it showed the pain of war as it affected communities and individuals.  This is mostly thanks to Patty Jenkins, the movie’s director who fought for years to bring the Amazon’s story to life.

It’s one of those movies that made me want to fight the patriarchy with my own bare hands, and a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  The same thing can be said of Cars 3.

In the third installment of the franchise, Lightning McQueen is getting beaten more and more by newer race cars.  Other veteran racers are retiring, but Lightning refuses to quit before he’s ready.  When  he wrecks horribly, it looks like he might not have a choice.  He doesn’t want to face the same fate Doc did, but since he’s not there anymore, Lightning can’t ask his advice.  Instead, he goes to the places Doc trained on, the dirt tracks and the forest roads, and meets those who inspired him.

Initially, it looks like the message is the typical millennial-hating garbage of the older generation: newcomers ruin everything.  Actually though, it’s the opposite: the message is that the older generation has to adapt if they want to stay in the game.  Lightning gets to continue doing what he loves because he’s willing to learn new things to do it.

Lightning has a lot of character development, but my favorite part of this movie was Cruz Ramirez.  After being told all her life that she’s “not a race car,” she’s given up on the dream.  When she learns to believe in herself – and Lightning takes her under his wing – she proves them wrong.

If Wonder Woman made me feel like fighting the patriarchy with my bare hands, Cars 3 made me feel like dismantling it brick by brick.  They talk about the history of racing, both the good and the barriers outsiders had to break down themselves.  By looking at their history they were prepared to move into the future.  Nothing is given to them freely, but they understand why it’s worth fighting for.

Both are empowering movies and worth supporting for the messages they share and the characters they bring to life.  They’re great if you need a pick-me-up.  So head to the movie theater and get ready for Feelings.

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Once and For All

Sarah Dessen has been my favorite author since I was fourteen.  I’ve read all of her books and get the new ones as quickly as I can.  Her latest, Once and For All, is obviously written by a different person, a Sarah Dessen who’s grown and is reacting to the world around her.

Louna has seen a lot of marriages come and go, courtesy of her mother’s wedding planning business.  But its hard to believe in true love because, if you only get one, she’s already lost her chance.  But Ambrose believes in second chances and wishes, and he hopes to make Louna believe in them too.

I enjoyed Once and For All, though the quality after the magic of her writing in Saint Anything was slightly disappointing.  It is clear she used this writing to work through her grief about recent news events.  I don’t fault her for this – it’s what writing is for – but it did affect the story’s cohesion.

The chapters alternated between the main story and flashbacks of Louna’s life before. It worked for Louna’s character, revealing crucial information about her past in a format that allowed the reader to know her as she is and what made her that way.  It shows the ways tragedy can affect a person.

Unfortunately, trying to write two love stories in one book distracted from the main plot.  Neither romance was as immersive as most of her books are.

Despite this, the characters are as charming as ever, including William, Louna’s mother’s gay business partner, and Louna’s best friend Jilly.  I mention them by name because they were my favorites, and every scene they appear in feels like hanging out with a friend.

Overall, I did enjoy Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All…I just wouldn’t recommend it as anyone’s first Dessen novel.

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Dead Last beats Did Not Finish, which is better than Did Not Start

April and May did not work out like I wanted them to.  I still haven’t fixed my writing space; I’m still not sure how I could.

Instead of dwelling on that and the missed posts (and getting even more behind), I’m going to take this one word at a time.  It’s not a permanent solution by any means, but it’s better than what I’ve been doing.  And what a great week to start, because I did something really exciting this weekend that I’d like to share with you.

Friday, Jennifer and I (and Layla) drove down to Charleston.  It was exciting from the very start.  South Carolina drivers seemed to be holding a contest of who could kill us first.  But we did make it in one piece.  After checking in at our campsite (yes, campsite: more on that later) at James Island, we went downtown.

The stretch of King Street we were on looked like someone had turned Southpark Mall inside out and dumped it on the street.  But on the next block, down Market Street, we found some of the true gems of Charleston: the open-air market, Market Street Sweets, Kaminsky’s and the attached steakhouse that was recently damaged by fie, and the Moon Pie General Store.  We walked another twenty minutes to go to Blue Bicycle Books.

I don’t know how Jennifer felt about this bookstore, especially after all the trouble it took us to find it, but I love this place.  It’s quiet and peaceful, and I always feel like I’m entering a different world when I open the door and the cool air rushes at me.  We only stayed a few minutes, and we didn’t buy anything but my Charleston trip wouldn’t have felt complete without it.

With First Looks over, it was time to get to the reason we were there: Questival.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been describing Questival as a scavenger hunt, but it’s not that simple.  It’s 24 hours of adventures big and small.  The things we were challenged to do ranged from “draw a team crest” to “eat a bug,” “sing karaoke” to “ride a unicycle.”  Each quest was worth a certain amount of points.  Jennifer and I focused on location quests because we wanted to see as much of Charleston as possible.  We visited Rainbow Row, Waterfront Park with its pineapple fountain, and White Gardens.  We even drove out to the Angel Oak Tree, a 400-year-old oak.

Most memorable was the Four Corners of Law, not because of the  buildings themselves but because of the woman we met standing there: a 75-year-old former Marine who noticed we looked lost and stopped to help.  She suggested we go in the church, as both Washington and Lee had worshipped there, and eat lunch at Brown Dog Deli.  Unfortunately the church had just closed, but the deli was the most amazing meal I’ve had in a while.  I had the Fig’N’Pig, the perfect blend of sweet and savory.  Also a chocolate chip cookie, which was so sweet and gooey I almost died.

We finished Questival in 71st place.  Seventy teams did better than we did…but thirty did not.  At least ten of those had zero points because they didn’t even try.

Maybe we didn’t win, but we had a lot of fun exploring Charleston and stepping out of our comfort zone.  And yes, camping.

This was the first time I’d ever been camping.  We put up the tent and got a thousand bug bites.  We even made new friends with some girls from Asheville who camped a lot.  It was a great first camping trip.  We’re already looking forward to the next one.

Sometimes you step out of your comfort zone and find yourself in a magical place.

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A Day at Kate Spade

I started my job at Kate almost two months ago.  I love it, and one of the things i love about it is that every day is new.

That being said, this isn’t a “typical” day, because there’s no such thing.

9:02 – Kasey and I clock in.  I have spent almost an hour in traffic, but feel better as soon as I pass through the doors.

9:12 – While Kasey works on the deposit, I pull out my client book and make sure all my information is up-to-date.

9:20 – We take the trash out.  (It can’t all be glamorous.)

9:34 – Kasey shows me how to check in a shipment.  The first thing I unload is a new box of Glitter Keds!

10:03 – Music comes on and the doors officially open.

10:10 – We get our first client of the day, a woman looking for a dress to wear to her daughter’s “moving up” ceremony.  I sell her my favorite black dress in the store.

10:27 – Kasey and I talk about her time on a cruise ship while we wait for the next client to enter.

10:44 – We get a new delivery. Still preparing for the new floorset on June first!

11:29 – A man comes in to buy his wife a purse.  He talks about how she was there for him when he had nothing and how they’re still close now.  It’s the most precious thing I’ve heard all day.

12:00 – I’m introduced to a muse (that’s my official job title – how darling is that?) who has transferred from Charleston.  She gives me some suggestions about where I should eat on my trip next month.

1:30 – Kasey and I work with a woman who’s just turned 70.  She’s a sweet, colorful person who falls in love with our camel t-shirt and a pink pair of sunglasses.

1:34 – Off to lunch.  I have a chat with one of the employees at Coach about the acquisition.

2:34 – I clock back in.

3:02 – I help a lovely woman find a comfy dress to replace hers that’s falling apart.

4:28 – A girl comes in with her grandmother, looking for a bag to take on her trip to Charleston.

4:47 – Lainey and I tag-team markdowns.  Neither of us know all the product names yet, making the whole thing an interesting scavenger hunt.  (Spoiler alert: most of the items have already sold out at our store, so it’s a bit fruitless.)

5:58 – Dawn finishes her work in the back just as Britt is arriving.  The back room has never been so organized, at least not while I’ve been there.

At the end of the day, I’m tired and my feet hurt.  With the adrenalin fading, I start to realize some of the things I could have done better.  It’s a continuous learning process, and can be emotionally exhausting for an introvert like me.  I’m looking forward to my day off…but I’m also excited to return Saturday, when I’ll meet new, interesting people and spend time with all the shining girls I get to work with.

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Bill Nye Saves the World

Bill Nye has been educating children about science for decades.  This year, he has moved on to adults with his Netflix original show Bill Nye Saves the World.

This week, I watched all thirteen episodes.  They follow a particular formula.  First, Bill Nye introduces his topic in a fun way that makes it easy to understand.  He shows some science, then one of his correspondents tells a relevant story from another place.  He brings on a panel of experts to discuss the issue. He tends to conclude the show with a guest star or a joke video.  It’s funny but there’s an underlying message: it proves its relevance to the modern day.

There are a lot of things I love about this show.  Bill Nye is very aware of representation, using women and minority correspondents and experts.  Every show is a different topic, but he always comes back to the scientific process: how we make an observation, make a hypothesis, experiment, and then try to duplicate the results in order to find a solution.  With his panel of experts, he proves that it is okay, even good, to ask questions.

I also love his “Bill needs a minute” segments, where he is overcome with emotion (usually anger) and talks about the issue and why he finds it ridiculous.  Plus, oh my god, the DAD JOKES!  (“Paraphrasing my colleague Jay-Z, it’s not one problem, it’s 99 problems, and they’re all…difficult.”  About his ankle: “I’m attached to it.”  They’re cheesy and kind of hilarious in a really horrible way.)

This is not a kids’ show, and he repeats that a lot.  It’s for adults.  One of my complaints is that he sometimes forgets who his audience is…or maybe I am.  Most of his show is for my generation, the millennials who know there are problems in the world and want to help fix them.  But much of it is proving these things are problems in the first place, which makes it seem like he’s talking to the skeptics and those who disagree with him.  Sometimes he (or his guests, but he doesn’t edit it out) insults those people pretty harshly.  While he has a reputation for disagreeing with creationists and Global Warming deniers, if he wanted this show to bridge the gap and inform those people, he should have approached them more kindly.  Instead, he only enforces the believes of those who already agreed with him and maybe just wanted more information.

Bill Nye has come a long way from his Science Guy days.  In this show, he switches between his lab coat and a blazer, showing when he is in “scientist” mode and when he is in “politician” mode.  His show is called Bill Nye Saves the World because its purpose is to encourage his audience to learn from his show and effect change.

All of it is fun to watch, but some of the episodes are more important than others.  I believe everyone should watch the episodes on global warming, vaccination, pseudo-science, and the sexual spectrum.  We can learn a lot from Bill, and maybe it really will help us save the world.

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May Blog Posts

In the interest of doing all my blog posts ON TIME this month, I planned a subject for every Tuesday in May.

Except, umm…this one.  Oops.

Looking at my assignments calendar, I don’t see a subject I can hijack for this post that can get written in the next hour and a half.  I worked eight hours today and didn’t plan ahead, so I don’t have time to put the work in.  And now it’s too late and dark to make a video tonight.  SO…

…I got nothing.  Shit.

And I actually planned for the month too.

Here, I can prove it.  This is my blog schedule for the month.

May 4th: Postcards from the Edge, a Book Club Thursday tribute to Carrie Fisher.  This is the only Book Club Thursday post I’ve planned.  The rest will depend on what book I read that week.

May 9th: Review Bill Nye’s show on Netflix.  I can’t do this one tonight because I still need to finish the season that’s up online.

May 16th: Day in the Life of Kate Spade.  I’ll take you behind the scenes and show you what my new job is like, and since this is right before Mother’s Day, it’s bound to be extra interesting.  (That being said, if you’re in the Charlotte area and you need a Mother’s Day gift, come see me!)

May 23rd: Writing Space Makeover.  As I said in my last post, my writing space could use some sprucing.  Once I figure out what to do with it (and get it done), I’ll show you guys before and after pictures and my reasoning for each decision.

May 30th: Bullet Journaling.  I’ve been doing it for almost a year now, but I finally got colored pencils and am trying a few different layouts this month.  I’ll show you my methods and how effective they’ve been for me.

See?  I planned for May, and pretty well at that.  I just forgot one little thing…the first post.

Oh well.  I’ll have to do better in June.

If you want these posts a day early, subscribe to my Patreon account.  You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.

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The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

This blog is supported by Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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A Few Observations of My Life Right Now

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 blog is supported by Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home

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
(pg. 355).

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.

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