Sexual Assault Awareness Month

One in five women are raped in their lives.  Eight of ten victims know their attackers.  One in four girls are sexually abused before they are eighteen years old.*

But only six out of every thousand rapists go to prison.*

In America, April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  It’s a time to remember our outrage at the system that lets Brock Turner go free after being convicted of rape, what his father called “twenty minutes of action.”

Cases like that anger us, but when I look at the statistics…I just feel tired.

It is easier to get angry about a single attack, it’s harder to stay angry about the constant reinforcement of sexism and rape culture that build the foundation for them.  And we need to stay angry.  It is only when people get angry that change happens.

That’s what awareness is for.  Many people from the older generation like to look down on what millennials do, on the idea that a like or a share can do anything in the face of the world’s problems.  But awareness is important because it is the first step.

In the case of sexual assault, it is not enough to know the statistics.  We have to know where they come from.  We have to know what societal factors contribute to the numbers.

It’s years of teaching our children that “boys will be boys” and “he can’t help himself.”  It’s teaching them that no means “maybe” or “convince me” and silence is consent.  It’s acting as though a short skirt or a low-cut top automatically means a woman is open to sexual encounters.

It’s also a society that continues to consume media from actors and creators who have a history of sexual violence.  It’s a society that promotes stories where a woman says no before someone “changes her mind.”  It’s a country that looks at a man with pending rape charges and says, “Yes, let’s make him president.”*

The first step to changing this pervading culture is awareness.  The next is to treat it like it’s wrong, to speak up when someone makes light of sexual assault, to boycott when creators are found to be rapists and abusers or when companies protect them, and to protect the sanctity and power of the word “no.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so let’s stay aware and informed.  But after that, let’s speak up.  Let’s do something about it.

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In the Next Room

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.

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50 Ways to De-stress

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.

  1. Take a bubble bath.
  2. Take a nap.
  3. Write a to-do list.  Organize it based on priorities so that you know what parts aren’t so important.
  4. Write a list of things more important than your to-do list: i.e. family, health, etc.
  5. Have a drink
  6. Read a book.
  7. Call a friend.
  8. Listen to music.  No, I mean JUST listen.  Without doing anything else or using it as background noise.  How often do you do that?
  9. Pet your cat.  Or someone’s cat.
  10. Pet a dog.  Doesn’t have to be yours, as long as it isn’t a service animal!
  11. Make your bed.  (Unf*ckyourhabitat SWEARS by this, and you’d be surprised how having one clean surface makes everything else a little easier.)
  12. Talk to a child.  When you have a hard time being carefree, it helps to view life from little eyes.
  13. Buy yourself something nice.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It can be dollar store nail polish.  But give yourself a little treat.
  14. Paint your nails.
  15. Color!
  16. Exercise.
  17. Meditate.
  18. Go for a walk.  Which is kind of like exercising, but it guarantees your outside in the fresh air.
  19. DELEGATE.  If somebody else can do it, let them.
  20. Watch a children’s movie.
  21. Watch a really BAD movie.
  22. Watch your favorite movie.
  23. Therapy.  Yes, I said it.  I mean it.
  24. Go for a drive.
  25. Sit by yourself for a while.
  26. Sit with a friend for a while.
  27. Sit outside for a while.
  28. Yoga.
  29. Deep breathing exercises.
  30. Do something artsy with your hands: paint, sculpt, crochet, knit, sew, etc.
  31. Unplug.  Get away from the devices for a little while.
  32. Eat something sweet.
  33. Kiss somebody sweet.
  34. Let someone else read to you.
  35. Chew gum.  (This is a good one for immediate relief in a stressful situation.)
  36. Light a candle.  Especially a scented one.
  37. Count.  Again, for an immediately stressful situation.
  38. Pray.
  39. Get a massage.
  40. Scream.
  41. Punch something…preferably a pillow or punching bag.
  42. Have a cup of tea.
  43. 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.
  44. Watch something that will make you laugh (and here are my go-to videos).
  45. Drink water!
  46. Journal.
  47. Travel.
  48. Be grateful for the little things.
  49. Get rid of the stressful thing, if possible.
  50. 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.

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NCAA Championship 2017

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.

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Brain Storm

I have been in a creative rut lately.  Now that I’m coming out of it, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal but when I was in the worst of it, I felt awful.  I was searching for anything that might help.

Enter: Brain Storm by Don Hahn.  I bought it at The Last Bookstore in L.A. last year.  Don Hahn produced The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.  I still don’t know exactly what a producer does, but he worked for Disney, so I thought he would have something insightful to say.

Halfway through the book, I decided I hated this guy.

Perhaps the problem is that I am not his target audience.  Hahn is writing from his own experiences as a White, Straight, Christian, Neurotypical Male, and treats it as the universal existence.  He quotes a couple dozen men and only two women throughout the book.  He consistently generalizes about men and women in an “us vs. them” fashion.  Likewise he equates “masculine” and “feminine” to sexual orientation, which isn’t how it works.

Most of his advice works in this context.  He suggests taking a day or more to ignore the time and follow your internal clock, which is easier when you’re well-off.  One of his major points is that we are living in a time of prosperity, which should allow for more time to be creative.  This doesn’t take into account the people who are barely getting by, or neurodivergent people who can’t muster up the energy to work the extra hours.  He suggests travel as a way of gaining inspiration.  Don’t get me wrong: it is.  But he works on the presumption that “travel” automatically means going to another country, and that is just not feasible for everyone.

He does have a few good lines, but most of them come from the beginning of the book.  He spends a good hundred pages selling his reader on the idea of creativity and living a creative life.  It’s this section that gives us gems like “If we define creativity simply as ‘imagination directed toward a goal,’ then we all have it.” and “There is strength in boldness, and let’s face it, the alternative–doing nothing–doesn’t sound very satisfying.”

But it’s clear that he spends so long selling his reader because that is his strongest point.  His strongest idea is to prove that anyone can be creative.  This is both true and an important message, but he could have said it in an article instead of in a 300+ page book.  Once you get past the pitch, he runs out of things to say – except the parts that are only relatable if you are also Straight, White, Christian, Neurotypical, and Male.

(Also, I am so PISSED that he started a chapter about God and creativity, a subject I am rather passionate about, with a quote from a child molester.)

While he has a few good points, it’s all stuff you can find on the internet.  If you’re looking for inspiration, skip Brain Storm.

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5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Applying to Grad School

I am not going to graduate school this year; I guess the timing wasn’t right.  Eventually, I will apply again, and I will be better prepared when I do.  Here are some of the things that will make my next application season (and yours, I hope) easier.

  1.  It’s expensive.
    I only applied to two programs, and neither required a GRE.  I still spent around $250, between application fees, ordering transcripts, and the financial aid form – which, yes, costs money and not all graduate programs take.  Budget accordingly, but also plan ahead so you don’t spend more than you have to.
  2. All programs are NOT created equal.
    I knew this, hypothetically, but hadn’t considered all the facets of it.  It’s more than the faculty; each school has its own focus, its own funding, and its own reputation.  These things are dependent on the program itself, not the school.  For instance, I assumed Columbia was a top MFA program, because Columbia University is an Ivy.  But between poor funding and a “high” (read: 20%) acceptance rate, it is actually looked down upon in MFA circles.  I mean, I still want to go.  But it’s something to think about.
  3. READ THE APPLICATION QUESTIONS EARLY.
    This is where I made my biggest mistake.  I gave myself a month to work on the application with the earliest deadline.  After that, I had two weeks for the other.  I assumed that would be plenty of time, because the questions would be similar and I just needed to tailor my general answer to each specific school.  In my case, I found out they were completely different questions and I would have benefited from working on them simultaneously.  Pay attention.
  4. There is a support system.
    There is an MFA Draft Facebook group every year.  Columbia had its own as well.  No matter what program or concentration you are applying to, thegradcafe.com will connect you to other people going through the same process.  I didn’t discover these resources until I was playing the waiting game, and I feel utilizing them may have improved my application.  Now I know for next time.  Which brings me to my final point…
  5. You will probably be doing this again.
    Most programs are tiny.  It’s part of what separates graduate school from undergrad.  Don’t take rejection personally.  I was shocked as I scrolled through the MFA Draft Facebook group and realized how many people were on their third and fourth attempts.  It’s nothing like applying for college.  You can try again if you don’t get the one you want or if the funding doesn’t work out.

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Dial M for Mason

I have been working on The Magicians for the better part of a month.  Last week, I was supposed to go to England, giving me sixteen hours on a plane and even more on trains to finally tackle it.  But plans change and I still haven’t finished the damn book.

The book I finally finished may surprise you: The Case of the One-Eyed Witness by Erle Stanley Gardner.  A Perry Mason mystery.

I don’t read many mysteries, though I couldn’t tell you why, but the ones I have in the past were mostly Perry Mason stories.  The mysteries, this one included, are interesting and keep you on your toes.  I’m not going to lie, I took a few days off from reading this book and felt a little lost going back to it.

The true appeal of the Perry Mason books is Mason himself.  He’s a mixture between a shark lawyer and Sherlock Holmes himself, solving mysteries and using the facts and his persuasion techniques to force people to confess.  His track record is impeccable.  So far as I can tell, he is always right.

There’s also a subtle romance between Mason and his secretary Della Street.  I love her place in the books.  Her official title may be secretary, but it is clear to both Mason and the reader that he couldn’t do his job without her.

I picked this book up at Selected Works Used Books & Sheet Music in Chicago, Illinois, mainly because it reflected the bookstore’s atmosphere, which itself reflected my view of the city.  I’m glad I did.  This book didn’t change my life or anything, but it was a lot of fun.  Sometimes you need that.

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Kari Gushes About the new Beauty and the Beast

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5 Shows to Binge-Watch on Netflix

I’ve had difficulty blogging this month.  The truth is, nothing is really happening in my life right now.  I’m still waiting on my car, I’m still waiting on a grad school dcision, I’m still waiting on a job to come through.  I was supposed to go to England this week, but there was an abrupt change of plans.  I havn’t even been reading much.  (Yes, I AM in a bad headspace, thanks for asking.)

I am going to try to plan better so I am less likely to get stuck for a topic and more likely to blog on time.  Maybe it won’t help, but I’m going to try.  For instance, next week I’ll be blogging about Beauty and the Beast.

In the meantime, if you’re bored and/or depressed and need something to binge-watch on Netflix, here’s what I’m watching right now.

  1. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
    love this Netflix-original.  I avoided it for a while (for reasons I no longer remember) but watched both seasons in the last week.  It is bright and sunny and features a main character who is allowed to be both determinedly tough and adorably innocent.  It handles trauma and hardships with humor without dimiishing them.  Basically, it’s the sweetest show about a survivor you’ll ever watch.
  2. iZombie
    A zombie show where the protagonist is the zombie, this one is a mix between a police-procedural show and a drama.  Neither is a genre I usually tune in for, but iZombie is funny and exciting and I love the characters.  I couldn’t stop because I kept needing to know what happened next.  Plus, the supernatural element added a unique layer.  In most zombie stories, everything goes to shit immediately.  Instead, iZombie asks, “How could one live among us?”
  3. A Series of Unfotunate Events
    I wrote a brief review of the first season following its release, but a second one was just announced.  Yay!  (The announcement is written in typical Snicket fashion.)  A recap: Neil Patric Harris is hilariously creepy and creepily hilarious.  Patrick Warburton narrates in the same style as the books, which enhances the drama.  And the story itself manages to be fun (despite its horrors) due to the lovable Baudelaire children and the sprinkled clues that will add up to the final mystery.
  4. The West Wing
    This show has gained many new watchers since the inauguration.  It’s another one with the perfect combination of humor and drama and characters you’ll love.  I’m still hoping for a modern reboot (President Donna Moss, anyone?) but am happy to keep watching this one over and over.  If nothing else, it keeps hope alive.  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Do you know why?” President Bartlett says.  “Because it’s the only thing that ever has,” Bailey answers.  This show really made me believe that.
  5. Phineas and Ferb
    (Let’s be real: I’m always watching Phineas and Ferb.)  If you need a laugh, if you need something clever, if you need something to take you back and remind you of the good old days when your biggest question was “What will we do for summer vacation?” and you HAD a summer vacation…here you go.  It’s easy and fun to watch, but also smart.  It always makes me happy.  Sometimes you need something like that.

There you go.  If you need a distraction, or just a new story, these shows are great for that.  Enjoy!

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Coping or Thriving

I saw a church marquee a few weeks ago with a motivational quote: “Stop coping and learn to thrive.”  It’s a nice sentiment, and there are times it’s relevant.  But while it did give me a fuzzy feeling, I knew there was another side to it.

Sometimes, coping is thriving.

There’s also this image going around about “reasons you’re doing better than you think.”  Unfortunately, I…actually cannot check off everything on the list.  I don’t have a job, and I don’t always feel like I’m “choosing happiness” on my own terms.

I have a lot of goals.  Some days, I feel energized and ambitious, so I take steps to achieve them.  Other days it’s harder.  Maybe I put in the work but I’m slogging through.  Maybe I make a list and only manage to complete the top three things on it.  This post, for example, is a bit late, but at least it’s done.

I’m coping, but I’m still moving.  That means something.

The other day, I got a call and an email from the same business, wanting to set up an interview with me.  I hate phone calls, so I decided to respond to the email and only call back as a last resort.  The Gryffindor in me protested that this was the cowardly way to do it, but just like the coping vs. thriving thing, I realized that doing something the “cowardly” way is still doing something.  Why do I have to make it harder for myself by doing it the way that scares me more, if the final effect is going to be the same?

So what’s the difference between coping and thriving?  Sometimes nothing.  Progress is progress.  As long as you’re doing what you can, you’re doing just fine.

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