News and Reviews

News!

I hope that people enjoyed their fourth of July weekend! It is always a bit difficult for me because it is the anniversary of my dad’s death (it’s been four years already). But it is also a happy day. Freedom comes in a multitude of ways. For my dad, freedom from suffering (he had cancer) came in the form of eternal peace. I might do a post later on death in general. Stay tuned. On that joyous note…

We went to Mike (my husband’s) family’s house (his cousin just acquired it and is doing awesome renovations!) on a lake in Maine. It’s the third year I have taken part in this family tradition and the first time our dog Sam has participated. We read and eat and make a fire and smores at night. We drink and laugh and be with family we only see a few times a year. Sam was mostly good but we did have to keep him on a long rope, since he likes to explore far and wide and finds sprinting away from you a lot of fun. Our little Magellan enjoyed himself regardless. Here is photographic proof.

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I have started my second summer class, which is keeping me busy (but far less busy than my previous accelerated course. Good lord. I still have nightmares). It’s Human Development Across the Lifespan. I am preparing a presentation on the Millennial Generation and doing a research paper on the lifelong benefits of preschool and headstart programs. Riveting, I know. The glamorous life I lead.

In other news I am currently in a job which requires end of the fiscal year reconciliation so I have been in a slight panic this week. WHY I AM IN THIS JOB?! I AM NOT AN ACCOUNTANT. AHHHHHH GAHHHH BLAHHHHHH. I don’t often do a look of the day post (this would actually be my first), but if you insist… this is my look of the day/week:

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I was going for a “these numbers are making me nauseous” vibe. This too can be yours. Just look at deeply perplexing excel spreadsheets until you’d rather drink shit flavored bubble tea with Bill Murray. You’re welcome.

When I’m not crying into my keyboard at work, I have been reading a lot. Mike has been too. He found a Jim Butcher series at a used bookstore and has delved right in. I have also been cheering on my childhood friend, Jackie Croft (Miss Vermont USA) who is competing in the Miss USA Pageant in Baton Rouge this week. Regardless of how I personally feel about pageants, she has worked really hard and this is a dream for her. GO JACKIE!

What have you been up to? Leave me a comment of shoot over an e-mail: karacterspace@gmail.com. It would be great to hear from you.

Reviews (of a sort… more like tips but that doesn’t rhyme with “news”)!

  • For some reason, I tend to notice issues with fruit flies more in the summer. Maybe we have more fruit then?! I don’t know. But I’ve tried many things in the past and this season magically stumbled upon the best solution yet.

FullSizeRender-2 BEST. STUFF. EVER.

Just mix about half a cup of natural apple cider vinegar with a splash of hot water and a dollop of dishsoap in a small dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and poke holes in the wrap with a toothpick. Leave it on your counter. In an hour 8 flies had been trapped and drowned in there. Gross but weirdly satisfying. YOU WILL LOSE THE WAR FRUIT FLIES. I DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS. Moving on.

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  • I have been reading this book. By reading I mean listening on Audible. I had used a free month of audible to get a book to listen to during a monthly cleaning job I have (makes the time go much quicker!) and was charged for a second month. Note to self, remember to cancel before they start charging… Anyway, it was a blessing in disguise because I came across a book called “The Courage to be Yourself” by Sue Patton Thoele and used my credit to purchase it. It is heavily geared toward women, but there’s some good advice in there for anyone. I really like her approach. If you are want to grow emotionally and develop higher self-esteem (don’t we all?!) I highly recommend it.
  • I have been trying to stay really active this week. So far I have jogged, hiked in the woods with Mike and Sam and done some yoga with Mike. In fact, I am off for a jog when I finish this post. I found that making a playlist that is exactly 20 minutes long (my goal is running 20 minutes 3-4 times a week in addition to yoga and walking) helps tremendously. Here are my current jams:
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    I hope you have an awesome week! I am planning a couple more serious posts that I have been mulling over, so stay tuned for those.

Best,
Kara

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Love Wins

The Supreme Court’s momentous decision this week to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states has caused the slogan “Love Wins” crop up in many places, particularly the internet. I’m really glad for this. Because it’s true. Love always wins. And when we stop to look at the love around, and within us, there is a great deal of contentment and peace. Having that love recognized by others is also incredibly freeing, which many experienced this past week.

I have been thinking a great deal lately about contentment. So often we are told “don’t settle!” and “follow your dreams!.” We are encouraged to always reach for more. We want a bigger house, to be thinner, to be more muscular, to be a better friend, wife/husband, daughter/son, to be more devoted to our religion, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to want to grow. Growth is beautiful and necessary for a full life. However, it’s very freeing to look at your own life and be content with it. Lately, I have been feeling very content. The cause of this contentment, I believe, is love. Particularly the love of these two men:

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Stop striving so hard. Stop telling people what to do. Stop worrying so much. Just be. As someone with extreme anxiety, I understand this can be so hard. But as much as you can, let love in. It is always victorious.

Hot Tip Tuesday

Life is too short for shame, so I’ll not apologize for my extreme tardiness on my post for last week (but I’m really sorry there wasn’t a post last week, friends…). Instead, I’ll furnish you with some wisdom from my day-to-day life:

* Keep your receipts. If there is no toilet paper in your stall (and you’re at the movies, and you’re about to see Jurassic World, not to be specific) and you have no other options, they’ll come through for you.

* If you are at a The Dear Hunter concert and the music is too loud and you don’t have earplugs, individually wrapped cough drops work okay (hint: do not shove them in, just lightly rest them inside the outer part of your ear. I will not be responsible for ruptured eardrums).

* Always expect the unexpected. For example, if you thought your adopted Boston Terrier named Sam couldn’t do many tricks (just “sit” and “lay down”) keep holding out that treat. He might just roll over and provide you with a disproportionate amount of glee and entertainment (especially when he occasionally gets stuck halfway through his roll).

* Say you’re sorry when you need to, but don’t apologize for every.little.thing. Especially for women, I’ve noticed “I’m sorry” comes out almost reflexively. My wonderful sister was visiting this weekend and I counted how many times either of us said “I’m sorry” for no good reason. It was way, way too many.

* Do something good for the world at large, whenever you can, in whatever way you are able. Recently, I have gotten involved in this non-profit. Check it out and even give if you can.

* The layout of Walgreens will never make complete sense. Save yourself the frustration.

* Let yourself have down days, but pick yourself up again. I’ve been feeling a bit too negative for my liking recently, so I decided to start making a concerted effort to be positive and focus on being grateful. Not in a phony sense, though. If it’s not genuine it will make you feel weird and pissy- take it from someone who was in the store the other night literally whispering, “I’m breathing out negativity and breathing in positive thoughts” and suddenly wanted to punch the person in front of me who was holding up the line. Which came first in this scenario, the chicken or the egg? Who knows but at least there is protein available…see?!  I’M SO POSITIVE. THE GLASS IS HALF FULL…of poison and bad checkout line etiquette (which are basically synonymous).

So anyways, there is that.

Happy Tuesday! I hope you’re all (hi mom!) well and happy!

The Week(+) I (Almost) Forgot About My Blog

Oh hello there!

Long time no see! I was basically in a cocoon of schoolwork for the better part of last week. They manufacture those during summer classes. They look very much like a snuggie but they are woven from the same cloth as… I don’t know, HELL. But finally, I have burst forth. In the words of Kimmy Schmidt (if you haven’t seen “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix , I recommend you do!) “I feel like a butterfly, bursting forth from it’s crystalish and falling from the nest!.” (Until later this week when a boatload of work descends upon me again.)

How was YOUR week?! Any great blog posts or internet sensations I missed? Link them below if there are any must-sees 🙂

When I wasn’t doing schoolwork this week, I assembled a housewarming gift for some friends of ours. It turned out well, was useful and not expensive, so I thought I would share.

I made this:

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Here is how this too could be yours to give to a loved one upon the acquisition of their new digs (avoided saying “housewarming” two times in a row–cha ching!):

  • Go to Homegoods (TJ Maxx, Marshall’s etc. would be fine, too)
  • Pick out some citronella candles (I got a three pack of copper colored handmade ones). I found them in a clearance aisle near lawn and garden items.
  • Choose two useful household products. I bought a lavender aromatherapy all-purpose cleaner and a mango linen spray.
  • Buy something green and alive. I popped by Stop N’ Shop and picked up an African violet.
  • My mother in law had some extra baskets around the house, so I got a basket from her. Homegoods probably has many basket options as well. Baskets can be a bit pricey depending on where you go, so asking if someone has one is never a bad option. Baskets are like opinions. Everyone has a few spare ones that aren’t serving them well. Help them help you.
  • Now is the fun part! Arrange the candles and household sprays in the basket and place the plant at the front. I lined the basket with tissue paper first to make it extra festive.
  • I had a picture frame that we weren’t using, so I wrote “Welcome Home” on a piece of cardstock and placed it in the frame. I nestled the frame in the middle of the basket to tie it all together.
  • I will be tacky and talk about price here: it cost about $15-20 in total.

Our friends liked the gift and the citronella candles came in handy that very evening.

Do you have any go-to gifts for various occasions?! Let me know.

xo,

Kara

Tips on Surviving Grad School

I have been a bit all over the place with posts lately. My intention is to post new stuff Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, I am taking accelerated summer courses. Holy moly. SO. MUCH. WORK.

Ya see, I am a graduate student. I think if you have a passion or a definite career goal it’s good to pursue an advanced degree. I am getting a Master’s in Counseling, and I’ve gained a lot from my program thus far. I am starting to feel like I can deal with people who are 50 shades of cray (aren’t we all though) with ease and utmost professionalism. However, throughout much of grad school, I have felt like this…

grad school feelings

At the beginning of my graduate school career, I was working full-time, doing fee for service work at a behavioral health organization and taking two of the three classes you are allowed to enroll in each semester. OH, I was also recently engaged and had 7 months until our wedding, so planning was a priority. This was too much.

Here are some steps I took to make things manageable and not want to swan dive into oncoming traffic:

1) Assess what you ACTUALLY NEED to be doing to reach your long-term goals

I decided I needed to reassess all of the things on my plate (both figuratively and literally, really… all of this stress had me getting burritos at Chipotle for multiple meals each week). Working full-time (with a commute!) and trying to focus on a nearly full course load was not healthy for me. I had already decided to move in with my fiancé and future in-laws to save money for school and the wedding, but I needed to take the next step and leave my full-time job and my fee for service position. I went back to an office I had previously worked in, this time as a part-time employee. This helped tremendously.

While money is an important factor, I decided my sanity and finishing school faster would support my long-term goals best. I doubled down on taking as many classes as I could and made grad school my main focus.

2) Take care of your body

All you want to do after work, class, an internship, etc. is reach for that hot pocket and take a long winter’s nap. Try to resist (most of the time). Exercise, eating well and a good night’s sleep are HUGELY important for success in life (and grad school, but that won’t last as long as the rest of your life will, even though it feels like it sometimes).

Tips for sleeping better can be found here.

Some advice on eating well when you’re under stress is here.

My advice is try to have food on you to curb the drive through cravings. I like Trader Joe’s or Kind granola bars. I try to always have one in my purse.

Having a healthy “on-the-go” meal option is also helpful. I have classes that make it difficult to eat dinner a lot of the time so I make a smoothie and bring it with me to class.

3) Little chunks of work add up!

Do not underestimate the power of getting 15 minutes of reading (even writing!) done for class here and there. Make use of a spare half hour or 45 minutes whenever possible to keep the workload a bit more manageable. I try to have my schoolbooks in my car most of the time, so I am not without them in a situation where I have downtime.

4) Ask for help/more time if you need it

I was having a very difficult time getting an assignment done on time because of a personal struggle I was having, so I told my professor as soon as this was evident to me. She understood and accommodated my situation. If you are having a difficult time in your family, with a chronic illness, with a mental health issue, etc. tell your professor and see if you can have a reasonable extension. They may tell you no but they might surprise you (particularly if you have a great track record with getting things done for their class).

Similarly, ask those in your family or friend group for a hand if you need it (editing papers, watching your kiddos for a couple hours so you can get work done, crashing your in-laws house for dinner if you just can’t cook your family something because you’re too spent). My husband has been a lifesaver editing papers and arranging reference pages. My sister is also always there for me in a pinch.

5) Major on the Majors

When you are pressed for time, not everything needs to get done for every class. Never discuss or get tested on the readings and have 49,000 essays to write this week?! Scratch the reading off your to-do list. Do not feel guilty. Preserving your sanity is important.

Most critical: Remember, your schoolwork/professional goals are important but your health and relationships will be with you forever.

So those are my top 5 pieces of wisdom for kicking graduate school right in the keister. Comment if you have anything to add!

Happiness According to Jax

I recently began babysitting a 3 year old named Jax. Here’s an excerpt from a conversation we had yesterday while playing on the family’s backyard play set:

Jax (turns around after climbing halfway up the slide): “Daddy says I’m silly. But I don’t want to be silly. I want to be…happy.”

Me: “I think you can be both! What makes you happy, Jax?”

Jax: *loud sigh* *pause* “Only food.”

I think he’s on to something.

Can I Please Just be Pissed and Positive?!

Do you like the pseudo-alliteration in the title?! I’m so clever.

So, lately, I have been feeling really agitated about my breasts and ovaries. Not my actual breasts and ovaries, guys, chill. They are fine.  It’s more about the fact that I have them and how I’m increasingly aware of how I’m treated as a result.

I have always been a feminist (believe men and women are equal, see fabulous Aziz quote I shared in yesterday’s post) but I have become more increasingly aware of both overt and microaggressions against ladies.

I think this uncomfortable feeling intensified when I woke up a few weeks ago, excited to go jogging. I hadn’t been jogging in so long and I was motivated. I was feeling awesome. I was ready.

I put on some workout clothes and left the house. It was pretty busy with going-to-work traffic, so I had to wait at the corner of my street before crossing. While doing so, a man in a passing vehicle looked at me with an expression that made me beyond uncomfortable and said “heyyyyyyy sexy.” I felt so gross. I didn’t want to be outside anymore. So I turned around and went home. I was so angry. Genuinely pissed that I couldn’t just go running without someone deciding it was okay to look at me like that and say something.

If you wonder what I was wearing, I respectfully posit that you are tacitly part of the problem (an oversized sweatshirt, no makeup and gray exercise pants, by the way). If you wonder why I couldn’t just ignore it, you haven’t been worn down by people thinking they have a say over how you look and dress, what you should and should not take as a “compliment,” and what should and should not make you feel unsafe in the world. Many women know exactly what I mean.

A few days later, I was walking to my car from class and a guy yelled from a carful of co-ed’s “Nice ASSSSSS.” Just, no. I AM JUST TRYING TO LIVE MY LIFE. MY ASS IS NOT HERE FOR YOU TO COMMENT ON. IT IS JUST TRYING TO HELP ME GET BACK TO MY CAR.

So, what exactly am I mad about? Who am I blaming for these feelings of agitation?!

Well, first off, the way boys and girls are socialized is an issue. We are conditioned from a young age to think about what boys do and how girls look. Even the compliments our parents give us as wee tots often demonstrate this: “Peter, you are so smart! Look at that puzzle you put together!”, “Amelia, you are so pretty.”

It doesn’t stop when we grow up. When my husband has introduced me to various people (at church, old friends, etc.) one of the first things they say to him when I am out of earshot is “She is beautiful!” Granted, they do not know much about me upon first being introduced, but do we ever question this almost knee jerk reaction? Not really, because it is accepted right now that how women look is the chief thing that is praised or disparaged. Maybe if people didn’t consider me pretty, this wouldn’t be what people immediately mention to my husband. Maybe, my looks wouldn’t come into it and they might ask about my interests! I should try the raccoon eye. Heroin chic doesn’t get many comments in the church crowd.

Do not get me wrong- your parents, strangers in this instance, etc. mean well. They are just going with the socially conditioned flow. But the socially conditioned flow won’t change until we start challenging this ideology and people start behaving differently to change the social atmosphere… it’s all perpetuating, ya see?!

I would further note that the pornography industry as it stands today (often one of the first introductions to sex young’un’s, particularly boys, have nowadays) is a HUGE contributing problem. Seeing women not really participating in sex but rather being “done” is a basis for some pretty harmful ideas. Current porn is not the “nudies” of our parents’ generation. This fast-paced, just bend ’em over action that is typically clipped to be the average length that is takes a male to orgasm is something far more insidious. It sexualizes and objectifies people. Time to disentangle sexuality and sexualization, shall we?! Because they are different. That’s a bit of a bunny trail though (perhaps a post on that soon).

Food for thought: isn’t the fact that some pornography is categorized as “female friendly” indicative that the majority of porn produced is NOT “friendly” to or “for” women?

Furthermore, many wives and girlfriends I speak to whose husbands habitually use porn are deeply hurt by this. Some men respond to this well- they want their wives to feel safe and comfortable and value that above the habit. Others suggest it is their wife’s fault for being “insecure” or not having sex with them enough. The latter responses suggest a huge lack of respect for women’s agency as human beings and suggest their (the man’s) feelings matter more that their spouse (the woman’s) feelings on the matter. Patronizing in the literal sense of the word. Also, the idea that women will always have lower sex drives than men and say no to their partners’ advances is making an assumption. Talking directly to your partner about your needs and their needs is important. I asked a friend if her husband (who used the frequency defense) had told her he would like to have more sex. In their case, the answer was no. Making excuses for behavior that makes your spouse uncomfortable seems pretty disparate from the whole “partners” thing. Also, in 70% of divorces, one partner was a habitual porn user. Correlation is not causation, but interesting nonetheless.

Honestly, porn culture contributes to my feeling unsafe in the world. Before I hear someone say (or adopt the idea) “porn isn’t harmful to women” I urge them to, I dunno, talk to some women about it. I have met a lot of women who didn’t even know it was okay to not be okay with porn. I literally have heard these words “Well if I don’t go along with it, I’m going to sound insecure and I’m not going to find anyone.” Shit. Another thing that suggests to me that we live in a culture where what is acceptable for women (even how they feel?!?!?!) is largely dictated by men. If you are tempted to pull a “Well, that’s their own fault. Be your own person!” I must say, isn’t wanting to be accepted a human need? Isn’t what makes women “acceptable” deeply ingrained in our culture? Detente.

Men who are reading this post, take heart. I’m not spiteful toward you (unless you have harassed me on the street, in which case, GRRRRRRRRRR to you, sir). However, it is crucially important than you examine your own views, the views of men you know (ie: your friend catcalls a woman or makes a rape “joke”… what do you do?!) and be a critical consumer. The critical consumer bit is imperative. It’s sad to shape your habits and/or your values around narratives that are crafted to line others’ pockets (porn is just one example of this, making little boys and girls seem like vastly different creatures is another… Read “Cinderella Ate my Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein for more on this).  I think it is important for everyone to do these things (examine your views and be a critical consumer) not just men.

Fellas, it is not inherently bad that you have male privilege.  You were born into it. Like I was born with ovaries and breast tissue. Like I was born white. But it’s important to realize you are in a position (haha, anyone?! Not funny?! Okay…) to use your inborn privilege to help the matter. What you do with the privilege and whether you challenge or perpetuate the culture is where you become part of the problem or the solution.

Women, educating yourself and being aware is important for you too. And always remember that payback and progress are different things.

I could go on and on and on about this, but I will rather suggest some articles and videos I found helpful. These are meant as food for thought and not Bible truth.

This article was interesting,

I liked this article a lot.

Sexuality vs. sexualization looked at here.

GQ thinks you should stop watching porn. They tell you why here.

Must watch documentaries: “The Bro Code” and “Sexy Baby” (it’s on Netflix, ya’ll).

My recommendation is to watch “The Bro Code” if nothing else. 

Friends, this very long blog post is drawing to a close. Basically, I periodically feel very exposed and unsafe in the world (and have actually had experiences far more traumatic than catcalling) because I have XX for my chromosomes.

I feel positive that together we can move in a better direction. But sometimes I’m pissed at society and anyone who diliberately chooses to look the other way, ya know?!

(Note: I know I am referring to cis genered, heterosexual, long-term relationships here as this is what I am most familiar with. I have not spoken to gay or transgendered friends about this. Furthermore, I do know that some women are habitually into mainstream porn, too. I think it is similarly unhealthy in their case but that is beyond the scope of this post).

I Love Some Distruction on a Tuesday 

Hello, my karacters! (Hmmmmm… I don’t like that greeting. Now I know…) 

I hope you all had a beautiful weekend. My heart and thanks are with all of those who have served our country or have loved ones who have. 

Oh, funny story. Sam the dog ate my phone this morning. Thanks, Sam. I fed him, took him out, went into the bathroom, came out 2 minutes later and my phone was laying beside him, mangled.  See below evidence. 

 I am thankful to my mother-in-law (and a man named Kareem at Verizon) who helped me quickly remedy the situation at no cost. I now have a new phone and renewed hatred of Sam’s love of anything that goes “crunch.” The dog needs a hobby that doesn’t involve distruction. 

Anyway, I did not have a chance to post yesterday. It was a long, strange day.  However, as a little Tuesday appetizer (plastic free! You hear that, Sam?!), please  see this zesty quote from Aziz Ansari in anticipation for tomorrow’s post. 

 

Love to you all on this sunny day! 

I’ve Got Nothing 

Do you ever have those days when you look at the clock, convinced it must be bedtime, and it’s only 3:00 in the afternoon?!

I’m absolutely having one of those days. I had lofty plans of posting one of the many much more worthy posts I’ve been drafting. But it is not to be.

Instead, I am snuggling with this guy.  (And binge watching Investigation Discovery shows. Has anyone seen “Disappeared”!? Addicting. )

  This is Sam, our Boston Terrier. We rescued him from a kooky shelter that is very vocal about homeopathy for animals. I forget the name of the place, so I make a new one up everytime I mention it. My go-to’s are “Paws for Jesus” and “Paws for Palimony.” Someday when I have more energy I’ll share more about Sam. He is quite a character.

I hope you have an excellent weekend!   Here’s to better posts next week!

What the f*&^% ?! Wednesday

Welcome to “What the F* Wednesday?!,” basically a rant about something I think should become extinct. Some will be frivolous pet peeves, others will be more serious matters but I hope you have fun reading these Wednesday posts regardless. Today’s subject matter comes to you courtesy of Facebook. Here we go:

PEOPLE WHOSE FACEBOOK WALLS PRIMARILY CONSIST OF REPOSTED,SOMETIMES OFFENSIVE, BUT ALWAYS ASININE “SHARED” ITEMS FROM OTHER WEBSITES NO ONE CARES ABOUT…. I am talking to you.

GET OFF MY JOCK.

In case you aren’t fortunate enough to have your “friends” (who are actually just individuals who were once in my life and now are dead to me) post this type of material, I have taken the time to save some actual posts that have been shared and my reactions to them. Perhaps you will enjoy the experience more secondhand.

what the f post 1

Um, no. Also, what does that even mean? You strategically place pornographic material across from a reflective surface?! That makes a lot of sense. Double the fun?! You think your face looks like a porn star’s?! Newsflash: NO ONE INVITES PEOPLE TO COME OVER THIS WAY. #byefelicia

what the F post 4

That’s neurologically impossible, but if it weren’t, that would explain a lot.

what the eff #2

There is a reason for everything and sometimes the reason is um, YOU. Or that you think you are able to accurately assume how much others can handle in their life in relation to yours. I’m sorry you feel like a cartoon woman in a burgundy dress on a blustery day, I assume that’s the worst, but puh-lease. You don’t know my life.

what the f #3

Here’s one of my all time faves. ANYONE WHO IS NOT LIKE ME MUST BE ILLEGAL AND I CANNOT ACCOMDATE THAT. GET OUT. Last I checked we were teaching elective foreign language classes that barely teach you how to have a conversation in schools, so the only thing that’s being forced on anyone here is your ignorance, sir or madam.

  Have you seen anything “shared” lately that caused you to kind of go “WTF?!”Let me know in the comments.

P.s. I would never make light of someone sharing posts to raise awareness about things that are important to them. This is meant in good fun 🙂