Prose Before Bros

Yes, I said it.

I thought I was in love when I kissed my first crush, Seth, on the cheek when I was seven. We were behind a tree during a family camping retreat for the Boy Scouts, which both he and my brother were part of. (Smart girl-learning to break hearts at a young age.)

…But it wasn’t exactly a fairy tale ending.  He immediately straightened his glasses, gave me a weird look, and ran away. We didn’t speak after that. But that’s okay, because I learned a different love- escaping with a book instead of chasing boys.

Since then, writers from Sylvia Plath to J.K. Rowling paved the way for my love of literature. Teachers from elementary school to college classes taught me to create my own by nurturing and guiding my craft. I couldn’t ever explain it, but words empowered me. I mean, who needs a man when you’ve got countless characters to fall in love with? There was nothing quite like losing myself entirely in a story, or better yet, discovering myself between its pages in the process. And when I wrote? Indescribable. It was like I held the power. Let’s get real here- The last lines of Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus are a perfect example.

“Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”

Come onnnnn. It still gives me chills! But somewhere between that first kiss to writing poetry in my bedroom to getting my first apartment, I lost touch with the paper and pen. When I wrote in college, it was only for an assignment. I stopped reading for pleasure altogether. In fact, I stopped reading. I skimmed, or would use Google. And I definitely couldn’t remember the last time I sat down to write for me. I was caught up in relationships and social life,  and then just trying to get a job like most college grads. Then I got a job and an apartment, and was trying to figure out happiness and paying the bills but still traveling, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know.) When I finally wrote again, it was hard. It sucked. I wasted years not reading and writing, and all I could see was how far behind I was.

Which brings me to the here and now. I created this blog to keep writing, and as a place to bring my stories of travel. I joined a writing class. I’ve been submitting my work.

I delayed posting until this week because I was waiting to hear whether or not I got accepted to the 2016 Sigma Tau Delta’s International Convention, and I am THRILLED to announce that I received the e-mail last night. I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and in the middle of peeing (yeah, I’ll admit it) when I opened it. I may or may not have let out that high-pitched scream I do when I’m excited into the receiver, right into poor JJ’s eardrum, and dropped my phone in surprise. Guess it was a good thing I was still sitting down.

So hold on. What exactly is Sigma Tau Delta, you may ask? First off, it is not a sorority. It also isn’t a sexually transmitted disease. Although that is, in fact, what the acronym implies. Ha. STD is an International English Honor Society.  (And yes, believe me, we tried to get “Prose Before Bros” or “STD: Gotta read ’em all!” as our T-shirt sayings, but it didn’t stand a chance against administration.)

I joined Sigma Tau Delta in 2010, and, in my junior year of college, presented at the 2011 Convention March 23-26th in Pittsburgh, PA (shown below). The convention theme was “Beyond Words.”

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With friends Samantha and Laura, exploring the ‘burgh and attending presentations (below).

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Practice makes perfect!

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I presented an original poem, “Discoloration” which I wrote about my father.

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 A year later in 2012,  I had the time of my life at the convention, which was held in New Orleans, LA from February 29-March 3. The convention theme that year was “Reawaken.” New Orleans was a beautiful city, and I heard such beautiful writing in the sessions I attended. I was a senior in college then, and even now I am amazed by the memories I made there, from Bourbon Street to friendships I stumbled into. I hope to go back someday.  I’m still craving beignets from Café du Monde…

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Some classmates/fellow STD members with our professor, Dr. Andrew Ade (above) and below at the Red & Black Gala Dinner and Convention Awards.

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I told you I take eating seriously.

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Presenting poetry from my collection “The Art of Baptizing.”

Now, it has been over three years since I graduated college. I rediscovered Sigma Tau Delta recently and joined the Alumni Epsilon Chapter. Shortly thereafter, I realized I could still submit, and if accepted, present at the convention. Naturally, I was stoked and submitted as soon as I could pull something together. I have been racking my brain waiting these past couple months to see whether or not I would be accepted. Seriously. Not knowing was brutal, and so was trying to prepare myself for rejection.

But, this has a fairy tale ending after all. I am so happy to announce that this year, I am one of 24 Sigma Tau Delta alumni that will present at the convention in Minneapolis, MN from March 2-5, 2016. The convention theme is “Finding Home.” I will be reading ten poems from my collection “From This Side of the Sun.”

Are there any other Sigma Tau Delta members out there? Would love to connect with you!

 

Stay classy readers,

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P.S. I went to Minnesota when I was younger and all I remember is the Mall of America. What is at the top of your list for things to see & do in the City of Lakes?
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God, Good Hair Days & Gravy

All things I am thankful for.

Corny title, I know. Hope it had you rolling. Okay, I butter stop.

That was terrible, I’m sorry. Please (pretty please, with sugar on top) keep reading…

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I read somewhere that a way to turn our attitudes around and find happiness is to focus on having a heart full of gratitude- thinking about all the things that we have, instead of what we don’t.

I know (in light of this holiday) you’ve probably seen enough of this on your social media outlets today, but it’s important for me to write this list, and it serves as a reminder for me to look at when I’m feeling crappy.

So, in no particular order, here are 30 things I am thankful for:

1. To be alive. In light of recent events in the world, I’ve seen how quick life can be taken away, and it is unfortunately what many of us take for granted the most. Remember, life only sucks some of the time.

2. My parents. I was blessed with two hardworking, supporting parents who have always put me first and sacrificed so much just so I could have the things they didn’t. They have always believed in me. I will always be indebted to them, and will always love them more than anything.

3. Friendships, whether past or present. The past couple years I have focused so much on the friendships that have dissolved or people that have shown their true selves, but it caused me to 1. Forget that those people came into my life and left for a reason, and 2. neglect the friends that had been there all along. To have one true friend is better than ten fake ones. Whether they are cities, states, or countries away, they have helped shape me into who I am today. (Thank you all, and I know I need to call more often!)

4. The incredible man that I am lucky to call mine. JJ embodies unconditional love in every sense of the word. He takes care of me, protects me, sees and loves every flaw yet only announces it as perfection. He keeps me sane, and keeps me smiling.

5. My health. This past year I’ve had two surgeries that made me rethink how fortunate I am to have the ability to do simple things like eating or walking without pain or discomfort. Your health is really everything.

6. Running. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. But it has been the driving force behind becoming the stronger version of myself this past year. I have pushed past the limits I set on myself, and came to understand I have none.

7. This blog. It has forced me to be vulnerable and transparent with my life, my feelings, and my words, and held me accountable for actively writing and relaying experiences of my life. I know it has been a big step in the right direction for me.

8. Discovering a community of writers in the Madwomen in the Attic classes.

9. My niece. Because she is so sweet and chubby and the only baby I’ve ever really liked. Because she is a new family member to love. And of course, my brother and sister-in-law are in this category as well 🙂

10. My job. I work at a  wonderful university where I am surrounded by brilliant individuals, and it also gives me a paycheck and benefits. Really can’t complain.

11. My apartment. Sure, it blows coughing up that much $$$ every month, but I have a roof over my head (though it sometimes leaks) and a little corner of the universe to decorate and be as pantsless as I like.

12. Traveling. This is no secret. ‘Nuff said.

13. My education. I will admit that 75% of the stuff I studied for I have already forgotten, but at least I had the opportunity to sit in a classroom and learn.

14. My hometown. Everyone has some sort of love/hate relationship with where they grew up, but for me, it gave me the comfort of community and the peace from driving down back roads.

15. Public transportation (weird, I know) for letting me not demonstrate to the world what a terrible driver I am- especially when it is winter, and when it is not. I don’t worry about getting myself to & from work safely, or parking, or, paying for parking, etc.

16. Wearing my heart on my sleeve. Because it means I am like my mother, and she is warm but can rage with fire, and I love that- regardless if I am labeled emotional or too sensitive because of it.

17. Chocolate, because without it I would be a miserable bitch.

18. Technology, so I can Skype or call my friends/relatives whenever I am not near them.

19. JJ’s entire family, for taking me in as their own, and always making sure I am well fed…(as if I’d pass up on any food, ever.)

20. My grandparents, because they’re so cute and have shown me what true love is. (Or just that it is possible to put up with someone 60+ years of your life.)

21. Music, for getting me through my teenage years. Literally.

22. Books, for letting me lose myself in their pages and revealing my love for reading and writing.

23. CHAPSTICK. I own over 300 tubes of lip gloss, probably. No, really, someone should count them all.

24. My teachers, other adults (friends, coaches, employers, coworkers, etc.) in my life who have significantly shaped and guided me through whatever rough waters I was facing. Often, we don’t realize it until we’ve moved on.

25. My setbacks. I’ve felt heartbreak, but it lead me to someone better. I faced rejection letters from literary magazines, but it fueled my desire to try harder. Everything- friendships that fell apart, prayers that weren’t answered, “WHY ME??” moments in my life- were all preparing me for something greater.

26. Carbohydrates. Do I really need to elaborate?

27. Humor, without it life would be so dull.

28. Blankets, fuzzy socks, oversize sweaters- things that are cozy and soft.

29. Warm weather, because then I can be barefoot and sun kissed and in a better mood.

30. Sheetz, because it was love at first bite and it’s always welcoming me no matter what the hour.

 

P.S. I really tried to refrain from listing all foods. It was much harder than I thought.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

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On a Connecting Flight from Philadelphia to Frankfurt

I make my home for the next eight hours in seat 22C, separated by an aisle from two French girls with honey woven hair, their words bubbling over the soft cries of a child behind me.
To my right- a blonde, straight-faced younger man. He copies my dinner order on our overnight flight, and I exchange names for time to kill.
Ryan from Indiana, graduate from Nashville, selling engineering equipment on a business trip.
I tell him I am Kara, almost 23, a bird fleeing from the suffocating nest of corporate worlds
And how I will travel.

He said I inspired him to do something spontaneous
But he is not yet ready to canyon jump in Interlaken
Or abandon ship from the security of a 9-5 office,
That 35,000 feet in the air is more than enough risk.
I laugh as we talk of past education, and our families back home
He is 27. No kids or wife, he says.
Conversation is a coffee-carrying flight attendant still meandering
As we touch down in Frankfurt, our throats scratched from conversation.
He jokes that he better be in my book when it is published
And my eyes smile as if to say, “You will.”

Air-plane

Weeks later, I will remember this journal entry and look up Ryan from Indiana
To find two blonde toddlers and a wife plastered in his pictures
And will need to steady myself from the turbulence.
Why did you have to invent a story to a woman you just met, leaving out the woman you wrote it with?
And stash oxygen masks from your children as you suffocate them with your silence?
Why lie at all?
Maybe you needed to feel the desire of fresh attraction,
Or try on a shade of single to cover up what you left behind.
But hiding your wedding ring, in a foreign country, telling your wife you love her when you’re flying white lies fast out of Germany…you make me wish I could think up a plane crash for men like you.

P.S. Here you go, Ryan. I wrote about you.

 

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Beaches, Bathroom Accidents, and Bread Making

JUNE 29, 2013

Today, I slept until about 9 a.m. Had bread with Nutella (my staple breakfast) and went to watch the kids take a youth yoga class at la platja. Hilarious to watch but then I realize, as I’m watching them bend and thinking about how exhausting it has been to chase after them these past couple days, how extremely out of shape I am. These children actually can do a hell of a lot even if they’re just mimicking butterflies and trees.

It took me a while to understand what “platja” meant. In Spanish, beach is “playa,” so obviously, though it seems subtle, there is quite a difference. Welcome to my confusing, sort of trilingual life.

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Sa Palomera, Blanes.

As Roser packs up the towels, beach toys, and bags, I take Adrià’s hand and lead him near where the beach meets the sidewalk to stand under the fountain and rinse the sand off his body. The kid has it in every crevice of him, I swear. All of a sudden, I hear another stream of water coming from somewhere. Confused, I look down, and to my horror, Adrià has pulled himself free from his swim trunks and is casually sending an arc of golden pee into the air and straight onto some poor middle-aged woman’s legs and feet. I don’t move, or speak. I just froze, and stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, my feet rooted to the spot, because my brain can’t register what to tell my body to do. What could I do?  I mean, how do you say, “Holy shit, I’m so sorry this child who is not mine is currently peeing on you” in Catalan?! So I just panicked, grabbed his hand, and ran away. Real smooth, Kara. I said a silent prayer thanking God that the lady didn’t follow us, or shout after me, and that Roser didn’t see the whole thing happen, and wished with every fiber of my being that I could disappear under a rock. I mean, he wasn’t my child…why did I feel so mortified and responsible? Because you couldn’t apologize to her, or even explain to make Adrià realize what he did was wrong. Because you don’t speak Catalan and can’t understand anything. Sigh. As we made our way back to the car, I made a mental note to apologize to my mother for all that I must have put her through. Whatever stuff moms are made of, I don’t have that in me. In summary, I am majorly failing at being an au pair already…

I also forgot the beaches are topless here. I see young girls with better boobs than me, and I can’t help but stare in jealousy- both from their tan, curved bodies and the fact that they are at the beach with their friends. I am an outsider, and though I have this wonderful family, they are not mine- so it’s lonely. I am a strange mix of being too old to be Jordi and Roser’s child, but too young to be Adrià and Mar’s mother. I almost feel like their older sister, but I am still isolated because I don’t understand the language or how to care for them. (Note: I’ve never had younger siblings or even cousins that I’ve been around and had to care for.)  Adrià holds my hand and gives me besos sometimes which honestly melts my heart. Being with them is an emotional roller coaster- good days and bad days. My mother once told me that kids will break your heart and then mend it over and over again. How right she was.

unnamed (8)  The kids and I spent a long time at the pool when we got back…they swam naked (why are children always naked?) and I tried to teach them the word “Jump!”  They love my camera and are fascinated with what my iPad can do. I know I will have to get some good photographs of the kids and I before I leave. They are starting to take up a huge place in my heart… We went to Sa Palomera, the huge rock at the beach down by the town (pictured above), and climbed to the top.

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I carried Adrià everywhere, which actually made me feel so good that he wanted me to pick him up and hold him. We saw the locks that countless couples put there to lock their love. I just kept thinking, ¿Dónde está mi amor? For dinner later that night, I was introduced to pan con tomate. It’s bread, but on the bread we take a tomato cut in half and rub it so that it moistens the bread, then pour olive oil and sprinkle salt over top. It was amazing. I don’t care about carbs, I will forever fill up on bread. I love it! After dinner, I taught the children “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in English as we danced. Mar loves to dance as much as she loves to swim. It makes me so happy to see them learn… I hope it is working.

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Pan con tomate- A.K.A., the best thing you will ever taste.

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25 and Comin’ Alive

I’m always a day late and a dollar short.

Just two weeks after turning 25, I am finally forging a path back to my childhood dream. With this blog, I hope to not only retrace my footsteps over five months of traveling in Europe, but also rediscover my voice as a writer.

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It’s funny how thirteen-year-old me knew best all along, huh?

Since then, I’ve transferred colleges, broken up with boyfriends, had surgeries, gained a sister and a niece, crashed my car, built friendships that failed, found a soulmate, ate the weirdest sea creatures imaginable, drank absinthe, swam topless in the Mediterranean, cried in castles, jumped from mountains, and the whole time I drifted in and out of my first love- writing.

I received my B.A. in English from Westminster College in 2012 and moved to Pittsburgh, PA. After working for a year in a job that I increasingly became more unhappy at, I had my quarter-life crisis early and quit my job to travel. Now, two years later, From This Side of the Sun is the compilation of months and months of poetry, journal entries, pictures, and word vomit that expels every emotion I’ve ever felt.

Head over to my about me page so I can introduce myself further, or (for those who know me) refresh your memory on where I’ve been.

Can’t wait to catch up with you all!

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