Between Shades of Grace

Victor Frankenstein (the musical)

The Monster:

How does the privileged first born, son of a Beaufort and a

Frankenstein, plopped in Geneva

by providence, with dreams of being a doctor

Grow up to be the man behind the monster?


Henry Clerval:

The nineteen year old founding  father of modern horror

Got a lot farther by lurkin’ a lot harder

By bein’ a lot smarter

By bein’ a lot darker

Friends and family, he didn’t notice how he scarred ‘em


Captain Walton:

And every day while his friends ran around and played

Away across the way , he read and stayed afraid

Inside, he was longing to create a legacy

The brother was ready to make his name and join the fray


Alphonse Frankenstein:

Then a thunderstorm came, and inspiration reigned

Our man saw the power of a bolt and then it came

He thought that a flash could bring back the slain

And somewhere in his brain, a plan begins  in vain



Well, the philosopher came to set his brain aflame

And  the man tried to tell him, “You need to focus on what’s sane.

Study something common, don’t go against the grain , or

The world’s gonna mock your name! What’s your name, man?”


Victor Frankenstein:

Victor Frankenstein

My name is Victor Frankenstein

And they said it couldn’t be  done

But it’s alive,  it’s alive.


Caroline Frankenstein:

Before he goes to school–full of ambition, so driven–

His Elizabeth fell bedridden, then his mother, stricken

Half-dead, she grasped their hands quick, her palms slick


Caroline + COMPANY:

“My firmest hope in death is for your relationship to stick.”


Elizabeth Lavenza and (COMPANY):

Victor moved to Ingolstadt where Kempe tore his pride aside

Left him with nothin’ but undirected drive, something idle inside

Waldman saying “Victor,  you gotta study chemistry”

He started retreatin’ and readin’ in a sea of zealotry.


Monster and (COMPANY):

His story was bound  to be misconstrued

By people less astute

He would’ve been one of the few

Without a chance for retribution

But he started workin’, blowin’ off responsibility

Readin’ about chemistry, biology, and anatomy

(Scammin’) for every part  he can get his hands on

(Plannin’) to build a man. Through the crowd, see  him

Now with a bag on his back, lookin’  to  escape the afterlife

In Ingolstadt  you can create a new life


COMPANY and (Frankenstein):

In Ingolstadt you can create a new life (It’s alive)

In Ingolstadt  you can create a new life (It’s alive)

In Ingolstadt  you can create a new life



In Ingolstadt


In Ingolstadt



It’s alive!



Victor Frankenstein (Victor Frankenstein)

We wait here on the peaks for you (waiting in the peaks for you)

You could never keep stride.

You never had to see them die.

Oh, Victor Frankenstein (Victor Frankenstein)

When Geneva weeps  for you

Will they know how you ran away?

Will they know that you rued the day?

The world will ever be the same, oh


Monster and (COMPANY):

He walks across the campus now, see if you can spot him

(it’s alive)

Another scientist tryin’ to play Messiah

(it’s alive)

His passion destroyed his life,  his ambition turned him rotten



Me? I stayed with  him.



Me? I died for him.


Alphonse Frankenstein:

Me? I feared for him.


Justine, Elizabeth, and Caroline:

Me? I loved him.



And me? I’m the damn fool that ruined him.



We said it couldn’t be done

But it’s alive



What’s your name, man?


Frankenstein & COMPANY:

Victor Frankenstein!




Self Image 2016

Self image: one’s conception of oneself

In many ways, it feels as if nothing has changed since I wrote my Self Image post last summer. I still love the same books and music, and I still turn to a hot drink and Whitman to fix the days that need fixing.

And yet…

I’m a daughter, a sister,a niece, a cousin to many, a friend, and the grandchild of just one person now, which makes me wonder: do you stop being a grandchild when you lose all of your grandparents?

I’m a senior Creative Writing major with a minor in Psychology. I still don’t know where I want to be or what I want to do after graduation. When the night is quiet, my life sounds like a ticking clock.

I’m ambitious, more like Hamilton than Burr. I never learned how to limit myself.

I’m trying to do and be a lot of things right now. I have more ideas than time, and I can’t stop starting projects. I’m still a bit of a dreamer, but I discard most dreams before I even consider ways to turn them into a reality.

I’m still trying to be the girl who wears red lipstick in public.

At the moment, I split my time between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I’m the girl with a foot on each side of the border. Part of me wants to live by the sea; another part wants to live in the woods; a larger part just wants a tiny house with enough space for a dog and my books.

My role models range from  Alexander Hamilton to Leslie Knope. My choices aren’t so random: they’re smart, driven people who know what they want and don’t allow circumstances to change their passion. I envy them all.

I work in food service, and by night, I search for schools. Or career options, and a flashy light-up sign from Jesus that reads: Kari, just do ________. The Lord still works in ways more mysterious than I can understand.

In spite of all this, I have family, friends, and teachers that make me feel like I have roots. I feel even and settled, even though I am clearly neither of those things.

I still love Sylvia, black clothing, Gilmore Girls, and Rick Riordan.

In the past year, I started to love: vulnerability, The West Wing, reading the biographies of the people who inspire me, shine theory, mimosas, and a creaky old house on a quiet corner.

My name is Kari.

I am 21 years old.

And this is me in 2016.



Letter to March

Dear March,

This letter comes toward the end of you, because I couldn’t imagine writing a letter to someone I barely knew. I think we know each other well enough now that I can speak honestly and openly about our time together.

March, you’ve demonstrated once again that I’m a woman caught between two worlds. I spent slightly less than half of you in my hometown on spring and Easter break. Going home feels a lot like being plucked from Wonderland and being told that the dream is over, get up and move on.

In Wonderland, I’m the woman who writes well, who reads the “right” books, who admits to having more drive and ambition than she knows what to do with. I want to write for a living, which is something I’ve been conditioned against telling people, because it’s not a feasible career path. But when I’m in Wonderland, it all feels possible. My dreams there are so vivid and vibrant that they feel more like hallucinations. I’m on the fringes of reality, where hallucinations glimmer like a desert mirage.

At home, I’m just the girl who kept to herself, read too much. I’m the girl who left and the girl who has no plans of going back.I’m the girl who lost contact with almost all of her high school friends and who spends her summers working and hanging out with her mom and dogs. It’s the dull,drab world that I ran away from.  And, March, I must admit I’m worried that after graduation next spring, I’ll be evicted from Wonderland, and I’ll spend the rest of my life hurling myself down the wrong rabbit holes until I’m forced to admit that it never really happened after all.

March, I met with one of my writing professors recently and we talked about what I’ll be writing for the rest of the semester. I told her that I want to write a piece from an adult narrator–a serious, literary story that would impress grad schools. It’s the type of piece that I’m supposed to write. I’ve worked on my serious, literary piece for the past couple of days. It’s going well enough, I suppose. The piece is grittier than what  I usually write, and I like the challenge. Yet I feel completely disconnected from the piece as a whole.The story is about the life of someone who left Wonderland, the person that I have yet to be.

I wonder if I, and so many other writers, tell stories with teenage narrators because we are trying to retroactively fix our past mistakes and find the characters that we chose not to become.What happened to the girl who never fell down?  I wonder, March, if the reason my current piece doesn’t feel right is because I can’t imagine a future in which I’m ever satisfied with the life I built for myself.

John Green once wrote that imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. March, I think you realized the truth of that statement long before I did. You’ve been a month of fluctuating temperature and even more dramatic changes. I drove home in freezing rain before spring break, and I came back to sunbeams and fresh growth. You shifted from winter to spring, from one reality to the next, effortless and without complaint. You understand the uncertain future and the universe’s failure to be predictable far better than I. March, I think above all you’ve taught me that we do not forget about the sun’s warmth during the winter months and I will never lose the passion I’ve discovered in Wonderland.

I’ll see you next year.

21 Things I’ve Learned In 21 Years

Here’s 21 things I’ve learned by my 21st birthday.

  1.  Know your worth.
  2. Love whatever you want, but love it unapologetically and unironically.
  3. “Come on Eileen” will always be the perfect song to pull you out of your own head.
  4. Buy lots of candles.
  5. Writing becomes much more of a chore than it used to be. The fictional worlds you used to build as a child do not come as easily as they did. You now have voices of criticism clogging your mind and your pen. But that’s okay. Editing is rewarding, and you should always take advice from others. They only want to help you grow, and you’ll get there.
  6. You’re the motherfucking fox. Act like it.
  7.  Don’t put down what you create. You are adding something new to the world. You’re part of a greater tradition than you know. Everything you create has value.
  8. Read something everyday. You deserve time for yourself, and you should use that time to experience the lives of others. Read an article, read a memoir, read a book.
  9. Imagine people complexly.
  10. The rain will teach you how to breathe again.
  11. Create boundaries and stick to them. Find whatever, whoever, is toxic to your happiness. Establish a firm boundary, and don’t let that person cross it.
  12. Stop holding grudges. Let go of all the hatred and resentment you feel towards those who caused you to feel bad about yourself. You were all young, and it’s time to move on. You’re bigger than the town you grew up in.
  13. Take care of yourself. Know your limits, practice self-care. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour: no assignment is worth poisoning your mental health. Drink water, and remember to eat. You’ll be okay. Pinky swear.
  14. Turn your room/house into a safe haven. Decorate. Paint. String fairy lights around your room. Your room is your palace. Treat it as such.
  15. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.
  16. You are allowed to be vulnerable in front of people.
  17. Try new things.
  18. Wear red lipstick. Listen to Taylor Swift. Take selfies. You are a lioness. Take selfies for yourself: remember everything about you that makes you special. Capture the moment.
  19. Watch The West Wing. Seriously. Just do it.
  20. You are enough. You are a kaleidoscope. You are unique. You contain champagne bubbles, swirling galaxies. You contain multitudes, and you are always enough. For me, for your friends. You’re enough. Tell yourself everyday. Write it on your skin, write it on your mirror in lipstick. You. are. enough.
  21. Wait for it. You might be in a dark place now, or before, or after 21. And living might feel futile, but trust me, wait for it. There are far better times ahead. It gets better: you get better. You are the one thing in life you can control. You are inimitable. You are an original. Wait for it. Promise?

Letter to February

Dear February,

Our time together draws to a close. In just ten days, I’ll bid you farewell until we meet again.

I can’t help but feel that a lot happens between our meetings–a year goes by, full of laughter and tears, of screaming Hamilton lyrics in the car with squad, to the loneliness of summer in a town that doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. I never know how to fill you in, February. You miss so much, and I don’t have enough time to catch you up. A thousand things have changed since we last spoke, and thousand things are still exactly the same.

February, I feel like you always see the worst of me. You’re the second month of a new year. After the glint of Christmas lights, after the fireworks of New Year’s Eve, and after the hope of a fresh start fades into something darker, you remain. February, you feel  like betrayal. You’re a time of short days and long assignments. We usually don’t see the sun while you’re here.

February, this isn’t your fault. I think you got the short end of the calendar when you guys drew straws. But you stepped up, and said, “I’ll take this time for myself. It’ll be short, but I’ll have a day devoted to love to help people through the dark.”

You have a bad reputation, February. But for all the bleak days, you bring us love and sunshine. You’re a month of birth and new beginnings. I was born during your month, and next week, I’ll officially be another year older.

21. I was never sure that I wanted to see that number. I couldn’t imagine myself writing it down on information sheets or applications. 21. I’ll talk more to you about it next week, February.

February, thank you. Thank you for your ebb and flow; for darkness and perfect light; for love and disappointment. You do the best you can.



New Year’s Goals Still Matter in February

Last month, I remember deciding that my first blog post of 2016 would be about my New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Goals. Resolution is a scary word and implies that the resolutioneer has the kind of resolve it takes to follow through with lifestyle changes. When I came back to college on the 10th of January, one of my housemates told me that it was basically too late to write about resolutions. I missed the opportune window–sailed past it, actually–and back-flipped out of the room containing said window.

So my blog remained abandoned on the side of the road, and I had no clear intention of coming back to it.

I was/am too busy, I decided. I’m in two advanced writing classes. I have so much reading to do all the time. Grad school decisions loom. A family member’s health is deteriorating.

Blogging was something I didn’t have time for. I kept thinking about my New Year’s Goals, about #11 on my list.

Blog more often…(weekly????????)

Technically, I didn’t break the resolution. I said blog more often, but I never specified how frequently I should do it. I’m a master of excuses.

There’s a reason that I call my resolutions goals. I detest the idea of making a resolution at the start of the New Year. You c an change your life at any given moment: you don’t need the calendar or social comparison to spark a fire. New Year’s Resolutions are toxic concepts. Every day, you’re bombarded by everything from “fitspiration” posts to healthy recipes to weekly date suggestions. Then, for the rest of the year, you watch as the postings become less frequent, eventually disappearing altogether. December 31st rolls around again and the same person says, “This is my year.” And the cycle begins again.

At the end of last year, I sat down with my new journal, and I thought about what made me unhappy. It’s a shockingly long list for a 20-year-old, but I looked at my habits and anxieties, and decided to make a series of goals for the New Year. Hardly any of my goals are quantifiable; I refused to put a number to what I want to accomplish. The goals, in and of themselves, are small. My life will not be worse without for not accomplishing them, but they are a series of small changes that I think will make me happier.

As January was blown into February by a series of warm temperatures and sunshine, so are people’s resolutions. We tried. We failed. Maybe we should just give something up for Lent instead. Next time, oh next time, we’ll do it right. You just watch us.

But your resolutions–my resolutions–still matter in February. They will always matter, and they will always be waiting in the wings for you. January is hard, friends, it’s the lurch into winter without Christmas lights to blind your fear of a new start. You can change your life at any moment. Don’t worry about new year, new me. Worry about you. Are you happy? Find whatever it is that makes you sad, scared, stressed and push it out of your life. For every bad thing you take away, add in something that you’ve always wanted to do.

Stop starting sentences with ‘I’m sorry’ and using the word ‘just’ to make your opinions seem less important. You didn’t ‘just think’. You thought. You are a lioness. Do not let yourself feel small.

Wear red lipstick. Take care of yourself. Drink more water. Take long walks. Remember what your body was made to do. Then put on some Beyonce and deal with it.

You’ve got this.

I’ve got this.

I’ll talk to you soon.

Blogmas Days 10-13: Finals Week

Finals week always feels so..well. . . final. It’s the end of the semester, the last time I’ll have to go to these classes, the last week I can turn in my papers and edit poems and take exams. This is my last shot to have a somewhat okay GPA. It’s the end of my fifth semester of college, and the number of semesters left remains at three. Three semesters and then I’ll be tossed into the real world to be a real adult with real problems. It’s the last time that I’ll be in school in 2015. Basically, there are a lot of last moments happening around here lately, and I’m not a fan.

But with all of these finals abound, there are always opportunities for joy, hope, and optimism. I have a friend who makes joy lists that she started doing after someone else told her about them, so it’s an endless cycle of joy I suppose. So here is a list of joy to remember for Finals Week.

  • Drinking Sugar Cookie Lattes and driving back to school to the Hamilton soundtrack
  • Hot Topic now has some Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff merch. Representation is important.
  • Being paid for both jobs on the same day
  • Taking a selfie that I’m really pleased with.
  • Cleaning the bathroom while listening to Christmas music
  • Mocha coffee
  • Cat make-up bag and polka dot tweezers
  • My new grey sweater with zippers in unconventional places
  • Bookstores. Bookstores. Bookstores.
  • Clean flannel sheets and an empty laundry hamper
  • Project for Awesome raising over 1.4 million dollars this weekend
  • Walking without a jacket in the middle of December
  • Christmas sweaters
  • Cat purrs
  • Hot chocolate in Christmas mug



Blogmas Day 9: Being Sick

I, like pretty much every other human on earth, hate being sick. I think I’m succumbing to a cold that I valiantly fought against for a few weeks. Mental illness is being a dick as per usual. And so general hypochondria set in a few hours ago in class where I debated internally whether or not I had a brain tumor. For the record, probably not.

There are so many factors in my life right now that make me feel generally unwell. I feel disconnected; everything feels foggy. It’s happening to someone else, not to me. Taking a sick day at this point isn’t even an option. I have classes that I have to go to.

The point of this post (beyond catching up on Blogmas) is to think about how horrible it is to feel unwell without being able to identify why. If you have a headache, you take an Advil, cold medicine for a cold, but now I don’t really know what to do. I have work that needs to be done, but I can’t focus on anything long enough to do it. Yay.

Let’s be real–there’s no point to this blog post other than me bitching about first world problems and rambling around a point. So I’m going to end this business now, and write something better tonight. I’m off to drink some water and edit some poems. God bless and good luck!

Blogmas Day 8: Bowl of Oranges

The following is a scene from what may one day be a novel. That word is actually terrifying, so maybe let’s call it a scene that may one day be something more. I’ve been working with the same characters on and off for a year or so now, and I’m currently fleshing out backstories. My basic method is to throw them into scenes and see what they do. I’m a professional.

I actually wrote this scene last year for a fiction class. Our assignment was to have two characters in a conflict over something fairly innocuous but to hint at a deeper trouble under the surface. And I’ll be honest and say that I’m fairly proud of this scene–it’s the first time I ever worked with Rose who literally rolled up in my head one day and announced her presence.  But a bad thing happened in connection with this scene and my university, so I put it away and refused to think about it for a long time. Tonight, friends, I’m ending that mindset. Here’s to jumping off the deep end. Hope you enjoy!


Bowl of Oranges

Rose frantically rifled through the fridge and the cabinets, desperate to find all of the expired food before her step-mother returned from grocery shopping. She glanced at the calendar on the refrigerator door and grimaced before she threw the gallon of milk into the trash bag at her feet. She took a quick glance around the kitchen after she closed the refrigerator door. Her gaze fell on the bowl of oranges sitting on the granite kitchen island. She’d been saving them for last. Despite the blue-green mold tapering to white, the oranges really didn’t smell that bad. The peels fell away as Rose plucked them one by one from the bowl and tossed them into the trash. She’d just finished tying up the trash bag when her stepmother, Sophia, came in carrying an armful of groceries.

“I’m going to kill your father.” Sophia said as she set the groceries on the island.

“Um, okay? Can you at least wait until I’m 18? I don’t want to be a ward of the state for the next three months. But after that, hey, go for it.”

“He was supposed to order new windshield wipers for my car, but he forgot. Apparently, he just doesn’t care for my safety.”

“So I take that it’s raining?”

Sophia rolled her eyes, “Yes, it’s raining, Rose. For someone who likes that Sherlock show so much, you have no talent for deduction. However, you can use another talent that you do possess.”

“My quirky charm that will one day fetch dozens of male suitors?”

“Nice try, but no.You and your charm can go and grab the rest of the groceries from the car. It’s just the soda and the oranges.”

“It’s raining, remember? And it’s not like oranges or soda are going to go bad in a few hours.”

“Can you please just get them? You won’t melt.”

Rose let out an exaggerated sigh, “Fine. I’ll go and catch my death.”

Rose slid her feet into her black Vans and pulled on Val’s new coat, whose sleeves fell past her fingertips. She walked out the door and paused, surveying the rain pounding against the sidewalk. “Fuck.” Holding her hood over her head, she half-ran, half-skidded to the car. She opened the trunk to find that the oranges had fallen out of the bag. Groaning, she started putting them back into the bag, counting them as she went. She ignored the soda, grabbed the oranges, and slammed the trunk closed.

“Sophia, why did you buy more oranges?” Rose said as she shrugged off Val’s coat, casting a shower of rain droplets onto the floor. “I just threw away like twenty of them because they rotted. No one even eats them.” The unspoken ‘anymore’ slid from her lips and floated into the air.

Pain flashed across Sophia’s face when she glanced up from the cabinet she’d been reorganizing. She masked it quickly, “I do wish you wouldn’t wear that coat, Rose. And I bought the oranges because maybe someone will take a hint and get some Vitamin C in her diet.”

“Ten oranges seems like a hell of a hint.”

“Is it ten? Oh, I didn’t think I grabbed that many.” Sophia bit her lip.

“Oh, it’s ten all right. I am now intimately acquainted with each and every one of them. I fondled them in my hand.” Rose grabbed an orange from the top of the bag, “See, meet Bartholomew. He might not be the handsomest, but he’s an expert at getting his juice out.”

“Don’t be crass.”

Rose raised her eyebrows, “I wasn’t being crass. Vulgar? Perhaps. Witty? Always.”

“Seriously, Rose? Anyways, yes, I bought too many oranges. Force of habit, I suppose.” Her voice grew quieter as she spoke. She picked up a box in the cabinet and held it for a moment, eyes unfocused, before putting it back where she originally had it. She shut the cabinet door, stood, and reached over to take the bag of oranges off the table. “Maybe I should just take them over to Mrs. Mashal. Her kids love oranges.”

“I think you should.” Rose said as Sophia moved to pick up the bag. “But, you know, you can leave a few here. I might try one.”


“Yeah, I can’t just let anyone eat Bartholomew. We have a unique bond. I want him ins…”

“Enough, Rose.”

“Okay, okay. I’m done. But seriously, leave like four here. I’ll eat them before they rot. Start small. One day, we might need ten oranges again.” Rose turned the orange over in her hands. Sophia took out three oranges and placed them in the bowl.

“Well, the rain’s let up so I’m going to take these over to the Mashal’s. Eat your orange, but remember that you have to take the peel off before you can eat it.” Rose glared at her step-mother. “All right, all right. I’m leaving.” Sophia pulled on her coat, picked up the bag of oranges, and left.

Rose grabbed a knife from the drawer and hoisted herself up onto the kitchen island. Her legs swung over the edge as she cut around the center, took off the peel, and quartered the fruit. She raised the first quarter to her mouth, then hesitated, the fruit pressed to her lips. Memories flooded her mind- the taste of orange juice mixed with toothpaste on Sunday mornings, of pressing cloves on Christmas Eve, of being six and trying to bite into an orange like an apple. Her hand shook as she lowered the fruit. Scooping up the rest of the orange, she glanced furtively at the door, then she dropped the orange into the trash and covered it with three layers of paper towel.

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