Category Archives: My Work

A Poem for my Friend

10301515_10101125694356362_5792222484213705208_nMy beautiful, kind-hearted friend Michelle Monachino recently passed away, and I’ve been feeling miserable as I deal with losing such a wonderful beacon of light in my life. Michelle used to write me poems all the time (most of which made fun of me for being short or for enjoying editing), and I realized that I never wrote her one back. Ever. That’s definitely one of my biggest regrets, which may seem silly, but I just wish I wrote her a poem at least once. So I figured, even though I suck at poetry, better late than never.

Michelle, Michelle
I want to scream, I want to yell
At you, at strangers, at the sky
But instead I’ll opt for a heavy sigh

Could I have done more?
Should I have done less?
This whole situation has my brain in a mess

When we met freshman year
On Whitney’s third floor, full of innocent fear
You described yourself as a JewBu
And I needed to know more about you

Who was this cool chick
With big curly hair and a free spirit aura
I knew I had to befriend this girl from my floor

So we gossiped and had sleep overs and drank too much beer
After all, it was freshman year
There was that one party where I wore baggy sweatpants
A moment that you never let me forget

And through ups and downs in that first college year
It never escaped my sentimental attention
That you were my first friend at good ol’ Binghamton

By junior year you were living on my couch
Wait, did I say couch?
I meant in my bed
That is where you were actually living instead

Times spent together were always a blast
We danced and sang and formed a fake band
Jammed out to Backstreet Boys with our feet in the sand

Watched movies and ate way too much food
Did yoga and talked about all of our moods
We bonded over our varying worries
I knew I could always go to you when my heart was in flurries

We wrote in our journals e parlavamo in italiano
Reminisced about past moments that felt so clear
And entertained ideas of futures too near

And although we didn’t see each other in over a year
We both held our friendship ever so dear
Plus, we were connected through all kinds of digital means
And now when I miss you, I can pull your words up on a screen

These upcoming days are going to be rough
I’m fated to cry pretty much every time
I hear Britney or BSB make a clever rhyme

And if I see anything that resembles high fashion
Or a woman dressed with Audrey Hepburn inspired passion
I’ll think of the time Shana and I coached you for your audition
(America’s Next Top Model doesn’t know what they were missing)

The memories abound and feel almost overwhelming
But what I’ll miss most, it’s undoubtedly true
Are our long conversations, just me and you

You’ll always be one of my closest, best friends
That’s a promise I’ll hold till the end
And despite the fact that you’re no longer here
I’ll think back on our memories with nothing but cheer

I miss you, Michelle
There’s nothing more true
And please don’t forget that I’ll love you forever, too


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[Don’t] Cry

Don-t-cry-animals-2967816-425-349It was, and at times still is, embarrassing for me to express something I’m passionate about without tears breaking into the corners of my eyes and my nose stuffing up. Usually the person I’m talking to shifts uncomfortably, awaiting the inevitable waterworks. When I feel this happening, I end my statements early and dispassionately to try and ebb the flow of tears as well as offer the other person an out to the conversation, cursing my proclivity to get teary-eyed when I feel a strong emotion. But that’s usually about the extent of it; I rarely actually end up crying.

In childhood, crying came pretty easily to me. If I felt angry, sad, or even incredibly happy, tears would brim in my eyes, and I’d eventually dissolve into a child-sized puddle. I cried in class frequently, especially when I felt like I was being attacked or made fun of. Classmates in elementary school knew when I was emotional because I’d put my head down on my desk.

“She’s crying again.”

Their whispers didn’t help me to stop crying, but they taught me to contain my tears to the privacy of my home. So I traded in my tears for curse words, laying into anyone who hurt my feelings with a slew of profanities that I didn’t even fully understand. I didn’t deal with the pains I felt or find a healthier way of handling my emotions, but I was able to at least get past the occasional bully. In my mind I looked tough, but to your everyday schoolyard bully, I was probably just wearing a tearstained bullseye.

Once middle school came, I decided to give myself an internal makeover. I’d shut my mouth and my tear-ducts and fade into the background to the best of my ability. When my seventh grade English teacher asked us to describe everyone in the class using three adjectives, I (internally) celebrated when almost all of mine were “smart, quiet, and shy.”

This worked for awhile. I didn’t cry in school for years. I had a new reputation that I was pleased with and plenty of new friends that didn’t know me as the blubbering child from my elementary school days. I felt strong and confident, which was only affirmed when I met my first boyfriend.

Someone was interested in me and had no idea of the crybaby I used to be. I come from a family where my parents and many of my aunts and uncles were high school sweethearts, so I thought this relationship was it for me. I assumed we’d get married, but when it didn’t work out, it destroyed me. I no longer saw myself as confident; instead I was made up of all the faults and flaws that made my boyfriend cheat on and eventually leave me.

I dragged my feet through the hallways each day, shoulders slumped and eyes glossed over with a perpetual sheen of tears. I became the version of myself that I abhorred, the one I worked so hard to destroy. And this time, the bullies were more clever than the boys who used to pretend to have crushes on me. They nicknamed me Sad Girl.

“Here comes Sad Girl.”

“Why so sad, Sad Girl?”

“I fucked Sad Girl.” (My ex-boyfriend was the best.)

Each whisper stung, lowering my shoulders until they were practically level with my knees. My friends didn’t know how to handle me in this state, so they left, at least until I could wipe my eyes and stand up without a sniffle. I lost what I believed to be my soulmate as well as my best friends.

When you feel desperately lonely, there’s little to do that can snap you out of that state. It begs to be indulged, feeding off your misery and growing like a black hole. And when it consumes you completely, turning back feels impossible and exhausting.

The best (and worst) part was that I rarely cried during my time as Sad Girl. Although I felt miserable about the breakup as well as my horrible friend situations, I didn’t want to make the same mistake that I had in elementary school—I didn’t want my reputation tainted by tears. There was no doubt that I was sad, but I at least waited until I was home to unleash the waterworks.

Eventually I was able to shake the weepies over the relationship. I changed my MySpace name to Sad Girl to show my ex I wasn’t affected by his pet name for me, and people eventually stopped calling me it. I took it as another lesson, though. My emotions once again became a point to laugh over and were something for me to be ashamed of. So I learned to bottle them up and plaster a smile on my face, even—and especially—when it hurt to do so.

That brings me to today’s Nicole. Not Sad Girl, not the little girl that easily bursts into tears, but the adult woman who finds it impossibly difficult to cry. The one who still deals with bouts of depression, but rather than seeking out an outlet for them, pushes them down until they come rushing out in the form of periodic breakdowns. The one who feels like a burden to the few people she chooses to confide in, and who instead opts to unload all her thoughts and feelings onto her boyfriend to save her friends the trouble. The one who hasn’t felt comfortable telling her parents about her secrets and fears since her mom asked her why she’d want to tell a stranger her thoughts in therapy and since her dad told her to just stop being sad.

Lately my eyes yearn for the release of tears, but my mind shuts the idea down almost immediately. I feel them build up behind my eyelids, tingling and threatening to cascade down my cheeks. Don’t cry, Sad Girl. Don’t you dare cry.

Sometimes crying can be so helpful. I remember crying until my throat was raw, screaming into pillows, and dissolving into cry-hiccups. And every time I had one of those moments, although intense, the weight lifted from my chest and shoulders. My mind felt clear. I was reinvigorated with hope and confidence. Sometimes you need to completely breakdown to be able to rebuild.

After being made fun of and insulted for expressing anything other than happiness and contentment, I struggle to connect to the long forgotten Sad Girl of my past. So what do you do when your mind won’t let you fully breakdown anymore? Do you pinch yourself until you burst into tears, or should you just think of all the negative things people have ever said to you until you feel inspired to cry?

What I know with utmost certainty is that crying would help alleviate a lot of the stress I feel lately. My job is horrible and only seems to get worse every week; my friends are either too busy to hang out or have decided to exclude me from things altogether; and my family likes to refer to the recent goings on in our collective lives as “the curse.” And yet, I don’t cry.

There’s certainly times where I shed a few tears, but my waterworks are dried up in comparison to how they used to be when they flowed freely. Maybe from crying too much in life, I’ve spent my life’s given amount of tears. Or maybe it’s time to finally start knocking down protective barriers that have been in place for so much of my life. And in doing so, I hope to finally have a healthier relationship with my emotions and whatever form they show themselves in.

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Analysis of Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book

804192989_origAn essay I wrote in undergrad comparing Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book. 


In Dante’s Inferno, Christianity was the main focus of the epic; Dante explored the underworld showing his opinion of what was sinful and what would qualify someone for Hell. In Margery Kempe’s Book, all of her stories were also written about Christianity, however, she created a sexual relationship between herself and God who was also a character in her book. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the gods and goddesses also had active roles in the storyline and helped the plot progress. Although the time periods when The Aeneid, The Inferno, and Margery Kempe’s Book were written have drastically different religious views, they all incorporated their beliefs into their writing.

Roman gods had dialogue and actively participated in the story; they were an ever-present force in The Aeneid. The gods were able to control situations depending on what they wanted, even if that was not the way that things were supposed to work out. Throughout the epic, Juno tormented the Trojans and created unnecessary problems for them even though she knew that they would settle eventually and Rome would start; she held a grudge against them which was why she incessantly tortured them. Robert Coleman said, “Divine interventions were a traditional staple of epic, conferring status upon human events portrayed and evoking a world where gods and men were closer to one another” (143). In Roman epics, the gods usually played a major role in the storyline and their over exaggerated emotions would create problems for the humans. Their intentions to create some sort of drama usually conflicted with fate, but the gods still interfered and fate worked its way around their intrusions. The Roman religion was something that became apparent in all epics, especially The Aeneid because of how it was portrayed. Religion was a major theme in that epic, threading its way throughout the plot. It was obviously a main value of the Roman people as well because of the huge part that it played within the storyline. Fate and the god’s influence would conflict with one another causing the majority of problems throughout the epic. “Gods intervene in two general ways: by manipulating the external world and by influencing human reactions and decisions internally.” The gods were real characters in the epic and interacted with other characters, showing the importance of religion in ancient Rome.

Dante’s story had mention of religion and made the rules of Christianity clear, but God was not a character. Dante also made it known what would or would not get you put in Hell, showing how strongly influenced he was by religion. Although God was not actually in The Inferno, His will was still made known by Dante and His influence was apparent throughout the entire epic. Dante the Pilgrim was positive that he was heaven-bound and went around Hell from a spectator’s perspective. However, since Dante was also the writer, he was not the innocent bystander that he appeared to be in the epic; he felt that God was merciless and that if you sinned, there was a slim chance that you could repent and avoid going to Hell. “In Dante, there is no ‘development’ properly speaking: the soul itself continues to exist without change while the life of the body is utterly destroyed” (Spitzer 82). One of Dante’s beliefs about how the Christian afterlife was that the soul could exist but the body would be destroyed. He made a lot of assertions without actually using God to say what he believed, creating an experience that showed his opinions about Christian afterlife.

Margery Kempe was controlled by religion and her stories were entirely about her interactions with God and Jesus with both acting as main characters as well. Margery sacrificed having a normal life to be entirely dedicated to Jesus; she refused to have sex with her husband, she cried out and annoyed people around her—all so that she could be pure and entirely dedicated. “Margery demonstrated her mind’s kinship with spiritual realities” (Glenn 541). Margery’s entire book is based on “her divine visions,” and how Jesus or God would talk to her and tell her how much they loved her (Glenn 541). She was known for crying hysterically all the time because of how deeply she was affected by her visions. She would be in church, for instance, and have a vision of Christ being nailed violently to the cross as if she were there watching. “By associating her own development with incidents in Jesus’s life, Margery blurs her theology with her autobiography” (Glenn 544). Margery was seen as a nuisance but could also be considered special by some because of these visions. Her writing was entirely dedicated to Christianity and her level of infatuation with God. Margery showed her views in her writing by including her crazy visions, her supposed conversations with God and Jesus, and her overall commitment to Christianity.

The similarity between them all was that they lived in times when religion (no matter what kind) strongly influenced them and they made sure to bring it into their stories. There were many reasons why these writers would incorporate religion into their pieces. In their times, making religion a main theme of their stories or epics showed the values of the society and it was a way for the writers to appease to readers then. In each society, people would only want to read about stories that they could find a way to apply to themselves, and being able to relate to the religious aspects was a good way for the authors to appeal. Life during their times were usually centered on religion, which was another reason why it was a good way for the writers to get publicity for their works. There were also trends in literature with religion threaded throughout stories. Before Virgil and Dante’s epics, Homer and other epic writers also incorporated their religious beliefs into stories. Greek and Roman writers made the gods into characters, which is a trend that Virgil kept with, and although Dante deviated from the trend of keeping God as a character, he was also dealing with a new type of epic poem and a new type of religion. Aside from having similar messages due to the fact that religion was so strongly incorporated, there were similar characterizations and plots as well. Margery Kempe was inspired by God enough to feel His presence and see Him all the time, and Dante was inspired enough to create a version of Hell appropriate to what he believed. Similarly, Virgil used religion in the way that he and other ancient Romans believed, although he himself was not entirely embodied by the beliefs. He used what he believed in his storyline, but it was not a part of him as much as it was part of the story. All three authors were able to somehow incorporate their different beliefs into their stories in a way so that they told an interesting story while utilizing what they believed. For Virgil, it was a minor point to include the gods and just something that he did as a tradition in epic poems. However for Dante, it was more of a small focal point for him to branch off from. Margery used religion as the entirety of her book and made her beliefs into part of her autobiography. In different ways, they were able to show the varying strength of religious influence in their lives.

Dante, Virgil, and Margery Kempe all integrated their religious beliefs into their writing, whether it was the main focus of the piece or just a small part of the larger story. Kempe and Dante’s stories were more focused around religion while Virgil was more focused on the creation of Rome with the gods mixed in. Regardless of their approach to writing, they were all able to show their beliefs. Margery used her visions and conversations with God to show her dedication to Christianity, Dante used his decisions as to what made a person a sinner to show his devotion, and Virgil mentioned the gods and goddesses as characters to show his views.

Works Cited

Coleman, Robert. “The Gods in the ‘Aeneid’. “Greece & Rome. Vol. 29, No. 2.

Cambridge University Press, 1982. 143-168.

Glenn, Cheryl. “Author, Audience, and Autobiography: Rhetorical Technique in the Book

of Margery Kempe.” College English Vol. 54, No. 5. National Council of Teachers

of English, 1992. 540-553.

Spitzer, Leo. “Speech and Language in Inferno XIII.” Italica Vol. 19, No. American

Association of Teachers of Italian, 1942. 381-104.


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catcall“Come here pretty baby, aww you’re so fine. Come here pretty girl, I just want to make you mine.”

We (and when I say we, you know exactly who I’m referring to here) all know how this one goes. A person comes near you, gets way too close, and whispers seemingly sweet words that are dripping in not-so-hidden meanings. Pretty baby? Make you mine? Oh, puh-lease.

Maybe I invite this kind of behavior, or maybe I somehow deserve this. Am I strutting in a provocative way? Do I look extra cute today? I try to figure out every day what it is about me that compels people to feel so bold, as if they’re able to just walk up to me and tell me that I should go home with them. Every. Day. This is actually a situation that I face every single day of my mere 28 years. I’m practically a child still, yet there’s this weird urge for people to domesticate me. Straight to the kitchen for the rest of my life, am I right?

Not me, though. Nope. No way. I’m not like some of the others. I’ve seen a bunch of my peers get giddy for these types of remarks, and then six months later they’re trapped in the home all the time. It works for them, but not me. I’m a free spirit–you can’t tame me! Call me wild, if you will. It isn’t necessarily true, but sometimes I like to think I can channel it as if I’m reaching my roots somehow.

Oh geez, here it comes again. Another one. I can hear the whistles from a mile away, and it’s not just because I have fantastic hearing. This is a different type of whistle, the kind that’s directed right at me in order to capture my attention, and with any luck, my heart. Not going to happen, buddy. Sorry!

“Come here! Come here, cutie. Aw, you’re so sweet! Baby, look at that pretty little girl. Is she a tiger cat or a tabby? I can never tell the difference. Aw, no! She’s running away! Come here pretty baby, aww you’re so fine! Come here pretty girl, I just want to make you mine!”

I dodge their dirty hands (I spend enough time cleaning my fur, I don’t need some total stranger touching it–thank you very much!), and hide under a car. Humans are so rude, total and utter pigs. Maybe if they could spend a day in my paws they’d understand how this is not an okay way to treat others.

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My Boyfriend’s Bad Habits

I wrote this story for my writing club for a prompt to write something about drinking. I think I went sufficiently dark and terrifying…again…with this one. Not sure what that says about me, but I also don’t think I want to know.


Eric looked different. Scary. I could tell it was happening again and I had an internal panic attack. A dark cloud passed through him and took up a temporary residence, his face enveloped in shadows like a cliché evil villain. He tossed back another gulp of his draft with his eyes fixated on the television screen. The Knicks were losing, badly, which meant that Eric was probably losing money. Badly.

I shifted uncomfortably in my bar stool and looked at my friend Anya and her boyfriend Ted who barely seemed to notice. Maybe it was because Eric was always wasted lately, or maybe they were trying to be polite. But more likely the charismatic man that I fell in love with two years ago fooled them. Most people went out for drinks and many of them got pissed when their favorite sports teams lost. That’s what I chalked it up to before I realized how deep his anger and addictions went.

Anya had been—was—my best friend. We met in college and lived together for three years and were pretty much inseparable. But then I met Eric two years ago and she met Ted, so we moved out of our shared apartment and in with our boyfriends. College was a place for us to rebel against our conservative upbringings. We were walking clichés. We became vegetarians and rallied on campus for equal rights and environmental awareness. Moving back to a big city after our small-town college experience slowly broke our rebelling spirits, and we fell into the very patterns we so adamantly tried to avoid. When we did see each other now, we played the same small talk, catching up games that acquaintances play with one another.

I tried to approximate how many beers he’d drank, but started to get a little confused. I wasn’t drunk; hell, I wasn’t even tipsy—once I saw the effects alcohol had on Eric, I took up sobriety without even realizing. A clear head helped me to protect myself better anyway. Whatever the exact number was, his count probably laid around eight or nine beers while the game was well into the fourth quarter. Ted and Anya were deep in some conveniently distracted conversation, but I needed to get some space and try to think up a strategy to protect myself.

“I’m going to run to the bathroom.”

I tried to catch Anya’s eye so she would come with me, and whether intentionally or not, she dodged my glance. With my bag slung over my shoulder, I began to leave until I felt Eric’s large hand devour my wrist. I sat back down and pretended to fidget in my purse for something while I dug my nails into his knuckles and tried to loosen his grip. He hadn’t looked away from the television until a commercial broke onto the screen and he finally met my gaze. His hazel eyes reminded me of the man I fell in love with two years earlier. The green-brown mixed with sadness, holding the part of him that didn’t want to hurt me, the part of him that didn’t enjoy drinking and gambling. Like a scared child locked in a dark room, the darkness mostly overshadowed the last remaining pieces of who he was when he wasn’t drunk.

I fondly remembered the charming accountant that won my heart in a drunken game of darts then swept me off my feet with a romantic first date. Dark brown hair and a muscular build that loomed almost an entire foot over me. In the beginning I always felt protected by Eric, but the more comfortable he became around me meant that he was able to change into the person he really was underneath the façade. I only saw him as a dangerous threat now, even when others complimented me on how lucky I was for finding such a great catch.

“Where are you going?” his voice slithered out of his mouth and his eyes burned my cheeks.

“I…I’m just going to the bathroom,” I floundered as I tried to mask my shaking voice.

His grip released as the cheering fans inside the television returned, but I felt his gaze glaring through my back. I hopped off the seat and mumbled something about finding lipstick in my purse.

In the bathroom, a pale face stared back at me. My skin clung desperately to my bones as I tried to quickly count up how many pounds I’d lost in the last year and a half since Eric’s gambling really spun out of control. The freckles that normally danced across my nose and splashed onto my cheeks were faded to the point where I barely noticed them. My hair looked unkempt and stringy, the previously strawberry blonde waves now grayish and flat. I dampened a paper towel and placed it on my neck then dipped it into the sunken creases of my cheeks. My eyes even looked dim and I tried to remember where my energy and fire for life went. My life became robotic as I went through the motions yet my focus was always on how to avoid the next fight. My hands were shaking and icy so I ran them under warm water in attempt to bring them back to life. A blueish-green shadow was forming on my wrist already from where Eric grabbed me, and I pulled my maroon sweater sleeve down to cover up the evidence. I don’t know how long I was actually in the bathroom. My fifteen-minute escape felt like a weeklong vacation. Someone came in and interrupted my time away, and I tried to make it look like I was fixing my hair instead of daydreaming about how to escape my life.

Pushing out of the bathroom door, I released the breath I’d been holding since I really looked at myself. I had to sit down alone and figure out how the hell I let myself become this person. I wasn’t the type of girl who let a man control her, let alone lay a hand on her. I channeled the diehard feminist of my late teens and early 20s. Womyn not women and everything that entailed. Now I’m the type of girl who hides bruises with makeup and concealing clothing and avoids talking to her friends. Three years ago, I would’ve been screaming it from the rooftops if my boyfriend laid a hand on me. I straightened my shoulders and adjusted my posture, my back creaking out of its comfortable slouching position. I should meet up with some of my regularly ignored best friends. I needed to talk to someone and share my suffering with someone else. The first step to recovery is to admit when you need help, and I finally felt sick of playing the victim.

Maybe it was because I was lost in a cloud of rare confidence or maybe it was because the light was broken outside the bathroom, but Eric blindsided me. People in the hall snickered and clutched their drinks dramatically to stop them from spilling as they assumed we were just wasted and looking for a place to make out. Eric pushed me up against the wall crushing me to it, the wood panels giving my lower back a painful massage. My breath squeezed out of my diaphragm as I desperately tried to keep it within me, confidence fleeting as it gushed out.

“Eric, you’re hurting my back.” I tried to keep my voice low to avoid a fight about how I caused a scene. I raised my arms to push him off me and relieve the pressure on my lungs, but he encased them both in one of his oven mitt hands.

“What took you so long, sweetie?” His voice crept out of his mouth as if it were coming from somewhere deep inside him.

“I was just fixing my hair.” As much as I tried to keep my voice from quavering, it once again faltered and gave away my fear.

“The Knicks lost,” he said as he pushed his body harder into my chest and planted a hard kiss on my forehead. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Air whooshed into my body, refreshing and refilling me. Eric’s fingers wrapped around my already bruised wrist, settling into the familiar grooves created less than an hour earlier. He pulled me back to our table and my body felt like it was totally out of my control again. My shoulders fell back into their protective slumped position and I could barely remember what having hope felt like. I quickly wrapped my winter jacket over my shoulders as Eric talked to Ted about the basketball game they just witnessed. My mind was in full-blown panic mode trying to think up a way to avoid a fight when we got back to our apartment, but as always I actually knew it was impossible.

“Bye Sarah,” I heard Anya’s voice break into my thoughts. She sounded almost impatient and her sky blue eyes were full of concern and doubt.

“Oh, sorry. Bye Anya,” I said as I tried to avoid her gaze. As I turned around, I broke character. With my last bit of hope inspired from my earlier surge of confidence, I turned back to my friend and looked her dead in the eyes. “I’ll call you tomorrow, maybe we can grab coffee. Just us girls.”

Her lips tightened into a smile that I recognized from years of friendship, her shiny blonde hair and sparkling eyes were the inspiring light that I needed to latch onto. The familiar smile masked the genuine concern and anxiety that I knew would take hold of her until my call. “That sounds great! See you then.”

Anya’s anxiety probably peaked and finally diminished after she didn’t hear from me. There was no surprise; I became such a flake after I moved in with my boyfriend that she probably didn’t think my offer was genuine from the start anyway. Eric must have overheard our conversation at the bar because he made sure that night that our coffee date never occurred.

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Dorothy vs. Nature

ozThis is an academic piece that I wrote about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum about how Dorothy’s connection to nature and man-made items influence her time in Oz. It was for a Children’s Literature class I took, which was probably one of my favorite classes in college.


In L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy proves that she is incapable of surviving on her own in this strange new place without help from her man-made friends, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, or the helpful animals she comes across such as the Cowardly Lion, the Winged Monkeys, and the field mice. Through her male counterparts, Dorothy makes her journey safely through the Land of Oz with their guidance and constant assistance on the path to maturation. When Dorothy first arrives in the land of the Munchkins, she is completely inexperienced when dealing with the environment because although the family lives on a farm, the nature they deal with is domesticated and contained; a sense of danger is necessary in the growth process and she was previously limited from dealing with anything too wild. However, nature becomes important and necessary on the path to help Dorothy grow and mature especially in this new place where she must adapt to parts of nature that she never experienced before.

From the start of Dorothy’s journey, she becomes a victim to nature and must rely on her man-made companions, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, to help her along because their distance from nature gives them an advantage that Dorothy lacks. It begins with the cyclone carrying her into a strange place with the potential to damage her, but without actually doing so. She is scared but soon becomes relaxed and “in spite of the swaying of the house and the wailing of the wind, Dorothy soon closed her eyes and fell fast asleep” (Baum 7). From the beginning of her journey, nature immediately takes advantage of Dorothy and she responds in a child-like way by ignoring the issue and falling asleep instead of trying to find help or come up with a solution. After meeting the Scarecrow, Dorothy and her new ally continue their journey upon the yellow brick road and he helps her when she stumbles over the rockier surface because he is not harmed by the rocks that slow and hurt her. Since he is a more technologically advanced character by not being human and weakened by nature’s obstacles, the Scarecrow is able to prevail against it and overcome any obstructions Dorothy is slowed down by. When the Tin Woodman is acquired next as a companion, he further protects Dorothy from any threats from nature, particularly creatures that threaten her life. With his axe, he is able to create other man-made objects from the nature at his disposal and can also threaten any dangerous animal with his weapon, such as the wild cat chasing the Queen of the Mice. According to Culver, “women are…organic, or ‘meat people’ while men are more often than not manikins or robots; thus Baum’s child reader learns sexual difference as she learns what Hall saw as the more basic distinction between organic and vital organization” (619). These male companions help Dorothy to grow up quickly by being the woman in need of constant protection by her man-made friends. The fact that they are more technologically developed and distanced from nature gives them an upper-hand in the constant battle against natural elements in the Land of Oz; every time one of the two becomes absent, Dorothy’s life is once again at risk and they need to be fixed for her sake. When the Wicked Witch sends bees, scarecrows, and wolves to hurt the four travelers, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman destroy them all with abilities that Dorothy or the Cowardly Lion would not have been able to apply because they are not man-made creatures. The two “are taken as reminders that humanity is really transcendent and never reified, always present but never located in a specific body part” (Culver 620). In Kansas, the nature that Dorothy deals with is domesticated animals and gray land that lack any trees or other greenery. These factors give her a disadvantage when she arrives in the lush green Land of Oz and therefore she is limited due to previously dealing with nature in such a contained way.

Although Dorothy is constantly struggling with nature, she is also aided by certain aspects such as the water, which destroys the Wicked Witch, and the numerous animals that help her. The Cowardly Lion is one of Dorothy’s first positive interactions with nature; although the Lion is unable to protect her from attackers because he is either afraid or the Tin Woodman or Scarecrow act first, he offers helpful ideas and is the idea of protection since danger that comes across the group is intimidated by him. “‘A Lion!’ cried the little Queen; ‘why, he would eat us all up.’ ‘Oh, no;’ declared the Scarecrow; ‘this Lion is a coward’” (Baum 80). At the sight and mention of the Lion, any weaker threats from nature become alarmed although he actually could not harm anything due to his immense fear. Aside from the Lion, there is aide offered from the mice and the Winged Monkeys as well; the mice become allies after the Tin Woodman saves their queen and the Winged Monkeys are bound to Dorothy because of the Golden Cap. Since there is no danger when Dorothy lives in Kansas, she does not need protection and guidance. The animals she encounters would not have helped her much because they live contained lives also and would not understand nature fully either. The only aide for Dorothy in Kansas is Toto, who “made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings” (Baum 3). Although Toto is a small connection to nature, he is enough to keep her innocent and protect her individuality, which Aunt Em and Uncle Henry lack and become gray and spiritless without. Aside from animal aide, Dorothy is also able to prevail by using water to her advantage to help kill the Wicked Witch. Throughout her journey, the girl uses water to revitalize herself upon waking up; she washes her face and makes sure she has a drink of water before she can start traveling again. Dorothy becomes driven by her desire to get the silver shoe back that the Wicked Witch steals off her foot, and for the first time she protects herself and throws water in her face, causing her demise.

The split between the two worlds that Dorothy encounters is that her life in Kansas is ancient and not as advanced as the Land of Oz where everything points towards the capitalistic and technologically advanced future. Certain colors point to capital references such as the Silver Shoes, the Golden Cap, and the Emerald City, which are all vital aspects of Dorothy’s adventure. The shoes, cap, and kiss shaped like a diamond all help her get to the ultimate destination of Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. Oz set up the country in a way that the citizens live in fear of him but respect him regardless, and they focus on constant movement forward and on monetary values. “The conservative financers who run the Emerald City, in other words, force its citizens to look at the world through money-colored glasses” (Rockoff 739). The green glasses give a vision of a world entirely focused on capitalism and its progress through the capitalist system; the people in Emerald City are busier than the other smaller, rural towns that Dorothy encounters and it is the first city the four are introduced to in Oz. The green city is clearly more advanced technologically than anywhere else they visit, and Dorothy witnesses the people selling food and other items on the streets and customers paying for those items, which is the first instance of exchange in Oz. In Kansas, Dorothy lives a similar poor and rural lifestyle as the rest of the people she encounters before arriving at Emerald City. When she is imprisoned by the Wicked Witch, the only time she is able to defend herself is because “she had lost one of her pretty shoes” (Baum 128). Dorothy is driven by the shoes’ switch from necessity to artifice, and this drives her to unintentionally destroy the Witch for them. She then uses the Golden Cap and Silver Shoes for their charms, and realizes “the power to solve her problems (by adding silver to the money stock) was there all the time” (Rockoff 756). From the start of the journey, she wants to go home and by the end she gains knowledge and matures by acquiring new information and life lessons but still makes the decision to leave. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home,” (Baum 33). She has experience with nature that she can now apply to her life at home and will be able to appreciate a simpler world without technology and capitalist containment.

Throughout Dorothy’s journey in the Land of Oz, she acquires new friends both man-made and distanced from nature, and animal and directly connected to nature who help her overcome her inexperience with the environment. She is able to mature during her journey by learning how to deal with nature, which her farm in Kansas did not give her; although a farm would be thought to give a direct connection to life and the natural world, their animals were domesticated and unable to give much insight because they did not have it either. By the end of the journey, Dorothy has grown into a wiser girl that can now return back to Kansas and properly deal with the environment that she had previously been clueless about.

Works Cited

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Land of Oz. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2006. 1-

  1. Print.

Culver, Stuart. “Growing up in Oz.” American Literary History 4.4 (1992): 607-628. Web.

9 Dec 2009.

Rockoff, Hugh. “The “Wizard of Oz” as a Monetary Allegory.” Journal of Political

Economy 98.4 (1990): 739-760. Web. 9 Dec 2009.

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Analysis of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”

romeoandjulietAnother paper that I wrote in college for a Shakespeare literature class I took. I really love reading Shakespeare and thoroughly enjoyed this class, although it was rather tough at times. I analyzed Romeo and Juliet about how Juliet’s wet nurse and Friar Lawrence acted as parents to the lovestruck teens.

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Throughout Romeo and Juliet, the Friar Lawrence and Juliet’s wet nurse acted as surrogate parents for the young lovers. However the role that the two played as surrogates led to the deaths of the two youths from their unrealized crossing of class boundaries. Romeo and Juliet’s parents were not major characters in the play and therefore the Friar and the Nurse helped the couple through their problems and also acted as the bridge between the two. Aside from passing messages along, Friar Lawrence and the Nurse also took on a lot of responsibilities that Romeo and Juliet were not mature enough to handle. Although they were not major characters, they acted as the stronger characters while the two main characters were usually weaker and more desperate.

Friar Lawrence was seen as the surrogate father for Romeo since the Montague parents were hardly in the play and there was hardly any connection between them and their son. When Romeo’s parents were mentioned in the beginning of the play, they had no idea where their son even was, creating their roles as irrelevant parent characters.

O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?

Right glad I am he was not at this fray (lines 116-117)

(Shakespeare 1106).

The parents were only in the first and the last scene of the entire play, not really adding much to the storyline. Replacing the parents in the scenes were Romeo’s friends; instead of being with family, he was always found with his friends. They gave him advice when the Friar could not be there for him, although that was rare. Romeo should have confided more in his friends than in the Friar because they would have been staying within their boundaries while also giving him sound advice.

Friar Lawrence could be thought of as Romeo’s spiritual surrogate father as well because of his job. He is “one trained in a particular discipline, yet free to think and act on his feet” (Glover 168). Friars at the time were able to perform wedding ceremonies, perform funerals, and were also herbalists. At the time, the friars had two books that they followed: the bible and the book of nature, the Doctrine of Signatures. This was the theory that everything on earth was marked by God with a sign that described its purpose. There was also a similarity between Friar Lawrence’s role in the play and the general story of Christian religion. The Christian story is one of reconciliation with God through Love and similarly Friar Lawrence made himself into a Christ-like savior between the two families. His trying to marry the two youths was also an attempt to try and fix the feuding between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. “The Romeo/Juliet union is not the impossible objective one might suppose, but a way to bridge the rift between the feuding Montague’s and Capulet’s” (Glover 168). However, the Friar could not imagine the problems that would be encountered from his simple planning; instead of helping the situation, Lawrence instead led toward Romeo’s death.

The Friar was Romeo’s right-hand man with giving advice and being the level head that Romeo needed when he started to stress out. Romeo had been characterized from the beginning as the perfect example of the Petrarchan lover. Romeo was effeminized by the two women he loved in the play because he placed them on a pedestal and took the role of the frustrated lover.

O sweet Juliet,

Thy beauty hath made me effeminate,

And in my temper soft’ned valor’s steel! (lines 112-115)

(Shakespeare 1122)

Romeo blamed Juliet for making him a weaker character as he fell neatly into the Petrarchian male role. When he faced trouble, Romeo was usually at a loss of what to do and depended on his father figure to help him out. For example, when Romeo was exiled from Verona for murdering Tybalt, he was unable to figure out what to do while he acted dramatically and threatened to stab himself. Friar Lawrence had to scold him and give him reasons of why he should want to live and why it would be unfair for him to kill himself. He is relieved that Romeo was merely banished, yet unhappy with the situation. “He is understanding but furious at Romeo’s lack of gratitude to the Duke for his clemency” (Glover 171). The Friar also had to devise a plan for Romeo and Juliet because Romeo was unable to calm himself for long enough to think of anything to do.

Ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her.

But look thou stay not till the watch be set,

For then thou canst not pass to Mantua,

Where thou shalt live till we can find a time

To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,

Beg pardon of the Prince, and call thee back

With twenty hundred thousand times more joy

Than thou went’st forth in lamentation (lines 147-154)

(Shakespeare 1126).

While being the person to calm Romeo and make him more levelheaded, the Friar also had to give him step-by-step instructions of what he should do during his exile. “[Friar Lawrence is] practical again, facing the alternatives, finding and promoting the only possible solution” (Glover 171). The Friar was his friend when he should have taken a more adult role in the boy’s life; he should have scolded the boy and showed more discipline instead of giving him options to further plunge deeper into the situation.

Juliet also went to the Friar for help and he aided her in a similar way when she was in a hysterical state. She went to Friar Lawrence after finding out that she had to marry Paris or face family exile, and she started to weep and lose control of herself. Juliet also threatened to kill herself, however she did not face the scolding that Friar Lawrence gave Romeo for the same threat. Friar Lawrence would not scold Juliet because he was not her surrogate parent; the Friar was there for Romeo in his time of need like the Nurse was for Juliet. The Friar or the Nurse would not give the other child similar treatment, but would instead treat them like a friend seeking advice. It was not the place of a parent to scold their child’s friend the way they would reprimand their child, so they keep with that sort of tradition. Friar Lawrence, however, did give Juliet instructions of what to do when she could not think for herself because of her desperation.

To-morrow night look that thou lie alone,

Let not the nurse lie with thee in thy chamber.

Take thou this vial, being then in bed,

And this distilling liquor drink thou off,

When presently through all thy veins shall run

A cold and drowsy humor; for no pulse

Shall keep his native progress, but surcease;

No warmth, no [breath] shall testify thou livest;

The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade

To [wanny] ashes, thy eyes’ windows fall,

Like death when he shuts up the day of life (lines 91-101)

(Shakespeare 1130).

Friar Lawrence had helped both children in similar instances when they were unable to come up with a plan of action for themselves instead of just staying out of their problems. While giving them comfort and helping them to regain their level heads, he also had to plan out exactly what they should do. Even as the main characters they were unable to devise their plans for themselves and instead needed to rely on the Friar for such things.

By the end of the play, all of Friar Lawrence’s hard work with helping Romeo and Juliet was basically useless; the deaths and problems that arose could not have even been foreseen. “It is not until the forward impetus of his plans is thwarted by that wretched plague that Lawrence suddenly perceives the enormity of what he’s done” (Glover 175). Friar Lawrence could hardly handle what he saw when he entered the tomb to wait for Juliet to awaken.

Romeo, O pale! Who else? What, Paris too?

And steep’d in blood? Ah, what an unkind hour

Is guilty of this lamentable chance! (lines 144-146) (Shakespeare 1137)

Friar Lawrence witnessed the boy who was like a son to him dead, with another man dead, and knew that Juliet was going to want to kill herself as well. “He recognizes the impossibility of the situation, and his own guilt overwhelms him” (Glover 175). His final speech to the Capulets, the Montagues, and the Prince was his way of releasing all his guilt because now “the man is dead inside” (Glover 176). The Friar told the entire story to the listeners; he told about his involvement and the Nurse’s, and at the end of his speech he put the blame entirely on his shoulders, saying he deserved punishment by law.

And if aught in this

Miscarried by my fault, let my old life

Be sacrific’d some hour before his time,

Unto the rigor of severest law (lines 266-269) (Shakespeare 1138).

Although the Prince excused him with no punishment, Friar Lawrence had to suffer for the rest of his life since his help led to the death of three innocent people; “the most significant emotional upheaval of his life” (Glover 174). Friar Lawrence felt that he deserved some sort of punishment for what his help had led to, but instead he was denied that luxury. Having a punishment would at least help him to recover from the tragedy, but instead he had to live with guilt and lack of punishment.

The wet nurse was Juliet’s surrogate mother in the play; she weaned the child and she also helped her by giving guidance as she grew older. “She is in fact the Mother, the person in whom Juliet lays her trust and confides her secret love” (Bruce 91). In the Act 1, Scene 3 the Nurse appeared for the first time involved in a conversation about marriage between Lady Capulet and Juliet. The Nurse gave a short speech about taking care of Juliet and some events that happened while she was growing up that her parents were absent for. William Toole concentrates on this speech and how it foreshadowed certain parts of Juliet’s life.

And then my husband- God be with his soul!

‘A was a merry man- took up the child.

“Yea” quoth he, “dost thou fall upon thy face?

Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit,

Wilt thou not, Jule?” and by my holidam,

The pretty wretch left crying and said, “Ay” (lines 39-44)

(Shakespeare 1109).

Toole remarked that these lines represented the relationship between Juliet falling down and the sexual awakening that was in her future. It was an inevitable thing, and the act of Juliet falling down made the Nurse’s husband think of Juliet’s future sex life. The “innocent ‘Ay’ of infancy” is related to Juliet’s sexual awakening and how she might not have been ready for it. However, the casual manner the Nurse and her husband mentioned sex in caused Juliet to maintain a similar disposition for when she “acquires ‘more wit’” (21-22).

Juliet’s parents were also rarely seen in the play except for when money was concerned. In the beginning of the play, Lady Capulet approached Juliet to ask her about her desire to marry Paris. However when she does approach her daughter, she asked her questions that she would know the answer to, were she closer to her daughter. Lady Capulet needed to ask her if she would be able to love Paris because she would not know otherwise since she rarely interacted with her daughter. Similarly when Capulet talks to Paris he assumed how his daughter felt about having to marry him without actually knowing. When Juliet was opposed to the marriage, Capulet was enraged because he was wrong about his daughter and also because he might not get the money he was expecting. It was just another instance similar to how Romeo’s parents were displayed, in which the parents of the protagonists do not know their children at all. They make assumptions about their children or just flat out show their ignorance of how to appeal to them.

Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender

Of my child’s love. I think she will [be] rul’d

In all respects by me; nay more, I doubt it not (lines 12-14)

(Shakespeare 1126).

The Capulets were driven by their love for money, and therefore Juliet was pressured into a second marriage with Paris. Although a woman at the time was allowed to deny her father’s wish of who she was to marry, Juliet was threatened with exile because her father did not want to miss this opportunity. The girl was left with no choice and had to comply. Even at the end of the play when their daughter is dead, all the Capulets would concentrate on was competing with the Montagues about erecting a larger statue of the other deceased child. Instead of involving themselves with their daughter, Capulet and Lady Capulet were too obsessed with money and their image to look more powerful than the Montagues.

The Nurse was a comic relief for Juliet when she had a troublesome time, but she was also there to cater to her every whim. If the Nurse had just stayed in her role as a wet nurse and not acted as Juliet’s friend, then Juliet’s death could have been avoided. However since the Nurse had lost her daughter, she used Juliet as a replacement and therefore did whatever the girl wanted. At the party where Juliet and Romeo first met, Juliet went to her Nurse to ask her questions about the stranger she danced with briefly.

Come hither, nurse. What is yond gentleman? (line 128)

What’s he that now is going out of door? (line 130)

What’s he that follows here, that would not dance? (line 132)

Go ask his name.- If he be married,

My grave is like to be my wedding-bed (lines 134-135)

(Shakespeare 1113).

Juliet relied on her Nurse for answers, similar to how a child would rely on a parent for answers that they would not otherwise know. The Nurse gave the girl the answers she sought, and even helped her out in other ways. She looked for Romeo to warn him not to hurt her ‘daughter,’ for the simple reason that Juliet asked her to find out more about him. “The only interest in her life is Juliet and Juliet’s happiness” (Bruce 93), and she would go out of her way to help her.

My young lady bid me inquire you out; what she bid me say, I will keep

to myself. But first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her in a fool’s

paradise, as they say; for the gentlewoman is young; and

therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were an

ill thing to be off’red to any gentlewoman, and very weak

dealing (lines 163-170) (Shakespeare 1119).

The Nurse’s words of warning were similar to how a parent would warn a new boyfriend about hurting or disrespecting their daughter. Bruce compares her interview with Romeo to how Capulet talks with Paris when he became a choice as Juliet’s future husband (97). The Nurse took on this mother-like role with open arms since she had been there for the girl her entire life. Bruce brings up how even after her services as Juliet’s wet-nurse were finished, she was further employed as a servant for the Capulets. She taught Juliet how to walk after weaning her, and was also the keeper of the household (96). She did not have to cater to Juliet any further, but felt it necessary to maintain the bond that was already instilled.

In two instances the Nurse had certain valuable information for Juliet that she decided to build up suspension for to have brief moments of power. When she returned from meeting with Romeo and giving him her warnings about how he should treat Juliet, the girl was found waiting anxiously. Although the Nurse knew what Juliet wanted to hear, she complained about her backaches and headaches.

Lord, how my head aches! What a head have I!

It beats as it would fall in twenty pieces.

My back a’ t’ other side- ah, my back, my back!

Beshrew your heart for sending me about

To catch my death with jauncing up and down! (lines 48-52)

(Shakespeare 1120)

All Juliet wanted was to hear what Romeo had to say about her when the Nurse went to speak with him. She built up unnecessary suspense to have a moment of power since she rarely had them. Also when the Nurse brought the news of Tybalt’s death, she made it seem as if Romeo had died. When Juliet questioned her to clarify if Romeo was dead, the Nurse did not give a straight answer right away. The Nurse had to do everything for the Capulets since she was the servant, and there were rarely any moments when she was in control of a situation. Although she wanted to help Juliet, she teased her by not giving her the information she wanted immediately to hold onto the moment for as long as possible.

Upon hearing about Romeo’s banishment, the couple fell to pieces, leaving their surrogate parents to take care of them. The Nurse comforted Juliet after finally telling her the news about Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s exile. The girl wept, thinking that it was the end of their romance. However the Nurse knew how to comfort Juliet: “she takes the desperate child in her arms, [and] she promises to find Romeo and help them consummate their marriage” (Bruce 98).

Hie to your chamber. I’ll find Romeo

To comfort you, I wot well where he is.

Hark ye, your Romeo will be here at night.

I’ll to him, he is hid at Lawrence’ cell (lines 137-141)

(Shakespeare 1124).

The Nurse told Juliet what to do and took it upon herself to help find Romeo to further comfort her. She created these responsibilities for herself to make Juliet as happy as possible, even when things did not look good. Soon after, the Nurse found Romeo in a similar state because he was equally as desperate. However she delivered the message and Friar Lawrence devised his plan to help the young couple. In their most desperate moment, the couple was unable to act for themselves and needed the aid of their parent figures to help in every way. They did not form any plans; they only wept and complained about their bad luck. The love of their surrogate parents was what saved them from earlier suicides, but also what got them into the complicated relationship they found themselves in the first place.

In her final scene of the power, the Nurse recommended moving onto Paris for Juliet to make her loss not seem as bad.

I think you are happy in this second match,

For it excels your first; or if it did not,

Your first is dead, or ‘twere as good he were

As living here and you no use of him (lines 222-225)

(Shakespeare 1129).

Although the Nurse did not agree with these words and knew that they were probably useless to the girl, she said them with her heart in the right place. If Juliet did not succumb to her father’s wish to marry Paris, then she faced family exile. “Parental control and approval and marriage were the only possibilities for a woman” (Bruce 100). The Nurse had Juliet’s best interests in mind even though she knew the girl was already married and to marry again would be sinful. The next day when she went to awaken the girl, she found her dead, and “when Juliet is dead, there is no Nurse” (Bruce 96). With Juliet supposedly gone from the play, there was no more purpose for the Nurse to be around, and therefore she faded from the play.

The Friar and the Nurse were both supposed to be characters of a more servant-like role, however when they crossed their class boundaries and acted more as friends to the couple, they helped lead to their deaths. Lawrence and the Nurse should have left Romeo and Juliet alone; it was not their place to give them advice or help them when they were in a tough situation. They had the hearts to reach out to the children in need, thinking that they could only help them. As soon as the Nurse crossed her boundary from servant to friend, Juliet was doomed. She talked back to Capulet when he scolded Juliet and did certain favors for Juliet that were beyond her job. Her loyalty to Juliet only made the situation worse, which was a message that people should not leave their roles in society even to help a desperate person. Friar Lawrence helped the two negatively by secretly marrying them and helping them in private. He went out of his way as a friar to help them and went behind the backs of their parents who had control over him in society. Both surrogate parents went behind the backs of the actual parents and by cheating them in that way, they only led the children to death quicker. If they had stayed in their lower positions in society, the couple would not have lied to their families or got caught up in the complicated romance. The second they crossed into the friend sphere with the two, they helped them attain a brief happiness and an early death.

The Nurse and Friar Lawrence were both surrogate parents for Romeo and Juliet. They aided the couple when they needed guidance or helped them devise plans when they were unable to think straight. Both parent figures helped the other child as well, usually for the sake of helping their own child though. Friar Lawrence planned out what Romeo should do during exile, and the Nurse ran around to meet with Romeo on multiple occasions despite her weak back. In the end, the Nurse was gone from the play once Juliet was apparently dead, and the Friar was left with a lifetime of guilt when he discovered the three dead bodies.

Works Cited

  • Bruce, Brenda. Players of Shakespeare: Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Cambridge:

          Cambridge University Press, 1985. 91-101.

  • Glover, Julia. Players of Shakespeare 4: Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet.

          Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 165-176.

  • Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd. Massachusetts: Houghton

          Mifflin Company, 1997. 1104-1139.

  • Toole, William B. “The Nurse’s “Vast Irrelevance”: Thematic Foreshadowing in “Romeo

           and Juliet”. South Atlantic Bulletin 45(1980): 21-30.

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Analyzing Running with Scissors

Running-with-scissorsI want to start adding in academic writing that I’ve done. I put a lot of research and effort into the papers I wrote in college and am quite proud of them. The following is an analysis of Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors (aka one of my favorite novels/authors <3).

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In Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors the fascination with media since childhood and the influence it has had on his life and the way he leads it is clearly depicted from the start. Augusten begins as the sole audience for his mother, at first indulging in her poems and encouraging her approach to life. “My mother is a star. She’s just like that lady on TV, Maude…My mother is a star like Maude” (6). He saw the way she acted as entertainment, which is how a dysfunctional person must seem to a child at times, and compared her to different television programs that shaped his day. Since there was little to no guidance in his life or attention from either parent, Augusten sought out television to help him draw conclusions about what normal is. This sort of life was what appealed to him at a young age and his mothers constant mention of how she was going to be famous one day was what young Augusten believed to be reality. Since he was just an impressionable child, it made sense that this was what normal people aspired for and fame was easily obtainable. It helped to shape his narcissism as well, a quality shared with his mother. She spoke to others only to hear her voice and obtain positive, forced feedback for her poetry while Augusten stared at a mirror and perfected his hair. Since he was never provided with any discipline or taught basic life lessons that could have made his transition into adulthood smoother and more natural, he had to rely on television for this assistance. Instead she created the idea that the reality one was given was not ideal, and that something better was always out there in the form of materialistic treasures and money. This mindset was why Augusten had such a fascination with shiny items and polishing different metals until they sparkled like they were new; he wanted stardom and materiality so that he could have normalcy. He wanted his mom to be a mother from television so he could have a predictable and overall happy life.

As Augusten grew up and started to realize that his mom had clear mental issues, he wanted to distance himself from her and the world that she was in. He had become a part of a world that did not resemble the television shows he idealized as a child, and he wanted nothing more than to change that and move away from the characters that surrounded him. Augusten despised his mother because of her own narcissism which inadvertently had created his. He craved attention because he never received any growing up. His father was an alcoholic that wanted to escape from the family, and his mother spoke at her son and never really included him in her escapades. He was there as an audience member to her one-person performance, but was never able to join in the act. Without these key parental figures, he was unable to transition into life correctly; he had no boundaries (which becomes more of an issue when he started living at the Finch house and was able to do whatever he wanted) and an unending desire for love. Augusten kept his relationship with Bookman going because the older man was so obsessed with him, even though he did not share these feelings in return. At a young age, Augusten also became obsessed with perfecting his appearance in the hopes that someone, anyone would pay him some sort of compliment or give him positive reinforcement that his mother constantly denied him. He had to care about his appearance and obsess over himself because there was nobody else to do that for him – until Bookman.

The way Augusten started to view the promise of becoming a celebrity was another way for him to escape the life that he had been thrown into due to the carelessness of his mother. He had the desire to start a two person singing sensation with Natalie and also a goal to design hair care products solely for having a famous label. Both of these dreams were ways that he could become a rich celebrity and leave behind the life where he had to scrounge together coins to go to McDonalds. There was also the situation where Dr. Finch “helped” him to escape going to school and convinced him to fake a suicide attempt by overdosing. Coincidentally, Bill Cosby’s daughter was in his class and he could not stand her, which was what drove him away from school. She was the constant reminder that there was normalcy out there in the way that he believed that it was brought to people: by fame, money, and a healthy upbringing – not a crazy failed poet mother. “Instead of becoming depressed that I was in the locked ward of a mental hospital, I pretended I was playing a role in a movie, possibly on my way to an Emmy” (132). To be content with any of the strange things going on in his life that deep down he understood were dangerous and not necessarily right, Augusten needed to pretend that he was in a new situation and a new life so that he could justify it all and escape the current situation by pretending to be somewhere else.

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A Sinner’s Wedding

I wrote this for an old prompt and realized I never posted it!



“I, Victoria, take you Paul, to be my husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”

My husband stood next to me in a crisp black tuxedo with a baby blue tie on. His dark brown hair was recently cut and parted to the left. His brown eyes crinkled in a smile making his freckles dance and I knew that this was genuinely the happiest he ever felt. I smiled back as I looked into the face of the person I loved, my best friend. Icy blue eyes, with bouncy blonde curls shaping a round, tanned face. The light green dress I chose, mostly because I knew how well it would compliment her, made her radiate with warmth and energy. I was in love with the most beautiful bridesmaid at my wedding.

Paul’s freckled cheek obscured my vision as he came in for the kiss, catching me completely off guard. I guess he said yes. If anything, my awkward unawareness must have made me look more endearing to the guests, because I heard a few aww’s and giggles from the first rows. I was a married woman now and it happened quicker than I thought it would.

It wasn’t a huge ceremony, and Paul and I walked out holding hands to the crowd of congratulations awaiting us. People threw rice in my face and I watched my mother, my two sisters, three of my aunts, and both grandmothers making the sign of the cross and muttering rapidly to themselves. My father reached me first with glossy eyes and a red nose.

“My little angel,” he cracked. “My girl.”

My eyes started a well up a little and I beamed at him. It reassured me to see how confident he was in the path I chose at least. “Oh, daddy.”

He hugged me and rested his head on my shoulder letting out a sigh. “God’s going to watch over you two. Ya’ll will be protected by our Lord.”

“Thanks, daddy. I know.”

I headed for the car with my new husband followed by a flock of female family members. We squished into a limousine, making the lavish space feel cramped and humid. My head swirled with southern accents and praise for Jesus while I watched one of my aunts as she finished up prayers on her Rosary beads. Sensing my growing anxiety, Paul squeezed my sweating hand. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring the desired comfort and only helped raise my heartbeat. I was looking for a smaller and less coarse hand to hold. The idea helped bring my anxiety to a more manageable level.

We arrived at the banquet hall where the reception would be held. Paul and I decided on having a modest wedding with our few close friends and family members. His family was on the small side while mine spanned halfway across Arkansas. Recently though a lot of relatives had discovered California and marijuana,  leaving us with our bibles and a sour taste in our mouths.

We walked inside and my other, less publicized reason for never wanting to leave ran up to me, embracing me in a hug that I dreamt about. A wave of fresh flowers and warm vanilla sugar rushed up my noise and I held my breath to keep the scent captive.

“Oh my goodness, girl, you’re MARRIED!” She squeezed me tighter and my wedding finally made sense if it kept me at this moment for longer. “I’m gonna miss you so much!”

Fear gripped my heart as my moment was destroyed. “Miss me?” I said barely above a hoarse whisper.

“Of course!” she leaned back and her curls bounced with her. “Well now that you’s a married woman, we ain’t gonna be able to hang out as much! I sure will be lonely ‘round here. Heck, maybe I’ll move. I have some cousins over at California and boy, do they love it. Maybe I’ll make a visit out soon and see if I like it much!”

“Gina, don’t be insane, I’ll never leave you behind! I love you!” I felt like the words were coming out of mouth too quickly already and knew if I didn’t slow down now I might lose control and destroy a life or two. I took a deep breath to gather myself and steady my shaking hands.

“You know you’re my closest friend. I can’t just forget you since I have a husband now. That’s just plain crazy.”

Gina smiled and replied, “Well good, because I feel like I would just hate California. It’s so big, I can’t even imagine! I’d be so dang lost!”

We both laughed, and while I was preoccupied, my hand took the initiative that I was always too afraid to make. It found its way into the soft, warm sanctity of her small left hand and prepared itself for a long stay. Her laugh trailed off and her big blues looked into my boring brown eyes, and I recognized the fleeting look of another girl afraid to disobey God.

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Birthday Anxieties

birthdayI wrote this for my first writing club prompt ever almost a year ago. It’s probably one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written.


“Well, today is the day,” I told myself as I lay under the protection of my blankets, as still as a corpse with my dread.

Today was the day I’ve been pretending to look forward to while secretly having anxiety attacks over for months. The day that every single person I encountered loved to remind me would only come once, accompanied with a smug grin that I read as thankful to not be me. The day of my daughter’s fourth birthday party was finally here and after months of careful preparation, I felt like someone threw all my organized plans into the wind and laughed as they blew away.

I prepared myself mentally for the mess and made to-do lists in my mind that I checked and re-checked. I thought of everything and knew it, but there was still the one part I could not come to terms with. And for a well-accomplished single mother of thirty, I felt incredibly childish and in need of a savior.

My alarm started chiming and interrupted my thoughts, but let’s be realistic – how could I have slept in today? As if on cue, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet coming down the hallway towards my bedroom. A knock that wasn’t about to wait for any response came, and the face of my birthday girl peeked around the open brown door.

“Mommy?” A hesitant pause and then, “Mommy, are you awake?”

I put a smile on my face before rolling over and answered, “Yes, baby. Good morning!”

A ball of energetic color flew at me and was now bouncing up and down on my bed. Curly brown hair shadowed me on each jump.

“It’s. My. BIRTHDAY!” she said each word as her feet hit the comforter, with a grin that wouldn’t stop growing. She crashed down into a cross-legged sitting position and I grabbed her up and kissed her forehead.

“I know, sweetie, I remember!” I said as I moved her into my arms and started rocking her in my lap. “So, what do you want for breakfast this morning?” Her eyes lit up at the prospect of being able to make the first big decision of the day. I made a check on my mental to-do list.

“Pancakes! No, waffles! With syrup! And french fries!” Her eyes were glossed over as she thought about the myriad of options she had. If only such a simple decision could be the hardest part of my day, too. The doorbell rang and I heard it echo through the still sleeping house.

“Wanna answer the door while Mommy gets dressed real quick?” Another present, another check, and her eyes grew to take up half her face. She blurred out of the room again towards the front door.

I began changing out of my pajamas and heard, “It’s Aunt Meg and TYLER!” screamed at me from the front of the house. My sister Meg and her six-year-old son here to reinforce that this was going to be a day to remember. A soft knock at the door came, and Meg was walking in as I was buttoned up my blouse.

“Oh my god, are you so excited?” She came over to me and hugged me. “This day is going to be over before you know it! They only turn four once.”

I turned my back to her to pick up my shoes. Was I going to have to hear these statements for the rest of my life? I knew my daughter was going to grow up faster than I wanted and that each day would literally only happen once. It was on the border of comical and annoying how often people opted to tell me that.

“Come on, I’m making Sammy some waffles and french fries for breakfast. Birthday girl’s choice,” I responded to her arched eyebrow.

We went into the kitchen and saw two eager, angelic faces peeking over the table. I rummaged around in the freezer for food. Unfortunately I wasn’t a very inventive cook, which was another stressor for this whole party.

I ordered enough food to feed the thirty-five people coming at least three times. Sandwiches, salads, pastas, and finger foods. My mother was bringing the giant ice cream cake meant for fifty and the sandwiches since she was the only person I knew that had enough room for that much food.

I took a deep breath to suppress the nerves that were beginning to flutter around again as I set the waffles and fries on the table. Tyler looked shocked, but it didn’t stop him from covering his plate in syrup as soon as it was put in front of him.

The doorbell rang again and my eyes widened with anxiety and fear. My heart felt like it had stopped to prevent me the horror of seeing who it might be.

Oh god,” I thought. “He’s here. He’s here! I can’t do this!” I wanted to run away and hide in my bed again.

I heard a soft bahhh as I forced myself to walk to the front door and the fear melted away. My shoulders went back down and I let out of gust of air. Safe for now.

I opened the door to find a large, balding man with a baby goat and a sheep. His shirt and hands were stained with dirt and other questionable brown splotches. In one hand he held two ropes leashed to the animals and the other had planks of wood and coils of wire.

“I’m the petting zoo guy,” he said as he reeled in the curious animals sniffing at my skirt. “I’m Louis.”

“Right,” I said slipping between the goat and Louis. “Let me show you where you can set up.”

Louis and his animals followed me into the backyard, past his truck where I heard more bahh’s and, I swear, a moo. We walked through the gate into my transformed yard where two covered buffet tables, three tents (in case it rained, of course), and enough chairs to seat Sammy’s entire pre-school class plus parents waited. I directed Louis to a shaded area in the corner of the yard where he could set up his pen and lay down the hay. And, somehow, I just knew that I would be picking up that hay for the next five years.

My shoulders were already feeling tense again as I returned to the house and left Louis to set up the zoo. It’d be best if he just showed up already and I wouldn’t have to deal with this dread clinging to my muscles anymore. I wish he wouldn’t show up at all. It was an empty hope because Sammy specifically asked that he be here today, and I couldn’t disappoint my daughter.

I checked off the petting zoo in my mind and the doorbell rang again. I hardly had time to see the mess the kids made of their breakfasts, but I knew it was substantial.

“Meg, can you clean Sammy up and help her change into her birthday dress while I get the door? I think some friends might be here.” I gave my daughter a sneaky smile as her eyes lit up again. She grabbed Meg’s wrist with a sticky hand and pulled her towards the stairs. Maybe this day wouldn’t be as horrible as I imagined if I got to see her face light up all day.

As I opened the door with a more optimistic spirit this time, a chorus of incomprehensible screams smacked me in the face. I saw shiny glittering presents, balloons, and I think someone even threw confetti in the air.

“Wow,” I started as I tried to gather myself while presents were shoved into my arms and people walked past me into the house. “Hello…er, everyone.”

It looked as if the entire class had carpooled together in five cars. “At least I won’t have to keep leaving the party to answer the door,” I thought, trying to deceive my panicking brain with positive thoughts.

I began to check off another part of my list and close the door, but not before a hand shot through to stop it. “Oh, and don’t forget about me!” came a deeper voice. A voice I knew only far too well from the darkest depths of the twisted part of my mind.

He pulled the door from my hand and I saw his evil face veiled in a shadow. Covered in shimmering fabric with colorful face paint and a curly orange wig, he was a cliché straight from my nightmares. My voice caught in my throat where my heart was also trapped as it tried to escape. And before I could do anything, he was walking past me into the house, squeaking as he moved.

“I’m Ben, but you can call me Bubbles today,” he said with a grin painted on his face. “Four years old, huh? I’ve got two of my own; they grow up so darn fast! This is one of those moments that’ll only happen once, but she’ll remember it forever, y’know.” He laughed a high-pitched, escalating laugh. I followed Bubbles the clown into my once safe house and made a last mental check for the day that my daughter and I would remember forever.

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