Author Archives: wordsmithkari

About wordsmithkari

"Whatever we choose it has to be grand - I can't think of two thirstier adventurers."

Putting Out Fires and Picking Your Battles

If you don’t follow me on Snapchat, you may have missed the news: I was promoted at Kate Spade.  It’s pretty cool, especially since people have been saying I should be for months.  It isn’t something I saw in myself at first, but I grow more confident every day and I love having that connection to the store and the brand.

Here’s one of the things I’ve learned about management so far: it’s a lot of putting out fires and solving problems in the moment.  Which, as a 20-something human disaster, is not new to me.  It’s pretty much how I live my life.  And there will always be another fire to put out…but.  But.

But that’s not how you run a store.

You have to put out fires, but you also have to pay attntion to the other things.  The things that aren’t problems but could be.  Those things that need to get done because they’ll make everything easier, but there’s no specific deadline.

Only putting out fires is no way to run a store and no way to live a life.

Lately my life is all working too much, solving problems as they come up, and resting. I’ve been living like a sprint, not a marathon.

When the most recent school shooting happened in Florida, something occurred to me. The Pulse nightclub shooting hit me in the gut and made me want to do something. But I never did because I was too busy putting out fires. Instead of picking my battles, I let my battles pick me.

At the store, we have an ongoing list of projects, some of which have an official deadline from the Powers That Be. Those automatically become top priority. But sometimes, we have to pick something that “could wait” and put it on the high priority list. It’s the only way to make it happen.

I want to try running my life like we run the store. I want to make things a priority without the threat of a deadline to deal with. It comes down to living intentionally.

So there you go. I’m sure you expected me to write about gun control – and yes, it’s coming – but I haven’t given myself time to gather the information and actually do anything. I’m going to do better. It’s not enough to pick your battles: you have to actually fight them. And fighting fires just isn’t the same thing.

Categories: Tuesday Update | Leave a comment

5 Things to Go Watch Right Freakin’ Now

I haven’t had a lot of free time lately, most of it filled with reading and catching up with old friends.  But the things I have watched have been really good and I can’t stop talking about them.

  1. The Good Place – This show, starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, just completed its second season on NBC.  The concept is kind of random – Eleanor Shellstrop wakes up to find she’s dead and made it into Heaven, except there’s been some mistake because the Eleanor they describe isn’t her.  If she wants to stay, she has to do what she never did on Earth: become better.  I love this show because it’s fun and makes me laugh, but it also says a lot of things about what makes a good person and what we owe each other.
  2. One Day at a Time – Season two of this show just dropped as well, and I love it.  In the new season, Penelope struggles to keep her career, family life, and education afloat simultaneously.  Elena grows into her sexuality and has her first relationship.  Alex deals with racism, and Abuelita learns how to be proud of her heritage while still moving forward.  I love the familial relationships on this show as well as the hopeful message it shares, proving that we can handle anything with the right support.
  3. Coco – Guys.  GUYS.  Coco is a beautiful movie with beautiful artwork and beautiful music.  Miguel’s entire family hates music because of what one of his ancestors did, but something in Miguel’s soul tells him he has to sing.  He takes some big risks in order to follow his passion, including the loss of his family until he learns just how important those ties are.  It’s fun and heart-wrenching and touching and everyone should see it.
  4. DuckTales – “You kids are nothing but trouble…curse me kilts, have I missed trouble…I’ll have to teach you how to get into trouble properly.”  I was excited about this reboot since the moment I heard of it, and only partly because David Tennant (using his ACTUAL ACCENT for maybe the first time in his entire career!!!) is the voice of Scrooge McDuck.  I love the boys getting into trouble.  I love Webby, who knows kung fu and everything about exploring except how to actually interact with people.  I love how Donald, and eventually Scrooge, feel about their kids and the adventures they go on as a family.  Plus, the one-liners are guaranteed to give you a chuckle.Oh, and:
  5. The Hitman’s Bodyguard – The first time I saw this movie was in theaters, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds are a true power team, with Salma Hayek rounding out the cast.  A hitman on his way to testify against a terrible dictator, Jackson is determined to take care of himself but is a little over his head.  Reynolds, a professional bodyguard, puts aside his disdain for the man he’s been pitted against so many times for the greater good…and to get his life back.  Besides being hilarious, this movie also makes a lot of interesting points about moral gray areas and leaving the past in the past.
Categories: Tuesday Update | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Closed and Common Orbit

The best problem I ever have is the inability to tear myself away from a book.  It’s happened less and less lately, but A Closed and Common Orbit was so good I could barely put it down to get to work.

It’s the sequel/companion to Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planeta book Katie recommended to me back in 2016.  It was about a group of misfits doing a dangerous job while trying to keep the family they’ve created together.

A Closed and Common Orbit is still a “found family” story that also deals with questions of identity and purpose.  At the end of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, the ship’s Artificial Intelligence has been rebooted in such a way that she’s lost all the personality and relationships she’s developed.  For everyone’s emotional health, she’s forced to take root in an artificial body and leave the ship.  The story follows her as she learns to fit into outside society, as her friends Pepper, Blue, and eventually Tak help her figure out who she is and what she wants to be.

The story is broken up by Pepper’s story, showing where she came from to get her where she is now.  Her story is just as strange as Sidra’s.  She was created to work in a factory with a group of girls all named Jane.  Once she escaped, she found a derelict ship housing an old AI who taught her about the outside world and took care of her until they could escape the planet together.

Being raised by the AI Owl gives her a unique perspective on the AI Sidra and allows the AI the opportunity to behave like a real person.  This is an example of how Chambers continues the themes from her first book, questioning the nature of life and consciousness and what makes us human.  But in this book, she also explores questions of identity.  Pepper truly understands Sidra because they were both created for a singular purpose and they both escaped being controlled over it.  She has spent years creating herself and forging a place for herself in society and she is patient as she guides Sidra to do the same.

For the first three-quarters of the book, the story is more character-driven than plot-driven.  It helps that the characters are so dynamic and enthralling.

Despite that, this is not a standalone book.  Without reading the original, it’s difficult to get a true understanding of how the universe works.   But since both the books are amazing, it’s worth it if you want to read both.

Categories: Book Club Thursday | Tags: , , | Leave a comment


I developed young.

Let’s be clear: I mean breasts.  I developed breasts at a young age.  Before I graduated from middle school, I was already a C-cup and it only got worse from there.

I say “worse” because I felt bad about it.  I remember performing with a church musical group around then and being devastated when I needed the large shirt we were all wearing while the other girls wore smalls.  One girl specifically made me feel awful – not because of anything she did, but because I had been trying to live up to her beauty and talent for months.  To console me, someone said, “She may be tiny, but she’ll probably never be endowed like you.”  It just made me feel worse.  It had been ingrained in me that breasts were bad because they were automatically inappropriate and I should never do anything to draw attention to them.

Still performing a year later, I wore an outfit that made me feel good.  It was a graphic tee that said “You know you love me” and a black silk vest that buttoned directly under the words.  I thought it made my waist look tiny, but one of the leaders pulled me aside before the service.  She took me into the bathroom and had me look in a mirror.  “You shouldn’t wear this,” she said.  “See how the words draw attention to your chest?  And then the vest frames it?  It’s not modest.”

I started wearing over-sized t-shirts after that.  Any fitted shirt would call attention to my chest.

This is the environment I grew up in and “Nipplegate” didn’t help.

A lot of people in my social group don’t seem to remember this but I do.  Not seeing it – I don’t really watch football – but hearing about it.  The next day, no one was talking about the game or the commercials.  It was all about the halftime show, about Justin Timberlake ripping Janet Jackson’s top off on live, national television.

I didn’t listen to popular music at the time (not in a hipster way, I was just strictly a country girl), so I didn’t know who she was and only recognized him from my school girl crush back when he was in N’Sync, but I knew it was bad.  Maybe some people blamed him but that wasn’t the impression I got at the time.  I couldn’t articulate it then, but I figured it out as I got older.  It was her own fault for having breasts.

I’ve come a long way since then.  Every other aspect of my body has the ability to give me a massive case of insecurity and self-hatred at a moment’s notice, but I have accepted my breasts as neutral, as a way to feed my future children (if I have them), and a place to hold my phone when I have no pockets.  No outfit makes them look big, they just are big.  And it’s okay.  It doesn’t automatically make me slutty or immodest.  It just is.

Fourteen years later, Justin Timberlake is performing at halftime again and I have no idea what’s become of Janet Jackson.  Some research suggests she’s been blacklisted from the Super Bowl and otherwise lost her career.  It also suggests that the incident inspired the founding of YouTube, proving that society wants to shame her while still profiting from her exposure.  As a woman who has fought for years to accept a natural part of my body while dealing with men I don’t know sexualizing me because of it, it angers and frustrates me that Jackson suffered so much from her exposure while Timberlake has been allowed to move on entirely and was even welcomed back to the Super Bowl.

Categories: Politics and Social Issues, Tuesday Update | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Turtles All the Way Down

I read my first John Green book in 2012 – which, you may know, is when his last one came out.  I loved them.  I went from having read none to having read all six of them within the same amount of months.  In a way, his books reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s.  They told the stories of teenagers trying to navigate their lives in a way that helped me navigate mine.  My favorite part about John Green books is that they always left me with the sense that everything was going to be okay.  I had a lot of anxiety in those days, so that feeling was crucial to me.

For four years after reading The Fault in Our Stars, I had no new John Green to read.  When he announced a new book, I was thrilled.

Turtles All the Way Down is about Aza, a teenager living with OCD and anxiety.  While she tries to cope, despite feeling overwhelmed, the world around her goes on.  A billionaire goes missing and her best friend, Daisy, wants to solve the mystery and collect on the reward.  The search has Aza reconnecting with an old friend who becomes a better one.  While her own inner world crashes, she has to learn how to manage her mind while participating in the world around her.

I believe every story we write has a little bit of autobiographical truth to it anyway, but this one was explicit.  At the reading in Charlotte, John talked about his own struggles with mental illness similar to Aza’s and how he managed it.

Now, I don’t have OCD.  In fact, I don’t have any diagnosed anything when it comes to mental illness.  But I still saw pieces of myself in Aza, thoughts she had that young Kari felt too.  He does such a thorough job of creating Aza’s voice and placing the reader in her head that I could feel the anxieties creeping back.

This story in no way glorifies Aza’s mental illness.  Instead, it does exactly what it’s intended to do.  For those who have never experienced something like this, it shines a light on what it’s like to live in a constant battle with your own brain.  For those who are currently living with it, it does something even more important.  It shows a realistic portrayal that proves there is a world outside of your head.  It gives a guide for how to live in it.  And it does what every John Green novel has ever done for me: it tells you that everything will be okay, even after the world has collapsed around you.

Categories: Book Club Thursday | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Read on October 1st, 2018.

Dear Kari:

Hi! It’s me. How are you? Doing okay?

I hope you’re reading this in your tiny bed in your historic apartment in New York City with Minnie on your lap and Boo in the kitchen knocking a princess cup off of your counter.  I hope your heels are in the hallway and your books cover every flat surface, except your desk where your candles and tarot cards and your cup of novelty pens – Judy’s carrot, the Doctor’s sonic screw driver, and the purple wand Cora bought you at the book fair – are waiting for you to sit down and work.  I hope there’s a key to your place and one to the shop hanging on a hook by your door, that there’s Jack on the counter and champagne in the fridge, that your coffee maker is programmed and your purses are lined up on a shelf in your closet of a bedroom.

But maybe you’re not.  Maybe you’re in the same full bed in the same cluttered room in that house a mile from the high school.  Maybe Minnie is in Mom’s bed and Boo is terrorizing your sister’s cat.  Layla is in the garage (is she still making that noise, or was it just the cold?) and your store key is in the coat closet downstairs.

Maybe you failed.

Here’s the thing.

I’m proud of you anyway.

You worked your ass off.  You never quit.  You took a chance and tried something.  As far as you are, you got closer than you would have if you never tries.

Pause.  Breathe.  Give it a week or two, then regroup and try again.

The failure is only final if you let it be.  I know you thought this was your year.  I know it’s been long enough.  And it sucks that you have to wait a little longer.  But this still isn’t your forever.  This is still temporary.  You’re going to keep getting closer and closer until you make it.  And you will eventually.  As long as you don’t quit.  But I am so, so proud of you for how far you’ve already come.

Categories: Tuesday Update | Leave a comment

On Thoughts

“Never give up on someone you can’t go a day without thinking about.”


Maybe your brain is perfectly healthy and never betrays you, but that hasn’t been my experience.  Sometimes my brain is really stupid and gives me thoughts like “Hey, you could totally just…turn the wheel and run your car into oncoming traffic.  Wouldn’t that be cool?”  Then I have to shake my head and say, “Brain, we talked about this: that would NOT be cool; that would be deadly and it would hurt people and, besides, what would become of Layla?”

Sometimes my brain says things like, “Everything is pointless and life sucks and you should really just stay in this bed forever.  Why bother doing anything else?”  And I have to remind it: “Okay, but tomorrow you’re going to want to eat and buy shoes and so I have to get up and go make money in order to make that happen.”

Your brain offers you thoughts and you get to choose what you do with them.  (…usually, I should say.  Mental illness is a different issue and doesn’t always allow you to do that.)

The same is true of people.  You hear a song and your brain says, “Hey, you know who that reminds me of?”  Or you’re all by yourself, watching TV, and it suddenly tells you to invite that person over.  Or they just pop up into your head.  That doesn’t mean they’re “meant for you.”  It means you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about them thus far and it’s a habit you may need to break.  It doesn’t mean you can’t give up on them.

What it should say is this:

Never give up on someone who makes you happy the majority of the time.  Never give up on someone who treats you well and makes you feel safe.  Never give up on someone who has proven they want to be with you and makes a concentrated effort to spend time with you.

Never give up on somebody who has proven they won’t give up on you.

Categories: Tuesday Update | Tags: | Leave a comment

Please Correct Me if I Misgender You, But…

A few weeks ago, a friend from the internet decided ae wanted to use more gender-neutral pronouns than “she” and “her.”  They said they were still fine with “she” as well, but wanted to try others.

Last month I finally got to go to volunteer orientation at the Time Out Youth Center.  We went around the room and shared our pronouns and I felt awkward about it when it was my turn to share mine.

When I worked at the local library two years ago, there was a person whose gender I couldn’t easily identify.  I wasn’t sure what to do but one of my coworkers made it sound so simple.  Just ask if they’re a man or a woman.  Easy.

I’m from the South and it just doesn’t feel that easy.  Talk about people who get offended easily: how would an older person who believes gender is clear-cut react if I said I couldn’t tell.

I am a cisgender woman and my gender has never felt wrong to me.  Learning that there are other experiences has been a long process and, though I want to be a good ally, this proves I still have a long way to go.  I shouldn’t be waiting for you to correct me.  I should be asking for pronouns when I meet people.  I should be doing my part to normalize that experience instead of forcing you to out yourself as different.

So correct me if I misgender you, but I’m sorry you have to.  I’m sorry I haven’t given you an easy opportunity to tell me what you want to be called.

Thank you for being patient with me, but I’m sorry if I ever make you feel anything less than 100% accepted as yourself.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making it Official

I love Book Club Thursdays.  Writing about books is the next best thing to talking about books.  But I have to be honest with you: working 50-60 hours each week makes reading difficult.  When I feel rushed, I read less substantial books and don’t always think my responses through fully.

I’ve already skipped a lot of Book Club Thursdays because I didn’t finish the book, and I’ve always felt guilty about it.  I don’t want reading to become a chore that I dread each week.  So from now on, Book Club Thursday will (officially) not be happening every week.  When they happen, they will still always be on Thursdays, and I’ll still do them every time I finish a book.  I’ll try to keep them to once a month minimum.

Doing this every week means I’ll be able to read at my own pace, so it’ll stay fun instead of work.  It also means I can think through my reviews or responses and every post won’t just be a variation of “I liked/didn’t like this because…”  And, most importantly, I’ll be able to read whatever I want instead of something I think I can get through quickly.  I may finally get some classics and House of Leaves read.

So I will see you next week with The Night Circus (which I will only definitely be done with because I’m meeting with my actual book club about it on Wednesday).  After that, I’ll see you when I have a book to talk about.


Categories: Book Club Thursday | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Eclipse

I want to write this down so I don’t forget.  There will be other eclipses, and I may even get to see some of them, but none will be quite the same as my first.

I was off on August 21st, 2017 by sheer luck.  I knew the solar eclipse was coming but I was so busy that I didn’t pay attention to the details.  Which is a shame, because it’s the sort of thing my dad would have gotten extremely excited over.

Fortunately, his brother did, and my cousin texted me the week before to invite me to their black-out party.  They live just outside Columbia, South Carolina and were in the path of totality.

Shortly after one that afternoon, I was playing Apples to Apples with the kids when one of them announced it was starting.  We all stepped out front, eclipse glasses in hand.  I couldn’t see anything from the porch and stepped down the two steps into the yard before putting the glasses back on.

They worked.  All I saw was black except for one muted spot of light.  Instead of a perfect white circle, a semicircle section on the right blended in with the darkness.  We went back inside, returning to the yard occasionally so we could check its progress.  The dark spot kept getting larger until the sliver of sun we saw through the glasses resembled a crescent moon.

I kept removing my glasses and putting them back on to marvel at how bright it was.  The sun was so powerful that, even when three-quarters of it was blocked we still couldn’t stare at it directly.  It was so strong that the sky didn’t change – not yet anyway.

We were in the backyard now and somethings were changing.  The temperature dropped, degree by degree, causing the air pressure to shift.  Even the shadows were affected.  Instead of the usual shapes, everything reflected the crescent of the sun.

And then they were gone.

The moon couldn’t block the sun completely.  A ring of light surrounded the dark circle, but the sky became as dark as dusk.  We could see Venus to the right of the moon and even the bees and crickets got confused.  The bees rushed to get home to their hive and the crickets began their nightly symphony.

We stared for a minute.  It was 2:41 in the afternoon and it looked like eight at night.

Then it was over, the moon leaving so the sun could return to its full power.  Venus vanished and it began to heat up outside.

Maybe there’s a lesson or a message in this, as there is in everything if you choose to look for it.  But there doesn’t have to be a moral for the experience to be valuable.

It took me three and a half hours to drive home on what is usually a two-hour route.  It was worth every minute of it to see the eclipse at its totality.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Categories: Tuesday Update | Tags: | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at