Tuesday Update

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Charlottesville, Virginia.

This post is going to be a bit scattered, but I have to say something.

What’s happening in Charlottesville right now is what I was afraid of back in November.  When Trump said he would “Make America great again,” I kept wondering what he meant by “again.”  When was the golden age he was trying to get back to?  Based on this demonstration, it’s clear what these people consider “great.”  “White power,” they chanted.  All because a statue was removed – a statue of a general from the losing country.

And then Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”  Because clearly both sides are equal here.  But this man was endorsed by the leader of the KKK.  He rallied about taking our country back.  The seeds were all there.

This isn’t about free speech any more.  When you’re carrying torches and guns, it’s about more than that.  When someone protesting you is murdered, it’s more than that.  When the symbol on your arm is the same symbol worn by those who literally killed billions of people, it’s more than that.  This was proven when a black man was literally beaten at this protest.

I don’t have a solution, but I know it starts with calling racism and Nazis what they are, not equating those things with those protesting them.


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4 Times You Should Say “No.”

I love the word “yes.”  When I say “yes,” I get to try new things or make someone happy.  I believe the word can really enhance your life.  But sometimes I go a little overboard and end up over-extended.

“Yes” is great, but sometimes you just really need to say “no.”

  1. When you’re overextended already – Believe it or not, you are not Wonder Woman.  You can’t go nonstop and you can’t do everything.  Once in a while, you have to rest.  So if you’re already exhausted or the workload you have is keeping you busy, you’re better off telling someone “no” than taking on extra that is going to burn you out.
  2. When the thing makes you uncomfortable/goes against your values – When I was a kid and people asked me if they could cheat off my paper, I always felt bad saying no…but I would have felt worse if I had let them.  This goes for adult things as well.  If it will make you feel guilty (or hurt you in any way), you are allowed to say no.  I encourage you to say no.
  3. When someone is repeatedly asking for favors and never helps you in return – I’m a huge believer in the golden rule.  You should absolutely treat other people the way you want to be treated.  But some people will take advantage of that and you should take care of yourself too.  If someone consistently asks you for help and is never around when you need something, it’s time to stop helping.
  4. When you just don’t want to – This may make me sound like a bad person, but I don’t actually care.  If you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to.  Period.

“But Kari, what about…”

Absolutely there are exceptions.  Maybe you’re tired, but it’s your best friend in the entire world and they really need you.  Or your schedule is booked but it’s a person who has never failed to help you out.  Maybe you really don’t want to do it, but they really can’t do it.  Err on the side of kindness, but remember to be kind to yourself too.

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.

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Welcome to August!

I have been SUPER busy lately, and the only way I’ve been able to get through it is to take one day at a time.  This is a valid method, but sometimes you’ve got to play the long game.  So, in the interest of that, here are my goals for the month.

  • Finish four books I’ve already started.
  • Write 6000 words (this is a low goal, Kari, come on).
  • Get caught up on your travel journal (WHY DO YOU DO THIS??? IT’S BEEN A MONTH SINCE YOU’VE BEEN ANYWHERE!)
  • Sign up for 401K (wow, adult much?).
  • Fix paystub problem (this has been on your radar for months, Johnson).
  • Stick to the preplanned budget for the month (which…is not your strong suit, but come on).

The next step is to figure out some rewards for if I do this, so…

  • Buy the three books on my (most timely) wishlist.
  • New coffee mug.
  • Day or weekend trip to Asheville.
  • That Kate Spade bracelet I’ve been looking at for months.
  • Nice dinner at Cowfish.
  • New pair of shoes in September’s budget.

Of course, my other problem is that I have a bad habit of letting myself have rewards without actually earning them, so who wants to keep me accountable?  Anyone?

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Introvert Problems

I’ve been working hard this month.  I came back from my beach vacation and dived into both jobs, working three and a half weeks without a single day off.  I was getting a little burned out.

…my candle literally just went out.  Spooky.

I finally took a day off and spent it sleeping.  It helped, but going back to work the next day, I was still feeling unmotivated and a little angry at, well…everyone.

I thought I needed another day, or maybe a few of them, when I didn’t have to talk to a single person.  I am an introvert.  Sometimes I need me-time.

I arrived at the mall Saturday, determined to make it through the full work day and looking forward to the short shift that followed on Sunday.  Most of the day did feel like going through the motions.  At seven, though, a woman came in with her daughter carrying a Disney bag.  I had to ask.  They had gotten two Tsum-tsums (one was Marie) and were planning a trip to the park.

I spent at least a half hour with them, talking about my time working at Disney World and showing them the pink bags we had on sale.  They were extremely sweet and it really was like talking to two old friends.  When they left with their purchase, they were overjoyed with what they got and excited about coming back.  They were my last sale right before I clocked out, and I actually left work feeling less tired than when I’d gotten there.

Since I got out early, I had time to go to Lush after H&M.  The service there is always great, but this time I got to work with Justine, and absolute sweetheart who accidentally cursed in front of me and whose tattoos I found delightful.  We realized we were from the same county and she could relate to the stifled feeling I sometimes get there.  When she noticed my Gryffindor tattoo, we got to compare Gryffindor and Slytherin qualities.  It was a lot of fun and she hugged me three times before I left.

Sometimes I need me-time, but what I’ve really been missing this month are truly personal interactions: spending time with someone and finding out what they value, what they hate, who they actually are.  It’s hard to get that when I’m trying to make a sales goal at Kate or trying to move the line at Amelie’s.  And it’s hard for me in general since I don’t seem to connect well with people, even people I’ve known for years.  (On a related note, how do you turn a work friend into a friend-friend?  I’m asking for a…well, a friend.)  But when those connections come along, they’re worth savoring, however briefly.  And they always make my job more fun.

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.

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