Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Pool Bag

It was the most beautiful bag my young eyes had ever seen. It was the latest thing from Xhileration at Target -- a green and yellow transparent plastic patchwork masterpiece. It was very 90s mod; all Austin Powers, Eurotrash, and oh so very Spice Girls. Naturally, I needed to have it.

All the best life decisions are based on these ladies.
Luckily, I had a "good" reason for needing such a bag. Ashley's pool party was coming up, and ALL the other girls in my Brownie troop were going to be there. If I didn't have a beach tote like they all had, I knew I would just die. I was already having enough trouble fitting in after our last outing -- horseback riding -- when all of the other girls teased me mercilessly for not having real riding boots (that incident made me so ashamed that I almost didn't go on the trip -- luckily my mom intervened).

This time was going to be different. This was Ashley's party, and she had invited me. Now, I grew up in the 90s, so there was a whole pack of Ashleys in my class, but this was THE Ashley. Petite, blonde, and popular -- she was the queen bee of my Brownie troop, and the girl that everyone else wanted to be. There was no way I was going to screw this up.

This wasn't just a popular party. No, this was a BOY/GIRL party, and I was reeling with excitement. The only boys I had ever had at parties were my cousins, so this was a huge deal. In my head, I showed up to the party looking svelte and beautiful, somewhere between an Olson twin and Cher from Clueless. I would sparkle, laugh, and have a good time, and he would see me. He would see me and want to hold the HECK out of my hand. It didn't matter that I was just a dumpy third grader with no social skills whatsoever: this party was going to change everything (and it was ALL because of my shiny new pool bag).

The day finally arrived, and I triple checked to make sure everything was perfect. My new bag was packed with my towel, sunscreen, and a copy of the latest American Girl magazine; all carefully and artfully placed, visible through the shiny, green vinyl. I had butterfly clips in my braid -- the kind with the wings that really moved-- and they matched the blue butterflies on my swimsuit (thank you, mom, for these concessions to my adolescent vanity). I felt like a totally unstoppable babe. I probably looked more like this:

I learned two valuable lessons at that party. 1) If an invitation seems unusual, it's because her mom made her invite you, and 2) Never, EVER wear the same butterfly clips as the most popular girl in school. No one even looked at my super trendy bag. I was immediately accused of copying the birthday girl, and spent most of the party trying not to cry in the kitchen, surrounded by a bunch of waspy moms who were drinking white wine and talking about sending their girls to cheer camp.

I'd love to say that this was the day I learned that appearance and trendy trappings have no effect on how people see you or how you see yourself, but this is not the case. I spent years after this doing the same goofy things, trying to get the attention of the same types of people. Even when I went through my gothy phase, it was because I had people I was desperate to impress.

I didn't learn this lesson until years later, when I was jumping into another pool (fully clothed) with a group of people that I had never had to try to impress. Years after the shiny green pool bag had been sacrificed for bigger and better things, I was resting on the still-warm pavement with my friends, watching the sunset and feeling more comfortable than I ever had before. There was no purchase necessary for this happiness -- no frills needed to make it a perfect day.

Growing up is never as perfect as we all seem to think it should be. No one ever learns a lesson the first time they make a mistake, and there are no dramatic transformations that immediately make us who we want to become. However, we are given one bit of peace in this whole mess: in spite of all of our mistakes and our eternal human fumblings and awkward moments, there are still perfect days to be had.

And I learned that all, indirectly (and slowly), from that glorious, shiny, cooler-than-cool pool bag. May it still be awesome, wherever it is.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Original Words: Flypaper

I've got a mind like flypaper. It flutters in the wind, collecting all of the shiny, iridescent thoughts of you that buzz around me constantly. They struggle feebly against the glue as I watch them, and I relive their tiny lives one by one.
They can't escape, and neither can I.
Day after day I watch them die, leaving their gasoline-stain, bottle green skeletons behind for me to mourn. More than just memories -- they were my hopes, and all of the stupid, ridiculous dreams I had.

They were beautiful then, flying too far away to see. They're beautiful now, even though their slow decay disgusts me.

Had they been easier to see, would I have swatted them away when they landed on my skin? I like to tell myself that I would have, but I know that this is a lie. I would have let them eat me to the bone, and then I would ask if there was anything else I could give them to devour. I would crack open my bones and offer the marrow. I'd give them my soul, if they wanted to taste it.

I still can't believe how quickly the force that was you swarmed into my life and under my skin. How unguarded I was. How, even before I knew what you were, I split open my chest cavity to let you in.
For ten seconds, you made me feel empowered. You were a secret that made me feel so beautiful, so elated, that I didn't even notice that you were eating away at my insides, or that I was about to collapse. Utterly pathetic over you.

Without a vessel that could stand on its own, you flew away, leaving behind these slow, sad memories that orbit my head daily, getting caught in this sticky paper.

Someday, when everything about you has crumbled into dust, I'll take the paper down. I'll learn to glow -- electric blue and warm. A guard around my head to guard my heart, I'll watch every new invader disappear with a flash.
A pop.
A fizz.

Picture by Lightly Enchanted

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Annual Easter "Not Muches"

Easter has always been a difficult holiday for me... at least, it has been since I was old enough to know what the holiday was really about (when you're a kid, Easter just means jelly beans).

Don't get me wrong; I love hearing about the ministry and resurrection of Christ. Even when I was basically apostate, the story filled me with an incredible amount of respect for the Lord. It takes so much love to live for others, and even more to die for them. One of my biggest goals in life is to love and serve in every way I can - to develop a perfect love.

I guess that's why Easter hits me so hard. As I think about Christ and his perfect love, I start to see all of my shortcomings, and they eat away at me for weeks.

I wish I could be more open, and kind. I need to be a better teacher, and a better friend. I don't connect with people as easily as I should, and I don't serve as much as I could. I get really prideful sometimes.

Basically, Easter makes me feel like a whole lot of Not Much... which is really bizarre, considering that this is a Christian holiday that tends to lean heavily on the individual worth aspect of humanity. It's good for me, though. The more I focus on Christ, the harder I look at myself,  and the more I see what I can be.

I have no idea why I'm writing this. Sorry guys! Sometimes the slightly depressing and weird thoughts need to come out, too.

I hope you all had a lovely Easter! I'll write something more interesting later this week (something that I'll actually draft and edit before I post it).

-- Kari

Thursday, February 21, 2013


A while back, I posted a video of myself reading Jason Stefaniak and Siobhan O'Loughlin's monologue, This is My Body, to my YouTube channel. Today, I got my first comment:

Yes, troll. I'm fat.

FAT. Big. Heavy. Plus sized. WOMAN sized. Curvy. "Fabulous and Thick." However you want to put it, that's what I am. I have a poofy tummy, sturdy legs, big arms, and stretch marks that I've spent years trying to own. These are the facts.

What I don't understand, however, is how any of that relates to my political views. I don't see how it affects any other part of me, actually. My fat is not who I am. The things that define me are infinite, and how much I weigh is the least of these. My fat does not dictate the clothes I wear. It doesn't make me NOT love moving my body and exploring the world around me. It doesn't influence my religious or political choices, my health, or my sense of humor. It just is.

My resolution for 2013 was to learn how to accept myself for everything I am, and to stop saying things like, "When I'm thin I'll...". Searching the internet, I found and fell in love with several body-positive blogs that I now check on a regular basis. I am in awe of the men and women I've seen and met, who look so gorgeous in every inch of their confident skin. One of my new heroines is the amazing Rachel Wiley, slam poet extraordinaire.

Everything I have ever felt, and wanted to say, she has said with such beautiful eloquence. Her example, and the examples of all the people like her, who ring with confidence in spite of anything that people might say is "abnormal" about them,  have started to bring about a change in me. For the first time in a long time, I feel brilliant.

Feeling this way, after so many years of self-hatred, is like unlocking a part of myself that I barely even recognize. Her confidence terrifies me, but her beauty is stunning. She looks in the mirror and loves what she sees. She speaks her mind. She dances, laughs, and gets up on stage to sing karaoke in front of a bar of people that she's never even met. Right now, she's at the back of my mind wondering why I've always been afraid to write these things down.

I wish I could tell her. It seems kind of silly now.

So, internet troll, I applaud you for your efforts. It must have taken years for you to come up with "Well... you're fat." as a response to political opinions you disagree with. Unfortunately, it seems like I'm finally past being hurt by people like you.

Yes, I am fat. But, more than that, I am beautiful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lamb of God

This spring, the Minnesota Mormon Chorale & Orchestra will be performing Rob Gardner's Lamb of God. They did this piece last spring, but this is the first year I get to be a part of it, and guys...

I am so in love with this piece.

The more I practice and listen, the more I find myself in awe of the pure love that lives in the atonement of Christ. He lives!

And, even if you're not a believer in God or Jesus Christ, this music is a spiritual experience. There is so much power in this.

I want to encourage everyone who'll be in the Minneapolis area in March to come and hear this gorgeous music. We'll be performing in Lakeville on March 23, and in New Brighton on March 24. I'll probably be posting more details when we get closer to the concert date, for those of you who are interested in attending.

Sorry about the promotion, but I just can't contain myself. More new blogs are coming soon!

-- Kari

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Workplace Stories Vol. 2: T-t-t-telephone

For someone who works in retail, I spend an awful lot of time on the telephone. A few months after I started, it was decided that we needed to connect with out customers more. Thus, the personal sales call was born.

No real relevance, I just love this picture.

We call you for your birthday. We call you about bras. We call you about clearance. We call about sales, events, and we even think to remind you about your card expiration. Every month, we make it our mission to blow up your phone and make ABSOLUTELY sure you don't forget we exist. As you might expect, there are mixed reactions to this.

In 2013, we've officially entered the email age, especially when it comes to sales relationships. People don't want to hear your voice unless they're looking at you. What they want are emails with coupons. Online deals. Exclusive text offers. Codes to scan with smartphones. For the most part, the messages they want on their answering machines are NOT the messages from our store. The telephone is becoming an obsolete form of communication.

Maybe that's why we use it. We like to keep you on your toes.

For the most part, the people I call are in a rush. They don't want to hear everything I have to say, and will hang up after the bare minimum. Another portion of the calls I make are answered by husbands, who have NO problem saying exactly what they think of me and the fact that I'm calling their wives (sometimes I wish I could record them, so their wives can know the kinds of things they say to young girls just doing their jobs). I get berated, cussed at, and ripped a new one every time I make calls. Then, in my happiest voice, I tell them that I hope they have a great day.

Then I hang up and say, "Jerk".

In spite of all this, though, making calls is still one of my favorite parts of the job. That might sound crazy after everything I just said, but the good calls make all the difference. The calls where people actually want to hear what I have to say. The calls where we can get excited about sales together, where they feel special that I care enough to call them personally. It's fun to share that feeling with them.

My absolute favorites, though, are the women I call who just want to talk for a minute. These are the older women, who haven't caught up to the digital age. They live alone, and when the phone rings, it makes their day. They can't wait to talk about their grandkids, their church meetings, their pets -- to anyone who's willing to listen. And I am. For five minutes, I let these people be incredibly important to me. I know how it feels to want someone to listen, and how much you just need to be loved sometimes.

So I love. I congratulate, commiserate, and listen. I have a great time doing it, too.

And this is why I love the personal sales call. I hope we never stop annoying everyone else, just for the sake of these fabulous moments.

What makes your job more special to you? Let me know.