Meet Kari Kampakis, today’s FACE of Birmingham. Kari Kampakis is a blogger at karikampakis.com and a columnist for Village Living and 280 Living, two Birmingham publications serving 38,000 homes monthly. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post and reflects her passion for family, God and all things relevant. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Kari holds an MBA and a public relations degree. She and her husband Harry have four daughters — Ella, Sophie, Marie Claire and Camille — and a dog named Lola. Welcome, Kari!
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until seven years ago, while pregnant with my third child, that I committed to it. I wrote fiction as an escape at night. I didn’t share my work until three years later, when my friend Jennifer called and asked if I wanted a column in a new community newspaper.
Being in Village Living built my confidence because people were encouraging and supportive from the get-go. Writing is very personal, but when you write for friends — those people you see at school, church and dance pickup — the reward is instant. It strengthens the friendships you have and brings new friends into your life.
As for my blog, I started really utilizing it in March 2013 when I revamped my website and added social media share buttons. I was nervous about branching out beyond my community, but it’s been an incredible tool to grow my audience. My strongest following is still in the South, which I love because everyone’s either related or connected. It’s fun to connect the dots!
We hear you have some exciting news to share!
I do! I recently signed with Thomas Nelson, part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, for a book titled 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. It’s written for ‘tween and teen girls, but the principles apply to women of all ages.
My hope is that it provides girls with practical yet Godly direction, while inspiring dialogue between parents and daughters. It releases this fall on November 4, and once the book is out, it will be available everywhere books are sold. You can pre-order at Amazon, as well.
Can you give us a little glimpse into the book?
The book is based on a blog post I wrote called “10 Truths Young Girls Should Know,” which is on my website. Each truth has its own chapter. Here are a few:
- Kindness is more important than popularity.
- People peak at different times of life. Trust God’s plan for you.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Otherwise, you’ll never stick to your guns.
- Today’s choices set the stage for your reputation.
- You were born to fly.
Everything I want my girls to know is summed up in this book. It’s my love letter to them.
Where do you get your inspiration for the things you write so eloquently about?
My four daughters inspire a lot. The good days, the bad days, the days I’m madly in love with them, the days I want to run away from home — it’s all story material. I try not to share anything that reflects poorly on them, however, because my goal is to help parents evaluate their interior life by being honest about mine and where I have room to improve.
People fascinate me, and I get a lot of ideas listening to everyday conversations about parenting, life and the struggles and joys we all go through.
I have more story ideas than I have time to write, and that’s frustrating. I believe everyone’s life is story-worthy. It’s just a matter of recognizing those golden moments we all relate to.
When life gets too chaotic, what do you do to center yourself?
I get distracted easily. I don’t know if it’s the creative curse, adult ADD or balancing kids with a writing career, but I can get completely overwhelmed by all the things competing for attention in my head.
Prayer is the only thing that centers me. Only God can give me the clarity I crave, and sometimes it takes me emptying my mind and asking for help to see what’s necessary and what’s distracting.
I feel like there are so many things I have to do, but really there aren’t. The world won’t end if I don’t post every week on my blog. My kids will survive if I’m not a room mother this year. I used to feel guilty about everything, but I’m learning to overcome that by thinking long-term and asking if today’s choices will matter 10, 20 or 50 years down the road. That makes it easier to say no and not overcommit.
Can you share a piece of advice that has resonated for you, either in business or life?
Several years ago, I wrote an article about my friend Laura Clark, who had lost her son Wesley to SIDS 10 years earlier. In our interview, I asked Laura if she thought about heaven a lot, because I imagined she would after losing a child. Her reply completely changed my outlook on parenting and life. With an emphatic nod, Laura said: “Oh, yes. My goal in life is to get my family and myself to heaven. Now that I have one there, I feel like part of me is there.”
That was a light bulb moment for me. It shifted my focus to eternity and helped me see how inconsequential so many of my hopes, dreams and plans were. While I believe we should all apply ourselves and use our talents fully, I try to let go of lofty expectations and accept whatever God has planned to get my family into heaven. Truly, that is the only thing that matters.
It’s a relief to think this way and know that all I have to do is try my best and be obedient. I’m such a planner that it’s hard not to map out everything, but my life works so much better when I trust God and wait for His direction, because He will open the right doors at the right time.
What would our readers be surprised to learn about you?
When I was in college, I wanted to be a psychologist. I minored in psychology and developed a deep passion for it. I didn’t pursue it because it required a doctoral degree, and I wasn’t up for that.
But through writing, I’ve found a place to have my therapy sessions. I can dig down to the root of what’s going on inside me and around me and understand better why we all make the choices we do. So if I ever sound like Dr. Phil, that’s why. I believe so much can be explained by our past experiences, upbringing and family dynamics.
What did your bedroom look like when you were a teenager?
Remember Laura Ashley from the ’80s? Well, that was my bedding. Bright and floral. I had a big stereo that blared music and a mirror I did aerobics in front of. Now I’ve really dated myself, haven’t I?
I also had tons of pictures and bulletin boards. My room was organized, and everything had its place. A few years ago, an old friend reminded me that if someone picked up a frame and didn’t set it down exactly where it was, I’d move it. They liked to mess with me by shifting things around, and I can’t say I blame them.
What upcoming local event are you most looking forward to?
Do Dah Day. Last year we broke down and got the kids a dog, so at last they have a pet to parade around. They’ve wanted to attend this event for years, so it should be fun.
What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
My husband and I like to nest, and weekends are our time to recharge. Sometimes we go to a fun party or have a date night, but my favorite thing to do is to stay in and watch movies. My girls are movie buffs, too, so we’ll often pop a big bowl of popcorn and watch a family flick.
Last weekend we chose Frozen, and every time a song came on, my 7-year-old (the hopeless romantic) would make me or her daddy dance with her. It was so sweet and innocent. My girls are still at ages where we’re mostly together on weekend nights, and it brings me such peace to be safe and sound under the same roof.
Do you have a favorite local restaurant?
That’s hard! Birmingham has so many amazing restaurants. I love Chez Fonfon, Gianmarco’s, Chez Lulu, Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, and Hot and Hot Fish Club. I’m also a fan of Olexa’s, Urban Cookhouse and the new Brick & Tin in Mountain Brook Village. I honestly can’t narrow down a favorite!
What are you listening to these days?
I primarily listen to country — Zac Brown, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Sara Evans — but with four little girls in the house, I get a lot of live entertainment singing to Taylor Swift and the Frozen soundtrack. Those are the best performances.
What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?
If your house was on fire, what’s the one nonliving thing you would grab?
Five years ago my brother’s house burned, and a few years later we had a tree fall on our house and had to quickly evacuate, so I can attest that when it comes down to it, all you really care about beyond your family’s safety are pictures. Everything else can be replaced, but my pictures are sacred to me.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding friends, family and faith.
The beach, coffee and my computer. Kind of an odd mix, but they make me happy!
Thanks for sharing, Kari! To learn more about Kari, visit her site at www.karikampakis.com. For daily inspirations, follow her on Facebook at Kari Kampakis, Writer. And don’t forget to check out her new book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls should Know!
And thank you, Catherine Mayo, for today’s beautiful photographs! www.catherinemayo.com