header photo

My Bud, Karla


I don't recall the exact year but it was around the time my family and I moved from Saugatuck Township to Douglas that I met Karla.  She had been making a name for herself at our local gym.  She had recently become certified as a personal trainer and was instrumental in my decision to become certified myself.  I recall thinking how incredibly strong she was; she had transformed her body in her later fifties and was an amazing inspiration not only to me but several others at the gym.  It was around the time of her birthday, May of 2006 that I officially became a Certified Personal Trainer and I owe thanks, in part, to Karla for the inspiration and her encouragement.

The more I learned about Karla's story, the more she amazed me.  We soon became "buds" as she use to say.  There were many things I enjoyed about my friend. She would make me laugh. Many times over she would bring me to laughter—that oh-my-God, stop it, I’m-dying sort of laughter. She’d tell stories; sometimes these stories were rather serious experiences she’d share from her life. She would begin and I would find more times than not, her story would eventually take an immediate left, leading us both into laughter. “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Karla too was a fan and shared my love for my all-time-favorite-to-this-day movie, Steel Magnolias. We’d make SM quotes often, all my closest friends and I do.

I will never forget Karla coming to me one day, needing to ask me something and get my opinion about something another friend said to her or rather about her. “Sure, Karla, what is it?” She said, “let’s do coffee.” She seemed very troubled. We later met at our favorite coffee house i n   t h e   w o r l d, Uncommon Grounds, in Saugatuck. “So what’s going on, Karla?” I asked. She looked at me very seriously, did a sideswipe around the room to ensure no one could over hear. “What is a fag-hag?” she asked. I spit my brew all over the table, I’m sure I even showered her. I couldn’t help but choke from laughter. I was dying. She looked a bit puzzled, cracked a smile, and said, “I’m serious. I was out with Brian and some of his friends the other evening and I was introduced as his fag-hag.” She wasn’t sure if she should be upset or offended; she’d never heard that expression before. I explained to her that it was an old-school term. One of those terms no longer politically correct formerly used by gays to identify their closest, most-cherished female friends. I ensured her that it wasn’t meant to be offensive even though the words are quite ugly in today’s society. As strange as it may sound it was used as a term of endearment, I tried to convince her. She relaxed about it and ultimately we both laughed.

It was Karla’s strength, courage, and the way she wore her pride that intrigued me most; I honored her for it.  One time, I was in the gym on the treadmill upstairs and Karla walked in with a small boom box.  She gave me a wave and a loud hello from across the gym.  She did a quick survey of the place and went and parked herself in front of one of the large, wall mirrors.  She was wearing this flashy sequined short, short jean jacket. She took it off to reveal some sort of semi-sequined halterish-sport type bra or shirt.  I recall thinking at first, what the hell is she doing but quickly realized what she was about to do.  She pushed a button on the little 80's boom box, I couldn't hear its music from where I was but she centered herself in front of the mirror posing still. She then began moving into various poses, practicing her routine.  She was flexing, moving through a slow dance of sorts in front of the mirror.   She looked very serious. And she looked amazing. I was surprised each time she’d flex her muscles. Her arms and upper body looked like steel. Karla, in her late fifties signed up and would be entering a bodybuilding competition in the coming days ahead.  I was so intrigued.   Not only by her physical transformation and strength but her inner strength and confidence. I’d learned that Karla, like myself, would identify herself as more of an introvert. Yet, here she stood so confidently, wearing pride so fashionably, exposing herself so publicly. I want the attention-I don't want the attention-I want the attention-I don't want the attention.  It was just one of many qualities I loved about her, and one I could relate to most.


As time wore on, we became very close.  Often sharing our own personal stories and dreaming about the future over coffee or breakfast; we were two people full of dreams and inspiration. It was during one of our coffee hours that we came up with an idea of using our talents and love for healing and fitness to help others in our community. The Biggest Loser had become a huge television sensation and was becoming an inspirational movement within fitness and wellness communities across the country.  Karla was a giving person and loved to teach and we both shared the gift to serve others.  And so, our very own version of the Biggest Loser competition began. Our first of three programs was developed to help members of our very own community move towards living a healthier lifestyle. Fitness and health were very much the foundation upon which my sobriety was built. I began my own journey towards heal-thy living from the premise that one must attend to all three elements of one’s life—mind, body, and spirit in order to be made whole and be healthy. A way of living that I took so seriously that I had it tattooed on my upper left shoulder as a daily reminder.   I continue this journey day by day. Karla embraced my story. She’d fan my dreams. She empowered me and encouraged me. She honored my gifts. She said I was a natural writer. She’d always edit my stuff (the English teacherI so need an editor).   She was a writer herself and loved to write. She loved to tell a good story and she always encouraged me to tell mine. And so I shall.

Love you, Karla, and thank you!

Go Back