Atlanta Showcases New Wizard of Oz

22Jun2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

 

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My son Eli and I just got back from following the yellow brick road to the Fox Theatre–and I’m sure you’ll want to do it yourself before the week is out!

The national tour of The Wizard of Oz began its Atlanta run tonight. It’s a new staging of the musical, featuring several new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice as well as the classics you love. This version also interjects a good bit of humor–but not too much to be distracting.

(Speaking of distracting, people should not text during a show, graze extensively on snacks wriggled out of noisy wrappers, OR get up to leave before the curtain call, all of which happened around us tonight. It’s just Theater Manners 101, y’all.)

Anyway, the sets and costumes always catch my artistic eye first, and they were all brilliant. The cast was incredibly talented, too. Sarah Lasko plays a sweet and sassy Dorothy, Shani Hadjian rocked it as the Wicked Witch of the West (I mean, that evil cackle was on point!) but my favorite character was the Cowardly Lion, played by Aaron Fried. I think he reminded me a bit of our huge mutt, Blue–just this big ol’ bear of a guy that should be intimidating, but he’s actually just a lovable wimp!

Speaking of dogs, I think Toto received the loudest applause and cheers out of all the characters, which was kind of funny. But he was seriously cute!

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Tickets can be purchased by clicking the link above, and the show only runs in Atlanta through Sunday, June 26th. So don’t you dare dilly-dally or you’ll find yourself stuck on THIS side of the rainbow, and that’s just not nearly as much fun as venturing over it!

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O My! New Hat

18Jun2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

Because being a work-at-home, homeschooling, face-painting, cake-decorating, orphan-ministering writer mom of four wasn’t enough….

I’ve decided to become a purveyor of goat soap!

Seriously.

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Because goats are baa-a-a-a-ad to the bone. Especially when accessorized with a jaunty bow and crown!

At this very moment, I have butter-soft hands that smell of summer melon and deeply moisturized lips that taste just like a Frosted Orange from The Varsity. (Or, an orange/vanilla Creamsicle, for you non-Atlantans.)

I often blog about products that I love, because life is short and we need to share the goodness we find in this world. You’ve probably seen my reviews of local attractions, books and recipes I’ve enjoyed. Well, I couldn’t wait to share after trying O My!™ Goat Milk Soap and Lip Balm…but then I found out that I could become a company affiliate!

So instead of just writing about it, I’ve taken the next step in making these wonderful products available to my family and friends, while earning a little pocket change in the process.

(Deciding to sell goat milk soap has convinced my husband that I am officially insane, but I suspect he was pretty close to figuring that out anyway.)

O My!™ Goat Milk Soaps are the result of a recipe perfected over a 10 year period on a free-range Nubian goat farm located in Knotts Island, North Carolina.

All of their 40+ essential oil-based fragrances are:

  • Palm Oil Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Paraben Free
  • Phosphate Free
  • Sulfate Free
  • Phthalate Free

Goat’s milk is legendary for being beneficial to the skin because of its similar PH Balance and natural vitamin and mineral content. O My!™ Goat Milk Soap is crafted from the highest quality oils and butters, which have been used for centuries to moisturize dry skin, help heal sensitive skin conditions and exfoliate dead skin cells.

As an added bonus, some studies indicate that the proteins in goat’s milk have antibacterial properties that can help combat acne and body odor. Each long-lasting product’s complete ingredient list is posted on its page.

And the products aren’t limited to just soap and lip balm. They also make high-quality lotions, laundry soap, dog shampoo and all-natural insect repellant. And the soaps themselves come in a variety of sizes, including sampler packs for the undecided.

Because, as anyone who’s perused a bath-n-body shop at the mall can attest, having access to a variety of fragrances is one of the small joys in life. But instead of settling for those chemical-laden products, you can enjoy natural scents of Apple & Clover, Clean Linen, Merlot, Lavender & Lemongrass–just to name a few. There are also multiple masculine fragrances, such as Dragon’s Blood and Excalibur. And for the outdoorsy folk, their Hunter and Huntress Wilderness Camo soaps actually mask the human fragrance, making hunters “invisible” in the woods.

So, now that you want to check it out, just click this heart:

And after your natural bathing bliss arrives, let me know how you liked it! And please help spread the goat-milk goodness by sharing this post with your friends and family!

Thanks!

P.S. For me to get credit for the referral, you must enter the site through clicking the heart-shaped widget embedded in this post, or the long banner ad on my blog’s sidebar.

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The Little Pirate Mermaid

12Jun2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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Oh, how I wish The Center for Puppetry Arts had shared some press pics of their stunningly gorgeous sets so I could include one in this blog post!

We just got back from seeing The Little Pirate Mermaid and it was one of the most visually stunning shows I’ve ever seen.

Not that the marionette puppets weren’t gorgeous–you can see that they are. But the underwater scenes were just so beyond lovely, I caught myself smiling without even meaning to! I guess the lack of photos means that you’re just going to have to go see the show for yourself, which I say is a fantastic way to spend a summer morning or afternoon with your kids.

Based on the classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Artistic Director Jon Ludwig shows off his imagination through many entertaining twists, including rhyme, songs and a surprising goal that Molly the Mermaid brings to the pirate crew.

Humor is sprinkled throughout, mostly through the use of pirate-y puns. My favorite was the scene that opened with the pirates singing “KumbayAAARRRR”!  Too funny!

OK, but it gets even better for parents of kids with autism, sensory processing disorder or other issues that lead to a need for a kinder, gentler experience. On Sunday, July 10th, from 12-2:30, the Center is hosting a Sensory Friendly Performance. As quoted from the site:

12-1pm: Museum exhibits
1pm: Performance
1:45-2:30pm: Create-A-Puppet Workshops

Performance alterations include theater lights dimmed down but not out, consistent sound levels and lower volume of show soundtrack, freedom for children to talk and to leave their seat if necessary, a quiet zone in the lobby, and permission to bring quiet, contained snacks and beverages. Create-A-Puppet Workshop classrooms will be brighter, quieter, and feature less-messy puppet building materials and slightly simplified puppet designs. This modified programming also extends to include our expanded Museum, where lighting will be adjusted and specialized educational activities (such as touch tables and guided storytelling) will be integrated.

As the mom of a child with Asperger’s, I cannot express how happy I am to hear about this. He’s always struggled to sit through an entire show and I really think these accommodations would make a huge difference for him. (And me!)

The Little Pirate Mermaid is presented in the Mainstage Theater, from June 14 – July 15, at the following times:

  • Tuesday – Friday: 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Please note that there aren’t any performances on July 3rd, but the museum and workshops are still open. The Center is closed on July 4th.

Tickets include museum admission, which is something really neat to see, especially for Jim Henson fans. Guests can also go to the Create-A-Puppet Workshop after the show and make a really cool stingray marionette puppet to take home.

And those sets! Oh my. Please tell me you’ll go just to get lost in those gorgeous underwater scenes?

Why Jesus Wept

12Jun2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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I just read the neatest thing, an insight I’d never considered before, concerning the shortest verse in the bible: “Jesus wept”.

Could it be that He wept because he knew so well what he was asking Lazarus to give up?

Lazarus had enjoyed four days in heaven before Jesus raised him from the dead…four days of existing in perfect peace in a mansion designed specifically for him by God. Hugging loved ones who’d already passed on. Walking on streets paved with gold. No more sorrow, no more tears. No more sickness, no more fears.

And here was Jesus, knowing all this, not all that far from having left it all himself. Experiencing every emotion known to man, it must’ve been agonizing to have memories of that kind of peace and joy while walking out your purpose on a totally imperfect planet.

Jesus knew that performing this miracle meant that his dear friend had to leave paradise and come back to suffer in this painful, cruel world.

I never really thought about the love behind those tears.

Can you imagine how conflicting it would be to put someone you cherish into harms way because it’s good for someone else? If you’ve lived on this planet more than a couple of decades, you’ve no doubt had to make a somewhat similar choice at some point or another.

Because even though Jesus deeply loved Lazarus, He knew there were those who needed–absolutely NEEDED to see this miracle–to believe and be saved.

I wonder if Lazarus knew? If an angel knocked on his personal heavenly mansion door and said, “Ok, here’s the deal. Jesus needs you back for a while.” Or was it like being beamed up in Star Trek, and all of a sudden, Lazarus opens his eyes to find himself back in his imperfect physical body, wondering what just happened?

I never really thought about the level of trust that must’ve existed between those two, for this to happen.

What a deep, deep relationship they must’ve had. Because I don’t know about you, but if somebody yanks me back out of an utterly joyful, peaceful existence, back into a life of suffering, I might want to throat-punch him when I come to.

But we don’t see any record of that. Jesus must’ve trusted Lazarus so much to resurrect him. Just pure, profound trust between two men who loved others more than they loved themselves.

Knowing the pain of what he was asking his beloved friend to give up…

Jesus wept. And then said, “Lazarus, come forth!”

And as the song says below, Lazarus hung on to every word He said.

Just wow.

What I Don’t Know

9Jun2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

His message to me last night was a simple one:

“I wish God had remembered these children at this hour of need, really.”

Our friend in Uganda, the pastor of the orphanage our daughter is from, had messaged me, asking for prayer for the orphans in his care. For several long minutes, I didn’t know what to say.

I finally typed, “He hasn’t forgotten, even though I understand that it seems so.”

But our spotty Internet connection failed before my words could arrive.

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I do know that the God who numbers the very hairs on our heads has not forgotten these kids, or that they were supposed to start a new term of school on Monday (and couldn’t). But…it sure looks like it.

It certainly feels like it. I can only imagine how much more acutely they feel it, living it out on the other side of the globe.

Several of the children are teenagers and it hurts them greatly when they have to keep stopping and restarting their education. Food supplies have also been low. They’re hungry.

And the guilt I feel is immense because I haven’t been that great of a friend to them. Not like I promised I would.

Of course, at the time of my promises, I didn’t know the emotional and financial stress that lay ahead for my household. I didn’t know that I’d sometimes find myself too exhausted to keep on top of everything here, much less everything there.

I just didn’t know.

I didn’t know that I could actually be jealous of thriving ministries abroad. That I could feel such a bizarre combination of brilliant awe and piercing rejection when friends raised enough money (in a matter of days!) to build an entire school from the ground up in Ethiopia–while “my kids”, my daughter’s friends, have struggled for three solid years to build one small orphanage to house twenty-plus kids all in one place.

This is a picture of the building two years ago, when we were there (it’s the one to the right):

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And over two years later, that little brick building still isn’t livable. My friends Joyce and Butch went to visit in April and saw that the roof had been placed. Here’s a picture of Joyce this year, standing near the same spot the above picture was taken:

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But there’s still no plumbing, no working latrine, no electricity. They can’t live there yet. Building it has been a literal labor of laying one brick at a time, of buying and installing one roof panel, one window, one door. With long, inactive months between, when no progress happens because the kids need tuition, they need food, they need medication for the malaria that attacks far too often–and then there’s no money left to keep building.

Our church had helped some, in the past, but other ministries and missions have nudged this project out of the forefront. Still, when our youth group did a fundraiser for World Vision, I didn’t resent it. I mean, I love what World Vision is accomplishing. And Compassion International–you see their widget on my blog. I believe in what these ministries do.

But they’re big, well-known. They have a following. While our kids, well…they have nobody but my family, the Leutharts and a handful of others who have given in the past. None of us are rich by American standards, either. All too often, our tiny pool of donors have to choose between paying our bills or helping Pastor Ronald and the kids.

So I share on Facebook and Twitter, and I ask people to help. But most of the time, the response is crickets chirping.

Why am I even writing this? I guess that’s another thing I don’t know. Maybe because I need to get it off my chest, how this struggle feels. How utterly defeating it feels to have failed over and over again at just trying to help some orphans have the most basic things in life that we all take for granted.

A home, food, an education.

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The trouble with trying to help a ministry is that you find yourself judging people automatically sometimes. I try not to, but I do. Can I be real enough to admit that?

Please understand that to some degree, I can’t help myself. Because I’m always doing what my kids and I jokingly call “orphan math”. Here is an example of it.

I sat at a traffic light this morning and counted eight cars pulling into Starbucks. I figured each of them would spend at least $5 on their beverages and snacks–which is pretty conservative for Starbucks. So that’s at least $40 blown in two minutes–at just one restaurant on one long strip of restaurants in one smallish metro-Atlanta city.

In “orphan math”, those eight cups of coffee could buy 80 pounds of maize flour, to turn into the Ugandan mainstay, posho.

Eight measly cups of coffee sure could fill a lot of hungry bellies.

Or, let’s talk protein. It’s summertime. A lot of people are going on vacation, some to the beach or going on cruises. So here’s some orphan math about fish.

According to this chart, whole tilapia is about $5 per kilogram in Uganda. I looked up the cost of a 7-Day Caribbean cruise and it runs about $1,000 per person.

If a person chose to forego that cruise, he or she could buy 200 kg of fresh fish for these kids. That translates into a whopping 440 pounds of much-needed protein, enough for each child in this small orphanage to eat a pound of fish a week for four months. (Did I ever tell you that my daughter binged on chicken, eggs and fish when she first came to America? It was like her little body was trying so hard to recover from so many years of not getting enough protein-rich foods.)

Nobody goes on a cruise alone, so just keep multiplying using that orphan math and and you see why it’s so hard when people tell me, “Gee, I’d love to help but I just can’t afford to.” (Which is usually after their family just got back from vacation.)

I get so weary of the disingenuousness. Just tell me, “I don’t want to help.” Who knows? Maybe the truth would be easier to hear. I try to make myself feel better by telling myself that maybe all of y’all are already giving a huge percentage of your income to charity and I don’t know a thing about it. Or maybe your vacations are financed by rich relatives and you’re all genuinely struggling to make ends meet. I know, I know…at the end of the day, it’s none of my business.

I don’t mind confessing that I have plank eye. Maybe that’s the problem. I think I’m the one judging when actually, people are judging me because I’m asking them to help while I’m not exactly living like John the Baptist.

It would be plenty easy to look at us and think we aren’t giving up enough to have earned the right to say a word about sacrificial giving. We have decent clothes (mostly from Goodwill and eBay), we’re obviously well-fed (via discount grocers and a food co-op), we go to Florida a couple of times a year (to visit my parents, who mostly foot the bill). We have two vehicles–one newish (to save fuel on my husband’s long commute) and the other, a gift that now bears almost 220K miles and a slipping transmission.

We have dogs (free rescues), wireless Internet (needed for our jobs) and cable TV (I admit–that could go). I sometimes blog about Broadway shows, museums and other fun extravagances, but those are nearly always free media events that I’ve been invited to attend and write about.

I really don’t think we live a luxurious life. For heaven’s sake, we live in a c. 1971 brick home with 1,500 square feet of far too many (crumbling) original features. Still, if we’re judging spending, there’s always room to cut back somewhere, or ways to earn more. And I’m thinking like that because of what I don’t know.

I don’t know how to stop caring about these kids in Uganda.

I don’t know how to encourage people to give up a few creature comforts so that a hungry child can eat.

I don’t know how to keep pressing on when people I love don’t want to hear about “our Ugandan kids” or share even a little in the burden of helping them.

And clearly, I don’t know how to fund-raise for orphans, because if I did, that building would’ve been finished a long time ago. And I wouldn’t be sitting up late at night writing about how sad and hopeless I feel sometimes…which is just a fraction of how hopeless and sad those sweet kids feel in Uganda right now.

One thing I do know: it’s easy to donate through the PayPal link Joyce has set up. Click here if you’re so inclined. And if not, know that I love you anyway.

My heavy heart just needed to vent. So thanks for listening and loving me even though I’m that annoying friend who is always asking you to do something.