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If you’ve never seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, you’re missing out on one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions.

It just wouldn’t feel like Christmastime if we didn’t kick off December by getting our Rudolph on!

I learned something earlier this year when I accompanied my son’s class on a field trip to the center: they host a wide variety of artists and shows. If you’ve only ever seen one the smaller, less elaborate traveling shows, you might not realize why fans like me make such a big deal out of Rudolph.

Unlike the marionette show we saw on the field trip, Rudolph’s sets are larger than life, beautifully detailed, and highlighted with animation on the sheer screen that stands between the stage and the audience. It is a visually beautiful show that takes you straight into the classic TV tale with its on-point voice characterizations and festive songs.

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All of the puppets, sets and costumes are crafted at the Center, and all of the voices and songs are performed live at every show.

Sure, you could watch Rudolph on TV at home, and later on, take the kids out to see a movie this holiday season. But I implore you: don’t! Not when this amazing gem is just a short drive away, and you can enjoy kid-friendly live theater at the same cost as a movie and popcorn.

(Plus, you’re supporting the arts, which makes it a win-win for everyone! OH…and they have some of the coolest things in their gift shop, too!)

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Please click this link to see a complete list of show times and dates. Generally speaking, there are two daytime shows every weekday (except Mondays, when the Center is closed) and three every Saturday and Sunday through December 31. Also, kids can enjoy making a Bumble the Abominable Snow Monsterâ„¢ Hand Puppet in a workshop following the show. There are a few extra weekday shows added closer to Christmas, so be sure to check the calendar for availability.

Finally, check out this really neat video and behind-the-scenes look at how they make Rudolph, courtesy of www.artsatl.com.

A Christmas Story: The Musical

2Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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I’ve had several friends ask me how I liked A Christmas Story: The Musical. Every one of them has added, “It’s my favorite Christmas movie ever!” and I think they’re wondering the same thing Eli and I did as we drove to the theater Tuesday night:

How can you possibly translate a classic like this into a Broadway musical without kinda…messing it up?

I don’t have a concrete answer for that, and I’m not sure many people do. I’ve seen a few “movies-into-musicals” that left me shaking my head because they seemed to deviate so far from the original.

But this one? It was SO good!

I mean, really, really good.

I can’t recall ever getting teary-eyed during the dozens of times I’ve watched the film version of A Christmas Story. The tale of Ralphie Parker’s insatiable Christmas quest to acquire the coolest BB gun ever is more far more hilarious than sentimental.

But this show had me reaching for the Kleenex twice! Once was during “What a Mother Does”–a lovely song about how moments with our children are so fleeting. Honestly, it touched me so much, I kind of wanted to ugly-cry. But for my son’s sake, I held it together.

The other was during the ending, which I found considerably more emotional than the film’s.

BUT the musical is also loaded with laughs! The entire cast did a fantastic job, and we loved the scene where Ralphie’s teacher tap-danced with her students. Simply brilliant talent on display!

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Christmas comes only once a year, and we moms deserve “A Major Award” just as much as Ralphie’s old man. I highly recommend treating yourself to a theater date this weekend!

Five shows remain: Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 2:00 pm, and on Sunday, 1:00 pm or 6:30 pm.

Click here to get tickets at The Fabulous Fox in Atlanta.

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On Being Seen

2Nov2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

Everyone knows I’m an introvert.

Well, almost everyone. I’ve had a few people say that they wouldn’t have pegged me as one because I’m funny, I like to go places and host parties.

All that is true, but if I don’t have downtime to recharge my batteries, I get into a bad place, emotionally and mentally. And let’s just say that I’m long overdue for some solitude.

When you’re an introvert at heart, you don’t really like being noticed. So you tend to suffer in silence because it’s hard to open up to others when the end result means bringing on more draining social interaction.

I don’t know about other Christian introverts, but I do that with God sometimes, too. Instead of taking my cares to Him, I just soldier on, shouldering burdens that grow heavier by the day, trudging along in that pattern I default to because it’s dark and shady and nobody is around.

Pardon the cliche, but it’s incredibly hard for me to “let go and let God”.

I struggle with letting people be there for me, too. The older I get, the harder I find it to trust others with the things that are truly dear to me. People have taught me that if I drop one of these burdens off on them, they’re likely to spread out the contents and gather everyone ’round for a laugh-fest before they make a bonfire out of my things. Inner circles nearly always contain a few Judases. Whether keeping things internal is an introverted trait, or a measure of wisdom, or something else entirely, I’m not sure. Some issues I’m dealing with now, I’ve only been able to share with my husband and maybe one carefully chosen friend.

Honestly? This particular time in my life feels like standing in front of the monkey cage at the zoo, being pelted with handfuls of steaming rejection, criticism, and negativity. It leaves me feeling like such a failure, that I stop wanting to seek God. Because in that brightest of all spotlights, I see even more clearly how little I measure up to what I ought to be.

Like Adam and Eve in the garden, or when you’re playing hide-and-seek with a toddler — it’s like I’m dumb enough to believe that if I can’t see Him, He can’t see me.

Craziness, I know.

This morning, I stopped trudging that solo path, because I just couldn’t anymore. Not today. I dropped all my crap on the ground and said, “Here, take it. I’m done.”

And I dusted off a devotional and read something that made me cry. Because through it, God let me know the one thing I didn’t know I needed to hear.

He sees me.

There’s a beautiful scene in The Joy Luck Club, outlined more fully here, where June (a character I truly relate to) apologizes to her mother, Suyuan, for always being a disappointment. But Suyuan, instead of agreeing with her daughter, reminds her of a time that she witnessed her compassion when June had no idea anyone noticed or cared. She declared that June had the “best quality heart” and as the two locked their eyes on one another, Suyuan speaks a blessing that June had never before understood: “I see you.”

To Suyuan, June wasn’t a hopeless failure. She didn’t see her shortcomings at all. She just loved her for who she was.

And that’s what God offered me today. I felt like June on the receiving end of her mother’s intense gaze. I felt seen. I felt understood.

I let myself receive the comfort of knowing that even if every other person in the world is against me, He sees my heart. He sees the good seeds He planted there.

And God loves what He made.

He offers that to you today, too. No matter how much the world hates you, no matter how deeply others betray you and use you, no matter how much your motives are questioned or your actions misunderstood–God himself made you and He cherishes what He made.

He sees you.

And that’s a very good thing indeed.

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A First Homecoming

29Oct2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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Sitting out under the stars, waiting for Eli’s homecoming dance to end, I feel completely out of place.

Dozens of much older-looking teens mill about in their Sunday best, making me feel even less like I belong here.

My son is just a freshman. Fourteen years old. He doesn’t look like these young adults yet.

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At least, not quite yet.

(Will he ever? Aren’t our own kids always our babies?)

See, I don’t know how I am here again already. I just don’t.

Could somebody please explain to me how is it that my second child is in high school? How?

I’ve raised a high-schooler before; this shouldn’t feel so foreign to me. But it does.

“This is our last song of the evening!” the DJ announces as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blares into the night.

Don’t stop believing? Eli’s been a freshman for almost three months and I can’t even start believing that it’s true.

His cheeky toddler face keeps surfacing in my mind, and I swear it was just a minute ago that Friday nights meant footed pajamas, a bottle of milk and a stack of picture books–not neckties, loud music and….girls?

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It all went by so fast. So incredibly, impossibly, improbably fast.

And I find myself sitting here, out under the stars, waiting for a second beloved son’s first homecoming dance to end, feeling completely out of place.

Fed up with selfishness

16Oct2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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I reached a breaking point today over selfish behavior, and I’m still not over it.

I vented on Facebook this morning…

“Been awake since midnight, my heart heavy over pain inflicted on loved ones by the utterly foolish, selfish acts of others. It’s just too much to write about here, but y’all…can we just be decent to one another? Be respectful. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Love selflessly. Consider others more important than yourself. I fail at all of those daily, but I try. It blows me away sometimes, how many don’t seem to even TRY to think beyond themselves.”

I was just going to let it go at that point, but it’s almost 24 hours later and I’m still struggling unusually hard to do that.

One of the downsides of raising teenagers is that you want to vent in detail about them, like you did when they were babies, but you also realize you need to respect their right to privacy, so you don’t. (I swear I need an anonymous blog for that purpose only!)

What I can say is that while all the books tell me that it’s normal for teens to be self-centered, the day-to-day immersion in selfishness exhausts me–way more than I anticipated. Then multiply it times three and I’m losing my ability to just brush it off as normal behavior.

I get so sick and tired of my teens treating me like a doormat instead of as a real human being with feelings of my own.

Especially when their selfishness keeps me up all night for various reasons, and it’s not my choice to stay up.

Especially when a 5:30 a.m bedtime leaves me with a nasty headache that I can’t take ibuprofen for because I’m having surgery later this week.

My mood has not been good today, y’all.

The upside to being up all night is that I was awake when a friend needed to vent. Again, I will try to protect privacy, but I was horrified by what she told me.

Something tragic happened at her middle-schooler’s football game last night. A fight began, started by an adult spectator heckling some of the kids. Now, first of all, these are KIDS playing football. Heckling them for any reason is completely absurd and, in my opinion, totally unacceptable. They’re supposed to be having fun at this age, not being pressured to perform.

Well, it all got out of hand and a real fist fight broke out. She said the bleachers were emptying and everything. Police had to be called to break it up–with their guns drawn.

What a mess!

What an utterly lousy example being set for young men, while they’re at the rawest age for learning what it means to be a man. And how scary for everyone!

But that’s not even the worst of it.

The father of one of her son’s teammates DIED. Dropped dead of a heart attack from all the stress, at the age of 44.

Her description of the son’s grief is imagery that I can’t get out of my mind.

And even though I didn’t know the victim, he’s haunted me all day long. A young family was devastated, a child watched his father die, all because a pot-stirring individual didn’t stop to consider the broader impact of his words.

It was odd timing to have two scenarios of utter selfishness playing out before me in the wee hours this morning. Then I logged on later to a barrage of political posts and all the selfish name-calling just left me feeling despair.

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I feel so very, very DONE.

In 2 Timothy 3, the Bible talks about how men will become lovers of self in the last days, and I do believe we’re seeing that playing out around us.

But of course we can trace selfishness back to the Garden of Eden. It’s nothing new under the sun.

As far as I can see, the only solution to self-centeredness is to walk as Jesus walked. To, as the word says in Philippians 2: 3-5:

“Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]”

Why does this have to be so hard?

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