89 Cents of Kindness

14Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

It was just 89 cents, that loaf of bread I plunked down on the counter at Kroger this morning.

I looked a hot mess, because like most at-home moms, I don’t get ready before driving Jonah to school. My morning routine consists of pants, ponytail, hoodie, keys–LET’S GO!

Some days, I even gamble and leave the house in my pajamas. If you could hear the engine in my ancient minivan, you’d know why that’s incredibly risky behavior. The poor ol’ thing sounds like a thousand Ritalin-addicted birds are trying to flap out from under the hood, and the radiator is leaking, and every time I sit behind the wheel, I wonder if I’ll make it back home that day in the van or in a tow truck.

But today, at least I was dressed. I didn’t have on a lick of makeup and “sloppy” is a far too generous word to describe the mop on top of my head, but I was up and at ‘em.

Anyway…

I dropped off Jonah, then drove across town to the store that has the best price on IAMS, but forgot to get bread. So I swung by Kroger on the way home.

(You’re thinking, “Wow–your life, Kari! It’s so fascinating. And I say, YES, every single day is like this! Aren’t you jealous?)

So I’m standing in the express lane, with my store-brand loaf of bread, fishing through my purse to try to find my blasted Kroger card, when the lady in front of me says, “Ma’am?”

And I look up into the sweetest round smiling face. She was a petite, older angel dressed in white scrubs.

“May I buy your bread for you?”

I didn’t know what to say.

What I stammered out sounded a lot like Charlie Brown on the phone when Peppermint Patty tells him she’s coming over for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Well, I, um, I mean…that’s very sweet of you, but that’s OK…I’ve got it.”

“No, really, I want to. Please let me buy that for you.”

So, what do you do then, except smile back and say, “Sure. OK. Thanks so much–that’s very kind of you.”

The cashier gave me the weirdest look, and for a moment I wondered if both of them thought I was destitute? I mean, I did look…shall we say…rather unrefined…and I had been digging vigorously through my purse, like someone looking for loose change.

The cashier handed me the loaf and the sweet lady who bought it stepped aside for me to pass. I lightly touched her shoulder, told her thanks again, and said that I hoped God returned her kindness back to her. She smiled and said, “I’ll receive that!”

When I climbed back into my old clunker, I had tears in my eyes. Because I’m kind of sappy and that was just a really sweet thing for a stranger to do.

I’ve heard of people paying for the person in line behind them at the drive-thru, but it’s never happened to me before. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever done that for anyone, either.

But I really kinda want to now.

It was just a gift of 89 cents. But through that simple act of selflessness, God reminded me again that He sees me.

In this world where it seems that discord rules, it’s good to be reminded that even the smallest acts of grace carry a lot of power. We tend to think that if we can’t do something big, we shouldn’t do anything at all. Nonsense! I can tell you for a fact: a mere 89 cents can buy someone a surprisingly long-lasting smile…and the inspiration to pay it forward.

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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.