Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And The People Said Amen...

Saw this at Hobby Lobby this week. It spoke to my heart. And it cracked me up.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Great Memory I Had Today - # 1

While perusing my bookshelf the other day, I came across an at-home Bible Study that I had done many years ago called "Becoming A Woman of Excellence" by Cynthia Heald. It was very interesting to look through it and read all of my notes - to see how I had answered certain questions, and to get a glimpse of where I was in my head and in my heart back then.

On page 15, I noticed a Scripture that I had underlined. It was 1 Samuel 16:7 - "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

I suddenly was transported back to the first time I ever saw this Scripture. I actually don't remember many of the details around my discovery of this Scripture, or how I even came across it. But I do remember how I felt the first time I read those words. It was actually many years before I did the Cynthia Heald study. Indeed, I know exactly when it was, because I marked it in my Bible: February 22nd, 1991.

I was a 21-year old college Senior, and like many women in America, I had spent a number of years battling body image issues, trying to live up to impossible beauty standards, and often struggling with the feeling that my value was directly and inexorably tied to how I looked.

So when I read these words in Holy Scripture - man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart - it was just one of those moments when I knew - I just knew - that I had encountered great Truth. Furthermore, it affirmed all of the things that I had theretofore come to know and understand about God's character - His goodness, His compassion, and His unfailing ability to fly in the face of all of the lies the world loves to tell us. Your only value is in your appearance? Nonsense, says God. You're only as good as you are beautiful? Rubbish, says God. You gotta look just like the girl on the cover of that magazine? A heaping, stinking pile of lies, says God.

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm as much a girly-girl as the next girl. I've got big love for hair, makeup, shopping, clothes, shoes, jewelry, purses, pedi's, mani's - you name it. And I don't see anything wrong with any of that. It's all a blast, and for me, one of the most fun parts about being a woman. But in our aesthetically-obsessed culture, in which the impossible goal of physical perfection is the stated ideal, and qualities such as character, kindness, morality, and selflessness are often deemed unimportant, I rest in the knowledge that the Sovereign God says that what He cares about the most is our hearts.

Thanks be to God for His bold, life-changing, audacious words of Truth!

Funny Thing My Dad Said - # 4

I live with my 71-year old father, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a massive stroke he had almost six years ago. Despite this, his mind is as sharp and clever and irreverent as ever, and his only limitations are physical. He has always been One Of The Funniest People I Know, and almost daily, he says something that practically makes me laugh up a lung.

I came home from the restaurant one afternoon and said, "Daddy, I got the nicest compliment from one of my customers today, a very sweet older lady." He replied, "Oh yeah? What did she say?" I said, "Well, I had just come up and greeted her, and she looked right at me and said, 'Well honey, you are so pretty!' Isn't that sweet?" Daddy replied, "Oh that is very sweet. Too bad she has cataracts though..."

Ok Ya'll, This Made Me Laugh - #1

I was driving to work last evening and was in a bit of a hurry. I wasn't running late, but I was running "on time", and because Saturday nights at the restaurant are so busy, being on time is critical.

I am generally a very good driver, and in particular, a very courteous driver. I have the name of "Jesus" in an ichthus on the back of my car, so the manner in which I treat people on the road really matters. I can't espouse the tenets of Jesus on my bumper and then go and act like Satan himself at the wheel. I'm ultra-conscientious about the way I drive.

Anyway, I was pulling out of my neighborhood and onto a highway frontage road. A few cars were coming down the hill, but I felt for sure I could beat them all. I began inching my car out, when I suddenly realized there was a minivan coming down at such a rate of speed that I simply was not going to be able to pull out. I mean, I could have, but I would have had to rudely peel out in front of her. So, I stopped, but I was already a couple of feet into her lane.

Right as she passed me, she slowed a bit, and I gave her a sheepish little wave, ya know, the universal sign for, "My bad, I messed up, I'm so sorry."

I expected a wave back. I mean, can't we all just get along? Honest mistake, let's move on from this, right? Well, it was not to be. Indeed, what happened next was astounding.

She wagged her finger at me. Let me repeat that: She wagged her finger at me. Three times, in fact. Wag. Wag. Wag.

Ok ya'll. No one has wagged their finger at me since Bill Clinton told me that he definitely did NOT have any kind of relations with "that woman." And let me just say for the record that I didn't like finger-wagging then, and I don't like it now.

I sorta couldn't believe it. I began to wonder if she had said anything aloud to me as well, ya know, like: "You better mind your p's and q's little missy!" Or perhaps, "Maybe you need to go to your room and think about what you did." I almost felt a lump in my throat, as if I was going to cry, just out of sheer humiliation. But had I done that, I felt certain she would have turned her car around, walked right over to my window, and told me that I'd better stop that crying or she'd give me something to really cry about.

As I continued driving to work, I started lightening up a bit, and realized that this had been a hilarious incident. I began HOWLING thinking about it. I had been admonished with a finger-wagging from a complete stranger in a minivan!

I lost my mother a few years ago, and I am always grateful for any little bits of mothering that I can get. But this was not exactly what I had in mind...

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Heart Robert Wagner

OK, ya'll. Yesterday I was watching "Good Morning America" and they were talking about the actor Robert Wagner's new autobiography, "Pieces of my Heart". They were showing several photos from his life, and as I was watching this, I suddenly remembered something that had slipped my mind:

Robert Wagner is the hottest guy to ever walk this earth.

Seriously people. Seriously.

How I could ever have forgotten this, I do not know.

On top of that - and really, more importantly - he is widely regarded as one of the nicest, most charming, and most gracious gentleman that Hollywood has ever known.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I am going to share with you a few photos of him.

People often ask me what my "type" is. Well...yer lookin' at it.

Early photo, probably from the 1950's:

So debonair in the 60's! I wanna play with his hair:

I absolutely LOVE this turtleneck and blazer look. If I were married to Robert Wagner, he would have to dress this way every day:

With the love of his life, Natalie Wood. The fact that he is wearing a gold chain is completely forgiven:

As super-suave Jonathan Hart from the "Hart to Hart" TV series:

And as a bonus, check out this smoldering photo from the cover of his new book:

You're welcome.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Funny Thing My Dad Said - #3

I live with my 71-year old father, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a massive stroke he had almost six years ago. Despite this, his mind is as sharp and clever and irreverent as ever, and his only limitations are physical. He has always been One Of The Funniest People I Know, and almost daily, he says something that practically makes me laugh up a lung.

The first semester of my freshman year in high school, my Dad drove me to school every morning. My older sister would normally have driven me, but she had drill team practice early in the morning, and my mother was busy getting my three younger siblings off to their respective schools. So, throughout the Fall of 1983, Daddy and I carpooled.

Dad and I were recently watching "Best of the 80's Videos" on VH1, and a video by the Stray Cats came on. I said, "Oh my gosh! Daddy, I used to make you listen to my Stray Cats tape when you took me to school in the 9th grade! Do you remember that one year when you drove me to school every morning?"

To which he replied: "Yes, I remember very well because it was the year I started drinking."

Confessions of a Dork - #1

Yours truly is a four-star geek, and almost daily, I do or say something that raises my dorkiness to stratospheric levels. Case in point:

The other day, I went to my brother's house to go see my sister-in-law and my nephew. I have been over there many times and have always been made to feel very welcome and right at home. So, it was quite natural for me to walk into the kitchen to grab a drink. I filled my cup with ice, made my way to the sink, and turned the faucet on to get some water.

Before I even knew what hit me, my hair and my shirt were soaking wet. I thought for a moment that I might have been shot. Ya know, by a gun. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some water shooting projectile across the kitchen. It seemed as though gallons of water were flying through the air. Water hitting the kitchen island, water hitting the microwave, water hitting the cabinets. Water flippin' everywhere. What was going on?

Somehow I was able to fumble my way through the deluge and turn the faucet off. My sister-in-law Christy - she being possessed of a sweet and gentle spirit - calmly said, "Oh...that faucet is broken." She apologized profusely, somehow thinking it was her fault that I had just caused a major cataclysm her kitchen.

Here is what I looked like after said incident:

Here is a picture of the faucet.

Clearly missing a major piece. Why I did not notice that this was an obvious aberration from the norm, I do not know, nor do I want to discuss.

It merely confirms my status as a Dork.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Remembering My Mom

Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my mother's death. She died at age 62 from a pulmonary embolism, after battling illness for many hard-fought years. I have written about her a number of times, but for anyone who does not know...she was one of the greatest ladies who ever lived: A devoted wife, a wonderful mother, a dear friend, and a gracious hostess. Her life was one marked by kindness, compassion, selflessness, intelligence, and humor. She is missed so dearly, but who she was and how she lived continues to impact and influence each of us every day.

It is always important to us to mark this anniversary in a significant way, and this year was no exception. My sister is in town with her kids Rachel and Christopher (they are Hurricane Ike evacuees) and my nephew Camden lives here in Austin. So, we decided that we wanted the grandkids to participate in remembering her. Although only Rachel remembers my Mom (Christopher was only 20 months old when she died and Camden was born the day of her funeral), they are very familiar with her because we so often share with them stories and pictures of her.

The family met at mine and Dad's house in the evening, and we decided to have the kids release balloons to the heavens in memory of Mom. They were so enthusiastic, and it was so very sweet! We followed the balloon release with dinner from Mr. Gatti's Pizza, which was always one of Mom's favorites. That was followed by watching the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, which Mom also loved, being the huge sports fan that she was. (One of the legendary stories about Mom is that she actually cried after the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1979 Super Bowl. I can still see her crying in the kitchen like it was yesterday. Hers were tears of outrage over some bad calls that the Cowboys had gotten. Don't get anyone in my family started on this. We are still mad about it, some 29 years later).

Anyway, it was a great evening overall, one that Mom would have loved. And once again, we found ourseleves, even in the midst of our grief, feeling very blessed.

Here is a picture of the kids with their balloons (from left to right, that's Rachel, Christopher, and Camden).

And here is a video of the kids releasing the balloons. The grandkids always called her "Mum." (You'll have to forgive some of the laughter on the video. We Werners don't do anything without humor, and yes, that includes grief):

And, for true comic relief, here is a video of Rachel and Christopher releasing the final balloon, but only after arguing about it first:

Finally, here's a picture of my Mom holding me when I was a month old (she is on the right, in red). Is she 60's cool, or what?

Thanks be to God for the life of this woman.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Return of an Unfortunate Trend


Shutter shades are back.

I wanna know who's responsible, and I wanna know now.

Can the return of parachute pants be far behind?

Or worse yet...the return of tight-rolled pants?

Stop the madness.

End the lunacy.

Just say no to shutter shades.

Back From The Beach!

Howdy All!

I have returned from my trip to South Padre Island, and am thrilled to report that it was a perfect week! I spent a ton of time praying and writing, and once again, have returned from this vacation feeling both spiritually and physically rejuvenated. Praise God! We had beautiful weather (amazing, considering all of the storms that were brewing in the Gulf), wonderful meals (lovingly prepared by the trips' matriarch, Carol), LOTS of laughter (of the pee-in-your-pants variety), spirited political discussions (what with the Republican Convention being on and all), and just lots of good rest and relaxation (with the possible exception of my friend Tammi, who had her 3- and 8-year old sons in tow. Bless her). The gals I was with also did a lot of shopping, and have very likely single-handedly helped the Island recoup any and all revenue losses caused by Hurricane Dolly.

Speaking of which, many of you have asked what kind of condition the Island is in since Dolly made landfall there on July 23rd. For the most part, the Island has recovered well. There are a few major hotels (including the Radisson and the Sheraton) that have completely closed their doors until Fall in order to do major repairs, and it was weird to see those usually busy and bustling places so quiet. Some businesses have closed permanently, or at least for the rest of the season, but for the most part, everyone is back in business and seem to have not missed a beat!

Almost every single establishment on the Island has some damage to their signage, and that was the biggest indication of the destruction that Dolly brought. I very much appreciated this t-shirt shop's sense of humor:

I wish I had more pictures to share with you from the trip, but unfortunately, I had camera issues all week! The first few days, all of my pictures were turning out dark. Then my batteries ran out, so I bought some more, but they did not work. Grrrr! I finally did get some working batteries, but the next day I dropped the camera and the battery cover came loose, so the batteries would not stay in the camera. Gah! Can I be any more of a spazz? Drama!

If any of you would like to come and see how savagely tan I am, just call me and we'll schedule a viewing.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tales of a Restricted Budget - #1

Herein you will find anecdotes about how my life has changed since going from a high five-figure corporate salary to a waitress's/musician's wage.

Because I was saving money up for my vaca, I could not afford to get a pedicure before I left. See disgraceful picture below:

This is shameful. This is scandalous. This is a sin against all womanhood. Maybe even against all mankind.

And no, I'm not gonna show you the other foot because it is even worse.

And no, I cannot do my toenails myself because for some reason, when I try to do it, my motor skills degenerate to that of a two-year old.

Funny Thing My Dad Said - #2

I live with my 71-year old father, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a massive stroke he had almost six years ago. Despite this, his mind is as sharp and clever and irreverent as ever, and his only limitations are physical. He has always been One Of The Funniest People I Know, and almost daily, he says something that practically makes me laugh up a lung.

Last week I went to the dentist and had to go straight to work afterwards. I came home that night and was relating to Daddy how goofy I looked when I got to work. I said, "Daddy, I was still completely numb from the novacaine and my face looked all distorted and contorted!" He replied, "Your face has looked distorted and contorted since 1969."

Note: 1969 is the year I was born.

A Good Sign...


When we got to the beach house Saturday evening, one of the kiddos turned on the TV. I hardly even noticed that he had done so, but then...I heard it. What did I hear, you ask? The unmistakable sounds of the greatest musical of all time, "The Sound of Music." Could it really be that in the very same moment that I was arriving at my island paradise, my favorite movie was on as well? The first movie that moved my heart to song, that set me on a course toward a lifetime love and passion for music?

I turned to look at the TV, and there it was, all of it - the majestic Austrian alps, the chirping birds, the magnificent lakes, the opening strains of Rodger's and Hammerstein's masterful score. And within minutes, the sight of Julie Andrews spinning atop the Untersberg, her four-octave voice reminding me once again that the hills are indeed alive with the sound of music.

Never mind that I own this movie and its soundtrack in virtually every media format. Never mind that I have seen it roughly one thousand seven hundred and forty two times. Never mind that, thanks to the DVD world we live in, watching "The Sound of Music" on TV is no longer the treasured once-a-year-only ritual that it once was.

The point was a good sign my friends. A good sign! A good sign that the week ahead would be a blessed one - one filled with goodness and music and love and laughter and friendship. How could it not be so?

One final note: I had to laugh when I saw that they were showing the movie in closed-caption, ya know, with the words provided at the bottom of the screen.

Um, yeah, like I really need the words...

Greetings From South Padre Island!

Howdy All!

We arrived safely in South Padre on Saturday evening, and all is going wonderfully! I am down here with a group of lifelong girlfriends and two of their kiddos, and we are here for the 12th year in a row! In the past, we have always stayed at the Saida Towers Condominiums, but this week, we decided to rent a house, and I am pleased to report that it is ab fab! It is beautifully decorated, a stone's throw from the beach, loaded with all the fine amenities, and big enough to accommodate us all very comfortably. It has tile throughout, so the sound just bounces all over the place. Consequently, it is a cacophony of noise, clamor, laughter, and racket. Which come to think of it, is perfectly fine with me. I was raised on such noise, you know...

I have been assigned to what is clearly a kids' room. It has two twin beds, and, hilariously, is decorated with a pirate's theme. These are the images that I am falling asleep to every night:

Ok, that Pirate's Cove one is a little creepy, is it not? It cracks me up, because the last image that I typically see before I go to bed each night is this picture of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gesthemane:

Clearly, I am away from home.
Ok, more to come! Stay tuned. Or I'll make ya walk the plank. ARRRRRR!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Funny Thing My Dad Said - #1

I live with my 71-year old father, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a massive stroke he had almost six years ago. Despite this, his mind is as sharp and clever and irreverent as ever, and his only limitations are physical. He has always been One Of The Funniest People I Know, and almost daily, he says something that practically makes me laugh up a lung.

Dad and I were talking the other night, and he was asking me how many kids most of my friends have. I was telling him that it pretty much runs the spectrum - some have one, some have five or six - but that most of my friends have two kids. I went on to tell him that many of them are currently on the fence as to whether or not to have a third. He said, "Tell them all to stop at two. Your mother and I always wished we'd stopped at two."

Note: I am the third child.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Baaaaack...

Hello Everyone!

Your not-so-very-faithful correspondent is back after a nearly 4-month absence. Since you cannot see me right now, please be assured that my head is hanging in shame.

In all honesty, it has been a struggle for me to maintain this blog. This is puzzling to me, because I love to write and I love to share personal anecdotes, as well as offer my thoughts on faith, family, friendship, grief, love, etc. So I recently began to ask myself why I have not been better about keeping up with this blog, and I think I have finally nailed it:

You see, every year, I mail out an "Annual Year in Review" to just about everyone I know. It is generally 6-8 pages long (single-spaced), and is accompanied by anywhere from 20-35 pictures. It provides extensive updates on my family, news about my travels, information about my current hairstyle, and a review of the current state of my love life. It also contains a few surprises, usually one or more stories about some fanstastically embarassing things that have happened to me in the course of the year. It also offers my thoughts on life and faith, as well as the truths and principles that I hold dear.

Put simply, it's very comprehensive. And on top of that, I send a weekly email update out to about fifty of my best friends, letting them know how my weekend was, what's been going on at work, and what my work schedule looks like for the coming week. I'll also occasionally provide an update on my music and writing and other creative pursuits.

So all of this begs the question: What does this leave for The Blog? I'm already sort of giving you information overload, am I not? I have been pondering this lately, and I think I have come up with a solution. Here's what you can look forward to on The Blog:

- Updates on my music and writing career. (I'll remove that from the weekly email).
- How God is moving in my life and in my church.
- Bragadocious tales about my much-adored nieces and nephews.
- Tales of inspiration from folks I meet along the way.

And on the lighter side, six new regular features:

- Confessions of a Dork: Yours truly is a four-star geek, and almost daily, I do or say something that raises my dorkiness to stratospheric levels.
- Tales of a Restricted Budget: Anecdotes about how my life has changed since going from a high five-figure corporate salary to a waitress's wage.
- Pet Peeve of the Week: Pretty self-explanatory. I'll try to keep this light and not too judgemental or negative. I loathe negativity, but we all have things that get under our skin, right?
- A Great Memory I Had Today: Also pretty self-explanatory. I have really good recall, so my head is constantly swirling with memories ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. Some are simply too good not to share.
- Ok Ya'll. This Made Me Laugh: Tales of funny things that I encounter in everyday life. Like when I was at a neighborhood pool over the weekend, and one of the pools had a sign posted outside of it that said, "Pool closed due to fecal contamination." :-/
- Funny Thing My Dad Said: I live with my 71-year old father, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a massive stroke he had almost six years ago. Despite this, his mind is as sharp and clever and irreverent as ever, and his only limitations are physical. He has always been One Of The Funniest People I Know, and almost daily, he says something that practically makes me laugh up a lung.

So, there ya have it. I've always needed structure to perform well, so I think this plan will work. I hope you'll tune in. When I see you, I'm gonna quiz you to make sure you are. ;-)

Love & Kisses,

Monday, May 5, 2008

You Know I Love My City, But...

I just wanted to show you what it's like to be an Aggie in Austin, Texas.

This is a picture I recently took at H.E.B., the grocery store at which I shop:

Note in the foreground the rows and rows and rows of Texas Longhorn paraphernalia. Longhorn T-shirts, Longhorn chairs, Longhorn flip-flops, Longhorn coffee mugs, Longhorn flags, Longhorn balloons.

Now, take a closer look. And look far in the distance, way there yonder in the back forty, in a galaxy far, far away. And thither will you see a lone Texas A&M t-shirt, standing proudly, hanging on to its last shred of dignity, and shining its maroon light for all to see.

Shine on little shirt, shine on!

Brooke's New Tennis Shoes

My sister Brooke is almost three years older than me, and has always been somewhat of a fashion and beauty mentor to me. I swear she came out of the womb with an innate sense of style. Her entire life, she has a been a paragon of grace, beauty, poise, and ultra-femininity. Here's a recent pic of her and her punkin' of a husband, Tom:

My mother always loved to tell the hilarious story of Brooke's first meeting with her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Hector. Mrs. Hector was actually going to the homes of her new students to meet each one of them personally prior to the start of school. Evidently, Brooke inisisted on dressing herself for the occasion, and when Mrs. Hector arrived, Brooke emerged from her bedroom in a long, flowing gown and - this is the best - white gloves, all the way up to the elbows. To this day, she loves everything flowy and flowery, she is always perfectly accessorized, has every hair in place, and without exception, has the most darling shoes on.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I was on the phone with Brooke a few weeks ago and she shared with me how excited she was about her "new tennis shoes". I said, "Tennis shoes? You mean, like, athletic shoes?" And she says, "Yes! They're SO cool!" It wasn't that I was surprised to hear that she had bought athletic shoes - after all, she walks and works out regularly - but I was surprised that she was so excited about it. That's because I was picturing something like this:
A few weeks later, Brooke came into town for a visit. And almost right away, she said to me, "Oh! Look at my new tennis shoes!"

And ya'll. This is what I looked down and saw:

Ok. I seriously almost laughed up a lung. I was like, "Brooke, you have got to be kidding." And she was like, "Whaddya mean?" And I go, "Brooke! What in the name of all that is holy makes you think these are tennis shoes?" And she says, "Well, they're Skechers! And they have a rubber soul!" HAAAA! I said, "Brookie! They have straps and sequins on them! Sequins!"

We were both howling, and we went back and forth like this for a while. And actually, I am still sort of harassing about this to this day.

So...anyway, I just find it so completely cute and charming that she really considers the above shoe to be a sneaker. And I just had to share...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Recovered Memory

As most of you know, I am a devout "American Idol" fan. One might even call me an "American Idol" Geek, a title which I would gladly and proudly accept. I haven't missed a single episode in years, and this past Tuesday night was no exception. The guest artist was Neil Diamond, who has been one of my favorite artists for 30+ years. He's a tremendous songwriter with a huge body of work, so I knew I was in for some great songs.

The evening proved me right.

But there was one song I had forgotten about.

This happens to me periodically. My love of music is colossal, and I have pretty varied musical tastes. In my 38 years, I've fallen in love with literally thousands of songs, spanning multiple decades and crossing multiple genres. And there's almost nothing I love more than hearing a song that I had forgotten about, falling in love with it all over again, and jumping onto I-Tunes as soon as humanly possible to get that song downloaded.

This past Tuesday night, that song was "Hello Again". It came out in 1980 on Neil Diamond's "The Jazz Singer" soundtrack. I remember loving the song, and I remember my older sister Julie loving the song (and blaring it from her bedroom stereo!). But I especially remember my Mom loving the song. And indeed, when AI contestant Syesha came on-screen and the opening notes to "Hello Again" started, I was instantly transported.

Transported to 1980. Transported to 6th grade. Transported to a station wagon driven by the sweetest and most beautiful woman on earth - my mother. She had that "Jazz Singer" soundtrack (on cassette tape, of course!), and played it endlessly. We'd sing aloud to it at the top of our lungs as she shuttled me to and from school and various extracurricular activities. Honestly, hearing that song on AI Tuesday night literally put me right back in that time and place. Such is the power and magic of music.

There is a line from the movie "You've Got Mail" when Meg Ryan's character Kathleen Kelly says "I'm missing my mother so much, I can hardly breathe." That's how I felt Tuesday night when I heard "Hello Again" for the first time in a very, very long time. It made me miss my mother terribly, and I wept throughout Syesha's performance, especially when the song reached its crescendo:

Maybe it's been crazy
And maybe I'm to blame
But I put my heart above my head
We've been through it all
And you loved me just the same
And when you're not there
I just need to hear
Hello, my friend, hello

And yet, as is so often the case when these moments of grief strike me so suddenly, in the midst of it, I couldn't help but feel grateful. Grateful that music ties me emotionally to so many happy memories in my life, especially memories of my mother. Grateful for my mother's great passion for music, which no doubt influenced my own. I mean, there was never not music in her car. And there's never not music in my car either.

And finally, grateful that I know that I will someday see her again, that it will be a glorious reunion, and that the heavens will be filled with music when that day comes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Made My Day

Hey Everybody,

If you're ever wanting to promote a sale or an event or anything of any kind, this is the dude to hire.

Check out the video that I took. Make sure you have your sound on:

Unexpected Delight at Table 50

I work as a server as California Pizza Kitchen at the Domain here in Austin. My real career is songwriter, singer, and writer, but working at CPK is how I pay the bills for now.

After spending 14 years in a cubicle in the corporate world, and interacting with customers mostly by just email or phone, it has been a real treat to interact face-to-face and so personally with people every day. I consider it a ministry of sorts - how can I truly serve and bless these people today in a really tangible way? It's very cool.

A number of folks warned me that waiting tables would eventually lead me to hate people. Interestingly, I have found that it has had the exact opposite effect. Don't get me wrong. I have had some crabby, difficult, rude, impolite, and even abusive customers. But they are a small minority. Most people are basically kind, gracious, and appreciative. Many are even downright fun. But sometimes the fun comes in unexpected packaging. Allow me to explain...

I was recently working a weekday lunch, it was nearing the end of my shift, and I was pretty satisfied already with the tips I had made. I was also pretty tired, a little grumpy, and not feeling up to waiting on another table. Basically I was being, as Beth Moore would say, Queen Complainey from the Hawhiney Islands.

I saw an older lady come through the door and I was one of only a couple of servers still on the floor. Because I have a reputation for never refusing a table, I knew I'd be asked to handle it. And sure enough I was.

She was sitting at Table 50, and there was nothing in her appearance or demeanor that suggested the revelry she would soon provide. I approached her with a smile that belied my cranky mood. "Hello," I said, "I'm Kristin and I'll be taking care of you today." No sooner was the sentence off my lips when she looked right at me and said, "Let me ask you something." "Yes ma'am," I said, expecting a question about our interminably long menu. Instead, she looked right at me and said, "Are you behaving yourself today?"

HA! What a hoot! I immediately felt my mood lighten. I said, "Am I behaving? Well, I'm doing my best!" And she looked at me squarely and said, "That doesn't sound convincing, Kristin." We continued to have some delightful banter around this question of whether or not I was behaving and whether or not she was behaving. That led to a conversation about her recent trip to Macy's to buy 1oz of perfume that she had seen on sale online, but dangit, the actual store only carried the 2oz bottle, so of course, she had to buy it in the 2oz size.

And throughout her late lunch that day, we talked about perfume and lipstick and her children and grandchildren. She shared with me that the first thing she does in the morning is get on her computer, and I told her I did the exact same thing. And we learned that we were both Christians - and in fact, both Baptists - and that we both enjoy life in the city and possess a wealth of friends in our lives. Everything she said was tinged with humor and whimsy, and soon every remaining ounce of grouchiness had completely left me.

She told me that her name was Joan, and I positively begged her to ask for my section next time she comes in. I left work that afternoon feeling immensely grateful. Joan not only cracked me up and warmed my heart, but she reminded me of the great, life-affirming, spirit-lifting, self-absorption-smashing, bad-mood-shattering JOY that comes from actively practicing the most vital aspect of my faith - LOVING PEOPLE.

Thank you God, and thank you Joan.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Words From Dr. King

It was forty years ago today that civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

I own a book entitled "A Testament of Hope", which is a collection of King's greatest speeches and writings. One of the most compelling among these is King's "Eulogy For The Martyred Children". This is the eulogy that Dr. King delivered at the funeral of the four little girls that were killed on September 15th, 1963 in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Within this eulogy are words that are among the most powerful and beautiful that I have ever read. They reflect the character of God so accurately, and have throughout the years brought me tremendous comfort. I wanted to share them with you today:

"At times, life is hard, as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and painful moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of a river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of the summers and the piercing chill of its winters. But through it all, God walks with us. Never forget that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace."


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ok, Drawing Is Not My Gift

While dyeing Easter eggs last week with my family, my 5-year old nephew Christopher asked me to draw an Easter Bunny on an egg for him. Because he is so ridiculously cute and sweet, his every wish is my command, so I readily complied. How could I resist this face?

Ok, so...I am an artist, but I am a writing and singing kind of artist, not a drawing kind of artist. But I figured I could manage an Easter Bunny. Here was the net result:

Christopher loved it. But when the rest of my family saw it, they absolutely HOWLED, as it was further proof of my complete and utter lack of artistic ability. Among their comments were:

"Why does he have a belly button?"
"Where is his mouth?"
"What's with the stick arms and legs?"

And the best comment of all, from my sister Brooke:

"Why does your Easter Bunny have an umbilical hernia?"

Now ya'll, that's just mean.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

So Stinkin' Proud!

I have a 12-year old niece named Darby who lives in Georgia. She is the youngest daughter of my oldest sister Julie. She is also my Goddaughter, and I have adored this precious creature from the first moment I held her in my arms, when she was about 10 hours old. Here's a picture of that very moment:

Ok ya'll. I know. I look VERY young. No crows feet or nothin'. Let's not go there. The point is that this photo literally captures me in the very moment that I am falling in love with this child.

I have been told that when I have my own children, I will feel an even greater love. And honestly, so tremendous is my love for Darby - and for ALL of my nieces and nephews - that it is hard for me to imagine my heart being able to handle much more! And yet I know it will be true. Too many people have told me.

Darby (a/k/a Darby-Doo, Darbs, Doodle, and The Doodlebug) has, within the last year or so, become very involved in the youth group at her church. She has made critical decisions about her faith, and church has become a big part of her already-busy life. Aunt Krissy is, of course, thrilled about this.

Darby's mother (again, my sister Julie) called me recently to tell me that Darby was going to be participating in a 30-hour fast in order to raise money for World Hunger. I immediately felt so proud of my Doodlebug, because she has a high metabolism, and has to eat often. So I knew this would be a real challenge for her.

Julie then went on to tell me that Darby had decided to do the fast at the last minute, and therefore, had not had the time to raise any money for the cause. Julie offered to pledge the money, but Darby felt like that was too easy. Instead, she decided that she would take the $50 remaining from her Christmas money, and contribute that to the World Hunger cause.


Now, let me explain the reason for my "Wow". First of all, $50 is a lot of money when you're 12-years old. Heck, it still feels like a lot to me sometimes. It's a significant amount to give away. Secondly, Darby is a kid who loves to shop. I know how much she would have enjoyed spending that money on clothes and shoes. In fact, when she was younger and I would come and visit her and her family in Georgia, the first thing she would say to me was, "Krissy, did you bring your credit cards?" (Ha, ha. So funny. She has always been a trip-and-a-half, this kid).

The bottom line is that it was a big deal for Darby to give up money and food. And it made me and Julie feel like she is really starting to understand some of the integral aspects of her faith. Sacrifice. Generosity. Selflessness. "Looking not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4).

Anyway, I am so proud, I could burst. What a delight to see this young woman taking the first steps in her faith journey, and doing so with such characteristic cheerfulness.

I'll leave you with two pictures. The first is of me and Darby at her 2nd birthday party in 1998. It is important to note that, hilariously, Darby did not smile in any pictures the first two years of her life. I think she thought she was smiling, but she wasn't. This all changed when she was about two-and-a-half, and she has been a major poser ever since.

The second picture is the two of us in the same pose just a week and a half ago on Easter Sunday.

Once my Doodlebug, always my Doodlebug.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not Enough Blogging!

Hey All!

Well, once again, I must apologize that it has been two months since my last blog posting. There are several reasons for that, but I'll spare you those details and simply say this: I am making a re-commitment to my blog this week. Renewing my blog vows if you will.

I recently returned from a week-long trip to the GLORIOUS mountains of Red River, New Mexico, and found wonderful refreshment and inspiration there! (Honestly, if you can't find inspiration there, then I'm not sure where you can. I mean, exquisite doesn't even BEGIN to describe it). Here's a pic of me, the mountains, and some friends from the trip! From left to right, that's Becky, Kayla, me, Philip and Chuck.

Gah this was a fun day!

All right, so...Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known in all the land that from this day forth, not a week shall passeth without a new blog post from thy humble servant. To thee I make this solemn vow.
After all, I know how much you've missed my ramblings...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Um, What's Goin' On Here Ya'll?

Check out the middle stoplight.

Did we have some installation problems here? HA! I'm sure there is some reason for this, and that it was done on purpose, but I had to laugh at the possible scenario:
"Hey Bob?"
"Yeah Jim."
"Um, I accidentally put this stoplight on backwards."
"Well, that's all right. They can look at the other two to see whether or not to stop or go."
"That's true. I'll leave it as is."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lessons In Humility

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. - Saint Augustine

Howdy All and Happy New Year! I am SO sorry it has been a while since I have posted to the Blog. It has not been for lack of material, I assure you! Indeed, the last several weeks have been incredibly eventful, fraught with changes and challenges, but enriched by some nice victories as well.

As many of you reading this already know, I left Dell Inc. in April of 2007 - after 14 years at the company - to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter and screenwriter. I had bathed this decision in months and months of prayer, and felt very certain about the choice I was making. As is often the case with any major, life-changing decision, I felt a normal mix of anticipation and trepidation. I was confident that some very cool and exciting things lay ahead, but that confidence was coupled with a natural fear of the unknown. I remember shortly before I left Dell someone asked me, "So...are you excited? Are you scared?" And I replied, "Yes and yes." Truer words never spoken. I was thrilled, but terrified.

I am pleased to report that, in the months since leaving Dell, the terror has abated significantly, while the excitement has only grown. Long-dormant creative spaces in my heart and mind have been opened up, and I have written more in the last 8 months than I had in the last 8 years. It has been tremendously satisfying, and a real blast. It has also been abounding in personal and spiritual growth, new experiences, and lessons learned. There is so much that I could write about! But today, I want to write about some Lessons In Humility that I have experienced over the course of the last few months. First, let's take a look at Webster's definition here:

1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.

2. Showing deferential or submissive respect: a humble apology.
3. Low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly

Now, upon my first mention of humility and upon reading the above definition of it, you might have felt an uncomfortable twinge. The word sounds so similar to humiliation, and can suggest a beating down of sorts. But really, this is not the case, at least not as far as I'm concerned. Humility is not something that I consider to be a negative thing. Indeed, as a Bible-believing Christian, I believe humility to be a high calling, a quality that is highly praised and valued and honored by my God. It is a characteristic that brings one into deeper communion with Him, into greater understanding of oneself, and into greater compassion and empathy for one's fellow man.

Having said that, Lessons In Humility can make you feel lousy. Real stinkin' lousy.

I mean, for me to fail to mention that would be dishonest and disingenuous. But I'll say again, it's the real stinkin' lousy times that strengthen and stretch us, and ultimately, remind of us who we are and where our true value and identity come from. So, I can honestly say, I am truly grateful for these humbling events and what they have taught me.

My first significant Lesson In Humility occurred in July when I attended the Gospel Music Association Festival in Estes Park, Colorado. If you refer to my August posts, you will see that my days at the GMA Festival were incredibly valuable and great fun, and the whole experience was tremendously positive. But the week did hold its share of humbling experiences. In the course of the week, I decided to participate in the Vocal Competition. I had not planned on doing this, as I was primarily there to learn, but decided that it would be great experience to do so. My critique sheets from the music industry judges were generally positive, but many of the marks were just average or (gasp!) slightly-below-average. For the last 22 years of my life, I have been praised and lauded and exalted for my music and singing abilities, so receiving average to slightly-below-average marks was humbling indeed.

LESSONS LEARNED: 1) I am not "all that", 2) there are MANY talented people out there, and many who are more talented than me, and 3) I have to work work work on my craft so that I can continue to get better. No resting on natural ability. For these Lessons In Humility, I am so grateful, for "God gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

Lessons In Humility, Round 2 began in the middle of August, when I suddenly began to feel strangely ill. It is important to note here that I am a person who is rarely sick. Growing up, I had many years of perfect school attendance. In 14 years at Dell, I think I missed a total of about 7 days due to illness. Stomach viruses, flu bugs, colds and sore throats would sweep through my entire family or work area and pass me right over. And even when I did get sick, it would rarely keep me down and out for too long. But this - this was a bear. To this day, I'm not sure exactly what I had, and the only real diagnosis I ever got following numerous visits to the doctor was "some kind of virus." The mystery virus would strike me for two or three days at a time, go away for a few days, and then rear its ugly head again. It was marked by extreme fatigue, achiness, general malaise, and a wicked, I'd-rather-spit-than-have-to-swallow sore throat. The virus came and went for weeks. I spent days at a time in bed. I had never in my life experienced anything like it.

One night, during what would be the virus's final appearance, the sore throat pain was so severe, that I actually decided to take some painkiller. The painkiller hardly touched the pain, but it did help me sleep. And I'll spare you details here, but painkiller has always had a somewhat unfortunate effect on my body, and this situation was no exception. Let's just say that the resolution to this issue involved an enema. Lovely. TMI? Perhaps. Sorry.

Following said enema, I lay prostrate on the ground of my bathroom floor - sick, exhausted, lonely, and spent, my tears falling onto the bathroom tile. I thought of one of my favorite lyrics from the song "To Life (L'Chaim)" from "Fiddler On The Roof": God would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor. Joy I could not muster, but calling on my God and praying for His mercy? That I could do. And did. And mercy came. The virus never returned again.

LESSONS LEARNED: 1) Good health, which I have enjoyed my entire life, is a precious gift that is not to be taken for granted, 2) I have a new understanding of the pain and isolation that comes with illness, and 3) I am not in control. For these Lessons In Humility, I am so grateful, for "God gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

In between bouts of the virus, I was interviewing at various restaurants to be a server, and was getting resoundingly rejected by all of them. Many of these establishments had advertised that this was "a perfect job for students!" But somehow, as a 38-year old college graduate with 14 years of corporate experience, I was unqualified to sling hash. Ouch.

I did finally get hired by California Pizza Kitchen (I know - YUM), and I am now beginning my fourth month there. (More on CPK in future posts). Overall, all has gone very well at CPK, but it has brought its share of humbling experiences as well. Chief among them has been the fact that, with the exception of one or two co-workers, no one really seems to want to be my friend. I've never had trouble making friends, and my life is blessed by an abundance of them. But I have tried and tried with these folks, mostly to no avail. Recently, a co-worker asked if I could cover her Thursday dinner shift if she covered my Thursday lunch shift. I readily agreed! But I later found out that she needed the Thursday night off to attend a birthday party for one of our co-workers, a party that I was quite clearly not invited to. Ouch again. The simple truth is that I am not used to this type of thing.

LESSONS LEARNED: 1) I am more grateful than ever for the friends in my life, for how unbelievably awesome they are, and for the ease with which we allowed ourselves into each other's lives and 2) I have a newfound compassion for those who have difficulty making friends, for those who have ever felt the sting of rejection or dismissal, something that I have only rarely experienced. For these Lessons In Humility, I am so grateful, for "God gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

When I left Dell, I did so in order to achieve my goal of becoming an artist. My goal in becoming an artist was so that I could create works that would reach people, speak to them, and maybe, possibly, hopefully reach the broken places of their lives. Today, I feel better equipped to do that because of the humbling experiences of the last several months. These experiences did not feel good, not one bit. But God has a way of bringing good out of just about anything, and I am ready to stand as a testimony to that truth.