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.