Ashes to Ashes

There’s one day a year that I wear my faith on my forehead. Yes, on Ash Wednesday anyone who crosses my path can see that I’m a Christian.

And while I’ve been wearing the ashen cross since I was a child, it wasn’t until college that I truly grasped the meaning behind it. It took a major disappointment for me to learn a lesson that impacts me still today.

I was eighteen at the time,

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Love & Marriage

When my friend Greta got engaged many years ago, a man she knew from work shared a story I’ll always remember.

In essence, he told Greta the key to marriage is to love your spouse even when you don’t feel like it. Using his own life to explain, he described a period in which he and his wife hit a wall. They were fighting constantly and very disconnected. Their marriage hung by a thread.

Her birthday was coming up,

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The Parenting Choice You’ll Never Regret

“Just give her extra love, Kari. Just give her extra love.”

The words were so simple, yet exactly what I needed to hear. Once again my father came through with flying colors, offering advice to ease my anxiety.

It came during a time when I was worried about my daughter. It wasn’t anything major, just a situation that had popped up.

And though I knew better, I made the mistake of getting on Google.

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Who Am I to Judge?

“I try not to judge other people’s kids because I never know what mine might do.”

My late grandmother used to say this, and I think it’s as relevant today as it was in her time. None of us have room to judge, none of us are supposed to judge, yet we do it anyway. Within parenting circles, the tendency is to judge both other parents and their kids.

In many cases, it starts innocently enough.

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Raising a Kind Daughter

When my daughter Ella was in fourth grade, she got in the car one day after school and announced her plan to run for student council.

At her school each class has a representative, and I was thrilled she planned to put her name in the hat. Even if she didn’t win, it would be a good experience.

She told me almost every girl in her class was running, as well as one or two boys.

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Identity 911

When I got married, I went from being called Kari Kubiszyn to being called Kari Kampakis. Transitioning from one odd name to another was easy. Figuring out who this new person was, however, launched an identity crisis that I didn’t expect.

I was thrilled to finally live in the same city as Harry, but moving to Huntsville from Birmingham meant leaving my friends, my family, and a job I adored. In Birmingham everything clicked for me, but in Huntsville I couldn’t catch a groove,

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Be Happy. Be the Blessing.

People often think of happiness as a reaction. Something happens and our spirits enjoy a boost. But really happiness is proactive. It’s cherishing what we already have and living life with our eyes open, purposefully seeking moments that fill us with joy.

Most of us don’t lead exciting lives. Exciting events happen, but not on a daily basis.

Moments, however, are daily. They’re also abundant. And with each new moment comes a new opportunity to be happy.

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10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make (Me Included)

When I became a mom, I got lots of advice on how to love my child. But not until a few years ago did someone actually point out that loving a child means wanting what’s best for them long-term.

When my girls were young, long-term didn’t resonate with me. Back then it was about survival, meeting daily needs and keeping my head above water. There are several years that remain a blur, and only when I see old pictures and videos do memories get triggered.

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A Silver Linings Mindset

Every morning when we wake up, we have a choice. We can choose to be grateful for what’s right in our life or grumpy for what’s wrong.

Nobody is born grateful. We learn gratitude by practicing it. This is good news because it means gratitude is within everyone’s reach. In any and all circumstances it works. Even if we’re skeptical or pessimistic by nature, there is hope. Even if we’ve been beaten down by life, there is hope.

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Daddies Be Good to Your Daughters

I saw an old friend recently and asked about his little girl.

He immediately turned to mush.

The transformation advanced like this: His head tilted. He smiled. His body softened as if he’d been microwaved five seconds. In a final gesture, he rapped on his heart…one, two, three times. He never did speak, however.

That’s because he didn’t have to.

I know it sounds sappy, but the relationship between daddies and daughters turns me into putty,

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The AA Way: Lessons We Can All Learn From

I’m not a member of AA, but through the course of random events, I’ve met some amazing women who are.

They are funny. They are insightful. They are a joy to be around and possibly the most non-judgmental people I’ve ever met. The more time I spend with them, the more I realize what an incredible program AA is. Truth be told, I’m jealous of their connection and what they learn in group therapy because what AA boils down to is a healthy,

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If I Die Young

Nobody likes to think about their mortality, but the untimely deaths in 2012 of two Birmingham moms – both younger than me – really made me consider mine.

I never met Laura Black or Elliot Williams in person, but they inspired me. They were the moms/friends/wives everyone knew and loved. For months I followed their stories on Facebook, praying as our mutual friends posted updates and bawling my eyes out at my computer. Whenever I started to complain about my life,

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What is a Sister?

“I hate my sister! I wish I was an only child!”

These aren’t the words a mother dreams of hearing, yet I venture to say they’re heard in many homes. Whenever they’re voiced in mine, my heart breaks in two.

My girls love each other, and I catch them all the time having Hallmark moments, moments where they cackle and grin simultaneously, making their faces mirror images…moments where they dance around the house acting like nuts and singing their favorite songs…moments where they whisper in quiet corners while glancing up to make sure I can’t hear.

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What Criticism Does to a Child: Guest Post by Ella Kampakis

(Following is a post by my 10-year-old daughter, inspired by a conversation we recently had about a reality show and the impact of criticism. Ella is wise beyond her years and has excellent insight on how we parents can help our children meet their potential in a loving, positive manner).

A while back I was at a friend’s house, and we stayed up late watching the show “Dance Moms.” While I really liked their dance competitions,

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Children are Blessings, Not Burdens

Being a mom is a blessing. At the same time it’s hard.

Not rocket-science hard, but test-my-patience hard. How can something that looks so simple from the outside arouse the monster in me and crush the wall of sanity I once deemed indestructible?

As a child I put motherhood on a pedestal, holding many romanticized notions. I’d coddle my baby dolls until they were threadbare, stroll them around the house, and line them up neatly to teach school.

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10 Truths Young Girls Should Know

Growing up is a jungle. Having four daughters, I’m passionate about how young girls today navigate that jungle.

We’re all familiar with stories of mean girls, cliques, backstabbing, and social media nightmares started by one impulsive picture or post. We’ve heard of how depression and anxiety may get triggered by a single online incident. Peers cause damage quickly by spreading a rumor or picture through social media, and because kids don’t have the skills to cope with it yet,

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I was 23 when I started dating my husband – 23 and in love with my job.

My friends teased for loving work so much. It wasn’t normal, and I knew it. But I worked with amazing people at Alabama Power. I was lucky to get a job since the company was on a hiring freeze. Best of all, I had a boss who believed in me. And as his faith in me grew, so did my opportunities.

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Let’s Get the Kids to Church

I don’t know about you, but getting my family ready for church on Sunday mornings can send me over the edge sometimes.

It’s a paradox for sure, the cursing under my breath and snapping at everyone because they can’t move fast enough. Here we are, preparing for holy ground, and all I can think is, “Enough, already. I’m done.”

Once I get to church, however, something strange happens. The tightness is my chest relaxes,

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Jeremiah 29:11

It was a gorgeous spring day, and I was happy. I had the sun on my face, love in my heart, and overwhelming gratitude for the family my husband and I had recently started.

Life was good.

As Harry and I sat in the grass outside our home, watching baby Ella crawl around with an explorer’s curiosity, a sense of peace washed over me. Everything I needed was here. My only agenda was to enjoy the scene before me.

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What Does Your Dad Do?

Imagine for a moment a boy walking into his friend’s house for the first time. It’s not just any ordinary house; it’s an estate. There are marble floors, vaulted ceilings, and 6,000 square feet of antiques. Also on the property is a tennis court, a swimming pool, and private exercise quarters.

At first, all the boy does is gape. Once he composes himself, he turns to his friend and asks the million-dollar question:

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Me, My Man & 15 Years

It all started with a pair of blue swim trunks.

The fact that he was driving a ski boat didn’t hurt.

I knew Harry in college, but not until a year after graduation did I really see him. He was at the beach with his friends; I was there with mine. We were all hanging out and reveling in the freedom of being young, carefree, and financially independent.

I turned to my friend sitting by me in the boat.

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When Our Child Brings a Mistake to Us…

I was dead asleep one night when I heard my 11-year-old daughter creep in my room.

She was shaking and crying, and even in the dark I could tell she was troubled. Since she had a friend staying over, I was extra worried. In choking sobs she told me they’d done something terrible.

I dreaded what I’d hear.

“We w-anted to p-lay a j-oke on my sisters,” she cried. “So we p-ainted their faces with m-arkers while they were sl-eeping.

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The Deep End of Love

I should have been exhausted, but I wasn’t.

I needed to sleep, but I couldn’t.

Instead, I only wanted to look at my new baby girl, an eight-pound miracle named Ella. After an 18-hour labor, she arrived around midnight. As we settled in a hospital room, our surroundings dark and quiet due to the time, I savored a moment alone with her. The nurse had left to gather supplies. My husband was getting food.

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Only God

All babies are miracles, but sometimes…sometimes a child enters this world in a way so rare and remarkable we want to shout from a mountaintop and glorify the work of God.

That’s how I feel in sharing the story of Laura and Colby Clark, a Mountain Brook couple with two beautiful daughters, Madison, 12, and Abigail, 9. I met the Clarks several years ago when my oldest daughter became friends with Abigail. Immediately I liked their family and admired how Laura and Colby were raising their children.

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Our Kids Will Follow Our Example, Not Our Advice

Even when we think they’re not watching, they’re watching.

Even when we think we’re not parenting, we’re parenting.

The life of a parent is a classroom, a breeding ground for lessons. We can rattle off advice all day, but only when our kids see our advice in action does it hit home. Whatever we expect of them, we must expect of ourselves. To be better parents we must first be better people.

Modeling good virtues is a big part of parenting,

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