Monday, September 18, 2017

Hits and Misses (September 10-16, 2017)

The week has been very active and I'm in a chatty mood. You have been warned! This post is longer than normal. Without further ado, here's a look back at the week that was.....

  • I love sharing music with people. It's especially fun when I just get to let my hair down and relax. No serious repertoire. Just sharing arrangements of songs that hold a special place in the hearts of the audience. That was my experience when I got to play a few hymn arrangements for the Young at Heart group at College Heights. After enjoying lunch with these senior adults -- and laughing with them, as well -- I sat at the piano and together we thought about Heaven as we shared the gift of music. It wasn't the best playing I've ever done in my life -- I even pulled out an arrangement that is still a "work in progress" -- and it was fine. Sometimes in all of the hecticness of making music professionally, I forget just how important these casual moments with my faith community can really be. 
  • Back in the School of Music, it has been a busy week for me (surprise, surprise!). It has also been a week filled with productive rehearsals. Richard and I continue to sightread piano duo repertoire on Wednesday mornings. I think we've found a couple of pieces that we both really enjoy that will be featured in an upcoming recital. Yes, we are actually going to perform it this time....I promise it will be worth the wait! As the week continued, opera rehearsals went much better than last week! It's amazing how a humbling experience (see last week's post) will kick your tail in gear to make sure it doesn't happen again. This week's rehearsals showed that my work -- and the work of our students -- paid off while continuing to point out areas that still need some attention in the practice rooms. Lastly, I am preparing a senior recital with soprano Elizabeth Johnson this semester. The repertoire is not easy at all and we have both dreaded putting a few of the pieces together. Last week, we had committed to just plowing through the fear-inducing repertoire in our next rehearsal...and we made it through the songs without too much trauma. They are still stiff in some passages at the moment, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now we just continue to press on!
  • I hate housework. Since I'm actually home so little during the week, I struggle with putting in all the effort to keep the place spotless. Don't get me wrong, I pick up after myself and make sure things are not growing.....I'm not THAT big of a slob. It's that deep cleaning that I know makes such a difference that I hate. So I swallowed my pride and sought professional assistance this week. I learned that a graduate student at WBU was looking for work as a house cleaner to help with her tuition; of course, I felt it was my obligation to offer her work! LOL! The work was beautifully done and for what I considered a reasonable rate. More importantly, my apartment is clean, fresh, and organized. In my opinion, that was $40 well spent!
  • As the week came to a close, we received an important update on Hannah Brown and her fight against cancer. While it wasn't exactly what we had hoped for, I was encouraged that the MRI came back with results that can be seen as a step in the right direction at the moment. Here's what the doctors saw.  There is currently no indication that cancer has returned to Hannah's brain at this point. Praise the Lord! However, there are some other issues that are raising concern. Currently, there is inflammation in her brain that can either be an early indicator of cancer's return OR it may be a side effect of the radiation she has been through in recent months. Additionally, there is a small spot on her lung that needs to be monitored. It may either be a cancerous cell that has spread to other parts of her body OR it is an infection -- probably pneumonia -- that can be treated with antibiotics. I choose to focus on the "OR" possibilities at the moment and continue to trust that Jehovah Rapha -- The LORD, my Healer -- is doing a complete work in Hannah's young body that will bring her complete health while bringing absolute honor and glory to the Heavenly Father.  If you have not already done so, I encourage you to follow Hannah's progress on her Facebook page -- Hannah Strong and Courageous -- and join the thousands around the world who are praying for her and her family. #RoarHannah!!!!
  • I started the week with a nasty cold that I just could not shake. On Sunday morning, I got out of bed and felt as though I had been hit by a semi-truck. I texted my Minister of Music to see if he could get a sub for me on such short notice. When I didn't get a response, I got dressed and headed to rehearsal so I could make sure that the service was covered. When I got there, I learned that several members of the team were also out sick or out of town. Since I was there, I put on my big boy pants and got to work. When I don't feel well, tempos and rhythmic figures are the first things to suffer in my playing. So I felt as though I was dragging everything through the service, but was thankful that I didn't completely embarrass myself. Needless to say, it was a welcome relief when I finally started feeling like a human again around Tuesday morning.
  • This semester's weekly schedule has a few really long days in the middle of the week. I can't complain too much -- I did it to myself -- and I think the work is important. Tuesday and Thursdays are the longest days.  Both days begin with 8am classes (Oh Karma, you continue to repay me for all of those early morning classes I intentionally avoided over the years!) and end with late commitments. On Tuesdays, I play for the Plainview Chorale until 9pm; Thursdays end with weekly donut runs with music students that easily last until 10pm. Wednesday mornings are the worst.....after a long day of teaching and playing on Tuesday, my 8:30am Duo rehearsal typically starts with me still trying to shake the grogginess from my brain. Thankfully, I have a few breaks on these marathon days that I try to protect from interruption so I can recharge and not feel as though I am completely pulling my hair out.
  • Between the end of my cold this week and the weather patterns in the area, I've been fighting several headaches this week. Most were the run-of-the-mill variety that were handled with a little caffeine and Tylenol. On Friday night, I had the mother of all headaches that landed me in a dark, quiet room while I waited for it to pass. Those few hours of discomfort felt like an eternity. I'm really glad that I don't suffer with those severe headaches as frequently as I did in the past!
And there you have it! It's been a packed week....thanks for joining me for the journey. Now let's see what's on the agenda for the week ahead. Hope you all have a good one!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hits and Misses (September 3-9, 2017)

Here's a look back at the week that was......  

  • I enjoyed the last few lazy days of the Labor Day holiday in Oklahoma City. It was nice to get away and rest. I enjoyed some good food and visited a few of the "less popular" sites in the city, but mostly I huddled in my hotel room and enjoyed doing some reading and binging on a couple of television series. It may not sound like an exciting vacation to you, but it was exactly what I was looking forward to.....and just wish I could escape away a little more often.
  • Once back in Plainview, it was time to get back to work. It is always a joy to have productive rehearsals with students that lead to successful performances. I love watching our students try new things in their craft and achieve great results. It makes it fun to get up every day and see what is going to happen next.
  • The week ended with a very successful Jump Start choral camp at WBU. I ended up working mostly with students from the "small schools" as they prepared auditions including Haydn's Little Organ Mass. It was a long day of hard work for everyone involved, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.
  • Like clockwork, the end of August and the beginning of September means that I am going to have a nasty head cold. This year is no different. I'm congested and dealing with a nagging cough that I simply cannot shake. It has sapped my energy most of the week and just made me feel crappy. I think hope that I am almost over it and will start to feel (and sound) normal again very soon.
  • One of my favorite tasks in my job is getting to play for opera workshop. However, putting singers and accompaniment together for the first time is like quickly and violently ripping off a band-aid. It's a necessary part of the process, but no matter how prepared I think I am.....there are still moments where I will fall flat on my face. I ran out of time to fully prepare this week and I paid the price when reading through a scene I *thought* I knew with the cast. It was an humbling experience. Needless to say, I know one portion of the opera that is definitely on my radar this week!
  • I have always been an organizer and normally have lots of to-do lists scattered around my desk in various forms. Recently, it has felt as though the lists were not working -- and that has been terribly frustrating. I know what needs to get done, but I can never seem to get to the important things because of all the other fires that I am putting out. It's not that the immediate things aren't worthy of my attention; I just hate to see what I had planned to accomplish get pushed further down the line so that it has now reached "crisis" mode as well.  Oh well -- c'est la vie!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 27 - September 2, 2017)

Here's a look back at the week that was....

  • It is always a welcome event to have great conversation. The topic really doesn't matter. Just the chance to sit down with friends, students, or colleagues and thoughtfully share ideas and opinions. It has been a good week for talking.
  • The Singing Men of Texas got back to work this week as they gathered for their annual retreat. We sang through a lot of music and I did a lot of playing, but it was enjoyable. The singers sound really good, the overall atmosphere is one of professionalism, and instrumentalists are respected and appreciated. That last point goes a long way!
  • As the week came to a close, I was able to get out of town for the long weekend. Since I couldn't be with family right now, I really just wanted to spend some quiet time alone in a hotel room with my books and some great restaurants around. I decided to break with the tradition of the past few years and headed back east -- to Oklahoma City. I really didn't do much of anything at all....and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Have you had days where it seemed nothing would go right and you couldn't win for losing? Those days seem as though they will never end, too. I had two of those long, frustrating days back to back last week. By the end of the second day, I was ready to take someone's head off! No one was at fault. Things just weren't going my issues....body aches....long, redundant rehearsals......I was just over it! I'm really hoping that I managed to get all of the bugs out in the early part of the semester. If that was a sign of how the semester is going to go, I need to find my white flag and frantically start waving it all around now!
  • I am a man who loves a routine. Give me a plan, let's stick to it, and get the job done. Imagine my great "joy" this week (Is that dripping with enough sarcasm?) when I discovered that several things on my calendar needed to be adjusted in my weekly schedule! Everything worked out for the most part -- I still have one major dilemma lingering -- and I've learned a lesson in rolling with the punches.
  • With all of the craziness of the first full week of the semester, I found myself entering the final rehearsal of the week underprepared. I knew I was running out of prep time throughout the week, so I made an educated guess of what I would be able to handle without spending too much time on it. I selected Father's aria at the end of Act I of Hansel and Gretel as the portion of the rehearsal I would wing. After all, I had played the aria last semester for the it couldn't be THAT bad, could it? YIKES! Let's just say I have a "date" with Humperdinck's score when I get back to Plainview and will definitely be spending some time with this highly chromatic scene!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 20-26, 2017)

Here's a look back at the week that was....

  • I played my first rehearsal with the Plainview Chorale this week. Even though I was sightreading for the entire rehearsal, it turned out to be a lot of fun and a nice way for me to contribute to the musical life in Plainview.
  • After several years of talking about it, Richard and I were finally able to block out rehearsal time in order to prepare a Piano Duo Recital. We've read a little Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Barber so far. Nothing is settled yet. We'll just continue doing a little more reading until we've got a program that we want to prepare and present. This is going to be awesome!
  • Now that school is in full swing, so is the Thursday night tradition of Donut Night. This week saw the largest crowd that I can remember. There was lots of laughter as well as a few heart-to-heart conversations. I think we're off to a good start for a successful Fall.
  • On Saturday morning, I was able to attend the Welcome Home Party for Hannah Brown. This sweet little girl and her family have had a rough go of it this summer. I was thrilled to get to see them all for a few minutes and see how well Hannah is doing and how their faith is sustaining the entire family. Hannah still has a long road ahead of her, but those who love her around the world will continue to pray that she will thrive and continue to ROAR as she fights cancer. 
  • There's nothing like getting to be a kid again for a few minutes after a busy week. Who knew that playing hide-and-seek with a boy's toy truck could bring so much laughter and joy? I'm very thankful for the time I got to spend with Luke (Hannah's younger brother) on Saturday, too.
  • Sometimes there are just too many chiefs! Nothing is more frustrating than when everyone wants to be in charge and thinks that their opinions are correct. Things just work better when we have a single leader -- thankfully, it's not me anymore! -- and the rest of the Indians simply fall in line.
  • The new semester has gotten under way and I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water. I don't know what's going on, but it seems that there is just so much to do! I know it will settle down eventually. It has seemed that every time I mark one thing off of my to-do list, three other tasks are standing in line to take its place. I just have to keep reminding myself to just take one step at a time and get it all done.
  • I've been a little restless this week. There's nothing disturbing me. I'm not upset and I don't feel poorly. Still, I'm finding myself tossing and turning quite a bit. I just can't seem to get settled. I've devoted a lot of my personal prayer time to this matter. I'm just going to trust that it will get better soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Revisiting a Younger Me

In case you haven't guessed, I enjoy writing. That's part of the reason that I like blogging. There's just something priceless about putting words on the page to express my feelings and opinions about a myriad of subjects. Not all of my thoughts are intended or appropriate for public consumption though. There are times that I need to express my frustrations, deepest hopes, and greatest fears without inviting anyone else to read. That is the purpose of my personal journal.

I have kept journals -- or diaries, if you prefer -- off and on throughout my life. Journaling became a consistent part of my routine while nearing the end of my time at Pepperdine.  Lots of things were happening that put me into an uproar emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So I needed an outlet to express those thoughts without fear of offending people or getting myself into major trouble. My journal became the place to lay it all on the line without any self-editing.

Over the past week, I decided it was time to read those early journals for the first time in many, many years. It has been an eye-opening experience as I revisited the world that my 20-year-old self faced. Those were days of lots of drama and personal turmoil. I was struggling with my own identity as it related to my faith, my relationships with others, and my future as a musician. I had forgotten that there was a long period of time after completing my senior recital that I was convinced that I would never play the piano again because I had so many negative feelings attached to the experience of studying music. As I walk through those memories again, I am so thankful for the people who nurtured me and helped me realize that my negative feelings were not about the music, but about people with whom I was forced to interact. I have also been reminded of just how important my interactions with my current students are. I have found myself spending more time in prayer as I approach the beginning of a new year that the words I speak to my students will always be couched in sincere love for their well-being and their future endeavors.

Not all of my memories were bad. I found myself laughing frequently at my younger self. I loved looking back to a time when life was carefree. I shook my head as I lived again the emotional roller coaster of dealing with roommates and friends that didn't understand that I was right and they were wrong. I am amazed that I didn't get slapped a few times; years away from the situations quickly reveal just how wrong I really was. There were times I wanted to leap back in time and tell this naive Kennith that the issues that were causing me so much distress and heartache were really not that important in light of the big picture.

Occasionally, I found myself getting into a negative head space as I read my old journals. Insecurities and unresolved hurts reared their heads again and continued to torment me all these years later. Fortunately, I quickly realized what was happening and was able to clear my head -- as soon as I wrote about it in my current journal! Overall, it has been great to look back through the pages of my journals and reflect on how things were for me then. I just have to remind myself not to stay in the past.  My goal as I continue my personal journaling is that I will be able to LEARN from the past, LIVE in the present, and LOOK FORWARD to the future.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 13-19)

Here's a look back at the week that was.....


  • I safely made it back to Plainview. It is always a long drive from the Geriatric Ward back to work. That's why I split it into two it's not too bad. I stopped in Shawnee, Oklahoma....just in time to let a nasty storm pass through during the overnight hours. I drove through a few sprinkles here and there, but the weather was actually quite nice for most of the drive.
  • While I was traveling back to West Texas, Mom had her second successful cataract surgery. From what I have gathered, the procedure went really smoothly and recovery has gone well. Mom will return to the optometrist on Tuesday for her final check up....and then we will be completely done with these surgeries. Hooray!
  • After a really long week, I was in need of a good laugh by Friday morning. Thankfully, many of my colleagues were also delirious by that point and were able to provide the humor. It's of the things I enjoy most about my job is the people that I get to work with. A faculty that likes each other -- really, we like each other! -- is not as common as you might think and something that we all count as a great blessing in the School of Music.
  • Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. I know that meetings are necessary sometimes. This week's meetings that I participated in were mostly productive. I just found my brain going well as my butt!
  • A storm went through Plainview one of the first evenings I was back in town. When I woke the next morning and found water in the hallway, I thought I might have a roof leak. Only problem with that diagnosis was that there was no water on the walls or ceiling. When the water began to spread, I assumed I had a full-blown water leak and immediately called my landlord. He seemed really unconcerned and passively explained that it was probably just condensation from the air conditioner. Ummm....NO! There was a good 3 foot patch of water that I could splash around in without leaving my apartment. By the end of the week, I saw that a plumber had actually set foot in my place and left a fan behind to dry the carpet. I still haven't heard what caused the water or when someone will be back to get the fan. 
  • Ever since I've been back in West Texas, I've been experiencing some strange sleep patterns. I'm falling asleep around 11:15......only to be fully awake by 12:30. Then it takes forever to fall asleep again. By the time I need to get up the next morning, I'm still sluggish and not wanting to face the day. I'm really hoping that this is just due to the change in environment and not a sign of any other issue.  I've dealt with enough health-related stuff this summer; I need a break from all of that!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 6-12)

Here's a look back at the week that was....  

  • To start the week, the Geriatrics and I visited Marion First and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Even though the Pastor's microphone was not on for the duration of his sermon, the acoustics in the sanctuary were such that we were able to hear almost every word. He spoke beautifully from Romans 8. This was our first time to be at Marion First since Dr. Hallmark's departure; it was great to hear that the commitment to proclaiming the Word with excellence continues.
  • My car was in the shop the first few days of the week. I also knew this was my final week to spend at home. Those two things combined meant that I was very intentional about enjoying a relaxing week. I watched television and did some light reading during the days. Once the Geriatrics came home, Mom and I would enjoy some time together in the living room. All in all, it was a very good week.
  • On Saturday evening, we had the final Geriatric Outing of the summer. As strange as it may sound to you, these end-of-the-week dinners were a highlight for me and for my parents. (Here's hoping that the explorations will continue to happen occasionally while I'm away.) This week, I decided to return to a favorite we had dinner at J. Alexander's. I've been trying to get out there for several weeks now, but there was always another restaurant that Mom and Dad wanted to try. If you know us well, our menu selections will come as no surprise.....Mom and I both ordered the French Dip (minus the horseradish!) and Pop went for the crab cakes. Yummy and fitting end to our summer together.
  • My car went in the shop on Monday for a basic oil change and to have the tires rotated. The shop manager called Dad and told him that two of the tires were actually in pretty bad shape and needed to be replaced. Pop decided that we would just replace all of the tires instead. The tires were not in stock and did not arrive until Wednesday I finally got my car back on Thursday morning! It's not like I had anything that I needed to do before returning to Plainview. The end of the week became a rather frantic sprint to get all of the loose ends tied up. 
  • The worst part of not having my car is that I also missed my chiropractic sessions for the week. I can tell that I wasn't adjusted, too! My lower back is extremely sore; my arms and neck are also screaming for attention. One of the first things I'll do when I get to Plainview is make a trip to see Dr. Nate so we can continue the process that was started this summer.
  • I hate packing! Even though I have lived out of my suitcase all summer long, it still takes more effort and time than I anticipate to gather everything, put it in the car and hit the road. I'm just glad that I don't have to do that very often.
  • I hate walking on egg shells.....and I'm very glad that I don't have to do it anymore.