Monday, April 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Servers

Whether I like it or not, my lifestyle at the moment demands that I eat most of my meals in restaurants. My waistline attests to the sad fact that most of them are eaten in the driver's seat of my car and are of the fast food variety. When I get the chance and have to eat on the road, I try to make a healthier choice in a dining establishment. I have discovered that there are good and bad servers everywhere....and I tend to get seated in their sections without fail. I never have a so-so experience with a waitperson. They are either incredibly talented or someone desperately in need of training!

Last week, I experienced both extremes during lunch services. In both cases, I was dining during non-peak hours (11am and 1:45pm) when the room was not terribly crowded. There were some similarities. In both settings, I brought along my iPad to do some light reading and was not pressed for time. The differences were in locations as well as the servers' gender and ethnicity. (I am not claiming that servers of a certain gender or race are better at their job; I simply stating the facts of these two isolated cases. The names of servers have been changed to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.)

First experience occurred in the Chili's on Vann Drive in Jackson, Tennessee.  I was seated in a booth and was promptly joined by Jeremy, a young Caucasian man, who would be helping me. Jeremy was very relaxed and full of energy. He actually plopped down in the seat across from me. Normally this would have irritated me, but Jeremy quickly began a friendly conversation and established a very relaxed environment. Once my order was taken and Jeremy left, I began to read to pass the time. A few minutes later, I look up to find that my drink has been delivered without any distraction. That rarely happens and readers (like me) really appreciate it! Jeremy walked by later while I was taking a break from reading, asked about my book, and assured me that my food would be out soon. This was turning out to be one of the highlights of my week.

Contrast that with my experience on Saturday morning at the Colton's in Marion, Arkansas. Kim, a female server of Korean decent greeted me and led me to her section. The menu was thrown at me and I was told she would be right back with my water. Having been to this establishment many times, I knew that water was not served unless requested. When she came back and I asked for a coke, Kim told me that I couldn't request another drink once I had been given water. Really? I keep my cool (surprisingly) and ask a passing server that I knew to please bring me a soft drink. I struggled for a few more minutes with Kim's thick accent, but we managed to get the food I wanted ordered. While I was reading, Kim came to the table and actually PLACED HER HANDS on my iPad, asking what version it was. She then proceeded to tell me how badly she wanted one and that since I could afford an iPad, she was sure I would leave a good tip. I abruptly ask her to check on my food and to bring the check when she delivers the plate since I won't be staying long.

I attempt to be a fair tipper, even to those servers who don't do such a good job. If you really are bad or you mishandle my party so badly without an apology, I'll lower my tip. On the other hand, if you do an exceptional job, I'm more likely to increase your tip. Both meals were around $12 and I used a $20 to pay for each. For one meal, I put down the bill and left the establishment very satisfied; in the other situation, I waited for the change, pocketed the coins and all of the bills except a single bill (of a very low denomination). I'll let you figure out which server got which tip.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Unfinished Projects

I have a confession to make. I am notorious for not finishing projects. I'm not talking about work-related projects. These unfinished projects are those tasks in life that start out as a good idea and then fall to the wayside when life becomes hectic. Visit my room and you'll find half-read books, cross-stitch projects in various degrees of completion, and sundry other projects that I've begun.

Unfinished projects can drive some people absolutely insane. There are too many loose ends that simply have to be tied up. All projects should be completed before another can be begun. I'm just not that organized. Maybe the truth is that I suffer from ADD....I can work on a project until I get bored and then I need a change of pace.

Let me give you a few examples. I love to cross-stitch, but cannot bear to work on a small little item. They are uninteresting to me. I enjoy the big sprawling patterns with lots of colors and thousands of stitches. How many do I have in progress at the moment? I'm not at home right now, but I think it's either 4 or 5. Why so many? When I get tired of one pattern, I can switch to another. When I get tired of a color (like the greens in a garden scene), I can switch projects and colors. Since I don't have a pressing deadline -- and since Shane and Jacquelyn are already married -- there's nothing pressing. I generally find a couple of weeks each summer to stitch away. Here's the exciting news.....I may actually get ONE of these projects finished this year....but I'm not putting that kind of pressure on myself. It will be done when it's done.

As a collaborative pianist, I have mountains of photocopies music that I have acquired over the years. I have begun organizing it into a system that I can actually use. I've been working on this project for a year now. What's involved? Each photocopied piece of music is sorted by language and key. It's entered into a master database (if it's not a duplicate) and then filed alphabetically by title into one of five master binders. At this point, I have only filed the music I have acquired while working at Union. Now I'm beginning to tackle the stacks of music I played during graduate school. If we were able to turn the paper back into trees, I would probably have a small forest growing on my bookshelves at the moment!

Why can't I just finish a project and move on? I think it has something to do with the way my creative mind is wired. Until I'm absolutely sure the system I've developed is going to work, I don't want to invest too much time in case I need to make a change. The project I'm working on at this second sparks an idea that leads to a new endeavor. Do I finish every project I begin? Nope. Does that bother me? Not at all.....I know that part of being creative means daring to try things others wouldn't imagine and being secure enough to let things go that simply aren't working.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Search of......

I'm in the market for a new Bible and have been for several weeks now. With so many copies and editions available, it seems as though it would be an easy purchase. I know what I'm looking for. I know where to look....or at least I thought I did. I'm simply not having any luck.

Aren't all Bibles the same? Of course there are different translations and paraphrases. Then you must consider the font size, location of footnotes and commentary, and page layout. Hard cover, paperback or leather bound? Words of Christ in red? So many decisions to make.

The Bible I am looking for will have a specific purpose. It will be my primary study Bible. That determines what translation I want: New International. (I'm not implying that NIV is superior to any other translation; it's simply my preferred translation when I'm studying.) I don't care about the cover and really don't want a red-letter edition. What I DO want is a Bible with a simple layout -- ideally a single column per page -- with wide margins and NO commentary or footnotes next to the text. Why? I want to have plenty of room to write and make my own markings. That's part of what makes Bible study personal for me.

For now, I'll continue to use my NIV Worship Bible (published by Maranatha Publishing) that I love because of the corresponding prayers, quotes, and hymns printed in the margins. It has been a wonderful tool in planning worship sets over the years. I'm ready to step back from all the extras for a while and simply encounter the text in all of its beauty. I'm taking my search to the internet now to see what I can find.

How about you? What does your ideal study Bible look like? Which translation do you find yourself coming back to for clarity and insight? I'd love to hear from all of you in the comment section below.

Monday, April 22, 2013


By now, I'm sure that a formal announcement has been made and I can publicly state that I am currently taking a sabbatical from my duties at Abundant Grace Ministries. There are reasons for the time away, the main one being that I need some time to recover from ministry burnout. Just to put any rumors to rest, I have not quit, I am not upset at anyone, and I was not asked to leave my position. (Why is it that rumors can sometimes find the most fertile ground in a church setting?)

What do I plan to do while I'm not at AGM? I'll continue my responsibilities at Union University and Mid-South Community College. More importantly, I'll be taking time for resting, reflecting, and praying. I'm not too proud to say that I'm emotionally wasted and need a chance to recharge my batteries and put some past hurts behind me. Plans are being made to take some long weekend trips as well as spend some quality time with my family. Who knows, I may pop into your neck of the woods in the coming months....

Taking a sabbatical doesn't mean that I stop living or that I stop doing things. It just means that the responsibilities of the ministry position are not on my shoulders or my mind at this point. I'm only a week into the time off and I have to consciously remind myself to avoid things related to my job. For example, I visited the Lifeway Christian store on the campus of Union University last week. I was there looking for a new Bible (more on that later this week). I had some time to kill before my next appointment and I couldn't read another page of my novel -- my eyes can only take so much! I was browsing the store and caught myself wandering into the teaching resources. I laughed out loud as I reminded myself that finding material of this nature was someone else's responsibility for the next little while. I wondered back into the safety of looking at Bible studies (I was choosing one for my personal use), made my selection, and headed to the car.

I am extremely thankful for a wonderful church family and caring Pastor who have generously allowed me to take this sabbatical in order to return to my ministry responsibilities fully rested and refreshed. I'll return to work at AGM on July 15. Until then, I'm taking a few extra deep breaths as I stop to smell the roses.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring is in the Air

Even though the weather doesn't necessarily suggest it's Spring right now, I can see the rebirth of nature all around. When I walked out of the house this morning, I was greeted by four birds perched on the wooden handrail near the porch. They quickly fluttered away, but at least I was reminded of the end of the long Winter and the promise of life returning to the earth. When I got to my car, the orange glow of pollen covering my dirty red car explained why I had sneezed so much this morning. I wasn't thrilled about that part, but the presence of pollen means that flowers and trees will be bursting into bloom soon. Of all seasons, Spring is probably my favorite.

I love watching everything that had been dormant and barren all Winter long returning to its glory and natural beauty. Many of the plants and animals have experienced a sort of hibernation during the cold months. They were patiently waiting -- feverishly anticipating -- the return of the sun and the warmth that it brings. Even before Spring fully explodes, we begin to quickly see signs that life is returning and beauty will replace the barrenness.

There are also seasons of the soul. Our lives move through cycles that include periods of beauty as well as difficult and challenging circumstances. Sometimes the Winter of the soul seems so long and we begin to wonder if Spring will ever appear. When will we begin to hear the sweet song of the Dove again? How much longer before we can bask in the glow of fair weather? For the past several months I've been living in a personal Winter. It's not been fun, but I know that Spring is in the air. What does Spring bring with it? Freshness, energy, life, and hope! I see the signs.....Spring is just around the corner!

The days of my soul's Winter aren't over yet, but I am confident that the weather is changing and Spring will return soon. Today I finally had the opportunity to sit and look around for signs of emotional rebirth. I'm looking forward to Spring arriving -- in both its incarnations -- and am anxious to see the beauty that will break through all the dry dusty ground.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Misery Loves Company

Everyone has problems. It's simply a fact of life. The truth of the matter though is that "misery loves company." Admit know it's true!

Now before you begin condemning me, understand where I'm coming from. While it's true that "hurt people hurt people" (that's not a it again and grasp the truth of that statement), that's not what I am intending. I don't want other people to suffer just because I am. However, I do find comfort in knowing that I'm not the ONLY person suffering. Misery loves company. It's strangely encouraging to hear that other people find themselves in difficult situations as well....especially when we both see the humor in the situation.

Why has this thought come to mind now? Earlier this week I posted about the drama of trying to fix the Geriatric Ward's thermostat only to learn that the system was heating the house instead of cooling it. The culprit who had turned on the heat? My Dad. The next day, I got a message from a friend that her geriatric patient mother was driving her bonkers as well. It brought a smile to my face to hear it. We weren't being mean; we were laughing about the situation. But we both knew that misery was DEFINITELY enjoying company! Since we are both caring for aging parents, Tiff and I jokingly said that we should write a joint blog called "Tales from the Geriatric Ward." The more I think about it though, the more I think it might be a really good idea. Hmmmm........

I don't want to hear that your problems are worse than mine. I don't want to participate in a pity party for either of us. I simply find it humorous when we begin to share stories together. When we laugh at each other's situations -- and the laughter is tempered with legitimately good natured feelings -- our spirits begin to soar and we realize that weeping doesn't last forever. Things will get better. We'll finally learn to find the humor in the most frustrating situations. It's just much easier to face a difficult or trying situation when I know that I have a friend walking through a similar situation with me. After all, misery loves company!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bearer of Bad News

No one likes receiving bad news. We spend so much effort trying to avoid its negative effects. Giving bad news is not much better. Yesterday, I had to inform a person that what they had hoped would be the outcome of a specific situation would not be happening. I've known for a few weeks that this conversation was going to have to happen. I wasn't looking forward to it and was hoping the situation would work itself out. Was I at fault? No, the failure was solely the result of the individual's bad choices. I simply didn't want to have to be the bearer of bad news.

I suppose that's a weakness on my part. I will do anything possible to avoid conflict. Sometimes that means I'll allow uncomfortable situations to continue unresolved in the hope that they will simply go away. At other times, I will become a victim of another's verbal or emotional abuse rather than explain why things are not going to happen as they had hoped. More often than not, both situations end up with me tied up in knots, emotionally worn down and so annoyed that I'm not doing anyone any good. Even though I know this is going to be the result, I tend to opt for personal discomfort over conversing with a person with whom I'm in conflict.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being miserable because I'm afraid that I might hurt someone's feelings. My feelings are just as important. My emotional health is worth protecting -- even if I have to give some bad news. I won't accept responsibility for the bad news -- especially when it's not the result of my actions -- and will simply give the information, allow the other individual to deal with it as they see fit, and let the chips fall where they may. It will definitely be a lot less stressful than keeping it all bottled up inside in an effort to keep everyone else happy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tales from the Geriatric Ward: Thermostat Troubles

On Saturday night, I was pretty dead to the world. I had just driven home from the NATS regional competition in Bowling Green, Kentucky and desperately needed some sleep. I watched a little television while crawling in bed. As I began to doze, I found myself getting choked and sweating. Perfect, I'm getting sick! Then I realize that the air coming from the vent in my room is warm and not cutting off. In the Geriatric Ward, one always has to think outside the box and expect insanity!


I stumble into the dining room -- nearly falling through the rotting floor, but that's ANOTHER story from the GW. I grope about for the light switch, allow my eyes to adjust to the brightness, and begin to investigate the thermostat. The "fool proof" system is in hold mode....a common method of controling the thermostat favored by the Chief of the Crazies residing in the Geriatric Ward. The temperature is set at 79; the control switch is under the word "heat." OH MY GOD! THE CHIEF CRAZY HAS OFFICIALLY GONE CRA-CRA!!!! It's a lovely 61 degrees outside and the heat is blowing full blast in an effort to raise the interior temperature 18 degrees in early April! OH MY GOD!


Bleary-eyed, I attempt to lower the temperature on the console, but the heat will not kick off! Panic is starting to set in as I convince myself that the Chief of the Crazies has broken the thermostat and simply gone into his lair thinking no one will be the wiser! Now I'm frantically pushing buttons, moving switches from "heat" to "cool" to "off" in an effort to get the insanity to stop. After all, I just want to go to sleep! (When Kennith doesn't sleep, it's not a happy time to be around him!) I consider ripping the blasted control off the wall when the fan finally stops! I am so relieved that I am going to get to sleep after all. That's when I remember that the door to my tiny bedroom has been closed tight during this 20 minute ordeal. (Lest you think I'm exaggerating on the length of time.....I promise you, it's true!)


I walk into the rear sauna bedroom and accept the fact that I am going to lose a few pounds while I sleep lie on top of my sheets for a few hours. That's when I have the BRILLIANT idea to turn on the ceiling fan to cool things off a bit. Did you know that my hometown is also home to a rice mill that's located just a few hundred feet from our house? Dust is a constant resident in the Geriatric Ward. Now that we have central air, we rarely run the ceiling fans and they are a perfect landing spot for lots of those dust particles. The good news? It was late at night, so I didn't see the snow-like blanket covering the foot of my bed until the next morning. The bad news? The snowy mess was probably significantly smaller than it could have been since my sneezes throughout Sunday morning and afternoon suggest that I inhaled a large amount of the moving dust. Now I find myself wondering if the Geriatric patients' craziness is contagious. I fear that I may have been infected!


Ah's just another adventure in the Geriatric Ward.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

If I Had a Million Dollars.....

Since the taxman has come to collect his share of my money (and reduced the size of my checking account by half), I think it's as good of a time as any to fantasize about what I would do if I had a million dollars. Since this is purely fantasy, I don't have to spend responsibly. I'm not thinking about buying a home, charitable giving, or paying bills. No, this imaginary money is simply going to be spent on things that bring pleasure to me.

It should come as no surprise that I would begin with some major travel! There are so many places I have visited that I want to see again. There are places I've dreamed about going and just haven't gotten around to it. I would definitely return to San Francisco and New York. My limited time in southern Germany during graduate school ended with me leaving a piece of my heart in its burgs. I can't wait to visit Australia. I long to see an opera at La Scala and visit the Louvre. That will be enough travel before returning home for a week or so! By then, I'm sure I'll have new "must sees" added to my list.

I'd probably pursue another degree as well. I can't help it.....I love being a student! Right now, I'm fascinated with the study of history, especially the European Renaissance. But I'd also like to explore sociology and political science. Where would I go? I think I'd head east this time.......maybe to the Boston area? 

What about you? If you had a million dollars, what would you spend it on? (Remember, this money can only be spent on pleasurable mature or responsible decisions are permitted!)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I just realized on Monday that this post never went live.  Here it is.....a few weeks after I wrote it, but still something I want to keep in mind.  KF
As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about who I am. Who I REALLY am....not who people perceive me to be. One of my characteristics that many do not really understand (and misunderstand) is that I am an introvert at the core. I would much rather spend time with my own thoughts.

Is my introversion a result of nature or nurture? I think it's a little of both actually. Although I am the youngest of three children, 10 years separate me from my nearest sibling. For all practical purposes, I was raised as an only child. Combine this fact with the many hours spent alone on a piano bench perfecting my craft and you begin to understand. In my formative years, running around with friends was not a compelling draw. Instead, I was most comfortable and at peace when I was alone with my thoughts and ideas.

Over the years, I have also developed a passion for reading fiction. Originally this love for books came about because I really didn't have many opportunities to develop strong friendships. (This also explains why my grades in college suffered tremendously. I was meeting more people than ever before who I had things in common with and didn't take enormous pleasure in ridiculing me for the first time. Suddenly, I had no time for reading at all!) Once again, I am returning to books as I find that many of my closest friends are not near by. Since I don't enjoy telephone calls at all (more on that in a future post), I read and reflect.

Does this mean I don't like people? Certainly not! I treasure friendship greatly, but I'm very selective in who will get into my most inner circle of friends. Since I spend so much time alone, I'm comfortable in that I don't feel it necessary to be around people. Many who think they are "close" to me don't realize that they really aren't. Honestly, there is a very small group of people -- maybe 8 people -- who ever get to see me without any walls or editing.

How has my introversion effected my social skills? Since I haven't had a ton of practice over the years in social settings, I tend to be rather awkward in them. This makes me uncomfortable and nervous, so I tend to avoid social situations. However, once you are a trusted friend who has proven that you accept me just as I am (expecting nothing in return from me at all), I will gladly explore the world with you. If I'm with a friend, there aren't many places that I won't go at least once.  (Hogs and Heifers in NYC or Shamu spotting in Honolulu, anyone?)

How do I manage to speak in front of groups? It's all part of the performer in me. It's a skill that is needed and that I have developed over the years. Planning in advance, I can speak in front of anyone. It's when I need to speak off the cuff about things that I either know very little about or passionate care about that I begin to get tongue tied.

My shyness is often mistaken for aloofness and snobbery. I find that normally the people making these accusations are either threatened by me in some way or incapable of conceiving of the fact that they are not the center of everyone's universe. Regardless of the reason, my quietness doesn't mean that I am disrespecting you. My refusal to socialize with you should not be taken as a personal affront. I am just being true to myself and investing my time in things that bring me the greatest amount of pleasure.

Monday, April 1, 2013


It's been a busy few weeks for me. Lots of performing and grading. I was able to escape for a few days before coming home to face the responsibilities of Holy Week.  Now that Easter has come and gone, I'm getting to enjoy a little time of recuperation.

My recovery will have to be quick though, as I return to Union tomorrow to pick up rehearsals before traveling to Western Kentucky University this weekend to play at the regional NATS competition. After NATS is over, my focus returns to the classroom and finishing another semester of instruction with my students at the end of April.  May means I'll turn in grades early in the month before playing for voice boards (aka juries) at Union.  Once May 12 rolls around, I'll be done for a few weeks....and plan to take a little more time to devote to recovery.

Of course, my life doesn't just include the things I've mentioned here.  There's still another recital later this month, opera workshop, and lots of playing on departmental recitals in additional to my regular responsibilities at the church. I suppose I can't forget about family commitments either (although I would like to sometimes! Ha!) I'm not complaining. It's the life that I have chosen....and I really do enjoy it.....most of the time! When the calendar starts to get full and things begin to conflict with each other (which seems to be happening more and more this semester), I find myself stressed out and looking for any moment of rest I can find. So I'm gonna head back to my mindless activities for the rest of the day, try to rest a bit more, and look forward to another departure (hopefully more extended) on May 13.