Monday, September 30, 2013

Hits and Misses (September 22-28)

This has been a week that I'm ready to put behind me.


  • The week started out on a high note with a visit to First Baptist Church in Marion, Arkansas. I enjoyed the worship and an inspiring message from the Word. I definitely plan to visit again.
  • Even though I wish it had been under different circumstances, I am thankful to have gotten positive results from tests run at the emergency room on Wednesday night.

  • You guessed it! At the top of my list of misses is a trip to the ER. My primary physician was out of town this week, so I had to visit a Nurse Practitioner on Wednesday afternoon since I was feeling bad. What started as a rather normal visit quickly morphed into a discussion of my cardiac health. As a precaution, the NP ordered an EKG. The test came back fine, but she suggested that it was entirely possible that the EKG might not reveal the entire truth. In other words, SHE FREAKED ME OUT! That evening while trying to go to bed, I began to experience pain in my neck and arms. My parents and I arrived at the ER at midnight. Another EKG was performed as well as blood work. The doctor confirmed that there was nothing in the tests to suggest there was a problem; based upon my description of the pain and its locations, he was leaning toward an injury to a neck muscle that was pulling on the chest muscles and arms. He sent me home with a mid-level pain pill and instructions to visit my primary doctor early next week. (Of course, I was told to come back if I had any other problems.) 
  • While I'm thankful to know that the problem is not with my heart and that I've not been in much pain at all, I am still frustrated that I don't really know what the problem is. That's par for the course when you are uninsured. 
  • Completing health insurance applications is entirely too complicated! Am I the only one who doesn't have thorough documentation of my entire health history? It seems to me that it would be much easier (and more accurate) to have files from my primary physician forwarded to the insurance company. I don't suppose that creates enough red tape though.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Few things get my dander up more than witnessing injustice. I'm not even talking about the horrible "big" things that we see on national news. I hate to see someone treated unfairly because they are low man on the totem pole or because they have no one to fight for them. I've been the victim before and know how awful it feels. I guess that's why I'm willing to make some noise when I see it happening.

One of my students is facing some unfairness right now. Let's call it what it is...injustice. In order to insure his privacy, I won't disclose any of the details of the situation. I will say that things that were assured to him by the school have not been provided. These are not luxuries either; they are essential services necessary for his success. The student asked if I had any insight into the situation or could offer ideas that might get his phone calls returned by the negligent office. I was in a furor! The student was following the protocol he had been given, but was seeing no results. He didn't know how to fight any further.

Despite some students' opinions to the contrary, I am always an advocate for students who are legitimately attempting to succeed. I told my student that I didn't have the answer, but that I could certainly raise the issue to appropriate parties until we got something done. I've been dealing with this situation for a week now. It's not necessarily how I planned to spend my week, but it has been the right thing to do. I'm just hoping that the right will prevail in this situation soon so this tender student can have the materials he needs before the semester reaches its mid-point.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hits and Misses (September 15-21)

It's been a wild and busy week! Whew....I'm glad that one is over.  Here are some of the highlights.


  • One of the worst parts of my decision to leave my church position earlier this summer was not worshipping with my family on a weekly basis. On Sunday, Mom and Dad joined me at First Assembly, West Memphis. It was nice to sit with them and worship our Creator together. 
  • This week has seen a couple of new seasons arrive in my world. The new season of Dancing with the Stars is always some fun television. This season's cast promises to be quite good.  On a more serious note, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra launched its 61st season on Saturday evening at the Cannon Center. It was a long program (I'll share more about that over on Collaborations later this week), but definitely a nice start to a strong season. I'm looking forward to the next concert in a few weeks.
  • I've had a great week at the piano. It has been thrilling to get started on some beautiful repertoire (which is always a blessing.....sometimes you feel as though you are just wading through sludge) and it was especially nice to leave the week behind knowing that I have done some superior playing. It's always nice to hear from others that you have played well, but there's no substitute for knowing within yourself that you left everything at the piano and gave an outstanding performance (even if it was just in a coaching session)!
  • Feedback is so important. It's how we know what needs to be improved or what we're doing right. As a teacher, some of my best feedback comes from my students. This week, I received positive, unsolicited feedback from students in all three of my courses. Some reaffirmed what I already knew while other statements gave me courage to press on in some new adventures. 
  • Since it's been a crazy week, I took the time to look ahead to Fall Break and make some travel plans. I'll be taking my normal trip to southern California in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to smelling the ocean air and seeing the beauty of God's creation, but I'm most excited to visit with some dear friends while meeting some new people. I'm counting down the days already!
  • Just when I thought I had seen it all in school, I had a student and her boyfriend try to intimidate me this week. It was actually a rather scary situation (though my direct supervisor suggests otherwise!) and not something I hope to repeat anytime soon. I stayed calm and didn't let my fear show too much. It just reaffirms my resolve to get out of this horrible teaching situation as soon as possible.
  • Another work related rant is in order. I understand a policy that states there is to be no food or drink in a classroom. It makes sense. I assumed (wrongly) that the intent of the law -- no consumption in the classroom -- was the focus rather than the letter of the law. My error was made clear when the faculty received an email stating that food -- whether stored or not -- was to be in the classroom. Why is this such an issue for me? Well.....I pack a lunch daily and do not have an office on campus. It makes sense to me to carry the bag into the classroom with me, store it under a table, and grab it on the way out. This policy is just another reminder that the administration is more concerned about rules than developing policies that meet the needs of all of their staff. Grrrrr!
  • This has been the week for poor service as well. I went to Cracker Barrel with my parents on Sunday for breakfast after early service. It took forever to get a waitress to take our order. When she did, we waited another 25 minutes for salty eggs and bacon and watched as she bumped my dad's shoulder, spilling his coffee. Her comment? I'll bring you another cup when I get a chance. Later in the week, I stopped to check the rates at a hotel chain and was given an incredibly rude reply. Even though the hotel was clean and the rate was quite good, there is no chance on God's green earth that I would ever suggest someone stay there.
  • While judging a talent show for a local school district this week, I was appalled to see third grade boys bumping and grinding while grabbing their crotches. What made the situation even more insane was that the children were permitted to return to the stage later for another performance! My fellow judges and I were expecting the worst; I was even more shocked to hear one of the latest praise and worship songs sung by the kids. Yet the Church as a whole wonders why it seems we are losing our effectiveness with the world? When filth and worship come from the same mouth, there's not much difference that's obvious to those who need to hear.
  • I'm not complaining about my busy schedule.  I'm really not. I have missed having relaxing evenings to read and blog regularly though. Now that I'm seeing what a wild schedule feels like again, I'm attempting to fit both activities into my routine again.  It's just going to take a little readjustment.
There you have it!  Time to let the week that was go and look forward to the week ahead. Let the adventure begin!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

As I come to the end of a very busy week, I think the following quote from Dominic Monaghan (probably best known for his role as Charlie on Lost) is very fitting.

I've got a hectic schedule, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

That sums it up perfectly at the moment.  I'll see you next week.....when I hope to have a little more time to devote to writing.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Natural Inquisitiveness

I am an inquisitive person by nature. I enjoy learning new things. There's no specific rhyme or reason to what will grab my attention. Sometimes my interest lies in familiar fields like music, theology, and education. Other times see my interests moving into philosophy and basic mechanics. I know that I'll never become a master of everything, but my curiosity drives me forward; my mind is ravenous for new information.

My curiosity keeps me active and keeps my mind sharp. It leads me to new areas of exploration that I never imagined. I find answers in books mostly, but my searches have also lead me to film, observation, and conversation with wiser (often more mature) people.

What's gotten me thinking about inquisitiveness today? I'm disturbed by a general lack of curiosity in many of today's students. Rarely do I see students pursuing information for personal knowledge; they are focused on obtaining only the essential information to pass the test. The material for the test had better be handed to them on a silver platter as well. The interest, desire, and ability to think abstractly is on the verge of being lost by many of today's students. 

It's a dire situation, in my opinion. What's the solution? That's the problem....the solution is not simple. Until students value education and the development of learning skills, no amount of creative teaching or finely crafted lesson plans will make a significant difference. I will be the first to agree that inventive, creative teaching can be the seed that begins to germinate into a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Once the seed of inquisitiveness is sown, however, it is necessary that the learner feed it regularly until it develops into a thriving curious plant.

I'm accepting the fact that I can lead the proverbial horses given to my care to the waters of education and information. I can't force them to drink. As an educator, that continues to be one of my greatest challenges. My belief that the waters of knowledge are the best thing for the young mind is what causes me to lead them daily back with the hope that at some point they will pause at the source and drink in deeply. Once you've tasted the power of learning, it's unquenchable.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hits and Misses (September 9-14)


  • I love starting the week out with great music! I decided to make time to work on some solo repertoire and pulled out the Beethoven sonata in F minor (Op. 2, No. 1). I really do love this piece and enjoyed getting to start brushing the cobwebs off of it again.
  • A benefit of working in a college music department is having access to the Naxos Music Library. I've listened to some great recordings of the Beethoven sonata this week as well as works by Brahms, Copland, and Hindemith. It's been a useful tool to get to know some music I wasn't so familiar with and I'm looking forward to listening some more this week.
  • I am blessed with some wonderful friends! It is such a wonderful thing to sit with friends when I'm not feeling well and have their laughter lift my spirit and mood. It's true that laughter is the best medicine. I've been feeling much better this week......and have just a few more days of antibiotics to complete this round.
  • Our family reunion was a success.  We were thrilled to have 21 family members join us for lunch, laughter, and love. It's sad that we don't see each other more often, but I was pleased that Mom saw that we can do things like this without too much expense or stress and that everyone here enjoyed themselves. She's already beginning to think about when to do it again and what she wants to serve. (Heaven, help us!)
  • I hate to have poor lighting indoors. It makes so many things difficult. The light in my bedroom blew on Friday morning and the only replacement bulb we had in the house was a 60 watt. Things are so dark right now that I can barely accomplish anything at all. I'm doing all of my reading in the floor of the piano room until I get a higher watt bulb.
  • Combine poor lighting with a disorganized closet and you get my other major problem of the week:  I can't distinguish between blue and black slacks! It has gotten so bad that I'm putting on a pair of pants, walking outside to determine their color, and then selecting a shirt that matches. No wonder I wear khaki pants most of the time. I'm looking for a solution, but haven't settled on anything that will be easy to maintain.
  • Confusion in the workplace can turn the tide of any day. Last week, I received an email that I was in danger of missing a deadline. When I replied that I had submitted the paperwork the week before, I was told that the sender recognized the mistake as soon as the email was sent. Rather than correcting the error, it was decided to just let it slide. Grrr!  More emails followed that sent me on wild goose chases and showed that there is still confusion about my office hours. I try to avoid confusion at all cost and communicate clearly. Sometimes people just don't understand despite our best efforts.
  • There's no feeling quite like watching a 3-inch binder full of music slip out of your hands and land on the ground. Music spilled everywhere and the top ring of the binder no longer lines up correctly. Thankfully the pages stayed in order, so I only had to put them back in the binder. With holes that don't always correspond, that task was easier said than I just need to grab another binder from the office supply store so things won't hang on the top ring. 
  • After the reunion was finished and everything was returned to normal, the battle with the mosquitos began. In the span of roughly 4 hours, I have killed over 10 of the critters in the living room and have the whelps on my arms and feet to prove it. 
There you have it! Another week in the books. Now it's on to another week of excitement without the plans for a family reunion. We'll just have to see what the upcoming week holds in store.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time to Make the Donuts!

It has been an incredibly busy week. I've taught 11 hours of various classes, sat in nearly 10 hours of voice lessons and 2 hours of opera workshop. I've logged a lot of miles driving and put in some personal practice time as well. The good news is that I'm loving every minute of it. This is truly what I was created to do!

Normally at this time in the week, I am looking forward to a weekend to rest my body and mind. Today I'm just getting ready to change hats for the weekend. My mother has invited her family to our house tomorrow for a family reunion. This is important to Mom, so this afternoon I'll leave behind my roles as educator and musician and take on the job of party planner.

Every time I start to feel like I'm meeting myself going and coming, I'm reminded of this classic commercial.   I hope it brings a smile to your face as you begin your weekend of rest (hopefully).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Race in America

It is impossible to look at today's date and not remember the horrific events that occurred twelve years ago. The images are still emblazoned in my mind. I recall the uncertainty the nation felt about our future. Our security was stolen from us on that day. Terror finally had a face.....and a new era of racial prejudice began.

The issue of racism has been all around us this year. Paula Deen's empire collapsed around her because of her use of a racial epithet years ago. A pretty female student from Texas who was a contestant on CBS' reality series Big Brother showed the nation that discrimination occurs daily against African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and homosexuals. What made this situation more appalling was Aaryn Gries' attempts to justify her demeaning comments as part of her Texas heritage and way of life. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center, countless Muslim-Americans have been profiled as potential terrorists by law enforcement and members of the general population.

There's an elephant in rooms across the nation that we fail to address. Racism is prevalent in America. If we are truthful with ourselves, it can be found in many guises in almost every city. Racism and racial prejudice is no longer directed only at African-Americans in the South. Other people groups -- including Asian-Americans, Latinos, and even Caucasians -- face the effects of bigotry in various ways. When we expand the prejudice beyond the borders of race, we also find that discrimination is happening against the aged as well as the young, the wealthy and the poor, gay and straight, and men and women. Despite all of this discrimination, no one is willing to talk about what is happening. If we voice our opinions, we are certain to offend someone and risk being accused of discriminating against them.

How did we get to this point? I think the problem is that, as a nation, we have departed from our core values. We proudly tell the world that our nation began with our Declaration of Independence against foreign oppressors, yet we no longer "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence) Equality for all is not an option; it is a necessity. Just because I do not agree with a person's culture, religion, sexual orientation, or personal philosophy does not mean that I have the right to impose my opinions as rule of law upon them.

How do we correct the situation? First, we have to have an open dialogue as a society. We have to learn to accept each other's differences, forgive the hurts of the past, and begin to understand our similarities. While it may not appear at first glance that I have a lot in common with the African-American members of my community, a little honest interaction will reveal that we all have common emotions and desire security for ourselves and our family. When you get right down to it, the major differences between us can be explained by the colors of our skin and our cultural backgrounds. Despite our differences, we were all created by the same Creator. To some degree, this makes us all children of God. Take a little liberty with the context of Paul's letter to the Galatians and consider the implications within that definition:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28, NIV)

I have been guilty of cultural bias in my life. So have you. Rather than focusing on my past mistakes, I choose to focus on correcting them and learning how to live at peace with my fellow man. I won't always get it right, but I find that people are much more understanding of my errors when I am honestly attempting to understand them without judgment.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hits and Misses (September 1-7)

Here are the highlights (sadly, most of them are low-lights) of the week that has been.


  • It's always nice to start the week with a holiday. The family got together for lunch that featured Dad's barbecued ribs. I opted for the lemon pepper chicken instead.....very, very tasty!
  • The new semester of playing at Union University got under way this week. It's always fun to get all of the new music and once again have a reason to spend a lot of time on the piano bench.
  • I continue to realize how blessed I am to have truly understanding employers and family
  • When picking up my newest reading material from the library, I ran into a fellow pianist that I went to graduate school with. It was nice to catch up and hear how things were going in his world again. I think the camaraderie is what I most enjoy about music in an academic setting.
  • Labor Day also saw unwanted pests in my house. No, I am not talking about my siblings either! I spent most of the night fighting mosquitoes in my bedroom. If that wasn't bad enough, I nearly stepped on a quarter-sized spider in the my bare feet. Needless to say, the exterminator was instructed to douse the back rooms in our house to get rid of the unwelcome guests.
  • Monday was one of the few days I would have been able to sleep in, but my internal clock felt the need to stay on schedule. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:45am was not my plan for my day off.
  • I've been sicker this week than I have been in quite a while. Everything started going downhill on Wednesday evening when I experienced severe nausea. Things did not improve overnight (I'll spare you the gory details here). Suffice it to say that things were bad enough for me to cancel all of my engagements at Union on Thursday. I hated doing it, but knew it was necessary.
  • When I went to bed Thursday night, the nausea had finally passed. In its place was now increased stuffiness and a bit of tightness in my chest. I headed to class on Friday morning and thought I was going to pass out while in the bathroom. Somehow I got through both lectures while sitting down and headed to the doctor's office as soon as class was over. Dr. Pierce's wonderful staff was able to work me in early that afternoon. Nose and throat looked okay, but there was congestion settling into the lungs....but not quite bronchitis. I'm in the midst of ten days of antibiotics to try to knock the infection out. I'm really getting tired of all of this mess.....and people wonder why I'm so desperate to get out of Arkansas! I'm never this sick living elsewhere.
That's it! Now it's time to get back to work and get ready for the family reunion that Mom is hosting here this weekend. I'm sure there will be some stories to share.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reviewing the Situation

It finally happened. While doing some cleaning of my bookshelves and files, I sat and started looking through pieces of my past. Rather than simply throwing unneeded things away, I found myself leafing through the pages and allowing my mind to be flooded with memories.

I found the score of the musical Oliver! and remembered the fun that I had with that cast. The young boy who played Oliver was a jewel. I learned so much during those summer musicals about the art of directing and performing. I was a teenager while playing piano for all of those rehearsals and didn't fully understand the education I was getting in those fun summer evenings. Now I know that the shows I did with the community theater -- Oliver!, Gypsy, Camelot -- included some of the best musical instruction I would ever receive. I'm truly indebted to you, Donna!

Of course, I ran across TONS of paperwork from graduate school and relived the fun, stress, and strain that finally resulted in graduation. I remembered hours in the library studying for comprehensives and frantic rehearsals in cramped practice rooms as each semester came to an end. I even found exams from the first class that I ever taught as an adjunct.

I can't decide if I'm a pack rat or just incredibly sentimental. As I remembered the past, I had to fight the urge to hold on to things that really needed to find their way to the trash. It was only when I realized that the "stuff" didn't contain the memories that I was finally able to let go.

What can I say? I need therapy.....and the cleaning of the physical and emotional trash is proving to be a wonderful process for me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hits and Misses (August 25-31)

This week's Hits & Misses come to you on Wednesday morning because of the Labor Day holiday.  They will return to their regular Monday morning slot beginning next week. Enough of that....let's get into the week that was.


  • There's nothing like finding out that your Saturday morning class has been cancelled due to low enrollment. I had my fingers crossed for this one. Volunteering to teach the course showed that I'm a team player, but I really wasn't looking forward to doing it. It all worked out for the best in the end.  
  • After the class was cancelled, I was offered some additional hours in the office. That wasn't such a big deal until the supervisor informed me that the salary is pro-rated according to the highest degree earned. (What a concept, huh?) That means I can earn $20 per hour if I decide to add some hours to my already full schedule. Now that I've gotten all of my work schedules finalized, I plan to offer to be in the office on Friday afternoons. I'll let you know how that works out.
  • For the first time in a long time, I had some time this week to get back into the library and do some research in order to keep my lectures fresh. The more that I get to focus on teaching and making music, the more I know my decision to resign the church job earlier this summer was the right thing to do. (I've known that all along, but it's still nice to get confirmation from time to time.)
  • Last week saw a lot of personal study about prayer. That also lead to a more active prayer life. I found myself bringing everything that was on my heart before the Lord -- from the really significant to the downright mundane aspects of my life. What a refreshing reminder that God really cares about what concerns me when my prayers were answered about technology that wasn't operating properly (and was impacting my ability to perform).
  • I was thrilled to get to be part of the solution for one student's problems this week. After hearing about his frustration that courses he needed for his program were never offered, I decided to send an email to my program coordinator. The issue began to make its way up the chain and things appear to be getting done. Although I didn't really "do" anything, it was rewarding to be able to communicate a problem on behalf of the student with the confidence that I wouldn't simply be ignored.
  • Believe it or not, I have to admit that I've enjoyed doing some cleaning this week. I have spent several hours working through the mess that is my personal library. It's certainly not complete, but anyone who has seen it recently will definitely notice a HUGE difference in its appearance. The purging was significant; Dad and I carried three trash bags along with three boxes full of stuff away. Productivity is always a good motivator to do more.
  • The semester is in full swing and I see lots of music in my future!  For the first time in a long time, I will be spending 30 hours each week working in my field. That's thrilling to me! What will I be doing? It's a combination of lecturing about music history, teaching piano, rehearsing with vocalists and instrumentalists, and performing in recital. I'm still not full-time at any one institution, but I'm gaining experience and building my resume. I'm more fulfilled in work than I have been in years and more confident now than ever that things are moving in the right direction.
  • Arrogant students really get under my skin. The eye-rolling and sarcastic mumbling will annoy me quicker than anything. Thankfully I only have two severe cases of arrogance this term. One of them has already been addressed; the other is on the path to a very rude awakening. "Pride goeth before a fall" after all!
  • Getting bad information is never fun. I was informed early this week that my students needed to complete a survey that would require most of the class time. Although I had planned a lecture before learning about the survey, I revised my plan. Guess what? The blasted thing took all of 20 minutes! The slide show wouldn't download to present the lecture, so I had to step back and punt. It wasn't my finest moment in the classroom, but it proved to be a valuable exercise nonetheless.
That's it. It's always refreshing when the good completely outweighs the bad!