Monday, November 25, 2013

Hits and Misses (November 17-23)

Here's a look back at the great week that was!


  • The week started with a few extra moments to spare, so I was able to get back to my reading. When things get really busy, it's always one of the first things to get pushed aside. Even though there is still a lot of work ahead in the coming weeks, finding time to read again reminds me that the end of the craziness is in sight.
  • I have survived another semester of teaching College Survival. I can't yet say that all of my students have survived (they still have a few projects to submit), but all in all, the class has been a success. Since the work load has been reduced significantly and the individual instructors have finally been given permission to tailor the instruction to our skills and styles, the course seems to be working much better. There are still some things that need to be corrected, but I have hope that next semester's class will be an even better experience.
  • I love performing. I enjoy it even more when the production and the cast are at a point where everyone can simply have fun on stage! This semester's opera workshop at Union was just such a situation. Even though there were some stressful moments during production week (nothing new there!), the cast remained relaxed and trusted each other to pull off a great show in the end. 
  • It's always nice to hear positive feedback. I am in the process of applying for several job openings around the country; there is one in particular that would definitely be a blessing. As part of the application process, I have requested letters of recommendation. This week I was overwhelmed by the kind words expressed in one of these letters. I knew my work was appreciated and respected, but there was something about reading that fact expressed so eloquently that was touching…..and a boost to keep pushing to do the best work I can at all times.
  • After a particularly long day, I received a sweet email from a dear friend who thought of me when she saw a particular cookie in the local supermarket. The email was informative, but it was also tempered with her particular humor and unquestionable love. It probably doesn't sound like much to most of you, but that email made me smile and was one of the highlights of my week. It was also a nice reminder to me that even the simplest things can make a huge difference to a person's day.
  • Saturday brought the week to a close with the Freeman Thanksgiving Celebration in Crawfordsville. Since several of us will be out of pocket on the holiday, all ten of us came together to eat, laugh, and love on each other. We are a silly crew when we are together, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We've all faced our bumps in life recently, but our family bonds are stronger than ever (that's what happens when some of the trash is finally taken out!) and our faith and commitment to Christ continues to grow. It was the perfect ending to a really good week.
  • Late night rehearsals have never been very good for me. I know they are sometimes necessary, but I rarely am in a good mood while I'm there. After a long day of playing for lessons and other rehearsals, the last thing I want to do is sit in a recital hall for another 90 draining minutes! (Notice….rehearsals are draining, but performances are exhilarating! What's the difference? I suppose it's all about having an audience.)
  • The only thing worse than those late night rehearsals are missed rehearsals! It seems as though I complain about these every week. You would think I would be used to them by now, but I'm not. I think some people need to learn something about how to properly use personal calendars. Ugh!
  • Students also need refresher courses in using personal calendars. Projects in my class are assigned weeks (if not months) in advance! You know the deadline is coming. You have a clear description of the assignment in your syllabus. It's not going to sit well with me when you approach the day before the deadline to ask for an extension. Nine times out of ten the answer will be the same…..ABSOLUTELY NOT! You may turn the assignment in late, but there will be a penalty for missing the deadline.
  • It's been a long semester with a lot on my plate. As a result of the busy schedule, it's the time of year when I begin to experience a lot of fatigue. I'm not sick; I'm just tired. It effects my mood and my perspective. Fortunately, I'm able to turn in a little earlier in the evening or take a power nap in the middle of the day.
  • When I'm fatigued, the worst thing to do is ask me to come to a meeting that really has no purpose. These monthly meetings are the pits and really need to be re-evaluated; the information they contain are designed for someone above my pay grade. I don't need to have a presentation of the data that you have compiled. If you would like me to be a little more invested in the information, create a full-time position. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankfuls - Part 3

This is the final installment in my series of posts about what I am thankful for this year.

21.  Movie nights with Mom. I don't take the time that I have with parents for granted. They are growing older and I know that they won't be with me forever. It's been wonderful to sit with Mom at the end of long days and watch Christmas movies. The laughter and sharing has been a blessing.

22.  Heat! When I walked into a chilly hotel room this week, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have the ability to move a switch to warm the air quickly.  So many in our world don't have that privilege.  I can't imagine the difficulty of trying to sleep when I was cold.

23.  Getting to sleep in!  This guy is not a morning person at all. I can function if I need to, but I prefer to stay in bed for an hour or so after waking. When I have a day to just casually lounge in bed, I take full advantage of it.

24.  Break time. Life is busy and there is so much that needs to be done in the course of the day. I'm thankful for those small breaks that appear to allow me to rest and get my mind together before finishing out the rest of my responsibilities.

25.  Colors.  I love vivid colors. The world would be much less interesting without the brilliance of reds, yellows, blues, and ORANGES!

26.  Pillows. Give me a pile of pillows to crash into and I'm a happy camper.

27.  Jesus.  He is my everything, my source of all hope, and the reason for my song.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hits and Misses (November 10-16)

Another week is beginning, but before we get too far into things, let's take one last look at the week that was.


  • Movie week! It's always nice to return to the classroom after a very busy few days to show a film version of a major musical. This year's selection was Oklahoma! 
  • The bulk of my work this week was in final preparation for the Hindemith clarinet sonata that I played in departmental recital. Despite a few glitches, the performance went fairly well. Maybe I'm the oddball, but I truly enjoy getting to play Hindemith's works; they are just fun!
  • Opera workshop rolled out some of our scenes to a retirement home early in the week. Even though this hasn't been my favorite music, it was nice to share some of these "golden oldies" with these charming men and women.
  • Medicine is a gift from Heaven! It's amazing that we are able to self-diagnosis our ailments with a certain amount of accuracy and then treat it with over-the-counter medication. I'm think I'm only dealing with a mild case of the flu (or a really nasty cold)……but either way, I haven't felt this poorly in some time. The worst of it was quickly treated with meds…..making this a "hit" instead of a "miss."


  • Getting sick is never fun. The bug began to creep in on Thursday afternoon. The first thing to go was my sense of rhythm…..probably not the best thing to lose when you're sight-reading choral works either. By the time Friday evening's recital rolled around, I felt as though I had been hit by a mack truck! I didn't play horribly, but I certainly missed a lot of easy passages that I could normally play in my sleep.
  • When I get sick, I lose all motivation to do anything. I hate it, but it's just the way I'm built. No reading… thinking… rehearsing……I'm simply going to find a couch or a bed and sleep the hours away!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I Joined a Fraternity

In the spring of 1994, I was a senior at Pepperdine University. As the semester began, I found myself pledging a local fraternity, Lambda Omega Sigma (now aligned with the national organization Psi Upsilon). I was asked by many why I was joining a fraternity at that point in my career. I was accused of attempting to buy friends, looking for a constant party, and lacking self-confidence. Now that I'm nearly 20 years removed from that decision, I still find that my choice to pledge a fraternity was one of the best decisions I made during my undergraduate career.

Joining a fraternity made me part of something much bigger than myself. Those outside a Greek organizations mock the use of the term "brothers" to describe the membership. In my experience, the fraternity positioned me to form relationships with like-minded men who were facing similar challenges. Many of these relationships grew into lifelong friendships upon which I depend to this day. When I find myself in trouble or depression, my fraternity brothers are among the first that I turn to for support -- often before turning to my biological family.

I was fortunate to observe from the beginning that my fraternity experience did not have to end with my graduation. I witnessed men who maintained an appropriate level of involvement in the group as alumni, continuing to develop friendships with younger members. These alumni became mentors for those who followed them; what I would later learn is that the alumni are also challenged and encouraged by the very ones they are attempting to influence.

Opportunities abounded in the fraternity setting. As a member of Lambdas, I was part of a team building homes in some of the poorest regions of Mexico. I was involved in repair work at an Indian reservation in Arizona and fed the homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. My leadership and organization skills were developed as well. I was given the task of directing 50 peers in an annual song and dance competition and was a member of the team that evaluated national organizations when a transition was mandated. While I had leadership opportunities outside of the fraternity, the frequency and support was greater because I was a member of Lambdas. I learned more about myself than I thought possible.

Lastly, I learned a great deal about communication within the fraternity. When a group of guys are spending lots of time together, it is certain that conflict will arise. Through these disagreements, I learned how to speak my mind clearly while respecting the differing views of those I cared for. I didn't always communicate things perfectly; I still don't. I have learned to be more considerate of the feelings of others and to think about how I would like to be addressed in conflict. The reason that these skills were developed so clearly in the fraternity was that I had the added comfort of knowing that these men were my friends; even if they became angry with me, I had confidence that we could talk through things and come to a mutually acceptable outcome.

These are certainly not all of the benefits I gained from my years as an active member of Lambda Omega Sigma, but these are some that have had the greatest impact on my personal development. Because of the profound impact the fraternity has had on me over the years, I continue to be actively involved in the organization as an alumnus. Next Friday, I'll look at the reasons that I continue my involvement with this group of men.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thankfuls - Part II

I want to continue in my month of thanksgiving. Here are the things that have been on my heart this week.

#11. Sweater Season. Even though I'm not incredibly fond of cold weather, I do enjoy getting to pull out my sweaters. There's just something cozy and comfy about wearing them that makes me feel much more relaxed.

#12. Technology. Now that my iPhone, iPad, email, Facebook, and Twitter are parts of my daily life, I can't figure out what I would do without them. I certainly don't HAVE to have them, but it makes life so much easier to stay in touch with those I love and miss.

#13. Scripture. I am falling in love with God's Word more and more each day. It is my source of inspiration, direction and encouragement.

#14. The Gift of Sight. Dealing with a student who is legally blind has reminded me of how blessed I am to have healthy eyes. I think we often take the blessing of being able to see for well as all of the things associated with it.

#15. Travel Mercies. I'm always on the road. Whether I'm traveling by car or plane, I'm thankful for God's constant protection.

#16. Oceans and Mountains. I'm reminded of God's awesome power every time I watch these majestic parts of creation. They are wonderful examples of His creativity and greatness.

#17. Books. Books are such a special part of my life every day. I can't imagine a day without them.

#18. Humor. If I didn't have people around me to laugh with, life would be a very boring thing.

#19. Wonderful Pastors. Throughout my life, I've been blessed with Godly men who have guided my spiritual development. As I thought this week about things in my past, I realized how blessed I was to have these men invest in my life. I am so thankful for the influence of men like Jim Hutchins, James Marlow, Greg Goins, Jack Pruitt, Robbie Wier, Rusty Bland, and Clay Hallmark.

#20. Wrapped in Warmth. There's nothing better than the comfort and safety that comes with being wrapped in warmth....whether you're wrapped up in a favorite blanket, a quilt from your grandmother, or a friend's warm embrace. I've had the chance to enjoy all three of these this week and I'm very thankful for each of them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hits and Misses (November 3-9)

What a crazy, busy week it has been! There's a lot to tell (and a lot to share later). So here goes.....a look at the week that was.


  • After Sunday morning service, I decided to head to Mud Island for brunch at Tug's Bar and Grill. Great food and a really reasonable price. It's always fun to try new places and have new experiences.
  • I'm not sure if it's a hit or a miss, but it's always nice to learn that people that annoy you are annoyances to many, many other people. I feel sorry for them...but also vindicated.
  • This week was filled with lots of visits with friends. Before heading to the airport on Wednesday, I headed to Abundant Grace Ministries to visit with the pastor for the first time since my resignation. It was great to catch up with my friend without any awkward feelings. Once I arrived in Los Angeles, I was able to meet friends in a park overlooking the ocean to share a breakfast picnic, laugh, and watch the sunrise together. After finishing all of my responsibilities for the week, I hopped in a car with four friends and headed up to the mountains for a weekend of rest. Once we got to the cabin, I sat around and played cards when I wasn't catching up with friends or having meals together.
  • While driving up to the mountains, I got a text message from one of my college fraternity brothers, Jon Jones. Even though we don't get to see each other very often, when we do talk it is as though we are just picking up where we left off.
  • Because I was seeing so many friends over the long weekend, I was reminded of the power and importance of warm hugs between friends. Sometimes there are emotions that need to be expressed that words cannot contain. Even though I'm normally not a big hugger, I soaked it up this week and was so energized and certain just how much I am loved.


  • Since I was leaving on Wednesday afternoon, I had to cram a lot of work into 2 1/2 days. Monday was a long day filled with a lot of rehearsals. It wouldn't have been too bad since Tuesday was a day off from Union; instead, I wasted my time sitting through workshops that were not very productive.
  • I'm still learning just how expensive a trip to the emergency room can be. Thankfully I am able to pay (slowly but surely) and the creditors have been very willing to set up payment plans.
  • Just before leaving, I administered an exam that I had warned the students about for several weeks. They obviously did not study for it since the grades were abysmal. Their complaint was that the exam was different from prior formats and that I didn't cover everything in my review session. Really? These people need to decide whether or not they really want to be in college and actually do the work.
  • I love to travel, but it's not always the easiest thing ever. My flight to Los Angeles was extremely turbulant and I immediately knew I was going to struggle with changing time zones this trip. I was worn out before I even got started!
  • I suffered with lots of achy knees and feet on this trip too. I guess it's part of the aging process, but I still don't have to like it.
  • I hate when secrets are revealed! If you are told something that is not supposed to be repeated, simply keep your mouth shut. How is that difficult?
  • Good attitudes go a long way toward correcting mistakes. The worse situation is making a mistake and refusing to admit that you are responsible for the failure to some degree. Take responsibility, people!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Financial Responsibility

Growing up, money was not something that was openly discussed in my home. We were not rich. We couldn't make purchases on a whim. At times, money was tight. In the worse of times, I never suffered. My family basically did everything we wanted to do. We sometimes had to stretch pennies to do it, but we always seemed to have enough. Neglecting a debt or financial commitment was never an option for my parents. I suppose that is why I strive to have a good relationship with money.


The first principle my parents passed on to me was the importance of generosity. The first portion of every paycheck went to our local church. It wasn't just fulfilling a commitment; I watched my parents give joyfully from what they had. During my adulthood, I have struggled with this concept at times. I never felt I made enough money to give. When I finally realized that it was all about the gift and not the amount or frequency, a new world opened up to me. As I began to become more generous, I found that I actually had more to give!


The other lesson instilled by my folks was the importance of fulfilling your commitments. Bills are essentially credits extended to you on your promise to pay. You gave your word! If you want to have a good reputation, it's important to honor your word...even when it's inconvenient.


What about the times the money just isn't there? The commitment was still made and should be honored. I'm actually finding myself in this situation now. A recent visit to the ER has led to bills pouring into my mailbox. Since I'm uninsured, I'm responsible for the cost; unfortunately I cannot pay all of the bills in one lump sum. I dreaded calling the creditors to make payment arrangements. I don't know if I was embarrassed or fearful that a compromise couldn't be reached. When I finally called, I found that an enormous burden was lifted from my shoulders because I was being honest about my situation while expressing my intentions to pay the amount in full. Shame was gone, and a compromise was reached. Sure, I'll be paying this expense off for quite sometime, but I'm following through with my responsibility. I guess it's all part of being an adult.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankfuls - Part I

Now that November is here, social media is exploding with everyone daily mentioning the thing that they are thankful for. I am truly thankful for so many things, but when I try to post my thoughts daily on Facebook, I inevitably miss a day and feel like a clod. So I've decided to post a three part series on my "thankfuls" throughout the month of November. They may not mean much to you, but these are the things that I am thankful for at the moment.

  1. Family. I am blessed beyond words with an incredibly close family that stands by me during difficult times while loving me unconditionally. Mom, Dad, O'Neal, Patsy, Carlene, Shane, Jacquelyn, Kristian, and Sara……you mean the world to me and daily are the greatest blessings in my life.  I love you all!
  2. Job. Despite all of my complaining about busy schedules and irresponsible students, I love my job. I thrill at the opportunity to educate young people about the joys of music and count it an honor to have the chance to make music with some really talented young musicians.
  3. Music. Nothing expresses my heart more than music. When words fail, music speaks for me. It allows me to access a depth of emotion that non-musicians don't realize they are missing. I'm so thankful that my life is grounded in music on a daily basis and never want to take the gift I have been given for granted.
  4. Rest. I'm still enjoying a state of rest that began in April of this year. Few really know how desperately the rest was needed; even fewer have witnessed the benefits first hand. I'm not in a perpetual state of rest….but I'm planning on lingering in this state for a little while longer.
  5. True friends. There's no way I could begin to name all of you who fall into this category. Some of you I have known for nearly 20 years now. Others have recently become dear to me. You have been roommates, fraternity brothers, collaborative partners, church family and mentors. You push me to be all I can be while reminding me that you value me just the way I am.
  6. Worship without Work. After 14 years of service in a local church, it is a weekly blessing to attend church without having responsibilities associated with a paycheck. While I am thankful for the training that I received during my years in ministry, I am also thankful that I am rediscovering the joy of worship as a congregant. (Believe me, I am a GREAT member of the congregation and support the ministry team whenever I possibly can in any way I can.)
  7. Health. 2013 has been a bumpy year for me. I found myself in emotional and physical crises. I'm thankful that I am currently enjoying the blessings of health. Until it threatens to disappear, I often take my health for granted. Am I where I want to be? Not at all.  Do I know what I need to do? Certainly.  The issue of time management remains a major obstacle (along with actually getting health insurance…..but that's another story.)
  8. Chocolate. There's not a situation that isn't made better by chocolate. When you decide to bless me with chocolate, I prefer milk chocolate…….and the only acceptable fillings are caramel or toffee. (Bring me chocolate and I just might add you to my list of true friends!)
  9. Exploration. I love getting to visit new places and meet new people. I'm so thankful that I've had the opportunity to do a little of both this year. Looking forward to doing more in the future.
  10. Hope. Things aren't perfect, but I'm hopeful that things will improve. I couldn't say that earlier this summer. Since my hope has been renewed, I find myself breathing a little deeper and realizing that the sun is shining more brightly as I journey through life.
What are you thankful for this week? Whatever it is, take a moment and offer thanks to the One who brings us all good and perfect gifts.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hits and Misses (October 27 - November 2)

It's hard to believe that I flew home at the beginning of last week and now I'm making plans for a return trip to the beautiful coast later this week. Needless to say, this week has been busy and it was very important that things got done. Unfortunately, it seemed that I hit more snags than normal.  Here's the week that was.


  • After getting re-routed to Memphis due to my flight to Little Rock being cancelled on Sunday, I was thankful that the trip to the Little Rock airport on Monday was painless. I spent only 15 minutes in the terminal getting my bag and then headed straight to my car.
  • I've heard all of the hype about the Lord of the Ring trilogy, but I've never been able to get through it. It should not be a surprise that I would try to read the books first. Since I don't really enjoy the fantasy genre, I struggled with the storyline. Since I had a long flight, I decided to rent The Fellowship of the Ring to watch on my iPad…and now I understand why everyone has such high praise for these films! They are beautifully made and the story resonates with clear moral lessons. I plan to finish the trilogy on my upcoming flights to and from LAX.
  • It should be considered a "hit" that I didn't have to take off a day of work in order to retrieve my car and bag on Monday. That should have been my response. Instead, I was completely frustrated that what should have been a relaxing day since my lessons at Union were cancelled had to be wasted with a trip to the airport because of the airline's judgment call.
  • I've been hearing a lot of stories about people who simply are not paying their bills. Few things annoy me more. If you made a financial commitment, be mature enough (not to mention ethical) and follow through with the payment. I still can't believe that people are insulted when businesses and individuals decide to take action in order to recoup their money. I've faced bill dodgers too many times over the years in my piano studio. Just so we're clear……I don't care who you are……if you owe me money and don't pay me or make reasonable arrangements to get me my money, I will take steps to secure the money I have earned. Don't be surprised if you get reported to a collection agency or find yourself in small claims. Ugh!
  • Sometimes students need to be reminded of their role in the educational process and the professor's role. This week, I had a student openly defy my authority in class and refuse to do the work assigned. Once I instructed her to begin the work, she took it upon herself to berate me under her breath (although she was convinced I couldn't hear her). When I informed her that she needed to leave my classroom, she became very defensive and claimed that I had misunderstood. I told her I would be happy to hear her take on the situation after class, but for now, she was leaving. (Shocking that I haven't heard from her at all since this exchange.)
  • I hate changing plans. I understand that it is necessary at times, but as the project's culmination is approaching it really begins to get under my skin. There comes a point when you simply have to say that things are going on as planned for better or for worse.
  • With all of the driving I was doing this week, traffic was especially a nightmare. The drive to Little Rock would normally be a 90 minute drive; an additional 30 minutes were tacked on due to construction projects. What is most annoying is that the project effected some 45 miles of interstate although the work was confined to a 5 mile span. On Friday, an accident between two semi-trucks added an extra hour to my commute to Union. That meant that I was 30 minutes late to an opera rehearsal that only lasted an hour. I'm just really thankful that those types of traffic nightmares don't occur too often in my world.
There you have it! Now if I can just survive until Wednesday afternoon, I have a feeling my return trip to Los Angeles will be filled with "hits" that I can share next week.  Have a great Monday, everyone!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Save, Save, Save

In our society today, we are constantly encouraged to save. Save your money for future troubles. Save time by streamlining your processes. Save your strength because our days are increasingly busy. Sometimes I wonder if we have become so intent on saving that we have lost the joy of simply living life.

I understand that there is wisdom in saving. I acknowledge that times of difficulty are certain to come that will require our reserves of money, time, and strength. On the other hand, it is not advisable to worry about tomorrow so much that we fail to use the resources that we have today to live a full and happy life. So I choose to save, but not to the point of doing nothing with what I have today.

What brought on all of this talk about saving? A reminder of an annual saving event that I AM looking forward to.....Daylight Savings time begins on Saturday night. I'm looking forward to getting that extra hour of sleep and saving an extra hour of sleep and rest!