Monday, December 30, 2013

Hits and Misses (December 22-28)

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas week with your friends and family.  Here's a look back at how my week went….the good, the bad, and the ugly.


  • Christmas Eve baking was a ton of fun. This has actually become one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season. Mom and I hit the kitchen early Tuesday morning and started making desserts. This year's menu featured a Red Velvet Poke Cake (more on that later), chocolate eclairs, pretzel cookies, pecan pie, and pumpkin cookies. We finally closed the kitchen around 6 that evening; we were both tired, but we had thoroughly enjoyed our time together.
  • Christmas Day was a great time with family. All 10 of us were together for lunch….and we were all ready to simply linger around the dining room table to talk and laugh. If the food had been horrible (which it never is), we still would have had a great celebration.
  • While running some final errands on Monday, the check engine light came on my car. This always freaks me out. My car is nearly paid off (PTL!) and has over 220,000 miles. I would really love to be able to drive this car at least through the end of the school year. When I saw the light, I began to think the end was near. I got it to the shop on Thursday for an oil change and to find out what else was going on. Final outcome…..the light just needed to be reset! Total cost of this trip to the mechanic? $39! It's a Christmas miracle!
  • I ventured out to the movies on Friday afternoon again. Rather than continuing my Golden Globes project, I departed from the list to check out The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I loved it! It had been a while since I read the second book of the series and had forgotten how much I enjoyed the adventures of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. I'm already looking forward to the next movie arriving in theaters, but first I need to get a copy of the final book in the trilogy and get it read.
  • Any time our holiday menu calls for a ham or turkey, I make a trek to Holiday Ham and Turkey to place an order. We love the flavor and it's so much easier to have a pre-cooked meat amid all the busyness. This year was rather frustrating. I ordered the ham several weeks ago and gave special instructions that I need an unglazed ham. (Mom is violently allergic to honey; even though there is very little natural honey in the glaze, we don't take any chances.) When I arrived to pick up the ham with my confirmation number, I was informed that they would have to slice a ham for me. In other words, they didn't have the product ready. People were walking into the store without calling in advance and left the counter long before me. I was frustrated and questioned the staff about the benefits of calling in if they aren't going to have the ham ready and set aside for me. I was glad that I maintained a level head (and I didn't create a scene), but I let them know that I was definitely not a happy customer.
  • On Monday night, I went to meet a friend who was visiting family in Memphis over the holidays. We decided to meet at Tug's in Harbor Town since it was conveniently located to both of us. While the food was adequate and the conversation was nice, the food poisoning that I suffered for the rest of the night was not pleasant. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be visiting Tug's again.
  • Christmas shopping is something I normally enjoy. What I don't enjoy is having to purchase gifts that someone else (e.g. Mom and Dad) are going to give to me. What's the point? On Christmas morning, I was going through the motions of ripping paper off of packages and taking out the contents, but I didn't have to look at a single item. Why? Because I had already shopped the racks and made the selections. Come on! Just make your own selection.  If I don't like it, I'll do what every other person in the world does….I'll make a return after the holidays. All I'm asking is that you put a little thought into what you think I might like.
  • The failure of the Christmas baking season was without a doubt the Red Velvet Poke Cake. I found this on Pinterest and thought it would be a lot easier than the standard red velvet. I couldn't have been more wrong. The pudding was too thick to pour and never went into the poked holes. The reason we decided against making a red velvet cake was the limited space in the refrigerator; this disaster also required refrigeration (a fact we didn't think about when we read the recipe ---DOH!) and simply was not good.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Year in Review

Now that we are in the final week of the year, I decided to take a look over my calendar for the past 12 months to review what happened. Memories both good and bad were brought to mind. I wanted to put my reflections here to share with you…..but more importantly, to have for my own future reflection.  Here's a small glimpse into my life in 2013.

January and February were busy with lots of rehearsals for Union University's Britten festival. In celebration of the composer's 100th birthday, the music department mounted a production of Noye's Fludde as well as a weekend festival featuring master classes and faculty performances. I did a lot of playing, we all survived the stomach plague that hit the campus during the opera's run, and I had my fill of Britten.

During March and April, I remained busy at Union. In addition to accompanying two big recitals -- one of which included Schumann's Liederkreis -- I participated in my first regional NATS competition. I've played for local NATS competitions over the years, but this was my first adventure into the larger competitions. It was in Bowling Green, Kentucky…..a nice college town. It was a lot of work, but it was great to get away from the craziness of Memphis for a few days.

The craziness of Memphis? Definitely! It was in April that I began seeing a counselor due to issues related to my work situation. The counseling led to a request for a sabbatical from my position at Abundant Grace Ministries in Collierville. To my great surprise (and an expression of the church's love), I was granted the full three months with salary.  The agreement was that I would continue to be active in a local church and decide about my future involvement with AGM while I was resting.

As May rolled around, I was wrapping up my responsibilities at Union and MSCC so I could fully enjoy my sabbatical and regain my emotional health. Earlier in the semester, I had agreed to accompany the spring concert for the choir at the Hutchinson School.  Little did I know that their director and my friend, Cindy Harrison, would be moving to Houston shortly afterward. It was a pleasure to get to work with Cindy one more time.

With a few weeks of vacation before beginning summer classes, I headed to Eureka Springs for a long weekend alone. I had no plans. I let no one know where I was going. I packed clothes, a journal, and my Bible. (As a confession, I also made a LONG drive to find a bookstore to pick up a copy of Dan Brown's book that was released that weekend.) I strolled through the old part of town for a few hours and checked out some local eateries. Mostly, I shut myself in my room where I read, meditated, prayed, and cried. It was a horrible weekend at the time; now I realize that it was the beginning of some much-needed healing.

My family had planned a summer vacation to Disney World. Plans changed (which always frustrates me…..but I'm trying to get better about that!) and we ended up spending a fun week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Nine of the Freemans hit the town and we had a blast! My siblings both had rooms at one end of the Parkway while my parents and I had made reservations in the middle. It had been the first time in a very long time that we were all able to get together away from home and just enjoy each other without a lot of stress. It was long overdue!  (One of my next responsibilities is to give Mom and Dad some options to choose from for our next Freeman family adventure. Hope to have that taken care of by the end of the year!)

June was devoted to my sabbatical and my teenage nieces. During the summer months (when I was home), I was cared for spiritually by the wonderful people at West Memphis First Assembly of God. What a beautiful congregation! They asked very few questions, made no demands of me, but assured me that they were interceding for me as I made decisions about my future. Since I needed an outlet, the girls and I made weekly "date outings" together. We went to the movies as well as making trips to the zoo, miniature golfing, and bowling. So much fun!

July was one of the most eventful months of the year. After receiving a revised job description from the church, I submitted my resignation. It felt so fitting to receive an email from the pastor on July 4 that my resignation had been received and accepted. Independence Day has now taken on a brand new meaning for me.  There have been many reasons for my resignation floating around….I've heard that I suffered a nervous breakdown…..others told me I got mad because I wasn't making enough money. Neither of those are true. I resigned because I had been deeply hurt during fourteen years of ministry in various ways by people and situations.  It did not appear that things would ever be resolved. The hurt I was experiencing was being pressed down in order to be the "bigger person" while the work load constantly increased. When I finally came to feel that I had grown as far as I could in the position, I knew it was time to leave…..I wasn't enjoying my work, I hated attending church, and I didn't feel as though I was being effective or that my work was appreciated by the congregation.  (Note:  I don't say that any of those things were actually TRUE….they were simply what "I felt." I had to finally make decisions based on my well being. This resignation had been coming for nearly 3 years.)

During July, my mother's brother became very ill and began losing his battle with cancer. After several trips to visit Uncle Sam in a Jonesboro hospital, we attended the first of the summer's funerals for members of my family.  While we were sad, my parents and I had planned to visit family in Conroe, Texas that week as well. We left for a much needed time of rest the morning after the funeral.  Once we returned from Conroe, I received a call from Union asking if I would be willing to teach a class in the fall. This was nothing short of an answered prayer.

A new semester of classes began in August. Sadly, I had to dash out of my MSCC classroom on the first day of the semester in order to join my parents in central Arkansas for the funeral of my Aunt Catherine, my dad's sister-in-law. It was such a sad occasion, but there was a certain peace in knowing that this Godly woman had finally received her Heavenly reward.  By the end of the month, I began my new adventure in teaching class piano in Jackson, Tennessee. I had always grimaced at the thought of teaching the course, but it quickly became a class I enjoyed and that I think I teach well. I was learning on the fly since there was little direction for me……but that also made it a fun adventure for me and my students.

Since we had faced so much tragedy during the fall, Mom decided that September would be the perfect time to host a family reunion in Crawfordsville for her siblings. Although only one of her brothers was able to join us on that day, we still had a wonderful day of celebration as nearly 25 members of our family from around the state joined for hamburgers, hot dogs, and lots of memories. I'm hoping that we will plan another reunion for the fall.

The fall saw a lot of visits to the doctor with sinus infections as well as other maladies. By the end of September, my body had taken as much as it could handle. I began to experience pain in my left shoulder and upper chest. On a Thursday evening, my parents took me to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. Thankfully, all of my blood work and EKGs came back clear; it was later determined that a heavy year of piano playing and carrying music bags on my shoulder combined with stress had resulted in an injury to my neck muscles that was pulling into the chest cavity. I still struggle with the injury, but it is getting better with each passing week of rest.

The rest of the year was marked by performances and travel.  October and November had me very busy playing for 20 students at Union in addition to preparing for opera workshop and a student recital. I had the good fortune to travel to Malibu two times to see friends while preparing and presenting a private recital in the area.  For Thanksgiving, the geriatric patients and I went back to Conroe for another week with Jerry and Gail's gang. By the time December rolled around, I was ready for a break. Despite all of the icy roads that threatened to cancel finals, we managed to get all of the exams done and submit grades. For the first time in many years, I attended Bellevue's Singing Christmas Tree and participated in the Christmas Concert at Hope Baptist.

With all of the ups and downs of 2013, I still can look back and say that I have been tremendously blessed this year.  I look forward to what is ahead in 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

My prayer for you on this Christmas Day is that among all the lights and presents beneath the tree, you find the greatest gift of all -- the Presence of the Savior in your home and life -- today and always!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Hits and Misses (December 15-21)

Another week is in the books! Let's take a look at the highs and lows together.


  • Christmas shopping is almost done! I hit the mall while the rest of the world was at work and knocked out a huge chunk of my shopping. I even came home with most of my packages wrapped and ready to go under the tree. That's a great feeling!
  • I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Children's Ministry and Children's Musicals. This week, I got to see the kids at First Baptist Marion present their production of Miracle on Main Street. It was a cute show with a TON of kids on stage. I have to admit that I saw things that I would have done differently, but I definitely applaud the leadership team that brought all of these kids together.  While I'm admitting things, I suppose I should also admit that I really missed being involved with a kids' production this Christmas…..but not enough to commit myself to anything right away!
  • I'm thankful when I get a good report from the dentist! My last visit was not very good at all as I had some periodontal work done. This trip showed tremendous improvement in my gums….many of the most severe areas have healed and are once again healthy. It feels good to hear results from the daily flossing routine. 
  • You might not believe it, but Mom and I finally tried a new recipe this week! Saturday night we tried Sloppy Joe Bubble Up and were pleased with the outcome. It was incredibly easy and not terribly expensive to make either. It will be a keeper for our household.


  • My sister asked me to try my hand at making chocolate eclairs. The thought of making pastry creme freaks me out! The other problem is that I've not eaten many eclairs in my life…..just not one of my favorite pastries. So, I don't have much of an idea of what I'm striving for. I pick up pastry bags and tips, drive home to start the process, and know that my eclairs are going to be too small as soon as they are done baking. (Thankfully there were no pictures taken of the mess in the kitchen while I was trying to use the piping bag. Suffice it to say that dough was coming out of both ends of the bag……which is never a good thing in ANY situation.)
  • Before getting a good report at the dentist, I had a bit of a scare. I hadn't been feeling well all week, but I didn't want to cancel my appointment since the practice is extremely busy. Before beginning to work on my mouth, Debbie took my blood pressure and found that it was quite high. After taking it a few more times, I was advised to stop by my family physician on the way home. When I arrived at Dr. Pierce's office, my BP was elevated, but not to a point that raised concern. Now I'm just having to monitor it until I have my physical next month…..but high BP will scare the CRAP out of you!
  • As though things weren't bad enough, I wrenched my back tossing in bed on Friday night. Saturday morning saw me sitting on the couch with a heating pad on my back. When I walked (as little as possible), I had a great view of my toes. I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! Since I was overcompensating and protecting the right side of my back, I went to bed with aches in the middle of the left side by the end of the day. All of this just in time for the Christmas holidays and the insanity that comes with that.
  • Storms rolled through the Memphis area on the first day of winter. With temperatures in the 70s, the addition of instability in the atmosphere was not welcome. We were under tornado watches and thunderstorm warnings most of Saturday. Mom decided she wanted to go to the office (her secure location) and asked me if I was going. I said no. Mom changes her story and says she's not going if I'm not going. Catch-22 situation! I can either stay here and listen to her fret or I can get out in the messy weather (and put myself in greater danger, IMHO) in order to get her to calm down and hush. One lesson I've learned with her over the years…..pick your battles. Headed to the office only to watch everything calm down within 15 minutes of getting there. Ugh!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Memories

As Christmas draws closer, I find myself reflecting on past holiday seasons. Memories are shaped by emotions….some good, others bad. Regardless of the emotional memory, each experience reminds me of the beautiful truth of Christmas.

Christmas is first and foremost a time of joy. As a child, each Christmas found my family spending time with our extended family. For many years, this included a trip to the Houston area to be with my mom's sister. The trailer was packed with bodies, but it was filled with laughter. I have such fond memories of the aroma of sweet concoctions that filled the bar -- red velvet cake, fudge, peanut brittle -- and the trips to the bowling alley. Santa visited and brought gifts. (I nearly ripped my dad's arm out of socket one year as he threatened to "shoot" the departing Santa because Dad didn't receive any gifts!) On one of these Christmas trips, I was unbeatable at the new game I received, Battleship. For a large part of the trip, no one could figure out how I was winning the game every time so decisively…..until they figured out that I was a cheater, checking out the location of their ships in the mirrors on the ceiling! (How I miss the decor of the 1980s.) The laughter that filled the air then continues to warm my heart now.

Christmas is also a time of knowing that you are special to people near and far. Each year, Christmas cards and gifts poured into our home from people around the country that my family knew and loved. The cards gradually made their way to the large doorway separating the living room from the dining room. I loved watching the cards coming in the mail and seeing the card collection grow. It felt as though we were literally surrounded by the love of friends.

Sometimes gifts would also arrive in the mail. I have received wonderful gifts throughout my life, but a few of them stick out in my memory more than others. My brother joined the US Air Force when I was 5 years old. I knew who he was and what he looked like, but I really didn't KNOW him. While stationed in Germany one year (I was probably in 5th grade), he sent a Christmas package that included a gift for me. Mom put the package under the tree and I could hardly wait! I knew O'Neal was my brother, but the gift signified to my young mind that even though he wasn't nearby…..he was thinking of ME!

When Christmas Eve rolled around, I think Mom and Dad had heard enough and finally decided to let me open one gift. There was no question which one I was going for either. As I opened the package from my brother in a land far away, I found the neatest watch I had ever seen! It was a black digital watch made of plastic. What intrigued me most were the buttons just below the face; when I began to punch the buttons, I entered the game mode of the watch! The gift probably wasn't that expensive….and it didn't matter. What mattered most to me was that my brother loved me enough to think about what his little brother would enjoy. That watch rarely left my arm and connected me to O'Neal every time I wore it.

Sadly, Christmas can sometimes bring feelings of insignificance as well. At some point in my childhood, the trips to Texas ceased and we began to spend Christmas with my Dad's mother, better known as Big Mother. Dad's mom was a wonderful Christian woman throughout her life; she was not perfect though. As a grandchild visiting her house, we were always welcomed. However, it was always clear that I was not one of the favorite grandchildren. As I watched her explosions of joy over the appearance of the "golden children" on Christmas Day, I began to question why I didn't elicit the same response. I became jealous of my older siblings who had experienced a glowing relationship with my maternal grandmother; Ma-maw passed away just before my fifth birthday. Trips to Big Mother's filled Christmas Days throughout much of my elementary and middle school years. I hated the journey and only wanted to go back home. I didn't know at the time that what I was dealing with were feelings of inferiority and insignificance. Since I didn't matter to her, why should I be here? It was a horrible feeling.

As you celebrate the birth of the Christ child this Christmas, I hope that you experience the joy that His advent brought to the world and that you realize that God sent His son into the world because He was thinking about you! No matter how difficult your circumstances right now, no matter how far away the Father may seem from you, no matter how alone and insignificant you may feel, God is thinking of you with a heart full of love and offers you gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love this holiday season in the perfect package of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Golden Globes Project: 12 Years a Slave and Philomena reviews

I enjoy projects. I like the thrill of trying to complete things and checking them off of a list. The Christmas break provides the perfect opportunity to take on a new, fun project.  Last week, the Golden Globe nominees were announced. My project is to see the ten films nominated for best picture (5 dramas, 5 comedies) before the award broadcast on Sunday, January 12.

In case you haven't heard, the 2014 Golden Globe nominees for best picture are…..

Best Motion Picture, Drama

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Captain Phillips
  • Gravity
  • Philomena
  • Rush

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
  • American Hustle
  • Her
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Nebraska
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years a Slave - In Review
The first of the films I saw was 12 Years a Slave, rated R.  This beautifully told story is based in fact and tells of an African-American man who is kidnapped from his New York life as a free man and sold into the horrors of slavery in the deep South. The film is incredibly moving in its portrayal of the relationships between the slaves and the diversity of situations they might have to endure. 

I expected the film to be difficult to watch since I struggle with blood and gore on the screen. I was surprised to find that the filmmakers treated the horror with ample respect while not resorting to long passages of blood and filth. During the most violent passages, the focus was on the characters' faces; we noticed the blood that was present, but it wasn't the focus of the scene. 

In my opinion, every American should see 12 Years a Slave. The R rating is primarily associated with the frequent use of the racial expletive (n*****) as well as the adult themes and violence. There are a few scenes that are sexual in nature -- an encounter between two slaves and the rape of a slave by her master -- but neither scene was portrayed in an offensive manner (i.e. I don't recall seeing skin in either scene).  There is full-frontal nudity (male and female) in the film, however. The captured free men are shown bathing in preparation for their transfer to the slave block. In a later scene, black men and women stand nude before the whites who are planning to purchase new "property." 

I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the film and the beauty of the character development. 12 Years a Slave was one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time. The other nominees in the drama category will be compared to this outstanding film.

Philomena - In Review

Philomena is another tale of loss and injustice. This time, the victim is a young Irish girl who was left in a convent by her father after the death of her mother. While there, Philomena encounters a young man who sweeps her off of her feet, and introduces her to the joy of sex. As a result of their encounter, Philomena finds herself pregnant and must face the ire of the nuns. As part of her punishment, Philomena -- as well as the other unwed mothers in the convent -- are given the most difficult jobs by the nuns and permitted to see their children for only one hour each day. The young mother's hopes are crushed when she learns that her son has been taken away and that she must give up all rights to ever locate him.

Shortly after the child's 50th birthday, Philomena is introduced to a former investigate reporter, Martin, who will join the mother in her search to find her son. What they find is a story of pain, deception, greed, and betrayal. I suppose what makes the story even more tragic is the realization that the film was inspired by actual events.

While the film didn't move me as much as 12 Years a Slave, I was thoroughly entertained by the cast. Judi Dench is a phenomenon. Her performance as the elderly Irish mother seeking her child is a brilliant combination of comedy, wit, and fortitude. The location shots throughout Ireland and the eastern United States are beautiful and add to the film's overall tone. The relationship between Philomena and Martin is fascinating and serves as the mode of conveying thoughts about faith, religion, and forgiveness.

Philomena's PG-13 rating was surprising to me. The film is filled with adult themes and adult language. Some may argue that the words are not vulgar to an American audience since the British synonyms are employed throughout. Despite the use of their British counterparts for the more "mundane" words, the use of the "F-bomb" at least 2 times was a bit much in my opinion. I understand the power of the word and that there are times when it might be considered necessary for dramatic purposes; what I disapprove of is assuming that a student of 13 should encounter this type of language without parental supervision in the theater. (FYI…..I shouldn't be surprised to see that Harvey Weinstein was the spearhead of the campaign to get the MPAA's initial R rating lowered to its current PG-13. For more information, see the Los Angeles times article dated November 14, 2013 here.)

I expected a charming story with wonderful acting from the leading lady. I was not disappointed. What I didn't expect to walk away with was a deep sense of loss for the many Irish mothers who were forcibly separated from their children in the name of penance and justice.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hits and Misses (December 8-14)

Let's take a look back at the week that was.


  • On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of playing in an annual Christmas concert at Hope Baptist in Olive Branch with my friend, Ellen Patrick. Ellen and I played a duet arrangement of Sleigh Ride (more about this on Thursday over on Collaborations) and just generally had a good time. This was my first time to play on the concert…..and also my first year in a LONG time not to direct my own Christmas program. It was nice to have fun making Christmas music again.
  • Before heading to Hope Baptist, I made a quick stop at the library to pick up a couple of books. Since the holidays are here, I plan to enjoy a bit more time reading and relaxing. At the moment, I'm reading Robert Whitlow's Life Everlasting and loving every minute of it.
  • The Golden Globe nominations were announced this week. I always like to play along and select my own winners. I've not seen many of this year's nominees, so I'm having fun making some trips to the movies to see as many of them as I can.  I'll be sharing my thoughts on them throughout the week here as well. I'm really looking forward to the Christmas movie season.
  • Bellevue's Singing Christmas Tree opened its run on Friday night and I was in the house. The lights were amazing…..some of the singing was quite good……and the story was beautiful.
  • Mom and I headed to the mall on Saturday to get most of her Christmas shopping done. I enjoy spending time with her and getting to see her enjoy the holidays.


  • Ending the semester was a pain. With last weekend's winter weather, schedules were a nightmare. My final was moved to Tuesday morning; grades and checkout had to be completed by Wednesday. It's not impossible to have a quick turn around, but since it's not the process that I had originally planned for, it was a bit of a hassle. I'm just glad that the fall classes at MSCC of 2013 are done.
  • I ordered my ticket to the Singing Christmas Tree online. I can't complain because the prices were really reasonable. I do wish that there had been a note somewhere explaining that the entire house right side of the auditorium had an obstructed view. I nearly left the program after trying to watch the stage only to see the black arm of a camera filling half of the stage. It was really annoying! I'm thankful for the work that Bellevue does on this production, but I was left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
  • Christmas shopping has become a chore over the years. Mom has no confidence in making her own selections, so I have to select the merchandise and get her approval. I don't mind it so much when we're shopping for the rest of the family, but I honestly hate having to select my own gifts, help wrap them, and then put on a surprised expression on Christmas morning. I could really use some help this time of year handling all of the responsibilities.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rediscovering Christmas

Christmas used to be one of my favorite holidays. I loved the lights, the music, and the joy that filled the air. I found a thrill when Santa Claus made his first appearance and there was excitement in every store. Children laughed and adults seemed to turn their attention to those things that were most important. Somehow though I lost the thrill of the holiday in recent years and began to dread it. I simply wanted to skip from Thanksgiving to the New Year.

Christmas no longer was a source of joy. It was a season of increased work and immense stress. By the time all of the "work" was done, I had to hustle to purchase gifts and plan menus. The reality of a "Silent Night" was inconceivable. I wanted to honor the Savior's birth, but what I really wanted to experience was a few days of "peace on earth."

This year, things are different. I have intentionally built a calendar that is much less packed this December. I'm taking time to enjoy Christmas movies with my parents. Today, I found myself sitting in the living room with nothing on my agenda as I stared at the lights on the tree. I've enjoyed participating in some holiday performances with friends. Now I'm gearing up to make memories in the kitchen as the season's baking begins.

What's changed? I have. My focus has shifted to the One we celebrate instead of the pageantry of the season. My prayer this year is that I will have a new understanding of Jesus as the Prince of Peace and that I will enjoy the holiday with a new level of peace that has been absent for too many Christmas celebrations.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hits and Misses (December 1-7)

It has certainly been a wild week! Crazy things have meant that I wasn't on a normal blogging schedule either. Here's a look back at the week that was (and the week that I am VERY GLAD is finally over).


  • Finals started this week! That meant I had a more relaxed schedule and got to sleep in a little later. I've forgotten just how much I enjoy sleeping because I don't get to experience it very often these days.
  • The end of the week saw the first round of winter weather for the season and that meant school was closed on Friday! Hip, Hip, Hooray! I caught up on some paperwork and got to do some reading again. It was too cold to do much else though.
  • Rather than fighting the crowds on Black Friday, I hit the internet and ordered a few gifts. This was new territory for me, but I'm quickly becoming a believer! The first set of gifts arrived this week and have already been wrapped. I'm loving this quick turn around without the stress of facing the people.
  • Since my schedule is finally beginning to slow down, I decided it was time to begin a new personal Bible study. I am working through Beth Moore's study on the Patriarchs and thoroughly enjoying it! While I consider myself very familiar with the stories found in the book of Genesis, Beth's insights have opened my eyes to new perspectives that have challenged me and blessed me immensely. If you have not participated in a personal Bible study in a while, I encourage you to jump in with both feet. You will be blessed and you'll learn something new along the way.
  • The end of the week also saw the publication of recital schedules for the spring at Union. I'm playing 7 programs and I'm going to be a very busy bee once March rolls around. It's time to hit the practice rooms in preparation.
  • Because of the icy roads, voice boards at Union were cancelled Saturday. This was definitely good news and bad news. My students and I had prepared all semester for this exam; not getting to present our programs was a bit of a let down. Not having to sit at a piano for four hours straight and perform the entire time was a welcome change of pace. I suppose the good part definitely outweighs the bad!


  • Nothing makes me more irate than students that cheat. My week began with filing charges against a student for academic dishonesty. The student received notification and then emailed me asking for a second chance since this was not his intention. Really? What was your intention when you went to the web and copied large sections of text into your document that you presented as your own work? Am I really that stupid?
  • With the end of the semester comes a lot of rehearsals. Long days at the piano with a headache and shoulder pain are not the times of music making that I most enjoy. They are sometimes necessary.
  • I don't like cold weather!!! I like it even less when the temperature changes dramatically and quickly. On Thursday, we experienced a high in the low 70s; within 24 hours, we were facing the chilling artic air that registered in the low 20s. My body and house are not built for temperatures that low!
  • I hate cancer. It's a cruel disease that has hit my family and friends too many times in recent years. As I was preparing to walk on stage during a departmental recital on Thursday afternoon, I learned that another friend had lost his battle with cancer. Tyler Decker was a student with me at Pepperdine in the early 1990s. He was always a source of entertainment with his amazing sense of humor and wit. Tyler and I renewed are friendship a few years ago as we both renewed our involvement with the Psi Upsilon fraternity at Pepperdine. What I came to respect most about Tyler was not his humor, but his friendship and insightfulness. Tyler will be missed greatly by all who knew him. My prayers are with his family in the coming days and weeks as they begin to face the world without their treasured son, brother, and friend.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hits and Misses (November 24-30)

I still haven't gotten used to blogging during the holidays. Now that I'm back home and things are finally returning back to normal, I'm trying to get back into a normal routine here as well. Let's take a look at the final week of November 2013 that just passed.


  • Dad had to make a last minute trip to Little Rock on Sunday, so that meant Mom and I spent the morning together in church. We attended Marion First Baptist and heard an outstanding sermon on the importance of having a grateful spirit. It was a perfect start to the holiday week.
  • After I finished teaching classes on Monday morning, my parents and I headed to Willis, Texas to spend Thanksgiving week with family.  It's always great to escape to Willis and enjoy some relaxation on the lake. The laughter and fun that can always be found in that home are what keep us coming back.
  • While in Willis, Mom and I always find ourselves gravitating to the kitchen. This week, we did quite of bit of baking and cooking with Gail. I think I finally ended up having my hands in the making of 4 batches of peanut brittle while we were there in addition to some chocolate pies. Good food and great fun together make the perfect recipe.
  • An ice storm was threatening central Arkansas and northeast Texas on Monday. In an effort to avoid the winter weather, my parents and I took a different route than normal to Texas. Normally, this would be an adventure. We I drove for nearly nine hours that day in a constant rain. By the time we stopped for the night in Shreveport, Louisiana, I was exhausted. Once I finally got in bed, I couldn't sleep! I was really thankful to arrive in Willis safely on Tuesday morning.
  • When we returned home, we planned a direct route through Dallas and Little Rock.  The drive to Little Rock went really smoothly; total driving time was just over 7 hours.  The drive from LR takes 90 minutes under normal conditions. Holiday travel and incompetent construction under the  (lack of) leadership of the Arkansas Highway Department resulted in the drive taking nearly 3.5 hours…..including the recommended detour. Arkansas wonders why it is witnessing a decline in tourism and is always the butt of the joke.  The answer is simple…..NO ONE CAN GET AROUND IN THE STATE! It's insane! Needless to say, this is one native Arkansan who cannot wait to get out of Dodge. 
  • While in Texas, I somehow had an encounter with a colony of fleas. I tried to find ways to scratch without being TOO obvious or looking like a dog frantically clawing behind his ear. A trip to the drugstore introduced me to the miracle of Caladryl (which will always be in my medicine cabinet from now on) and I was able to get some relief. [At the time of this post, we have counted 18 bites on both legs from just above the knees to my toes. They are finally beginning to heal, but it has been a LONG week because of them.]
There you have it….a look back at the week that was! Hope you all enjoy the rest of this week (now that it's halfway over) and will join me again on Friday for another look at how I'm simply Livin' Life.