Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hits and Misses (July 20-26)

Now that I've safely returned from vacation and I'm slowly getting back to my regular routine, here's a look back at the week that Conroe, Texas!


  • Getting away is always welcome! I honestly didn't do much while I was at the lake, but that was exactly what I needed. Lots of resting on the couch, feeding my face, and laughing with family without the stress of our daily lives.
  • Family time is wonderful! I adore my Texas family and always enjoy getting to see them. It's also a nice break for me because Jerry and Gail end up taking care of the Geriatric Ward for the week.....and I get a week off!  Jerry kept Dad out on the lake fishing all week (and they brought in close to 500 fish by our count) and Gail took care of the food. I simply had to run a couple of grocery runs with Mom and got to enjoy the rest of the time without any responsibilities.
  • Since we did a LOT of television watching, I got introduced to a couple of new shows to add to my viewing habits.  I got caught up on Extant and I am completely hooked!  It's amazing.  Not sure how I've missed out on Unforgettable, but I'm certainly on board now. Funniest of all, however, was Mom's revelation while driving home that she has gotten hooked on Big Brother after watching it all week in Texas.  :)
  • The only negative of the week can be summed up simply by stating that Arkansas highways are the worst in the nation! When we headed to south Texas, we traveled through Mississippi and Louisiana to avoid storms forecast for southern Arkansas and northeast Texas. The route added a few extra miles, but the road conditions were great. On our return trip, we knew we didn't want to even attempt driving on I-40; the interstate has been under construction for what seems like an eternity and traffic congestion is par for the course. Instead, we headed north out of Little Rock to hit Highway 64 out of Bald Knob. Even though we added nearly 150 miles to the trip, we arrived at our door 9.5 hours after leaving Conroe. Compare that to our last trip...and the wasted time sitting in interstate traffic...and we saved 2.5 hours. I'd say the extra miles were worth it, but my back is screaming at me this morning!
There you have it!  Hits and Misses will return to their regular Monday postings next week.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hits and Misses: ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

As this post publishes, I am driving through the great state of Texas as the Geriatric patients and I return from our vacation. I plan to give you an update of our week away on Wednesday before returning to my regular blog schedule. I hope you have had a wonderful week; I'll tell you all about mine very soon!


Friday, July 25, 2014


When was the last time that you went through the motions of the day, but your mind was a million miles away? I'm having one of those days for sure. My head is completely in the clouds.

I think that daydreaming can sometimes be a defense mechanism our brain engages when life begins to become too much. Want to avoid some unpleasantness? Have a daydream. Feeling a little stressed? Let your mind wander to a more relaxed place.

There are times when we don't intend to avoid situations, but our mind is taking a needed vacation. Concentration is impossible. Motivation is a distant memory. It seems these daydream filled days arrive before we consciously realize just how much we need them.

So rather than fighting the daydreaming, I'm choosing to embrace it. Things were still accomplished today. Tomorrow will be another opportunity to complete demanding tasks. In all likelihood, tomorrow will be more successful because of today's mental health day that came in the form of a long daydream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Life Long Learning

I love school! I always have. There's such a rush in being exposed to new ideas and having the freedom to explore within the safe confines of the classroom. I suppose this explains why so many years of my life were spent as a career student . . .and the fact that foreign languages have always been my Achilles heel!

I suppose it was only natural for me to find my way to a career in education as well. Despite my complaints about the early mornings and unmotivated students, I thrive when standing before a class. I've had the pleasure of serving students in academic advising settings as well. I enjoy watching students clear hurdle after hurdle on their way to graduation.

As fulfilling as teaching is, I continue to be a lifelong learner. I long for the chance to dive back into the classroom and grapple with unfamiliar material. I adore those moments when the lecture connects unexpectedly to something I already know.

As tempting as it is, there's no time to pursue another degree. I certainly can't commit to attending a traditional class. But I can submerge myself into a couple of MOOCs for the next few weeks.

What's a MOOC? It's an exciting and inexpensive way to take classes conveniently online. Massive Open Online Classes (or MOOCs) can be found in many disciplines through multiple colleges around the world. A few years ago, I dabbled in hermeneutics via a MOOC from Southwestern Baptist Seminary. It was very interesting, but a little too focused on preaching for what I was looking for.

MOOCs tend to be shorter classes. Most last six to eight weeks. The material is presented through video lectures as well as reading assignments. While there may be quizzes or writing assignments, how much or little you actually complete is entirely up to you. With some effort, it is highly likely that you will "pass" the course; in most cases, a simple certificate of completion is sent for your personal records. It's not college credit (although credit is sometimes available if you're willing to pay a fee), but it is recognition of the stuff you've encountered in the course.

Before you think MOOCs are too stuffy, let me tell you about my summer classes. I am learning about the French Revolution, an eight week course offered by the University of Melbourne, while exploring the Music of the Beatles with the music faculty at the University of Rochester. I'm learning a lot and having fun doing it in this low stress situation.

MOOCs can easily be found through websites such as Coursera and EdX. If you still don't find what
you're looking for, do a google search . . .I'm sure you'll find something that interests you!

So what do you have to lose? Awaken your mind, expand your horizons, and once again discover the satisfaction that comes from being a lifelong learner.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hits and Misses (July 13-19)

My parents and I are enjoying a few days away visiting family in Texas. Here's an abbreviated look at the week that was.


  • School's out for summer! It might not be as long of a break as I would like, but I'm thrilled to have submitted grades for the summer class I taught and have no pressing issues on my plate at the moment.
  • Vacations are the best! It's the life! Sitting around with family laughing and talking, watching the beauty of God's creation here at the lake, and doing a lot of eating. 
  • When you're on vacation, the week suddenly takes on a positive tone. It's amazing how good it feels.
There you have it! Even though I'm away, I've prepared some posts to fill your days in the coming week. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Going Through the Motions

Why do we feel it necessary to do things we don't want to do in order to appease others? I had a recent conversation with members of my family about just this topic while making plans for the weekend. They found themselves attending events out of a sense of perceived duty rather than actual desire. Why do we so often feel as though we must do things to please others?

I get the idea that we sometimes do things for the greater good or as part of a larger team. What I struggle with is investing time in activities continually that do not benefit me as an individual. Am I really going to constantly work additional hours if I'm not compensated for them? Probably not. How long do I continue in an activity that is emotionally draining just because I perceive that my presence is expected? At what point do I accept the fact that I have the right and responsibility to do what makes me happy?

I'm all for living a life of service. I try to do things for the greater good on a regular basis. When any action becomes an act of laborious duty, however, it's time to evaluate its role in my life. The truth of the matter is that if I'm not experiencing some level of joy from my participation, I'm probably not contributing very much by just going through the motions anyway. When I come to this realization, it may be time for a significant change.  I guess the image below from Laurie Wallin (a speaker, writer, and Life Coach) sums up my feelings better than anything else:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Headache of Healthcare

Summer is the time for doctor's visits in the Geriatric ward. Since the demands on my time are greatly reduced, it's easier to get everyone where they need to be. This year's patient is Pop. While I've been frustrated over the years that he hasn't done a better job of taking care of himself, after dealing with the healthcare headache for the past few weeks, I'm beginning to understand why.

My first complaint is the redundant paperwork that appears. Thankfully, the forms are now available online so a patient can complete them in advance. What gets me is that all the forms ask for the same information! I understand that every doctor must have access to this vital information. What I can't believe is that our technologically advanced society has not figured out a way to easily make each doctor's notes on a patient readily available universally. I would much prefer my doctor to see a complete medical history provided through official channels rather than depending on my faulty memory for vital facts.

Medicare and health insurance are a mess. On a recent visit regarding his sleep apnea, Dad was instructed to get new supplies for his CPAP. While checking out, we were asked if he would prefer a prescription to get the supplies from a vendor closer to home or from the on-site service. Since Dad likes to maintain some independence, he opted to take the prescription back across the bridge.

On the drive home, we decided to drop off the supply request. Imagine our surprise when our local vendor informed us that Medicare no longer permitted them to service Dad since he resided in the same county as the vendor. I thought I had misunderstood, so I asked for clarification. If we had lived across the county line, the supplier could serve our needs. Does this make sense to anyone? It certainly doesn't to me, but it truly illustrates the insanity of our nation's current healthcare system!

By this time, I know Pop is frustrated and embarrassed, so I keep my cool and tell him I'll figure it out for him. My phone call back to the doctor's office (part of a large hospital service) resulted in multiple transfers and endless voice mails. By this point, I don't have a lot of confidence that anyone will hear my message, much less return my call.

Imagine my relief when I meet two amazing employees of the hospital the following day who go out of their way to help. Since I had driven back into Memphis, they didn't want me to have to travel into the city again with additional information they required. I left the office with one of the women's personal cell number and instructions to send photos via text message of the equipment we need to replace. Within an hour, I receive a call telling me they have gotten all of Dad's info from the office next door and that our equipment will leave the warehouse the next morning. If I didn't want these helpful ladies to stay right where they are since they are such an asset to Memphis and their hospital, I would suggest sending them to D.C. to fix the healthcare nightmare our nation currently faces. One thing is certain -- the idiots in public office now are incapable of cleaning up the mess they created! And our national headache continues.

That's enough ranting for one post. I feel like I need an aspirin now!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hits and Misses (July 6-12)

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


  • The week was filled with doctor's visits, but I'm happy to say that it looks as though we got good geriatric reports all around!  Mom began using my dentist a few months ago after the butcher in West Memphis wanted to extract her teeth. On Tuesday, we learned that the treatment she had done a few months ago was successful, her gums are strengthening, and her teeth are solid. There's still some work that needs to be done, but nothing that's essential at the moment. Mom got more good news on Friday that her eye pressure is good as we continue to monitor her for glaucoma complications. Dad hasn't gotten the results of his MRI back yet, but the procedure itself went smoothly. At this point, I'm thankful for that!
  • On Tuesday evening, some great friends came for a visit to just check in and see how I was doing. It was great to laugh, reminisce, and enjoy each other's company. It was also nice to get to provide some answers about situations that had never really gotten cleared up. Robert and June, I love you dearly! Your friendship means the world to me.
  • By now, you know that I love to eat and I'm especially fond of anything Italian. This week we
    tried a new recipe for Garlic Pesto Chicken with a Tomato Cream Penne. All I can say is WOW! The picture to the right doesn't do this dish justice at all. It really turns out quite beautifully and is yummy! We'll definitely be having this one again.
  • While Mom and Dad had good experiences with their doctors this week, I was rather disappointed with my own medical visit. I went in with some minor issues that I wanted to get checked before we leave town on vacation late next week (because there's nothing worse than getting sick when you're away from home). It became clear to me that my doctor is only interested in treating the immediate malady rather than investigating what's going on inside me and trying to help me improve the quality of my life. I'm tired of feeling as though I suffer from hypochondria and having my concerns brushed off. I'm starting the process of finding a new GP and plan to schedule a visit after our vacation.
  • I've had an insane schedule this week. Between the doctor's visits, personal appointments, and tying up loss ends as the semester draws to a close, I've been hopping. My time management skills have been put to the test and they've worked! Nothing fell through the cracks and it's all getting done.....but I'm definitely feeling the effects. Vacation could not come at a better time for me.
  • Waiting is not one of my strengths. I've spent more time than I care to admit in waiting rooms this week with my current novel (Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man). I'm waiting for news about last week's job interview. I'm waiting for the end of the semester. I'm trying to keep my cool and remain calm, but it doesn't come easily to me at all. But, here I sit, continuing to wait.
There you have it! Hope you have a great week.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unexpected Interruptions

It's all about priorities. Every day ends for me with a plan of what needs to happen the next day. Music needs to be learned, papers graded, and articles written. Despite my best plans, life happens and I find my plans interrupted. A friend calls needing to talk. A parent needs to see the doctor. In that moment, I have to re-evaluate and consider my priorities.

I wish I could tell you that the choice is always an easy one to make. But it's not. Truthfully, it rarely is! Planning and structure are such a part of my DNA that altering my plans comes at great cost to me. The problem is that I have already identified the things I deem important for the day. When I face the challenge of re-prioritizing, I know that some "important" things are not going to get the attention they deserve.

Perhaps it's a sign of my own perfectionism or some narcissistic need to achieve. Maybe I am desperately trying to control some portion of a life that typically feels as though it's spiraling out of control. Whatever the real reason, I know this much: many things I thought were important pale when the truly important things disrupt my plans.

What are those most important things? It's not the paperwork or even the music -- both things that I tend to find comfort in. It's not getting to tick items off of my never-ending to do list. The things that are most important are people. Family. Friends. Those near and far that I treasure. Those who make me a better person simply because they are willing to walk beside me, speak truthfully to me, and still love me unconditionally. Special people are the most important things that interrupt my plans.

I've not always recognized how important people are. I've been guilty of taking them for granted sometimes. I've been annoyed by their interruptions. I wonder how many amazing adventures I've missed because I didn't welcome the interruption with open arms.

I'll continue to diligently plan my life for each day. There will always be a list of prioritized tasks to accomplish. But I'm adding a new priority to my list: the unexpected interruption. I look forward to their arrival because, after all, these people are the ones I treasure and they deserve to be my priority!

I think it's time to revise tomorrow's to do list. What unexpected interruption will come? I want to make sure I'm ready for the adventure.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When Things Just Don't Work Out

Sometimes things just don't work matter how badly we want it...despite our efforts and reasoning. Even when we finally come to terms in our brain that the outcome was right, our heart still holds on to the desire.

On this late evening as I write, I'm facing one of these situations. Earlier this summer, I was offered the position of Artist-in-Residence at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. I went to visit the campus and fell in love with the people. I was excited to teach a new class. I longed to be able to move out of my parents' home and begin life on my own.

There was only one problem. The salary was only $21,000 annually. Yes, there were benefits to consider -- health insurance, retirement -- but there were also taxes and medicare to deduct from the salary. As I started to run the numbers, I realized I would literally be living hand to mouth. Should a crisis arise, there would be no additional money to deal with the problem.

For weeks, I stared at the numbers, searching for more corners to cut so my dream could become a reality. I dared to imagine the quiet solitude of my own apartment and the joy of having friends over for dinner. After spending several days wishing and hoping, I knew I had to wake up and face reality. The numbers were clear; I could not meet my monthly financial obligations on the offered salary.

When the job offer was made, I was clearly told that the salary was non-negotiable. Writing the email to decline the position was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I have somehow equated having a full time position in my field as the ultimate validation that all the hard work was worth it. I suppose I think a position will finally declare me successful.

My brain knows I made the right decision. Honestly, there wasn't really a choice to make! It's just taking my heart a little while to catch up. So, it's back to the fray of writing cover letters, asking for references, and sending out resumes. I'm just hoping that the dream becomes a reality before I stop hoping and believing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hits and Misses (June 29-July 5)

Sometimes I wonder if anyone else out there in Cyber Land actually reads my posts. Either way, it's good for me to write and get it all out on paper.'s a look at the week that was.


  • Because of a ton of rain on Sunday morning, my parents decided not to attempt the trip to Collierville. That meant that I got to attend church with both of the geriatric patients. I really do miss doing this on a regular basis. It was a great time at Marion First Baptist. We enjoyed Pastor Clay's continuing series on "What the Bible Says About...." as well as the Jubilation Jazz Band. Definitely a great start to the week!
  • I was thrilled to get asked for a phone interview for a job. The interview was conducted via Skype on Thursday. I enjoyed speaking with the faculty members of this liberal arts school and think I made a good impression. Now they will begin the process of checking my references. I'm trying to not get my hopes up (since they've been let down already this summer), but a guy can't help but dream sometimes.
  • It was great to spend time laughing with family on July 4th. We enjoyed a simple meal of burgers, hot dogs, and chips before eventually settling into the living room together. It was a treat to sit around with my siblings, Patsy, Jacqs, and Shane and laugh at Mom and Dad! It was even better to watch Mom get completely tickled at her own stories that she tried to tell. Truly priceless....and just what I needed.
  • The work week got off to a hectic start with another doctor's appointment for Dad. This one was the Sleep Disorder Center. It was a routine visit, but they did notice some things that were slightly disturbing. We don't know anything yet, but we'll be going in for more tests in the coming weeks. Things got crazier when we learned that Dad's medical equipment supplier in Arkansas could not longer fill Dad's prescriptions for his CPAP equipment due to changes in the Medicare laws. I'll be ranting about this a lot more in a future I'll hold off here.
  • This is the miss that I'll probably get in trouble for....but, oh well, it's my blog and my them or not. July 4th was wonderful, but we had some unexpected visitors crash the party. These were distant relatives of Dad's, but they are not people that my family has been particularly close to over the years. I don't mind people stopping by unannounced; I just prefer when they don't do it on holidays. Holidays are family celebrations. As the geriatric patients continue to age and with the prospect of me (hopefully) moving away in the not too distant future, these family gatherings are special to me. Drop by on a random Saturday unannounced....just not at lunch on the 4th or Christmas Day. As I continue to struggle with things, it generally turns out better for me when I'm able to prepare for situations in advance. I need to know what's coming before facing a group event. But, I also know that it's not all about me...
  • On Saturday afternoon, I took the time to finally watch the film version of Les Miserable. What a hot mess that movie was! Casting of the lead characters was atrocious! The stage show is one of my favorites of all time. (Ragtime is the only other contender for the top spot in my book!) I saw an amazing production of Les Mis at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles in the fall of 1990 as well as a great national touring company in the late 1990s in Memphis. I would rather have seen lesser-known actors who could actually sing the roles instead of watching Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Hugh Jackman croak their way through this spectacular score. I must admit that I was surprised that Jackman wasn't more satisfying in the role than he was; I've heard him sing previously and thought it wasn't that bad. Crowe as Javert is nothing more than a cosmic joke! 
There you have it.  Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America!

As we celebrate independence, freedom, and liberty on this July 4th, reflect on these Presidential quotations with me. Freedom was not free. Let us never take it lightly.

The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation. ~Woodrow Wilson

This, then, is the state of the Union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith. ~Lyndon B. Johnson

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves. ~Abraham Lincoln

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed -- else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Some Passions Never Die

What are you passionate about? What is that one topic that will always result in you finding renewed energy and excitement when you meet a like-minded person? For me, that passion has always been effective ministry to children in our churches.

If you've read much of this blog at all, you know that I spent the past 14 years working for a church. One of my responsibilities was overseeing the church's ministry to kids. I certainly wasn't the best director ever. I made more than my fair share of mistakes in ministry. But I can confidently say that I always wanted to give the children in the local church my very best.

As is often the case, attacks on leadership from various sides are destructive. I left that position thinking that I would never again be able to consider working with kids. The attacks were too vicious; the pain was too great. I couldn't risk opening my heart to kids again only to be trampled by adults once more.

I've been away from ministry for a year now. Hurts are continually being healed and I am continuing on my personal journey back to physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It was thrilling to see a small sign of my passion returning during a recent conversation.

While preparing to leave campus, I noticed that one of my former students (now a member of the college staff) was planning an event. The nosey person that I am asked about it and learned she was working on an event for the kids at her church. I made a comment that I had planned similar events...and that's when ideas began pouring forth.

For the next 30 minutes, we shared ideas about ministry to kids. It was such a sweet moment to experience the joyful anointing of the Spirit as we talked. By no means am I at a place where I'm ready to dive back into ministry of any kind yet, but how thrilling to realize that my days of effectiveness are not passed. New days are ahead for me. I don't know when or where they will happen, but I'm joyfully looking for them with a renewed sense of hope.