Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time for Accountability - 2014 Resolutions Recap

On this final day of 2014, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the New Year's Resolutions I made on January 1, 2014 and see how I fared. I'll examine each goal individually and let you know how things went.

Become actively involved in a strong Christian fellowship of believers. It took me a while to finally settle down, but I'm happy to say that I did. After much internal debate (and dealing with childhood feelings about "church membership"), I joined First Baptist Church of Marion, Arkansas in the fall. It was around the same time that I began to get involved in the music department of the church and once again use my talents to exalt my God. I've had a few failed attempts at joining a Sunday School class and haven't dared to enter the children's ministry yet, but those issues are definitely on my radar and things that I plan to do in 2015. I am so thankful to sit under the anointed preaching that comes weekly with practical application for my daily life.

Increase my total reading activity. This has become an annual resolution for me. This year, I fell short though. In 2013, I read a total of 46 books.  Due to lots of doctors' appointments and stressful times during the summer and early fall, the 2014 total peaked at 21. I'm not going to make any more happened. Now it's time to get back on that horse and get back to reading again!

Take control of my health - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Let's call this a 2/3 success. I feel as though I am in a better place emotionally and spiritually than I have been in a very long time. Much of that is due to my involvement with First Marion. My physical health could definitely use some attention. I continue to have no time for workouts -- much to my chagrin -- and cancelled my gym membership in 2014. I don't have a plan of action for this even though I know it's something that I need to get a handle on.

Memorize 2 major works for solo piano. I don't know what I was thinking when I made this resolution! I was so busy learning collaborative works that I had very little time to practice any solo repertoire.

Improve the consistency and quality of my blogging - especially on Collaborations. This is another failed resolution. While I am happy with the quality of work that I put out this year, the consistency declined on all my blogs in 2014. Once again, the summer of medical visits was when things began to fall apart. I'm in the process of putting blog topics on a calendar to see if I can get back to a regular blogging routine in 2015. We'll just have to see how things go, I suppose.

Consistently schedule activities that will bring rejuvenation and relaxation. I'm not really sure how I feel about my progress in this area. I think I was handling life better in the early parts of the year and taking care of me. My attention shifted from me to Dad during the heart surgery and now I'm finding it difficult to take control of my life again since the Geriatrics have gotten back into the habit of relying solely on me for many things. I don't know that there is a solution to this problem until I am able to move away from Crawfordsville.

As you can see, 2014 has been a year of successes and failures for me personally. I'm hoping for more successes in 2015 as I'm sure you are. Here's to putting the mistakes of 2014 behind us and moving into the New Year with hope and confidence that brighter days are ahead.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hits and Misses (December 21-27)

On this final Monday morning of 2014, it's time to take a look back at the week that was.....

  • The week got off to a good start with a successful offertory on Sunday morning at First Marion. I played an arrangement of Rejoice Greatly for trumpet and piano. I was a little nervous since I had pieced it together in a matter of days, but things went well. It's always nice when you get complimented on your playing throughout the week that follows, too.
  • Christmas was a special day with family as we got to exchange some exciting gifts with each other. 
  • On Christmas Day, Jacqs and I decided to take on a book challenge in 2015. The plan is to read a book together each month.  We'll alternate who chooses each month's selection and the goal is to each choose three classics and three modern works. I picked January's selection.....Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. What was I thinking?
  • I have been blessed with a few days of restful sleep now that the holidays are over and I don't have pressing responsibilities that have to have my immediate attention.
  • I'm enjoying reading Professional Piano Teaching by Jeanine Jacobson right now. It's basically a pedagogy textbook with emphasis on the teaching of elementary students. I'm working through it rather methodically so I can glean as much information as possible.
  • It's surprising, but I haven't had a working CD player at home for several years now. Since I'm rarely home, it hasn't been too big of an issue. On Saturday, I decided to correct that issue though. It's not the machine that I ultimately plan to keep, but it will suffice for the moment.
  • It has been a challenging week with the return of issues related to my neck and shoulder injury. I can never predict when the pain will appear, but it certainly effects everything I try to do.
  • Every year, I order a Christmas ham from Holiday Ham and Turkey in Memphis. I have to place a special order due to Mom's allergy to honey. By now I should be used to it, but EVERY YEAR I have to wait for nearly 20 minutes while a ham is prepared without the glaze. This year, I was told that my unglazed ham had been given to someone else. What I'm wondering is if you happened to just give away a pre-ordered unglazed ham, DON'T YOU THINK YOU MIGHT NEED TO REPLACE IT?!?!?!!?!?!?! It's frustrating....but I'm over it now.
  • On Christmas morning, my lovely mother came to my room at 7:30am to make sure
    everything was okay. I assured her I was fine and turned over to go back to sleep. At 8am, she returned to find out if I was ready to open Christmas gifts since she had just heard me up playing the piano (I guess I'm so good now that I'm playing in my sleep from the comfort of my bed!). I knew that the rest of the family was not scheduled to arrive until late that morning, so we were in no rush. Needless to say, I rolled out of bed, opened my single package (which I had selected) and tried to go back to sleep on the couch. The geriatrics are losing it, folks!
  • Nothing is more frustrating than heading out to the stores to find that the item you need is not in stock!
  • I'm still fighting this sinus/chest crud and feeling rather crummy. I was especially thrilled to receive an email telling me that the pharmacy was out of the decongestant the doctor had prescribed. When I called Walgreen's to find out what my options were, I was shocked to hear the voice on the other end explain that there had been a mistake......and they could fill the prescription since I clearly intended to pick it up. SMH! Huh?
There you have it.  I hope you all have a great ending to your year and enjoy the beginning of 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hits and Misses (December 14-20)

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

  • On Sunday, I returned to Abundant Grace in Collierville to play a couple of Christmas solos for the congregation there. It was nice to play some solo arrangements again and to see friends, but I definitely missed being at home with the folks at First Marion.
  • I am continuing to enjoy my Christmas holiday by watching every Christmas movie I can get my hands on. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was that I actually watched the re-broadcast of The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood on NBC. I didn't have high hopes for this performance the first time around; I have to admit that it wasn't as bad as I expected. It wasn't terribly good....but it was awful either.
  • After visiting the dentist on Thursday, I stopped by Garibaldi's Pizza in Germantown. They have my favorite BBQ pizza in the area, but there's not a convenient location to visit with any frequency. So I hit them up when I can.
  • I was surprised (and blessed) to receive an unexpected Christmas gift in the mail late this week. The gift has already been put to good use and it's nice to know that I am thought of by people outside of my family in this holiday season.
  • Just as I suspected.....I have struggled with the end of a sinus infection this week as well as bronchitis. Even though I got to the doctor before the chest congestion got too bad, it's still taking a toll on me. My chest is tight and any sort of physical activity is very taxing. Christmas shopping with Mom was a challenge as was preparing for Sunday morning services at First Marion.
  • While headed to the doctor on Monday, things went from bad to worse. As I was pulling out of the driveway, Dad was pulling in and failed to see my tail lights. We had a minor fender bender on our property; thankfully there was minimal damage -- my driver's side tail light had to be replaced -- and neither of us was traveling fast enough to jerk either car around too much.
  • Getting an appointment with my dentist is insanely difficult. Once you get an appointment, you don't cancel unless you're dead! Even though I didn't feel like sitting in the chair, I headed in for my regular check up on Thursday. Things weren't bad once I got there -- I didn't have to cough as much as I had feared -- but getting to the office was another story. Why the state of Arkansas in her great wisdom decides to do road work on both bridges into Tennessee at the same time is beyond me!
  • All in all, I've had a bit of a bah humbug! attitude of late. I don't feel well, so that's not helping. I also feel as though I'm stuck dealing with a lot of things without any help from others that I think should. So I find myself having to do more when I'm needing to rest. It puts me in a bad mood and I've spent much of the week dreaming about life after the holidays are over.
There you have it. In observance of the Christmas holidays, I will not be posting for the rest of the week. As we celebrate the blessing of Christ's coming with our family and friends, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Year in Review - My Reading Life

As many of you know, I greatly enjoy reading books of all types. I provide short reviews and reflections on the books that I have read on another of my blogs - Reading for Me. Even though I am not thrilled with the number of books I have read in 2014 (a paltry 20 works at the time of writing), I have taken a few minutes to reflect and generated a list of my top 5 reads of the year.

  1. The Winds of War by Herman Wouk (published 1971)
  2. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (2014)
  3. The Bastard by John Jakes (1974)
  4. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (2013)
  5. The Shelf by Phyllis Rose (2014)
As expected, the list is dominated by fiction. The Shelf is the only memoir to make the list. I tend to prefer contemporary fiction, so I was surprised to see that two of the top three selections were published in the early 1970s.

I'm always looking for recommendations. What was your favorite read of 2014? Please leave your suggestion in the comment section of this blog post.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Year in Review - Music

As I continue my look back over the year 2014, I am pleased to see that the year has been a very busy one for me as a musician. It also helps to explain why I am so tired!

Let's start with the year in the classroom. This year, I taught 8 sections of my music classes at the post-secondary level. I continued teaching music appreciation at MSCC in West Memphis with two classes each semester. The Spring brought a new challenge in the form of a hybrid course -- students completed half of the material in a brick-and-mortar setting with me. The rest of each week's work was done through online units. I was busy developing the online material and attempting to overcome the technological challenges the students encountered. In the fall, MSCC decided to attempt the music appreciation course as an online class. The stress of Dad's health issues combined with the demands of creating this course did not result in a smooth semester at all.

At Union, I taught two sections of class piano each semester. The spring semester went fairly smoothly as I continued to find my way through this new course. The fall brought a new challenge as I faced a piano lab with 9 students enrolled in a single session (the largest class I've ever experienced). Through trial and error, I learned a lot and have begun to develop my own approach to this challenging class.

While we're talking about Union, let's begin to discuss the year of playing. My position as a staff pianist accounts for the majority of my playing during the year. In 2014, I accompanied 33 half-hour weekly lessons over the course of the year (14 in the spring and 19 in the fall). In addition to these lessons, I also served as principle pianist for the department's Opera Workshop -- which featured selections from musical theater in the spring and the first act of Mozart's Magic Flute in the fall. I started to come up with a grand total of hours spent at the piano for lessons, rehearsals, and auditions, but then I came to my senses.....I was afraid the number would send me into shock!

A major part of the responsibility of a staff pianist is providing accompaniment for student degree recitals. I certainly played my fair share of recitals this year - a total of 13 recitals (7 of these were 30 minute recitals; the remaining 6 were hour long. Don't be fooled though....several of the shorter recitals included some of the most challenging music of the year!) All of this year's recitals were vocal and really quite enjoyable to prepare. The only challenges I faced were a week in the spring semester that included 4 recitals in a span of 6 days and the difficulty of balancing the students' needs for rehearsals with the music department's budgetary limitations.

While that accounts for the majority of my work at Union this year, there were still other opportunities to make music with faculty and students there in the fall semester.
  • I accompanied the Men's Chorus at the Fall Choral Concert.
  • I learned and performed Eric Whitacre's insanely difficult Ghost Train with the Symphonic Band.
  • Dr. Stanley Warren and I presented a community recital called "An American Songbook."
  • Union will present its first joint venture between the music and theater departments in the spring of 2015. I was invited to play the three days of auditions as well as callbacks for Into the Woods this semester.
  • I joined Union students at UT Martin for the 2014 Tennessee State NATS competition.
The rest of the year's performances and professional appearances were quite varied. Each proved to be enjoyable and memorable in their own way.
  • Piano Adjudicator for Mississippi Valley State University's piano festival.
  • Accompanist for Germantown High School's spring choral concerts.
  • Musical Director of Delta Art's high school cabaret production.
  • Volunteer Church Musician at First Marion. This year, I began playing for weekly choir rehearsals in the fall. I also began to work in the rotation of playing piano for Sunday morning services. December found me at the keyboard in the pit orchestra for the church's Christmas production.
  • Private piano teacher at Bartlett Music Academy.
I definitely have a very full life and enjoy the opportunity to make music on a regular basis. Now I'm looking forward to the musical adventures that 2015 has in store!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hits and Misses (December 7-13)

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

  • All of Sunday and Monday evening were devoted to the final performances of the Christmas production at First Marion. I was thrilled to be a part of a great show and really had a good time. Still, I'm glad this event only comes around once a year.
  • Another semester is over! I submitted grades to MSCC on Monday morning. On Tuesday, I
    traveled back to Jackson to give my last piano final and play for instrumental boards. Wednesday morning, I submitted grades for Class Piano III at Union and officially started my Christmas holiday.
  • Now that I'm on holiday, I have been able to devote my attention to a ton of reading! I had a great experience whipping through a Brad Thor novel. At the moment, I'm reading a piece of Christmas fluff as well as a biography of the composer Felix Mendelssohn. To balance things out, I have also started reading a book intended for piano teachers.
  • Why the interest in piano pedagogy again? On Saturday, I began teaching private piano lessons at Bartlett Music Academy. My friends, Bobby and Melissa, recently added the Academy to their portfolio. When they asked me to join the teaching faculty, I was a bit hesitant at first because of my already busy schedule. They were very understanding and were willing to work with my availability. On Saturday morning, I had my first lessons with two brothers. The kids were great and BMA's new Young-Chang piano is a wonderful addition. I left the studio with a smile on my face and enjoyed getting home to make notes and begin planning for our next session after Christmas.  If you know anyone looking for quality music instruction in the Memphis area, feel free to contact me for information about BMA.
  • Since school is out, I made it out to do a little Christmas shopping. I headed over to Dinstuhl's chocolates for a few treats as well as a fruitcake for Dad.  After grabbing a few other gifts (I have to keep a few secrets, y'all!), I headed home and got things wrapped while the Geriatrics were out for a few hours. I'm definitely not done, but I have at least made a dent in my shopping list!
  • Saturday was full of laughter as I enjoyed some humorous texts with three of my Malibu friends. Sometimes you just need a good laugh to make it through the day.
  • After a lot of playing this week, my hands are more achy than normal. I continue to sleep in wrist braces each night and have been wearing them more throughout the day as the week has progressed. As much as I don't want to think about it, I have a sneaky feeling that a season of piano rest (no playing at all) is in my future for a little while.
  • In addition to my hands, I'm just feeling rather yucky all around. After teaching on Saturday, I headed over to the mall to see a friend. While walking the mall, I noticed that I was becoming more easily winded than normal. As I write this post, I've developed a cough that is producing occasional phlegm. "Dr. Freeman's" self-diagnosis is that the sinus infection I pushed through (and self-medicated) at the end of the semester has settled into my chest and turned into bronchitis. After dealing with chest congestion for many years, I'm normally a pretty good predictor of the condition. I plan to call the doctor first thing Monday morning to hopefully nip this in the bud before it explodes on me.
There you have it!  Have a great week everybody.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Year in Review - Blogging

I enjoy writing. I find it relaxing and a great way to work through things that are on my mind. A few years ago, I discovered the power of blogging. I never kept a personal journal consistently because I knew that I was the only one who would ever read the entries. I suppose that's what I enjoy most about blogging -- the opportunity to share my thoughts with people around the world.

As part of my personal reflection on 2014, I find it interesting to consider my year as a blogger. I have maintained (to varying degrees) three blogs actively. Livin' Life is the blog that you are reading now and contains my personal thoughts as well as my weekly updates into the "Hits and Misses" of my world. Additionally, I attempt to maintain a professional presence through Collaborations and share my thoughts about books I've read on Reading for Me. (I'll reflect on the year as a reader in a separate post next week.)

The numbers always seem to clearly tell the tale, so let's look at a few statistics:
  • Livin' Life featured 102 posts (including this one) so far in 2014.
    • Of these 102 posts, 40 of them were installments of my "Hits and Misses" series. I also find it interesting that these posts are some of the most popular among my friends and family.
  • Collaborations was neglected this year. I only made 16 posts there.
  • Reading for Me also experienced a decline in posts this year with only 19 posts.
As a celebration of my year of blogging, I've decided to go back and find my FIVE FAVORITE POSTS of 2014. Some were humorous; others were passionate and highly emotional. Did your favorite Livin' Life posts make my list? I'd love to hear what you considered my best writing in the last 12 months. Share your comments below.

Without further ado, here are my selections for my top 5 posts of 2014:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Year in Review - Life in General

One of the things I really enjoy about the month of December is that it provides the opportunity for me to slow down from my normal routine and reflect on what has happened in the past 12 months. As I reflect on 2014, two major themes seemed to dominate my life this year:  travel and health care.  Here's a brief look back at the year of simply living life that was....

January began this theme of health issues as I was finally able to see a doctor as an insured patient. As a result of my general wellness exam, we discovered that both my blood pressure and cholesterol were high. I began a drug regime. Thankfully, January also had some good memories as I made a last minute trip to Malibu for a little downtime. Relaxing in a hammock while overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a trip to see the sea otters at the Los Angeles Zoo with Jeff were highlights of this trip.

As February began, the new school semester was in full swing at both MSCC and Union. Little did we know that life as we knew it would forever change. One of our Union music students, Olivia Greenlee, was tragically murdered by her boyfriend who then transported her body to Union's campus in an attempt to present Olivia's death as a suicide. Now -- some 10 months later -- the department continues to feel the effects of Olivia's departure as we hear music that reminds us of her and watch the murder trial begin to unfold. It was also around this time that the Memphis area was hit with an enormous ice storm that resulted in a commute of 1 1/2 hours from Crawfordsville to West Memphis -- a distance of 13 miles! Needless to say, I didn't make it to Jackson for a few days.

March and April was marked by a typically heavy schedule of teaching and performing. What made the spring of 2014 unusual was the unexplained appearance of severe headaches. I visited my general physician, as well as ENTs, neurologists, optometrists, and psychologists to find out what was going on. The headaches were treated as migraines although they did not display the necessary characteristics to be classified as the classic headaches.

May brought a short break for me, so I knew that I needed to escape for a little while. I made a quick trip to Eureka Springs all by my lonesome and had a wonderful time! Just before leaving, Dad visited an audiologist and began the process of acquiring hearing aids. My family had no idea that this single doctor's appointment would take us on a roller coaster ride that would color the rest of the year.

In early June, I learned that my summer session of music appreciation would be cancelled due to low enrollment. I was thrilled to learn that I would have a summer to rest; then I realized that I would also have no income for the summer. The stress was compounded as I carted Dad from one doctor to another. The ENT lead to a check up with the sleep center. The sleep center heard a heart murmur and suggested a echo cardiogram. 

July, August, and September were essentially filled with the realization that Dad had major blockages in his arteries and would require triple bypass surgery. I'm thankful to say that Dad has made a full recovery after a couple of scary moments in the hospital. Of course, my family is always going to find time for travel when we can. Before dealing with the cardiologist in July, the geriatric patients and I took a much needed vacation to Lake Conroe, just north of Houston. While we waited for test results in mid-August, I headed to Pigeon Forge to make plans for another fall getaway with the geriatrics. (Needless to say, those plans will just have to wait for a little while.)

October continued our focus on Dad's recovery. I made arrangements for hospital beds and home health care while monitoring the number of visitors that arrived. Sometimes I felt like the gatekeeper that no one wanted to tangle with!

The last trip of the year came in early November as I made an unexpected trip back to Malibu. I needed to do a little work while I was there, but the real reason for the trip is that several of my friends were very aware of the stress I had lived through with Dad's health crisis and wanted to provide a chance for me to get away and allow others to take care of me. I am truly indebted to this group of men for their generosity, kindness, and concern for me.

In December, I played in the orchestra for the Christmas production at First Marion. It was thrilling to be involved without being in charge of a holiday presentation. Now that I have finally settled on making First Marion my church home and joined that body of believers this year, it's been an adventure learning how to become involved in a church where so few people know me and what talents I have to offer.

What a year it has been! On Friday, I'll continue reviewing 2014 as I take a look back at the year as a blogger.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hits and Misses (November 30-December 6)

It's time to take a look back at the week that was.....

  • Finals are over! Well....for the most part, anyway. I still have to administer one more piano exam, but things are winding down and grades are almost ready to be turned in. It's been an exceptional week of performances as well. The last departmental recital featured a strong performance of the Saint-Saens violin concerto and the week ended with successful voice boards at Union. 
  • Since the semester is almost over, I'm getting to learn new music in preparation for spring recitals. I'm most excited about some of the violin repertoire I'll be learning -- featuring works by Brahms and Bartok. 
  • This week has been tech week for the Christmas production at First Marion. As a result, I've gotten to meet some new people. It's been wonderful to talk to other performers who share a common goal.
  • I received an unexpected gift this week as well. These surprise presents are always sure to put a smile on the face of whoever receives them. Just remembering how great the token of appreciation made me feel makes me want to do the same for someone else.
  • Tech week of any show is never easy. This year was a bit different for me since I was enduring the challenges without being in a position to fix anything. It was tough at times to keep my mouth shut and allow the directors over me to do their jobs. (I smiled to myself as I remembered the many times over the years that I have appreciated when casts and choirs have simply let me direct my vision. It was a privilege to return that favor to others this time....even if I did have to bite my tongue occasionally.)
  • On Saturday, I made a quick stop for dinner at Macaroni Grill. I'm not sure why, but the food quality was not good! The restaurant has overhauled the entire menu and the results were not impressive to me. I won't be returning for quite some time.
  • Now that the craziness of school is settling down, it's necessary to return to a to-do list. The list is massive and includes several projects that I have simply put off. Some of them are pressing; others are merely things that need to get done. I found that not going through the weekly process of writing things down resulted in pushing EVERYTHING out of sight (and out of mind). Now it's time to get the real work done again.
There you have it. Tune in later this week for the first of several Year-in-Review posts....featuring the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

December is finally here! That means it's time to get into the holiday spirit and let the Christmas party get under way! How do I get my Christmas spirit started? My personal sound track changes to Christmas music and I watch as many Christmas movies as I possibly can. Because I want to help any of you would-be Scrooges to get in the holiday mood (yeah, I'm talkin' to you!), here are a couple of this year's new finds that I think you might enjoy.

As far as music goes, I was pleasantly surprised by David Phelps's Christmas album, O Holy Night. As part of the Gaither Gospel Series, I was impressed with the variety of music presented. As always, Phelps's voice is impressive in the upper register. Personally, I don't enjoy the renditions of "Blue Christmas" (because I hate the song) and "Ave Maria" (because I'm a purist when it comes to my Schubert). However, there are several tracks that are quite enjoyable -- most notably the title track -- and speaks to the true meaning of the season.

My movie viewing this year has not included the classics yet. (I have to admit that I have never seen It's a Wonderful Life and fully intend to rectify that issue this season.) My mother has turned me into a Hallmark Channel "Countdown to Christmas" junkie. It truly is an addiction....and I may need an intervention. I started watching the holiday movies on Halloween night and have been going ever since. If you're not a fan of the Hallmark Channel, let me point you to a few of the best new offerings they have provided so far this year.  One Starry Christmas, Christmas Under Wraps, and Angels and Ornaments have been my favorites so far. (I've heard amazing things about North Pole as well, but I've not caught an airing of the film yet.) Of the older films that the network is also airing this season, I highly recommend Angels Sing (with Connie Britton and Harry Connick, Jr.) and Christmas with Holly.

My advice to you is simply whatever it takes to put yourself in the spirit of Christmas. It's important that we be reminded of the importance of giving and receiving, love, joy, and peace as we celebrate the Perfect Gift that God sent that we might have the hope of joy and peace because of the love of Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hits and Misses (November 23 - 29)

I'm returning from my unplanned blogging break. Here's a look back at the week that was....

  • It was wonderful to have a week off from the majority of my responsibilities. I was able to take a break from the normal routine and catch up on some television. In the process, I also caught up on some paperwork I had been avoiding and got to enjoy some quality time with my family in the process.
  • Thanksgiving week always marks the beginning of holiday cooking in the Geriatric Ward. This year saw more successes than bombs, too! Once again, we made our pumpkin spice cookies with chocolate chips. (These cookies will always make me think of my family in Malibu.....thanks for letting me steal the recipe, Hammy!) We added a few new recipes to our repertoire as well.  The homemade cranberry sauce and snicker doodle cake were huge hits! I'm still working on the amazing hot chocolate we made on Thanksgiving afternoon (which reheats well too).
  • Thanksgiving also means that we get to decorate for Christmas! The tree went up on Thanksgiving morning and the rest of the living room is almost completed. Now I move to the kitchen and dining room. I really do love this season of the year and enjoy getting to decorate my home when I have plenty of time to do it.
  • Since I didn't find myself sitting at the piano for voice lessons, I enjoyed getting in some solo practice this week. It has been a joy to work through some problem passages in my Mozart sonata again and to begin learning a new Faure nocturne. I am tentatively planning a recital for the fall semester. We'll see how preparations go in the coming months, but I'm enjoying playing the solo repertoire again.
  • To round out my week of vacation, I treated myself to a trip to the movies. I really enjoyed seeing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I on Saturday afternoon. Somehow I tend to forget how relaxing it is to spend a few hours in a dark theater with complete strangers while I get transported to another world. I definitely need to allow more time for this in my regular routine.
  • I am playing keyboards in the Christmas musical at First Marion this year. It's the first year that
    I have been involved with the production (or the church's music department, for that matter). Imagine my embarrassment when I got the phone call on Sunday afternoon asking if I was coming to rehearsal! I had written the wrong time in my calendar and was going to be an hour late. Thankfully everyone understood it was a simple mistake and we were still able to get everything accomplished without wasting everyone's time. I'm just thankful that these types of things happen very rarely for me (and that I didn't get a ticket while DASHING to the rehearsal).
  • Wednesday was a frustrating day for me. I had a long list of things that simply had to get accomplished -- errands for Thanksgiving dinner and work-related responsibilities. I knew that these things had to get done or else I would be working on Friday instead of relaxing (and shopping). When my mother assumed my schedule was clear since I didn't have to go to school, I was more than a little irate. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't handle the situation very well. My actions were without excuse, but it still doesn't make it any better that I was put in the situation in the first place. I'll just chalk it up to another difficult issue for adult children living with and caring for their geriatrics.
  • Even though I rested this week and took care of myself, I am still sick. It looks as though I'm going to just push through the next 10 days to finish out the semester. If I'm still stuffy and wheezy by then, I suppose I'll finally break down and visit the doctor.
There you have it. Hope you all have a great first week of December as you celebrate the birth of our Savior!