Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 - The Year in Review

It has become a tradition here at Livin' Life to close each year with a series of posts to explore what happened in the past year. I am late with these posts this year -- that seems to be appropriate for my 2015 -- so I'm providing abbreviated summaries of each area in a single post. Hopefully it will be interesting to some of you faithful readers.

Professional Life - 2015 began with the continuation of work at Mid-South Community College, Union University, and Bartlett Music Academy. My work situation changed drastically in July when I accepted my current position at Wayland Baptist University. It's been a busy year of teaching and performing. I appeared in 7 student recitals in 2015 as well as teaching class piano, my private students (BMA), and developing a music camp for young pianists. I was involved in productions of Into the Woods (Union) and The Mikado (WBU) and got to accompany Union's Men's Chorus and Symphonic Band as well as Wayland Singers. Did I mention that I also provided prelude music before former First Lady Laura Bush spoke at Convocation? All in all, it has been an exhilarating year musically.

Travel - Somehow I've managed to stay on the road this year. In addition to my regular trips to Lake Conroe, Texas and Malibu, 2015 allowed me the opportunity to visit Little Rock, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City. Now that I'm living in west Texas, I've also enjoyed exploring Plainview, Lubbock, and Amarillo.

Resolutions Kept and Broken - I wish I had better results to report. I made 7 resolutions in January; only 2 of them were successfully met. I'm happy to say that I currently have a growing savings account (although it's not as robust as I would have liked) and I increased my personal reading by 2 books in 2015 -- finishing 23 books by the end of the year. What was left undone? I have not lost weight (and have gained several pounds in my new living situation). My listening project related to orchestral repertoire died quickly in the new year as did my attempt to read through the Bible in 2015. I didn't perform a solo recital, although I did perform on my studio recital and performed a mini-recital when auditioning at WBU. Finally, I did not become involved in a small group Bible study, but have found a support group in my church music department.

The Year in Blogging - I suppose no blogger is truly ever satisfied with the quality and consistency of their posts. Beginning the new job and settling in a new town put quite a damper on my posting. I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Livin' Life - 95 posts (43 of these were weekly installments of the Hits and Misses series)
  • Collaborations - 17 posts
  • Reading for Me - 23 posts. (Four of these posts relate to my reading of the Harry Potter series which I plan to finish in 2016. Additionally the Reading with Jacqs series met a slight road block -- an incredibly cute and very loved one -- with the arrival of Jack-Jack in August. It's amazing the impact sleepless nights with a crying baby has on a mother's desire to read!)
  • Christmas Celebration - This was the first year for the Carol videos. They weren't housed on any of the blogs, but they definitely were a part of my online voice and presence.

That's a brief look at 2015 in my world. I hope you all are able to take a few minutes to reflect on your year as you look forward to the excitement and adventure that awaits you in 2016! I'll talk to you again in the new year....



Monday, December 28, 2015

Hits and Misses (December 20-26)

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


  • We enjoyed a great week of celebrating Christmas with family. On Sunday afternoon, we gathered in Red Banks to share lunch with Jacqs, Shane, and Jack-Jack. After some busy shopping and baking, the rest of the family gathered at the Geriatric Ward on Friday to celebrate together. We capped the day off by watching The Bishop's Wife together.
  • Nothing like visiting the dentist over Christmas break. I'm just glad that I got another good check-up.
  • I successfully completed the Christmas video project this week. I was surprised at the response and have already received requests to continue posting videos as well as repeat the Christmas project in 2016. I'll do some more reflecting on the experience over on Collaborations tomorrow.


  • This has been a wild weather week. Tornadoes threatened my siblings. Blizzard conditions pummeled the Panhandle. Several people compared this week to the horrible storms of December 1988 when tornadoes, flood, and snow hit the area in a matter of weeks. We are really hoping this is not a repeat performance.
  • Last minute Christmas shopping sucks! That is all.
  • Sperm-donors who undermind the spirit of hope and dreaming in their children are not worthy of the title of "Dad." There is a difference between being realistic and being a douche! For example, no man should EVER tell his daughters that "men are simply smarter." Young ladies face enough bashing and sexism from our society as it is. They certainly do not need to hear such inane nonsense from those who are supposed to be their biggest supporters! Man up.....or just shut up!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hits and Misses (December 13-19)

Once again, my weekly post is late. I've battled a nasty stomach bug for the last 24 hours that left little energy for anything else. I seem to be on the upward mend, so I'll pause now and share with you a look back at the week that was....



  • On Monday, we welcomed nearly 70 pianists to Wayland from the Talkington School for Girls in Lubbock. It was a wonderful experience watching these young ladies explore our collection of Steinways and to hear their final preparations for their annual duet recital. It was a successful first venture and one that I hope can become an annual tradition.
  • As soon as the Talkington visit was over, I hit the road and headed home for the holidays. It's always good to be with Mom and Pop for Christmas.
  • On Saturday, I got to see lots of friends from Union at the Brasher wedding. The ceremony turned out beautifully and I was honored to participate in Logan and Rebecca's special day.



  • There's nothing worse than not feeling well when returning home for the holidays. The long drive didn't do my back any favors. Just as I was recovering from that ailment, the beginnings of this stomach bug took hold. I'm just hoping that once I get well that I will have met my quota for illness for the duration of the break.....and beyond.
  • After finally getting the piano moved into the house (a difficult task in its own rite), I was frustrated to learn that the tech could not repair the missing string that I had told him about. The piano is now in tune, but that low F# is sorely missed!
  • It seems that no one thought about taking the Geriatrics shopping this holiday season. It's a little depressing to walk in and see no gifts under the tree only to realize that my time of rest and recovery is going to be delayed another week so I can make sure Mom gets to make her purchases. Some days I think it would just be easier if I still lived in the Geriatric Ward.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hits and Misses (December 6-12)

I suppose it's better to post late than to not post at all! Traveling throws everything off. Anyway, here's a look back at the week that was....
  • This week saw the completion of my first semester at Wayland. What a joy! It was good to see most of my students succeed as they played piano finals and juries.
  • As the semester began to settle down, I was able to pick up a novel and mindlessly watch Christmas movies. All I can saw is that I am truly my mother's child.
  • Did I mention that the semester ended?!?!?

  • I finally got back to the doctor for lab work. I didn't pass out when the blood was drawn, but I was wobbly for most of the morning. Fortunately, there weren't many students around.....they would have thought I had a hang-over!
  • I have a new revulsion for tracks in choral rehearsals. I understand why they may be necessary, but can you PLEASE keep a steady tempo during the rests if you are going to make a recording? Conductors and rehearsal pianists everywhere will greatly appreciate it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hits and Misses (November 29 - December 5)

It's finals week here at Wayland, so this will be brief.  Here's a look at the week that was....

  • It's been another week full of successful performances. On Wednesday, we completed instrumental juries (a week before the insanity that is finals...what a great idea!) and closed out the week with performances with Wayland Singers and the Children's Choir of Plainview. Despite some scary moments in the rehearsal process, things really went off better than I had expected.
  • I've had a blast this week recording Christmas carols. When I first came up with the idea of doing 25 days of Christmas on my Facebook page, I expected it to be something that my family would view and enjoy. I have been overwhelmed with the number of views and shares these simple videos have gotten and the positive responses I've heard. Young and old have commented on the videos and I've had the pleasure to connect with people I've not talked to in years. I'm 7 days into the project and frantically recording the remaining video clips so I will have everything done before I leave Plainview for the holidays.
  • I think you are all aware of my travel frustrations that began the week. From the time I landed in Lubbock, I was feeling the pinch of having lost a day in the office. That's not a good way to start a week.
  • I hate going to the doctor for lab work only to learn that I needed to fast before having blood drawn. Why wasn't I told this when I made the appointment? I'll figure out a way to get back after the worst of the week is over.
  • I think I'm going to make a sign to wear around my neck that says "PIANISTS NEED PREP TIME TOO!" Getting music at the last minute throughout the semester has been a continuing source of frustration. It's one thing when a situation arises at the last minute that you need my assistance with; it's another when your failure to adequately plan creates a major inconvenience (and inadequate time to fully prepare) for me. Get your stuff together!  *Rant ended*
There you have it! Have a wonderful week and enjoy the spirit of the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Travel Woes

After enjoying a quick break at home, I arrived at Memphis International on Sunday evening to begin my return to Plainview. Little did I know that my journey would be such an adventure.

I was slated to travel to Dallas/Fort Worth on American Airlines. After an hour delay in DFW, I had a connection to Lubbock -- the last flight to the airport that night. After sitting in the gate for nearly an hour, I received a text message from the airline that my flight was going to be delayed. Over the course of the next 25 minutes, my fellow travelers and I watched as our arrival time into DFW got pushed further and further back. Finally, my DFW arrival reached the same moment that my connecting flight was Scheduled to depart. I knew this was going to be a mess!

As I spoke with the gate agent, I quickly decided that she was a new employee. (She later admitted that this was her second day on the job. Yikes!) Once the supervisor arrived at the gate -- thank Heavens! -- we determined that the next available Lubbock flight from DFW would be late Monday evening. I was given the option of spending the night in a Dallas hotel -- and spending much of the next day wandering around the airport -- or beginning my travel on Monday. I decided that another day at home would be the better choice.

Once Dad returned to the airport to pick me up, the night was uneventful. My intentions were to keep everything packed so I could quickly return to the airport and not worry about leaving anything behind. Karma seemed to have other plans.

As Monday got underway, I was beginning to feel drained. I accompanied Mom to a doctor's appointment that afternoon as I realized the cause of my weariness. Since I wasn't expecting to spend another day in Arkansas, I didn't bring medications to take for the day. My blood pressure was elevated and I felt horrible! The doctor gave me a sample bottle of a related medication and I immediately began to feel better.

That evening, Dad and I made great time getting to the airport and everything was running smoothly. That is, things were running smoothly until I stood at the ticket counter and realized my cell phone was in the car that was on its way back across the Mississippi River! After checking my bag and grabbing my boarding passes, I had a light bulb moment....grabbed my iPad and sent a message to my siblings. Carlene called Dad, got him to turn around, and my iPhone was once again in my possession. I had only lost 35 minutes standing on the curb waiting for his return! (At that moment, I was incredibly thankful that I had allowed more time at the terminal than I normally do.)

As I'm writing this post, I'm sitting at the gate in Memphis....just hoping that tonight's travel goes much more smoothly than the process has gone thus far. I really don't think I can handle any more travel woes at the moment.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hits and Misses (November 22-28)

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


  • Spending time with family was just what the doctor ordered. It was good to see everyone and be surrounded by love. I finally got to meet Jack-Jack. He wasn't a happy baby, but it was a strange place with lots of strange people.
  • While home, I was able to fit in several appointments with my massage therapist. I needed some work done on my forearms and shoulders. I'm ready to go for another few weeks of playing now.
  • I was thrilled to finish playing WBU's production of The Mikado at the beginning of the week. This week featured school performances. We experienced everything from a large group exiting en masse during the show to a fun group of little hecklers! The entire cast left feeling very tired, but we took pride in knowing that it was an excellent show.
  • CHRISTMAS HAS BEGUN!!!!! We put up the tree this weekend. Mom and I continued the tradition of watching Christmas movies together in the evenings. It's the most wonderful time of the year and I couldn't be more giddy!


  • A trip to the dentist was not how I wanted to start my vacation. While in the orchestra pit on Monday morning, I chipped a tooth while biting a piece of candy. Since I wasn't in pain, I decided to wait to see my dentist at home. I was glad to learn that the damage was mostly cosmetic and didn't require an injection.
  • Piano rentals are insanely expensive. I moved my piano to Texas, but I'm going to need an instrument while home next month as I prepare for several recitals. Imagine my shock when my local music store quoted me a price of over $600 for a two week rental of an upright. Really??? I have another idea that I think is going to work and ultimately save me a lot of money in the long run.
  • I miss having my own car. Mom and Dad have been super generous with their car while I was home, but I miss the ease of hopping in my own car without thinking about the implications to other people's schedule.
  • Just when I thought I was done, I faced challenges in the Geriatric Ward. Mom waited to order a refill for one of her prescriptions until she was almost completely out. Since she wouldn't need the meds until Friday evening, she opted not to pick it up until Friday morning. Actually, she was going to have Pop pick them up that morning.....which he failed to do. So we learned at 3:45pm that one her BP refills was rejected by the doctor because she hasn't been in for her checkup! GRRRRR!!!!! Did no one think it might be something to take care of before the holiday weekend in case there was a problem?!?!?!? So incredibly frustrating. I suppose I'll have to figure out a way to help manage this part of the Geriatric Ward from Texas.....

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We Gather Together....

This morning, my heart is filled with thankfulness. What am I so thankful for, you ask? Let me give you a brief list.....

  • a job I love
  • colleagues that make me smile
  • health
  • rest
  • happiness

But most of all, I'm thankful for family. As this post is going live, I am high in the air making my way back to Arkansas for a few days of rest as my family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving together. It's been over 3 months since we have been together -- and that's a lot longer apart than we are used to -- so we're all very anxious to be together again. I'm sure we will laugh about the continuing adventures of the patients in the Geriatric Ward and will make plans for our extended time together next month. Despite the quick trip and the busy pace that is part of Thanksgiving in Arkansas, I am looking forward to spending time shut off from technology and responsibilities for a few days. I'll return on Monday morning with more tales of how things are going as I continue Livin' Life.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hits and Misses (Novemeber 15-21)

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

  • I've had a blast sitting in the orchestra pit as we moved Wayland's production of The Mikado to the stage this week. There has been plenty of laughter and fun as we've made wonderful music together. The show ran this weekend and was a huge hit. It's nice to know that my first production with Wayland Opera went off without too many problems along the way.
  • In addition to opera rehearsals and performances, the week saw a lot of performances and rehearsals. As the semester winds down, I'm getting more opportunities to return to instrumental collaboration. Even though working with singers will always be my first love, there is nothing quite like working with young instrumentalists. On top of that, I got to work with bassoonists for the first time this week. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job?)
  • I agreed to judge the local hymn competition when I first arrived in Plainview. At the time, I didn't realize that I would be driving back from Oklahoma City the night before. I was far too tired to offer any positive comments to the students and the competition was not what I was expecting. Live and learn, I suppose.
  • Production week of any show is always draining. It has been a week full of long days and late nights. It has been a great experience, but I have definitely missed crawling in bed by 10pm. That just means I'll need to get lots of sleep when I get back to Arkansas on Wednesday!
  • It comes as no surprise to anyone that orchestra pits are dusty. My allergies have given me fits this week; as I am writing this post (on Saturday afternoon), I'm coming to terms with the fact that my stuffy nose is most likely turning into a full-blown cold. C'est la vie!

Friday, November 20, 2015

What Do You Do?

Since starting my job this fall, I've repeatedly heard two questions.

  • How do you like living in Texas?
  • What exactly do you do?

I feel pretty confident that I have answered the first question. So let me give you -- especially my extended family and friends who know very little about musical training -- some insight into my work.


My official title is Assistant Professor of Piano at Wayland Baptist University. As you might guess, I spend the majority of my day sitting on a piano bench, but I switch hats throughout the day.


My primary teaching responsibility is the class piano sequence. Every student who studies music -- regardless of their principle instrument -- needs to develop basic keyboard skills. That's where my class comes in. Every non-pianist in the music program takes a 4-semester sequence that meets twice each week to build their piano skills. Much of our time is spent learning scales and chord progressions as we explore late elementary and early intermediate piano repertoire. After students complete the 4th semester of class piano, they take a benchmark exam to demonstrate their level of proficiency. The exam addresses solo performance as well as skills such as sight reading, transposition, and score reading. For many of our students, the proficiency exam is a major hurdle before they begin the upper division coursework in the field.


In addition to class piano, I currently teach applied piano lessons to one freshman woman. She is a early intermediate student who is not afraid of a challenge. We've had a lot of fun this semester, made some significant progress, and have already begun to plan our repertoire choices for the spring. I'm hoping to have the opportunity to do more private teaching as the piano program at WBU grows.


The rest of my week is filled with a lot of playing in rehearsals and lessons of all types. I currently work with eleven vocalists as well as the students enrolled in class voice. As the semester begins to wind down, instrumentalists are beginning to seek me out for accompaniments for their jury exams. At this point, I have received music from five of them. Monday and Wednesday afternoons find me spending 90 minutes with the men and women of Wayland Singers -- the department's non-auditioned choir. This week brings the end of the university's opera offering; we're mounting a production of The Mikado. Those who have known me the longest will be surprised to hear that my time in opera workshop is some of my favorite times of the week.


Then there's all the work that comes outside of the classroom and rehearsal studio. Thankfully, I was not assigned to any standing committees during my first semester of work. That has allowed me some time to do some recruiting (phone calls and emails take more time than you would ever expect). I'm working on a new course that will be offered in the spring. I could go on and on about student recitals, NATS competitions, LMTA meetings, master classes, and student rehearsals....but I think you get the picture. I've found myself very busy and very fulfilled.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Hits and Misses (November 1-7)

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


  • I love the fact that cooler weather has finally made its way into the Texas plains. I was really beginning to wonder if I was going to need to wear a sweater or sweatshirt ever again. It made me very happy to get to pull out some of my winter clothes at the end of the week as the fall-like temperatures rolled in.
  • It's been another good week of music making. Despite the busy schedule and tired hands, I do love getting to create wonderful sounds with my students and colleagues.
  • On Saturday, I finally ventured out to watch the Marching Pioneers of WBU perform. It was the last home football game of the season and a little windy in the stands, but I did enjoy spending some time outside watching the game and the band. I was truly impressed with what a small band was able to accomplish on the field.


  • My phone has been going crazy lately. Sometimes it won't connect to the hands-free system in the car. Other times, it randomly drops calls in a location where it has never had a problem before. I'm slowly facing the fact that my phone that has been with me for many years is probably on its last leg. I don't want to think about getting a new one, but I have a feeling it's coming sooner rather than later. That means I also have to think about the possibility of switching carriers....AT&T is not a great server in this area.
  • I've been experiencing a little hand pain this week. I hesitate to even mention it because I sometimes think that not saying something out loud takes away its power. Honestly, I think it has been due to the heavy playing that I've done this week and the massive chords that I've had to play in much of the repertoire. I am hoping that this is not the beginning of a larger problem, but I'm monitoring the situation daily. If things don't improve in the coming weeks, I will definitely begin the process of finding out what is going on.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hits and Misses (October 25-31)

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


  • The week was full of lots of playing. The culmination of the week's work was a successful performance of the fall choral concert. There were moments that I was less than happy with, but I heard good comments about the overall outcome. That always makes you feel good.
  • I received the first paycheck from my church job this week. The money is nice and will definitely help, but I am most happy to say that I truly enjoy attending College Heights and am looking forward to the exciting things that are in that congregation's future.
  • Since I got out of the office late on Friday afternoon, I decided to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant. When I walked in, I was greeted by two music students who invited me to join them at their table. We had a nice time together laughing and talking. It's nice that the common experience of making music can unite people of different generations.
  • On Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of judging the Piano Sonatina Festival here in Plainview. I heard some good playing for the most part and was reminded just how much I missed all of my kids from Bartlett Music Academy. There's just something magical about working with elementary and middle school students as they discover that they can make gorgeous sounds on the instrument. Although I probably don't have time to devote to a large number of students, I am definitely hoping to fit in a couple of young pianists to stay involved in this exciting part of music.
  • I've always been a sucker for a bargain. After the piano festival, I decided to hit the mall in search of a sweater. I wasn't thrilled with the selection, but finally settled on a nice blue one. The price was a little more than I planned to spend, so you can imagine my surprise when the register announced that it was only $14! (What can I say? If anyone is going to stumble upon a deal, it's me. I still take great pride in the shirt I purchased in Macy's for an obligatory gift for only a penny.)


  • Let's just sum it up this way: BUSY, BUSY, BUSY! This week has truly tested my ability to balance everything on my plate. There were a few things that I allowed to fall a little short of my standards, but for the most part I managed to keep everything afloat. Here's hoping that the next few weeks aren't quite as hectic.
  • Every pianist has times when it feels as though your fingers simply will not work. Normally we are able to work things out and get back on track. By the end of the week, my fingers were just in knots. On Friday afternoon, I really didn't think I had any control of the phalanges connected to my hands. I was beginning to wonder if I was experiencing a little pre-Halloween curse or something.
  • I tried to come up with a witty way to phrase this, but clarity is probably best. It is the pits to realize that your waist is expanding. I suppose that not having as much travel (and running from one place to another) has made me more sedentary. That combined with my horrible diet -- because I definitely don't feel like cooking when I get home -- means that pants are getting tighter. I do not like the results at all. Now I just have to decide if I'm unhappy enough about my changing condition to actually do something about it.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ever Felt Like a Failure?

Let's just be honest with ourselves. No one is successful in every pursuit they make. In those times that our best efforts don't lead to the outcome we had hoped to obtain, we can feel as though we were not good enough. There may have been contributing factors to our failure such as lack of manpower or inadequate materials. Truthfully, sometimes failure comes because we had the right idea at the wrong time. Despite all of the explanations in the world, it becomes very easy to allow the blame for the project's failure to land squarely on our shoulders. That's never a good feeling.

Dealing with past failures can continue for many years as well. Sometimes a new failure brings to mind the pain of a past shortfall. A wayward comment can cause us to remember the frustration of a day gone by. Currently, social media is a major player in my personal feelings of past failings. I see repeated posts and photos about projects I was involved with in a previous life. I recall the frustration and pain of trying to do the important work when no one was willing to help. Now I see a team that is excited and working together. I watch the very ones who repeatedly met my pleas for help with resounding "no's" now jumping into the middle of the work. Quite simply, it's hard to watch because it makes me wonder what is wrong with me. Why were people so unwilling to help? Did I not deserve their help? Was I too demanding as a leader? Was I a weak leader they could not follow? Did they just not care? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Don't get me wrong. In the big scheme of things, I'm very happy to see that such important work has finally gotten the attention it deserves. I'm glad to see that things are flourishing. I just find myself feeling more and more like a failure. It makes me wonder if I was just "getting in the way" of real success for far too long. I wonder if these people ever stop to think how their posts might impact me......or if they even care.

Do I really believe that season of my life was a complete waste? Not entirely. I think I got caught in a terribly difficult time that caused lots of people to say "no." My superiors were either not aware of the issues or simply chose to turn a blind eye -- I don't guess I'll ever really know the answer to that one -- and I found myself doing the best I could in a crappy situation. I found myself fighting battles that couldn't be won because of destructive forces at work that attempted to wreak havoc on me personally, professionally, ministerally and spiritually. I was forced to push my hurt down so no one else would be offended -- never mind the fact that I had been terribly offended. Thankfully, I'm in a much better situation now in every area of my life than I was in those days, but the reality of those past failures still stings. Unfortunately, the trauma of that season of my life has resulted in my choice to no longer be actively involved in a similar leadership position. I just can't take the hatefulness that results in such positions any more. Now I just wonder if the hurt will ever completely heal. Things are better than they were.....but the ache and hurt is still very real.

This is definitely not what I expected to come from my keyboard when I sat down to write, but here it is. I feel certain that my future posts will not be quite as gloomy. But it's just another example of what is going on in my mind while I'm here just Livin' Life.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hits and Misses (October 18-24)

Life in Texas is good, but you wouldn't know anything about that based on my lack of blogging recently! I'm discovering what it really means to work all day and come home with nothing on my mind except resting. Despite the tiredness, I am hoping to return to a somewhat regular blogging routine. What better place to begin than with a look back at the week that was......


  • On Sunday, I returned from a brief trip to Malibu. It was wonderful to see friends and get to spend time with some of the newest members of Psi Upsilon. Additionally, this was Waves Weekend at Pepperdine, so I got the chance to see some friends that I haven't seen in nearly 20 years. (Of course, none of us are getting any older.)
  • While I was in Malibu, I joined members of the fraternity to participate in an Out of Darkness walk. This fundraising activity was intended to bring attention to the issues of mental illness and suicide in our nation -- and particularly among college students. The Pepperdine community was walking in memory of Brennan Tatem, a young member of Psi Upsilon who took his life nearly a year ago while fighting his own demons of depression and hopelessness. While the event was somber, it was a rewarding and moving experience. I took great pride in watching these young men express their emotions openly as they decided to no longer sit in silence with their grief; instead, they decided to make an impact on society.
  • On Wednesday, I had the good fortune of hearing Former First Lady Laura Bush speak in Wayland's weekly chapel service. Her remarks were full of humor and insights into the Bush presidency. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to provide background music in the hour preceding the speech as Mrs. Bush greeted those who had generously donated to the WBU scholarship fund. It was a lot of work that I didn't have as much time to prepare for as I would have like, but -- hey! -- it will always look good on my resume.
  • I have thoroughly enjoyed rewatching The West Wing. Somehow I had forgotten what a great series it was. I'm currently in the sixth season of the show that I began watching from the beginning in August. Great story line, amazing ensemble cast, and fantastic writing. That's the formula for an outstanding drama series. As I'm approaching the end of the series, I am beginning to think about what series I'll watch next. Any suggestions?


    • There's nothing quite like jetlag. It took me a couple of days to fully recover from the west coast trip. That meant that I also slept through my alarm a few times. Thankfully I was never late for an appointment or class, but there were some close calls.
    • I hate not having time to read. I've paid late fees for library books several times while in Plainview and have only finished one of the novels I've checked out. That's horrible news to me. Especially since I value literacy so much.
    • I have never liked having my photograph taken. I never feel that I am terribly photogenic. This week, I had to take a picture for the church directory at College Heights. Even though I despise these sittings, I was lucky enough to end up with a decent shot....and actually bought one of the digital files that might be appropriate for professional headshots. It's nice when something I hate doing produces a surprising result.
    That's all there is for this week. If all goes well, I'll return with another story on Wednesday. If you are reading (especially those of you from my life before Plainview), your comments are encouragement to me to continue writing and remind me that someone out there is actually reading of my adventures.

    Monday, September 14, 2015

    Hits and Misses (September 7-13)

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

    • Let's begin with the really important stuff first. It was a short work week with the observance of Labor Day on Monday. I love my job, but I'm never gonna complain about having a day off either!
    • Just as my plate was getting full at the end of the week, I was overjoyed to have an extended text conversation with great friends that kept me laughing for quite a while. No matter how far apart we are or how much time has elapsed since our last conversation, I always know that these two are in my corner.....and I hope they both know that the reverse is always true as well.
    • On Saturday, I decided to continue my explorations by making a day trip to Amarillo. I didn't do much exploring, but it was very relaxing to enjoy lunch at a favorite chain restaurant (even if they did mess up the order) and spend a few hours browsing through bookstores while stumbling across the mall. I'm certain that a return visit will be on the agenda in the not-too-distant future.
    • I can now say that I have gotten completely settled in Plainview now that the last piece of the puzzle has been put in place. On Sunday morning, I joined the body of believers that meet at College Heights Baptist Church and will begin serving as the church pianist in October. It feels good to have a place of worship that I can call home and begin to plant roots. I'm looking forward to the good things that are coming in the months and years ahead.
    • I had a horrible experience with the staff at Chili's in Plainview. I arrived during the lunch rush and asked for a table for one guest. I was told that there were no tables available for those dining alone. I looked around the corner and saw some empty tables that needed to be cleared. When I pointed these out and offered to wait, I was informed that those were for larger parties. I was offered a seat at the bar (not a table in the bar area) which I declined and offered to wait for a table to open up. I was very rudely informed that there would be no seating for individuals. I was fuming by this point but somehow managed to keep my cool. I have contacted the national offices of Chili's and reported the incident. I don't know that I really expect anything to happen, but I did express my dissatisfaction with the situation and that I don't intend to visit that location again.
    • I have had no motivation to deal with chores this week. Nothing is obviously neglected at the moment; things just need attention before they become noticeably neglected. I guess I've just continued to operate in vacation mode all week long.
    • On Saturday afternoon, I heard the disturbing news that a fraternity brother, Rob Balucas, had been involved in a biking accident while training last weekend. He had to undergo spinal surgery and is recovering in ICU in northern California. Although I spoke with Rob briefly and understand that a full recovery is expected, it is just another reminder of why it can be frustrating to be living so far away from my friends in California. I know there's nothing I could do right now, but I still want to have the option to pack a bag, hit the road, and let him know in person that I'm thinking about and praying for him. The call of California is a constant struggle for this transplanted "Wave." One of these days (God willing), I'll find myself in Paradise again.

    Friday, September 11, 2015


    As our nation pauses today to remember the horrific events of September 11, 2001, I find myself remembering my personal experiences on that frightening day. Here is the post originally published on September 11, 2012 that recounts the day for me in small town Arkansas. The emotions are just as fresh today as they were fourteen years ago; I pray that we have learned important lessons as individuals, families, and a nation.  KF

    (Original post - 9/11/12)

    This post has been on my mind all day, but since it's been a very full day, I'm just now getting to sit down and write. Eleven years ago today, the world paused as we watched in horror the terrorists events in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania unfold before our eyes. Today, I have had a lot of time to reflect on that fateful day and how my life was effected.

    That beautiful Tuesday morning of 2001 was the final semester of my master's work in piano performance. The day was scheduled to begin at 10:00 with a voice lesson in Dr. Pamela Gaston's studio and would continue until I had my piano lesson late that afternoon. I had gotten myself together, dressed, and had warmed up when I decided to sit down on the sofa to watch a bit of news before leaving for the school. I sat in absolute horror as I listened to Matt Lauer attempt to sort through the confusion of what was happening in the earliest stages of the tragedy.

    I knew that this would be a historical event, so I immediately called my mom and told her to make sure that she was watching the news. The rest of the morning is a blur and I somehow pulled myself together and managed to get into my car to head to school. As I drove, I remember seeing several crop dusters beginning to work in this agricultural region and I nearly lost my mind with every sound. I think that's when I finally knew that things were not alright -- and I wasn't either.

    As I drove, my cell phone began to ring off the hook. My sister-in-law and sister were trying to reach me. It was Patsy, my brother's wife, who finally got through and asked exactly where I was. Reports were coming in that both bridges into Memphis would be shut down to all traffic later that morning since there was fear that the city might be a terrorist target. If I found myself in Memphis when the bridges were closed, I wouldn't be able to get home....and at that point we didn't know how long it would last.

    I turned around and went home. I didn't have the presence of mind to call anyone and cancel my appointments for the day. I thought the world was coming to an end anyway and none of it was going to matter. I tried to think about other things when I got home, but I sat glued to the television. I was frightened of what was going to happen next. I feared for the safety of my friends living in New York as well as those in Los Angeles -- so many were assuming that the entire nation was under attack.

    As aircraft were grounded around the nation, I saw the immensity of the situation. Then television stations began to go off the air as a show of respect to those who had been lost. I couldn't believe what was happening.

    Later that afternoon I learned that the bridges were not going to be closed and got a phone call from my boss that the church was hosting a special prayer service that evening. I had mixed emotions about going to be perfectly honest. I wanted to be in a place of prayer, but I was not looking forward to being 45 miles from home while the world was in chaos. I made the drive to East Memphis. I sat outside the church on the hood of my car and talked with friends before the service began and was shocked at the silence that was all around. The church normally had lots of air traffic going overhead due to flight paths to the international airport. That afternoon was strangely and eerily silent.

    As I sat in the quiet, I began to think about many things. I had to teach children's church on Sunday morning. How was I going to address how God could allow so many people to die who had done nothing to deserve it? How was I going to assure them that in this craziness God was still in control? Was I honestly convinced of that myself? Then I started to think about my upcoming calendar. I was supposed to get on an airplane in just a few weeks and travel to Los Angeles for a performance. Would the airlines be up and running again? Would I have the courage to fly? (I made the flight to LA in early October, but I was completely petrified, reading a large portion of the New Testament with a white-knuckle grip.  My return flight wasn't much better since the US had attacked Afghanistan the day before and the airports were on high alert in case of retaliation.)

    I got back to a semi-normal routine with the rest of the country in the weeks after 9/11. I had convinced everyone I was fine, but I knew that I wasn't. I had to face this fact when the drama series The West Wing returned to the air. I had been a regular viewer of the show since its beginning and hadn't missed an episode. The show immediately after the hiatus dealt with terrorist attacks as their response to the tragedies. I started watching the episode but couldn't bring myself to watch it because I was so disturbed. Truthfully, I have not watched an episode of The West Wing since that evening. I own the entire series on DVD and have made efforts to watch them from the beginning, but I can't make it because of the knowledge that I will have to face that episode in order to finish the series.

    So here I am 11 years after the events of 9/11.  I wasn't in New York City on that day. I didn't know anyone personally who was among the victims. Still, I find that I was scarred on that day and don't know that I have ever fully recovered.....or that I ever will.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    Hits and Misses (August 30 - September 5)

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

    • This week has been filled with moments of remembrance and thankfulness. Every morning, I generally start the day by checking out my Timehop app. It's neat to see what was on my mind in past years on this day. This week was been especially moving as I read the posts I made regarding Dad's triple bypass and the frightening days that followed. I am so thankful that I know how the story turned out, but it has been an emotional roller coaster reliving some of those horrible days again.
    • I've been having a horrible craving for favorite fast food this week. A trip to Chick-Fil-A while in Lubbock was just what the doctor ordered. While visiting Albuquerque, I stopped at Arby's as well. All I can honestly say is that both meals tasted so good! I'll try to get out of the fast food mindset this week.
    • Last Tuesday evening, I attended an outstanding piano recital presented by my colleague, Richard Fountain. The music was invigorating and the playing was facile and brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
    • It's also been great to get back to my own solo repertoire. I'm finding a lot of joy in making music at the piano once again....and it's a welcome change.
    • By the end of the week, the summer cold that had been chasing me for the last few weeks finally caught up to me. Boy, did it hit hard! I was frustrated that I was dealing with the worst of the cold while on vacation, but I suppose it was better to be down then than when trying to push through the work week.
    • With the onset of the cold, I was struggling with achy arms and lots of restless nights. Before leaving Albuquerque, I found a massage therapist that was able to fit me in for a session. I finally got some relief from the stressed muscles and am looking forward to a restful week.

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    Clean Up Your Mess!

    I live the life of a bachelor. That means that everything is not always put away. It's not filthy by any's just messy. Thankfully it's my mess and no one else has to deal with I can put things away on my own schedule. Even though I am a messy person, I despise when someone comes into my space, knowingly makes a mess, and leaves the space in total disarray. This was my frustration earlier this week.

    There have been some maintenance issues in my apartment that I have reported by phone to the landlord throughout the month. Nothing was getting I wrapped this month's rent check in a photocopied list of the issues. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the most crucial repair was taken care of the next day. I was not so pleased to see the filth that the plumber had left behind him. There was mud in the floor. The waste basket was overturned in the shower. There was water all over the counter. I was not a happy camper.....and I decided to take pictures.

    Once I forwarded the photographs to my landlord, I began to clean up. That was when I noticed that the light in my kitchen was no longer working. When I grabbed my phone to report another issue, I had a text message apologizing for the plumber's mess that also informed me that the light fixture was being replaced. Okay.....I'm all for an improvement....and decided things might not be so bad after all.

    I returned home the next afternoon after a very long day to discover sheet rock, screws, and more mud in my floor where the new fixture had been installed. Now I'm beginning to wonder if these people are blind or just completely inconsiderate! I'm leaning towards the latter explanation. I suppose I should be thankful that I noticed the screws before vacuuming the carpets. That would have TOTALLY destroyed the machine.

    That explains why I need a vacation! So I'll be heading west over this holiday weekend for a little exploration, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Livin' Life will return next Wednesday with the next installment of "Hits and Misses."

    Wednesday, September 2, 2015

    Dealing with the Silence

    Life in west Texas is exciting and new. For the first time, I am enjoying the opportunity to live without consideration for the schedules of family members. I'm that means the only schedule that I have to abide by is my own.

    Once the newness of my situation sank in, I also had to come to grips with some of the implications of being alone. There are lots of quiet times to spend with my own thoughts. If I'm not careful, these "quiet" times can become very lonely. I quickly realized that I had to learn the difference between "being alone" and "being lonely." It's nice to be alone with my own thoughts occasionally. I enjoy the relaxed pace of life as a bachelor. When the tide turns and I begin to experience loneliness, I have found a few tricks to help me navigate the dark times and turn my attitude around.

    • Establish a Routine. Even though a solitary lifestyle does not demand conforming to the schedules of other people, establishing a regular routine for your activities can provide a sense of security in times of uncertainty. The routine also causes the mind to focus on important events that are coming on the horizon. If I have a chore to complete sometime in the future, I am less likely to object to the calm times that can sometimes lead to loneliness.
    • Remind Yourself of Activities You Enjoy Doing Alone. If you are anything like me, there are multiple activities that I personally enjoy that had to take a backseat to other people's schedules. Now that I'm living alone, I have time to devote to these -- and can even make them a priority. I'm finding time to sit and listen to an album, read a short story, and complete jigsaw puzzles and craft projects that had been tossed aside for many years. However, it is also important that you understand that the activity's pleasure does not replace your need for human interaction.
    • Seek Social Situations. As we encounter people throughout our day, it is important that the single person recognize and embrace opportunities to enjoy the company of others in social situations. It can be easy to turn down an invitation to a movie night or a dinner outing when we feel as though we are going to be a "third wheel." Look for other singles who might be looking for a friend. They are everywhere around you -- at work, next door, and in the church. Remember that you are not necessarily looking for a romantic relationship and trust that others understand this concept as well. Don't let society's ideas about your life -- and the perceived relationships you should have in your life -- impact your pursuit of honest friendships.
    • Regularly Access Your Emotional Condition. You know when loneliness is plaguing you better than anyone else. When your emotions are hitting the skids, take the initiative and make the necessary steps to pull yourself out of the dumps. If you have struggled with depression in the past, it is imperative that you have a trusted friend to whom you will be accountable.
    • Take Advantage of Technology. With email, cell phones, and social media, it is very easy to stay in touch with those most important to us -- regardless of the distance that separates us. When words just won't suffice, go for face-to-face interactions through apps such as Skype and FaceTime. A video chat will help to alleviate the loneliness and tide you over until you are able to make a trip to see your loved ones in person.

    I've learned a lot in the past month about dealing with the silence and overcoming the problems of loneliness. At times, I now find that I greatly value being alone with my thoughts and resent interruptions from the outside world -- even when those interrupting have the best of intentions. Even in those times of solitude, I know that it is important that I stay connected with others as I continue to learn how best to deal with the silence of life.


    Monday, August 31, 2015

    Hits and Misses (August 23-29)

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


    • This week I visited First Baptist Church in Plainview. I thoroughly enjoyed the music and sermon. When I left, I was convinced that I had found my new church home.
    • Life has a way of throwing kinks in your plans sometimes. I have been offered a paid position at a local church. I have already visited the church. I felt welcomed and liked what I saw, but there was just "something" missing. I've met the pastors personally of both churches I am considering joining and I am confident that I could blossom under both of their leaderships in different ways. Now I have a decision to make! The additional income from the church pianist position would come in very handy; I'm just not sure that I'm ready to accept that level of responsibility again. I'll continue to think and pray about it.
    • It's been a very busy week, but I've been mostly pleased with how things have gone so far. Playing for the University's convocation was fine.....I wish I could have sat back and simply watched the proceedings, but it was not a big deal. Opera rehearsals have gotten started this week and I didn't butcher any of the rehearsals too badly. I will be learning the rest of Act I of the Mikado this week.
    • On Friday morning, I traveled to Lubbock for the monthly meeting of the local chapter of the Music Teachers' National Association. They are an "interesting" group of women there with lots of things to talk about. The meeting certainly made an impression on me.
    • To bring the week to a close, I enjoyed dinner with Deidre Redmond at Furr's. Deidre and I met during New Faculty Orientation this year and became fast friends. It was very funny when we realized that we live just across the street from each other. Now that the semester has taken off fast and furious for both of us, we knew we would have to set aside time to see each other. It was wonderful to get out of the office and enjoy conversation with another adult. We will definitely have to do that again very soon.
    • It was hard to believe that this was the one year anniversary of Dad's triple bypass surgery. It has been a long year filled with lots of ups and downs, hopes and fears for the Freeman family. Through it all, God has been faithful and has shown His tremendous love and care for us in ways that we could never have imagined.


    • Since Richard was out of town for a performance this week, I covered his choir rehearsals. I didn't mind doing it at all and actually enjoyed getting to hear the students sing and working with another conductor. What I didn't enjoy, however, was sight reading open scores! I know they are useful and a fact of the musician's life, but I still hate them! Just give me a piano reduction already!
    • It seems there has been a stomach bug going around this week. I didn't feel great at all on Wednesday, but nothing seemed to be "strange" either. That night, I thought I was going to be in trouble. I was nauseous and could not get any relief from the lump that was forming in my throat. (Sorry if that is too much information.) By the following evening, things were beginning to feel normal again, but I did not enjoy teaching my classes on Thursday -- or much else that I attempted to do. That's the first time in a very long time that I have felt down right sick.
    • I know that there is an inevitable learning curve when beginning a new job. Still, I hate the feeling of never being able to make any real headway at the office. Currently, I feel like I'm just going from one day to the next and simply staying afloat. I know how to do the's just a matter of getting my first year of lesson plans together in this new system.
    • I had thought that I would have much more time for reading now that I am not driving all of the time. The truth is that I've not read nearly as much this month. New responsibilities -- like cooking and cleaning -- have taken my newly created free time. Besides, when I get home after a day in the office, the only thing I want to do is lie on the couch and watch a little television. But I'm still very thankful for my job that doesn't require me to drive all over the planet to make a living.

    Monday, August 24, 2015

    Hits and Misses (August 16-22)

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

    • Classes are underway! I had already enjoyed getting to work at Wayland, but it was very exciting to begin the semester and draw from the energy of the students. There is a sense of excitement in the air and I am confident it's going to be a good semester.
    • Late in the week, deliveries that I had been waiting for finally arrived. One package was a new piece that I am excited to begin learning (Bartok's Suite, Op. 14). The other was a media storage unit that I had ordered several weeks ago from When I finally received the notification that it had arrived, I was almost giddy! This was the next necessary piece to getting closer to being fully unpacked or so I thought.
    • It's always a proud moment when I am able to successfully assemble a piece of furniture. A few weeks ago, I managed to add another bookshelf to the apartment. This weekend, I assembled the media storage unit. This process was not as smooth as my earlier endeavor -- mainly because I didn't read the instructions carefully and used the wrong screws early in the assembly. I'm just glad that I finally figured out what I was doing and got the blasted thing together. Now I'll be able to put the next one together a bit quicker....and there will be another one since I still have more DVDs and CDs to store.
    • I've been really frustrated with the post office since arriving in Plainview. First of all, it took nearly two and a half weeks to change the lock on my mailbox. That meant that I had to go to the post office during business hours to pick up my mail. Now that the lock has been changed, the items that were delivered (although I couldn't retrieve them) were promptly removed. When I went to the post office to lift the hold and gather the remaining mail, the desk staff condescendingly informed me that any lost mail or inconvenience I had experienced was a result of my infrequent trips to the post office. I was livid! I didn't bite her head off, but she knew exactly what I thought of her level of ineptitude before I left her desk. Grrrrr!
    • I'm fighting a lot of fatigue at the moment. I don't know what's causing the problem. I'm not having problems sleeping -- despite my internal alarm clock at 4:30am each morning -- and I'm eating regularly. The only thing that I can figure out is that I'm still trying to adapt to the weather in Texas.
    • That brings us to the final "miss" of the week -- the heat! Truthfully, the temperatures were pretty mild for the majority of the week. Still, the few warm days that we have had seem to have zapped my energy and I just can't recover. I'm not feeling bad, so a visit to the doctor isn't in the plans. I'm just trying to learn what my body needs to adapt to my new surroundings.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    Exploring New Places is Fun!

    I tend to be a person of routine. I stick to the familiar. Change is difficult for me.

    My move to Texas has brought lots of changes to my life and I have had to get out of my comfort zone and explore new options and possibilities. Not all of my adventures so far have been fun. (You can't imagine the frustration of realizing that you cannot get a Texas driver's license without having a Texas insurance policy.....which requires a Texas driver's license to complete the application.) Some have been pleasant surprises. I never imagined that Plainview would become so comfortable so quickly.

    Most of my explorations so far have been in the area of services -- grocery stores, churches, mechanics, restaurants, movie theaters, and libraries. As I continue to settle in and get classes up and running, I intend to explore the area a little more for the FUN stuff. Who knows what I may find....but I promise to keep you updated as I continue Livin' Life.

    Monday, August 17, 2015

    Hits and Misses (August 9-15)

    I'm slowly getting back into the routine of blogging once again. Here's a look at the week that was....

    • The week began with my first visit to a Plainview Church in my search for a new church home. I attended morning and evening services at Plainview First Assembly. The people were very friendly, the senior pastor spoke very powerfully, and I enjoyed the worship. I could see myself being very happy attending this church. There were a few things that I wasn't completely sold on, so I'm continuing to visit other churches for a few weeks and prayerfully seeking the church that I will ultimately join.
    • After being in Plainview for a while, it was a very welcome feeling to finally get started at Wayland. I'm learning my way around campus, getting to know my colleagues, and getting ready for my classes. New students began to arrive at the end of the week; the fall semester will begin on Wednesday.
    • With all of the orientation meetings, I've gotten lots of free food this week. That's always a welcome thing for a bachelor.  Lunch was provided for me on Monday, Thursday, and there was a dinner for faculty and staff on Thursday evening. I've not had to spend much time in the kitchen this week at all!
    • On Friday afternoon, I got to enjoy a relaxing coffee session with the pianists before diving into the semester. I thoroughly enjoyed getting out of the office for a little while with the other piano professor and one of his piano students. The conversation was lively, fun, and very positive. I'm really looking forward to getting to have more of these types of discussions throughout the semester.
    • Meetings are exhausting! I know there is always a lot to be discussed at the beginning of the term, but I was thrilled when the week came to an end because that meant I didn't have to attend another meeting for a little while. Seriously, y'all! I've sat in over 25 hours of meetings since Monday morning. My ears are tired, my brain is numb, and my butt is spreading! Yikes!
    • When I arrived home on Friday evening, there was a repair truck in my parking spot. I parked in another open spot and planned to move my car later in the evening. When I noticed that my spot was open, I grabbed a set of keys and headed out to move my car. I was surprised when nothing happened when I pushed the button to unlock the driver's door. That's when I realized that I had grabbed the keys to my office....and not my car! Guess what? My apartment key was on the set of keys inside the apartment....and I locked the door on the way out. That's right, folks.....I locked myself out of my apartment! After a few minutes of fretting, I followed a gentlemen to his door and introduced myself. When I explained the situation, he smiled because he had done the same thing that morning. He offered to call the landlord for me, but we couldn't get anyone to answer. The neighbor drove me to the landlord's house where he (thankfully) drove up as we were about to leave. I was loaned the master key (not a situation I liked being in at all!) to let myself back in the apartment. I learned that lesson though......on Saturday afternoon, I went directly to Wal-Mart and had a duplicate key made that now holds a prized place on my office keys!
    • I'm in the final stages of getting all of my driver information transferred to Texas. It has been a pain and a half though. I'm still looking for a front mount for my car tags. The copy of my birth certificate that I had to order (and dropped a small piece of gold to pay for!) has finally arrived; once I can prove that my insurance coverage meets the Texas requirements, I'll have everything I need to get a new driver's license. I'm really hoping that this is the last thing I have to do to fully become a Texas resident.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    The Continuing Adventures of the Geriatric Ward

    It's true that I am no longer physically living in the Geriatric Ward, but the adventures with the patients continue. Here's one of our latest episodes for your enjoyment.

    Last Wednesday evening, I decided I needed to call home and assure my parents that I was okay and that I was getting settled in my apartment. Since a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, I thought a video tour of my place might be most I decided to Skype with the Geriatrics.

    Skype was not an entirely new concept for them.....I had installed the program on Dad's laptop shortly after learning I would be moving and had a couple of practice sessions with them while I was still home. I knew I would have to walk them through it a few more times to get them comfortable with the technology, but I had no idea how funny it would be.

    I began with a phone call to help them get Skype running. It took everything in me not to laugh as I gave Mom directions on the phone and then listened to her LOUDLY CONVEY those instructions to Pop. It made it funnier to see how close they were in proximity to each other. Once we established a connection and confirmed that everyone could hear, we hung up the phone and continued the video chat. For the next hour, I saw half of Mom's face and the lower half of Dad's head. You should have seen the looks of surprise in their eyes when they saw the small box in the bottom corner showing them what was going out from their camera. Priceless!

    Skype won't be the only way that we talk for sure, but it is a fun way to stay in touch with the Geriatrics with the added benefit of seeing each other face to face. I think it makes the difficulty of being apart for the first time in so long a little easier for everyone involved.

    Monday, August 10, 2015

    Hits and Misses (August 2-8)

    I finally have Internet in my home again! That means I can get back to my routine of blogging and tell you once again about the week that was.....

    • It's nice to say that I am almost fully settled into my new apartment. It has been a chore and not one that I want to repeat anytime soon. Most of the boxes are unpacked -- I'm just waiting on a media storage unit that I've ordered to arrive -- then I can finally figure out what to do with the last of my things. My apartment feels a lot like home. I couldn't put my finger on it for a while, then I realized that the carpeting that runs through the space is identical to what is in the Geriatric Ward. That tells you how long it has been since either place has been updated.
    • Plainview is proving to be a neat little town. Everyone in town comments on how small it is, but since I'm just coming from Crawfordsville, it's almost like a metropolis to me.
    • I was very lucky to have my brother and sister-in-law spend a few days here helping me set up. The process was overwhelming as it was. I would still be trying to figure out what I was going to do with the kitchen and bathroom if it wasn't for their help.
    • I've made some important finds this week. Since I was needing a refill on one of my prescriptions, I went on the search for a local doctor. I was very pleased with what I found at West Texas Family Medicine. I think Dr. John McClanahan and I are going to get along just fine. By the end of the week, I needed to relax a bit and made my way to the local movie theater. It's an old space, but very quaint and the prices are great! I think I paid $5.85 to see a movie on a Saturday night.  That's a price I can handle!
    • Goodbyes are never easy. I've had to say more than my fair share of them this week. The last ones were a little easier, but none of them were any fun at all.
    • Moving is hard work and expensive. Good grief! I have engaged muscles that I had forgotten about while lifting all of these boxes and moving them from one place to another. I've been blessed that my back held on until Saturday evening to really start giving me any problems. I'm walking, so it's not as bad as it could be, but I'm definitely taking it easy for the next few days. I have made more trips to Wal-Mart in Plainview than I think I made in the past month in Arkansas. I should take out stock in the place......the Waltons have made a good profit on me this week.
    • With all of the moving, I have been very sore in my hands and forearms. This has been frustrating because I know I need to be practicing.....and I really want to......but my arms just aren't holding up to the pressure at the moment. Now that the moving is nearing an end, I'm looking forward to having the energy and stamina to get back to the piano. It's been far too long!
    • My only major complaint about my apartment at the moment is the running toilet. It hasn't been doing this the entire time that I've been in the house. (Of course, it would start after my mechanically inclined brother left Plainview!) Nothing looks amiss in the tank, so I'm not sure what the problem is. I've called the landlord and advised him of the issue, but nothing has been done. I am just thankful that this effects HIS utility bill and not mine since he will be the one paying for water and gas.  I just have to endure the sound.....and I've almost gotten to the point that I don't even notice it......almost!

    Friday, July 31, 2015


    Walk into any home, school, or place of business and you can immediately tell what achievements are most prized. How? The truth is clearly displayed in the form of trophies. Trophies can come in many shapes and sizes: bronzed figures, framed certificates, photographs, stuffed deer heads, and various knick-knacks find places of honor in homes around the country.

    Displayed trophies remind us of success. While composing this post, a mounted deer's head overlooks the table in my cousin's home. My framed diplomas have prominent placement on my office walls. The car dealership I most recently visited proudly displayed awards for superior customer service in glass cases throughout the showroom. Each of these trophies show which accomplishments are highly valued by the owner.

    However, no trophy will carry the same importance with every audience. My diplomas mean far more to me than they do to anyone else. People who are currently pursuing similar degrees have a positive response to these trophies. Friends and family who were present during the trials of my graduate studies find a different meaning in those framed papers. Some people see them as nothing more than an attempt to hold others in an inferior light.

    Why do our trophies mean so much to us? Because no one else truly knows the work that was specifically involved in earning it. I have gone fishing before, but I don't know the fight that the bass hanging on the wall put up. Other pianists understand the preparation involved in preparing for competition, but they didn't share my experience with this specific piece in this particular moment in time that led to the trophy on the mantle. Even though we share our trophies with an audience, they are ultimately reminders for our personal benefit. They remind us that hard work pays off. They encourage us to push through challenges in order to reap reward. They give us a reason to celebrate...and the courage to try something new so we can renew the celebrating once again.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015

    My Vacation Alarm Clock

    When I take a vacation, one of the things I most look forward to is sleeping in past my normal alarm time. I'm not tethered to my regular schedule; I have no pressing commitments or appointments to keep. It's not always possible to avoid the annoying alarm clock entirely when visiting family.

    Staying with family in another town is an easy way to vacation without breaking the bank. It's always important to remember that the family you are staying with still has their regular routine and responsibilities. This may mean that you may not get as much sleep as you had hoped.

    On our recent trip to Texas, I crashed on a cot in the living room. Obviously, this area would be a major thoroughfare in the home. Located next to the kitchen, I could always expect at least one nighttime visit from the teenager who refuses to conform to traditional sleep habits. My Dad's sole purpose for heading to Texas each year is the fishing. In order to avoid the exorbitant heat, he and my cousin would head out around 5am each morning. Dad cannot walk quietly on the hardwood's simply impossible!

    Just as I would finally drift again to the Land of Nod, I was greeted by numerous alarm clocks sounding at once. Literally! The sleeper in the bedroom off the kitchen cannot wake up! To solve this problem, she sets numerous bells, chimes, and songs that are intended to raise the dead. As the zombie begins to rise, the energetic grandson enters to greet his Nana while his mother packs his lunch for the day. As this is happening in the kitchen, there is a constant procession from the refrigerator to the bathroom. Most mornings I'm playing opossum to avoid early morning conversations with all of these "wide-awake" people. By the time everyone leaves for work, I'm wide awake and roll over to find Mom perched on the couch. In the early days of each vacation, this is the point where I attempt to grab a few more minutes of sleep by stealing away to Mom and Dad's room. However, it doesn't take many attempts to remember that I can rarely go back to sleep once I am fully awake. Thankfully, I'm on vacation and don't have to form any type of coherent thought....because Heaven knows that logical thought is one of the first things to go when I am sleep deprived.

    Despite the early morning wake ups, this year's family vacation was a great time away, visiting with family and enjoying a little relaxation.

    Monday, July 27, 2015

    Hits and Misses - DOUBLE EDITION! (July 13 - 25)

    I've returned from vacation -- though I can't say I'm fully rested -- and I'm ready to get back to a regular blogging routine. Here's a look back at the past two weeks that were......

    The week of July 13-18

    • The week started with the happy arrival of Jack Andrew! My social media has been filled with information about the baby, so I will keep it short and simple here. He's a big boy and the pride of the family. We had a little scare with him by week's end, but everything seems to be just fine now. I'm hoping to meet the little stinker in person before moving.
    • Speaking of moving, it was a relief to find and finalize the details about my Texas apartment. Things worked out rather smoothly, it appears that I have a very nice landlord, and the apartment is close to work. The only thing better is that I got a good deal on rent. 
    • As the summer comes to a close, it was nice to get away for the annual trip to Texas to see family. We left a few days earlier than normal since there was still some concern that I might need to visit Plainview for a few days to find housing. Once the apartment came through, my parents and I decided to leave as planned since the arrangements had already been made with everyone's schedule.
    • It's always frustrating to get a medical misdiagnosis. I was experiencing pain in my right jaw that was moving down into my neck and up into the ear. Since I had just been to the dentist a few weeks ago, I was fairly confident that the issue was not dental. I visited the GP who determined that I had a dental abscess and prescribed antibiotics accordingly. Something just didn't feel right about the diagnosis, so I went to see my dentist again. We discovered that everything was okay and I was just experiencing flare ups of my TMJ. A couple of days of Anti-inflammatory meds and wearing my night guard religiously took care of the issue.
    • Ten-hour drives are never fun. It took me quite a while to get over this one.
    • Why so long to recover from the drive? When we arrived, I was informed that I would be bunking in the common area of the house. There's a lot of traffic through the space as people enjoy late night snacks and get ready for work, but nothing too bad....except for the first night. This branch of the family sleeps with televisions on in each bedroom. The one closest to my bed was a bit louder than the others....and since I didn't want to be a demanding house guest on the first night, I decided to try to tough it out. By 3am, I realized this was going to be a sleepless night for me. I was never more glad to see the sun go down on Friday evening! I think my snores that night rocked the house!
    The week of July 19-25

    • Life had been very stressful leading up to my vacation, so I decided to treat myself to a couple of massages while in Houston. The therapists worked on knots I didn't know existed! It was so relaxing to be pampered and know that I didn't have anything pressing that needed to be done right away.
    • As always, we enjoyed great food while in Texas. I don't know what it is about eating someone else's cooking, but the change in chefs just seems to make things taste better than ever.
    • Experiencing physical ailments is never a good recipe for relaxation on vacation. Mom was having issues with her hip before we left Arkansas that only got worse as the week went on. Needless to say, she only left the house to visit a minor medical office to get some much needed help. She was feeling better by the time we left, but her activity level while in Texas was much less than normal. Apparently I contracted a 24-hour stomach bug while in the house. It wasn't too bad.....but it was a long day with an upset tummy! Few illnesses make me feel worse.
    • Days were made uncomfortable by a 14-year-old girl who has an attitude the size of Texas. Good grief! As I listened to her yell at her mother on the phone and in person with such disrespect, I wanted to toss her on her butt and knock some sense into her pretty little head. One thing is for was a sure-fire form of birth control for me.....and an advertisement to the rest of the world to appreciate teenagers in your life who have been raised to display respect for others. I'm sorry, will NEVER convince me that this is just a phase she is going through. Allowing her behavior to be excused by using that rationale is part of the problem.
    • It can be an awkward thing to wake from sleep to find a large deer head looming over you with massive antlers. It takes a minute to remember that he's not alive.
    • After getting home from another long drive, Dad fell while outside picking berries and struck his head on the lawnmower. Blood began to pool under his scalp and caused a lot of concern. I loaded him into my car and FLEW to Baptist East. I could barely think straight because I was so tired. Thankfully, Brother came to the hospital to give me relief so I could head home and get some rest. Dad was released late that night after a CAT scan determined that there was no damage. What a night!

    •  Jude the Obscure - 418 of 418 - COMPLETE!
    • Tomahawk by David Poyer - 371 of 371 - COMPLETE!

    Friday, July 17, 2015

    On the Road Again

    Once again, the Geriatric Ward is on on the road. We are enjoying a few days in the great state of Texas......but this time we're in the Houston area visiting family. It's still a few weeks before I have to head to the Panhandle. (So much to much to do......)

    In order to enjoy my family and get some needed rest, I'm going to take a break from blogging as well. I'll return on Monday, July 27 with a double dose of "Hits and Misses" and lots of stories to share from our Geriatric Adventures.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2015

    Making a House a Home

    In just a few short weeks, I'll begin the process of setting up my new home in Texas. As I've been going through the process of finding a place to live, I've been thinking about what I consider important in a home. Of course, I want a clean place that is in a safe neighborhood. What I've been thinking about are those things that will make an apartment or house feel like home.

    At the top of my list is music. I had briefly contemplated leaving my piano in Arkansas to make the move easier. I was simply going to rely on the instrument in my office for all of my practice needs. Then I began to think of the times I just want to relax with the soothing sounds of the piano and the times that my prayers are played rather than spoken. It became clear that my Boston studio piano will be a welcome companion on this journey.

    I also need my reading nook to feel at home. I find comfort in being surrounded by the books I treasure and escaping the daily routine with an enthralling novel and a cold soda in hand. The only part of my reading nook that is currently missing is the perfect chair....and I am on a personal odyssey to locate it in the upcoming weeks. (UPDATE....I purchased a chocolate reclining chair since writing this post. The chair will be delivered at the end of the month and I anticipate spending many hours lounging in it with a good book in my hands.)

    Lastly, my home has to be filled with memories. I don't tend to surround myself with photos. Instead, I find that I prefer items that spark a memory. Whether I'm lounging under an orange blanket, making dinner using utensils from my childhood home, or admiring a framed puzzle, these cherished items remind me of love and laughter while connecting me to friends and family who are not close by. After all, it's not stuff that makes a house a home; it's the assurance that the place is filled with love.

    Monday, July 13, 2015

    Hits and Misses (July 5-11)

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

    • It's a wonderful thing to start the week with lunch at Carrabba's with the Geriatrics. This is just some of the best food on the planet. End of story.
    • This has been a week all about stocking my new home. My parents got me a starter set of kitchen tools and a small set of silverware. The rest of the week has involved Mom surveying her kitchen and packing some duplicate items from her kitchen for me to take with me. It's nice to know that I'm going to be taking a little bit of home with me.
    • I made two pretty sizable purchases this week as well. My car was quickly nearing 300,000 miles and I got a great deal on a new Outlander. The funny thing is that it looks very similar to the last one.....but I'm really enjoying it. On Saturday, I found a great deal on a sofa and chair that I couldn't pass up. Now I have a place to sit and sleep, supplies to prepare food, and a reliable method of transportation. I just don't have a place to live yet. LOL!
    • Saying goodbye is never fun. Early this week I made a quick trip to Union to turn in keys and music for fall recitals. Even though I didn't get to see everyone in Jackson, I got to take a few minutes and bid farewell to a place that will forever hold a special place in my heart. On Wednesday evening, I was surprised by the choir at First Marion with a cake and prayer of blessing on my last night there. I didn't expect it at all and was touched by the kindness and love I've experienced there. My final lessons with my piano students were bittersweet. I'm thrilled with the progress they have made and excited to begin the new job, but in a way it feels like I'm losing some treasured friendships with these special students and their families. 
    • In the midst of all of the change going on all around me, it's tough to watch friends dealing with hurtful situations. There's nothing I can do to stop the hurt, but I can definitely be a listening ear and say some extra prayers for peace in the eye of their storm.
    • This week has involved a lot of phone calls in an effort to make some progress in my house hunt. It's been challenging to find a rental in Plainview. I am hopeful that something will be finalized early this week, but I'm continuing my search until I get word that the potential plans are secure and I have a place to land in a few short weeks. Now I remember why I have always been hesitant to move! I don't like the uncertainty of not knowing where I'm going to sleep in less than a month. That's stressful!
    • I've complained about packing enough lately, so I'm not going to repeat it here. But I will say that it has led to back aches and allergy attacks. I knew the Geriatric Ward had a lot of dust to contend with....but this is crazy! At one point, I sounded like I was talking in a barrel after clearing a single shelf. I'm just glad that I'm dealing with all of this now so I hopefully won't have to suffer as much with my allergies while unpacking and beginning my job.
    • Jude the Obscure - p. 205 of 418

    Friday, July 10, 2015

    Unpleasant (But Necessary) Work

    There are certain tasks we all despise. We will do anything to delay the unpleasant duty. We know that the work becomes more intense the longer we avoid it, but still we choose to enjoy our current decision to delay the inevitable. Why is it so easy to put off dealing with an unpleasant necessity? When will we learn that quick action will ultimately give us greater relief and rest?

    I'm struggling with this right now. If there is one task I hate, it is the tediousness of packing. I'm excited to move and look forward to the adventures that await. I realize that I will want my belongings with me when I arrive. I'm certain that boxing things up gradually will make the process easier. Still, I would much rather watch paint dry than pack another box!

    The issue is not one of laziness (although I can enjoy a lazy day with the best of them). I think my issue is one of control. What if I pack something and then realize that I need it again? Right now, I can easily lay my hands on things. Once things go into boxes, despite my best labeling efforts, they are essentially lost to me. The more things I pack, the more I feel completely out of control in my world until I arrive in Texas.

    It's also due to the enormous size of the task. After packing things up for a week, it doesn't appear that I've made any progress. Truthfully, the added boxes just feel as though there is more to deal with and I question if I'll be ready for the move in time. Offers to help with the packing from family just make me more overwhelmed. In order to let them help, I have to be able to give instructions on what needs to go. In some ways, I think it would be easier to pack the entire house instead of gathering my belongings that are located throughout my parents' home.

    Lastly, it's difficult to pack since I don't know where I'm going. I have not secured housing in Plainview yet. So I don't know how much room I will realistically have. How much furniture will I need? Will there be enough space or do I need to edit my belongings while packing? I am not terribly stressed about my Texas living options yet, but I know that finally having a new home waiting for me will give me a fire to get ready for the move. Until then, I had better get back to packing!

    Wednesday, July 8, 2015

    Making an Impact

    As I continue to make preparations to move to Plainview, I'm also finding it necessary to close things here in Memphis. With each announcement of my new adventure, I repeatedly find myself surprised by some of the people with whom I have interacted and hopefully have impacted in a positive way. Last night featured one such encounter I didn't expect to have such a powerful effect on me.

    I have been teaching at Bartlett Music Academy for nearly eight months. I have maintained a small studio and enjoyed working with the kids. Last night was the final session of a theory camp including a young man who has struggled in his private lessons, but has made significant strides in his reading and rhythm skills in our brief time together. This boy came to know me because his younger sister is one of my piano students. After our class together, J. informed me that his family had a card for me.

    I accompanied J. to his family's van. From the back emerged a teary-eyed girl who stretched out a card and gave me a huge embrace. As her dad looked on, he explained that L. had just learned earlier in the day of my departure. The student could say nothing; I was fighting tears as well. In that moment, nothing else mattered more than the realization that I had significantly influenced this precious child.

    Isn't that what we all want -- to know that our efforts have made a difference? I'm not looking forward to Saturday's piano lessons. I expect some more difficult goodbyes. But I also have the confidence that even though the time I spent with these students was short, I am leaving them better than they were first introduced to me. My prayer is that my impact has extended beyond the music and that they are confident that their teacher cared for them deeply.

    Monday, July 6, 2015

    Hits and Misses (June 28-July 4)

    Here's my weekly look back at the week that was......

    • This week brought the conclusion of summer music camps at Bartlett Music Academy. Even though enrollment was less than I had hoped for, the students and I had a lot of fun. We conquered some problematic rhythmic patterns, improved their note recognition, and did some composition! I was really excited about the compositions that resulted and learned a lot about how to teach the process to children. I plan to share more of my insights in this week's Collaborations post (and I hope to get back to a normal routine of writing there).
    • It's been a week of reflecting, remembering, and rejoicing. Of course, my family celebrated the July 4th holiday together with a simple barbecue complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and paper plates! Earlier in the week, I celebrated the two year anniversary of my departure from vocational ministry. While that may sound harsh to some, I know the difficulty that surrounded that decision and the impact leaving the position had on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It's important that I remember the date and reflect on the lessons learned.
    • It feels good to tie up loose ends before making the move to Texas in less than a month. One of my concerns was finding a teacher for my piano students that I trusted. I want to know that the students I have invested time and energy in have the opportunity to continue progressing as pianists. The replacement is not *official* yet, but it looks very promising and allows me to focus on other matters now.
    • Attending funerals of friends is never an easy thing. Late last week, we learned of the unexpected passing of Karren McDonald. Karren was influential in my life since childhood and was always supportive of my efforts as a pianist. Karren often referred to herself as my "biggest fan." I hated saying goodbye, but it was very touching to see the throngs of people that came to pay their respects at the visitation and funeral. 
    • I learned this week that campus housing at WBU will not be available this fall. I knew the housing was not a guarantee, but I was certainly hoping it would work out. It would have made things much easier to move into a place near work until I became familiar with the area and found a house I liked. I am not discouraged about it though. I have some leads to follow up on and have just over a month to find housing. I'm hoping to find something suitable without having to make a trip to Plainview before the actual move, but we'll just have to see how that works out. Nevertheless, I am certain that everything is going to turn out just fine.

    • Masked Innocence by Alessandra Torre - COMPLETED - p. 296 of 296.
    • Reboot by Amy Tintera - COMPLETED - p. 365 of 365.
    • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy - p. 78 of 418.