Friday, February 27, 2015

Free Community College

In recent months, there has been lots of talk about offering free community college education for all American students. I agree with the idea that education should be available to every student in this nation. I do not agree, however, that the promise of free education should extend to the community college level. In the interest of transparency, I wish to make sure my readers know that I am currently an adjunct faculty member of a junior college. The opinions expressed in this post (and all others on Livin' Life) are my own. It should not be assumed that these statements reflect the opinions of other members of the faculty or staff of MSCC.

Why am I against offering tuition-free education at the post-high school level? Here are a few of my thoughts.
  • If no tuition is required, the value of the education will be reduced by the general public. American society holds to the premise that "you get what you pay for." If you want quality service, there is a cost associated with it. No matter how much we want to argue otherwise, reduced or no tuition institutions will experience fiscal challenges that will ultimately be passed on to the faculty. Those professors who are most qualified will leave the junior college setting in search of positions that offer better financial packages. With the exodus of quality instructors, the level of instruction and assessment suffers. Even if some great professors stay behind for various reasons, the assumption of the public will be that a free education is markedly inferior to one that requires the payment of tuition. The varied costs of the services at different quality levels is a basic premise of the free market that we enjoy.
  • The situation will result in increased government involvement in the community college, essentially making the two-year college an extension of public education. Let's face facts -- public education in the United States is horrible in those areas that have the greatest federal oversight. If the Department of Education cannot successfully educate the minds of our children and youth, why in the world would we want to see their increased presence in higher education? (The government already has enough of a presence to make the task of educating the next generation difficult.) With increased involvement, you can be certain that the government will establish guidelines and regulations that must be met in the community college. We have watched highly motivated teachers leave our elementary and secondary classrooms while many of them cite their frustration with federal programs and requirements to "teach to the test." I can see the same thing happening in the nation's two-year colleges as well.
 I agree that quality higher education should be available to deserving students. It is time, however, that we admit that the college experience is not suitable for every student and it is not the only path to success and fulfillment of the American Dream. I would prefer to see excellent vocational programs instituted at the high school level, preparing those students who are not suited for a college preparatory program with marketable skills that will provide a stable income upon graduation. Students who complete the college prep pathway successfully could then receive sufficient financial assistance to fund their collegiate career. By no means is this a perfect situation, but it does ensure that we are serving our most gifted students effectively rather than focusing so much of our attention on those who have little hope of completing their degree because of our false promise of higher education for all.

I welcome your comments on this topic in the section below. It is important to emphasize that there are many sides to this discussion. Share your opinions with the attitude of respect for those who disagree with you or your post will be deleted from the thread.  (That's one of the benefits of being the blogger and moderator of comments!)


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Enduring Classics

A Tale of Two Cities....To Kill a Mockingbird....Pride and Prejudice. Some literary works are read and adored by generations of book lovers while others pass into oblivion. What determines if a book will be widely read and respected in 100 years? Certainly there is something to be said about the power of criticism and academia, but I think there must be other issues at play.

As a book lover myself, I find that I am strangely drawn to this collection of works commonly referred to as "the classics." In some instances, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they are dear friends that are associated with special memories. Others are simply intimidating. There are still others that leave me wondering why <insert novel title here> is held in such high regard. The more that I read these great works of literature, the more I discover that they share some common features.

  • Universal themes. Topics such as love, hate, grief, and confusion are not bound to a certain era. They are part of the human experience that is not limited to any class, nationality, or sex. Books that honestly deal with such concepts touch the heart of the reader deeply and generate a common bond that spans the centuries.
  • Command of language. There are few things more beautiful than a splendidly constructed sentence that borders on the poetic while clearly conveying its message. An author who is a wordsmith will transport the audience to any locale and create a scene that is incredibly vibrant and alive.
  • Provides a clear portrait of a specific person or era of time. While speaking to universal ideals, the gifted author also causes us to become absorbed in the compelling story of a specific individual living in a single moment of history. While we've all dealt with death, Juliet's experience as she sees her fallen Romeo is unique. The courage of Jean Valjean is so memorable because of the situation in France that surrounds his actions. If these events had happened in another life in another place, the resulting literature would quite possibly lose much of its power and magic.
  • The author has something to say about life. This is the reason we return to these works over and over again. The work speaks and resonates with our innermost being. 
What are some of the aspects of "the classics" that set them apart from other books in your mind? If you had to name your favorite classic, which would it be? (I've included the titles of my favorites in this post because I simply couldn't narrow it down to just one!) Which classic intimidates you, but still remains on your "to be read" list? (What's mine? It's been Anna Karenna for a long time now.) Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section of this post.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hits and Misses (February 15-21)

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

  • I thoroughly enjoyed a lazy week due to the winter weather that hit Memphis. I only got out of the house two days this week to work -- Thursday at Union and Saturday at Bartlett Music. That's a great week!
  • To make the week even better, I was able to get a lot of work done from home. Much of it was thinking and planning for events that I simply haven't had time to do....and the snow days were the perfect time to do just that.
  • I was surprised by the fun conversation that happened on Collaborations this week because of my post about page turning. It was neat to hear from a fellow Pepperdine pianist and recall misadventures together. Another colleague shared about his experience turning pages for Olivier Messiaen. (I always have to Google the correct spelling of the composer's name!)
  • With incredibly cold temperatures in the South this week, I have been very thankful for the space heater that permits me to stay warm and toasty in my bedroom/office.
  • Job hunting is the pits! It's so easy to fall into negative thinking when completing what feels like application #1,000,000. I long for the day that I finally land a job that will pay the bills.
  • Even though I got a lot of work done, the icy roads cramped my style this week. I'm definitely not a home body. By Wednesday, I had a bad case of cabin fever and someone was going to get hurt!
  • For someone who lives by a calendar, rescheduling appointments is never an easy thing for me. A recital hearing was postponed due to the weather; when we finally returned to school, it was postponed again due to performer illness. Mom was scheduled for a dermatologist visit on Friday that had to be postponed because of icy roads. Her new appointment is on the same day as the above mentioned I had to coordinate getting my sister to take care of the appointment. It's just a mess....but it's all going to work out eventually.
  • After having so much bad weather this week, a rainy Saturday was not what I had in mind. Thankfully the temperature was above freezing or we would have been in a pickle!
  • I hate when I make stupid mistakes. They are embarrassing and they result in wasted time for everyone involved. A student informed me that the sound in one of the lectures in the online class wasn't working. We had just revised the presentation to correct some issues with Java. Imagine my frustration when I got home and realized that I had failed to connect the audio files to the presentation! I felt stupid....but felt better when I realized I could revert to the Java file for the time being to buy myself a little time to correct the issue.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog.....221 of 221 - COMPLETE! (44 pages this week)
  • Cole Porter - 118 of 397 (98 pages this week)
  • The Crazyladies of Pearl Street by Trevanian - 102 of 367 (102 pages this week)
  • As you can see, it has been a good week for my reading life.... nearly 250 pages of pleasure reading. That's more like it!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Lion King: A Review 
Last Wednesday evening, I finally had the opportunity to see the national touring production of Disney's The Lion King. I had a blast getting to see the show through the eyes of my teenage nieces and my mother. The musician and theater-lover in me, however, left the show rather disappointed.

The show was visually stunning. The costumes were amazing! I especially liked the parade of animals. The music was very rhythmic and evocative of the story's African setting. That's where my positive feelings for this particular night of the tour stopped. On this evening, the understudy for the young Simba took the stage. He never quite found the pitch on this night. It's not fair to say that he was flat; he was consistently under all night long.....and I was miserable. The actress playing Nala could have used some help with diction and enunciation. It was difficult to tell when her lyrics were in English and when they were in an African dialect.

Thankfully, there were some really nice voices and characters on stage in this performance. The actor who played the adult Simba had a smooth, lyrical voice that was a joy to hear. The comedic pair of Timon and Pumbaa were a welcome relief at the end of a long opening act. The truth is the show should have ended after the team's stunning performance of "Hakuna Matata"; sadly, the audience had to suffer through a lack-luster second act.

I really don't like being Debbie Downer after seeing a show. I know all about the hard work involved in putting on a quality performance. What I have found is that the two Disney shows for Broadway that I've seen (Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) simply can't stand up to all the hype. Do I regret going to the show? No....I wanted to see the visual spectacle. I'm just disappointed that there wasn't much else to support the beautiful images.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Looking for Inspiration?

Creative people are constantly looking for inspiration. Normally inspiration is easy to find and the music, thoughts, and language flows freely. But what about those times when it seems that nothing moves you? Where do you begin to look to restore the creative juices? Here are a few of my faithful places to "visit" when I need to find fresh inspiration.

  • Life adventures. Whether the memory is funny or tragic, reflecting on past experiences can often inspire my creativity. Many times I discover past emotions that I have not fully explored. Other times I find myself focusing on things that I want to make sure I never forget.
  • Current frustrations. I know it sounds strange, but thinking about the things that frustrate me most often serves as the beginning of fresh inspiration. Since I don't like the situation, perhaps it is time to address it through my music. Maybe a solution to the problem can be presented in my writing. The inspiration may lead to discovering something in myself that serves as a launching pad for a new creative venture.
  • Questions that need answers. All sorts of questions may spark creative inspiration and tend to be a good place to search for freshness. Your questions may range from "What is the answer to poverty?" to "Why don't I like onions?" or even "What is my purpose in life?" The inspiration isn't found in the answers themselves, but in the process of searching for the answer.
  • Reading a good book. It's no secret that I love to read. In a book, the author introduces me to new people, places, and philosophies. As I read, my mind begins to explore....and creativity bursts to life.
  • Other people. I find that many extremely creative people can sometimes prefer avoiding the crowds. For me, I can normally find inspiration by interacting with other people and simply listening to their stories and opinions about things. Before too long, my mind and heart respond and I'm on to a new project.
  • My faith. The source of all creativity is found in the heart of the Creator of Heaven and Earth. When I'm desperate for inspiration, I find myself returning to the precepts of Scripture and my personal relationship with a loving God.
How do you find inspiration when the well has run dry? Please share your approaches in the comments below.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hits and Misses (February 8-14)

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

  • One of the highlights of the week was seeing The Lion King at the Orpheum on Wednesday night with my teenage nieces and Mom. Even though I was rather disappointed with the production as a whole (more about this in Friday's post), I love watching young people enjoy exposure to the performing arts. That's one of the main reasons I try to provide as many opportunities as I can for the girls that I adore.
  • On Thursday, I finally took the chance and performed a small recital with the aid of my AirTurn. The device is a set of foot pedals that turn pages of musical scores I have scanned into my iPad through Bluetooth technology. I'm not sure that I will always rely on AirTurn, but it is nice to know that it is a viable option. The possibilities of eliminating the huge binder that is normally found in my left arm during the day is also quite exciting!
  • As the week began to wind down, I had a lot of fun creating valentines for my young piano students. They were simple, but the kids seemed to enjoy getting them (contrary to snarky remarks made by a colleague -- GRRR!) so that means they did their job.
  • My mother loves fresh flowers, but rarely gets to enjoy them because arrangements can be pricey. At the beginning of the month, I ordered flowers from Teleflora for Mom's anniversary. Since the big date is also Valentine's Day, I decided to have the flowers delivered a couple of days early. I was afraid it was going to turn into a big "MISS" when the local florist was calling me late on the delivery date. Thankfully, they managed to fill the order and a beautiful arrangement showed up at Mom's office just before she was leaving for the day. 
  • I also celebrated my birthday on Valentine's Day. I had a lot of things to do Saturday and was trying to stay faithful to my diet (after several days of splurging), so there was not a lot of partying for me. I did have a great day in spite of my lack of chocolate and soda thanks to lots of emails, Facebook posts, and text messages from friends around the world.
  • It's never enjoyable to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. It can be very awkward to make conversation when you are trying so hard to make sure that no one gets upset. I haven't had a lot of practice with these I'm a little out of shape with handling them.
  • Our trip to see The Lion King meant that we were in for a very long night. Mom and I got the girls home just before 11.....and that means we made it back to the Geriatric Ward at midnight. Needless to say, Mom and I were both dragging a bit the following afternoon. 
  • Once again, my online class experienced technical problems associated with Java this week. I am thrilled that the issue is finally being resolved after much too long and way too many problems.
  • Life has been extremely busy this week, so I've found that I have had very little time to read or write. I know that is par for the course during these crazy times, but I still don't have to like it. I'm trying really hard to carve out time for both activities......and to work on an upcoming article that I intend to submit for publication in the fall.
  • My feelings toward the music of Faure have taken a downward turn this week. That's really sad for me because I have enjoyed the sounds of the French composer for many years. At the moment, I'm learning two of the composer's art songs that I simply find incredibly difficult to learn. I don't necessarily mind the hard work if the return is more enjoyable than these pieces are proving to be.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog....p. 177 of 221 (108 pages this week)
  • Cole Porter by William McBrien - p. 20 of 397 (20 pages this week)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Another Year Together

Tomorrow, my parents will celebrate 56 years of marriage. (You have no idea the math we have to go through in my family to confirm ages and anniversaries. Way too complicated!) Their 56th year together was filled with lots of highs and lows, but they made it through together. I have the unique perspective of being their youngest child. I've seen the good times and I've seen the bad. Let me share with you what I have learned from my parents' marriage.

  • I have learned what true love looks like. All of their children give them grief when they "get lovey-dovey," but we also know that their relationship is a picture of absolute love. Mom and Dad met in high school and their love story continues to grow. It's an inspiration to all who see them.
  • I understand the power of compromise. Making decisions as a couple is never easy. Someone always has to bend to the other's will to some degree. Mom and Dad make compromise look easy. I have seen it happen over and over through the years. They will have opposing ideas about how best to handle a situation. When the right decision isn't obvious, there is normally a very quiet, yet intense, conversation. The two will go about their business to think and pray. Once the answer is clear, one submits to the other. I think I've taken a lot of that into my relationships with people as well even though I'm still striving to reach the level of grace that my parents display in this area.
  • Absolute commitment to each other is a strong bond. Whether the challenge was a health issue, financial troubles, or vicious rumors floating in the air, my parents knew that the only way their marriage would survive the difficult times was through total commitment to each other. There have been disagreements and fights. Still, they ultimately made it crystal clear to each other -- and to their kids -- that their commitment to their marriage was for life and that commitment was not taken lightly. During my childhood and adolescence, I sometimes wondered how my parents survived situations that I thought would destroy most "normal" marriages. Now I understand that part of the reason their marriage stood was because of their commitment to each other and the strong foundation upon which their family was built.
  • There is no stronger foundation than one of faith. Since I'm still living in the Geriatric Ward, I get to quietly observe the most important routine in my parents' daily lives. As I sleepily make my way to the kitchen each morning around 6:15am, I am greeted by the sounds of my parents praying together. As Mom sits on the couch with her Bible in her lap and Dad is in his chair, the two bring their concerns before their Heavenly Father. Rarely do I not hear Dad praying for his three children by name while Mom is praying protection and blessing over the grandchildren. Many of you who are reading this post that are outside of my immediate family have also been mentioned as you faced sickness, stress, or other issues of life. What a blessing it has been to be raised in a Godly home! What an example they have provided that reminds me of the importance of an intimate, personal relationship with the Creator!
As the world focuses on love in the shape of red paper hearts candied with chocolate kisses tomorrow, I want to wish my parents a very happy anniversary. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for consistently showing me what true love is and reminding me daily just how loved I am.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Prayers for Baby

It seems to be an exciting time in my little corner of the world. Several of my friends have announced that they are expecting babies later this fall. My family is especially excited since we learned on Christmas Day that Jacquelyn and Shane are welcoming their first child this fall!!! Talk about excitement in the Freeman family! We are absolutely giddy! There's something about the expectation of a new baby that brings such a thrill to my heart. There is also a reminder that we have an enormous responsibility to pray for the children in our sphere of influence.

Even though I'm not currently active in Children's ministry, there will always be a special place in my heart for these cherished little ones. Sometimes, we are all guilty of falling into the trap of "out of sight, out of mind." We forget to pray for those things that are not right in front of our eyes on a daily basis. This can be the case with children we don't see regularly as well as the unborn child we've not yet had the privilege of meeting. My challenge for you today is to recognize the importance and power of your prayers for the children in your life. The youngest and most helpless are the ones who most need us to take their needs to the Heavenly Father.

Prayers for baby should be specific and address all areas of their development -- physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. I am finding that prayer prompts can be very helpful to remind me to pray throughout my regular schedule for these developing treasures. Here are some ideas I am currently using.

  • Use a favorite item as a reminder to pray for the child's physical development. When Jacqs showed us the sonogram of the baby, she commented that the image reminded her of a Gummy Bear! That made an obvious connection in my mind between the sweet treat and the growing child. Whenever I see a bag of Gummy Bears, I whisper a prayer for the baby's health and physical development. To make sure that the baby is prayed for consistently, a jar of the goodies prominently sits in the family home as a daily reminder to pray for her and Jacqs. (We don't know the sex of Baby Bauer yet, but I am convinced we're having a baby girl!)
  • Create a Bible bookmark with the child's name to accompany your daily devotions. This is the perfect opportunity to begin asking God to bless the child with favor and spiritual blessings. Think about it!  Just in the last few weeks, I've prayed these prayers over our Gummy Bear:
    1. Like Enoch, may she walk with God in a close personal relationship.
    2. Like David, may she face adversity with confidence in the power of her God to defeat any giant.
    3. May she be willing to bring to Jesus whatever she has to offer for His use like the boy with the loaves and fishes.
    4. Just like Josiah, may she have a heart for God's Word and a commitment to follow its precepts.
  • Shopping and crafting sessions remind us to ask that the child will be surrounded by love! I can't help myself! I'm already looking at little outfits and baby accessories. (My apologies to Shane and Jacqs now.....but this baby is going to be SPOILED!) The coming of Gummy Bear also brings out my crafty side, so there are baby-themed cross-stitch patterns scattered all over the house. As we shop and craft, pray that the baby will be immensely loved. This seems like a given in most families, but I'm talking about extreme love beyond the walls of the home. I'm praying for loving teachers, baby sitters, music teachers, nurses and doctors. I'm praying for a Godly children's pastor to love and nurture the child and parents during the most formative years of her development. I'm praying that any plan of the Enemy to bring harm and destruction to the life of Gummy Bear be stopped by the protective and loving arms of Christ.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of prayer prompts. Think about the children in your life and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal ways that you should be praying for them on a regular basis! Scripture tells us that "Children are a heritage from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3) and they are to be valued, adored, and cherished. The best way I know to begin establishing their heritage is by covering them in prayer. Won't you join me in claiming another generation for the Kingdom?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hits and Misses (February 1-7)

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

  • I was so blessed to attend all of the anointed revival at First Marion. The speakers were powerful. The music was pure worship and such a joy to be involved with. I came away with some challenges for my own personal walk with God and know without a doubt that I was in the very presence of the Most High. It's been a long time since I have felt so refreshed spiritually. For that, I am extremely thankful.
  • Early in the week, I sat down and generated progress reports for my piano students at Bartlett Music Academy. Throughout my teaching, I have always struggled finding time to clearly communicate with parents about their student's musical development. In a moment of inspiration, I created a simple form that addressed six aspects of musicianship and provided comments about the student in each area. I have been very happy to see parents responding positively to the information and asking questions about how they can help the learning at home. The current plan is to provide updates for parents bi-monthly.
  • It was also good to get back to work at Union University this week. Luckily, it was a calm return. I taught the first session of Class Piano IV to a packed house of 12 students and had a rehearsal with the singer whose recital is happening in less than a month. Other than that, it was just the first casual musical rehearsal for the Into the Woods cast. I don't expect this pace of life to last for long though.
  • Alright, my fellow #Gladiators! This week's episode of Scandal made a lot more sense to me and now I'm pulled right back into the drama with Fitz and Olivia. This really is great, must-see television for me.
  • I was thrilled to check in with the Diet Center late this week to learn that I am down another 3 pounds! That's a grand total of 9 pounds since starting the program just under a month ago. I'm ready for "normal" food, but I can push through the routine since I'm seeing results.
  • It's always a great situation to be encouraged to express my creativity and to receive positive feedback for my efforts. I'm finding that I am thriving in my current environment and enjoying the hard work.
  • As much as I loved the revival, I have to admit that Sunday was an extremely long day. Morning worship, Sunday school class......then a mad dash to Germantown to teach a piano lesson that went longer than scheduled (because I got too excited about the progress the student was making). Straight back to the church for the afternoon session before heading home and collapsing on my bed from exhaustion. Phew! I haven't had that kind of weekend activity in a while.
  • Wednesday night was a comedy of errors and one for the record books. It was the last night of revival and I had played Monday and Tuesday's services. The church uses Planning Center to schedule members of the music ministry. On Wednesday, I kept checking the website to make sure a request had not come through. So I finally convinced myself that the other pianist was scheduled for the evening. While driving home from Union, I decided it would be productive to head to the music store to pick up some music for my students before going to church. The evening's service was scheduled to begin at 6:30. Shortly after 5:30, I'm in Allegro Music talking with my friends when my phone rings. It's the music minister.....calling to ask if I am aware that I'm scheduled to play tonight's service! OMG! I've been in the position of music minister before and completely understand how miscommunication can happen during revival planning. So I jump in the car and head straight to First Marion. Understand, I need to be on stage in about 45 minutes or so......and it generally takes about 55 minutes to make the drive! I don't remember much about the next 45 minutes or so.....except that I did a lot of praying that cars would get out of my way so I could repent for the fast driving I was doing and serve the congregation I now attend with joy!  I made it to church with a few minutes to spare and the worship set went off without a hitch....but I don't want to have that experience again for quite a while. I'm getting too old for this kind of drama! :)
  • In the past few days I've realized that there comes a time when you simply have to "pay the piper" for extended breaks. I took the entire break from Union to rest my hands and did very little playing. Now I'm finding myself frantically practicing in order to get ready for next month's recitals. That's the choice I made. I don't regret the decision at all....not yet, anyway!
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned - p. 238 of 238. COMPLETE! (85 pages this week)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - p. 69 of 221 (69 pages this week)

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Evasiveness of Happiness

Have you ever felt like happiness was nowhere to be found? No matter what you try, you simply can't find satisfaction. When happiness seems elusive, here are a few things to consider. One of them may just be the root of your problem.

  • You tend to focus on the negative. Some of us are wired to be pessimists. We naturally see the half-empty glass. It takes time, but it is possible to consciously shift your focus. Begin by determining to set aside moments in each day to reflect on the good things that have happened. There may be times that the only thing you can say is "I'm still breathing." That's fine.....find the joy in that. As you practice seeking out the positive in life, it will become easier to find and more natural to you.
  • Loneliness. I know from personal experience that it is completely possible to be surrounded by people and still feel as though you are completely alone. This may be due to your perception that everyone has let you down or that you are unlovable. Perhaps you struggle trusting others enough to establish a meaningful relationship. Seek out opportunities to spend time with other people in non-threatening situations. Have dinner with a small group. Get involved in a club. Make conversation with the person running on the next treadmill or sitting in the next cubicle. No matter how short the interaction, push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Socializing becomes easier with time -- even for the shy ones like me!
  • You are not actively pursuing your life's purpose or passion. It's not a great mystery what your passion is. What is that thing that really makes you feel that something should be done? Maybe you have a heart for kids.....or animals.....or single mothers......or feeding the poor.....or cleaning littered streets. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering to anyone else; if the cause is important to you, it's important! Now find a way to make a difference. You might volunteer with an organization on a regular basis. Your schedule won't allow a regular commitment? Fine! There are lots of one-time events that you can be involved in that will make a difference. As you begin to give of your time and abilities, you will begin to feel that you are not simply taking up space in the universe. You are a contributing member that is making a difference....and that sense of purpose will ultimately lead to joy.
  • You may be facing health issues. Depression is a very real illness that plagues millions of people. It can have an impact upon your physical health. It can effect your work performance. It can cause distress in family relationships and friendships. Because it is an illness, there is no shame in seeking professional help from a qualified professional. Think about it. If a physician told you that you had a life-threatening illness like cancer that could be treated, wouldn't you get the help so you could go on with your life? Depression is just as debilitating as cancer....and just as treatable! (Trust me, I know, because I'm one who has been treated and has learned how to manage the condition.)
  • Maybe you are just stuck in a rut. When life seems to be monotonous, happiness can be zapped. So change things up a little. Try something new. Stop by the park on the way home for a quick hike. Plan to take in a play or concert. Grab a picnic basket, blanket, and book to head out for a personal retreat. Treat yourself to a spa day. Give yourself permission to take care of you and let everything else be put on hold temporarily. It may be just what the doctor ordered!
We are not designed to live life for long seasons without experiencing happiness. Joy is ultimately the source of our strength! (See Nehemiah 8:10.)

If you are struggling with finding happiness, I highly recommend the book Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D. It was an important tool in my own journey as I learned to deal with depression and unhappiness.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Want to Remember Something? WRITE IT DOWN!

Have you ever encountered someone who constantly asked you to repeat information? Maybe a student asks when that paper is due every time they see you. Perhaps a family member asks when their next doctor's visit is. You might be asked over and over for a mutual friend's phone number or email address. For the sanity of us all, I am going to yell it from the rooftop....IF YOU NEED TO REMEMBER IT, WRITE IT DOWN!!!!!

I'm all for being helpful. I don't mind providing information that I have to others. I despise repeating the same information over and over to the same person though....especially when they refuse to write anything down. In my life, my lovely mother is the worst culprit. Let me just give you a few examples from the recent past.

Mom enjoys cooking and likes to try new recipes on a fairly recent basis. After trying a new food item, we generally comment on what we would like to adjust the next time we make it. I have repeatedly advised Mom to make note of her planned changes on the recipe so she will remember the next time she makes it. Fast forward to the next time she starts to make the recipe. She remembers there was something she wanted to change, but since there is not a notation about it, she can't recall what she had proposed. What is her solution? She comes to my door and asks what we said we were going to change. I grin, tell her I don't remember, and ask if she now understands why I am constantly asking her to write things down.

Just before the beginning of an extremely busy week filled with doctor's appointments for both me and Dad, Mother informs me that she received a phone call from one of her doctors to remind her of an appointment in the coming week. She doesn't know what to do because she is CERTAIN the doctor's records are mistaken since she doesn't remember the appointment. I'm not surprised by this at all and tell her I'll check on things when I'm in the office the next day. Sure enough, Mom is due for a follow-up visit that she had forgotten about because she failed to write it down.

I have to admit that this is frustrating even though I shake my head in disbelief and try to roll with it. I catch myself sometimes wondering why it is so hard to simply write things down in a place where you can return to it later. I've come up with a few possible answers....some of which I don't like.
  • First of all, Mom has become dependent on me to keep track of things. I tend to make note of doctor's appointments and other trips that are going to impact my schedule. It's how I maintain my personal sanity while providing transportation for three adults. Since I manage those things that effect me, Mom hasn't learned that I don't keep track of those things that aren't on my radar. 
  • Secondly, Mom hasn't created a place to keep notes and appointments. I've tried to help by creating a binder for recipes and providing a magnetic calendar for the refrigerator. Since I developed the systems, however, the maintenance of them falls to me. This is not working.
  • I suppose it really all comes down to the fact that she hasn't established a routine of writing things down and has not experienced the positive benefits of keeping track of it. For all of her life, Mom was able to manage our household without the aid of any organizational system. As she ages, her memory is not as strong and she is resistant to developing a new way to keep track of things.
What am I going to do? Keep doing exactly what I'm doing now....encourage Mom to write things down, offer suggestions that can make her life easier, and plug as many things into my personal  calendar so we don't get caught with our proverbial pants down again.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hits and Misses (January 25-31)

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

  • I'm falling more and more in love with my church home. I still don't know a ton of people because I'm horrible with names and I've been rather slow to get involved, but that is changing rather quickly. On Sunday morning, I finally made my way into a Sunday School class and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I'm looking forward to spending more time here and getting to know this group of people better.
  • It's always refreshing to have a brainstorming session about things that you are passionate about with people who aren't afraid to dream big. Nothing is too extravagant and impossible. After dreaming, we all step back individually and look at things a little more rationally.....and that's where exciting plans are made.
  • What a relief to finally have all of my tax reports done for 2014. I wish I could say the returns were done, but since I don't actually complete the forms, that's not my celebration. As much as I hate to give my money away, all of the laws impacting a contracted musician require me to have a professional take the lead in this.
  • This week I've been reminded how fortunate I am to have incredibly supportive supervisors that trust my instincts, willingly listen to my concerns, offer insightful opinions, and respect me as a professional. These are incredible gifts in themselves that I don't take lightly.
  • On Saturday, I encountered a piano student's parents who wanted to let me know from the beginning that their child had not practiced this week. Before setting foot in the studio, they wanted to make sure that something valuable could be accomplished and that I would not simply be "babysitting" their student. It sent a clear message to me that these parents want to see their child succeed, but they also respect my time. I have to admit that it took me a little by surprise, but it was definitely appreciated. Just for the record.....there was plenty that could be accomplished since the lack of practice hasn't been established as a repeated trend....and the student and I had a really fun lesson together!
  • On Monday, I forgot to take my daily medications and couldn't figure out why I was feeling so bad. Talk about a light bulb moment when I walked in the kitchen and saw that the day's meds were still in their compartment. Duh!
  • I hate sitting in on meetings that are trying to sell me something. I think I'm a savvy shopper. Show me what you have to offer and let me examine it on my own. If I have questions, I'll let you know. Most of the time, a pushy sales pitch guarantees that I'm not going with that product....even if it's what I really want!
  • Don't you just hate it when you're sitting with a group of people watching television and the person who decides to take control of the remote is reading the newspaper or playing on the laptop? But don't dare ask to take charge of the clicker! The "remote hog" is absorbed in the current programming! Grrr!
  • One of my biggest pet peeves is unreturned, scheduled phone calls. I hate to talk on the phone, so if I make a call, there's something to be said. As much as I hate the phone, I realize that it is important to return them. When I finally reach the individual that is making an inquiry of me, I understand when someone tells me "This isn't a good time. Can I call you later this evening?" Not a problem.....but don't have me wait by the phone for several DAYS without a response.....especially when YOU initiated the need for a conversation in the first place. I'm sure something else came up....but I still don't have to like it.
More than anything this week, I'm celebrating the first bullet point on this update of my reading life. The beast is done!
  • Crime and Punishment - p. 551 of 551. COMPLETE! (129 pages read this week)
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower - p. 153 of 238 (150 pages read this week)