Monday, June 29, 2015

Hits and Misses (July 21-27)

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

  • I FINALLY HAVE A FULL TIME JOB!!!!!!!!!! That's the best hit of the year. On Thursday afternoon, I was offered the position of Assistant Professor of Piano at Wayland Baptist University. I gave my verbal acceptance immediately and now I'm just waiting for the contract to arrive so I can return it. It's been a long process, but I'm thrilled with the opportunity and I'm really looking forward to getting to work in August.
  • It's also been a week of good health reports here in the Geriatric Ward. Mom got a good review from her follow-up visit with the cardiologist. I got good reports from both the dentist and my routine lab reports. 
  • Summer is here and that means that Big Brother has returned! It's a guilty pleasure for my family and a fun way for all of us to stay connected as we watch the same reality show several times a week. After most shows, we begin to blow up the text messaging apps and share our thoughts about who is insane and who needs to be evicted immediately!
  • I sometimes forget the joy that I get from having good office supplies on hand. I'm still enjoying the mechanical pencils and refill leads that a student gave me as part of a recital gift. I hate to use any other writing utensil now.
  • The week ended with a baby shower for Jack Andrew! There were lots of great gifts -- with TONS of clothes -- given to Jacqs and Shane in anticipation of the arrival of our little bundle of joy. As much fun as we had seeing the gifts, I think Carlene and I really had more fun watching Shane as he opened the gifts. He was absolutely giddy with excitement. By the way, Jacqs is ALL BABY at the moment.....and there is no way that child is going to wait until August to make his appearance! I'm putting my money on mid-July. Besides......Jack has to come before I leave for Texas because I am going to be his FAVORITE UNCLE. (I promise that this will be our little secret, Jack!)
  • Nighttime visits to the ER are never fun. Mom woke me on Tuesday morning at 1am telling me she was having another serious heart palpitation and needed to go to the hospital.  I got her to Methodist University and saw a nurse. Since the EKG came back clear, they didn't classify her as a high priority. It was nearly 4am before we got to a room and then another hour before we spoke with a doctor. We were finally discharged at 10:30 on Tuesday morning with very few answers of what was really going on....just some vague ideas about what "might" be causing the problems. 
  • After getting no sleep the night before, teaching piano lessons was challenging to say the least. Thankfully, my students had practiced and were prepared. I don't really recall much that I said to them on that day and hope that my instructions were somewhat coherent. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was exhausted from a stressful week and the emotional roller coaster that followed sharing the news of my job offer with the world. I made it through a long day of teaching without any problems, but I found myself constantly wondering what I could do to best prepare these kids for my departure. (Isn't it funny how invested teachers become in the lives of their students? I suppose that's proof that I love the educational process and it's what I was created to do.)
  • After I came down from the excitement of accepting my job, the stress arrived as the reality of a major move set in. I have to pack up my entire life in the next four weeks, determine where I'm going to live, and get settled in so I can start work. There's so much to do! Now we're going to see how well my organizational skills will serve me. I began packing books on Friday afternoon and plan to get a lot of these "non-essentials" boxed up this week while making plans for the rest of the move. It's going to be a busy few weeks, but I'm still really excited about the move......I'm just not looking forward to the packing.
  • While I was patiently waiting for the official job offer to come from Wayland (Thanks, Crittenden County background checks for making my week stressful!), I got quite a bit of reading done.
  • Brooklyn - COMPLETED - p. 262 of 262
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling - COMPLETED - p. 341 of 341
  • Masked Innocence by Alessandra Torre - p. 116 of 296

Friday, June 26, 2015

Impressions of West Texas

Last week, I made my way to Plainview, Texas for a job interview. Plainview is a small town in the Texas panhandle, between Amarillo and Lubbock. Although I have driven through the area before, I haven't spent much time there. I don't necessarily know what I expected to find when I visited, but here were my first impressions of the region.

  • The sun is always shining! Apparently after I left, a major storm rolled through the area. While I was in town though, I was struck by how late the sun set. From what I understand, this area is on the western border of the Central Time Zone. That means that the sky was still bright as dusk approached around 8:30pm! I quickly appreciated the importance of black-out drapes in my hotel room.
  • Things are very flat in Texas. I don't think there was a single hill in sight. It wasn't a desert either.....although everyone I met commented on how lucky I was to come after the rains had made things look so green. In a lot of ways, the topography reminded me of home.
  • History is important to the community. I thought it was charming to observe how the old town co-existed next to the modern. The historic downtown was actively being developed. It was nice to see businesses succeeding in this part of town.
  • Texans are really friendly and welcoming. I've spent lots of time in the Houston area throughout my life, but I was really impressed with the general spirit of the people I encountered in Plainview. People were warm and it seemed as though an attitude of "live and let live" was practiced by the majority of the citizens.
  • City and country can co-exist. Plainview is not a bustling metropolis by any means. It's not just a spot-on-the-map either. The city had a nice, relaxed feel that you would find in small town America while still offering some of the conveniences of the city. And to make life even better, it's comforting to know that both Lubbock (population 239,000) and Amarillo (population 196,000) are relatively short drives away.
It looks as though I'll have some exploring to do as I begin the next chapter of my life as a resident of Plainview, Texas! There's a lot of work to be done in the next month preparing for my move, but I'm certain I'll have plenty of stories to tell as I continue Livin' Life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mini-Vacation to Little Rock

A few weeks ago, I was in desperate need of a vacation. My schedule was packed and I could only spare a few days away. I decided to visit the state capitol since I had never been to the city and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ever since returning home, I have intended to share the highlights of my trip in a blog post; as things barreled forward, I'm just now finding a moment to sit down and put my thoughts together. When you find yourself with some time in Little Rock, here are some of the places I recommend.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library - It is probably no surprise that I was not a huge fan of Arkansas' first son while he was in office (and I desperately hope that his wife is never elected to the nation's highest office), but I really enjoyed visiting the Presidential library. Not only was it interesting to reflect on events that occurred during his administration, I found it fascinating to have access to correspondence and early drafts of major speeches. I went to the library on the first afternoon of my visit and I probably wasn't in the best frame of mind for the visit, but I was impressed with the quality of the exhibit. I fully intend to return for a more thorough exploration when my mind is in a better place.

Arkansas Arts Center - This charming museum was one of the unexpected treasures on my trip through the state capitol. The facility is not enormous and I had very low expectations upon pulling into the drive. Thankfully, this is another example of the truth of the adage that "you can't judge a book by its cover." Upon entering the AAC, I was met by a knowledgeable staff and a wonderful collection of works. Among the treasures of the museum's collection are the watercolors and drawings of Paul Signac. I was unfamiliar with the work of this French master, but quickly found myself mesmerized. Portions of the collection are cycled through a small gallery devoted to the artist, allowing for uninterrupted viewing and easy comparison between the vivid colors and simple line drawings.

In contrast to the beauty of the Signac collection was the traveling exhibit 30 Americans. This exhibition that left the AAC earlier this week featured works by African-American artists. Some were beautiful; others were terrifying and thought-provoking. Perhaps the most striking work on display was "Duck, Duck, Noose" by Gary Simmons. This disturbing work features a circle of white hoods sitting on wooden stools. In the center of the circle is a course noose hanging from the rafters. Simmons' work clearly is meant to evoke memories of the Ku Klux Klan and the horror of living in the American South. As I thought about the title of the work, I began to understand that a question was being raised about the origins of racial hate. By using the reference of a childhood game, Simmons seems to suggest that discrimination and bigotry is learned by the individual. The image has been permanently seared on my mind and made a lasting impact upon me.

Arkansas Repertory Theater - Commonly known as The Rep, ART is housed in a charming building in the heart of historic downtown.  I treated myself to a production of August: Osage County and was extremely impressed. The sets were stupendous. The troupe featured actors from around the country whose bios read like a proverbial who's-who of the stage. The Rep plays in a very intimate house; I can't imagine a bad seat in this facility. Tickets were reasonably priced at $40 and the upcoming season appears to be full of exciting productions. For this theater lover, The Rep may just be the hidden gem of the Natural State.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hits and Misses (June 14-20)

My blogging life has been very irregular for the past few weeks, but at least this series continues on. Here's a look at the week that was......

  • The week began with a fun opening session of music camp. The students and I were having a lot of fun exploring rhythms together. The studio was filled with smiles and lots of laughter.
  • The camp was short-lived this week since I needed to take an unexpected trip. I love to visit new places. It's always fun to see what life is like in different parts of our country.
  • As part of this trip, I enjoyed seeing an old friend and meeting new people. When you share common interests with people, it's always great when you find there's a natural connection.
  • On the flip side of the joy of traveling, there were also a few misses. I arrived in Houston just as Tropical Storm Bill was making his way on shore. The plane couldn't pull all the way into the gate, so I got soaked running into the terminal. After discovering that the train connecting the terminals was out of commission, I headed back outside to catch a bus. By the time I reached my connecting flight, I looked like a drowned rat!
  • Delayed flights are never fun. There is only so much time you can pass in an airport by reading a novel. Thankfully, I had scheduled my connections with long enough lay-overs that there was no danger of missing my next flight.
  • Now that I've been home for a few days, I am still exhausted from the traveling. I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep for the next week. Unfortunately that's not in the cards since there is still quite a bit to accomplish in the days ahead.

  • White Teeth - COMPLETE - p. 448 of 448. You can read my thoughts about the book here. 
  • Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - p. 54 of 262.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hits and Misses (June 7-13)

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

  • It's always good to start the week with a trip to the doctor that leads to positive results. After Dad's health issues last fall, I decided it would be a good idea to begin getting regular check ups from a cardiologist. After each visit, the results have shown no problems (other than my weight) and I only have to come in for annual visits since I'm not classified as a high-risk patient. That is definitely good news.
  • I picked up a new piano student this week. I got really excited because it appear it might be another intermediate student. Imagine my surprise when I spoke with the student and learned that the enrollment managers had failed to ask some crucial questions that would have pointed to another assumption on my part. Glad I've got another student; disappointed that he's another beginner. Oh well....
  • I skipped town for a few days for a much needed break and went to Little Rock. I have never explored the city before and actually enjoyed myself quite a bit. I'll tell you more about my adventures in Wednesday's post.
  • On Saturday, I had the privilege of witnessing the marriage of Trevor and Hannah Sewell in Dyersburg. The ceremony was beautiful. I knew the waterworks would be running full blast as I watched Trevor wipe his eyes with a handkerchief as his bride walked down the aisle. It was truly a statement of pure love and excitement for their future together. Congratulations to the newlyweds!
  • There's nothing quite like coming home from a mini-vacation and seeing information about a cancer screening on the refrigerator door. It appears that Dad is having some symptoms that are causing some alarm. This may be a nervous week in the Freeman household.
  • Air-conditioning in the South is not a luxury. It's essential! I'm frustrated that I can't seem to make the automotive professionals understand the severity of the situation in my car. I suppose I'm just going to have to get a new car! Ugh! I nearly died on the 90 minute drive to central Arkansas this week. With an upcoming road trip to west Texas on the horizon, I am planning to rent a car so I don't melt. It's just a source of frustration.
  • White Teeth - p. 183 of 448. My plans are to finish this novel this week so I can get started on the next one in my stack.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Quiet Destination

Every summer, I find myself needing to get away from the normal routine and rest for a few days with no distractions, no commitments, and no communication with the outside world. That can be a difficult thing to achieve sometimes. There are always phone calls that need to be made and people who think they are *supposed* to be privy to what's going on in my life. Sorry folks.....that's just not the way it's going to happen this year.

I am setting out for a mini-vacation today. I think there are a total of 2 people who actually know where I'm going. What are my plans? Not much of anything. I'm packing a few books and some comfortable clothes and heading out. I might take in a show......or maybe a museum......or maybe just go for a walk. Or maybe I'll enjoy the quiet of a room all to myself, free from outside interruptions.

If you call and I don't answer, don't fret. I'll be returning to a normal routine on Saturday morning.  :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hits and Misses (May 31 - June 6)

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

  • Summer music camps have officially started. It's been a slow go with only one student enrolled in my music theory class, but we had a fun time together on Tuesday night and he's learning things. Honestly, I think this is the best situation for the student. He seems to lack confidence in himself on many fronts. It's a great feeling to help kids succeed in a way that they didn't know they could.
  • Since the summer camps haven't taken off like I had hoped, I'm finding myself getting to enjoy a bit of a relaxed pace for a few more weeks. I would prefer to remain active and busy, but I know that my body and mind can definitely use the long as my finances decide to play nice! Thankfully, that seems to be a situation that I'm not "terribly" worried about at the moment.....things are going to be okay.
  • I'm also thankful for moments of clarity that remind me of what's important in life. 
  • Having said all of that, a busy Saturday meant that I also got to have a lot of fun with my piano students. The day started with getting to meet a new student. He's a poised 13-year-old who enjoys music and has lots of confidence. I was immediately impressed by him and think we're going to work together really well. The day ended with getting to roll out a bunch of new music for my advanced student. Few things are more exciting for a pianist than getting started on new repertoire. Practice time is full of new possibilities and adventures; this is what I love to do. What really made Saturday fun was that sandwiched in between these bookend lessons, I got to start playing around with Rhythm Cup Explorations with my students. This neat resource from Joy Morin takes off on the cup game phenomenon and is a fun way to drill rhythms.
  • You'll see in the progress report that it's been a great week of reading on top of it all. I'm still trying to figure out how I've missed all of the Harry Potter fun! I finally decided to dive into the series this weekend and I couldn't put the book down.
  • Just so everyone knows.......FOLKS ARE CRAZY! I think I have heard more stupid questions and comments that make people look like idiots this week than ever before. Hey World, do us all a service and pause to THINK before you SPEAK, please. Wowzers!
  • I had a few interesting moments trying to connect people when summer office schedules got involved. That had me sweating bullets for a few minutes though.
  • My phone interview on Wednesday was probably one of the most awkward experiences of my job hunt. Since I've been in the job market for a while, I've done my fair share of these interviews and normally feel pretty good about them. This one was for a position outside of academia and the interviewer kept trying to figure out why I was applying. Honestly, I felt as though he was trying to talk me OUT of keeping my name on the list of candidates. I was trying to keep my cool, but on the inside I simply wanted to yell I JUST WANT A JOB at this point! I don't know if I'll be moving on in the process or not, but I'm definitely not expecting to hear from this organization again. (But I certainly wouldn't mind being pleasantly surprised either!)
  • The Good Thief - p. 327 of 327 - COMPLETE
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - p. 309 of 309 - COMPLETE
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith - p. 57 of 448

Friday, June 5, 2015

Celebrating the National Holiday!

Did you know that today is a national holiday? The first Friday is June is National Donut Day! That's a beautiful thing! As a kid, my family would often stop by the local Howard's Donut in West Memphis after a church event and enjoy donuts or ice cream. Growing up, I was always attracted to the chocolate iced sweets, but now I find myself wanting the simplicity of a glazed donut. Even after I was introduced to Krispy Kreme and Shippley's, I still found myself preferring the yeast donuts of home. So today, I'm heading out the door to enjoy a fresh puffy donut from my favorite shop. I may have to do a little comparison shopping though.....just to make sure Howard's is still my favorite. (Hey! It's a I have to make sure my opinions are accurate!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What motivates you?

Each day, we need motivation. Whether we are trying to accomplish a task we've put off too long or to make improvements in our career, we simply have to have a desire to do the job. Some people are motivated simply by seeing the need. It seems to me that many "creatives" need an extra push from time to time to do a task because our minds are constantly creating new projects that steal our focus. In an effort to learn more about myself, I decided to take a step back and look at the things that seem to motivate me to do some tough assignments.

  1. New opportunities. At first, I thought this was a detriment to my personal motivation. An opportunity arises to explore new areas or ideas. Strangely, the excitement of something new and creative encourages me to put in the required effort to close a project that has been lingering as well. 
  2. Positive results. Nothing gets me ready to work and willing to try something new like seeing that the process works! I will spend more time at the piano bench if I notice a definite improvement in the passage I'm working on. I can sort through stacks of mail (or laundry or books) as long as I can see that I'm making a dent in the mountain. When a student begins to display understanding of a concept that he's struggled with for some time, I'm suddenly encouraged to continue developing new ideas because I've had success.
  3. Affirmation. Tell me that you have noticed my work and that you appreciate it and I'll accomplish more than either of us anticipated. Affirmation doesn't just have to come from a person in a supervisory role either. A colleague can offer encouragement as well as a student and even an outside observer. 
  4. Knowing that my efforts are making an impact on someone else. This is probably the most valuable motivating factor for me. If I see a student or colleague benefiting from my efforts, I'll keep pushing. When a parent tells me what a difference I am making in the life of their student, I'm ready to move Heaven and Earth to continue the success. 
Those are some of my motivating factors. What things motivate you to action more than anything else? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hits and Misses (May 24-30)

I don't know if anyone else is really noticing my return to the blogosphere, but I'm certainly glad to be writing again!'s a look back at the week that was.....

  • It was great to see Shane and Jacqs on Memorial Day. I like to think that I'm close to their age and that they actually think I'm cool. It's the little lies we tell ourselves that keep us feeling young sometime. I have to admit that Jacqs makes a cute pregnant woman too. Now I just need to make an ice cream run and head to Starkville.....
  • Now that the piano recital is over, I got to spend a lot of time this week selecting new music for some of my students. It's fun thinking about what each student would enjoy and matching that with skills that need to be re-enforced. Saturday's lessons were a lot of fun as a result. I got to introduce everything from Mozart, Schumann, and Grieg to the classic "Supercalifragilistic!" That's what makes teaching piano lessons so enjoyable.
  • I got a restaurant recommendation from Mom earlier this week. Normally I don't have high expectations based on her food suggestions, but I was pleasantly surprised by my experience at Crossroads Cafe in West Memphis. The food was quite good and the service was excellent. I will probably be spending some more time with these folks this summer.
  • The award for the worst service in a restaurant goes to the Olive Garden located on Winchester Road in Memphis. Seriously folks.....avoid a major headache and drive a few more miles to the Poplar Avenue location and you'll have a much better experience. My family and I arrived for lunch on Sunday morning around 11:30. The place was empty. We were greeted by two servers who apparently had never waited tables in their lives and failed to communicate with each other or the kitchen staff once they left our table. Food was returned to the kitchen and it took nearly 25 minutes for them to come close to getting our separated bills remotely right. At some point, you simply accept the fact that ignorance and incompetence reign -- especially in the land known as Memphrica. The Olive Garden brand is definitely being tarnished by the management and staff of this location. The best solution would be to just shut the doors.
  • I've had issues with the air conditioning in my car for over a year now. The A/C works most of the time. However, with no warning (or obvious reason), the A/C will stop cooling and begin to blow hot air. The switch's indicator light will flash until I finally POUND on the knob and cause the system to reboot. The car went in the shop for a few days last week to have the issue checked while taking care of other routine maintenance issues. The service staff reported that they couldn't get the A/C to do anything wrong after running it for several hours. Guess what? When I got the car out of the shop, I made a quick trip to run some errands and the BLASTED A/C GOES BERSERK! Instead of going through the normal routine to reset the A/C, I keep the thing blowing full blast, roll down the windows so I don't have a heat stroke, and head back to the dealership. The service manager's response is that it's just an issue with the switch and he will need to order one. I've been saying all along that the switch is going out, but that there's also a problem with the A/C. I guess they don't understand English (or else it's getting lost in the Geriatric translation). Anyway, it looks as though I am one step closer to getting the problem solved. We'll see what happens next.
  • After his surgery, Dad is much more cold-natured than before. This means that he has become a stealth thermostat manipulator! After everyone retired to their rooms for the evening one night this week, Dad slipped into the dining room and set the air conditioning to a balmy 75 degrees. Talk about a stuffy house! Mom and I have finally told him it's much easier (and friendlier to the general population) for him to put on more clothes than it is for us to take them off.
  • Cuckoo's Nest - p. 325 of 325 - COMPLETE!
  • The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti - p. 202 of 327