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.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Boxes Everywhere

This year, my July 4 celebration is not being marked with fireworks. I'm celebrating freedom with moving boxes. It's hard to believe that I will be leaving my home in less than a month to begin the next chapter of my life in west Texas. I hate packing and have to admit that it feels a little overwhelming, so I decided to get started right away and hope that a slower pace makes the process more manageable. This week, I hit my library and began boxing up books. This is the point where I feel I need to sit in a circle and begin my comments with "My name is Ken and I am obsessed with books." I suppose it is a problem that comes with many years of school -- not to mention a degree in English literature -- and a love for a good story. So far, there are 25 boxes filled with novels and reference books in front of my bookshelves; one bookcase still needs to be packed as well as random books lying around the house. Then it will be time to begin working on my musical scores.

I don't know WHERE I'll be living in Texas yet since on-campus housing is not an option, but I know that I'll find a place. For now, I'm going to enjoy the holiday weekend with my family while I continue to pack and celebrate my new-found freedom that comes with employment.

Can you tell that there's a mixture of excitement and stress in my voice? Would you really expect anything else? Luckily, the excitement is outweighing the stress.