Monday, September 14, 2015

Hits and Misses (September 7-13)

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

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

Friday, September 11, 2015


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

(Original post - 9/11/12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hits and Misses (August 30 - September 5)

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

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Clean Up Your Mess!

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dealing with the Silence

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

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

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

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