Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hits and Misses (December 11-17)

This week's post comes a day later than usual, but can you blame me? I'm on vacation! So here's a look back at the week that was.....


  • Finals are over! It's so nice to have grades submitted and ready to enjoy a little though too short downtime.
  • The last week in Plainview featured some great music. Things started with a nice recital by one of the local piano studios. Student juries brought excellent performances by most. The PSO jazz concert on Thursday was great fun.
  • As snow moved into west Texas on Saturday afternoon, I wasn't certain that I would be able to make it out. I was thankful that I only fought the storm for an hour or so. Once I was ahead of the snow, I put the pedal down and made my way home. Really thankful for safe travels.


  • I don't enjoy the dead days that come with the end of the semester. I found myself having completed my work, but too tired mentally and emotionally to dive into new projects.
  • I love having time to watch TV, but this week it was a nuisance. I simply wanted to jump in the car and head home. That was the only thing on my mind.
Now that I'm home, I've decided to take a break from blogging for a while. I need to rest and find fresh inspiration for my writing. I plan to return to Livin' Life in the new year. ~Kennith

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hits and Misses (Dec 4-10)

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

  • The piano students from the Talkington School in Lubbock came for their second annual visit this week. With a year under our belts, we were a little more prepared and a lot more organized. I enjoyed getting to explore careers in music with the middle school and high school students just as much as hearing them play. What a wonderful day that will hopefully lead to more recruits in the future.
  • It's easy to forget just how much I miss family dinners. After choir rehearsal on Wednesday, I headed to a local restaurant and was soon greeted by a family from my church. They invited me to sit with them. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them better as we laughed together and shared stories. Family time is certainly not something to take for granted.
  • Classes for the semester are over! You cannot fully understand how happy I am to say that -- and I know the students are as well. I can't fully put my finger on the reason, but this has been a challenging term that I'm ready to see in the rear view mirror!
  • With the end of classes comes a little more time to sit at home. That means I'm watching more Christmas movies -- yep, I'm one of those people! -- and that's getting the holiday season rolling for me. Let the holidays begin!
  • My back has decided to give me fits this week. According to my chiropractor, the problem is in the L4-L5 region. That's causing pain in my right hip as well as traveling down my leg. Getting in the car and in bed has been interesting. My back is finally feeling better, but my leg and hip seem to be getting worse. I'll admit that I'm starting to get a little worried about things and plan to have a serious conversation with my doctor in the morning.
  • The pain has led to some restless nights. I can't lie on my right side at all. This is a problem because I only sleep on my back when I'm sick. I suppose my brain subconsciously associates back sleeping with poor rest. All I know is that I'm ready to feel normal again...and fast!
  • The pain forced me to pull the ice pack out of the freezer for the first time in several months. That is a good thing....but it also reminds me how much I hate icing my back (as well as my shoulders, neck, and arms). The ice pack suggests I need to slow down, but that's just not possible at the moment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Current Bible Reading Plan

I've been a Christian since childhood and have always known the importance of daily Scripture reading. For some reason, it has always been a struggle to fit it into my routine. Even though I love to read, I found myself getting bogged down in Leviticus's laws and the history of Israel's kings. I have tried several reading plans over the years, but nothing seemed to grab my attention.

Earlier this Fall, I felt desperate to connect with God's Word. Upon a friend's recommendation, I decided to commit myself to giving Professor Grant Horner's Bible Reading System a try for two months. That was in August, and I'm still enjoying -- and looking forward to -- diving into reading Scripture daily.

If you are not familiar with the plan, you can read about it in detail here. To briefly summarize the plan, the Bible is grouped into 10 lists. Ideally, the reader will read one chapter from each of the ten lists daily. I hear ya! That sounds intimidating, but it is actually not as daunting of a task as you might imagine. Most days, I split the reading into two 15-20 minute sittings. It's actually quite refreshing to know that this quiet time is set aside and it gives me a chance to bring my focus back to the things that are most important.

Why has this plan worked so well for me? First of all, I love its flexibility. Life happens and there are days that I simply can't find time to read the 10 chapters. When I figured out that missing a day or not completing the "entire assignment " didn't ruin the plan, my Reading found new freedom. Since there are no dates associated with the passages, I don't feel guilty because I've "gotten behind." Only have time to read 3 chapters? No problem! Read what you can, move your markers ahead, and start fresh the next day!

I also love the variety that comes with the reading. At first I thought it would be confusing since I wasn't following a storyline from beginning to end. For a young Christian, this might be a legitimate concern. But what I actually experienced was a greater understanding of how Scripture opens up in a wider sense. Last week, I was blessed as I read of the crucifixion in John before reading about the Passover in Leviticus and Messianic prophecies in the Psalms. The plan is re-enforcing in my heart and mind the truth that all Scripture is God-breathed.

How long do I plan to read this way? I don't know. It's certainly not how I study Scripture....it's just for my daily devotions. However, since starting in August, I have probably consumed more of the Bible than in any other season of my life. I've already read the entire New Testament -- and I'm getting close to finishing a second reading! And I've worked my way through the Proverbs three times while just finishing my 4th reading of Acts! The most exciting part? I'm discovering things that I never realized were sitting right on the page in front of me.

Whatever method you choose, the point of this post is simple....JUST READ! You'll be glad you did.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Hits & Misses (Nov 27 - Dec 3)

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

  • Christmas is in the air! I have always loved this season. Decorations are appearing everywhere. Houses are adorned with twinkling lights and joyful sounds fill the air. It means that I'll get to celebrate the birth of Christ with family very soon. Since it's Christmas time, that means .....
  • I'm getting to reconnect with friends through carol videos. Last year, I accepted the challenge to post a Christmas carol arrangement each day of the holiday season. What was birthed in simplicity -- and really intended for my family -- grew to a larger audience. I'm repeating the project this year and truly having fun. I'm hearing from friends around the world as they use my videos to assist them in their family celebrations. As the daily posts are being shared around Facebook, I'm also meeting new people who love Christmas as much as I do. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would share the sounds of the holidays with such a large virtual. When I get frustrated with the recording process, I try to remember the fun of sharing the music.
  • On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to judge the concerto competition of the Youth Orchestra of Lubbock. I heard some really talented young musicians and met some fine educators as well. I hope to have a chance to continue developing this relationship with YOL.
  • I've fought with cold showers much of the week. My hot water heater was on the fritz and we simply couldn't seem to get it fixed. Whatever the problem was, I finally got to enjoy a hot shower on Thursday afternoon....and my mood immediately improved as a result.
  • Why did it take so long to fix the water? Poor communication! I called my landlord as soon as the problem occurred. He never called me back to tell me the repair had been made.....and that's where the problem ensued. I was attempting to be understanding and patient. I assumed he was having difficulty getting a plumber to see what was going on. When I called again on Thursday to ask about the repairs, he told me they had already been made.....on Tuesday! When he learned that the problem continued, he apologized profusely. I chuckled when I got a voice mail from him later that afternoon telling me the repair had been made and to call him immediately when I got home if there was still a problem. Oh well....lesson learned.
  • In the midst of the cold water issues, I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going. I simply couldn't get my stuff together. I was repeatedly asked if I was angry.....I suppose I know now that cold showers don't do much for my disposition. Here's hoping that the new week will bring a more manageable schedule and a better appearance of joy on my demeanor.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Attitude of Gratitude (Part 3)

As November ends, here is my final list of things for which I am most thankful.

  • Hugs from the Geriatrics. Since I don't get them very often, they are more and more precious.
  • Finally getting to interact with Jack-Jack for a few hours. It's amazing how quickly children will play with you after bribing them with chocolate chip cookies. (I promise this experience was not as creepy as that sentence sounds!)
  • Texting with a far away friend. I love getting to catch up with you and laugh at each other. So glad you have been in my life for so many years.
  • Memphis barbecue! Sorry, Texas, but yours just doesn't compare in my completely biased opinion.
  • The sound of Mom's laughter when she finds something extremely funny.
  • Good friends to help when I'm inept.
  • Early bed times!
  • Restaurant gift cards. Such a great excuse to try something new.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hits and Misses (November 20-26)

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

  • Thanksgiving Break could not have come at a better time. Even though it was only a few days, the time at home was just what I needed. It was wonderful to see family, enjoy good food, and get some much needed rest.
  • Before heading home, I played my final student recital of this semester. That is definitely worth celebrating! Now I shift my focus to juries and finals.
  • I have now been introduced to essential oils....and I'm becoming a believer! Before leaving Plainview, I mentioned that I was experiencing some tingling in the tip of my nose -- almost like an allergic reaction. Kim made up a roller bottle of Lavender for me to use. After just a few applications, my nose is much better.....and I'm also experiencing better sleep as a bonus.
  • For this non-sports fan, television during Thanksgiving weekend can be challenging. I'm thankful for TV On Demand!

  • I love my family, but we they are all very loud! Put all those voices and laughter in a very live acoustic space and you have a recipe for my sensory overload. Once everyone left, I had to find a quiet corner for a little while. Simply put, I was overwhelmed!
  • It has become more challenging than ever to find food while traveling. My connection in Houston gave me just enough time to walk from one gate to another. Imagine my surprise when I realized there was no food to buy along my route. I was never so happy to see an almost stale loaf of bread and sandwich meat when I arrived at the Geriatric Ward!
  • Cold showers will definitely open your eyes fast.....but it wasn't what I hoped for on Tuesday morning before leaving my apartment. I'm just hoping that it was a one time issue and not something that needs to be fixed this week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Attitude of Gratitude (Part III)

In this Thanksgiving week, I continue to be reminded of just how blessed I am by things big and small.

  • Home! It's wonderful to have a place to return for rest, family, and unconditional love. I'm looking forward to spending a quiet few days back in Arkansas with those I love.
  • Healthy aging parents. Dad turned 80 a few days ago. I'm blessed to have both of my parents with me and still in relatively good health.
  • God's Word. What a treasure to have these powerful words in my hands daily. They are life. They are comfort. They are rest.
  • Colleagues. I am continually reminded of what a great group of people I get to serve with at WBU. It's much more than just a job. These people are my friends and musical family.
  • Massage chairs. I especially needed 30 minutes in the chair between recitals.
  • Wireless headphones. I've needed a pair for a while and finally splurged on myself. What a difference they made!
  • Affirmation. It's always nice to be reminded in subtle ways that I'm making a difference and that God continues to actively use me to touch others.
  • Donuts! More than just the yummy squares of dough and cake, I treasure the laughter and moments of encouragement that occur as I share these nuggets of goodness with others. I'm already looking forward to next week's adventure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hits and Misses (November 13-19)

It's getting posted a bit later than I like, but nevertheless, here's a look back at the week that was....


Another recital down for the semester! Despite illness and general fatigue, the ladies sang beautifully. I'm thrilled that I got to be part of this program.

Nothing relieves stress like good, old-fashioned belly laughter with students. On Friday, a young man arrived to class armed with fried pies and a desire to bring a little levity to the end of a busy week. We relaxed around the table, shared "war stories," and still managed to accomplish what we needed to for the day.

I found myself crashing in bed shortly after leaving the recital stage on Friday afternoon. I don't think I moved all night long and finally woke around 11 the next morning. The sleep was exactly what my body needed!


The most humorous event of the week came at the chiropractor's office. I was lying on the roller table and noticed that another gentleman was able to gracefully plant his feet on each side of the table and stand up. I convinced myself I could do the same.....you know, because I'm so tall and graceful on my feet. Once I realized this was not going to work, I also became horribly aware that I was twisted on the table and was close to falling off! Fortunately one of the aides saw me thrashing my arms and legs in the air and rushed in to lend me a hand. Nothing was hurt in this episode....except my self-esteem and reputation.

Stubborn people are so frustrating! Few things infuriate me more.

Broken promises are almost as bad, though. If you tell me you are going to offer a service.....or help with a project.....and simply don't follow through AND don't think it necessary to let me know before I'm expecting the promised action to occur......I'll probably end up very frustrated and thinking a little more carefully before trusting you again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Attitude of Gratitude (Part II)

Here are the things that I am particularly grateful for this week.

  • Successful performances - I love what I get to do for a living, but the preparation for recitals can sometimes be stressful. I'm always thankful when the preparation results in successful presentations of beautiful music.
  • Cooler weather!
  • Presidential election results. I'm just going to leave it at that simple statement.
  • Time on the couch. It's so nice to have some time to come home, change into comfortable clothes, and just plop on the couch for a bit to unwind.
  • Good books!
  • Ice cream. Even the worst of days are made better with a frozen treat.
  • Relief from pain. I don't deal with a lot of pain, but when I do, I'm reminded how blessed I am to not face chronic suffering on a daily basis. I'm also thankful for my chiropractor who listens to my ailments and helps me get relief.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hits and Misses (November 6-12)

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

  • Daylight Savings Time has been a life saver! The extra hour of sleep on Sunday was exactly what I needed. The darkness coming a bit earlier is also helping me to wind down easier each evening.
  • I enjoyed watching the national election results come in on Tuesday night. What can I say? I'm a bit of a political junkie. Since I wasn't expecting the Presidential election to turn out as it did, there was unexpected excitement as I watched. I finally called it quits at 1:30am and woke to the results the following morning.
  • Thursday morning was one of the best days I've had in a while. An unexpected morning call from Jeff and Paulie put a smile on my face and made me laugh throughout the day. I'm anxious to see both of these guys -- as well as other friends -- when I head to Cali in January for a fraternity brother's nuptials.
  • Two more recital hearings were successfully completed this week and the first senior recital of the semester was performed on Friday afternoon. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of what has proven to be an extremely busy semester.

  • Social media has not been a fun place after the election. Lots of hurtful comments have been made on both sides of the aisle. I've attempted to stay out of the fray. However, when I saw a negative comment directed toward my brother and his military service, I became livid. If I had been near enough to "reach out and touch someone" I probably would have.
  • I've been riding the struggle bus this week. I never felt that I could get it together. Honestly, I think I was facing a tough case of the blues and just didn't handle it very well. I'm thankful to have had some time alone with my thoughts this weekend in the hopes that I'll have a better week ahead.
  • It's never fun to get disappointing news, but it's part of life. When it is unexpected, bad news can be more difficult to successfully manage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Attitude of Gratitude

November is typically when people begin to list the many things that they are thankful for. I'm participating in the month of thankfulness as well. However, this year I've decided that private reflection on the blessings in my life is how I want to spend my daily moments of thanksgiving. I don't want to fall into the trap of carefully crafting my words for public consumption only instead of expressing authentic praise to God for the good things He has provided. Nevertheless, I do want to publicly acknowledge some of my blessings. That's where this series of blog posts comes in. Each Wednesday in November, I'll be listing a few of the things that I have been thankful for during the week. Sometimes you may notice that an item was repeated from a previous week. Some items may include a brief explanation while others stand alone. Regardless of what they may mean to you -- and whether you fully understand why I'm thankful for certain things -- this will be my way of publicly expressing "An Attitude of Gratitude" to my Heavenly Father for the many blessings He daily bestows on me.

This week, I'm thankful for...

  • The wonderful people that fill my life
  • Laughter
  • Traveling mercies -- I've spent too many years behind the wheel of my car to ever take safe travels for granted!
  • Music
  • Good food
  • Rest
  • Love


Monday, November 7, 2016

Hits and Misses (October 30 - November 5)

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

  • WBU's production of Little Shop of Horrors is now in the books. It was a great production and one I was glad to participate in. Now that it's over, I'm able to focus on other upcoming performances.
  • As the week came to a close, I attended the regional NATS competition at WT. I thought all of my singers performed well and most got very good comments. It was also very good to hear some great singing from around the area.
  • While the competition began to wind down, I was able to catch my breath after an extremely busy few weeks.

  • I'll keep this section simple. Sometimes saying less is more effective.
  • I hate wasting my time.
  • Confusion --especially when it can be avoided -- is incredibly frustrating.
  • There are times when my hands and brain simply will not connect when playing. *Throw hands in the air.* Then say, "Sorry!"

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hits and Misses (October 23-29)

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

  • I've enjoyed working on the fall musical, but I was very thrilled when Little Shop opened on Thursday night. Shows have gone well. We've had good audiences and the cast is doing exactly what they rehearsed.
  • After a long night of rehearsal filled with technical difficulties, an encouraging note delivered to my desk was what was needed at the moment. I'm so thankful to work at a place where faculty and students take the time to care for each other.
  • The Plainview Sonatina Festival was great fun on Saturday morning. For the second year, I had the privilege of offering feedback to young pianists in the area. It was great to get back to working with beginners as well as hearing some admirable performances of Clementi, Beethoven, and Mozart by aspiring young musicians.

  • Production Week is always exhausting. My body is looking forward to the promise of upcoming rest and enjoying food that is not from a fast food chain.
  • My car has started acting funny in all of this craziness. Occasionally, it feels as though it wants to stall. It will finally go, but it's scary in the moment. I plan to take it to the dealership this week. Hopefully whatever is wrong is still covered by warranty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Purple Violets -- for Domestic Violence Awareness

10/26/16 - This post first appeared on October 24, 2014. I seldom recycle posts on this blog as a matter of principle, but the topic of this one is far too important to me personally to ignore. When I re-read my feelings about my family's personal experience with domestic abuse as it appeared on my Facebook post two days ago, I found myself once again feeling all of the rage, anger, betrayal, and fear that I first felt in 2009. Domestic abuse continues to be a national epidemic that crushes women, children, and the families that love them. Although my sister's bruises have healed that were inflicted upon her by an evil monster, the painful memories continue. For far too long, society has been silent, allowing the perpetrators to quietly hide in the shadows without fear of significant consequences. As October -- Domestic Violence Awareness month -- comes to an end, I once again share my story as I watched my sister's struggle in an abusive, horror-filled marriage. My hope is that we will all become advocates for the victims and provide them with loving, safe havens as they traverse the difficult path to freedom and escape from their abusers.  ~KF

I have struggled with writing this post. Let me warn you from the beginning -- this is not going to be pretty. It is important though. Because of that, I refuse to edit myself or attempt to wrap things up in a neat package.

Last week, I participated in a Facebook activity to replace the negativity often found there with images of beautiful flowers. Gerber daisies were chosen as my flower. The next post on my news feed was a purple ribbon, honoring the many women and children in our country who are victims of domestic violence. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, I decided to combine the activities into a single post. Domestic violence has become a personal issue for my family in the last few years. My purple daisy bouquet is for my sister.

In 2009, my sister came forward with the awful truth that she had been the victim of domestic abuse for five years at the hands of her husband who she was now divorcing. In addition to the physical and emotional abuse Carlene suffered, her pain was heightened as she realized that the emotional abuse was also impacting her two young daughters.

The details of Carlene's ordeal is hers to tell. Truthfully, I'm confident that I only know a portion of the horror and suffering she endured at the hands of the monster she married. What I CAN address are my personal feelings as a family member who also had to deal with the repercussions of the violence she endured.

ANGER!!!! That one word sums up so much of my feelings. I was furious that a man professing Christianity could inflict the bruises that I photographed along my sister's back and arms. I despised that my nieces had witnessed the violence and lived in constant fear. I fumed as I learned that this arrogant idiot of wasted air attempted to convince people that my sister had inflicted the injuries on herself!

My anger turned to rage as my family had to take significant steps to ensure our personal safety as well as that of Carlene and the girls. The jerk's abuse continued as he called my mother at work, appeared at our various places of employment, and ultimately began living in the same apartment complex that Carlene settled in in order to continue contact and dominating her life.

As I heard the responses from some in the church to my sister's situation, I was floored. "You made a commitment for life and need to stay in the marriage and try to work things out."  "Jesus said to turn the other cheek."  "He's just going through a hard time. Things will get better eventually." I wondered which of these "insightful" people would have offered the same advice if they were living in constant fear. I definitely began to understand why so many victims say that they don't feel safe confiding in the faith community; with responses like the ones Carlene heard, no one would find comfort or safety there.

Even though my sister gained her freedom from her personal hell over five years ago, I still experience frustration that continues to stem from the abusive relationship. I despise watching my sister struggle financially to make ends meet because the A-hole has failed to pay child support as ordered by the court for at least four years. That leads to other frustrations with Tennessee Child Welfare for not monitoring the situation closely as well as with Carlene for not pressing the issue more. I nearly blow a gasket every time I hear my nieces complain about having to visit the man who provided the sperm that produced them (I'm sorry....he doesn't deserve to even be referred to as a biological father, in my opinion!); it would appear to a rational person that failure to fulfill a responsibility outlined in the divorce decree (e.g. monthly child support payments) would result in the loss of parental rights and visitation.

When I get incredibly frustrated and upset at the situation that my family finds itself in simply because one man could not appropriately manage his temper, I find myself fantasizing. I fantasize about the day that the state of Tennessee finally notices that child support has not been paid. I dream about the abuser finally spending time behind bars. I wonder what the reception for him will be as other inmates learn of the pain that was inflicted on a woman and innocent children at his hands. I'm not stupid enough to fantasize about inflicting the pain on the idiot myself.....but I wouldn't mind being a casual observer either!

As you can see, I have no use for this man that I consider the scum of the earth. He didn't just inflict pain on random people; he violently abused those I love. He made their home a prison. That caused me pain as well. No one should ever have to suffer at the hands of someone who promised "to love, honor, and cherish" them. Sounds like a big lie to me....

So don't placate me with terms about how I need to find forgiveness. I really don't want to hear it. All I want is to display these purple daisies as a sign to those who might be dealing with abuse in their own life that they are not alone and that there are some of us who refuse to remain silent any longer. It's time for the shame many of these victims face to come to an end and for us to place the guilt where it belongs....firmly on the shoulders of the abuser!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hits and Misses (October 16-22)

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

  • Fall Break came at the perfect time. I thoroughly enjoyed spending some meaningless days at home. My break influenced all of this week's hits as well.
  • I mostly enjoyed getting to sleep late. I've been dealing with a lot of fatigue, so spending upwards of 9 hours in bed every night of break was just what the doctor ordered. I feel refreshed and physically ready to face the challenge of production week.
  • I also caught a couple of movies over the long weekend. Somehow I can never manage to find time to go during my normal routine. I laughed my way through Tyler Perry's new Madea movie and also enjoyed Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise.
  • I finally sat down and watched NBC's Timeless as well. It's an interesting concept that involves time travel back to significant historical events, including the Hindenburg explosion and Lincoln's assassination. I have not completely decided if I'll stick with the series for the long term or not, but the first two episodes have me intrigued enough to continue watching.

  • I've been struggling with getting posts to my blog on a regular basis. I hate it when I'm not on a regular routine. For now, I'm attempting to improve the likelihood of posting by writing on my iPad. It's not my favored method of writing, but it will do in a pinch until life returns to some form of normalcy.
  • I've also noticed that my reading routine is non-existent at the moment. I've intentionally buried my nose in a novel over break to see if I can correct this problem before I get out of the daily habit of reading again.
  • As October rolls along, I'm missing my friends in Malibu. I know that this is an exciting time every year, but missing out on things this year makes me feel disconnected. Some people are probably quite excited to hear me make that statement. I am not.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Gimme a Break

It's the second day of Fall Break here in West Texas and it couldn't have come at a better time. I definitely need the rest! I'm looking forward to enjoying a few days with no classes or lessons to plan. I have to admit that I'm a little bummed that I wasn't able to fit in my annual pilgrimage to Malibu for the short holiday. Looking back over social media posts from past October visits has definitely reminded me of the adventures, love, and laughter of SoCal. Thankfully I'll get to make a brief visit in January for a brother's wedding. It won't quite be like the October adventures, but it will be a needed opportunity to connect with cherished friends again.

Since I'm not traveling this Fall Break, I've made plans for my stay-cation instead. The biggest thing on my agenda is lots of sleep in preparation for production week of Little Shop of Horrors. Besides that, I'll be catching up on some television and reading while avoiding practicing for a few days. I am considering a day trip to Amarillo to visit an art museum....but we will see how that pans out. All I know right now is that the couch feels glorious, so I'm gonna curl up with my book again and pass a few days as leisurely as possible!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Hits and Misses (October 9-15)

While my blogging may be a little sporadic at the moment, I intend to at least post this weekly look back regularly.  So here's a look at the week that was.....

  • When the week got started, I thought a bulldozer was moving through my head. I felt horrible! Cold medicine came to the rescue and knocked whatever it was out of my system before another week of work got started.
  • Sunday was a packed day of worship. The morning services at CHBC were wonderful and we followed things up with the Night of Worship in Harral. This was a joint effort between several of the churches in the city and was a success. Thankfully, I only had to play one solo, but had been a part of the rehearsal process at CHBC and subbed for the pianist during Saturday evening's dress rehearsal.
  • Tuesday morning started with a message from a respected musician about my solo performance in Sunday evening's Night of Worship. I had already received many compliments and knew that I had played well. Compliments are never the goal of a performance, but they are also nice to hear. This message was particularly moving because although it included a statement about the quality of playing, it was largely focused on the "sincerity and worshipful spirit" of the solo. That is the attitude I always want to portray when participating in a worship service; it was nice to hear that it had come through.
  • Saturday morning was a most excellent day! I spent most of the morning in my pajamas, resting at the end of the week and preparing for what promises to be an intense few days before next week's school break.
  • I often forget that not everyone schedules their life like I do. When an event that I'm involved in appeared on my radar sooner than expected, I panicked! A few deep breaths helped before I spiraled completely out of control, but "just rolling with things" is still not one of my strengths.
  • What little practice time I have had this week has largely been devoted to the Peeters Trumpet Sonata. Have I mentioned recently how much I dislike trying to play this piece? I'd rather see the Stevens or Hindemith sonatas any day!
  • I love having new ideas that inspire me. I hate realizing that I am simply too busy at the moment to follow the rabbit holes that my interests are currently taking me down. Luckily, I know that this situation will change before too much longer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Impact of Sickness

Late last week, I got hit with a nasty head cold that came on hard and fast. This was one of the first times that I had really felt crummy in quite a while. I'll be the first to admit that I am not a good patient. I want things to be fixed right away and don't manage the recovery process well at all. Despite not feeling well, there were still things that simply had to happen. I had to push through. Now that I'm feeling better (thank Heavens!), I can look back and see the impact that illness had on me in several areas.

  • Cranky and irritable. Some would argue that this is really not an unusual stance for me, but when I'm sick, things just don't go well in my world. Leave me alone. Don't cross my path. And Heaven forbid that you ask me to do more than the bare minimum.
  • Negative. This is one of my biggest frustrations when I'm sick. I think the world is falling and things will never get better. My entire outlook on life is colored by how I feel. In most cases, when my body is fighting, my emotions and mind are also sick. It's not a good combination and the sooner I come to that realization, the quicker I begin to recover.
  • No rhythm. When my head is clogged, rhythm is one of the first things to go. Rhythmic issues can always be problematic for me -- I'll be the first to admit that -- so it's no surprise that the aspect of music that I have to monitor most carefully is the first to leave when I'm less than my best.
  • Cravings abound. I could simply not get enough food last week. I found myself looking for comfort foods -- and especially things that were warm. I tried several combinations to satisfy my craving but didn't find it until I stepped into the market and saw a warm loaf of bread. THAT was exactly what I needed in the moment. How did I know I was on the road to recovery? I needed chocolate and water! That's a sure sign that things are returning to normal.
  • Nothing beats mindless rest. I rarely enjoy sitting in a stupor and having no mental stimulation. However, that's exactly what I needed last weekend. I spent much of the afternoon sitting on my couch with the television on. I really wasn't watching anything....I just needed the noise so I wouldn't feel completely alone. I didn't read. I didn't think about upcoming projects. I simply let my mind drift to a safe place and rested. It was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Hopefully I'm done with illness for a while. I'm still not back to full strength yet, but I'm feeling better with each passing day....and I'm looking forward to the return of normalcy in my life.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hits and Misses (October 2-8)

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

  • It's always nice to get unsolicited feedback on my posts. It makes me feel good and encourages me to keep writing. After all, I like to know that people are actually reading....even if I am primarily writing for my personal enjoyment and benefit. I received a couple of comments this week from people in passing here in Plainview that were nice to hear. I especially enjoyed an email I received from Memphis about some recent posts; they went on to tell me that they had shown the posts to my parents who were surprised and touched as I recounted stories about them. The best present was the attached photo of the Geriatric Patients. If you've been following at all recently, you've probably picked up on the fact that I have really been missing home lately. The picture was just the boost that I needed to get me through until I get to go home for Thanksgiving break.
  • On Thursday evening, Dr. Anthony King and I presented our faculty recital featuring works for marimba and piano. It was a lot of fun to put the project together and we were both thrilled with the number of people who came to hear us play and the positive responses we got. Both of us have been stopped while running errands around town by random people who simply wanted to tell us how much they enjoyed the recital. What's most funny is that in almost every case, we had virtually no idea who we were talking to! Now, we begin looking forward to our next performance together and the fun of selecting new repertoire.
  • I've not felt terribly good for much of the week, but the annual bout of the crud didn't catch up with me until early Friday morning. Now that I look back over the week, I see that many of my responses to events were colored by the fact that I simply did not feel good, but had too much to do to stop. (You've had fair warning.....read this week's "misses" with the understanding that I'm horribly cranky when I don't feel well.)
  • The week started with an offertory at CHBC. That's nothing out of the ordinary and I played fine. What was annoying was the "Chatty Cathy" who sat in the front row and felt it necessary to carry on an elaborate conversation throughout the morning service -- including the worship, offertory, and sermon. For those of you who have never been to CHBC, the piano sits on the floor instead of on the stage with approximately 8 feet between me and the Motor Mouth! I chuckled when a member of the team shot her a look during the morning's songs. While I was playing, I tried to control the "glare".....but I don't think I succeeded. Really? Is it that difficult to wait a few hours to tell your story? If it is that important, maybe you should consider taking it to the hallway instead of disrupting everyone else in the sanctuary. (Rant over....)
  • It's been said that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I agree with that. There are, however, annoying questions. These are questions that have been asked -- and answered -- repeatedly and are also written prominently in various available documents. I found myself attempting to patiently answer questions this week when I really wanted to scream to do a little careful reading before asking the question.
  • To bring the week to an appropriate culmination, Thursday was the day of my recital. It was also the day that the construction workers decided to make repairs to the roof of my apartment complex. I had a busy day scheduled, so I made sure to lay out clothes for the evening before leaving the apartment. When I returned home to change, my carefully arranged clothes were covered in pieces of the popcorn ceiling that had been knocked free by the movement on the roof. Not only was there stuff on the clothes....it had also stained my black shirt and pants with streaks from the white powder. Fortunately, I knew I had another set of concert blacks in the closet.....so I searched throughout the mounds of hangers until I found what I was looking for. The new wardrobe was fine......I was just frustrated that the apartment was now more of a mess than when I left it. Oh well.....I told you that I was cranky this week!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

As iron sharpens iron....

Proverbs 27:17 states "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." (NLT) Over the years, I have been blessed to be surrounded by godly men who have been my friends and mentors. They have encouraged me in times of trials and spoken truth into my life that I didn't always want to hear at the moment. Still, I knew that their words of wisdom and correction were always intended for my good.

While having lunch with my pastor last week, I began to reflect on the men who have sharpened me over the years. These were never men who appeared in my life for a short time; they made a commitment to walk with me for the long haul. That meant that trust was built and that they would have the right to speak honestly without feeling the need to edit themselves. I'm just beginning to build this type of relationship with Pastor Jason and other men in the Plainview area, but the memories of the good that has come from mentorship leads me to open my heart to new possibilities.

While I had men who discipled me through my early years, it really wasn't until I attended Pepperdine that I truly began to understand mentorship. Men like Scott Lambert, Hung Le, and Randy Gill taught me what it meant to be a godly man in all areas of my life and to seek ways to honor God through my music, life, and service. It was also here that I met peers who could speak openly and honestly into the dark areas of my life. Andy Power, Jon Jones, Mike Cohn, and Jason Wall made a greater difference in my life than they probably fully realize.

Graduate school brought me back to Memphis and the opportunity to serve in vocational ministry. Robbie Wier was not only my pastor and supervisor; he quickly became a trusted friend and advisor. Like any relationship, we had our ups and downs, but I'm happy to say that we weathered the storms together and continue to enjoy a growing friendship when we are together. I could go on and tell you about men like Robert Gordon and Chris Mathews that have poured into my life and ministry; I became a better man because of their influence and love.

I will always be a student. There will always be things that need to be corrected in my life. I hope to continue to be blessed with spiritual and professional mentors. I also pray that I will be aware when opportunities present themselves to pass the lessons I have learned along the journey to another generation of men who are striving to follow Christ in all that they do and say.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hits and Misses (September 25 - October 1)

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

  • It was so much fun waking up on Tuesday morning feeling refreshed after a long day of teaching and rehearsing only to find a long string of text messages from some of my fraternity brothers in Malibu. I laughed and simply shook my head. I've really got to get back to southern California pretty soon....I miss these guys far too much and it's been way too long since we've been together.
  • Tuesday just got better as I enjoyed lunch with my pastor and friend, Jason. It is nice getting to know him and finally letting down my guard enough to let him get to know me. We shared lots of stories of hurts, successes and plans. Once again, it's just more proof that College Heights is a great fit for me in this season of my life.
  • I've been seeing a chiropractor for a couple of months now and definitely seeing the benefits. This week saw a new procedure though that was a little unusual when I first experienced it. I was dealing with some allergies -- it is Fall in west Texas, after all -- and just felt like I couldn't get a deep breath. Dr. Nate told me he could help me by giving me a "bear hug." Um.....OK.....What he basically did was have me lie on my back with my arms across my chest. Then he reached around my back, pulled me up, and gently pushed back my shoulder with his....and the popping that went down my spine took us both by surprise. After I got over the initial shock of what I had just heard, I took a deep breath and didn't want to move because I felt so good! I really just wanted to curl up somewhere and take a long nap after a night of fitful rest.
  • Rehearsals have been productive this week. The students I work with had successful auditions for the upcoming NATS competition. Little Shop is almost completely staged now and the band had our first read-through at the end of the week.
  • After a busy week -- and several stressful weeks in a row -- the Rook crew got together on Saturday night for another evening of laughter and play. I don't know if it was the fact that Kim and I won the game -- or that Daniel lost the game -- or that good friends were gathered around the table laughing together -- but once again, I had a great time.
  • Stuck keys are never something you want to deal with -- so you can imagine my frustration dealing with it twice this week. On Sunday night, I was opening the exterior door to the music building with my key to only learn that the key had gotten jammed into the lock and wasn't coming out! A student and I were fighting with the key for several minutes before we finally and miraculously got it out. Later in the week, I was dealing with a piano key that was sticking on the upright we are using for Little Shop rehearsals. I really don't know what the problem was...but it eventually went away and hasn't been a problem since. (Yes, I just walked across the room to knock on wood....just in case!)
  • Once again this week, I've dealt with sore muscles in my back, neck and shoulders. I know that this is primarily due to the amount of playing I've been doing while dealing with stress in other areas of my life. Thankfully, I'm seeing the chiropractor three times a week (see the Hit above), so the soreness doesn't get as bad as it could be.
  • With my busy schedule of late, I've been playing phone tag with several people. I hate making phone calls anyway, so playing phone tag is one of my least favorite activities. At least everyone I'm trying to contact right now are people that I actually like and look forward to getting to catch up.

Friday, September 30, 2016

When I Am 80....

I've been thinking about my parents a lot this week. Dad's 80th birthday is fast approaching and it has got me thinking about the aging process. What will life be like when I turn 80? I don't have a crystal ball by any means, but here are a few of the things that I have observed in the Geriatric patients that I hope will be passed on to me when the time comes.

When I turn 80, I hope that I am...
  • active and continuing to work. The Geriatrics have more energy than most people half their age. Both continue to work full-time and are extremely involved in activities during their free time. I'm always amazed at just what they can accomplish when they set their minds to it.
  • mentally acute. Mom has developed a love for pleasure reading and it is keeping her mind sharp. Dad has a memory like an elephant, forgetting nothing. Add to that their quick wit and sharp responses and you have a formula for a lot of interesting conversations in our home.
  • fun-loving. These two are up for new adventures. In the past few years, the three of us have enjoyed visiting new cities together and exploring the sights, sounds, and food that can be discovered there. The fun part is that they never turn their nose up at an idea until they have at least experienced it once. Many times, they find that the very thing they weren't looking forward to turned out to be the favorite memory from the adventure.
  • reflective, appreciative, and having no regrets. Mom and Dad both enjoy looking back over their life and focusing on the blessings they have experienced. Their lives have not been filled with luxury or perfect in any way -- they have faced many hard times -- but their focus is always on the positive. It's a great lesson to see on a daily basis!
  • confident in their faith. My parents have walked with God consistently throughout their adult lives. I don't intend to give the impression that they are saints -- they will be the first to tell you they are far from it! -- but they know their Redeemer personally and live daily with the calm assurance that He is at work in their lives and that a glorious future awaits them in eternity.
  • cherished by family and friends. My siblings and I laugh as we watch our parents interacting with people. It seems as though they never meet a stranger. What's more amazing is that people they have not seen in years continue to hold them in high esteem and seek opportunities to just sit with the Geriatric patients for a while. They have always been and continue to be the very glue that holds our family together. I can only hope to aspire to this one day.
If even a few of these things are true of me in just a few short years, I will count myself as blessed.

Have a great weekend, y'all. Cherish those around you and continue enjoying the journey as you are Livin' Life with your friends and family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No Substitute

I am person of routine. I like things the same way and I tend to use the same products all the time. Occasionally, I find that a substitution is acceptable. To save a little money, I'll use generic drugs. If the restaurant doesn't have Coke, I'll have a Pepsi instead. (I may cringe on the inside, but I'll still drink the soda.) I'm even okay with substituting a weighted key keyboard for my beloved piano in certain situations. I know.....I know......

But there are some things that simply cannot be substituted. Instant potatoes simply cannot replace the luxurious creaminess of Mom's whipped potatoes. Not just any blanket will suffice when I'm feeling bad; I need my orange Pepperdine throw to get me through. When I'm having a really bad day (or bad weeks as the case has been lately), nothing and no one can substitute for a comforting conversation with Mom.

I have plenty of good friends who offer hugs and comfort. They know how to make me laugh and genuinely care about me. But their best efforts still don't come close to a long talk with Mom. You see, my Mom is my best friend. Even though I was her last child, our relationship transformed when I returned home to complete my graduate work. As an adult, I was able to share thoughts and stories while still respecting her role as parent. Mom is also one of the most compassionate people I know. She patiently listens and is able to offer quick insight and wisdom that I may have overlooked in the midst of a stressful situation. I always know that she loves me without question and will always come to my defense and aid when necessary. Probably most comforting to me is the knowledge that my Mom has always been and will always be a prayer warrior. Mom has practiced the art of praying for her children throughout our lives, asking God to protect us from harm when we made less-than-wise decisions and to guide our steps as we looked for the next action to take. I am confident that most of the major points in my life have been covered by the fervent prayers of my loving, Godly mother.

Sitting down with Mom face to face isn't a possibility at the moment. I have responsibilities in west Texas that don't permit me to sneak away. My parents aren't able to make the trip here at the moment -- and even if they did, I don't know that I would have much time to sit with them. So for the moment, I'll just have to settle for phone calls wedged in between appointments and let that suffice. But I'm definitely getting homesick and looking forward to the next time I get to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with her while no one else is around. For now, I'll just count down the days until late November and my next trip home..... 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hits and Misses (September 18-24)

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

  • Sunday mornings at CHBC are a great start to the week. Currently, we are studying the book of Revelation. It's a book that I've not enjoyed studying in the past, but Pastor Jason is helping us to keep the focus on the Lamb instead of all of the questions about the future. I'm definitely enjoying this call to worship because of Christ's worthiness and find myself looking forward to the church's time together on Sunday mornings.
  • The week presented lots of opportunities to mentor students in various situations. It is a great feeling to know that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be for this season in my life. I may not always understand.....I may have lots of stressful moments in the process.....but I am confident that my time here at WBU is appointed by God. That's enough to get me through all the tough patches that might come along.
  • On Thursday night, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to hear Kim and Daniel Brown sing with the Plainview Symphony. Kim was featured on works by Rachmaninoff and Villa Lobos; Daniel joined her for a duet from Don Giovanni.
  • With the close of the week, I finally got to catch up on some television programming that I have missed because of rehearsals. I was glad to finally watch the season finale of Big Brother --yeah! Nicole won! -- and have been thoroughly impressed with the premieres of two new shows, Designated Survivor and Bull. I'm looking forward to getting into these new series more in the coming weeks.
  • It's an uncomfortable situation to get strange looks from acquaintances when you're out in public. I got a really strange one from someone I know from a distance while in the grocery on Sunday afternoon. I checked my zipper....made sure nothing was hanging off of my nose.....and tried to figure out if something else was going on.
  • Now that Little Shop is into staging rehearsals, I've had a few long days this week. I'll try not to continually complain about days that start at 8am and end at 10pm....but I am not going to make any promises yet!
  • I hate wasting my time....especially when it's such a prized commodity at the moment.
  • It's difficult to watch students that I have grown to care about so much deal with painful situations. Some are hurting physically. Others are dealing with difficulties emotionally and spiritually. I find myself wishing I could solve their problems, but I know that I can't. So I do the only thing that I can do for them.....be a supportive professor and cover them in prayer.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stress Busters

There's no doubt about it....life can be stressful! Stress can result from busy schedules, difficult circumstances, or fear and dread of the future. Stress significantly affects our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Even though it is a normal part of life, it is important to learn how to effectively manage stress in order to live a full and healthy life. Here are some activities that I have found to be helpful in managing my stress. (This list is mostly intended to remind myself of some things I need to do in order to cope with what has quickly become a very stressful season of life.)

Physical Approaches to Dealing with Stress
  • Exercise/Physical Activity. I don't use this approach to stress reduction as often as I should, but it is very effective. By simply getting the body moving -- essentially putting stress on the physical body --  the mind is able to clear while the intake of breath from the exertion soothes the stress away.
  • Rest. There is no substitute for getting adequate rest during life's most stressful seasons. In all of the craziness of your schedule, look for opportunities to rest. Whether it's a quick nap, an early bedtime when possible, or just a moment to sit calmly on a bench away from the madness, times of rest reduce stress while keeping your body healthy.
  • Deep breathing. Sometimes I just need to take a good, deep breath to cleanse my body of the stress and allow things to begin functioning as they should.
  • Massage. Although it can be expensive, a professional massage can be worth the expense. While addressing sore muscles and joints, tension is released. Isn't that what stress busters are all about?
Emotional Approaches to Dealing with Stress
  • Look to friends and confidants. People need people. We all need someone to talk to.....someone to hear our hurts and concerns. Even if they can't offer solutions, it can be a relief to just have someone to listen. Additionally, spending times with friends can be a great source of relaxation. Whether laughing together while sharing a meal, catching a movie together, or having a deep conversation, friendships can be one of the best stress busters available.
  • Professional counseling. When friends are not enough, a therapist can be extremely helpful in identifying the source of your stress while developing coping mechanisms that will help you deal with the situation.
  • Hobbies. When stress is related to work responsibilities, getting back to favorite hobbies can calm the mind. Hobbies can include all sorts of things -- reading, sports, crafts, music, writing -- anything that gets your mind off of the regular responsibilities you face.
  • Journaling. Sometimes we just need to get some of the thoughts that are swirling around in our head down on paper. Writing ideas out can sometimes reveal solutions or at least show a way of dealing with stressful situations. While writing at the computer can be helpful, I personally find that writing things out by hand is the best way of releasing tension. Typing feels more like work. The physical motion of writing combined with the mental purge seems to bring the needed release.
Spiritual Approaches to Dealing with Stress
  • Daily Devotion. There is no substitute for prayer and Bible reading for the Christian dealing with stress. Prayer allows us to share our worries and concerns with a loving Heavenly Father, who promises to take our load and offers rest. Bible reading reminds us of God's promises while the very Word of God covers our hearts and minds.
  • Meditation. While I am not advocating Eastern meditation, I think there is something very powerful in thinking on the good things of God and passages of scripture that speak to specific situations in our life. By focusing our thoughts on a single idea, we begin to see other circumstances through that point of view.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Are You Up for a Good Conversation?

Very few people consider me a great conversationalist. It's not that I don't have anything to contribute to the discussion or that I'm too afraid to make my opinions known. The fact of the matter is that in most situations, I am the quietest member of the group who is sitting at the edge of the discussion.

Why do I remain quiet if I truly enjoy great conversation? Over the years, I have learned that there are a few necessary steps for me to take in order to make comments that contribute to the overall discussion.
  • Listen deeply. Far too often, I fear that people begin to express their ideas without being fully aware of the issues that are being discussed. When someone fails to truly listen in a conversation, the topic is often diverted to tangential subjects that misdirect the discussion and results in lots of unrelated threads of thought.
  • Think before you speak. While listening carefully, it is also important to organize your thoughts. In some situations it is perfectly fine to work out your thoughts in the course of the conversation. Most of the time, a well thought-out response is more concise and leads to more dialogue.
  • Wait for the right moment. Just because you have an opinion does not mean that it needs to be expressed the moment it is conceived. By waiting for a moment, you allow others to contribute to the conversation as well. If they share your opinion, it may not be necessary to comment immediately -- thus allowing you the opportunity to speak on a later issue without appearing to dominate the discussion. If your thought is not expressed, waiting momentarily lets you appear confident and willing to listen to other ideas as well.
  • Hear the responses to your contribution. This is what conversation is all about, after all! Rather than simply beginning to think of your next rebuttal, it is vital that you actively listen to the responses coming from those you are debating. In my opinion, a great conversationalist will actually spend more time listening and considering ideas than actually talking.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hits & Misses (September 11-17)

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

  • It felt great to get a bit of rest this week. Evening rehearsals for Little Shop were not happening because of the Theatre Department's Shorts XX this week. It made the days a little busier since we had to fit rehearsals into any available slot, but it also meant that I was getting to bed at a normal hour. We got the work done and I'm feeling more rested -- although I'm not sure the same can be said for our student cast!
  • I've had a lot of fun piano lessons this week. Students arrived ready to play and we were able to do some solid work as a result of their preparation. It's always more exciting to work on music when everyone knows the basic notes and we can start working on the bigger ideas that the compositions hold.
  • The weekend brought WBU's Homecoming. It was a busy weekend, but it was filled with a lot of enjoyable activities. It was thrilling to see the excitement on the faces of alumni who returned to Plainview for the festivities. Their fond memories and love for the people here were a perfect reminder of what a great place this truly is. I've heard it said several times this weekend that even though you might not be a WBU alumnus, once you've come to this place, it forever holds a place in your heart. I'm beginning to agree with that statement in my own life.
  • The music in Sunday morning's service was frustrating for me. I loved the songs and the congregation worshipped, but the band just couldn't get it together. I don't know what was going on! Thankfully, that's one of those things that those of us on the stage realized was happening, but the congregation never knew.
  • When I got a text message late Sunday night letting me know that our rehearsal schedule would have to undergo major revisions because of the lack of advanced scheduling for Shorts, I was afraid we were in for a long week. Once a plan is made, I really hate having to change it at the last minute. I suppose I'm just a creature of habit who likes my routine once I know what's coming. In the end, the situation wasn't as bad as I had feared, but the early part of the week saw a lot of smoke rising from the ears of the music team and cast of Little Shop.
  • Stressful days are inevitable, but sometimes we face days that are extremely tense due to circumstances beyond our control. I found myself spending more time in prayer this week than normal. I just hope that the week ahead will be filled with a lot more peace for me and everyone else in my world.
  • At Wednesday night's rehearsal with the praise team, we began using the church's new in-ear monitors. Personally, I've always hated these things! Inevitably, something happens during performance that causes me grief -- the monitor falls out of my ear or the levels are far too loud or too soft. I'm trying to be a team player and use the monitor system, but I'm kicking and screaming most of the way. Maybe my opinion will change after a few weeks of working with them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Deserted Island

This week, I was introduced to an ice breaker that I had never played before in quite this way. The question of Deserted Island is pretty simple:  If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 books, 3 movies, and 3 TV series would you want to take with you? I thought it would be fun to share my answers here.

Books: This answer was probably most difficult for me. If you've seen the number of books in my apartment, you can figure out why! If forced to narrow my selections to just 3 works, I suppose I would have to choose....
  • To Kill a Mockingbird. It has always been one of my favorite stories since first reading it in preparation for my freshman year at Pepperdine. Plus, it reminds me of home in many ways. And what can compare to the drama in the courtroom as Atticus defends the downtrodden with class and incredibly daring morality?
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This novel is single-handedly response for my love of American literature. I love the comedy and wit that Twain provides in this coming-of-age story that is all about the search for self-identity and freedom. I'm always amazed when someone tells me they have never read the book. I can't imagine my life without it!
  • Les Miserable. It's an epic tale that would occupy lots of my time. I can hear the score from the musical playing as I read the various scenes. Plus, I like pondering the choices that Javert, Marius, and Valjean face against the backdrop of the Revolution.
TV Series: This was an easy choice for me. My 3 selections are....
  • Lost! It took me a season to figure out what all of the hype was about, but once I did, I was hooked! John Locke is still one of my favorite characters in all of television.
  • The West Wing. I love political drama, and this one originally aired during a really interesting time in modern history. I recently watched the entire series again and was impressed to see how relevant the piece remains a decade later. Any chance we could convince Jed Bartlet to run for re-election in 2016?
  • Scandal. There's simply no better show on television. Shonda Rhimes is a master.
Movies: This was a little more difficult for me since I don't really watch as many films as I would like to. Off the top of my head, I would be forced to choose....
  • Top Gun. It's always been a favorite. And it's the film that made Tom Cruise a household name.
  • Star Wars. A classic good-versus-evil film with fun special effects. It's just about time for me to take another journey to a galaxy far, far away!
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. What can I say? I really love this old black and white film. It's another part of my fascination with political stories.
Now it's your turn! I would love to hear some of the books, television series, and movies that you would want to take along to your personal deserted island. Share in the comments (if you dare!)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hits & Misses (September 4-10)

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

  • The week got off to a great start on Sunday with an evening of cards with friends. I haven't played Rook in years, so it took a few minutes to get reacquainted with the game, but the laughter and fun I experienced with Daniel, Kim, and Anthony was one of the highlights of the week. (See, Daniel, I told you that you would make the "hit" list this week!) I laughed until I cried -- while trying not to wake the little ones -- and the ice cream treats weren't a bad addition either. I'm looking forward to more fun -- and a little "Rook revenge" -- soon.
  • After a later-than-usual Sunday night, a lazy Monday was definitely in order. I stayed in my pj's as long as possible and caught up on some reading and television viewing.
  • By the middle of the week, I came to the realization that I was going to miss the weekly donut run with the music students because of rehearsals for Little Shop. Since I was hanging around the music building on Wednesday night after praise band rehearsal, those of us in the building decided to make an early donut run so I could still enjoy the fun. The food and fellowship was great. What could possibly make things better?  Little Shop rehearsal ended earlier than scheduled on Thursday night, so I got to make another trip to the donut shop! Yippee! (I'm sure I'll be crying about that extra trip when I go to the doctor next time, but for now I'm going to focus on the positive.)
  • It has been a full week of music making, but rehearsals have been very productive. Little Shop is coming along nicely. I'm not as worried about my upcoming faculty collaborative recital. Students are making progress in my classes and the week ended with a very successful Jump Start choral clinic on Saturday. All in all, it's been a great week at WBU.
  • It's never fun to find yourself in awkward situations. I've seen more than my fair share this week. Now that those moments are in my rear view mirror, I'm hoping they stay there and don't raise their ugly head again!
  • Bills, bills, bills! It seems like every time I turned around, some one else was needing money from me this week. I watched in fear as my bank account declined and I began counting down the days until my next payday....and its anticipated raise. Thankfully, this is just a temporary crunch and happy days will be here again soon.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Childhood Fears

This week, I've been thinking about my childhood quite a bit. Nothing really spurred the thoughts on, it's just been where my mind headed in the few quiet moments that I found myself enjoying. I had a great childhood and treasure many of the memories that I have with family and friends. However, there was also a lot of fear in my life as a kid. Nights were especially troublesome for me. So I began to think about the things that I most feared as a child.

I was horrified of the dark. My parents' home was very dark most nights and there were lots of creaks and squeaks throughout the sleeping hours. I was a relatively light sleeper, so every shift of the floor or critter that I heard outside my window made me think that some nasty creature was hiding under my bed or in my closet to take me away. The more I thought about my fear of the dark, I began to think that perhaps the many sermons I heard over the years that equated evil, darkness, sin, and death really grabbed my imagination. I didn't understand the metaphor that the writers' were using; instead, I found fear in the literal darkness.

I was also very afraid of being left alone. It wasn't a fear of being deserted by my parents; I knew that they loved me and would take care of me. I was always afraid that something would happen to my parents, leaving my older siblings to raise me. (At the time, that was a horrendous thought on a completely different level!) I remember frequently dreaming that I was wondering the aisles of a massive store, frantically searching for my mom. My yells were unanswered, and I became more frightened as I realized that there was NO ONE in the store with me. It was as though everyone completely disappeared from my life.

Since I'm not fond of the outdoors anyway, it should come as no surprise that I have always had an aversion -- no, I'm actually deathly afraid -- of bugs. Growing up, I would freak out if there was a cricket or ant nearby. Heaven help us if I saw a wasp or spider though! I would go into orbit! Bugs were simply gross and not something I wanted to have in my world at all.

Years have passed and I have learned to deal with many of my phobias, but that basic fear is still there. I don't like being in dark places at all. (It took several months before I was comfortable enough to walk down the halls at WBU without turning on the light because I didn't know what might be lurking around the corner unseen.) I continue to struggle with the fear of being left alone -- either through death or desertion -- by those most important to me. If you could have seen me last night, you would also know that I continue to hate crawling things! That spider was ENORMOUS and I was not going to bed until I found it, killed it, decimated it, and disposed of it. All the while, I was walking on tiptoes and screeching like a little girl!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hits & Misses (August 28 - September 3)

Since Labor Day was Monday, I decided to take the day off from blogging as well. So here's the look back at the week that was....a few days later than normal!

  • The week began with a very special service at College Heights. I've grown up in the church all of my life, so I have seen Deacon Ordinations many times. This particular ordination service was touching as the nine men gave their personal testimonies of their spiritual journey before gathering on the stage with their wives. The end of the service was what I loved the most. As these couples sat on the stage, the members of the congregation flowed around the stage and prayed over each of these couples. Pastor had asked me to provide underscoring for this portion of the service, so I had a most unique perspective of the proceedings. It was clear that the congregation trusted and supported their leaders; seeing and hearing their sincere petitions for Divine direction was a beautiful sight to behold.
  • The Fall musical is here! Auditions have been completed and we have a great cast. Rehearsals started on Friday afternoon and we'll get into full swing once we return from Labor Day break. Long days are in my future, but Little Shop of Horrors promises to be a rewarding and fun experience. I can't wait to dive back into working in musical theater again.
  • This week saw a couple of rehearsals with colleagues as well. It's such a rewarding experience to make music with professionals on a regular basis. Worked a little Rachmaninoff and Villa-Lobos with Dr. Kim Brown in preparation for her upcoming engagement with the Plainview Symphony. Dr. Anthony King and I began preparing for our faculty recital that will come in early October.
  • I've been very proud of the students in Class Piano I this week. They have started the semester with an attention to detail and a drive to learn that makes it a pleasure to teach them. There's always something rewarding about starting to work with a new group of students each year.
  • I continued to struggle with fatigue related to not sleeping well throughout much of the week. I think it's due to the fact that it's taking me a little longer to unwind when I get home from the day. However, I'll continue to monitor it....and if things don't begin to improve, I'll have the doctor make sure there's nothing else causing the fatigue.
  • I've run into several tearful students this week. It's that initial time in the semester where stress really settles in as some of these young musicians realize just how much they have to complete before we break in December. While I want to make everything better, there's really very little I can do. Sadly, it's a lesson that every musician must learn at some point.....and often the only way to discover where the limit is is to be pushed just beyond it. So, for now I'll just watch them, offer support and encouragement when I can, and make sure that they are being covered in prayer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

At some point, every child will ask themselves what they want to be when they grow up. Many are fascinated with the idea of becoming a policeman or a fireman. Some even dream of being a doctor so they can help people. It can be very entertaining to compare our childhood plans with the reality of our adult professions.

I never imagined that my life's work would be in the field of music. I have played classical piano since I was a child, but never wanted to pursue the concert stage. Honestly, I didn't realize that my job could be something that I enjoy so much. Even though things didn't turn out as my 8-year-old self imagined, there are a lot of similarities between those earliest hopes and the professional I have become.

When I was a child, I thought I would be....
  • ....an elementary school teacher. I have always loved to learn new things. It was impossible to have too many books! I also learned from an early age that I liked explaining things to others and that I was pretty good at making things simple to understand. It took a long time before I would completely let go of this life plan. When things were becoming extremely challenging in my doctoral program, I actually entered a teacher education program and almost left the music industry behind. I continue to enjoy teaching children in the church and the piano studio. I can't entirely decide if it is the innocence of the child that I identify with or the fact that we have similar mentalities!
  • .....or a college math professor. I loved working with numbers and math was always a favorite subject. My performance in those classes became more challenging as I entered my first high school class with a group of students that were simply not interested in learning. Unmotivated students resulted in a teacher who decided it was easier to simplify material than challenge the masses. In my present life, the age of the students I work with lines up with this childhood dream, but the subject matter is much more entertaining!
  • .....or a writer. There was always something alluring about putting words on the page and being involved in the creation of books that I love so much. I suppose that this interest became the source of the blog that you are currently reading. I never developed the skills to weave an interesting fictional yarn and I intend to get impatient with research, so I left behind the idea of becoming an author. Now, my online writing keeps me entertained and helps me practice putting words together in an interesting (I hope) and informative manner.
Now that I've shared what I wanted to be when I grew up (although some would argue that I'm still attempting to grow up!), I would love to hear what you had dreamed about as a child. Feel free to share your stories in the comments below.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Hits and Misses (August 21-27)

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

  • The week has been filled with reading and I've loved every minute of it. I guess it was my way of accepting that my time will not be my own for the next few months, so pleasure reading will probably be limited.
  • On Tuesday evening, I participated in the initiation ceremony of the WBU Marching Pioneers. It was a fun evening and I enjoyed hearing the result of their hard work over the past week. It did make my mind race to other initiation ceremonies I have been involved with over the years in Malibu. I suddenly found myself longing to be with my Lambda brothers -- old and young -- and enjoyed a few minutes of texting with Hammy and Paulie before my phone died. (That's becoming a recurring problem that needs to be corrected soon.)
  • The week ended with a quick trip to Clovis, New Mexico with Daniel & Kim to perform at the graduation ceremonies there. It was neat to see the efforts of WBU's external campuses first hand, but the highlight was getting to spend a few hours with my friends. Looking forward to additional adventures in the future.
  • When I returned to Plainview this fall, I was excited to learn that one of the local businesses I frequent regularly had finally began to accept debit cards. What a convenience! Imagine my frustration on Monday evening when I learned that the nighttime staff did not have access to the necessary equipment. GRRR!
  • As though that wasn't frustrating enough, I've had my fill of obnoxious people this week. Thankfully most of my dealings with them were over the phone, so they didn't see the look on my face while we spoke.
  • My office seems to be a breeding ground for crickets. I can't get rid of the little critters and their singing while I'm trying to practice is really annoying.

Friday, August 26, 2016

How Time Flies

I begin most mornings spending a few minutes with the TimeHop app. I enjoy looking over my posts on various social media sites and reflecting on things for a moment. Today's reflection centered on the past two years.

This time last year, I was in the early stage of my first semester at Wayland. What was my major struggle? I was dealing with self doubt as I fought my way through an open score. Now, there are days that I WISH an open score was my greatest challenge!

It doesn't seem possible that two years ago my family was dealing with the news that Dad would have triple bypass in the days ahead and the prognosis was not promising. It's tough to think about how much that one event colored my life for months as we went through the surgery, struggled with post-op complications, and started the uncertain journey to recovery at home. Now that Dad is living a normal life again, the memories seem so distant. Still, without a doubt, I know that 2014 was a year that forever changed me and my family.

Now I wonder what the future has in store. All I know for certain is that God will be there with me and will continue to prove Himself faithful in every circumstance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ready or Not....

Students are roaming the halls. A cacophony of sound fills the air again. Introductory lessons are being presented and lesson times are being scheduled. Private practice sessions and ensemble rehearsals are in full swing. That's right.....the fall semester of classes are finally underway in the School of Music at WBU.

Professors have been preparing for this moment for a few weeks. Faculty and student schedules alike are quickly becoming packed, but we wouldn't have it any other way. It's a privilege to get to do what we love -- make music! There's so much excitement and expectation in the air that you can feel the electricity.

I will stand before my first classes of the semester tomorrow morning. That means I get to ease into the new semester -- making last minute changes to my schedule, observing the new students, and reconnecting with those returning. The first day of school is always filled with so much potential. We don't know exactly what this school year has in store, but we're all excited to start riding this wave together. Now, let's just see what's going to happen.....

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hits and Misses (August 14-20)

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

  • Students began arriving on the Plainview campus throughout the week. The first wave in my world arrived on Sunday afternoon as Band Camp began. That evening, I got to join the students for a night of bowling. I had a blast....and I actually managed to bowl better than I had anticipated. My back was a little sore the next morning, but it was definitely worth it.
  • To add to the fun, I've gotten to share several meals with students and colleagues this week. What's even better? It was free food! I enjoyed the laughter and fellowship as everyone is getting ready for the start of classes in just a few days.
  • The highlight of the week was a moment of affirmation that came to the music faculty during one of our meetings. I think we were all overwhelmed by the emotional expression of gratitude that we witnessed and were humbled to think that our efforts were making such an impact in the life of the student who shared his heart with us. Throughout the remainder of our meetings, we repeatedly referenced the testimony we had heard and drew strength from it. It was a moment in my professional life that I will never forget.
  • It has been a long week of meetings as I participated in professional development workshops. Thankfully I didn't have as many meetings as I did last year in new faculty orientation, but processing so much information in such a short span of time is quite tiring. The first soundings of the morning alarm clock wasn't a welcome addition either. It's just another sign that things will begin hopping again very soon.  As the weekend arrived, I was feeling the drain in my body and just did not feeling well at all. I'm hoping that a few days of rest will return me to normal once again.
  • A case of miscommunication became evident early in the week. It was stressful as both parties tried to figure out what had happened and how we could resolve the situation without too much fallout. Things didn't turn out as either of us had expected, but God in His wisdom knew exactly what needed to happen. Not only was the issue created by the miscommunication resolved, but another need was met in the process! I didn't enjoy the uncomfortable situation at the beginning of the week, but I just had to smile in appreciation and worship as I watched circumstances get worked out for the good of everyone involved.
  • I've been experiencing an abnormal number of leg cramps this week. I think it's because my water consumption was greatly reduced during all of the meetings.....and the lack of walking wasn't helping things either. Here's hoping that things begin to return to normal very quickly.