Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Most Hated Season

The most hated season of the year is here. It's not Spring's budding flowers that is creating my pain. It's not even the sneeze-inducing pollen that is causing me such distress. It's tax season!

Few tasks create more frustration in me than gathering tiny pieces of paper in order to detail the money I have spent during a 12-month span of time. Money has been held out of my paycheck which I will never see again. Now I'm forced to prove that I don't need to send more of my money to the Federal government. Apparently, since I am a single man who has struggled to piece together a living, I should send every remaining cent to a faraway office. Does this process really need to be this complex? Do other nations require such detailed accounting by their citizens? At this point, I'm finding myself more and more in favor of a flat tax across the board!

I've spent enough time complaining about tax season now. I have to get back to work and get these returns completed. After all, I only have a few more weeks to make sense of all of this insanity!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hits and Misses (March 20-26)

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

  • A four day work week because of the Easter holiday is never a bad thing. It felt great to sleep until 9am on Friday morning and just lazily lounge around my apartment for the rest of the morning.
  • I've made a point to return home each day this week for my lunch break. It was nice to casually sit quietly at home after making a sandwich and just let my mind rest. I sometimes forget how special it is to physically leave campus for a few minutes in the middle of the day. It's not always possible to slip away, but I definitely enjoy it when I can.
  • There's been a lot more laughter in my world this week. I think it has been a combination of everyone dealing with stress as well as realizing that exciting days are ahead. It doesn't hurt that the overall mood in the department is very positive and students and faculty really enjoy being together.

  • I hate having my time wasted. Whether it is due to someone standing me up for an appointment or a perpetually unprepared student arriving for lessons 15 minutes late, wasting my time is the easiest way to irritate me. I'm still learning how to best use these small, unexpected scraps of time, but the planner in me fights against the change to my daily agenda.
  • West Texas wind storms are no joke! I had my first experience with the gusting winds on Wednesday. I learned that doors become quite heavy when there is a 45 mph wind blowing against them. I have developed the acquired taste for blowing dust. I accepted the fact that no amount of hairspray will keep things in place in these gales. I quickly realized that these winds will be respected.
  • I don't enjoy waiting. I am waiting for responses to several inquiries I've made in the past week. I know that answers will eventually come. I also know that I'm impatient. I want an answer now so I can move to plan B if necessary. I want to schedule my life now! Alas, I'll just have to keep waiting....and hoping.....and waiting. I guess waiting is all part of the learning process.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Memories

One of the many perks of working in a Christian university is enjoying a holiday weekend in celebration of Easter. I have lots of things I want to accomplish during this long weekend, but none is more important than pausing to reflect on Christ's sacrifice and victory -- and the life I now live because of it.

On this Good Friday morning, I find myself reflecting on a simple truth expressed by the apostle John as well as Christian songwriters Ronnie Hinson and Mike Payne.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down His life for His friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:13-14, NASB)

He knew me, yet He loved me;
He whose glory makes the Heavens shine.
So unworthy of such mercy,
Yet when He was on the cross, I was on His mind. 
(When He Was on the Cross, 1984)
Have a blessed Easter, y'all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Once Was Lost....

I've had a proclivity for losing things lately. This should not be surprising. I'm notorious for putting things in safe places only to forget where I put them. I've lost passports, birth certificates, library get the idea. Somehow I've managed to hold on to all of my devices without too much trouble. I thought that had all changed this week.

Since I just returned home from a road trip, I haven't cleaned out my car yet. What can I say? It's a bachelor-mobile! On Monday, I was running lots of errands between lessons and rehearsals. At one point that afternoon, I turned to use my cell phone only to realize that it wasn't there! I panicked momentarily before I convinced myself I had just left it in the car. When my phone wasn't in its usual place in the car, I assumed I had left it at home when I was there for lunch.

After work, I drove home to find an empty couch! Now I was frantic. I cannot survive without my phone! It keeps me connected to the world. I crawl in the floor and check under the couch. I walk to my parking spot, hoping it had fallen on the ground. I look under the seats of the car. I drive back to the bank I visited earlier in the day to check the lot there.

As I begin to accept that my phone is gone, I visit the local Sprint store to switch over my plan and get a new phone. Now that I know what Sprint will need in order to keep my current number, I return to the phone and hit the hands-free button on the steering wheel by accident. The system comes to life and informs me that my device is connected! My phone is not lost, but I have no idea where it is....and the battery is extremely low. This is not happening!

I call the Geriatric Ward and tell them what is happening. Once I get to the school parking lot, I'll have them call my phone and hopefully I'll be able to find it as it vibrates. After a few moments, Mom calls and I hear my beautiful ring tone! The phone had fallen into a massive abyss between the bucket seat and the arm rest. What is even more funny is that I found another lost device --- that I have searched for in 3 states since December! I'm not sure if this is a sign of a perpetually messy car or the early onset of recurring senior moments. Either way, "what was once lost has now been found."

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hits and Misses (March 13-19)

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


  • Spring Break was a much needed rest. I headed to Arkansas for the week and did absolutely nothing. Essentially I moved between the bedroom, kitchen, and living room and didn't open my car door until late Thursday afternoon. I finally broke down and ran a few scales on the piano on Wednesday. It was a week of rest!
  • There's nothing like home cooked meals! I had most of my favorites this week -- oven fried chicken, Ranch pork chops, cordon bleu casserole -- and loved eating leftovers the next day.
  • When I finally ventured away for a few hours on Friday afternoon, I checked out Funkee's Cafe in Marion. The blueberry gelato was amazing and the atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. This is definitely a good addition to this growing community -- although the train traffic is very annoying since I'm not around it all the time.


  • It took most of the week to finally begin feeling human again. Antibiotics were rough on my system and I didn't feel like doing too much this week. I guess it was a good thing no one knew I was coming home. I didn't want to mess with anyone at all.
  • I tried the lemonade from Arizona Tea this week. Disgusting!
  • An unsettled stomach is possibly the worst type of illness. Surely an antibiotic can be developed that doesn't have this resulting problem for so many days. You have to feel worse to feel better it seems.....

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dreaming of Summer

With Spring Break winding down, it's hard to believe that summer vacation is just a few short months away. How can this be? I'm still spending days sitting under a blanket to stay warm and toasty! This summer looks as though it will be a little different than those I've had most recently, so some planning is definitely in order.

Ever since graduating, summer has been an insane season for me. Inevitably, I would teach an intense summer term class from late May to early July. These classes wore me out! I often found myself involved with a community theater production. I love playing musical theater, but the long hours and poor pay often resulted in lots of frustration. When I was still working for the church, the summer led to a massive two week summer camp. The kids and I had a blast pulling together a musical, but no one fully knew the amount of work required in the seven months prior to pull off this feat. Kids Music Camp was one of my proudest accomplishments each year, but it took a long time to recover from the strain of each production.

Now I find myself in a different situation. My new position does not involve summer responsibilities, but my salary continues to arrive in the bank. For the first time, the months from May to August will not be a scramble to pick up odd jobs in order to bring in a little cash. So my approach to summer plans is undergoing a major change.

I have applied to work at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan for the summer. Since I've not heard anything from the application, I'm beginning to assume I won't get the job this year. (After years of the job hunt, I'm finally learning that not landing a position is not a personal insult!) So now I'm back to the planning stage. What do I want to do this summer?

My sister-in-law has already asked for a trip to the beach. I'm considering a trip to LA to participate in the American Liszt Festival. Why not see a little opera in Santa Fe and catch some recitals in the city's chamber music festival? Of course, I plan to spend some time at home and would love to get to teach a children's class in a VBS somewhere.

What would you recommend to include in my summer plans? I'm definitely open to suggestions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lofty Plans

It has been great spending time at home surrounded by the Geriatrics. I think it was just what was needed. I shake my head when I think of the lofty plans I made before leaving Plainview.

I knew I wasn't 100% healthy while packing, but I had convinced myself this little URI wasn't gonna keep me down. I just knew I was going to get bored while I was in Arkansas, so I packed for a productive week. My lofty goals included 3 books, 2 piano solos, and repertoire on my iPad that still needs some attention. I was going to accomplish so much!

My body and mind had other plans. They decided to shut down as soon as I entered the Geriatric Ward. I've only read 40 pages of one of the books. The piano solos remain on the back seat of my car. The piano in the dining room has remained silent. I've simply nursed this URI by lounging on the couch while watching mind-numbing television (between the body-shuddering fits of coughing, that is).

I'm glad that my body has demanded the rest. I'm also thankful that I'm in a place where I'm not beating myself up because my self-imposed goals aren't being accomplished. It's taken a while, but I'm finally figuring out that there is a time to be driven and there is a time to take it easy. Both are necessary and extremely beneficial....and I plan to enjoy this week of rest before the final push to the end of the semester begins.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hits and Misses (March 7 - 13)

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


  • It has been a relatively easy week in Plainview. A large number of our students left on Wednesday for choir tour, so that meant the end of the week was a breeze for me. That turned out to be a good thing for me as you will see in the "Misses" section of this post.
  • Sunday morning saw the end of the series on spiritual warfare and the armor of God at College Heights. I have learned so much from Pastor Jason's ministry this year and this series has been no different. Sunday's sermon focused on the role of prayer in spiritual warfare. I was challenged and encouraged. Great stuff!
  • Few things are more fun than getting to surprise Mom. As soon as service ended Sunday morning, I started the drive to Arkansas. As I got into Russellville around 8pm, I decided I would drive all the way in. That meant it was time to let the Geriatrics in on my secret. It was a fun phone call and I'm definitely looking forward to a quiet week at home.



  • I've been one sick puppy this week. On Monday, I went to the doctor with the beginnings of an upper respiratory infection. I took my shot and headed home. The week was going well until I woke up on Friday morning. I couldn't breathe and felt like a Mac truck had run over me. I called the doctor and got a round of Z-Pack. That antibiotic is doing quite a number on my stomach, but I'm slowly starting to feel like a human again.
  • The week before Spring Break is always stressful for everyone. I've had more than a few students crying in my office this week. Some of the tears were because of poor preparation, but the majority were shed because kids were simply overwhelmed by life. I hated seeing them cry, but I was thankful that I was able to be a sympathetic ear.
  • Driving home to Arkansas was made more interesting since the entire state was under a tornado watch. Thanks for the welcome home gift, Arkansas! By the way, your roads are still the pits even though they are perpetually under construction. Geez!

Friday, March 11, 2016

I Should Buy Stock..... the Kimberly-Clark Corporation because of the sheer amount of Kleenex tissues I've gone through in the past few days. This is ridiculous -- and actually rather disgusting.

The School of Music has been plagued with various respiratory infections for the past few weeks. Some have been sick for several weeks. So when I felt the beginnings of illness, I headed to the doctor on Monday afternoon in hopes to nip it in the bud. The doctor confirmed that I had an early case of a respiratory infection and gave me a massive shot to knock it out as quickly as possible. He told me I should be feeling better soon, but to call if I wasn't better by Friday.

As the week went on, I felt much better. The sore throat was minimal and I was regaining some of my energy. But the congestion remained. This has been a source of frustration for me since January. I just have not been able to shake the stuffiness and have struggled to manage the excessive amounts of phlegm my body has produced.

On Thursday, I grabbed lunch and headed home for an hour of relaxation. That's when it happened. Something flipped and my nose became a faucet. I can't keep enough tissues handy to deal with the sneezing and blowing. (Does that qualify as TMI? I'm past the point of really knowing.) The good news is that all of this activity is actually making me feel better. Pressure is finally being relieved. I just have to figure out if this is a "normal" progression in the recovery or if it is the beginning of a set back. I anticipate making a call to the nurse this morning to get her professional opinion.

In the meantime, I'll keep my tissues handy and thank my lucky stars that next week is Spring Break....just in time to recover from this mess that has played havoc on me for the last five days.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Not Getting Paid As Promised!

I have gone back and forth about whether I should really write this post....but I finally decided to go ahead with it. I need to vent. After all, this is my personal blog....about my life and experiences.

Last month, I was contacted by a local high school to do some playing for an instrumental competition -- Texas UIL Solo and Ensemble. The rehearsal process involved several evenings of rehearsals. That's not exactly true. The evenings were spent teaching high school students to count basic rhythms, learning complex accompaniment parts, and twiddling my thumbs when these irresponsible students didn't show up for rehearsal slots they had reserved. I agreed to do it because I believe in music education and wanted to begin a solid relationship with the high school. The rate of $45 per student was quoted to my colleague and me for the rehearsals and performances. I needed the I agreed to take on 20 students.

I've already vented about the insane amount of paperwork I had to complete for this gig, so I won't rehash that frustration. Still, I was beginning to wonder when I was going to actually see the money. I built my budget expecting to have the extra $900 in my account. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from the assistant band director yesterday telling me that he needed an invoice for the services before I could get paid. I can handle that with no problem.  But he further tells me that I will be paid $20/hour for rehearsal and $20/student for the performance. Students that didn't show up for the competition are being deducted from my compensation -- even though I already learned their music!  (Did I mention that I also had to sight read a piece at the competition with a student because his inept coaches gave him the WRONG BLASTED PIECE to play?!?!?) Before you think I'm complaining over a reduction of $5 per student, it's much more severe; student rehearsals were 7 minutes long!  In other words, I am being paid HALF of what I was quoted when I agreed to perform.

I don't know if this is a case of deception, poor communication, or incompetence. I'm in a pickle though. I can send the invoice for the correct amount and have my payment delayed longer because the amount was not approved by the district. When the assistant director was questioned, he said that he mistakenly quoted the amount for the state competition instead of the regional. Either way, because this was a verbal agreement, I don't have a leg to stand on for the promised rate of payment. Since services have already been rendered, I don't have anything I can withhold until I receive all of my money.

What does this mean for the future? I suppose I'll have to have a written contract that includes rate of payment before agreeing to play. I hate to become that person, but I have to protect myself and make sure that I'm receiving the payment I deserve and was promised.

Oh.....I forgot to mention that this same school has already asked me to accompany students at the state competition. I don't know how I can trust the institution to pay a fair amount after being stiffed. This is certainly not going to make me want to play for PISD in the future.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hits and Misses (February 29 - March 6)

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

  • This was an extremely busy week, but it was worth it when this semester's Opera Scenes hit the stage. The show was a lot of fun when it was all said and done. Of the five scenes that were performed, I have to admit that "The Worst One Ever" was my favorite from the beginning. I hope to see more schools picking up this charming short opera that showcases young female vocalists beautifully.
  • Before the Saturday evening performance of the opera scenes, I attended my first Friends of Music Gala. This annual event is a celebration of the School of Music and the contributions that our donors and audiences have made throughout the year. This year's gala was held on the stage of the auditorium and took its inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting members of the Wayland family that I had not met yet as well as members of the Plainview community who are so supportive of our efforts in training the next generation of musicians. I have never seen an organization quite like the Friends of Music, and now I understand how truly blessed we are to have so much support from these donors at Wayland.
  • After a long week of rehearsals, teaching, and performing, a lazy Saturday was just what was needed before the evening's festivities. I lounged around on the couch and did some light reading while I simply caught my breath. I'm looking forward to a lot more mindless resting in the next couple of weeks too!
  • With the demands of work and production week for the opera, I found that I had no time for anything else. I didn't write a single blog post. I read about 20 pages of my novel. I barely found time for any kind of devotional this week. My week was spent teaching, playing piano, or sleeping. That was it. Although I enjoy doing all of those things, I also like a few other hobbies thrown in as well. I'm thankful that things will be returning to a normal routine this week.
  • Everywhere I looked this week I saw sick people. There is a flu-like bug that is hitting the area and people are coughing and sneezing all around. I kept myself hydrated and taking daily vitamins in an effort to avoid getting sick -- at least until the opera was over. Now as things are beginning to settle down, I find myself with a dry cough, an itchy throat, and general fatigue. I'm hoping that "it" hasn't finally caught up with me, but I'm getting worried. If I continue to feel this way tomorrow (Monday), I'll probably be heading to the doctor right away. I don't want to be sick now that I have a little time off coming up!
  • I'm tired. People can be stupid. Sometimes people just don't bother to listen and think. All three of these things combined in a perfect formula to put me in a very bad mood. Sunday morning was a time of trying to bite my tongue so I didn't explode on people -- some who truly deserve a good tongue lashing, in my opinion -- and just get the job done. I'm proud of myself least I recognized I was in a bad mood. There is something to be said for that as well.