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 a supportive professor and cover them in prayer.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stress Busters

There's no doubt about 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.