Monday, September 18, 2017

Hits and Misses (September 10-16, 2017)

The week has been very active and I'm in a chatty mood. You have been warned! This post is longer than normal. Without further ado, here's a look back at the week that was.....

  • I love sharing music with people. It's especially fun when I just get to let my hair down and relax. No serious repertoire. Just sharing arrangements of songs that hold a special place in the hearts of the audience. That was my experience when I got to play a few hymn arrangements for the Young at Heart group at College Heights. After enjoying lunch with these senior adults -- and laughing with them, as well -- I sat at the piano and together we thought about Heaven as we shared the gift of music. It wasn't the best playing I've ever done in my life -- I even pulled out an arrangement that is still a "work in progress" -- and it was fine. Sometimes in all of the hecticness of making music professionally, I forget just how important these casual moments with my faith community can really be. 
  • Back in the School of Music, it has been a busy week for me (surprise, surprise!). It has also been a week filled with productive rehearsals. Richard and I continue to sightread piano duo repertoire on Wednesday mornings. I think we've found a couple of pieces that we both really enjoy that will be featured in an upcoming recital. Yes, we are actually going to perform it this time....I promise it will be worth the wait! As the week continued, opera rehearsals went much better than last week! It's amazing how a humbling experience (see last week's post) will kick your tail in gear to make sure it doesn't happen again. This week's rehearsals showed that my work -- and the work of our students -- paid off while continuing to point out areas that still need some attention in the practice rooms. Lastly, I am preparing a senior recital with soprano Elizabeth Johnson this semester. The repertoire is not easy at all and we have both dreaded putting a few of the pieces together. Last week, we had committed to just plowing through the fear-inducing repertoire in our next rehearsal...and we made it through the songs without too much trauma. They are still stiff in some passages at the moment, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now we just continue to press on!
  • I hate housework. Since I'm actually home so little during the week, I struggle with putting in all the effort to keep the place spotless. Don't get me wrong, I pick up after myself and make sure things are not growing.....I'm not THAT big of a slob. It's that deep cleaning that I know makes such a difference that I hate. So I swallowed my pride and sought professional assistance this week. I learned that a graduate student at WBU was looking for work as a house cleaner to help with her tuition; of course, I felt it was my obligation to offer her work! LOL! The work was beautifully done and for what I considered a reasonable rate. More importantly, my apartment is clean, fresh, and organized. In my opinion, that was $40 well spent!
  • As the week came to a close, we received an important update on Hannah Brown and her fight against cancer. While it wasn't exactly what we had hoped for, I was encouraged that the MRI came back with results that can be seen as a step in the right direction at the moment. Here's what the doctors saw.  There is currently no indication that cancer has returned to Hannah's brain at this point. Praise the Lord! However, there are some other issues that are raising concern. Currently, there is inflammation in her brain that can either be an early indicator of cancer's return OR it may be a side effect of the radiation she has been through in recent months. Additionally, there is a small spot on her lung that needs to be monitored. It may either be a cancerous cell that has spread to other parts of her body OR it is an infection -- probably pneumonia -- that can be treated with antibiotics. I choose to focus on the "OR" possibilities at the moment and continue to trust that Jehovah Rapha -- The LORD, my Healer -- is doing a complete work in Hannah's young body that will bring her complete health while bringing absolute honor and glory to the Heavenly Father.  If you have not already done so, I encourage you to follow Hannah's progress on her Facebook page -- Hannah Strong and Courageous -- and join the thousands around the world who are praying for her and her family. #RoarHannah!!!!
  • I started the week with a nasty cold that I just could not shake. On Sunday morning, I got out of bed and felt as though I had been hit by a semi-truck. I texted my Minister of Music to see if he could get a sub for me on such short notice. When I didn't get a response, I got dressed and headed to rehearsal so I could make sure that the service was covered. When I got there, I learned that several members of the team were also out sick or out of town. Since I was there, I put on my big boy pants and got to work. When I don't feel well, tempos and rhythmic figures are the first things to suffer in my playing. So I felt as though I was dragging everything through the service, but was thankful that I didn't completely embarrass myself. Needless to say, it was a welcome relief when I finally started feeling like a human again around Tuesday morning.
  • This semester's weekly schedule has a few really long days in the middle of the week. I can't complain too much -- I did it to myself -- and I think the work is important. Tuesday and Thursdays are the longest days.  Both days begin with 8am classes (Oh Karma, you continue to repay me for all of those early morning classes I intentionally avoided over the years!) and end with late commitments. On Tuesdays, I play for the Plainview Chorale until 9pm; Thursdays end with weekly donut runs with music students that easily last until 10pm. Wednesday mornings are the worst.....after a long day of teaching and playing on Tuesday, my 8:30am Duo rehearsal typically starts with me still trying to shake the grogginess from my brain. Thankfully, I have a few breaks on these marathon days that I try to protect from interruption so I can recharge and not feel as though I am completely pulling my hair out.
  • Between the end of my cold this week and the weather patterns in the area, I've been fighting several headaches this week. Most were the run-of-the-mill variety that were handled with a little caffeine and Tylenol. On Friday night, I had the mother of all headaches that landed me in a dark, quiet room while I waited for it to pass. Those few hours of discomfort felt like an eternity. I'm really glad that I don't suffer with those severe headaches as frequently as I did in the past!
And there you have it! It's been a packed week....thanks for joining me for the journey. Now let's see what's on the agenda for the week ahead. Hope you all have a good one!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hits and Misses (September 3-9, 2017)

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

  • I enjoyed the last few lazy days of the Labor Day holiday in Oklahoma City. It was nice to get away and rest. I enjoyed some good food and visited a few of the "less popular" sites in the city, but mostly I huddled in my hotel room and enjoyed doing some reading and binging on a couple of television series. It may not sound like an exciting vacation to you, but it was exactly what I was looking forward to.....and just wish I could escape away a little more often.
  • Once back in Plainview, it was time to get back to work. It is always a joy to have productive rehearsals with students that lead to successful performances. I love watching our students try new things in their craft and achieve great results. It makes it fun to get up every day and see what is going to happen next.
  • The week ended with a very successful Jump Start choral camp at WBU. I ended up working mostly with students from the "small schools" as they prepared auditions including Haydn's Little Organ Mass. It was a long day of hard work for everyone involved, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.
  • Like clockwork, the end of August and the beginning of September means that I am going to have a nasty head cold. This year is no different. I'm congested and dealing with a nagging cough that I simply cannot shake. It has sapped my energy most of the week and just made me feel crappy. I think hope that I am almost over it and will start to feel (and sound) normal again very soon.
  • One of my favorite tasks in my job is getting to play for opera workshop. However, putting singers and accompaniment together for the first time is like quickly and violently ripping off a band-aid. It's a necessary part of the process, but no matter how prepared I think I am.....there are still moments where I will fall flat on my face. I ran out of time to fully prepare this week and I paid the price when reading through a scene I *thought* I knew with the cast. It was an humbling experience. Needless to say, I know one portion of the opera that is definitely on my radar this week!
  • I have always been an organizer and normally have lots of to-do lists scattered around my desk in various forms. Recently, it has felt as though the lists were not working -- and that has been terribly frustrating. I know what needs to get done, but I can never seem to get to the important things because of all the other fires that I am putting out. It's not that the immediate things aren't worthy of my attention; I just hate to see what I had planned to accomplish get pushed further down the line so that it has now reached "crisis" mode as well.  Oh well -- c'est la vie!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 27 - September 2, 2017)

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

  • It is always a welcome event to have great conversation. The topic really doesn't matter. Just the chance to sit down with friends, students, or colleagues and thoughtfully share ideas and opinions. It has been a good week for talking.
  • The Singing Men of Texas got back to work this week as they gathered for their annual retreat. We sang through a lot of music and I did a lot of playing, but it was enjoyable. The singers sound really good, the overall atmosphere is one of professionalism, and instrumentalists are respected and appreciated. That last point goes a long way!
  • As the week came to a close, I was able to get out of town for the long weekend. Since I couldn't be with family right now, I really just wanted to spend some quiet time alone in a hotel room with my books and some great restaurants around. I decided to break with the tradition of the past few years and headed back east -- to Oklahoma City. I really didn't do much of anything at all....and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Have you had days where it seemed nothing would go right and you couldn't win for losing? Those days seem as though they will never end, too. I had two of those long, frustrating days back to back last week. By the end of the second day, I was ready to take someone's head off! No one was at fault. Things just weren't going my issues....body aches....long, redundant rehearsals......I was just over it! I'm really hoping that I managed to get all of the bugs out in the early part of the semester. If that was a sign of how the semester is going to go, I need to find my white flag and frantically start waving it all around now!
  • I am a man who loves a routine. Give me a plan, let's stick to it, and get the job done. Imagine my great "joy" this week (Is that dripping with enough sarcasm?) when I discovered that several things on my calendar needed to be adjusted in my weekly schedule! Everything worked out for the most part -- I still have one major dilemma lingering -- and I've learned a lesson in rolling with the punches.
  • With all of the craziness of the first full week of the semester, I found myself entering the final rehearsal of the week underprepared. I knew I was running out of prep time throughout the week, so I made an educated guess of what I would be able to handle without spending too much time on it. I selected Father's aria at the end of Act I of Hansel and Gretel as the portion of the rehearsal I would wing. After all, I had played the aria last semester for the it couldn't be THAT bad, could it? YIKES! Let's just say I have a "date" with Humperdinck's score when I get back to Plainview and will definitely be spending some time with this highly chromatic scene!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 20-26, 2017)

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

  • I played my first rehearsal with the Plainview Chorale this week. Even though I was sightreading for the entire rehearsal, it turned out to be a lot of fun and a nice way for me to contribute to the musical life in Plainview.
  • After several years of talking about it, Richard and I were finally able to block out rehearsal time in order to prepare a Piano Duo Recital. We've read a little Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Barber so far. Nothing is settled yet. We'll just continue doing a little more reading until we've got a program that we want to prepare and present. This is going to be awesome!
  • Now that school is in full swing, so is the Thursday night tradition of Donut Night. This week saw the largest crowd that I can remember. There was lots of laughter as well as a few heart-to-heart conversations. I think we're off to a good start for a successful Fall.
  • On Saturday morning, I was able to attend the Welcome Home Party for Hannah Brown. This sweet little girl and her family have had a rough go of it this summer. I was thrilled to get to see them all for a few minutes and see how well Hannah is doing and how their faith is sustaining the entire family. Hannah still has a long road ahead of her, but those who love her around the world will continue to pray that she will thrive and continue to ROAR as she fights cancer. 
  • There's nothing like getting to be a kid again for a few minutes after a busy week. Who knew that playing hide-and-seek with a boy's toy truck could bring so much laughter and joy? I'm very thankful for the time I got to spend with Luke (Hannah's younger brother) on Saturday, too.
  • Sometimes there are just too many chiefs! Nothing is more frustrating than when everyone wants to be in charge and thinks that their opinions are correct. Things just work better when we have a single leader -- thankfully, it's not me anymore! -- and the rest of the Indians simply fall in line.
  • The new semester has gotten under way and I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water. I don't know what's going on, but it seems that there is just so much to do! I know it will settle down eventually. It has seemed that every time I mark one thing off of my to-do list, three other tasks are standing in line to take its place. I just have to keep reminding myself to just take one step at a time and get it all done.
  • I've been a little restless this week. There's nothing disturbing me. I'm not upset and I don't feel poorly. Still, I'm finding myself tossing and turning quite a bit. I just can't seem to get settled. I've devoted a lot of my personal prayer time to this matter. I'm just going to trust that it will get better soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Revisiting a Younger Me

In case you haven't guessed, I enjoy writing. That's part of the reason that I like blogging. There's just something priceless about putting words on the page to express my feelings and opinions about a myriad of subjects. Not all of my thoughts are intended or appropriate for public consumption though. There are times that I need to express my frustrations, deepest hopes, and greatest fears without inviting anyone else to read. That is the purpose of my personal journal.

I have kept journals -- or diaries, if you prefer -- off and on throughout my life. Journaling became a consistent part of my routine while nearing the end of my time at Pepperdine.  Lots of things were happening that put me into an uproar emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So I needed an outlet to express those thoughts without fear of offending people or getting myself into major trouble. My journal became the place to lay it all on the line without any self-editing.

Over the past week, I decided it was time to read those early journals for the first time in many, many years. It has been an eye-opening experience as I revisited the world that my 20-year-old self faced. Those were days of lots of drama and personal turmoil. I was struggling with my own identity as it related to my faith, my relationships with others, and my future as a musician. I had forgotten that there was a long period of time after completing my senior recital that I was convinced that I would never play the piano again because I had so many negative feelings attached to the experience of studying music. As I walk through those memories again, I am so thankful for the people who nurtured me and helped me realize that my negative feelings were not about the music, but about people with whom I was forced to interact. I have also been reminded of just how important my interactions with my current students are. I have found myself spending more time in prayer as I approach the beginning of a new year that the words I speak to my students will always be couched in sincere love for their well-being and their future endeavors.

Not all of my memories were bad. I found myself laughing frequently at my younger self. I loved looking back to a time when life was carefree. I shook my head as I lived again the emotional roller coaster of dealing with roommates and friends that didn't understand that I was right and they were wrong. I am amazed that I didn't get slapped a few times; years away from the situations quickly reveal just how wrong I really was. There were times I wanted to leap back in time and tell this naive Kennith that the issues that were causing me so much distress and heartache were really not that important in light of the big picture.

Occasionally, I found myself getting into a negative head space as I read my old journals. Insecurities and unresolved hurts reared their heads again and continued to torment me all these years later. Fortunately, I quickly realized what was happening and was able to clear my head -- as soon as I wrote about it in my current journal! Overall, it has been great to look back through the pages of my journals and reflect on how things were for me then. I just have to remind myself not to stay in the past.  My goal as I continue my personal journaling is that I will be able to LEARN from the past, LIVE in the present, and LOOK FORWARD to the future.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 13-19)

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


  • I safely made it back to Plainview. It is always a long drive from the Geriatric Ward back to work. That's why I split it into two it's not too bad. I stopped in Shawnee, Oklahoma....just in time to let a nasty storm pass through during the overnight hours. I drove through a few sprinkles here and there, but the weather was actually quite nice for most of the drive.
  • While I was traveling back to West Texas, Mom had her second successful cataract surgery. From what I have gathered, the procedure went really smoothly and recovery has gone well. Mom will return to the optometrist on Tuesday for her final check up....and then we will be completely done with these surgeries. Hooray!
  • After a really long week, I was in need of a good laugh by Friday morning. Thankfully, many of my colleagues were also delirious by that point and were able to provide the humor. It's of the things I enjoy most about my job is the people that I get to work with. A faculty that likes each other -- really, we like each other! -- is not as common as you might think and something that we all count as a great blessing in the School of Music.
  • Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. I know that meetings are necessary sometimes. This week's meetings that I participated in were mostly productive. I just found my brain going well as my butt!
  • A storm went through Plainview one of the first evenings I was back in town. When I woke the next morning and found water in the hallway, I thought I might have a roof leak. Only problem with that diagnosis was that there was no water on the walls or ceiling. When the water began to spread, I assumed I had a full-blown water leak and immediately called my landlord. He seemed really unconcerned and passively explained that it was probably just condensation from the air conditioner. Ummm....NO! There was a good 3 foot patch of water that I could splash around in without leaving my apartment. By the end of the week, I saw that a plumber had actually set foot in my place and left a fan behind to dry the carpet. I still haven't heard what caused the water or when someone will be back to get the fan. 
  • Ever since I've been back in West Texas, I've been experiencing some strange sleep patterns. I'm falling asleep around 11:15......only to be fully awake by 12:30. Then it takes forever to fall asleep again. By the time I need to get up the next morning, I'm still sluggish and not wanting to face the day. I'm really hoping that this is just due to the change in environment and not a sign of any other issue.  I've dealt with enough health-related stuff this summer; I need a break from all of that!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hits and Misses (August 6-12)

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

  • To start the week, the Geriatrics and I visited Marion First and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Even though the Pastor's microphone was not on for the duration of his sermon, the acoustics in the sanctuary were such that we were able to hear almost every word. He spoke beautifully from Romans 8. This was our first time to be at Marion First since Dr. Hallmark's departure; it was great to hear that the commitment to proclaiming the Word with excellence continues.
  • My car was in the shop the first few days of the week. I also knew this was my final week to spend at home. Those two things combined meant that I was very intentional about enjoying a relaxing week. I watched television and did some light reading during the days. Once the Geriatrics came home, Mom and I would enjoy some time together in the living room. All in all, it was a very good week.
  • On Saturday evening, we had the final Geriatric Outing of the summer. As strange as it may sound to you, these end-of-the-week dinners were a highlight for me and for my parents. (Here's hoping that the explorations will continue to happen occasionally while I'm away.) This week, I decided to return to a favorite we had dinner at J. Alexander's. I've been trying to get out there for several weeks now, but there was always another restaurant that Mom and Dad wanted to try. If you know us well, our menu selections will come as no surprise.....Mom and I both ordered the French Dip (minus the horseradish!) and Pop went for the crab cakes. Yummy and fitting end to our summer together.
  • My car went in the shop on Monday for a basic oil change and to have the tires rotated. The shop manager called Dad and told him that two of the tires were actually in pretty bad shape and needed to be replaced. Pop decided that we would just replace all of the tires instead. The tires were not in stock and did not arrive until Wednesday I finally got my car back on Thursday morning! It's not like I had anything that I needed to do before returning to Plainview. The end of the week became a rather frantic sprint to get all of the loose ends tied up. 
  • The worst part of not having my car is that I also missed my chiropractic sessions for the week. I can tell that I wasn't adjusted, too! My lower back is extremely sore; my arms and neck are also screaming for attention. One of the first things I'll do when I get to Plainview is make a trip to see Dr. Nate so we can continue the process that was started this summer.
  • I hate packing! Even though I have lived out of my suitcase all summer long, it still takes more effort and time than I anticipate to gather everything, put it in the car and hit the road. I'm just glad that I don't have to do that very often.
  • I hate walking on egg shells.....and I'm very glad that I don't have to do it anymore.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

All Good Things....

Whether you credit the famous quote to Chaucer or a wise Grandmother, the sentiment still rings true -- "All good things must come to an end." So the end of my extended vacation is finally coming to an end. I will begin the journey back to west Texas on Sunday morning. 

This summer has seen moments of laughter and tears. I was thrilled to find my mother regaining her strength and coming through the first of her scheduled cataract surgeries without complication. (The second surgery is scheduled for Monday morning.) I have laughed with family, friends I miss dearly, and former students. I have watched hopes dashed and trust betrayed. I have cried with some who had to say goodbye to loved ones who were called to their Heavenly reward suddenly. Prayers for healing have filled my home as my parents and I learned of friends young and old who are in the fights of their lives against brutal illnesses. The Geriatric Ward has seen lively discussions, exciting adventures, and plans for the future.  I have struggled with personal health complications related to hands, neck, back, and ankles at various times throughout the summer. My mind has been relaxed as I enjoyed trips to new locales on the pages of treasured books and my spirit has been refreshed as I was able to spend extra time in prayer and study of the Word. All in all, it has been an eventful and fulfilling summer.....but it is now time to get back to work.

As much as I don't want to leave the Geriatric Ward and the comforts of home right now, I look forward to the adventures that await me in the coming academic year.  Let the adventure begin......

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hits and Misses (July 30 - August 5, 2017)

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

  • The Geriatrics and I started the week off at the early worship service at West Memphis First Assembly of God. It was a nice service that was devoid of all the "fillers." I thoroughly enjoyed the sermon from Exodus 3 and we all left encouraged and kept talking about what we had heard that morning. Didn't hurt that we were out of service by 9:45 either! Great start to the week!
  • After spending most of the week with my foot propped up again, it was a welcome relief to finally get answers from the podiatrist on Friday morning. I saw Dr. Appling in Southaven -- who I really liked a lot -- and learned that there was no break or fracture evident in my ankle. After taking 5 x-rays, I'm confident he would have found it if there was one! He knew that I was concerned about the swelling and explained what he thought was going on in layman's terms. He also explained the other (less likely) possibilities and gave me instructions on how to proceed once I get back to Texas if things aren't completely better. I left his office empowered.....because I felt like I knew what I was up against for the first time. 
  • Since my foot has kept me grounded, I've really enjoyed watching videos on Hulu and Netflix. I had forgotten what great services these are! I've binged through the first two seasons of Top Chef this week (which I saw on Bravo when they first aired) and have caught up on a few documentaries that were very interesting as well.
  • By Saturday night, cabin fever had completely taken hold and there was no way I was going to miss the weekly Geriatric Dinner adventure. This week, Mom decided she wanted to return to Bosco's in Overton Square. Yummy food just like our last visit (and Dad's first trip to the Square).
  • My sprained ankle continues to give me fits! I finally got the swelling down to a manageable size before seeing the podiatrist on Friday, but it has been a rough week of hobbling around the house and fighting off boredom. It's not quite how I anticipated spending the end of my summer vacation.
  • The podiatrist gave me a prescription to help with the inflammation in my ankle and recommended that I get it from a pharmacy in Olive Branch because I could get it at a reduced price. He had mentioned having it shipped, but the USPS in Crawfordsville is notorious for failing to deliver packages. I told him if the order could be called in now, I could pick up the other supplies he suggested, grab lunch, and then stop by the pharmacy before heading home. Perfect.....he would have the staff call in the order right away. Guess what? When I arrived at the pharmacy, no prescription had been called in and there was no one picking up in the podiatrist's office! By this point, my foot was aching and I just wanted to go home. Finally I realized that the doctor had given me some samples, so I left the shipping address with the pharmacy and headed home. Now we'll just hope that the "crazies" in the local post office can manage to get the medicines delivered when they arrive. I'm not holding my breath, but I'll keep my fingers crossed!
  • Since I was down for the week, Mom was alone in the kitchen to try out our new recipes. Unfortunately, she also had the recipes that were flops! I felt so bad! The Pork Chops in Lemon Butter Sauce were horrible. There was so much lemon that the pork almost turned bitter. We were really shocked since the chicken from last week that had almost the same breading and lemon was one of the summer's favorite recipes. Then on Friday night, Mom tried to make pizza with flour tortillas as the crust. We've used this recipe before and enjoyed it, but this was not the case this week. The jarred sauce was cloyingly sweet and Mom didn't use enough cheese on the individual pizzas. This meant that the tortilla wasn't in the oven long enough to crisp at all. You get the picture.....the pizzas were edible (at least, I thought so), but overall, they were a hot mess.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ready for a Road Trip

If you have known me very long at all, you probably know that I love to travel. I especially like to take a road trip. There's nothing better than loading up the car and hitting the open road to Destination Unknown. No agendas. No appointments. No commitments. Just enjoying the scenery and discovering new places.

Some of my road trips have ended up in major cities -- Minneapolis and Albuquerque, for example. Others took me to small burgs that provided a beautiful backdrop for a few days of quiet reading and thinking. Most of the time, summer vacation is when I'm able to hop in the car and find my way to an open road.

This summer has not been the normal summer vacation for me. Don't get me wrong -- it has been wonderful! I have thoroughly enjoyed being with my family and enjoying the love, laughter, and food with them. But it has been a stressful summer as well. I came home to uncertainty due to health complications Mom was experiencing. There were seasons of conflict. We prepared to say goodbye to family members who are moving farther away from home. There were the numerous doctors appointments that naturally come with caring for the Geriatric Ward as well as cataract surgery and the recovery period that followed. My summer included my own injuries, too.  At the beginning of the summer, my concern was related to my hand. Much of my time in Arkansas was devoted to resting and recovering from that frightening injury. Now, as my vacation comes to a close, I'm dealing with a sprained ankle -- actually the second in as many weeks -- that simply does not want to heal and has definitely put a damper on my normal level of activity. Summer has been a good break on one hand, but I am definitely ready for things to return to normal. In the process of all this activity, I haven't had an opportunity for a road trip.

So I'm just keeping my eyes peeled for the first long weekend to come along in the Fall semester. That's when I'll hit the road and spend a few quiet days alone. I'm not sure where I will head or what I will discover.....but that is part of the fun of the road trip. And I honestly can't wait!UIKEYINPUTUPARROW

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hits and Misses (July 23-29, 2017)

Being confined to the couch put a damper on my blogging routine this week (more on that to follow). So here's a look back at the week that was......even though it is a day late!

  • This week in the Geriatric Ward has featured some really good food! Mom and I have continued to pull out some family favorites while trying out a couple of new recipes as well. On Friday evening, the Geriatrics and I enjoyed our first trip to Firebirds in Collierville. It was a great steakhouse for a reasonable price. I couldn't believe that I hadn't found this gem much sooner.
  • It sounds strange, but the funeral service for Sandy Currin was so sweet and touching. It was good to see friends and former students as we remembered the life well-lived by our dear friend. When my time on Earth is done, I hope that I will have made just a portion of the impact on others that Sandy had clearly made on everyone she came in contact with. Our loss is Heaven's gain!
  • It's taken almost a year, so I was incredibly happy to finally receive insurance paperwork to complete in order to get the last of my medical bills associated with last summer's automobile accident paid. This has been a headache for all concerned. I just hope it's really taken care of this time.
  • The only good thing about sustaining an injury is that it gave me an excuse to spend a few long days in my pajamas. 
  • On Saturday, I was greeted by a blog post in the "on this day" feature of my Facebook feed. In that post, I introduced a new idea that I had decided to make a regular feature of Livin' Life that I was calling "Hits and Misses." Even though there have been weeks that I have not published a review of the week, this feature has definitely become the most regular and a favorite of many of my readers. Now that I'm writing the 174th installment of the series (that's hard to believe!), I'm thrilled that I have this tool to look back at what was important enough to find its way into my weekly highlights.
  • Ankle injuries suck! I managed to sprain or twist my left ankle last Sunday, but I'm not completely certain how it happened. Here's the only thing I can figure out. After Sunday lunch, Mom and I headed to the grocery to do the week's shopping. While reaching into the refrigerated section, my back spasmed and I thought I was going to fall. While I was so focused on my back, I didn't notice anything else wrong. I didn't hear a pop or feel any pain in my foot. Later that evening, I noticed how tight the ankle was and that it was beginning to swell. On Monday morning, I could barely walk and quickly began to use a cane. By the middle of the week, my ankle was getting better and I began to cruise around without the cane....and that must have been my mistake. At some point on Friday or Saturday, I seem to have re-injured my ankle! So I have a grapefruit protruding from my ankle that is inflamed and very tender. I will see a podiatrist on Friday morning to make sure everything is okay, but until then I'm spending my days on the couch with my foot on lots of pillows as I ice it and try to keep the swelling down.
  • Mosquitoes are crafty little creatures. They are huge in Arkansas this summer and they tend to want to feast on my left foot. Have you ever tried to kill a mosquito on a swollen foot? It's not easy.....and it can be painful as well. Oh well, that just means I wear socks a little more often hoping to keep the little blood-suckers away from me!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hits and Misses (July 16-22)

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

  • I don't enjoy hitting the stores as much as I used to, but when I do manage to go shopping, I love to find a good sale! I need some new things before heading back to Texas, so I made a trip to Dillard's this week. Walked in the door and found that a large portion of their slacks were 65% off. Very happy!
  • Wednesdays with Mom has become one of my favorite times of the week. Whether we make a quick run to Memphis for lunch, spend some time cooking together, or just sit around the Geriatric Ward laughing, these days in the middle of the week are treasures. 
  • I love to read. It's that simple. I've needed some extra distraction this week, so I buried my nose in several novels and found myself whisked away to other places. It is a great form of escape and one that brings me a lot of pleasure.
  • In the midst of a rough week, it was comforting to have family time throughout the week to share thoughts and encourage one another. Whether we talk by text message, phone call, or in person, I am blessed to have a family who listens, understands, and stands together.
  • My back has been problematic for several weeks now. It's not a constant ache, but rather something that rears its head when I bend just right or take an awkward step. This week, I felt the need to stretch shortly after getting out of bed. As soon as I did, I realized that I had thrown my back out. I was very happy to know that I already had an appointment with my chiropractor the next morning. We've been working on my back for a while now, but I'm definitely ready for things to get back to normal.
  • It seems that road construction follows me wherever I go. Highway 64, the main thoroughfare to and from Crawfordsville, is being expanded and has completely disrupted our travel in the Geriatric Ward. I've gotten to know many of the back roads this summer in an effort to avoid the mess and keep my car from getting damaged. It's added a little extra time to most drives, but I have to admit that I am sort of liking the routes. It's something different to look at!
  • Summer finally arrived in Memphis this week.....IT HAS BEEN HOT!!!! Excessive heat warnings hit the area on Wednesday and remained in effect the rest of the week. The air was thick and sticky. Breathing was rough. I spent as much time indoors as humanly possible.
  • Summer evenings without electricity are boring and uncomfortable.
  • On Sunday morning, I received the sad news that Sandy Currin, the beloved administrative assistant in Union University's Department of Music, had lost her battle with cancer and passed away that morning at 8:30am. Sandy was such a joy to work with and a marvelous friend. She was always supportive of me and provided encouragement and words of wisdom about life, maturing parents, health, and my continuing job search. In many ways, she was a Mom while I was away from home in Jackson. More importantly, she was the kindest woman I have ever met whose life was a constant witness for Christ. I consider myself very blessed that our paths crossed. I mourn for her husband Hal, her children, and her beloved grandchildren, but I celebrate with her that her suffering is over and she is now worshipping at the feet of her Savior whom she dearly loved.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hits and Misses (July 9-15, 2017)

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

  • Both Mom and I received good reports from our respective doctors this week.  Mom's left eye continues to heal nicely from her recent cataract surgery.  My right arm continues to improve through chiropractic adjustment and my calcium score ordered by the cardiologist came back with very low numbers, suggesting that I am a low risk for a cardiac event within the next 7-10 years.
  • We've also had a lot of good cooking in the Geriatric Ward this week. Much of the success has come with our recent acquisition of a meat thermometer. It's amazing what you can do when you have good tools that provide you with good information. Mom and I are looking forward to experimenting with it some more this week.
  • The weekly Geriatric Restaurant Adventures continued this week to rave reviews by the patients. While Dad was at a meeting on Thursday night, Mom and I ventured to Bosco's in Mid-town. The biggest hit of the week was Saturday's dinner at Ciao Bella. We all loved the Italian food we sampled and the blueberry bread pudding was to die for! I anticipate we will return to Ciao Bella before I have to go back to Texas in a few weeks.
  • All week long, Facebook has reminded me of happy times serving the children of Abundant Grace Ministries. Many summers were devoted to planning and conducting music camps for the kids. During these fun times, children were given a taste of performing on stage while receiving Biblical instruction. I have seen lots of pictures this week from several of the camps and have really enjoyed looking back at the kids that were involved, thinking about where they are now in their walk with Christ, and being really thankful that I was able to be a small part of their development. 
  • Since summer vacation is winding down, I'm finding myself trying to do some planning for the Fall. It's like balancing a house of cards at times. The things I'm scheduling are important to me and I enjoy them.....but one error in calendar planning can make the whole thing come tumbling down. I'm just hoping that it all works out easily.
  • There's nothing worse to me than feeling unproductive. Lots of things can cause the lack of production -- poor motivation, lack of communication -- and it happens to all of us. I tend to get things done, but this week I've not gotten as much done as I would have liked. Here's hoping that the coming week improves.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hits & Misses (July 2-8, 2017)

I took an extended break from almost all of my blogging to reflect and consider a few things. Now I'm looking forward to writing again. So here's a look back at the week that was.....

  • This week seems to be all about good dining experiences. On Sunday, I introduced my parents to the yummy sandwiches at Firehouse Subs. Mom had avoided trying the chain because she assumed "Firehouse" was synonymous with "hot and spicy." Fortunately, both of them were very pleased with their sub....and they even sent me back later in the week for a repeat performance! The night before, I enjoyed a Geriatric adventure at Benihana's. It was a good chance to sit together and talk in a different environment -- and an easy way to get the patients out of the ward. We repeated the process the following Saturday evening and enjoyed eating at Houston's. I could get used to this very quickly!
  • The 4th of July was a relaxed family day in Crawfordsville. It was nice to not have extra bodies to entertain and just be able to spend time with the family. I personally needed it since the next day would be the day of the first of the cataract surgeries.
  • Mom's cataract surgery went very smoothly and we got good reports all around. There is still another follow-up appointment, but this one is basically done. Mom has not had a lot of pain -- except for the afternoon of the surgery when she refused to take the Tylenol for pain -- and is feeling better with each passing day. I am certainly thankful for a smooth surgery and healing.
  • After a long summer with lots of challenges, it is nice to be inspired once again. I'm actually interested in doing things and have confidence that my body and mind are up for the task. 
  • I've had my fill of doctor's offices for the summer. I've been the patient and I've been the caregiver. While seeing the doctor has been annoying, it's necessary. Waiting rooms, on the other hand, are a special level of Dante's Inferno! I think the strangest people -- along with the rudest people -- find their way to the cramped, poorly designed spaces just to make an already awkward situation worse. While waiting for Mom's cataract procedure to be completed, I learned more about the intimate lives of two sisters who never learned the value of using an "inside voice." Yikes!
  • Eye drops are a special kind of inconvenience for geriatric patients. As we prepared for Mom's surgery, everyone told us that the procedure wasn't too bad; the worst part of the event would be trying to manage all of the eye drops! I thought they were joking.....only to find out that it was true! The meds burn and you have to do them four times a day. I'm glad Dad took the lead on handling the eye drops and that Mom was really patient.
  • Some people can just be pushy. They are a real turn off and quite annoying.
  • With hand injuries and some rough bouts of allergies, this has been the summer of steroids. I hate them! They are bitter. They make me nauseous. They pack on the pounds in ways that are not flattering and increase my appetite. I'm going to have to go on a diet because of the medication or buy a new wardrobe. (The second option is not entirely a joke either!) Ugh....just ugh!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 22-28)

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

  • It was a joy to get to celebrate another birthday with Mom on Monday. Since I learned that I had been telling everyone she was older than she actually was (oops!), let me set the record straight.  Mom turned 78 years old on Monday. There wasn't a big celebration planned since she was still feeling less than perky, but I wanted to make sure that she had some sort of celebration. I knew she needed a cake, but I needed to find something yummy that didn't include chocolate -- her favorite treat, but a nightmare for her heart palpitations at the moment. I visited Nothing Bundt Cake and sampled the strawberries and cream mini-bundt.....and I knew I had found the cake! It was moist and simply scrumptious! Mom and I both enjoyed our small treats so much that we ordered ANOTHER cake for our upcoming family Memorial Day gathering. On a whim, Dad decided to treat the Geriatric Ward plus my older brother and his wife to dinner that evening. It was a great ending to a day devoted to honoring Mom.
  • On Tuesday morning, I accompanied Dad to the kidney specialist after the latest blood labs came back with less than favorable results.  The doctor we saw was Dr. Deogaygay -- I loved getting to say her name a few times! She was a delightfully charming doctor who immediately put our minds at ease. Why is this a hit? Basically, she said that she could find nothing in her examination that would suggest the cause of the lab results. Her suggestion was to hydrate vigorously for the next week before returning to the doctor for a new round of blood work. I was thrilled to have a doctor who actually listened to her patient and took into account the fact that things can simply be strange sometimes when dealing with older patients. She didn't sound the alarm of panic; instead, she wanted to make sure that we were doing a thorough investigation before doing something more drastic.
  • By the end of the week, I had developed a case of cabin fever and needed to get out of the house for a bit. I decided to give geocaching a try....and it was actually rather fun! I've been aware of geocaching for quite some time, but never took the step to give it a try. What is it? The easiest way to explain it is as an updated version of hide and seek. People hide "treasures" at various locations and mark the coordinates on a map. Seekers go to the marked site and try to find the treasure. My first adventure took me to a local bank on Sunday afternoon. I followed the coordinates to a light in the middle of the yard. I started looking around the concrete base and kept checking the location on my phone. I thought I was at the right spot, but I didn't see anything! That's when I put my hands on the cover at the base of the light to discover that it was I tried to move it up the pole and that was when I saw the little treasure! Like most geocaching treasures, it was a small 35 mm film canister that held a small trinket and a written log of the people and dates that the item was found. It was quite cool.....and I plan to experiment with the adventure a bit more while I'm in the safety of my home town in the coming weeks.
  • Somehow, I decided it would be a good idea to return to the gym this week. After all, I had some good results when I worked with Spencer a few years ago and felt better than I had in quite some time. I set up the appointment and made my way to the gym. When the session started, I thought I was going to die! I had forgotten what it felt like to move. Since I'm having problems with my hands right now (although that seems to be improving with each passing day!), I couldn't do any weight training. That meant 45 minutes of cardio. I HATE THE TREADMILL! As my time in the gym continued, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't need to sit down as frequently as I had expected and I was actually pretty happy with the experience....until the very end. As I was getting off the treadmill to end the final circuit of the day, I guess I twisted just right and wrenched my back. I thought a massage and hot shower would take care of the problem, but my back decided to rebel a bit more than I had hoped since I put it through the torture of the gym. So I haven't been back in to do any of my "off day" cardio....instead, I've been nursing a bad back on the couch. That just means that I'll get to start all over again when I climb back on the treadmill this week.
  • As part of the process of allowing my hands to rest and heal, I have not been practicing or doing much of anything that requires repetitive movement of my hands. There are only so many hours one can fill with reading novels and watching television before boredom hits with a vengeance....and it's only May! I may be running for the hills before August returns.
  • It wouldn't be summer in eastern Arkansas without at least one round of powerful storms rolling through the region. On Saturday night, heavy rain and strong winds pounded the Geriatric Ward. Trees all over town were damaged, but we escaped. Just across the bridge in Memphis, thousands are without power at the moment; the current projection says it will take at least a week to restore service to the entire region. I'm really thankful that we didn't get hit that hard.....and hope that this is the only storm I have to weather this summer!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 15-21)

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

  • Mom got a good report from the doctor early this week. It seems that the medication change was exactly what was needed to settle things down. She's still weaker than we would like and some additional issues have arisen, but we really think we're on the right track. At least it's a good report!
  • Perhaps the best part of the beginning of my summer vacation has been all of the home cooking! In typical fashion, Mom has pulled out most of my favorite recipes this week and I'm enjoying the comfort foods of home. I sometimes forget just how much I have missed them.
  • Much of the stress of my week had become evident to my friends near and far. That was when I received encouragement from multiple sources via email and phone. It's nice to know that I am cared for when I hit a low point. The words were simple and unobtrusive....but their messages were clear. They got me over a rather rough patch.
  • This week's misses all center around medical issues and doctor's visits. After Mom got her positive report, it was time for me to face my fears and meet with an orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday. As the last semester began to wind down, I began to experience numbness in the fingers of my right hand. It was not total numbness, but every pianist knows that this is a huge warning that something is wrong. Since the symptoms came on suddenly and during an extremely stressful season as Mom was racing to the emergency room on an almost daily basis, I convinced myself that the issue was a combination of physical and emotional problems. (Truthfully, I still haven't ruled this out.) My visit with the orthopedic surgeon confirmed my diagnosis of the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome. I hope to share more about this entire experience in a post later this week, but I'll give the general overview for now. I am in the closing days of a steroid regiment that has made me quite ill for the past few days, but seems to be making a positive effect on my hands. Next week, I will visit a local chiropractor who specializes in the disorder and will continue to give my hands a break for the next few weeks. The doctor and I will re-evaluate the condition of my hands in mid-June to make a decision about the next step if necessary.
  • While I was dealing with my personal crisis, Mom and Dad received a call from their family doctor that he needed to see them in his office to discuss findings of Pop's recent lab work. That's never a call that gives you good feelings. There were some problematic results to the tests that are inconclusive at this time. Dad will be following up with several doctors in the coming weeks to figure out what's going on. Just when one Geriatric gets back on her's a never ending process, it seems.
  • Then on Friday, I got the horrifying news from Plainview that my 5-year-old friend, Hannah, would be undergoing emergency surgery on Saturday morning to remove a brain tumor. We began praying for her intensely and kept our prayer communities informed throughout the day. Hannah came through the surgery itself and is currently recovering in PICU in Lubbock. Now her parents and family face the stress of waiting for pathology reports, caring for a sick little girl, and preparing for the potentially long road ahead. Without a doubt, your prayers are coveted and desperately needed for this precious child. Yet we continue to trust her health and healing to the miracle-working Healer we serve.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 8-14)

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

  • Now that I'm back in Arkansas, I've enjoyed some rest. Since arriving home, I think I've made 2 major trips off of the couch. It's not laziness as much as it is realizing that my mind, body, and spirit desperately needed some down time. So I took it....and will continue to do so a little while longer.
  • With the extended rest, I've been doing quite a bit of television watching...and I've gotten Mom involved in a few of my viewing habits. I've been catching up on Chicago Justice and returned to my obsession with White Collar. The new find of the summer has been NBC's hit This is Us. How did I miss out on this incredible show? I'm laughing through tears in almost every episode. It's therapeutic! So I didn't feel like a complete couch potato, I made sure that I included some culture in my television watching. The Met's 2017 production of Romeo et Juliette was amazing -- well sung and beautifully staged. 
  • It was good to celebrate Mother's Day with Mom again this year. Was it perfect? No. But getting to spend another day honoring her was good. I'll just continue to enjoy the days with her this summer and not focus on a single day.
  • Crawfordsville is in the middle of nowhere. That means we have spotty cell phone coverage. My AT&T is normally pretty stable, but Mom's heart monitor uses Sprint as its service provider. I've spent lots of time sitting on the front porch attempting to access another bar of coverage in order to transmit data from the monitor to the home office. It's been annoying.....with lots of beeping in the wee small hours of the morning when the rest of the world is fast asleep.
  • There has been no practicing happening this week. Some of this has been due to my need to rest. Much of it has been attributed to issues beyond my control that I couldn't ignore.  It's frustrating when I want to play but can't....or shouldn't. Here's hoping that things turn around soon so I can get back to making music for my own sanity.
  • Nothing is worse than realizing that you mind is far too full and you can't shut down. I've spent a few sleepless nights this week thinking about the future as well as the present -- the good and the bad -- and trying to make some decisions. Some issues bring fear. Others breed dread. Thankfully, most bring determination and direction.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 1-7)

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

  • It appears that Mom continues to improve.  Although we still don't know exactly what caused the trips to the ER with her heart, I am happy to say that she is slowly getting her energy back and has had no further episodes. That was welcomed news as I went into the busy final week of the semester.
  • Few things bring a smile to the face of students and faculty like realizing that the end of the semester has finally arrived. Finals and juries went off without too many tears. A new class of graduates joined the ranks of WBU alumni. The faculty defeated the students AGAIN in our annual softball game. (I, of course, merely cheered my colleagues from the stands.) Now I am anxious to start my summer vacation!
  • On Thursday, I enjoyed lunch with some music alumni and current students. It was fun to sit with these incredible young people away from campus and hear their stories while laughing together. I don't get to do this very often -- this was very different from the weekly donut nights -- and definitely something I enjoyed. 
  • As the semester came to an end, the WBU School of Music was finally able to announce the appointment of our new Director of Bands. Dr. Ron Montgomery will be joining our team in the fall and we are excited about the possibility that the future holds.
  • I try to avoid hanging around campus too long after classes are done because I don't enjoy the lull of activity that follows. When there's nothing that I need to do, I get restless. Loneliness sets in and I get ready to be with my family. I enjoy the short breaks that come in the middle of the term -- those are opportunities to recharge before returning to the frantic pace of the semester. The end of the term finds me staring at the walls, looking for something to do as I wait to head back to Memphis. Thankfully, by the time many of you read this post, my car will be packed and I'll be hitting the roads and heading east before the sun goes down! If all goes as planned, I should arrive in east Arkansas on Tuesday afternoon.
  • To deal with the quiet Friday afternoon I was suddenly facing, I decided to catch a movie. Nothing was playing that I really wanted to see, so I decided to check out Tom Hank's The Circle since it had mildly caught my attention. What a horrible idea! The film's basic concept was completely presented in the first 20 minutes. The ending had me turning to another theater-goer and asking if I had fallen asleep and missed a critical plot twist. Sadly, I saw everything the film had to offer and left the theater feeling confused and let-down. Here's hoping that better cinematic experiences await in the summer months ahead.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hits and Misses (April 24-30)

This week was completely colored by a single "miss" that I was dealing with, so for one week only (hopefully!), this post needs to take on a different format.  I think you'll see what I mean right away.  Without further ado, here's a look back at the week that was....


This week, I watched from afar as Mom dealt with a health crisis that was very frightening. As you read last week, Mom was rushed to the ER on Sunday afternoon with heart complications and was admitted to the hospital. EKGs, chest x-rays, and heart monitors revealed no complications with her heart; an x-ray of her kidneys, however, did reveal a problem. Due to a new diuretic medication, Mom had reached a critical level of dehydration. This explained the heart palpitations, dizziness, and headaches. After receiving some fluids and modifications to her medications, Mom was released and sent home on Monday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Mom returned to the hospital for a previously scheduled heart cath. The procedure went flawlessly and we were provided some answers....or so we thought. The heart cath revealed that there were no blockages and that the heart muscles themselves were in very good condition. The procedure was originally ordered when a echocardiogram indicated high pressure existed on the right side of her heart; while pressure was still slightly elevated, the cardiologist declared it was not at a level to cause concern. Mom remained in the hospital for a few hours to make sure there were no complications with the incision while the anesthesia wore off. (Here's an interesting side note for the medical types that read my posts -- I know you're out there! -- the heart cath was unable to access the left side of the heart due to a birth defect that we were already aware of. One of the valves into Mom's heart is actually on the wrong side of the heart, just slightly past center. This issue was not discovered until Mom was in her 70s, at which time the doctor determined that the trauma of correcting the placement would outweigh the benefits to her already strong heart.)

On Thursday afternoon, I received a text from my brother just after I exited stage for a student performance that informed me that Mom was on her way back to the ER with more complications. This time, the paramedics witnessed the fluctuations in Mom's heart rhythm and were able to report it to the doctors on call. Mom was treated for AFIB and placed on a medication to regulate her heartbeat and sent home.

Friday saw a return to the cardiologist for a follow-up. Dr. Kraus' intentions were to empower Mom with information and hopefully keep her from making an unnecessary trip to the ER if she could medicate and control the situation on her own. In essence, the cardiologist told Mom that she now knows what these heart palpitations feel like and how to confront them from home. He went on, however, to say that if she felt a "different" sensation in her chest, she should return to the ER for help. While that type of instruction would overwhelm me, it seems to have put Mom's mind at ease.

The entire week has been demanding on Mom's body, so she is incredibly weak and has required a lot of rest. I have spoken with her daily and have been encouraged to hear her improving and sounding more like herself with each passing day. What's ahead? Mom will be wearing a heart monitor for a month to see if we can determine just how often the irregularity occurs and if there are things that seem to cause the problem. I will finish my responsibilities for the year in west Texas next Monday and will hit the road to return home for the summer in order to put my own mind at ease and see for myself what's going on.
  • In spite of what has been going on at home, there have been some wonderful high points in the week as well. On Monday evening, the piano students presented a Chopin festival complete with great music, laughter, and pizza. This semester, Richard and I assigned most of our students a piece by Chopin to study. It's been a neat process as we have focused on a single composer's output as a studio, allowing students to learn more about his works while listening to the repertoire that their colleagues are playing. Personally, I got to revisit one of my favorite pieces from my undergraduate career -- Chopin's Polonaise in C Minor. It was great fun to dive into that boom bass melody and share the music with the WBU students. When I have a chance to return to the solo repertoire, I remember just how much I miss it sometimes. We are already getting ready for the Fall semester which will feature works by Haydn!
  • The final student performance of the semester for me was on Thursday afternoon. Caleb Barnett's lecture recital on Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring was well done and a lot of fun to perform. While sitting on stage, I thought how differently my interpretation could have been if the situation with Mom had gone a different route; by letting myself think about this, I was able to visit some tough emotions that I think contributed to a emotionally driven performance. Immediately after finishing the performance, I heard that Mom's troubles were not yet over.....and I had to deal with those raw emotions. The performance had hit me a little harder than I thought.  Let's just say that Thursday night was interesting for a while.....
  • The end of the semester's classes could not have come at a better time for me. There are still tests to be given, but the daily routine is much less demanding for me at the moment.
  • While dealing with stress from home, I have been reminded just how blessed I am to be surrounded by my Wayland family. The care that I have received during a stressful week by colleagues, students, church members, and friends has been extremely comforting. Their gentle words and prayers have gone a long way to remind me that I am not alone while dealing with this family crisis. I am truly blessed.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hits and Misses (April 17-23)

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

  • What is more fun than getting new music in the mail? It's just so satisfying to know that I have new pieces to consider learning. It's like a first introduction to a new're not necessarily sure how the relationship will ultimately turn out, but it is kind of thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
  • This week has been marked by some really good food adventures. With the warmer weather, shaved ice vendors are popping up around Plainview....and boy, they are yummy! The week had been long, so I decided to treat myself this weekend. Headed to Lubbock on Saturday for dinner at Longhorn Steak and remembered how much I enjoy the tomato-basil soup there. After church on Sunday morning, I visited Tokyo Hibachi Grill and stuffed myself....and have some left for lunch on Monday! Good food with a good book in a quiet corner of the restaurant is the perfect recipe for an enjoyable meal to me.
  • Speaking of church, Pastor Jason preached one of the finest sermons I have heard on Christian Unity. College Heights Baptist is very blessed to have him as our senior pastor because of his commitment to the Word, his unyielding devotion to Christ, and his longing to see CHBC serve all areas of the Plainview community. I know that I have personally grown in my spiritual walk while sitting under his ministry. For that, I am very thankful.
  • As much as I enjoy getting new music in the mail, I despise when it is bent! For the first time since coming to Plainview, I received a package from Sheet Music Plus that was crammed into my small mailbox. Normally, I either receive a package notice in the box or the item is discreetly hidden just inside the screen door of my apartment. Not this time.......there was a hard crease down the center of the envelope in an effort to fit it inside the box. This does not make for a happy pianist!
  • Insects are arriving in Plainview along with the warmer weather. I hate mosquitos and other crawling creatures. I know it's only a matter of time before I begin to find them indoors as well. I already have my zapper and insect sprays at the ready!
  • On Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from my older brother. That's never a good sign! O'Neal and I get along fine...we just don't "chat" on the phone.  He was calling to let me know that he was following an ambulance that was carrying Mom to Baptist East in Memphis. Mom is scheduled to have a heart cath on Wednesday because of the findings of a recent echocardiogram. On Sunday afternoon, she began to feel as though her heart was racing and could not be slowed. As O'Neal and Pop began to assist her to the car, she basically fainted in their arms. O'Neal suggested that an ambulance be called in case something should go wrong on the drive over.  To make a long story a little shorter, at the time of this writing on Sunday evening, Mom is stable and sounded like herself when she called me a few minutes ago. An X-ray of her kidneys revealed that she was severely dehydrated -- which would most likely account for the heart palpitations as well as the fainting and headaches she had experienced. Mom has been admitted to the hospital for the night for observation. She will see her cardiologist in the morning as well as have an additional EKG and blood work performed. I suppose the biggest "miss" about all of this is the reminder of just how far I am from home. Typically, I would be the one handling Mom and Dad's medical care. Now I can't do that...and the sense of helplessness in these situations is not easy on this hands-on Geriatric care giver. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Energy Sappers

I just got back from a much-needed getaway and I'm already writing about energy sappers?!? You have got to be kidding me! Like it or not, we all have certain things that completely wipe us out and drain us of all energy. Often it seems that these things are more pronounced for me immediately after returning from a season of rest....since I'm trying to get back into a normal routine, the things that wear me down suddenly seem more pronounced and impactful.

Here are a few of the things that I know sap my energy...

  • Bursts of busyness followed by absolute calm. I tend to function best when I have a steady stream of activity in my schedule. I can get myself moving and my mind functioning and keep going for most of the day. However, when I find myself with a packed morning that leads into an afternoon that has little activity, I can almost always hang it up. That afternoon is going to drag on forever and my productivity is going to screech to a halt.
  • Feeling under the weather. I'm not sick. I don't feel as though I need to stay in bed all day long, but there is something about my body that is just not quite right. Perhaps I didn't get quite enough rest the night before. Maybe I'm struggling with a slightly stuffy nose or some mild allergies. Whatever it is, I just don't feel 100%....and it takes all of my effort to just push through the day. Honestly, I would prefer a full-on sinus event over these "blah" days because then I actually know what's causing the "run-down" feeling instead of trying to figure out why I'm so tired.
  • Being hot and stuffy. Let's face it.....I have extra padding, so I tend to stay warm during the coldest of months. As Winter turns to Spring and Summer, there are many days where I'm just not sure whether I will need the thermostat set to "heat" or "cool." Then there is the added issue when the heat just become stuffy. It's not unbearably hot; it's just not comfortable. What can I say? I like my creature comforts....and when I get warm, I get drowsy as the afternoon wears on.
The good news is that I can always rest assured that none of the energy sappers will last for too long. Schedules will return to their usual hecticness without a doubt. I will begin to feel like my normal self sooner rather than later. Cooler days are sure to come -- and AC units will ultimately be returned to the School of Music. 😄 The most important factor in managing my energy sappers is managing my attitude. Maybe things are not ideal at the moment....but by choosing to look at those things that ARE right in my world, I begin to find new energy to move ahead and overcome my energy sappers.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hits and Misses (April 10-16, 2017)

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

  • I had a great time experiencing the UIL Choral Competition for the first time this week. Having worked in Texas for 2 years, I was familiar with the concept, but had never seen it first-hand. On Thursday, I accompanied 3 middle school choirs in the competition. I was amazed at the sounds I heard from the young people gathered there. I also got to shadow one of the choirs as they went into the sight reading room. The amount of teaching and preparation that had gone into this five-minute exam was obvious. I'm still learning all of the ins and outs of UIL, but what I've seen so far has been pretty impressive. Looking forward to learning and experiencing more in the years ahead.
  • This week has also seen a lot of recital planning for the 2017-2018 academic year. I've got some exciting music to learn in the months ahead.  I'll begin with a program in Memphis this summer with soprano Sabrina Warren that will include works by Copland, Bernstein, and Britten.  Then I'll shift gears and prepare the year's program for solo piano. If I don't lose my guts, I'm going to do a recital featuring works by American composer Ned Rorem. I'm hoping to take this program on the road throughout the year as well -- so keep an eye out to see if I'm coming to a recital venue near you.  Earlier this semester, two of my colleagues and I formed the Kikean Trio; it's an interesting ensemble with soprano, marimba, and piano. The sounds are really neat! We will use our fall program as a recruitment tool to reach high school students in west Texas and New Mexico; repertoire will include works by Dvorak, Schubert, and Mozart as well as the ensemble's arrangements of Sacred Harp songs. Also in the fall, I'll join forces with mezzo-soprano Hope Thacker to present a program of Rossini, Chaminade, and Elgar. Add to this the WBU production of Hansel and Gretel, a two-piano recital with Richard Fountain and student recitals and you will see that I have a very busy year ahead....and I wouldn't have it any other way.
  • To round out a busy week, I headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a few days of quiet and rest. I needed to get alone to clear my head a bit and prepare for the final few weeks of the semester. I was a bit of a hermit on this trip. I was surrounded by people as I went to the movies, dined at some favorite restaurant chains, and worshipped with the congregation of Albuquerque's First Baptist Church, but I intentionally avoided meeting up with friends in the area. (I hope that doesn't sound as horrible when you read it as it did when I wrote it!) It wasn't that I didn't want to catch up with friends that I haven't seen in quite some time.....I just needed some time with my thoughts and my God and to allow some healing to take place. As I'm coming to the end of this escape, I can say with confidence that this was just what I needed and I'm ready to face whatever lies ahead in the coming weeks.
  • While throwing together a bag to head out of town on Friday morning, I set aside clothes that I planned to wear to church on Sunday morning. Nothing extravagant, just something that would look appropriate for Easter Sunday. I decided to hang the garments in the back seat so they would be ready-to-wear when I arrived. Once I checked into my hotel, I went to the car to unload my things....and that's when I realized that my clothes weren't hanging in the back. Were they stolen? No...they were exactly where I hung them in my apartment so I wouldn't forget them! Oh well....that was just another excuse to head out and buy a few new pairs of pants.
  • Income tax season is the worst time of the year for me. I hate pulling together all of the required documents and marching into the tax professional's office. It always feels like I'm playing an unfair game of roulette that I don't want to lose. This year's game was definitely one that I lost.
  • While driving to Albuquerque, I telephoned Mom as you might expect. I talk to her quite frequently in order to stay informed about what is going on in the Geriatric Ward. You can imagine my surprise when Mom informed me that she had spent much of the previous evening in the emergency room with pain in her chest and upper stomach. The doctors checked her out thoroughly and found that her enzymes were not elevated and there was no indication that her heart was in distress. That's good news! However, she proceeded to tell me that she finally heard from her cardiologist a few days ago. A routine echocardiogram revealed that there is elevated pressure on the right side of her heart. The doctor is unsure what is causing the high pressure and has recommended that Mom have a heart cath on Wednesday, April 26. Now if anyone knows me, they know that I am a Momma's boy. My mother is my best friend and the light of my life. Needless to say, I'm not dealing with the thought of her going in for a procedure -- even though I know it is "routine", it doesn't feel that way when it's MY mom on the table -- when I'm 11 hours away in west Texas. The only upside of this is that the doctor does not seem to be terribly concerned about the issue since all of the other tests are coming back clear; our understanding is that he is trying to determine the culprit now in order to avoid future problems down the road. Right now I'm trying to keep a positive attitude and trust that God has got this all under control. We'll just have to see how I continue to do as we get closer to the day of the procedure.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hits & Misses (April 2-8, 2017)


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

  • What a fulfilling week of music making! Weeks like this remind me of why I have spent my life pursuing this career. On Tuesday, I performed with WBU's Symphonic Band. Earlier that afternoon and again on Wednesday morning, I had the good fortune to hear the choirs from Estacado Middle School here in Plainview under the direction of Chris Kirby. Those kids are making some really beautiful sounds! Thursday took me to Lubbock to hear four young pianists at the Talkington School for Young Women Leaders. These young ladies are preparing to compete in the state level of the UIL solo piano competition this summer and are quite gifted. I look forward to getting to make a return trip to Talkington in the near future to hear how they have continued to improve their pieces. To round out the week, on Saturday afternoon, I rehearsed with the ladies choir from Coronado Middle School in Plainview and played for the closing ceremonies of the local Relay for Life event. So much music in so many different venues with vastly different audiences. Have I mentioned how much I love being a pianist?
  • I also got to hear an incredible concert. On Saturday evening, WBU's choirs joined forces with students from Lubbock Christian University. I can say with certainty that this was one of the best performances I have ever attended in my life. The quality of sound and overall musicianship of all involved was astounding and comparable to the very best professional ensembles around. I was mesmerized throughout the entire concert. So proud of what our students accomplished.
  • In the midst of all the work, there was time for fun. Thursday night's doughnut night was especially needed this week -- by students and faculty alike. It was nice to just relax together for a little while and enjoy a slower pace. I spent Friday evening with some of my colleagues and their children. What was planned to be a night of cards turned into a much needed evening of conversation, laughter and relaxation. It's such a blessing to work in a place where my colleagues are like family to me....and that we all enjoy spending time together outside of the office when we can. I don't take that for granted at all because I've also witnessed what it's like when the opposite is true. 
  • The week was full of rehearsals! Voice students are preparing for preliminary juries this week. (Actually they are really late midterms, but that's a whole different story.) As a result, my calendar was filled with students who needed a little extra coaching as they prepared for the exam. Some were behind schedule because there had been cancelled lessons throughout the semester for various reasons beyond their control. Understandable! Some just needed a reminder that they are prepared. Super! Others have not applied themselves to personal practice on a regular basis and suddenly find themselves in crisis mode. Frustrating! I tried to be supportive throughout the week while also giving honest assessments of where each one was and what needed to happen in the days ahead. The next few days will tell the tale.
  • Nothing is worse than realizing you forgot to put an appointment in your calendar. I had scheduled something tentatively for late in the week, but failed to mark it on my calendar. I assumed it would be finalized quickly. As the crazy week continued, I forgot about the commitment and scheduled other things during that open slot. I had to do some quick shuffling of the schedule when the original appointment was finalized and I realized that I was double booked. Every thing worked out, but I had a few scary moments there as I tried to juggle things around.
  • Birds hate me! The longer I am in Plainview, the more I realize that we have been overrun with birds. I never remember what these "creatures" are actually called, but they are noisy and messy! To make matters worse, the tree outside my apartment is home to these annoying winged beasts, so they wake me with their call every they leave their "gifts" on the hood of my car. I washed the car on Friday afternoon and intentionally parked a little closer to the street than usual to try to keep my car out of the line of fire. These birdies decided to show me who was boss though. I went out later that evening to find one of them standing on the hood of my guessed it.....taking care of business! Really? I can't win!