Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Few of my Favorite (Christmas) Things...

I just L.O.V.E. Christmas!! Here are some of the things I love most about it:

  • the Music: From wistful, lyrical tunes like "White Christmas" and "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to Carols like "What Child is This?," "Away in a Manger," and "Silent Night" to holiday classics that never get old like "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer" and "It's the Most Wonderful time of the Year" to upbeat, energized songs with swing and pop like "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock," the music of Christmas has to be one of the best parts. Love: Pandora, Josh Groban Noel, Bing Crosby, Jim Brickman, Louis Armstrong, Andrews Sisters, Mannheim Steam Roller, and So Much More!!
  • the Smells: think pine Christmas trees, spicy gingerbread, peppermint, hot chocolate,
  • the Movies: from heartwarming Hallmark movies like A Season for Miracles to hilarious comedies like Elf, to fantasies like Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus and Santa Baby, to classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, to random adorable movies like Eloise at Christmastime, Christmas movies are simply the best!
  • the Decorations: Christmas trees, lights, green and red, nightlights, pillows, knicknacks, dishes, stockings, candles, mantel piece decs, garland, greenery, bows, silver, gold, nativity sets, treasured ornaments - each with a memory -- There is Christmas EVERYTHING! and I LOVE it!!
  • the Goodies: gingerbread, sugar cookies, fudge, peppermint bark, winter hugs, layered bars, scotcheroos, buck eyes, chocolate balls, chocolate covered pretzels, mini reindeer, all of the hors d'oeuvres on Christmas Eve, peppermint punch
  • the Books: so awesome to read all of the adorable Christmas Stories to my elementary students in library class! #cutestbooksever
  • the Traditions: so much of Christmas is the traditions handed down from year to year. They make Christmas so nostalgic and special and such a family time.
  • the Parties: Christmas recitals, Ornament Swaps, Staff Parties, Church get-togethers - Everyone wants to party at Christmas time!
  • Other random wonderful things: Break from school, Advent, Presents, Candy, Surprises, Christmas Cards
  • And of course, the best of ALL - Jesus was born to die that we might live!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tis the Season

You know that song, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?" Yeah. Well I really believe that song. True, things seem even crazier than normal but there is just such a feeling of excitement, anticipation, joy,
family-ishness (yes, I just made up a word), mystery, and general delightfulness that I cannot help but *love* it. My only regret about it is that there is never enough time to enjoy it all  before it is here and over and the new year has begun.

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I persuade my family to put up the tree and decorate the house. We have special decorations that bring back treasured memories each year when I pull them out. My mom gives us each a new ornament each year, and, so, I have a collection dating back to my very first Christmas. Pulling the ornaments out of the box and hanging them on the tree is like being reunited with dear friends.

Of course, playing Christmas music while decorating the tree is an absolute must as is making and eating peppermint bark and hot chocolate. We always laugh and joke around and quote Elf and declare that "This Christmas is going to be the best Christmas Ever!"

Our house is decorated, inside and out, Christmas music is playing, and the Christmas Spirit is high. With any luck, it is quite possible our prediction will be correct. Happy Christmas Season, Everyone!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. In fact, maybe it is my Favorite holiday. I love Christmas...but I love the Christmas SEASON. Once Christmas is actually here, it is basically over. At Thanksgiving, you have the same sense of family togetherness and celebration and all of the Christmas delight is still AHEAD of you. This Thanksgiving was wonderful as usual.

It started on Tuesday with the Thanksgiving Luncheon at school and early release!! YES!! On Wednesday, I drove to Macon for my weekly piano lesson and then returned home to help with the Thanksgiving prep.

Thursday morning, we rose early to participate in the Turkey Trot, a local Fun Run and 5K. Bethany and I did the Fun Run (which by the way, WHY do they call it the "fun" run?? It didn't feel fun to me!!) Chris, Hannah, Luke, and Matt did the 5K. It was the perfect way to start Thanksgiving Day, and then we all headed back home for a delicious homemade breakfast of grits, eggs, biscuits, and bacon.

After breakfast, I made the pies (pumpkin and apple) while watching the Macy's Day Parade, a tradition of course!

Then we worked together to set the table, finish the last minute food items, and get ready for our bountiful feast. 

My handsome bros

Later that day, we gathered by the fire (See what I mean?? other time of fire making actually occuring in Brunswick!!) and watched Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown and dozed and snuggled and ate pie.

It was wonderful to be together with family and get a chance to pause and thank God for all of His wonderful blessings. He has given me so, so much, and I thank Him for His mercy and grace in giving me so many rich and wonderful treasures which I do not deserve.

Fall Fun

Yes, yes I know. I am an epic failure at blog posting. *sigh* What can I say? It seems that I have 24 hours in the day same as any one else, right?? How long can it possibly take just to pop off a blog post? But, alas, it seems to be nearly impossible for me to keep up my blog. Well, I shall take the only course of action there is - make some more good resolutions!! :D (and hope that they actually work out this time.)

So, anyways, I have been quite busy these last few months, which will not surprise anyone, but what may be slightly surprising is that I have actually taken a bit of time for fun as well.

In October, we had our church fall festival, which was loads of fun. There was a costume contest and a cooking contest. I entered both. The whole family went as characters from Narnia (surprise, surprise). I was Susan. We wanted to enter as a group, but alas, they would not let us. Joe did manage to take second prize as Prince Caspian though.

"Little" Lucy Isn't she adorable?
In the cooking contest, I succeeded, winning first prize for my apple pie. My grandmother taught me how to make them, and I am carrying on the tradition of homemade apple and pumpkin pies every Thanksgiving and Christmas (and yes, I mean homemade crust too).

A few weeks later, we had a quite enjoyable weekend. Epically wonderful things happened that weekend - 1. Abby, Joe's girlfriend and my wonderful friend and sister <3, and her friend Steph, who is also an awesome person and was great fun to meet and get to know, surprised Joe by visiting for the weekend. Result? Very, very happy Joe. and happy rest of us because we all love Abby too!!

Secondly, it was Kristi's birthday, so we celebrated Ours family style with a big surprise birthday dinner. Tay was home from college, Abbs and Steph were there, and Tay's friend Ethan were all there, so the table was full and the house rang with laughter, love, and good times.

 Third, we chose Saturday night as a wonderful time to build the first fire. It fit in perfectly with the general happiness and coziness and plus, we figured we may not have another chance to build a fire as it would probably never again get cold enough in Brunswick. I LOVE fires, so it was amazing to have one that night and get to enjoy snuggling by it why we watched a movie - Borrowed Hearts. If you have not seen that movie, I highly recommend it - so cute and heartwarming!! (and on a side note - as it turns out we have actually had two other occasions to build a fire so far! Shocking isn't it?? What is the world coming to?).

 And finally, the other wonderful thing about that weekend was I had Friday off from school. That just made it a *very* happy weekend. #icingonthecake

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Magic of Ordinary Daze

I don't know about you, but for me life has a way of whizzing by at lightning speed! I cannot believe it is already mid-October. With all there is to do each day and each week, it is hard to slow down and actually enjoy all that I do. A typical day for me begins early - usually between 4 and 5 am. I get up, curl up with my Bible and coffee for a few minutes to start the day off right and then quickly transform myself into a stylish at least something that doesn't hurt someone's eyes to look at (hopefully!)! :) Then, depending how early I got up, I practice piano for an hour or two (after I shut everyone's doors!). The more I can squeeze in in the morning, the better because it is hard to get all of my practicing work done in the evening when I get home. At seven, I grab a quick breakfast and then run (literally!) out the door to leave for work. I work from 7:30- 3:00. My job includes teaching computer, Spanish, and library to the elementary students, cataloguing and organizing books, helping with computer and other media issues, and other random tasks such as planning the book fair. At 3:00, I either rush home (Tuesdays and Fridays), have a faculty mtg (Mondays), or teach a piano student at school (Wednesdays and Fridays). On Tuesdays when I get home, I teach two piano students.  Whenever I do get home and am finished teaching, after changing clothes and grabbing a snack, I buckle down to some serious practicing. I take a break to go running with my siblings and to eat supper. Sometimes, if we can persuade Mom, she lets us eat in the family room and watch a show like Get Smart or Hogans Heroes. We love the old shows! After dinner, I go back to practicing. I try to get in between four to six hours of practice a day (hopefully closer to six). I also try to squeeze in studying some music history, music theory, and ear training because I am thinking and praying about going back to school to get my Masters degree in Music, in which case I will have to take entrance exams in those subjects. I am trying to figure out how to squeeze in Zumba, but that hasn't worked out very well yet because I am usually exhausted by this point in the day! This is what my week days look like. On Saturdays, I leave at 6 am and drive 3 hours to Macon for my piano lesson which usually ends up being around an hour and a half. Then, I drive back and spend the rest of the day trying to get everything that didn't get done during the week completed, in addition to those special weekend activities like cleaning house and doing laundry! :) I try to spend some time with my family as well. Sundays are busy with church, finishing up weekend projects, and occaisonally, an afternoon nap, trip to the beach, or family activity. Whew! Just like that, my week is gone and a new one has begun. I am beginning to see why 90 year old people always say their lives went by just like that. My goal is just to find a way in the midst of all the stress, craziness and pressure to enjoy what I get to do, to cherish each memory-in-the-making, to really "see" the beauty all around me, to appreciate the little things like coffee in my favorite mug, to love with all of my heart, to infuse each moment with all of my energy, passion, and joy, to take time to notice all the little gifts and surprises God sprinkles in my day, and to glimpse  the magic behind the mundane.

Higher than Mine, Part 2

So, when I went in to the school on that Friday afternoon, they explained that one of their enrichment teachers had unexpectedly had to quit. They spoke with me about what was involved in the job, and amazingly, all of  the things that she had done were areas I had experience in through either my actual "job" or through times when I had just volunteered at the school to help out with tasks that there was no one else to complete. The school offered me the job and told me to come Monday to sign the contract. Praise God! I could not believe it - He had truly answered my prayers! I mean, I knew that He could - I just was not sure that He would answer them the way I wanted them to. I thought He might want me to go through something that would be good FOR me but I might not really like. I mean, I am sure that I would build a BUNCH of character working at McDonalds. Sometimes, God does answer our prayers in ways we do not particularly like. However, this time, He saw fit to provide me with a good job and answer my prayers in a way that was quite satisfying to me.

Of course, it has been hard leaving my friends, school, church, and life in Albany. However, I have enjoyed starting this next phase of my life. God has taught me so much through this entire experience and built my faith in ways I would never have expected. In addition to this job, I also have four piano students, and God has opened other doors with music that I would not have had if I had stayed. I cannot believe all that God has done and I look forward to what the rest of this adventure will hold. A few months ago, if you had told me all that was going to happen, I wouldn't have believed you. God didn't do anything the way I expected Him to. But, I guess that shouldn't have surprised me. After all, He does say "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways  your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." His plan for me? Better, higher, more wonderful than mine could ever be.

Friday, September 30, 2011

So. um. yes. I found this on a friend's facebook and it pretty much sums up the way I view life. So............yes. I'd better sign off now ---------------------to go practice.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Sea

I stand at the edge of the shore
Endless blue reaches to touch the sky
Crashing waves sweep
The gentle foam tickles my toes
I giggle.
Seagulls swoop
A warm breeze kisses my cheek.
I close my eyes.
I breathe.
My troubles melt away.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Deep, dark sky warms to soft blue

Gradually, gently paling, and then,

The sun splashes on the horizon

Vibrant colors dancing

to the music of the morning

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Higher than Mine, Part 1

It all started in May. Things had finally been going smoothly, when something happened that shook up my comfortable little world and pierced my sensitive soul. While I cannot share the details here, suffice it to say that tears and questions flowed as I sought to process what had happened. I discussed the situation with my parents and as they grieved with me they offered this advice, "Maybe it's time to move on. Maybe God is trying to tell you something. Maybe you should look into relocating." While this may seem a bit drastic of a response (leaving town?!), the truth was moving wouldn't be an out-of-the-blue decision. I never wanted to stay in Albany - actually scratch that - I never wanted to even move there in the first place! I only moved there after college because my family was there. And now that my family had moved, there wasn't much to keep me there. I didn't like the atmosphere, location, or mercantile opportunities, and certainly it wasn't the most artistically stimulating environment either. However, until that point, I hadn't sensed God saying it was time to move on. Now, though, I wasn't sure.

I began praying about relocating and submitting resumes to schools in various places - Brunswick, GA (family and beach), Greenville, SC (sister, grandparents, friends and just generally wonderful place), and Macon, GA (piano teacher and close to Atlanta). I had not yet signed a contract for the next school year, and as the summer stretched before me, I prayed and waited for the Lord's direction. I was fine with either leaving or staying - there were pros and cons to each - I just wanted to know what HE would have me do. Now, I just have to say, waiting isn't exactly my strong point. I like to know exactly what I need to do and what I am going to need to do and make a plan accordingly. However, even though I explained to God that I wasn't very good at waiting, He decided to have me wait anyway.

Well, I waited and waited (and waited and WAITED) as the summer sped by. At the end of the summer, I still hadn't heard anything from any of the places to which I'd applied, so I assumed it must be God's will for me to continue living in Albany. Around the beginning of July, something happened that changed all of that. Now, I have not mentioned this yet, but one large factor in considering moving was my finances. A teacher's salary isn't very large to start with, then add to that the fact I was a teacher at a Christian school and that we had already taken a large pay cut the previous year - basically, I was hardly making anything. Well, that's fine if you can make ends meet, but all of my insurances (car, health, etc.) were going up, student loans were coming due, and quite honestly, the only way I had even making it thus far was because of large tax refunds each year which I had saved and used to live off of. However, I knew the Lord was able to provide, so I assumed if I stayed in Albany, He would stretch my resources, give me a raise, drop money from the sky, or provide in some other way. Anyway, one day I looked at my bank account and realized I was broke! It had happened suddenly due to some unexpected expenses and also a business mistakenly taking some money from my account. Well, when this happened, shock though it was, I felt that it was the Lord showing me that I was going to HAVE to make a change. I realized I was not going to be able to make it even another month living on my own as it was, and since I did not see a raise forthcoming, I made plans to move in with my family.
Now, this was very difficult for me. I felt like I had failed in some way, even though I knew I had been as careful and thrifty as possible. I didn't want to resign my job to say that I was going to move in with my family with no job prospects in sight. It did not fit my human reasoning at all. However, I felt clearly that this was what I was supposed to do, so I went on. I have to say, this was just not at all how I thought God would show me his will - by emptying my bank account. I thought a wonderful new job would open up and it would just be clear that I should move from one job to the other. It sounded so nice and easy and comfortable. But God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and He did things HIS way (Surprise!).
I resigned my job, moved in with my family, and kept beseeching God for a job that would match with my education, experience, and skills. My faith seemed to grow by the day as I fought a moment by moment battle to not worry, to trust, to let go. I thought surely God would provide. But a whole month went by, and still I had nothing. Bills were coming due; I tried not to panic. "Trust, just trust," I reminded myself. Still, nothing came and it was getting to the point where I felt I should go out and look for anything at all - the mall, Longhorn's, Chick-fil-A, the government - just to pay *some* of the bills. I asked God to provide a job for me by the end of the first week of August - if I had not heard anything by then, then on Monday morning I would start looking for just "anything."

It was Friday afternoon, and I was resting on my bed, taking a small break from practicing, when the telephone rang. It was the principal from one of the Christian schools in the area, one of the schools I had applied at and had a mini-interview at. They had been interested but had not had any openings at the time. "When can you be here?" she asked. "Give me an hour," I said, and then flew through the house screaming, "Mom, Mom! That school just called and wants me to come in as soon as I can!" While my mom began praying, I danced through the shower and headed to the school just as fast as I could.

To be continued... (Dun-duh duh-duh)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Keep On

"Do not be weary in well doing: For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9

~ With a heart for any fate, learn to labor and to wait. ~

Friday, August 26, 2011

Answering His Call

"Is that always what music is? Answering the call of God?
Because on this whole spinning planet — this is the only rhythm that makes music: to do the will of the One whose heart beats at the center of the cosmos. Regardless of what anyone thinks of us."

From A Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weird is Better than Boring!!

Soooooo :) I was thinking the other day and I realized that one reason I do not really relish the thought of being an adult is that adults are There, I said it. But before you just label me as judgemental and immature, think about it. You're at the beach...what are the adults doing?? Sitting in their beach chairs (if they made it to the beach at all - some are still sitting in their beach houses). Sometimes they are reading in their beach chairs and sometimes they are just SITTING. Doing nothing. Staring into nothing. Sleeping occasionally. Now, don't get me wrong, when I am at the beach, I like to spend some of my time sitting and sleeping and reading and reflecting. BUT (and that is a big but) I also love to take walks, play ultimate frisbee, bump the volleyball around, play football, play cards, swim in the ocean, scream when I touch the slimy stuff at the bottom, jump the waves, ride on the boogie board, run from spot to spot trying to chase down the biggest waves, take the perfect jump pictures, and, of course, Hannah's and Maddie's and my favorite thing of all...walk on the squeaky sand and make seagull noises.

OK, now, you might say that that's just the beach. But, picture scene 2, the pool. Again, where are the adults? In their chairs just sitting and sitting. If they get hot enough, they might delicately venture into the water and sit there for a while. Now, think about kids..they do somersaults and flips and handstands and play sharks and minnows and chinese freeze tag and Star and Marco Polo and Categories and have jumping contests off the diving boards. Now, age aside, which category do you think I fit into? That's right - the kids, obviously. I like to play games at the pool not sit there like a zombie. Which is why recently, when I went swimming at my apartment complex, I immediately made friends with the kids in the pool. Normally, I don't have to worry because I have my siblings. But at my apartment, I don't, so I had to fix the situation right away. I instroduced myself to the kids in the pool, taught them how to play Star and played with them the rest of the time.

And you know, the list of boring adult behavior goes on and on. What do most adults do in their spare time? Watch TV and maybe read a book. Nothing ENERGETIC!!!! And when adults get together, what do they do?? Sit and talk. No games, no guitar hero, no FUN! And how often do you see adults riding bikes or playing sports?? Pretty much only if their kids beg them to. It's Sad. So, that is why I am never entering that boring adult stage of life. I may be an adult on the outside for situations like work and paying bills and important stuff like that. BUT - get me to the beach, the pool, to my free time, and my Kid Side can No Longer be Suppressed. Too bad if people think I'm weird. Like Hannah says, I might be weird, but you are BORING!! :P

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why I love being a teacher

Summer break. Christmas break. Summer break. Spring Break. Summer break. and need I mention it again?? Summer break!!!! :) Actually, there are lots of other more important reasons as well, but there is no doubt that I adore having the summers off. I look at the start of each summer as the beginning of a time filled with all kinds of possibilities. Fun to be had...goals to be skills to fills me with excitement that tingles from my head to my toes and through every fingertip. I always set goals for myself for the summer because even though I want to relax and have fun, I do NOT look at the summer as just a time to kick back. No indeed! It is the time to DO everything I want to do but don't have time for during the year, to experience new things, to Live with more intensity than ever. This summer is no exception. It stretches before me, a magical space waiting to see what I will make of it. My goals are ready, my tired self has found new energy with the arrival of freedom, and now I eagerly embark to create two momentous, memorable, magical months. Summer, here I come!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ice cream, Chocolate, and Shoes

Stress is a very real phenomenon in many of our lives. Without doubt it is very real and present in mine! According to, stress can be both positive and negative. It can be a positive motivator causing people to get things done, but chronic stress can also cause all kinds of problems:
"Stress affects thoughts. Thoughts of low self-esteem, fear of failure, inability to concentrate, worrying about the future, preoccupation with thoughts/tasks and forgetfulness can be present. Stress affects behavior. It can cause stuttering and other speech difficulties, bouts of crying for no apparent reason, laughing in a high pitch or nervous tone of voice, increased accident prone behavior, overeating, under eating and increased use of drugs and alcohol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of health care is spent on stress related disorders. These ailments include hypertension, migraine, headaches, ulcers, anxiety, allergies, asthma, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Constant, chronic stress can also suppress the immune system thereby making the body more susceptible to disease, even the common cold and flu."

For a while, I thought I would try to figure out a way to live a less stress-filled life. But I've finally realized that I love being busy and having a full plate and that I have so many goals and plans and dreams that I love much more than being stress-free. So I have changed my goal from reducing stress to learning to manage stress. Here are some of my favorite ways to manage stress:

1. Exercise: This is a highly recommended way of dealing with stress and one that I personally find effective. It's hard to drag myself to the gym sometimes, but I almost always feel better when I make myself do it. Zumba is my favorite form of exercise. I dance away some of the tension as I get lost in moving to the music.

2. Eat ice-cream! :) This tip must be done in moderation or weight gain will result and cause further stress; however, there REALLY is something about ice cream and chocolate that can be very comforting, especially if you put on your comfiest stretchy pants and eat the ice cream right out of the container while lounging on the couch watching your favorite TV show.

3. Go shopping! This again must be done carefully; otherwise, you might break your budget and that will not help anything. But even if you don't buy anything (although a new dress and pair of shoes is a great help in any situation), just getting out and walking around and being around fresh sights and sounds can help you feel better.

4. Make a list of everything you have to do. This helps organize your thoughts and sort that confusing muddle of your mind into concrete tasks to accomplish.

5. Take a walk. Being out in the fresh air and sunshine does wonders for stress relief. Plus the act of walking makes you feel like you are leaving your problems far behind and helps clear your head and think through things.

6. Focus on one task at a time. Sometimes, when I have a lot to do, I look at the big picture and everything that has to get done, and I get overwhelmed completely. But a lot of times when I force myself to focus on just one task at a time, things don't end up being nearly as bad and overwhelming as I thought.

7. Talk it out. Guys probably never will understand this, but sometimes the only way to resolve things is to "talk them out." I don't know what it is about talking about things that makes them better, but somehow it just does. Sometimes I think that it's pointless to talk about something because there is nothing anyone can do, but when I finally DO talk about it I end up feeling SO much better! Just getting it off your chest and out in the open somehow takes away some of the pressure. And sometimes people have better ideas and advice than you give them credit for. Pick a trusted friend or family member and confide your troubles. Just be willing to do the same for them if they need a listening ear later on.

8. Pray about it. I almost didn't include this, because it seems so obvious, but it really should be the first thing we do. God has everything in control. If we (if I) could ever just realize that, we would all be so much more peaceful and happy. God can do anything and everything - leave it in HIS hands.

9. Step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes we see all of the little things we have to get done and we freak out. Think about which things really matter to get done and which if left undone will not matter in two years or even two weeks.

10. Take time. Take time to have your quiet time, eat, sleep, exercise, practice good hygeine, dress cutely, etc. Sometimes I think that I really just don't have time for these "extras," But actually they are essentials. Taking the time in the morning to have my quiet time, eat breakfast, and dress nicely for the day affects my entire outlook.

These are my personal favorites. I also looked on the website I mentioned earlier and they suggested these strategies as well: laugh, make time for fun, get rid of negative influences, and accept what you cannot control. I pretty much think what it boils down to though is this: Eat chocolate, consume ice cream, and buy shoes! :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

P.S. I Love You

Dear Mom,

Every year there is one day set aside that we celebrate mothers and all that they do for us. We buy them flowers, give them gifts, and seek to thank them for their impact on our lives. The question is - how can we in one day thank our moms for all that they do for us EVERY day - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? How can I thank you, Mom, for all that YOU do and are and mean to me?? I don't know how.

You are amazing, Mom. They say that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and you have rocked TEN cradles! That should mean that you will have 10 times the impact on the world. You have undertaken the greatest task any one ever could - to raise up the next generation, a generation that with a Biblical worldview that can effect change in the world. And, yet, this noble calling entails much daily, mundane work. You cook, you clean, you rock sick children, you discipline, you teach, you train, you clean up throw up, you smile, you love, you hug, you support, you encourage, you plan birthday parties, you make every child feel special, you listen, you counsel, you stay up all night with the feverish and still get up the next day, you do laundry and laundry and laundry, you step back and let us make our own choices and then are there to pick up the pieces when we fall apart and don't even say I told you so. You do all of this willingly, every day, for all of us. You have done and do this for me, Mom. You lay down your life for us...for ME. Do you know that I love you? Cause I do. I know you don't feel like doing all of this every day of every year. But you do it anyway and keep on doing it because you love us. And I love you too. I don't even know how to tell you how much I love you.

As I have gotten older, we have become more than mother and daughter and become friends. I love giggling with you and talking about girl stuff and our early morning coffee chats when we are supposed to be having our quiet times. You are so strong too....I don't know how you keep going, keep smiling, never give up even when you are sick, tired, and discouraged. You tell us you are fine and remind us to get enough sleep at night with true concern in your voice, but the truth is you haven't slept enough for months or maybe years. Or maybe since you became a mom. Thank you, Mom. I love you for that. And I love the fact that you listen...even when your ears probably feel like they are going to fall off and even when you are so tired you fall asleep halfway through and we have to keep waking you up. Thanks Mom. I always know I can talk to you and that you will care. And thank you for doing special stuff for us even when some people (not me, I do have to say! :) don't get their chores done and make you sorry that you did something special, thank you for still doing a special thing the next time. I love you for that.

Thank you for home schooling us. I know it would have been easier to just send us all off to some school. Maybe then your task as mother would have been only 10 times impossible instead of twenty. But you cared enough to protect us and to instill in us the values that you believed were important. Thanks Mom, I love you for doing that for me. Thank you too for paying for music lessons and driving me to them and letting me practice (as much as you did! :) even when you were about to scream if you had to listen to one more minute and when you thought that maybe we could actually feed Taylor if we didn't have to pay for lessons and when you were pretty sure that the car could find its own way to lessons from going there so much. I love you for doing that for me.

Well, Mom, the list could go on and on and on forever. But the point is, thank you so much for all that you are and do for me and have done for me. You are incredible and beautiful - inside and out. I love you a million red m&ms. Happy Mother's Day! :)


P.S. - Did I mention that I love you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Sometimes in the frantic rush of life, the pressures of deadlines and events, lengthy to-do lists, and unexpected daily mini-crises, it is very difficult to really ENJOY my life. I just get so caught up and before I know it, the day, week, month, year is gone.

Recently I was reading in Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. In the book, she talks about the importance of savoring each moment. A pastor she knew once was asked what his most profound regret was looking back at his life. He answered, "Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing....Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out, I was throwing it away." Wow! That completely describes my life....I am always rushing from thing to thing, rarely being completely given to the thing in front of me...usually my mind is about 15 places all at once. I thought that was called multi-tasking! But maybe, it is keeping me from being aware of the blessings in this moment now. That is Ann Voskamp's solution to the problem of not enjoying each moment, of being caught up in the torrent of life ~ looking for the blessings in each minute, being aware. Consciously being aware of each moment, consciously seeking the beauty and blessings all around me.

Ann Voskcamp says, "Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respector of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter into time's swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. And when I'm always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter. And time slows."

~ May I live in the moment, in THIS moment. May I be aware. ~

Practice Makes Perfect

As much as I love the piano, there are still days when I don't feel like practicing. Comparing it to a long term relationship again, there are certainly days and times in any relationship when you do not feel like doing things for the other person whether it is doing household tasks, spending time with them, or being nice to them! Well, it is the same way with piano, there are days and times when I do not feel like doing what I know I need to do. But, just like in a relationship, love and committment is a choice, and when you don't feel like doing things for someone you love, you make a choice to do them anyway because you love that person. So, same for piano.

My teacher says that playing the piano is the hardest thing anyone can do because it is so complicated and demands so much on such a myriad of levels. And she also says that it is easy to put off practicing because it is so difficult and demands so much. Recently, I read a book called Note by Note by Tricia Tunstall. In the book, Ms. Tunstall explains why practicing is so challenging.

"...To strive for mastery at the piano, or any instrument for that matter, is really to redefine one's definition of 'hard.' Difficult passages must be broken down into their smallest parts and played - well, you know: over and over and over. When you think you cannot bear to play a passage one more time, you play it ten more times. Or twenty. If you have not maintained a meticulous, painstaking precisioon throughout those twenty times, you repeat it twenty times more. When you are tempted to give up and go make yourself a sandwich, there is no coach to stop you; you must be trainer and athlete, good cop and bad, all at once. It's a tall order for a disciplined grownup, much less for a [child]."

But practicing is necessary -

"An instrumentalist is an athlete. There is no way around the need for intense physical training; without it, the ability to play a Beethoven sonata is about as unlikely as the ability to pole-vault. But while pole-vaulters and soccer players and gymnasts usually practice together, a piano student practices his technical exercises alone, and it can feel like drudgery."

Nevertheless, practicing can be both intensely fulfilling and rewarding. I love a challenge and the piano constantly presents great challenges to overcome. I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I am able to play the pieces the way I hear them inside and as I am feel my technique getting better and stronger. Because there is no denying it - to be suberb at anything, you have to practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Piano Lessons

Piano lessons are the joy and the curse of my life. I absolutely adore the piano - music is in my blood, and furthermore, I am NOT content to merely be mediocre at the piano. Every time, I try to do piano "just for fun," it just doesn't work, and I end up back at the same realization that the piano and I were not meant for a mere flirtatious fling but rather a serious, committed relationship. And with all serious, committed relationships, sacrifice is required. So, I pour blood, sweat, and tears, at times MANY tears, into the piano. The hours required to practice and drive to lessons (2 hours one way) put a strain on my already bursting schedule. The money required for high class lessons put a strain on my already tight budget. But, try as I might to leave the piano, it will not let me. You see, music is not just a part of me, it IS me. It is entertwined in the very core of my being, so much so that I can't always tell where I stop and music begins. And whenever I try to disengage myself from it, back off, relax, "be more realistic," as so many of my well-meaning friends and family members advise, I cannot bear it and find myself back again fully committed to insane hours of practice and striving after elusive perfection. You see, as much as it sometimes hurts to be so committed to piano, it hurts worse to NOT be. So, I guess I might as well as resign myself to it - Piano and I are together for Better or for Worse....Forever.

These quotes from Great Pianists Speak by Adele Marcus (who was by the way my teacher's teacher at Juillard) express a little of what I am feeling:

"You must have the craziness to go on continuously, whether you are sick, or you aren't sick, or you have a headache or you don't have a headache. You must have this sort of craziness to go on every day. If you don't have it, success is absolutely out of the question. When I say every day, it is not only two or three hours, it is your whole life. You have to dedicate everything; if not, you cannot do it....When they ask me 'What makes an artist?' I find that apart from this urge to express oneself, an absolute dedication and willingness to work like I-don't-know-what for hours without end, to build a repertoire, are the elements which are absolutely imperative. Together with all that is enormous sacrifice."

And yet - with all that sacrifice - it is still completely worth it. As Sergei Rachmanioff said, "Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music."

In fall of 2009 I wrote the following words:

"What is it about piano that captivates me?? Why is it that no matter that I'm sleep deprived and brain dead, I am willing and even eager to come to the piano and endure vigorous mental and physical labor instead of resting or relaxing? Why is it despite the pain and pressure, the fatigue and rigor, I always desire, nay demand - MORE? Crank up the intensity another notch, push myself just that much harder - I can't stop and I can't get enough. Ever."

Playin' the fool at school

April Fool's Day just presents too many delicious opportunities for innocent mischief for a fun-loving soul like mine to miss. So, accordingly, as I realized April Fool's Day was rolling around again, I had to devise a devious plan to prank our headmaster, Mr. Bess. I spoke with the other teachers, and we came up with a brilliant though devilish plan. Here is how it all transpired:

Time: Friday, April 1, 2011, 7:30 am
Place: Byne Christian School

Teacher 1 (me) texts Mr. Bess informing him she is throwing up and has a fever and will not be able to come to school.

7:40 am - Teacher 2 texts him telling him they have a family emergency and will not be able to come in.

7:50 am - Teacher 3 texts him explaining their parents are in the hospital and they HAVE to go see them and guessed it....will not be able to come in.

7:51 am - Mr. Bess is frantically trying to find subs. Only one small problem - the school secretary is in on the joke and regretfully informs him that there are no subs to be found.

7:53 am - Mr. Bess' blood pressure rises dramatically.

7:59 am - Mr. Bess thinks his heart is going to come out of his chest.

8:03 am - Mr. Bess thinks he might have to call 911.

8:10 am - With students coming in five minutes and still no subs to be found, Mr. Bess considers asking parents in the parking lot to sub.

8:15 am - Teacher number 1 (me) drives into parking lot and prepares to exit vehicle to wait for other teachers so they can all surprise him together. At the same time, Mr. Bess heads into parking lot, blocking route of escape.

8:15 and 1/2 am - Teacher number 1 (me) tries to maintain a low profile inside her car, hoping Mr. Bess will not notice she is there.

8:16 am - Plan fails. Mr. Bess walks over to Teacher 1 (my) car. Teacher 1 is forced to open car door and say sheepishly, "Happy April Fool's Day, Mr. Bess!"

8:16 and one quarter am - Teachers 2 and 3 arrive and reiterate, "Happy April Fool's Day, Mr. Bess - we love you!"

8:16 and one half am - Pavement melts under Mr. Bess' feet.

8:17 am - Teachers now think they are having a heart attack and simultaeneously wish they had worn their running shoes that day.

8:18 am - Mr. Bess recovers his sense of humor. Teachers breathe sighs of relief as he laughs and agrees that it was a good joke.

The day continues. Teachers teach their classes and all is back to normal....or so it seems. But before the teachers leave that day, Mr. Bess warns them, "I will get even. You won't know when and you won't know how, but I WILL get even.

Teachers leave thinking that the Freedom to play April Fool's Jokes = Eternal Vigilance (or Eternal Terror, whichever way you want to look at it).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Destination Byne

For weeks, I have been spending every drop of energy, creativity, and time into an event called Destination Byne. This event is a cross between an open house, progressive dinner, and international fair, and was designed as a promotional event for the school I teach at - Byne Christian School. The event took place this past Tuesday, February 8 and was a tremendous success. Each classroom represented a country and served a traditional course from that country as well as providing information about the academics that take place in the particular classroom. My class's country was France, and we had fun decorating with Paris themed items and serving French desserts - chocolate eclairs, madelines, and piroulines - yum! Representatives from FOX news and the Albany Herald reported on the event, and the general consensus by parents, staff, and students was that it was a fun and educational evening. Below are some pictures from the event.

Italy Room

Spain/ Latin American countries room

France room (my room!)

Me in a poster one of my student's cousins created for photo ops!

Some of my students' projects - book report T-shirts, science notebooks, habitat models

China room

Registration room with tables about different aspects of the school

Australia Room. This class actually had Outback Steakhouse come and serve some of the food!

Chemistry models and students dressed up outside of the Greece room

Student dressed up for China room

There were 12 countries represented in all. I am now EXHAUSTED, but the result was well worth it!
Check out this video we created to advertise for the event:

Mastering my Masters

After two years of working quite diligently on my masters of art in teaching degree, I am finally finished! I received my diploma and final transcript in the mail the other day. I finished with a 3.63 GPA. While that is not a 4.0, I still feel pretty pleased when I realize that I completed my degree with that GPA while teaching full time, working as church pianist, and driving to Macon to take piano lessons every or every other week plus practicing many hours at home. Additionally, I plugged away at it through a death in the family, moving out on my own for the first time, my family moving 3 and half hours away from me, and a personal emotional crisis. While at times I thought it would master me, I kept at it and now I have a masters degree to my name! My family and I celebrated with dinner in Savannah at Olive Garden.

It is hard for me to believe I am finally finished! Now, on to the next challenge. Doctorate, anyone??

Monday, January 31, 2011

No Pain = No Gain

I hate Pain. I always have. I shrink from it. I dread it. I fear it. I do everything I can to avoid it. When the pastor preaches about the suffering in the Christian life, I want to cover my ears.

But...I've been thinking. Doesn't being exceptional at anything require pain? Growing = changing = pain. Olympic athletes - don't they call pain their friend? The long hours of practice, the pushing beyond their breaking point, the grueling sessions they put their bodies through. A plant breaking through the seed - it must hurt if plants have feelings. And when you are working out -running, lifting weights, dancing- it is not doing any good if it doesn't hurt. When you feel the pain, that is when you know you are growing, changing, getting stronger. Otherwise you are just going through the motions. Even piano practice I have found is supposed to hurt. My teacher says I should wake up sore in the morning from pushing my hands, fingers, arms to play faster and louder and longer than ever before.
So, the Lack of Pain means Lack of Growth. When my life hurts, it means I am going somewhere, getting stronger, Growing, changing, becoming exceptional.

I hate the pain. But I hate the status quo, the average, the weak, the un-exceptional more. I want to become all I can be - in Every area.

So, I should love the pain. Maybe that is what it meant in the Bible when it said, "Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, wehnever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work so that you may be perfectly and fully developed, lacking in nothing."

I never really understood it before. How to be excited when pain comes. Why I should be. But I guess it is just like when I'm excited when my arms feel like they are falling off when I practice octave scales or when I wake up sore after working out. I Love the Pain because I Love the Gain that comes with it.

The Motions by Matthew West sums it up:

This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

I'll give my all. I'll embrace the Pain because I know it's the price I must pay to be Exceptional.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Family is Forever

My family is incredible. They are loving, hilarious, godly, caring, and insane. Maybe that is why I miss them so much when I am away from them. I try to explain my family to people sometimes, but unless they have actually met them, there is no way for them to truly understand. Allow me to introduce you to them....maybe then you will get the picture.

First there is my Dad. He is a man of integrity who loves God and his family and is always faithful to provide for us. He is a quiet man but he shows us his love every day by his hard work and he does special things for us like taking us on vacations, to special places, and out to eat (and with ten children three of which children are Taylor, Joshua, and Joseph, this is no small act of love). BUT don't let his normally quiet demeanor fool you. Everything changed when he became the new 30. He has been known to give Elvis impersonations and wild pep rallies with split jumps, pom poms, and his own version of the cheers and then there is his infamous duck joke.... :) My dad is respected by those whom he works with for his strong leadership and thoughtful touches like sending his employees cards on their birthdays. He also is my shopping buddy - yes he has taken me on two all day shopping trips! And let me tell you, he wore me out! :) My dad is a man of strength, love, and character.

Next there is my Mom. She is my best friend. We laugh together, cry together, and sometimes we read each other's minds. She is a godly, selfless woman who spends her life making a home for us. She works unbelievably hard each day filling all of the roles that wife, mother, and home schooler entail. But even with all that she has to do each day, she still takes time to do special things for us like make cookies, mail me a package, and sit down and watch a movie. She always takes time to listen to me - and I tell her everything! A lot of times she has good advice and even when she can't fix my problems, just telling her about them makes me feel better. She is a wonderful writer and a delicious cook! She is always trying new recipes and ideas. My mom is a beautiful, hilarious, dedicated, and strong woman.

Then there is Ashlyn. Ashlyn is a beautiful, godly young lady with a heart for others and a heart for God. She lives each day seeking to glorify God and bless those around her. She is smart, talented, funny, and hard working. She is sensitive to the needs of those around her and is always looking for ways to bless other people. She sends me random packages that make my day (even when they get lost in the mail for 3 months!). A gifted photographer, she captures the every day beauty she sees around her with the camera. I wish I got to see her more often, but I am thankful for the times we are together. I love you, Ashlyn!

Then there is Taylor. Everything Taylor does he does in a big way. I think it's part of his "swagger." haha :) He is goofy, crazy, and has the healthiest self esteem I have ever seen! :) He is not afraid to be himself and does not worry what other people think about him. He just is completely himself and expects other people to love his awesomeness! Taylor, I admire your confidence! He likes to tease people, but underneath all of his swagger and silliness, there is a compassionate heart deep down that cares about others.

Joshua is very hard working and does not give up easily. He is always full of plans for how to earn more money, have a better career, or fix something around the house. He is a true entrepreneur. He is also very friendly and can strike up a conversation with anyone. He thinks a lot about life and takes it seriously. He works hard to make good grades and has big plans for his future.

Joseph is not your typical "Joe!" :) He is effortlessly cool, extremely intelligent, and incredibly handsome! :) However, he seem deceptively quiet to people who have just seen him in public. They think of him as well-behaved, mannerly, and quiet. Haahahahahahahahahahah! :P What a joke! He is actually crAzzzzzy and a complete goof ball! (in a good way!) He breaks out into random songs in the middle of the house and makes weird faces and is just generally hilarious! :) He is also my guitar hero band mate! :) But, he is also very sensitive with a sweet spirit and cares about others. He is also super smart and very athletic. I love you Joe!

Christopher is always making us laugh with his randomly amusing comments. He is unabashedly laidback and surprises us with his cute sense of humor. He is great to play games with and hang out with. He really is smart but he doesn't believe in working any harder than he has to. :) Chris has a sweet heart and even though he is getting quite grown up we still consider him our teddy bear! :)

Hannah is growing into a beautiful young lady. She is quiet most of the time but a lot goes on in that blonde head of hers which you can tell if you read her blog! She works hard at her school, is a budding photographer, and relishes her computer time. She is sweet and caring and also quite silly. She and I burst into random bouts of giggling and have all kinds of quotes and jokes that we randomly rehearse. :) I love spending time with Hannah! Hannah, you are a gorgeous young lady inside and out!

Luke is a crazy wild child with a mischievous twinkle nearly always in his eyes! :) He really is sweet and sensitive but he hides it most of the time under his all boy exterior. He is thin and athletic as well as very smart. He works hard at school and plays hard at whatever games he is doing. He is very competitive and almost always wins! :) Of course, when he beats me it is just because I let him win, but you know. :D Luke is super fun to play with and is an awesome little brother.

Matthew :) Well, how do I even begin? Matthew is my honey, my little buddy. He constantly makes us laugh with the cute ways he says things and his hilarious antics. He dances like a rock star and then sleeps like an angel. He is very dramatic and acts everything out that he says with all kinds of facial and bodily contortions. He is my bestest honey. Matt I love you more than a million boxes of chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce! :)

Bethany is supposed to be our princess but she is actually more at home on the football field! :) She is feisty, bossy, thinks she is 25, and is our little drama queen. She keeps us laughing with her adorable expressions and hilarious stories. She says the sweetest things, is absolutely convinced she can do anything her brothers do, and is super cuddly and fun to snuggle with. I love you, my sweet Babe!

So, now you know! My family is special and one of a kind. And no matter how old I get, I am still going to miss them and want to be with them. I love you guys!!!!!