Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I love this time of year!  I like the opportunity to mentally reset the clock and start over.  I enjoy giving in to the urge to re-commit to good habits, re-tire old ones and re-examine and re-organize the important parts of the wonderful life I've been given.
So for 2012 I am re-committing to the following things.

  • I am going to do my best to follow wherever the Lord leads me personally, relationally and professionally.  
  • I am going to continue to write music and maybe sing when I have the voice.
  • I am going to continue to be the best teacher that I know how to be and have faith that the Lord will cover all the times when my best isn't enough.

Dreams for 2012 (Prayer requests for 2012)  - wouldn't it be great if these things happened?  

Relationships:  I want to make new friends.  
"Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and and the other gold.  A circle's round, it has no end, that's how long I want to be your friend."
If one of my new friends happened to be a special guy, that would be awesome! 

This picture made me laugh because isn't this what
 all Single people are supposed to look like?
 Also, when was the last time I saw a 3:5 ratio?
I didn't know that odds could be that good!
Hobbies: I want to take the next logical steps toward sharing my music with others. Each song is at a different stage of readiness, and so each song requires it's own plan, either editing, orchestrating, critiquing, recording, and in some cases simply writing.  Along those lines, I am seeking guidance and mentorship for this area because there are so many holes in my knowledge of how to proceed that I need the help.  I don't yet know if this will take the form of a professional organization, a conference or a collaborator, but I'm trying to seek out all possible opportunities.

Health: I want to be healthy.  I AM surprisingly healthy but I don't take that for granted, nor do I believe my health will sustain itself if I am unable to address my weight issues.  The way I figure it,  a good New Year's Resolution is at least good for a jump start...and beginning is better than never starting at all.
Finances:  I've been battling debt for a long time and although I've been winning the LONG fight, the daily battles are often lost.  I'd like to show AT LEAST as much progress toward being debt free in 2012 as I have in 2011.
Website: - second job?  I want 2012 to be the year that my website really gets off the ground which means that I've got to create and invest a huge amount of searchable content that people actually want.  The good news is that my dad, otherwise none as Texasbob is helping me out on this, so I am confident that progress will be made. 

Education:  Wouldn't it be nice to go back to school?  Maybe - there are about a dozen obstacles in my way of seeking a master's degree and only one of them is the financial cost.  I just always want to be ready if the Lord provides an opportunity. 

Profession: My job is just right for me as long as I don't have to talk, which of course means that it is a tremendous challenge.  I'm praying that this year the Lord will provide me with some tangible long term solutions that will either enable me to continue in my chosen profession pain free OR will provide me with some other job where I can serve people and talk less.
That's quite a bit to be juggling, but God is able!  I want everything that I am and everything that I do to be God-honoring.  I am praying that in the year to come within each area of my life I will have the strength I need to be obedient, the wisdom I need to make sound decisions and the courage I need to do things that are hard. I have been blessed so much in 2011.  I hope that I am able to be a blessing ins 2012.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wrap up for songwriting boot camp

What an interesting and transparent summer I've had!  I decided this spring to set aside 4 weeks to really concentrate on writing music.  I feel really good about what I was able to accomplish even though things have turned out differently than I expected. 

Right away I got two songs fully drafted that are the type of music I feel most comfortable writing.  Simple solo songs for female singers.  I got them fully notated and currently editing them based on feedback.

From the moment I finished the second song I realized that I was so happy with the work I had done that I was finding it difficult to WANT to write anything else.  Nevertheless, I continued to write song "doodles" in hopes of coming up with an idea that would turn into a full song.  The upside of this is that I've gotten so much better at the basic skills of notation.... Finally, after years of trying I really can sit down somewhere and just notate something in my head with MUCH more accuracy than ever before.  I have also been writing more slowly because the more I write the more choral I have become in what I hear. 

The problem with writing anything for more than one voice is that it increases the difficulty of getting "scratch" recordings made.  Also, writing choral music requires a higher level of care when I notate something because I'm no longer just writing a "cheat" sheet for myself, but actually for someone else to read.  I've also slowed in my process of writing because I didn't expect to head down a choral path in my writing this summer. 

In my mind I had imagined working toward the type of concert that I did a few years ago, where the songs were just for one person and an instrumentalist to perform.  However, if I write choral music than the number of people involved is multiplied exponentially. 

Then I realized that when I did the concert a few years ago I took ten years to write all of that music.... I did have a dedicated summer of sorts, but the bulk of the music was written over a long period of time. 

In the midst of all of this, my biggest foe to writing good music has been myself.  Developing the discipline of creativity and the discipline of editing and finishing music that I no longer find intriguing is a skill that I hope will continue to grow. 

One of the most useful things that I did this summer was to go through my old notebooks of song "doodles" to see if any new ideas came up.  I have one melody that I really like that I'm hoping to find the right words for which really is quite opposite from the way I usually write, but I'm excited.... we'll see if it turns in to anything good. 

My goals for the remaining time this summer is to see if I can't get reasonable scratch recordings of the work I have done and then place them on songcloud so that I can share them with people for feedback. 

My plan is to continue to write as often as I can through the next year so that maybe in about a year I'll have enough new material to merit a performance of some sort. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Week 3

On Friday I was able to get my allergy testing taken care of only to discover much to my NOT surprise that I'm basically constantly suffering with allergies throughout the entire year.... My doctor told me that I didn't have an allergy season I had an allergy year and that my allergies to dust and grass and trees and mold ensure that I have no idea what it's like to feel well.  Who knew?

 Although I wasn't surprised to find that I had bad allergies, I was surprised to find that I am currently fighting them because I feel SOOOOOOO much better in the summer than I do during the school year... which leads me to believe that perhaps the doctor is wrong......maybe I'm just allergic to school......

In any case, the testing itself actually counts as my first dose of allergy shots and by the time I got home from the tests (65 individual shots) I was decidedly under the weather or in this case under the allergen.  So I took things VERY easy on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday I got to visit with my friend Heather Bell who I rarely see anymore since we consolidated our two Sunday School hours into one.  In any case, I took a different route to Sunday School and found myself with a moment to visit with Heather.  We made an appointment to have a look at a choral piece I've been working on for about a year.  It is an SSAA piece that I would like to do a scratch recording of because with Finale playback all I get is a fake vocal AHHHH sound and it's hard to imagine.  I could sing each of the 4  parts myself, but as Heather is a great first soprano, I'm going to have her sing the 1st soprano part so that the scratch recording sounds as if the singing were effortless

Yesterday and today I've continued to play around with either existing songs OR with fragments that I've come up with recently.  I can say that in terms of ideas it was good for me to sort of take the weekend "off" because I actually HAVE some ideas.  At the same time, I'm not really pleased with anything I've written in the last few days because the ideas I've got are still somewhat nebulous and lacking in focus.  Even when the focus is clear, I'm not sure if the direction the song is headed is where it needs to go.

The best things I can do to get focus and clarity when I write are to go for a walk, read my Bible and just be still.  The being still part is the hardest part, when I have all types of media at my fingertips ready to distract me.  Things like Netflix and TV and Facebook and blogging and Itunes can at times be a HUGE distraction especially when using finale already places me at my computer.  Even when my distractor of choice is NOT technology based, I still have books that I would rather read,  chores that need doing and folks who I would love to visit with on the phone.

The more time I experience where I am focused on writing songs, the more I am sure that I really am supposed to set aside this time as an act of obedience.  Please pray that I can use my time wisely and work through my distractability to get to a creative place where  I can be receptive to whatever the Lord would like to teach me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Week 2 Tuesday

Although I struggled last week to get focused, I was able to finish two complete songs (intro to fine)  with fully notated piano accompaniments that for better or worse are as complete as my skill allows.  I finished the second song about two in the morning Sunday morning and before I went to church I printed out a copy of both songs so that I could get a little feedback.   Thanks to my friend Mark J. who thinks like a pianist, I was able to go to my parents for Father's Day with edits in hand ready to write some more. 

In an effort to stay focused I've decided to not try to do any scratch recordings of anything until after this little song writing boot camp is over.  After all, this time  is all about getting the songs in my head onto the paper and in a form that can be communicated with others.  Learning how to record something decently is another whole skill I have to develop and it takes time I don't have.  One thing at a time.

Yesterday was the first day of Week 2.  I set about trying to write something but since I wasn't having any ideas I decided to work on notating a song that I wrote last summer but had not taken the time to notate because I thought it was too hard.  Well, this summer is all about accomplishing what seems difficult.  I didn't get the entire thing notated, but I got enough done that I now have an "in between" project to work on that I know I can finish.

The poor folks who took sight singing and ear training with me in college know that I STINK at rhythm dictation!  The good news is that I'm getting better, but the bad news is that a song like I worked on yesterday is just difficult enough for me that it is just pure and unadulterated hard work.  "Finale PrintMusic" is my friend because the playback feature allows me to hear what I just put in.  The more I practice, the better I am getting at writing it the correct way the first time. 

People talk all the time about musicians having to have talent.... the longer I am a musician the more I know that it is really all about practice...duh!

The big drama for yesterday was my unsuccessful attempts to convince my doctor and insurance company that they should meet in the middle in order to get my allergy testing paid for.  Since neither one would budge I am pleased to say that I kept my calm while on the phone, but by the time I got off the phone I was just furious!  I got over it, eventually but I must say that when I'm angry I can't think of pretty music.....  Last night I got myself together and was blessed by the Single Adult VBS.  Lizi Baily led worship and it was GREAT!

So today I woke up bright and early and started writing immediately.  This morning I've started 3 different songs, two choral and one congregational, but none of them are feeling like they need finishing, so for now they'll go in the scrap pile and maybe one of these days I'll find a use for one of the scraps.  The problem is that I like one of the songs that I wrote last week so much that I don't feel as if there is anything left to say......actually, there is a lot left to say, but how to say it?  no se...... 

In any case, spending the morning weaving in and out of the psalms is a lovely way to spend a Tuesday whether any song comes of it or not.  

Psalm 19 is the portion of scripture that is staying with me today....two of the song scraps I came up with were from fragments of this chapter.  It's just great truth!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week 1 Tuesday

Today was just AWESOME! 

The best part was that I got to spend time with God.  It has been my experience that when I am in the beginning stages of writing a song, when I am simply trying to put words and melodies together, I have to spend time in reflection about who God is, and then I just have to be still and be with God.  This is probably the reason that I don't write as often as I would like because I am so easily distracted by every earthly thing. 

But I have learned the hard way that if I want to write a song that speaks truly of who God is, AND is also worth editing, then spending time in scripture and prayer is essential, not so my song will be good but so that my heart will be right in the writing.

So before I left for the gym I tried to find a free downloadable audio Bible that I could put on my ipod....They exist, but in order to find one that I like I'm going to have to buy one.... so after spending some time in scripture, I put a few sermons that I hadn't heard in a while on my ipod and off I went. 

I was singing a song before I could even get to my car to go home. 

I give memory tests to the melody fragments that I think of.  As much as I was itching to grab my pencil, I made myself cook some lunch and eat it.  If the melody had not been worth remembering, I would have forgotten it because while I ate, I watched a little TV which is about as close to hitting the delete button on a song fragment as you can get.

My morning melody survived the memory test, so I was off.  I started writing!  By 4:40 when I had to stop to take a shower so that I could go to Bible Study I had a chorus, a verse, the beginnings of verse 2 all notated in finale and a few measures of a preliminary piano accompaniment written.

Not finished, but not shabby at all for my first "real" day of writing.  We'll see if this one stays where it is or if I'm able to add more this evening... either way... it's been a great day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 1 Monday

As an act of accountability, I hope to blog about my progress.  As such, let's have a look at Day 1 and how it is different from what I planned. 

Here is the schedule that I have planned for Mondays.  Todays grade:  65%

7:00-8:00 breakfast
8:00-9:00 gym
9:00-10:00 dress for day
10:00-12:00 songwriting session
12:00-1:00 lunch and errands
1:00-3:00 instrumentation & finale
3:00-4:00 break & chores
4:00-5:00 guitar practice
5:00-6:00 dinner
6:00-9:00 Audacity

Here is what actually happened today

7:00 - 8:00 tried to get out of bed after a horribly rough night where I don't think I slept. 
9:00-10:00 actually got out of bed, had breakfast showered and dressed for the day
10:00-1:30 took a nap to recover from last night's weird lack of real sleep...... VERY unusual for me!
2:00-4:30 - finished my room at school.... I knew I had to finish it today and I did!!!  Yippee!!! 
5:00 - went to the gym so that I'll be able to sleep better tonight :)
6:00 - ran an errand
7:00 - came home did some chores and then some quick chores and cooked dinner
8:00 - I plan to eat dinner and then FINALLY...... write some have been flitting around in my head all day, so now it's time to get some of them down on paper

11:00 go to bed so that I can get a good start in the morning. 

Tomrrow I'm going to follow my schedule for Tuesday....I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Your Mark.....

Song Writing Boot Camp starts MONDAY!!!! 

All week long I've been working hard to get all of the "stuff" done that clutters my days when I don't have to go to school. 

First of all, I have to actually finish at school. To that end
  • I've done 15 hours of professional development this week. 
  •  I've packed up the piano lab so they can clean the carpet since the floor is actually muddy....not sure how that happened, but the floor definitely needs cleaning. 
  • I've gone through the knee high pile of posters that had accumulated by my desk when we had to empty my shelves.
  • I've worked on some planning for next year
I also got to see good friends at the music conference at church, I visited a new toy store, I spent time with my friend Amy, I talked on the phone with my friend Pam in the middle of the day! I cleaned my kitchen, living room and guest bathroom, got groceries so that I don't have to get them next week AND today I'm going to go and wander around Houston with my mom for the afternoon.  Today and tomorrow I'm going to finish cleaning the rest of my place and finish up laundry.... I don't want ANY distractions that I can avoid by being proactive. 

Despite my best efforts I know of two interruptions that are unavoidable next week..... but the fact that I have managed to limit them to two makes me happy. 
  • On Monday I will go back one more time and  finish filling and putting things away so they can install those beautiful cabinets whenever they are ready. 
  • The other thing that I have to do this week is go to the allergist.... but that is a good thing because allergies have dominated my year for the last couple of years and I have to get off that merry-go-round. 

When I was at the retreat in Galveston a few weeks ago, I was reminded of one of my favorite chapters in Psalms.  Psalm 40 has been in my heart for a long time.  I first memorized this chapter as a sort of challenge with my best friend who was also memorizing her favorite Psalm when we were in college.  Although I worked for weeks to memorize the chapter, and have often referred back to it in my own study, when I had a chance to revisit it again I was suddenly aware of how relevant this passage is. 

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.

4 Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
5 Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened[c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
14 May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.

All of us are entirely dependent on the Lord and his graciousness toward us.  He has rescued us, He has redeemed us, He has protected us against our enemies.  What other response can we have but to live a life of renewal a "new song" as an offering of thanksgiving.  May our "new songs" cause others to trust in Him. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bonnie's Songwriting Bootcamp!

My hope is that when I look back on this summer, I will have successfully dedicated 4 entire weeks to the development of my skills as a songwriter.  In my difficult to execute plan, I'll get all of my "other" stuff done before June 13th and be able to write and edit music every day until July 16th. 

The idea for this attempt at a self imposed songwriting camp came about in January when I was developing a travel grant proposal for  this summer.  I decided that I wanted to pursue activities that would help me become a better song writer.... I literally had my finger poised to click the "submit" button when it occurred to me that my goals might better be served by staying home.... after all, I have a piano, and a computer with software, a guitar and a microphone and if I carefully planned my time, I might actually get more done than if I were to travel..... I still plan to take that songwriting trek one of these days, just not this summer...... 

Although, writing songs is something that I've always done, I've struggled to acknowledge that it is something that I believe the Lord has given me to do because it's hard work.  Whereas singing has always been easy and fun, my ability to write songs has always seemed laboriously hindered by my lack of either musical understanding or instrumental skill.

I still remember the songs that I "wrote" when I was very young even before I could read.   There is even a recording of one of these early attempts somewhere.  Then in elementary school I remember spending hours on the piano bench, not practicing as I should have done, but with a piece of manuscript paper in front of me trying to piece together my limited piano lesson knowledge of music with the song that was in my head.  As a result, most of the manuscript paper I used back then  just has lyrics in between the staves with a few lone rhythm-unspecific pitches floating above.

I went to school to get a degree in music and learned more in those years than I can remember.  I had wonderfully kind friends who helped me craft my first meager attempts at what I considered "real" song writing into songs that at the time seemed beautiful.  I was even so bold as to submit a song of mine to a songwriting competition......Yet, even then (with confirmation from the competition) it wasn't a skill that I ever thought that I would fully own because I still had too many holes. 

THEN the best thing happened!  I graduated college and moved back home and had NOTHING to do but  look for a job.   I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and there was no one at all available for me to rely on musically.... so I began pushing myself to become instrumentally independent.  I wasn't so much concerned with finesse, just basic, "get it done" playing of whatever instrument best suited the song.....    Suddenly I found that if I was going to progress I HAD to synthesis all that I knew with what I could do.  Motivation is a brilliant teacher!  My playing of instruments may always be only a stick-figure representation of the song when compared to someone else's "Monet" version, but as I've heard said, "that dog'll hunt".

When I began teaching, my time to write grew scarce and was mostly spent editing and refining songs I had started earlier....some of which now have 2-3 versions.  Occasionally, I would play song snippets for people as a request for feedback and sometimes just for fun.   Mostly I would set up small writing projects for myself so that every 6 months or so, I would have written a new song.  It was during this time that I realized that nothing can ease the work of writing except writing.  In 2002 when I FINALLY got my hands on notation software I sort of figured that the software would write for me.... Someone writing a novel might expect their pencil to do the same.  So in trying to make writing music easier I had found yet another thing I needed to learn in order to write music well. 

My ability to write songs crept along at a snails pace and then in January of 2007 the Lord began to reveal to me through His word and through prayer that even though I had personally found the process of writing songs very useful in my own spiritual life, writing songs for no one to hear wasn't exactly the point.  The thought of sharing my songs on any kind of  formal scale made me feel a little sick both because of the vulnerability and because most of the songs I had been writing simply weren't ready.   So I arranged deadlines for myself that forced me to focus.  I told a friend about what the Lord was showing me and asked her to pray.  It seemed wise to wait and see if the sudden desire to share the songs I had written stayed constant over time, so I decided that I would wait until April to pursue it and if in April I still felt that it needed to be done, I would set up a concert.  So when April came, I arranged to do a benefit concert to help raise money for missions at the beginning of October.  I then set up a timeline for the summer.  I realized that if I wanted to get this done I would need help, so the goal became very simple.... Write until July and then get the music as close to being readable as I could get it in the time I had.  By August I was handing out music to people and in October we had a concert. 

Some of the songs were better than others.  I had time to compose a basic accompaniment for some of the songs, while others I left as just melodies and chords.  One song of the 12 just had whole note chords with lyrics above because the song was a little beyond me and I ran out of time.  In any case, we had a concert and there were people there.  We had coffee and desert and my friends helped me play and sing.  I think everyone enjoyed attending and the fellowship that can be found in the company of others who love Jesus. 

Since then, I've been busy! So compared to that time when I wrote so much, I've written very little.   Even so, some of the songs I prepared for the concert have been used in other contexts.  I've sung them at weddings and funerals and at church and even with a children's choir.

My favorite part about writing my own music is that I can tailor the lyrics to the specific occasion.    For example, a song I wrote called "One Life"   was written originally for a memorial service..... Next this song was adjusted to be a song for a commissioning service at church.    Then in two weeks the same song will be sung as a "thank you" to the teachers at my school for their hard work and dedication.  The possibilities are endless. 

Please pray for me as I try to get better at doing what I believe the Lord is calling me to do.  I want to be wise and disciplined in how I use my time this summer while acknowledging that His plans are much more important than mine.  There are several matters that need continued prayer and I would like to ask you to join me.
  •  I've simply got a TON of work to do before June 13 in order to free myself up.  If I had bought an airline ticket and had chosen to leave town THAT part wouldn't matter so much, but it's easy to procrastinate by staying busy which is easy to do at home. 

  • One aspect of this "camp" that I've sort of left open is how much I will seek out other people.... I hesitate to go on a people diet because as a single person who already lives alone, I sort of already am on a people diet.... on the other hand, I've never written anything when I wasn't alone.....soooooo  I need discernment about that. 

  • I thrive when structure is imposed upon me.... summer is totally NOT structured, so I'm hoping to actually write out a schedule just like you would get at a conference or camp and hold myself to it so that I don't waste a minute.  I don't know if I possess the discipline to abide by a schedule that I create myself.... pray for discipline.

  • Pray that the Lord would be glorified and that anything that I write would be of Him.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


I love to buy fabric! 

The best part about buying fabric is that it is beautiful, it is creative and you can pretend that by buying the fabric and promising to make something, you are a champion of economy and resourcefulness.  The sad truth is that buying fabric is like an addiction.

Let's say that you purchase the materials that you need to make a baby blanket.  Sweet right?

Well inevitably in the course of the project you have to go to the fabric store three times to pick up one more spool of thread or one more yard of fabric which means that you have enough to finish the project, but now instead of having enough for the project, you have more than enough but not enough for anything else.  Sooooo, you have to buy more fabric in order to use the old fabric.....  Plus, by the time you've finished your project you have sworn off ever looking at baby blue ANYTHING ever again because you just about went cross eyed trying to create your masterpiece in the first place. 

Let's not even mention the fact that if you are going to make something as a gift, you have to actually obtain the skill to make a gift worthy of giving.   Some of the work we produce when we try something new is just not any good.....YET!

Have you ever worked on a baby blanket for 4 months and then realized when it was time to assemble the thing that it was all wrong?  I have!  At this point you are left with a dilemma.  You can either go ahead and give the cattywhompus gift that you spent hours on and worked on with all of your love and prayers and good intentions, rip out all the seams and start over completely, OR you can go out and spend all that money again buying a gift.....  It's just no good, but it is however, a well known fact that before you can be good at something you have to be less than good at it first. 

I'm currently shopping for fabric.  I'm trying to match some fabric that I purchased to make curtains for my classroom.  My classroom shelves are ALL open and it's been my experience that the old "out of sight, out of mind" policy is the best course of action if I want my students to leave things alone.  So I have already made one set of curtains, but I didn't have enough fabric for all of my shelves.  Also, I found to my disappointment that not all fabric I purchased looks as good as curtains as it did on the bolt.    A few of the curtains I made as just WAY too busy.....

So - I have given myself permission to shop for fabric :) :) :)    which leads me to the inspiration for today's blog.  As I was searching for a fabric that will look nice with what I already have, I found something that just begged to be shared on my blog.... but first......

In order for you to understand the coolness of what I found you have to have a tiny bit of background information.  For those who don't know it, traditional quilt patterns have developed names over time.  One of the most recognizable, distinctive and challenging quilts to make is the "Double Wedding Ring" which wasn't seen in it's current form until the 1920s. 

I found a picture of a double wedding ring on the website.  To quote their website.

"Double Wedding Ring quilt owned by Sylvia Johnson of Blackburn Nth, Vic. The arcs have been ditch stitched. A custom design was created to fit the centre of the "rings" and the "melons" have been stipple meandered."

The Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern has always been a personal favorite of mine.  I especially like the fact that when this pattern became so popular it was made primarily out of flour sacks.  I wonder how much bread you had to bake to get enough flower sacks to make a quilt?  Since most of the Double Wedding Ring quilts that I have seen were given as wedding gifts and intended for a double, queen, or king size bed.... that is A LOT! of flour!

....anyway.... I digress.....

Imagine my delight as I was perusing the fabric websites and I came across a quilt pattern that you could purchase for a "Single Girl" quilt...... before I saw the picture I was immediately  interested because of course, I'm single, so I thought.... I've got to see this........

This is a patten by Denyse Schmidt, a couture quilt designer.  Did you know there were such people???  I didn't either.  Here are my thoughts about this quilt.  I think it's a beautiful quilt and I like the single ring pattern and I find the name fitting  because with the "ring" quilting on top of the pieced single ring, it suggests that there is no ring.....:) 

Although I might make this for myself (when I'm an old maid of 80 years of age) , I hope that if I ever decided to give this quilt to anyone as a gift, I would have to figure out a way to include "color by number" Velcro ring overlays or something.  Then the Single Girl quilt could become a Double Wedding Ring quilt.... as the opportunity presented itself.  I mean, I don't know any single girls who would refuse to marry if the right person came along.  I'm also glad that by the time this pattern was developed we buy most of our fabric at the store because as a single girl I don't believe it would be humanly possible for me to use enough flour to make a quilt of any size.    Either way - I had fun writing this blog!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 12

A picture of someone you love -

I love lots of people so this is tough, but I'm happy to say that even though I don't have a sister of my own, I have a sister of the heart, who is letting me pretend that I am an aunt to her precious little boy Jason.  I love spending time with him and I love the fact that since Pam and I are so close, when I go to see them, I'm not really company.  I just show up and when I walk in the door, Pam let's me hold Jason while she gets stuff done that she can't do when he wants to be held.  Maybe one of these days I'll have children of my own, or maybe not, but in the meantime I totally enjoy the business of being an aunt.

Jason (3 days old)

Jason approx 6 weeks old

Jason 6 months old 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

30 day picture challenge Day 11

Picture of someone you hate.

OK - I refuse to do this one!  I don't want to hate anyone and if there is hate in my heart it has no place on a blog or anywhere else.

I will however post a picture that reminds us that our government is an attempt at representation.  If we want representation then we must practice educating our representatives about how to represent us whether or not they belong to our "party" of preference. We must pray for them because by being elected, they have been placed in positions of power and authority and that power and authority should never be misused or misguided.  When was the last time you spoke with your elected officials?

Texas State Capitol at night

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

30 day picture challenge 10

Picture of someone who you do the most crazy things with....

That would defiantly be my friends whose names start with the letter P.

My 1st  friend with whom I have a tendency to do crazy things is my best sister friend Pam.  

We had adventures in college and have over the years become like sisters.  However the craziest thing we've ever done was the time that we nearly died of stupidity.  

Did you know you could die of stupidity?  Neither did I until Pam and I tried it.  

We went to Enchanted Rock and after going up to the top of the rock bubble and back down we decided to hike around it.  We left our water, our maps, and our cell phones in the car and took off.  We got lost and our ideas about how to get unlost didn't exactly line up.  

Pam's way was to go straight up and over the moon scape and back to the car.  My way to wander around sticking to the brush and cactus.....We only ended up hiking about 4-5 hours longer than we intended, but mercy!  I was glad to see my car.... we went back to the motel and watched movies which was much safer.  

Pam and I at her rehearsal dinner for her wedding a few years ago

My 2nd friend with whom I tend to do crazy things is Pablo.  However, with Pablo the definition of crazy changes from slightly stupid to improbably inspired.
 The craziest thing we ever did was work together for 7 years.  During our second year of teaching together one of our students while speaking of their homeroom teacher exclaimed, "That MAN!", he make me work!".  That's how I feel about Mr. O - he made me work much harder than I would have if left to my own devices.

Before I worked with Pablo I didn't know that you could stay late at school, I thought that if it couldn't get done by 4:00 it wasn't going to happen..... Especially during the first 3 years of the fine arts grant we both regularly worked until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. for weeks at a time.  It seemed crazy..... I've never worked on anything that hard..... ever...

I also didn't know that you could spend a month arguing over variant definitions of words that all mean the same thing...just to get a grant application just right......  but you can.  And although it sounds crazy, that word haggling is one of the reasons that the grant we authored and then executed was something we could accomplish.

Before I worked with Pablo I didn't know that you could actually provide costumes for each student in a grade level, or expect parents to participate in the preparations for a show.  It made things crazy, but we did just that... and we had the best parent help I've ever had before or since.  Then during the year when I lost my mind and decided that not only do all of our students need costumes but I need to sew them, well guess who learned how to cut out patterns?  Pablo !  That was CRAZY!

Pablo taught me to invest in the families at our school to the point that it became somewhat common place for us to provide music for funerals for families who attended our school.  That kind of "crazy" service really brought our community together.

Everything I've mentioned is what Pablo regularly does outside of the classroom most would call crazy but that I called a challenge.  In the classroom with students, he is not crazy at all, he is just brilliant.
We started a choir that met on FRIDAYS after school without buses
We would wait for FOREVER for parents to pick up their kids....
we had better ideas later that didn't involve organizing transportation :) 

Monday, April 4, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 9

A picture of someone who has helped you through the most

Well I don't know about ya'll, but I've had a LOT of help in my life!  In addition to all of the emotional support I've always been able to rely on from my good friends and family, I've had people go above and beyond to help me with all of the crazy projects I take on.  I could go on and on.  However, I've been most recently blessed by a group of ladies at my school.
Ya'll all know that  I was already spoiled from being on a truly awesome team at PSE for so many years.  In fact, my awesome team at PSE was the Number 1 reason why leaving PSE was difficult. Needless to say, they were a VERY hard act to follow.

When I arrived at SSE the first thing that I noticed was that my new team mostly consisted of newbies like me (Sam & Wendy)  or ladies who all reminded me of my mother (Karen, Jane, Carol) .  Seeing as my mother is always a great help to me and I to her, I saw this as a great thing.  These ladies are full of wisdom, elbow grease, creativity and a positive attitude! Sure enough, I wasn't on this team for 5 minutes before we all jumped in and they helped me sell school supplies (which by the way was the yuckiest thing I've ever done and hope never to do it again).  

This year we worked together on the 5th grade show.  They helped me out by painting the backdrop for the 5th grade show and by teaching the choreography and sewing a few costumes.  Here are some pictures of us working on the backdrop together.... the funny thing is that all we really did was paint the middle and bottom and then we assisted Karen as she was the primary executor of all things involving a ladder.  It's such a blessing to feel a part of a great team again! I was literally broken hearted when I left my old school and these ladies made it possible for me to find a soft place to land at my new favorite school SSE.  SSE is blessed to have such fine dedicated teachers as you.

This is Karen up high on a ladder

This is Wendy and Me trying to pretend to be useful to Karen
while she was up high on the ladder

This is the blackmail picture of Sam, me, Wendy and Karen
Jane was the great organizer of children backstage which is a thankless job
And Carol taught all of the dances - what an Awesome team! 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 8

A picture of something that always makes you laugh....

I found these pictures the other day.... my screen saver is set to "random pictures" which means that periodically  I get the wonderful surprise of seeing pictures that I haven't seen in a while.  I've often been surprised into laughter by what pictures pop up.

My last year at Pine Shadows the faculty participated in a pumpkin decorating contest.  Where the each team made a pumpkin and the student body voted.... imagine me going about my business in my apartment.... suddenly my screen saver comes up and I'm face to face with a vomiting's funny....not hilarious, but certainly chuckle worthy.

Here are all of the entries that I took pictures of....there might have been others but I can't remember....  

The black hole! 

And the winner is.... Miss PSE!

A good mummy

nothing goes to waste

Colorful :) 

My personal favorite... Picasso Pumpkin... my team made this because we  wanted to be artsy

Captain Underpants! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 7

A picture of your favorite thing.....

As usual I had a hard time with this one.... this whole picture challenge is not as easy as it looks and if I can't get faster at it, then I'll be working on this until Christmas :)

I thought and thought and thought because at the end of the day as much as I like "stuff" I like people so much more and would happily just repost all of the people pictures I've posted and be done, but I don't think that would be very interesting....

So here I've been sitting in front of a blank blog screen trying to think of something cool and then I got a little chilly...., I rushed over to my couch and grabbed one of my favorite things.....  viola! Inspiration!

On of my favorite things is a blanket my great-grand mother Maw made.  I use the word blanket instead of quilt because although it is pieced, it is only tacked.  Maw pieced it and assembled it while my mom actually did all of the tacking and embroidery during one of her annual visits with Maw.

I love this blanket because it was made out of wool pants.  Maw had been saving the wool in old pants for who knows how long, and even more amazing to me is that everyone wore enough wool for Maw to collect enough for a blanket..... I bet that was a challenge. Like any good Great Depression era lady, she was a pioneer of the "reuse and recycle" movement who because of her frugality and creativity was able to make something beautiful. utilitarian and quite bold.

To me this blanket represents time spent with people that we love.  When I think of the time my mom got to spend with Maw ripping out crooked seams, or gathering a ruffle, I know they discussed the technical details of their task, but more importantly, they shared their hearts.    What a gift work is to our relationships when they are deepened over countless hours of making dresses, piecing quilts and canning vegetables.  When our hands are busy our hearts are available to the people we work beside.  :)

Picture of my mom wrapped up in my favorite blanket during a visit a couple of years ago.
Who wears bright yellow, salmon and baby blue wool pants?  They made a much better blanket! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 6

Picture of a person you'd like to trade places with for a day...

Ok - I'll admit that when I got to this day I really didn't have anyone in mind because I'm not interested in living anyone's life but my own.  I think this comes from the absolute certainty that the Lord has given me the life I have for a purpose...But then I thought - this is a picture challenge, not a deep and abiding matter that needs to be pondered.  So as often is the case, one thought led to another and I got to thinking about singers that I admire.  I've occasionally joked with people about how I'd like to have a couple of different voices to switch out with the one that I've got....just for fun, or for harmony or for stylistic license.  So I think I'll provide a couple of pictures of some vocal talents that I wouldn't mind borrowing for a little while.  Obviously, because these folks are singers it's way cooler to hear them.

My first person I'd like to trade voices with for just a day is Ella Fitzgerald.  There's no one better!

My very close second choice would be Bobby McFerrin.   I just think it would be super cool to have his range and who wouldn't want to sing a Bach prelude?

Monday, March 28, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 5

Picture of my favorite memory

This was tough.  Because there are so many great to choose from....  I think I'll include pictures from a few of my favorite memories.

Honorable mention goes to our September trip to Abilene State Park where we were joined by my mom's parents and brothers.  Based on the fact that I'm wearing that yellow shirt, I believe that I was in the 5th grade.  Maw (my great-grandmother) was there with us and we had a perfectly lovely time.

Any time we got to go to my grandmother Wilkinson we had a good time with the cousins making each other laugh and playing in the "kids room" the sun room and the back yard. My T-shirt says "You are Here!"  I got it at McDonald observatory which was a frequent spot that we visited when while on vacation in Ft. Davis.   In 1986 I even got to see Haley's Comet with my girl scout troupe 101.  We just about froze to death on top of the mountain and then scalded our tongues on the hot chocolate that my dad, Matthew and Bernie made for us.  Matthew and Bernie went on all of our girl scout treks with us since our always went along.

Prude Ranch was the Best vacation EVER!  By the time that we took this vacation, both Matthew and I were very busy and like most folks we were way too connected to technology such as it was in 1988.  We spent an entire week at Prude Ranch, which was hosting a summer camp that we weren't attending.  As a result, we had the pool all to ourselves, we got more time to ride the horses and we got to take advantage of the fact that "campers" rode the horses into Ft. Davis for the 4th of July parade. My dad and I rode the horses into town and then took the camp bus back in.  It was GREAT!  When we weren't riding horses and swimming, we were reading and just spending time together.  Loved it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 4

Picture of something you do at night.

Well let's see, when I'm not sleeping or reading I like to crochet or practice piano.... none of those are particularly interesting pictures, but never the less, I'll post pictures anyway.

I like to crochet because it gives me a chance to pray.  I started crocheting at a time in my life when my mind was particularly full and I was under a great deal of stress at work.  I would come home and as my fingers were busy, I would pray.... since then it has become a nice way to relax to give things over to the Lord that I tend to hang onto.

Since my parents gave me a piano last June, I enjoy playing piano in the middle of the night just because I can.  Since I live in an apartment my piano is a very nice electric piano with headphones, so I really can play at 3:00 a.m. if I want to.   Playing piano is something that I've always enjoyed, but that I've never mastered.  Practicing makes me feel as if I might one day really be able to play rather than just "fake playing".  Currently in addition to becoming a better sight reader, I am trying to re learn a piece that I learned to play years ago and have since forgotten.  I especially like to play piano because I can do it even when my voice is tired from teaching.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 3

A picture of your favorite show cast - I'll admit it - I am a GLEEK.  There are absolutely episodes and story lines of this series that I can do without, and yet there are episodes and story lines that I think are brilliant!   Of course - my favorite parts are the songs - when they get the songs right they are REALLY right and when they are wrong they are VERY wrong......  so maybe I'll get the songs I like off of itunes instead of actually watching the show....... there's a thought :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

30 day picture challenge - Day 2

Someone you've been close to all your life - OK - so this is tough because I've been close to lots of people... but very few have been all of my life.  I have friends from when I was young, when I lived in McCamey, Katy and then in college - and although I've stayed loosely connected with most of them throughout the years - I think this post is asking sibling status - which sounds easy since I've only got my wonderful Matthew for a brother, but I also have a friend who is my "adopted sister" so I think I'll post both.  

Matthew hates getting his picture made, so half the fun of taking pictures is sneaking up on him and grabbing a picture when he isn't looking!
Here we are - going to Christmas at grandma's

I think I've been best friends with Pam for longer than anyone else because I've been friends with her for 17 years - since I'm almost 35 that is about as close to 1/2 my life as I can get.  This is a picture of the 2 of us at her rehearsal dinner a few years ago. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

30 day picture challenge

I saw this on facebook because my friend Bianca is participating and it seemed like fun.

So on Day 1 you are supposed to post a picture of yourself and 10 facts.

1.  I am blessed 
2.  I teach children 
3.  I have a wonderful family! - 
4.  I am single
5.  I LOVE writing music and don't get to do it nearly as much as I would like
6.  My life has become very quiet - I think that is probably because most of my closest friends are now married
7.  I love reading good books
8.  I have political opinions but I hate discussing politics because I don't agree with most people.
9. I am left handed, and did not learn how to crochet until just a couple of years ago.
10. I enjoy any activity that allows for conversation - except watching baseball....and playing board games..... what's the use of being with people, if you aren't going to talk??  

Reading the Mail

Where mail is concerned, I am a girl caught between two worlds.

In my daily habits I find myself loathing snail mail and seriously annoyed by the encumbrance of email when a simple text will get my answer faster.  I use the internet to pay my bills, and even my gradebook and lesson plans are all online.  I love the ability to get things done and turned in from anywhere.

Truthfully though, my use of technology is somewhat encouraged by the fact that I don't do a good job of reading my snail mail.... some of you are thinking, she doesn't read her email either.... to which you would be right as my email, even when I open it tends to go in one eye and out the other.... but I digress......

It's confession time..... when dealing with snail mail I literally open my mail box once a week, haul it up stairs, skim through the envelopes that look as if they need opening,
(anything that I can't do online)
 and then throw away EVERY advertisement.  Everything else goes into a box to await shredding....that may never come.....This causes problems because I've missed important stuff all because in my quick scan of envelopes, sometimes I miss things that I would otherwise attend to like parties and appointments and even one time a jury summons......  So

Today I read the mail.

It was sort of a novel experience for me.... I kind of enjoyed ripping into the envelop and reading the invitations and form letters.  Did you know that the smell of the glue they use on envelopes has changed? Did you know they put coupons in your mail?  And that you can take them with you to the store and get discounts?  And guess what?  I've been invited to a baby shower and I didn't even know my friend was expecting!!!!  

All the other stuff in my mail box could be described as adminis-trivia.... bills, insurance stuff and such.....I already know that for each piece of mail received there is a typical response, either an RSVP, or payment for services rendered, but a response is always necessary.  Since I actually READ the mail,  I know what my response should be.  Upon the occasion that I am the sender instead of the recipient of snail mail or otherwise, I know what response I expect and hope for.

As it turns out, just like we mail things with expectations of a response,  the Lord sends His word to us with an outcome already in mind.

10 "As the rain and the snow
   come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
   without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11 

My prayer is that we wouldn't be so dismissive that we try to put the words from the Lord away to be dealt with later, especially when He offers such a compelling invitation... , an appointment, a holy summons!

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
   come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
   and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
   and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
   listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
   my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
   a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
   and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God,
   the Holy One of Israel,
   for he has endowed you with splendor.” Isaiah 55:1-5

He offers an everlasting covenant and then He tells us how to  "RUN DON"T WALK! " toward receiving His gift of promised faithfulness.  

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
   call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
   and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will freely pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7

One of the few types of bills I don't remind receiving at all are the type that say "you pay $0.00".  Sometimes I know they are coming, and sometimes they are surprise but they never cease to cause me to read and re-read the letter because I rarely believe that it's possible.... there must be some mistake.  When it all checks out and I find out that it is legitimate.... those small "happy dances" just about make my day. These experiences are nothing compared to the huge "happy dance" that is a life fully redeemed.  

12 You will go out in joy
   and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
   will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
   will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
   and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
   for an everlasting sign,
   that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:12-13

I pray that our lives would become more responsive to the Lord and that in our "every days" our lives would bear evidence of all that the Lord does and who He is.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Have I mentioned that I LOVE to drive? There is nothing better, (as long as you don't think about "travel laundry" or the cost of gas)......  My wandering ways are currently mostly curtailed by my 12 year old car with 96,000 miles on it.   However I fully intend to drive my car for as long as possible. I love to drive but take great pains to avoid commuting so there really is no point in getting a new car for as long as this one can get me back to my embarrassingly close place of work.

I really should walk to work,  especially now that it is nice and springy outside.  Being outside in Houston when the weather is like this reminds me of why I'm glad that I live here.  If only I could take this "I love Houston" feel with me into the deeply uncomfortable days of  late August and early September then I might have better walk-to-work habits...... But alas, all I think about in August is how much it would cost me to get one of those cars that folks start with an app on their Iphone...... I wonder if they can start the air conditioning with an iphone app. too?  When they can also cause the car to climb the stairs and pick me up at my front door, then I might have to get one.....

My spring break is running out of time!  Me and my old car got to DRIVE to Austin and see bluebonnets, even with the drought!  We saw  my sweet friends and their sweet 7 month old baby with the chocolate brown eyes, AND we made it back in one piece with a 1/2 tank of gas to spare.    It's times like these that I'm especially grateful for my little tin can car.....
Now it's Thursday and I'm looking around my apartment (which is cleaner than before I cleaned) and wondering where all my time went?  My biggest strength and weakness is that my idea of what can be done in any given amount of time and what is actually possible is usually  overly optimistic.  Unless you are asking me whether or not I can get my desk cleaned off before RUNNING out of school on the Friday we got out for spring break...... in that case, I seriously underestimated how quickly two people could get things done who were ready to start their free time last week.  I'm not making it up when I say that my desk clutter was mountainous and that I got the entire thing cleaned up (the right way) in less than an hour out of shear force of will and good help from a very kind co-worker who took pity on my miserable state and helped me....  

Be Still
This week I've been reminded to take notice of the things that the Lord is doing.  The Lord is taking care of the big things and the small things in our lives and when I get caught up in "doing" I quit noticing what the Lord is doing, which is a real tragedy since we were made to notice what the Lord does first of all.   The song is true when it says, "He's got the whole world in His hands.."
The Lord does so much more than we can recount, but this week in the midst of the extraordinary mundaneness of my spring break I needed to be reminded of how He takes care of both the huge and the tiny matters of my life.  So while driving through a very dry route to Austin, soothing a teething baby, running errands, doing laundry and visiting with friends the Lord brought these words to my attention.

"1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

 3 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

 5 The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going 

   both now and forevermore." Psalm 121

If this is true during ordinary times when we often fail to notice His work, then how much more so during times of joy or pain when we earnestly seek Him out of great need? 

"Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27

This week I've had beautiful weather, great friends, baby drool, an old and reliable car and bluebonnets.  I feel like a lily!