Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good morning song!

I bet there are songs that you just know that you have no earthly idea where they came from.

Well, in my previous  post about getting up in the morning, I wrote about a song that my daddy used to sing to me when he was waking me up in the morning.  I don't know where he learned it or who wrote it, but I bet he might know.  Maybe since he follows my blog he can tell us more about the song.

In any case, my good friend and fellow music teacher, Gina Dixon wanted to know how the song went.  I was glad she asked because I had thought about including it in my original post, but felt that it was too much information?


 I went over to a website called noteflight which is a cloud based music notation program, typed in the song and viola! The song goes like this! If you've heard it before or if you can share with us who wrote it, please do so!  I love to give proper credit for great work!

Noteflight isn't QUITE as easy to use as FINALE, but it is infinitely more share-able.

FLAWS - I told noteflight  that I wanted the song in 6/8 so it gave me 6 beats to a measure, but I couldn't figure out how to get the 4/4 to VISIBLY change to 6/8.....weird!   I also couldn't figure out how to get the song to simply start at the pick-up note.  I was asked if I wanted a pick-up note and when I checked "yes" I thought that the site should behave as FINALE does and just start on the pick-up...... Noteflight may have the ability to start on the anacrusis , AND it may have the ability to change the visual meter of a song, but if so, it is not simple.... and I'm all about simple.

Without a membership fee you can create and store about 25 scores....Great for when you need to share a quick musical idea, but not so great if accuracy and clarity are the goal.  Nevertheless,   I hope you enjoy this song  as much as I have!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I gotta get up in the morning!

This week has been unusual because on Wednesday I took what I thought would be a nap after work..... I woke up well after midnight with my tennis shoes still on.....very disoriented.  I also took a nap this morning, so that's 2 naps in one week!  I've got sleep on the brain.  Please bear with me.  This blog entry may seem like a history of Bonnie's sleep habits, but there is another more important point....... 

I have never been good at waking up.  My brother and I neither one even woke up early on Christmas morning.  We never got to watch morning cartoons because we slept through them.  I was sometimes late to my afternoon kindergarten class that started at noon because I slept late.  For most of the mornings of my childhood I was literally hauled out of bed, set on my unwilling feet and pointed toward the bathroom before the rest of the household could continue with their morning routine. 

Sometimes when my parents were feeling patient, my dad would wake me up with singing, 

“Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
We’re all in our places
with bright shiny faces,
what a wonderful way
to start a new day!”

But more times than I would like to admit, my mom, the wake up “heavy” would be called upon to lay down the morning law which usually involved the loss of all of my warm and cozy covers as well as a loss of quiet solitude that made it so easy to slip back into slumber.  As it happens, my mom’s favorite scene in the movie “Hope Floats” is of the mom waking up her daughter Sandra Bullock by vacuuming in her bedroom. 

By the time I was in high school, I had waking up and sleeping late down to an art.  For my first two years of high school when we still lived only a few blocks from the school, I would wake up at 6:00 a.m., rush around and get totally primped and ready for school and then at 7:00 a.m. I would carefully take a 57 minute nap on the couch, so as not to mess up my fresh hairdo.  THEN, we’d run to the car, and after stopping by my locker, I would stroll to my first class and be seated before the tardy bell at 8:05. 

Imagine my horror when I moved to Katy and realized that without a car, I’d have to catch the bus at 6:40 every morning!  I HATED being at an early school!  No self respecting school I’d ever heard of would open it’s door before 8:00!  No worries, I just walked to the bus stop and then fell asleep on the ride to school each morning.  When I finally got to drive my brother to school my senior year, things improved dramatically because I got to sleep for about 40 minutes later each morning, 20 minutes were shaved off by not having to catch the bus and 20 minutes were shaved off by putting my make-up on in the car........ while I was driving.  My brother would helpfully hold the lids to all of my make-up paraphernalia and make-up bag.  He thought it was the least he could do to ensure that we didn’t have a wreck while I was barreling down I-10 each morning with a mascara brush attached to my eyelashes.      

I feel sorry for my college roommates who had to put up with me when I became the sole owner and operator of an alarm clock because my favorite button was the snooze button.  I also discovered that once I entered that “half asleep” state between the first alarm clock and the time when you HAVE to get up, the steady beep of the alarm clock would be just enough inspiration to allow me to compose music in my sleep.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I was late to class because I was writing some stupid totally forgettable dream song…… 

By the time I got a real job I was again horrified to discover that my first "real" music teacher job was at an early school!!!!!!  I faithfully commuted to a job where I had to leave my house at 6:15 in the morning for exactly as many days as it took to move out of my parent’s house and into my own apartment 3 miles from school.   In my early days as a music teacher, when I thought I'd only teach for 2 years max.......I was decent at getting to work on time, not perfect, but not dreadful. I compensated for the early report time by  rushing home at 3:15 to take a nap  before going out to do whatever I had planned for the evening.  It’s amazing the kind of 2nd wind you can get from an afternoon nap!    THEN, about the time that God answered my prayer to help me love the children I taught, I started working with an acknowledged workaholic named Pablo AND we got a fine arts integration grant.   Gone were the days of the afternoon nap and for the next 7 years I struggled every single day to wake up on time so that I could get to work on time.  I did everything I knew how to do except go home at a reasonable hour.  Instead, I struggled with perpetual 5-10 minute tardiness while I stayed late and worked 13-14 hour days. 

I'm now about half way through my 3rd year at my second school.   Now that I love my school I can honestly say that at the time of the move, it was a change that I didn't seek or look forward to.   However, I will admit that my non-commuting heart leapt at the thought of living even closer to school!  I now live as close to my school as I did when I went to school in McCamey.  I love it!  I still can’t sleep later, because this school is also an early school AND I have breakfast duty this year so instead of reporting at 7:15 a.m. I report at 7:00 a.m..  BUT, for the most part my constant struggle to wake up is solved.  I am occasionally tardy, mostly prompt and regularly early to work.  I often bribe myself out of bed by offering to go and get iced tea for myself from Whataburger…. I don’t have a Starbucks nearby and the iced tea at Whataburger is cheaper and I can get a GIANT cup!  Sometimes the bribe works and other times I just have to hurry to school.   
I still work 13-14 hour days…. But because of laptops, clouds and web-based services I can take most of my work home, so now most days I’m only at school for 11-12 hours so I’m home more and typically go to bed earlier.

So now to the point..... what does Bonnie's sleep history have to do with anything at all.  

Since my struggle to wake up has literally been a lifetime battle, I never suspected it could change.  Like most people, this particular struggle is only one of many, and when I compare it to other struggles in my life, it feels relatively minor.  But as we are called to be obedient even in the small things, this area of oversleeping has been a battleground of faith for me. You see, I never thought that I’d be someone who could conquer waking up. I'm not someone who can conquer anything at all.... but God is! 

As a child and college student my inability or unwillingness to easily wake was an annoyance at best and an act of defiance at worst.  As an adult, it was unattractive, inconvenient, and unprofessional, not to mention stressful.  Especially as an adult, I would pray that God would help me wake up because the thought of experiencing the stress that chronic oversleep has caused me over the years is well….. STRESSFUL!     

But now that I look back, I can see marked improvement and this improvement has not been of my own doing! I feel blessed to be able to testify about how God is working in this seemingly small area of my life because while I constantly struggled for years, God's grace was sufficient, and now that the burden is not as heavy I can see that even when I lack the faith to surrender even these small moments to God, He is faithful.  God is also not finished with us! He hears and answers our prayers!  He loves us enough not to leave us the way we are.  Struggles and habits that we NEVER think we will be able to defeat are defeat-able.    

When Paul speaks in 2nd Corinthians about a “thorn in my flesh”, I bet it wasn’t something as silly as oversleeping, but it was an issue that caused him to plead with the Lord, so whatever it was I’m sure that you can relate like I can.  There are things that we deal with, those “everyday thorns” that if we don’t depend on the Lord can wear us down.  Here is what the Lord said to Paul. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

To which Paul said,

  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

All of this talk about sleep reminds me that God never sleeps! 

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains -
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.  
He will not let your foot slip - 
he who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed, he who watches over Israel 
will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD watches over you-
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. 

 He is always aware, never befuddled or confused and He always sees.  He knows our name, He knows our needs and He knows our hearts. 

I'm so grateful that my God who humbled Himself to become a fully human man, familiar with fatigue, hunger and pain, is also the God not limited by my human frailties.  Not only is His strength strong enough to sustain me, but His redeeming power is redemptive enough to change me.  His love is boundless and His blessings are limitless.  

My prayer today is that the Lord would continue His transformational work in me.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

minutes to hours, hours to days, days to years

One Life ..... in minutes.

I've only ever fully written a song start to finish, top to bottom in one sitting once in my life.   "One Life" was a song that I wrote for the funeral of a dear friend and colleague Eva Crespo.  I wrote the song on a Tuesday afternoon in about an hour.  I wouldn't have been able to finish it at all if not for the help of my friend Pablo.  He graciously transcribed what I came up with pretty much as I was singing and playing..... since then I've become much faster at music dictation, but back then I was super slow.... He also translated the chorus into Spanish so that it would be bilingual.  The very next day we rushed over to Tallowood where Gary helped us record it in the sanctuary so that we could give Eva's daughter a copy of the song.  I then pretty much played the song constantly as many times as I could before the memorial service.... I'm a rather poor accompanist and as Pablo was on his way out of town, I either had to play it for the memorial or it wouldn't be played..... of course, ever since I've been able to play it in my sleep.

The great irony is that since it's rather hurried and thrown together inception, I've spent hours editing it  because I've used the song for several different settings and since it was my prerogative to do so, I changed the words each time to better suit the occasion.  So far, in various forms this song has been sung at a memorial service, a missions benefit concert, a GA /Acteen recognition service and at a 5th grade graduation.  Each time with verses that fit the needs of the event.   Being able to tailor songs for specific events is my absolute favorite part of writing music.

"AWAKE!".... VERY slowly! 

AWAKE! is a song that I started right after graduating college in the spring of 1999. For all this time, I've had the basic harmonic structure in place, the lyrics were fully formed and I'd even notated what I had, but it didn't feel finished.... still doesn't really....Every few months since beginning this song, I've dragged it out of my journal, tweaked this adjusted that but the song remained virtually unchanged until this summer.   This past 2011 summer I was able to come up with a contrasting B section that feels right to me and now the song feels closer to being finished than ever before.    The biggest hurdle in the way of finishing the song at a this point is that I think it needs real orchestration rather than just piano.  So now I've got find time to re-learn and learn for the first time everything I need to know in order to try orchestrating.  Guess I know what I'll be doing summer 2012!

"More Than We Ask For".... song writing is like quilting, sometimes all you need is the right  little piece to pull the whole thing together.

2007 feels like a million years ago!
Sometime after 2000 and before 2007.... (meaning that I really don't remember when)..... I wrote a verse that sat in my music journal just waiting to be musically sewn to something that would tie it together.  Then one afternoon in  2007 when I was preparing for the Coffee with a Cause concert I composed a chorus that I REALLY REALLY liked.    I pieced it together with those verses that were getting dusty in my journal, added scraps of an accompaniment from an entirely different song written in 1999 whose accompaniment I'd recently reworked and voila! In one afternoon I was able to take a song fragment and a spare accompaniment, throw in a new chorus and suddenly I had what I would consider a song with a working title called "More than we ask for" One more song was ready to be heard.  I was pleased enough to include it in the Coffee With a Cause concert.... and THEN time passed.....

Since the Coffee with a Cause concert in 2007, I've become increasingly unhappy with that "More than we ask for" song.  It seemed to me as if the ideas in the chorus didn't tie the verses together as well as I would have liked after all. Plus when I had more time to dwell with the theology of what I'd written, I didn't think that I had really said what I meant to say.  Once you've got theological issues in your songs, they unravel and fray at edges to the point that they are unusable.......

So I pondered and waited.....practicing, writing other things, studying theory, and always reading and listening to more music.

Then lo and behold, last week right in the middle of an ordinarily exhausting week of school  I was able to write new verses which make the piece more directional and cohesive.   LOVE the words...... but  NOW  that I  like the verse words so much better I find that the melody although serviceable doesn't make me as happy as the rest of the song........I don't love it.... I think I can do better.

So I'm pondering and actively waiting...... practicing, writing other things, studying theory, and always reading and listening to more music.

Sometimes it's hard to remember why I write songs. At this point in my life both because I'm so busy being a teacher, and because I've had so many recent vocal health issues, no one is actually hearing the music I write.  Especially when writing music is so laborious and often such a frustrating process.  There is always one more detail that needs attention.  Then there are the times when in weakness I begin comparing my skills to those of other musicians. Huge mistake!

It's at times like this when the Lord is faithful to give me purpose.  He is faithful to remind me of His calling on my life.  He is faithful to remind me that His calling doesn't waver in light of my circumstance..... Whether any song is ever heard, I am ALWAYS called to obedience.  So I will write.   This week, he gave me these verses to remind me of who He is and therefore who I am.

Proverbs 16: 2-4
All a person's ways seem pure to them, 
but motive are weighed by the LORD. 
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, 
and He will establish your plans
The LORD works out everything to it's proper end
even the wicked for a day of disaster. 

Colossians 3:16-18
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  

Colossians 3:22-24
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

My prayer is that I will daily remember who I serve.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More than enough

As a girl, when I would go shopping with my momma, I'd inevitably find myself asking for one more thing to be added to our basket already filled with items intended for me   Sometimes my mom would give in, and sometimes she would hold firmly to our planned purchases but almost always she would say, "There's nothing wrong with your "wanter"!  Obviously,  I'm one of those folks who tend to want lots and lots of things......  

All through my life, I've found that as much as I like doing all the things that I do, and as much as I seemingly appreciate all that I have been blessed with, I don't have any trouble at all finding multiple things I'd like to do, and things I'd like to have.  

Here is the short list of things I'd like to do:
1. I'd like to write more music
2. I'd like to go to graduate school
3. I'd like to be debt free
3. I'd like to get married
4. I'd like to have children
5. I'd like to lose some weight
6. I'd like to travel....pretty much anywhere comfortable :) 

and those are just the things I'd REALLY like to do..... the things that keep me prayerful, hopeful and busy......although not always in that order..... None of them bad, some of them noble, all of them thought consuming and effort-ful. 

Here is the short list of the things I'd like to have: 

1. A new car
2. my own really cool website
3. A full time teaching partner - (half time isn't enough)
4. I'd like to have my own family..... see above
5. new books
6. new clothes
7. new stuff for my classroom

Some of these might be considered necessities, (just ask my dad about my 12 year old car)  some may even be reasonable, but generally they are just a list of things that my heart dwells on instead of focusing on the Lord.  

The thing is, as a follower of Christ what I should want and what I actually want do not always line up.  If my attention is not focused on Christ, how am I to know what I'm to be about? How am I to discern which endeavors are led by the Holy Spirit, and which are imagined by my "wanter"..... 

How else am I to find the wisdom and self control to confront my own pride and greed?   

I'm so glad that the Lord is not a distant god who leaves his followers alone to figure out how they will live.  Instead He is our Emmanuel.  He is with us.  He guides us faithfully and when we seek Him, He is found.  

My prayer today is that I will be able to evaluate ALL of the things that I think I want to do and things I believe I need in light of His plan.  He tells us exactly how we are to live.  My pastor is currently leading our church through a daily devotion .  He has started with the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew Chapter 6.  It's always a good place to start when you need practical advice because it's all in red, meaning that Jesus himself said it! 

Matthew 6:19-34

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  

No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying ad a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith?  So do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  

Philippians 8:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  

NIV - Bible Gateway

All I know is that these scriptures have encouraged me today.  Knowing these things, how shall I live?