Friday, September 22, 2017

Bracing Myself

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. -Thomas Paine

Having been released after the periodontal surgery I had six weeks ago, it was time to move to the next phase. On Wednesday, which was also my birthday, I spent two hours in a dental chair for a thorough periodontal cleaning. I have had periodontal cleanings before, but this one was overkill if you were to ask me. Then the following day (yesterday as I am writing this), I spent another two hours at the orthodontist.

Braces again...40 years from the last time I had them at 17, almost to the month. I was thinking, hoping, that braces should make me look younger by at least ten years, but I do not think that worked. Maybe the wrinkles and whitening hair is a giveaway?

So, I am trying to get used to the metal in my mouth and the tension on my teeth with its new aches, which is why I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep. I finally gave up sometime after 4:00 and here I am at my computer, having much to do, but not wanting to do it. Computers, although inherently innocent, are such terrible time wasting devices when they are not being used productively!

I have been rather productive the last two weeks as to organizing our homeschool and getting on a schedule. The Princess needs structure to get through her assignments (and I need it too). With her working on Friday and Saturday nights and having added giving piano lessons, she has to be even more flexible than before and do some assignments on some evenings.

While my mind is on getting her focused on her education and piano, I was also looking forward to starting back to work on my house clean up, repurposing rooms, and renovations...but my husband has been tossing around more ideas about the business we might be starting and these ideas are good, but just seem to be too overwhelming to try to put together with just the two of us...actually I am not sure that it will not be just mostly me.

He, of course, is feeling pushed into it because he is scheduled next week to start an install that keeps him away from home for five weeks straight, including weekends, which is against our rules, particularly because he is salaried, not eligible for financial compensation, and has to fight to get off for the extra days because they have him going all over the eastern side of the country, even though other co-workers are sitting at home. He was told that this customer would not buy the machine unless they were promised that my husband would be installing it and other customers also specifically request him.

On the manufacturing side, which is based in England, the Brits have decided to manufacture only one machine to streamline production on their end because of higher demand. So, instead of customizing the machine to the customers specifications at the factory, now the field engineers are to customize their base machine in the field. Therefore, an install that would have only taken three weeks, without working weekends, now can take up to six weeks straight because he is not just adding to the machine, but also removing things from it as well to send back to the factory, which seems to be counterproductive. All this time, the customers are getting impatient with the installer, because they expected to the machine to be production ready in two to three weeks.

My husband is one of their top break-fix guys as well as installer, so often what happens is that his manager is hounding him about finishing the install because there is a problem with a machine somewhere that no one else they sent was able to fix. By the time my husband gets there, the customer is needing to vent about how how the machine being down is losing him business because of how long the problem has persisted, but at the same time they are relieved to see him, because they trust him to actually fix it. He is in demand, which is great for job security, but it is wearing on our family. They need about three more field engineers but the manager cannot find anyone who wants to work for the company. Small wonder there.

I am still not sure what we are supposed to do and when we are to do it if we are. We have asked and are waiting for certain things need to fall into place, if having a business or being self employed are paths to which my Lord is leading us.

Meanwhile, I am in braces...and looking forward to a better smile on the flip side.

My Lord, thank you for the opportunity to have a nice smile again and help my family to find reasons for smiling. Please, my Lord, grab our hands tightly as if we are little children unaware of dangers around us as You lead us on the path You have prepared.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Home Education Fit for a Princess

We can get too easily bogged down in the academic part of homeschooling, a relatively minor part of the whole, which is to raise competent, caring, literate, happy people. -Diane Flynn Keith

I think all homeschooling parents start out with big dreams that their children with be absolutely beyond brilliant academically. We all look for the best of the best curricula and have a basic plan. Then comes maybe it all worked for the children, maybe some struggled a bit, and maybe what was working so well for one, or two, or three just did not work for others. It is then that parents realize that their plans, ideas, and dreams are not meshing with reality. I have only one child so I really need to get it right.

We had a serious set back two years ago when we felt we had no recourse but to pull the Princess out of the Learning Center within three months into her third year there due to situations going completely out of control. For one, she was not sleeping, had terrible anxiety, and was depressed. In part, that was because she became overwhelmed with her assignments and anxious about everything being on transcripts starting that year. Her science and math teachers did not tell us that she only handing in about half her assignments. Then to complicate an already concerning emotional state in the Princess, a very shy boy came into the picture, who had his own disturbing issues and was convinced he was in love with her, but took that to a very unhealthy level...with his mother enabling the whole thing. Even after we pulled her out of the school, where she was only taking two subjects, it took another six more months and a police report about him stalking her before the boy and his family finally stopped, though we had made repeated requests prior to that.

Although the Princess was improving with the pressure off from the school, I think it took another six months before she really relaxed and even longer for me. I felt it was far more important to have devotions and let her talk some things out than to keep to a strict assignment schedule most of last year. I began seeing more of those attributes I loved, that she had when she was younger, coming out. Last summer we switched from her from the Prentice Hall Algebra 1 textbook (made for schools), which she was over halfway through from the Learning Center, to Life of Fred Geometry. I did this because she always responded better to geometry and she learns math so randomly, so she has learned about algebra better from the geometry (insane to me, but works for her). I also have to say here that I really tried not to like Life of Fred, as the name just sounds idiotic to me and the story line is of a six year old math mega genius being a professor of KITTENS University...I mean, it just sounded too silly to be a serious math book. However, it is presented in story form to give a reason for the math. It is also a self teaching book and the Princess has been doing quite well with it.

Just as things were going in a better direction with the Princess, the Queen Mother fell last year...twice. The first time in June and the second time in December. Everything in our lives seem to take a back seat to working through the process of how much she would recover and where she would be living after rehabilitation and then trying to get her qualified for Medicaid. We homeschooled but not with the focus I was hoping we could have. I mean, we only bred our rabbits once last fall because everything in our lives was so up in the air. I am thankful to my Lord for the Florida house being sold so easily and quickly. That took so much off of us.

I went through all that to say that the last two years feels like we made very slow and halting progress in our homeschool. I had these plans, long ago, that the Princess would be taking a few college courses this year, her junior year, but now I feel that was not meant to be. So, I had some long talks with my Lord and my daughter and my husband and then myself. I needed to let go of some expectations and hopes to do what was best for the Princess, according to her desires and attributes. Even though she went to a STEM school for a couple of years and enjoyed it, she is not really a STEM type. She still knocks the sock off in language arts though!

One thing that is very different in her life than most kids her age is that she has been writing for a bi-monthly newsletter published by a local co-op health store about health related issues since she was fourteen. At first I helped her to understand how to write an article, as I have been doing that myself for about eighteen years for the same newsletter, but she now often submits her articles without giving me a chance to look them over and some are still being published, much depending on space and the worthiness of all the submitted articles from other writers.

Another thing is that while few, and by that I mean none of the friends she has, are working, not even one boy who is waiting to go to a trade school because he got his GED too late for the first semester. The schools are laying on homework so heavily that even all the piano teachers complaining how they are losing students because of it and not getting new ones. Highschoolers cannot really have a job and pass to the next grade these days. However, the Princess is playing piano usually two to three weekends a month and she has added taking on two young piano students, although the mother of one (also aunt to the other) has been sick so they have not yet started. The Princess has the benefit of using her talent to earn some money, improve her skills with the piano, and learn about being more self sufficient...and was that not my real goal in homeschooling all along?

With all things being considered, I also felt led to make a big change in science. I found a curriculum that integrates physics and chemistry without all the math. It will earn her two credits, but it is not as intense as the Bob Jones science book she was using at the Learning Center for nine grade. That usually had about 30 vocabulary words and six (usually more) major theorems per chapter that she was supposed to remember. I thought it was rather advanced and she was not moving through it very well. This new curriculum is lacking in labs, but I purchased extensive kits for chemistry and physics that was suggested when I called to inquire about the curriculum a bit more. We plan to do one of the labs each week. This curriculum is also written in more of a story form giving history about the discoverers and properties of the topics in a less textbook manner. She loves it!

What I have is a Classical literary child strong in languages and language arts, as she tests very high in grammar, reading comprehension, and writing structures. Heavily relying on living books, story-form books, was the method I began her teaching, so I am not surprised, but it was a bit challenging coming into high school level subjects to find curricula in the STEM world that would work well with her. At this point, it seems everyone is supposed to just get dry textbooks, as if the colors they can add now will make it more interesting rather than just being busy looking.

I updated my homeschool list of materials here on my blog and I added some of her activities and accomplishments because her piano and writing have not just stayed in the home. The little lady has been stepping out with her talents and that is really important to all of us. While she may not be the academic super star devouring and excelling in all subjects as I hoped she would, I have to remind myself one of the top reasons I was drawn to homeschooling and that to teach the child, not the subject, using the interests of the child and preparing her to be a self-disciplining, self-sufficient, responsible adult.

I have not been excited myself about homeschooling for over a year, until now. I feel that this direction is so very right for her and my Lord has told me this too.

Thank you, my Lord, for leading me to curricula that will work so well for my daughter and give her the time she needs to pursue her talents and interests.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

There's a Storm Coming!

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it. ~Patrick Young

As if it was not enough to worry about my husband's oldest daughter and her family in the Houston area when Hurricane Harvey dumped the heaviest of rains for several days (and they were just fine, thankfully, with a little flooding in the roads mostly) now we have Hurricane Irma and its tagalong Hurricane Jose setting a course for Florida's eastern coast, towards the Queen Mother.

The Queen Mother is not very happy with any kind of change, but when she found out from some of the residents that last year they ended up in a school and some had to sleep on the floor...well, actually, I just cannot find the perfect word to adequately describe how she has been expressing her feelings on the matter right now.

I can think of only one time that she and her husband actually evacuated, coming here to stay with us two days, when the Princess was a young thing, and then they went scurrying back home in fear of looters and never did it again because they worried more about the house being away from it than the storm itself. In the fifty years they lived there, they never had flooding in the house, but I have seen row boats in the street once. So, all those years that we worried about them and then her alone with such storms, asking—begging, really—for her to move and now she is unhappy with us for where she is, which is closer to the coast than she was, but that is the facility we could get her in at the time being that she was not yet approved for Medicaid.

However, as messy as evacs go, my husband and I feel less stress about it because the Queen Mother is being taken care of by people rather than being alone in a house. The nursing home has had more time to plan and they are going to start the evacuation process today. They were considering a place further north and a bit more inland but since have settled on evacuating everyone to a sister facility in Orlando, in the middle of the state, which will likely also be affected, but usually not as badly as the coastal areas where they are presently.

However, this is a huge storm! I have heard of it described as the size of Ohio and in another place they measured the diameter against Florida, which very nearly took up the complete length of the state from the north border to its southern tip. It is massive and so very strong. I cannot imagine what it is like for the people in Barbuda, where every house has been damaged. Although it will have lost strength, it still will affect us here in Georgia as well. My husband is coming home and he may not be going back out at the beginning of next week.

We inherited a generator from the Queen Mother's house that my father-in-law bought many years ago and was never used but maybe once. It is not a very good one, but my husband was trying to get it working for more than just a few minutes so he could sell it and get the one he really wanted. It has always been our intention to become a bit more self-sufficient and prepared especially with two big freezers full of food.

So, yesterday my husband and I decided it was time to get one that really works, before people here decide to do the same. He knew exactly what model he wanted and how much it was. The problem was more about where to go pick one up, because while a number of chain stores claim to sell it, most of them have to ship it, and with a hurricane coming...well, it is just more iffy about whether or not we would get it before the storm hits. But instead of having to drive an hour away to a place that would more likely have it (I would have called first), I found a small local, family-owned business that had one in stock a few minutes away. They even put some gas in it to be sure it would run. I just love small businesses, they usually have such great customer service! Usually, their prices are higher, but not in this case, so good all around. They placed it in my van for me and now we have a generator, one that we can use for camping and hunting as well as power outages.

I would be happy except that it is in the back of my mind that this is a precaution against the damage this storm could cause.

My Lord, so many people are being affected by these powerful storms. Please, my Lord, be gracious with Your mercy and help us all to help those in need.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Fork in the Path of My Life

It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God. -C.S. Lewis

I am sitting here at my computer contemplating....where I am in my life, how to get my house back in order (which is overwhelming me), getting back to homeschooling, keeping my daughter moving on the path I know that the Lord has set before her in this season, but more than all that, I am trying to find my footing as to my own path, which at this time seems to be in service between my daughter and my that all there is for me? Am I doing what God wishes of me?

Then there is this: My husband and I have come to that place where we see a fork, a place of decision where we must choose to take only one direction in the road of our lives, because we have pretty much ruled out standing in the same place and just looking at the fork. One way is far more predictable in its destination and has been a long time dream of ours, while the other—well, it could wind around to the same destination or go some undiscovered place that we will love more a place we would never hope to go with all kinds of regrets. Actually, the predictable way will have as many regrets because the other way has so much potential and yet-to-be-tried possibilities.

There have been a few—very few and now very precious—times when my husband and I stepped out in faith to do something we thought was completely illogical, far too risky, and quite possibly insane, except we also felt strongly that our Lord was telling us to do it and even though the voices of reason in my brain told me I should worry—and I did—still every time I went to the Lord, I was immediately at peace.

It is the difference between seeing is believing and believing is seeing (or believing in the unseen). In this material world, in our flesh, we look for safety and security, which is a desire at odds with our spirit. Our spiritual part looks to be closer to God, who is the only real safe and secure place to be, and that is its sole goal, except for bringing others closer to God as well. However, we are blind to the spiritual realms; at least, most of us cannot see and feel what is spiritual in the same way, with that same undeniable certainty, as we do what is made of matter. For instance, gravity is a undeniable certainty that everyone recognizes, but many people without the experience think that those of us who claim to hear God are...crazy, because to the unbeliever (or even unbelieving believer) hearing voices in your head is a mental disorder, especially if you think it is God talking to you (rather than except when it is God talking to you). However, developing spiritual senses is difficult and usually involves discomfort (not encouraging feelings of being safe and secure) in the material realm, the thing we try to avoid, but never really do. On the other hand, there is confirmation and manifestation of the spiritual into the material and that is when you see validation of what was believed, as in prophetic words come to pass as well as miracles and healings happen.

Sunday morning, my husband and I walked into our church service. As the praise and worship band started, I stood up and looked over to my husband who was messing with his phone, to turn it off, and waiting for him to stand with me. I had a momentary prayerful thought. You know the type where you simply think, "Lord, I feel a bit lost as to what I am supposed to do...," and you let that just trail off. I was not really expecting an answer, at least not immediately. However, as soon as my husband stood up and I tried to begin to sing, I had to sit down or I would have been on the floor. My Lord, apparently had much to say to me and it was going to be said right then, so I blocked out all the praising that I really wanted to do and just listened.

First, He told me how pleased He was with what we are doing for the Princess. Having her play piano at the restaurants, starting to teach piano, preparing for the competition next year, and even buying the grand. I felt His sweet approval for us all walking on the path open to all opportunities that He had provided for her. And I have noticed some changes in her; she is having less meltdowns and showing more respect and maturity...not all the time, but those few and far between occurrences are becoming more frequent.

Second, was about my husband...that new thing we had been thinking and talking about trying to decide if it really is the direction my Lord wants us to take, the risky one. The one that causes too much of an emotional reaction to be sure I am hearing God clearly. He was telling me that He had prepared the way and He is blessing us. Still, I asked for signs. I asked for three. My husband had asked for two.

My husband's first sign came when he was working out of state last week. One night he woke quite early in the morning and the framework of it all was just pouring out so fast that he actually did a voice recording so he would not forget anything. I would also count that as my first one as well.

My second sign was in that moment during the praise portion of the Sunday service. The third for me and the second for my husband was at the end of the service. Our pastor said he had been praying in tongues for hours throughout the week and he could have easily given everyone there a prophetic word. I remember thinking that he will probably not be calling on us, but he felt led to call out five and we were the fourth ones. As soon as he called our names, I was smiling and in tears. I knew that was going to be it, another sign.

He told us that God has seen all the things we have been doing in secret, things people did not know but that God did, and that He was going to bless us. He included the word "promotion."

My husband and I were particularly quiet as we left until we came home to sit down for lunch. I shared what my Lord had told me and, since the Princess was helping with the children during service, we told her about what the pastor had said. I asked my husband how he interpreted the term "promotion," to which he said that he tried not to think of the way he did but...he saw it as the second of the two signs for which he had asked. (Yeah, it was my third of three, too.) Then I learned during that conversation that my husband had thought I had talked to the pastor about what we were considering. I corrected him saying that I had not said a thing about it to anyone at the church...just one or two long distant friends.

About nine years ago when my husband had lost his job, due to downsizing, and was out of work for the first time in his life, I spent hours on my knees in prayer and many days of fasting asking that he would be able to get a job before the severance pay ran out and I believed that my Lord told me that he would. We had just received the last check when he was called in to interview for a job based solely on his reputation (because even though he had submitted a resume, it was lost in the sea of data because it did not specifically fit the job description, a problem when you are versatile, I guess) and was given it that day. It did not pay as well as we were used to, but it was a job and we did not even have to pay one bill late. Two years later, still having only one vehicle and eking by, we felt the Lord asked us to double our tithe for six months, which was really crazy, because we would have to use up the meager reserves we had and every thing seemed to break, but we had no money to fix anything. On the sixth month my husband was called out of the blue by a recruiter who had come across his resume from three years before when he lost his job. He was offered a better paying job and promised opportunities, but those opportunities never manifested.

What I never told my husband is that when I was spending all that time praying and fasting as he was out of work, my Lord not only told me that he would have a job before we spent the last severance check, but that he would be "like a CEO." But that was about nine years ago and it has not happened at through the last two employers. Now I am thinking that God said "like a CEO," because if He had told me that my husband would be self-employed, I think He knew I would have lost it completely or just never really accepted it. In honesty, we could not have done it then or even all these years later, we simply did not have a safety net of savings, but it is a possibility.

But this is a one time deal, really. It is only because my husband has his inheritance, so if the business does not work out well, all that is gone and we have nothing to work toward our dream of having a small homestead. If instead we buy property and set up a little homestead, at least we will have that, but he will be stuck where he is as to his work. Yet, there is the possibility that we do both: that he has his own business and does so well that we can get the homestead property too, we just may have to wait a bit longer to get there.

There are several customers that request him. They would rather have him do all their work, because he strives to actually fix their machines, tries to save them money, is honest with them, and has good business ethics, besides he is one of the best in technical skills. I am bragging, yes, but it is true that he is the most popular and requested technician among the customers, which is why he travels and works more hours than most of his co-workers.

So, if we are to start a self-employment business, then I will be managing the office, so to speak, which I used to do. I actually was the office manager of a small sailboat manufacturer when I lived in Florida, so I did it all: payroll, buying parts and supplies, accounts payable and receivable, banking, sales receipts, letters, answer phones, make coffee (that I never drank), keep the president on schedule, and just about anything else they asked me to do. As it is, I am taking a guess that if my husband works ten full days a month with the fees he is planning to charge, that should cover all our expenses with a bit to spare, so if he works more than that, we should do well. Also, the company he works for presently also has hired contractors in the past and since customers request him, it would be beneficial for the company to contract him for some jobs as well.

Just a month ago, the company offered a former contracted tech a higher income than my husband makes and that is because they are desperate to hire more techs, even though the treat the ones they have badly and gave them all insulting raises in the spring, not even covering the rise in living expenses for the last three years since their last insulting raises. My husband has brought in about a third of their field techs. Most of those worked under him in another company and respect him. The guys call him when they have a problem, basically, both the men in the field and the manager treat my husband as is he is a field manager, which he was promised again just months ago, but it still has not happened. The stress between his mother's affairs, which are finally settled...mostly, and his job has aged him and he is too worn out to put any effort into starting out on his own right now.

And then there is this: Even though we both think God is guiding us to this, even though we think He has provided the signs, even though we are willing to try this, we do not have that certainty because it is so risky and emotionally charged. However, there is one thing my husband said that we agree on: If that is the path God wants us to take, it will work out.

My Lord, You have led us through some tough times and hard decisions. I trust You will lead us through this one as well and may the outcome be a testimony that glorifies You!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fine Tuning a Souring Note

Nothing beats a live performance. Nothing. -Jonathan Demme

The Princess will be playing at another restaurant this Friday night. It has the same name as the one she has been playing, but in a different town about 30 minutes away. Apparently, the family owned all three of these restaurants but the one closest to us was sold to a man (friend, probably, or family, I know not) but the menus are the same. My husband approached the owner of this one when we ate there on Sunday afternoon while the Princess was at a park for a youth cookout event.

However, it was brought up in the conversation that the restaurant is not member of a PRO, so if they should come, the Princess would not be able to continue playing. All this week I have been trying to understand what performing rights organizations (PROs) do besides strong arming businesses offering live music to pay yearly fees. Now I understand a bit more. It is supposed to be about songwriters' getting their fair share of royalties and while I am for that, I am just not convinced that PROs really do work in their favor that much better as they claim to do. Not only do some charge a fee to the songwriter to become a member but they hold the venue responsible for the music played because a PRO charges fees according to capacity, as in how many people would possibly hear the music. The restaurant is suppose to pay a yearly fee to display a sticker around the entrance and so that music within the repertoire of whichever PRO the restaurant chose can be performed.

Now here is the ironic part: The Princess has been playing classical music written before 1922, that is before copyright law protected music. She did play about three or four songs that would be considered protected by copyright, so we have eliminated them from her list. The songs that are considered public domain are ineligible for any PRO repertoire. I had been encouraging her to learn more modern and better recognized songs, but now we know that is not in the best interest of keeping her venue. So even if another musician plays copyright protected music and a PRO tries to come down on the restaurant, the Princess can legally still play there because we spent Monday afternoon making a list of all her music to prove that she will only be playing public domain music. That gives her more marketability for small businesses that do not really have music as focal point to bring in business as would a bar with a dance floor. However, the PROs like to pressure the restaurants even if all the music performed there is not under their protection, because someone may play a song that is and the worse part is if songwriter is in one PRO, he or she cannot be in another, so the venue basically is pressured to be in all of them. Besides that I think the fees are a bit steep because coffee shops and small family restaurants offering a corner for budding musicians are really not into making money off the music and rarely pay the musicians.

I talked to the Princess' piano teacher about this and she said she played for years in a coffee shop and just played whatever she wanted without a problem. I mentioned that we are kind of out in the sticks so it probably is not as well monitored around us as it would be places like New York City and LA. However, ASCAP has an office in Atlanta and has been known to hire music teachers to sit in just waiting for any song that would be a violation. Also, it seemed to my husband that this restaurant owner has run into this problem previously or knows someone personally who has. So, we will try to stay outside of their domain and keep with the classical and public domain songs with our list handy and give a copy to the restaurant for their records.

The few newer songs that the Princess has learned have not been popular for several decades and the songwriter would not be making anything from them even with a PRO, which is why I wonder how they really make sure songwriters get their share. Of the four PROs in America, they all have their own structures for fee and membership pay outs some with a minimum, but basically songwriters and publishers only get a share of the fees based on how popular the PRO thinks the song is, as in how much it is played on the most popular radio stations.

We had a couple of copied copies of those public domain songs, but to make this completely above board, we are going to be looking them up to be printed off fresh to avoid any publisher's rights as well.

And all this so a young lady can play a little piano and earn a bit of change!

I have to make a note here that I find to be a bit of history that I just learned. One of the PROs tried to double its fee in 1940, which ended up in a radio boycott of all its music, including promo jingles! The radio broadcasters wanted to prove a point, the songs were popular because they were being broadcasted, not just the other way around. (Remember this was decades before the Internet and any portable recording devices.) During the boycott though, music that was beneath what a PRO would accept was used and at the time they were called such unPC terms as "hillibilly" and "race" and foreign as well as public domain traditional songs, but people actually began to like country, blues, jazz, and ethnic music. Radio broadcasting companies made their point about how much they influenced the music industry, so the PRO came to an agreement with lower fees.

I think the PROs model is antiquated when we consider how well we are connected the Internet today and that there should be a simpler and more efficient way to pay songwriters. Performers know what they are going to perform and where, and the venue can provide them with a number of seats. It seems to me that the PROs could be sure to pay the songwriters and publishers directly for actual performances instead of collecting a blanket fee, from which less popular songwriters do not see a penny, when their songs could be rather quite popular with pockets of local crowds. I know it would be more work for us on the performers' side, but I think the performers should be the ones to pay the fees directly and let capitalism work. It could just be pennies, but it is just like the 1940 radio broadcasters boycott proved: songwriters do not make money and become popular when their songs are not performed, so unless the song was rather popular, songwriters would probably offer performance licensing at lower rates to get more play and then they can raise the fees if they like. That is the only way songwriters are actually in control of their copyright.

I think PROs acting as the music mafia is actually damaging making those small venues disappear where the direct pay model would encourage more businesses to offer live music, instead of clamping it down so hard that everyone is afraid to whistle a tune. One PRO even went after the Girl Scouts for singing campfires songs in 1996 and forget about singing "God Bless America" in public! I mean, really, where does it end? What if I am humming a tune under copyright while shopping in a store? Can the retail store be sued for that?

It is just easier for a PRO to collect from a business or club than individual performers, but it is an outdated way to do it. I would happily pay composers directly a fee per use and develop a relationship to help promote their music if they would reject the PROs. From what I am reading on the Internet, I think other performers would also, but then there will always be some that do not bother to pay. Still, it would not be any worse for the ones lesser known who the PROs do not pay anyway, even though their song is performed.

This is one of those times I want to fix the world, but it has become so convoluted that I also think it would be better to burn it and start over...but then mankind being what it is, the world arising from the ashes of the old would most likely have all the same elements that destroyed it.

There is far more behind the scenes than we first thought, but I thank you, my Lord, for guiding us and preparing us for what may come.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Three Pianos,
Two Young Students,
and a Princess in a Tizzy

Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it. –Tom Lehrer

Having a new piano that we can see from all angles of our living spaces just makes me think of Christmas, hence the "On the First Day of Christmas" kind of title. And God is surprising us with so many blessings right now that it is as if they are just pouring down on us, like a flooding rain after a years of drought!

It has been discussed with the Princess that besides playing in restaurants on the weekends she can, that she could also take on a young piano student or two. It would not be as much as she can make per hour in tips, but it would be steady and the rewards of teaching would be so worth it, because she will get so much in return. Of course, she does not know this yet, not having the experience. She has not really allowed herself to love to play again like she did when she was younger, but the new grand piano we think will help. What has most motivated her of late is making money at playing the piano and competing.

Her piano teacher told me that when she was in college for music, one of her professors told her that she needed to take on a few students during the summer. I cannot imagine this now, but apparently she simply hated that idea. She had no patience and it grated on her every time a child would hit a wrong note. However, at some point that changed for her and she found that she loved teaching and she had an incredible amount of patience. Then, just as we met, she found that she had a particular gift with teaching very young students that she did not even know she had previously. In fact, most of the parents of younger students have told me that she was referred to them by another piano teacher who would not take younger students or that she was the only teacher they could find that would take a younger student. My Princess was the very youngest she had ever and has yet ever taken, although there is one boy who started just a month in age later than she was and he went slow, until he could play a bit of jazz.

My reasoning for the Princess teaching is that when your own eyes are weary, seeing through another's young eyes can be renewing. Hearing the music she used to play and watching a child progress might be encouraging to her. Also, she will have to teach theory, ear training, and technique. The Princess has wonderful technique, but she has forgotten (or thinks she has) most of the music theory she learned and used to struggle with ear training. I always found that I learned more and it lasted better when I was teaching it and I used to teach the Princess music theory and ear training between her lessons, so I am hoping that works for the Princess.

I was talking to a friend and former neighbor, who moved about 25 minutes south and west of us and finally got back from visiting family in California, about how the Princess may be looking for two young students and she asked how much she was going to charge. We had been discussing it, so the Princess felt that $10 for each 30 minute lesson would be good. I was thinking more like $12 to $15, but since this is her first teaching experience, $10 probably is a good starting point. Experienced musicians and teachers charge around $80-$100 a month for 30-minute lessons. My friend immediately wanted her 9-year-old daughter to take lessons under the Princess and her 6-year-old nephew has been wanting to learn piano also. I was hoping for 4 to 7 in age, but we know the the girl so it will probably work out.

We also had already discussed what days and times, which really would only be Monday or Thursday nights. So my friend and I decided on 5:30 and 6:00 back to back on Monday. Again I was hoping for one child per night, because this is all so new for the Princess, but she will adapt, hopefully. We are not starting next Monday, as that day the Princess gets braces on her lower teeth and will probably be doubly uncomfortable, but the one after. (Prayers appreciated.)

Yesterday we both poured over the books she had used and searched online. I talked to her piano teacher telling her that we have gone from "she (her teacher) and I both thought this is a good idea" to "she (the Princess) has two students so she is doing this. Aaaaah!" This family has been looking for a piano teacher and there are just none around them. They are probably 90 minutes away from Trudy so there is no competition and Trudy is glad to help.

Since we missed a couple of lessons due to the competition and illness of late, I asked if we could come 30 minutes early next week so that she could go over what the Princess would cover in the first lessons. The Princess began younger so she had started with different books than neither one of these children will. She moved into both the series they will start with, but she moved into higher levels. So she never did the first books of the Alfred's Prep Course like the boy will probably need, because Music for Little Mozarts covered much of it, just slower paced for young students. She did not do the first books of the next level Alfred's Basic Piano Library, because it was covered in the Prep Course.

I suggested that she first start them on the digital piano and make the grand or the upright if we still have it, a kind of reward for sitting right (and not kicking). This will give us time to get our minds wrapped around the best way work this all out with the pianos. Piano rich and space poor, but it is what it is.

Speaking of the upright, since the Princess has two students, my husband suggested that maybe we do not sell it, but move it to the basement. That would less distracting for them and allow us to have our living space, because as it is right now, the pianos are in the middle of our living room and the digital is in the dining room, but we had plans for it to go into the hideout room once the Princess moves her clothes and sleeps in the current guest room...and, no, we are not ready for that yet. There is no place to escape to for the rest of us so this is the new plan and I already took off our listing on Craigslist.

However, the downstairs is cluttered with homeschool stuff, my husband's work and hunting stuff, and a desk that needs to be moved upstairs to the hideout room (that needs repainted) along with bin containers filled from the Queen Mother's house. We all need a real vacation but instead we need to use vacation time to clean up all together. I will say thank you, my Lord, that closing went through yesterday so that is the last we have to worry about the house in Florida.

My Lord, so much going on. Some coming to a close and some new things cropping up. Keep us on that path You have prepared for us and help my daughter really love music more deeply than she ever has.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Princess' Grand Tale

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
-C.S. Lewis

Once Upon a Time...
There was a father chaperoning his daughter, the Princess, to the Fine Arts National Competition, but there were no pianos on which she could practice, so he took her to a piano merchant so she could practice on the pianos there. Afterward, the father told his wife that they absolutely needed to get the Princess a grand piano.

I have always wanted to do that for the Princess, but finances and space were factors that we had not been able to overcome. Once I talked with a woman whose homeschooled daughter won a full scholarship at Reinhardt University, a fairly nearby private college well known for its music program. She was advised by her teacher to get her daughter a grand piano, so they put a second mortgage on their house and they placed the full-size grand in their living room, which was said in a way that I was sure they did not have much living room left to live in. However, since her daughter won a full scholarship, she saw it as a worthwhile investment. I so very much wanted to do this too, but this conversation was a few years ago at at time that we were particularly strapped for money so I knew a grand piano for us just was not going to be happening for a long while. Still in the back of my mind, I hoped for this.

Then I seriously began learning about what elements that makes a good piano, because I really did not know. (I am so thankful for the Internet at times like this.) After I felt a bit more confident about what to look for as to how it should be built, I began looking for a used baby grand with a reputable name that we could afford and fit into our living room. I was more interested in American made, however the Princess' piano teacher has a Kawai upright, which does have nice warm tones and told me that Reinhardt also just bought Kawai pianos. Of course, most people will say that a Steinway is what is mostly used in competitions here.

I found an American made Mason and Hamlin baby grand on Craigslist that I felt was worth the trip to see and hear. When I called Bob Rosenfeld, I learned that he did not just have the one piano but several. He is a piano collector, of sorts, but now he has lung cancer and his wife is having serious issues with her eyes, so he is selling off his collection. He asked me a bit about my daughter's playing and said he had a piano for her, but that I probably had never heard of it.

I immediate thought "Just what we need: another piano that no one has heard of." Whenever we tell people we have an Opus II upright piano, they all say that they have never heard of that brand. Even our piano technician has never seen one, except for ours. We bought it brand new at Steinway Piano Galleries in November 2005, when the Princess was four and a half years old. We call that story the Blue Note Christmas.

However, I made an appointment at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday for us to see what he had. I also called my piano tuner/technician to see how much he would charge look it over and when he was available, which he was not that for that day. My husband's flight was delayed twice the night before so he did not walk into our door until 3:00 a.m. The Princess still had a cold and was coughing a lot. I still had some tummy trouble left over from whatever the antibiotic had done to my digestive tract after the periodontal surgery. None of us was in good shape, so I thought about cancelling, but we went and I reminded the Princess to not get close to the man because he did not need a cold while battling lung cancer.

The Long Journey to a Far Away Land
Before I even placed the address on my GPS, I had an idea where we had to go and knew it would take about an hour to get there. It was pretty much my stomping territory not far from the Princess' piano teacher. However, when I saw it flagged on the map, I knew exactly where it was. I have driven past that home many times taking the Princess to her piano lesson from the Home Learning Center and back again. It has had a "for sale by owner" sign up ever since I can remember in front of their pond and two fake black and white cows. I had never seen the house, even in the winter because it is well-hidden from the road by trees and bushes, but once we entered the driveway, I could see the all brick home shaded by lovely trees and how well the landscaping was done. The road curves there and the house is a bit close for my taste, but it is not seen because of the wall of greenery that keeps their home secluded from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it is a very busy road that will probably be widened in a few more years, and the traffic is noisy at the front of the house.

A Wise Adviser Guides the Princess in Her Choice
As I wrote previously, the first thing Mr. Rosenfeld did was take us to a large barn behind the house that had a few stables on one side, but no animals, and a cement floor. It also had several covered pianos, at least five if I am recalling that correctly. All of them were far bigger than we would have room for. He uncovered the very first one, a nine foot, 100 year old, concert grand Steinway perfectly tuned and invited the Princess to sit saying he wanted to see her play. She was impressed that the old piano played rather well and had good key action. He was rather impressed with how her hands floated over the keys and told her he knew exactly which of his pianos would be the best for her. We covered up the old Steinway and were led back to the house.

In the garage, only because they had just had a water leak and part of the interior needed some work, was about five or six more pianos and he told us there were more in the house. These were smaller, baby grands and an upright or two. He led us straight to the Petrof.

Since he had mentioned the Petrof when we talked on the phone, I had done some research. He had been quite honest when he told me that it was well known in Europe and used in many schools there. Petrof has been made in Czechoslovakia since 1864. These pianos are well known for their warm tone and bell-like clarity particularly on the high notes. I fell in love with Petrof as soon as I heard the first video I found online of one being played, but in person...ah!

My daughter played it and my husband was already sold. A bit later I asked the Princess to play the Mason and Hamlin beside it. The Petrof looked brand new and the Mason and Hamlin looked older. The Petrof just sounded so much better: brighter, clearer, yet warm. She said she liked the Petrof the best. We were told that the Petrof's original owner was a doctor and it had only been played a few times. I asked Mr. Rosenfeld why had not played it himself and he said that his hands had been so shaky and that the cancer treatments make him weak. He did not say how long the piano had been in his possession, but he did play it a little for us.

I was concerned a bit because we did not have an third party expert opinion there, but...well, Mr. Rosenfeld seemed like a man who likes fine things, knows his pianos, and did whatever it took to keep these pianos in pristine condition, and this one actually looked brand new. My husband, being the better judge of character than I am, felt that he was trustworthy and honest about the pianos he had.

My husband is also the real haggler in the family, but which did not use to be my thing, but I have since grown. Still my husband did not even start to bargain nor did I, probably because Mr. Rosenfeld kept coming down in price on his own even though he told us several times that we could sell it for more and that replacement value is around $70,000. He was not the type of person to sell a piano just to sell it. He really wanted that piano to go to someone like the Princess who would play it and he really wanted to see the Princess have that piano, which would have made me a bit suspicious usually and I thought it might be better to try other pianos to compare—although I know that usually leads to me being more indecisive—but I just felt at peace like God had led us there. In fact, when I asked my Lord in that moment, I thought I could hear angels singing as if all of heaven was saying, "Yes!" I just felt the Lord had provided and set this all up for us, for that particular piano, for that moment. And as if it was another sign that is was our piano in waiting for us, it was made in 2001, the Princess' birth year.

When he first mentioned the Petrof on the phone, I looked up his listing on Craigslist. At the time he had it listed for $12,800, which I thought would have been a fair for-sale-by-owner price for a 2001 Petrof IV, when I look for comparisons on the Internet, but he changed the listing to $10,800, which was better. He talked himself down to $8,000 with delivery and threw in some free music he had in boxes, so the Princess would have music that would be familiar to the restaurant patrons, because he really was impressed with her. I wrote out the check on the account that would not cover it until Monday and told him I would call when the money was transferred and available. We quickly picked a few pieces of sheet music, but we realized that he was tiring, so we decided it was time to go. He promised to go through the music and send more along with the piano that would most likely be delivered on Wednesday.

As we were leaving, he began telling us about five acres of property he had close to Reinhardt University with a waterfall of which he owned both sides. My husband said he would like to see it. The price was too high for us and just plain too high, but that will probably not be the final price, so...who knows? My husband is intrigued, but I was just thinking about the next step with the piano.

Searching for Fairy Magic
On Monday, I called Steinway Piano Gallery to get some background on our Opus II that no one has ever heard of, since we bought it there, because we would like to list it for sale with some info on it. I talked to someone, not sure if he was a salesman, manager or owner, but he was rather helpful and informative. He told me that business had been sold since the original owners who made Opus II their house brand with focus on solid-made entry-level affordability. However—and this gets confusing so stay with me here—"Opus" was a trademark owned by Steinway, the American piano manufacturer, which has no ties with Steinway Piano Galleries, the store, other than the store sells Steinway pianos, as well as other brands. The owner of the trademark was not using it, but still owned it. I would think the "Steinway" in the store's name would be a bigger trademark issue.

Opus pianos were only sold for a few years and then the name was changed to Cristofori, which is the name of the inventor of the piano. So, I actually have a Cristofori V430 French Cherry Console but with the Opus name. That was very helpful because even though this model is no longer made, at least I can find them on the Internet for comparative pricing.

Somehow we went from there to why I was selling it and I explained that we had bought a Petrof grand. The man said he used to sell them. Since he was willing to share his piano knowledge, I learned something about our new piano too. I knew that Petrof had come under state ownership in 1948 and that some felt the quality was not consistent until it was reprivatized between 1991 and 1998, which made me happy that we have a 2001. However, he also explained something I did not know. Petrof pianos were less expensive, some even say under priced, possibly because Czechoslovakia changed from their own currency to the Euro in May 2004. Afterward, Petrofs when up in price. The IV is a now retired model, but to replace it with the same size Petrof piano, the P 173 Breeze, which has been improved some, looks like it would cost around $69,000 to $79,000. I have even since an original retail list price of $79,000 on a 1998 P IV that was sold used for $17,999 recently at a piano store. Regardless of what it was or what it would cost to replace it or what others are selling for, I think it was worth what we paid for it and necessary for the Princess—there is just something more special about playing a grand.

The man proceed to ask me where I had purchased the new one and I told him from a man in the Woodstock area. "Not Bob Rosenfield." I corrected him with "Rosenfeld" and asked why. Then he said he was not going to say anything on that, so then I was second guessing this purchase...and again the Lord was telling me all is well.

The Princess' Slipper
Having purchased the 2001 Petrof IV with delivery set on Wednesday, I began third guessing all of it, but when I would go to my Lord, I still felt that was our piano, actually my daughter's piano. We went to church on Sunday as everyone was feeling a bit better and that evening my husband flew out to work. I would be handling arranging the living and fitting in the very big piano into our shrinking living room.

I looked up the dimensions again. It is just a tad under 5'8" (172 cm) long and around 5' (152cm) in length. Although generally thought of as a baby grand by many, it is kind of on the cusp, and others would say it is a parlor grand or medium grand or even just a grand. I began measuring our space and moving furniture on Monday, because the next day we had errands and I did not want to try to do it all last minute on Wednesday when I did not know when the delivery would be.

There were only three places—corners of the room, really—where this would work, we had originally thought, but the measurements ruled one out immediately. Besides it would be in sunlight, but just in the earliest hour or two have the sun was over the horizon, thanks to our front porch, and we could have drawn the drapes at night. The second corner was where her Opus already was, which would have made it a bit too close to the fireplace that we do use in the winter. The upright does not have that problem as it is against the wall and not sticking out near the fireplace. So, by the process of elimination, the very best fit was in the corner near the steps going up to the dining room. The piano is would be the very first thing people will see when they walked into the door.

We moved everything over towards the eliminated corners to give the piano movers as much room as we could to maneuver, so the following picture is before we rearranged the furniture. They arrived in the afternoon and they really needed a fourth man. Because of my lovely rock tiered garden in the front and the five steps up to the porch, it was not easy to line it up on the ramp and the ramp was too steep for just three men to push up a 750 pound piano. The Princess and I both gabbed a strap and pulled with them and we got it. I must say here, though, watching a piano being moved and set up is a harrowing affair, to say the least!

I asked the piano mover, who is also the piano technician that Mr. Rosenfeld uses, how long he had known him, because Bob had told me already. Twenty years he has been tuning and moving his pianos. I then mentioned that I noticed Bob is rather particular about his pianos so he must be a rather good technician and mover. He agreed that Bob was particular. At that point, I thought that Mr. Rosenfeld has probably been trading and selling pianos for years and Steinway Piano Galleries sees him as competition.

Living Happily Ever After?
It is so amazing how that same piano looked so much smaller in those big spaces with other pianos around and now it looked huge taking about a fifth of my living room space! However, I decided I really like it where we decided to place it because divides the walkway from the front door to the dining room or to the living room and it pulls over the rest of the living room closer to the fireplace, without having to move the TV. It looks cozier but not too crowded that it is uncomfortable, at least for me. There is a bit of a problem: we also still have the Opus in the living room. So for now, my couch is angled between the two pianos so that one end is a bit behind the curved side of the Petrof and the other is in front of the Opus, not against the wall where I would prefer it and would be if the Opus was not there. However there is plenty of space to get round and, well...I like it. The grand is worth it.

It is kind of funny, really. The digital piano is often set up in our dining room, so basically all three pianos are within about ten feet of each other right now. (My Roland keyboard is still downstairs.) But the funnier thing is...well, you will have to read the next post for that one.

My Lord, thank you for this beautiful addition to our lives. My daughter plays it so well. You truly are a God of Wonders!

Monday, August 21, 2017

When Mountains Are Moving

With the right attitude, human beings can move mountains. With the wrong attitude, they can be crushed by the smallest grain of sand.
-Jim Rohn

Saturday Morning
I found a used American made Mason and Hamlin piano on Craigslist and called the number. A elderly man with a low voice answered and he was quick to inform me that he had several pianos for sale and was asking me in depth for what we were looking. I made an appointment for us to see his pianos on Saturday morning, even though my husband's plane delay gave him very little sleep and me even less with my tummy troubles and the Princess still had a pretty bad symptoms from her cold. However, my husband decided he had enough time to go to our favorite farm for raw cow milk thinking that would cure my tummy troubles and yes, it did help so very much!

The man was of Jewish descent and the one thing my husband has learned from working in a Jewish company is that they appreciate value and family and usually bargaining, but this man has lung cancer and his wife is going blind, so he was more interested in selling off the pianos and his little farm/homestead property. When I got the address from him, I knew exactly where he was even though I had never seen the house because it is camouflaged with landscaping from the busy road. Even though it is an hour from our house, I had driven past his house every week during the school year going the back way to taking the Princess from the Homeschool Learning Center to her piano lesson. He has had a "For Sale by Owner" sign on his property ever since I can remember, but then he really was not as motivated to sell it as he is now.

It would be a wonderful property to walk into with an all brick home, large stalled barn, pond and whatever else he had in the back that we could not see all on about five acres, except that the road is very busy and noisy and close to the house, even though unseen even in winter, and it is too far out of range for what we can afford in a county with high property taxes, but would if I could, I think.

Anyway, he asked the Princess to play on 100 year old Steinway concert piano in the barn, which has a cement floor and did not have any animals in it, although he has some in the back. She played and he watched. Then he said that he knew just the piano for her.... I apologize for the teaser, but I will tell the rest of this story later this week, because it deserves an entire post of its own.

Finally, both the Princess and I were feeling a bit better so we went to church. We found out that associate pastor, whose real passion is the school, is planning to break off from our church. Nothing bad, I think it just that both cannot grow in the space we have. Also our fairly new Praise and Worship Pastor got a very good job offer in his home city of Chicago, so they are moving back there. All that was a surprise as we were not there for the church meeting when all this was discussed.

We got home and rested, all of us trying to recuperate from different things. My husband, having napped, was about to go out to mow the lawn and that is when the Queen Mother called and she was not in a good mood at all.

Neighbors have been calling the Queen Mother and informing her of many things that we did not feel she needed to know. One was the estate sale. We did not exactly tell her we had an "estate sale," because we knew that how upset it would make her if people were in the house without us being there, but we had told her that we had experts pricing the items so that she would feel that we were not giving things away.

She said that she had wanted furniture that her husband had made, to put where I do not know. Now that would have been two large glass cases for her collectibles they called end tables, a huge TV stand made for a corner with shelves for her collectibles, a large glass encased coffee table for her collectibles, a huge corner curio cabinet for some of her dolls and another corner curio cabinet for all her Hummel figurines and that is just what was in the living room. Need I say more?

Then she wanted to know what this and that sold for because she was sure that they were worth something. My husband reminded her that she had told him that she did not want to know. "Well, I do NOW!" He told her honestly that we simply did not know what the items sold for because they were not cataloged individually. She persisted to corner him, so he told her that everything was around $10,000 to us and that the car was $5,500, but he did not tell her that the first figure he quoted also included the car. He probably missed the opportunity to never have her talk to us again, but he was thinking of her well being.

So, we have a buyer who is very eager to move in, as I mentioned in a previous post. After having the termite treatment and damage repaired, we allowed the keys to go to her. The Queen Mother now knows this because the neighbors have told her that the buyer is in and out and having all kinds of work done to the house, like cleaning the carpets and the air conditioner replaced and such. The closing is on Thursday this week and we felt this woman was not only a serious buyer but that she is motivated by terrible situation requiring her to move as court ordered in her divorce. She is not moved in and promised she would not until the closing, but she is having work done that she understands will be forfeit if the closing does not go through.

The Queen Mother then wanted to know what the house was selling for. My husband told her and she said she felt it was $15,000 too low. He explained that we had two realtors and the bank appraiser all put it around that price, but to get the price she thought we should, we would have had to replace the air conditioner; replace all the windows; replace the (horribly) outdated stove and refrigerator; paint all the interior; pressure wash all the outside and the driveway; and spruce up the landscaping. Then when it was done, we would most likely would have had to pay a realtor fees to sell it. So maybe we could have sold it for more money like she wanted, but it would have been the same or less to us. Not to mention that we would be having to go back and forth to check on the work, let people in the house to do the work, and possibly do some of the work ourselves. It would be another couple of months at least and there would not be enough profit difference to make it worth doing that way...especially when God provided a buyer who did all the footwork to get closing as soon as possible.

The Queen Mother was still not happy when the conversation ended...and my husband left last night to fly back to where he was last week, without mowing the lawn, of course.

Monday (Today)
The Princess still has a cough, but I think I am better. I still am eating light, but not having problems after eating like I was.

We watched the solar eclipse this afternoon with our solar glasses. It peaked in our area at 2:30 p.m. It was not total in our area, so there was a small sliver left that the moon did not cover, but it was still quite impressive, especially since it was a clear day, only slightly cloudy. It is strange to have it seem like twilight yet have the sun so high in the sky, not softening close to the horizon with pink clouds.

However, what interested me were the pockets of light that is filtered through the leaves of the trees that had the same shape, So cool! The first one is when the sun was about half covered and the other two was when we reached our peak for our area which are just slivers.

And I have to say here that while people talk about people acting like lunatics during full moons, they have not met Sharii during a solar eclipse. Yes, he looks all sweet and just lounging around in these pictures BUT he attacked the plants and even me several times and I have the claw marks in my leg to prove it. He tore up into the peach tree then ran up the trunk of the front oak like a crazed maniac. That cat seriously should be caged during solar eclipses! No wonder Midnight finds other places to be far away from him, because she is usually his target.

My Lord, I know that I have been guilty of not talking to You before placing my expectations on other people, but I just ask that You draw my mother-in-law in closely to You so that she has peace and begins to hear Your Words in her heart. Thank you for our healing and the many blessings we are seeing right now. About Sharii...well, my Lord, help him to use that energy to keep away pests instead of attacking the ones who love him.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sleepless in Georgia

God gave us sleep to remind us we are not Him. -Charles Spurgeon

This is what my after-hours life looks like sometimes. My husband was working in another state all week and planned to fly home for the weekend, so he booked a flight on Friday evening. He would have been home around 10:00 p.m., which is rather later than usual, but that was delayed to around 12:30 a.m. and then again to around 3:00 a.m. So, I heard him come in and lie down and begin his rhythmic soft snore on time just five minutes later. I envy how that man can fall asleep deeply in just five minutes, something he trained himself to do before we met.

I probably would have fallen back to sleep, but ever since I took the antibiotics after the oral surgery, which I finished nearly two weeks ago, I have had some tummy trouble even though I have been having yogurt twice a day at the very least to replenish my probiotics. So, here I am at my computer after making five trips to the bathroom between 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. and giving up on going back to bed to actually sleep. However, in fairness, I have had this habit, ever since my pregnancy with the Princess to wake at around 3:00 a.m. and go the bathroom and/or drink some water and then usually go back to sleep...unless I am disturbed by something. That something could be an exciting thought, a worry, my Lord speaking to me, back pain, or just being too warm or too cold. So, I may slip easily back to sleep for weeks or now and then I may be up from that time I woke up, or I may have a problem with sleeping after 3:00 a.m. for several days in a row, like when I was pregnant.

Also, I just do not sleep the same when my husband is away as when he is home. In my subconscious, I know that I am the only adult here to handle whatever comes up. I usually cannot fall asleep until later than I like and I often am up earlier than I should be. When he is home on the weekends, I fall into my better schedule of going to bed when I like to the most and getting up early. When he is gone a lot and especially if he is gone for a weekend as well, I tend to get run down. And on rare occasions when he is gone for weeks, I have a hard time adjusting to him being here again and his snoring. I have used an app that of a cat purring for an hour or two to help me not miss him so much and to help me keep sleeping well when he came back.

I will say that once I am asleep, I really hate being wakened for any reason. I am usually a deep sleeper, probably because I sleep less hours than what is considered normally needed for most people. I find I had to really concentrate on fighting off a foul mood the rare times my poor child would wake me in the middle of the night because she was sick. However, I blame most of that on an abused childhood, where being wakened in the night never came to any good for me.

This week the Princess came down with a cold that has made her sleeping times do all kinds of flip flops. I heard her coughing and sneezing until 1:30 a.m. one night and then I was able to fall asleep too, without waking until 5:00 a.m. and then again around 7:00. After the second night of sleeping only a few hours because she was up most of it, I found her snoozing so peacefully in the evening and knew that she would not sleep the third night much better, of course, neither would I nor did I.

I used to really hate sleeping in until after daylight and I still am not that fond of it. I like having quiet dark mornings to think things over with the clarity of a rested brain that make the problems, whatever problems that seemed so big when I was too tired the night before to work out, have a truer perspective. Early mornings are just naturally the time I like to spend listening to my Lord, because I usually fall asleep praying at night. As daylight approaches, I want to be in motion getting things done for the day.

My husband likes to stay up late and wake after the sun is up, when he can. I used to stay up with him to fall asleep on the couch watching whatever on TV, but I really do not do waking up just to go to bed well because I usually am awake for an hour listening to my snoring husband, who like clockwork was out in five.

Although the Princess rarely has the insomnia with which she previously struggled for a couple of years, we still have kept the "no screens after 9:00 p.m." policy even during homeschool breaks that allow her to make exceptions once or twice a week, usually on a weekend. Her bedtime is 10:00 p.m. although she views that as just a guideline most of the time and might stretch it to 10:30. As long as she is able to sleep and is rested in the morning, we all are happy. When she had insomnia, our schedules were constantly at the mercy of it and her brain just could not engage with homeschooling well. She has since quoted to me (several times) how many hours of sleep a teenager needs and why. So, now she sleeps long hours and gets started in the morning a bit later than I would like, but we have discussed and agreed on a schedule for homeschooling that I am hoping she will try to stick with. The girl is constantly swinging back and forth between extremes, which wears me out enough that one would think I would sleep solid at least five to six hours, but then there is still that 3:00 thing that I got stuck with during and after my pregnancy so long ago now.

My Lord, thank you for restful and uninterrupted sleep and all the more of it!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Losing Christianity to Hollywood's New Normal

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind.
I try to keep you safely in between the lines.
I try to put you in the box that I've designed.
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye.
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
~King of the World by Natalie Grant

Two days ago I allowed the Princess to watch Stranger Things on Netflix, which is a sci-fi based thriller and drama series filmed here in Georgia. The Atlanta area has been becoming the southern Hollywood for filming many popular films and series. The second, third, and forth movie of the Hunger Games was done here at least in part, but we are most known for The Walking Dead, which I tried not to like at all but I confess I do, although some parts are far too realistic with the gory violence and, as almost all shows these days, there is at least the suggestion of homosexuality, although there have not been explicit sex scenes thankfully. I particularly like Hershel and his family, who tried to keep their Christian faith throughout the conflict of his family dealing with walking dead and other people.

Typically, zombies and vampires and werewolves and homosexuality are the kinds of things that hold no appeal for me at all. The many facets of imaginings for post apocalyptic worlds though...the worst conditions bringing out the truest human nature, exposing the heart and soul, usually without God or faith involved and the creation of a new normal in created societies of the survivors holds a strange fascination for me. I always remind myself that this is likely how it would be if there was no God or at least if people did not recognize God at all and it seems that mankind has been going in that direction.

I wonder if Christianity is going to be at all recognizable in the next hundred years, actually. Although Christians probably always have done this, it is far more openly practiced today: Christians seem to fit God around them, like a warm blanket to shield them from the cold and cruelty of the world, but not try really fit into Him so they are warm and strong from within Him.

Anyway, while watching the show the Princess immediately recognized a former classmate, Shannon Purser, from the Living Science Homeschool Learning Center. My husband remembered talking with her father on the senior retreat and how her parents had taken her to acting workshops and classes and auditions for years. Stranger Things was the first role she had landed in 2016. Her character was supportive and short lived, literally! She has had two other roles in other shows since then. Shannon has also been honored with a nomination for Best Drama Guest Actress in the 2017 Emmy Awards for her role in Stranger Things.

All sounds great for Shannon, who still identifies herself as a Christian. However, when I read a bit more I found that in April of this year Shannon announced that she is bi-sexual. Her reasoning and probably how she comes "to terms with it and my faith" is found in another quote: “As a person, I’ve always been really passionate about being really inclusive and letting people know that they are loved.”

How do Christians get twisted into thinking loving people inclusively equates to homosexuality being just another form of love is what churns in my spirit! It is written that God is Love, but it is NOT written that love is God. Not all forms of "love" come from God and Christianity spoke out against homosexuality so much that people, even Christians today, could be convinced it was hate speech! But the sin is the sin. God hates the sin...period. God hates all sin, but I think that the sins He hates the most are the ones done in the name of Christianity. If homosexuality is sinful, how can that be reconciled with God (other than confession and repentance, of course)? Just believe it is not sinful even if God says it is? Coming to terms to accept homosexuality is just compromising one's faith to make an allowance for the sin.

The Princess and I had quite a discussion about all this after I looked up what Shannon has openly shared, because she has had a few Christian friends, who are struggling with gender confusion, so she felt the need to defend Shannon. She knew Shannon as a mentor in the Servant Leader program, as was the practice for the school. The Princess felt that we are supposed to love people no matter what...and that is the hook. That is exactly what is used against us. That is why Christians are the bad guys when we point out a sin like this.

I reminded my daughter that I went out of the way to be sure she could have some time with one of her gender confused friends that I had gotten to know and liked from that same school for a few years before I knew about his struggle. I really hated what he was into, what he was thinking he was, and talking about such issues with my daughter, but then I realized he needed her friendship as she would say she did not agree with him and give him good advice about talking with his parents, but did not respond with judgement. The boy was also sensitive for being small for his age, probably from undernourishment. He had been adopted from an orphanage oversees and the children are treated so badly there, but particularly he was because he had a cleft palate and did not get fed enough. I have a friend who knows several parents who have adopted from Russia and she tells me that all the children seem to have seriously identity issues. The horrors of how a godless society treats human beings, even babies, is a reality rather than a make them believe TV show.

However, my point is that here is a young woman, who was raised in a Christian environment, now she is actively encouraging LGBT Christians to speak out. I do not hate her, but feel very sorry for her. She wants to support and be supportive to other Christians in ongoing sexual sin. However, I think this will only compound her sin to add causing a fellow Christian to stumble. The world says if they are consenting adults then it is okay...but is that what God says? People can read the same words in the Bible and twist them to say what they want, but when the Holy Spirit lives in a person, He is not silent when we are going against God. Even as the world is embracing LGBT's more and more, they still have more emotional struggles and a high suicide rate. Yet, who do they blame for those problems? Mostly the Christians who believe in morals. They are promoting a religious communism as if everyone everywhere should compromise their morals to accept homosexuality so then they will no longer have emotional problems.

But the other side of that is if everyone heard and listened to God then we would not have this problem either. The struggle with the flesh is only the physical manifestation of the struggle within the spiritual realms and the soul.

Shannon Purser, I am so sorry that the world has diminished the vastness of God's love to the point that you are trying to fulfill your need to love and be loved with homosexuality, but it is not for you to come "to terms with it and your faith." You already know that they oppose each other unless you change your faith, unless you try to fit God in the walls inside your mind, try to keep God safely in between the lines, try to put God in the box that you've designed, try to pull God down so you are eye to eye, forget that God has always been the King of the world, and that He loves you more than whatever homosexuality could possibly give you.

My Lord, when did we make You so small?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In the Wake of The 2017 National Fine Arts Competition

The best substitute for experience is being sixteen. ~Raymond Duncan

Teenagers are so complicated. They are sure they are right about everything about which they think they are right and they just do not know what they do not know, so they do not know when they might be wrong and they do not know that they are wrong until...they are there cornered in the inescapable reality of it. My daughter had such a reality check with the competition. The Princess realized immediately after watching a few teens play that she should have stepped up her game. There was really serious competition for her and that is when she confirmed (out loud, if you can believe that) what her father and I had been saying all along: she should have practiced more.

Now in fairness, it was not all her fault, but still it was also. She was acting on advice she was given by Guitar Guy, who told her that she would do better to not play the same piece she had done for the state competition. So, the Princess was determined not to play Mozart's Tarantella for the national competition and tried to learn another piece in time for it. She should have inquired further because she would have found out that all of the competitors played the same piece as they did for the state competitions. They do not expect them ever to try to learn another piece because there is barely enough time after the state competitions.

The Princess did it, but that was her second mistake. She did not really commit to practicing it enough to do it as well as she should have and could have. The real shame was that the Tarantella was her best piece ever, which showcases her very best strengths: nibble, quick fingers with crisp notes. The piece the Princess played is a good piece, but she just did not love to play it like she did the Tarantella, which is funny because she is not fond of Mozart in general and she just really plays Bach.

She was given one superior rating and two excellent ratings, hard to take when the girl had not received anything lower an superior for seven years. She was disappointed but not devastated. Of the 40 competitors in classical piano, she fell in the middle, which I thought was still rather good considering the circumstances, but she was hopeful she would be higher up. My husband, being there with her, was able to observe the competitors and most were older than she is and perhaps more experienced. I am still sure that she could have been in the top ten at least with the Tarantella, perhaps higher.

However, she learned something from that competition that will stick with her better than my reminding her to practice. She learned that if she wants to win a competition like that she will have to commit to it and seriously practice.

Last year at this time, I was working on boosting her self-confidence in the aftermath of the J-void incident. Playing at the restaurant helped a great deal. She has actually been paid to play the piano! That reinforced her self-worth, in her eyes. However, typical of teenagers, she then swung over into arrogance as in her mother did not know anything because she was good enough to earn money, which she would throw back at me whenever I would encourage her to learn more songs and to practice to be better for playing at the restaurant.

So, I have come to view this little reality tap back as maybe just what she needed and God provided, although it is hard to watch as a parent. I want her to succeed, of course, but I also want her to learn that she needs to go after the things she really wants, to be self-motivated. I want her to think well of herself but not to think everything she does is good enough, as if she does not need to try to improve. Those are very hard lessons to learn, but fine tuning is what God does.

The Princess wants to try again next year, which is a very good sign.

My Lord, I thought about all the parents who were mostly likely praying the same prayer for their children competing and I knew that there were going to be many more who would not place than there would be who did. I wanted my daughter to be one of the few, like all the parents. I do thank You for the lessons my daughter has learned from the experience and pray that You keep guiding her.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Teenager Extremism

I never sleep on planes. -The Princess

Since I have had a few days to myself, I realize how much I have been living the life of teenager extremes for about seven or eight years now, because it started when she was a tween. There's a lot of never's and I cannot do it or I don't know how (if she does not want to) and I can do it (if it is something I don't want her to do and she does). There is also a lot of "I am that____(whatever)" when she hears, sees, or reads something that portrays a dark humor.

And just silly things any teenager does without thinking, like she sent a picture of parts of a gun to a friend that is a boy, as all but one of her friends are boys. In context, she is taking an online hunting course in which this was appropriate, but I found sending a picture of a percussion lock which shows and names just three parts of the gun: the cock, cap, and nipple, with the caption she added on the picture "Folks, get you a percussion lock like this" to be just...well, she sent it to a boy out of the blue, out of the context, so to me that was inappropriate because a boy would likely add his own take on the context. I immediately confronted her on that and she immediate apologized to the boy for being be inappropriate. She still needs the guide rails she keeps bumping into!

Since January, my husband has been saying "two more years" as if there will magically be a cut off time for her to stop acting like a teenager and have adult maturity on her 18th birthday; he knows better, it is just hope he hangs onto like looking forward to retirement.

It is not enough that I roll my eyes at things 
the Princess says or writes, now my husband too?

Since I see all my daughter's conversations being texted, emailed, or through messaging on all her accounts, I get the double dose: what she says directly to me and what she says to her friends that she knows better than to even try to say to me. For instance, she would not say the following to me, but she did text it yesterday to another friend.

Her friend told a couple of stupid jokes and then says he feels she is going to kill him when she gets back. She says he must be psychic. 
Friend: Well hey at least if you do bad Thursday then you'll still have a very important reason to come back. 
The Princess: No. I think it would be worse if I disappeared and you never knew what happened to me. Instead of dying, you would just go through your life constantly wondering, worrying, and searching. But never finding, therefore slowly becoming more disheartened and hopeless.
There is some begging for her not to do such a thing and then...
The Princes: I will consider not doing it.

I call this thing she tends to do, this making everything as bleak as she can, going to the darkside. She often tells me how she knows how to defend herself, as if her petite 110 pound body could become a lethal weapon without any training. Well, she does carry a knife on her most of the time, but still....of late I have threaten to make her watch the Addams Family movie on Netflix, which delights me that she thinks it would be torture. I guess seeing how much she can act like Wednesday would be a nightmare for her. But then if she ever actually watched it, she probably would like it and be worse than she is now.

So, when my husband sent me this picture of her sleeping on the plane....well, they always look so sweet and innocent and everything we hope them to be when they are sleeping.

But, of course, she is not sleeping, just resting her eyes because....
she never sleeps on planes!

My Lord, I wonder if we all seem like immature teenagers to You. If You also think we look so sweet and innocent when we are sleeping. If You hope that we will mature to be what You hope we will be. If so, my Lord, I am even more thankful that You are my Lord and watching over us.