Thursday, October 15

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts together. I’m still not sure I have them all in order! But I think it’s time that I stop focusing on internalizing and let my thoughts flesh out into words.

It’s been a week since we found out that there were no more treatment options for your cancer. It was honestly a slap in the face. We’ve been fighting this battle for a year, and it still shocked me. I knew this news would come eventually and I still wasn’t prepared for it. The instant fear grips your stomach so tightly you can’t breathe.

It took a couple of days to get over that all-encompassing feeling. I know I called you every day. I hope I didn’t bug you too much. I just needed some reassurance that you weren’t gone yet. That’s the thing. As soon as I heard that we were done with treatment, it felt like we had given up.

After those first few days, it started to get a little easier. I gained some perspective. You’re still here, and still fighting. Just because we aren’t letting the chemo poison you anymore, doesn’t mean that we aren’t still fighting. You have a fighter’s spirit.

The idea of you not having to go through chemo started appealing to me. I knew very quickly that this was the right decision (even if it wasn’t mine to make!). I’m glad that you aren’t going through the treatment anymore. I’m glad you aren’t tied to the cancer center every Tuesday at 10. I’m glad you don’t have to drink that awful chalk drink for CT scans every month.

With that new perspective came new thoughts within me. I’ve had to think a lot about what it’s going to be like to lose you. The first thing I realized was that I had so many questions for you. When do you plant tomatoes? What’s the best way to make dressing? How do you hem dress pants? How do I treat morning sickness When should I start potty training my babies? What’s the best cleaner to clean throw-up?

And with this flood of questions came the feeling of freedom. I’m free to ask these questions because we may not get to my first bout with morning sickness. I don’t have to wait for an opportune moment because this is the opportune moment. I don’t know how much time we have left so I’m free to tell you “I love you” eight times in a two minute phone call.

One more realization. We’ve really been free this whole time. The closer we come to separation, the closer we grow together. Cancer hasn’t been killing you, it’s been freeing us. 

Thursday, November 20

A Look Around

Well, here we are again. Of course, I have great excuses for why I haven't posted the last 3 weeks. Actually, make that 2 weeks. I can't justify one of those! 3 weeks ago, I embarked on a solo road trip to Texas for my older brother's wedding (which took place on Nov. 1). I wanted to be there early so I could help out and have a chance to hang out with some friends that I don't get to see very often at all anymore. I also wanted to stay late to help my mom out with watching my nieces the week following the wedding. Hubby was able to fly in for the wedding, but just barely. He made it Thursday night and flew out Sunday morning. All that to say, I was gone for those 2 Thursdays and concentrating on family matters. However, the week after I got back, I have no excuse. I really just didn't have anything to say. Now I'm getting back into things and it's high time to pay attention to this blog again!

I'm sitting on the futon in our living room and looking around. There's extra coats on the rack, chocolate just about everywhere, a couple extra laptops, presents wrapped and sitting by the fireplace, and a cup of hot coffee next to me. I love the clues that these items bring as to what's going on in our lives. The hubster's parents flew in Tuesday night and a staying with us for Thanksgiving. It's such a joy to have them here and share our home. Mom's sage cooking advice in the kitchen and Dad's savvy tech and theology wisdom are a welcome addition to our household. I love having company during the day while Hubs is at work. The apartment has a tendency to get rather quiet, and after the mini tornadoes (my nieces) of a couple weeks ago, I was craving the noise.

Odd, isn't it? That someone could crave noise. I think I just craved the feeling that the apartment was "lived-in". Right now Mom is getting ready in the bedroom and Dad is putting up his breakfast things. They aren't talking right now, but they are here. I get more lonely up here than I realize.

And then there are the clues of what is to come. Presents wrapped for our Christmas celebration together before they have to fly home. More presents for the Christmas we will celebrate in Texas with my folks. Still more presents (with different wrapping paper) for my younger brother's birthday. The holiday's are my favorite time of year because of the people I love. I love getting to see family, I love sharing time together, the feeling of close-knit camaraderie. Playing games and watching Netflix with the in-laws, reminiscing about our childhood with my brothers, snuggling up with some hot cocoa, a blanket, and my hubby, working on puzzles and crafts with my mom. This is the best time of the year because it's the time with family.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours this coming week. Spend time with family or friends. Enjoy old traditions or forge new exciting adventures. Remember to be thankful. Slow down and enjoy the view.

Thursday, October 23

Food for Thought - Expectations

Well today kinda snuck up on me. It's been a strange week for sure. I started out real strong by pulling a muscle in my back while doing laundry (of all things!). That has somewhat immobilized me to the couch for a couple of days, though I think I'm nearly over it. My goal today is to get the dishes done, even if it takes all day! Hubs has also had a rough time with some digestive tract issues. Add those together and you end up with some very short nights and a distinct lack of sleep. All that to say, I've been doing some thinking, so I don't have anything household-practical or piano related today. Instead, let's talk about expectations.

Princess. Fiancé. Bride.

Those words have always sounded so much more enchanting to me than "Queen", "Wife", "Married". Somehow, I think I am not the only person who thinks that. But what makes those words sound more exciting? I think it has to do with expectations.

Expectations. Everyone has them. Take a few minutes and think about yours. My most recent "large" expectations had to do with getting married and moving to Iowa. I "expected" to make friends really quickly (that hasn't exactly happened). I "expected" the honeymoon period to be a lot shorter. Listen to the experts…. It really is a year! I "expected" to have time to be the perfect housewife. What I've found is that I have the time, but caring for a 2-bedroom apartment and 1 other person is not that much work, so I have to admit that I go through cycles (Clean ALL the things!... to… I don't want to get out of bed). I "expected" a lot of things and honestly am still working through them. Some things that have happened have been beyond my highest expectations (let's be clear, being married is totes better than being engaged). And some things have not. Making friends is hard when you are adult and can't just play Barbies.

I have expectations of things coming up. I'm about to embark on a 2-week trip to Texas to celebrate my older brother's wedding (poor parents- 2 weddings in 6 months!), then the in-laws are visiting for 3 weeks for Thanksgiving-time, and then the hubs and I are trekking back to Texas for Christmas! There's a lot of expectations there. I "expect" the wedding to be stressful, but fun. I "expect" an 11-hour drive to be loads of fun (not). I "expect" time with the in-laws to be refreshing and exciting. I "expect" Christmas to be a joy, as it always is.

Here is my theory. I think the idea of being a Princess or being Engaged is thrilling because it is a period of Expectations. When you are a Princess, you have the privileges of royalty without the responsibility of ruling. As an Engaged lady, you have the time to dream and imagine the perfect wedding and how amazing marriage will be, without the stress of "why is my wedding cake late?" and "why can't you remember to put the toilet seat down?". In these periods of expectation, we are anticipating the things that are coming, painting a perfect picture of what will happen. It's very easy to gloss over the negative things (the stress of governing or the daily grind of "normal" life). In a way, this can be a very good thing. The excitement of marriage and the excitement of coronation will help carry you through the difficult times when the weight of responsibility is resting on you.

I like to think that our Christian walk is like this. We are betrothed and waiting for the arrival of our bridegroom Jesus. This is a great period of anticipation and expectation. It is also a period of preparation. Just as a fiancé must take time to prepare and plan the wedding and a Princess takes time to learn all she can about politics and her people, we are preparing ourselves to meet Christ. We prepare by worshiping Him, learning more about Him, and carrying out His will in our daily lives. This excitement and anticipation will also help us through those tough days when we don't feel like God is listening to us or that all the cards are stacked against us. And, just like a Princess might not know the exact day she will take the throne, we don't know the exact day that Jesus will return or we will be called home. So, we must spend our time wisely in preparation, recognizing what things are important and worthy of our time, and what things are not. And in the end, we will be greeted by a God so far above our expectations, we can't fathom it. I'm looking forward to that day!

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 7


Two weeks ago, I posted a list of the piano repertoire I hoped to begin work on. This week, I have a confession about that music- I've hardly touched it. I've practiced a grand total of 5 hours since I committed my goal to the internet 12 days ago. That's an average of 25 minutes or 0.4 hours per day. Compare that to my senior year of college (3 years ago) when I was practicing an average of 30 hours a week. That is approximately 4 hours a day.

Now, obviously there is a problem here. Allow me to dialogue with myself for a moment.

Is it that you don't like your music?
No, I picked it out myself- it's thrilling music
Is the music too difficult?
No, I am a good judge of my abilities and am confident that this repertoire is challenging, but not impossible. 
Is it that I don't have time? 
I have the time and desire to commit one (1) hour a day to practice. Just one. It's not like I'm trying to give Evgeny Kissin a run for his money. 
Perhaps it could be that you simply aren't interested?
Absolutely not. Music, and specifically piano is my greatest passion!
Ahh, is it that you just don't know where to start?
Yes.... that's exactly it.

So we have the problem now. Where to begin? This is always my struggle, and I am convinced that I am not the only one who struggles with how to begin a task. After all, when you are staring at the equivalent of an hour's worth of advanced, difficult music, where does one begin?

Today, let's take a clue from Maria in The Sound of Music. "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C..."

So, to start learning the music and providing ourselves with a steady foundation for this repertoire, start with the notes. The letters of music, the very building blocks. An obvious place, to be sure, but one that I often overlook.

My challenge to myself this week is to learn the notes of the first page of every piece at a reasonable tempo, being sure not to neglect patterns of expression such as dynamics and phrasing. A reasonable tempo is one at which a pianist can play steadily, without hesitations or rushing. It is key to discipline oneself at this stage and not follow every musician's tendency to play the easy parts fast and the hard parts slow. Also, it is important to observe expressive marks. If one learns the entire first page at a steady mezzo-forte (mf), it will difficult to break oneself of that habit when later realizing that there are 6 distinct dynamic markings on that page.

My incentive/motivation to practice is more severe this week than it was last week. Last week, I simply told myself, "you are going to practice one hour a day". That was all. There were no qualifications, no incentives, no rewards, no punishments. Since that obviously failed, I'll add some more points to my practice goal.

- I will practice one hour a day.
- I will strive to practice at 11:00 a.m. every day
- I will not be allowed to use Pinterest or Facebook the next morning if I fail to practice the previous day.
- For every hour that I practice, I will earn 30 minutes time to devote to creative writing and graphic design (2 of my other hobbies)
- My practice goal is to learn one page of every piece by Monday (Oct. 13)

This will cause much more favorable results. In this journey of picking up practicing again, I am already learning things about myself. This week I learned that I am not very good at disciplining myself, and now I am working to change that. Thank you for reading along on my blog, and as always, please leave comments! Do you struggle with discipline or knowing where to start on a task? Please share your solutions!

Thursday, September 25

30 by 30: Goal 1

Well, last week I posted 30 goals that I wished to accomplish by age 30, and this week, I actually got started on one of them! Namely...

"...5. Learn and memorize an hour's worth of piano classical music"

 Yikes! An hour? It's a tall order! But, I've done it once before. My senior recital to complete my Piano Performance degree was 50 minutes of memorized music. (Between entering and exciting stage, applause, seat adjustments, and variations in tempo, this is a typical time limit for "hour" long recitals... After all, no one just sits down and plays their music through without pausing!) This week I have tasked myself with picking out the repertoire for my "recital". After listening to countless YouTube renditions of pieces and pouring through the books I already own (I didn't really want to buy more), I have chosen the music! Here's the result! It looks like a lot of music (that's because it is!) and I am nervous about trying to conquer all of it, but I am super excited! 

In case any of you music-types (or non-music-types, I'm not gonna discriminate!) are interested in looking up the pieces or just want to know what I'm working on, here is my recital program:

Hanon, The Virtuoso Pianist (this is not a concert piece, but I am going to learn the entire book for technique purposes, and that's a pretty big undertaking, so I thought I would go ahead and include it.)

Haydn, Sonata No. 58 in C Major, Hob. XVI:48
      I. Andante con Espressione
      II. Rondo: Presto
Beethoven, Sonata No. 23 in F Major "Appassionata"
      I. Allegro assai
Liszt, 12 Etudes d'executiones transcendente, S. 139
      VII. Eroica
Debussy, Preludes for Piano, Book 1, L117
      X. La Cathedrale Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)
Mussourgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition
     I. La Promenade
     II. Gnomus
Poulenc, Trois Pieces pour Piano
      I. Pastorale
      II. Hymne
      III. Toccata
Scriabin, Etude in E Major, Op. 8, No. 5

Yeah, if it looks intense, that's because it is. Honestly, this program scares me to death! But it's really going to stretch me and challenge me, and I am super excited about it at the same time. If you are interested in listening to the music, I've put a Spotify playlist together with everything: Piano Recital Playlist  You should be able to open this and log in with a Facebook account or email and not have to download the program.

Let me know what you think! Do you like the music? How long do you think it will take me to complete it? Any tips from other musicians out there? I look forward to your comments!

Thursday, September 18

30 by 30

I have to admit, I stole this idea. I shamelessly lifted it from a blog I follow --> Check it out, her list was great! I loved the idea of setting 30 goals to accomplish before reaching the age 30. As I am nearing my 25th birthday, 30 is closer than ever, but still seems a long way off. However, I'm catching on that life slips away faster than you can imagine, so I wanted to record some ways I want to grow and change over the next 5 and 1/2 years. I even got Hubs involved on this one! The ideas that were his are marked with an (*). Also, these are in no particular order (we are planning on paying off loans before getting a house before we have kids!)

  1. Have at least 2 children (or 1 and pregnant)
  2. Own a house
  3. Vacation in Seattle
  4. Obtain a blog following of 100 or more
  5. Learn and memorize  an hour's worth of piano classical music
  6. Have at least 15 piano students
  7. Host a major holiday with more than just Matthew and I
  8. Mentor a young lady
  9. Learn how to can fruits, veggies, and jams
  10. Eat "clean" 75% of the time (as opposed to the 20% we are currently at)
  11. And along with that, learn to scratch make the majority of the food we eat
  12. Plant and maintain a garden
  13. Own an animal (chickens, goat, etc)
  14. Host a Bible Study for at least one semester
  15. Visit at least 5 cities neither Matthew nor I have been before
  16. Memorize one book of the Bible (most likely Philippians)
  17. Help lead someone(s) to Christ*
  18. Develop a household organization system
  19. Compose at least two pieces of music (one modern sacred and one classical)
  20. Pay off student loans (hopefully way sooner than 30!)*
  21. Go camping
  22. Buy a new (to us) car (or maybe brand new, you never know!)
  23. Write and edit a novel with Matthew*
  24. Learn to use Essential Oils
  25. Make my own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent
  26. Develop a habit of regular Electronic-Free days
  27. Help Matthew publish and sell the game he created*
  28. Learn to play the violin or guitar (or both!)
  29. Set up an Etsy shop
  30. Grow to be more like Christ

Well, that's my 30! It seems like a lot, looking back over the list, but I am so excited about the possibilities that are in store for me and my adorable husband! God has richly blessed us in the last 3 months or marriage and I can't wait to see what amazing things He has in store for us.

So what are your goals in the next year or ten years? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 4

The Stuff of Pasta

I know I posted a recipe pretty recently, but this week Matthew and I are in California for his work and I have been watching Food Network all day and it is making me think about food! Also, sitting in a hotel room all week, I'm not able to actual make any recipes! Cooking has definitely become one of my favorite hobbies since getting married. It is so satisfying to start with simple ingredients and shape a delicious meal or dessert.

This is one of our favorite go-to dishes. We don't really have a name for it and I've never had a written recipe for it. Hubby made this as a bachelor and I have tried to make it a little fancier. We've only ever called it "Pasta Stuff". Enlightening, isn't it?

Pasta Stuff

1 box pasta (whatever kind you like. We enjoy shells, rotini, or spaghetti)
1 pound Italian style sausage
1 16-oz jar of Alfredo Sauce (I like to use Roasted Garlic)
1/8 cup milk
2 cloves minced garlic (or 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or whatever other spicy seasoning you may like. I often add cajun seasoning instead)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp parsley

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Brown the Italian sausage and drain the excess grease. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the Alfredo Sauce, then use the 1/8 cup of milk to rinse out the container and add to the skillet. Add remaining ingredients and cheese and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Add the pasta and allow to sit for a few more minutes. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.

Super easy and super tasty. This is a standard "it's-late-we-haven't-eaten-and-need-a-fast-meal". It's very filling. We eat off one batch of this for a week. I hope you enjoy! As always, if you try this out, let me know how it goes!

Monday, August 25

A Few Missed Mondays

Well, I think I've set a record with missing more Mondays than Mondays I posted on...

Shameful. Just shameful.

Sorry about that, ya'll. I realized that Monday is not my best day. I started missing postdays around the time that I took a 2-week trip back to Texas. (The trip was fantastic, I just never remembered to post). Between a wedding, seeing family, and hanging out with friends, I didn't give myself enough time to write or post any blog posts. Once I got back, I felt the desperate need to carve out a full, uninterrupted weekend with my darling husband, so once again, no blog post. (Also, I missed my second flight and an entire day of being back with him, so this was important guys!). Then this past weekend (yesterday and Saturday), we drove to Kansas City to visit my parents and brother, had kid's Sunday School to assist with, and a churchwide BBQ and baptism at the lake to attend. This has all been wonderful, but Monday is definitely not a good posting day for me.

With hubs working a "regular" full-time job, I always try to do my best to reserve the evenings and weekends for him. Some nights all we do is sit next to each other while Pinteresting and playing computer games, but that is still time together. Weekends are even more important as we get 2 uninterrupted full days together. I can never seem to get the motivation to write my posts during the weekend and take time away from my husband, nor can I ever remember to actually write the posts BEFORE the weekend. All that to say that blog posts will come on Thursdays from now on and we will see how that goes! (Sorry, I'm not sure right now if there will be a blog post this Thursday or if it will wait until next week)

Because that's all I really have to say today, I decided to share an article from another blogger, Jolene Engle, who keeps the blog "The Alabaster Jar". This is a blog post from May 26 of last year, but it is a good one! I hope you enjoy! (Please follow the link below to read)

Monday, July 21

Easiest Sloppy Joes Ever

So, it's been a couple very busy weeks. We flew to Connecticut the first weekend of July and moved the second weekend. This last weekend was our first "free" weekend all month! We spent almost all day Saturday at a friend's house playing Zombicide. It took nearly 8 hours! But it was great fun. Sunday we went to church for the first time in 3 weeks and it was so refreshing. On the way home, we realized that we still had stuff left in our old apartment that we needed to pick up, so hubby volunteered to load it while I fixed lunch. So my mission was to come up with a quick meal utilizing ground beef.

I've been trying to cut down on grocery spending by shopping the sales, so this last week I purchased a 10 pound pack of ground beef from our meat market. That's a LOT of ground beef. Especially if you don't have a dedicated freezer…. Anyway, I spent the better part of Friday afternoon separating the meat into one-pound packages and browning some of those. In the end, I split the meat into 6 unbrowned and 4 browned packages and stuck all in the freezer minus one that I wanted to use on Sunday.

Hubby suggested Sloppy Joes and they sounded great, but I realized that I had never made them before! I guess I always relied on Mom… Hubs suggested that I use ketchup and barbeque sauce because that's what he "always did". I didn't have any better ideas, so I decided to go for it. I think it turned out pretty well, so I wanted to share the recipe with you!

I split the meat in half so we could have hamburgers later on in the week and browned the other half of ground beef with a very small onion, chopped up. (The onion was minuscule, so you'll probably want to use a 1/2 of a normal sized onion if you are only cooking 1/2 pound of meat like I did).

After it had all cooked, I drained the extra grease and added a glove of minced garlic. I let that heat for a few minutes, and then added approximately...

1/2 cup of ketchup,
1/4 of sweet barbeque sauce,
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning (chili powder or seasoned salt would probably work if you don't have cajun seasoning),
1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard. I would have put in prepared mustard, but we were out.

I mixed all that together and let it simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes on low heat. Then I served it on buns with sliced and pan fried potatoes and grapes. All in all, it turned out to be a great experiment!

If any of you try it, let me know what you think! Of, if you have your own Sloppy Joe recipes, share them with me! Also, sorry there is no picture....I completely forgot to snap one when we sat down to eat!

Wednesday, July 16

The Title Explained

As I promised, I wanted to share with you how/why I chose this new blog name, "Of Penguins, Pens, and Pearls". It's really quite simple, so this will be a short post. Honestly, I just needed to write something that wouldn't take very long because we are in the process of moving/unpacking this week and I don't have a lot of free time.

So first, Penguins. Many of you already know that I am somewhat obsessive about penguins. I'm not sure now how long I have favored this flightless bird, but it dates back to at least my freshman year of college. I'm not sure how it got started either, if it was a joke or I just let it slip one too many times that I adored the little creatures. At any rate, I will now proudly claim them as my "spirit animal". I have a small collection of penguin stuffed animals laying around our apartment (in fact, I'm not sure where they all are at the moment). It's funny how when people find out that you love something, they start noticing it in the stores when they are shopping and apparently can't help themselves from buying penguin-themed items for you! Due to that phenomenon, I have several pairs of penguin socks, a penguin apron, penguin Christmas tree ornaments (one of those was hand cross-stitched), a penguin on stick legs, penguin mug, and even a penguin trifle bowl and stand (this one is impressive, thanks mom!). The latest addition to my collection is a cute little stuffed guy that I named Jenkins. My mother-in-law's dear friend who lives in Rhode Island, found and bought it in Pennsylvania, then took it to my mother-in-law in Connecticut to have it shipped to me in Iowa. (If you're reading this, thanks Ms. C!)

So besides my obvious enjoyment in the adorable animal, I find the whole idea to be somewhat representative of what I want my blog to be. We all have hobbies, interests, collections (ahem, obsessions), etc. I definitely struggle with comparing myself to others and wondering if I am "normal" enough, especially in the realm of my pastimes. I love people that are unashamedly themselves and unafraid to pursue their less-than-mainstream interests. I want this blog to illuminate and celebrate our differences! Yes, I am an adult with a college degree and I still love me some fluffy penguins. I also enjoy a plethora of other activities, including but not limited to those of a creative, nerdy, or literary variety. Bottom line is, I like penguins, and I'm ok with that and I want others to be ok with their respective hobbies/obsessions. I'm excited to share more about the things I love on this blog in hopes that maybe it will benefit someone!

The Pen part is easy- I love to write and this is my outlet! And you lucky unlucky people get to read it!

Lastly, Pearls. I keep up with the news for the most part. I understand what's going on in our world. It's sad, yes, but more than that. It shows a distinct lack of our effort to reach out with the love of Christ. (Obviously that is a sweeping generalization. There are many wonderful groups of people constantly and consistently reaching their community for the Lord). However, I believe that the vast majority of American Christians are very content to sit on their butts and let the world pass them by, safe in their own little bubbles of fake devotion and complacency. We decry injustice, sin, and deception in the world as we sit in our ivory towers, unwilling to lift a finger or *gasp*make sacrifices in an attempt to change it. We judge the world by our Christian standards when we should be loving the world by Christ's standards and leaving the judging to Him. We can't expect a non-Christian to act like a devoted follower of Jesus Christ (not to mention the fact that we ourselves rarely act like that). That unintended rant leads me to this- God has called us to be lights in the world. I wish to do that here, on the internet, where I can leave my "pearls" of wisdom behind. I don't claim to have all the answers, or really any of them. I just want the opportunity and place to share what God has laid on my heart.

I'm interested to know what you all think. Do you have hobbies that you fear make you odd or out of place? If so, how do you deal with that? Do you feel that you are shining God's light in your community and being an outpouring of His love? How could you do that better? If you are comfortable, please share in the comments below! I would love to compile a blog post of ideas, or at least have suggestions to put into practice for myself!