An abandoned dream...

Around this time last year, I wrote a post being honest with myself that if I could pursue one thing in the whole entire world, it would be to design fabric. I'm forever oscillating between dreamy idealism and pessimistic realism. I spent all last Spring sketching, and gaining confidence. Then last Summer I took an online workshop on how to develop repeating patterns in Adobe Illustrator. It was challenging, and I remember pulling an all nighter to finish up my project by the due date. I had not worked that hard in forever, but watching my design unfold in the wee hours of that morning was more energizing than any cup of coffee or carefully curated play list.

I remember the first time I uploaded a sketch into Illustrator to trace and color and how nothing felt so right and to be honest, a little teary eyed at the whole process (I know, I know, I'm becoming my mother that my younger self used to giggle at).

Then, for whatever reason, I abandoned it. The dream was mismanaged and completely consuming. I understand that any lofty goal takes a lot of hard work, but I made it central to my identity. I have trouble with an all consuming passion of the things that I love, that I lose sight of reality. I spent this past Fall and Winter, realigning my priorities, thinking I had to abandon the dream completely. But evidently, there is still that small flicker burning inside of me.

I'm ready to begin again. With no solid expectations than for myself to put in a little bit of time every day. I'm currently working in my free time to finish up a quilt that my cousin commissioned me to do for him. It's one of my biggest quilts to date, but I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of the month. I've made the commitment that once I have that done, I'm going to spend an hour a day developing my skills/building a portfolio- watching Skillshare classes, taking inspirational photographs for my sketches, drawing motifs, and then uploading them into illustrator and building patterns. I tried stretching myself too far the last time, but I have a more focused, manageable plan this time around. I know I won't be happy until I at least try-so I pray that this time I can put in a good effort while keeping my life and ideals in balance.

My favorite focal print that I created last summer during the online workshop :)

E'erybody's doin' it!

Since Michelle and Angi did it, I want to join the party!

1. What are your nicknames? What you do like to be called? Jo, Jo-Jo, Joellie (by my co-workers), J'ellen (when my nephew couldn't pronounce my name). I have a whole slew of names that people call me because they can't pronounce it. Thanks to Dolly Parton, Jolene is one of the mispronunciations. I'm used to it, and I don't really mind.
2. What books are on your shelf begging to be read? How much time do you have? I'll just list a few- North and South, Keep a Quiet Heart, Bleak House, Sense and Sensibility, Julia Child's memoir.
3. What often do you doodle? What do your doodles look like? flowers, food with faces.
4. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and turn? Try to get up and do something productive? Toss and turn, mostly. Sometimes I'll get up and write. If I can't sleep at night it's normally because I am in deep thought, so writing lets me spill it all out.
5. How many days could you last in solitary confinement? How would you do it? If I'm stocked up with food, books, crafts supplies, and Netflix, I would never leave the house. I think I would miss Ryan though.
6. Do you save old greeting cards and letters? Throw them away? Save them for a long time until I purge the house.
7. What is your dream career? I would love to be a surface pattern designer- fabric, stationary, etc! Drawing doesn't come naturally to me so it takes me a long time to come up with usable sketches for a design. But I love color and illustrations, so I would love to make my own designs one day!

8. When making an entrance into a party, do you make your presence known? Do you slip in and look for someone you know? Do you sneak in quietly and find a safe spot to roost? I don't really go to parties. If I'm going to a social function, I'll hide behind Ryan or my phone.
9. What is your strongest sense? If you had to give one up, which would it be? I'm a highly sensitive person. I can detect a person's change in mood/tone sometimes even before they consciously can. I have a strong "emotional sense" (?is that a term?) for others, even though I have a hard time understanding my own.  
10. How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror? Umm...I guess, anytime I walk past one? I know that sounds vain, but I  have a strong affinity for having something awkward/embarrassing going on, so it's good to do a spot check
11. What’s the strangest thing you believed as a child? I'm not sure...

12. What is one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? Too many. Coffee, for example. I have a strange (but minor) bladder condition where caffeine can really irritate it, but I'd rather deal with the discomfort than give up my liquid gold.
13. Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know? Probably my mom. I don't deserve her.
14. How often do you read the newspaper? Which paper? Which sections? I don't get into too much news. I like Ben Shapiro though!

15. Which animals scare you the most? Why? Outside of the obvious ones that could eat me? Skunks. I've always lived near the woods and loved exploring them. But I've also had anxiety that I would run across one and spray me and that I would stink forever.
16. Are you more likely to avoid conflict or engage it head-on? I normally do everything I can to avoid conflict. But there was this one time that a person abused her power with me too much and I told her off. In front of a lot of people. I can't stand bullies.

17. What was the most recent compliment you’ve received and savored? This wasn't recently, but a couple of years ago, I quit my job at the pharmacy and worked in a lab. The lab job was killing me and so my former boss was trying to help me get my old job back. She told me that after I left she was really down and her husband pointed out to her that he thought it was because I didn't work there anymore. I don't know, it touched me and always stayed with me.
18. What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will? Do I have to pick one? My birthing hips, splotchy skin, touchy feelings.
19. Are you a creature of habit? I'm dull, yes. I wish I at least had better habits- working out consistently, eating healthfully, doing more than crashing on my couch after work.
20. Are you high maintenance? Explain.  When I'm tired or hungry.
21. When was the last time you really pushed yourself to your physical limits? After I got married, I started my senior year of college. I was going to school every day during the week and working every weekend. When midterms came up, I went for three days straight with maybe five hours of total sleep.
22. Do you have a whole lot of acquaintances or just a few very close friends? Why? Both, I guess? I work in a big work environment (hospital) and I'm married to our church's youth director. I can only maintain a few really close friends though.
23. Are you more inclined to “build your own empire” or unleash the potential of others? I would love to have my own creative business one day-but a humble one to supplement Ryan's income when we have kids. I also like to encourage people, so it would be cool to "unleash the potential of others".
24. What’s a strangest occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone? Not sure...Other than my husband, parents, and some co-workers, I haven't really talked about my bladder problem that I mentioned above. Like how do you bring that up? It's called interstitial cystitis. It was like a two month long UTI  and spent most of my evenings with a heating pad between running to the bathroom every half hour. It has mostly cleared up now. Just praying that it doesn't come back when I'm pregnant one day!
25. What do you think about more than anything else? Ugh. Question is, what am I not thinking about? I have my own little world up there.
26. What’s something that amazes you? Nature
27. Do you prefer that people shoot straight with you or temper their words? I want the truth. But with humility.
28. Where’s your favorite place to take an out of town guest? We have a diner that has the whole "Luke's Diner" vibe going on, so probably there for breakfast.
29. What’s one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself? When people find out that I sew, they like to bring me pants that need hemmed, etc. I can't say no. But I don't even hem my own pants. If sewing doesn't involve me designing something to my taste, or making something for someone extra special, I don't want to do it.
30. Do you have a catchphrase? Umm...I use the "your mom" jokes entirely too much.
31. What is one of your most cherished memories? Probably last vacation. I read Jane Eyre on the beach. Ryan and I discovered a family run bakery that we would go to every morning. We also found a cute bookshop in the area. We were with Ryan's whole family (parents, 3 sisters and their families) and the four older nephews would curl up downstairs with me at night and watch Harry Potter while eating snacks.
32. How and where do you prefer to study? I don't study anymore. If I did, it would have to be away from people, in an organized area.
33. What position do you sleep in? On my left side.
34. What’s your all-time favorite town or city? Why? I've only been to Pittsburg, PA once but it was fun! It's a big city without all of the safety or parking issues than say, NYC. I also just love North Carolina, it is beautiful. I would love to visit a New England state in the fall.

35. What are the top three qualities that draw you to someone new? Humility, Wit, Creativity
36. How has your birth order/characteristics of siblings affected you? Meh. Only child. Idk? But I always wanted a little sister.

37. If you could eliminate one weakness or limitation in your life, what would it be? my ability to commit to things. I have so many things I want to do, and not enough perseverance to see them through.
38. If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be? I've had family members that have passed away that I wish I would have spent more time with. I've restored my most broken relationship, although it is still a work in progress.
39. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? I've never really been a fan of my name, but I'll keep it.
40. Do you believe ignorance is bliss? Why or why not? Nope. Truth wins.
41. What do you consider unforgivable? I'm two sided. I get my feelings hurt pretty easily, but I don't think I've ever known myself to not forgive someone when they ask me.
42. Have you forgiven yourself for past personal failures? I am unfortunately the biggest self loather. And I hate myself for that (LOLZ). I have flashbacks of things that I said or did YEARS ago that made me feel stupid or awkward or that were mean and I can make myself sick about them. It's a struggle sometimes.
43. How difficult if it for you to forgive someone who refuses to apologize? I'm learning to not let those things control me as much.
44. Do you hold any convictions that you would be willing to die for? Oh Yes.
45. What three fictional characters best represent you? Please don't judge me for these! I'm a huge X-Men fan, and last year, when I saw X-Men:Apocalypse, I realized that I am Jean Grey. She can read peoples' minds and peoples' pain torments her. She has a lot of inner rage, that she somehow ends up channeling for good. It's scary, but I feel a kindred spirit to her.  I also can relate to Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. She is quirky and has strong convictions. And last, but not least, Rory Gilmore (at least for the first couple of seasons)-Bookworm, movie binger, junk food consumer.
46. In what area of your life are you immature? Most people don't expect this from me (around most people I am sweet and quiet) but if I know you really well, you may be surprised by my morbid and slightly perverted humor. I also love to play jokes and tease people, it is one of my love languages. I realized that I have a Jim-Dwight relationship with one of my coworkers and I want nothing more than to hide her stapler in a bundt cake of jello.
47. What was the best news you ever received? that Ryan wasn't even injured after flipping his car over two roads of the highway last summer (still praising Jesus for that one!)
48. How difficult is it for you to be honest, even when your words may be hurtful or unpopular? Hmm, I'll share my unpopular convictions of my faith. Most other topics are not worth my "counter" opinion.
49. When did you immediately click with someone you just met? Why? What was the long term result? Conversely, are you close with anyone now that you really disliked at first? I don't click immediately with most people because I am quiet. But the ones that I did click with instantly, are still in my life.

50. When do you find yourself singing? Randomly and always out of tune.

Back to the Basics

So, I'm reposting something to my blog that I wrote on Facebook this morning. I'm Facebook friends with a lot of my church family and the teens from our youth group (Ryan and I are our church's YG directors). I love writing about my faith in God and different developments/ things that I am learning and then sharing it with others. My husband is great at the spoken word (as well as written, that butthead), and that is a big part of his ministry with our teens. The most encouragement I can offer is through one-on-one over some coffee or my written words. So knowing those two things, you can now account for a slightly different tone in comparison to my other posts, haha. I desire for this blog to be a collection of my writings so I wanted to file what I wrote here, as well. If you can't deal with the randomness of my blog, you probably can't deal with the randomness of me in real life: from lighthearted (and at times maybe immature) to openly talking about my faith in God, I want to bare all (or at least most, I realize I should probably spare you any bathroom jargon haha). So here goes:

As I sit here reading my bible, I am amazed at passages that I've heard or read several times before that I'm just now truly understanding. It's a high point for me in the discipline of reading the Bible, but I'm a little embarrassed at how many "high points in scripture" that I've actually had in my life so far. 

A lot of my Christian walk and forming of beliefs had previously come from sermons, conversations, and biblical self-help books. And while those things can certainly bolster one's faith, it cannot be our only (or majority) form of spiritual nourishment. 
A couple of years ago I took up a plan to read the Bible in a year on my phone's bible app. It took me longer than a year but I made it through it and learned a good bit. But now that I'm on my second run through, I cannot believe the amount of things that I read previously and "missed".  It's been even more of a struggle to stay disciplined this second time through, for various reasons. But I believe it is partially because I'm not just reading details, but understanding more of the narrative/total picture which has led to me to wrestling more with my own faith and beliefs. That takes a lot more work than simply reading words and maybe finding some "enlightenment" here and there. 

But I want to encourage those who are maybe struggling with reading through their Bible plans. It's the Word of God Himself. If you rely on your pastor, family, or friends to form your beliefs, you will only be able to have a superficial faith -at best. And at worst, you could be consuming only half truths and deception. You never know the validity of what others are saying until you have an actual Biblical foundation. 
We are called as Believers to defend our faith. Faith, like love, is not a feeling, it's an action. It includes every day, picking up your Bible to hear from God in hopes of finding life altering truth. And while I still (and probably will at times for the rest of my life) struggle to make it a daily priority, I can definitely notice the difference between the days that I do and the days that I don't. 
I can promise that the more you read, the easier it will become to understand, the more beauty you will find in God and others, the easier it will be to bear life and all of its, shall we say (?), nuances😜 The more you read, the more your pride and love of this life's idols will be opened before you- you know, the things that lead to the destruction of yourself and those around you and most importantly, your relationship with God. It can be a painful process, but do I need to make this even more of a corny, lay out my feelings, sorta post by making me add some sort of butterfly metaphor? 😁

So let me end on this:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. So that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Soul Weather

This week has been quite the potpourri of weather. The skies have been discontent, leading to an unleashing of all sorts of violence- storms, flash flooding, tornado warnings, and Thursday's soup du jour-snow! We were awakened on two separate nights this week by thunder and lightening (or rather, our dog's reactions to them) and caught off guard by the fact that our phones send blazing alerts at 3 o'clock in the morning about flash flood possibilities. The wind freaked me out two days straight as the giant trees towering over our house swayed and casted shadows in our windows. "Impaled by massive limb during sleep" is not how I pictured going down.

Despite fearing for our lives and the stability of our house, I can't help but be amazed at God's majestic show. I can pretend to be annoyed about waking up in the wee hours of the morning to flashes of lightening and my dog backing her butt up over and over into my face, but I can't help but find it a little romantic- listening to the rain lash against the window, laying as close as possible to my husband (he can catch the tree in time if it falls through the roof, right?).

Way back when it was just my mother and me, we would watch storms all night long. In fact, my earliest memory is being in a blue onesie, on the couch snuggled up to my mom as the lightening lit up the sky. People aren't suppose to remember that far back, but I guess that is just how much I've always enjoyed storms.

Most people become antsy about being at work on a day of sunshine, but you can always find me stealing a few minutes to daydream out the nearest window while it's pouring down rain. I immediately become homesick for lounging near a picture window while curled up with a blanket, coffee, my invasive puppies and a good book.

I wouldn't want weather like this all year long but I sure can't fathom the boredom of eternal sunshine.

Current Recommendations, Vol 2

1) Sassy Sloths App:
These texting stickers are the best. Somebody with an iPhone (they are for iMessaging only) please give me permission to send these to you at random. I need a good excuse to drop the 99 cents:

2) The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

Artsy linguistics x embodying all of the feels? Yes, please!

For example:

3) Raising Hope- a tv show on Netflix. It leans towards a darker humor at times, but it has kept my spirits up the past several weeks while watching it. It really is a feel good show about loving the crazy people that you spend every day with. I absolutely adore it.

4) I came across this on Pinterest and I think any other music appreciator would also lolz

5) Speaking of music!... I have been in quite the rut lately. I decided to go back to my roots...The Sleeping At Last Pandora station. I love Sleeping At Last because it's chill music with great lyrics. The awesome thing about the Pandora station is that since Sleeping At Last has lyrics that intertwines his Christian faith, the station is half really good worship songs and half indie chill.

6) Song on Repeat: I Feel It Coming by Starboy. Only listen to it if you are ready to be transported to 90's-Michael Jackson voice-romancin'-techno music. Call me Delilah!

7) Something I am trying REALLY hard to grasp :) 
 I'm a jaded, cynical mess sometimes and its a constant battle to ward off bitterness and anger. 

8) I had the urge to go to the movies tonight and so I got online to see what was playing and came across a one night showing of the documentary, Is Genesis History? I had dreams of sneaking Tasty Made burgers and fries into my oversized backpack (the only time my husband chooses to not tease me about the fact that I carry around a book bag) while learning the vastness of God's creation through the eyes of current creation scientists. And while it almost didn't happen (Ryan got off work late) I'm glad we still decided to go! It was fascinating and I hope it comes out on DVD or Netflix to watch again. The website talks about an ebook- I may download it- SO GOOD!

Weekend at the Mother Land

There aren't too many weekends that I get to spend without any plans, but this was the lucky one. Ryan had made plans with his friends this weekend and I had no plans, so I took it one step further and canceled the Sunday school class that we normally teach and gave myself the gift of a weekend of absolutely no obligations. And let me tell you, it was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Ryan left in the early afternoon on Saturday and upon his departure, I immediately picked up my Jane Austen book and didn't stop until that baby was finished. I don't remember the last time that I sat down and really read for an extended period of time...It's something that I normally only ever get to dream about. And it was the perfect novel too- Northanger Abbey.

I had only read two Austen novels previously to this one- Pride & Prejudice (of course) and Emma. But I think this was the first time that I was able to pick up one of her works and have the understanding to really appreciate her witty nature. She had me smiling the whole way through.

Over the years I have come to adore any piece of literature that has a Gothic tone, and Northanger had just that! Austen made it a little lighter in nature than say, Bronte's Wuthering Heights or Du Maurier's Rebecca. Which I very much enjoyed because she was making fun of women getting caught up in the horrific ghost stories of her day. And I'm all about poking fun at silliness. :p

And Henry Tilney...Don't get me started on him! I totally have a type and it is totally him! ;) Although I do love me some Mr. Darcy and his passionate declaration of love for Lizzy Bennet, I could not take his brooding nature 24/7. I'm quite pessimistic and sarcastic myself so I need someone to keep things light. Tilney was perfectly a gentleman and had wit for amusement to fill every hour. I guess his and Catherine's (the heroine of the story) relationship was a constant reminder of mine and Ryan's so it's only natural that I just loved them being together. Catherine was naive and had an overactive imagination and Tilney was always teasing her for it...Seems rather familiar... :)

I would of given it 5 stars on GoodReads but the ending came up a bit short for me. It was Austen's first novel, but it felt like she was writing this prize winning piece and then ran out of time so she hurried up and concluded the story. It didn't have all of the pomp and circumstance of a P&P ending, so maybe that's clouding my bias a little.

After finishing up the book, I went to my parents' house. Mom baited me with fresh baked cookies and picking any movie from their Austen collection, so I of course chose Northanger Abbey ( I am a glutton for punishment, I suppose). It was a good rendition of the story, and the movie gave me the more "fireworks" ending that I was hoping for. After the movie ended we watched the first episode of Victoria (the newer PBS Masterpiece show) and I became completely hooked!

So hooked that I came home and bought all of the available episodes on iTunes and stayed up until 3 am because when I truly like something, I become obsessed! My nature knows not how to deal otherwise.

I am totally fascinated by Queen Victoria now and hope to get my grubby paws on some books about her. I should have known that I was going to fall this hard because all of the authors of her time (the Bronte sisters, Dickens, etc) are my favorite.

It's safe to say that my body may be in  21st century America, but my heart is all 19th century England.

Bleak Week

"We gladiate but I guess we're really fighting ourselves
Roughing up our minds so we're ready when the kill time comes
Wide awake in bed, words in my brain,
'Secretly you love this, do you even wanna go free?'
Let me in the ring, I'll show you what that big word means."
-Lorde, "Glory and Gore"

This week has been a total battle of the mind for me. It does this thing where it turns series of thoughts into an existential crisis, and it's been playing on a loop for the past several days.

I noticed last Thursday, as I was finishing up my work week, that I felt incredibly restless the last couple of hours during my shift. This isn't an unusual thing for me, just something I've been working hard to not let overpower a contented attitude towards work. I then had a wonderful weekend full of the loveliest people and a good movie/tv binge and food-My formula for the perfect weekend- But it went far too fast and I found myself facing yet another work week. 

Let me clarify: I know that I am fortunate to have the job that I have. It pays well for a girl with only a Bachelor's degree in one of my town of residence's most useless majors (Chemistry). I work with some pretty awesome people and have a very understanding boss. I even have three day weekends, most weeks. But sometimes I find it hard to make that kind of stuff matter when my job makes me feel like some heartless/mindless robot and-since I have a flair for the dramatics-nothing smothers my soul more.

So here I was at the beginning of my week feeling pretty bleak about it all. I'm used to a tinge of pain come Sunday evenings/Monday mornings, but for the most part, I keep the awful longing for "more" stifled and under control. 

Not this week. Minutes, in work time, feels like hours, even days. I feel like my dog who sits at the window, peering out with her half swallowed cries, wanting nothing more than to run free. Gemma (that's the dog) and I are completely kindred spirits, trapped as prisoners and we can't quite shake the blues. She chews up all of our blankets. I eat all of the world's supply of cookies. 

I personally, mentally, and physically have experienced what it is like to be bored to tears. The tedious routine of the mundane can choke me up at times. I know it sounds over the top, but I just crave a little more from my 40 hour weekly sentence.

I try to keep it all in perspective, I am getting better. I know that my job is a means to an end. I realize most people don't have a job that gives them a fulfilling life's purpose-but it doesn't stop this girl from dreaming!

In the end it will all be okay. Really, it's okay right now. I have things in my life that I would not trade for anything (my husband, among other great relationships, for example). It's a constant battle-living a life that is content. But I will always fight for better while trying to keep a grateful state of mind. It's a tough balance, but you can not have one without the other.