Saturday, November 30, 2019

One Monthly Goal :: November 2019 Update

As they say in my native Minnesota--Uff da!! November flew by with most of my time and energy going into taking care of my rock star mom, who had bilateral (both) knee replacement surgery this month. She got home from the rehab hospital two days before Thanksgiving and is slowly hobbling around on her walker. On Thanksgiving day, while slicing apples on the mandolin, I sliced off the pad of my thumb! Yeouch! I was able to go to the ER, get fixed up, and was home in time to welcome a full house of guests. 

All that to say, my Black Friday plans of quilting my One Monthly Goal quilt and starting Bonnie Hunter's 2019 Mystery Quilt, Frolic were thwarted. Instead I spent the day in bed watching the Hallmark Channel. Not a bad compromise.

So while my OMG is not finished, the top is done, so I'm calling it a goal complete. 

The pattern is Pat Sloan's  2019 Block of the Month, Out of this World. I added a section to include the recipient's name using the letter patterns from Lori Holt's Spelling Bee. I still hope to have this quilt ready to be gifted in the next few weeks, and then back to the mystery quilt!

To see more pictures of this quilt, follow #jacobsworldquilt on Instagram. To see the ever-evolving state of my new craft room, check out #VesperViewStudio. To see what I'm currently working on, follow me at deJongDreamHouse.

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Quilt #132 :: Hannah's Good Fortune

I'm so excited to share that I have finally finished my first quilt at the Lake House! My new Vesper View Studio is still getting unpacked and organized-my One Monthly Goal--but an impromptu trip to the Outer Banks was just the nudge I needed to finish this quilt for my goddaughter.

A lot of quilters will recognize this pattern as Bonnie Hunter's 2019 Mystery Quilt, Good Fortune. This is my third Quiltville mystery, and finishing it has me anticipating the start of her new mystery at the end of the month.

As soon as I learned that Good Fortune was inspired by Bonnie's trip to China, I knew that I would be making my quilt for our goddaughter, Hannah.

Hannah was born in China, then adopted by my friends. Then she moved with her new family back to China. And now she lives in Virginia. I met Hannah's dad on his first day as my co-worker. I was asked to pack up my things one day so he could have my office. When Dan found out, he felt so bad he offered to have me over to dinner with his family. As it turned out, we were neighbors and soon Dan and Sara were both dear friends.

When I met Dan and Sara, they had two little boys and were waiting to bring a little girl home from South Korea. Little brother melted my heart when he showed me his new sister's picture and told me how much he loved her already.

As a single woman, I loved spending time with the Kennedy family. I often came over for dinner and a game of Catan. I'd come over every week to watch West Wing with them. Dan traveled a lot for work. On those days, I'd often come over to give Sara a hand and adult conversation. I loved babysitting and picturing what it might be like to have a family like this of my own someday. In fact, when I met prospective suitors on the new world of online dating, the entire Kennedy family offered their opinion!

It was quite the honor when Dan and Sara sat me down to ask me to be their second daughter's godmother. They showed me her photo and I fell in love. I wasn't sure if marriage or motherhood was in the cards. At that moment, I felt like I was being shown an ultrasound. I couldn't wait to meet her!

When Hannah first came home, she was so brave and scared and overwhelmed. We were all strange and funny looking, and didn’t speak words of comfort she knew. She bonded with her dad first. She made the rest of us work for her beautiful smiles!

The first Christmas she spent with her family was only a few months after she came home. Dad was definitely ally #1, but she had decided her Mom and her siblings were okay, too. I still got the side eye when I came over. She was always aware of where I was, but kept a little distance. On that Christmas morning, however, after the gifts were open and everyone was sitting around on the floor chatting, she quietly scooted backward on her bottom over to me, then pushed just enough to land herself in my lap. She leaned against me, looked up, and finally gave me a smile. 

After that day, Hannah would finally take my hand to walk around or run for a hug when I came over. I loved living down the road from her and looked forward to watching her grow up.

Two big things happened that changed that plan. 

The first is that I sustained my brain injury.  Like Hannah's adoption, my brain injury split the timeline of my life into before and after. I was still very much a part of the Kennedy family after my brain injury. In truth, I depended on them more--to get to my many doctor appointments, to work on my therapies, to make sure I remembered to eat, pay bills, and one turn off the gas in my kitchen! But I wasn't quite the adult I was before my injury.

The second and more significant event was the fact that the Kennedys moved to China for several years. The day Dan and Sara told me they were leaving our neighborhood was one was of the hardest days of my life. So much of my life was unraveling at that time. I was losing my job and house because I could no longer work, and the guy I had been dating decided he didn’t want to marry me after all. I felt so lost, and the family that had been my anchor was pulling up and leaving, too.

To soften the blow, Dan and Sara bought me a flight to China to spend Christmas and my birthday with them in a few months. When I watched the Kennedys pull away from our neighborhood that August day, it was the upcoming trip that comforted me.

One month after the Kennedys left, I met Niels. Our courtship was different than the other guys I dated. First of all, there were no Kennedys around to vet him for me! Also, he was Dutch, and very straight forward. He was very open about his feelings and I knew right away that he wanted our relationship to last. He let me know in a thousand different ways that he was reliable, trustworthy, and would be gentle with my heart.

If I had met Niels even a few weeks before, he likely would have spent Christmas with me in China in 2006. Instead, he went back to see his family in the Netherlands, which turned out to be quite the God-ordained plan. The day after I arrived, there was a tsunami in China that disrupted all of the communication lines between the US and China, and slowed down the connection between the US and Europe. It was quite the trust exercise for me to give Niels my passwords to check my email and pay my bills for me. (It turned out very well. After seeing an email from my Dad that he and my two sisters had an upcoming stop in the Netherlands before seeing family in Israel, Niels started planning a proposal trip for the two of us!)

Back to China. Since my brain injury, I don't make memories well unless the stories are repeated or photos are taken. But I vividly remember walking down the six flights of stairs from Dan and Sara's apartment to the ground level. As we walked down the stairs, Dan asked me about Niels and what I liked about him. By the time we got to street level and passed the garden in front of their building, Dan stopped, looked me in the eye and said, “Jen, you know you love him, right?”

I am not the smartest person when it comes to emotions. When Dan said that, I smiled and thought to myself, “Yes, yes, I do.” Looking back now at the 13 years we've shared together, it's hard to believe there was ever a time I wasn't secure in Niels' love for me. And yet, without that conversation with Hannah's dad, I might not have realized what a good man my husband is, and I can’t imagine now, being married to anyone else. And that is why, before we were married, Niels and I decided that if we ever had a boy, his name would be Daniel.

It’s a strange thing that we can be surrounded by love but not know it or accept it. When I was a teenager—and clearly, well past then—sometimes I had a hard time with a disconnect between what I felt and what was true. When I think of Hannah in those first weeks after her adoption, I think she felt much the way same. She was so loved, but didn't know it or accept it right away.

I got home from China after three weeks.  As soon as I got home, Niels and I started ringing shopping. We met up with my family in Amsterdam on their trip, then took our own trip to Paris with Niels' parents, when he proposed in a garden at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

When we planned our wedding, we planned it around Dan and Sara's furlough. Hannah was still pretty shy in those days so we didn’t want her to feel pressure to perform or be anxious about strangers. So rather that ask her to be a flower girl with all eyes on her, she was our official bubble wand distributer. Siblings Zach, Noah, and Mia were her assistants. She had a little basket with purple tulips and bottles of bubbles.

As I worked on this quilt, I thought about how quickly life can change from what we expect it to be. When I was in my teens or 20s, I would have thought that in my 40s, I would have said I would still be a writer, maybe writing from home as I raised my family. I always thought four kids would be ideal, after seeing four kids in my favorite family. Writing was my thing. But then, it changed.

As a baby in China, Hannah couldn't have imagined that she would move to America, then back to China, then back to America again. And that strangers would become family.

As part of Hannah's adopted family, I also got to know her grandparents, Gene and Nancy. I love how they would always come with fun plans and projects to do with all the kids. And I love how she included me. Long before I felt comfortable cooking, Nana Nancy showed me how to make bread!

Nancy is also a quilter. Her quilts taught me that quilts can tell a story and are much more than fabric. She made a beautiful China quilt in anticipation of Hannah's arrival. 

 I was there when she gifted the family with yellow quilt with everyone’s names and special dates on it. I thought it would be so cool to make a quilt someday. It was one of many things I observed and tucked away. 

Years later, after Niels and I were married, and our D was little, I did learn to quilt. D was four and had just started pre-school. He loved Thomas the Train. We were shopping and he saw some Thomas the Train fabric. He looked at me with his big blue eyes and asked me to make him a quilt. When your child asks you something like that, you will do everything you can to make it happen!

So, I bought a little $15 machine and asked a friend to show me how to sew. I made a little rag tag quilt for him. It had tons of crooked lines and skipped stitches, but it was full of love, and that’s what D saw and felt when he slept with it each day. After I finished his quilt, I immediately started another. And then another. I had found my new thing.


So now I have finished my 132nd quilt for Hannah. I see my craft room a place of worship and my quilts as tangible prayers. Sometimes, there is an occasion, like a baby being born, and I want to show my love with a quilt. Sometimes I have an idea for a quilt, and a person comes to mind that would like the theme or design. And sometimes, I participate in a mystery quilt. The steps are reveals piece by piece. I don’t know what the final design will look like until the reveal. I usually don’t know who I’m making the quilt for until I’m nearly done.

I think the fact that Hannah's quilt was a mystery is so fitting. She was a wonderful mystery when you were born in China as your family and I waited to meet you. And the future and plans God has for you are a mystery that He reveals slowly—sometimes painfully slowly—bit by bit. 

It was Good Fortune that her Nana quilts and that the beautiful quilts she lovingly made inspired me to become a quilter. When I felt lost and without purpose after my brain injury, learning to quilt helped me to be a giver again. In so many ways, I will never be as independent as I was before my injury, but now, quilting feels more part of my identity than my brain injury, and that is a powerful, healing fact. I think for Hannah--and all of us--there will be times when we are tempted to choose to define ourselves by our weaknesses, but we also have strengths that inspire others, even if we are unaware of our impact.

One of the things that I love about this quilt is that it is made from more pieces than I can count. It’s made from both scraps and yardage I bought specifically with Hannah in mind.  I hope that when Hannah looks at all the pieces of this quilt, she understands that each piece represents one of the times I have prayed for her and thought of her over the years. Each piece is a reminder that I will continue to pray for her and think of her and support her no matter which direction—or directions—that life takes her. 

I hope that when Hannah sees this quilt, she don’t notice the mistakes--the borders caused me fits! Life is never perfect and often messy. It doesn’t mean you don’t strive to do your best or go back and make things wrong when they are messed up, but it also means that sometimes you just step back and look at the beauty of the process and appreciate the big picture. 

I am very honored to be Hannah's godmother, Hannah, and I wish that I could be more involved in her life. I love the (rare) updates I see on her dad’s social media and I love seeing her happy smile whenever he shares it. 

I especially love that I got to give Hannah her quilt in person.

In case the quilt doesn't convey all the love and wisdom I'd like to impart to her, I found the perfect backing. 

The colors are just right and the sentiment is exactly what I want to say.

To find pictures of my progress on this quilt, check out #HannahsGoodFortune on Instagram. To see what I'm currently working on, including my 2019 Brain Injury quilt, follow me at deJongDreamHouse.

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

One Monthly Goal :: November 2019

2019 is winding down and the Lake House is starting to feel like home, and maybe, even like our new (and improved) dream house. I'm still putzing away in the craft room, but I do have a plan for everything!

While I'm tempted to make working on my craft room my goal again this month, I think I'm motivated to do that. Instead, I'm going to work on finishing a quilt! 

The quilt on my radar is Pat Sloan's 2019 Block of the Month, Out of this World. I have the first 11 blocks done, so it shouldn't take long. I hope!

To see more pictures of this quilt, follow #jacobsworldquilt on Instagram. To see the ever-evolving state of my new craft room, check out #VesperViewStudio. To see what I'm currently working on, follow me at deJongDreamHouse.

Linked to:

Previous OMGs
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