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Life Lessons Learned

April 16, 2014

Life is very much interested in teaching us lessons if only we are willing to pay attention, listen, and learn. Part of the fun of living is to consistently stretch and grow, right? Here’s where I’ll share three life lessons I’ve learned recently through reading, tackling challenges, making mistakes, talking to others, going on adventures, and generally just being a lifelong learner.

Life Lessons Learned

1. If you feel like everything is out of your control, remember that you can control your attitude

I’ve faced some very challenging situations at work over the last 6-9 months that made me question my career, my job, who I am, what I stand for, when I should fight and when I should let it go, and what kind of employee I want to be. The number one thing I learned through those months of struggles is that if nothing else, I can control my attitude. So I completely changed the way I looked at situations, the way I handled them, and the way I thought about them. It didn’t happen overnight but the mental shift I made has immensely improved my daily outlook.

Suggested reading: The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz


2. You never know exactly what you can do until…

You set a big, lofty, scary goal, break it down into small chunks, schedule regular time to work on it, and commit to completing each step in a defined time period. These are all key factors in doing something you never thought you could.

Suggested reading: The 9 Stages of Goal-Setting from Nicole Antoinette of A Life Less Bullshit


3. Don’t wait until 3pm to eat your lunch

Like your mama always said, it’ll ruin your dinner. Plus, three bites in, you will inevitably get a phone call from your kid’s nurse that you need to come pick them up. Well, at least that’s what happened to me yesterday. Poor J-slice had a bit of a stomach bug. He’s fine now!


What life lessons have you learned lately? (<– alliteration for the win!)


PS - I’m thinking about making Life Lessons Learned a semi-regular series (every two weeks? every month?) covering three lessons life has taught me recently. If you have any feedback for me, I’d love to hear it!

Shape-Themed Photowalk

April 15, 2014

First of all, this…photowalk - shapes - April 2014…makes for dangerous walking conditions! I could’ve slipped or spun out! Thankfully, I lived to take another step on my photowalk.

I’ve been trying to get in a few faster-than-leisurely walks so I wasn’t completely worthless come soccer season (which started on Sunday). I brought my phone along for one of the walks so I could capture a few photos.

photowalk - shapes - April 2014

I started off hoping to theme my photos around “patterns” but quickly realized that when you’re on back roads instead of in a city, it’s much harder to find patterns. No cool brick, stone, or plants. It’s barely Spring here so even finding living plant life is tricky.

This is actually a mailbox post and I loved the triangle it formed. Triangles are fun because they don’t have to be perfect!

photowalk - shapes - April 2014

I’m really quite baffled by this. It’s a little tough to make out in the photo but perhaps you can tell there was an almost-perfect circle cleared out amidst a crapton of cinders on the side of the road. So odd. Perhaps a small alien ship landed there, abducted a squirrel, and blasted off, leaving a circle of cleared out cinders. I’m not sure what else could explain it.photowalk - shapes - April 2014

Trash along the side of the road is so interesting. Have you ever seen a random shoe? Not a pair… just one. Like, who loses just one shoe? I really need to know how that happens. Anyway, this – I think – is one of those peg games where you’re super brilliant if you can manage to hop-hop-hop pegs and end up with only one peg without cheating. It was in my beloved triangle shape and had this intriguing Christmas tree style going on.photowalk - shapes - April 2014

Last but not least, this cracked me up:photowalk - shapes - April 2014I’m standing by a street sign so that my leg covers the pole but the circular sign appears to be my head. Amy correctly stated that I look like Jack from Jack in the Box. (We don’t have those in PA but I did know what she was talking about!)

So I managed to entertain myself with some exercise, some trash, shapes, and a little fun with shadows. Photowalks are the best! I always wonder if people think I’m a strange one for taking photos of random objects. Oh well. The truth is that they’re missing out if they’re not taking photos of interesting things in their surroundings too!

Have you taken a photo walk lately? If you walked for 30 minutes around your town, what sort of “themes” would you see repeatedly? Remember when J-slice and I went on a photowalk and he wanted to spot dinosaurs or air?

Expand Your Reading Horizons: a Goodreads Review

April 14, 2014

Have you ever fallen into a reading rut? Maybe you’ve lost interest in reading for a bit, or maybe you just weren’t sure what to read? We’ve all been there. Of course, this assumes that you’ve continued reading after high school or college, and I really hope you have!

I use Goodreads to track my reading and manage my book selections and it has really been a great resource over the last three and a half years that I’ve been using it.

Not using Goodreads? You should be! Here are a few reasons why I love it:

It’s free. Need I say more?

Post status updates. Update what page you’re on (or percentage completed — it’s e-reader friendly!) to track your progress on a book. The weirdo in me loves seeing the progress bar fill in. It’s like getting a gold star sticker (although I dislike gold, so maybe blue for me).

goodreads - currently reading

Interact with others. See what friends are reading, how they rated books they read, and comment on updates from friends. I often discover books to read directly from what my friends are reading. Goodreads also offers a “forum” of sorts for book discussion topics and provides discussions with authors.

Participate in the annual reading challenge. This January to December challenge lets you choose a number a books to read and reports your progress to you. It motivates me to read – I’m ahead! :) Or behind! :( – and keeps me on track with making reading a regular habit.

goodreads - reading challenge

Get book recommendations. You’ll never again have to ask your facebook friends for book recommendations and get a million responses that are all over the board. These recommendations are tailored to what you’ve read, even by your predetermined sub-categories of books (called “shelves;” I have a book club shelf, for example).

Prioritize your to-read list. Not only can you keep a list of to-read books, but you can also prioritize them! I absolutely love this feature. This makes it really easy for me to suggest books for my book club because I know what I’ve got lined up. (Image below is from the Goodreads app).

goodreads - to-read list

Get useful email updates. Goodreads emails you occasionally to make sure you’re still reading by showing your last status update; this always prompts me to get reading more! The email also lists updates from friends’ reading activity: books they’ve added to their list, what they finished reading and rated, etc. Is there an author whose work you’d read no matter what? Goodreads emails will let you know when there are new books from authors of books you’ve already read.

Track your books and reading activity on the go. The Goodreads app  lets you easily update your reading status. It does a whole slew of other things that the website offers as well but my favorite aspect is easily seeing my to-read list. When I’m heading to the library, I pull up my (ordered!) to-read list and can then quickly pluck books from the shelves. At a library or book store, you can even scan book barcodes to add books to your lists. That is a fun but dangerous tool because your to-read list might grow out of control! Fun problem to have, I guess.

goodreads appThere are my eight reasons to join Goodreads and I could probably think of more — enough to make this post itself into a book. If you’re not already on Goodreads, create a free account here. And if you are using it, please follow me so I can follow you. I’d love to see what you’re reading!

Now, let’s share the love for Goodreads — what’s your favorite thing about the site, the app, or just tracking your reading in general?

More Love Letters – April 2014

April 11, 2014

If you aren’t writing notes for More Love Letters yet, you have failed me for the last time.



More Love Letters - April 2014

Come on, it’s so easy and such a kind thing to do!

This round of letter requests has some unique requests, including a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary and a man who’s retiring from the Army after 22 years (and his name is John!)

More Love Letters - April 2014

I really enjoyed writing to John because the words just came to me. He’s struggling to find his place in the civilian world and while I can’t relate personally, my John has been talking about his retirement for years now and debating what he’ll do. It’s a BIG life change.

More Love Letters - April 2014

There are two reasons you may want to consider writing a note or letter in response to More Love Letters’ requests:

  1. Good karma points. Let’s all be awesome people who generously spread love and kindness!
  2. Colored pens and stationery! It’s a chance to use those delightfully fun cards you’ve been hoarding.

Notes for this round of letter requests must be postmarked by April 20th so you’ve still got lots of time! Take about 10-15 minutes this weekend to read the requests and just see what words come to mind. Tell a stranger you believe in them and you could completely change their day/month/year/LIFE.

Go spread the love!

Prague Photo Walk

April 10, 2014

The best thing about taking a photowalk is it forces you to look left, right, up, down, in front of you, and behind you. You get to really appreciate little wonders in our world, like one spot of blooming flowers in a field full of otherwise dead plants. Or even big wonders, like how man had the brilliance to create a bridge that actually stays up.

I was all set to share a local photowalk with you when I remembered oh heyyyyy… I never shared my photowalk from Prague! Even though I was there two months ago… yeah. (Here’s the recap of our Prague EuroTrip).

Aside from Hootie, Udo, and Erika being with us…

Erika, Hootie, me, Udo - Prague February 2014

…my favorite thing in Prague were the gorgeous doors. I know this is so random but I couldn’t get enough!

Prague doors

I wasn’t sure how the Czech people would like a tourist taking random photos so it was just snap! and move along. I should’ve gotten a photo with me in it for perspective (but… see previous sentence) because all of these exterior doors along the main streets of Prague were huge.

Prague doorsSadly, many had graffiti (there is soooo much graffiti in Prague) although in this case, it kind of adds to the beauty of the door.

Prague doors

I loved the different patterns.

Prague doors

And the mix of styles with elegant yet a little modern-whimsy thrown in.

Prague doors

And the shapes!

Prague doors

The photo below isn’t a set of doors but a window. How gorgeous is that?!? When I’m rich, I will have at least two of these windows with fountains in front of them creating lots of super cool reflections. Sign me up for that!Prague doors

Have you ever been somewhere and became obsessed with one particular feature of the area? I could see this happening in wine country… all those perfectly neat lines of trees and rolling hills.

Got a favorite door up there? Do you have door envy? I totally do. It’s okay to admit it.

The Most Obvious Sign Ever That I’m on the Right Track

April 9, 2014

Something absolutely nuts happened yesterday. Forgive me if I can’t articulate it very well but I’m still speechless over it.

First a little backstory.

I’ve been posting about Dream Catching for a few months now so most of you know that I’m working really hard to move forward in life. In very generic terms, that means finding my passion. In more specific terms, I’m not sure how it looks: finding my dream job, figuring out what I’m good at in life and how I can add value to the world, building my own business, selling my art, or getting paid to write. So many directions. I’m not sure yet. I’m letting the whole Dream Catching experience shape and guide me.

I’ve been reading books, answering big questions, reading blog posts and articles, working toward an Etsy shop for my art, talking to friends and loved ones, thinking a lot, analyzing a lot, and generally just digging deep. I’ve been staying open-minded while searching and exploring in case something amazing happened or came to me.

A few weeks ago, I learned that an online course was opening up about building your own business. I read the material, quietly feeling a little cynical until I had more information. As more details were released, it started speaking to me. Not literally, okay? :) The things I could learn from the course seemed to align with the things I wanted to try. With anxiety, I sought advice from my Mom, John, and Steph. All three excitedly said “go for it!”

I had some serious anxiety when I registered for the course last week. It isn’t cheap, it’s big on accountability, and it’s just plain scary to say, “Okay, I’m going to do this big HUGE massive thing for myself!” It scares the bejeezus outta me.

All along, I’ve been asking the universe for a sign. Can’t we all use a little guidance sometimes? I feel that the course launching at a time that I was open to it was a small sign. Yesterday, the most obvious sign ever came to me and told me I was on the right track.

It’s in this video of Q&A Tuesday from Marie Forleo on How to Find Your Passion:

Did you watch it? (If not, stop reading, because the rest of this post won’t make much sense. Go watch it!)


Here’s a reenactment of my reaction:

Marie Forleo speaks to me

I had chills.

I swear I did not write that question. I figure the possibilities are:

  1. It was for real a different Janelle
  2. I wrote the question but forgot
  3. A loved one hijacked my email account and sent off the question for me

It doesn’t matter whether I was the intended Janelle or not… Marie’s words were 100% intended for ME. And maybe you too?

It’s unbelievable how much Janelle’s question sounds like me (minus the vision board and signing an email “all the best”) and completely shocking that Marie says my name several times during the video. I have an uncommon name so that’s extremely rare.

I can only equate it to the experience of being a kid and having Santa say your name. Like… WHAT?!? He’s talking to ME?!? (I don’t know/remember what that’s like so I’m guessing here). Basically, it’s magical.

The biggest thing I got from Marie’s A to Janelle’s Q is this: stop thinking and start doing.

I can’t think my way to finding my passion. I have to get out and try things! The course I’m starting is one of them and there will hopefully be more to come.

I’ve been wanting some meaning in my life for so long – a way to give back and provide value to others. I’m really hoping this course gives me the direction and push I need to create something cool for myself and for the world. Or at least help me create the stepping stones to get there. Marie’s video yesterday gave me the confidence to believe I’m on the right track.

The course I’m taking started on Monday and it runs for two months. You might be hearing more about it and I hope you’re willing to help when the time comes. You guys have brilliant insights that I truly value.

In Marie’s video, she asks: How will you shift from thinking to engagement? I really want to hear from you! I know several of you have made some big life changes recently and I’d love to hear how you found what you were looking for, what you tried, what worked, what didn’t work, or if you’re still actively working to discover your passion.

Hugs and love from this Janelle to you! :)

Currently – 4/8/2014

April 8, 2014

Lexie and me

Laughing at the photo above where I tried to mimic Lexie’s what-are-you-doing-to-me? annoyed look.

Neglecting my camera. Haven’t taken many photos lately and that is unusual behavior for me.

Working on a course that I just signed up for.

Planning out my time every evening so I can get things done.

Buying canvas out the wazoo because it’s on super sale at Michael’s this week (67% off!)

Reading pretty much nothing lately. Not on my list of priorities at the moment, sadly.

Dancing to Just Dance 4 for the Wii. Luckily the boys and I are all equally awkward and incompetent when it comes to dancing.

Feeling excited to see family this month!

Celebrating my Grandpa’s 90th birthday soon and my grandparents’ 65th anniversary. April is packed!

Watching the Big Bang Theory repeats when I have time to kill.

Paying attention to what I eat and how much, and how much activity I’m getting. I’m trying! (But then John’s unit got Girl Scout cookies. ha)

Wishing marshmallows were vegetarian and Reese’s Pieces were fat-free because I loooove them. This is a problem for the above statement. #facepalm

Thinking that if I ever hosted a big blogger meetup, I’d call it HugFest because I’d want to hug you. In a non-creepy way, of course.

What’s currently going on in your life?


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