I’m so very glad you’ve chosen to visit A Dose of the Delightful. I’m Natalie, and I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, followed by an education at Amherst College. I currently live in New York City and work in marketing for a pair of lovely boutique hotels downtown.
If you’ve got the time, I’d love to share with you why I created this blog, and what I hope to accomplish through it.
About ten months ago, my 12 year-old brother Jonathan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was one of the worst days of my life, until about eight months ago, when I found out he had relapsed after initial remission and would endure even more rigorous treatment to overcome the disease. My parents finally took me up on my offer to come home and help take care of him. I’m incredibly fortunate to work for a company that offered to let me take a leave of absence from my marketing position, with the promise that I would have a position there when I was able to return.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I packed up my belongings and went to Jacksonville, extremely anxious but hopeful that my presence would be a boon to my family and that I’d get to witness Jonathan recovering.
During the first month of my time at home, I spent every other night in the hospital while my sweet brother fought bravely and graciously. Every day seemed to bring dizzying emotional ups and downs. He wasn’t responding well to treatments, and so we started an even more stringent chemo regimen. Because his immune system was so suppressed from chemo, he had no defenses against infection, and on September 18, 2010, he couldn’t fight off an infection he’d come down with the day before, and passed away surrounded by me, my parents, and my brother Paul.
There was lots of downtime during the precious month I got to spend with Jonathan before he passed away; I picked up hobbies I’d neglected since high school and learned a few new ones.
I often sat next to him embroidering a pillowcase I was going to give him, or sketched out designs on tracing paper for other embroidery projects I wanted to start. I proudly showed him the progress I was making, and looked forward to giving it to him on September 22, which would’ve been his 13th birthday. I will never forget him examining the embroidered clarinet (one of the two instruments he played) and exclaiming, “Wow. You’re really good at that!” He told me about a Mother’s Day arts and crafts project he’d worked on in 4th grade, a small cross-stitched pillow that read “I Love You, Mom.” He shared how difficult he thought it had been, and was impressed at my efforts.
On the days I was not spending the night at the hospital, when I had a few free hours, I worked on revamping the bedroom that had been mine in high school and was now technically a guest room. Since I didn’t have much of a decorating budget, I was always on the hunt for cost-effective ways to change up the feel of the room. World Market, Home Goods, and Stein Mart turned out to be perfect sources for new sheets, a duvet, and throw pillows. The Salvation Army yielded a collection of milk glass and large table lamp I painted and spruced up with a new shade.
Working on these domestic projects was cathartic to me during my brother’s illness and after his death; I was certainly aware of the moments of happiness and joy it brought me, and began to think of it as ‘domestic therapy.’ Because of the circumstances in which I turned to these kinds of projects, and because they gave me fleeting moments of enjoyment in the darkest time of my life, I have come to think of them with deeper significance.
In short, I discovered the profound enjoyment that comes from creating something with one's own two hands - pursuits such as embroidery, sewing, entertaining, decorating, cooking, correspondence. These are skills that our grandmothers were expected to learn from quite a young age, but that seem to have fallen out of favor as women have become more empowered. I would never trade in the progress of the past century, but I'm dismayed that many of these skills are becoming lost for smart, creative, professional women. There is so much opportunity for self-expression in the domestic arts.
When I started toying with the idea of creating my own blog and sharing my own projects and sources of inspiration, A Dose of the Domestic couldn’t have suited more perfectly as a title. That’s certainly how I thought of it – my own dose of medicine for the deepest heartache and worst loss I’d ever suffered. As I began to think about what my first few posts would be, I realized I wanted to write about everything that inspired me and made me smile – not just décor and domestic projects, but also things like gorgeous illustration, book cover design, pretty packaging, and lovely clothing. And that's how A Dose of the Delightful was born.
Jonathan has been my greatest teacher in life, and he imparted profound lessons just by being the person he was – always upbeat, incredibly considerate, generous, selfless, and always actively pursuing his interests. He adored playing piano and clarinet, avidly read about other countries and cultures, and used Google street view to ‘travel’ to the many countries he wished to visit. Jonathan was never sitting idly in front of the television; if he was watching it, he was tuned in to Globetrekker and absorbed everything he learned like a sponge.
Reflecting on Jonathan’s short but well-lived life made me realize how I’d slowly neglected many of the hobbies and pursuits I enjoy until I turned to them for essential comfort. It’s so easy to get swept up in our busy lives and not make time for the things that make us truly happy. One of Jonathan’s messages to me and my brother Paul was to really live our lives fully. We are given a finite amount of time here, and not making the most of it is the worst kind of waste. Most people aim to ‘live life to its fullest,’ but I believe that can only happen when we make doing what we love a priority.
That’s just what I’ll strive to do here. In finally being intentional about pursuing what I enjoy, I hope I can also bring a smile to the face of anyone who comes across A Dose of the Delightful! Nothing would please me more than to know I've inspired another person to discover how delightful the domestic arts can be.