What is it about high school?

10398582_1031609553430_7451915_nWhat is it
about those three or four years of life
that leave a mark on the decades
that come after?

Is it the hormones
bubbling in our veins?

The hairstyles we eventually look back on
with horror?

The heartbreaks we endured
(or caused)?

Or is it the fact that
when our brains start to go online
in an adultish kind of way,
the people and things that surround us
become part of our

I’m not sure.

But there’s something about
those pivotal years—
teetering on the edge between
needing a ride
and driving the car—

those years when we begin to discover who we are,
when we start to shape who we will become,
when we break free from what we’ve been told
and when anything is still possible,

—there’s something about those years that
seems worth remembering
and honoring

once in a while.

Because if there’s one thing I know
for sure,
it’s that the girl I was
in high school
is nothing like
the girl I am now.

And yet the girl I am now
is somehow
still that exact same girl.

And I wouldn’t be half as real
without that high school version
of me.

Last night was my 30th high school reunion. (I have no idea how that number is possible but there’s no point dwelling on that.) I remember saying to someone there, “Thank God none of us is defined by what we were in high school.”


But we should definitely celebrate that we were there. And that we all did some growing up together. And that we’ve lived a lot of life since then.

So we did. Celebrate, that is.

Cheers, thanks for the memories, and until next time, class of ’86!



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When this girl showed up in my life, I truly had no idea what to expect.

IMG_6275It was 20 years ago today.

I didn’t know if she’d be a boy or a girl, if she’d look like me or her dad, if she’d be sassy or sweet, or if she’d love guacamole as much as me. And I didn’t know if I was cut out for the job.

The first of those unknowns was answered quickly. The others (both, both, yep, and I’m still not sure but I did my best most of the time) have played out over time.

In the years since that day, there have been so many more things I didn’t know to expect. Lately, this is the one I’ve been thinking about most: I didn’t know that my tiny little baby might one day become my friend. 

It honestly never crossed my mind.

So, the fact that it’s happening—the fact that my grown daughter not only shares her hopes and dreams and struggles with me, but also asks about mine; the fact that she is the best kind of fun on a good day and a true comfort on a hard day—those things still amaze me.

They feel new. And tender. And surprising.

Just like that little baby did, 20 years ago.

Happy birthday, and happy 20s to you, my sweet Alexandria. I can’t wait to see where this decade takes you. I am so very proud of you, and inspired by you, and I love hanging out with you.

Except when you’re pestering me relentlessly.

Which, actually, is pretty much always.

IMG_6596Oh well, I guess there’s no such thing as perfect. 😉

Here’s to lovely surprises, friends!



Posted in Beautiful Things, Celebrating, Growing, Heart Things, Inspiring, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Raving, Single-Momming | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response


R-kids and I will be spending some time in Washington, D.C., soon, and it’s got me nostalgic for the life I once lived there. Wow, what a different life that was.

A few years ago, during a closet-cleaning frenzy, I uncovered some memories from that era and blogged about them. I’ll treat you to the best parts of that post here. Because, lol.

journal | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk5

[excerpt from my previous post]

…in the midst of my cleaning frenzy, I came across some very entertaining nuggets that haven’t seen the light of day for years. One that I’m enjoying the most is a journal I kept while I worked in a different house.

The White House.


That one.

Want to hear a few excerpts, straight from the pen of this (extremely) naive and (incredibly) lucky young White House intern?


Tuesday, September 5:
For ten hours straight I answered phones. I talked to NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC. I talked to absolutely every press person in the United States. Okay, half of them. Leigh, the other intern, talked to the rest.

Wednesday, September 6:
Today I met a Secret Service man. He was friendly. I felt nervous though, like I shouldn’t be talking to him too much.

Thursday, September 7:
I can see that in spite of the experiences, I really am basically doing busywork. Phones and filing. BUT: I am the happiest bored person in D.C. This city would die without us interns.

Tuesday, September 12:
Today I talked to Jack Hicks from KQRS back home.

Tuesday, September 19:
Today was fairly slow because POTUS was in Spokane, Washington. But he came back at 6:10 pm in Marine One and we got to go out and see him arrive. He waved at us and said, “What are you doing out here in the rain?!”

Friday, October 6:
POTUS was not around today. He was having minor surgery on his middle finger.

Wednesday, October 11:
On the way over to the Rose Garden with the press, after the ceremony, three Italian reporters stopped me and asked for a photo with me. I was flattered but the whole time I was paranoid that I would get in trouble for having my picture taken or something. Paul turned around while they were shaking my hand. “Making some new friends, Julie?” he said. Very funny.

journal | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk7Friday, November 3:
I was able to edit some video speeches for Maria today. One of them…was especially awkward and poorly written. I edited it, Maria liked my changes, and now the President is going to read MY words!

Friday, November 17:
Today I was asked out to dinner by a White House staffer that I didn’t even know.

Monday, December 11:
The reception was great – tons of incredible food, important newspaper editors, cabinet members, and the President standing five feet away chatting beside me. What an experience!


Yep. What an experience.

I’m looking forward to reliving some memories from those magical days and boring my kids with stories they don’t really care about.

Later, friends!



by julie rybarczyk

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julie and dad - shorts and longs - julie rybarczykTo all you fathers who have
shown up,
stuck around,
raised up,
cared for,
and sat down.

To the fathers
who are still doing it
day in and day out.

And to the fathers
who always meant to do it.

To the fathers who are
and true.

And to the fathers
who hope they are
at least some of those things,
at least some of the time.

To the fathers who are
and treasured.

To the fathers who are
and longed for.

To the fathers who have
stepped in
and become a father
to the fatherless.

You matter.

than you probably know.

than you might have intended to.

than anything can ever change.

Thank you for giving life.

And thank you
for every single moment that you
have offered your brave,

Nothing can ever
the father that is


Every year, as I get older, I have more friends spending Father’s Day missing a dad who’s no longer here.

Or missing a dad who was never there.

I know how lucky I am to have had my dad around for so long. I also know how much of an impact our fathers have—whether they want to or not.

So, to those of you missing a beautiful father who loved you well, I’m so very sorry for your loss.

To those of you grieving a delinquent father who didn’t love well, I’m even more sorry for that loss.

To those of you celebrating a father—or a father figure—you truly love, you are blessed.

And to those of you doing your best to be a great father, thank you. You have no idea.


Happy Father’s Day to my sweet dad, shown with me above. And Happy Father’s Day to all the rest of you very important men!


Posted in Celebrating, Heart Things, Parenting, Raving, Wise Things, Wording | Tagged , | 1 Response


In my head, this poem is a song. But either way, it’s for the people I love who are hurting today.
shorts and longs - peonies - julie rybarczykSome days
it’s clear
where my hope can go from here,
where the person in the mirror
is gonna land.

Some days
I know
where the flames are coming from,
where I know I need to run
to get away.

But when the burn comes
from the inside,
when I’m blindsided
by the fire,
when they told me I was safe,
but they were liars.

When the flames lap
at my edges,
when I’m cornered
by unknowns,
when I lift my eyes and find
I’ve lost my home.

I try to
see the logic.
Is someone
here to blame?
I search for some
I curse this game.

is what is now,
and what is not.

is what I wish
and what is lost.

is I am here
and I can

So I will

And I will

And I will

And, somehow,

I’ll believe

that this

is not the end.

I have had phone call after phone call lately from dear friends who are overcome with pain. Every kind imaginable, from every kind of source. But, for all of them, there is one thing in common: The pain came suddenly, and from the last place they expected it. Their own bodies. Their minds. Their loved ones. Their safe places.

And then the news Sunday.

Oh, such pain in Orlando, leaking out onto all of us. And it, too, happened in a place that should have been safe.

Lord, have mercy.

I’m no expert, but I have known pain. And I’ve learned that sometimes the only thing that can be done, when the pain is intense, is to keep breathing. I once blogged about the song below. During an incredibly painful time, I listened to it 84 times in three days, just to keep myself breathing.

Here’s to hope and healing. May it come quickly.


Posted in Hard Things, Healing, Heart Things, Messy Things, Noticing, Wise Things, Wording | Tagged , , , | 1 Response



All of that to say…

pink couch - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk 33

One year ago this was my beloved pink couch…

(Which, if you recall, was formerly Dear Abby’s pink couch.)

This pink friend and I have quite a history. (i.e, this. And this. And everything since.)

pink couch - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk 32It’s been here with me through all kinds of life. Lots of laughs, endless snuggles, more heartbreak than I wanted, plenty of unknowns, so many good friends, and day after day of good ol’ ordinary living.

But last fall I started noticing… that movie nights were feeling a lot more crowded. And a lot less comfortable.

I looked around and realized that my sweet pink couch—which used to hold one mom and two young R-kids just fine—was suddenly filled with a whole row of adult-sized people.

All of whom were squirming for more space.

Then I looked around a bit more and noticed that most of the fabulous vintage furniture in my house was sized perfectly for one mom and two young R-kids.

Which would be fine if that was who still lived here.

So that’s where it began.

pink couch - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk 3(That, plus a burning desire to switch things up around here.)

The undoing and redoing is still underway, but the day I’ve been somewhat avoiding has now arrived.

pink couch - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk 31After several months of stalling, I’ve decided: It’s time to pass my pink couch along to someone new.

I know, right?

But never fear.

I have already found a fabulous pink replacement for this beauty that fits perfectly with the new mid-century vibe we’re adopting over here. !!

I will tease you—and leave you—with that thought. Stay tuned.

And if you’re looking for a loyal pink friend of your own, check Craigslist. Or let me know.









But, alas, this couch was not made for men. This fact would be true even if the couch were some color other than pink. It’s just too slim. And short. And adorable.

I mean, it might be made for the kind of men who are stopping by for a short visit and a cup of tea. But it’s not made for the men who are putting their feet up and trying to watch an episode of Jimmy Fallon.

And, so,


Posted in Beautiful Things, Cool Things, Decorating, Growing, Heart Things, House Things, Inspiring, Junking, Parenting, Single-Momming | Tagged , | Leave a comment


pink couch - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk2R-house doesn’t look much the same as it did a year or so ago.

And I don’t just mean the décor.

Every one of us here has been walking through a wee bit of transition…

Last year, R-boy was a high school freshman.

Now he’s a six-inches-taller, voice-an-octave-lower high school sophomore who’s finding his groove, owning his style, pursuing his passions, and driving my car. He’s growing into himself and growing out of just about everything else.

View More:
Last year, R-girl was a college freshman.

Now she’s a totally-rocking-it-at-life college dropout who’s landing work for herself like she was born to do it. She’s chasing her dreams, finding her voice, building her business, and uncovering a whole world of creative possibilities.

Last year, I was a busy freelance copywriter and longtime single mom.

Now I’m an even busier freelance copywriter and even longer-time single mom who sees an empty nest looming up ahead, who’s trying to keep up with all the changes (and feelings!), and who’s dating a great guy.

julie rybarczyk - shorts and longs
A great guy who lives way the heck on the other side of town with his (six-year-old) son and who has been brave enough to enter R-world.

So. Wherever we go from here, there’s one thing I know for sure:

This season at R-house is a magical moment in time.

And while some days it feels like I’m just trying to keep up with it all, I am also doing my best to savor it.

Because, wow.


But enough of that.

Let’s talk furniture.




Posted in Decorating, Growing, Heart Things, House Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Single-Momming | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Responses


Tomorrow I’ll experience something that I’m sure will become more and more familiar in the coming years.

I’ll be sending my sweet, strong R-girl off on a grand adventure that I’m not invited to attend.

She’ll board a flight out of Minneapolis in the afternoon and, 32 hours later…

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - globe3

…she’ll land in Nepal.

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - globe2

I may or may not get to know when she arrives. I’ll only have a vague idea of where she is for the next 18 days. Communication will be spotty at best. We will be 12 time zones apart.

She basically could not find anyplace in the northern hemisphere that is further away from Minneapolis.

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - globe4

And I am thrilled.

Because what awaits my daughter are so many of the things that drive her: a photography workshop, an opportunity to tell people’s stories, an invitation to think beyond herself, a chance to serve, a gathering of other creatives whose hearts beat in sync with hers, and a chance to step out of her comfort zone…

and into the unknown.

Which is where beautiful
and important
and unforgettable
and risky
and life-defining things occur.

There might be moments when I may not feel quite so calm about all of this. Like when I’m working at the dining room table and R-girl and her laptop aren’t joining me in their usual spot.

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - globe5

Or when I wish I could have a conversation with her that consists entirely of random gifs.

And definitely when Nashville finally comes back on.

Or when fear hits…?

But that’s okay.

Because I’m aware that I, too, am leaving my comfort zone and stepping into my own kind of unknown.

I wonder what we’ll both discover?


Here’s to embracing the adventure, friends.

And here’s to R-girl. Drink lots of water. Keep your heart open. And soak it all in.

By the way, this is where she’s headed, friends, and this is what she has to say about all of it.



Posted in Beautiful Things, Growing, Heart Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Raving, Single-Momming, Wandering, Wise Things | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response


Okay! So! How to offer some sort of explanation as to why I haven’t blogged a single word since Thanksgiving..? Well let’s not bore you. A lot’s been going on!

But I can fill you in on a few of our furniture-slash-family developments.

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - mid-century modern dining set5Anyone remember this pic that I posted in November, of a dining room that was inspiring me (via @sharkgravy)? It has the exact same chairs I scored on Craigslist:

Well, shortly after posting this, I bought a great mid-century table from a sweet young Craigslist couple (for a steal), recovered the chairs, hung a thrift shop find on the wall (this photo doesn’t do it justice), and—voila…

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - mid-century modern dining set2…recreated the look I was after.

That’s the good news.

The even better news is that having a dining room table is awesome! A fact I had forgotten!

For the past four years, R-fam has been sharing meals around the little table in our kitchen because we had repurposed our dining room into a “den.” This arrangement gave us a cozy TV-viewing area on our main level that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. And, other than the occasional complaint from R-kids about wanting a better place to do homework, the situation was working great.

But you guys! Now that we have a dining room table again, I remembered why they exist.

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - mid-century modern dining set1We suddenly have space for:
– big, bustling meals, with friends and family joining us
– quiet work sessions, with all three of us huddled around our laptops
– a rousing round of game night, without needing to kneel around a coffee table
– and more great stuff like that!

In other words, not only is the new look of R-house starting to come together.

So is a lot more of R-fam.

shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - mid-century modern dining set2Here’s to more of the best kinds of together, friends!



Posted in Decorating, Everyday Things, Finding, Fun Things, Happy Things, House Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Raving, Single-Momming | Tagged , , , , | 4 Responses


Did you ever notice that saying a prayer of thanks
before a meal –
something that many of us will probably do today –
is also called
saying grace.

Why is that?

What does that even mean?

I know how to give grace
to someone,

and I’m learning more and more
how to receive it.

I know how to notice grace,
and need grace,
and name grace,
and offer grace,
and, hopefully, more and more,
to live with grace.

And by grace, I mean
the soul-soothing balm of
“You’re not perfect, but you’re enough”
that fights off the heart-rotting diseases of
and perfectionism
and self-loathing
and scolding.

I have even learned how to
speak grace
to those who need it –
including myself.

But to say grace?

I’m not sure exactly how that phrase evolved.

I’d like to think it’s some sort of pre-Twitter shorthand hashtag
that actually means
#saying(how thankful we are for)grace.

Thankful for the grace
of being enough
and being valuable
and being granted
a good meal to eat,
and a warm home to eat it in,
and someone we love to eat it with,
and another day alive on this earth

(on the days that we are fortunate enough to have
or all
of those things).

Because there are many days
that many of us
are not granted
or all
of those things.

And maybe when we bow our heads to say grace
if we have those things,
we can remember the people who don’t,

and then open our eyes
and wonder if there are ways we can offer them grace
as well.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Is the image above, which is named “Grace,” as famous in other states as it is here in Minnesota? It’s our official state photograph! Which was a bit shocking for me to learn because, although it hung in so many homes that were special to me growing up, I always thought it was a painting.


Posted in Beautiful Things, Celebrating, Heart Things, Inspiring, Noticing, Thinking, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , | 1 Response

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