ADVENT

advent // a coming into place, view, or being

To wait for something,
to dream a dream,
to pray a plea
is to glimpse a shadow,
a hint,
just a glimmer
of the possibility

for more.

It is standing
where you are
and seeing
what is
there,

while also holding
the faint outline
of what is
not there

yet.

It is being
in your now
and believing
in your not-yet.

It is longing.
It is mystery.
It is hope.
It is so very, very brave.

It is advent.

 

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On this first Sunday of Advent, the fog was thick and heavy, making it hard to see even the things I knew were there, much less the things I didn’t.

It was beautiful. And it seemed appropriate.

Here’s to all we can’t yet see, friends.

xo

Posted in Beautiful Things, Dreaming, Extra Things, Hard Things, Heart Things, Inspiring, Noticing, Thinking, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

I’M KINDA FLOORED

When we got our floors redone a few weeks ago, R-girl asked if I was going to write a blog post about it and turn it into some sort of metaphor.

What? When have I ever done that kind of thing?

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-441Anyway, why would I do that when there are so many other relevant things to say about the topic?

Like what a pain in the actual neck it is to move all your furniture – and yourself – out of the house for a week.

Also how hellishly-crazy-horrific that varnish smells. “Smells” isn’t even the correct word. It’s so much more than a smell. It’s an all-pervasive, lung-and-skin-invading state of being that seeps into every piece of fabric in the house like some industrial-strength, essence-of-toxic-chemical laundry detergent.

For a girl who’s too sensitive to even use floral-scented laundry detergent, this was a full-on sensory assault.

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-445

But there are other things to say too…

Like how fun it was to have slumber parties with some of my favorite people around town all week.

Or what a blast it was to stay up late watching the Cubs win the World Series!!!!!!! With friends who cared as much as I did!

Or what good practice it was to ask for help. And receive it.

Not to mention just how beyond-badly the floors needed to be done.
I know, right?

Then there are the vulnerable things. (As if that floor wasn’t vulnerable enough.)

I mean, is it just me, or does a project that turns your life upside-down stir unexpected emotion for anyone else?

It might be just me. After all, I’m an INFJ, recovering codependent, borderline HSP, sometimes-hormonal human, which means, basically: I feel stuff. And I felt some stuff throughout this process.

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-445For one, I felt the familiar aloneness of making all the decisions by myself.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not always a bad thing. I can make decisions. I do it all day long as a business owner and single mom. And there are perks to being the only decision maker (e.g., pink couch, pink stove, pink chairs, pink portrait of a random guy in the living room, etc.).

But I’d be willing to compromise on the pink once in a while for the fun of making decisions together with someone else about floors and countertops and what to do next weekend. I’m just saying.

On top of that, the last guy I seriously dated owned a hardwood flooring business. Let’s let the irony sink in for a minute…

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-442We’ve been broken up for months but, yeah, there were feelings. Obviously.

But!

Mixed in with all those feels were the “I got this” and “You go, girl” feels. Because, you guys! I finally overcame the hypnotizingly comfortable status-quo and mustered the energy to make this life-invasive project happen – instead of just talking about needing it for another 10 years. I made all the necessary decisions. I noticed the difficult feelings and I said to them, “Yep, you matter and you’re allowed. But you’re not in charge.”

Maybe this post is starting to sound a little too deep for a floor refinishing project.

I know some of you whip out remodeling masterpieces like batches of brownies (which I also don’t do). But, for whatever reason, things like this usually require a little more of me than I think they will.

On the flip side, they give me back more than I expect too.

These days, when I walk in my front door and see a beautifully restored floor spreading out in front of me – instead of its battered-beyond-recognition predecessor – it satisfies a lot more than my desire for visual beauty.

It feels kind of like… a new foundation.


Something solid and fresh to build on for this next season at R-house.

And I’m kinda blown away by how much a beautifully restored foundation can make everything around me look a little newer, brighter, and better.

Whoops.

I guess R-girl called it, didn’t she?

xo

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Here’s to clearing things out, stripping things down, and bringing back some beauty, friends—even when it’s hard.

Posted in Beautiful Things, Decorating, Hard Things, House Things, Messy Things, Noticing, Wise Things | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

HEAR HERE

I’m having the sinking sensation
of love
gone awry.

It’s that feeling you get when two people
seem to be speaking
different languages
using the same set of words.

baltimore-bricks-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk12

You know…
that thing where fear
acts like
coldness,

and frustration
gets loud,

and “I’m right”
sounds an awful lot like
“you’re wrong.”

From my vantage point,
at least,
there have been quite a few times
this week,
when I’ve felt the sting of grace
withheld,
judgement delivered,
kindness delayed,
and common ground
abandoned.

I’m hanging in there so far.

But I’m starting to fear
that this latest backlash
may be one lash too many
for some.

baltimore-bricks-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk13
I’m afraid
that good and valuable people
are about to write each other off
too soon,
because the alternative is just
so
much
work.

After all,
staying together
without destroying each other
will probably require
hearing each other.

And hearing each other is
nearly impossible
when you’re reduced
to a cliché.

And even when you’re not,
hearing is hard,
and inconvenient,
and annoying,
and exhausting,
and almost always risky.

Especially if you might
hear something
that requires
expansion,
or growth,
or sacrifice.

baltimore-bricks-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk11
But all of those things are
usually worth it,
I think,
when there’s something
worth fighting for.

And I think we are worth fighting for.

We.

As in, all of us who live here
together
and currently disagree.

Yes, some relationships are
toxic
and they do need to end.
(I know this well.
More well than I wish.)

But I hope that’s not us.

I still believe
we have more in common
than we don’t.

I think we have a thing
worth saving.

And if we are to possibly save
this thing,
we might need to stop
telling
and start
hearing.

Or, even better,
start
asking.

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One of the most powerful tools I’ve acquired in my lifetime is curiosity. It doesn’t always come naturally for me, and occasionally I’m afraid of what I might hear, but I’m trying to use more of it these days in particular, because it usually leads me away from judging and toward new and beautiful truths.

Here’s to maybe being a little more curious about each other, friends. And a little less sure.

xxoo

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P.S. Aren’t those bricks the best? They were another great find in downtown Baltimore on my recent business trip. We came upon a park paved with dozens of homophones. It was the word-nerd version of a yellow brick road. If only I would have had time to capture a few more…

Posted in Growing, Hard Things, Healing, Heart Things, Messy Things, Noticing, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ECHOES

We’re hearing echoes at R-house this week.

When I yell from the kitchen, “Has anyone seen my keys?” the words bounce off all the empty spaces where the chairs, pillows, artwork, stray shoes, unfolded laundry, piles of homework, and bits of life are nowhere to be seen.

We’re getting the floors done here, which means our living and dining areas are completely empty. Just like they were the week we moved in.

And the emptiness is causing all kinds of echoes.

The kind that take me back to the sunny October day when this sweet yellow house became R-house.

It was ten years ago, almost exactly…

I’m hearing echoes of an evening I spent painting R-girl’s new room alongside a good friend, who stopped mid-stroke, swept her watermelon-pink-tinged paintbrush through the air, and declared: “Julie! This is the house where your kids will grow up!”

She was excited. She knew this house was a blessing for us.

But deep down, I resisted.

“No!” I thought. “This is the house where my first-grade son and fifth-grade daughter will grow until they reach some unspecified age—before the moment when they’ve actually grown up.

“And at some point before they’ve actually grown up, the three of us will either move somewhere new on our continuing adventure, or we’ll combine households with a man we will all have fallen in love with, who will be equally in love with all three of us…

“Or…something.

“But this won’t be the house where my kids grow up, that’s for sure.”

Because, basically, it was impossible to imagine that R-kids ever would grow up.

Also, my personal recollection of growing up was that it seemed to take somewhere just shy of an eternity. And I knew we wouldn’t be in R-house for an eternity.

But what I didn’t realize… is that it actually doesn’t take very many Little League seasons, and Halloween costumes, and Christmas trees, and spring breaks to suddenly reach a point where you look around and find that…you’re not entirely sure…but it’s quite possible that your kids either already are or are just about to be grown up.

So I’m savoring the echoes of days gone by that I’ve been hearing around here this week.

And I’m looking forward to making a few more.

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Here’s to growing up, friends. And letting our kids do the same.

xxoo

 

Posted in Decorating, Growing, Heart Things, House Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Single-Momming | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

WILD AND WONDERFUL


Some days,
more than others,
I realize how truly

impossible

it is
to know where this path
is leading.

No matter how hard
I may try.

(And,
believe me,
I do.)

No matter how much
I might
want to,
I simply cannot see
around that corner.

I cannot know.
I cannot be sure.
I cannot be certain.

And neither
can anyone else.

Which means
I cannot be promised
that things will turn out
the way I want.

But
it also means
I cannot
be assured
that they never will.

There is no one
out there
who can offer me
a guarantee
that might take away
my fear
of certain unknowns.

But,
there is also no one
out there
who can take away
my hope.

And that is why
I choose
to keep
walking into
the wild
and wonderful
and beautifully veiled
unknown.

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Here’s to all we don’t know yet, friends.

And here’s to the whimsical tree tunnel I stumbled upon in downtown Baltimore during a business trip last week!

xo

Posted in Beautiful Things, Cool Things, Finding, Growing, Hard Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Thinking, Wandering, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FOR THE LOVE OF GEOFFREY: QUALITY FIRST

The people who change your life
aren’t always
the ones you expect.

Sometimes
you don’t even realize a person
is altering the course
of where you’re headed
until a few years and seasons
have passed.

And, even then,
sometimes
it’s only after your paths have
veered apart
that you can clearly see the
imprint
a person has left behind.

On Monday I learned
that one of my
unexpected life-changers
has died.

It’s shocking.
And heartbreaking.

He was only 53.

He was a force of life.
He was kind and generous and funny.
He was incredibly talented.

And he had,
quite possibly,
the. most. impeccable. taste.
of anyone I’ve met.

He’s someone I laughed with
and worked with
and fought with
and struggled through challenges with
and became closer to
because of it.

Throughout the course of the past 23 years,
he’s someone I was able to
create great
and beautiful
work with.

In many ways, he’s the reason
I do what I do today.
And if what I do today is
good
in any way,
it’s in large part
thanks to him.

His name was Geoffrey.

I am so very grateful
for all he taught me
and all we shared.

I was just thinking of calling him
for his birthday.

I was just wondering about
his heart condition.

I hope I told him
how he truly touched my life
in wonderful ways.

I think I probably did?
At various points?
In different ways?

I hope so.

But either way,
he’s gone too soon.

I can’t believe it.
And I will miss him dearly.

But, for all of us who knew him,
and loved him,
his impact lives on.

 

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A few weeks ago, the framed vintage raspberry print by my stove fell off the wall and cracked. I’ve always liked that picture, even though it’s become grease-stained and faded over the years.

Geoffrey crossed my mind. I knew he wouldn’t approve of its tattered state.

Geoffrey was the creative director I worked with when I was a young, clueless, rookie copywriter and reluctant designer in Boise, Idaho. In the beginning, it was just the two of us and our fearless leader Doug. Soon we had grown into a successful design firm that took on more of the world than we might have expected.

But while we were doing that, we were also shaping and being shaped by each other in ways I know we all still remember.

No one taught me more about the power of simple, understated design. Or clean lines. Or small details. So this weekend, in a cleaning frenzy, I saw the mess that the broken framed vintage raspberry print had become. And I took it down.

By Monday, it was back up.

You see, 15ish years ago, Geoffrey gave me that framed vintage raspberry print. It was a cast-off from his ever-rotating, perfectly curated collection of art, treasures, and curiosities. He was done with it—and if there’s one thing Geoffrey didn’t do, it was hang on to things he was done with.

It’s been with me ever since—partly because I like it and, honestly, partly because it reminds me of Geoffrey.

So the framed vintage raspberry print is back up in my kitchen again. Cracked and stained and a little worse for the wear, but still proclaiming: Quality First.

Which, I just realized today, is a Geoffrey mantra if I’ve ever heard one.

I think I’ll tackle those grease stains and keep it there a while longer.

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Here’s to loving the ones we’ve lost, friends. And here’s to you, Geoffrey.
xxxooo

Posted in Friend Things, Hard Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Remembering | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

THE NEW RULES OF TRAVEL

vintage-map5-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk
Almost since the day they were born, R-kids and I have been heading off on various adventures around the country.

By plane.
By train.
By car.
By bus.
By Uber.
By bike.
By Disneyland Trolley.

Nothing exotic. But we’ve been lucky.

vintage-map3-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk

Almost everything about traveling with my kids has gotten easier—now that I don’t have to lug strollers, or pack all three sets of underwear, or factor in the walking capacity of significantly shorter people.

But one thing has gotten much, much, much more difficult.

vintage-map7-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczykAgreeing on what we are doing next.

That task used to be 99.9% up to me, with a little bit of input from my mostly agreeable children who pretty much both wanted to go wherever I told them the fun and treats and interesting things could be found.

But no more.

Nope.

Now I have two mostly grown children with two fully grown opinions that are usually on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Or the map.

These opinions are occasionally expressed with an air of disdain toward anyone who may happen to have a different opinion.

It’s delightful.

And it really helps move plans along with minimal stress and effort.

vintage-map6-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczykSo.

The last few trips have inspired me to enact a new set of rules that must be agreed upon by anyone who wants to join the adventure.

The purpose of these rules is to ensure that R-mother does not:
a) Lose her cool.
b) Lose her mind.
c) “Lose” her children on the side of some random, dusty road.

I must say. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how the New Rules have shifted the travel dynamic into more enjoyable territory.

vintage-map4-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk

They haven’t worked magic. But they have worked. (And, yes, even R-mother needs to remember the rules.)

The New Rules of Travel
1. Everyone must be overly tolerant.
2. Everyone must be overly helpful.
3. Everyone must be overly kind.
4. Also, everyone gets a turn.

And by “overly” I mean: Over-the-top. Absurdly. Ridiculously.

Which, when translated into real life, actually just looks like a normal (or sometimes barely perceptible) level of tolerant, helpful, and kind.

But still. That’s a lot better than the alternative.

Right?

Which got me thinking.

Perhaps these New Rules of Travel could be helpful in a few adult scenarios as well?

vintage-map2-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk

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Here’s to making it through this journey together, friends.

xxoo

 

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P.S. This vintage schoolroom map is currently hanging in our living room. It’s a little beat up in places, but what I love most about it—besides the colors—is that this isn’t a real place. It’s a fantastical location that has every kind of major geographical occurrence piled into a few square miles.

If the active volcano would calm down, I’d want to live there.

Plus, the vocabulary list on the bottom. Come on. I mean did you know what an isthmus is?

xo

 

 

 

Posted in Chuckling, Everyday Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Single-Momming, Wandering, Wise Things, Wondering | Tagged , | 3 Responses

REUNITING

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
DNA?

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.

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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.”

Right??

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!

xxoo

 

Posted in Celebrating, Chuckling, Growing, Noticing, Remembering, Wondering | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

THE BEST KIND OF SURPRISE

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!

xxxooo

 

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

CONFESSIONS OF A WHITE HOUSE INTERN

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.

Yep.

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!

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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!

xo

 

by julie rybarczyk

Posted in Cool Things, Fun Things, Remembering | Tagged , | Leave a comment
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