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.

 

__

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.

__
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

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

xxoo

 

__

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 , | 1 Response

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.

__
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!

__

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

YOU FATHERS MATTER. A LOT.

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
strong,
wise,
safe,
steady,
tender,
protective,
wacky,
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
loved,
known,
and treasured.

To the fathers who are
missed,
grieved,
and longed for.

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

You matter.

More
than you probably know.

More
than you might have intended to.

More
than anything can ever change.

Thank you for giving life.

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

Nothing can ever
replace
the father that is
you.

__

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!

xo

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

NOT THE END

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
escape.
I curse this game.

But
all
I
see
is what is now,
and what is not.

And
all
I
feel
is what I wish
and what is lost.

And
all
I
know
is I am here
and I can
breathe.

So I will
breathe.

And I will
breathe.

And I will
breathe.

And, somehow,

I’ll believe

that this
moment

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.

xxoo

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

CHANGES PART TWO

So.

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.

xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

CHANGES PART ONE

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: http://alexannephotography.pass.us/prom2016
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.

13173258_10206077896414960_8692042707245484384_o
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.

Tomorrow.

xo

 

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

TIME CHANGE

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.

xo

 

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