THE ROAD HOME

There’s nothing quite like the road that leads to here:

fort snelling cemetary - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk2

Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of walking beside a man – and his family – as they traveled that road together. Once it became clear that there was no turning back, once they knew for certain where they were headed – that the COPD had reached its final stage – the entire family gathered round and buckled up.

They had no idea how long this road might be, or how bumpy things might get, but they knew one thing for sure: No one would be left behind.

They would make this journey together.

And so they cried. They laughed. They sipped coffee. They told stories. They ate dinners. They cleaned up. They said goodbyes. They made amends. They teased each other. They hugged each other. They watched movies. They held hands. They sang songs. They laughed some more. They worried. They tried not to worry. They waited. They prayed.

They talked about where this road was leading, as plainly as if this road was leading to the world’s largest ball of twine or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or some other strange place that we’ve all heard of but never seen.

They wondered what it would be like. They hoped the journey would be peaceful, at least at the end. Especially at the end.

And, mercifully, it was.

Even the very last leg of this road, the one that the rest of us were invited to join – with its police escort and winding procession of cars – was blanketed in a peaceful spring snow coming down so heavy and thick that we could barely see the blinking hazard lights of the car ahead. All the world was veiled, and quiet. Surreal. Serene.

The rows of white tombstones disappeared into the weather.

fort snelling cemetary - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk3We all stood in the snow, huddled together for warmth and comfort, and said a final goodbye.

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I’ve had many goodbyes over the past few years. Some harder than others. This one was not easy, for sure. It’s not easy to watch his family walk out this great loss. Phil left behind so much love, which makes this both more painful and less painful at the same time. But it’s soothing to know that he’s getting what he’s wanted for so long – slow, deep lungfuls of air.

At least we can know that.

We were only at the gravesite long enough for the three rifle volleys, and the folding of the flag, and one last prayer, but by the time we got back into our cars to drive away the snow had already stopped and, within minutes, the sun was peeking through.

The journey is over.

A brave and beautiful soul is finally home.

And the rest of us are left with the memories of an amazing man, and a slightly better sense of how to walk out our own road, wherever it may lead.

xo

Posted in Beautiful Things, Friend Things, Hard Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Remembering | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Responses

SPRING BLUES

Sometimes,
before things get better,
they just get so much more

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk8

ugly.

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk6And sometimes,
when that thing that you thought was
the problem
finally begins to loosen its grip
and melt away,

and you start to feel that you simply cannot wait another moment
for the sweet relief of change,

you stop to survey the situation
and discover

that things actually look worse now

than they did before.

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk7You start to realize that even if you ever do finally get rid of that brutally cold mountainous mess

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk4you’ll be left with a flat, dead, muddy, brown one.

And at least the cold mess was sometimes pretty to look at.

So you feel yourself turning around,
heading inside,
bracing once more for the endless struggle.

But then,
over there,
on that the corner up ahead,
you spot a trickle,
just a tiny stream

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk3

of
- could it be? -
hope.

And you follow its path and begin to see it pool,
and flow,
and gain momentum.

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk9And then you take a breath
and look to the sky,

which, you notice,
does seem brighter,
and bluer,
and fresher
than before,

spring mess - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk5and you wonder

if new life might
actually,
truly,
really be
just around the corner.

xo

__

Here’s to the second day of spring, friends. And the muddy, magical, emotional roller coaster that lies ahead.

 

Posted in Everyday Things, Growing, Hard Things, Messy Things, Noticing, Wondering | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response

FINDING SOLUTIONS

One of my favorite parts of being a mom is watching my kids solve things for themselves.

rubiks cube-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk1Sometimes I’m privileged enough to get a glimpse into their process – to hear them struggling through the mess of it, bouncing back from their mistakes, and zeroing in on what might or might not work for them.

Other times I just happen to stumble upon the results.

rubiks cube-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk3Many of the challenges R-kids have had to face in their young lives are things that I never encountered as a kid, or even as an adult.

Others I did.

Either way, when I witness one of my children coming up with a solution or mastering a challenge – especially to problems that I once believed insurmountable – it’s pretty stunning.

rubiks cube-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk2Like audible-gasp stunning.

And sometimes I get to enjoy that experience over and over, everywhere I turn, for days on end.

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Lucky, lucky me.

xo

Posted in Everyday Things, House Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Raving, Single-Momming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

SCOUTING AROUND

I was never a Girl Scout.

If I had been, perhaps my dresser, closet, floor – uh, let’s stop there – would not so easily reach a state of total (creative) disarray? Perhaps.

I am, however, a girl. And a bargain scout. And a fashion scout. And a scout of all things vintage, retro, and awesome.

pink bedroom jewelry | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk02So when I spotted the random sweetness of this Girl Scout sign at my fave Hunt & Gather (for mere pocket change – $7), I knew it belonged on top of my dresser.

However, there wasn’t much room on top of my dresser.

Because being a scout means I love options: Finding them. Wearing them. Displaying them. Piling them up until they outgrow all my hooks and create a tangled mess of bedazzled possibilities.

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So, this weekend – after bouncing the vague concept around in my mind for at least a month – I finally pulled out the hammer, tapped in a few nails,

and, voila…

fully accessible options and possibilities.

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By now I was on a roll, so I grabbed my glue gun and whipped up a trio of magnetic blossoms – based on an idea I had seen at a junk fair (mini pastry tins + circles of fabric + buttons + magnets). I used them to hold a few more necklaces on my metal cabinet.

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Then I tossed a couple of strands of bling onto this vintage dry-cleaning hanger (which, by the way, somehow found its way to Minnesota from the New Jersey city of my birth)…

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..left a few of the heavier pieces right where they had been, on the good old-fashioned closet doorknob…

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…and, wow.

Do you see that?

It’s the top of my dresser. Hasn’t been spotted in months.

pink bedroom jewelry | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk18Maybe one of these can count as my official Jewelry Cleanup badge?

pink bedroom jewelry | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk08xo

P.S. I’ll post a few more pics of my ongoing bedroom refresh coming soon… Which I’m saying out loud mostly so that I will continue this project. (Because you should see the other half of my room right now.) Stay tuned.

P.P.S. I know. That’s alotta pink.

 

 

Posted in Creating, Decorating, Finding, House Things, Junking, Messy Things, Organizing, Styling | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

MEANT TO BE (VALENTINE’S DAY REPRISE)

When love is right, how long does it take before you know?

pink couch | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk5A month? A moment? A single, meaningful glance?

pink couch | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk3Does love happen more quickly when shape, and size, and curves are involved?

pink couch | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk2Does it usually take a while to sink in?

pink couch pink sofa | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk6These are questions I wonder about sometimes, and the other evening I gained a few bits of insight… Want to sit back while I share?

First, timing is everything. The one who isn’t right for you now might actually be the One who is perfect for you down the road.

Two. Don’t worry about height. You could miss out on the One whose soul matches yours exactly.

Three. Don’t settle. You deserve nothing less than your One.

Four. Stay open. Because when you think your chances are over, your One might be just around the corner.

Five. When you do find that One, you may know pretty quickly. The timing, the fit, the feel – it will be right. And, when it is, jump. Move. Risk. Go.

pink couch pink sofa | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk7Don’t lose that One.

Now, lest you think those are just cotton-candy thoughts with no basis in reality, let me tell you. I picked up each one of those nuggets from a beautiful girl named Tammy, who was telling me the story of her and her fiancé:

How they met,
how she had always pictured herself being with someone a little taller,
how they dated,
how it wasn’t quite right so they broke up,
how a year or two passed,
how they reconnected in January,
how they knew – they knew -
and how they are already engaged and planning a dream wedding in Croatia for this September.

She told me all this while we were waiting for her fiancé and his muscles to come help us move the pink couch that I was buying from her.  (!!)

pink couch pink sofa | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk8The same pink couch I first met at Tammy’s condo ten months ago, but who just wasn’t the right One for me at that time.

The same pink couch that once belonged to Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby!), with its comfy down cushions and adorable vintage shape and exact shade of pink that is sprinkled all throughout R-house.

The same pink couch that for some insane reason had never sold, and had just recently been re-listed on Craigslist – right at the very time that I dared to type “pink couch” into the search field again - for one-third (!!) of the previous asking price (thanks to the impending marriage previously mentioned in this post).

pink couch pink sofa | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk 12The same pink couch that is now sitting in R-house (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) because, as it turns out, there was a bigger plan for us.

And we were meant to be.

pink couch pink sofa | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk 11Meet my new love, friends.

xo

__
P.S. This post was originally published in March 2012, here. And this story is even sweeter if you read Part One, here.

.

Posted in Beautiful Things, Decorating, Dreaming, Finding, Fun Things, Happy Things, Heart Things, House Things, Raving, Wise Things, Wording | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

BRING IT: A PLAYLIST FOR FIGHTERS

For every one of those inspiring athletes
in Sochi
who are putting it all on the line.

For the ones who are
facing down fears
and doubts
and doubters

pushing past limits
blowing past barriers

giving
risking
and sacrificing
it all

feeling the pain
while
straining for the prize

crashing
slamming
scraping
and hitting
every single wall along the way

again and again

but, somehow, never giving up
not now
not ever

still fighting to win
still believing they can

still boldly declaring to the entire world
exactly what it is they want
and just how badly they want it

even if they may never actually get it.

For all of them

and for the rest of us too,
who are doing exactly the same thing in our everyday lives,

a playlist.

 

Enjoy.

xo

__

P.S. This is music for when it’s basically you against the world. To listen, just click the photo above, or go here. These are the songs that currently keep me fighting the good fight.

Rise Up | Green River Ordinance
Unstoppable | Rascal Flatts
Can’t Box Me In | Honor Society
Can’t Stop | Ozomatli
Eye of the Tiger | Survivor
It’s My Life | Bon Jovi
I Won’t Back Down | Tom Petty
The Climb | Miley Cyrus
I Was Here | Lady Antebellum
Man in Motion | From St. Elmo’s Fire
Titanium (feat. Sia) | David Guetta
Hello Hurricane | Switchfoot
This is Not The Last Time | David Cook
Let it Go | Demi Lovato
Stand Up | James Durbin
Remember the Name | Fort Minor
Never Say Never (feat. Jaden Smith) | Justin Bieber
Hall of Fame (feat. will.i.am) | The Script

You may recognize a few of these songs from this playlist that I made for the last Winter Olympics. Enjoy (again).

P.P.S. What are your fight songs? Please tell me. I’m always looking for more…!

Posted in Fun Things, Heart Things, Inspiring | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Responses

FOR THE LOVE OF PHIL

On Tuesday, I got to hang out with one of my favorite guys on the planet. I don’t see him very often, but when I do, it makes my day. His name is Phil and he’s the dad of my best friend, Emily. She’s pretty crazy about him. Sometimes she almost can’t stand how precious he is. It makes her heart nearly burst. If you knew Phil, you would understand.

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Whenever I’m around Phil, he asks me lots of questions about my life and listens to my answers intently, a trait I appreciate in a man. His favorite thing to ask, with a twinkle in his eye, is, “How about your love life??” Emily says that when I’m not around, he will ask her for updates and she’ll fill him in on what she knows. This cracks me up. I think it cracks them up too.

As much as Phil enjoys the stories, he always maintains a protective stance, wanting to make sure I don’t settle for something less than I need or deserve, and applauding me when I don’t.

He might not ever know how much that blesses me. To feel seen and pursued and cared about by him. To know he’s in my corner.

On Tuesday he showed me this beautiful picture of himself and his new bride, Jane, taken a few years back by a friend of theirs.

pops - shorts and longs - 2

I know, right?

How sweet is that?? An incredibly handsome and lovely couple, at the very start of their journey together. No idea what lies ahead, but ready for what may come.

Across the room from that picture, on the opposite wall, hangs this one:

pops - shorts and longs - 1

That’s Phil and Jane, right there in the middle, surrounded by all their kids and grandkids.

There is so much story in between those two pictures. Good, and hard, and brave, and silly, and sacrificial, and ordinary parts to the story – and all the rest of it too.

Look what their love turned into.

Even the hospice technician who showed up to assemble a special bed in the living room – the kind that comes with a remote control and a rolling bedside table; the kind you need when your life is transitioning onto a new, sacred, and still somewhat uncertain path; the last bed you’ll probably ever use – even that guy commented on the picture with all the kids.

pops - shorts and longs - 3

It’s striking.

And it’s even more striking if you know the loving, funny, genuinely amazing people in that picture.

What a legacy.

pops - shorts and longs - 4

What a gift.

What a man.

xxoo

pops - shorts and longs - 31

Posted in Beautiful Things, Friend Things, Hard Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Raving | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Responses

HEY, FEBRUARY

A friendly note to the month ahead:

snow piles - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk1

Dear February,

Heads up.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but January dumped about 25″ of snow and 20 below-zero days on us.

Yeah. It wasn’t very Minnesota nice.

snow piles 2 - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk1

So, I don’t know what you have in store, other than the Winter Olympics (which are basically 17 days of Christmas morning for me, and this fact alone could potentially allow me to overlook any nastiness you may have planned), but I do think you should know:

We’ve had it up to here.

snow piles 2 - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk3

And we don’t have room for much more.

So, tread carefully.

snow piles 2 - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk4

Because that whole Olympics thing you have going for you could totally backfire should you, say, push this polar vortex situation to a point that forces me to miss hours of Olympics programming in order to dig myself out my front door, shovel my sidewalks and driveway, and rake my roof.

Repeatedly.

But you’re only three days old and, so far, you’ve been pretty well-behaved. So, for now, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.

Also, I have noticed the additional hour of sunshine you’ve been adding to the scene every evening. That is pure loveliness. Thank you for that, and outstanding job.

Please keep it up.

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Looks like we’re in this together, February. Let’s try to make the best of it.

And, remember. I’m watching you.

.
snow piles - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk2

xo

Posted in Everyday Things, Noticing, Yard Things | Tagged , , , | 3 Responses

HOT DATE

Yes, I’ve had a few. Hot dates, that is. They are a by-product of the season I somehow find myself in: Dating. My life sometimes involves things like going out. Meeting people. Putting myself “out there.” Testing the waters. Staying open. Being brave. Dressing up. Eating at restaurants. Not paying the bill.

But do you wanna hear about one of the hottest dates I’ve had in the last several months??

This date was different right from the start. For one, it was scheduled to start anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a Wednesday. That’s as specific as I could get for an arrival time. He didn’t dress up (and neither did I). He didn’t bring me, buy me or make me dinner. And I spent most of the date working upstairs in my office while he was in my kitchen.

Working on this.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk03Yep, this hot date was with my Centerpoint Energy appliance repairman. Bob.

It wasn’t our first date.

Bob’s been here several times over the years, rescuing me from the life of a pioneer woman by taking care of various technological breakdowns as they arise. Each time he’s been here – to fix the fridge, or the dishwasher, or the washing machine, or the dryer – he has commented on my vintage pink stove. All the repairmen do. One of them compared it to a Cadillac, with a twinge of automotive admiration in his voice.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk06

But none of them thought it would be possible to repair. It’s just too old. Parts would not be available.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk02Which was a bummer.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk07Not a big enough bummer to make me want to trade in my stove, but big enough to mean that, while both the left- and the right-side ovens (yes, there are two) heated up perfectly, only the right-side burners worked. The two lefties were lukewarm, at best. Fortunately, for our little family of three, two burners were usually enough – and at least the stove’s custom griddle/grill attachment provided a bit of extra counter space.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk04

Then, when Bob was here in October to fix a hose (or something?) on the dishwasher, he looked at my stove again and decided to test that no-parts theory. He rung up the warehouse right then and there to see if, by chance, there was any bit of hope, and – glory be! – why yes, the burners were available and, yes, four of them would be packaged up immediately and shipped to my front door.

Be still my heart.

“Call me when they arrive,” said Bob. “I’ll come back to install them.”

It was a date.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk09
A date so hot that when Bob called me into the kitchen to show off his work, he had all four burners firing at full blast and I felt like I was walking into a North Woods sauna.

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All of which means that, this week…

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk11…when I was

1) making homemade chicken soup for my sick R-boy while also
2) sautéing turkey brats and apples for R-girl and me, with
3) rice simmering for all of us, and
4) the tea-pot brewing my ginger tea…

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk13

…it was no problem.

pink retro 50s stove - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk12

No problem at all.

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Thanks to my very hot date with Bob.

xo

 

P.S. Have you heard the story of my vintage pink stove? Check out this post from the past:

BECAUSE I CAN.

retro pink sunbeam mixer | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk

Posted in Cool Things, Decorating, Everyday Things, Extra Things, Finding, House Things, Junking | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses

MORE THAN WORDS

to say - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk

You know those conversations
that you need to
but don’t want to
have
because you know that once you do,
some (small or large) chapter of your life is
(probably)
going to
end
or at least change significantly?

You know how,
once you drum up the courage,
and the words have actually started
to fall off your lips,

something like tunnel vision
sets in

and you are no longer aware of anything else
going on around you,

and yet

the look and feel of that exact moment –
the precise angle of the light
across the floor,
the color palette
in your peripheral vision,
the pressure
of your legs
upon the chair,
the length
of that crack
across the wall,
the heat
of the phone
against your cheek,
the heightened pounding
of your heart,
the knot
in your stomach,
the look

on the other person’s
face –

stays etched in your mind forever?

You know how sometimes
the thing you need to say
or ask
for your own sake
might mess things up
for someone else
and leave
both of you with
a new struggle?

But you are pretty sure you still need to say it?

You know that shaky feeling you get
when you just said a hard thing –
because it was the best thing you could do
with what you know
and who you are
in that moment in time –

even though…

there is always a chance that you might be
wrong

or that you might need to
unsay
or adjust
some of it later?

You know how life is a perpetual series
of decisions
and choices
and recalibrations
that must be made –
even when we don’t want to
or aren’t quite ready to
or just aren’t sure –

because not making a decision
is also a decision

and not saying anything
is also saying something?

Me too.

to say 2 - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk

xo

Here’s to saying it, friends.

With as much grace and kindness as we can muster.

Posted in Growing, Hard Things, Noticing, Thinking, Wise Things, Wording | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Responses