It’s been quite a year. One that I ran out of words for, or at least words that I could bring myself to post. Yet. But the other day, some friends spotted a previous blog post of mine, sitting in my windowsill, waiting to be noticed, and they celebrated it for me.

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk1The story started here, last January:

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And now, believe it or not, it’s here:

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk2So. It looks like we made it. (Through 2014, at least.)

Yes, R-girl is off to college. She’s more than halfway through her freshman year already. Life at R-house looks, feels, and sounds a lot different. It’s just me and R-boy now. And, I think I can say, I’m finally starting to get somewhat used to this new reality.

In fact, I’ve discovered some incredibly sweet and unexpected things here in this very-different world of mine.

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk3But I won’t lie. 2014 was even harder than I thought it would be (and I thought it would be hard).

It took all the energy and grace I could muster, and then some. I’ll admit, I did a little kicking and screaming. And, on top of the actual struggle, I had to constantly fight off the rude voices in my head that kept helpfully pointing out that other people didn’t seem to be having such a hard time with this off-to-college transition, so there clearly must be something wrong with me.

But what I know (and had to be reminded of over and over) is that what other people seem to be doing is beside the point. Right? My journey is what it is. And what it is, sometimes (for any of us), is hard.

It’s hard to end a season of life that you really, truly loved.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a person you’ve looked forward to seeing, and hugging, and teasing, and listening to, and snuggling with, and caring for, and just being around every day for 18 years.

It’s hard to have no actual idea of how the next chapter will look, while holding many fears of how it might.

It’s hard to share someone you once naively thought belonged to you.

It’s hard to figure out what “family” means when there are only two people left in the house.

It’s hard to reconcile that the very thing causing you pain is bringing joy and delight to the person you love—and you absolutely want that (but you also sort of don’t).

It’s hard to figure out how to keep your own sadness from becoming a burden for the person you love—because that really would be the last thing you’d want.

It’s hard to feel left behind.

It’s hard to do it alone.

It’s hard to admit all those things.

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk5So, this might be living proof that I can survive hard things. Even when I don’t want to.

And, I guess I can’t help but notice…

Apparently, even when life involves a lot more letting go than you ever signed up for, and even when you’re so distracted by the hard work of grieving and adjusting that you can barely be trusted with much else—like remembering to provide water (and a bigger pot?) to your 2014 partner—even then, growth happens.

Maybe, especially then.


Posted in Growing, Hard Things, Healing, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Remembering, Single-Momming | Tagged , , | 2 Responses


Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetPerspective,
they say,
is everything.

But sometimes,
it’s hard to find.
Don’t you think?

Or, at least,
it’s hard to know
if the one you currently have
is the right one,
or the better one,
or the only one.

Or if, maybe,
you’re actually
the only one
who is seeing things
the way you do right now.

And if what you’re seeing
is slightly


On those days when you find yourself
whether a different perspective
might be healthier,
or smarter,
or less taxing to maintain,

you may tilt your head this way
and that.

You may screw up your nose
and refocus your eyes.

You may stand on your hands,
survey the neighbors,
check your gauges,
consult the sages,
wash your windows,
open the blinds,
and adjust your altitude.

All in pursuit of a better perspective.

you may find it.

But, other times,
you may find
that what’s in front of you
is truly just a
uphill battle.

No matter how you look at it.

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Here’s to having the courage to let grief be grief, and pain be pain, and tired be tired, friends.

And here’s to caring for ourselves – and each other – in the midst of it.



photo credit to Alex Anne Photography.



Posted in Growing, Hard Things, Healing, Heart Things, Messy Things, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged | 7 Responses


smile image - shorts and longs2Eighteen years ago today,
a smile came into my life
that made my heart skip

a beat

and stole my breath
and permanently invaded
life as I knew it.

It changed me forever in ways
I could never describe,

ways I barely understand

or even know.

That smile –
those pink lips stretched wide
under big, brown, squinted eyes
and round, rosy cheeks –
had power.

It was pure
and deep
and innocent
and free

from pretense or malice.

Some days, that smile was straight silly
or mischief.
Sometimes, it was wild joy
or hilarious delight.
Other days, it was reserved
only for her friends
or her dolls
or art.

Some days, that smile would erupt
at the most awkward of moments,
barely holding back a desperately stifled

acting as a nervous mask
for a bigger feeling
that might suddenly melt into tears
or explode into more giggles.

But always,
that smile has been
a beacon
that points to the beautiful person behind it.

The girl who made me
who taught me love,
who made me better,
who is the kind of gift I’ll never know why I was lucky enough to receive,

who is now,
as of today,
also an adult.

And can legally buy spray paint.

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All my love and hugs to you, R-girl. You and your smile are stunning, and amazing. I love you.


Posted in Beautiful Things, Celebrating, Happy Things, Kid Things, Parenting, Raving, Single-Momming, Wording | Tagged , , , | 2 Responses


Sometimes, when there’s just too much to say, and there are way too many stories to tell, and emotions have been running high, my words can get a little bottled up.

And I have to just let things flow, any which way I can.

So, here goes.

First, this happened.

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And a week or so later, so did this.


I’ve decided that the stories behind and within those pictures are more than I can capture in a blog post. Parts are too tender. Or messy. Or meaningful only to me.

So, instead, I’ll give you a glimpse into R-girl’s grad party…

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…and I’ll tell you three things:

1) Pulling off this party tapped pretty much every emotion in me that you could name.

2) If not for the love and support of a swarm of incredible friends and family, there would have either been no party at all or I would be in the crazy farm.

3) Experiencing the care and sacrifice that people poured out for R-girl – and me – was… beautiful. And humbling.

And incredible.


Oh, and also this:

4) If you don’t live in the Midwest, you might not even know what this whole “grad party” thing is. That might not be a bad thing.

5)  I have a perfectly sized house for three people. Not dozens upon dozens of people.

6) We were pelted by hurricane-ish weather until about half an hour before the open house began. As in, a tree blew down across the street while we were struggling to put the tent up. (The rains continued all day; thank God, the winds died down.) The tent had four sides and we used them all.

7) Fortunately, some of the aforementioned friends scrambled to completely encase my screen porch in plastic – so we didn’t lose that space to the rain.

Which was important because we needed it for this.

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Yep, that’s right. We had a full-service barista in our screen porch – direct from R-girl’s favorite coffee shop, Urban Bean Coffee.

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Urban Bean is where R-girl spent many an evening and weekend during her senior year – doing endless hours of homework. It’s an impeccably designed space that inspired her best work. (And some of her best Instagrams.)

And so, instead of serving the usual lunch spread at her open house, we went with a coffee-and-pastries theme. Because this party was all about R-girl. And this is so her.

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I can’t even begin to tell you how many people spent hours and hours making these amazing pastries. Our table was literally overflowing with the love and creativity and generosity of our friends and family. 

I wish we didn’t end up needing to turn off most of the lights in the house (to keep the espresso machine from continually blowing a fuse). And I wish it hadn’t been quite so crowded in our little house (thanks to the rain). These circumstances made it a bit of a challenge to find – and see – the treat table.

But if I ate sugar, wheat, or dairy, I could confirm for you what I heard over and over from those who found the goodies. It all tasted great. Especially the cake pops.

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And the espresso bar? It was a hit. (Our rainy day was perfect for lattés.)

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And the other beverages looked as good as they tasted.

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Which was all great.

But can I just say?

It was a completely overwhelming experience to one minute be sneaking a picture with R-girl in our empty backyard tent, wondering if anyone would actually show up…

grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk09

and the next minute be surrounded by people from all corners of our lives. People who came to wish R-girl well. A steady stream of people – for four hours straight. So many people it was sometimes impossible to move from one end of our house to the other.

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Even people like my cousin Amy, whose oldest daughter was getting married the very next weekend. She drove four hours round trip to be with us – in the midst of her own chaotic prep work.

grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk23It brought tears to my eyes.

And then there are the people like these who also brought tears to my eyes.

grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk33grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk32Over the past couple of months, these friends (and so many others – you know who you are!!) and my sweet family helped me literally transform our yard, rebuild and paint our screen porch, plan the menu, make the pastries, clean the house, paint party signs, and pick up supplies from all corners of creation. They let me ask for help, borrow their stuff, process plans, and vent as needed. On the big day, they showed up to raise the tent (in the driving rain), move furniture, display the pastries, decorate, manage the kitchen, restock the food, empty the trash, do the dishes, calm my nerves, and pretty much run the show while I mingled.

One friend even ran to Costco the morning of the party to buy me more pastries and beverages because I was panicking about not having enough. Turns out, I had way (way!) more than enough. But I figure the price I paid for all those extras was well worth the soothing it provided for my anxiety.

Oh, and a crew of folks with big, strong muscles tore down the entire operation for me at the end of the day. In about 30 minutes flat.

Truly. I could not have done this without my village.

I’m so very thankful for every one of them.

Because being able to pull off an all-out celebration of R-girl

(and getting this hug from her in return)…

grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk35was priceless.




Posted in Beautiful Things, Celebrating, Decorating, Fun Things, Happy Things, Hard Things, Kid Things, Parenting, Single-Momming, Thanking, Yard Things | Tagged , , , , | 7 Responses


Wow, April. What a month. Let’s skip over the parts about my blog being hacked, and work going berserk, and grad party overwhelm kicking in, and life being generally a little over the top lately and just go right to this:

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The many faces of the ocean.

Is there anything more soothing?

I’ll answer that:


Especially when you’re experiencing that ocean from a sizzling hot, sandy beach. And sometimes in the company of playful dolphins:

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk02dYes, friends, this is where I’ve been – at least for part of this past month.

I escaped to Florida on a last-minute getaway with R-girl.

My dream to take a mother/daughter trip with my graduating senior came true when I got a very generous, unexpected offer to join a good friend and her daughter at their condo for a week. R-girl and I both played hooky from our piles of responsibilities, I promised R-boy his own senior trip in a few years (if I allow him to get that old), and the two of us took off for six days and five nights on beautiful Barefoot Beach, near Naples, Florida.

It was a dream.

Staying in my girlfriend Jamie’s place is basically like staying in a magazine.

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Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetRight?

She’s pulled all of that together on a dime – painting every square inch herself, digging up bargains all over Florida, Minnesota, and the Internet – and creating a haven for the soul.

Beachy. Comfortable. Beautiful. Perfect.

And the best part is this:

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk22

The ocean out every window.

We were warm all the way down to our toes (even me!).

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk07

We soaked in the sun.florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk18We walked miles and miles along Barefoot Beach. Which, by the way is ironically named – because this is what the beach actually looks like:

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk17Amazing for shelling. A little rough on tender toes. (Not complaining.)

R-girl and I even went on a couple of SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) adventures! And a dolphin was jumping ahead of us! I’m not even kidding! Yes, a group of guys on shore kept yelling to us that it was actually a shark but I didn’t fall for that, and I didn’t fall off my board either. (All that yoga is paying off.)

Here’s a pic of our first SUP outing, in the back bays just off Bonita Beach:

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk06

I even managed to pull my phone out of the fancy waterproof box I borrowed to take some pics of the claustrophobic bridge we had to maneuver under. (We were basically spelunking at that point.)

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk32

After that, R-girl and I decided we were SUP pros, so a few days later we rented some boards on the ocean itself.

Which might have been fine on an ordinary day, but we somehow ended up with the windiest, waviest ocean of the week. So, while we tried and tried to get our boards to move in a somewhat southward direction, we were basically the bumbling entertainment for  hundreds of sunbathers on the quarter-mile of public beach. R-girl would be shouting, “Wait for me!” or “I can’t control this thing anymore!” while she’d be floating out to sea, and I would be yelling, “GET BACK HERE NOW” and so she would turn her board around and head in the opposite direction from me. Which I would then also try to do, but it took quite a bit of maneuvering to reverse course. So we’d give each other the 100-yards-removed silent treatment for a while.

It was awesome.

No, really. It was.

Later we’d do photo shoots on the beach at sunset to make up.

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Then we’d dress up and go enjoy an amazing dinner out.

By which I do mean “out.” As in OUTSIDE, people.  One of my favorite things in the entire world: Eating outside and not being cold.

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florida - shorts and longs - 131(She’s drinking Coca Cola, calm down.)

Oh, and I found my new house on the beach:

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florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - 161But more important, I found my breath, my warmth, and myself.

And I had the absolute sweetest time with the girl who means the very most to me in all the world.

The one who will be moving on to a new phase of life before I finish my newest bottle of shampoo.

The one who was a sweet and sassy toddler like five minutes ago.

The one who will be voting in the next election.

The one who brought every kind of camera known to man on our trip, including her Instax with only 10 precious pictures on its not-at-all-digital film.

So if you made it onto one of her Instax pics, you knew you were special.

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I love you, R-girl. Forever and always. You are my sunshine.



Posted in Beautiful Things, Chilling, Cool Things, Fun Things, Happy Things, Parenting, Playing, Single-Momming, Wandering | Tagged , , , | 7 Responses


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.


Posted in Beautiful Things, Friend Things, Hard Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Remembering | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Responses


before things get better,
they just get so much more

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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

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- could it be? -

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
really be
just around the corner.



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


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.


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


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?

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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


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.


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


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