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Truth teller, 14 years and forever

 

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Dear Readers Friends:

Fourteen years ago today I took this little dream of mine to write a blog and made it real.

Fourteen. Years, people!

I went from writing posts like the first one in the shallow end: To blog or not to blog to my most recent bottom of my heart: Is my bulimia showing?

You guys reading my Nathalie’s Notes and coming along bearing witness to my memoir writing in real time have helped me grow as a writer, and a person.

Every time one of you wrote to share something I wrote resonated or made a difference or inspired you to do something different or see something in a new lens, I was reminded I am solidly on my right path.

Thank you!

So about that twisty, turny path … I’ve gotten a few texts and emails from long-time readers and friends wondering “what the hell is up with all the God stuff lately?”

And I answer: “I know, right?!”

Because … well … I’m the least likely person in my own mind to be writing about faith and God stuff. Partly because I’m more comfortable calling it “God stuff” than using other, more formal Jesusy language.

In fact, I barely speaka de Jesus and find it off-putting sometimes when others do. I think it’s because while it’s obvious when people are authentic in saying things like “Lean on the Lord, He’ll show you the way” but it’s also obvious when people speaka de Jesus to be exclusive and as mark of belonging to a club they aren’t sure you are worthy of, and I don’t have to be a biblical scholar to know Jesus ain’t down with that.

So back to the original question: What’s with all the God stuff?

Here’s the thing… When I started writing Nathalie’s Notes I promised to tell as much of the truth, my truth (and that gets tricky to sort out from the tangled truth of other people in my life) as possible … and right now God’s been up in my grill to go a little deeper with that truth telling and to include my faith in it. So I am.

But first I pushed back, hard. As in: “So heeeey, God, that’s really not my thing. There are other people who write so eloquently about you and they use all the right churchy phrases and I just think maybe you should help some of their posts go viral and leave me out of it.”

But then God was all pushy about it and insisting on me doing it in my own way, in my own words, just like always.

Okay, that I could do. I feel like my goal is kinda bridging the middle ground between my friends who are Praising the Lord right now and those who are rolling their eyes. Because I love all of them. Because I understand where all of them are coming from and because I judge none of them. At least not about that, I’m no saint you guys.

Some people are under the impression that because I am being more open about all this God business that it’s new for me. Not exactly.

conversion for me

The writing of this post near and dear to my heart is interrupted by small people who woke up too early and “too hungry to watch a show” while I complete my train of thought.

So, to be continued … it’s hard to say when, they eat all the time and I’m not the extra casserole in the freezer kinda girl. So, tomorrow? Next week? But for sure.

Wishing each of you reading this one of those days were random good things happen AND you have the presence of mind to notice, and embrace, them.

xo,

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Also … let me know if you have any to add to this little list of questions I’m working on answering in the upcoming  weeks.

Nathalie’s Notes FAQ’s*:

What the hell is up with all the God stuff lately?

What are you doing now “that you have more time” :

What do your parents think of your blog:

Does Matt read your blog?

What will your kids think of you sharing all this stuff?

*And by Frequently Asked Questions I actually mean “A few of you have wondered”  but AFOYHW doesn’t really have a ring to it.

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On word counts and deadlines

BREAKING NEWS: I submitted a column three days early.

Mostly because I had two due on the same day and needed to knock one out, but still. In the past I’ve waited until the very. last. minute.

Sometimes, usually when I’m right up on one, I lament my deadlines but then I remember hey! I have a deadline. That means someone is paying me to write, so there’s that.

Also, perhaps more key, without those deadlines there is no way I would have six years of columns to be shaping into a book this fall. Nope. I’d still be waiting for “someday when I have more time.” So, three cheers for deadlines!

In other business, I just send a note to my editor with the subject line: “Oops, I did it again.”

(Though I think I forgot the comma).

Because, alas, I am once again over my column word count. Six hundred words is a challenge for someone like me who can’t Tweet effectively due to the platform’s strict 140 word limit. (One hundred forty?! Come. On!)

But, in my defense I squeezed in a dash of depression, a spoonful of suicide and a sprinkle of God stuff, oh also a titch of volunteerism, all under 1,000 words.

(I started at 2,700 words, so … )

Some people would suggest not trying to get all of that into one column. Those people would struggle less on deadline than I do probably.

Luckily, I have awesome editors who understand we writers each bring our own blend of awesome and annoying to the table.

I happen to have super understanding editors who happen to be less attached to my writing and are able to cut and chop when needed.

One of my favorite graph’s from this new column is:

What does all this have to do with a column about parenting? Well, I'm glad you asked.

One concept I'm trying to consciously impart on my boys is the habit of identifying a need, and then meeting it.

In other words, don't be the guy standing there with his hands in his pockets. Don't be the guy sitting on the couch asking "What can I do to help?" Instead, figure it out. And then go do it.

We’ll see if it makes the cut!

Depression statistics infographic

healthline.com

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Is my bulimia showing?

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This girl, twenty years ago: 

Is feeling so uncomfortable in these senior pictures.

The caption might read: Is my bulimia showing?

I ache sometimes to see old pictures and read old journal entries because I’ve blocked so much out, and yet carry much of it with me still.

Some of this is coming up due to floods of memories coming back as my high school reunion just came and went.

I would’ve loved to go but there were too many other things to budget for and I couldn’t make it work. But just thinking about connecting with people who knew me (to the extent that was possible) two decades ago, brought up some …. stuff. Good stuff. And also, not so good things.

After nearly two decades though I look back on this girl with more kindness and tenderness than anger and anguish. I see now that it was just all part of the plan, maybe not my plan, but …

There is so much I’d say to her to perhaps ease the journey. But then, it would be someone else’s story and if nothing else I have learned to own my story. All of the parts. And to be willing to be vulnerable, to tell the truth and to allow another to feel less alone. Or, perhaps to give insight into a loved one that baffles them. I don’t know the why, exactly only that I feel called and compelled to do so by something larger than my ego. Which, by the way, prefers I keep it a little less real up in here.

So, in no particular order and in a totally disjointed fashion I send these words to me, 20 years ago. And to you, and whoever else might need to hear them.

(Really? Twenty years?!)

I would tell her she is so not fat. And that even if she is, because she will be, the number on the scale is just information. A gauge by which to measure how she’s feeling on the inside. (I am not saying that’s true for everyone, just know that it was for me. And by was I mean is.)

I would ask her: What makes you feel good? Do more of that.

Also I would tell her to be honest with herself, especially with herself. And, if you’re telling the truth binge eating actually does not make you feel good. Ever. It just makes you feel empty instead of full of feelings you can’t digest. And that will feel like a relief.

Until you bloat again with all the big stuff you can’t handle and then need to binge them away again.

But they don’t go away. And you can’t eat the big, scary stuff away and you can’t barf it out of your system either.

You have to deal with them.

Yeah. I know, I would tell her. Sucks, huh?

Except it doesn’t.

Dealing with feelings, the actual messy part, is not so fun. But it beats avoiding them every single time.

People will tell you it’s not pretty to cry. They will say it’s not okay to be angry over something so stupid. They will tell you you’re making a big deal of nothing. They will tell you you’re being too emotional.

That, dear girl, is code for they can’t handle your feelings. But you? You’ve got this. Keep going. The anger will turn into sadness which will turn into acceptance and you will do things with that acceptance. You will “get” people. You will know without knowing. You will be okay with other people’s big, messy feelings and the world needs that.

You will learn to stand in the presence of hard feelings and let them be, yours or those of others. And you will learn to breathe through them. You will help other people feel okay. And that will mean something to you. It will mean everything to you.

You will learn what belongs to you and what does not. And you will learn to stand in the space of someone else’s disappointment in you and  be okay. For real.

I wish you got there faster, but you’re here now, and that’s all that exists anyway. Just, right now.

It will take you till you’re running out of thirties but it will happen.

And p.s. that stuff you think you can’t handle? You totally can. Not all at once, but you’re not alone and you never have been.

It felt like it because you didn’t trust other people to be there for you. You didn’t tell them what you really needed. Because you didn’t know.

If you only help others without ever letting them return the favor, you’re not being gracious and you’re not letting people love you back. Do that sooner.

I would tell her if you have to smoke to get a break at work, get a different job. Those quick cigarette breaks between bussing tables turn into 12 yeas of smoking a pack a day. Which, if you were being honest, you’d have to admit didn’t make you feel good either.

I would tell her you will never be “popular” until you stop caring about being popular. This will baffle you until you realize that no one ever really feels “in.” Ever. Even in the in crowd someone doesn’t get the memo that collars are being turned up today, but you won’t know that because on the outside looking in it seemed pretty perfect at that table. Later you’ll remember just as fondly the fun you had with your friends eating lunch on the floor by the band room (but will wonder why there?) And by lunch I mean hot pockets, Diet Coke and Sprees. Every day. For a year. It will be a long time before you stop trying to punish yourself for being born. And you’ll wish you did it sooner.

But now you know. And, again, now is all we have.

Oh, also: He won’t call you back unless you don’t care if he calls you back.

And, you’ll do better in the interview if you don’t care if you get the job, by which I mean if you don’t seem all nervous and desperate because you know you’ll be okay either way. Nothing truly important ever hinges on one thing outside of your control. Nothing. Ever.

Those are all lessons in irony. Also, non-attachment. That’s a thing. This will be one of your life lessons, at least from this vantage point there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. You will come to loathe the expression: “You just can’t get attached to the outcome.” Because you will. And then you’ll let go. And then magic happens. Every. Single. Time.

You’ll know this because you kept a journal and there is proof that this pattern is a Thing.

I would tell her to skip the glamour shots, you’re just not that girl. A ponytail with a pen in your hair is how you roll.

Someday, after a lot of therapy, you will decide you might, after all, be a good enough mother. And you will have kids even when it starts to seem impossible. And those kids will actually form a habit of looking for something to write with and then come to you to bend down so they can pluck your pen out of your hair. And this will make you oddly proud.

Take notes, on everything. You’ll never regret that. Even when looking back makes you cry and cringe. Even when your mom reads it, even when your best friend reads it and even when your boyfriend finds it. You might consider getting better at hiding it. Just sayin’.

Those notes are how you will remember where you’ve come from and lay track for where you’re going.

Because, you see, right now turns into yesterday in a blink. And yesterday informs today but without your notes it’s easy to forget the story of how you got to here.

Right now.

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(You guys, I’m going to sleep on this before I share it. If you see it, there is so much more that came up here that I might just turn it into a series of posts. Or I might leave it in the draft pile forever. But right now … this girl needs to go to bed).

So, also – I know I make a living describing things in words. In keeping with my lessons in irony I can’t seem to put into words what kind of writing this is exactly. Thoughts?

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Have we met?

Have we met? Like ever in the history of before? Or perhaps I sent you an email the one time? An email about say, something you had posted on Craigslist or perhaps I once applied to work at your company?

Possibly you work for a customer support company at Amazon or any of the other companies I’ve interacted with since I had an email account?

Maybe we dated briefly but haven’t talked since we broke up?

Maybe we were really close at one point and have lost touch over the years?

Maybe we were never close at all and continued an awkward friendship because, well, awkward?

Have we not spoken since we stopped being friends after That One Night (there are more than one of those, so pick whichever one applies).

Well, Dear People I’ve ever emailed—even just the one time—you heard from me this week in a short, personalish email where I address you by name announcing that here after all this time the only thing I really have to say to you is that:

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

Funny story though. I didn’t have a professional network on LinkedIn until I spammed all of you with that little gem.

Okay, yes I guess I did have a dud account I’d once started a couple years ago in response to a request such as this one from a friend.

Periodically I’d get an “invitation to connect” and would drop down a rabbit hole of trying to remember my password or my email (It’s 2014 and we haven’t found a way to narrow down which one is wrong?!) Twenty minutes later I’d move on, cursing LinkedIn and committed to ignoring future requests.

Until this week when I got one from my friend Debi and thought, you know what? It’s time to figure this out. So I created a new one. Fooled you, LinkedIn. And then, turnabout being fair play and all I was tricked, or more accurately I failed to understand the prompt and said “yes” when I should’ve said “no.”

(Why yes, many of those That One Night stories start with that exact same decision-making process.)

Oh, and then there are my friends and family who were wondering “what’s with the weird email?” Or my dad who reminded me he’s not into all this social media business.

I have a bit to learn myself, clearly.

In fact if you really do want to hook up connect link up, and you search Nathalie Hardy – you’ll see two accounts for me. Let’s pretend the one with me in a swimsuit, on a beach, does not exist. It doesn’t take a social media expert to know that’s a picture for My Space Facebook, not LinkedIn. Of course, I can’t delete it because of the aforementioned problem.

Minus the lame feeling that I reached out to a bunch of random people, it was actually fun connecting with some long lost names and faces.

Also, after poking around the site a bit, I get it now. LinkedIn is pretty cool.

So, for those who have long advised me to get a LinkedIn account. Done.

If you are one of the 38 people I’ve ever met who didn’t get that email and would actually like to connect there, here’s the link.

And I’m totally not going to take it personally that with all those emails I have just the 106 “connections.”

Nope, not going to let that get to me at all.

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Say it to my face. Wait, no.

Catch kids being good

 

When I wrote last week’s column “Because I said so” it really did start as a ragey rant, kind of more along the lines of this funny essay a friend sent me after mine ran in the paper.

Instead of running the ragey, ranty version detailing the fun, insulting things people have said to me about my mothering I decided to run more of a Public Service Announcement (sorry, I could write PSA but after covering county government I’m loathe to write in acronyms).

It was met with, uh, mixed reviews. Which is to be expected. Boundary setting isn’t typically met with open arms, I get that.

But I am finally understanding in my late 30s that if I don’t set boundaries and (here’s the key) tell people what they are MY arms end up folded across my chest while I go around feeling all burdened and pissy and ain’t no one got time for that!

But I digress.

I have this idea that we individually can change the world by our daily interactions with others. Okay, maybe people like Mother Theresa and Gandhi had these ideas first but those of us here know are charged with carrying that vision out, I think.

Combing two of my favorite things: committing random acts of kindness and talking to strangers I wanted to share this little think I do that creates a wave of positive feelings and connection.

I wrote about it a while ago in this column: Passing on the gold, and would love to remind us to make this a regular practice. It is such a simple way to make a significant impact.

Here’s the concept:

What if, instead of kvetching about misbehaving kids, we looked instead for opportunities to catch them being good?

And then, what if we took it a step farther and told on them?

If you’ve ever approached a parent to ask if the child in the blue shirt belongs to them you’ll instantly get body language communicating a weary: “What now?”

Odds are, if you tell them something good you noticed their kid doing you will be met with a stunned, but delighted expression.

Even better, let the kid overhear you tattling on their good behavior.  That’s exactly the kind of little thing that can give a child, and parent, a big dose of encouragement.

One of my favorite writers Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastary fame, wrote this funny, yet poignant essay highlighting exactly how a thoughtful Other can help a mama out.

She She was at Target around Christmas and her daughters were having a checkout line meltdown. Instead of meeting with any sympathy from The Others she realized the looks of horror and judginess were directed at her. And then Officer Superhero approached to teach the girls a lesson about disturbing the peace. 

I love this essay. To read it for yourself click here.

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Take pride in 'mama' medals

Passing on the gold

MAR 3, 2010 | COMMUNITY

By NATHALIE HARDY | March, 2010

Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register


I nearly submitted a column of record-breaking brevity this month. I had just five words in mind: "This page intentionally left blank."
When my editor called to ask me if I'd lost my mind, I figured I could pass it off as an ironic portrayal of my life as the mother of both a toddler and a newborn - a page out of a life where writing seems to be limited to lists of questions for the doctor and checks made out to the hospital.
But then something kind of cool happened.
The day after watching Shaun White win another gold medal snowboarding in the half-pipe, I mentioned to a friend how much I admired his mad tricks, raw talent and pure enthusiasm. "I wish I could be as awesome as Shaun White at anything," I said, "even for a day."
"You are," my friend answered, pointing to the boys. "The Olympics are just games. This is real life, only there's no spotlight."
As I sat there with the baby's fresh spit-up in my hair, most of Sam's dinner in my lap and hormones still going crazy in my body, I got a little choked up. As small as it may seem, in a job where guilt and criticism are all too common, there's no such thing as too many compliments.
As I basked in the warmth of my friend's praise, it felt a little like someone had draped an imaginary medal around my neck.
I haven't mastered the McTwist. And I'd never heard of a "double cork" before I googled "Shaun White."
But come to think of it, I suppose I could qualify to compete in the Olympics with a few tricks of my own. I'd proudly compete in speed-showering, toddler-wrangling and tandem diaper-changing.
Since I know I'm not alone in an under-appreciated field of work, I got to thinking about comedian Bill Engvall's "Here's your sign" campaign, warning people they were about to come into contact with stupidity. It was embraced by enough people that I'm thinking we could start our own version - more helpful, albeit less humorous.
I have in mind a "Here's your medal" movement. If you see a parent doing something you respect, tell them. It's that simple.
It'll help make up for all the times they have to skulk out of the store for taking their toddler in too close to nap time. Or is that just me?
We spend our time sweeping Cheerios instead of events. So we are ultimately judged by our conscience - and our children - instead of placards held up by a panel of experts.
While the Olympic torch is extinguished during the closing ceremonies, the torch we light for our children never goes out. Instead, it burns in our hearts forever, lighting a path through the darker times of parenting.
For parents, victory isn't a game. It isn't even something tangible. Victory for me has nothing to do with triple axles or signature tricks.
I celebrate moments when I manage to get my kids to sleep simultaneously or see Sam share his toys without being asked. Sometimes, a win around here is simply persuading Sam to sit still at the dinner table and actually eat some of his food.
Getting a column done on deadline, with no child care, requires typing most of it with one hand. Now that's the kind of victory I'm proud to celebrate.
It's not the life of a super-star athlete. No one is singing the national anthem in my honor.
But I wear my "mama" medals proudly. I hope you'll join me in passing on the gold.


Nathalie Hardy is a local freelance writer who writes in the margins of her life with two busy little boys, a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting and a sweet, semi-trained Labrador.


Because I said so

Because I said so
By NATHALIE HARDY | August, 2014

Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register

img205img206Six years. It took six years for me to reach my threshold for accepting advice and critiques on my parenting from The Others, which includes family, friends and random strangers.

For those who haven't met them, my boys are 6 and 4-years-old and are absolute angels at all times.

I kid. Besides maybe those keeping them safe there are no angels at the Hardy house, just a pair of awesome, typical boys.

While the first draft of this column was kind of ragey, I decided it would be more helpful instead to issue this public service announcement: People, just because you don't see me discipline my children for misbehaving does not mean it doesn't happen.

If I don't spank my kid right then and there for behaving badly, please don't assume I think the transgression is cute, funny or acceptable. Instead, if you will, please assume that I'm handling it, or that I will handle it shortly. My way. Because I'm the mom.

If it appears that the situation is out of control, which I admit happens when both children seize the opportunity to test me at the same time feel free to offer some kind, non-judgey back up.

Or, even better, help a mama out. This week I had two instances where people helped me drive a lesson home instead of being jerks about the fact that kids are relatively new to the planet and are still figuring it all out.

At the library last week, the boys went to grab a movie. Except when I looked up, they were approaching me with arm loads of them. I was mortified at first that they made more work for someone but quickly realized I needed to make it uncomfortable for them instead of me so they'd learn from it.

I explained the problem, and asked how they wanted to fix it. They apologized to the children's librarian, Ms. Amanda, and then asked her to teach them how to put the movies away properly. She took a few minutes to do that, and they spent the next five fixing their mistake. Parents and children need more Ms. Amandas and less reproachful glaring.

A few days later I took my youngest to Velour Vintage Store where I bought what Jake described as "a zebra princess dress." As I paid for it, he admired a watch. I paused to check the price on something. I noticed Jake's hand was in his shirt. He said he had an itch. And, apparently, a sudden watch-sized bump. He looked uncomfortable. I let him walk a little closer to the door so experienced that feeling in your stomach when you're doing something wrong. Of course, I knew we'd be talking about it later.

By now the store owner was aware of what was happening and he gave me the grace to deal with the situation. I kneeled beside my son and told him I had a sad feeling he was about to find out what happens to people who steal. I told him I would turn my back and and give him one minute to make the right choice.

As I turned away, the owner took over watch, so to speak. When Jake put it back, the owner gave me a thumbs up and Jake appeared relieved. I suggested he apologize to the owner, and he did. The owner graciously accepted his apology. By letting me work through it, this man helped set up a lesson Jake won't soon forget. He's still talking about how he almost did a very bad thing. Now, I can remind him of that experience and he knows exactly how it feels when you know you're doing something wrong even if his head says he wants something like, say, a fancy watch.

To the chagrin of some, the era of shame-based parenting strategies and spanking kids for the sake of proving you "did something about it" is kind of over. I say "kind of" because there are throwbacks to the old school ways of raising children who insist that all my kids need "is a good spanking." For every single thing they do wrong.

But that "a swat cures all" approach just doesn't factor into my end goal which is to raise kind, thoughtful, creative, confident and resilient children.

I realize that people care about how these younger generations turn out, and because of that I get that family, friends and strangers at Safeway feel they are invested in the outcome of these little ones.

For those reasons I edited my ragey rant into what I hope is a message that translates into a call for grace in how you respond to children in public, and while you're at it extend some grace to those of us making our way as parents whether or children are 2 days, 2 years, 12 or 20-years old.

While I welcome stories about what did and didn't work for other people whose kids are older, and I love swapping tips with people who, like me, are still stepping on Legos, I am done with people "should-ing" on me.

So, my dear family, friends and random strangers here's the thing: Thanks for caring enough about my kids to have an opinion. Or, perhaps it's that you care so much about your opinion, but either way, next time you feel like questioning how I'm handling something, call a friend because my answer for why I'm doing things the way I do them is simple: because I said so.

Contact Nathalie Hardy at nathalie AT nathaliesnotes DOT com.

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