Mid-life Manifesto

The bad news is there's been kind of a trainwreck over here and my writing has been reduced to mostly lists and notes on the backs of envelopes. That whole Project Life thing I was so passionate about? Just in my head these days. But I saw this mini-quiz trending on social media this evening and thought I'd take a minute to ask the boys to answer the questions, unprompted. Their answers remind me so much of why I love them, their hearts and the way they use their words! 

The good news? While I may have turned the corner a little too sharp and landed on my ass, I'm up, dusted off and moving forward. And that feels pretty awesome. 

One of my lists just so happens to be plans for getting this blog back up and running instead of just being a platform for posting clips, because let's be honest, that gets, you know, old. 

Earlier this year one of my coworkers, jokingly (?) said I was a trainwreck in response to hearing I'd misplaced my debit card. And my phone. Also a few other key things, like,maybe my mind. 

"What's a nicer way to say 'trainwreck'?" 

"Hot mess?" 

"Fine." 

Now though, I'm more at a lukewarm mess status. 

And I think I might stay there forever. I'm at that eff it, I'm 40 ... I may never be a person who folds all my clothes and does all the adulty things in all the right order. I may always be a person who tries to do too much and disappoints people along the way because you can't cash in on good intentions. I will probably always care too much, try too hard and fail even harder. 

Know what else? 

I'm done twisting myself inside out trying to match the pace, priorities and purpose of other people. And, I'm over being the only one rowing. From now on when I'm in a situation or relationship of any kind where I realize I'm the only one doing the rowing, I'm out. 

I love being able to be Sam and Jake's mom and have front row seats to their take on the world. I love being a writer. I love most of the people in my life. This is pretty good stuff. 

The best part of rock bottom is the part where the world stops spinning, you catch your breath and realize you get to chose which path to take next. I have no idea how this next phase of my life looks, but I kinda think it might be awesome. Plus, I'll take notes ... you know for all that writing I'm going to do someday! 

I just know I'm done apologizing for who and how I am. 

I'm not for everyone. 

And I'm finally done trying to be ... 

Oh, right - enough mid-life manifesto and on to the quiz I started this with ... plus, I just wanted to say hi and that I miss you guys. Thank you for all the check-ins and notes throughout the year! You are my favorites!

 

 

 

What is your name? Jake
How old are you?6
How old is your mom? 40
What is your favorite color? red
What is your favorite food? corndogs
What is your favorite animal? zebras
What are you scared of? real life
What is your favorite show? terreria let's play
What makes you sad? when people say "shut up" to me
What makes you happy? terreria
Where is your favorite place to go? the place that makes me happiest is home.
What do you want to be when you grow up? ninja, engineer, vet and video game worker
What does love really mean?that somebody cares about you and really likes you.

 

What is your name? Sam
How old are you? 9
How old is your mom? 40
What is your favorite color? gold
What is your favorite food? hotdogs
What is your favorite animal? giraffe
What are you scared of? heights
What is your favorite show? terreria let's play
What makes you sad? divorces
What makes you happy? terreria
Where is your favorite place to go? home
What do you want to be when you grow up? a ninja, videogame developer and movie maker
What does love really mean? It has a lot of different meanings.

Pssst: If you liked this column, I'd love it if you share it with someone else who might be encouraged by it too! 

  


So about last week

A nationwide breakdown in communication

*Edited to add: I usually post my columns here just as they ran in the paper. And, I have a lot of respect and appreciation for my editors. However, anyone who saw this one in print should know that I am mortified that the term "soccer moms" ran under my byline. File under: irony. See also: story for another day. Moving on ... 

November, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

I have started and deleted several iterations of this column, in response to the recent election of our 45th president. However, it occurred to me — right on deadline, unfortunately — that the last thing the world needs is another person sharing an opinion. 

Instead, I thought, perhaps it would be better for me to focus on what needs doing in the wake. I have some huge favors to ask of you guys, because it appears there’s an awful lot of work lying in front of us, on behalf of one another and humanity as a whole. 

For the purposes of this column, I’m not interested in how you decided to vote. I’m concerned about how you’ve opted to treat people who didn’t pick the same candidate.

I’m worried about being so quick to label others one way or the other that we miss making progress on important things we need to agree on — like, say, civility. 

The last time we elected a new president, my older son was an infant. He mostly just cared about being warm and fed, as sleeping was not so much his thing. Back then, I was preoccupied largely with figuring out how to meet our most basic needs. 

My boys are in first and third grades now, and this time, they had some questions. Actually, they had a lot of questions. And I was not prepared for them, as it blew my mind to see how much vitriol they’d adsorbed from that being spewed about so casually by friends, family, people on the sidelines at soccer games and strangers at Safeway.

They’d already heard words I wasn’t prepared to explain. They were already confused about concepts I struggle to wrap my own mind around.

So I did what any parent would do, repeated back their questions to be clear about what they were asking, and of course, to buy myself some time to figure out how to respond appropriately. 

That’s what I need to ask you guys to do, too. Please, for the love of all the children paying attention, pause before responding to things that trigger strong reactions.

What is true for you? You should totally express that, but you should do it in a way that doesn’t force children into a false dichotomy.

Could we possibly stop contributing to a culture where facts are treated as opinions and opinions are treated as facts? 

You know what? Nobody gets a pass on that one. There’s no one side doing it right.

This election season has been marked by one of the biggest breakdowns in civil communication that I’ve ever experienced. If we want things to be different, we need to start seeing where people who disagree with us are coming from.

That doesn’t mean we have to be complicit with an idea we abhor. It just means we have to be willing to listen, and when we get our turn, to explain our counter position without resorting to hostility. 

By all means, pay attention, form opinions, care deeply and be as vocal as you wish. I promise to support you in that, whether or not I agree with you. But my support ends when your message gets lost in the bombast of your delivery.

We can be truthful without being cruel. And if we want people to hold space for our processing of events, and the emotions attached to them, we need to return the courtesy. 

In our country — and I continue to be a proud resident, despite my disbelief over some of what I am hearing and seeing — freedoms and rights come with a measure of responsibility that we are collectively slacking on. Remember, we are all responsible for the words we choose, the impressions we create and the conduct we display in engaging others — especially those we disagree with. 

If you’ve known me for even 10 minutes, you know I am passionate about a lot of things and don’t hesitate to call out something that seems wrong to me. But I’ll back it up every time. And I’ll do it without making your kid worry that the people they love aren’t going to be safe around me.

You’re welcome. Thank you for doing the same.

One last thing: I have this quote from William Martin’s work, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching,” on my desk at work and fridge at home. Maybe it will resonate with some of you, as it does with me: 

“Believe this difficult truth. Showing respect in the face of disrespect, love in the face of hate, trust in the face of betrayal and serenity in the face of turmoil, will teach your children more than all the moral lectures by all the preachers since the dawn of time.”

Pssst: If you liked this column, I'd love it if you share it with someone else who might be encouraged by it too! 

  


Wearing the robes we weave

Wearing the robes we weave

 

October, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Pssst: If you liked this column, I'd love it if you share it with someone else who might be encouraged by it too! 

  


Plain joy on a silver platter

 

Roots

 Plain joy on a silver platter

Behind the Picket Fence | Published in Roots to Roofs, a special section of the Yamhill Valley News-Register

By NATHALIE HARDY 

Cable networks and home and garden magazines are brimming with helpful tips on how to live graciously. Delight your family and friends with this “simple suggestion” that requires a trip to a metropolitan grocery store to pull off. Or try an “easy afternoon project” that can only happen if your kids are tied to a chair with their mouths taped shut and no one needs to eat dinner tonight.

Good news, friends. I have one simple idea that will transform your ordinary moments into extraordinary memories. Ready?

Write this down: Use the good stuff.

You heard me. Use your good stuff. All of it. All the time. You know what’s a special occasion? Right now. Know why? Because it’s all we have for sure — this moment.

So, go ahead, pull out those cloth napkins for tonight’s takeout. Your best dishes for cereal? You bet.

A friend recently shared that she serves ordinary soup in her nicest china and it struck me in that moment that there’s just no reason not to.

Really. What are we waiting for? Dishes that collect dust in a cupboard to be used maybe once a year seems like an awful waste of real estate. There’s a time and a place for paper plates, sure, but what if we brought our best to the table more often?

So save your Pinterest ideas and spare the hot glue mess. Just use what you already have collecting dust — on any random Tuesday instead of only once a year on Thanksgiving.

I have a gorgeous vase I never used to display in case it broke. What is even the point of that? Now I fill it with weeds and sticks my boys cheerfully bring in after playing outside. Sometimes, I fill it with lemons and call it decoration. Because I can. It makes me smile, and isn’t that really the point? Finding joy in the little things? Being creators of our own joy?

Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I think this spin around the sun comes down to: putting life’s lemons in a vase, displaying them among your best stuff and calling that good. Because you know what? It is.

As a bonus tip, I offer you this. Want to know how to make your family really appreciate the meals you make? Stop cooking them altogether. I didn’t even realize I did this but for about six months following my divorce, we pretty much ate what was once an occasional treat: “snack dinner.” I doubt my boys will ever eat another Ritz cracker as long as they live.

Anyway, as I started coming back from that place of chaos when life as you know it gets flipped upside down, I went ahead and cooked dinner. I didn’t think it was a big deal until my youngest came running into the kitchen for something to drink and saw me standing at the stove. His eyes widened and he grinned. He went running to his brother to announce, Mama is making dinner! Real dinner!

See, I had no idea they cared either way, because usually dinner was met with a shrug or an “Oooh, this?” or a comment on the smell, appearance or wish for it to be something else. All those times I thought nobody cared that I made dinner, it turns out they totally did.

So if you happen to cook for other people and they don’t quite show how much they appreciate it, consider this: Cooking dinner for someone else is an awesome way to say, I love you. On behalf of your family, thank you!

Want some simple tips for making ordinary things special? Add sprinkles. Instant specialness. Or, serve it in a cone. Breakfast oatmeal in a cone, with or without sprinkles — bam, best breakfast ever. Throw some fruit on the plate for balance, maybe. Crushed tortilla chips on top of most things adds a festive touch.

Stop by sometime and you’ll see for yourself: I now serve many plain things on the gorgeous silver platter I got as a wedding gift 16 years ago. I took it to a potluck once. At a campground. It now has some commemorative gouges in it.

I regret nothing. Though, I will say, I was stunned at how scratched up it got in our, uh, primitive dishwashing facilities. Maybe that’s why people don’t pack platters to go camping. Plus, it was heavy. But that’s another story.

That platter, it turns out, outlasted my marriage, and I suspect it’ll be around for a long time to come. Because it’s perfect for serving up everything from brownies made from a box to homemade meringues, the making of which seemed like a good idea at the time.

If I’m feeling really fancy, I throw down Nana’s hand crocheted doily. And just like that, the party’s on.

 

Nathalie Hardy may or may not have served Domino’s pizza on the aforementioned platter during this writing. She welcomes your feedback at nathalie@nathaliesnotes.com.

 

Pssst: If you liked this column, I'd love it if you share it with someone else who might be encouraged by it too! 

  


Gratitude for the present that lasts

Raising the Hardy Boys: The present that lasts

May 20, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

  Capture

Well in advance of Mother’s Day, my boys asked me what I’d like from them this year.

“A clean house,” I told them. I know it would only last for a moment, but what a blissful moment it would be.

I got the slow blink from both of them. Then Jake, my 6-year-old, said, “We were thinking earrings.” 

 His 8-year-old brother, Sam, quickly followed, “Yeah, not like a special hug or cleaning our rooms, but more like something at Target.”

Because their whispering skills are not yet well developed, I heard most of their plotting and planning from the other room. What I couldn’t quite put into words at the time, and perhaps never will adequately be able to express, is this: They are the gift. With all the dirt, the mess, the opportunities to practice patience and grace, in all of that is the gift ready to be opened at any given moment I can recognize it. 

In the hustle of “Get in the truck!” it’s easy to miss those moments. When Sam gets out by climbing up into the bed, clambering around the edge and jumping out the back, it’s tempting to say, as I did this morning: “Why can’t you just climb out of the truck like a normal person!” 

He laughed and said, “Because I’m not normal, I’m a ninja.” That’s the gift. 

When I served the boys dinner after a long day, after not making it to the grocery store again, Jake said, “Mom! You forgot the buns!” 

“Budget cuts,” I said. We all laughed as we ate our simple dinner, and it was just fine.

That moment was precious. And it wouldn’t fit in a box. 

When my mom asks where Jake was going, after perusing his “costume” in a picture I posted, I said it wasn’t actually a costume. It was just another of his carefully assembled outfits, which, on the outside at least, look less intentional.

I can assure you, his drawers are organized by color. He is very, very specific about matching his gloves to his pants and making sure the texture is right on all of the elements.

What was the occasion? Oh, just, you know, Tuesday.

The long soccer socks, the kind that go up to his thigh, were his work-around for managing the gaping holes in his favorite red velour pants.

These pants feature a velvet ribbon I once suggested he hide by untucking his shirt. That prompted him to look at me incredulously and say, “But I want the bow to show!”

Having front row seats to two people who are unique individuals in a world that tries to make us all the same, there’s no bow big enough for that.

In my day, I was the kid on the sidelines, hoping nobody noticed me, and yet longing to be noticed at the same time. Not these two.

When a Justin Bieber song comes on the radio, Sam says, “Mom, I don’t think he really means, ‘Go love yourself.’ I think that’s like when you say, ‘Good for you.’ Right? What’s that called again?”

A euphemism.

I loved him even more in that moment. Then I remembered, maybe it’s too soon for him to be picking stuff like that up. But here we are, and I treasured the moment all the same. It would become a memory, a gift. 

When I see something of mine shattered on the floor, and demand one of them tell me right this second how it broke, and they say, in unison, “gravity,” the funny trumps the frustrating. That’s a gift. 

There’s a Nichole Nordeman music video called “Slow Down” that’s making the rounds on the Internet. It speaks to every parent who has ever wished time would slow down as their babies grow into toddlers and then transform into children, teenagers and, finally, adults.

Every person I’ve seen post a link to it has mentioned they “ugly cried” or “snot cried.” It’s a way of saying, “Your mascara will run. Get some tissue.” So I was prepared. 

But I didn’t cry. FYI, I tear up just thinking about you tearing up, so I was expecting a nice, cathartic cry. 

The music is beautiful, the lyrics are lovely and the images moving. Many of you will cry, in that bittersweet hurts-so-good kind of way. For me, and maybe a few of you, though, the video didn’t reflect reality at all.

While aspects of my life have never been harder — the whole working full time and being a single parent thing, for instance — it has never been sweeter overall.

These are the moments. These are the times with my boys that I will cherish most.

I’ll take the gift of watching them grow into themselves and being able to play a supporting role in that over a clean house any day. Stop by, you’ll see how true that is. 

When the video of their childhood plays back in my mind, it’s the collection of moments happening right now I think will bring me to tears, and to my knees in gratitude for the gift of having had them. 

I think about them already being so thoughtful and intentional about doing something special for me and it hits me how they can’t possibly know there is no gift that matches that.

But yeah, I will cherish the earrings, or whatever else they find at Target. Because when they’re off and gone doing their thing in the world, I’ll have something to hold in my hand as I remember the echoes of these days. 

And now, friends, there’s something in my eyes.

 

 P.S. If you're a Paul Harvey, rest of the story kind of person here's some background info on how this column got done, late but done!

Hardy writes in the margins of her life raising two boys who understand deadlines come before dusting and juggling a fulltime job working with some pretty awesome young people and occasionally calls washing down a fistful of Swedish fish with Red Bull a complete meal. 

 

 

 

  Jake

What?

 

 


Blew the deadline, saved the story

Over the years people have asked if I could write more about the process of writing and publishing.

Nope. I can’t.

Because I can’t speak to The Process or pretend I know how it works for others, but I did agree to share more about my own. As with everything, I try to be real about things, including sharing those moments when the column is due the next morning and … nothing.

Which is what happened last week with my monthly Raising the Hardy Boys column. You’d think I’d have my back-up column ready after all these years, but no.

It’s not that I had nothing to write about because that’s not even a thing! But, the column I’d been working on just wasn’t coming together at all. I hope someday it will because there were some good parts, but mostly there were a lot of soapbox moments and trite tangents. So, I was back to nothing. On deadline. Literally nothing.

Some of the possibilities swirling around my head and heart were either too personal for publication, didn’t meet my criteria for honoring the boys’ privacy preferences or were too raw to write about well.

So, here’s me the night before it’s due:

Due yesterda

 

I posted this status update:

So this is happening ... it's not that I don't have anything to say, just that, you know family paper and all that. #process #writinglife #reportermama#writingiseasywaitwhat

And went to bed.

Yes. I did. I prayed about it, wrote in my journal for awhile and had faith that it would come by morning.

And … it did.

Almost on time

Right on time

New status update:

Last night I posted about the column that was due yesterday - and I had zero words and no idea how I was going to pull this one off. Nailed it: 6:59 a.m. 29.9 inches, 897 words that matter to me, and maybe to some of you. And that headline? One of my favorites. Can't wait to share it with you guys! Now off to the job that pays the bills because#writinglife #raisingthehardyboys#deadlinesgetitdone

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with the idea of what I wanted to write about and had some sweet material collected on my Facebook page from sharing little bits and pieces of conversations and moments observed, some of which I was able to weave into the words that I woke up with. 

One of the best moments was when it hit me how tired I was going to be at work, and I still didn’t have a headline, I just typed in “the gift of now” which wasn’t quite right and then that rush of THIS came as I retyped: “The present that lasts.”

And when you read the column you’ll see why that is exactly right. And that rush, the thrill of nailing it made up for the sleep I’d lost. That passion fueled what sleep could not. I did go to bed early the next night though, because, you know, I’m 40 now.

I can’t explain or describe how that all works, right? I can only share the experience and say that it does work. There’s an alchemy of inspiration, spirit, word nerdery and the discipline of showing up to do the work. Even at 3:30 a.m. Also, deadlines are their own kind of magic.

Elizabeth Gilbert opens her book Big Magic with this:  

Q: What is creativity?

A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.

Funny story, so I posted some progress updates for my friends and readers on good old Facebook and my editor waited until everything was turned in to remind me that it was actually due last week. I used to pride myself on not missing deadlines. Ever. Then I slowly changed that to having good, respectful communication with my editors about them. And now, apparently I am blowing them off completely. But this one is worth it, at least it was to me.

Soon I will write a column about how I got my act together, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself or anything.


The kids are really all right.

The kids are all right - really!

April 12, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

The kids are all right.

My baby was a few months into kindergarten when he shook me awake in the middle of the night to ask: “Mama! What do I do if there’s a shooter at school and we’re in lockdown and I’m in the bathroom? What do I do?” 

What? What? What?!

I don’t even remember what I said to calm him and get him back to sleep. But I know I didn’t sleep another wink the rest of that night and the next few afterward.

Even now, a few years after that shocking wake-up call, I can’t answer his question.

The best I can do is help my kids accept the reality that we don’t have all the answers, and that we can’t possibly be prepared for each and every possible scenario in advance. It’s just a limitation of being human.

But first, I had to really wrap my own mind around that reality. And then I had to figure out how to reconcile that truth with a core belief of mine that we cannot live well if we are constantly in fear of Something Bad Happening.

We now live in a world where children in schools, and many adults as well, are asked to participate in “active shooter” drills, in addition to earthquake drills, fire drills and the like. That doesn’t mean they have to live each night in fear of The Big One Happening, but it acknowledges possibilities dictating we be as prepared as possible.

And you know what? When Yamhill County took its turn in the national school shooting spotlight, it was for a threat being foiled rather than carried out.

That’s because kids did the right thing by alerting responsible adults and adults did the right thing by responding responsibly. Police and school officials worked collaboratively to ensure the safety of all, even though it meant taking heat for not being able to answer all questions immediately. 

Personally, I think Newberg’s recent brush with a potential school shooter situation represents a success story — at least in terms of awareness leading to a tragedy averted.

What breaks my heart is the presence of people so disconnected and disenfranchised they are capable of plotting and sometimes pulling off such atrocities in the first place. 

I can’t protect my kids from that, nor can I protect yours. But I can do my best to emphasize violence prevention.

I can talk to my kids about how their words and actions affect others. I can work with them on identifying issues they have with others and ways they can manage those conflicts. I can be honest with them about what is reasonable to expect from others and what is not.

My oldest son recently had to work through an incredibly awkward situation with a friend at school. In the course of that, I was told that he “had a right to always feel safe at school.” 

Well, I’m not sure that’s true, even though I dearly wish it were.

We all want kids to feel safe at school, and everywhere else for that matter. But I would argue it’s more important for them to know what to do, who to trust and where to go when they don’t feel safe.

I want kids to know who their trusted adults are. I want kids to know they aren’t alone in navigating the ever-changing terrain in the transition from child to youth to adult. 

Adults, hear this: They’re watching us very closely, even when they have their headphones on and their eyes seemingly locked on their cell phones. And get this: They care what we think. 

It’s disturbingly common among us adults to point fingers and find fault these days, both with the world in general and kids in particular. It’s common for us to pat ourselves on the back as we reflect on how we did things different and better, or at least “not as bad.”

To all of that, I channel my inner 15-year-old and say: Whatever.

You want to know what I see as today’s biggest problem? It’s people being so busy identifying what goes wrong that they fail to recognize and reward what goes right.

What our kids need, just like we did before them, and our parents before us, is people speaking truth to youth. They need to hear what’s right in the world, and that includes what’s right with them.

They need to know we believe in them and their capabilities. They need to hear us say, you kids are really all right. 

 

Hardy writes in the margins of her life raising two boys who understand deadlines come before dusting and juggling a fulltime job working with some pretty awesome young people all while breaking her “I don’t really like animals” rule to love their sweet puppy Scout.

 


A season for reflection

Roots to Roofs spring 2015Season of Reflection

A season for reflection

Even if it's not in a freshly polished mirror

Mar 11, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

First published in Spring 2016 Roots to Roofs

This time of year it's hard to get through a supermarket or newspaper without being flashed with new ideas for spring cleaning. Of course, they consist mostly of a compilation of recycled tips from last year and the year before and the year before that.

This advice is packaged and presented alongside the latest, best way to do what your mama told you to do when you were a kid. 

It is packed with revolutionary ideas like, "Pick up after yourself," and mind-blowing concepts like, "If you spill it, wipe it up." Bonus tip: "Don't just leave the wet, dirty towel on the floor."

There. You're set. 

Except, of course, there's a reason these articles crop up like your perennial forget-me-nots.

It's not that we don't generally know what needs to be done to keep a home in decent working order. It's just that life happens.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with the details, and things like picking up wet towels fall lower and lower down our must-do list. Eventually, you start greeting people on your front porch with a housekeeping style can be best described by a meme explaining: "There appears to have been a struggle."

I know it's not just me on the wrong side of winning the battle of doing all the things well. And, even if it were, I'd still be fine sharing it with readers flipping through this section of "Roots to Roofs" looking for inspiration, trends and information. What's the harm in providing a reminder that we all do some things really well and no one, literally not one person, does all things really well. 

The reason we see surges of popularity in a variety of methods, authors and speakers professing "the ultimate way to clutter-clearing happiness" is this: There actually is no one right way. 

We each have seasons. Not just the kind where dormant winter blooms into dynamic spring, but I mean seasons like when the best we can do is push crumbs aside to prepare the next offering of food to our offspring. Or when putting a clean blanket on top of sheets that are less so, just to get through the night, is how we can best care for a sick kiddo.

During these seasons, we're just thankful we have fresh food and clean blankets.

Sometimes we're in a season where our little ones insist that vacuuming the cobwebs is "killing the Charlottes." So you take a break from that task for a while. I mean, who wants to be a Charlotte killer?

Traditional, and ironically, all the "new" spring cleaning tips include stuff like flipping your mattress over, dusting places I didn't even realize people thought twice about and something about cleaning windows maybe.

Here's the one I'd add, given the fact that not all of us are living lives worthy of coffee table books at most given moments:

Spring cleaning as a concept is an awesome one. The idea of starting fresh, clearing out old stuff, including beliefs about how things should be and look, is a great idea. 

This year, as the birds start chirping earlier and the light starts lingering longer, I'm going to spend less time figuring out how to clean the outside of my windows and more time considering what matters to me in terms of making home feel like home. Then I'm going to start paying some attention to those areas.

For instance, there's this pile of pictures I have leaned against a wall for years as I wait to put some money aside to frame them nicely. What if I just hung them up? With a tack even.

I mean, what? It's my house. If looking at the picture makes me smile does it really matter how it's displayed? 

I've long been annoyed by some broken curtain tie backs and damaged window shades. Then I was closing a bag of chips with one of my favorite utilitarian tools, a binder clip, when I realized I could take them to a whole new level of functionality.

I could've gone with some fun-colored ones, but opted for classic black. It works for me. They serve to hide windows I probably won't clean much, if ever, this spring. 

So there's my radical spring cleaning tip for anyone else who is looking for a little reflection of reality amid the media reminders that spring is springing and thou must clean all the things.

Nope. You don't have to do anything.

But you could consider this an invitation to look at what you'd like to make different, and then make it so.

 

You guys – getting a new subscriber is like getting a little high five in the middle of the day – and who doesn’t like a mid-day high-five? So don’t leave me hanging, because awkward …


Since you asked

The best is

It’s been pointed out that I kind of dropped the divorce bomb and then bailed.

My bad.

You know I love you guys and your so many questions : )

(And here I thought it was mostly just my mama who kept up here after all these years.)

I’m back and “rested” from “vacation” (You guys know that’s not really a thing with kids right? Vacation?)

palm trees

But it was in Palm Springs. With my parents. And my kids. I wore zero make up for seven days and drove nothing but a golf cart. To the pool.

golf cart

And there were some really awesome, fun parts. Like spending time with people I love, who love me, even when it’s all messy and not pretty in a bathing suit.

About that … that’s something I did real different this year, because I’m 40 now, and I’m not messing around anymore. Life is way too short to be worrying about how hot I look in a swimsuit, or anything really because it doesn’t matter.  I know, right? But here I spent all this time invested in caring about that. So much time, so many summers, sitting on the sidelines until “someday” and listening to the wrong people.

Well, it’s someday … and yeah I have thighs that are more mermaid than model like, but you know what? They keep me moving through the water like a champ. And they’re part of this body of mine I’ve wasted so long loathing, I literally can’t do it another minute.

So I got to do some of my most favorite things:  float in the water, drink champagne with my parents, play in the pool with my babies, eavesdrop and people watch in airports, hang out with one of my best friends … and one of the best parts… going on an adventure and then coming home.

And so here I am … surrounded by piles of good intentions and things that need to happen next and thinking about how to best answer some of your questions. I can’t come up with the best way so I’ll stop putting that off and just jump in … kinda like the pool – and it might not be pretty but this idea that we have to look good doing every single thing we do is stupid anyway.

 

Q: Is it official?

A: I have no idea. We’ve signed all the things we are supposed to, paid the $263 and taken the five-hour court-mandated guilt trip, as if I needed pictures of other kids’ sad drawings to remind me that THIS IS SERIOUS. KIDS SUFFER FROM DIVORCE. I did mention in “class” that I felt the section about kids who suffer from being raised in toxic environments don’t fare particularly well either, but that was not part of the curriculum.

Something came in the mail the other day, maybe that was the thing that made it official – after all this time it was kind of like opening the bill from a utility company. Of course, I haven’t seen it in the paper yet, which is my personal measure for what makes a thing official because, journalist. Once it’s in the paper, I’ll clip it and add it to the scrapbook I still haven’t finished and likely won’t. But I won’t burn it.

(Because I mean it when I say this next thing…)

Q: What do you regret most?

A: Not a damn thing.

Seriously. Which part would I possibly take back? We did the best we could with the information we had, all the way along. We have amazing kids which we will continue to parent, each in our own way, and are both now free to move into the next part of our lives which may, or may not, include a partner that meets our individual, actual needs instead of pretending they don’t exist or living with the bitterness that comes with dreams so long deferred.

Q: But what happened?

This one time, on a Tuesday … just kidding. It’s not like that. It’s a series of things that did not happen as well as a collection of things that can not unhappen. I may someday find a respectful way to put words around this but for now, that’s the best I have. And as I’ve said before, there are multiple truths to our, and every, story.

Q: How are the boys?

A: Awesome.

Really. We’re doing that whole open and honest, no shame/no blame communication thing and the kids are alright.

So far, the only time they’ve expressed upset about the divorce was when they initially found out and had to trust us that it would be better than okay and then twice when I couldn’t fix the X-Box.  Kids, man.

Q: How am I?

A: It’s all kind of kicking my ass, honestly.

And also, my heart’s content. Working full time and doing the single mom thing, combined with the ridiculous amount of stuff I do not know how to do around here is super overwhelming but I’m pretty cheerful about it all.

Q: What am I doing for self-care?

A: Is that a serious question?

Q: How’s the new job?

A: I. LOVE. It.

Q: Now what?

A: See top photo above.

 

Up next: my take on spring cleaning. It’s not one you’ll see in the glossy magazines, though, you know, I think that’s too bad.

(No elbow grease required.)

 


I am that mom

Maybe I am that mom

Actually, I totally am.

March 2016

By Nathalie Hardy | Yamhill Valley News-Register

  I realized I was giving in to the same kind of peer pressure to which I’m trying to raise them to be resilient.

Recently, as I was walking my boys to school, I noticed a couple of women point and cluck as they walked their purse-sized dogs.

I glanced at the three of us, trying to determine what the tsking might be about.

Ah, yes. My 6-year-old with the tank top and no coat.

I can see, to a passerby, that could raise an eyebrow. Perhaps even the question: What kind of mother sends her kid to school without a coat?

Right here. I do. I’m that mom.

But in the moment, I suggested to him we go back to the house and grab a coat, “Maybe just carry it so people know your mom cares.”

“I’m not cold,” he said. “And, you’re not wearing a coat,” he added,staring at me with the same brown eyes and expression I make when I’ve driven home my point successfully. 

“I thought we aren’t supposed to worry what other people think.” With the same face as before, I realized I was giving in to the same kind of peer pressure to which I’m trying to raise them to be resilient.

Some may say it’s not the same thing at all, but actually, it is. Because I have a solid, thought-out reason for allowing him to choose whether or not he’s cold, and it’s actually pretty simple: I want him to listen to his body and make decisions accordingly.

At the age of 6, he is plenty old enough to know if his body is cold.

Every office has that one employee who is always hot, or always cold, regardless of the setting on the thermostat. In adults, we allow for these ranges of preferences. Why is it so hard for some to comprehend that it might be the same for children? 

A few weeks ago, we were walking out the door. We reached the fence before he told me he’d be right back.

He returned with a coat and hat because, “It’s sure chilly today.” 

There are plenty of places I intervene and override the impulses of my young boys. But I do my best to honor their initial instinct, because I want them to do the same for themselves. 

Ironically, the same day Jake pointed out I was not practicing what I preach with the whole “who cares what other people think” thing, he learned an additional life lesson.

At school, another caring adult was concerned he wasn’t wearing a coat. It turned into a thing I won’t detail here, because I know with my whole heart she was doing her best to take care of a little boy who looked cold.

The thing is, even if he was cold, he didn’t need to be rescued. He could’ve stayed cold for the small amount of time he was outside and then maybe being cold and uncomfortable would clue him into perhaps taking a coat to school in case he wanted it later in the day. This is a small-stakes lesson for the life skill of thinking things through and planning ahead. 

So you see, it’s not just a coat to me. I’m okay with letting my kids shiver a little. 

When the boys were younger, I spent more time padding the edges to protect them from pain and discomfort. As they’ve grown out of their toddler years, it’s time to offer a little less cushion and a little more opportunity to suffer, or benefit, from the consequences of their choices.

It’s not exactly like I’m handing over a book of matches and seeing what happens. It’s just a coat. 

If my son were sick, shivering and upset that his mom didn’t let him wear a coat, or that he didn’t have access to one, that’s the time for a grown up to help the kid out. 

For the record, I love and appreciate my boys’ teachers, and the staff at their little school. We aren’t always going to agree on how a situation should be handled, but I know that we trust each other to do the best we can in any given moment.

I’ve learned, for example, not to send an e-mail with all caps and exclamation points until I have all the information. I’ve also learned to be a little more upfront when needed.

Last week, Jake opted out of dinner. Then he insisted he was starving, because he missed dinner and hadn’t had anything to eat for breakfast.

Actually, there were plenty of healthy options for breakfast. He just didn’t want any of them.

So I posted this message for any concerned adult in his life that day: 

“Jake may be hungry this morning. Let the record show, it’s not that I didn’t give Jake dinner last night, it’s that he opted out.

“Please help him understand that’s not the same thing. And thanks for the way you love our kids, including your desire to keep them warm.

“xo Nathalie.”

Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two young boys who understand deadlines come before dusting.