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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.