Finished my second book, an ebook! Find it on Amazon and let me know what you think! Or, don't :) I don't really like being told what to do either. "Merry is Optional, Christmas Chaos with the Hardy Boys."

Freedom in truth

I ran out of money yesterday.

Like, literally, out.

I’m at the checkout at Fred Meyer, with my boys who are soooo excited about their school supplies and all the possibilities of a new school year before them. (Minus the whole getting up in the morning part for Jake).

I had an offer to help with school supplies but I got all pridey about it and was like, other people need help more than I do, I got this.

And then time stood kinda still while the clerk hands me back my card and says, “hmm, it didn’t go through.” And I’m all well, can you try it again because there must be some kind of mistake. (Indeed mistakes were made. Many of them. On my end).

So he tried again. The line is getting fidgety behind me, the boys are unusually all up next to me at the counter.

“Sorry, it says insufficient funds.” He hands it to me with a shrug like clearly there’s an error here and I’m trying to save you face lady … but the supplies we’d spent an hour gathering are all bagged up, and the line is long behind me and the boys are all wide-eyed.

“What’s insufficient funds?” Asks Sam. I pause to think about how I want to reply but the lady behind me decides to help me out by saying: “It means she doesn’t have money in the account.”

“WE’RE OUT OF MONEY?!” Sam is incredulous.

“Ma’am is there another way you’d like to pay?”

“Sure, I can write a check.” I laugh because, obviously. And he nods, go for it. Oh, this guy gets it. As I write the check I’m frantically wracking my brain for ways to get some money into my account before payday which mercifully is the very next day. But without money in the account to cover this check, I’m looking at fees and fees on top of fees. By the way for those of you who wonder how people get so behind on money stuff, it comes down to this: you mess up a little bit. It costs you a lot. And it takes For. Ever. to dig your way back out.

Why yes! I could have done the responsible thing and said “Oh, okay well we’ll have to put these back and come back.” Instead, I did not. Even better, I took the boys to get smoothies to prove how not out of money we are. I know! Then, I hurried home, rushed around gathering up loose change and the remainder of my savings and headed back to the bank. At this point I’m on the verge of tears because how did I even get here right? Not that long ago I’d worked so hard to get out of debt and on a good financial track and then The Divorce happened and the perfect credit score I’d protected my entire adult life went right to hell.

I pray in the truck before going into the bank. It’s a simple one: “God. Please send money. I have no idea how. I just need to borrow some through tomorrow so I don’t get more behind.” And, because I always feel like God wants to know what I’m going to do on my end of things I add, “And I’m really working on being a better steward of my resources.”

So then, I’m standing in line with my little jar of change and some cash I’d kept in an envelope in case of emergency, which wasn’t supposed to be pencils, tissues and crayons but here I am. And I see a friend leaving and avoid eye contact because I’m the kind of person that if you ask me what’s up, I’ll tell you. And I didn’t want to tell anyone this.*

But we connect. And she says, always so cheerful, how are you? And I, because authenticity, I respond with: “How are YOU!?” And the tears start brewing and dammit I am about to lose it in a line three people deep. And you know how when people are extra nice to you, it’s even harder not to cry? And she directly asks what’s up and why am I going to cry, so I tell her. And she hugs me. And then comes back and hands me the exact amount of cash I needed to cover us through payday. Just like that, gives it to me. Buy the boys some shoes, whatever you need she says. Love you.

Later, I learn she’d been held up at the bank and was feeling annoyed by that. In that moment, it was clear to her she was where she was supposed to be. And I’m thankful she was. And I wish I’d managed myself better to not have been in this situation but I don’t know how long I have left on this planet and I don’t intend to waste my time regretting things I can’t change.

What I can do is figure it out moving forward. What I can do is set a better example for my boys about stewardship of our resources and being honest about what we can and can’t afford right now. I have to start though, by being honest with myself about it. You know, live within my means and all that old-fashioned goodness.

*I mentioned that I didn’t want to tell anyone because who does crap like this? And, yet here I am writing about it now. I want you to know why. I believe that shame kills our spirits. The twinge of guilt that I felt that I was not handling something properly was appropriate. That feeling motivates me to make better choices immediately. Shame though? Shame is crippling and serves no one. I trust you guys to read this for what it is. Me keeping things real with the intent to encourage you to ask for help and trust when it comes.

Sharing this, however, is not a plea for help. What I need is for us to keep shit real with each other. I got this. With a little help at just the right time!

If I need it, I’ll ask for it. That’s really what I’m working on right now. Accepting it when it comes and being more direct in asking for it. And, then, trusting people to show up when they say they will. #TrustIssues

Also, people can’t help but offer advice. Helpful, well-meaning advice such as: balance your checkbook! Make a budget! Stick to it! Good stuff, guys. And present circumstances aside, I’m actually pretty good at grown up stuff. It’s just that when life gets flipped upside down, you go into this survival mode and it takes awhile to get to the side of things were you look around and go: yeah, this isn’t how things are going to be. And then you change them and find your new way.

Looking forward to sharing more about the journey to now and where we go from here.

Have the courage to tell your truth: to yourself first and others who matter to you. There’s freedom in that.

xo,

p.s. I’ve so missed writing here and it makes my heart happy to be back at my keyboard. Soon, very soon, I will even have my office back to write in. Because I am organizing all the things. For real this time! Smile

p.p.s. one more thing: finding freedom in truth doesn’t necessarily mean spilling all your stuff on social media, or disclosing information to someone that will hurt them under the guise of “just being honest” to relieve yourself of a burden by passing it on to someone else. More than anything freedom in truth is an inside job. We all lie to ourselves about something. It’s just a matter of how long you need to keep that up before laying it down and living into truth and freedom. It’s harder, but better this way. I promise.


Going Tarpless

 
Roots cover

But when it comes to figuring how to manage all of the maintenance yourself on a home built in 1900, I find myself wanting to Google this: How do you even figure out where to start?

Frankly, what I need goes way beyond Google. After all, Google can't caution me against stuff like filling up a truck with soil without first having a way to get it out of the truck and into the yard in a reasonable amount of time. 

Instead, I turn to Facebook. My friends on Facebook, that is. 

Recently, I realized I needed to mount a local dump run. And I had no idea how to go about it.

Trust me, the irony of reporting on our local landfill for this very paper for two years, and still being clueless about how to find my way around its Newberg transfer station, wasn't lost on me.

But there I was, wondering everything from where to go, exactly, to what to do, exactly, once I got there.

Of course, I Googled the exact name, address and hours for the dump. You know what Google didn't mention? The amount of manual labor my mission might involve.

Turns out there's no automated system dedicated to unloading garbage. For the twelve of you who don't know, you have to, like, climb into the back of your truck and throw all the stuff into a giant, pungent pile of other people's stuff. 

So I turned to my friends on Facebook, announcing I was making my maiden dump run and seeking input. In moments, my feed flooded with great tips and reminders. 

For instance, Google didn't tell me, "Hey, wear boots because it's kind of gross." Or, "Bring a tarp. You have to have a tarp."

I was totally planning on going tarpless until I saw that. In fact I didn't even own a tarp.

Now I have two. And they seem like the kind of things a competent grown up would own. 

Some of my friends had all the answers, even to questions I didn't even know to ask. Others were glad I asked, because they got a lot of good tips from the thread, too.

As an added bonus, it made them feel like they'd been empowered to ask some "dumb" questions of their own.

When we were kids, we used to hear, "There's no such thing as a dumb question."  But we never felt that was true, because it really wasn't true, at least in the eyes of others. There are, totally, questions that will seem dumb to someone else.

But if you don't know, you don't know. In the end, what's actually dumb is doing what I did — stressing out so much about something that ended up being pretty easy in the end, once armed the with the advice of people who kew things I didn't. 

By the way, one thing no one mentioned was, bring something to cover your nose, particularly if you have a strong gag reflex, as I do. You might look the fool,  but at least you won't be unloading your truck whild struggling to fend off bouts of barfing.

Just in case you didn't know, there you have it.

While I'm dispensing spare tips, if you really want to pull off the full-fledged adult impression, you should clean out the truck afterward. Otherwise, you'll have a friend climb in, only to find the following tangled up at their feet — a tarp, a rope, some bungee cords and a supply of disposable gloves. 

That, of course, is bound to raise some eyebrows and questions. And I don't know about you, but I'm not really known for my fast follow-through. 

Now that I had the dump thing out of the way, round one anyway, I decided to try picking up a load of soil to help me flesh out a garden concept of mine. 

It's been a couple weeks, now, and I'm still rolling around town with a truckload of soil. I'm really regretting not listening to the friend who suggested throwing a tarp down prior to loading the bed. It would have made removal of the soil so very much easier.

This business of maintaining a home is a whole lot of toil. But I'm starting to feel the satisfaction of working toward a goal instead of being constantly disappointed by my inability to keep up.

I'll eventually figure this out. Even if it means asking lots of dumb questions, swallowing my pride to ask for help and actually listening to the advice I get! 

Roots cover

Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of real life. 

 

 

  


In a fix

You guys, I know, I know ... but I found my desk this weekend. So more writing soon. No, really.  But for now, here's my most recent clip and me opening a can of worms writing material. Because why not. 

In A Fix

I recently celebrated, as it were, a year of single home-ownership.

If I'd known I was going to be doing this on my own, of course, I would never have laid eyes on, much less purchased, a house built in 1900 — a house with just one bathroom and, uh, lots of opportunities for improvement.

Home improvement is a thing, as most readers of a home and garden section of the newspaper know. There are, however, lots of different means and motives behind the improving of homes.

For some, it's cosmetic. For example, we've outgrown these tired floors and are ready to put down some bamboo. Or whatever. 

For others it's necessity. For example, improve this situation or your porch will rot in front of your very eyes. I mean, I've heard that can happen.

And now that I'm paying attention, I'm also noticing there's a fair amount of peer pressure serving to motivate home improvement. I've come to realize some people would be mortified if someone drove by their house and spotted an array of issues crying for attention, including, but by no means limited to, peeling paint, flower boxes dangling by a rusty nail and an utterly neglected garden. 

Fortunately, I'm not that kind of person. I'm more of an, "I'll keep the lawn mowed within an inch of the law and do my best with the rest" kind of person. 

From the outside, it looks a lot like things have been falling apart around my place for the last couple years but that belies the truth which is that I've been putting all my energy into keeping things together. 

Now that the chaos, shock and upheaval of a parental split have settled into a new kind of normal in our household, I'm ready to take on some of this so-called home improvement. I decided to start by using a sledgehammer to demolish a piece of furniture my ex had mounted to the wall.

It was an awesome experience. I overshot my target a few times, so had to add "fix drywall" to my ever-growing project punchlist, but I got the job done. 

I've taken more trips to my local hardware store the last few months than I have in my first 40 years on the planet. And I've been impressed with how helpful folks can be, if you take the trouble to seek them out. 

That brings me to my most recent adventure.

With three of us living in a house with one bathroom, and two of us being barging little boys, I decided it was time we had a bathroom door that actually locked. 

So I bought the hardware I needed, and a screwdriver to install it.

In my eagerness to get started, I immediately removed the old door handle, leaving just the deadlatch in place. (Yes, I Googled it.)

Then I carefully read the instructions. Finally, just for good measure, I looked it up on You Tube in the company of my 9-year-old son, Sam. 

Part way through the online tutorial, Sam had apparently seen enough. He decided to go for it, on his own. 

Then I head the dreaded, "Uh, Mom? A little help here?" 

I peered through the hole in the door, catching the nervous look on his face. I had to peer through the deadlatch, which was locking him on one side of the door and me on the other.

It turned out we each had one part of the new lock and one part of the old on our side of the door. He had the tools, the hinges and access to our only toilet on his side, and I had the run of the house on my side.

Neither of us knew quite what to do next. 

And, of course, my other son needed to use the bathroom. Right now!

"Google something, Mom!" He urged from inside. 

"Okay, but first I have to take a picture," I said. And I posted on my Facebook wall, indicating I needed a little help.

All kinds of awesome advice and tips soon began cascading before my eyes, because I have the best tribe in the world. But there was no window for him to crawl out of, and I couldn't quite picture what action I was being advised to take on my side.

A friend Facetimed me and asked me to show her what I was looking at. 

"Which side is the doorjamb on?" she asked. When I hesitated, she explained, "That's the part that ..." but was interrupted by someone at the front door.

Another friend saw my plea for help. He was in the neighborhood, so he stopped by. 

He did what I was trying to do, but faster and more effectively. In the blink of an eye, with minimal drama, Sam and the cat, also trapped on the other side of the door, had been set free. 

And while he was there, he helped me finish the project. 

The box the doorknob came in boasted it could be "easily" installed "in minutes" using only "one tool." 

I suppose, technically, that was true — provided a got a lot of help from technology and my Facebook tribe. 

As my friend left, he eyed the bathroom vanity, still sitting in the kitchen, in its original packaging. I recently bought it to replace the one that broke six years ago.

Catching the look on his face, and mindful of the jam I had just escaped, I promised him I would seek help in advance before tackling the vanity project. 

But I'm going to do the sledgehammer part myself. Because I can.

 

Image may contain: text

Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of her life raising two boys who somehow convinced her to get a cat. 

 

 

  


Present

Present

Savor your own present

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register 

A fortnight from the time of this printing, we will be turning our calendars to a new year, and with that, focusing on our resolutions for what we hope to do more or less of in 2017. 

But first, between now and then, there are The Holidays. Big ones like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. 

Since I write my columns about what I know about, Christmas it is. I celebrate Christmas doubly, both the Christian “reason for the season” stuff and also the commercial and cultural stuff we indulge in during this festive time of year. 

However, “festive” is not the only "f" word that comes to mind this time of year, when people are forced to compromise far more than they want; are stressed with pressure to create a magical experience for children while also donating to All The Causes; and are sick and run down to the point they’re not feeling very merry and bright. 

Whether this particular holiday season finds you relating to Will Ferrell’s character in Elf or perhaps Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, I want to remind you of one thing: We don’t get this time back. So please don’t waste it wishing things were different.

That doesn’t mean you’re not going to miss the people you miss, or suddenly adore the people who cause you the most angst. And, of course, that doesn’t mean there’s any magic way to pause time so you can catch up and get it all together to make things in real life match the picture in your head, or your mother-in-law’s head or on your Pinterest feed. 

No, that’s not what I’m getting at. 

It’s like this: There’s some truth behind the feeling that time moves faster as we get older. At the end of a life, the minutes add up. Since we don’t know when that end comes, it’s incumbent on us to make our moments count. 

If you take the long view, the little annoyances, the big blowouts with family and friends, the stress of trying to do too much in too little time aren’t the things you will savor in life’s rear view mirror. 

What we keep, when everything else falls apart, wears out or changes, are the memories we’ve made, the moments we’ve collected, the scraps that make up the fabric of our lives. 

But back to the present:

Consider pausing for a moment to make sure you’re clear about what matters most to you right now. Ask yourself what you most want to remember from this time in your life and let that answer guide your priorities. Let it guide what you say yes and no to. 

Does your house need to be perfectly decorated? Or do you just want some special things out to make your home feel a little decked out? Here’s an example of what that means to me:

Instead of waiting until everything was all picked up, I did my best with the time I had. Now the decorating begins. 

Ergo, on one side of the house, by the laundry room door, I have a pile of dirty laundry serving as a do-it-yourself draft dodger. But on the other side of the house, near the front door, I have an adorable, decorative draft dodger that looks a lot like a reindeer.

Balance, people. 

If you’re looking to set the scene, to put a little spirit of Christmas into your space, the smallest of touches will work as long as they are significant to you. That will get you there.

There’s a time for a “go big or go home” attitude, but I promise you, this isn’t it.  

What I’m saying is, you don’t have to wait for the new year to be intentional. You can resolve now to have the best season possible under whatever circumstances you find yourself this year.

Enjoy your present. 

Merry Christmas. And Happy Holidays.

 p.s. this column started as a little "note to self" but if you think it might encourage someone else, please share it!

Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of her life raising two boys who somehow convinced her to get a cat. 

 

 

  


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.