Fridays are my favorite. Well, that's not all the way true; Thursdays are my favorite weekday. Yes, because of my beloved Friends.
Recently some kids at work were talking about binge-watching Friends and I said, "Oh, yeah I used to have to wait until the following Thursday at 8 p.m. to see how Chandler and Monica worked things out ..."
So anyhow, I'm bringing back my Friday Favorites feature from a blogtime ago.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate - which basically means I've spent a bunch of time trying to figure out how it works exactly and have, to date, not earned a dime. However, you need to know --on account of being on the up and up with The Law-- when you click on any of these images that link you to buy them on Amazon I conceivably could get a few coins - and the idea is for that to add up over time. We are taking the "over time" part very literally apparently.
That's enough words about that -- here are five things I'm loving right now.
This year I'm working on adding some new "F" words into my vocabulary: Focus & Finish. This was an excellent book to listen to as I worked on actually finishing projects. So many more to go, but as with any habit, it takes time to become aware of what you're doing and then change it. Baby steps, people. I will say, having a blogging calendar was one of the projects I put on my things to actually finish list (of course I made a list) and LOOK. Three posts in a row. I know. P.S. For the love of all that is holy buy books at your local book store whenever possible.
2. I love bullet journaling. I've been doing some version of it since years before that first episode of Friends even aired. Now it's a Thing. And I am always happy to geek out on this topic with anyone and everyone. This is the current one I'm using. I'm planning a flip -through video to post later this month.
3. And this Faber Castell pen set is my fave for basic journaling. And letters. And sticky notes. And last minute school permission slips ...
4. This is my current beverage obsession. This Cold Brew Coffee+ Unsweetened almond milk + Ice = My post Whole30 favorite coffee drink. I really expected to go back to my old stand by but this has grown on me and when I couldn't find some at my favorite local store, Naps Thriftway, I had no choice but to turn to Amazon.
5. These stainless steel drinking straws. Love. Them. That is all.
This top picture came across my Facebook Feed the other day and, as is often the way - it stunned me. How so much can change in so relatively little time.
At the time, I didn't know it but it was an Ebenezer stone. Of course, that's all easier to see in the rearview mirror.
This picture, that smile projects so much confidence and if you just look at that moment in time you see it seems I was just so lucky! After all, I was able to be home with my babies and then land a job in the newsroom where I got to intern years before that.
However, not pictured ... is the courage it took to come out of the situation I was walking through and present a confident seeming self after feeling so beat down it would take many years (and counting) to right the wrongs.
I didn't talk about it then at all and still don't much today.
All I really need to say is this: nothing is as it first seems. You already know that, though.
But that doesn't stop us from getting Facebook Envy when we see a picture and make assumptions about what that person's life is like.
You know what else?
It also doesn't mean the picture is a lie.
Moments captured on camera are exactly that - moments, captured.
In that still frame the absolute truth was that I was so happy in that moment to hold my boys and know that despite how I felt on the inside, I was able to get a job in a field I love.
This moment is the moment capturing I knew things were changing. I knew the foundation below me was shaky and I knew things were not going as planned.
But, getting that job gave me a new plan. It gave me hope. It meant I had to make a hard choice and many more after it, but I was capable of making them and as I continued to pray this one specific prayer "God please make the way clear..." it became more and more so.
The steps I was asked to take where not according to (my) plan.
would be able to do something that would bring money into our home and Wells Fargo could take my number off speed dial.
This also meant I was two weeks from getting a paycheck and Wells Fargo could stop trying to take my house back.
And here we are, living in this house I love, still unable to keep the water tray from overflowing apparently, with some major and minor changes - but here we are.
Silly, stable and safe.
*A note about the top picture: this was a snapshot following the longest I'd ever been apart from the boys - not counting when I was in labor with Jake. It was seven hours! And I was about to go from that life to working full-time as a reporter. It was incredibly hard. And awesome. And awful. And amazing. Balancing work you're passionate about and being a mama is no easy thing, but it was an incredible experience to work with my newsroom friends and to make new ones along the way.
The bottom picture: Well, that's just us goofing off trying to recreate a moment :)
While chatting with a group of friends, decorating styles came up. As in, what's your decorating style? Terms like "shabby chic," "farmhouse style," "minimalist" and "bohemian" bounced around the conversation.
At some point, it was clear I was the only one not to contribute. "Um. Well. I'd say I roll with kind of a work-in-progress, ‘cluttered chic’ style. Can that be a thing?"
The discussion then turned to a more philosophical one about what really makes a home feel like "home." That was a little trickier to answer, because mine really has felt like a work-in-progress for about eight years. So that's basically from the moment we got the keys to a home I was so in love with the moment I saw it, I knew it was where I wanted us to raise our babies.
The previous owner had impeccable style. I don't know what you'd call it exactly, but it was worthy of some Better Homes & Gardens coverage. Unfortunately, when moving day came, her stuff was all gone, and with it, the style that made the home seem so much like what I wanted but didn't know how to create myself.
So, there's one answer. Home, I think, is something we create with our intentions and actions. Since my divorce, though, there's been a lot of non-action. Or rather, there’s been plenty of action in juggling all the responsibilities of managing a home, working full time and raising two boys who are no longer babies. But it feels more like barely keeping up on things, instead of actually making progress on any of my decorating dreams.
So, there's that: Home is where you live your real life. And for me right now, that means no sooner have you pulled the bacon out of the oven than there's spilled, hot bacon grease all over the floor, which turns into a fun ice rink for a little bit.
And then when you're done cleaning up that mess, the bacon has mysteriously disappeared but somehow, despite eating an entire pound of bacon between the two of them, there are two boys wondering what's for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.
At that moment, and frankly, for a few days to follow, my kitchen is "decorated" with the remains of that mess and the evidence of quickly trying to cobble something else together before everyone is heading out to where we needed to be.
Because no matter what our mothers taught us, most of us don't put everything away immediately. It is, however, a highly recommended practice. And for good reason.
There is little more discouraging than waking up to a fresh day with remnants of yesterday's disaster on the counters. This is where cultivating cleaning habits you stick to no matter what comes in really handy. You know, stuff like soaking pots right away so you're not working out your biceps scrubbing them quickly in time to make soup for the next meal — that kind of thing.
Speaking of soup, I'm teaching my boys how to cook. My youngest made Avgolemeno soup last week, and if you haven't had that, you should try it because it's delicious. When it came time to put dinner on the table, he wanted to serve it out of a fancy bowl. I tried to convince him to just ladle it from the soup pot.
"Mom, you don't spend this much time on something and then just serve it like that!" And, yes, he did help me with the dishes. Because it mattered to him how the table looked, he carefully set it while declaring: "I love fancy."
He put out cloth napkins, a full place setting for each of us and carefully arranged the bread bowl and plates. He refuses to touch butter, so his brother contributed that to the arrangement. Instead of using the butter dish, his brother tossed the whole stick, still in its wrapper, in the middle of the table.
"There. I hate fancy," he said, shrugging.
I surveyed the scene, Jake drinking out of his crystal goblet, Sam sipping water out of the container closest to him and me with my water poured into my beloved, ubiquitous mason jar.
Ideally, home is a place you can really be yourself and drink out of whatever you please. Home is where you can be fancy, or not. I suppose I'm a pretty good balance between my boys' degrees of fancy.
As we're eating the soup, which two-thirds of us loved, Jake said: "Wherever we are together, that is home."
"Oh, Jake. I love that!" I was touched, and told him so.
"Mom," his brown eyes flashed as he nodded toward the wall behind me, "It literally says that on the wall."
Ah. Right. One of my first acts of decorating my home in a way I loved was finding that sign in an antique store, buying it, leaning it against the wall for a year and, finally, hanging it up where it could remind me what matters more to me than decorating.
Perhaps the whole point of home is figuring out how to be ourselves throughout life's changing circumstances. Because physical homes change, who lives with us in our homes changes and all along the way, so do we.
Home, I've decided, is where we figure ourselves out as we continue to be, well, a work-in-progress.
If this resonates with you, I'd love it if you'd share it.
You guys!! We made it through an entire, tough as hell year. And now ... we do ... the. dance. of. joy. Remember? Balki?! Balki Bartokomous. No? Hold up, you're going to have to take second and watch this: When my ex-husband and I used to love each other, like, looooooove, love, we would do this. Okay, that's not quite true. *I* would do it and he'd reluctantly but lovingly do it with me, with a lot less jumping. Because that's what crazy love does. Ah, good times.
Wait? Wut? Am I telling you a story about my former married life with a smile on my face and possibly something in my eye? Yes. Yes, I am.
Of course, I have some, uh, tender spots, a few regrets and if I really, really want to I could get worked about a few things but truthfully at this point: why?
Plus, I refuse to regret 18 years of my life. I think that's what going through and processing pain, in all its ugly forms, instead of avoiding it all together can do for you, I think therapists use words like "healing" and "self-growth" and something about actualization to describe this.
I use words like "freaking finally" but whatever works.
Fun fact about me: New Year's is my favorite holiday. I'm working on my ritual* closing of 2017 and my goals and plans for the new year because, you guys, a whole new year! *no humans will be burned in the execution of this ritual. But some paper and sage, for sure, on account of my gypsy blood.
A fresh start ... But one more thing, I saw this on my friend Beth's social media and it really resonated with me.
I think the joy I'm feeling going into this new year is that instead of trying to change everything I am, all I've been and been through, I'm at this place of ... well ... here I am in all my mess and glory and poor punctuation. So, let's do this ...
Wishing you all the good things in the new year!!
Current Column Clip: Merry is Optional Roots to Roofs December | 2017
Post on Tap: The backstory behind the last picture I ever took with my dad. And why I love it. It's just a little harder to write than I expected.
Coming Soon: Order in the House: Mason Jars and Spices
BY NATHALIE HARDY | For the Yamhill Valley News-Register | Roots to Roofs
First published 12/16/2017
‘Tis the season, they say. For what, exactly, is up to each of us to figure out.
There’s the store-bought concept of what this time of year should be like, of course. Magazine covers, the Internet and daytime talk shows are full of ideas for making this The Best Christmas Ever.
There are tips on ways to simplify, of course. But those are dwarfed by ideas of a more elaborate nature, such as erecting a themed Christmas tree in every room and baking seven different types of soufflés for all the happy people gathering at your house, complete with timelines for what you should have done by now to ensure a stress-free holiday.
So I’m just going to say it outright.
It’s mid-December by the time you’re reading this, right? And frankly, it’s way too late to start making homemade Christmas gifts and wrapping them in the “it” decorating style of the season — Kraft paper with a dangling set of miniature ice skates adding just the right decorative touch.
Maybe this year your gifts will be wrapped in the paper bag you bought them. You did shop local, right? So no plastic bags for you!
Or maybe this year, your gift to others was not buying them a gift at all, thus relieving them of the duty to reciprocate. Let’s call it the gift of freedom.
Actually, that’s what I want to talk to you about it. I wrote a book called “Merry is Optional,” because I think we forget that it is, in fact, optional. We don’t have to enjoy a second of this season if we don’t want to.
That not an original idea. John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas” is a pretty great book about a couple who found freedom in sitting out the commercial aspects of the season.
Of course, they found so much more meaning and joy in avoiding commercialism that they ended up finding meaning in the season anyway. Sorry for the spoiler.
The point is, they didn’t get to the point of enjoying what they were originally dreading by simply ignoring it. That’s not a thing when you’re walking around and breathing among radio ads and human beings cheerfully keeping count of how many days are left until Christmas. You can’t simply sit it out.
But you can find the freedom to do Christmas in the way that works for you in this season of your own particular life. It’s not always merry, but that’s OK.
Real life doesn’t stop happening around us because sleigh bells ring in the distance. As we go through the motions of “this time of year,” it’s like every other time of the year in wrestling with life’s harsher details — illnesses, broken relationships and the death of loved ones, to name a few.
So here we are. Now what?
Well, you choose. Given whatever situation you find yourself in this holiday season, what can you do to make the most of it? And should you choose to be merry, despite whatever challenges you’re facing, how do you do that on short notice, on a tight budget, amid some of the aforementioned situations?
You choose. You consider what matters to you most, right now, in this season of your life personally.
Not the commercial season, but your season. What does your life look like right now? What can you manage that might also bring you joy, or at least less angst?
Maybe joy isn’t right in the moment. Maybe you choose to create memories for yourself or others to savor later, when your situation looks up.
That may mean sitting through a meal or tolerating a celebration simply to have the experience or give it to a loved one, even though you didn’t feel like it. Or it may mean you buck tradition this year and just eat out on your own.
It’s your holiday. It’s your life. So you get to choose.
This particular Christmas will be my first without my children. That’s what divorce does.
I tear up just thinking about waking up Christmas morning without them. But the truth is, they are going to have a wonderful time with their dad, their grandparents and their cousins.
It was my choice to give them that gift without imposing my own feelings on them. To help make that possible, I’ve planned to sprinkle Christmassy type things out through the month, so we have moments of our own to cherish, even if they weren’t made on that particular day.
This will also be my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away last month, and I’m still treading water in the wake of his loss.
Last Christmas was actually the last time I saw him. And I’ll never forget the last night we had together.
We left the pool late at night, because you can do that in Palm Springs. And even though we were chilled, having wrapped up in wet towels for a ride in an open-air golf cart — as one does in a retirement community in Palm Springs, even in the dead of winter — we took the long way. We wanted to look at all the lights.
“Dad, I’m cold,” I said. “Let’s go home.”
“Soon,” he responded. “I just want to show you this one more. It’s fantastic.”
And with that, we spun past more houses that all looked the same to me, then stopped in front of one featuring a truly spectacular display. The boys and I stared in awe. My dad smiled proudly.
He’d shared a special moment with us. Now we could speed home — to the extent a golf cart allows, anyway.
My dad was all about going out of your way, even if you had to suffer a little, to enjoy a spectacular moment. So this season, even if it’s not comfortable, even if everything isn’t the way I’d hoped, I plan to also go out of my way to create moments to savor.
I’ll keep in mind that merry is optional. And while I’ll opt in as much as I can, I’ll feel free to opt out when I need to as well.
So, Merry Christmas to you — or not.
Nathalie Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of real life.
It's been a rough year for a lot of us. In a lot of ways. If this resonates with you, I'd love it if you'd share it.
p.s. check back tomorrow for the backstory on this picture with my dad. The last one of us. And one of my favorites. Spoiler: my hair was wet and I was in trouble. Because it doesn't matter how old you are when you're at mom and dad's house. :)
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.
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!
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.
For a lot of people, Google is an excellent go-to for learning how to do things around the house and yard, be it fixing a dishwasher or figuring out the art of companion planting.
This is a thing, really. If you don't believe me, Google it!
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!
Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of real life.
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
BY NATHALIE HARDY | For the News-Register | Roots to Roofs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'?"
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!