Taking life’s plot twists as they come

Learning to find joyin the now and not yet

Taking life's plot twists as they come

February 2, 2016

By Nathalie Hardy | Yamhill Valley News-Register

I thought bringing a puppy into our family was going to be our major life change this year. However it seems our little Scout was merely a harbinger of an abundance of adventures — and, er, “growth opportunities” — for our family this year.

Soon, observant readers of the paper will notice my name in the list of marriage dissolutions granted by a county judge. Dissolution, of course, is the legal term for divorce.

I’m a word nerd though, so I’d like you to consider another definition of “dissolution.” Look at what it means in, say, a chemistry lab: “the process of dissolving a solid substance into a solvent to make a solution.” 

Let me draw your attention to that last word: a solution. A solution to a problem that can’t be summarized neatly in this column, or ever.

It will take the rare or brand new reader of this column to be truly shocked by this news. Sad, sure, but even for me to express surprise would be disingenuous. 
“You’re not going to write about this, are you?” I was asked, repeatedly, when the news started making its way beyond our white picket fence. My response was unequivocal. Yes, I am.

Once we figured out we were really heading down this new road, and told the boys what we had decided, we stopped whispering about it. The message to them was intentional and clear: no secrets, no shame, no blame. 

I know, I know. All marriages go through rough patches. I am familiar with this concept.

I also know when a rough patch is more like nine of the 17 years you’ve been together, and you both believe you’ve tried all the things there are to try, it’s OK to look at alternative solutions — like, say, dissolution.

I know it won’t be OK with a lot of people. And those people are welcome to live their lives as they choose. But being as how this is my one life, I’ll choose how I respond to this crossroads. 

So here’s the deal I want to make with all the people everywhere: I won’t “glorify” divorce if you won’t “demonize” it.

Yep, it can be hard for kids. And parents. And everyone else in the family. But you know what else is hard? Lots of other things.

We can do hard things; it’s about how we do them. Sure, chance can knock any one of us down anytime, but choice is what we do with what happens. 

I’ve often said that what we think about something is far more important than the thing itself. So I’m not going to be apologetic about this plot twist in my life’s story.

That’s partly because I’ve already cried all the tears I think I can cry about this. And it’s partly because I know I can look my kids in the eye and say, “I truly believe this is the best decision for every single one of us.”

Of the marriages that end, some flame out in a spectacular, fiery crash no one saw coming. Others follow the path of a slow-growing cancer, where the chemo kind of works for a while, but produces toxic side effects and eventually quits working altogether.

You simply run out of treatment options. You let go of your attachment to what you wish was there for you and simply allow what needs to happen next happen.
The latter describes mine.

There were a lot of good memories, even during chemo. But we’ve been trying to keep this marriage alive so long, it’s time to call it.

We both know that. It’s time to let it go and move forward with our lives with as much peace and grace as possible. 

This one, short life is all we get. I can’t promise we won’t have regrets.

And as natural as it is for people to want to know what happened, exactly, I can’t tell you.

That’s because parts of this story aren’t mine to tell and partly because it’s not one specific thing anyway. It never is.  

Of all the things we don’t agree on, we’ve reached a common place for what amicable means to us. Talking smack about each other around the kids, or in a public forum, isn’t part of that plan.

So while I’m not setting any of his stuff on fire, and my tires are intact, we have created some safe places to tell our truths, privately. It is our intention to allow the boys to have their own range of feelings and thoughts. 

I don’t know how else to do it. I’m not going to tell them this is a good thing or a bad thing. They will experience it for what it is, just the next thing we go through, as a family, because at the end of the day, what that means to us won’t ever change. 

So I’m not going to try making anyone else comfortable with this news. And I’m not going to meet anyone’s pity with a flood of tears.

I appreciate the hugs, the kind words, the holding of all four of us in love as we move through this transition. But I’m not going to apologize. I’m simply going to embrace what was, accept what is and stay open to what could be.

I could make a case that learning to find joy in the now and not yet is a core purpose of our place on this planet. But that’s another column.

This is true for me now and all of us forever.

We don’t get to know how our story ends. We just don’t. The best we can do, I think, is own our stories and intentionally frame them before they define and thereby own us. 

My favorite author, Anne Lamott, says: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

But you know, that’s a slippery slope, because I’m no saint myself. I own my share of what led us to now. All four of us have our own version of this story, and they are all true. 

So yeah, I’m going to write about this. A lot.

I’m committed to telling my part, my truth, my story. And I’m committed to honoring the notion that threads of mine are tightly woven with those of another, who makes a different choice in what and how to share. 

Now we begin the unraveling.

 

 

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

Nathalie Hardy's books, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” and "Merry is Optional" are available at local bookstores and on Amazon. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

 

 


Wait, what?

I know, right?

It’s been an interesting year already!

Also, while everyone else has committed to lose however many pounds or whatever, I’ve decided to stop holding it in. All of it.

This is the year of the exhale.

In life’s apparent ardent need for me to truly embrace the art of non attachment, twenty sixteen rolled right in with some significant opportunities for, uh, personal growth. Good stuff. Hard stuff. All the feels. More on some of that another time.

As I finished my first full session of oil-pulling (have you tried this? So much yuck!) I was drafting my article about what I think of adulting (this is a word now my friends) and what it means to actually have your shit together.

And ironically, except not, my therapist called.

(Please tell me you have a therapist? Some people are all “arm all the people” and I’m over here like, well … okay but what about this idea: therapists for all! #bethechange).

“Oh, cool, she’s checking in,” because you know (see above for vague reference to challenges).

“Hi, Nathalie. How are you?” Pause. “So am I going to see you at 9:30?”

Ten minutes ago.

“Nope. But I’m on my way.” #grace

So we had a condensed counseling session in which we tied off a thread of my story with a perfect analogy from Chronicles of Narnia’s The Last Battle, which you might know is a significant book in our family. It was just another one of those “right path, keep walking” signs, you know? And the fact that my therapist makes C.S. Lewis fully relevant in context is just one of the things I love about her.

And I’m doing this noticing thing – well, I’ve always done that, it is my non-secret to joy: notice and name what is in front of you. But I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, and that is bringing that habit to the top of my to-do list and to keep myself moving forward with that intention I’ll be sharing more of that in this space – and would love you to join me!

 

(Affiliate links: But first check your local bookstore because those places are essential to our communities so support them! But, if you don’t have one near you: here are some links. I might, maybe, someday, make a penny or two if you shop through my affiliate link and I’m saving up for something BIG: a housekeeper because it turns out I hate it).

So the change that I’m ready to talk about now is an exciting one: I am SO glad I did NOT get that job I applied for a couple months ago because … as the story goes the right one presented itself recently and I got it!

All the yays!!!

As in I’m starting work on Monday and I don’t feel all weird and jittery and “will they like me?” It’s more like “I can’t wait to get started; this job is such an awesome fit for my heart and mind’s work to date AND I wonder if it’s weird if I just pop in today.” Which I am totally going to do because I procrastinated on all the things sending the “thank you for interviewing me note” and I’d rather those arrive today than on my first day because awkward.

But, you guys, remember when I left the newsroom and thought I’d be doing the writing thing not that long ago? I have written a couple books, more like compiled I guess – and started several others and I hate to brag but my next royalties check is for like, $8.62! I know! Yes! That will buy me a date with a small jar of Nutella and a plastic spoon. (What were you thinking?)

So with all that money I’ve been raking in, you can imagine the wardrobe I’ve amassed! My major worries are that I have to be somewhere at the same time every day, dressed with real shoes and a bra – in the morning no less. And I have to pull that off for multiple days in a row. Craaaaazy.

The other worry is what I’ll do if the boys are sick. We need grandparent stand-ins with strong immune systems nearby! Please mail your applications to p.o. box 202, Newberg, Oregon 97132.

Wait, what about writing?

Here’s what I put on my application:

SalaryReason for Leaving

I know this next thing sounds even crazier than the thought of me being at work on time, all dressed and grown up like but … I actually think I am going to be doing more writing. I think having the burden of having to be successful financially as a writer and going back to just doing it because there’s little else I’d rather do will be rad.

More soon, I need to go do all the things.

Or, at least, make some lists.

All the love (and Nutella!)

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Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Scout (2)


The Hardy Boys get a Puppy

The promise of a new puppy

January 11, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

 

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You’d think that getting a puppy for Christmas would be a bad idea, particularly when it’s been raining for 25 days straight. And if you cared about preserving sanity and order in your home, you’d be right. 

As I write this, I am under “Scout surveillance.” Our 3-month-old pup watches my fingers carefully, trying to decide which one to nibble next — or perhaps pondering which hand is holding his treats. The pockets of my coats, all of them, have random Legos, mandarin peels and training treats in them now.

I got out of a friend’s car the other day and left what appeared to be some scat behind. Nope. Just treats.

It was awkward, but I’m adjusting to awkward pretty well. Which is apparent to neighbors and friends driving by my house since Scout’s arrival.

There’s been a bit of rubber-necking. I’m not sure if it’s because people are confounded by my being awake and outside before dawn or surprised to see a dog apparently belonging to me, as I am notably not a “dog person.”

They are probably just admiring my Lightning McQueen Snuggie, paired with flannel pajamas and slippers. It’s a coveted look. A statement, actually.

It says this:

“Though I’m rarely ready to leave the house until 8:07 a.m., we got a puppy for Christmas, so here I am at 4:30 a.m. Good morning. Now, look away.”

You might ask, “But, you have a backyard. Maybe that’s a better place to rock the Snuggie and slippers?”

You’d be right every other month of the year. But this month, we have a pond out back.

That could be a problem with a curious new Borador. Yes, you read that correctly; we’ve acquired a labrador/border collie mix.

That makes it sound like he’s a popular new type of designer dog. But no, he’s a different kind of popular — a stray mutt. 

Insert Public Service Announcement here: Spay and neuter your pets, people. And also, don’t buy live animals spontaneously just because they are so cute and it’ll be so fun. It’s not all cute and not all fun, and the responsibility is both real and forever. 

I know some people have wonderful spontaneous pet stories. But I also know the story of my first puppy, Lucy Baby. And while I can’t regret the time we had with her, I think I literally loved her to death.

Sadly, it’s not a unique story, as anyone who has a heart for animal rescue and shelter work will attest.

We didn’t know what we were doing when we got her. We weren’t planning, or prepared, to get a dog.

We went to Wilco one day to get wood screws, and there she was. So we brought her home.

We did some right things, but mostly wrong ones. 

I treated her like a furry little human. She rode shotgun in my truck, and really, shotgun is how she rolled.

Until, a year later there was a baby. And then she sustained a terrible injury. And then the baby turned into a toddler. And then there was another baby.

I didn’t train her to stay in the yard, as I should have. I didn’t keep her safe enough. Then we moved to a new house, in a new town, near a busy street. 

When we lost Lucy, we were in the process of trying to find a better environment for her. It was heartbreaking.

I was sure we’d never get another dog. The boys were pretty sure, too. So sure, they even went a couple years without even asking Santa for one. 

The other day, my 5-year-old told me he was glad we got Scout.

“I didn’t even think I could ask Santa for something so good. He’s my best friend,” he said.

“Guess what I am going to ask for next year, Mama?” I held my breath. “A girl!”

“Like a girl dog?” I asked, seeking clarification. He shot back, “No! A girl sister!” He said he would learn to sew like his cousin and make his new girl sister rainbow gloves, adding, “and she will love them.”

He is learning a lot about love already. For instance, he told me solemnly that sometimes love is having to hold your pee.

That, friends, is one of the truest things I’ve heard. As we’ve been potty-training the puppy, there are times we must respond to his, uh, needs immediately — before our own.

That reminds me of a time when people like my husband wondered what I did all day. With the years buffering that reality, and fogging my memory, it seems easy to forget those early years were spent minute-by-minute, getting through each succeeding day by doing the next necessary thing, tending to basics like essential nourishment.

Just keeping other living beings alive seems a bit momentous when you realize it’s on you to keep the chokeables from choking them, the dropped chocolate chips from killing them, or what have you. 

Having been given another chance at caring for a dog, we intend to do better this time around. We did stuff like, you know, research and plan.

We saved up for a kennel set up so we could be successful in training him. And, we got firm about the way we wanted things to go in advance instead of making up the rules as we went. 

Lucy Baby was absolutely not allowed up on the couch. Except when she was. Which was all the time. See how that could be confusing? 

I thought Lucy Baby made me a better mom, and maybe, in some ways, that was true. Now I think what I’ve learned about child raising will help me with our new adventure in dog raising.

Scout is teaching us, too. For example, he’s taught the boys how their toys will get eaten if they aren’t picked up.

After he ate one highly specialized Lego piece, I developed a pair of the fastest picker-uppers on the planet. 

Here’s a tip: If you’re going to set up an indoor kennel for initial training, and place it near a Christmas tree sheltering paper-wrapped presents, consider things like the effect of gravity in an old house with sloping floors. Otherwise, things are going pretty well with our new best friend.

Also, I feel you should know that Snuggies are way cooler than they look. And these slippers are practically shoes.

Happy New Year!

Nathalie Hardy’s second book, “Merry is Optional,” was recently published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. To learn more, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

 

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

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Scout (2)


HAPPY NEW YEAR, or just–hey, it’s Friday.

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Great news you guys! You don’t have to do ANYTHING and this year will still end at midnight tomorrow.

You don’t have to do any. thing. and the ball will drop, kicking off 2016.

And just like that a brand new year begins.

But it will feel a lot like … Friday. And then Saturday, and then Sunday and then most people go back to the old routine and adjust to it being a new year.

The end.

Whew! So, you’re fine. Just keep breathing and putting your pants on one leg at a time and you are good to go!

For a lot of you that’s what you need – the freedom to know there is truly no external pressure to do anything different just because HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But … if you want to, if you feel nudged by the spirit or by, say, something more physical like your pants feeling kinda tight or the rooms of your house closing in on you because: piles of everything everywhere … well, here’s an invitation – that’s all it is: an invitation to consider the following:

(again please note my very intentional use of the words “invitation” and “consider”):

- What exactly would YOU like to have change?

(YOU. Not your husband, your mother, the lady next to you at church or the guy with the judgey eyes at the library. Where do YOU feel your attention being directed from inside your heart and mind? Clarity is critical. More on that later if you want, let me know!)

- What might that look like?

- How could you work toward that?

(Word matter y’all – “how could you work toward that?” is different than “tell me exactly how you will accomplish this?” or, if your inner voice is kind of an asshole: “What makes you think you can do that?” None of that right now. All I’m asking you to consider is: what steps could you take toward the end you desire?”)

I also want to encourage you to remember that it really does come down to the little things adding up. It’s not about losing, say, 60 pounds. To work toward that end I’m looking at things like:

- keep my fitbit charged, remember to wear it and be more connected online with fitbit and myfitnesspal.

- streamline my green shake routine and have one every morning

- drink more water, lemon water and apple cider vinegar, less fancy coffee drinks

- etc. Because I am wordy and like lists, I have more specific, do-able things instead of one huge (so to speak) statement goal.

Another example:

I would like to be consistent in creating both a chore schedule and opportunities to manage their own money for the boys. Which means both earning and smart spending. I **think** Chore Monster may be a means to this end. (I could list all the things that have not worked another time if that would be helpful. Which, of course wouldn’t be as every family dynamic, needs and such are different).

I recommend using a journal and planner for every part of this, from gaining clarity, processing what that nudge might be, and for narrowing down your focus (organizing all the things turned out to be unrealistic).

And a side note: Some of you know my silence on this blog speaks volumes – I promise there will be a time I can and will disclose more but for now, please trust that I see a light at the end of this twisty tunnel and while it’s not turning out quite like I pictured, not at all, I have it on good authority that it’s going to work out. I think I spoke too soon out loud recently and it’s super awkward now in real life but all I can do is keep walking forward and doing the next right thing.

Which, for today means taking care of my young people, our puppy (?!) and planning intentionally for the new year I happen to be looking forward to very much because I love the mere idea of all the possibilities! Plus, planning is my favorite.

Speaking of which – here are a few links, ideas and tools – that I am loving right now, and intend to use more in the new year, cause I’m into that kind of thing. If you are too, here ya go: (I’m supposed to legally tell you someday I might, maybe, get a few cents for some of these affiliate links. For the record I only ever recommend products, programs and things I like myself).

 

 

- Leonie Dawson

- Erin Condren’s Planner

- Moleskine planner

- Mindful Energy

 

And some free stuff:

Goal setting and reviewing with kids by Cindy Hopper at Skip to my Lou -  (One of Sam’s resolution is to get more x-box time. I’ll try to work that into my goal of getting more help with household tasks #winwin).

Free ebook by Christine Kane to help with the gaining clarity piece of all this – and a wonderful introduction to the Word of the Year concept.

Another free ebook by Kirsten Oliphant to help with blog goal planning – she had me at “I love planning to plan.”  

If you found this post helpful at all, I’d love it if you’d share with your friends! Just so happens … one of my goals this year is to add you to my subscriber list if you aren’t there already so … yes?

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.


Maybe next year?

maybe next year

Good news!

You have plenty of time.

So here you are this penultimate day before Christmas wondering how could that possibly be true? I mean, every information stream available to us is blowing up our brains with reminders that the clock is ticking! Last chance! You better click here or else …

Or else nothing happens.

I’m not just being oppositional to all the trending sales pitches.

Unless you’re on the highway and you see your plane lifting off, you have enough time.

And even then, it’s not a bad idea to develop an “I’m right where I’m supposed to be” kind of mentality. Even if (especially if?) all external factors indicate otherwise.

what really matters?

(psst you don’t need anyone to tell you, it isn’t the same answer for each of us, but if you can lock yourself in the bathroom for a second and focus on this one question: what really matters? You know the answer. Okay, now do that).

One of the most frequently mentioned ideas in my ebook* “Merry is Optional: Christmas Chaos with the Hardy Boys” is the “maybe next year” list. Because it is genius.

December 23 … I’m looking at the pile beside me and embracing that I’m probably not going to get all the cards mailed out on time. Maybe next year I give in to this perpetual reality and join the New Years Card trend.

Didn’t make zoo lights before Christmas. Maybe next year.

Gingerbread houses? Maybe next year (but probably never on my watch).

But you know what? I’m writing this post while my kids play happily eating cereal they got to pick out (simple pleasures) and we are all under Scout Surveillance, the watchful pair of black eyes of our new puppy which fell near the top of my “what really matters” list this year.

My phone is binging with notices that some of our family will be getting their gifts on time in California, Idaho and Maryland because of the second Christmas miracle that is Amazon. (Next year maybe I’ll finish making the stuff I started making a couple years ago).

There is a tree, leaning against the wall because of some logistical issues we’ll work out next year. Maybe. It is decorated purely by the hands of Sam and Jake who are thrilled to see their handmade paper and zip tie ornaments alongside the more fragile ones they made over the years. The star is also zip tied to the top, because that is our life right now.

And it’s all good.

Not perfect. Not as planned but just … good.

And that is enough.

Wishing you all the love and clarity on what matters to you,

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*And you know what, if you’re thinking “oh, I should read that!” you totally should. Next year!

(I’d love your help reaching my subscriber goal for 2015 – sign up below and you’ll get posts delivered right to your inbox).

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.


Eat. Drink. Be Merry.

GatherinGrace NathaliesNotes

Gather with Grace

Dec 15, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

First published in Winter 2015 Roots to Roofs

Given my history of meal mishaps, small kitchen fires and fondue party fails, I'm an unlikely candidate for trying to sell others on the blessings of holiday gatherings. Nonetheless, I intend to try my best to convince you to invite people into your home to partake at your table.

My parents owned and operated two restaurants while I was growing up, but I picked up little in the way of practical skills. In fact, I was once fired over my poor potato peeling practices.

It may, or may not have had something to do with a tenuous mother-daughter relationship at the time. It's hard to say. 

My mother is a gourmet cook.When I was dating my husband, I think that gave him the wrong idea, as I am decidedly not.

I am, however, enthusiastic about all endeavors that have to do with people and hospitality. And in the world of adults, that ends up requiring the care and feeding of people. 

So while my mom sets a lovely table with a delicious spread of food, while I set off smoke alarms preparing things that turn out nothing like the pictures posted on Pinterest, we have one thing in common — a love of making people feel warm and welcome.

This time of year, all the sage advice suggests saying "no" more often so we can focus on saying "yes" to "what really matters." So, what, exactly, is it that really matters? 

In my mind, there isn't much that rates above taking care of one another, and one significant way to do that is to extend an invitation to share a meal. That is a concrete way to meet a basic human need of connection and a gracious way to live out love.

No gourmet cooking is required to be gracious and welcoming. I've invited plenty of people to my house with these words: "Hey, I'm trying a new recipe and it might be totally gross. Want to come? Bring some bread for back up." 

And people come.

Sometimes we have a good laugh, served with a lot of bread and butter, as we eye the smoldering dish I just proved wasn't fail-proof after all. And we nourish something more than our bellies in those moments.

Showing up for each other and being remembered nourishes our spirits. I think that is a gift worth spreading, and savoring.

I have had friends and relatives who discouraged me from hosting such things due to my stained carpets and chair cushions. But here's the thing: We don't have that kind of time, you guys. If you have friends and relatives who care more about the shape of your chairs and carpets than they do the spirit of your company, forgive them and move on.

If it's you holding back from inviting people into your home because of peeling paint or mis-matched furniture, consider getting off the sidelines of your life. It's a short life, this one, so gather in — and with — grace. 

In my years of hosting people, despite all the obvious reasons not to, I've learned a few things that might be helpful to others lacking the Kelly Ripaesque picture-perfect life.

First, you have to start somewhere. So, just do it.

An easy dinner to host is a potato bar.

But the first time I had a large group of people over for dinner, I didn't realize how long it takes to cook potatoes. I must say, we were pretty hungry by the time the pizza arrived. 

Ergo, my first tip is to always have a back-up plan. It'll free you up to try new things without starving your friends out. (You know you're supposed to poke holes in potatoes before baking them right? Yeah, me too).

Also, pay attention to words in recipes like "meanwhile" and "stir constantly." If something requires constant stirring, it's too needy and you should probably break up and pick something else to serve. 

Another essential piece of advice: People often ask, "What can I bring?" Let them bring something. Please.

And don't just say, "Oh, whatever you want." Be specific.

Say, "How about something for dessert?" Or say, "Salad would be great." And you might add, "Bring your own bread." Beverages work for that, too. 

Whatever your main dish ends up looking like, put it on the table with no apologies. Think of it as a manners experiment.

Should you fall for the old lie that lasagna is easy to make, you might end up with oddly curled noodles on the top layer, because nowhere in the instructions does it say there should be no noodles on that layer. Not to worry. Just flip it upside down, add a topping of cheese and sprinkle with some sprigs of parsley. 

Sprigs of any herb make things look more appetizing. And they suggest you know what you're doing. It's also good to remember that cheese makes everything better. 

Speaking of cheese, keep a wheel of brie in your fridge. Part of being hospitable is being able to serve up some food on short notice, without making anyone feel awkward.

Add some crushed nuts and brown sugar on top of the brie, pop it in the oven and you'll have an amazing appetizer.

Just add bread. Or crackers. Or spoons.

Oh, and one last tip: Never use the oven to store anything. Just don't. Even if you tell everyone else in the house that's what you're doing, the fire will always be your fault. 

I know it's amazing that I haven't been hired to write for Better Homes and Gardens. But lucky for us, that leaves me more time to put all this advice into my next book: Not like the Picture.

Finally, remember that mealtime mishaps make for great memories. Like the time my gourmet cook mom helped host a pig roast back in the early 70s.

I'm not sure how they remember it so vividly, since members of this gathering of Slovak immigrants were in high spirits, so to speak, and on empty stomachs. Yet the stories of the night, and the pig that didn't cook, haver persisted for decades.  

One day we will laugh about the time I set the lentils on fire while trying to approximate a candle display I found on Pinterest. Actually, I already am. 

For my next trick, stop by some time. And bring the bread. 

Happy gathering!

 

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’. Also? If you want to make a writer friend smile, please subscribe below AND if you liked this post – share it with your friends!

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.


How to read free ebook without a Kindle (and a secret)

kindleapp 1

You know you have to work on your marketing skills when it’s a struggle to give away a free copy of your book! I think part of that is we tend to not trust “free,” a concept to explore another time.

This morning I’m preparing to give a talk with this amazing group of women at a bible study group I still can’t believe I willingly, cheerfully and eagerly attend.

Some of you have asked if I visit book groups – if there are people there who love books then yes. Yes I do. I can also Skype in if you’re not local!

(I put speaking opportunities on the top of my goal list this year, as we close the year I have three talks booked before the end of the year. Pretty sure I would’ve put that off had I not set the intention and taken steps to make it so, which I’ll be writing more about next week because long-time readers know New Years is my favorite!)

Yesterday I posted the details of my free ebook deal on Amazon, it ends at midnight so take advantage soon if you want my second book “Merry is Optional: Christmas Chaos with the Hardy Boys” for FREE.

After sending that I got some emails asking me if people could scoop up the freebie if they don’t have a Kindle Reader and the answer is YES!

You can download, for free, a Kindle Reader app and “read it in the cloud” which is code for your desktop or whatever. It’ll look like this:

Kindle Cloud Reader

 

kindle app order

 

kindle app

 

You guys … want to hear a secret? It looks like we’ll be able to pull off our Christmas Puppy Surprise! Scout is on his way to his forever home, we adopted him and can. not. wait!!! The boys don’t know yet so shhhhh!  I have to believe that wherever Lucy Baby is in doggy heaven she’s happy for us too.

 

p.s. in case you missed yesterday’s post here are a few ways you can do your writer friend’s (say, me) a significant favor:

sent out an email to Nathalie’s Notes subscribers* asking begging folks to do the following:


- Go to Amazon and Download the free ebook. (I get credit for every download, even though it's free to you!)
- Like what you see? Please consider giving some star love in a review. These stars and reviews matter a lot! (Here's me begging. In a  totally non-annoying way...) stars
- Help me spread the word by telling your friends about this free ebook promotion.

 

Also, consider subscribing and get little dose of Nathalie’s Notes delivered to you from time to time whenever I post!

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.


**Free** holiday ebook for you! No, please, take it.

Marketing tip: When you write a book, you should tell people. All the people.

Okay, so honestly it’s free for YOU … but also for everyone who downloads it between now and Thursday, December 17th. After that it’s a whopping $4.99.

(I know! And I get to keep HALF of that so Imma gonna get rich!)

Click here for your FREE copy of Merry is Optional: Christmas Chaos with the Hardy Boys. You don’t even have to read it now, or ever – I mean, I hope you do but no pressure. All I am saying, is download it to savor later – even next year because what I need friends, is as many downloads as possible – and for those of you who DO like it please help your writer friend out and leave a review.

All this begging and asking for help does not become me, I know … and yet being as how I’m my own marketing team … my main strategy for now is the ol’ pretty please with a cherry and free ebook on top! Which also includes my undying gratitude in all caps, like this: THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! (I forgot to mention the prolific use of exclamation points).

I’m trying to figure out how to do that without annoying my dear readers, but it turns out most of you are so supportive I wonder how I got so lucky!?!?!

I sent out an email to Nathalie’s Notes subscribers* asking begging folks to do the following:

“My publisher told me to tell everyone: I wrote my second book! It's an ebook and you can get it FREE until Thursday, December 17, 2015.
Tell your friends - it's like a free gift to them, too!
Ways to support your writer friend (yours truly at the moment):
- Go to Amazon and Download the free ebook. (I get credit for every download, even though it's free to you!)
- Like what you see? Please consider giving some star love in a review. These stars and reviews matter a lot! (Here's me begging. In a  totally non-annoying way...) stars
- Help me spread the word by telling your friends about this free ebook promotion.

Thank you so much, friends, for supporting me in this writing journey and also for letting me encourage other parents with these words!
Blessings on you during this season and into the new year!


Love,
Nathalie

Behind the scenes fun fact:

Here’s the cover I submitted:

MerryIsOptionalcover

And here’s the one we went with:

cover

 

*You should totally subscribe! A little dose of Nathalie’s Notes delivered to you from time to time whenever I post!

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.


To Elf his own, a manifesto of sorts

To Elf his own

 Hey haters!Here's the thing...

Dec 2, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Raising the Hardy Boys

While many holiday gatherings have been seasoned with heated conversations over foreign policy, arguments about presidential candidates and a debate or two over the best way to baste a turkey, I’ve already gone a few rounds defending my practice of, and passion for, elfing.

If you’re anywhere near social media, you’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf. It’s this slightly creepy looking, pint-sized phenomenon bringing merriness to some families, and madness to others.

In short, the elf arrives sometime before Christmas and appears in new places, serving as Santa’s little narc.

That NSA-esque approach isn’t my thing, so our scout elf is on the lookout for good deeds. He also provides an element of mischief and merriness as he pulls little pranks, like putting miniature marshmallows in the kids’ oatmeal, or cues up the DVD player with a Christmas movie when we thought we were watching “Wild Kratts” for the millionth time. 

It started as a self-published book a decade ago by a mother and her two daughters. The trio never dreamed their little vision would dance in the heads of children and Target CEOs everywhere.

And, as is the case with everything in America, Elf on the Shelf is controversial. 

Not as much as, say, the subject of Syrian refugees, but it’s right up there as a first world problem blown out of proportion. 

Some say: Too commercial!

Oddly, it’s also a massive self-published success story in a country that often cheers on ingenuity. But, apparently, there is a limit to how much success we can tolerate someone having, especially if, God forbid, it brings joy. 

Others insist: It’s not really a tradition!

Says who? I mean, what exactly makes something a tradition? 

A tradition, as I understand it, is something cultivated and passed on from one generation to the next. 

Still others prefer not to be haunted by the doll, because it’s creepy, like clowns. I’ll give them that.

There’s actually a name for a true fear of elves: fayophobia. For those suffering from this condition, I suggest staying off social media or temporarily hiding your elfing friends because as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to hum Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” 

And the one anti-elf stance I struggle with the most: “It’s just another thing parents feel pressured to do.” 

The challenge for me is not that others don’t want to do it. I get it. Some of you bake. I do not. Because I hate that. My problem is specifically with people who project their own insecurities or priorities onto me, and instead of simply opting out, they mock people like me who have fun with the little sprite.

I’m no stranger to insecurity; in fact, a few years ago, I fell prey to something I no longer tolerate: elf-shaming. I will never insist that to love me is to love the elf. However, to love me is to stop mocking me for the joy it brings to us simply because it’s not your thing. 

To elf their own, do it or don’t, but I would never tell a mama who doesn’t elf that she’s lazy, so why is OK for those who don’t get into elfing to suggest I have too much time on my hands? Or, as I often hear, that I’m trying to be a “unicorn” mom portraying a perfect life on social media. 

Here’s the truth: using that little elf as an avenue for intentionally creating joyful moments has gotten myself and my family through some of our darkest seasons. Not because I’m pretending difficulties don’t exist, but because in spite of them, it is our right to choose love, to live intentionally and to create our own joy. 

Yes, it is more work to incorporate our elf’s antics into an already busy season. As enamored as I am with our elf Finn, about three days into his arrival, I’m getting out of bed at midnight, muttering an alliterative expletive because I forgot to do something with him.

This is how I discovered Finn’s special feat of traveling all the way to the North Pole and settling back into place without looking like he even moved. I know, it’s amazing.

In nearly eight years of writing this column, the most feedback I’ve received was a couple years ago after my first article on Finn. Most of it was positive. But then, there were these deeply disturbing insults and mocking at my expense. I let the hating get under my admittedly porous skin. 

I elfed in private for a couple seasons, protecting those who didn’t wish to see this sort of thing blowing up their feeds. 

This year, though, I’m making up for lost time. You see, I’ve got my eye on the clock of my boys’ childhood. 

I see the writing on the wall in my older son’s sly grin and twinkling eyes. This season of magic is coming to an end for him. Soon, he will be one of us, the joy makers. I’m not wasting any more of the time I have left. 

Oh, about creating traditions? As I prepared for shenanigans with Finnegan to begin, imagine my surprise when I found him already peeking from a stocking hung in my room. 

Just like that, a tradition is born. 

So, my dear elf-hating friends, I get it. Hide me, un-friend me, do what you must to survive, because for the rest of us, it’s open season for Elf on the Shelf and I’m not holding back to spare anyone the suffering of our joy.

#sorrynotsorry. 

 

(If you liked this column, feel free to share the love with your friends, I’d love to hear what you think! Unless it’s that I have “too much time on my hands” because: no.)

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.


Order up

 

closing in

 

I once asked a favorite writer of mine, April Henry, how she knew when her project was done.

“It’s due,” she said.

Oh. Right.

Deadlines.

I struggled with this one for my ebook “Merry is Optional” because given that I’m writing in the margins of real life, the material I’m ending with isn’t everything I had in mind for this project. Because a constant theme in my writing is encouraging others to let go of what is or isn’t going as planned and embrace what is. So, that’s happening and it’s time.

This way, I’ll get good feedback from my dear reader friends and can put out an even better second edition. Later. Like, next year.

I’m ready for it to be done.

We’re all ready.

It’s at the point where balance has tipped in favor of meeting my drop-dead deadline (you know there’s stages, right? This is the One That Can’t Be Missed).

As a result of all the extra minutes going into this final push, we put our shoes on to cross the kitchen floor because … ew. And also because no one else seems to know how to push a broom without being asked.

The boys heard the cast iron pan moving around on the stove this morning and came running: “She’s making breakfast!”

But actually I was just moving stuff out of the way to make coffee.

They were cool about their disappointment at another cold breakfast, dude – that’s more than some kids ever get.

“I know. But some kids get sausage, you know?” Says the older one. “How about just a warm egg, Mama?” Says the younger one.

Since, it’s been a few days of cereal and/or pepperoni and grapes for breakfast, I threw some oil, eggs and bread in the pan for peekaboo eggs and won the morning. (Pro tip: you too can do the bare minimum which then makes something super simple seem brilliant. You’re welcome).

Order. Up!

Speaking of which, the stuff marked in the corner in blue on the screen shot from my Scrivener program has to be done today yet.

Some time between picking up the boys, soccer practice, end of the year soccer party and wrestling practice, bed time routine and I’m actually still hopeful I can squeeze in one more Sons of Anarchy episode because I got a little bit addicted. I can’t explain how that happened. (For the record, we aren’t usually that all over the place but this one week, things overlapped. Because of course they did).

But it’ll get done. As I recently wrote in a job application, deadlines are my love language.

 

If you enjoyed this column, it would be an honor for me to see it shared with your people!

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.