So I bought myself a treat in California last week.

Just before heading to LAX, R-kids and I accidentally found ourselves wandering Abbott Kinney Boulevard, a mile-long stretch of hip, happening California that satisfied all the creative parts of me that Disneyland never could.

The sun was shining, the sky was bluer than I had seen in ages, the street was buzzing, and we only had an hour and a half to soak it all in.

But have no fear, that was plenty of time to find hundreds of things I wanted. As a bonus, I did find at least one thing I could honestly put in the category of “need” and not just “really, really want, please.”

It was a new pair of readers.

The kind of readers that one would definitely not find in one’s local grocery mart. If that is where one has happened to buy previous pairs of readers.


Both children approved (one of them immediately, one after some consideration, which, I admit, might mean he just didn’t have the energy to answer another, “Are you sure? What about now?”).

I guess maybe the refreshing change of perspective brought on by traveling had me feeling ready to see the world through a fresh lens. Why shouldn’t that lens be made-in-Paris, bought-in-Venice? I couldn’t think of a reason.

I did have to momentarily grieve the fact that I’ve apparently already graduated from 1.25 to 1.5 readers, but what can be done?


So far, the world is looking good through my new lenses.

But the best part of these specs might be the brand name.

Every woman in my life who’s seen the logo on my glasses case has done exactly what I did—attempted 15 or 16 variations of how to pronounce it.

Astoundingly, all the men (so far) who’ve seen this logo laying around have casually, without hesitation or question, spouted out the one pronunciation that none of us girls even came close to—and it’s the only one that I suspect is correct.

Easy peasy.

I’m not saying we might be overthinking things, girls. But I’m just saying.

We might need a new lens once in a while.



Posted in Chuckling, Finding, Wandering | 4 Responses


3To those who are
living for,
longing for,
fighting for,
and searching for it.

To those who have
lost it
so recently
the shadow of it
still lingers
in the doorway.

To those who are
longing for it
so earnestly
the very thought of it
is both intoxicating
and cruel.

To those who have
found it
so completely
they simply can’t contain
the heart-pounding
joy of it.

To those who can’t
how it feels to
actually feel it,
and those who are
watching it slip through
their fingers,
and those who have had it
savagely torn
from their arms,
and those who swear
they never want it

To those who are
from the very first
of its blooming possibility.

To those who are
the hard work
and everyday ordinariness
of it.

To those who believe
they’ll never have it
the way they actually
want it.

To those who can
only seem to find it
from afar,
all star-crossed
and alone.

To those who aren’t
really sure
what it even is.

To those who have
discovered it
exactly in the place
where they thought
they never would.

And to all of us
who are struggling
to give it
to ourselves
and accept it
from others.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Did you know? The name Valentine means strength and capacity.

Happy Day of Strength, friends.

May your capacity be expanded in all the most gentle and beautiful ways.


Posted in Heart Things | Tagged , | 2 Responses


I have a friend
whose heart is as
deep and wide
and true
as the ocean she loves.

Her name is Jamie.

Jamie has a strength
that puts men twice her size
to shame.

And courage.
Oh my, yes.

the courage she has
she never really wanted,
which, I believe,
is the bravest kind of all.

Also, like several of the
most beautiful people I know,
Jamie knows pain.
It’s been an unwelcome companion
that has bullied
her body and, sometimes,
her heart.

But it’s never,
gotten the best of her.


Jamie is too strong for that.

Instead, somehow,
she has always saved the best of her
for the rest of us.

…for those of us who get to enjoy her contagious laugh,
her five-star hospitality,
her magical green thumb,
her impeccable style,
her masterful discount-shopping,
her boundless compassion,
and that sparkling smile.

…for those of us who have walked beaches alongside her,
as she gathers fragile,
bits of beauty
that other, more ordinary people
know only as

Jamie, you are an inspiration
and you are loved.
The best of you.
The worst of you.
And absolutely everything in between.



Today is the birthday of my beautiful, exceptional friend Jamie. I hope you have at least one friend like her. And I hope no one else ever in the history of the world has to spend a birthday the way she is right now: fighting the fight of her life against the nasty bully of cancer. Grrrrr!

Good thing she’s one of the strong ones.

Here’s to many more beach walks and waaaaaay better birthdays to come, Jamie!





Posted in Celebrating, Friend Things | 2 Responses


There are two kinds of creativity.


The kind that comes with boundaries.

And the kind that

I make my living inside the boundaries.
Someone has something to say;
they hire me to help them say it

This arrangement involves goals,
and feedback.

Sometimes I rue
these boundaries.

Often they
completely derail all the amazing and groundbreaking work I want to do
get in the way.

But always
they get me to an end

usually a pretty good one. Because,
of course:


What happens when someone wraps up
a blank slate
and gives it to you for Christmas?

blank-slate-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczykWhat do you do
when endless possibility is
on the shelf

Isn’t this the
of dreams?

Wouldn’t you sacrifice
a month’s worth of La Croix for
this when you’re right
in the middle of:
“We need this (32nd) round of revisions
by tomorrow

so we can run your copy past
three more committees

who will systematically
last tidbit of
and sense

Yes. Yes, it is.

But, hark.
What’s this?

Now that you have a blank slate
all to yourself,
your creative thoughts have


Words fail you now?

Looks like all you’ve got left
are some nasty voices
This better be good.
You need to fill that space
with something
that makes everyone
be inspired,
and wish they’d thought of it

Might as well give up now.

(The perfectionist brain >>> the original bully. !!)

Alright, people.
Looks like it’s time to do
what I tell my children
and myself
to do
when overwhelm sets in.


Sounds about right.

For my new sign,
and pretty much everything else.

Here’s to starting somewhere, friends.



P.S. Thanks to R-girl for quite possibly the best Christmas present ever (which she customized perfectly with a Christmas Vacation quote).

P.P.S. Speaking of words, I’ve finally joined the ranks of several good friends, my daughter, and apparently the rest of the blogging world by choosing my word for 2017. No resolutions for me, but I do have my word. If you ask me in person, I’ll gladly share—but, otherwise, I’m holding it close and looking forward to seeing how it takes shape this year.



Posted in Chuckling, Cool Things, Creating, Everyday Things, Fun Things, Inspiring, Noticing, Raving, Thinking, Wondering, Working | Tagged , , , | 6 Responses


I’m not much of a New Year’s person.

Other than starting a new calendar (in the years I remember to buy one), January 1 doesn’t feel like much of a beginning to me.

Is this odd?

Maybe it’s because my brain doesn’t file things by dates. I do know the years of my birth, high school graduation, and kids’ births, but, other than that, I rarely remember the year anything significant happened. Heck, half the time I can’t remember my own age.

I save memories more by milestones: I got chicken pox in my Chicago childhood home, braces when I started jr. high, morning sickness on Thanksgiving morning, and a passport for my 40th birthday. R-boy lost his first tooth on his first trip to Disneyland and R-girl lost her pet turtle for a few tense hours in our Boise backyard.

Dates are not important to me in these stories. Just the people and the feelings and my general recollection of the facts.

So when folks talk about the new year like a new chapter, it doesn’t really resonate for me. The new year feels pretty much exactly like the old one, with a new number attached that I may or may not remember.

But this doesn’t mean I don’t do chapters.

I’m all about them.

Many of my chapters have begun (and sometimes ended) with relationships that have done the same. Others started with something new in my life—a new home or church or hairstyle (the Dorothy Hamill changed my whole self in 5th grade).

But, quite often, the new chapters of my life begin when a paradigm gets shifted or a belief gets toppled. When I hear a story, or a truth, or a confession that turns my world upside down. When I have the type of revelation that creates a before/after divide in the timeline of me.

There was the chapter that began when I first learned, as a stressed young mom, what codependency is—and how it had commandeered my life.

Or the chapter that started when I first experienced real grace.

Or grief.

Or warm Ugg boots on my freezing feet.

These are the chapters I look back on and remember. Each had a very clear beginning, and most have not ended. They’ve progressed. They continue to unfold. (Except my Doritos chapter. That’s over.)

When these reality-shaking revelations show up, they always present me with a clear choice: I can pretend I don’t know what I now know, or I can open myself up to the new, and let it shape me.

I haven’t always chosen to be open. Sometimes my foundations had to shake several times—or completely disintegrate—before I even realized I could be open. But whenever I’ve chosen to let a new truth in, a new chapter has begun.

And, usually (especially if I’ve also had some courage, determination, support, guidance, prayer, and willingness to make mistakes), growth happens too.

So, although I honestly can’t remember ever making a New Year’s resolution, I do get to look back on my life and see progress. Thank the heavens above.

It’s sometimes slow progress. But it’s also sure.


Here’s to new chapters, friends.

Actually, now that I think about it, there is one thing I’m doing differently as I begin this new year. I’ll post about that soon. Stay tuned if you’re curious.



Posted in Celebrating, Chuckling, Everyday Things, Growing, Heart Things, Inspiring, Noticing, Remembering, Thinking, Wise Things, Wondering | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses


Twas the night
after Christmas
and all through the house
I noticed a hint
—just a slip—
of a slouch.

A few times
I saw

shoulders sag
just a bit.
Or a smile
would come
but just wouldn’t
quite fit.

would start
but then might
trail away
something here…

Was it boredom,
or sadness,
or something
more deep?

I couldn’t
quite tell,
until all
went to sleep.

It was then
I remembered
my own
younger days,
and how
would shift
each year
that I aged.

The feelings
would always
be filled
big hopes
and sweet dreams
and excitement
and thrills.

But when
it would end,

the letdown
set in—
even more
as my years
of toys
came to an end.

I’d find myself
(and wishing
I didn’t)
a long list
of things
that felt wrong
and forbidden.

Is it over?
Was it fun?
When will it

Was it all
that I dreamed of?

I’m starting
to yearn

for that
magical feeling
I had
when I woke
to wrapped presents
and a whole day
to play.

I’m so thankful,
so glad,
and yet still
kinda sad.
Something’s missing.
Something left.
Something’s gone
that I had.

Two nights ago
and hope-sos
burned bright,
as visions of
lit up
my night.

Now it’s over.
Now we know.
Now we’ve got
what we’ve got.
No more waiting
No more wondering.
No more watching
the clock.

And now…

I’m not certain…

which part
I like more.

The waiting
and wishing…

Or the knowing
for sure.



Merry Day After, friends!  



This poem was originally published here.

Posted in Beautiful Things, Celebrating, Chuckling, Fun Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Parenting, Remembering, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


For weeks,
the sky has been
covering us
in a thick canopy of
blocking all sign of the sun,
which seems to have
moved on,
in search of brighter days.

But yesterday,
the whiteness above
finally broke
from the clouds
and silently piled up
beneath our boots
and over our branches.

Today, the color was
but, somehow,
everything was
more vivid
than it’s been
in a long time.

It’s darker,
but also brighter.

It’s the same world,
and yet not.

The unraked leaves.
The frozen, forgotten gardens.
The muddy old dreariness of our rust-prone lives.

For today, at least,
all of it is covered
in an endless blanket of

And it feels
to me
a bit like grace.

And, of course,

Here’s to the season of white, friends. May you have warm hands, warm snuggles, and a warm place to enjoy it. xo

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advent // a coming into place, view, or being

To wait for something,
to dream a dream,
to pray a plea
is to glimpse a shadow,
a hint,
just a glimmer
of the possibility

for more.

It is standing
where you are
and seeing
what is

while also holding
the faint outline
of what is
not there


It is being
in your now
and believing
in your not-yet.

It is longing.
It is mystery.
It is hope.
It is so very, very brave.

It is advent.


On this first Sunday of Advent, the fog was thick and heavy, making it hard to see even the things I knew were there, much less the things I didn’t.

It was beautiful. And it seemed appropriate.

Here’s to all we can’t yet see, friends.


Posted in Beautiful Things, Dreaming, Extra Things, Hard Things, Heart Things, Inspiring, Noticing, Thinking, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses


When we got our floors redone a few weeks ago, R-girl asked if I was going to write a blog post about it and turn it into some sort of metaphor.

What? When have I ever done that kind of thing?

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-441Anyway, why would I do that when there are so many other relevant things to say about the topic?

Like what a pain in the actual neck it is to move all your furniture – and yourself – out of the house for a week.

Also how hellishly-crazy-horrific that varnish smells. “Smells” isn’t even the correct word. It’s so much more than a smell. It’s an all-pervasive, lung-and-skin-invading state of being that seeps into every piece of fabric in the house like some industrial-strength, essence-of-toxic-chemical laundry detergent.

For a girl who’s too sensitive to even use floral-scented laundry detergent, this was a full-on sensory assault.


But there are other things to say too…

Like how fun it was to have slumber parties with some of my favorite people around town all week.

Or what a blast it was to stay up late watching the Cubs win the World Series!!!!!!! With friends who cared as much as I did!

Or what good practice it was to ask for help. And receive it.

Not to mention just how beyond-badly the floors needed to be done.
I know, right?

Then there are the vulnerable things. (As if that floor wasn’t vulnerable enough.)

I mean, is it just me, or does a project that turns your life upside-down stir unexpected emotion for anyone else?

It might be just me. After all, I’m an INFJ, recovering codependent, borderline HSP, sometimes-hormonal human, which means, basically: I feel stuff. And I felt some stuff throughout this process.

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-445For one, I felt the familiar aloneness of making all the decisions by myself.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not always a bad thing. I can make decisions. I do it all day long as a business owner and single mom. And there are perks to being the only decision maker (e.g., pink couch, pink stove, pink chairs, pink portrait of a random guy in the living room, etc.).

But I’d be willing to compromise on the pink once in a while for the fun of making decisions together with someone else about floors and countertops and what to do next weekend. I’m just saying.

On top of that, the last guy I seriously dated owned a hardwood flooring business. Let’s let the irony sink in for a minute…

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-442We’ve been broken up for months but, yeah, there were feelings. Obviously.


Mixed in with all those feels were the “I got this” and “You go, girl” feels. Because, you guys! I finally overcame the hypnotizingly comfortable status-quo and mustered the energy to make this life-invasive project happen – instead of just talking about needing it for another 10 years. I made all the necessary decisions. I noticed the difficult feelings and I said to them, “Yep, you matter and you’re allowed. But you’re not in charge.”

Maybe this post is starting to sound a little too deep for a floor refinishing project.

I know some of you whip out remodeling masterpieces like batches of brownies (which I also don’t do). But, for whatever reason, things like this usually require a little more of me than I think they will.

On the flip side, they give me back more than I expect too.

These days, when I walk in my front door and see a beautifully restored floor spreading out in front of me – instead of its battered-beyond-recognition predecessor – it satisfies a lot more than my desire for visual beauty.

It feels kind of like… a new foundation.

Something solid and fresh to build on for this next season at R-house.

And I’m kinda blown away by how much a beautifully restored foundation can make everything around me look a little newer, brighter, and better.


I guess R-girl called it, didn’t she?


Here’s to clearing things out, stripping things down, and bringing back some beauty, friends—even when it’s hard.

Posted in Beautiful Things, Decorating, Hard Things, House Things, Messy Things, Noticing, Wise Things | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


I’m having the sinking sensation
of love
gone awry.

It’s that feeling you get when two people
seem to be speaking
different languages
using the same set of words.


You know…
that thing where fear
acts like

and frustration
gets loud,

and “I’m right”
sounds an awful lot like
“you’re wrong.”

From my vantage point,
at least,
there have been quite a few times
this week,
when I’ve felt the sting of grace
judgement delivered,
kindness delayed,
and common ground

I’m hanging in there so far.

But I’m starting to fear
that this latest backlash
may be one lash too many
for some.

I’m afraid
that good and valuable people
are about to write each other off
too soon,
because the alternative is just

After all,
staying together
without destroying each other
will probably require
hearing each other.

And hearing each other is
nearly impossible
when you’re reduced
to a cliché.

And even when you’re not,
hearing is hard,
and inconvenient,
and annoying,
and exhausting,
and almost always risky.

Especially if you might
hear something
that requires
or growth,
or sacrifice.

But all of those things are
usually worth it,
I think,
when there’s something
worth fighting for.

And I think we are worth fighting for.


As in, all of us who live here
and currently disagree.

Yes, some relationships are
and they do need to end.
(I know this well.
More well than I wish.)

But I hope that’s not us.

I still believe
we have more in common
than we don’t.

I think we have a thing
worth saving.

And if we are to possibly save
this thing,
we might need to stop
and start

Or, even better,

One of the most powerful tools I’ve acquired in my lifetime is curiosity. It doesn’t always come naturally for me, and occasionally I’m afraid of what I might hear, but I’m trying to use more of it these days in particular, because it usually leads me away from judging and toward new and beautiful truths.

Here’s to maybe being a little more curious about each other, friends. And a little less sure.


P.S. Aren’t those bricks the best? They were another great find in downtown Baltimore on my recent business trip. We came upon a park paved with dozens of homophones. It was the word-nerd version of a yellow brick road. If only I would have had time to capture a few more…

Posted in Growing, Hard Things, Healing, Heart Things, Messy Things, Noticing, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Responses

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