DRAWING A BLANK

There are two kinds of creativity.

save-the-neck-for-me-clark-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk

The kind that comes with boundaries.

And the kind that
doesn’t.

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

This arrangement involves goals,
direction,
limits,
timelines,
budgets,
teams,
feedback,
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
result.

Actually,
usually a pretty good one. Because,
of course:

Limits
breed
creativity.

So.
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
sitting
there
on the shelf
staring
at
you?

Isn’t this the
stuff
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
remove
every
last tidbit of
cleverness
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

…fled?

Words fail you now?

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

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.

start-somewhere-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk

Sounds about right.

For my new sign,
and pretty much everything else.

__
Here’s to starting somewhere, friends.

xxoo

__

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.

xo

 

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

WHAT’S NEW?

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.

january-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk3
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.

 

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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.

xo

 

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

AFTERTHOUGHTS [REPRISE]

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.

Conversations
would start
but then might
trail away
toward
something
elusive,
something here…
yesterday.

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
Christmas
would shift
each year
that I aged.

The feelings
beforehand
would always
be filled
with
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
asking
(and wishing
I didn’t)
a long list
of things
that felt wrong
and forbidden.

Is it over?
Was it fun?
When will it
return?

Was it all
that I dreamed of?

I’m starting
to yearn

for that
magical feeling
I had
yesterday,
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
maybes
and hope-sos
burned bright,
as visions of
sugarplums
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.

__

xo

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

WHITE OUT

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

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

Today, the color was
gone
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
white.

And it feels
to me
a bit like grace.

And, of course,
Christmas.

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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

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
there,

while also holding
the faint outline
of what is
not there

yet.

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.

 

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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.

xo

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

I’M KINDA FLOORED

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.

red-birch-floor-before-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk-445

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.

But!

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.

Whoops.

I guess R-girl called it, didn’t she?

xo

__
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

HEAR HERE

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.

baltimore-bricks-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk12

You know…
that thing where fear
acts like
coldness,

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
withheld,
judgement delivered,
kindness delayed,
and common ground
abandoned.

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.

baltimore-bricks-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk13
I’m afraid
that good and valuable people
are about to write each other off
too soon,
because the alternative is just
so
much
work.

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
expansion,
or growth,
or sacrifice.

baltimore-bricks-shorts-and-longs-julie-rybarczyk11
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.

We.

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

Yes, some relationships are
toxic
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
telling
and start
hearing.

Or, even better,
start
asking.

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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.

xxoo

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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

ECHOES

We’re hearing echoes at R-house this week.

When I yell from the kitchen, “Has anyone seen my keys?” the words bounce off all the empty spaces where the chairs, pillows, artwork, stray shoes, unfolded laundry, piles of homework, and bits of life are nowhere to be seen.

We’re getting the floors done here, which means our living and dining areas are completely empty. Just like they were the week we moved in.

And the emptiness is causing all kinds of echoes.

The kind that take me back to the sunny October day when this sweet yellow house became R-house.

It was ten years ago, almost exactly…

I’m hearing echoes of an evening I spent painting R-girl’s new room alongside a good friend, who stopped mid-stroke, swept her watermelon-pink-tinged paintbrush through the air, and declared: “Julie! This is the house where your kids will grow up!”

She was excited. She knew this house was a blessing for us.

But deep down, I resisted.

“No!” I thought. “This is the house where my first-grade son and fifth-grade daughter will grow until they reach some unspecified age—before the moment when they’ve actually grown up.

“And at some point before they’ve actually grown up, the three of us will either move somewhere new on our continuing adventure, or we’ll combine households with a man we will all have fallen in love with, who will be equally in love with all three of us…

“Or…something.

“But this won’t be the house where my kids grow up, that’s for sure.”

Because, basically, it was impossible to imagine that R-kids ever would grow up.

Also, my personal recollection of growing up was that it seemed to take somewhere just shy of an eternity. And I knew we wouldn’t be in R-house for an eternity.

But what I didn’t realize… is that it actually doesn’t take very many Little League seasons, and Halloween costumes, and Christmas trees, and spring breaks to suddenly reach a point where you look around and find that…you’re not entirely sure…but it’s quite possible that your kids either already are or are just about to be grown up.

So I’m savoring the echoes of days gone by that I’ve been hearing around here this week.

And I’m looking forward to making a few more.

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Here’s to growing up, friends. And letting our kids do the same.

xxoo

 

Posted in Decorating, Growing, Heart Things, House Things, Kid Things, Noticing, Parenting, Single-Momming | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

WILD AND WONDERFUL


Some days,
more than others,
I realize how truly

impossible

it is
to know where this path
is leading.

No matter how hard
I may try.

(And,
believe me,
I do.)

No matter how much
I might
want to,
I simply cannot see
around that corner.

I cannot know.
I cannot be sure.
I cannot be certain.

And neither
can anyone else.

Which means
I cannot be promised
that things will turn out
the way I want.

But
it also means
I cannot
be assured
that they never will.

There is no one
out there
who can offer me
a guarantee
that might take away
my fear
of certain unknowns.

But,
there is also no one
out there
who can take away
my hope.

And that is why
I choose
to keep
walking into
the wild
and wonderful
and beautifully veiled
unknown.

__

Here’s to all we don’t know yet, friends.

And here’s to the whimsical tree tunnel I stumbled upon in downtown Baltimore during a business trip last week!

xo

Posted in Beautiful Things, Cool Things, Finding, Growing, Hard Things, Heart Things, Noticing, Thinking, Wandering, Wise Things, Wondering, Wording | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FOR THE LOVE OF GEOFFREY: QUALITY FIRST

The people who change your life
aren’t always
the ones you expect.

Sometimes
you don’t even realize a person
is altering the course
of where you’re headed
until a few years and seasons
have passed.

And, even then,
sometimes
it’s only after your paths have
veered apart
that you can clearly see the
imprint
a person has left behind.

On Monday I learned
that one of my
unexpected life-changers
has died.

It’s shocking.
And heartbreaking.

He was only 53.

He was a force of life.
He was kind and generous and funny.
He was incredibly talented.

And he had,
quite possibly,
the. most. impeccable. taste.
of anyone I’ve met.

He’s someone I laughed with
and worked with
and fought with
and struggled through challenges with
and became closer to
because of it.

Throughout the course of the past 23 years,
he’s someone I was able to
create great
and beautiful
work with.

In many ways, he’s the reason
I do what I do today.
And if what I do today is
good
in any way,
it’s in large part
thanks to him.

His name was Geoffrey.

I am so very grateful
for all he taught me
and all we shared.

I was just thinking of calling him
for his birthday.

I was just wondering about
his heart condition.

I hope I told him
how he truly touched my life
in wonderful ways.

I think I probably did?
At various points?
In different ways?

I hope so.

But either way,
he’s gone too soon.

I can’t believe it.
And I will miss him dearly.

But, for all of us who knew him,
and loved him,
his impact lives on.

 

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A few weeks ago, the framed vintage raspberry print by my stove fell off the wall and cracked. I’ve always liked that picture, even though it’s become grease-stained and faded over the years.

Geoffrey crossed my mind. I knew he wouldn’t approve of its tattered state.

Geoffrey was the creative director I worked with when I was a young, clueless, rookie copywriter and reluctant designer in Boise, Idaho. In the beginning, it was just the two of us and our fearless leader Doug. Soon we had grown into a successful design firm that took on more of the world than we might have expected.

But while we were doing that, we were also shaping and being shaped by each other in ways I know we all still remember.

No one taught me more about the power of simple, understated design. Or clean lines. Or small details. So this weekend, in a cleaning frenzy, I saw the mess that the broken framed vintage raspberry print had become. And I took it down.

By Monday, it was back up.

You see, 15ish years ago, Geoffrey gave me that framed vintage raspberry print. It was a cast-off from his ever-rotating, perfectly curated collection of art, treasures, and curiosities. He was done with it—and if there’s one thing Geoffrey didn’t do, it was hang on to things he was done with.

It’s been with me ever since—partly because I like it and, honestly, partly because it reminds me of Geoffrey.

So the framed vintage raspberry print is back up in my kitchen again. Cracked and stained and a little worse for the wear, but still proclaiming: Quality First.

Which, I just realized today, is a Geoffrey mantra if I’ve ever heard one.

I think I’ll tackle those grease stains and keep it there a while longer.

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Here’s to loving the ones we’ve lost, friends. And here’s to you, Geoffrey.
xxxooo

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