“Over time the balance started to shift. The big obstacles remained — I still couldn’t get pregnant, I still hated my job, I couldn’t move those obstacles with all the tractors in all the Palouse — but my days had become so populated with all these little miracles that I had run out of room for the rest of it. The good had caught up to the bad and eclipsed it altogether.”
I began reading Natalie Holbrook’s blog in 2010 right after the birth of her son, Henry. Up till that point, I had mainly read food and home decor blogs. Discovering the lifestyle genre opened up a whole new world to me and I fell in love with Natalie’s voice right away. Her writing is descriptive, honest and funny. It really resonated with me. Natalie is my spirit animal.
I always wanted an older sister. I wanted a female guide. Of course I have my mother, but that is a different relationship — beautiful, but different. I wanted cool hand-me-downs and someone to show me how to wear eyeliner. Instead, I read fashion magazines and watched the O.C. Natalie feels like an older sister to me. If she says the best summer shoe is the saltwater sandal, I’m ordering it. Limit washing my hair to once a week, so I can be more like the French? … Hmm, okay I’ll have to think about that one!
I have a tendency to over-share. My thoughts occasionally spill out of my mouth like a free-flowing river. Sometimes I feel like I’m a lady with too many opinions. Because of this, I’m drawn to people who are straight shooters. Shauna Niequist, Kelly Oxford and Nora Ephron are just a few of the women I love who bravely share their story through their writing. Natalie is another woman with whom I resonate with.
When Natalie announced she was writing a book, I was so excited! I preordered it then quickly canceled that preorder to take part in a special fundraising campaign. The package included her book and a tote (she wasn’t affiliated with the company that was raising money, she just offered her products as a prize). Unfortunately, the company wasn’t able to raise sufficient funding. They went back and forth for a few weeks about whether they would be able to fulfill the orders and in the end they cut their losses and refunded us.
Thankfully, Natalie still had the books and totes and set up a private way for us to order. We just had to email her. I emailed Natalie and thanked her for making me feel less alone during my infertility. She sent the sweetest note back.
As you can probably tell from my thoughts above, I went into this book with an enjoyment bias. Even so, I had heard some conflicting reviews and was concered it would basically be old posts retold (there are a few, but they were of the so-old-it-becomes-new-again variety).
I found the content familiar, but refreshing. HNJ is part memoir and part advice on taking ownership of the areas in your life that you enjoy. Natalie is known for essay style blog entries and tips on NYC living. Her domain is decorating, organizing, beauty (false eyelashes can be super fun), and finding the perfect stripped tee-shirt. Home is very important to Natalie.
“I make my home somewhere I love to be not to impress others, or live up to some standard or ideal, but out of respect for myself.”
I’ve seen a lot of pushback to this form of femininity. Why can’t women be strong and opinionated but also like nesting and decorative throw pillows? Why not make our life beautiful and welcoming. Martha Stewart has made an entire empire on cake decorating and DIY wreaths, right?
Natalie’s writings on her infertility struggle have continually been a comfort to me. I didn’t know there would be a chapter on Clomid and infertility testing, but they were basically ripped from my own life.
“The first time I was infertile, it was 2007. Well, I’m not infertile, I just need an assist. A Stockton to my Malone. A Robin to my Batman. A Jacob Black to my Bella Swan. Something like that.”
Memoir’s are tricky because if you don’t resonate with the writers point of view, you’ll have a hard time settling into the story they are telling. I love the way Natalie tells her story. She inspires me to live a beautiful and full life. I laughed and cried while reading this book, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.