The whole of existence is equal parts terrifying, depressing, exhilarating, exhausting, fun, and beautiful, plus a million other things, all at the same time.
And so, you have to find your stuff. The stuff that makes the every day a place you can live in without too much discomfort. You have to get the fresh cut flowers, lay out the pretty dishes, put on the records, wear the lipstick shade that makes you feel most like a bad ass, and take your nightly skin care routine very seriously.
Even when you know, in your head and in your hearts of hearts, that it is all very silly. That there are terrible, unspeakable, impossibly evil things happening out there in the world, right at this moment, whilst you are dropping bath bombs and contemplating a manicure or the new episode of The Mindy Project. But my goodness, what else can you do? You have to find your moments. The fact is that you have to luxuriate in the silly sometimes if you want to survive.
Basically, you have to be the boss of your own poops.
So says Natalie Holbrook, otherwise known as Hey Natalie Jean, the writer behind her eponymous blog, and now book. Hey Natalie Jean: Advice, Musings, and Inspiration on Marriage, Motherhood and Style is a manifesto to the little things that make up a life. Essays and how-to’s on domesticity, motherhood and style populate the book, along with over 150 photos of Natalie’s apartment, outfits, family and life in New York City.
Loyal readers will find a few essays here that they’ve read before, and will recognize more than a few photos, but there is lots of new among them, too, and rereading the familiar pieces feels less like a chore and more like a recap of the journey: this is where Natalie started, and this is where she’s at. And new readers will get some of Natalie’s best posts, repackaged, along with many new essays and stories and style & beauty bits and bobs that they will want to annotate and return to for inspiration often.
The book opens with perhaps Natalie’s most famous essay, the thesis statement of Hey Natalie Jean if you will, her essay on motherhood and being a Queen. The book just would not have been complete without it, and it is a fitting opening to the story of how Natalie got to be there, in that apartment on the Upper West Side, with that baby and those cheerios and her nightly routine of tidying up.
“This is not a kingdom I’m embarrassed to rule over. I rule powerfully here. With grace and elegance and mercy. And sometimes false lashes. This is a season in my life. This is my chance to be somebody’s mother, to make my home a castle, and I’m so honored to do it. This sovereignty, this kingdom, this is a gift. And this, this book you are holding, is about making the most of it. This book is about our kingdoms. This is a book about being a queen.”
And what does this Queendom entail? Well, there’s an essay in here on the tidying. How the act of gathering toys and cleaning mugs is a quick path to satisfaction. There’s an essay on tomboy fashion, an ode to having a uniform, one in defense of beauty; of decorating and adorning and generally wanting to live a life surrounded by pretty things.
But there are also thoughts on pregnancy and giving birth and nursing; on marriage and raising children; on making a house a home. Natalie details her struggles with infertility, the time she spent living with her husband in Moscow, Idaho, when she wasn’t where she wanted to be and she was a little sad and a little lost, and how that time was ultimately a blessing. There is a piece on working through anxiety and depression the best way she knows how, with music and sunshine and a few Meg Ryan movies.
What Natalie makes you feel most through this book is that your life, despite all of the very mundane moments, or in fact, because of them, is very exciting. For Natalie, going to Duane Reade to buy a case of Diet Pepsi is very romantic and quite adventurous, and even though you know there are times when she has to force herself to feel it, the book, more than anything, shows how she got from A to B; to actively being a person who fights back against the tide of bad moods and internet trolls and faux friends and even the bigger, more grown-up obstacles, and has built her own little niche of happiness.
As for those internet trolls, they will undoubtedly find much to rip apart in the book. In Natalie’s honesty when it comes to adult friendships (her piece on an encounter at New York Fashion Week gone awry in which she references another New York-based mommy blogger that long-time readers will probably have little trouble identifying is honest and tongue-in-cheek, and it’s Natalie at her best: a little ornery, and also lightly self-deprecating in only the most humorous way, but which will no doubt provide days of snarky entertainment for the forums) and in her insistence on keeping things light, daring to take entire chapters to write about the best way to apply false eyelashes and dry shampoo as if they are subjects that warrant observation.
But, it seems to me that the people who don’t entirely get Natalie, don’t really understand what she’s doing with Hey Natalie Jean, are those with little scope for the imagination. Because while you’re reading the book, you get the very real impression that Natalie knows exactly what’s she’s doing. She knows when’s she being silly, she knows when she’s laying herself bare, she knows what matters to her and she sticks to her guns. Natalie never takes herself too seriously, even when you know she is taking her subject very seriously, so that her book is this great combination of lighthearted and whimsical, introspective and thought-provoking.
And if you ever wanted to know what Natalie Holbrook is really all about, her book will show you; she’s all about the poops.
“I think so much of a rich life lies in being able to recognize the miracles and adventures as they are unfolding… being able to recognize them while they’re happening, realizing that these are the moments you’ll someday look back on with such fondness, and then letting those moments be as big as we can make them right now while we’re in them–that’s the trick. Those are your poops.”
I promise, once you read the book, you’ll understand the poops, too. –Kerri Jarema
Hey Natalie Jean: Advice, Musings, and Inspiration on Marriage, Motherhood, and Style is out March 17, 2015 (Abrams)
GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a copy of Hey Natalie Jean! Find out how below.
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One (1) winner will be chosen at random to win a copy of Hey Natalie Jean. We will contact you via Twitter if you win. If the winner does not reply within 24 hours, we will choose another winner. US RESIDENTS ONLY. Giveaway will be open from 1 p.m. Monday, March 16 to 1 p.m. Monday March 22. Good luck!