Word Problems

Annnd it’s Wednesday!  Time for a new Recruit!

Today is exciting because I am bringing you the words of one of my MUST read bloggers:  Julie of By Any Other Name (although admittedly, I blanked on the name of her blog because I always think of it like her her twitter handle: julieCgardner.com…oops).

And to be honest, the fact that I always just think of it as Julie.com is because I am so in love with her words that I forget that her blog has a name.

She doesn’t post every day–which I love because I canNOT keep up with you who post daily, so when her blog lights up with a new post in my reader, I go right for it.

Julie also leaves me the best, most wonderful comments EVER.  Seriously, cruise around here and read what she has to say to me.  You’ll be in love with her just from those.

But I will give you another reason…read on…


The breakdown of the word BELONGING is not lost on me.

After all, you can take the English teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t make her love math. Or something like that.

Which is why my equation for today is this:

Be + longing = A state of yearning to be a part of something.

But what? And how? And why?

From our earliest years we question our place in the family. Perhaps a sibling steals our position as “only” or we enter a home already inhabited by at least one other child. We suspect the universe revolves around us and strive to test the theory; especially when we’re forced to share a ball, the last cookie, our mother’s attention. It’s hard to prove you belong when you’re only three years old.

Unfortunately, the quest to fit in doesn’t ease during our school days; in fact it becomes worse. What if we like the wrong shoes, the wrong music, the wrong gender? Or forget the rules of the game and how to fix our hair? We fear failure at every turn, our anxieties amplified by hormones and pimples and unavoidable change. It’s all so very serious and strange.

Then young adulthood tempts us to seek real partnerships, validation, authenticity. We may even believe people will appreciate our true selves but we aren’t really sure what those selves are. So we try on different attitudes; we shift in our seats, settle into our souls; cross our fingers that our invitations are returned. We hold our breath and wait. And then.

The response can be more deafening than silence.

Even as a “grown-up” I’m a drifter between groups. I overlap, dip in and out; test the waters for their depths but avoid making waves. I half-fit into many circles but rarely feel I’ve reached their centers. I want to be fully vested, but chip away at my own rough surfaces until I expose the underlying reasons why I’m not quite right for each circumstance.

A part-time teacher leaves campus before eating lunch with her colleagues.

A part-time mother doesn’t join playgroups that meet while she’s working.

A writer works with words but fumbles when she speaks. She creates sentences but ruins conversations; forgets how to dress for public consumption.

If I try hard enough, I can convince myself I’m too old or young; too fast or slow; too rich or poor; too much or too little of whatever is necessary in any given situation.

Or I can stop the madness.

I’m smart (except for the math). I can be funny. I am loved for real by some and perhaps (at least intermittently) by many who’ve shared their online worlds.

I can let go of the first-grade girl whose peers run so quickly back to class after recess that she’s left behind. Lost.  Sitting by herself until someone notices.

I’m not that girl now. And yet. At one point, aren’t we all?

Some longer than others; some long more than others.

I imagine there’s a person in the history of living who’s always felt she belonged. But I do not know her. And I’m not sure I’d want to.

No. I choose the quirky, the silly, the slightly-off.

The one who’s at the park with her kids and (instead of a pack of mom-friends around her discussing their upcoming girls’ weekend) she has a strip of duct tape hanging off the seat of her ten-year-old sweatpants.


But those girls-weekend friends? I suspect they worry, too.

They stand close to each other thinking they need to tighten their pores or freshen their breath; to treat the pit stains on their white t-shirts. (Worn only once and still!)

We can kill ourselves with the longing to belong. Or we can just be.

As hard as it is. For as long as it takes.

So come on. Hold my hand.  Let’s address this word problem together.

Because You + Me = Enough.

And then some.


You need more Julie in your life.  You so do.  So here you go…

I absolutely melt when she writes about her kids:  today call me complete

Again with those kids:  today call me chosen

And this is just funny because we ALL know she doesn’t need this:  today call me Bo-curious

All I have to say about this one is…sigh: today call me julienancy

I know.  you are in love with her.  It’s ok…go hang out at her blog.  I totally get it.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Thanks so much for recruiting me, Katie and for making me feel like I belong.


  2. Love you Julie. And I mean that in the most non-stalker way.

    Slightly off-center, quirky, silly – yes, that. All that.

    • The non-stalkerish, slightly-off-center love is mutual, Alison ~

      And if there is anyone out there in the blog world who makes EVERYONE feel good, it’s you.

      The support you manage to spread to so many people in so many ways is truly staggering.

      You make us all feel like we belong.

      So yep.

      All that.

  3. Hands off Alison – she is mine! Love you Julie and yes you are enough and I’ll take you away for a girls weekend anytime. wink.wink.

    • Tracy –

      You’ll have to spend some time dressing me but I’ll bet we could have some fun on a girls weekend.

      No sweatpants. Or math.

      (And here’s the part where I stopped to think about what we WOULD have on a girls weekend and all the stuff sounded so good and then I really wanted to go and got distracted and now I have to make the kids breakfast which is so not fun. Or wink-worthy.)

      DANG it.

      Some day…

  4. We love this because it’s true.

    The only place I feel like I really, fully belong is inside my family. They can’t get rid of me.

    I was a daughter and a sister long before I was a math nerd and an athlete.

    I was a wife and a mother long before I considered myself a writer or an artist.

    I guess that’s when the longing turns into belonging; when you step into the identities you’ve dreamed of with your whole self. Quirks and all.

    (Also? This reminds me of that cheesy boy band spoof movie when they sing a song, “I know my calculus/It says U + Me = Us”.)

    • Oh, Jess…aren’t we so lucky to have the families we have?

      My parents, sister, sister-in-law, two brothers-in-law, three nephews and a niece were all at my house this past weekend to celebrate my son’s black belt test (after six years of training – hooray!).

      It was a day of pride and joy and TOTAL comfort (besides my nerves) because it didn’t matter that I was too rushed to shower or that I cried while I watched Jack perform or that my dogs had puked (again) while we were gone so when we returned the house smelled like…well…


      Yes. We are lucky. Not everyone has this with their families.
      Or has such wonderful friends.

      So thank you.
      And I will never take it for granted.

  5. Julie!

    Why you always gotta beat me everywhere, yo? 😉

    So excited that you are here at Katie’s place.

    And look at all this affirmation about how everyone feels that same kind of thrill when you show up on the email. Squee!

    You do not not write enough.

    Strike that double negative.

    Because you were an English teacher.

    And I am.

    You write just the right amount. And when you put something out (not that you put out), but when you hit publish and put words into the world, we take notice. Your writing has a resonance that stays with us. That is somethin’, my sweet pumpkin-pie.

    Anyway, now to gush about you.

    (No, I wasn’t gushing yet.)

    First: you know I adore you.

    Second: I love this line.

    “I imagine there’s a person in the history of living who’s always felt she belonged. But I do not know her. And I’m not sure I’d want to.”

    Scarily, I know someone like this.

    And you are right: you don’t want to know her.

    Third: Meeting you on-line has been among the coolest things to happen to me in the blogosphere. You are a gracious and growing thing. Always.

    And honest. So honest.

    And, as usual, you go straight to the heart of it — and squeeze.

    • Renee,

      I remember *meeting* you at Leanne’s (Jess, too, that same day) and thinking “These people are SO funny and smart and original and _____insert other awesome adjectives here” and then we followed each other home and now?

      I look forward to your posts, to you comments (always spectacular, truly) and to those moments where the connection steps right out of the internet and into the real world.

      You are a fantastic, supportive friend. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate our *relationship*. And I don’t care if that sounds dirty.

      Because my lady, you are HOT.
      Also, pumpkin pie sounds awesome right now.


  6. Her compliments really and truly are the best thing going!

    Julie, you are one of my all time favorite writers. You are one of the ones I wish I could spend some quality face time with over pie, coffee, and booze.

    I was unaware of the Sluiter Nation, but clearly it’s a good place to be. I will be back.

    Man have I been that little girl and man am I that woman now. You nailed it.

    “Because You + Me = Enough.”


    • Annabelle –

      I may or may not be enjoying pie, coffee and booze right now.
      (Okay. Not the pie. Or the booze. It’s 7:30 AM and NOT New Years Day, so.)

      I’m clearly missing some important components to the perfect day AND your presence which I definitely would love to be in someday…

      Because I know what you mean about face time – there are definitely people about whom I’ve thought, “We would have SO much fun….almost TOO much fun” together.

      You being one of them. AND. There’s no such thing as too much fun.
      Except maybe at 7:30 AM on New Years Day???)


  7. Accepting ourselves and others just as they are may be life’s hardest challenge.

    • KLZ –

      I’m glad you mentioned accepting others, too. You are right. We can get so caught up in worrying about what others think of us that we don’t really see them or consider their perspective and/or feelings.

      That may be part of the appeal of online friendship because we can soak up what we accept and ignore the rest since it’s not right there in front of us.

      Either way, I love your antlers and your maternity underwear and your anti-kegel philosophy.
      Just the way you are.

  8. Okay, I want to go on the girls weekend with you and Tracy, if nothing else just to see your beautiful words in person. I’ll bring the wine!

    You have a gift for reaching into our hearts and putting into words the thoughts that dance through our brains, but never make it anywhere. Your words are little treasures-thank you for sharing them with us!

    • Oh my goodness, THANK YOU!

      I would love to think of my words as little treasures…
      Because I do work hard to pick them out and hope people understand what I’m trying to say.

      So hearing that you “get it” means so much to me.

      But more importantly: Girls Weekend is a Go!

      (We may have to rent out an entire island…just a thought.)

  9. i adore Julie. She belongs with ME! I mean, in a platonic, idol worshipping, obsessive way.
    I’m going to drink more coffee now.

    What I’m trying to say is Julie is brilliant even when she’s doing math equations (bleh). And I especially love it when she duct tapes her pants.

    • JoAnn,

      Few situations aren’t improved with a little coffee and duct tape.
      (Actually, I can’t think of any.)

      Failing that, the whole “taking off your clothes and standing on the table” is the next best thing.
      (I think the guy fixing my leaky roof would agree???)

      Either way, someday, you and I will meet and share and laugh and I will know that all this effort has been worthwhile.

      Thank you, my friend.
      For making me believe.

  10. Be + friend = befriend…which is defined as behaving in a friendly way toward someone…you are that someone.

    • Oh Di,

      If I got you to do math, I know this was a success. We English teachers must stick together in a world of numbers and “right” answers.

      Thanks for being the one I ALWAYS know will be here. There. Everywhere I go.
      With or without the white rabbit. XO

      p.s. Is it Thursday yet?

  11. Love Julie, and love that post! We all need to remember that we are enough.

    • Kristy –

      You STILL have my favorite blog name. Of all time.
      (And not just because I love alliteration. And Pinot. Shhhhh.)

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. Let’s remember together:

      We Are Enough.

      Oh yeah.

  12. Jules, you and your family will always belong to our group. Another great post from my favorite blogger. I’m so proud of you for putting yourself out there week after week and sharing the many layers of Julie.

    • How lucky am I to have you? To have all this because of you?


      And someday, when we’re all old and gray (!) and living in some beautiful wine country; you and Nancy and Bill and I will be in a tasting room sipping a delicious (of course) Cabernet and we will belong.

      How about Saturday? Are you busy?


  13. Julie C… I am struck dumb by your eloquence. Can I write like you when we grow up?

    • Cameron, my friend, you are one of the most lovely writers I’ve come across.
      In every way.

      I hope you can hear my cheers and see my smiles throughout all the challenges and successes you’ve been taking on.

      Girlfriend, you are GOING places.
      And I’m here waving the flag of support.


  14. This is an unbelievable message! It is so good to hear it and spread it again and again that we are all uncertain at times, that we all have self-doubt and that we are all good enough, just the way we are.

    • Thanks, Mel.

      It’s easy to say, right? So why is it so hard to remember?

      I suppose that’s the reason we write it down; to put our feelings out there in words (instead of letting them settle in our brains). Then we can go back and read and see that it was real.

      That we were and are good enough.
      Maybe even BETTER than that. All of us.

  15. Oh, Julie – you seductress, you . . . wonderfully said.

    I’ve never known anyone who felt they always belonged . . . but, I like to think that you’re pretty goshdarn close to being just that person, because, um, everyone I know who knows you, well, they love you.

    • Is it me they love or my inappropriate church tweets?
      Oh wait. That’s you.

      Maybe it’s my vlogs about singing my kids to sleep?
      Nope. That’s you, too.

      Maybe people like me because I’m friends with Daddyrunsalot?

      Hmmmm. Either way.
      So glad I am.

  16. Julie,
    How do you do it??? Your words always just go straight to my heart! You live my life but you put the words together to express this life so much more beautifully then I ever could.
    Thank you!
    I’ll take quirky friend over a girlfriends’ weekend any day!!!
    And, yea, duct tape is handy for so many things!

    • So, I should bring duct tape on our quirky girlfriends’ weekend, right?

      Wait. That might give people the wrong idea…

      Or not.

      After all the stuff IS handy.
      (And you said it more beautifully than I could for sure.)


  17. Julie, I love, love, love, love you! Love this post too. This part: “A writer works with words but fumbles when she speaks. She creates sentences but ruins conversations; forgets how to dress for public consumption.” OMG is that my life. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not the only one. Hugs. 🙂

    • Just think what would happen to me on a CLEANSE?

      I don’t know how you do it, but you’re damn inspiring, my friend.

      And dressing well is overrated.
      (At least that’s what I tell myself every day when I pick my sweatpants up off the floor!)

      Either way, you are not the only one.
      By a long shot.

  18. I was gonna be all, “I’m such a sap! I *cried* at this! I CRIED! What is wrong with me and my loose emotions?” but then I was all, “Nah. She just writes really beautiful, really relatable stuff that always moves me”.

    I am ever so glad you’re around. If I’m ever lucky enough to ruin an in person coversation with you, I will tell you so and give you a hug.

    • Julie,

      I can’t tell you how glad I am to have *met* you at The Suniverse.
      I absolutely LOVE your blog and hope we do have a in-person moment in the future.

      But don’t worry.

      When me meet up over pancakes at the IHOP, I’ll totally ruin the conversation first.

      Then when we hug it won’t be awkward at all.
      Just maybe a little syrupy.

      Which is NEVER a bad thing.

  19. Julie.

    How? How do you know me and my mind with such gorgeous clarity?

    Just today. I was wondering what I am…not a mother that is constantly engaged. A NaNoWriMo dropout who says she likes to write, but not enough to feed the fire.

    A teacher who sometimes wonders if she has the chops to do it anymore.

    And yet, yes. Yes, there is belonging, as long as I allow it.

    Your words are so dear.

    • Oh Nancy,

      I understand all those roles more than you know.
      Or maybe you do know. Which is why you’re so wonderful to me.

      As for the writing? You have the chops, my friend.
      Your words are exquisite.

      When I’m commenting on your pieces, I worry that I sound all English-teachery snobby. Like “I took a million classes in literary criticism.”

      But you get me and I’m grateful because I did take a lot of classes and I LOVE to see the good stuff in your work.

      As for naNoWriMo?
      The words come when the come.

      It’s the law. And November can’t change it.


  20. Julie,

    That was beautiful. I feel like a drifter too. And am still looking to be Enough. Thanks for making me feel I’m not the only one.

    • Christine,

      So nice to meet you. And as you can see from the comments above, it looks like we must belong to a pretty amazing group…

      I wouldn’t want to be a part of anything else.
      And there are no better friends to be found.

  21. I came over here via Julie’s blog. I adore her because with every post, she either makes me laugh or she makes me cry (ya know, in a good way).

    And now I adore you, Katie – that post about how your MIL taught your husband how to dance… oh jeez. I have a 13-month-old boy and you have just ensured that I will teach that little man how to dance.

    • Oh Meghan this comment means SO much to me.

      I can just see you dancing around with your sweet baby boy…and now I’m missing my own Phase Three of life.

      (What phase is middle school anyway? Terror?!?)

      I’m glad you came here and you’ll love Katie.
      There’s a whole lot of special here for sure.


  22. Julie is one of the lovliest people I feel lucky enough to have met in this vast on-line world, and I am so thrilled to see her here and share a cup of tea with this post.

    Drifting in and out has its positives and negatives, and I think it can be a beautiful thing, if you are able to accept yourself as you are. I am learning. But one day I will. That day may be when I am in a nursing home, and no one can see the flash of excitement as I finally realize that yes, I am perfect the way I am 🙂

    • Angela,

      I’m so flattered and humbled by these words, especially coming from someone whose writing I admire, whose mothering is so beautiful.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment (especially as busy as you are with NaNoWriMo and Write on Edge and oh yes, being Mommy).

      But at the end of the day or the novel or the search for self-acceptance, at least we know we’ll never be alone in that nursing home 😉

  23. Love me some Julie!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks, Lady.

      You are UBER special, and no I didn’t throw up in my mouth.
      I was too excited by your quoting of Ogden Nash.

      Either way, I’d share a bottle of wine with you any day.

      Name it.


  24. Whenever I get to the end of one of your posts I just sit and stare while my mind says something like “BAAAHHHH”

    I can’t GET more of this. I can’t agree more. I can’t be more of THIS. The in between. The never 100% sure but would rather pretend I got it then I don’t. Being alone terrifies me but doesn’t that just make me more alone? Seeee…bbbaaahhhh!

    I heart you.

    • Jamie –

      Heart you back. And yes. I get the whole “I don’t want to be alone” paradox; sometimes the harder you try, the more alone you feel. “Do these people really like me? Do they even know me?”

      And then you question which is worse…actually being alone or being surrounded by people and STILL alone.

      But don’t worry.
      There are plenty of people willing to hang with you in your basement for real.
      (That sounded weird, but I know you know what I mean!)


  25. I have always felt on the outskirts and am surprised every time I hear someone say they feel the same. Because I thought it was only me, just like we all did. You are never short of amazing Julie, too bad we live so far apart, we would quickly find each other on a playground because of the duct tape.

    • Isn’t that funny?

      Here I am saying I always feel a little bit OUT of the inner-circle and then everyone chimes in “I DO TOO!!!”

      So the outskirts of those circles are more crowded than we thought, I guess.

      Still. It takes someone special to pull off duct tape on her butt.

      Or TWO special people. Yay for us!

  26. Hi Julie – I’m new here and new to you as well. (And feel a little pissed off that nobody has ever introduced us before now! WTF guys!?!) One of my readers pointed me toward you today because I just wrote something yesterday about the same topic (sorta): the fear of not belonging, not fitting in, not succeeding…

    This is really beautiful and SO much more eloquent than I was in my attempt. I really appreciate the words you chose and the way you describe not ever making it into the center of those circles. I’m a card carrying member of the periphery club myself. And I always sabotage myself to guarantee that I’ll never be invited in. It’s a gift.

    Anyhoooo. Pleased to meetcha and looking forward to reading more of your wisdom and light! Thank you for making us peripheral dwellers feel less freaky. ~ Iris

  27. LOVED THIS!!!!

    Very brilliant. Very ON. Thank you so much for it-

    I just found Julie today- and she brought me to you. So glad.

  28. Ah, the Periphery Club.
    Yes, I’m pretty sure I have a membership card, too; but in the picture my bangs are sweaty and there is spinach in my teeth. Probably.

    Anyway, I love name Iris (assuming that is your real name and even if it isn’t I still love it and good for you for choosing a cool pseudonym) and it is very nice to meet you.

    I’m following you on Twitter now. Because we people who dwell on the outskirts must stick together…


    Cheers to freaky. Nothing wrong with it.

  29. Julie has shown herself to be who she really presents herself to be.

    Such a rarity..and so comforting.

    Truly, her comments are something to behold: sincere..and not just skimming through and that commenting on the last paragraph.

    A genuinely nice lady.

    I think she truly is just that.

    Wonderful to see her here.

  30. LOVED THIS. “A writer works with words but fumbles when she speaks. She creates sentences but ruins conversations; forgets how to dress for public consumption.” <—- yes yes and yes!
    And? Now I know why you visit my blog (and I am humbled)….because I'm the quirky, the silly and definitely the slightly-off.
    Thank goodness.

    Great post Julie!

  31. Ah, story of my life, and yet you’ve told it so much better than I ever could, Julie. I have never belonged. It’s taken me a long time to realize that this is okay. Actually until last week, when my fourteen year old told me, “I’m glad you’re not like other moms.” Until then, I thought I was okay with it. Now, I think I finally am.

    Such a beautiful, touching post. And a lovely blog to post it on. Thank you, Julie, for bringing me here.

  32. Love love LOVE this. Honest and perfect. <3



    It is so perfect. Just like Julie!


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