with Lynne and Leslie

Live For a Sunny Day: Buying a House!

by SweetMidlife

This post has been sponsored by SunTrust Bank as part of their “Live For A Sunny Day” campaign, where they encourage people to save for the happy times in life. Earlier this month, we wrote about how Lynne planned for her wedding, and how saving and actually having some sort of plan really helped make it an amazing day. Today, Lynne shares her home-buying experience, what worked for she and her husband, and what she would maybe do differently.

When my husband and I got married, I moved into the rental townhome community that he lived in. It was really cute, and in a nice neighborhood with many families all around, which was always fun, except for when the little boy next door would park his bike in front of our door so that he wasn’t blocking his. Yes, it was really not cute. All in all, though, we liked it. But we knew that we wanted something of our own. We wanted to buy a place.

And the adventure began, y’all. And here are some things that we learned.

A Good Realtor Is EVERYTHING: We contacted a realtor who had worked with good friends who raved about him, and who had even driven one couple I knew out in the middle of a snowstorm in his SUV to look for houses because their lease was ending and they had to find something as soon as possible, That sounded like dedication to us. And we were right. He went out to look whenever we wanted, and happily received the many house listings I sent every day (more on that below). He became a really good friend, who we honestly miss hanging out with on a regular basis.

Decide what you can afford. Like really. Do that. One of the first things that we did was decide how much we could actually pay for a mortgage every month. That sounds simple, and a little scary, because you might find that you are eligible for a mortgage for places that you would actually like to live. Or you might find, like I did years earlier as a single person with no savings, recovering credit, and a moderate income, that I could afford very little, and that what I could afford to buy was in places where the previous owners were actually roaches. With better credit than me. Because they were already home-owning roaches.

All that to say, it is scary to have all of your financial stuff all there out on the table in numbers that other people have to see. But you have to start somewhere. You can’t pay for a house with fairy dust and wishes. I wish you could. So it’s good to know what you are working with. Maybe you will decide that you need to wait. Or maybe you will find that you are ready. Which is fun.

Other preparations: Most people have to have some some sort of down payment for a home. We were very fortunate that my husband is a former military serviceman, because we qualified for a VA loan, which meant that we did not have to come up with a down payment, which was a blessing. Not everyone falls into that category, so you have to do even more planning on that end.

Decide what you can live with and make a list: Once we had a budget in mind, we looked at what kind of place we wanted to live in: Townhouse or single family home? How long a commute we could stand? Did we want to live in the suburbs or the city? These things might be negotiable if you find the perfect place outside of those parameters. Or they may be set in stone. And that’s cool. If you are buying with a partner, you need to have that stuff worked out beforehand. It will save you a lot of arguments and time and such, and you won’t be having embarrassing conversations in front of your realtor or other homeowners.

Don’t be afraid to dream….: We started receiving the listings of all of the houses in our area that fit our price, size, and location wants, and that became as exciting as the Sears toy catalog was back when we were kids. You could look at places and “ooh” and “ahh“, and imagine yourself there. It was a really thrilling time, to then go and visit these homes that had been loved by other families, and wondering if we could build a future there. We discovered neighborhoods that we didn’t know, and saw that there was so many wonderful places available that could be ours.

…..but dream with some sort of plan (see 2 bullet points above): Don’t torment yourself. It’s great to see what is out there, and what’s available, and to know what’s possible. But if you are regularly looking at houses way out of your price range, or in a place way further than you know you are willing to commute from, you might want to let that go. There was a community of really great houses, in our price range and near water, that I really wanted to look at. But it was 20 minutes outside what we had determined would be the farthest we would move from where my husband worked. There was a county that we loved, where there were amazing schools. But the only things that we could find in our price range were in questionable neighborhoods. And the question was, “How quickly can we get back in our car and drive the heck out of here?” Again, you can always change your mind, and looking helps you do that. Maybe you will decide that you can’t buy where you wanted, or that you can afford more than you thought you could, or that it is worth it to you to pay for things that you didn’t think that you needed that you find that you do. Rock on with that.

Don’t be afraid to walk away: About 2 months into our home search, we put in a contract on a beautiful house about 2 minutes from where we were renting. The sellers accepted quickly, and we were good to go, or so we thought. It turns out that the sellers were in love with their house, where they had raised their kids, and were selling because they had lost their fulltime jobs. Their reluctance to actually part with their home resulted in them trying to back out of the deal almost as quickly as they signed, then changing their minds, but them giving us a hard time on actually completing the repairs that our inspector found needed to be made. After a month of this, we finally let them out of the contract, recouped the money we had paid for the inspections and other things, and rolled on. And happy ending, they got to keep their home.

You might have to continue your walk: We found another house a few weeks later that we LOVED. A few blocks from the water, with a great entertaining space. Contract submitted and accepted. Awesome. Except that the inspector found pipes made of some hazardous material that needed to be replaced, which the sellers agreed to split the cost of: until the house didn’t appraise for the selling price. And our VA loan wouldn’t pay for a penny over the listed price. Plus, from a money standpoint, we couldn’t pay more for a house than it was worth, even if we had the money, because it didn’t make fiscal sense. So that deal fell through.

You will know when to stop walking: By the time we were ready to look at another house, we were tired. Beat-up. But we found a house that was right at the edge of the distance that my husband wanted to travel to work. “This house will have to be excellent for us to buy it, since it’s farther away.” And it was. The sellers were a dad, mom and teenaged daughter who were moving overseas to be missionaries, and had just reduced the price of their home by like $15 K. And the dad happened to be a contractor, who had done extensive updates to the house. We walked around like we were in Disney World, amazed. We submitted an offer the next day, and it was accepted. And of the three houses that we had contracts on, it turned out to be the biggest, in the best shape, and at the end, the least expensive.

It’s not over when you get the keys (be prepared for the future: It is so easy to think that getting into the house is the biggest hurdle, and that you are home free after that. Nope. When we lived in our rental townhome, we frequently called the property office when things went wrong. Heat not working? Call the office. The door closing funny? Call the office. You drop your contact lens down the bathroom sink and want someone to open the pipes and get that thing? Call them. And yeah, that happened once. The point is that when you buy your own place, as we quickly discovered, YOU are the office, and you have to be ready for the unexpected, since pipes freeze and washing machines break and roofs leak and you need to fix those things. We opted for a home warranty (which was rolled into our mortgage for the first year) that covered many appliances, but we also set aside extra money for random repairs since the warranty didn’t always cover everything. When the warranty expired, we continued to put aside money for big things, which paid off when we bought our new washer and dryer in cash this past winter. That was a wonderful feeling.

Oh, and speaking of unexpected, the morning that we closed on our place, and I continued to pack for our move the next day, I felt a little weird. Which turned out to be because I was pregnant, which we confirmed by home test about 2 hours before we were do a the title company. So, when we signed those papers, we were delirious for several reasons. It really helped that we had already put ourselves in the mindset to set aside money for the things. It didn’t matter if those things were now changing (the money we were planning to save for a bed for the guest room would now go towards painting the nursery): we now had the option to do that.
So: This was the story of how we prepared for, looked for, and found our house. It didn’t all go the way that we thought it would, but we are happy with the way that it went. If you are setting out on this journey, I hope that it works out well in the end. Check out SunTrust’s Resource Center on home buying. There you will find out everything that you need to know about starting the home process. Happy House-ing! See more below….

Happiness in our house.

Happiness in our house.

 

Sunny Days start here.  At SunTrust, they have the tools and resources to help you achieve your sunny day. Start here to find out how they can help you enjoy the things that matter to you.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  They know we all live for the sunny days and want to you help you live yours.

For even more sunny day inspiration visit yoursunnyday.com

Subscribe to the Shine newsletter and receive inspiration and advice twice a month to help you live for a sunny day.

Visit the SunTrust resource center anytime for help achieving your financial goals.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine.


Protecting What’s Important

by SweetMidlife

Hi!

Lynne here. Hope you have been good, friends. We are hanging in there. Leslie sends her love and her thanks and she wishes she could hug you all for all of the prayers and well-wishes that you sent her way. Her arms would be tired. But she would love it.

So last Friday, I lost my laptop. Like, it’s gone. It was most likely swiped when I either left it in my driveway as I loaded my kid and our individual stuff into the car, or when it maybe fell off the trunk where I may have placed it when I drove away. By the time I realized that it was not in the car, and I drove home to look for it, it was gone. I filed a police report, and looked at the one other place outside of my house that I could have left it, and I even walked up the street 3 times in case it had really sailed off of my car. But it was nowhere to be found. And while we changed our passwords and such, and some stuff was saved elsewhere, there is a bunch of stuff that I didn’t back up, like several original plays I was working on. And that is not a source of joy, my friends. I was telling this story to Best Friend Maria yesterday. While she was on a family trip out west this past summer, the hard drive to her laptop died, and she lost all of the pictures and documents and whatnot that were on it.  When she called the guy from Apple support, he asked why she didn’t have her stuff backed-up to the iCloud, and she told him that she hadn’t wanted to pay the fee. “But it’s $1.99 a month! That’s $24 a year!”, he said. And she laughed as she told me the story and said, “Why don’t we take the time to protect the things that are really important to us?”

And that, my friends, was the perfect quote for this post, one that I have been trying to write in some form or fashion for a few weeks. Losing somebody blows your world up, and it makes it shockingly clear that life is short and in need of enjoying while you got it. I am not suggesting that you leave your family and responsibilities and live in your neighbor’s backyard. I AM saying, though, that it makes you take stock of what is valuable to you, and then makes you want to work those things. And your family would find you if you moved to the yard next door anyway.

Now, when I read things like what I just wrote, I know that the writer of said thing is trying to get their readers to be more free and live. I, however, get overwhelmed by that. “Why is this person trying to get me to be better? I am fine here watching my reruns of “Diagnosis Murder” for 3 hours a day (this may or may not be an example from my personal life. Guess.)” Change and taking stock are not always fun. Well, wait. Figuring out what’s really dear to you isn’t all that hard.

1. Think about your commitments, whatever they are, and if you want to keep those commitments.

2. Doing whatever you need to do to enjoy those commitments, even if you have to get rid of other stuff you like to do.

And this is the hard part. Over the weekend, I was driving home from rehearsal for the play I am directing with the most talented young people in it, and I went through downtown Annapolis where I live, and I realized that the sun was out and that people were actually enjoying said sunshine by doing outdoor things with their families. “This is awesome”, thought I. And I walked into the house and suggested to my husband that we should take the day off from church the next morning and have a family morning, and go downtown ourselves. We could look at boats, and we could go to the weekly farmer’s market they have, and we could basically focus on us.

And while we were down there the next morning, I had to physically restrain myself from pulling out my phone and checking Facebook to see what that person said about that thing, or to take pictures of the good time I was having (which I was), or to tell people about the good time I was having.

I was having a hard time focusing on having the good time. And that takes away from the good time for my family, and for me.

So there are no pictures of us while we were out, because I decided to be present for it. It’s not that you can’t do both, but I can’t always, and we are talking about me, so no judgment on you if this is an easy thing for you to do. I need lessons.

All of this to say, and I have said it before in other posts, but I need to work on protecting and enjoying what is important to me. You can’t get back the time that you didn’t spend with people, or the health that you didn’t take care of, or the day that you didn’t off to watch an afternoon of Hallmark channel movies because that is what your soul needed right then. And I am not saying this to make you feel sad or guilty or that you need to be writing a chart of all of the things you should be doing. Nope. It can be a small step. Like just calling somebody. Or not checking your phone when you are on a date or out with a friend, unless you are checking to see if your sitter called. Not because you posted a cute picture of your cat or your kid 5 minutes ago, and you know that people better be recognizing how cute it was in the way of likes.

Your cat picture isn’t going anywhere. Your time with your peeps is.

Be present.

Focus on what is really important to you.

Enjoy.

After we got home from family day.


Grief and Grace and Gravy

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here, and this rambles a bit.

Palm Beach

It’s been said somewhere that there are lessons in everything if you look for them, and I have been finding that this is true as we grieve Scott, Leslie’s husband and my brother in law. I would rather have learned this lesson some other way and not have had us, especially Leslie,  go through this loss, but I have found something out.

There are people who ask inappropriate questions, and loved ones don’t always see eye to eye about everything. And we are all hurting. And that is what I feel God has whispered in my ear.

That everybody hurts. Everybody grieves. They just do it differently.

Some of them do it by needing to be around people. Some do it by wanting to be alone and not talk to anyone. Some want to help by doing things, like bringing you food, or making you gravy, like our friend Melanie did for Leslie (and it was really good gravy, y’all), or organizing your refrigerator, or taking you to get your nails done. Other people want to watch sad things on television, and others need to watch “Last Comic Standing” on repeat. Some do all of these all in the same day. And that’s the thing. There is no right way to do it. There are probably many wrong ways to do it if they involve making other people feel crappy so that you can feel better. Because that doesn’t really help, and involves more hurt, and as my toddler says, “Dat’s not good. Dat’s not good AT ALL.”

Which leads me back to what God is showing me. He is showing me that even if we are all grieving the same person, we don’t arrive at it from the same place. Maybe you’ve had a lot of loss lately, or maybe you’ve never lost someone close before. Your job might suck, and you had a fight with your boyfriend last night. But here we are all together with a loss, and we might react differently to it.

And there should be grace for that. People have shown us so much grace and kindness and love this past week that I can’t even sum it up. And it’s made me see through to people’s hearts and to stop making their stuff about me, and to really see THEM. It’s made me want to focus on the good things and wonderful people in my life. It’s made me want more than ever to be present in my life and to put my phone down and turn the TV off. I am still not for people who are deliberately out to hurt people. But we all hurt. It’s part of life. And if that hurt makes the good things shine brighter because they contrast so loudly with the pain, then I am going to see the good. It doesn’t make the bad go away. But it makes you remember why you risked opening your heart in a way that lets pain in. Because the happy is worth it.

I told you that it rambled. But that’s where I am. Sadness will come. It sucks. I hate it. But the happy is worth it.


Save For A Sunny Day: Weddings

by SweetMidlife

This post has been sponsored by SunTrust Bank as part of their “Live For a Sunny Day” campaign, where they are encouraging people to save for the happy occasions in their lives. In light of the loss that we just suffered here at The Sweet Midlife, we believe even more that the joyous moments in your life are worth planning for, and savoring, and we think that you should too!

Lynne here!

When this year is over, my husband and I will have gone to three weddings. We have been putting aside money for gifts, and for one wedding, a bachelorette party and a bridesmaid dress. It reminds me of what Leslie and I call “The Year Where Everybody Got Married.” That year, we were in the same three weddings: Leslie got married in February, I got married in October, so we were in each other’s weddings, as well as both being bridesmaids in our best friend’s wedding in June. Yep, that was a busy year. When my now-husband and I got engaged in August, we had been already dating for two years, and decided to not have a long betrothal (I have never used that word in a real sentence, and I now feel very fancy), and we set a date for early October. After spending money on plane tickets and dresses and gifts and all of the other things that come with being a part of weddings, like tips and dinners and manicures, we knew that having our own event would bring even more expenses.

Yes, that was an understatement. A big one.

Going into our planning, we agreed to pay for the whole thing in cash. This was a personal decision. I completely understand why people finance their big day on credit. We knew, though, that we wanted to start our married lives with no new debt, and that we didn’t want to be paying for the crudite from our reception five years later. So we set aside my husband’s savings and earmarked that for big expenses, like the wedding site and reception. I had two retirement plans, and withdrew the money from the one that my employer was not contributing to anymore, and took that cash and moved it into a savings account tied to my checking one. I also had a friend who gave us a substantial amount of money as a gift to go towards wedding planning (THANKS FRIEND!), and with all of that money as the pot out of which we paid for the wedding, we were ready to go.

I have to say that knowing that we could only spend what we had on hand made it a lot easier to plan what we could do and more importantly, what we couldn’t do. We started looking for wedding venues, and when we found ones that would have taken up our whole budget, then we crossed those off the list. Doing it this way was limiting, but in the very best way. Yes, it would have been nice to get married in a place big enough to accommodate everyone that we wanted to ever invite to our wedding, but that wasn’t in our budget. What we found is that we were having the best event that we could afford, one that we and our friends would remember for a very long time.

Here are some tips and things that worked for us in sticking with our budget without us being tacky:

Budget doesn’t mean cheap: Look for your dream dress at a discount. I bought my dress at Filene’s famous Running of the Brides, the yearly event where the now-closed store would put out tons of bridal dresses at discount prices (everything was $249, $499, or $699) on racks, open their doors, and brides to be who had been waiting in line for hours would rush in and grab dresses. I got there a couple of hours after the doors opened, because I was not in the mood to be elbowing people, but I found a gorgeous dress that was normally $1000 for $250. SCORE. And it matched the dresses I had been tearing out of bridal magazines, so the only thing I sacrificed was spending more money. YES.

Less Planning Time Can Work Wonders On Your Budget: We had people who doubted that we could pull a wedding together in 2 months, and there were challenges. Many venues had already been booked. There were some things that we wanted to order that we couldn’t get in time. But this forced us to not even consider those things because they were no longer an option, and we had plenty of other choices. Our gorgeous wedding venue was a farm that had two reception areas, the larger of which had already been booked. Only the smaller one was available on our day, and it turned out to be the one that fit our budget better.

Basic is not a bad word: We had specific linens included in our wedding package, although we could have spent more on deluxe stuff. As we looked through the book of tablecloth and napkin options, our question was always “Are these included? Then cool.” We could have done more, but saw things that worked with what we had already paid for. They not only “worked”: they looked great. We also let our attendants pick their own outfits based on our color scheme, and that helped THEIR wallets as well as they could search around for things that fit their own budgets, which they appreciated. Keep your attendants happy.

Google Was Our Best Friend: Once we decided when we were getting married, we did a lot of our planning online, and did a lot of Google-ing to shape our plans. Our biggest searches were “Affordable Wedding Venues in the Baltimore/DC Area”, “Brown and Orange Weddings (those were the colors for our fall wedding), “Brown and Orange Accessories”, “Ideas for Bridesmaid/Groomsmen Gifts”, “Dealing With Wedding Stress”, “Wedding Planning Panic Attacks”, “Wedding Checklists (where they list most of the things you would need to budget for)”, “Do I Have to Wear Heels?”, “Dreadlock Up-dos”, and “Consolidating Households (for tips on how to put all of our stuff together once we moved in after the wedding)”. I am not exaggerating when I say that those pages and suggestions that we bookmarked REALLY helped us compare and narrow down options, and solidified our day. Which made the stress-related info I got less and less-needed.

Do It Yourself….. We wanted a kind of rustic-y wedding but with some elegance. Again, since we were working within a set budget, we had to find ways to do that that were affordable. See the above Google searches. So we took many trips to JoAnn Fabrics and Michaels Arts and Crafts to find things to make our centerpieces. We opted to drive ourselves to the wedding instead of getting limousines. My husband sang himself down the aisle, with his groomsmen dancing behind him, so we didn’t have to pay for another singer.

… But Accept Help: We had already set a budget when a friend wrote us a nice-sized check to go towards our wedding expenses, which gave us more room in which to wiggle. While we were prepared to pay people for things, we happen to have a bunch of generous and talented friends. One of our closest buddies is a DJ, and he gave us a substantial discount. The same went for our friend who provided our photography services. I have one bridesmaid who had already offered to make decorations who actually took back her dress and used that money to go towards more stuff from JoAnn Fabrics. My sister and another friend sang, in addition to my husband, and my sister drove my car back to my house when we left for the honeymoon.

Do What YOU Want: The most important part about your wedding is that it is your day, and if you are paying for it, your money. As my very smart dad told us, “Don’t let other people spend your money” by telling you what you have to have on your day. Looking back, we would have done things the same way. With planning and some self-control, along with your dreams, you can have an amazingly wonderful day that you love reminiscing about when you look at your pictures, while you eat a nice dinner in your nice place, which you can do now, since you still have money to eat with and pay rent with since you were money-smart. That’s a good thing.

Wedding

Sunny Days start here.  At SunTrust, we have the tools and resources to help you achieve your sunny day. Start here to find out how we can help you enjoy the things that matter most to you.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  They know we all live for the sunny days and want to you help you live yours.

yoursunnyday.com

Subscribe to the Shine newsletter and receive inspiration and advice twice a month to help you live for a sunny day.

Visit the SunTrust resource center anytime for help achieving your financial goals.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine.


The Story That I Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell. It’s Gross.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!!

It’s been sad here in Sweet Midlife land. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers and sweet comments. We are living off of them.

So I thought I would tell you a funny true story. It’s about a gross thing that happened to us on the way to San Antonio this spring. SPOILER ALERT: It’s really gross. But it’s kinda funny. Now.

Happiness after the gross parts.

Happiness after the gross parts.

So, this past April, my husband, toddler son and I headed to Texas to see my husband’s family. We only get down there about every two years, so it’s something that we plan way in advance. Now, I won’t lie and say that this means that we are packed a week in advance, and that we roll out of the door exactly when we planned, and that we have on clean neat travelling clothes that we ironed. Because no. But we did put a lot of thought into what we were taking, and to what we were wearing, and even though I did change purses at the last minute, we did think a lot about potty issues. See, we started potty training hardcore back in February, and we had been doing really well with the big boy undies and all. On this trip, though, we decided to put him in Easy-Ups training pants (Pampers didn’t pay us to mention them, but holla, Pampers!! We love ya!) since we had a long day with the driving and parking and boarding and waiting and flying and such. AC, my husband, got the boy out of bed and out of his pajamas, and I put him in the Easy-Ups.

I swear I put him in the Easy-Ups.

So we got dressed, and packed our bags, and before we left the house, I thought, “I should really take him to the potty now.” But I didn’t listen to me, because he had on training pants, and we proceeded to the airport. We checked in, and even ran into friends of mine who I hadn’t seen for a very long time, and laughed and talked, and got to our gate and ate Auntie Anne’s pretzels (They aren’t paying me to mention them either, but Holla, Auntie Anne! I used to buy your pretzels in bulk). Before we boarded the plane, the toddler said that he needed to go to the potty, so my husband grabbed his hand and walked him to the restroom. When I looked up 90 seconds later, they were back, and my son was screaming “I don’t have to go!”, because apparently the airport bathrooms weren’t up to his high toddler standards. Yeah. Now, we thought about making him go, but the plane was boarding, and you know, he was wearing training pants. We’d be fine.

Yep.

We settled into seats towards the back of the plane, and we set up my son next to a window where he could see things, and we handed him headphones and my husband’s tablet all loaded up with kid shows, and we took off on our 3.5 hour flight.

And things were going great until about 2 hours in. Now, if you are wondering why we hadn’t taken my son to the bathroom by then, chalk it up to wishful thinking, and sleep deprivation, and the fact that he seemed comfortable. Yes, this was not smart, since toddler boys have been known to walk around in their own nastiness for hours if good TV is on. But again, self-delusion. My husband had gotten up to go to the bathroom, when Toddler says he has to pee. He was actually doing a little dance, but I figured that we had time for my husband to get back and take him to the lavatory. And that is when I looked down and saw something coming out of his pants leg.

It was brown.

I kinda started to panic, and make up things that could be that color and falling out of his pants that were not what I knew it was. Mud? Had we been to a mud pit? Runny brownies that he put in a pocket that had a hole in it? As I ran through all of the fake possibilities in my head, Husband came back. “He has to go NOW”, I said, and my husband grabbed his hand, as the little boy actually waddled to the bathroom because his pants were so full. And I called for the very nice and non-judgmental Southwest Airlines flight attendants (another unsolicited thanks), and they brought me disinfectant and gloves. And I started scrubbing brown stuff that wasn’t really an under-cooked brownie out of the plane carpeting. And my husband and son came back, and we put my son back in his seat, and I noticed that he was still waddling. “What happened?”, said I. “We didn’t pack a change of clothes in his backpack.” said he. This was so strange, because we sometimes over-pack that thing. “Why was he so wet?”, said I. “Did he pee through the Easy-Up?”

Wait for it.

“He wasn’t wearing one”, said the husband.

Things started swirling, and maybe it was the cleaner I had been inhaling, but say what now?

We still have no idea what happened to those training pants. I swear he had them on.

So my poor wet son had to sit in his plane seat for another hour in wet pants and not shoes and socks, because they were soaking. The lady across the aisle from us was shooting me dirty looks. I tried smiling as I looked up from the scrubbing but she wasn’t having it. And my poor child moaned “Mommy, I’m cold.”

Of course you are, sweet boy. I am sorry that you have parents who misplaced your disposable training pants and didn’t pack you replacement shorts.

When we finally landed, we waited until everyone got off of the plane, and tried to walk really fast to the baggage claim so we could get his clothes out of his suitcase and change him fast. We got our bags, lugged them off of the carrel, and started throwing clothes around right there in the luggage area. I found shorts, a shirt, socks and a new pair of shoes, and Soggy Boy and I ran to the airport bathroom. The large stall was open, and I started the peeling off, and the wiping.

So. Much. Wiping. And in between it, I would go out to the sinks, and my naked toddler would run out into the sink area, and ladies would squeal “SOOOOO CUTE!”, and I would smile and say “GET BACK IN THERE.”, and more wiping.

And I threw away every single thing he had been wearing. Including the shoes, which were just about too small anyway. Didn’t matter. They had the taint on them. And they needed to go.

And there was more to that day, with the rental car company not having our car ready, and the owner of the house we rented having to wait for us for awhile, and the 4 AM  storm that rattled the sweet bungalow’s shutters so much that we thought someone was trying to get in the house, and my husband got up so fast and knocked something over and it set the burglar alarm off. Yeah. But the rest of our stay was wonderful, and I knew the non-wonderful part would make a good story. I wasn’t going to tell it, but we needed a laugh right now. So there you go.


No Easy Way To Say This

by SweetMidlife

Hi. This is Lynne. I have been trying to figure out how to tell you guys this, because you need to know, because we consider you friends, and also because you just should. Leslie’s husband Scott passed away on Wednesday. It was very sudden. We are shocked and sad.

I wish I could tell you that Scott and Leslie had just an okay marriage, and could take or leave each other, and only put up appearances. This would mean that she wasn’t going to hurt as much as she is in his absence. But I can’t. Because I have never seen a man look at his wife the way Scott Zervitz looked at my sister. It was like she was everything. And she felt that way about him, too. They laughed and loved and traveled and watched TV and ate crabs and loved some more. Their adoration for each other radiated to everyone around, and we were riding on the sweetest contact high ever. Being here at their house without him, but with all of his Ravens and Orioles memorabilia here, with pictures of them together, feels like being at Disney World without a guy in a mouse suit. Somethings missing. My brother-in-law had a huge presence which was apparent when he was here, so his absence is tangible.

I ask that you pray for Leslie, and for the little boy who lives with them, and all of the rest of their family and friends. We are hurting, but getting through with God’s grace. We will be continuing to blog. It might be me for awhile until Leslie feels like writing, and when she does, she might write about random things like kumquats and obscure British bands from the ’80s, and that is okay.

Thanks for loving us, and for reading our stuff, and being our family. We need you right now.

 


Book Review: “Stuck In The Passing Lane” by Jed Ringel

by SweetMidlife

by Lynne

Leslie and I have talked a lot about both finding our husbands in our late-30’s, and how Leslie andmarried those dudes the year that we turned 39. What I realize is that I haven’t talked much about HOW I found my husband on eHarmony, and that this was the probably the 4th time I had subscribed to that service, and the many-eth time that I had tried online dating. I wasn’t interested in having an entire relationship online, but I liked the idea of being introduced to people who I would not have met in my regular circles, and who were also looking for a relationship. Through my search, I opened my eyes to people that I may not have considered before, and also found that it was okay to ask for the things that I wanted, and if I didn’t find someone (although I REALLY wanted to), that I would use whatever I learned to make myself who what Pastor and relationship-author Andy Stanley calls “the person that who you are looking for is looking for”. Because you should be that person whether you are looking for someone or not.

Jed Ringel, the author of the new memoir “Stuck In the Passing Lane”, is on a similar search when the book opens. He is a financially successful man in his 50’s who is also the almost-divorced father of 3 teen-aged daughters whom he struggles to maintain a relationship with. The book chronicles his many attempts at finding the right person, through date after funny date after disastrous kinda-relationship, attempts that take him from the New York City-area where he lives to Russia (twice) and Singapore and back. This is a man who literally goes far in the quest for love/companionship/sex. What happens in his journeys, though, is that he finds more than that: he learns a lot about himself. I know that this sounds cliched, and like something out of a Hallmark movie, but it’s more meaningful than that. His story is more than can be scripted. I won’t give away the ending, but the things that Jed finds as he looks for a mate reveal to him things that he didn’t know about himself, things that he knew but didn’t want to admit, and ultimately things that help him realize what he is worth altogether.

I started reading this book a few weeks ago, read about 20 pages, then put it down, partly because other things came up, but also because I wasn’t sure that I liked Jed at first. I don’t think that I had read many memoirs from men that were this open and vulnerable and also kind of explicit- he writes in length about his sexual experiences, and that was a bit too much detail for me personally. But when I went back to the book, I finished it in 2 days, and I found that I really, really was pulling for Jed, not just to find a good woman, but to be okay, and to be happy in a way that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have someone else as a part of that happiness. I felt like I was taking this journey with a new friend. BECAUSE of that openness and honesty, and his willingness to show himself in ways that were sometimes not-so-flattering. You will find yourself saying “Yay!” when he meets someone promising, or gets an email from a daughter who there had been some strain with, and you find yourself yelling “No! Don’t date HER!” like you are yelling at the screen while watching a horror movie when he meets someone questionable, and your heart breaks with his when things don’t quite pan out with people that you and he hoped that they would.

But he keeps going. And that’s what I liked the most about this book, and what I think you might too. There is much to be said for people who hone in on a goal, work for it, and get that thing right away. But that’s not Jed’s story, and it’s not the story of most people I know, including me. Jed’s story is about feeling stuck in his travels, but also about being willing to travel in the first place. It’s about finding what you want, what you won’t put up with, and being open to what happens along the way. The search for the right one starts a journey that leads so many other places. It’s about hope, and we can all use that. I highly recommend “Stuck in the Passing Lane”.


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Today’s best thing: The “Love” channel on Sirius XM, and the sweet, sweet sap of it all

by SweetMidlife

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After 20 years of car ownership, mostly as a single woman, I had my first experience of having someone else pick my car out for me, which I liked. This is not a statement on feminism or anything. My husband and I share expenses, but it happened to be my turn for a car, and this one was in his name, so while I was inside talking to the people, Scott went outside and chose between the two cars we’d test-driven, for three reasons: One, because he wanted to do something nice for me as a gift of sorts; two, because it was a cute little Kia Soul like all the cool hamsters drive, and he liked the idea of me driving a car with my red ‘fro against a seat that had the word “Soul” repeatedly printed on it. I feel like a commercial for some hip product that would never have me on the commercial.

And three: Because of the already-installed Sirius XM satellite radio. I never had it before, except in select rental cars and whenever my dad wasn’t looking and I got to drive his Honda CR-V. But it’s amazing, because not only can you listen to the newer music of the day, if you so choose, you can also just pretend it’s still 1987, or 1977 or 1998 (Backstreet’s back, all right!) by sticking to the decade specific station of your choice. OR you can pretend that the world is a giant American Top 40 Long-Distance Dedication and just park on Channel 17, also called “Love.”

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“Love” reminds me of the light rock stations of my teens and 20s, where the rest of the world was into Duran Duran or Prince, but that one station was doubling down on England Dan and John Ford Coley and Bread. Lots of Bread. Enough to make you want to cry and go check on singer David Gates, because that dude was depressed. But it was glorious – I loved studying to those stations in college, because they were background enough not to be distracting but had lyrics stirring enough to keep me awake. Songs about finding your beloved’s diary and reading it thinking you were finding out how much she loved you and then realizing she wasn’t writing about you? That sticks with you.

“Love” is just like those stations, but without the commercials. It’s amazing the stuff they come up with – in 48 hours I heard both the Rita Coolidge and Boz Scaggs versions of “We’re All Alone,” which made me happier than it should. Yesterday they played 4PM’s version of “Sukiyaki,” and an Air Supply song I can’t even remember because I was too excited to be hearing Air Supply on the radio in 2015.

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I have never been cool, so I don’t care what anyone thinks of me gushing over possible 24/7 access to Barry Manilow and Anne Murray. Its what I like. And it’s not just me, because there’s a whole station appropriate for spontaneous hand-holding at lights, or crying, in the case of Josh Groban’s “To Where You Are.” Your car is your fortress, and my kid and my husband have learned not to touch the radio if I’m driving. I’ll listen to other stuff, but Love is my default.

LOVE SHOULD ALWAYS BE YOUR DEFAULT.

 


You Need That: Car Tweezers

by SweetMidlife

Hi!

Lynne here. And this thing right here ain’t pretty. But it’s real.

You ever been in your car driving to somewhere that you have to look presentable*, and you touch your face and you feel something? You try to wipe it off, but it’s still there because it’s attached to your face. You have? Me too.

It’s chin hair.

And it’s gross unless you are okay with that. It’s one of those things that have become a part of life in my 40’s and if I’m not checking for them regularly, those things sneak up on a sister. Sometimes I flip down my car mirror when I get to a light and there it is, in all of it’s nasty glory.

So what to do? I have actually gone to the store before a meeting to buy emergency tweezers, and have taken care of things in my car. But then those tweezers have gotten shoved in my purse, and lost among receipts and sunglasses, and then I can never find them. So after I bought another pair of on-the-way-to-somewhere-tweezers en route to a social thing that the company that my husband works for was having this past weekend, I decided that there had to be a way to not be in this situation anymore. Well, there is always taking the time to look at my chin before I leave. But whatever. This works too.

Napkins? Check. Car Maintenance records? Check? Tweezers for stray face hair? GOT IT.

Napkins? Check. Car Maintenance records? Yes. Tweezers for stray face hair? GOT IT.

Car tweezers. Yes. It’s a thing. Maybe it was already a thing for you. But it is for me now, too. And I have to say, I feel a little giddy about it. Isn’t it funny how what you are thrilled about evolves? Yesterday it was maybe something about shoes. Today it’s about chin hair. I’m prepared, and I feel good about it.

What about you guys? Have you ever found a hair on the way to something where people were going to be up in your face? Have you ever bought emergency tweezers? What other handy things do you keep around?

*Now really you should always look presentable when you go out, but sometimes you need to return that Redbox movie before 9 pm so you don’t get charged again so short-shorts it is. You now what I’m saying.


See my smile? It's because of that guy.

Today’s gym hero: A smart workout wiz in jorts saves the day

by SweetMidlife
See my smile? It's because of that guy.

See my smile? It’s because of that guy.

As a workout warrior, I am sometimes annoyed by random people who do not appear to be trainers coming by to give me advice. That’s a combination of my ego – I might look like a beginner because of my non-svelteness, but don’t like being reminded of that – and just wondering why the over-zealous are clocking my workout when they oughta be checking their own.

But my 20-second interaction with a man I will call Mr. Jorts, at the downtown outpost of my gym this morning, made me feel better about humanity and potentially saved me some knee pain. I was pedaling pretty fast on the exercise bike, which I usually don’t get on but I was reading something awesome on my phone and, you know, I got to sit and all. I looked up and there was a gentleman, probably my age, standing next to me with a sweetly authoritative but non-pushy look on his face. He was built like a wrestler from the 80s, meaning that he was obviously fit, but not steroid gym rat crazy cut, like the modern guys. (He even had a resemblance to a young Rowdy Roddy Piper, who happened to have been my favorite back in the day.)

Also, he was wearing jean shorts, also known as jorts, popularized by yet another wrestler,  John Cena, because apparently my life has a wrestling theme today. Anyway. Mr. Jorts smiled at me and said “Hey, you don’t want to over-extend your knee because if you keep doing that you’re gonna have some joint problems.” I didn’t mention that I’m an overweight runner and former Crossfit-er, so the Joint Pain ship done sailed, but I thanked him.

But he did one better, reaching down and lifting the lever that slid the seat one segment closer.

“See?” he said. “That’ll be easier.”

Nervy? Sure. But nice, because he was just trying to help. And my ego and knee thank him. Sometimes if we shut up long enough to accept help, good things happen and your knee feels better and maybe you can get some more of this cheese weight off.

 


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