with Lynne and Leslie

Stay(there)cation- Five Things I Learned From Our Trip

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

My husband, son and I got back a week ago from a 5 day vacation to Washington, DC, and while this is a popular place for families to go, it might seem weird that we stayed there because we only live like 45 minutes away. Yep, we took a stay-there-vacation: we didn’t go far, but we actually stayed at our destination.

And it was a hoot!! I used to live right outside of the city, worked and performed there full time, and still work there on projects from time to time. But this was different. And I am gonna tell you about it. Because that is what I do. Read below for the take-aways I took from our time away down the road…


1. A Shorter Drive Means More Time To See Stuff. And Less Crankiness. 

Last November, we went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a week as the end of a mini-timeshare thing we bought. It was a beautiful trip in a fun place off season, and we saw so much, and ate so much. Yes. But what wasn’t fun was the 9 hour car trip. Sure, there is a lot to be said for seeing the country and landscapes change from your car window. But you also sacrifice two days of vacation on getting there and back, and you are often to tired to see stuff when you arrive, or you get home and need another day to recuperate. We also got stuck in traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia, and our 1 year-old cried pretty much for the last hour. LOUDLY.  But when you travel close to home, it’s the length of a commute! You feel refreshed, and you have the energy to explore when you get there, if you want to. Or you can go sit down and order in. It’s your thang. Do what you wanna do. But you have those options..

We live practically down the street from this.

We live practically down the street from this.

2. Houses are Great, And Suites Are Sweet

I love me a good luxury hotel. I once stayed in a Ritz Carlton for a conference, and my plans for one evening were watching TV in the fluffy robe and eating a $15 grilled cheese sandwich in the king sized bed with the stupidly fluffy pillows. But for longer trips, I love staying in suites, or even full houses. It can cost less to stay in a less swanky place but one where you get more room, and you can cook food if you want, or just store and heat-up your leftovers from the night before. It also gives you room to spread out all of your stuff, and, if you are travelling with other people (especially kids), it’s nice when everyone has somewhere to go if you need some downtime. Or time away. Also, I am a proponent of little people having their own room on vacation. Shoot, even if you only have a one bedroom suite or apartment, they can stay in the room, and you can stay in the living room. You just need a door. At home, my kid goes to bed at 8. On vacation, I don’t want to have to go to bed at 8, too. I can stay up until 10! I’m grown. When they are asleep behind their door,  you and your spouse can have some alone time. This can mean grown-up-sexy time, or it can mean playing board games, or watching a movie, or just giggling that you are somewhere else. But it’s awesome. For last week’s vacation, and our trip to Texas last year, we rented houses rented by private owners and found our places on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). I also hear good things about Airbnb. I feel comfortable staying in somebody’s place. That weirds some people out, but it makes me want to take care of it more. And again, if you look at what you are paying for a week away, you really can save some cash.

Comfortable. Really comfortable.

Comfortable. Really comfortable.

3. If You Go See Free Stuff, There Is More Money For Onion Rings

One of the best things about Washington, DC, is that much of the sites are free. The Smithsonian Museums have free admission (with some exhibits having a charge, but not most), and the monuments are just there waiting for you to walk up and discover them. And that means you can spend more money or food or getting around, or seeing other things that do have an admission charge. And DC has some breathtakingly beautiful free stuff.

You can see things that went to space FOR FREE.

You can see things that went to space FOR FREE.

4. You Get a Vacation, and They Get a Vacation, and It Doesn’t Have to be the Same Vacation

We have a toddler. And they don’t always get the point of all of the places you go. Well, actually, they get a point, but it might not be the point you get. At the Museum of Natural History, we all loved the large elephant in the middle of the center hall. My son’s other favorite parts were the gift shop, the steps that led upstairs, the steps that led back down, the worm that he manhandled (baby-handled?) when the museum guides let him pet it (so happy my kid didn’t squish that worm and traumatize all the other kids. Drama.) On our walks to whatever we were seeing, he was in awe of all of the trucks in the city, and the train, and called out the names of each one. The thing is, there are amazing things to see, and your kid, or even your adult relatives might take different things away from them, on their level. Because to them, it’s something new and cool and big and fascinating. And an adventure. And sometimes, you land on ground that’s a little more common. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial make me emotional because of the amazing things that have happened on them, like this, and this, and the mood around the statue of Lincoln inside is one of reverence. As we stood looking at it, my son pointed to him and said “Guy?” And we said “Yes, his name was Abe.” And the boy pointed to his feet and said “Shoes?” (he always wants to know if people are wearing proper footwear. I am not making this up). And as we left, he turned back and said, “Bye, Abe!” See? We all liked the same thing, but for different reasons. And then the steps, of course. Because he is two. But we all enjoyed ourselves.

Our old friend Abe. Who is wearing shoes.

Our old friend Abe. Who is wearing shoes.

5. The Familiar is Sometimes the Most Precious

I grew up in Baltimore, and we took many school trips to DC. And like I said before, I used to work in the city, and drove past those monuments and museums every day. But sometimes when we live close to something, you aren’t driving past it thankful for the chance to live near such amazing things. Sometimes, you go past them like you are driving past  the grocery store. And all of that majesty becomes mundane. And that should never happen. What a gift it is to live near beauty and history, and to take advantage of it by actually seeing it and experiencing it.

And that leads me to the most familiar, yet precious things I have: my family. Vacations give you time to unwind and see stuff, but also to see each other. You put the bills, and the telemarketers and work aside, and you get to breathe. Together. And hopefully, you take the closeness, and the wonder, and the happy home with you. Vacations should be restorative, and not a Band-Aid. They illuminate the good things that you have. And that those things are still good when you get home. And THAT’s a good vacation.


The best sights I saw.

The best sights I saw.

Linking up with “oh hey, Friday!” and five things Friday

Solange, my sister and me: Rocking our natural hair down the aisle

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

So the talk of the Internet in the past few days – well, some of the talk, anyway – has been about Solange Knowles and her fierce, fierce wedding style. Lynne and I were so impressed, we were both wondering if we could get remarried so we could rock fly wedding capes. And that all-white attire rule for the guests made everyone look like they were posing for some lost ’90s TV movie called “A Very EnVogue Wedding,” a videotape which I would totally have owned.

So caught up was I in the capes and the monochromatic wedding guests that I plum near missed another aspect that some people found notable in both good and hideous ways: Solange’s gorgeous, gorgeous wedding Afro. Although she’s straightened her hair occasionally, Miss Knowles’ tall proud crown of queenly poof is her signature, so I didn’t even notice it in the wedding photos, other than that it added to her fierceness.

And why shouldn’t she wear her hair natural? She’s a beautiful woman. Why shouldn’t she look like her on her most special day?

Apparently, some people disagree. Those people are cordially invited to…well….obviously their opinions are of no tangible use to Miss Knowles, who is a diva and don’t care. But as the young lady above can attest , the Web was wild with ignorant folks who had rather strong objections to Solange having not straightened her hair before saying “I do,” either because it’s not fancy or polished enough for such an auspicious occasion, or because they just don’t see it as polished enough for work, or the club, or yoga class or taking out the trash. You know, at all.

The Huffington Post story the beautiful Charnel Grey references in the video makes the same point – that it’s annoying to have to defend the way the hair comes out of your head, to black people, to white people, to anybody. A) It’s not your business B) We’re done changing for others. If we want a ‘fro, we’ll wear a ‘fro. If we want a weave, we’ll get a weave. Mind your own business and your own daggone hair.

Obviously, this is a topic Lynne and I both feel strongly about, because we both have natural hair – I with an Afro, and Lynne with her dreads. And having both been natural for a decade before getting married, neither of us even considered straightening for the day. I had thought about doing some sort of crazy updo, but at the end of the day, I let it ‘fro out even more than usual, and just went with it. I looked like the best version of me – better dress, better makeup, better jewelry. And a better ‘fro.

This pic wasn't their first date, but this was also a memorable one :).

A ‘fro for a fancy Palm Beach wedding

Lynne, meanwhile, let her dreads grow out and had them twisted into the most exquisite updo-drop-crown whatever that was. (She also rocked a veil, a rhinestone headband AND a big ol’ orange flower, to the objection of some people who thought it was too much. Knowing Lynne they should have known it was just enough.)

Loc'ing in on love.

Loc’ing in on love.

One of Lynne’s friends was talking about the whole Solange situation and, told that we’d both worn our hair natural for our weddings, suggested we write something about it, which got Lynne to tell her a story about another bride who wore the most smashing mod daisy-covered wedding dress for her 1970 wedding. And under the Minnie Mouse-esque veil, she wore a sleek Mia Farrow pixie…

Except that the day before she’d been wearing a ‘fro. But she bent to pressure from some older family members that it wasn’t appropriate, not special enough, for a wedding. Our Daddy told us that when he saw her at the rehearsal dinner his first thought was “Who’s that?” Because his bride was supposed to be wearing a ‘fro. Not for political reasons. Not for fashion reasons. But because that’s how she wore her hair, in her life as her, and that’s how she’d wanted to wear it when she married the love of her life. (Her sister and maid of honor, the late Aunt Ann, made up for it with her own Afro. Fly, fly fly).

Again, our mother looked amazing on her wedding day. But she didn’t look like she wanted to because she accepted the pressure that she had to change herself to be proper. I suspect she wouldn’t do that now. But as for you and your own wedding – if you want to get tracks, flatiron, shave your head, whatever, do it. This is not a political speech. It’s a hug, a cry of love, that says “IT’S YOUR WEDDING. DO YOU. BE THE MOST EXCELLENT SPLENDID VERSION OF YOU. NOT OF WHAT YOUR MAMA OR YOUR SISTERS OR THE INTERNET SAY. BE YOU.”

And then you’ll never be more beautiful. Trust us.

Random Stories of Tired

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here.

I'm coming, bed.

I will be up in a minute, bed.

So, if you don’t read our blog regularly, it’s written by a pair of twin sisters, Leslie (the other one) and Lynne (this one right here). We take turns writing, and although our plan is to alternate regularly, there are times when one of us writes for weeks before the other one is able to write. Leslie wrote twice last week, and we had exactly two posts that week, because I had just gotten back from vacation and was adjusting to being back and it didn’t happen.

So, this has been a busy day so far, and I promised I was going to write today, and it’s 10pm EST, and I am really exhausted, and I have to figure out what turkey craft we are doing at Playgroup tomorrow morning, and I should get my husband’s pants out of the dryer before they get all crinkly again, but I also want to live up to what I told my sister, so I will tell you a random story about me being tired and staying up later than I needed to. And that was probably due also to busy but also to time management.

So I think it was 1992, and that is was spring semester finals of my junior year, and I was scrambling and totally staying up all night to cram for exams. And I think that I went to IHOP or Perkins and drank like 5 cups of coffee. Then we stopped at the Super Fresh grocery store and I bought a 2 liter of Coca Cola and drank half out of the bottle. And I was successfully awake most of the night, maybe sleeping an hour. And I remember walking to my first exam of the day, through the woods that were on my campus, and I saw a bunny, and seriously was talking to it. Like, I knew I was so hyped up, and I stood outside of myself and thought, “Dude, calm it down.” But the bunny looked lonely. So I think I took one exam, then stopped at my mailbox, and my mom had sent me a care package for finals, and it had a pound of Twizzlers in it, and I ate most of it. And then I sat down for my last exam and started to crash during the test, and I had to go to the school store and get another soda. And I think that my Uncle picked me up to go home for the end of the semester and I slept for a whole day.

So, I have stuff to get done now, and I have traded getting sugared-up watching recorded episodes of The Voice to keep me awake tonight. Which is better for everyone. But I got stuff to do, and I will finish it, and then go to bed. And the crash will be smoother.

That was random. But it is where I am tonight. Sweet dreams, and sleep well. The next thing I write will make more sense.

“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman: Maybe she’s just a bad parent?

by SweetMidlife



Leslie here!

I have just a relatively scant eight month’s experience as a parent, versus 43 years being parented. But my folks were awesome, and they imparted to me, by example and by drumming it into my little head, that it was their job to prepare me for the world, because the world was too busy to worry about preparing for me.

“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman really sucks at that.

NBC’s family drama, now finishing its last season, follows the extended Braverman family and their various domestic and romantic situations, and I find most of those situations relatable, which is to say that I want to alternately hug them and pop them upside their stupid heads. Kristina (Monica Potter) triggers my popping reflex more than anyone else, both as the mom of a son with Asperger’s and as the administrator of a new charter school for kids with behavioral issues, including her son.

For the non “Parenthood” devotee, Kristina and her husband Adam (Peter Krause) have made Max so much the focus of their lives that you would be forgiven for assuming that their other two kids were kidnapped by wood sprites and being held for ransom that’s never gonna come because MAX IS HAVING A PROBLEM. And girl, Max is always having a problem, and his parents (and maybe the “Parenthood” writers) might think that his Asperger’s-related traits – he’s incredibly, sometimes uncomfortably literal, doesn’t recognize social cues or other people’s emotions and is detail-oriented to the point of being rigid – are the reason that he’s often a pain in the butt.

Nope! I am not a disability expert and I don’t meant to speak definitively about it, but I love many people with them, and know that disabilities alone don’t make you a jerk! Parents who don’t set boundaries for their kids in the name of protectiveness and letting them be their own special selves make you a jerk! And that’s what’s happened to Max. Adam and Kristina – specifically Kristina – have a good track record of explaining to their extended family (and by extension to the audience) some of the things they might expect from Max. But they’ve done a poor job of explaining to Max that even though it’s not fair and he didn’t ask to have Asperger’s, that he has to try to see things from other people’s perspective, to be responsible to other’s feelings, and that there are social expectations of him that no one who doesn’t love him is gonna think is cute.

When Max pitched a fit because he couldn’t use a printer that his aunt Sarah had rented on her own dime for an important work project at the exact time he wanted because Sarah needed it, Kristina expected her to apologize for upsetting him because she couldn’t keep to his schedule, rather than saying “Max, I know you’re disappointed and that Aunt Sarah is using the printer when you’d been told you could, but she’s the adult, it’s her rental for work, and you’re gonna have to suck it up and deal.” When they didn’t it was disappointing, because they not only disrespected a relative who didn’t have to let him use her stuff in the first place, but because that doesn’t do that boy any favors.

And last night, when Max found his crush Dylan kissing another boy, he marches into his mother and principal’s office and demands the kid be expelled. That doesn’t happen, but when Max then passes around a flier detailing the other kid’s supposed crimes still insisting on that the kid get kicked out of school, then starting a fight with hin. Kristina’s response should have been to immediately discipline him, call the other kid’s parents and had a talk about, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was wrong and that he can’t lie about other kids because they disappoint him.

But of course she didn’t, leaving Max feeling justified to escalate things by making a creepy kidnapper collage of photos of Dylan, interrupting her lunch to declare his love for her in front of her friends and refusing to stop when she asked until she blew up and told him she was never going to love him and to go the heck away.

You should have seen me – I was literally standing over the TV, just knowing that this – THIS – had to be the moment where Kristina would be forced to be a parent and a daggone administrator by, as clearly as she good, telling Max that what he did to Dylan bordered on harassment, that while owning and relating his feelings is not only important but a few breakthrough for him, that he can’t force someone to feel the same way, and that when they ask him to stop, he must. But noooooo. She hugs him (a breakthrough for the touch-averse Max) and tells him that she’s proud of his candidness, but that he’s not in trouble, at which point I yelled some non-friendly words at the TV because come on. The Bravermans operate on the assumption that Max’s issues compel him to act a certain way, but they never seem to fill in the other piece, that he, like all humans, is responsible for the way that those issues affect other people. Not telling him this is not protection. It’s setting the stage for him to one day get punched in the mouth, or worse.

Max isn’t the only Braverman family kid whose shenanigans don’t get called out nearly enough. Adam’s sister Julia and husband Joel are going through a divorce, and their daughter Sidney, already a screamer-yeller, has gone straight into bullying classmates and losing her crap all over the place. Her reaction to her family crisis is understandable, but her parents’ response is to try to explain to the parents of the girl she terrorized how hard things were for Sidney, who has just given a snotty fake apology and run to the car without accepting any real responsibility for anything.

The victim’s dad, however, wasn’t buying it, telling Julia and Joel that he didn’t really care what Sidney’s problem was, as long as they were spilling over on his kid. This is what I want to see somebody – anybody – say to Adam and Kristina, and to Max, that things being hard for you doesn’t give you the right to take them out on other people, and that if Max proposes to not live in a cave, he’s gonna have to work that out.

I guess this affects me so much because I see all around me, in the newspaper I write for, the TV I watch and in the malls of the world, the philosophy that the world is supposed to conform to everybody’s wishes – that it’s OK for kids not to say “please” or “Thank you” because they’re “shy,” or that it should be alright for kids to bump into you in the mall, or be rude to strangers, because they’re “just kids.” No, they’re not. They’re future adults, and if the people in their lives don’t impress upon them their responsibility to check themselves enough to not cause harm to others, no one is going to like them. Many people are going to want to punch them.

And it won’t be a TV show.

Target workers (not) home for the holiday: Should we boycott?

by SweetMidlife
target bag

We shop here a lot.

Leslie here!

My sister Lynne can verify that before we were legally able to vote in elections, we were taught to vote with our wallets – even if it was like a Mickey Mouse Velcro wallet with nothing in it but some weird lint that was stuck on the Velcro.

What that meant was that our parents were big on boycotting companies they thought weren’t acting in the best interest of humanity – we boycotted Nestle holdings, including Rusty Scupper, over allegations that the company was responsible for Similac deaths in Africa. When Lynne and I were in high school we boycotted Coke products, and holdings like Columbia Pictures because they had not divested in South Africa (although I admit that we caved when “La Bamba” came out. I blame Lou Diamond Phillips and his cute. I was weak.)

Those boycotts were about practical things that affected the lives of people on a continent far away, but there’s a situation happening in every American town with a Target – and a Macy’s, Kohl’s and Walmart – that affects a lot of our neighbors and their ability to spend Thanksgiving with their families – deciding to push Black Friday into Turkey Thursday.

Gobble gobble…but do it quick, y’all, because you gotta go to work.

Back in high school and college, I remember having to work on holidays at random retail, restaurant and entertainment jobs, and even as a younger reporter I had to work at least one Thanksgiving (at my current paper, even the veterans have to work at least one holiday, although I usually get to pick a non-major one that doesn’t involve family dinners.

Even though Christmas was always the holiday that I most wanted off because that’s when I traveled to see my folks, or they traveled to see me, Thanksgiving is a universal day that knows no religious bounds – most everyone in the U.S. seems to celebrate it. And the dinner is the most important part, which is why it seems cruel for so many stores to expect that their employees will miss it so they can make more money.

(It’s also disturbing to me that shoppers would cut their dinner short to go on an all-out retail assault just to get some deals, but at least they have the option of doing it as a family and their jobs don’t depend on it.)

I admit that I have never been a hardcore Black Friday shopper, and I’ve been in stores that day more as a reporter than for personal retail use. It’s crowded, and people seem justified in shoving, and most deals don’t seem worth not showing up Saturday, or online.

Thanksgiving used to be the holiday I hosted at my home in York, Pa., and now it’s the day that I watch the Macy’s parade and then the dog show on NBC over the phone with my sister and go “Ooh, I want that dog,” before we go eat some pie. My husband and I went to Wal-Mart last Thanksgiving for about 15 minutes because I needed some stuff I forgot for the macaroni and cheese I was making, and because there was a game for his nephews’ Hanukkah present that was on sale that day.

We didn’t linger, but we walked by a bunch of items in crates that were covered in plastic in the aisles, that were on crazy sale but not available till the evening. And I got sad, because even though this store is open 24/7 anyway, I knew that right then there were workers at home making a dinner they couldn’t eat with their families so that people could come back and save money on a Shiny-Whatever-That-Was.

I don’t want to sound like an obtuse person of privilege, however, who doesn’t recognize that everyone doesn’t have the option not to work holidays, and that stores like Target are paying their employees time and a half to work Thanksgiving, and that this could be a great opportunity for employees to make extra money. I appreciate that, and I don’t begrudge those workers for wanting it. They deserve double time. I just wish it wasn’t necessary. I wish that stores didn’t have to feel the need to do this to have to compete. I wish that we could hold something sacred and, I dunno, just offer better deals on Friday.

So I am not saying that I am targeting Target (ha ha) or any of these other stores for boycott. I am not sure how to make my voice heard, other than to not go to them on Thanksgiving. I’ll make sure I do all my food shopping on Wednesday.

Running up that hill: starting all over again

by SweetMidlife
That is 2005 Marathon Lynne on the left, her fierce twin on the right.    That is our friend Funnel T. Cake on the plate.

Us in 2005, fiercely fierce with the fierceness.

Leslie here!

My fabulous sister wrote a really great post a few weeks back  http://sweetmidlife.com/?p=2714 about how the 2014 version of herself was just as fierce, in a different way, than the sleek marathon-running 2005 version, and about how she was embracing the earlier Lynne’s ability to crush it by figuring out how New Lynne can do that and still live her current life.

I read that intently as we are twins and were at similar levels of crush at 34, and have similar interest in re-crushing it at 43. We also both really love running, not just for its weight loss possibilities, but because it’s transformative mentally and spiritually. I love yoga, but I have meditated more deeply, more truly while sweating and pounding on a path by the water with the sun coming up than I ever have in a darkened room with quiet intonations and cymbal-y music. Maybe I’m just weird or a glutton for punishment.

Or maybe it’s the rhythm of your heart, that’s beating like a drum (thanks, Rod Stewart!) to the time of your feet, to your breath, to the water and the sky. And even though you’re in pain, and your muscles are screaming at you, and you’re noticing that you’re running past the home of a friend who would surely drive you home….you keep running. You NEED to run. Or shuffle. Or crawl. You gotta get there. The rhythm demands it.

Anyway, I want back in. I started running again, just 20 minutes at a time, a few weeks ago, and I find that I crave it. I plan to run a 5K – my first race in nearly three years – in December, and I’m thrilled and terrified all together (thrillified? terried?) This is my running morning, and as I write this and drink the green juice of repentance for what I ate this weekend, I find myself imagining the things I’m gonna see as I run – the mothers pushing strollers, the pretty houses with “For Sale” signs, the little details I never notice when I’m driving. And I’m hungry for it…certainly hungrier than I am for his green juice. But it’s all a part of the run.

And I’m ready. Who’s coming with me?

The Kayak Has To Get Back Somehow

by SweetMidlife

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Howdy! Lynne here.

Been thinking about something.

I used to be a touring actor, and twice had the great blessing of touring the U.S. (and 3 cities in Canada!) performing in kids’ shows through the Kennedy Center. It was a beautiful thing to basically get paid to see the country from inside of a 15-passenger van. And because most of the shows were during the day, we frequently had our nights to explore, and sometimes even had days in a row where we just got to chill, recuperate and sight-see. In the spring of 2001, the show I was doing had about 5 days off near Rochester, New York, and we stayed in this cool hotel that was right on the Erie Canal. There was a path that led to the village of Pittsford, and you could also rent kayaks to go up and down the canal. One afternoon, the actors in the cast decided to do the kayak thing. There were 2-person and solo boats, and I wound up in one by myself. Now, I was and am a bit of a klutz, and though no one said it out loud, I had a feeling that’s why no one volunteered to paddle with me. And I kinda agreed. I kinda doubted my ability to not steer myself way off course. Well, shoot, I AM the kid who rides the bumper cars and gets stuck in the corner and can’t get out, and everyone else comes over and bumps me and drives away. But I had paid for the boat, so I went for it.

And I loved it.

It was serene, and it was peaceful, and it was just me and God. I don’t remember actual words that He spoke, but I just felt this lightness, this sense of air in my lungs and power in my arms. And I got to look at the rocks in the water, and marveled at the blades of grass, and I didn’t miss the creation around me because I was in the moment.

I did get stuck in the banks a few times, but I got out. And I got tired towards the end. My arms were like, “We’re done, dude.” But that’s the thing about a kayak. There’s no motor, and no propeller. I couldn’t leave the boat there and walk back. Nope. I had to sit a minute, pull myself together, and row. I prayed for a second wind, and I paddled that kayak back to shore. Well, God and I paddled it back. And I got out of the boat, and kinda waddled back to the hotel. Sore, and tired, but proud.

And I have been thinking of this story a lot lately. I have been tired. I have been sad. Every time I check into Facebook, it seems like someone else has lost someone, or has a grave diagnosis, or that someone’s child is missing, or has been abused, or I hear that someone’s spouse lost a job, or that another marriage is ending, and that generally hope is hard to find. I don’t what God is doing half the time. I don’t get it.

But I was watching The Amazing Race the other day, and the contestants had to go over this scary rope bridge, then zip line over a canyon to do a puzzle. And it didn’t matter how long it took them to get it done. They had to finish to leave. And there was no trolley back to the other side. The only way back was on the zip line, and going over the rope bridge again. It was the only way to keep going.

This puzzle is almost as hard as the one on the show.

This puzzle is almost as hard as the one on the show.

And these aren’t perfect metaphors, the canoe and the rope bridge and the bumper cars, for what I have been feeling. But they work. Because sometimes you feel that you are hopelessly lost, and you can’t possibly get out of where you are, and that no matter how you paddle, or how you put the pieces back, they aren’t fitting, and mean kids keep bumping you.

But then you see that all you have is you, and your paddle, and the puzzle pieces, and that if you are going to get anywhere, you have to close your eyes, and figure it out. Because you have no other choice. And it’s just you and God. And He gave you the pieces, the boat, and a moment when the other kids are off bumping someone else, and you make it work. I think that He puts us in situations where we have to call on Him and ask for the strength to just DO IT. And that’s the strongest you can be.

I still don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I don’t. But I’ve got this paddle. And I’ve got God. I will see you on the other side.

Kids at a restaurant? Yay or nay?

by SweetMidlife

rice dish saia

Leslie here! As a professional food and cocktail writer and gal about the Internets, as well as someone who is semi-newly hanging out with a loud one-year-old person, two stories recently caught my attention. Both were about the politics of taking a little person to an eating establishment not specifically meant for them.
My husband and I have a pretty standard rule – we take the munchkin to nice but not incredibly fancy places, and the moment he gets loud, we plug that pie hole with a binky or a sippy cup. If that doesn’t work, one of us takes him out. And if that doesn’t work, we get the check, get some take out boxes and get the heck out. Nobody wants to be around a culinary cryfest so we treat them like a chemical spill – contain, contain, contain.

Though the stories are written from two extreme (and both entitled) positions, they make me replay every dinner I’ve ever had in my mind and wonder whether I should be hiring a food taster to guard myself against servers irate when they see a stroller.

The first was a clearly ridiculous story on Salon.com http://www.salon.com/2014/10/11/fine_dining_with_my_infant/
about a writer who took his young daughter to Michelin star-rated restaurants in London, while on a work trip with his wife. It’s self-absorbed navel-gazing disguised as social experiment, because while he’s aware of the potential annoyance to other diners paying upwards of $100 for their meals, to the staff and even to his sometimes irritable daughter, he goes anyway, mostly because he wants to go, and because that’s more important than anyone else’s discomfort. That guy sucks.

On the other end of the spectrum are some of the comment writers on Jezebel’s story about whether you should bring babies to bars or brunch. http://jezebel.com/when-can-you-take-your-baby-to-brunch-or-the-bar-a-gui-1649061833

The bar thing seems to be self-explanatory – if you’re at a restaurant that has a bar, and you’re sitting at a table and your kid is well-behaved and there aren’t crazy drunks about, I don’t think it’s a problem. If it’s a bar, bar, like you’re sitting at the bar with your baby and you could sit elsewhere, or there’s no food and you and Junior are just drinking…well, don’t do that. That’s bad.

The brunch thing is funnier – Jezebel’s readers tend to be young, and seem to believe that brunch is exclusively for the hungover and sexy whose heads can’t take the noise your baby might make. And that’s hilarious, because brunch is also the provenance of the after-church crowd, or people taking their grandmas out, or just hungry people who like omelettes. Look, Drunkity McGee – we’re already keeping the babies out the bars. You don’t get to claim another meal. You chose to be in public hungover. Not my problem.

I understand that some parents suck as much as that guy who took the baby to the five-star restaurant, in that they refuse to discipline their kids. The complaints in the Jezebel comment section were about not wanting other people’s rugrats kicking their chairs, or running through the aisles acting stupid, and I agree. But there are adults at that same place doing the grown-up equivalent – talking really loud on cell phones, blocking the aisles and being jerky. Why don’t they get the automatic stinkeye?

A few months ago my husband and I were invited on a culinary walking tour of a local shopping area. I asked the coordinator if we could bring the kid, and since she’d met him and knew he was chill, she said OK. But when I rolled up with the stroller, I got some outright nasty looks – one particular couple wouldn’t even meet my gaze when I tried to smile at them. And in that moment I wanted to smack people like Five Star Father who foist their ill-behaved offspring on everyone else, because they make it harder for us non-idiots to do anything.

The evening went pretty well – Kid is usually awesome as long as he’s eating and occupied, and the couple of times he even looked like he was going to blow, one of us rushed him out of there. We got to the next to last tour stop and decided it was bedtime. As we got up to leave, Mr. Stink Eye come over to me to shake my hand.

“I have to apologize,” he said sheepishly. “When we saw you come up with the baby we were like ‘Oh, no! The rest of us got sitters so we wouldn’t be around our own kids, and now we have to deal with someone else’s?’ But your baby was really sweet and quiet, so we’re sorry about that.”

That was really nice of them, but it made me a little weary, because why wouldn’t you think my kid was a jerk, if you only run into other kid jerks? Then again, are you going into this assuming that my kid is an interloper?

What do you guys think?

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

by SweetMidlife

Happy Halloween, peeps. Lynne here!!

This is not only the end of the week, but the end of the month. All of the Christmas stuff will be out in the stores tomorrow. Sigh. But let’s not rush things, and let’s focus on the present happy, shall we?

Here are some little things that are making me a little joyous lately….

1. Pregnant Alyssa Milano

So. Cute.

So. Cute.

The new season of Project Runway All-Stars debuted last night, and in addition to the scissors and complaining and pretty clothes, we got a very pregnant Alyssa Milano. And she is so freaking cute. I wanted to be a cute pregnant person. I succeeded until the last few weeks, when I looked like I had swallowed a mailbox and an English bulldog.

2. Consolation Pie

Fruity happy.

Fruity happy.

We had a long day on Wednesday. My husband had to stay at work late, and I had to take my toddler son to the rehearsal of the play I am directing. It all worked out great, but we were tired. So I suggested to my husband that he bring something sweet home. And he brought this lovely thing. Now, eating your feelings is not a good practice. But it was nice to sit down with pie and ice cram and chill. See what I did there? Ice cream and chill? Okay, have another piece.

3. Comforters



I love that it is getting chilly, because that means that it is comforter season! There is nothing like curling up all cozy in a fluffy blanket. It feels like security. We got the one in the picture at our housewarming from my Great-aunt Tis. She is awesome. So is this comforter.

4. My Kid’s Halloween Costume

Tee hee.

Tee hee.

For my kid’s first 2 Halloweens, he was first a farmer, then a cowboy. This is because these are scarf-based costumes, and I have bunches of scarves. He was ridiculously cute, but I decided to branch out of bandanna chic this year. I can’t give away what he will be this year, but it features the trench coat out of the spy costume we bought, and a painted on eye patch and goatee…..

5. Snoopy at the Playground

Snoopy too the turns on the slide really fast.

Snoopy too the turns on the slide really fast.

My son has rediscovered this Snoopy doll that Good Friend Elicia gave him when he was born, and he goes on adventures with him. Earlier this week, we all went to the neighborhood playground and our little stuffed friend joined in the fun. He did the swings and he listened to my son play the plastic bongos. My favorite part, though, was when my son sent Snoopy down the sliding board. It looks like Snoopy is drunk or injured, but he was having a great time. We all were!!

So, this has been our week. And it has been a good one!! I hope yours has too.

This week, we are linking up with September FARM and “Oh, hey Friday”, Choosing Happiness Link Up and Friday Favorites.

“Let’s Get Together”-itis

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

I heard this story recently about this guy who has given himself 3 years to have coffee with everyone of his over- 1000 Facebook friends because he realizes how important it is to have in-person connection. I think this is a fantastic idea too, because I too, have a whole heaping bunch of friends on the Facebook.  Now, some of them are high school classmates who I don’t remember too well, and some are the cousin of somebody that I met once at a wedding. But many of those are people who, even though I haven’t seen them in ages, I actually feel close to because we are in each other’s daily online lives. They pray for me, I pray for them, we share pictures and hope and dreams, and we make each other smile. I don’t know if we will all be getting together in person, although that would be fantastic. And some of these good friends and I often chat on FB, or text, and someone will say, “Hey, we need to get together soon.”

And I am sorry to say, this doesn’t usually happen.

I think that we have good intentions of actually following through. But they don’t always translate into actually putting something on the calendar, and then actually following through with actually hanging out. Sometimes you push through, and you actually see each other. Sometimes, you set dates that keep getting canceled. Other times, unfortunately, the cancellations pile up, or you never schedule in the first place, and you realize that one or both of you has become the dad in “Cats in the Cradle”.

“When we hanging out, Lynne?”

“I don’t know when. But we’ll get together then, friend. I know we’ll have a good time. THEN.”

Whenever that is.

I decided once to stop making quasi-plans with people if I wasn’t going to make actual plans, and it worked for awhile, but I find myself lately quasi-ing again. Things happen that change plans, and I get that. I have been on both sides of that. But I want my friends to know that I actually value that face time, and if we can get it done, even if it is in a few months, we will set the date.

And this has been a good run lately. I hung out with a friend I have had for 20 years and her daughter when they came into town for a family celebration. I am having dinner/lunch with 3 of my best friends in the next few days. Just this morning, I had with a good friend, who I recently texted to say that we should get together and should set a date. I said I would check my calendar. I ran into her at a funeral a few weeks ago and realized that I never wrote her back. And that it had been 4 months since then. I got home that night and sent her dates. And voila, Cracker Barrel, biscuits, and friend time. Good times, that is.


We brought home pancakes and memories.

So, I am sure that there are people that I really want to see, but that might not happen. But I hope I get to actually put in REAL face time with the people I call friends.

Drop me a line, okay? We will check our calendars.






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