with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: adulthood

2018, as interpreted through my Spotify “Top Songs” playlist or “Barry Manilow ain’t never lied to you”

by SweetMidlife

There’s a lot to be said about the year 2018, other than “over.” Some would call it a 365-day-long dumpster fire. The more optimistic among us might say it’s the necessary sink to the bottom to inspire a conscientious climb back to a better world.

As a lifelong journalist who believes that looking at hard cold data – also known as the receipts – is an important gauge of where we were at particular moments in time, because memory is spotty and also we lie to ourselves sometimes to obscure our dumbassness. When Spotify, the popular music streaming platform, compiled a playlist of the songs I listened to the most in 2018, it seemed an intriguing way to chart where I was emotionally during the year. Music, after all, is more than just a collection of notes we like bopping to, although it certainly can be that. The songs I had on repeat, I figured, meant something to me, soothed or riled or tickled something in my chest. And Spotify doesn’t lie – I can try to be cool and current with the Top Hits of NewNextNow or whatever it is, but I’d imagine the average release date of my playlists songs is 1987. Whatever. I ain’t ashamed. Bring on the Anne Murray weepers and get it over with.

“Oh No,” The Commodores: I had this, my favorite melodramatic Lionel Richie-esque weeping-into-power ballad, on a playlist I’d made during a brief dumb dating situation the previous year because it was fun to listen to while I was happy. Once the dumbness abated and I was no longer happy with that person but working towards being happy not being with them, it was fun to belt out in the Palm Beach Post parking lot while procrastinating getting out of the car and going to work already. Sometimes wallowing is healing.

Uptown Girl,” Billy Joel: I am not the biggest Amy Schumer fan. Not by a lot. But her rom-com “Trainwreck” has earned its sweet, cynical way onto my go-to list of movies I put on while writing, because it’s well-written, funny, and features the instant classic comic pairing of Bill Hader and Lebron James. And any film that (SPOILER ALERT!) finds its final romantic reconciliation in a cheerleading routine set to “Uptown Girl” earns my love, because Schumer’s character has previously expressed scorn for both cheerleading AND “Uptown Girl.” But she participates in said routine, set to said song, because the love of her life loves those things and she knows love means sacrifice. I love that song, and I love being reminded of the hope that someone could love me, maybe, that much again.

“Here Comes Your Man,” The Pixies: Part of good parenting is making sure that your kid is exposed to good music, so if one day his taste sucks you can at least be sure it’s not for lack of trying. This here song was on a bank commercial, and my son was attempting to recreate it from his booster seat perch in back of my Prius. So I cued up the song and watched his little eyes light up. “MOMMY!” he squealed. “THAT’S OUR SONG!” Yes, my darling, it is. I win…something.

“Freedom Hymn,” Austin French: I share a Spotify account with the aforementioned kid, who likes to fall asleep to a playlist that is almost entirely composed of Contemporary Christian tunes and Andy Grammar. He’s a spiritual, mellow 5-year-old, I guess. I admit that I don’t listen to this stuff a lot if he’s not in the room, because some of it seems monotonous, but this is one of Brooks’ favorites. I don’t know what he likes about it, but I love the concept of it, that we fight against the wisdom that we know makes us free, if we just surrender to it. Me and God have had an interesting run through this morass of loss I’ve fought through, so remembering that He’s there is a big deal for me. Thanks for the song suggestion, Kid.

“No More Lonely Nights,” Paul McCartney: When Linda McCartney died, I heard a DJ explain that this song was written by Paul about the one night they ever spent apart from the night they got together until the day she died (I think he’d been detained for trying to take hashish through an airport.) I stumbled on this, a favorite of mine since 1984, and I remembered that story and started to cry, because it reminded me of every night I spent apart from my husband in the 5 1/2 years we were married, and the nights forever I’ll have to spend without him. And…it didn’t break me. The more I listened to that song this year, the more I could relish those amazing moments we shared and wish we had more without wanting to curl into a fetal ball and roll into a corner. I just let it be. And yes I’m very clever.

“Stomp!” The Brothers Johnson: It’s my go-to running song, inspired by its place on a playlist from my favorite step class in 1995 at York, Pa.’s Unique Physique. The teacher timed the “Everybody take it to the top” part for moments when we were up on the bench grooving. And it was glorious. And that bass line is some funky business.

“Brokenhearted Me,” Anne Murray: For some reason, the more I listen to this anthem of well-considered wallowing, the more it sounds like a John Legend song to me. Can’t you hear him hovering over the sad piano, leaning into the lyrics of self-acknowledged inability to move on? Can’t you just imagine him tackling the wide-eyed misery of lines like “A million miracles won’t ever stop the pain?” I can! And I like sitting in my car and imagining John and Anne just wailing and making a cross-generational selection of fans weep? Me too!

“Taking Chances,” Celine Dion and “Ready To Take A Chance Again,” Barry Manilow: You know those BuzzFeed quizzes that ask you what your mantra or theme song is? These two are my mantras for 2018 and 2019 and maybe forever, because they’re what I need to embrace about my life and my career. I used to think of them both romantically, but – and bare with me, because this is a whole mood – I am now at a point in journalism where the industry I still love is imploding even as we try to beat back the shards with new tactics but solid intention. Since July 1993, I have never paid my bills as anything but a newspaper journalist, and never imagined I would, honestly. But the reality is that this may not be available for me forever, and as I begin my journey as an author, while still kicking butt for my paper, I have to be brave enough to imagine what happens one day if things change. Also, I have always worked for someone else. Three of my dearest loves are ladies who run their own businesses, who took a chance, who, as Celine sings, jumped off the edge, never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a hand to hold, or hell to pay. I’m not there yet. But I’m working on it. What do you say?


Peace on Earth, Goodwill on Twitter. Really.

by SweetMidlife

I’m sitting up in bed, two days before Christmas, with a lot to do and little desire, at present, to get from under this dreamy purple blanket and do anything about it. Since my laptop’s right here and writing is actual work I can accomplish without moving very much, I wanted to acknowledge something wonderful that’s happened to me in the last week that’s reaffirmed my belief in the kindness of humanity, even in this weirdly bleak dumpster fire of a national mood.

And it’s Taylor Swift fans on Twitter.

Yes, Twitter, that mythical online realm where civility and grammar go to die and be reanimated as the Wight Walkers from “Game of Thrones” – dead-eyed, focused and now armed with a zombie dragon.

About a year ago, I wrote a post on this very blog in defense of Taylor Swift, a very famous and accomplished person whose music is not my favorite, but whose hustle I admire. She’d Tweeted that 2017 had been a great year, and a writer for a national publication tore her a new one for not “reading the room” that the year had been horrific so many others. As a survivor of some heinous loss who’s had a fruitful ongoing recovery and some real triumphs, I wrote that people needed to let Taylor live, and that it was possible to acknowledge the greater state of suckiness in the world without trashing someone for expressing some damn happiness.

I’d almost forgotten about that post – 2018 has been very busy for me: I shopped and then sold “Black Widow,” a memoir about the first year of my widowhood, continued as a columnist for the Palm Beach Post as daily print journalism takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and continued being a single mom raising a great, energetic little boy. But when someone reTweeted the link to the story, a strange thing happened – well, maybe not strange when you consider the power of a fandom as strong as Taylor Swift’s – it caught on. And suddenly I had all these Swifties in my timeline, thanking me for my kindness. It knocked me over, y’all. I wasn’t a fellow stan, or someone they knew – just someone who acknowledged the right of their fave to have some happiness.

We are in weird days – the government is shut down, the economy may be wobbling and there are sad, depressed lonely people all over this country and this world. Happiness is fleeting in some parts, so when you find it, when something sweet and wonderful happens to you, we need to hold onto it and tell everybody. Twitter has no problems with people “cancelling” other people, calling them out and telling them about themselves. Happiness shouldn’t threaten you. It should be celebrated.

Thank you guys for your kindness. You made a tired journalist mom smile. Now…somebody needs to make me get out of this bed and finish my laundry.


Work it! Own it!: Having the guts to get paid what I’m worth

by SweetMidlife

I’m Leslie! I’m worth a lot! I am! I mean it! (Photo: Rissa Miller at Balance Photography)

Leslie here!

I have done a lot of things I’m proud of lately – finishing a half marathon, selling a book, continuing to keep my child alive. But my biggest recent personal accomplishment was telling a nice old lady that I couldn’t speak to her nice old lady organization because they couldn’t pay me enough. And I felt OK about it.

More than OK. I feel darn good about it.

I love speaking. Not just in general, as I am super verbose and don’t shut the hell up, but also in formal settings, where I say pithy, moving things about everything from widowhood to local places to eat to whatever the hell’s going on with newspapers these days (That’s a whole other thing.) I’ve been speaking everywhere imaginable, from schools to retirement communities to libraries, for years now, and the more I’ve spoken , my skill, as well as my stature in my community, have increased and improved.

And when that happens, the conventional wisdom is that you’re worth more. Which means that if you charge for your services, which I do, you should get paid more. That’s the way things work, and if you’re serious about being a business person and being paid for the professional thing that you’re good at, you have to do the jobs that correspond to your worth. This means beginning to turn down the ones that aren’t, because you have to look out for yourself. I’ve been having the same conversation about this with my sister and another friend for years now. It’s about how as growing business people, particularly as women that people like, those people sometimes expect you to cut them a break, to give them a discount. I mean, everyone likes a discount, and believe me I get plenty of them, and I’m grateful.

But the truth is that if everyone gets a discount, that discount is now your price. I’m not established enough or rich enough to be giving stuff away for free. I’ve been a reporter for 25 years, a regular speaker for about 15, and I’m about to be a published author. When the paper I work for used to have a speakers bureau, they provided reporters like myself to the community for free and paid us $40 for the time, which seemed like gravy – the job I loved provided me some extra cash and the people I spoke to were nice and sometimes even gave me a bagel.

But that was a long time ago, and I’m worth more, although even saying that sometimes sounds ungrateful due to the conditioning nice girls like me get to feel bad about asking for what we’re worth. My price is now several times than what I used to get. I still want my bagel, tho. Knowing that, of course, is easier than making that happen.

Which came to mind very recently while standing outside of a fancy cocktail bar on a recent girls trip confirming to that very nice older lady that I would not be able to speak to her group. I kind of already knew that- when she’d contacted me a week earlier, already apologetic that her group had a small budget, the number she’d come up with was very, very small. Being a nice grandmother type well practiced in the art of subtle guilt, she’d floated the idea that even though I’m important and busy, perhaps I had some special affinity for her group and would be willing to give them a discount. I do love her group, but again, if you keep giving everybody discounts, the discount is your price. So I saw her grandmother guilt and raised her one case of widowed single mother who needs the money. She appreciated that. But then she said something else.

“Well, obviously. But also you work really hard and you’re worth what you’re asking. We just really wanted you to come. I’ll check with the board and let you know.”

Well, wow. The lady who had asked for a discount was letting me off the hook because she wanted me to know that while she might not be able to afford me, I was worth what I was asking. SHE KNEW THAT. So I had to, too.

The call on my girls trip was to let me know that the board, although really into me coming to speak to them, was unable to come up with the money. I could have sworn that there was the slightest pause to allow me to say “That’s OK! I’ll do it anyway because it’s you!” But if there was, the moment passed, and I told her I was so sorry it didn’t work out but that I’d let her know when I was speaking in the area.

As I hung up and went back to my drink I felt both pleased with myself and pathetic that I thought I needed a cookie to stand up for myself, to ask permission to get paid. It’s stupid. I’m told all day long that I’m awesome. I might as well believe it. It’s not that I’ve never been kicked in the proverbial teeth – see the part about being a widowed single mother – but as things get better, healing continues and my book gets closer to release, I have to embrace not only my awesomeness but my worth. I’m hardworking. I’m good at what I do. And I’m worth it.

Hear that, Leslie? You’re worth it.


Kylie’s a billionaire at 20 so what are we all doing? A lot, turns out

by SweetMidlife

I come not to bury Kylie Jenner – I don’t know her and apparently she’s nearly a billionaire with her cosmetics empire so even if I tried she could climb out of the dirt on a giant pile of money. I do, however, come to say that almost no one else is a billionaire at 20, or at any age, and that it’s absolutely OK. More than OK, really.

There’s been a lot of hubbub about Forbes’ cover featuring Kylie in a serious business suit touting her as a female self-made billionaire, if you define “self-made” by starting your business with your own money, as she did with assets she made from modeling. Of course many, including me, beg to differ that one can be self-made with a modeling career made possible by both sides of her rich and famous family and her high media profile since childhood, and maintain that the admirable hustle she possesses was still built on a platform she inherited.

Then again, even Kylie’s sister haven’t made the money she has, so she’s doing something right. I am neither jealous nor hating. But I was among those who reacted with strongly to the snarky New York Post tweet that read “19-year-old Kylie Jenner is worth $900 million dollars…What are you doing with your life?” Um, what? I know it’s meant to probably award Kylie for her hard work, specifically at her age, but there’s an unfortunate implication that anyone who hasn’t done that – AND NO ONE HAS – has somehow wasted their lives and is a loser and should feel bad. You don’t have to put down other people to pull her up, New York Post.

A very wise attorney named Michelle Bhasin who I have never met but who I’d like to be my best friend, was one of several people who instead of saying “Umm, not being born into a rich famous family” decided to answer that snarky question sincerely. Bhasin talked about being a professional and raising her kids, one of whom is autistic, and about her community work with the homeless. Michelle Bhasin is not a billionaire, but she’s doing a lot.

Her Tweet was one of several that told big stories in a small amount of characters, of careers made from high school educations, from pulling oneself up from desperate family situations, from barely making ends meet but being able to look themselves in the eye at the end of the day. These were beautiful histories of strong people, mostly women, proud of their lives and their accomplishments, even if they were broke, because what they were doing with their lives was living well. I even added my own, above.

In this age of hate and division and, I believe, value put on the most horrible wrong things, this feed will make you feel good about some hardworking Americans who deserve to be billionaires. They won’t be. But that doesn’t make them any less impressive than Kylie Jenner. Not at all.


Leslie’s “Yoga Every Day” Challenge: I can watch “This is Us” during yoga, right?

by SweetMidlife

I may have been watching a beloved fictional man die a heroic death while doing this yoga video. Or not. But probably.

Mondays always seem like a good time to start a challenge or a new thing, at least to me. There are theories for and against this logic, and of every diet or new habit I ever started on a Monday stuck, I’d have a body like Serena Williams, my room would be amazingly clean and I wouldn’t be stepping around shoes flung carelessly in a pile in the middle of the night.

I am still making my bed. Of course, I started that on a Saturday, so who knows?

Anyway, one of the things I have long tried to do in my life is a daily yoga practice. I’m not rich, nor do I have a nanny or an infinite amount of time, so I can’t go to either of the beloved studios within walking distance of my house every day, or even more than once in a blue moon. This is where Gaia.com, an online community chock full of yoga, lifestyle, spiritual and other videos, comes in (and no, this is not a paid post. There is no financial renumeration for what I’m writing, and I pay for my membership like everyone else.

There are offerings from beginner to advanced, and I’d say I’m a semi-advanced beginner. Perhaps not an absolute beginner, as David Bowie might say, but absolutely in the beginner-I-might-need-a-block-and-yes-this-is-as-far-as-I-bend zone. The Gaia people make it easy for us block-users, however, with some series that are geared to put you in the practice of having a practice. My favorite is “Yoga Every Day,” of which there are currently 358 episodes that run just 15-20 minutes. The site selects one of these for me a day, and since I keep forgetting to do it, I haven’t yet had the same one twice. This is a problem I’d like to have, honestly.

So since it’s Monday, and again, that seemed like a good time to do this, I am challenging myself to do one of these videos everyday for the next 30 days. They aren’t long, I can do them from my brand new yoga mat (also, incidentally, made by Gaia, and I bought that with my own cash, too) and they start my day in a good way because they make me do SOMETHING.

This morning’s was titled “Santosha,” the Sanskrit word for contentment, which at this point of great potential change in my life seems really appropriate. For me, it means that I hope that big things are coming for me, but that I am praying for contentment in my current state and appreciation and contentment in whatever those changes are. The teacher is Steph Schwartz, who I like because she has a calm voice and plays the accordion to start the class. It’s cool. I like her words about intent and peace, and know that she probably didn’t mean me to be playing last night’s “This Is Us” On Demand as I did this practice. But my DVR cut off the end and I only have so much time before my kid wakes up, so…Sorry, Steph.

I’m gonna be better. I have 30 days!


I made my bed today. Is my life going to change forever now?

by SweetMidlife

Just call me angel, on a made bed, angel!

Leslie here! I write you today from my hippie mommy grotto, lying on my scarf and twinkle light-strewn bed, which I made about a half hour ago.  You’re probably wondering why I’m making such a big deal out of making my bed, which I am, because it was cool that I did that and I rock. Because I am an adult person who learned the skill of bed-making roughly 40 years ago, one would assume it’s one I’d mastered.

And I have. I’m serious. I just never do it.

But there’s a train of thought, espoused by presumably put-together people like “The Power of Habit” author Charles Duhigg, that it’s worth it to take the time to tuck in my sheets, straighten up the comforter and even add some of these stuffed animals living around here doing nothing but being cute. Not only will it make my whole room look better, but it could be the first steps toward a great day, and even a great life.

Not convinced. But I’m listening.

Anyone who’s ever lived or gone on vacation with me knows that making my bed is not usually part of my morning routine (neither is neatly folding and putting away my clothes, but that’s a whole other situation.) It’s not intentional – I just don’t usually take the time to do it, because I feel super-busy from the moment I get up. I could blame it on being a mom, but I didn’t make my bed when I was childless, either. It’s not that I don’t know that doing so makes your room look prettier, and makes the bed a lot more inviting when you crawl into it at the end of the day.

I just don’t do it.

But this morning, after doing a yoga video and hanging up the clothes that have been looped over the footboard for a week, I changed my sheets that had child-deposited crumbs on them, replacing them with spiffy fresh-out-the-laundry ones, and then actually fluffed the pillows. I even moved the mail off and put it on my desk instead of just chucking it on a chair or something.

Why is this supposed to be important? Duhigg calls making the bed a “keystone habit,” that sets the tone for the rest of the day. He writes that “making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”

He’s not the only one. According to the Huffington Post, there’s a whole mess of evidence that making the bed is important because it not only gives you a sense of pride (because you’re not a Messy Leslie) but because it sets an intention. I know about intention from yoga, the idea that everything in your life, from your yoga practice to what you eat to how you dress, is done thoughtfully and with purpose. And that makes so much sense – For instance, I am much more likely to stick to my healthy diet if I plan my meals. Ditto for my workouts – saying “I’ll probably fit it in at some point sometime today most likely yeah that’s the ticket” never works for me. I do better when I either do it first thing in the morning or plan some activity where there’s accountability, like meeting my trainer at the gym or walking my son to school with my mom. Even stronger than my messiness is my aversion to letting anyone down.

So this is where making the bed comes in – If I can take the time to do the most basic thing, just putting back together the bed I just got out of, that sets that intention – there’s that word again – to then make sure I do other things that should be habits, like flossing, or putting my shoes back neatly on the rack, or putting my son’s lunch bag on the doorknob so I don’t forget it. And that’s all before I left the house.

I am not expecting my life to change overnight – I’ve been loose-goosey with the organization and such for 46 years, so these bad habits aren’t going to be changed overnight. But the only way to see a change is to start one. Even a little one. Be the change you want to see in the world, they say.

My bed’s that first change. And it’s super pretty, too!


It’s 2018! Doing my part to make it less of a dumpster fire than 2017!

by SweetMidlife

We wish you a Happy New Year!

 

Happy 2018, ya’ll! This is Leslie, who is sitting at Lynne’s kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a whole lot of grandiose plans about what I’m definitely going to and not going to do over the next 12 months.

This is largely speculative nonsense.

There is no way that we can say exactly what we’re gonna do in the future because we don’t control it. Stuff happens – death, hurricanes, job losses, illness – that throw the most monkiest of wrenches into the best laid plans of mice and men (and yes I mixed some metaphors and references that don’t belong to together. Have now made them a thing. They’re a thing now.) Elections go drastically differently than we expected. Friends and family members don’t show up the way we expected. Everything, as Dog’s Eye View once said, falls apart.

So should we just pack it in and go back to bed until 2019? Of course not. That’s unrealistic and unless you’re independently wealthy you probably have to work, as you have found that American Express doesn’t accept “fear-based inertia” as payment. There’s a lot happening in my life that is uncertain – my newspaper is being sold and I have no idea what that means for my job and my future . I’m trying to sell a book. My lease is up soon. My kid insists on getting older and needs stuff.

I mean, we can plan. Plans are good. Will and self-control are good. I plan to work out every day and hit my 10,000 steps on ye old Fitbit. This is something I am resolved to do. However, if my kid gets sick and I have to schedule a doctor’s appointment during my appointed workout time, or if it rains and I can’t go running, or if work just rears its unpredictable head and completely throws my schedule for a loop, that might not happen every single day. I could maybe try to go to the gym instead and get 8000. Or do some sort of video when my kid goes to bed and not just sit in my room and catch up on “The Bachelor.” Plans can change. Our intention for those plans can remain steadfast. Maybe I have to get 15,000 tomorrow.

That does not solve my love of potato chips. It doesn’t change racism, or sexism, or nuclear war. It doesn’t guarantee my job. But here’s what it does do – it makes me healthier and more alert. It gives me meditation time that is all my own to talk to God or to myself or sing Night Ranger songs real loud, because Night Ranger workouts are a thing and if you don’t know this you are missing out. It gives me more energy to write better at my job and to pitch this book, which is good and you should buy it when it’s out. It makes me more likely to be prepared to make my lunch before my son wakes, ensuring more control over the healthiness of it and that I’m not spending more money than I should on lunches out. It gives me preparation for the rest of the day, physically and emotionally and makes all the other stuff coming at me easier to manage. I can’t control that stuff. But I can at least try to walk around my room a couple of times and give some thanks and hum Night Ranger’s “The Secret of My Success” to myself as encouragement while dodging that stuff. (And as the song says, that secret is that I’m living 25 hours a day. 22 of which involve avocado products.)

This doesn’t mean that no one I love will be sick or die, or that I can’t lose my job, or that I will sell my book. It just means that I can control one little part of it, the part that is mine. I can try to be a better friend, a better mother and daughter and sister. I can be neater and on time and write things down in my calendar. I can be a better listener and put my phone away. That doesn’t stop everyone’s chaos but it can at least lighten mine.

We don’t know what 2018 has in store for us – as I wrote earlier, 2017 sucked in a lot of ways but that’s relative to what happened to you in 2016 or 2015. It’s going to be big – I know that big changes are coming for me and that hopefully they’re really good. And if they’re not, I hope I can learn from them. That’s all I can do. Besides finish this coffee and go dance to “Sister Christian” in the corner till my kid comes back downstairs.

 


2017 was really awful. Taylor Swift personally had a good year. So did I. Fight me.

by SweetMidlife

 

 

 

We were happy in 2017, happier than in 2015. And that’s true.

This is Leslie! In 2015, I lost my husband Scott, making 2015 the worst year in my life so far. It handily beat 2012, the previous title holder and the year my father died. 2012 was also the year that Barack Obama won a second term and the year that my nephew Alex, a human so unspeakably cute that he may not be human (shhh!), was born. So good things happened that year – some wonderful things, but the overall mood, for me, was crappy, because my daddy died. Does that make sense? It was a bad year for me, but that doesn’t negate the good things that happened.

2017, in general, has been a dumpster fire for much of the world. As a newspaper reporter I’m not supposed to get into the political nitty-gritty (hello ethics!) but it’s not political to say that neo-Nazis are bad, murder is bad, racism is bad and not supporting health care for needy kids and old people is evil. 2017 is also the year that Roy Moore, a man who thinks that life was peaches when my ancestors were slaves, got defeated, that monsters like Harvey Weinstein got called out and some heads that needed toppling got toppled. Personally, it was the year that I became vegan, lost 10 pounds, continued to have a great relationship with my mom, who moved in with me to raise my son, got some health stuff under control, celebrated the first anniversary of my child’s adoption, rekindled my relationship with my father-in-law, who got to meet his grandson, and finished my first book.

That  is a good year. It does not negate the dumpster fire, but it does shine a nice light in the distance. Apparently Taylor Swift, a woman of whom I am not a fan but whose success and hard work are undeniable, had a good year, too. She released a hit album. She successfully sued a radio host for groping her, gave strong testimony and took her place in the pantheon of women who said #metoo, when she didn’t have to. She also just had a birthday, and wrote on Instagram that she could not have had a better year. She didn’t say that everything was great. She didn’t say “Screw you people.”

She said she had a good year. And people freaked out on her. They called her tone deaf and privileged. And maybe she is. But she’s also a person who’s made buckets of cash for writing about the crap in her personal life. So y’all gonna drag her when something goes right? She wasn’t talking about y’all. She wasn’t saying everything was awesome. She dared to have a great day. Let her live, OK?

2017 has been the worst for a lot of people that I love, with personal illnesses and scary uncertainty for jobs and livelihoods. The overall scope of this year might be a dumpster fire. But there are victories. There are good days. And if one of those people said “This amazing thing happened to me today” and some stranger said “You’re evil to be happy at all because polar bears are dying” I would fight them. We can be aware and vigilant in this fight against evil. But we can also celebrate the good days. Because we have them. I did. So did Taylor Swift.

Hopefully we will have more of them soon.


Coleslaw, Loss, and Perspective

by SweetMidlife

HI! It’s Lynne! We haven’t written all summer, so I hope it was a good one. I am writing this gingerly because I had surgery on my left index finger last week, and I am writing with it sticking up in the air. This will be short :).

Today marks 20 years since the death of Britain’s Princess Diana, and seeing all of the specials and articles that have been commemorating the day, I remember where Leslie and I were when we found out about the Princess’ death. We were dealing with an overabundance of prepared salads and disappointment.

Our dad, Ed, was about to turn 50 years old, and Leslie, my mom, and I had planned a surprise birthday party for him that weekend. It was actually about 3 weeks before his actual birthday, but because my parents were living in Charleston, SC at the time and were planning on coming north that weekend, it seemed like a wonderful time to get our MD family together. We planned the shindig for a Sunday, in the backyard of the house in York, PA, where Leslie had an upstairs apartment that she called “The Hallway”because it was really narrow. It was a great hangout, and we were really looking forward to celebrating our dad with people who loved him so much. Leslie had even ordered like gallons of potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and tuna salad from a caterer, and we were feeling very accomplished, and we were all ready to pick them up on Sunday morning, and get our salad and our party on at the same time.

So, on Saturday, I was headed up the Baltimore Washington Parkway, headed to Leslie’s, when I got a call from Mommy, who said the thing that you don’t want the people you have planned a surprise party for to say, and that was this : “Lynne, we’re not coming.”

Say who now?

I pulled over at a gas station, because I knew that this was going to be something I needed to be still for to hear.

My dad spent most of his professional career in transportation management, and at that point, was managing the school bus contract between the company he worked for, and the Charleston school system. This was right before school was to start for the year, and things weren’t going smoothly, and since he had no idea that we were planning a party, he decided that they couldn’t leave, and that they could just come home the next weekend.

Surprise!!

So, she had to tell him about the party, but his duty was still to his job, so we had to call everyone and tell them that the party wasn’t happening that weekend. And we still had to take possession of all that prepared salad, because the lady had already made it. And we were bummed. We wanted the party now, darn it, because we had planned, and because we missed our parents, and because this isn’t how it was supposed to go, and we had a lot of tuna salad to eat now. Between my mom and us, we let everyone know, and we went to Leslie’s room, and fell asleep with the TV on, feeling sorry for ourselves.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and the news was on, and it was talking about what had happened in Paris. I woke Leslie up.

“Leslie, the Princess died.”

And we were snapped out of our sleep and mostly our disappointment over missed parties. Because two young boys had suffered more than the loss of plans. They had lost their mom. And the whole world was seeing it. I have no idea how long we stayed up, crying in disbelief, but I know that our attitudes changed, because we would see our parents next week. And after we went back to sleep, we got up and picked up the salads, and Leslie had friends come over, and we ate. And the next week, my parents came, and we had the party, and it was glorious. The picture at the top of this post was taken there. And you see happiness and relief at being together.

And this is what’s important. Well, parties are important, because they celebrate life, and life is precious. My dad died 15 years later, at 64, 3 months before his 65th, breaking our hearts, and also missing out on the really good senior-citizen discounts, a thing he was really looking forward to. I write this not to make you sad, but to implore you to make the memories that make the pictures, and enjoy your lives, and roll with the changes and the plethora of mayo-based foods. Enjoy your people. They are what is important.


Playdate Junction in Elkridge, Maryland Takes Care of Kids AND Their Parents

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne! I have been planning on writing this post for about a month, but it got delayed because of job and family stuff. And for that, I apologize, because I really want to share with you the awesomeness that is Play Date Junction, a fantastic place owned and birthed by my friend Portia Bates. There are a million ways in which she is fab, but if you don’t read any further than this, I want you to see this: If you are a parent of little kids and you are anywhere near Elkridge, MD, you should check out Play Date Junction, the play space that she owns whose slogan is “Where We Serive Children While Shamelessly Catering to Their Parents”. If you don’t read anymore, I hope it’s because you are grabbing your keys and also your kid and skedaddling to 6020 Meadowridge Drive, Elkridge, MD 20175.

Yay! You’re still here. So now I can tell you more.

I met Portia about a year ago when I invited members of the local blogging group I belong to to a special performance of my theater company’s first show. Portia was a part of that group, and she brought her kids to the show, and afterwards, told me about her in-the-work plans of opening a play space. It would be that welcoming and inviting to kids, but even more, would be a place for parents to socialize with each other. As a mom who is an entrepreneur, but also one who struggled with feeling isolated as a new parent, I was intrigued by not only her idea and how it could really better the lives of parents, but by her determination to make this a reality. This was April of 2016, and after several buildings falling through, Portia found the perfect spot in the fall, and was open by October.

But let’s backtrack a bit. Portia is the mother of two girls, and while she experienced the wonderfulness that comes with parenting humans, she also went through something not so wonderful, but just as common: the lack of connection with other parents. Finding time to see friends is hard, Portia says, “Because everyone is booked. Your life is so planned, and it is hard to fit (socialization) into that”. And as much as she enjoyed spending time with her kids, she was missing something, because “I really like to do other things, and to have a life” outside of that. This need to care for her kids and grow them, as well as recognizing her own need for friends, conversation, and a change of scenery inspired her to open Play Date Junction. And it’s a wonderful place.

Don’t you want to go there?

It may look like a standard play place, but it is anything but. PDJ is 90% open play: this means that you can pretty much come anytime that they are open. The main room is designed so that a parent can walk around the space with their kid, or, as Portia says, “They can plant themselves and let their kids go” on the inside playground equipment, as well as the fully-equipped dress-up station.
Parents and kids can also sit at a craft table and make things, color, or read together. You don’t even have to leave when you get hungry because you can bring your lunch and eat it there and then get back to the fun.

This is where Playdate Junction does the shameless catering to parents. There is a self-serve complimentary coffee and tea bar, where you can get your caffeine on. There is also a relaxation room, a dimly lit space decorated with candles and a lavender oil diffuser. It is a place for parents to come and sit and chill. It is also a great place to nurse, or bring your child if they get overstimulated outside. It is an oasis in the middle of an oasis.

Playdate Junction really serves the whole family, and the whole community, even offering meet-ups for special groups of folks on certain days, including Grandparents as Caregiver Tuesdays, a Family Date Night on Fridays, and Sensory-Friendly Mondays, with no loud music and no lavender smell in the relaxation suite. They have really considered what a family might need, because strong parents make strong kids. You can drop in for a visit, or buy memberships, which give you big discounts if you are a frequent visitor.

I hope that if you are in the area you can visit Playdate Junction, because both you and your kid need a place where you are both happy. Seriously. You might not hear that enough, tired parent. But it’s true. Take care of your kid and take care of you.


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