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Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Are You Traveling Yet? Your Forties are the Best Time to Travel!: Guest Post by Brent Jackson

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here! We are so pleased to have a guest post from Brent Jackson, a fellow Maryland blogger who writes about travel. Here, he tells you all the reasons why your 40s are a wonderful time to pack a suitcase and start seeing new places. 

Brent Jackson Guest Post

By Brent Jackson

Some of my friends have traveled all their lives. They started as kids with their parents and never stopped. It’s wonderful if you’re in this group. Keep traveling! Your forties will add new travel experiences for you.

Other people never travel or stop traveling while they’re young. If you’re in this group, keep reading! Your forties are a great time to start traveling!

Do you know what happens in your forties? Your forties are the comfort years. Most of you are done going through school, finding a career and building a family. You may still be climbing the corporate ladder but hopefully, you’re at a good resting point. Things start to slow down by the time you’re in your forties.

Now I’m not saying all the battles stop and life becomes easy. I’m saying wisdom starts to kick in at full force and (hopefully) those battles are easier to fight and take up less time. You know what you like and you know how you want to spend your time. You’re more comfortable with yourself and so … the comfort years. Don’t pull out the easy chair now that you’re in your comfort years. Now’s the time to travel!

There’s an old saying, “People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, and all their life for happiness … I travel!”

Here’s one more saying, “Travel is getting to know yourself by facing new experiences.”

Let’s count the benefits. You have more money in your forties. Traveling is far less stressful when you have a bigger budget. You have more control of your schedule. You’re not battling school, work and young kids so you can plan a last minute trip. If you still have young kids at home, no problem! There are mobile apps, websites and podcasts with plenty of ideas for traveling with kids. Lastly, you stop waiting for Friday, summer and happiness. Happiness just becomes natural the moment you get in your car, get on the boat or get off the plane. (It works for trains too.)

Need more? Here’s the best reason to travel in your forties … MEMORIES!!! You’re in the perfect position to get out there and build memories! You’re in your forties. Long walks are ok. Climbing steps are ok. Long drives are ok. Everything you will face as a traveler is easy in your forties. Years from now, you’re decide to step back from traveling and you’ll have all those memories! I promise, that’s happiness.

Travel does not have to be a big thing. Some people save up all year for one big trip. STOP THAT! Experienced travelers do smaller trips more often. My wife and I take a day or weekend trip every six weeks. We like to explore small towns with a highly rated bed & breakfast. You meet some really friendly people in small towns. I have friends who travel to weekend festivals every month. The best parts of America can be found in its festivals. I have another friend who travels bi-monthly with his girlfriend. They look online for cheap tickets. They can usually find 2 or 3 cities available for under $99 one-way. They pick the city farthest away (unless they’ve already been there), buy the tickets and book a room. Be creative. You have many options to travel!

Still thinking about it? STOP THAT! … GO! … Travel!

Brent Jackson lives in Fairfax, VA and blogs at Maryland Travel Stories. Follow him on Twitter or Pinterest .


I Get To Set My Own Priorities: A Guest Post by Joy Chiles

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here. Today we have a guest post from our kinda cousin, Joy Chiles. Her parents and our parents went to college together, and our families are, well, family. In this post, Joy tells us about making decisions that work the best for you and yours, even if other people aren’t down with it. 


by Joy Chiles

I often get asked, “How do you do it?”…

I teach full-time, but I also take care of family things even when I am at work.  After the births of both of my children (we have a 2 ½ year old son and a 1 year-old daughter), my husband stayed home, and I went back to work and financially took care of my family. Yes, I was the “bread winner”, and it was not bad at all. My husband and I didn’t have to work to pay for day care! Yay for us! The challenge was on and I was game.

But people we knew looked for the challenges in our new life instead of the advantages. Who said it isn’t acceptable for a woman to work and a man stay home and take care of the children? Try explaining that to a baby boomer family member or acquaintance!  I carried the children, and while my husband works at night after I get home, I must make sure that financially my family is taken care of, plus wash clothes, cook dinner, remember doctor appointments, bath times, diaper time, toddler time, baby/mommy time and let us not forget… the sweet sound of “What do you want to eat for dinner?” Even in today’s time, people would say that my household arrangement is not only nontraditional, but odd.

As an independent thinking couple, I am not one to prove to another what works for me; especially if your mind is “fixed”.  With all those responsibilities listed, some being left out or to your imagination, one would wonder, how do you take care of all of this? You must certainly be lacking in some other areas of your life. Well, my constant resolution each day is… How can I take care of my family better than yesterday? Taking care of my family needs is not an option, nor should it be yours.  Now please do not let me forget to add that I have an awesome husband that is a great father to his family, yet at times, I still felt the pressure of making sure that everyone is okay.

Prioritizing is what I did and continue to practice today. I believe it to be my saving tip; I sucked it up and embrace it. I embraced the titles and the expectations, thoughts of failure, talking to myself (am I crazy?), everything. I embrace it all as a woman, wife and mother. Notice, I said woman first. Women can withstand the challenges and take care of business. You must think about what is important and what matters the most to you and your family. In other words, do what works best for your household, always reflect, correct the challenges and direct yourself on the path for obtaining and maintaining your healthy family.

Joy is an advocate for substance abuse education and building strong families. She enjoys teaching life skills and values family time. 

Well-Behaved Women: Guest Post

by SweetMidlife

Good morning! Today, we are honored to have the hilarious Moni Barrette from the blog Rebel Mony as our guest today. She is honest and really funny and you will love her. Check out her stuff.


“No! I don’t like it! Go away!” With a swish of blond hair, she turns and slams the door in my face. Again. I’m at a breaking point and unsure how much more of the dramatics, moodiness, and disrespect I can take from my daughter.

Deciding to give us both time to calm down, I don’t go near her room. She’s probably flopped on her bed with a book, past arguments already forgotten.

I go back to the television and turn off the vintage Jem and the Holograms marathon she has been watching all afternoon. It’s funny how much my daughter resembles the original Jerrica Benton and that her generation still relates to this tough female character of from back in “my day.” I take a deep breath.

After only a few minutes, she opens the door. She wants chips before dinner. Here we go again. I say “I don’t negotiate with terrorists” and she fixes me with a stare that only a mother can love, because it is my own. What we lack in physical resemblance we make up for in identical charming smiles and fuck you stare downs. It’s a gift.

Sensing that I will stay firm on this, she sidetracks. “I want to go see Matthew!” Her boyfriend of the week. Oh joy. I have no idea what happened to Troy from last week, I really liked his family. It’s my first lesson in not getting too attached. Also, I would rather let her eat a whole bag of chips than send her over to the home of a boy I don’t know. When I tell her no, she whips out her phone and calls him.

As she pushes the plastic buttons and receives an answer from Disney’s Arial, I suppress a smirk. I know this behavior is normal for her age. They call them “terrible twos” for a reason.

Yes, she is only two.

And yes, there are sixteen long long years ahead of us before she can move out, if I don’t send her to a convent in the Irish countryside first. I fantasize about this daily, but it’s always spoiled by the knowledge that they would ship her right back.

Friends are horrified when I relay the stories of our battles. I don’t think my own husband would believe what goes on between his girls if he hadn’t seen it for himself. And yes, it has crossed my mind that I might be raising the world’s biggest brat. The next person who thinks they’re original in saying “Like mother, like daughter!” just might see just how ugly mother can really get.

Those are the bad moments. The times when I don’t know what the hell I am doing, or how I am going to get through to this particularly precocious child.

In the good moments, I could not be more proud of her. Sure, I am weak and wish she’d just drool and finger paint with her friends. And when she’s telling me we must have the 42nd wardrobe change of the day, I daydream of a child who will pick out cowboy boots and a tutu and leave it at that.

But, like the oft-misattributed quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” I am raising someone who certainly isn’t well-behaved, but there are worse things than a smart, capable, stubborn woman who speaks the truth as she sees it. Although I would like to create my own soon-to-be-famous quote: “Behind every history making woman, there’s an exhausted mama.”




Life lessons from a former Coke addict (and three things every water lover knows to be true)

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Today, we feature a guest post by Bekah Carrington, who writes at “I Prefer My Puns Intended”, a wonderful blog about parenting and faith. We like her blog A LOT. A post we wrote is featured on her blog today. Here is Bekah! This is good…….

Somewhere in between walking out of my parent’s home and my senior year of college, I developed a debilitating dependence on coke.

This dependency started small; maybe just this once quickly turned into buying in bulk. By the fall of 2007, I was hooked.  There was no going back.

I was hopelessly devoted to Coca-Cola Classic.

As a red-blooded American, it was so easy to become addicted to this  liquid candy.  Coca-Cola Freestyle machines baited me to try all different types of combinations (cherry, vanilla, raspberry coca-cola tastes like love–or at least I bet it does).  A “small” drink at a drive through looks a lot like what “large” was when I was a kid.  If you order a large drink, you’re sure to be sipping upwards of 32 ounces of sugar-laced carbonated water. I learned to pay loads of attention to the food that I ate, but neglected to check the nutritional value of what I was sipping.

That was until I began to run; and instead of counting calories, I counted miles.  I could afford the 2.4 miles I’d have to run for each of my Coca-Colas.

Thus, I kicked the habit: cold turkey.  I began to hitch my wagon to a new addiction: dihydrogen monoxide. That’s right: water.

And honestly, I freaking love water.  Whether it’s fruit infused water; La Croix; filtered (never spring water); or straight from the tap: I shotgun water like a fraternity boy.  There is something (gasp) refreshing about water.   In our great nation, it is safe to drink and free. 

If you’re thinking of becoming a convert and kicking your coke habit for good, here are three things all water drinkers learn the hard way.

  1. Water cups are cartoonishly-small. In a land where $1.99 buys enough liquid sugar to last a lifetime, it may seem odd that when one asks for water–this is what you’ll get.


Is this a cup for ants?

Is this a cup for ants?


It seems bigger is better in our country; except of course when the beverage is free…Or decidedly better for you.  On average, each “water cup” holds 5 ounces of water, which is less than my son’s sippy cup holds. It boggles the mind; it leaves you thirsty for more…literally.


  1. Chipotle offers the largest water cup; This is something you’ll want to know for the future. Chipotle has water lover market wrapped. Pun intended.



  1. If this ever happens to you, you can go home. You’ve won for the day.


Switching to water only was an easy way to cut out unnecessary sugar, caffeine, and calories from my diet.  Ironically enough, it has not been an easy way to quench my thirst at restaurants.  Will the mouthwash cup turned water cup ever be obsolete? Probably not. But it won’t ever stop me from campaigning to get a real cup for water.

Bekah spends most of her time crafting really bad dad jokes at “I Prefer My Puns Intended,” because life can be punny. She was three years into her career as a secondary English teacher and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who completely rearranged her plans. God has a funny way of throwing us curveballs.
For now, she is a full-time mom. In the future, she will return to the classroom. All the while, she will use her blog as a means to teach, inspire, and encourage all who so willingly and unnecessarily sell themselves short. Her favorite topics include faith, family, education, and pop-culture editorials.
The titles of her blogs may be cheesy, but the content earns cheddar. ..and gets feta……sorry, better.
You can connect with Bekah on Facebook (www.facebook.com/iprefermypunsintended), Twitter(@bekcarrington), and Instagram(@bekcarrington)!

Amusement Parks Vs. Theme Parks

by SweetMidlife

Hi! This is a guest post written by my brilliant friend Jelani Greenidge. Check out his blog here. He is funny and thoughtful and all that. ENJOY. 


Amusement Parks Vs. Theme Parks

I had a lot of fun last summer, my wife and I went with some friends on a road trip. Had a great time, we drove to a big amusement park in our area.

Or rather, I should say, it was a theme park. Some people think those are the same thing, but I’ve learned over time, they’re not. At an amusement park, their goal is to amuse you, to keep you entertained and interested and wowed as much as possible to divert your attention from the fact that you paid $100 to stand in line all day.

Which is ridiculous, when you think about it. Two hour wait, for a ride that lasts 2 minutes? You’d never wait that long for a 2 minute movie. Can you imagine standing in line all day to see The Matrix, and you get:


Take the red pill…

…I know kung fu!

Good night everybody!


No one would sign up for that. And the people who design amusement parks, they know that. That’s why they have so many tricks and tools to amuse you, you don’t even notice how long it’s taking. Hey folks, check out these interesting novelties! Cartoon characters! Extreme sports videos! Articulate Black people!

Now, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where our numbers are usually pretty small, but at this particular park, I didn’t notice until we’d gotten there that we seemed to be the only black people in the tri-county area.

I didn’t realize I was part of the attraction until I was standing line with my cousin, we’re the only two black people in line, and this dude runs up from like 100 yards away, no lie, this really happened… ignoring the rest of the white people in line, he comes right to us, pulls out a joint from behind his ear and says, “hey, does one of you have a light?”

Neither one of us smoke, so I said no, and he left, and I’m standing there wondering what he was thinking.

“No, totally, it’ll be cool… he kinda looks like the black guy from Breaking Bad.”

Yeah, so that’s what an amusement park is. It’s a park that works hard to amuse you. THIS place, was a theme park. And that day, the theme was:

“If you’re here, we’ve already got your money. So… good luck.”

So I’m standing there waiting in line at their signature roller coaster, and we’re almost at the front, and since my phone battery is almost dead and there’s nothing else really to look at, I’m watching the platform where you get on the ride.

And as I’m watching, it dawns on me — the line’s not moving anymore. There’s a problem with the ride. By this point, I’m pretty curious about what’s going on, so I walk up a little further, and I get right next to the to the little control booth at the end of the platform. And there’s three guys in there, and I can’t hear what they’re saying, but they’re all gesturing really wildly, and I’m starting to get a little nervous. And then one of them sees me looking at them, and he yells out, “Don’t worry, this happens all the time.”


ARE YOU SERIOUS?! That’s supposed to make me feel better?!


At this point, one of them picks up a little phone in the booth, and then a bit later starts writing, like he’s taking down instructions.

And I hadn’t been on a roller coaster in like ten years, so I guess my perspective was a little skewed, but I’m looking at this guy while he’s taking down instructions, and then I start looking at the other guys on the crew… they’re all so young and clean cut, no facial hair, no tattoos, matching T-shirts and khaki shorts … it looked like this was their fallback job after the One Direction auditions fell through.


So anyway, the guy hangs up the phone, runs out of the booth, yells out to his crew, “Okay, I got it,” and then immediately pulls out a giant roll of duct tape.


Call me crazy, but if I’m gonna be strapped into a giant machine at life-threatening speeds, I’d rather it be operated without the use of duct tape, by someone who’s already hit puberty.


A few weeks later, I was telling this story at my doctor’s office, but instead of joking about One Direction, I said Jonas Brothers instead. The nurse’s assistant laughed and said, “Ha, Jonas Brothers… that’s old school.”


I smiled and laughed, but inside I was thinking, “Dear God, did she just say Jonas Brothers was OLD SCHOOL? And she’s giving me MEDICAL CARE?!!!”

Lord help me.


Grace On Your Journey

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here! Today we have a guest post from my dear friend Robin, who I have known since Freshman year of college. Leslie and I have both written before about our own journeys with food and such, and today, Robin writes about her own relationship with food and spending, and how her faith is getting her through. Enjoy. 

Where Sin is Found, Grace Abounds

by Robin Peace

“Life is a journey.  When we stop, things don’t go right.” Pope Francis

I can’t remember when I stopped living and just existing, or rather sub-existing.  Each meal was a battle between “good” food, “bad” food.  Every store was my enemy.  I was either purchasing things I could not afford or food I shouldn’t be eating.   In December, I finally hit rock bottom financially.  I was confronted with my poor spending habits by the realization I could not renew my lease on my apartment and still stay afloat on my bills.  In shame, I am moving back home after three years of living like a “real” adult.  The Bible said it best, “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10).  My sin wasn’t the love of money, per se, but the love of possessions and food.

So I went on the offensive.  I found some friends willing to be my money accountability support group.   I managed to control the possession spending after realizing every dollar I spent, I would have to confess it.  But the buying of “bad” food continued, even though I was on an expensive diet program.  The Bible also says, “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  I had to come to terms with the fact that I have been living like I had an endless supply of permissible and not thinking of what was actually beneficial.  I had to come to terms with my two addictions and the fact that they were inseparable form one another.  If I fought one, I had to battle the other as well.

Someone then advised me to think of my addiction in this way – whenever you have the desire to spend money on food or things, think, “Jesus loves me so much, that I want to be just like him.”  Looking at things that way forced me to have interior conversations with myself about the pros and cons to spending money on food and on things.  They were some intense debates, which ended in me learning to say, “NO!”  It’s not easy, but my faith is managing to save me.  God is managing to save me.  I had grace all around me, I just had to reach out to Him.  Call His name.

This summer, at Mass, there was a reading from Hebrews that spoke to me then but I didn’t appreciate until now.  “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  I had always hoped to be in control of my spending and eating.  But now I am in charge, which is better, because the buck stops with me.  I’m in charge of where my life goes from here.  I am no longer sub-existing.  As for evidence not seen, I haven’t seen a dramatic weight loss or oodles of money increase in my bank accounts.  But I have seen my confidence increase and my ability to say, “NO” grows easier each day.  I am so blessed with good friends and wise advisers.

“I was made for more than being stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat.  I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices.  I was made to be a victorious child of God.” Lysa TerKeurst from Made to Crave

The truth about getting what you want: A guest post

by SweetMidlife

This lovely lady has some wisdom for you.

Leslie here! A few weeks ago we asked for guest bloggers, and one of the best “Heck, yeahs!” was from my dear friend Chrissy Benoit. Chrissy is a chef, restaurant owner, avid community member and awesome person, who I have known for about a decade. A California native who was trained by Wolfgang Puck, she’s been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” various other TV shows, newspapers, magazines and blogs. She is also one of the most generous people I have ever met.

Chrissy asked me what she should write about, and I told her to go for it, to write whatever she was feeling our over-35 folks needed to here. And what she feeling was the concept of having it all,  of working for years to get what you want, of savoring that moment…and then getting it and realizing that it’s not all awesomesauce, easy street and the last scene of “Working Girl” where everything’s coming up roses – even with two successful restaurants under her belt and a lot of clout here in South Florida (She currently owns The Little House in Boynton Beach  http://www.thelittlehousebb.com/). But it’s all a lesson. Here is Chrissy’s.


14 things I learned when I got what I “wanted”

1) It’s not at all what I thought it would be, with regards to how it would make me feel.  Now when deciding the path for the business, I have to confidentially stand behind every decision and really study what the positive and negative effects might be before doing anything. No more impulsive, knee jerk responses or spontaneous “great ideas.”  And sometimes even when you’re right you’re wrong, and when you make a good decision you sometimes still suffer.  You have to reach deep for confidence in your decisions because the compass is hard to read.

2) I didn’t realize how mad my taxation makes me!  It’s really brings out the conservative in you, it’s frustrating how our government does not do the math for small businesses and we are expected to carry this huge load! Most people have NO idea and would be shocked.  We can’t give up, because if we do, we flush everything we have invested, all of our sleepless nights, and earned grey hairs down the proverbial toilet.  You lose so much more than your job.

3) I learned I really hate the phrase “you know what you should do?”

4) I learned how much of our social circle happens and begins in the work place, and when you are a small business owner, you no longer have that social circle at work, nor do you have time to cultivate it because you are working so much. It becomes very lonely and isolating.

5) I have learned I had no idea what stress is…and probably still don’t compared to some. I’ve also learned you cannot convince anyone of that who has not been through it. They cannot see or experience that which they have not seen or experienced, and you have to try and be understanding about that.

6) I’ve learned that closing for a day is about the most important thing you can do for yourself, because you are never “off.” You can never put work aside and not think about it for a day while it is growing, and you need a day that nothing can go wrong because the doors are locked.

7) I’ve learned people are never what they seem, both good and bad. Everyone thinks they are authentic, drama free and a great employee.

8) I’ve learned how few people know how to interview, present themselves, and fill out a resume.

9) I’ve learned how to just thank people for their generosity and help when I can’t pay them. Not everyone who offers to help is expecting to get paid.

10) I’ve learned sometimes your friends simply become employees, but rarely the other way around.

11) I’ve learned what burn out is, and it is a scary, scary thing. You have never felt so lost.

12) I’m more broke than ever, and working harder than ever.

13) I’ve learned that when you’re the owner you are expected to take insults and criticisms of all types. You are expected to be completely understanding of other’s needs, but the moment you might say something that is perceived as uncompassionate you’re an ungrateful a**hole who owes someone an apology. Your words carry a lot more weight then you were intending most times.  Simple communication, direct communication is a thing of the past.

14) South Florida is a difficult place to hire people to work, but not difficult to pay them for nothing.


The Happy Dance

by SweetMidlife

Hi friends! Today, we are thrilled to have a guest post from our friend,  writer, survivor, and bright light Jennifer Alhasa. Today, she writes about happiness.

The Happy Dance by Jennifer Alhasa

As I embark on a new life in LA, I’m determined to feel good. My marriage just ended and I’ve manifested 2 day-jobs to pay the bills. I’ve got a few new friends and a big, beautiful backyard. Not too shabby so far. That said, separation’s hard on a soul and so is starting over. So what, during this difficult time, can a girl do to get happy? And, more importantly, what does that even look like?



Some secrets of success so far:

1)      Forget the big picture; collect magical moments – A brisk bike ride in the summer sun. A Pisces Princess in sparkly shoes. Hot sea-salt baths and deep dreaming at day’s end. Divine!

2)      Cry more – Sounds counterintuitive but getting grief up and out’s the first step to deep peace. Take a note from toddlers: flop on the floor for 5 minutes and see how fast you bounce back!

3)      Just be – In a culture addicted to doing, it’s not that easy. I say step away from the machines and bid busyness good-bye. A few minutes of quiet-time works wonders!

4)      Follow joy – That’s right: If it feels good, DO IT. If not, stop should-ing yourself and just say “No.” It’s pretty simple but not always easy. Lucky for us, practice makes almost-perfect!

5)      Move – While oh so appealing, turning into a couch potato only makes matters worse. Limit screen time and try something sporty instead. Hit the gym, pool, court or track and get your blood pumping. It’ll make you feel (and look) far more fab!

6)      Make Play Dates – Just like parents do for kids, we’ve gotta book in advance these days. Hatch a plan for some fun with your best guy or gal pal. It’s a wild, wonderful world and there’s no reason to go it alone!

7)      Get Outside – Nothing soars a spirit like nurturing in nature! Soak up some snow, rain or shine and get glee going in the great outdoors. Have you hugged your tree today?

8)      Fuel Your Body – No matter what’s going on, you’ll function better with a well-oiled machine. Limit sugar, alcohol and caffeine and get more greens. Opt for whole foods and if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. That said, dark chocolate is a gift from God!

9)      Laughter really is the best medicine – Watch a fave flick, silly sitcom or phone your funniest friend. Throw on Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Dave Chappelle or Margaret Cho. Who ever makes you LOL the hardest wins! 🙂

Dance on, my friends, DANCE ON!

Jennifer Alhasa shines love & light for a divine life. Want some? Visit her at http://jenniferalhasa.com/.



5 Reasons Why I Love the Cheesy, Irresistibility of Hallmark Christmas Movies

by SweetMidlife

Hi! We wanted to end 2013 with a guest post from one of our favorite people, Good Friend Elicia. Below is her ode to that staple of the holidays Hallmatk Channel Christmas movies, Enjoy!!

5 Reasons Why I Love the Cheesy, Irresistibility of Hallmark Christmas Movies

by Elicia M.

This past Christmas, my friend Lynne posted to Facebook that she was late in starting her annual Hallmark Christmas movie viewing, and asked if anyone had recommendations for this year’s releases. I enjoyed the thread of comments that followed- some friends playfully mocked her for this vice, while others joined in with titles they were currently watching. I’d seen pieces of a few movies in past years while channel-surfing, but couldn’t offer any definitive titles. It seemed like harmless background noise to accompany my Christmas card-writing, so I flipped to the Hallmark channel. An hour later, I texted Lynne, blaming her for the hours of my life I was sure to lose in the coming holiday week. The movies play back-to-back, just like show episodes on Netflix. And thus my new addiction was born.

The characters are predictable – The single mom who’s been wronged; the single, enterprising, girl who doesn’t make time for dating; the girl who’s dating a Mr. Wonderful who turns out to be Mr. Wrong; or the garden variety, never-married girl who’s just unlucky in love. Let’s not forget the widower trying to find meaning in life again; or the business owner whose Main Street shop is about to be torn down by some evil conglomerate. Lastly, there’s the single guy or gal who brings a platonic friend (or worse, hires a stranger) home for Thanksgiving dinner because he/she just can’t face another holiday alone, under the family’s scrutiny.

One of the many movies I got sucked into this season was Finding Christmas. This made-for-TV charmer bears peculiar resemblance to one of my all-time favorites– the big studio, Nancy Meyers-penned hit, The Holiday, except the leads are both male. Disillusioned with life in their respective hometowns, a New York City exec swaps houses at Christmas with an unhappy North Carolina repairman and each finds his own unexpected holiday romance. Granted, I came in about 40 minutes late, so I cannot verify all the presumed details, but you get my drift.

As the romantic tension builds, Owen, our charming, small-town Southerner, after an evening of impressing NYC local Mia with his acoustic rendition of “Joy to the World” at an open-mic club, asks her, “What are your dreams, Mia?” and listens intently. He doesn’t ask because he’s trying to impress her. No, this won’t be the seemingly-sensitive-guy-who-turns-out-to-be-a- narcissist. We already know that Owen’s paid far more attention to Mia than her realtor boyfriend who works 24/7 and is notably absent at this soiree. Not only does Jerky Boyfriend not have time to have dinner with her, he won’t even let her listen to her favorite Christmas carol on the car radio (“Silent Night”).


Sean, our fast-paced New Yorker, finds romance with the plucky but beautiful single mom Ryan, a horse veterinarian/handy-woman who laughs at Sean when she finds out he doesn’t own a toolbox. “What do you do for home repairs?” she asks incredulously. Sean tells her that he calls his doorman.

I could go on about all the cute-sie moments in the movie, but instead I’ll go into my 5 reasons for getting sucked in and secretly loving these types of movies:

1- Girlfriends: the leading girls look like they could be my friends. Attractive and accessible. Smart, successful, but far from perfect. Not your typical 00-sized actresses. Perhaps they’ve worn their rose-colored dating goggles for too long and end up in a dead-end relationship.  I see pieces of my own dating life in these characters, and I suppose other Hallmark viewers do, too.

2- The Dudes: adorable, guy-next door types who always know the right thing to say and can admit when they’ve screwed up royally.

3 – The Bad Boy/Girl: There’s at least one in every movie – either a gold-digging ex or a shallow suitor. But no matter how distracted our protagonists become, it only takes about 100 on-screen minutes to recognize those bad apples for what they are.

4- They Keep it PG: Call me old-fashioned, but I love that I could watch these movies with my middle school-er niece without blushing. Not that she’d be into this stuff, cuz she’s a self-proclaimed tomboy, but you know what I mean. Characters develop meaningful connections and actually fall in love without any on-screen consummation. This is hugely unpopular but it happens. It’s happened for me, and it’s happened for several people I know. Two people growing in connection by actually communicating with each other and seeing more than the physical. They don’t hide their physical attraction though. Call me crazy, but I think that’s a healthy model of dating to see portrayed on screen.

5- The Hope Factor: Sure, these Hallmark “originals” are formulaic and always get Hollywood endings, but somehow I think their popularity is rooted in the off-screen, real-life resolutions we all secretly hope for – second chances, new beginnings, and another soul on the planet that “gets” us, shortcomings and all. If we can’t have hope for these things at Christmas – which I believe are just a part of the abundant life which Christ came to give us, then what’s the point of our faith in the reconciliatory meaning of Christmas?

Until next December, Hallmark.

The Epiphany

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here! Today we have a guest post from my dear friend and former roomie, Nancy. Nancy writes a blog called “Project Joy”, where every day this summer, she is taking a picture of something that makes her happy, and writing about it. She started this after being in a period in her life where she wasn’t seeing the happy around her, and was inspired to look for it. Her blog is amazing, and this post is particularly wonderful and joyful, because it is about reclaiming joy that had been lost.  Please check out Nancy’s stuff. You will love it. 

The Epiphany

by Nancy Beth Short

How does one take a picture of an epiphany?  It’s just not possible.  So the closest I could come, was to take a picture of where the epiphany occurred.  Thus, the picture of my car.   Her name is Pearl…my car, that is.   So, this great epiphany occurred today as Pearl and I were driving on route 70 to visit a friend in Frederick.  I was cruising along enjoying the farmland scenery, snapping my fingers to the beat of a Harry Connick, Jr. song…. And then it hit me.  

But before I share this great epiphany, I have to tell you a little story.  But please don’t feel sorry for me, because I’m okay now.  Really, I am!  But I wasn’t okay a few years ago…

There was a man.  A man who presented himself  to be Mr. Darcy of the 21st century.  Charming, articulate, romantic, and handsome.  It didn’t take long for him to steal my heart.  We loved all of the same things….the same music, the same movies, writing, Wrightsville Beach, etc…  Our faith was important to us, and we shared so many of the same dreams.  He got my humor, and I got his.  He lured me in for seven months, leading me to believe that we were heading for a future together.  And I believed it all.  I was in my mid forties and I truly believed that the dream I had been waiting my whole life for, was right there in front of me.  But I was so wrong.  And I was so deceived.  And socrushed.  Absolutely crushed when it came out that he was actually engaged to someone else.  It was a long distance relationship, which made it easy for him to hide.  Hide all of his lies…..and his fiancee.  As it turned out, he was not Mr. Darcy at all.  He was Willoughby.

It took me a good year to start feeling like myself again.  But even then, I still couldn’t listen to the music that we shared together.  I couldn’t bring myself to watch a Jane Austen movie….which are my absolute favorites.  And it was hard to go back to places we had been.  I didn’t want to have to relive any of it.  But gradually, I began revisiting some of those things.  The movies, the places….I’ve been able to do those things without a problem.  But there was something about the music.  It has been the slowest to find its way back into my life again.  And it’s a shame, because it was my music long before he was a part of my world.

So, back to route 70.  There I was….cruising along, taking in the summer day and beautiful scenery.  I had Pandora set on Harry Connick, Jr. radio and I was loving every minute of it.  One great song after another…. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong…..and then it hit me!  The music is back!  It has found its way back into my life again without a hint of pain.  This is my music.  This is what makes me happy.   I felt something wash over me…..It was a holy moment.  I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of God’s goodness and His love for me.   My future was not over when that dream died.  He was just clearing the way.  I believe it has taken me all this time to fullybelieve that.   It has been two and a half years of gradual healing.  And at that moment, it felt as though I had just come out on the other side where I was fully alive.  Fully!  It’s done!  There I was, standing in the land of hope, and it felt so good.

The music is back.  That’s joy right there!

Healing and hope.  It snuck up on me, and I don’t want to minimize its significance.  When I start questioning, because I’m sure I will again, I need to come back to this moment.  If He (God) can take care of my past, then He certainly must have my future.

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