Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Date Night on the Cheap

Parents need date nights on a regular basis.  It’s not a question, a suggestion, or an idea; it’s a fact.   To keep a relationship afloat with your spouse or partner, you need quality alone time.  That time comes at a cost, though, and if your household is anything like mine, you don’t always have money growing from trees to use for dinners out, shows, and babysitters.  All is not lost, though, as a little creativity and planning can save the day.  
Date Night on the Cheap - StacySaysIt - Stacy Snyder

  1. Don’t plan a date around drinking.  It’s expensive to buy liquor out, so either don’t drink on your date, plan a daytime date where drinking is less the norm, or have a drink before you go on your date or after you get home.  If you want to go to dinner and have a drink, plan to visit a BYOB establishment where you can take your own wine or beer and make sure to pick them up at Aldi or Trader Joe’s where the going is good and cheap.
  2. Attend free events on your date.  Pack a picnic and attend a free movie in the park, downtown or at the library, check out a free concert in the park or in your city’s freespace, or boogie down with free dance lessons offered throughout your area.  Subscribe to your city’s free newsletters to get the most up to date info on free events in your area.  If you’re close to a beach or body of water, pack a blanket and a frisbee or paddle ball and go chill waterside with your date.  Go to book-signings for authors you both love, attend art exhibits, or watch the sunrise or sunset with some romantic music piping through your phone.
  3. Use discount sites to purchase discounted food, events, and performances at restaurants, theatres, and venues closeby.  From LivingSocial, Groupon, Cheaptickets, and your city’s local free and discounted sites and newsletters, there’s almost no reason to ever pay full price. Buy discounted items when you see them and let them accumulate to choose from at a later date.
    Date Night on the Cheap - StacySaysIt - Stacy Snyder - Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  4. Don’t spend tons of money on babysitting.  While of course there’s always a “going rate” for babysitting, you don’t have to pay what the Jones’ do.  Establish a rate you’re willing and able to pay and when contacting childcare professionals or babysitters, verify that they can work for that rate.  Recruit younger sitters that are not already enmeshed in working and help them learn to be a good babysitter in exchange for a lower rate than a tried and true professional.  Utilize older siblings, friends, family, and coordinated playdates at other playmates’ homes when planning childcare for your date.  If all else fails, put the kids to bed early or sequester them to another part of the home, while you have your date night right at home….dance to your favorite music, watch a flick, cook a romantic dinner together, or play a game of cards.
  5. My last, and probably most favorite date trick is to exercise together.  If you already have a gym membership, utilize it and go take a class together or switch off weight circuits, or work out side by side on a machine.  No gym - no problem.  Take a long walk, bike ride, or run; rent a paddle board, kayak, canoe, or surfboard to work the water.  Dancing is fun and cheap.  Many venues don't charge a cover and don’t force you to eat or drink:  just go and dance the night away! 
Living Large can be so easy with a few tweaks from the norm!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Southern Hospitality

Y'all Are Gay?  How I Made It Out of Texas Alive - StacySaysIt - Stacy Snyder
The South.  Never had I really spent much time there, outside of coastal vacation spots.  Maybe, subconsciously I knew there wasn’t anything there for me.

Four years into living in Texas, residing in a north Dallas suburb with an above-average median income, an over-the-top approach toward lifestyle spending, deference to giving children whatever they want, and ignorance toward diversity, I was ready to get back to reality.  I didn’t want to “start working on it” or “get the ball rolling.”  I wanted to run like hell back to a city, a real metropolis with diversity and multi-cultural dynamics.  

My girlfriend, Katie, and I moved ourselves, our infant daughter, Isabelle, and golden retriever, Hoosier, from Chicago to the Dallas area in the early summer of 2004. No matter how I phrased it (partner, girlfriend, life-partner, lover, domestic partner, etc.) no one in Texas could understand our relationship.  

Nine times out of ten, southern folks would say, “Nice to meet you.  Now who is your husband?”  

After introducing her or telling them about my girlfriend, they’d smile, and then ask, “But who is your husband?”

Sometimes I’d get questioned two or three times for clarification, and then when they finally showed a morsel of understanding, they were speechless.  Occasionally we got people who never understood at all and ended up calling us sisters.  Then there’s the parent at our daughter’s school who always referred to me as “that other woman who says she’s Isabelle’s mom.”

Even though our friends and family from Chicago and San Francisco told us we were crazy and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, when we moved we were still shocked at the lack of understanding regarding our relationship from our new neighbors, co-workers, and the general public at large in Texas.  Both Katie and I had lived in various cities around the country (Indianapolis, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Portland) and had thought nothing of picking up and moving again, even though we each had spent more than a decade in Chicago.  I'm a Midwest girl from Indiana and Katie was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our acquaintances warned us about discrimination, hate crimes, good ol’ boys, and other roadblocks holding up our success in the red state, but we truly were not worried in the least bit.  

After all, it’s part of the United States, right?  Texas isn’t a third world country or a dictatorship… was just another state….just another state of its own that we quickly found out operated like its own country (or continent for that matter) and actually had a huge following of residents who whole-heartedly were prepared to secede from the union of the United States!

I had moments of feeling comfortable in my surroundings in Texas, but they were pretty far and few between.  The original transition to Dallas brought about the desire to sample the local scenery, from mechanical bull-riding at the famous Gilley’s, to concerts and two-stepping at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth.  Texas and The South in general, would throw me these little nuggets of exclusivity every so often that I cherished.  I wouldn’t trade in those experiences for anything:  to wear a cowboy hat with your swimsuit, to jack your hair up sky-high and paint yourself for the back row just to go to the grocery store, or to pair cowboy boots with your cute little dress.  It felt a little like fitting in, but only cosmetically, as you’d still have to drive home on the George Bush Turnpike and pass the anti-gay marriage signs posted in your neighbor’s yard at election time.

----excerpted from my yet-to-be-published memoir Y'all Are Gay? How I Made It Out of Texas Alive, which chronicles all the crazy, ass-backward people and things my family and I encountered in our five year residency in a northern Dallas suburb.  The real story, though, pokes fun at my own ridiculous ideas of what the world is and how I fit into it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I Am Your Neighbor Quick Chat - Equipment Failure

Equipment failure can definite punch a hole in your boat on any project, but when it comes to DIY webcasts, the whole ship can go down!  We're so lucky that we can use a basic smartphone to do most anything these days, even recording, editing, and publishing your own web series.  But what happens when the phone goes dead or the mic fizzles out?  It is not a pretty picture.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Badge of Honor

StacySaysIt - Badge of Honor - Stacy Snyder
Button available at 
I can explain the division of our country in one powerful sentence excerpted from a conversation with my dad on the phone tonight, where he stated, “You and Katie wear your being gay like a badge of honor, and make sure everyone knows about it.”

I didn’t know I had a badge, much less one of honor, but now I know what it looks like to some.

As were furthered our conversation I realized that his comment was not born of hatred or anger or even embarrassment, but simply founded from fear…..fear of the unknown….fear of something he’s never seen percolate to its finale.  Maybe if he had been surrounded with more non-traditional relationships growing up, he wouldn’t think as he does.  Maybe if he had been subjected to more loving relationships, he wouldn’t be as afraid.  But the truth of the matter is that we’re all just a product of our own small worlds and what we think we know to be true.

It’s fear that keeps us separated as a people.  It’s fear that keeps us from fully listening to a contradicting opinion, for it may hold an ounce or resemblance to our own.  It’s fear that chokes us into believing that we can’t give freely to someone else for panic that it might deplete our own supply.  It’s fear that keeps us from accepting one another because we don’t know what it would look like, and it’s fear that makes my dad think when I introduce my wife as my partner, other mother, or wife, that I’m trying to be militant about being gay.  
StacySaysIt - Badge of Honor - Stacy Snyder

Entwined in an almost-20 year relationship with my wife, with whom I’ve shared 5 feral cats, 3 apartments, 3 dogs, 3 homes, 3 fish, 2 children, 2 pregnancy losses, 2 hermit crabs, 1 frog, and all of our history, family, and friends, I do wear a badge of honor, that of love.  I am damn proud of it too, not because Katie’s a woman or because we were allowed to get married or because I bucked the system, but because this shit is hard!

To maintain any relationship is hard, but to not only maintain, but sometimes almost overturn the boat and other times rock the hell out of this marriage, is a pure miracle, peppered with a lot of hard work.

Thank you, Dad, for sharing your thoughts with me.  I’m a better person because of our conversations, even though I don't always like them nor their topics.  I don’t judge you or feel angry with your comments, as I know exactly where they came from….the only thing you know, same as all of us.  But now it's time for all of us to see something different and challenge what we know, so that we can see the world for what it is....filled with a variety of people different than us.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I Am Your Neighbor 3 - Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera is the bomb diggity of making the world a better place through speaking up, caring, helping, teaching, and activism.  She was the same caretaker chick twenty years ago when we saddled bar stools next to one another at The Closet and discussed life and love while cocktailing.  She took care of people in the bar, their pets, their homes, and allowed them to take care of her in return.

Stacy Says It - I Am Your Neighbor Maria Rivera - Stacy SnyderToday, she teaches at CPS and 826CHI, participates in Chicago Shakespeare Theater with her students, volunteers her time and energy all over town, and recently appeared in the documentary The Homestretch, which chronicles the lives of Chicago homeless teens.  She took in teen Rocque to live with her and her family and shares the struggles for underprivileged kids in the documentary.

Maria's own childhood contributed to who she is today and how she views and interacts with the world around her.  If I were to choose one person in the whole world that most embodies the concept of neighbor, I would choose Maria.

Please check out her story above, the anecdote about making the video below, and if interested at all in keeping up with I Am Your Neighbor, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I Am Your Neighbor 2 - CK Perez

Y'all I thought I had this Octogenarian thing covered, as I've spent a large chunk of my life hanging with people 20-40 years older than myself, as I truly dig my elders.  From teachers and grandparents to my parents' posse, to friends and mates I've custom-picked over the years specifically because of their accumulated worldliness and sophistication, I feel like I'm in tune more than most with the seniors.

I Am Your Neighbor CK Perez - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
Photograph by Adeline Sides
But CK Perez, this mighty mouse ball of physical energy that my co-host, Tammy Azzarello has known for over twenty years through the YMCA, took me by surprise!  While I expected from her a powerhouse of strength from years of swimming, lifeguarding, bodybuilding, dancing, rock climbing, and biking, I did not expect it to be backed by so much self-reflection and scattered life experiences.

Bottom line, after hearing about CK's impact on Tammy, I hoped for a neat little package of connected dots that all led to an end result of an 80-something-year-old human with life's purpose securely emblazoned on her chest.  Instead, CK showed me - through weeks of scouring our interview clips with her - that just doing for the sake of doing for yourself, is a perfect representation of chasing your happy, at any age.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

This Is How We Do It

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - This Is How We Do ItI made a rare appearance in church a few ago to attend my youngest daughter’s First Communion rehearsal.  My cradle Catholic wife, who took the sole responsibility of ushering our 8-year-old back and forth to CCD and church every Sunday for the last few years, was out of town for her new job training, so I filled in.  To be honest, I didn’t want to go.

Despite converting to Catholicism a few years ago after completing RCIA, I never found the immense comfort in the church and its rituals that my ‘growin’ up Catholic’ counterparts touted.  In fact, I still feel the exact opposite in mass…uncomfortable as an outsider.  My daughter’s excitement during the rehearsal and nervousness over the upcoming milestone reminded me of my purpose, though, and I relaxed and leaned into the pew.  

After the coordinator gave the specific instructions to the kids on how to act, when to walk, and where to sit, Father Grassi, our longtime pastor who is retiring at the end of this year, grabbed the mic and gave the parents some ‘helpful hints’ about how to make this event go down smoothly.

“Have your kids here at 9:30am.  Not 9:40, not 5 till 10, not quarter of, but 9:30am.  Parents, don’t make your kids suffer on one of the most important days of their lives because of your inability to be on time.  They need time to calm down, pray, and prepare for this monumental day in their lives.  Don’t put your schedule above their needs.”

Bam.  He told us.  And I heard him, loud and clear.  I’d never considered the ramifications of my own tardiness on my kids.

“And pictures, I’m going to talk about pictures.  They are not allowed during the mass.  Have some respect for the celebration and your child.  Take part in their special day by praying for them as they walk in instead of flashing a light in their eyes.  Be present.”

He went on to say that he would halt mass and ask people to leave if they take photos, which I thought was pretty awesome that he was so firm in his conviction.

The rehearsal ended, the real deal took place the following Saturday, and us parents all did as we were told and the first communicants entered the next phase of their lives with flying colors, and life resumed as normal.

However, Father Grassi’s words still stick with me and seem to apply in every situation I’ve encountered since.  Not the tardiness and the camera stuff, but the idea of taking the time to give the “this is how we do it” speech in a way that not only sets up an expectation, but also explains why said expectation is set.  

I told my daughter that it’s not acceptable to have her beau in your bedroom alone with the door closed, as it can create too much opportunity and blur the level of formality that a young relationship typically has, as well as give a very specific impression to others when done with a group of people around outside the bedroom door.  She needed to know.

While we can agree that kids need this for sure, I don’t think it’s really any different with adults.  We need to set boundaries and intention for others, as well as hear and acknowledge others’ expectancy.  Of course people don’t always meet our expectations, nor us theirs, but by spelling it out each and every time, there’s NEVER a moment when we don’t understand why something went sideways.

Think about it in terms of a job.  We’re usually given a title and a job description and training on how to execute those tasks.  If you don’t meet the written expectation, there’s no surprise when you get written up or fired for lack of performance.  
Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - This Is How We Do It
Photo of Father Grassi courtesy

How about as a spouse, a mother, a friend, a patient, or a mentor?  While these don’t traditionally come with a pre-printed playbook, they run a hell of a lot smoother when we take some basic stabs at formulating rules of play!

While most people subconsciously seek boundaries, even if for the sole intent to cross them, we  have difficulty dishing out those same rules of engagement.  Why is that?  Are we afraid of ridicule, or worse yet, rejection?

As an adult with a decent education and prolonged exposure to society, business, culture, diversity and their respective norms, I still need some schoolin' from time to time on something as simple as being late. That I can accept.  Yet it’s not as easy to draw out the lines of expectation for others.  

Can I ask someone to leave when they’ve overstayed their welcome?  Can I tell a client we can no longer work together over respect issues?  Can I chase a new passion even though I have not yet fulfilled the last?  

While these questions reek of discomfort, each is answered with a resounding YES when your hand has been laid out.

I’m tired and have a long day tomorrow so it’s time to wrap it up.  I can’t do my best work when I’m distracted by the way you treat everyone around you as less than.  I need to be heard in order to survive so I keep testing the mediums until I get it right.

It all comes down to my favorite topic, which is living in the world of reality versus adhering to the stories we tell ourselves based on our own insecurities.

My favorite author, Armistead Maupin of Tales of the City, says, “The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.”

This is my mantra.  This is how I roll.  Thank you Father Grassi for teaching me a lesson while existing within my world.