with Lynne and Leslie

Taking Care of Yourself With Massage Envy

by SweetMidlife

Hi everybody. Lynne here. It’s been a turbulent 2016, and the last couple of weeks have been, well, very much so. Leslie and I are going to write more about our thoughts on all that, but in the meantime, I accepted the opportunity to try out the Massage Envy chain of spas. I hadn’t written my review yet, and I thought about delaying it while we get our thoughts together about the world, but then I realized that these things are actually related. Life is hard, and turmoil in the world, added to the duties of our daily lives, leaves us, well, stressed-out. It’s a lot. A very lot. And this is why I thought it timely to write this post. We all need to care for ourselves and this is one way to do it.

So, I have gotten very few massages in my life. I think it’s like less than 6 actually, which is why it’s funny that I have gotten 2 in the last month. First, I won a free massage at a spa in Georgetown, and I redeemed that in June. Then a few weeks later, we got the chance to write about Massage Envy, and I said “Yes, please.”  Now, I didn’t know a lot about Massage Envy before this, except that there is one very close to me, and that Leslie had a membership and talked frequently about how wonderful it was. I did know that it was a chain, and I have to admit to you that my inner snob took over a bit because I assumed that it was going to be kind of fast-food massage. I have no idea what that even means, since, like I said, I am no expert on massages, but I had that in my head as I arrived at the Severna Park, Maryland location. Boy, was I mistaken.  I was greeted by the staff member who made my appointment, and she brought me a cup of water and told me what to expect, and who would be doing my massage. I was given a questionnaire to fill out that asked about my everyday life, and stresses, and places in my body that might carry extra stress, and asked about medical history and if there were parts of my body that needed extra attention, and if there were parts that the therapist should leave alone. This made me feel great, and I was beginning to realize that this was not a one-size-fits-all kind of a place. They wanted to really fit this massage to MY needs.   She then walked me back to the relaxation area where clients waited for their massage therapist to take them back to their massage rooms, and more of my preconceived notions went bye bye.  I think that I thought that, being a chain, it was going to be very clinical, with florescent lights, and not be very relaxing. Well, I was very, very wrong. The room had beautiful low lighting that added a tone of calm. Some people checked their phones, others drank water, and others just, well, relaxed in the comfortable chairs. It was a great vibe, and I was also very impressed with how quickly the therapists came in to get their people AND how relaxed that even was. It was like they floated in, and their clients floated out, but all still keeping the relaxed mood. When Joe, the therapist I was assigned, came in, I was really excited. But excited and chill.

When we went back to the room, which was just as beautiful as the room we had just left,  Joe said that he had read over my form, and went back over some of the things that I wrote. He told me that he specialized in deep tissue massages, but would go easier from the start, and that if I felt uncomfortable at any time during the massage, I should tell him and he would adjust. This made me feel at ease. You ever been in a situation where you are a newbie, and you aren’t quite sure how things work, and you feel uncomfortable, and you feel weird speaking up because maybe what you feel is normal, even though you should ALWAYS speak up, but you second guess yourself? Joe took all of that out of the equation, and it meant a whole lot. That meant I could let my mind go and just enjoy my hour-long massage, and that is just what I did. It was relaxing, so much so that I dosed off at one point. I may have drooled. Sorry, Joe. And when it was over, he said, “Miss Lynne, we’re done.”, and he said he would meet me in the hallway to discuss suggestions on future massages, and then left the room so I could get dressed. Oh, I didn’t talk about that part. If you are uncomfortable with being in your birthday suit in front of people you don’t know, they tell you to get undressed to your own personal comfort level, which is really cool. And then you get under a sheet, so that helps too.

So, I got dressed, and got my stuff and myself together. I was feeling really chill at this point.  Joe was waiting for me outside the room, and he told me some of the places where he had found extra tension in my muscles, and that he has given his recommendations to the front desk, and that he hope to see me again. I went back to the front, where I was greeted by the same person who checked me in, and she gave me the information Joe gave her, and said that he suggested that I get a massage every month. This is where I thought things might get uncomfortable, because I wasn’t planning on singing up for a Massage Envy membership right then, but, as I was getting used to being on this visit, I was wrong. There was no hard sell. I asked for a price list, and they told me how the whole thing worked, and this is what I found out. You can do a la carte massages at an introductory price of $59 for a 60 minute session, or you can do a membership for $69 monthly. This gets you a monthly massage, but also perks, like being able to add your family onto your membership at a special price, being able to rollover your monthly massage if you miss it, the ability to gift an unused massage to a friend (which Leslie had offered to do for me before) at only $10, and the ability to earn free massages and upgrades. You can read more about all of that here. You will also see that they also offer facials., so you can be relaxed AND have glowing skin. That’s good stuff.

So there you have it. I think that Massage Envy is a wonderful investment in your well-being. There is a lot of stress in the air, and making the comment to give yourself set-aside, committed time to relax and be cared for is crucial. It really is. I highly recommend treating yourself to some good at a Massage Envy near you.

Disclosure: We were given a free massage in exchange for this post, but all of the opinions here are valid and absolutely real. 


Book Review: “I Have A Voice” by Tyler Williams Will Help You Find Yours

by SweetMidlife

HI! Lynne here!

We were given a copy of Tyler Williams’ memoir/motivational book “I Have A Voice” to review, and, dude, I can relate.  See, the book is all about  this young man’s journey to find, then value his own expression, and that journey takes him from his days as a child performer, to fronting a band of his young friends, to being a NASCAR driver, to taking acting lessons, back to singing, and now to sharing his story. Now, I have never driven NASCAR, because backing into a parking space is enough of a challenge for me, but I have done a lot of those other things on the list in my life as a performer, and right now, am at the beginnings of my life as the founder and artistic director of a theater. I am having a fantastic time, but my opinions of how things are going can fluctuate a million times within a day, based on how many people bought tickets to our shows, or if someone gives our theater a great review, or if a class isn’t selling like we want it too. Tyler went through a bunch of ups and downs as he found his way, at times completely abandoning what he had loved up to that point, until other things that I won’t spoil for you happened. Read the book. Because I think that no matter if our path is creative, or technical, or whatever -ive or -al it might be, you might have wondered if you should keep going, or if this was even the thing that your heart and soul really wanted. Yes?

Real inspiration!

Real inspiration!

All of this might sound flaky to those of you who are perfectly happy with your jobs or careers,or your hobbies, or your life and have never thought about making a change. It’s not, though, because it isn’t just about a job: it’s about doing something that allows you to use or even find your voice, your expression of who you are.  In his really honest telling of his life story, Tyler talks about being so sure of what he was doing that he knew that he wanted to do it forever…..until it he didn’t because the evidence in front of him told him that maybe he needed to find another dream Or did he?. And this is what I loved the most about this book: It is very relate-able. In the book’s 27 short chapters, Tyler uses his steps and missteps and back again to talk about the inner foundational beliefs about himself, and yourself, dear readers, that you might have to confront and then change if you are really going to find what you should be doing, Sweet Midlife Reader. He gives advice on simple but deep points like not giving up hope, and being okay with questioning what the heck you are doing with your life, to learning that conflict can be good. I found myself taking notes, and underlining things to come back to, and saying “I know that’s right!” out loud. It’s a really clearly written book that will really motivate you.

If I had any critique of “I Have A Voice:, it would be that while the book starts off telling Tyler’s story and accompanying wisdom in a linear fashion, it starts to skip around the timeline a bit as it goes on, which was a bit confusing. There were also points where the advice fet a bit repetitive. and I know that I felt rather Grinch-y saying that it had to many words of motivation, but after awhile some of it were the same words, so maybe they could have been condensed a bit.

Overall, I really enjoyed “I Have A Voice”. Again, I am literally in a place right now where I am following a dream that I have had for a long time, and I am using Tyler’s writings as an encouragement to work my dream and my voice. I think they could do the same for you, Seriously.

Disclosure: We were given a copy of “I Have A Voice” for free in return for an honest review, and all opinions are our own. 


The Girl Was Alright With Him: Thinking of Daddy on Father’s Day

by SweetMidlife

Daddy and me

Hi! It’s Lynne. Haven’t written in awhile. We say that a lot, since there have been long stretches between when we actually do write. But I really wanted to today, because it’s Father’s Day, and our Daddy has been on my mind a lot this week. Actually, he is on my mind every day,  as he has been over the last 4 years since he passed away. We’ve written a lot about him over the years, and how awesome he was, and about grief and loss, but I had another thought that I haven’t been able to verbalize until now, and I wanted to share it. Cool?

Every year, either on my dad’s birthday, or Father’s Day, or on the anniversary of the day he died, I post a video of me and him dancing at my 2010 wedding. It’s a really, really sweet video that was shot by my friend Patrise on her phone, and when she recorded it and shared it, she had no idea how I was going to cling to that video over the years to see my dad swaying, and smiling, and singing. And as I was preparing to look for the video and re-post it on Facebook, I started thinking about how we picked the song we picked. No, actually it was the song HE picked.

See, I had been kinda planning my wedding my whole entire life, cataloging things that I thought I might want to use whenever that day happened, like the style of cake, or the dress, or what I would walk down the aisle to. I sometimes put thought into WHO I would marry, and that, like those other details, didn’t wind up working out like I planned either, which is good, because when you meet the right person, which I did when I met Arthur Childress, those other things hopefully become what you both want, and the celebration is now based not on old dreams, but on your happy reality. Such was the case, too, with the song for the daughter/daddy dance. I immediately thought of “The Sweetest Days” by Vanessa Williams, which is a gorgeous, beautiful, makes-me-cry song about looking at your life and realizing that what you have right now is, well, sweet. This is a song that Daddy and I used to sing together when it came on in the car when it came out 20 years ago, so while we were wedding-planning, I figured that this was perfect.

It should also be noted here that my dad, at this point, was 2 years into his fight with cancer, and that he, at this point, was having a lot of good days, and a lot of bad days, and during the months leading up to my wedding, was not having good days. So if my dad was straight to the point about things his whole life, he was absolutely not mucking around now about the things that he wanted or didn’t want, because he knew how precious time was. So this is how the conversation went about the dance music.

Me: Hey, Daddy! You know what we should dance to? “The Sweetest Days”by Vanessa Williams! Isn’t that awesome?
Daddy: No. I want “The Girl’s Alright With Me” by The Temptations.
Me: (pause because I did not see it going down like that) Really? But you love that Vanessa song.
Daddy: Yes. But I want “The Girl’s Alright With Me”.
Me: Well, umm, how about “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”by Marvin Gaye? More people know that song.
Daddy: I don’t care. I want “The Girl’s Alright With Me”.
Me: (realizing that this was done) Okay, cool. We will tell the DJ.

And on that beautiful October day, that’s what Daddy and I danced to. I used to love to tell the story of how insistent he was, because he loved that song, but I never really put into words what I thought he was trying to say with picking that song. And since he isn’t here for me to confirm my thoughts, this is my supposition of all that. I think I am right.

Daddy didn’t care about what songs were popular, or who else could sing along with us during that moment, and that is because that moment was about me and him. It was about our love radiating so much that people would see what we meant to each other. And in that moment, Daddy was telling me that me, the girl in question, was alright with him. I always knew that my Daddy loved me, and he always told me that I was beautiful, even when I didn’t believe it, but him picking this song, on that special day, was a signal to everyone, but mostly to me, that he thought I had done good with my life. That even with all of the questionable choices I had made with money, and with bad housing decisions, and with car accidents, and not always doing things right, that in the sum total of everything, I was alright with him. And with him picking the language of his idols, The Temptations, to tell me that, was awesome. I also think that because Daddy wasn’t feeling great, even though he was still fighting, that he wanted to put all of that stuff out on the table. And on the dance floor. And he did. And we did. And it was awesome.  I was alright with him. More than alright. And I will cherish that forever.


Book review: “No Grey Areas” an honest, self-conscious memoir on gambling, lost trust and found faith

by SweetMidlife

IMG_1904

I’m no fan of skipping to the end of books – as a writer I appreciate the intended structure that a work’s creator has built and respect their process. But in a way, the most important passage of Joseph N. Gagliano’s candid, musing “No Grey Areas” is on the 202nd of the memoir’s 204 pages – it’s when Gagliano, a futures trader turned college sports gambling ring masternind, details each of the bad decisions he made that led him from a close-knit Chicago family to two separate stints in Federal prison.

He’s humorously honest throughout the book about times that he should have known better – “I was arrogant, young and stupid; simple as that” – Gagliano writes early on. But there’s something satisfying in this age of proudly conspicuous consumption, of “I got mines!” with no concern for why it’s so important to have yours, to read the perspective of a guy who both wholeheartedly enjoyed the fruits of his ill-gotten gains, while still accepting responsibility for what he did. Even as he details the acts of the friends, relatives and people he knew he should have steered clear of and didn’t, Gagliano is refreshingly blunt about his own short-comings, his own hubris even in situations where past experience should have been a red flag, of the moral choices in which there is, as his title proclaims, no grey area.

The first half of the book follows Gagliano’s rule-bending from his days fixing the squares on Super Bowl betting squares to agreeing, in his early 20s, to fix first one, then two, then three Arizona State University basketball games. The ensuing point-shaving scandal sent several conspirators, including the author, to Federal prison. The explanation of the scam and how it worked does get very specific and technical, perhaps too much so for readers less familiar with sports gambling, legit and otherwise. But it’s necessary, particularly for its presumed audience, to explain those details, and what part each member of the conspiracy plays, from the masterminds, to the players, to the college kids clumsily cluing in casino staff and the Feds with their haphazard betting. There’s a particularly cinematic passage that follows a latter game, one Gagliano knows he shouldn’t be involved in, and his increasing paranoia and nervousness as, one by one, bets start to get flagged.

It’s not a spoiler alert to acknowledge that he winds up in prison – the book jacket says so – but it’s fascinating watching Gagliano recount the steps he took to get there, even as he admits that he should have known. And because of that, he admits that he should have known better than to be involved in events that eventually wind him up in jail a second time, for even longer, surrounding alleged fraud involving loans he took out for a chain of car washes he owned. Even though he maintains that he didn’t deserve that particular charge, he admits, painstakingly, bad choices he made about how to trust and corners cut.

The third act of the book, one that I won’t give away, is about the consequences of both scandals on his family, his finances and his self-worth, and how an unexpected meeting at the lowest point in his life changed him even as he faced prison one more time. The book is incredibly conversational, written by a guy humbled by the things he should have known and didn’t, as well as the things he knew and pretended he didn’t. So many memoirs and first-person essays are full of self-indulgent whining and blame-heaping, so to read about an adult who accepts all of the parts of his life, especially the things he got wrong, is thrilling. “No Grey Areas” may be a sports book, but it’s also a memoir about greed, faith and about what happens when we pretend that truth and right and wrong are negotiable.


This Is 45. At Least For Lynne.

by SweetMidlife

Hi y’all! It’s Lynne. It’s been like a month since we wrote on this here blog, because I started a theater that does shows about kindness for kids and we were doing our first performances, and Leslie has been busy at work writing about the lifestyle stuff in West Palm Beach for the paper she writes for, and we both have been trying to make sure that the little boys that we live with at our separate houses are fed and not throwing themselves off of things in a way that can hurt them. But I have missed you bunches, and missed talking to you and gabbing and maybe you have missed us, too? Well, we’re back, and YAY!  The last post we did was Leslie talking about the milestone of us reaching the age of 45 at the end of April, which we did on the same day, being twins and all. And I have been meaning to write something on my own musings of being this age so far, and I haven’t, so now I am.

I will say going in that this is not a definitive look at what it means for everyone to be 45. This is just my personal experience, but maybe you will find something in it that looks like you!.

So. 45.

Hi!

Hi!

It sounds really old, doesn’t it? Like 40 sounded empowered and stuff (which our awesome blogging friend Fadra just said in a comment on Leslie’s post), but something about 45 sounds firmly planted in middle age. Because it is. And sometimes when I tell people that I am 45 they say “What? You? No, you are lying! You can’t be that old.”, while some people go “Okay.” And those reactions might make me feel some kind of way about them or me, but that is because 45 just sounds kinda old. Like it’s still young, and my Grandma is almost 90 and that lady lives life, and I am exactly 1/2 her age, so I know that I got a lot of living to do, which is also a song from “Bye Bye Birdie”, which is a movie that Leslie and I watched 70 million times in middle and high school (Whattup, Betamax? I miss you), and is also a play that I did both in 7th grade and in dinner theater when I was 26 and I was way skinny even though I ate full-fat everything because that show is all dancing and jumping and fainting 8 shows a week. It feels more substantial.

But I digress. But actually, maybe that’s what 45 is. It’s remembering all of the things that have happened up to this point, that have added up to me being where I am now, and figuring out how that makes me who I am. Like my parents, and my sister, and us living overseas then coming back to the states and not being accepted by everyone, but still finding a niche, and me not finding a job in social work, and going into acting because I could do that and do shows that reached kids, and me loving it and choosing that life and getting training, and now me starting my own business and using all that I have learned. And there is also me getting married at 39 (and not having sex until then) and having a baby at 41 and having the loves of my life later than some might have and loving every minute. Well, most minutes. Because tantrums are not fun. And I miss people, like my dad, and my brother-in-law. That comes with being alive, the grieving, which I actually said to a good friend today who is missing someone she loves, too.

And it brings me here, to where I am writing this in a shirt with pictures of big cats on it and pajama bottoms that I worked out in earlier, and I need to take a shower, and my kid is watching TV from the kitchen as he looks into the family room because he can’t eat in there, so he is standing in the doorway drinking apple cider so he is still technically in the kitchen but he did just put his empty cup in the sink, so that’s good. I have a schedule for today, and I have already missed some of it, but I have moved things around, and I will get done what I need to get done. And I have okay grown-up things to do like get my oil changed, but also fun grown-up stuff to do like make cupcakes for my kid’s class tomorrow and also really awesome fun stuff to do this weekend like celebrate my son’s birthday and eat more cupcakes, this time made by my sister-in-law because she is really good at that. And I am still trying to be more organized with time, and with cleaning things up, and not going out with stuff in my hair, and I was NOT the last person to pick up their kid at school yesterday, and even if I was, at least I picked him up. He is here right now eating blocks of cheese and sticking pens into the salt shaker. Hold on.

I’m back.

And I am working on being more present for my friends, and doing what I said I would, and trying to make them know how much I love them, although I don’t do that right all of the time. And I am calling my mom more, and my sister more, but less when she has to work.

And I am working on owning up to my mistakes and feeling the shame that makes me want to do better, but not living in it and staying there. Don’t have time for that.

And I am loving my husband and seeing where I have changes to make and where we both do, and taking care of my crap, and diving into his love and also knowing that I don’t have to work to earn his love, but that his love makes me want to put in the work that it takes for us to do right by each other. Funny how that works, no?

And I am working on being a woman whose life in real time matches up to who she says she is when she says she is a Christian and wants to love people like Jesus showed us we should.

And I am working on loving me, and giving myself breaks, and realizing that I am kinda cool. I am making time for myself and honoring me. That is a work in progress. But I really like me. That felt weird to write. It will hopefully get less weird.

This is 45 to me. I have grown, and I am growing, and maybe you are younger and have figured this out before I did, and maybe you are older and you still have not, but that it okay. We are moving at our own pace, hopefully, altogether, forward.

I am liking this so far.


Oh, we’re 45, we’re beautiful, and we’re fine: Claiming your middle-aged awesome

by SweetMidlife
Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

This post was originally going to be about Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and whether a middle-aged viewer who is an admirer but not by any means a super fan would find it as enlightening and transformative as so many have, and whether anything in a soulful piece about anger, forgiveness, betrayal and acceptance could spur that admirer toward writing death threats to strangers who may or may not have betrayed another stranger. I doubt that. Anyway I’m not writing that story right now because I’m a really busy single mother and haven’t had the time to watch it – which alone I guess says something about my investment in some “Lemonade” transformation. Do with that what you will,

So that is not the story we will be writing today. The story I am writing is about how my sister Lynne and I turned 45 yesterday, a sort of milestone birthday that doesn’t have the same punch as those ages that end in a “0” but is the sort of age that people toss off as an example, like when a younger acquaintance was talking about a male contemporary and said, increduously, “He likes old women, like 45 year old women!” and I didn’t snatch her teeth out. I am fairly sure I thought 45 was old when I was 25, although only in relation to myself. The coolest people I knew, the most together, were in their 40s, and I was awed by what seemed to be their poise, their experience, their lived-in sexiness. I could not imagine what would have to happen in the 20 years between me, at the time, and my 45th birthday, and even imagining it was weird. I hoped I would be awesome. But unimaginable.

Guess what? It happened! I’m 45! I’m 45! And I am awesome. I am not as rich or thin or internationally famous as I imagined I would be, but I have a bunch of other things that are more important and I’m not even saying that to make up for not being rich and thin. I know that my sister feels the same way, because we talk on the phone and read each other’s minds. No we don’t. We’re not psychic.(OR ARE WE?)

What we are, every year, is more comfortable in our skin, more willing to claim the stuff that we know, and to not do what we and other women do all the time which is to downplay it and be self-deprecating. I still do that, too much, but I am learning to accept it. Not only because it seems phony to those who note their admiration, and maybe a little ungrateful like they’re stupid and wrong to think you impressive, but because a lot of people with a lot less reason to be proud are claiming their stuff, and the stuff of others, without even a thought.

I am not perfect. I am not where I want to be in a lot of ways. But I have built a good career that I am proud of, that I fought for. I am doing better in taking care of myself. I am a good friend, a good mommy, a good daughter. I was a good wife (but not “The Good Wife.”) I am better at most things, besides running and having good knees, at 45 than I was or would have been at 25 or 35. I have had losses and struggles, disappointments and giant, giant self-made mistakes, and some stuff that was just all-out stupid. I have learned from all of those things, that happened to me and that I made happen, and I have become a better, smarter, more humbled and yet more confident person than I would have been without those lessons.

And I am particularly proud to be 45, an age that my sweet goofy husband did not get to be, because I am living it for both of us. What an insult it would be to him and the things he was robbed of to whine and wrap my head in my hands and wail about getting old? Scott would want to be 45, and 50, and 75. He can’t. But I can. And I’m gonna start it off by saying:

I am excited to be 45. I earned this age. I earned these wrinkles and this cellulite, and also this common sense and distaste for drama. I have earned my career, and my friendships, which are mostly years old and healthy, because I have worked for them. I will not be coy about it anymore, pretend that I’m not proud so I seem nicer and more  humble. This is not a time for humility. It’s a big day. And I’m happy for it. Light them candles up, y’all.

I have earned them. We both have. We all have.


Something About Prince

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne. We haven’t written in a bit because Leslie has been busy at work, and I have been working on getting my theater company off of the ground, and we haven’t been able to talk to you guys as much. But we have had lots to talk to you about, so hi! And the first thing I had to talk about was Prince.

 

Still doesn't make sense to me.

Still doesn’t make sense to me.

This is not an exhaustive report on everything that the music of Mr. Nelson has meant to me over the past 30-some years, because I haven’t figured out the extent of that yet. Because ever since his death last week, I have had his songs and his lyrics running through my head and my heart, and I wish that I had time to take all of them and write a really definitive thing about it, but it’s fluid, what I am feeling. On Thursday, when my Facebook timeline was covered in purple, A friend asked if I was okay, since she knew that I loved Prince. And I did. And what was funny, though, is that I wasn’t a Superfan the way some of my friends are: I had never seen him live (although I wanted to), and I didn’t have the Black Album, and I didn’t know all of the B-Sides. And I have at least 4 friends who I checked in on because of their massive love of the man because I knew that they were crushed. And I myself wanted to cancel all of my plans Thursday night and just sit and listen to his music and read what people who loved him were saying, but I could not. And in the past few days, I have had remembrance upon memory of the little and big places that his music has filled up in my life. Actually, the day before Prince passed away, my husband corrected me on something, and I said “I stand corrected.”, and I promptly launched into “U Got the Look”, and I promised myself that I would look that song up as soon as I got a chance. But the memories go further back. These aren’t all of them.

Hanging out with my older cool cousin when we were like 10 as she freaked out to “Controversy”.

At 13, seeing the video to “When Doves Cry” with him sitting in that bathtub, and me feeling all kinds of ways, like sexy things, when I don’t think I had ever really used that word before, except for singing along with Rod Stewart when I didn’t know what they meant. Prince made me feel what that meant, even if I didn’t have words for it.

Jamming in Cousin Paige’s room to “Let’s Go Crazy”and doing guitar solos while jumping off of her bed.

My late grandmother Streeter seeing the “Raspberry Beret” video and asking us if that was a boy or a girl. “He’s a boy, Grandma”, we said. “Well, he looks like a girl.”, she said. “Well, he’s like SUCH a man.”, is what I would have said but I also valued my life and you didn’t say things like that to my grandmother.

Seeing the video to “The Most Beautiful Girl in The World”, and feeling really SEEN. I was living in Miami working in theater, and I looked nothing like the tall, thin model types on South Beach, and oh my gosh I just remembered that we waited in front of Prince’s club on South Beach once and didn’t get in right away, and the bodyguard asked us to wait and that he would let us in later, but we left. But anyway, in the video I was talking about, there were all different kinds of women in different parts of life, as moms, and as career women, and they sat down to see pieces of their lives, and how all of it made them beautiful. I was struck that Marva Collins, an amazing educator and voice for children from Chicago was in it, because The Artist was saying that minds and voices were beautiful too. And I needed to hear that about myself.

Having a friend in the 90s, who is truly the biggest Prince fan that I know, almost like teach a master class on him in every conversation, and explain the religious things behind the music (how had I not seen it all?), and who also, respectfully, differentiated the music that Mr. Nelson made under the name “Prince”, and that which was made under that symbol, as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, because there was a difference in expression.

And this leads me to probably the thing that stands out to me the most about Prince. As I said, this was in the period where he wasn’t using the name “Prince”, because he was standing against his record label, and the fact that they owned the masters to his recordings and the trademarks to his name. So he stopped using that name, and kept on making music. And it became somewhat of a joke to some people, where they shook their heads like “Oh, he’s crazy”, or more politely “He’s eccentric”, but there was definitely out there this idea, depending on who you talked to, that he was being spoiled, and weird, and that none of it was a big deal. And I have to admit that I didn’t really understand it all either, until I saw him being interviewed by Larry King in December of 1999, and I can tell you exactly where I was. I was on tour in a play for kids and we were in Mississauga, Ontario, and it was a Friday night (I guess that makes it alright), and I sat in my hotel room and watched. I think either my friend Jeff watched it with me, or we called each other during it. But here is what I remember: The Artist spoke clearly on why he was doing what he was doing, and he said, and I am quoting this wrong, but that basically he didn’t own “Purple Rain”, or any of it, and that his label did, and that they were able to use it to do whatever they liked with it, and he was fighting to get that power back over his own artistic output. And a light went off in my heart, and I have referenced that interview over the years. And yes it is significant that it was the last few days of 1999, and that of course, The Artist had talked about that, but that it was a time for new beginnings. But going back to the interview, the things that I took away the most were this:

1. We should all have the right to our own work, and to be able to represent ourselves the way that we want to. Your voice, your words, your art, your dance, your thoughts all belong to you, and you should share it, but you should be able to say how that happens.

2. You should stand up for that right, even if other people call you crazy, either because they don’t understand, or because they benefit from other people thinking that you are crazy, so they get to misrepresent you and reap your rewards. Dance and make music and awesomeness in the face of people thinking that you are crazy. Because when you persist, who looks crazy now?

And The Artist won his fight, and reclaimed his name, and he never lost a step in still producing things that were true to who he was. And he had a big heart, and was a philanthropist, and helped countless people that he never told people about, and he was a man of faith who loved and serves the way he thought his God wanted him to, and he wore a doo-rag on his head as he sang in the rain in the Super Bowl because he was not trying to get his hair messed up, and he slayed everybody at the Super Bowl party I was at, and even the non-fans had their jaws drop, and they had to recognize. Re. Cog. Nize.

Because greatness and humility and humor and intelligence and sexy and kindness and faith don’t often come in the same package. But they did in Prince Rogers Nelson. And I need to stop writing because now I am thinking of more things to say and I need to end this. So I will stop typing, and turn on his music, and dance. Because we still have that.

 


NBC’s “Strong”: Why my trainer and I wouldn’t win the show but are winning, anyway

by SweetMidlife

 

Not on a TV near you. But still rocking.

Not on a TV near you. But still rocking.

I am Leslie, and I watch too much TV, which is OK because sometimes it’s for work and the other times it’s so I catch up on my “Murder She Wrote” game and I refuse to be judged by you or anyone about that, OK? I WILL NOT BE JUDGED.

So one of the things that happens with all this TV, particularly if I’m too lazy to find the remote and bleep-bloop the commercials, is that I have to actually watch the commercials, which is why during “The Voice” a while back I caught word of “Strong,” which is what “The Biggest Loser” might be if every contestant had their own trainer, no one was really fat, the trainers had to compete physically right with their clients, and they all had to do a modified version of “American Ninja Gladiator Habitrail Thunderdome.” And somehow Sylvester Stallone was involved.

This looks intriguing, not only because I am over “The Biggest Loser” and its head games on people who probably need therapy more than they need to be shamed about “only” losing 5 pounds a week, and because the dynamics of the male trainers and female clients reminds me some of that between myself and my trainer, Victor Ayala. We’re not on the show, and I can’t see us jumping off scaffolding tethered to each other on a giant bungee cord, because Leslie does not do that. Also, I have no interest in being tired and sweaty on camera. I don’t even like being tired and sweaty at Walgreen’s on the way home.

But Victor and I do, at least, have that same connection that the pairs on “Strong” seem to have, with all the emotional connection and breakthroughs and whatnot, even if we’re not being paid big NBC dollars for our efforts. We’ve worked together off and on for about a decade, most intensely in the last several months, since the death of my husband Scott, who also worked with Victor.  We don’t have a network contract or the pull of the camera, but we do have that bond established by friendship and that time he looked me up and down and said “I swear to God, you’re doing this right this time, because I’m telling people I train you and if you don’t get in shape it’s on me.”

And that made sense to me, so I’m 13 pounds, a dress size and a half, and some inches down. I’m not sure why NBC went with the male/female dynamic – there doesn’t seem to be a romantic element to the pairings, but I can tell you n that at least in my experience, I work better with a guy trainer in general, and Victor specifically. I had a female trainer once, years ago, and as much as I liked her I couldn’t help comparing myself to her, even though we were a decade apart and completely different body types and fitness levels. I looked at her and thought “Why can’t I be a cute little blonde with no body fat?” I mean, I did not really want to be a cute little blonde, because I’m very happy being a black woman with blond highlights. But that’s the female fit body I saw every week, and it kinda messed with my head, even though I (temporarily) lost the weight.

I am not competitive with Victor, because I cannot compete with a man who ran a marathon in the South Florida heat in a sweatshirt, long fatigues and a weighted pack on his back. I can only hope to learn from him, when he’s yelling at me to not punk out on my stair runs, or sneaking up on my on the stair climber and saying “Why are you only on Level 6?” Or when he’s out of town and texting my workouts to me in sadistic bursts – “Do 1000 crunches. And then run two more miles. And I wanna see pictures when you’re done so I can tell if you’re actually sweating.”

He crazy. But our bond is about history, a shared loss, professional respect and a deep friendship where you need the other one to do well. For Victor, that’s pushing me to be the best, healthiest Leslie I can be, and for me, that’s not wasting his time and reputation. I don’t know if that’s something Sly Stallone would put on TV. But if there’s no bungees involved, we’d consider it.

 

 

 


Sleep in Snoreless Peace

by SweetMidlife


Hi! It’s Lynne!

I snore. It’s one of those things that you can deny about yourself because you don’t hear it, because you are asleep and dancing in a forest with unicorns at a party hosted by Lionel Richie, dancing all night long, until the friend whose couch you are on when you were supposed to be watching “So You Think You Can Dance?” says “Lynne, wake up! You’re snoring, dude!” Wait, did I say Lynne? This was supposed to be a hypothetical scenario. Oops. Anyhoo, fast-forward to my current life, where my husband will wake me up to tell me that the sound of chain-sawed logs coming out of my mouth has woken him up. It’s a thing. I wish it was dainty snoring. But no.

So this is why, when we had the chance to try out Snore Reliever and tell you about it on this here blog, I knew that I should do it, and I am sure glad that I did. They come in this cute little container, and with directions on how to use them.

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It’s basically a pack of nose-plugs, in different sizes for different noses, and after you wash them before the first use, you figure out which one feels the best for you, and you stick it in your nostrils until it comes to a natural stop. It looked like this for me.

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Cute, right? Now, I must tell you something about me. I hate feeling like I can’t breathe, so putting something in an airway out of which you breathe seemed sort of counter-intuitive to me, but since I knew that this is how it worked, I gave it a try, and I went off to bed. And it was working for awhile, until I woke up in the middle of the night, realizing that I had something plastic in my hand. It turns out that sometime during my sleeping, I took out the nose plugs because they felt weird. But I decided to soldier on, and back in it went, and after I stopped psyching myself out about it, I went back to sleep. When I woke up for real, the plug was still there, and the funniest thing was that it didn’t feel weird anymore. It was actually comfortable. So now, I just needed confirmation that this thing worked. So I said to my half-asleep husband, “Hey babe, did you hear me snoring last night?” And he rolled over and said “Actually, no.”, so his response, and also the fact that he was still asleep and hadn’t been awakened by my nose tunes meant that yes, it worked! Hooray!

If you snore, and want to find an inexpensive and very effective way to work on that, I highly suggest Snore Reliever. Once you get over the initial sensation of having something in your nose, the peace of mind of being able to sleep in a way that is peaceful for both you and the people around you is worth it, especially since, once you find the right size, it’s quite comfortable. You can get yours here on Amazon. Sweet dreams!

Disclosure: We received Snore Reliever for free for trying it out, but the opinions written here are our own, and are absolutely true and unbiased. 

 


Yay For Us: Some Tuesday Affirmations

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne!

This post is to encourage you and me on our journeys to be the best you that you want to be, especially when you aren’t there yet. And it’s appropriate for me as I strive to be organized and meet deadlines, since I planned to do this yesterday. But I am writing it today, which is better than not writing it at all. Yay, me!

I have written before about my struggle to be organized in every aspect of my life, including time management and being aware of what I eat. This is not a linear thing for me. I take many steps forward, and a bunch of steps back, and as I excited as I get about making changes, I get overwhelmed with the effort at times, and I slowly drift back downhill to where I was.  But I knew that I needed some help in getting a handle on my life, but I kept making small changes that didn’t click. Until the day last month when I left the gas on the stove on all night after not realizing that I didn’t turn it off after cooking the night before. Nobody was hurt. But they could have been. That hurts to think about. And that scared me. And it scared my husband. And I know that mistakes happen, but I know that this is a result of me rushing and not being mindful of my life on many levels. That hurts. And it makes me ashamed that my rushing led to that.

So I went straight to the bookshelf in our living room, and I picked up this book called “It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys” by Marilyn Paul, a book about organizing with practical tips but more on a spiritual level. I started reading it 6 years ago but never finished it because I got caught up in other things, and there is something poetic about sometimes misplacing and not  making time for a book about organizing. But that has to end. And this book is long and in depth, and it takes you on a direct but kind journey into finding the things in your life that are keeping you from being organized by looking at what you want out of life on a deep level, and how having a handle on things will help you get there. There are exercises in it, and I find that I can’t really do more than one a day for it to really sink in, so me and this book are in for the long haul. So far, I have had 2 big takeaways from this book.

1. To really move forward, you have to come to terms with what not being organized and mindful is costing me and the people around me.

2. Once you figure that out and you start making changes, you should be nice to yourself as you move forward. Because if you don’t, you are gonna end up on the couch ignoring your schedule and eating nachos and cruising Hulu for 2 straight hours.

So, as I move forward on this path and such, I’mma be realistic and also kind. Therefore,

If I rush to get somewhere on time, and I actually make it, I will not beat myself up for the fact that I had on one shoe when I left the house and put the other one on when in the car. Because I made it to the car. Yay, me!

If I make a detailed schedule and don’t get to everything on it today, that’s okay as long as I get the other things done tomorrow. As long as I get them done, if they really need to be done, I am good. Yay, me!

If dinner takes longer than I thought it would because I actually wiped things up and put things away as I was done with them and made sure I cut things off and got rid of sharp knives, then that’s better than the gas and the cutting. Yay, me!

If I only do 8,000 of the 10,000 steps I planned to do, that’s alright, because before I bought this step tracker watch, I had no idea how many steps I wasn’t doing. And now I do. I will get there. Yay, me!

If I realize that having Facebook on in the background is keeping me from finishing this blog post, I will not hang my head and dive back into my feed for 10 minutes in shame. Nope. I will realize that what I am doing is more important, and I will just close the window, like I just did. Yay, me!

If I buy my son a pair of shoes that looks like his old pair, and I realize while we are out that I dressed him not only in one old shoe and one new shoe, but that they were both for his right foot, I just know that I will put him in the correct shoes tomorrow. Plus, he’s wearing shoes. Yay, me!

Different shoes, Same foot. It's a'ight.

Different shoes, Same foot. It’s a’ight.

If I go to a networking event and they have free Ledo’s pizza, and I eat the pizza too fast before I realize how much I ate, I won’t be mad at myself. Because I also had carrots. And even though I did eat a cookie, I waited until I was on the way out to get it because I decided that I really wanted it and wasn’t eating it just because it was there. And I ate it once I got home. Mindfully. Yay, me!

Because there will be days that I don’t get it all right, and don’t get everything done that I planned. But I HAVE a plan, and that’s a start, and I am more likely to get even 50% of my goal done if I know what my goal is. Right? Right. So I am going to keep moving forward, keep making a a plan, and I am going to give myself grace if I work that plan. And I will take care of me, and still watch Netflix but I will schedule me time and not let it take over my day until I don’t care anymore. Moving forward, and sometimes to the left, and maybe a little backwards, but then forward again.

You too, okay? Yay, us!


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