So last night was the season finale of “The Amazing Race”, which is one of my favorite reality shows because it is one of the least manipulated/ Yes, people can team up, and keep information from each other, and the producers can do things like make sure that all of the teams leave a city on the same flight on some legs (which means the playing field is leveled and no one has an advantage). But for the most part, your success is based on your ability to do stuff, like eat gross foods, or speak other languages, or swim, or dance. And yes some times it comes down to your cab driver not knowing where thy are going. But mostly, it’s about your performance, because n one votes you off. If you are good, you get to the finish line, regardless of whether people like you or not. And this season, like most others, had a team you loved to hate: Tim and Marie. They were exes, and after 5 minuted with Marie, you could see that she was, umm, a challenge. She outright lied to people. She dangled favors over people’s heads. She stole peoples’ taxi cabs. She paid people back for mis-perceived slights. And she had no apologies, because in her mind, she was playing a game and was trying to win. And the 2 other teams in the finals, dating cuties Jason and Amy, and married ER doctors Travis and Nicole, had issues with that. And so did I. I spent most of the season wishing Tim and Marie, but mostly Marie, would go away. But then something interesting happened. There were two teams who previously poo-pooed Tim and Marie, as well as another team of Afghan cousins, for dirty playing, and one of them, Travis and Nicole, particularly were offended when people lied to them. “That’s not who WE are”, they said. Except when they were. Because towards the end, they made alliances with Tim and Marie as long as it advanced them, but then dropped them when they felt like it, without telling T & M that the deal was off now. And it came to bite them in the butt a bit. And I liked it. See, you can’t call other people dishonest but then call your sneaky something else just because YOU did it. Own your sneak. Tim and Marie did. Still sneaky. And the way T and M played is not the way I would want to play AT ALL. But don’t get all self-righteous when you are as bad. As Dolly Parton said in the not-classic movie “Straight Talk”, “Get off the cross. We need the wood.” As in, stop being a martyr. Stop talking about being better than “that”. And just BE better than that. On TV and in real life.
SO the word today is “reflect”. I was all ready to riff on “Reflections” by The Supremes, because it is a cool song, and it was the first thing that popped into my head. But as I began to think, and now as I begin to write on this blog for the first time in like a month (my twin/writing partner has been keeping it up), I realize that “reflect” is a funny word for me right now. Because I guess I haven’t felt like reflecting for the last little bit. And I don’t know why. Every time I started to write, or even thought about it, I just felt tired. I don’t know what that is about. Maybe it meant that I wasn’t supposed to be doing this anymore. Maybe it meant that I just needed a break. I guess that I just felt like I didn’t want to sit and write things out. Bunches of things happened that I could have written about. We lost our uncle, who was our late father’s brother and best friend. A year after my Dad. And my husband’s job situation has been unsure. And the working part-time/child-raising thing has been wonderful/hard/soul-enriching/daggone frustrating. So much to write about. Only I couldn’t. I don’t know why. I just couldn’t. The idea of reliving already wearying things made me more weary. Which is the opposite of what blogging is supposed to do, or at least the opposite of why we decided to do this in the first place, which was to offer some of our insight, and hopefully maybe have other people relate at the same time. So I found other things. I became part of an online Bible Study with moms from my old church, and that has been amazing. We went on vacation, which seems weird in this time of financial ?-ness, but we had already paid for it as part of a mini-timeshare deal, and we couldn’t afford to NOT go. And it was WONDERFUL. I learned more about how to be present for people, and realized how other-focused I have been/can be. I have reflected, and I feel good. God is good. And now, I am ready to do this blogging thing again. But to do it in a way that is steady but not pressured, keeping it up without killing myself but that builds into me and hopefully into others. To be truthful and not forced. Good stuff.
This is you. Specifically, the you of 7:24 Friday morning, who has slept off her food coma and is up bright and early paying bills, hanging with the cat and watching Investigation Discovery shows while checking out the Black Friday sales online. This is the you who is sensible, who has a clear idea of her budget and what she needs, who’s not caught up in the frenzy of signs and lines and persuasive dippity-do and has a clear understanding of what she needs and wants.
Don’t listen to Future Shopping You. She’s going to be enticed by all the lights and signs, watching people walk by with bags of what must be fabulous things that she is going to miss if she doesn’t pounce right now. She might be fueled up on her post workout adrenaline, or caffeine, or food court fried rice, and not necessarily be thinking clearly. She has your credit cards. She might be dangerous. Tell her to slow the heck down. Also get her to remember these simple rules:
- Spending money on a sale still means you spent money. A dollar in the hand is worth two in the sales rack.
- Do you really need that?
- No, seriously. Do you?
- Come on. Is it anything you actually thought you needed till you saw it just now?
- Where you gonna put it?
- Girl, you probably don’t need that.
Shopping is awesome, because when you give the stores money, they give you things. And everyone is happy. The thing is, stores and malls and ads are incredibly good at making you think that you can’t live without that thing (that thing, that th-i-i-ing, as Miss Lauryn Hill might say), that it’s gonna cost 100 percent more tomorrow if you don’t get it now, and what are you waiting for?
What I am not waiting for is regret, is brokeness, is needing something like a car repair or a kitty medical treatment or just something else prettier and shinier, that will be a stretch because I already fell for WhooHooShiny.
So, Leslie…have fun today. Get some deals. Be a rock star. Just don’t rock out of your solar system.
“Ain’t no talking to this man
He’s been trying to tell me so”
About 12 years ago I sat at a Denny’s and repeated those lines from Patty Griffin’s “Let Him Fly” to the man who had been trying to, at first subtly, and then with yawning silence, that he didn’t want to see me anymore. It wasn’t so much of a breakup as an acknowledgement that he had mentally and emotionally packed up and moved to Timbuktu. I has summoned him to the aforementioned Denny’s to make him tell me that in person. Maybe I thought he owed it to me, that this thing that I had made to be more in my mind, and that he, realizing that, had allowed to grow in a half-life of simultaneous encouragement and silence, because he didn’t want to be the bad guy.
When I look back though, I know that it’s my fault, too, because as a certified owner of the big girl pants, I should have known. I shouldn’t have needed the words. I mean, they’re nice. But I should have been adult enough to accept what wasn’t there, to let him and this idea that this, at last, was my happy ever after, fly.
How many other things in my life – in your life – are just waiting to fly away, to be let go and released, except you’re holding them to you for whatever reason? There’s that novel I need to finish. That weight I need to lose. My fear of what happens when the newspaper industry keeps chewing away at itself? What’s stopping me? Here’s what Patty has to say about it
“Took a while to understand
the beauty of just letting go
It would take an acrobat
And I’ve already tried all that
So I’m gonna let him fly.”
Let it go. Let it fly. You can’t fly yourself if you’re busy stopping the inevitable. There’s something better your wings were made for.
When my sister and I first started this blog, back in the dark ages, or, like, three years ago, it was called “Bride At 35,” and was about the experience of being married in your later 30s and beyond, like we were. Eventually, we expanded the concept to be about the whole of being this age, whether it’s marriage, friendship, children, weight, hair, whether to wear nail polish, or just delicious cheesy carbs, filtered to our
crone-ism wisdom that comes with age.
But we still love a wedding, maybe because they’re pretty or because we’ve been in so many of them – I’ve been a bridesmaid 9 times, including several stints as Matron of Honor. That experience brought me to the most excellent of days this past Saturday, where I acted as my friends Kim and Matt’s day-of-wedding coordinator. I’m not the wedding planner because I didn’t plan anything – I’m much better at telling people what to do. And the first thing I told her when I accepted the challenge was this:
Something is going to go wrong.
This is not easy to hear, but I’ve learned it in my 20 year career as a bridesmaid, from the time in 1995 when all our shoes were dyes the exact same wrong color, or in 2010 when my husband, the groom-to-be and my sister raced around town looking for lemon curd for the wedding tea, or in 2008 when the track for “At Last,” which I was about to sing for the cake cutting, wouldn’t work, and somebody distracted the bride while I ran across the street to find my laptop. The more weddings I was in, the more I learned to take a breath and not freak out. Nobody got eaten by a shark. The pastor never got caught at customs. A sinkhole didn’t swallow the cake. My experience taught me to chill.
Hopefully, at every wedding (or party or funeral or Bat Mitzvah) the snafus are minor, like somebody left the extra programs at home, or the bride’s shoes need a polish…something easily fixable. And sometimes, it’s a little more pressing, like a member of the wedding party can’t get there, or a car carrying the bride breaks down, or stuff is just whack. My job was just to make sure that the fires that erupted were put out, with as little fuss or actual burns as possible.
So even though my wedding bossiness has previously been on a personally procured basis, this couple of kind people put me in charge of calling their caterer to confirm times, of hiring a bartender (I write about drinking, so I know a few), of observing the set-up of the DJ booth and the sweetheart table, and of grabbing the bride’s hand when a frog, whose kind she is not fond of, jumped on her dress as she and her new husband walked from the parking lot of the reception spot to make her entrance.
And it was amazing. The thing is, as many weddings as I’ve been involved in, stuff still didn’t go perfectly. And I didn’t do it alone – the bride’s cousin was my family point person and co-stuff-getter. Her brother was amazing, as was her mom. And her bridesmaids, led by her resourceful sister, sat on the floor of the reception space in their beautiful dresses, as guests milled around outside for the cocktail hour and cut their beautiful bouquets into flower arrangements, because that’s what the bride said she wanted and someone (me) hadn’t remembered. That was beautiful.
And it did.
There are things that apparently zigged when they were to zag, even before I got there – Kim’s family figured it out – and the band played on (Well, the string duo played on). The day was saved. The vows were sealed. The dinner was delicious and “Jump Around” and “Easy” by the Commodores both happened.
It wasn’t flawless. But it was perfect.
Someone sent me a link to this video where moms are asked to describe themselves as a mom, and everyone was pretty quick to bring up their own shortcomings, like they needed to be more patient, or that they were sometimes a little hard on their kids, and things like that. Then they watched video of their own kids describing them, and what stuck with the kids was that their moms were pretty, and that they love to play with them and spend time with them, and that they loved them. And of course, I sobbed. In the past 3 years I have become a wife, homeowner, and mostly stay at home mom but juggles working part time. And, in the duh statement of the year, it is freaking hard. And I don’t do it all correctly. And that doesn’t feel good. But what does feel great is that when I share these feelings, and when I stood up at a mom’s group meeting of what I thought were women who probably had it all together, people came up and said “Oh my gosh me too!” And the grace that I don’t always have for myself, came pouring out of other people, and that allowed me to soak in it, then pour it back on them. There is grace in honesty, in sharing those moments where we need grace the most. And I look back on those moments and use them as like grace reserves when I am hard on myself. I realize that I am not doing a bad job, and my house won’t fall down if I don’t sweep the floor tonight (or tomorrow), and my husband appreciates me, and my loudwonderfulhilariousopinionated kid loves me. I am doing okay.
Leslie here! Go…
“Let’s get together, yeah, yeah, yeah/why don’t you and me com-bi-ine?”
“The Parent Trap,” from which that groovy, if lyrically uncomplicated lyric is taken, has a love/hate place in my heart, as I’m sure it might for many twins of a certain age – and I’m referring to the 1961 original and not the 1990s Lohan remake, which was cute but not what I’m talking about.
The story of a set of identical twins separated at birth by their divorcing parents, spending their lives unaware of each other’s existence until accidentally meeting at summer camp, might be cuter to those who think of twins as some mythical pixie plot point. I could never be that casual about it – my twin, best friend and blogging partner is a part of my soul, and the idea that these parents were so selfish and cruel that they split these girls like a set of luggage made me insane. Who does that? I mean, people do. But I don’t like these people. This isn’t a heart-warming family movie. It’s a trip to family therapy.
What I do like is the scene with that silly little song, where the twins are spliced together in a scene meant to suspend disbelief in the obvious fact that actress Hayley Mills was playing both .of them – ’60s movies magic was adorable. I like the idea that these girls, who had no idea that they had a sister, let alone a twin, wanted to get their family together, not just their estranged parents, but themselves. They were jamming on being reunited, on finally knowing themselves – their whole selves. The parents didn’t get my sympathy much. But the girls sure did.
I am not known, among those who know me, as someone who takes a lot of stuff off of people. My father used to tell me I had a temper, which he should have known because it was his. I don’t beat people up or cuss strangers out, even if I want to for a couple of seconds, because life’s too short to get shot. But I prefer to take no guff, even if it’s just to myself as I curse a driver who cut me off under my breath in the relative quiet of my car.
A few days ago, however, my guff- taking meter was registering through the roof, and I had to say something to someone who was doing something ridiculous in public. I keep going back and forth about whether I should have let this go, but I was trying to set an example for my 11-year-old niece by showing her that you shouldn’t tolerate bullies. You shouldn’t beat them up or put yourself in danger. But there are ways.
So here’s what happened: We were in T.J. Maxx, in Baltimore, with the aforementioned niece, standing at the front of that pre-line where you’re waiting for the disembodied voice to say “Register Three now open,” after you’ve run the gauntlet of all the snacks and DVDs and stuff they’re trying to get you to throw in your cart, or get your kids to throw in the cart, risking a kid riot.
As we stood there waiting for the dude at the nearest register to finish up, a woman in maybe her 60s came up behind us. She had not been the person who had been right behind us just a second ago. Sister was STEALTHY, y’all. She made her way past us, not making eye contact, and then forcefully pushed her cart ahead of her, and us. That got our attention, because she was scheming something, obviously. That was not a casual move.
But she kept her cool, stopping at a rack of extraneous socks just ahead of the front of the line, where we were, but behind the row of registers. And she was into these socks. They were the most interesting socks in the world. They don’t always drink beer, but when they do, they drink Dos Equis. That’s how interesting this woman appeared to find these socks, never taking her eyes off them. At least until…
“Register Four now open!”…
…and then suddenly those interesting socks were like nasty dirty hot rocks that she had to drop. Rocks made out of hot potatoes. And thorns. And jellyfish. Jellyfish socks.She threw those suckers down like they were contagious, is what I’m saying, grabbing her cart and running up to Register Four like that’s where they were keeping all the oxygen.It was so brazen and wrong, that I almost let her go. But I looked at my niece and thought that I don’t want her to think that this is OK to either act like that or to let people treat you that way, if you can address it politely.
So I said, as she scurried up to the
oxygen register, I called behind her “Ma’am…” which could have been followed by “You dropped your socks,” or “I like that blouse,” or “You are a dirty line jumper.” Only the guilty would assume that I was about to say the latter. Which I totally was, but in a completely polite way.
“I was ahead of you!” she hissed, in a Russian accent (this store is in a Baltimore neighborhood with a large Russian population, which I mention only because I want you to hear this conversation in your head. Me, a woman with a slightly Baltimorean nasally thing, and her with the crisp, “I’m not messing with you” Russian accent. If this were a movie I definitely would have cast it like this.)
“Umm, no you weren’t.”
The lady, who was now at the counter furiously unloading her cart before somebody made her move, shook her head.
“Yes. Yes I was!”
At this point, the disembodied voice came on to tell us that Register Five was now open. The lady had a look on her face that clearly read “Move on, loser.” Maybe I should have. But I didn’t.
“I saw you, sweetheart,” I said, moving past her to the next open register. “You shoved your cart ahead of me and pretended to look at those socks and then you threw them down the minute they opened the register and jumped ahead of me.”
I mean, she did. There were witnesses. People watched her do this. There is no way she could deny this, right?
“NO! I DID NOT DO THIS! I DID NOT DO THIS!” she said, balling up her fist and I am totally not exaggerating. It was amazing, how furious she was in her denial, which only made her look guiltier. At this point, the cashier in front of her looked at me and said “I am so sorry, ma’am. I didn’t actually see what happened,” although it was clear that she believed me. I nodded that it was OK.
My husband, who is married to me and aware of me and my Julia Sugarbaker tendencies, smirked at me, because he knew what I was trying to do. We finished our transaction, and I smiled at my niece, who is from Scott’s side but has known me long enough to get it, too. I looked back at the lady, who was giving the cashier grief about something, shaking some item at her. Poor cashier. I should have just kept going. But the petty got the better of me. And I’m not talking Tom or Lori.
“Ma’am?” I called back. “You’ll notice that we’re finished before you anyway. Have a nice afternoon!”
She kinda glared at me and went back to torturing the cashier, who smiled wanly at me, because I was escaping and she didn’t. I had a point that her scheming and denials didn’t matter because she was still behind me. But I have to admit I was being snarky. Bad snarky Leslie.
So I was kinda right but kinda wrong. What would you have done?
My friend Stephanie was here this weekend, and as longtime girlfriends who have taken many vacations together, as well as people who used to be in and out of each others kitchens, it made sense that we’re really casual about food. We cook together, eat together and shop for food together. We wound up splitting the tab at Publix (that’s our grocery store) and it was cool to look at both baskets and know that whatever was left over from hers when she left would be something I’d like.
Which brings me to bananas.
There are very few foods that I straight up dislike, but as a kid, bananas were at the top of the list. Something about the consistency. I didn’t like the tendency of mushiness, or the brown spots. They seemed to easy to damage and get icky, so I didn’t want any parts of them. I also have weird flashbacks to banana milk, something we used to have in Saudi Arabia as kids, and which for some reason makes me think about coughing it out of my nose. I imagine this happened at some point, because why else would I have that thought? Am I weird or something?
I outgrew my banana hate eventually as a young adult – maybe I was broke and at somebody’s house, and was offered one, which I likely took because, you know, broke people don’t turn down food. And it was glorious. I am not being fancy here. It was a complex experience – the firm bite that dissolved into softness, the fresh, distinctive smell, the sweet/savory mouth feel…
It was awesome. And I have loved them ever since, au natural for breakfast or a snack, in pancakes, on toast with peanut butter…however. And Steph left a few when she went home, so I’ve had the pleasure of cutting a whole ‘nanner into my cereal with almond milk and chowing down. I had a second one for lunch! It’s awesome! It’s healthy! It’s bananas! (Call Gwen Stefani!)