with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: adulthood

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. 


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.


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.


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.

 

 

 


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!


Looking People In The Eye Like You Know What The Heck You Are Talking About

by SweetMidlife

Happy Monday! Lynne here.

I was part of a classroom demo in a Social Psychology class in college (St. Mary’s College of Maryland class of 1993! Go Seahawks!) once where the professor had me and a male classmate get up in front of the class and just talk to each other for like a minute. After making forced small talk for a little bit, she let us sit down, and she explained to the class that she wanted to test a theory about power in conversation, and the theory is this: when 2 people are talking, the person who feels the most powerful out of the 2 will look directly at the other person when they themselves are talking because they are so sure of what they are saying and want the other person to hear every word. But when the other person is talking, though, the more powerful person will look away, as if they don’t really need to hear what’s being said. Rude, hey? And what I remember is that my professor told us that it when there are a man and a woman in the conversation, the man is the sure-of-himself and not-so-interested-in-what-the-other-is-saying, and the woman is the person who feels less powerful and will look at their associate as the other person talks, as if that person’s words are gold, but look away when they themselves are talking, as if they doubt the validity of their words. And I also remember that in the staged conversation for class, that I was the one deemed the most powerful. Hee.

So, things have changed a bit over the years.

Now, I think that it would be wonderful if both people in a conversation would listen to each other, each feeling equally powerful to the other and feeling like there is give and take and such. But I have realized, though, that as much as I talk, which is a whole heck of a bunch, I was sometimes not so sure of what I am saying, and it’s usually when people are asking me about my plans, or my new business. You know, things that I know about. I find myself looking up in the air and avoiding the other person’s eyes, like I was searching for the words off of the ceiling or something. And it made me remember that experiment in college, but the difference is that nobody else is doubting my power, or my words, or thinking that what I am saying isn’t important. Nope. I was the one doing that to myself, and that’s sad, especially when it’s something about me, a subject that I should know a lot about, and I am realizing why. It’s that when I couldn’t look people right in the face and tell them about what I have going on, it’s that I was doubting the validity of my own dreams, of my own plans, and of me having the right to do the thing that I am doing. And I am deciding that I am not going to do that anymore, because if I don’t believe  what I am saying, how the heck am I supposed to make other people believe me? Because I am quite good at what I do in business, darn it. I am prepared for this, and my dreams and plans have meaning.  I am gonna work the heck out of them, and I am going to stop diluting my own power by believing what I say, looking people straight in the face, and going from there. I have been doing that, and darn it, it feels great.

Believe your own dream, my friends. And tell people about it. And see what happens.

I know what I am talking about.

I know what I am talking about.


Spring Cleaning Can Include Taking Down Your Christmas Tree.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

This past weekend, my family and I went to church on Saturday night as a family, so on Sunday morning, we ate breakfast together at home, welcomed the coming of Spring while also bemoaning the lost hour of sleep that comes with Daylight Savings Time, since toddlers don’t care and that dude got up anyway because his body clock said so. And we took down our artificial Christmas tree and put away the rest of the Yuletide decorations.

Tis the season! But not that season anymore.

Sunshine and tinsel and Spring and Baby Jesus. But he isn't in this picture. So here is my baby.

Sunshine and tinsel and Spring and Baby Jesus. But he isn’t in this picture. So here is my baby.

Yeah, so what had happened was that, as I have told you, I had major surgery in January, a week after New Years. Since we like to leave our tree up at least until then, because taking it down so early is too abrupt for me and I need to ease out of the holidays and back to normal non-sparkly times, we thought that we would pace ourselves and take it down when things got normal. But even after the initial period of my mom and sister and Bestie Maria coming to stay at different times, and friends and family giving us rides when I couldn’t drive, and friends sending and bringing food, and my husband literally doing all of the heavy lifting, it took us awhile to get back to normal. Which we mostly are, but I know that this whole thing takes awhile, and in all of that we had never set a deadline for the tree coming down.

For awhile it was fine, because we knew what we were capable of, and it wasn’t a priority, and friends who came over knew where we were with that, and that was like late-January/early February. It was actually kinda nice to have the tree there, all shiny, and we knew we would get to it. We took down most of the other decorations and, because we knew it would help us with finishing it up, put them on the floor in front of the tree. And then it got later, and then it snowed, so the tree fit in, but then it melted, and that tree started to look strange, and friends would come over then in late February/early March, and we would say “The tree is still up. Don’t judge.”, and they would say “Shoot, we don’t care.”

And then I realized I was judging me. Because it was time.

So on Sunday morning, we went downstairs and got the box that holds the Christmas stuff, and we turned on a warm weather playlist (“Here Comes the Sun”, “Walking On Sunshine”, “Everyday Sunshine” and the like) while wrapping up the Baby Jesus in our Nativity and disassembling the tree. It was a nice family time to spend with each other, looking at the gifts people gave us and remembering how nice it is to have people who give you things, and remembering the meaning of the ornaments and when we got them and why, like the Blue Crab one we got in memory of my Dad, who loved him some crabs, and also remembering who gave us certain ones, like my late former neighbor who did the alterations on my wedding dress and gave us a beautiful “First Christmas” ornament, and Bestie Johnette’s mom, who adopted her friends and gives us beautiful angel ornaments every year. And it was cathartic to complete something, and bring some order and get rid of clutter, and to literally move into a  new season.

It was good. It’s okay to do things on your own time. And then it’s good to know when it’s REALLY time.

This is the favorite warm weather song of both Streeter Twins. What is yours?


Seeing less of cheese: My backwards glancing sliding sorta into some sort of vegan thing

by SweetMidlife
This is what happens when you have a little less cheese and work out a lot.

This is what happens when you have a little less cheese and work out a lot.

I am Leslie and cheese is my boyfriend. Even when my husband and sweet schmoopy love of my life was alive, he knew that cheese was my illicit habit, my thing that I could not get enough of (besides my husband, of course.) He actually gave me gifts of cheese, sometimes a good brie, other times a gorgeous feta from a Greek importer. I was raised mostly vegetarian, and as I stopped completely eating chicken and other poultry, I claimed cheese as my primary protein besides the fish I maybe ate once a week. Cheese? Ate at least once a day. Sometimes once a meal. My mother once told a friend that her kids’ favorite food groups were potatoes and cheese.

Mommy was not lying.

So it was with much resistance that I took in a suggestion from my trainer, Victor Ayala, who had tortured worked me into a weight loss of 12 pounds and at least one dress size: “You’d lose more,” he said, in that way that forces you to not rest on your laurels too much, “if you cut our meat..”

“I don’t really eat meat,” I said.

“My dear,” Victor said, eyebrow skyward, “cheese is meat.”

Well, heck.

Vegan cheese makes a good casserole. Next time needs more onions and cheese. No! Not cheese! Stupid, stupid!

Vegan cheese makes a good casserole. Next time needs more onions and cheese. No! Not cheese! Stupid, stupid!

Although my beloved fromage is not technically the flesh of a living thing, it is an animal product and can cause inflammation (It’s also a thing to avoid if you’re about to sing, as I am wont to do.) When I was clean eating two years ago, I limited myself once a week or so to only the best quality cheese, but when our little one came to live with us, all that went out the window. Cheese became my crutch again. But between Victor and my beloved almost-sister Rissa, a longtime vegan who has sent me several vegan cookbooks and recipes a month since last summer, I feel I’m a crossroads.

Which is not to say that I am about to become vegan, because I am not and I really don’t want to. I am not going to just say I will never sample an exquisite brie or sprinkle aged Parmesan Reggiano on a perfect tomato soup, because I AM GONNA. But I want to explore playing with it, cutting back and seeing what new cooking adventures await me. This will upset real vegans who have ethical reasons for their lifestyle, like I’m dabbling and being disrespectful. But it’s where I’m at.

Cheeseless pesto. It is a thing.

Cheeseless pesto. It is a thing.

So far, I’ve adapted some recipes, some of which were already vegan and some which just included stuff I didn’t have. I did a vegan tomato bisque, a vegan cauliflower casserole and, most deliciously, vegan pesto with cashews, which creamily take the role of both traditional pine nuts and the cheese. A year ago I would have told you the point of pesto was cheese. I still think it might be.

The point is, I am learning. I am growing. I am not breaking up with cheese. But we are agreeing to see a little less of each other.


Living A Life That Makes People Want To Say Nice Things At Your 80th Birthday Party

by SweetMidlife

Happy Monday! Lynne here.

I had the honor last night of attending our Aunt Dorothy’s 80th birthday party, and it’s been in my head all night. It was a lovely shindig, with delicious eats from a place that does Caribbean food, people who you know are over 70 but look 50, and a cake table that looked like something out of a magazine. Cake pops, y’all! There was also amazing music, that went from smooth jazz to Motown to line dancing music, which was awesome because the aforementioned spry older people flooded the dance floor. They can do a wonderful Cha Cha Slide, with the correct amount of hip swaying, but without testing gravity when they guy in the song says “How low can you go?”, because they are smart. I, on the other hand, so happy to be moving again after recovering from surgery, squatted all the way down and for a split second, wondered who was coming to lift me back up. I did it myself. But there was a moment.

There was a cake pop in this bag but it got eaten. Good party.

There was a cake pop in this bag but it got eaten. Good party.

But the best part about it was the love laid on my aunt. You could see the life she lived in pictures on the slideshow that her family prepared, including pictures of people who aren’t here anymore, like my aunt’s husband, my grandparents, and my dad and his brother. So many smiles, and so many good times. And at the party, in person, there were people from all facets of her life, including family (like her gorgeous brand new great-granddaughter, who slept through large portions of the evening because she is an infant and they have it like that), friends that she has known for 60 years, folks from her church, and former colleagues from her days in the Federal government. They all had beautiful things to say about her, about how good a cook she was (Sister can throw down), but even more about how faithful she is (taking care of both of my grandparents and her husband towards the ends of their lives), and her generosity and hospitality, and how she takes people under her wing when they need help. And unlike the things that are said about some people at these occasions, when people feel obligated to say nice things because, hey, you ARE giving them free chicken, people meant every word of it. And I thought about what a testament it is to you that friends from almost your entire life, and people from the job you retired from 25 years ago, will gladly come and tell people, but most importantly, YOU, about what you meant to them. My aunt beamed the whole night, and we all beamed with her.

It made me proud to be her niece, which I already was proud of, and it also made me want to live a life that people will say nice things about in 35 years when I turn 80. Not because it will be nice to hear, which it will be, but because it means that I was good to people more than I was not good to them, and that the little moments of my life would add up to a life well-lived. I know that I don’t always get it right, and I am not saying that so you say “No, Lynne, you’re great!” I am serious. I mess up. But last night gave me something to aspire to, and I want to continue in that direction. See you in 35 years at my 80th. Come. There will be chicken. And the Cha Cha Slide. And we can help each other up if we go too low.


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