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Category Archives: family

2018, as interpreted through my Spotify “Top Songs” playlist or “Barry Manilow ain’t never lied to you”

by SweetMidlife

There’s a lot to be said about the year 2018, other than “over.” Some would call it a 365-day-long dumpster fire. The more optimistic among us might say it’s the necessary sink to the bottom to inspire a conscientious climb back to a better world.

As a lifelong journalist who believes that looking at hard cold data – also known as the receipts – is an important gauge of where we were at particular moments in time, because memory is spotty and also we lie to ourselves sometimes to obscure our dumbassness. When Spotify, the popular music streaming platform, compiled a playlist of the songs I listened to the most in 2018, it seemed an intriguing way to chart where I was emotionally during the year. Music, after all, is more than just a collection of notes we like bopping to, although it certainly can be that. The songs I had on repeat, I figured, meant something to me, soothed or riled or tickled something in my chest. And Spotify doesn’t lie – I can try to be cool and current with the Top Hits of NewNextNow or whatever it is, but I’d imagine the average release date of my playlists songs is 1987. Whatever. I ain’t ashamed. Bring on the Anne Murray weepers and get it over with.

“Oh No,” The Commodores: I had this, my favorite melodramatic Lionel Richie-esque weeping-into-power ballad, on a playlist I’d made during a brief dumb dating situation the previous year because it was fun to listen to while I was happy. Once the dumbness abated and I was no longer happy with that person but working towards being happy not being with them, it was fun to belt out in the Palm Beach Post parking lot while procrastinating getting out of the car and going to work already. Sometimes wallowing is healing.

Uptown Girl,” Billy Joel: I am not the biggest Amy Schumer fan. Not by a lot. But her rom-com “Trainwreck” has earned its sweet, cynical way onto my go-to list of movies I put on while writing, because it’s well-written, funny, and features the instant classic comic pairing of Bill Hader and Lebron James. And any film that (SPOILER ALERT!) finds its final romantic reconciliation in a cheerleading routine set to “Uptown Girl” earns my love, because Schumer’s character has previously expressed scorn for both cheerleading AND “Uptown Girl.” But she participates in said routine, set to said song, because the love of her life loves those things and she knows love means sacrifice. I love that song, and I love being reminded of the hope that someone could love me, maybe, that much again.

“Here Comes Your Man,” The Pixies: Part of good parenting is making sure that your kid is exposed to good music, so if one day his taste sucks you can at least be sure it’s not for lack of trying. This here song was on a bank commercial, and my son was attempting to recreate it from his booster seat perch in back of my Prius. So I cued up the song and watched his little eyes light up. “MOMMY!” he squealed. “THAT’S OUR SONG!” Yes, my darling, it is. I win…something.

“Freedom Hymn,” Austin French: I share a Spotify account with the aforementioned kid, who likes to fall asleep to a playlist that is almost entirely composed of Contemporary Christian tunes and Andy Grammar. He’s a spiritual, mellow 5-year-old, I guess. I admit that I don’t listen to this stuff a lot if he’s not in the room, because some of it seems monotonous, but this is one of Brooks’ favorites. I don’t know what he likes about it, but I love the concept of it, that we fight against the wisdom that we know makes us free, if we just surrender to it. Me and God have had an interesting run through this morass of loss I’ve fought through, so remembering that He’s there is a big deal for me. Thanks for the song suggestion, Kid.

“No More Lonely Nights,” Paul McCartney: When Linda McCartney died, I heard a DJ explain that this song was written by Paul about the one night they ever spent apart from the night they got together until the day she died (I think he’d been detained for trying to take hashish through an airport.) I stumbled on this, a favorite of mine since 1984, and I remembered that story and started to cry, because it reminded me of every night I spent apart from my husband in the 5 1/2 years we were married, and the nights forever I’ll have to spend without him. And…it didn’t break me. The more I listened to that song this year, the more I could relish those amazing moments we shared and wish we had more without wanting to curl into a fetal ball and roll into a corner. I just let it be. And yes I’m very clever.

“Stomp!” The Brothers Johnson: It’s my go-to running song, inspired by its place on a playlist from my favorite step class in 1995 at York, Pa.’s Unique Physique. The teacher timed the “Everybody take it to the top” part for moments when we were up on the bench grooving. And it was glorious. And that bass line is some funky business.

“Brokenhearted Me,” Anne Murray: For some reason, the more I listen to this anthem of well-considered wallowing, the more it sounds like a John Legend song to me. Can’t you hear him hovering over the sad piano, leaning into the lyrics of self-acknowledged inability to move on? Can’t you just imagine him tackling the wide-eyed misery of lines like “A million miracles won’t ever stop the pain?” I can! And I like sitting in my car and imagining John and Anne just wailing and making a cross-generational selection of fans weep? Me too!

“Taking Chances,” Celine Dion and “Ready To Take A Chance Again,” Barry Manilow: You know those BuzzFeed quizzes that ask you what your mantra or theme song is? These two are my mantras for 2018 and 2019 and maybe forever, because they’re what I need to embrace about my life and my career. I used to think of them both romantically, but – and bare with me, because this is a whole mood – I am now at a point in journalism where the industry I still love is imploding even as we try to beat back the shards with new tactics but solid intention. Since July 1993, I have never paid my bills as anything but a newspaper journalist, and never imagined I would, honestly. But the reality is that this may not be available for me forever, and as I begin my journey as an author, while still kicking butt for my paper, I have to be brave enough to imagine what happens one day if things change. Also, I have always worked for someone else. Three of my dearest loves are ladies who run their own businesses, who took a chance, who, as Celine sings, jumped off the edge, never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a hand to hold, or hell to pay. I’m not there yet. But I’m working on it. What do you say?


Kylie’s a billionaire at 20 so what are we all doing? A lot, turns out

by SweetMidlife

I come not to bury Kylie Jenner – I don’t know her and apparently she’s nearly a billionaire with her cosmetics empire so even if I tried she could climb out of the dirt on a giant pile of money. I do, however, come to say that almost no one else is a billionaire at 20, or at any age, and that it’s absolutely OK. More than OK, really.

There’s been a lot of hubbub about Forbes’ cover featuring Kylie in a serious business suit touting her as a female self-made billionaire, if you define “self-made” by starting your business with your own money, as she did with assets she made from modeling. Of course many, including me, beg to differ that one can be self-made with a modeling career made possible by both sides of her rich and famous family and her high media profile since childhood, and maintain that the admirable hustle she possesses was still built on a platform she inherited.

Then again, even Kylie’s sister haven’t made the money she has, so she’s doing something right. I am neither jealous nor hating. But I was among those who reacted with strongly to the snarky New York Post tweet that read “19-year-old Kylie Jenner is worth $900 million dollars…What are you doing with your life?” Um, what? I know it’s meant to probably award Kylie for her hard work, specifically at her age, but there’s an unfortunate implication that anyone who hasn’t done that – AND NO ONE HAS – has somehow wasted their lives and is a loser and should feel bad. You don’t have to put down other people to pull her up, New York Post.

A very wise attorney named Michelle Bhasin who I have never met but who I’d like to be my best friend, was one of several people who instead of saying “Umm, not being born into a rich famous family” decided to answer that snarky question sincerely. Bhasin talked about being a professional and raising her kids, one of whom is autistic, and about her community work with the homeless. Michelle Bhasin is not a billionaire, but she’s doing a lot.

Her Tweet was one of several that told big stories in a small amount of characters, of careers made from high school educations, from pulling oneself up from desperate family situations, from barely making ends meet but being able to look themselves in the eye at the end of the day. These were beautiful histories of strong people, mostly women, proud of their lives and their accomplishments, even if they were broke, because what they were doing with their lives was living well. I even added my own, above.

In this age of hate and division and, I believe, value put on the most horrible wrong things, this feed will make you feel good about some hardworking Americans who deserve to be billionaires. They won’t be. But that doesn’t make them any less impressive than Kylie Jenner. Not at all.


Leslie’s “Yoga Every Day” Challenge: I can watch “This is Us” during yoga, right?

by SweetMidlife

I may have been watching a beloved fictional man die a heroic death while doing this yoga video. Or not. But probably.

Mondays always seem like a good time to start a challenge or a new thing, at least to me. There are theories for and against this logic, and of every diet or new habit I ever started on a Monday stuck, I’d have a body like Serena Williams, my room would be amazingly clean and I wouldn’t be stepping around shoes flung carelessly in a pile in the middle of the night.

I am still making my bed. Of course, I started that on a Saturday, so who knows?

Anyway, one of the things I have long tried to do in my life is a daily yoga practice. I’m not rich, nor do I have a nanny or an infinite amount of time, so I can’t go to either of the beloved studios within walking distance of my house every day, or even more than once in a blue moon. This is where Gaia.com, an online community chock full of yoga, lifestyle, spiritual and other videos, comes in (and no, this is not a paid post. There is no financial renumeration for what I’m writing, and I pay for my membership like everyone else.

There are offerings from beginner to advanced, and I’d say I’m a semi-advanced beginner. Perhaps not an absolute beginner, as David Bowie might say, but absolutely in the beginner-I-might-need-a-block-and-yes-this-is-as-far-as-I-bend zone. The Gaia people make it easy for us block-users, however, with some series that are geared to put you in the practice of having a practice. My favorite is “Yoga Every Day,” of which there are currently 358 episodes that run just 15-20 minutes. The site selects one of these for me a day, and since I keep forgetting to do it, I haven’t yet had the same one twice. This is a problem I’d like to have, honestly.

So since it’s Monday, and again, that seemed like a good time to do this, I am challenging myself to do one of these videos everyday for the next 30 days. They aren’t long, I can do them from my brand new yoga mat (also, incidentally, made by Gaia, and I bought that with my own cash, too) and they start my day in a good way because they make me do SOMETHING.

This morning’s was titled “Santosha,” the Sanskrit word for contentment, which at this point of great potential change in my life seems really appropriate. For me, it means that I hope that big things are coming for me, but that I am praying for contentment in my current state and appreciation and contentment in whatever those changes are. The teacher is Steph Schwartz, who I like because she has a calm voice and plays the accordion to start the class. It’s cool. I like her words about intent and peace, and know that she probably didn’t mean me to be playing last night’s “This Is Us” On Demand as I did this practice. But my DVR cut off the end and I only have so much time before my kid wakes up, so…Sorry, Steph.

I’m gonna be better. I have 30 days!


It’s 2018! Doing my part to make it less of a dumpster fire than 2017!

by SweetMidlife

We wish you a Happy New Year!

 

Happy 2018, ya’ll! This is Leslie, who is sitting at Lynne’s kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a whole lot of grandiose plans about what I’m definitely going to and not going to do over the next 12 months.

This is largely speculative nonsense.

There is no way that we can say exactly what we’re gonna do in the future because we don’t control it. Stuff happens – death, hurricanes, job losses, illness – that throw the most monkiest of wrenches into the best laid plans of mice and men (and yes I mixed some metaphors and references that don’t belong to together. Have now made them a thing. They’re a thing now.) Elections go drastically differently than we expected. Friends and family members don’t show up the way we expected. Everything, as Dog’s Eye View once said, falls apart.

So should we just pack it in and go back to bed until 2019? Of course not. That’s unrealistic and unless you’re independently wealthy you probably have to work, as you have found that American Express doesn’t accept “fear-based inertia” as payment. There’s a lot happening in my life that is uncertain – my newspaper is being sold and I have no idea what that means for my job and my future . I’m trying to sell a book. My lease is up soon. My kid insists on getting older and needs stuff.

I mean, we can plan. Plans are good. Will and self-control are good. I plan to work out every day and hit my 10,000 steps on ye old Fitbit. This is something I am resolved to do. However, if my kid gets sick and I have to schedule a doctor’s appointment during my appointed workout time, or if it rains and I can’t go running, or if work just rears its unpredictable head and completely throws my schedule for a loop, that might not happen every single day. I could maybe try to go to the gym instead and get 8000. Or do some sort of video when my kid goes to bed and not just sit in my room and catch up on “The Bachelor.” Plans can change. Our intention for those plans can remain steadfast. Maybe I have to get 15,000 tomorrow.

That does not solve my love of potato chips. It doesn’t change racism, or sexism, or nuclear war. It doesn’t guarantee my job. But here’s what it does do – it makes me healthier and more alert. It gives me meditation time that is all my own to talk to God or to myself or sing Night Ranger songs real loud, because Night Ranger workouts are a thing and if you don’t know this you are missing out. It gives me more energy to write better at my job and to pitch this book, which is good and you should buy it when it’s out. It makes me more likely to be prepared to make my lunch before my son wakes, ensuring more control over the healthiness of it and that I’m not spending more money than I should on lunches out. It gives me preparation for the rest of the day, physically and emotionally and makes all the other stuff coming at me easier to manage. I can’t control that stuff. But I can at least try to walk around my room a couple of times and give some thanks and hum Night Ranger’s “The Secret of My Success” to myself as encouragement while dodging that stuff. (And as the song says, that secret is that I’m living 25 hours a day. 22 of which involve avocado products.)

This doesn’t mean that no one I love will be sick or die, or that I can’t lose my job, or that I will sell my book. It just means that I can control one little part of it, the part that is mine. I can try to be a better friend, a better mother and daughter and sister. I can be neater and on time and write things down in my calendar. I can be a better listener and put my phone away. That doesn’t stop everyone’s chaos but it can at least lighten mine.

We don’t know what 2018 has in store for us – as I wrote earlier, 2017 sucked in a lot of ways but that’s relative to what happened to you in 2016 or 2015. It’s going to be big – I know that big changes are coming for me and that hopefully they’re really good. And if they’re not, I hope I can learn from them. That’s all I can do. Besides finish this coffee and go dance to “Sister Christian” in the corner till my kid comes back downstairs.

 


2017 was really awful. Taylor Swift personally had a good year. So did I. Fight me.

by SweetMidlife

 

 

 

We were happy in 2017, happier than in 2015. And that’s true.

This is Leslie! In 2015, I lost my husband Scott, making 2015 the worst year in my life so far. It handily beat 2012, the previous title holder and the year my father died. 2012 was also the year that Barack Obama won a second term and the year that my nephew Alex, a human so unspeakably cute that he may not be human (shhh!), was born. So good things happened that year – some wonderful things, but the overall mood, for me, was crappy, because my daddy died. Does that make sense? It was a bad year for me, but that doesn’t negate the good things that happened.

2017, in general, has been a dumpster fire for much of the world. As a newspaper reporter I’m not supposed to get into the political nitty-gritty (hello ethics!) but it’s not political to say that neo-Nazis are bad, murder is bad, racism is bad and not supporting health care for needy kids and old people is evil. 2017 is also the year that Roy Moore, a man who thinks that life was peaches when my ancestors were slaves, got defeated, that monsters like Harvey Weinstein got called out and some heads that needed toppling got toppled. Personally, it was the year that I became vegan, lost 10 pounds, continued to have a great relationship with my mom, who moved in with me to raise my son, got some health stuff under control, celebrated the first anniversary of my child’s adoption, rekindled my relationship with my father-in-law, who got to meet his grandson, and finished my first book.

That  is a good year. It does not negate the dumpster fire, but it does shine a nice light in the distance. Apparently Taylor Swift, a woman of whom I am not a fan but whose success and hard work are undeniable, had a good year, too. She released a hit album. She successfully sued a radio host for groping her, gave strong testimony and took her place in the pantheon of women who said #metoo, when she didn’t have to. She also just had a birthday, and wrote on Instagram that she could not have had a better year. She didn’t say that everything was great. She didn’t say “Screw you people.”

She said she had a good year. And people freaked out on her. They called her tone deaf and privileged. And maybe she is. But she’s also a person who’s made buckets of cash for writing about the crap in her personal life. So y’all gonna drag her when something goes right? She wasn’t talking about y’all. She wasn’t saying everything was awesome. She dared to have a great day. Let her live, OK?

2017 has been the worst for a lot of people that I love, with personal illnesses and scary uncertainty for jobs and livelihoods. The overall scope of this year might be a dumpster fire. But there are victories. There are good days. And if one of those people said “This amazing thing happened to me today” and some stranger said “You’re evil to be happy at all because polar bears are dying” I would fight them. We can be aware and vigilant in this fight against evil. But we can also celebrate the good days. Because we have them. I did. So did Taylor Swift.

Hopefully we will have more of them soon.


Coleslaw, Loss, and Perspective

by SweetMidlife

HI! It’s Lynne! We haven’t written all summer, so I hope it was a good one. I am writing this gingerly because I had surgery on my left index finger last week, and I am writing with it sticking up in the air. This will be short :).

Today marks 20 years since the death of Britain’s Princess Diana, and seeing all of the specials and articles that have been commemorating the day, I remember where Leslie and I were when we found out about the Princess’ death. We were dealing with an overabundance of prepared salads and disappointment.

Our dad, Ed, was about to turn 50 years old, and Leslie, my mom, and I had planned a surprise birthday party for him that weekend. It was actually about 3 weeks before his actual birthday, but because my parents were living in Charleston, SC at the time and were planning on coming north that weekend, it seemed like a wonderful time to get our MD family together. We planned the shindig for a Sunday, in the backyard of the house in York, PA, where Leslie had an upstairs apartment that she called “The Hallway”because it was really narrow. It was a great hangout, and we were really looking forward to celebrating our dad with people who loved him so much. Leslie had even ordered like gallons of potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and tuna salad from a caterer, and we were feeling very accomplished, and we were all ready to pick them up on Sunday morning, and get our salad and our party on at the same time.

So, on Saturday, I was headed up the Baltimore Washington Parkway, headed to Leslie’s, when I got a call from Mommy, who said the thing that you don’t want the people you have planned a surprise party for to say, and that was this : “Lynne, we’re not coming.”

Say who now?

I pulled over at a gas station, because I knew that this was going to be something I needed to be still for to hear.

My dad spent most of his professional career in transportation management, and at that point, was managing the school bus contract between the company he worked for, and the Charleston school system. This was right before school was to start for the year, and things weren’t going smoothly, and since he had no idea that we were planning a party, he decided that they couldn’t leave, and that they could just come home the next weekend.

Surprise!!

So, she had to tell him about the party, but his duty was still to his job, so we had to call everyone and tell them that the party wasn’t happening that weekend. And we still had to take possession of all that prepared salad, because the lady had already made it. And we were bummed. We wanted the party now, darn it, because we had planned, and because we missed our parents, and because this isn’t how it was supposed to go, and we had a lot of tuna salad to eat now. Between my mom and us, we let everyone know, and we went to Leslie’s room, and fell asleep with the TV on, feeling sorry for ourselves.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and the news was on, and it was talking about what had happened in Paris. I woke Leslie up.

“Leslie, the Princess died.”

And we were snapped out of our sleep and mostly our disappointment over missed parties. Because two young boys had suffered more than the loss of plans. They had lost their mom. And the whole world was seeing it. I have no idea how long we stayed up, crying in disbelief, but I know that our attitudes changed, because we would see our parents next week. And after we went back to sleep, we got up and picked up the salads, and Leslie had friends come over, and we ate. And the next week, my parents came, and we had the party, and it was glorious. The picture at the top of this post was taken there. And you see happiness and relief at being together.

And this is what’s important. Well, parties are important, because they celebrate life, and life is precious. My dad died 15 years later, at 64, 3 months before his 65th, breaking our hearts, and also missing out on the really good senior-citizen discounts, a thing he was really looking forward to. I write this not to make you sad, but to implore you to make the memories that make the pictures, and enjoy your lives, and roll with the changes and the plethora of mayo-based foods. Enjoy your people. They are what is important.


Playdate Junction in Elkridge, Maryland Takes Care of Kids AND Their Parents

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne! I have been planning on writing this post for about a month, but it got delayed because of job and family stuff. And for that, I apologize, because I really want to share with you the awesomeness that is Play Date Junction, a fantastic place owned and birthed by my friend Portia Bates. There are a million ways in which she is fab, but if you don’t read any further than this, I want you to see this: If you are a parent of little kids and you are anywhere near Elkridge, MD, you should check out Play Date Junction, the play space that she owns whose slogan is “Where We Serive Children While Shamelessly Catering to Their Parents”. If you don’t read anymore, I hope it’s because you are grabbing your keys and also your kid and skedaddling to 6020 Meadowridge Drive, Elkridge, MD 20175.

Yay! You’re still here. So now I can tell you more.

I met Portia about a year ago when I invited members of the local blogging group I belong to to a special performance of my theater company’s first show. Portia was a part of that group, and she brought her kids to the show, and afterwards, told me about her in-the-work plans of opening a play space. It would be that welcoming and inviting to kids, but even more, would be a place for parents to socialize with each other. As a mom who is an entrepreneur, but also one who struggled with feeling isolated as a new parent, I was intrigued by not only her idea and how it could really better the lives of parents, but by her determination to make this a reality. This was April of 2016, and after several buildings falling through, Portia found the perfect spot in the fall, and was open by October.

But let’s backtrack a bit. Portia is the mother of two girls, and while she experienced the wonderfulness that comes with parenting humans, she also went through something not so wonderful, but just as common: the lack of connection with other parents. Finding time to see friends is hard, Portia says, “Because everyone is booked. Your life is so planned, and it is hard to fit (socialization) into that”. And as much as she enjoyed spending time with her kids, she was missing something, because “I really like to do other things, and to have a life” outside of that. This need to care for her kids and grow them, as well as recognizing her own need for friends, conversation, and a change of scenery inspired her to open Play Date Junction. And it’s a wonderful place.

Don’t you want to go there?

It may look like a standard play place, but it is anything but. PDJ is 90% open play: this means that you can pretty much come anytime that they are open. The main room is designed so that a parent can walk around the space with their kid, or, as Portia says, “They can plant themselves and let their kids go” on the inside playground equipment, as well as the fully-equipped dress-up station.
Parents and kids can also sit at a craft table and make things, color, or read together. You don’t even have to leave when you get hungry because you can bring your lunch and eat it there and then get back to the fun.

This is where Playdate Junction does the shameless catering to parents. There is a self-serve complimentary coffee and tea bar, where you can get your caffeine on. There is also a relaxation room, a dimly lit space decorated with candles and a lavender oil diffuser. It is a place for parents to come and sit and chill. It is also a great place to nurse, or bring your child if they get overstimulated outside. It is an oasis in the middle of an oasis.

Playdate Junction really serves the whole family, and the whole community, even offering meet-ups for special groups of folks on certain days, including Grandparents as Caregiver Tuesdays, a Family Date Night on Fridays, and Sensory-Friendly Mondays, with no loud music and no lavender smell in the relaxation suite. They have really considered what a family might need, because strong parents make strong kids. You can drop in for a visit, or buy memberships, which give you big discounts if you are a frequent visitor.

I hope that if you are in the area you can visit Playdate Junction, because both you and your kid need a place where you are both happy. Seriously. You might not hear that enough, tired parent. But it’s true. Take care of your kid and take care of you.


It’s all about ME: Jealously guarding your time to yourself, no matter what

by SweetMidlife

 

Getting to the root of the matter

This is Leslie, and this is a picture of me getting my highlights done. It is not the cutest photo in the world, nor would it ever see the light on my eHarmony or Match.com profiles, if I had not run fleeing from those sites because they have produced not a daggone thing for your girl. But there is something very vital, even beautiful happening here. See that smile under all those ridiculous and lovely foils? It’s the look of a mom who’s getting to sit in a chair for a few hours dedicated only to making her a more gorgeous, happy version of herself.

There was also day wine. But that smile was mostly because of the Me Time.

Me Time is important. I don’t think I really understood that when all of my time was Me Time, when I was single, and even after I got married, before my son. In a weird way, even my job is sometimes Me Time, at least the times when I’m writing first-person columns about my life or opinions. But it’s not really Me Time, because I’m on the clock, with parameters set by someone else on just how much Me I share, and when. Even still, before my little Brooks was in the picture, the time when I wasn’t at the office was mine, focused on what I needed and wanted. I could get up at 5:30 a.m. and go to Boot Camp, and as long as I was done in time for my next interview it was cool. I didn’t have to feed and dress another human being, look for something semi-nutritious to throw in his lunch bag, wipe the syrup off of the tablet I thought I told him not to use while eating waffles but am too tired to walk across the kitchen and take. Picking my battles. Deciding whether to count the calorie or two in the syrup I just licked off the finger I wiped the syrup off the tablet with.

I know I am not telling any of you who are parents, or other sorts of caretakers, anything about the lack of You Time, of really focusing on yourself. And I don’t mean painting your nails while you make lunch, or scarfing down an extra bag of Cheez-its while you wait for your conference call. I’m talking about taking at least an hour to get your own nails done – no returning work emails! – or taking yourself to a lunch and keeping your laptop in the bag. I’m talking about having a conversation that you’re not watching the clock during, or watching an episode of whatever you want without interruption from someone demanding “Paw Patrol.”

And not feeling guilty about it. And not making excuses, or cutting it short for anything less than an emergency. And knowing you deserve it.

You do, you know. I do. Even when I think I don’t. So there’s the story behind that smile, goofy under the foils. It’s the look of someone who was, before this photo, fighting the urge to check my email or do something about my grocery list. And guess what? Work went on without me. Nobody starved. But me? I got to breathe. I got new hair. I got to have a fun talk about pop culture and random conspiracies with my stylist who is also my friend. I spent hundreds of bucks on myself and I didn’t mostly feel bad about it. (I did for a few seconds and then was like ‘Thank you, New Hair!)

I can’t do it all the time, because then no one would eat, or have anywhere to live, and I’d get fired and don’t nobody want that. But in this moment, with all the shiny foils, I was all about Leslie. Because she deserves that.


2016: The year that was…sucky…and great…and a good set-up for something better

by SweetMidlife

Keep on rocking in the new year!

Keep on rocking in the new year!

This is Leslie, who does not write nearly as much as she should on this blog. My previous excuse has been that I write full-time as a newspaper columnist so I don’t always want to sit down and write some more, but time is money, and as a single mother I can tell you that making money is worth my time. So even though we don’t really make any money on this labor of love because we don’t write enough, we certainly won’t make any if we don’t write. Synergy and stuff.

So this is why I’m up at 1-ish a.m. on the last day of 2016, briefly writing about how even though this year sucked for so many reasons, it was OK or even transcendent in some cases. Yes, yes, I’m talking about the same year that killed Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Frey and George Michael, among others. (Hide, Betty White!) And then there’s the fact of some major nastiness, racism and ugliness that seems to be bolder about showing itself. It was always there,  but now it’s just braver and not hiding (and if you’re attempting to blame racism on people who note that there is racism, this blog is not for you and you can go now, seriously. Get out of here with that mess.)

But bad and good things happen in every year – 2015 was the year I lost my husband, and 2016 was the year that the adoption of our son became final. So I’m a bigger fan of 2016. I am sure that in all of your lives, there are highs and lows in any 12-month period. I can’t speak for you, but here is a list of the reasons that 2017 might be better than 2016:

1) If 2016 did not kill you, you can make 2017 better.

Yep, that’s it. That’s my list. If you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to find something about 2017 to like. I am not attempting to downplay the very real pain that you may have about politics, or that rise in nastiness and sharp drop in courtesy and civility. It sucks. It’s real. And it might get worse before it gets better. (Again, go hide somewhere, Betty White, until the smoke clears.)

But let me lay something real on you – in 2015 I got the wind kicked out of me. In an instant I was a widow, a single mom, the primary breadwinner and a matriarch. Stuff got real. I was doubled over. And then I crawled to my feet and kept moving. I am not a hero. I am not special. I am not Beyonce. I’m a person who had to keep breathing, broken heart and all. For a while, I was just treading water. But now I’m doing something approximating thriving. It’s not the way I would have defined that before, but I now have some joy. And a new beginning. 2016 was a new beginning for my family – actually, everything that came after my husband’s death in July 2015 was a new beginning. And this year represents another one.

It is another year to fight the injustice we see, to slap down ignorance and buffalo racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms and phobias till they run screaming. It’s another year to lick our wounds, to regroup, It’s another year to hug your babies, to kiss your partner, to fall in love. To love on your mama and your grandma, or, if you don’t have one of those, to hold close whoever you have. It is a year to be better.

Because we are still here. Which is better than the alternative. Happy 2017, guys. It might not be the most awesome new year, but it’s awesome because it’s a new year we have.


Things a mom thinks about at 2:25 a.m., five hours before she’s supposed to work out

by SweetMidlife

bed

Scene of the 2:30-something mind crime.

 

This is Leslie. It is 2:25 a.m. As the great Wanda Sykes once said, women’s brains are so full of tasks and thoughts and things we have to do that we can’t get to sleep because even the minute stuff like not being able to remember the name of a teacher we haven’t seen in 30 years just won’t leave us alone. This is happening to me right now. Here is the dumb, deep and sleep-depriving stuff in my head right now. I wish it was not in my brain, because I would like to go to bed now.

You certainly don’t want them in your head, too. But here you are – I have too much on the brain to be charitable at this point,. You understand, of course. You’re awake, too. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

THINGS I AM THINKING ABOUT AT 2:25 a.m. INSTEAD OF SLEEPING

– “Why am I awake?

– “It has taken me four hours to get through this two-hour finale of ‘Secrets and Lies.’ I wonder if anyone watches this but me, Michael Ealy is fine. I’ve almost grown attached to Juliette Lewis’ character, and she’s kind of awful. i hope they don’t cancel this. They always cancel the shows I get attached to. Dang. Now I’m worried about ‘Blackish.’ Please don’t cancel ‘Blackish,’ Jesus.”

“Jesus doesn’t cancel TV shows, right? He’s busy, right?”

“I finally finished that assignment for work I should have done before I feel asleep. Win for me? Does procrastination count as a win? Whatever. Taking it. TAKING THIS WIN.”

“I am super hungry. I didn’t eat enough last night,. Didn’t I leave some veggie chili in the bowl? I wonder if it;’s in the fridge. Did I put it in the fridge? I wonder if it’s still good if I didn’t put it in the fridge? Or did I leave it on the counter? It’s got light sour cream on it. Is that real dairy? I wouldn’t get that sick, right?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t eat counter chili.”

“I love ‘The Affair’ even if I don’t like any of these horrible people. They’re awful. But they have great apartments. Great kitchens. I like my kitchen. It has chili on the counter.”

“I really ought to get off the stick and get a hotel for Disney this weekend. I canceled the one I had because I am convinced there is a cheaper one out there. Hotwire is an addiction and I need to get help. But…the…deals! There are deals out there and I shall find them. They are the Precious and I am Black Smeagol.”

“I am still so hungry. If I eat right now I can’t weigh myself this morning because it won’t be the real weight. Then again I had hash browns and bourbon for lunch so I probably tanked that thing already. I should eat.”

“I have to sleep, man. I have to work out at 7:15, and if I don’t leave on time the kid will wake up and I’ll have to take him, too, and that running stroller and him together weigh like 70 pounds and he’s a weight wearing an Afro, At least he holds the phone up so I can hear the Andy Grammar song he’s playing. He’s a little DJ.”

“I need to figure out how to make more money. Like, now. I should read that book my friend Kim had me buy about platforms, that I never read, thus I am sitting here at…what…2:47 a.m. now wondering how to get a platform to make money. She’s always right. And she’s got a platform. I bet she’s not asleep either.”

“Maybe I’ll write on that blog I never write on. That’s a platform.”

‘I wonder if that chili’s still down there.”


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