with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: Leslie Gray Streeter

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.”


Things I am doing today besides worrying about the outcome of Presidential election

by SweetMidlife
My mother and I smiling after our civic duty. Then we got coffee and bought the kid a muffin.

My mother and I smiling after our civic duty. Then we got coffee and bought the kid a muffin.

So this is Leslie, and Lynne and I, like anyone paying attention, know that today is a historic day in our nation. Not only is Election Day sacred, to us, as the chance to exercise the rights that our mothers and fathers fought and suffered for, but this one comes at the end of the ugliest contest anyone alive seems to remember. Whatever happens, there are going to be some desperately sad and angry people, and we’re all going to have to figure out how to move on, together.

My mom and I, with my little one, voted this morning, after I’d already walked/run three miles, and then after we voted we walked some more and then got some coffee, and the day moved on. I am concerned about what happens tonight, but I can’t sit by my TV and dwell right now, either. Here is what I am doing instead:

– Watched the end of the first season of “Good Girls Revolt” and wished that my Afro was as glorious as Joy Bryant’s.

– Exchanged emails with John Schneider’s publicist, because I love my job.

– Talked to “Gilmore Girls” fans.

– Pondered what kind of tequila to bring to the taco party I’m going to later.

– Started watching Netflix’s “The Crown” and renewed my crush on Jared Harris, because smart gingers are sexy as hell.

– Consigned a dress that my mother bought by last year, that is now too big and that I never wore, because she bought two sizes and challenged me to get into the smaller one. She is a genius.

– Decided not to put olives in with the rest of the veggies at the taco party as one of the attendees is anti-olive. I shall segregate the olives. More fish for Kunta!

levar-morefishforkunta

– Tried to figure out how to leave work early to go cook the non-olive beans.

– Trying to figure out where I put my coupons because I’m running out of leftovers and my kid has to eat something more substantial than mac and cheese for every meal.

In other words – I am living my life because other than try to figure out how to possess every American voter and make them do what I want, which is impossible, illegal and bad for the soul, I can’t change things other than what I have already done today, which is to vote myself, and then pray for our country. We are better than this crap we’ve done to each other. We’re America. That’s like in the manual, right?


“This Is Us” and the importance of rituals, even if they seem weird

by SweetMidlife
Perhaps taking a Purple People Eater to a sports bar every week seems weird to you. But that's weird that you think it's weird.

Perhaps taking a Purple People Eater to a sports bar every week seems weird to you. But that’s weird that you think it’s weird.

SPOILER ALERT FOR A VERY POPULAR TV SHOW!

Leslie here! Lynne and I don’t live close to each other, so our Monday-morning quarterbacking of TV shows is part of our enduring togetherness (We also like talking, and seem to like talking about the same things, so we’ve found maybe the only other person who will endure in-depth 20-minute dissections of one episode of “Survivor.”) “This Is Us,” NBC’s next-level “Parenthood”-like exploration into emotional manipulation, is not one of those things that no one likes but us. EVERYBODY likes it, and cries about it, and then goes on Twitter and cries so more. Fans like us all seem to agree that it’s one of the best new shows this season.

But there’s something a lot of us can’t agree on, and that’s Toby, the too-enthusiastic love interest of Kate, a gorgeous, talented but insecure young woman who lets her lifelong struggle with her weight (and the baggage of her mother’s apparently early disapproval of it) make her hide her considerable light under a basket. Toby, who she met at a weight support group, initially seems like an encouraging factor in Kate’s life, pushing her out of her comfort zone to, say, use that gorgeous voice to sing to the folks at his aunt’s retirement home, or be chauffered around LA and be a star, like her sweet, pretty, famous twin brother.

But increasingly, Dude’s behavior has bordered, at best, on overbearing and at worst completely and insufferably creepy. He’s right that she throws herself into her brother Kevin’s life at expense of her own, but he seems to be mad that she doesn’t choose the whims of him, a guy she’s known for a week at that point, over her twin brother who also happens to be her employer. (He is, however, right that stalking and then accepting a job with his ex-wife is cray.)

On Tuesday night’s episode, Toby steps up the overbearing behavior to a disrespectful level, by ignoring something sacred to sports fans – the game day ritual. Honestly, it’s rude to ignore someone’s gentle but emphatic refusal to change the way they do something that means more to them than to you, no matter what it is. But when it’s about sports, whose personal importance is usually tied to deeply-seated details like national and regional identity and family tradition, you need to step off. I have a friend who broke up with a guy once for that same thing, and honestly, Toby deserves the same.

I feel strongly about this because I am related to, by blood and marriage, people with very strong sports rituals, that seemed quirky and inconvenient until they let you inside of them. My Granddaddy Streeter would retreat down the hall to his bedroom after dinner and lie in the dark to silently listen to Baltimore Orioles games on the radio. If we were very quiet, we were allowed to sit there with him, quietly bonding over strike-outs and home runs and the sparkling crack of the bat. It seemed like an inheritance. And anyone who ever met my late husband Scott knew that he had as many sports-related rituals as he did Ravens Jerseys, including buying football magazines before the NFL draft to study the upcoming picks, and then before the season to do his fantasy draft. He also brought a dancing Purple People Eater doll we called Purpie to every Ravens game he watched at Kirby’s, our local Ravens bar, and made it dance at every Ravens touchdown. It was fun, it didn’t hurt anyone and it was cool to have a thing.

Kate’s thing, apparently, is watching football by herself. That should be enough explanation, and she doesn’t owe anyone else more than that. But Toby decides that if he doesn’t get her motivations it must be sad, because Toby seems to need to worm his way into every part of her life in some supposed attempt to break her out of her shell. So he won’t accept “No” for an answer when she declines his invitation to watch a game together. Because Toby’s appointed himself Kate’s personal confidence guru, he can’t give her credit for choosing to do things he doesn’t get, because he doesn’t allow her the autonomy to know the difference between stuff she does to hide and stuff she does because she just wants to. She’s a person, not a project, loser.

Anyway, because he’s a pushy bastard, Toby does his usual public declaration thing that’s seeming less and less spontaneous and more and more like bullying, when he makes a homemade invitation to a supposed football party at his place, and passes it to Kate across their weight loss meeting. Nothing says “I respect your boundaries:” like involving a bunch of other people in it, particular because he assumes correctly that she’s easier to coerce when other people are watching. So she shows up, reluctantly, to his house, and he and the random friend he’s also invited yap through the whole thing and actually pause the game to keep yapping, so that Kate almost misses a touchdown.

So she bails, as you do when you aren’t having any fun at an event you got badgered into in the first place. Toby shows up at her house demanding an explanation, because how dare she not find his pushiness charming! So she explains that football, particularly Steelers games, was her family thing (she and her twin were conceived in a sloppy bar bathroom during the Super Bowl), and that they always watched together. Then she explains that they still do, in a way – her father Jack (whose absence in the show’s present-day scenes was, until now, a mystery) has passed away, and she sits with his urn and watches the games.

There are writers who think this is a sad cry for help, which seems awfully judgey. Everyone’s rituals are not yours. Everyone’s life is not yours. People keep their loved one’s ashes for a reason, and as long as they aren’t smoking, eating, or having untoward relations with them, I don;t know what is weird about silently enjoying an activity they would still be enjoying were both still alive. I was sometimes annoyed by his insistence on always having to watch Ravens games, even if we were traveling and it was a pain in the butt to find somewhere broadcasting them. Sometimes it seemed selfish. But he asked for one afternoon, once a week, for like four months, to be in his element, and it was OK with me, because he gave so much of himself to everyone else.

The people who love you should respect, if not completely understand, the things that are important to you. If they don’t, they don’t deserve you. Sorry Toby.


Being Early To Things Is Awesome

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne!!

My door that I am entering early because I got to where i needed early and now I can scroll Facebook without feeling I need to be somewhere else. Because I have time.

My door that I am entering early because I got to where i needed early and now I can scroll Facebook without feeling I need to be somewhere else. Because I have time.

I am still in the middle of reading this book about organization in all levels of your life called “It’s Hard To Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys” by Marilyn Oaul, and it is a very long “in the middle”, because I read it, then get all excited about it, then I forget to read it, and my life gets crazy, and my husband says, “Are you still reading that book?”, and I say “Oh. Yeah.” Then I read the book again.

Before I continue I say this to you and me: don’t beat yourself up for things like this. Realize that you have to get on track, and get back on track. Don’t waste valuable time flagellating yourself with your regrets because you still haven’t done the thing and now your arms are tired from all the self-beating.

So, anyhoo, I have so many things that I am learning that it gets overwhelming, so I am taking it bit by bit so it actually resonates and settles in to usable pieces,  and I wanted to share a bunch of stuff from it with you all in one post, but I will actually just share the one major thing that it blowing my mind lately. To those of you who knew this already, your minds won’t be blown or even slightly shaken. Because you know this. But for those of us who are constantly flying out of the door and herding kids into the car quickly and yelling and trying not to speed and either end up being right on time on the dot or 4 minutes late, this is for you.

Being early is awesome.

This is a mind shift for me, big time, because even though I have gotten better at doing things on time, if on time is with 2 seconds to spare, then it takes you 4 seconds to unhook your seat belt, you are now late. And I am lying. It never takes 4 seconds to unhook a seat belt and actually get out of the car without jumping out and spilling your crap and walk into the building and sit down and be ready to do the thing you are there to do. No. It takes at least 5 minutes. You know it does. Well, maybe you don’t. So pick an instance and actually time how long it takes you to do the thing, without car-jumping and crap-spilling (this is wisdom from the book, although she doesn’t say “crap”. I summarized.) and when you know it takes that long, give yourself that much time to do it. And give yourself buffer time for traffic and forgetting things. And if you did all of this right, you might be pulling up to where you need to be early.

This frightens me. I don’t know what to do with early on a regular basis. Do you talk to people in the waiting room?What is this feeling of calm? It’s freaking me out.

Give yourself over to it.

It makes you feel better. It gives you a better reputation as someone who can get to things and be ready to go and not waste other people’s time.

And guess who else’s time you aren’t wasting? Huh? Huh?

Yours, Dude.

Because calm should not be scary. It’s a good, peaceful thing. The adrenaline of lateness might seem exciting. But it ain’t cute. It ain’t.

So this brings me to the last few days, when I had errands and appointments, and I scheduled wiggle room. We got to my son’s dentist appointment about 20 minutes early, so he had time to actually play with the toys in the waiting room, which to him, is more of a destination than the actual appointment.

And today, we left the house 20 minutes before he had to be at school when it only takes 9 minutes, but this took traffic into account, and we weren’t the last people in drop-off line, and today I didn’t have to walk him in because the ladies who walk the kids in had gone inside. Nope. Not today. I was early, which gives him time to have circle play before class starts. And it gave me time to check Facebook and have a phone call conversation with one of my dearest friends AND still write this post. Because I wasn’t rushing. Rushing takes awhile to recover from because you are so addled, yo might be where you are supposed to be, but you are not ready to focused because you are thinking, “Dang, that was close. And I skinned my knee falling in the parking lot getting in here.”

So yeah. Early is awesome. I know I might not be able to do this every day. Bit goal by goal, this will be my goal.

How about you?Do any of you struggle with the weird unfamiliar-ness of being early?


You Take The Good, You Take The Bad, You Take Them All and There You Have An Authentic Life

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne. Happy Friday.

So, Leslie and I have written lately about why we haven’t written a lot lately, and mostly it’s because we’ve both had a lot of things going on, what with work and adoptions of awesome little boys being final (Leslie) and working on a new theater and recovering from surgery (me). But we are back now, blogging more often, we hope.

Hi.

Hi.

I have to admit though, that work and surgery weren’t the only things keeping me from posting here. This summer has been a particularly awful time here in these United States when it comes to peace, especially among racial lines, with cases of police officers killing unarmed civilians, and people killing officers who were just doing their jobs, and this torrent of nasty on the airwaves and on social media, and people feeling like it’s okay not just to say any hateful thing that they want, but the awful realization that people were actually FEELING the things they were saying. Which is worse. And all of this had me, as an American, a black woman, the wife of a black husband and mother of a black son, and a human, feel a million things, and me, as a writer, wanted to talk about them.

And this was the challenge. My Facebook page and this blog have been places for me to share  my thoughts on everything, from my faith, to the goofy thing my kid did, to the goofy thing I did, to my feelings and thoughts on race. And I know that there are people who read my kid stuff who would rather not read my writings about faith, and that there are people who think that with everything that is going on, there is no time to write about what I ate last night. I have been feeling all of that, but have felt moved to write about the things that I see as unjust, as they affect me and my family, and I hope that my eyes are opened to the pains that others feel about things that might not touch my life the same way. And with all of that, I have still posted about my continued love of cheese, but also how my binge-watching of all 12 seasons of “Murder, She Wrote” has now led me to extended Netflix-viewings of “Royal Pains”, and my new favorite old thing, “Columbo”, because Peter Falk was Every. Daggone. Thing.

And all of that is okay. Because I am all of these things. I am a person who feels strongly about the way things are in the world, and I also like to talk about what I watched on TV. And I have decided that my Facebook page, and this blog, are places that I am going to use my voice to talk about all of that stuff, because all of that stuff is me, and I hope it leads to some good conversations. If any of the talk of unpleasant stuff makes you feel uncomfortable, I hope that you can stick around long enough to really hear me (and Leslie, because she has a lot to say too). And if you think that the TV talk and odes to my son’s preschool moods is not saying enough about what’s going on in the country, I will tell you that it’s what is going on in my house. All of these things, the good, the bad, the unpleasant, and the delicious, are all a part of life. And darn it, I am going to talk about all of them. This is not an admonition for anyone else to write about things that they don’t want to, and I have to fight the urge to want everybody to value what I value. I want us to all value each other’s lives and truths. But at the end of the day, I am only accountable for what I represent, and me, Lynne, chooses to represent all of those sides of me. I am giving myself permission to do that, in the most respectful yet truest way I can.

Thanks for reading. Rock on.


So much to say, so little blogging: Some thoughts while I’ve been away

by SweetMidlife
IMG_2327

How many times do you watch a kid’s movie before it burrows UNTO YOUR SOUL?

 

It’s Leslie! And it’s been a minute – several of them, really – since I’ve written here. I was up to a lot, including finalizing the adoption of my son, Brooks, who is almost three years old and more than almost awesome. He is all the way awesome. And super loud.

In that time, with all that stuff going on, there’s a lot I’ve been thinking about, some stuff that directly relates to motherhood (I’ve been raising him since he was six months old, but it’s just been official now.) Some of it is serious, some of it is stupid and some of it involves the proper number of times a day a child should eat macaroni and cheese.

– Is it wrong to tell your kid “We are not watching any more ‘Dora Into The City’ today because Mommy doesn’t like it and it’s making her angry?”

– How much mac and cheese will warp your kid and turn their blood into actual Velveeta cheese sauce?

– I realized this morning as I packed the kid into the stroller to walk him to daycare that we were out of lunch food so I walked past the CVS and put a Campbell’s soup cup, one of those plastic cups of peaches (but in real juice!) and a yogurt in his lunch bag. Not one thing was either homemade or even wrapped lovingly in a plastic bag by me. Am I a bad person?

– “Bad Moms” was actually funny but annoying because every one of these moms was upper middle class or at least well-off, where they could blow off their part-time jobs or stay at home or at least get drunk in the middle of the day and not once was one of their complaints “If I change my life at all I can’t pay my bills.” Because I know very few moms who don’t worry about that.

– Are you gonna watch “Dancing With The Stars” even if it means endorsing Ryan Locthe’s stupid butt? (I am! Because of Vanilla Ice and Babyface.”

– Does the cancellation of “I Am Cait” set back the transgender movement or just mean Caitlyn Jenner needs to be nice to Kris Jenner so she can get back on “Keeping Up With The Kardashians?”

– How much sleep do you need before you can’t function? Asking for a friend.


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.

 

 

 


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.


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