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Category Archives: Leslie Zervitz

Pamela Smart, TV murder and who’s writing your story in the New Year

by SweetMidlife
Bang your own drum, or be content with someone else doing it for you. And that means they get to pick the tune.

Bang your own drum, or be content with someone else doing it for you. And that means they get to pick the tune.

Leslie here! One of my New Year’s resolutions – yeah, they’re mostly poppycock, but hear me out – is to spend less time reading other people’s writing and actually writing myself. I’m a writer after all. Says so on my business card and my tax returns. It’s almost embarrassing how not proactive I’ve been, particularly when you consider that I always thought I was. But if you don’t take careful possession of who you actually appear to be, and who is telling your truth, you are doomed. Like, “doomed” if you were reading it in Vincent Price’s voice. Like you’re screwed.

I was reminded of this on New Year’s Day, watching “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart,” a 2014 HBO documentary that’s not so much about the murder of a young husband by his wife’s teen lover and his friends that she’s accused of setting up, but why we think we know what we know about it. Smart, a former school New England school media coordinator who is serving life without parole for engineering the plot, still maintains her innocence, and director Jeremiah Zagar seems to think that’s possible. But that’s not what his movie is about. It’s about how Smart herself was set up as the unfortunate subject of a “ripped-from-the-headlines” culture in the early ’90s, before myriad studies on how media coverage effects both juries and public opinion. There were several books, a widely-scene TV movie starring Helen Hunt and even a wickedly excellent Gus Van Zandt movie, “To Die For” that was loosely based on the case. Even though the movies came after the verdict, there is evidence that they have tainted any chance Smart has of getting a new trial. Person after person involved in the case, from co-conspirators to reporters to even the filmmakers and writers who recorded it as history, admit that they have a hard time separating fact from fiction. They sometimes forget which details were in evidence and which were lines spouted by Helen Hunt on a TV set.

It’s eerie to imagine that a real woman could be sitting in jail for the rest of her life – she’s spent more than half of it there already – because she had the dumb luck of falling into a salacious situation of her own making. It possessed all sorts of nasty little made-for-Geraldo details like the seduction of a teen boy,  old found bikini photos made to look like they were taken explicitly to seduce the kid, a secret, damning tape and the like. Smart’s defense team, who decided that they didn’t want to try the case in the press, didn’t insist that she tell her own story. What they didn’t appreciate is that this story was going to be told for her, in so many televised testimonies and talk show punditry. Watching the court of public opinion bury Smart two decades later, in glorious early-90s big hair and shoulder pads, is claustrophobic, because of what we know now about how media can bury or salvage you depending on its whims. The case predated the present Casey Anthonys and even the Dalia Dippolitos – troubled women with a whiff of sexual inappropriateness and big doe eyes that make people either want to save them or smack them. Maybe they’re all guilty. But if they weren’t – like if there was video of someone else committing their crimes – some people would still refuse to believe it because we’ve all discussed it and decided that they did it.

So what I’m saying is this – whether you’re the First Lady or the lunch lady, you are a public person to someone. There are people who are curious about you, who are forming opinions about you based on your Facebook profile or your last ten Tweets, or your Pinterest boards or even what they saw you buy at the Winn-Dixie last week. They probably don’t even realize that these opinions are being formed, but they are being formed, all the same. I respect the right of everyone to have their own lives, to curate the details of those lives accordingly and to not have to justify anything they do to a bunch of strangers. But “Captivated” reminded me that if you don’t take an active role in telling your own story, it’s still being told. I will take that lesson this year as a person who posts about working out but doesn’t lose weight because I keep eating things you don’t see, as a writer who sometimes spends too much time watching TV someone else wrote and not writing herself. Stuff like that. I can say I’m one thing, in all the Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter I want, but if I don’t actively inhabit those things, I am not them. I am telling a different story. Be aware of who you are and how your life tells that story. It might be speaking louder than your words.


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.”


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.


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.

 

 

 


Yay For Us: Some Tuesday Affirmations

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You too, okay? Yay, us!


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