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Category Archives: Leslie Zervitz

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!


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

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

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

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

Mommy was not lying.

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

“I don’t really eat meat,” I said.

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

Well, heck.

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

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

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

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

Cheeseless pesto. It is a thing.

Cheeseless pesto. It is a thing.

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

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


Moving house: Or why I hope to never have to leave my new house

by SweetMidlife
Our new living room, mid-box.

Our new living room, mid-box.

To review: Last summer, I (being Leslie) unexpectedly started a new chapter of my life when my lovey-dove Scott passed away unexpectedly. Obviously, that was a world-rocker, but that world refused to stop spinning so I had to start rolling with changes, mostly just continuing to live the life I already had but without my Scotty. Which sucks because it took so long for me to find a good guy in a grab bag of losers, and I only got to keep him 6 1/2 years. That was a lot of work. I’m exhausted.

Meanwhile, there was one change he and I had already planned, which was to leave our lovely South Florida rental home, where we moved in 2013, sometime in the first part of this year. The landlords were looking to sell it and we decided, as much as we loved it, not to buy it because we wanted an extra bathroom. So we’d started just doing random searches – I wanted to stay in the little town we lived in and Scott wanted to move across the canal into West Palm Beach, for school district and prettiness purposes. After he died, and my mom the queen of the universe, moved in with me and the little one I live with, she and I started tentatively looking close by, to check out prices and different areas, but weren’t set on a date…

…Until our landlords decided to sell our house, like, immediately, and at the beginning of February we found ourselves on a ticking moving clock with 30 days and a suddenly short supply of available homes anywhere we wanted to be. Of course. We looked out of our target area, even, and then made an offer on a nice house in the right neighborhood that we didn’t love, but that was better than living in a van down by the river. We had hoped to find a miracle, but were willing just not to be homeless.

“Do houses just show up at the last minute?” we asked our realtor, who shook his head about 24 hours before calling us to say that a lovely place around the corner from he and his family had a brand new “For Rent” sign on the front lawn. Miracles, anyone? The moment we walked in that afternoon, we were in love – high wooden ceilings, a Florida room that’s all windows, and an over-sized master suite for me. Although I did offer it to my mother, of course.

“doyoumaybewannatakethebigroomiwillsleepouttherenexttotheboydontyouworryaboutit” I said, hoping she would pick up on “My goodness I want that room.” She did. I am so glad she did because I super wanted that room.

And now I’m in it, surrounded by more boxes and stuff than I knew I had. The move was a monster nightmare and I am never doing it again.

But I am so happy. I feel weird about not being in this house with Scott, and I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little guilty to know that I am in a much nicer house and that my life and the Kid’s are going on without him. But he would want me to. We can’t live in a van, we couldn’t live in the old house, and we, again, would not fit in a van. It is normal to miss him and wonder what he’d have thought of the place, which is in the school district he wanted and is probably the result of some heavenly maneuvering (OK SCOTT YOU WON.) But it is also normal for happy things to make you happy, and this new place is happy. We are happy. We are not quite complete. But we are happy.

And I hope we can one day buy this house and live here forever because I hate moving and am never doing it again.


Five good things about having to take a sick day. Really. They do exist.

by SweetMidlife
The view from my sick day couch.

The view from my sick day couch.

Leslie here, on the second day of a gross sinus situation that will not go away. This is also the second day that I am working from home, because I don’t want to spread my germs around and because my office prefers that I don’t, either. Still, stuff gotta get done, so I’m sitting on the couch working in my messy living room (We’re moving soon so I’ve started packing and sorting to the point that my toddler actually pointed to a pile of DVDs on the floor and said “Clean up, Mommy.” I offended a toddler with my messiness. That’s bad.)

As slow as I’m moving, I’ve found some hidden blessings in this less-than-healthy period. Because I’m a Girl Scout like that.

1) Having to slow down: I don’t do slow well, which might be one of the reasons colds eventually get worse and kick me onto my butt because I don’t stop to take care of myself. But when you’re achy and tired and can barely move because your body just won’t do that, you’re forced to take that nap you needed. I tell my toddler all the time that when he’s 35 he’s going to wish he could get all that nap time back.

2) Cuddle time: When we took Toddler to his two-year check up, they gave us a list of traits and milestones for this age range, one of which said “Do not expect sharing.” That could sometimes be the name of Toddler’s autobiography, honestly, but yesterday he saw me on the couch looking sad, brought me a bottle of water from the kitchen, said “Lie down, Mommy” and then climbed into my arms, patting me on the arm like a puppy. It was sweet seeing how concerned and attentive he was, and that he took a break from his usual favorite hobby  Grabbing random things and yelling “MINE!!!” and running away.

3) Couch time: I have a lovely leather couch and I like lying on it with a big blanket and being kind of inert.

4) Having to eat and drink healthy: I don’t drink enough water, and I know that this would help keep me healthier on non-sick days. But when I am sick I feel so parched my throat is desert-like, so I’m guzzling the stuff and remember how good it feels. I then remind myself to do that when I’m well. Maybe I’ll remember this time.

5) Catching up on TV: I swear I’m working (HEY BOSSES I’M REALLY WORKING!) but from my couch in my running shorts. So it’s been a good time to catch up with TV I needed to catch up on like “Jane The Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Major Crimes,” Since I can’t really move very much, I have no choice but to sit and watch. Sitting good.

So what are your good things about taking sick time?


The cringey awesomeness and cautionary tale of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

by SweetMidlife

IMG_1205

About a week ago, I discovered this show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” a thing that everyone else already knew about and that has won a lot of awards, on the CW. I posted about it on Facebook and immediately a few friends, including Sister Lynne, responded that they’d enjoyed it but couldn’t commit to it because it, as one said, “hit too close to home.”

Oh, girl you got that right. And that’s why it’s so brilliant.

It’s about Rebecca, a successful but unhappy and apparently selfish and delusional lawyer who, after a chance run-in with the guy who dumped her after one perfect summer camp romance years ago, uproots her life and moves across the country to West Covina, Ca. where he lives, because it’s a big gesture and the kind of things that pays off in movies. Yes, it’s one of those plots that’s all over 80s and 90s teen comedies involving big fat lies that are told that compound to an uncomfortable but comedic degree until veering into some unlikely redemption of the liar where everyone forgets what a great big fat liar they are and forgives them because that’s what the script says. Except for with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” a swirly musical created by star Rachel Bloom, the characters are actual grown adults in their 30s so their lying isn’t cute, and since it’s a television series, there’s no cute cutaway. It’s straight up cringe-worthy and hard to watch, because even with the peppy songs and all the bright colors and sunshine, we’re watching an unhappy and deeply self-centered person immediately shoot herself in the foot because she can’t get over herself long to really see what she’s doing.

You know. Like you’ve done. Well not you. Me. I have. But not you.

(It’s OK. We know you have.)

Last night’s episode saw Rebecca spin herself into a typical sitcom-y situation where she accidentally sends Josh, the clueless object of her affections who really isn’t good enough for her, a text meant for a friend confirming that she did move across the country to pursue him and had concocted a whole lie about it. So she leaves the deposition she’s in (with the support of the judge) and runs to break into Josh’s house to delete the message off his phone. But when he shows up, she piles on the lies that someone tried to break into her house, convincing her friend to throw a rock through her window so that Josh doesn’t find out she’s lying. Still, he realizes that the rock was from a set of decorative rocks from her OWN HOUSE, so of course she’s lying and he doesn’t even want to hear the next lie she will tell to get out of that previous lie and jets. And when Josh’s friend who likes her but is now dating her neighbor stops by and offers to help, he realizes that he’s just being pressed into service to literally clean up another mess that’s about Josh.

Although I swear I have never told that many lies at one time, I have bent myself into embarrassing situations that there is no real explanation for, largely for men who never wanted me in the first place, because I needed the validation of losers to feel good about myself, even though I’m a successful professional with lots of friends who should not need that crap. (I don’t anymore because I married an amazing dude who loved me and got really mad when I said bad things about myself because he was awesome like that.) So I look at Rebecca, who we know now has an overbearing and manipulative mother, and also a best friend who loves her but encourages her romantic delusions because she’s unfulfilled in her own life and wants to believe that true loves exists.

And I don’t want to be her. If you ever see me being her, tell me. Because the only thing worst than not knowing that you are acting crazy is thinking that your girls see you acting crazy and won’t tell you. Friends don’t let friends act crazy and not tell them.


Buying a dog bag by accident: Or owning the thing you have, no matter what

by SweetMidlife
Yes, it's a dog bag. But it's super cute. and I can work it.

Yes, it’s a dog bag. But it’s super cute. and I can work it.

About a month ago, rummaging through the local Goodwill for winter-type clothing for myself and my kid the day before heading north, out of Florida and into places where they have winter, I ran into the cutest bag. It was pink tweed, very Nancy Reagan at a press conference meets hipster bowling bag. It had a weird long zipper at the top, and some mesh zippered flaps on the side. I couldn’t quite figure out what those were for, but it was big enough to stick my laptop in for the flight, super attractive and easy to carry, and the weird side zippers made it a cinch to stick bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper in, which is totally a problem that needed solving. Totally.

Also, it was like $8. So welcome to the family, New Bag.

I wasn’t the only person to dig my bag – my sister and mother immediately told me how sharp they thought it was, and a few other friends specifically stopped to tell me how much they liked it. It was a very long trip, hanging out with Lynne to help out after her surgery, seeing friends and family when I could, and writing a random story for work when necessary (RIP, Ziggy Stardust), and I found myself shoving a lot of things into the new bag and its weird zippered portions, finding it spacious and easy to fill – there was always another corner to shove things into, and I have never met a bag I couldn’t fill till it looked like a hobo pack.

By the time I got home, I was rather in love with it – not the least of which was because it’s big and huge and easy to find in the crazy thrift store storeroom that is my living room.So a few days later, I grabbed it on the way out the door to go visit a friend for an after-work glass or two of wine. I plopped the bag down on her counter next to the wine and plunked into a chair, noticing her notice it as she walked by to get the corkscrew.

“That your new purse?” she asked.

“Yep!” I said, anticipating the compliments not only on the stylishness of my choice but an opening to brag about the deal I’d gotten.

“You know that’s a dog bag, right?”

No. No I did not know that.

Suddenly, everything made sense – the odd roominess of the purse, that was not actually a purse. The weird, helpful zippers on the side, that I could shove a soda in but that was actually made so that little Fifi and Fluffy could stick their precious head out of. The fact that it was $8, because not everyone needs a dog bag. Or realizes that they bought one, sans dog.

So I wondered – was everyone looking at me weird? Was it like when I walk my kid to daycare and then walk the empty stroller back home with people peering in looking for a baby but seeing a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash and thinking I’m crazy? Did I look dumb? Should I head back to the Goodwill for another non-canine bag?

I don’t know how I looked to others, but I can answer the last one – No, no I am not replacing that bag. Because I like it. Because it’s big and roomy and cute. Because it’s possible to repurpose a thing as another thing because it’s not hurting anyone. And because even if I look a little crazy to other people, I have decided to work my dogless dog bag and let it rock.

Because I can.


Would you be “Married By Mom and Dad?” Probably not. But maybe….

by SweetMidlife

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This is Leslie, and as you might have read, I was married until about five months ago, and then, completely involuntarily, I was suddenly not. (He was awesome but he passed away. It’s a whole thing. Read HERE for the sad story I don’t feel like telling over right now, because we were having so much fun, weren’t we?)

I’m only 44 years old, so I imagine that at some point I’ll hopefully meet some other suitable man – Unlike before I met my husband, I’ve got standards now! – but am still feeling so married to my other guy, and so weary of the whole prospect of falling back into the rancid sinkhole that was my pre-marriage Internet dating situation, that I’ve told my friends that when the time is right they’re gonna have to shake the trees and introduce me to someone. (Someone good. Again, I’ve got standards now!) I know now what a good marriage is supposed to be, and in what ways I’d gotten in my own way when looking the last time. I trust my amazing and brutally, brutally honest village of friends to steer me in the right direction.

But the question that TLC’s “Married By Mom and Dad” asks is whether a modern woman or man would let someone else – their parents, specifically – not only steer you in the right direction, but pick the destination, park the car, carry you up the stairs, select the room and then lock you inside with a key you don’t have a copy of. Four singles – Mitch, Marivic, John and Christina – allow  their folks to narrow down a list of potential matches, meet them, winnow them down some more and then suggest they marry. The situations vary – all of them are between their mid-20s and early 30s, never married and with different expectations. Marivic is a nurse who lives at home and seems, honestly, brattier and less cool than her parents. Mitch is a super-pretty Ken doll wine rep, whose dad and stepmom have reluctantly teamed with his mom, who they all went to high school with (!) to find him a woman. John, like Marivic, is sort of a blur when compared to his outsized, outdoorsy parents, and Christina comes off kind of lame and immature, honestly.

The show reminds one instantly of “Married At First Sight,” another reality show about people leaving their romantic decisions up to someone else, except here that someone else is not the parents who raised and know you, but some complete strangers who do science math calculation situations to find you a match. And the stakes are way higher – at least with mom and dad, you get to meet the person before saying “I do” – but here you don’t meet your spouse until you’re at the altar, and then you’re in a legally binding marriage that’s not annul-able (the scientists seem practically giddy when they say that, like “What you gonna do now, girl? WHATUGONNADO?”). This of course leads to panic and drama and ridiculousness that makes great TV and horrible real life.

The producers of “Married At First Sight” maintain that they are a more scientific and therefore better version of traditional arranged marriage, but I think they’re full of this. This is like letting that EHarmony algorithm and the dude in the commercials with the glasses do your profile, have all the conversations online and then drive you to the wedding, and after you sign the release, because you’re an idiot, there’s nothing to do but settle in for the discovery and the humiliation. I actually prefer “Maried By Mom and Dad,” even though I cannot fathom a moment where I’d let, say, my mom and my Uncles Lester and Andre arrange my marriage. I can’t imagine what that person would look like, talk like, do for a living or explore in his spare time, but I know one thing – the pickers in question love me. They saw my heart break this year and would never throw me at some person they did not truly believe would be a great fit not only with me, but with my family, my culture and my life.

Understand: YOU GIRL IS NEVER GOING ON “MARRIED BY MOM AND DAD.” But I can see why one would. One who is not me.


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