with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: Leslie Zervitz

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!


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?


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