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Category Archives: Life

Book review: “No Grey Areas” an honest, self-conscious memoir on gambling, lost trust and found faith

by SweetMidlife

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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.

 

 

 


Sleep in Snoreless Peace

by SweetMidlife


Hi! It’s Lynne!

I snore. It’s one of those things that you can deny about yourself because you don’t hear it, because you are asleep and dancing in a forest with unicorns at a party hosted by Lionel Richie, dancing all night long, until the friend whose couch you are on when you were supposed to be watching “So You Think You Can Dance?” says “Lynne, wake up! You’re snoring, dude!” Wait, did I say Lynne? This was supposed to be a hypothetical scenario. Oops. Anyhoo, fast-forward to my current life, where my husband will wake me up to tell me that the sound of chain-sawed logs coming out of my mouth has woken him up. It’s a thing. I wish it was dainty snoring. But no.

So this is why, when we had the chance to try out Snore Reliever and tell you about it on this here blog, I knew that I should do it, and I am sure glad that I did. They come in this cute little container, and with directions on how to use them.

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It’s basically a pack of nose-plugs, in different sizes for different noses, and after you wash them before the first use, you figure out which one feels the best for you, and you stick it in your nostrils until it comes to a natural stop. It looked like this for me.

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Cute, right? Now, I must tell you something about me. I hate feeling like I can’t breathe, so putting something in an airway out of which you breathe seemed sort of counter-intuitive to me, but since I knew that this is how it worked, I gave it a try, and I went off to bed. And it was working for awhile, until I woke up in the middle of the night, realizing that I had something plastic in my hand. It turns out that sometime during my sleeping, I took out the nose plugs because they felt weird. But I decided to soldier on, and back in it went, and after I stopped psyching myself out about it, I went back to sleep. When I woke up for real, the plug was still there, and the funniest thing was that it didn’t feel weird anymore. It was actually comfortable. So now, I just needed confirmation that this thing worked. So I said to my half-asleep husband, “Hey babe, did you hear me snoring last night?” And he rolled over and said “Actually, no.”, so his response, and also the fact that he was still asleep and hadn’t been awakened by my nose tunes meant that yes, it worked! Hooray!

If you snore, and want to find an inexpensive and very effective way to work on that, I highly suggest Snore Reliever. Once you get over the initial sensation of having something in your nose, the peace of mind of being able to sleep in a way that is peaceful for both you and the people around you is worth it, especially since, once you find the right size, it’s quite comfortable. You can get yours here on Amazon. Sweet dreams!

Disclosure: We received Snore Reliever for free for trying it out, but the opinions written here are our own, and are absolutely true and unbiased. 

 


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.


Living A Life That Makes People Want To Say Nice Things At Your 80th Birthday Party

by SweetMidlife

Happy Monday! Lynne here.

I had the honor last night of attending our Aunt Dorothy’s 80th birthday party, and it’s been in my head all night. It was a lovely shindig, with delicious eats from a place that does Caribbean food, people who you know are over 70 but look 50, and a cake table that looked like something out of a magazine. Cake pops, y’all! There was also amazing music, that went from smooth jazz to Motown to line dancing music, which was awesome because the aforementioned spry older people flooded the dance floor. They can do a wonderful Cha Cha Slide, with the correct amount of hip swaying, but without testing gravity when they guy in the song says “How low can you go?”, because they are smart. I, on the other hand, so happy to be moving again after recovering from surgery, squatted all the way down and for a split second, wondered who was coming to lift me back up. I did it myself. But there was a moment.

There was a cake pop in this bag but it got eaten. Good party.

There was a cake pop in this bag but it got eaten. Good party.

But the best part about it was the love laid on my aunt. You could see the life she lived in pictures on the slideshow that her family prepared, including pictures of people who aren’t here anymore, like my aunt’s husband, my grandparents, and my dad and his brother. So many smiles, and so many good times. And at the party, in person, there were people from all facets of her life, including family (like her gorgeous brand new great-granddaughter, who slept through large portions of the evening because she is an infant and they have it like that), friends that she has known for 60 years, folks from her church, and former colleagues from her days in the Federal government. They all had beautiful things to say about her, about how good a cook she was (Sister can throw down), but even more about how faithful she is (taking care of both of my grandparents and her husband towards the ends of their lives), and her generosity and hospitality, and how she takes people under her wing when they need help. And unlike the things that are said about some people at these occasions, when people feel obligated to say nice things because, hey, you ARE giving them free chicken, people meant every word of it. And I thought about what a testament it is to you that friends from almost your entire life, and people from the job you retired from 25 years ago, will gladly come and tell people, but most importantly, YOU, about what you meant to them. My aunt beamed the whole night, and we all beamed with her.

It made me proud to be her niece, which I already was proud of, and it also made me want to live a life that people will say nice things about in 35 years when I turn 80. Not because it will be nice to hear, which it will be, but because it means that I was good to people more than I was not good to them, and that the little moments of my life would add up to a life well-lived. I know that I don’t always get it right, and I am not saying that so you say “No, Lynne, you’re great!” I am serious. I mess up. But last night gave me something to aspire to, and I want to continue in that direction. See you in 35 years at my 80th. Come. There will be chicken. And the Cha Cha Slide. And we can help each other up if we go too low.


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?


Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Random Questions About Randomness

by SweetMidlife

Howdy! So, a few times before, Lynne and Leslie have done this thing where we ask each other random questions based on a theme, like Christmas, or New Years. Today, we are going wild and just writing about whatever the heck comes to mind. We hope you like it.

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

First, Lynne asks Leslie a bunch of stuff.

Lynne asks: “You went to the 30th Anniversary showing of ‘Pretty In Pink’ a few days ago. Was it as good as you remember? As cute as he was, wasn’t Blaine, even though he was played  by Andrew McCarthy, who was my fake boyfriend, a huge drip?”

Leslie answers: I plan to write more about this at length, because at length is what I do, but Blaine was honestly being a teenage boy, even though it was distracting that the same actor had played a 23-year-old college graduate in “St. Elmo’s Whiners Fire” the year before. If he looked younger you’d probably go “Yeah…he’s a jerk. He’s 18.”

Lynne asks: “What is your favorite thing to eat on a cold day? You live in Florida, so when I ask you about cold days, that means 50 degrees. But let’s play anyway.”

Leslie answers: The answer is always cheese grits.

Lynne asks: “What’s the funniest thing the toddler who lives with you has done lately?”

Leslie answers: He has become obsessed with the theme from “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” which reminds me that the Banana Splits were basically the Monkees. They even had dune buggies and a guy with a Southern accent. Sue them, Mike Nesmith. Sue them.

Lynne asks: “Who is your favorite ‘American Idol’ contestant and why? And wasn’t it lovely to see Ruben Studdard come back and sing last week? That dude is the real deal.

Leslie answers: Of all time? It’s between Fantasia and David Cook, because they both prove that talent and preparation are a baseline for success, whether you’re an illiterate single mom who feels the lyrics of a decades-old song because she approaches it as important, not just words, or a young guy who’s been gigging forever and has a vast musical knowledge he can draw on. There was joy in them. And that’s rare. Also, Ruben gets better. How is that possible?

Lynne asks: “Favorite 90’s love song?”

Leslie answers: There are so, so, so many. I have two answers – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams is my favorite love song written in the ’90s, because it’s brilliant. But if you think of “90’s love song” as a genre, and I know that you do, it’s a tie between Backstreet Boys’ “Shape of My Heart,” which was actually recorded in 2000 but is the most 90s thing in the world; 4PM’s version of “Sukiyaki” which makes me weep, and “Now and Forever” by Richard Marx just because.

OK, so now Leslie asks Lynne some stuff and drinks her coffee and judges people. Silently through her coffee.

Leslie asks: “The Good Wife” is ending soon and it’s an attempt to clean up, in seven episodes, three seasons of crap done to a good show. What are, in your opinion, the best and worst show finales, in terms of wrapping up loose ends and telling the story that was meant to be told.

Lynne answers: Okay, it’s not the best or the worst, but it is actually an example of good and meh in one episode. I hope that saying this doesn’t get me banned from Gen-X membership, but the last episode of “Friends” was all over the place for me. When the show first started, I was crazy in love with it, because they were in their early-20s. and so were we, and I found so many things in common with them, like losing grandparents, and having the group dynamic of friends with good jobs who could order appetizers and dessert when you went out, and also having the friend (who I was one of) who drank water and made a meal off of the free bread. And as the show went on, the friends grew and went through things we all go through, like marriage and breakups and loss of jobs and being close to your friends and then not so close, and finding your way back and all of that. And by the last episode, I loved where most of them were, like Monica and Chandler adopting twins and moving to a bigger place, and Phoebe getting married, and Joey was headed off to his short-lived spin-off. But Ross and Rachel, the supposed great love story of the show, had, for me, become selfish people who had a daggone child together who you never saw. The show missed the perfect opportunity to show you how your life changes when you have kids, and that you can’t hang out like you used to, and how your friends have to adjust. But no, the show couldn’t break up the “6 people hanging out” aspect and baby Emma became a footnote. And that bugged me. And even though I am glad that Ross and Rachel were happy at the end, I also remember thinking that I really didn’t LIKE them as much because of all of the petty things they did to each other, and so it was a little bittersweet. Sorry, “Friends” fans.

Leslie asks: Onion rings or cheese fries?

Lynne answers: Onion rings covered in cheese

Leslie asks: I’ve been thinking a lot about history lately, and what to tell my kid and others about painful things in the past. What is the thing you are least looking forward to explaining to the toddler? (Deep, yes. But this coffee is good.)

Lynne answers: That’s deeper than I was thinking you were gonna go, twin sister. But there are so so many painful parts of history, and I think that the hardest ones will be where people are mean to each other. That’s so many ones. And I guess I will tell him that there are people in the world who do evil things, and I wish that they didn’t, but that I want him to be a person who doesn’t do those things, even when people tell you that it’s okay or warranted. That’s simple and hard at the same time.

Leslie asks: OK, so who is your favorite “American Idol” and why? Because it’s a good question I stole from you. Been caught stealing, once, when I was 44….

Lynne answers: LOVE THAT SONG. And I have several favorites. Fantasia, definitely, because she was just HER. She was polished but young, and polite and sweet, and had such a story filled with a lot of downs, but she made big ups from it, and even though she has had a bunch of ups and downs since then, she still seems like a real, genuine person who is still trying. And that voice is everything. My other all-time favorite is Kris Allen, and it’s not only because I think that he is just a great musician and a really nice guy, but also because he was SO not the favorite of the judges that year, as he was up against the AMAZING Adam Lambert and also Danny Gokey, who have both gone onto big careers, especially Mr. Lambert. And as you would point out, the judges would give Adam these huge production numbers with fire and stuff, and they would stick Kris out in the audience on a broken milk crate and a busted light bulb hanging overhead. And he would give these wonderful performances and the judges would be like “Are you still here?”, and he would take a a deep breath, because he knew what they were doing, and he would continue to knock out wonderful performances.

Leslie asks: Favorite karaoke song?

Lynne answers: It’s the former Disney-goddess combo of “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, and “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. You can dance to them.. I went to a karaoke birthday party recently, and someone else selected the Britney for anyone to sing, and I got up and did it like “Wow, this song? Well, if no one else is I GUESS I will.”, and my bestie Johnette was like “You knew every word.” and I was like “Yeah, I may have practiced this before I left the house.” Because I did.


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

by SweetMidlife

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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.


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