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Category Archives: Lynne Childress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2016: The year that was…sucky…and great…and a good set-up for something better

by SweetMidlife
Keep on rocking in the new year!

Keep on rocking in the new year!

This is Leslie, who does not write nearly as much as she should on this blog. My previous excuse has been that I write full-time as a newspaper columnist so I don’t always want to sit down and write some more, but time is money, and as a single mother I can tell you that making money is worth my time. So even though we don’t really make any money on this labor of love because we don’t write enough, we certainly won’t make any if we don’t write. Synergy and stuff.

So this is why I’m up at 1-ish a.m. on the last day of 2016, briefly writing about how even though this year sucked for so many reasons, it was OK or even transcendent in some cases. Yes, yes, I’m talking about the same year that killed Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Frey and George Michael, among others. (Hide, Betty White!) And then there’s the fact of some major nastiness, racism and ugliness that seems to be bolder about showing itself. It was always there,  but now it’s just braver and not hiding (and if you’re attempting to blame racism on people who note that there is racism, this blog is not for you and you can go now, seriously. Get out of here with that mess.)

But bad and good things happen in every year – 2015 was the year I lost my husband, and 2016 was the year that the adoption of our son became final. So I’m a bigger fan of 2016. I am sure that in all of your lives, there are highs and lows in any 12-month period. I can’t speak for you, but here is a list of the reasons that 2017 might be better than 2016:

1) If 2016 did not kill you, you can make 2017 better.

Yep, that’s it. That’s my list. If you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to find something about 2017 to like. I am not attempting to downplay the very real pain that you may have about politics, or that rise in nastiness and sharp drop in courtesy and civility. It sucks. It’s real. And it might get worse before it gets better. (Again, go hide somewhere, Betty White, until the smoke clears.)

But let me lay something real on you – in 2015 I got the wind kicked out of me. In an instant I was a widow, a single mom, the primary breadwinner and a matriarch. Stuff got real. I was doubled over. And then I crawled to my feet and kept moving. I am not a hero. I am not special. I am not Beyonce. I’m a person who had to keep breathing, broken heart and all. For a while, I was just treading water. But now I’m doing something approximating thriving. It’s not the way I would have defined that before, but I now have some joy. And a new beginning. 2016 was a new beginning for my family – actually, everything that came after my husband’s death in July 2015 was a new beginning. And this year represents another one.

It is another year to fight the injustice we see, to slap down ignorance and buffalo racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms and phobias till they run screaming. It’s another year to lick our wounds, to regroup, It’s another year to hug your babies, to kiss your partner, to fall in love. To love on your mama and your grandma, or, if you don’t have one of those, to hold close whoever you have. It is a year to be better.

Because we are still here. Which is better than the alternative. Happy 2017, guys. It might not be the most awesome new year, but it’s awesome because it’s a new year we have.


Things a mom thinks about at 2:25 a.m., five hours before she’s supposed to work out

by SweetMidlife
bed

Scene of the 2:30-something mind crime.

 

This is Leslie. It is 2:25 a.m. As the great Wanda Sykes once said, women’s brains are so full of tasks and thoughts and things we have to do that we can’t get to sleep because even the minute stuff like not being able to remember the name of a teacher we haven’t seen in 30 years just won’t leave us alone. This is happening to me right now. Here is the dumb, deep and sleep-depriving stuff in my head right now. I wish it was not in my brain, because I would like to go to bed now.

You certainly don’t want them in your head, too. But here you are – I have too much on the brain to be charitable at this point,. You understand, of course. You’re awake, too. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

THINGS I AM THINKING ABOUT AT 2:25 a.m. INSTEAD OF SLEEPING

– “Why am I awake?

– “It has taken me four hours to get through this two-hour finale of ‘Secrets and Lies.’ I wonder if anyone watches this but me, Michael Ealy is fine. I’ve almost grown attached to Juliette Lewis’ character, and she’s kind of awful. i hope they don’t cancel this. They always cancel the shows I get attached to. Dang. Now I’m worried about ‘Blackish.’ Please don’t cancel ‘Blackish,’ Jesus.”

“Jesus doesn’t cancel TV shows, right? He’s busy, right?”

“I finally finished that assignment for work I should have done before I feel asleep. Win for me? Does procrastination count as a win? Whatever. Taking it. TAKING THIS WIN.”

“I am super hungry. I didn’t eat enough last night,. Didn’t I leave some veggie chili in the bowl? I wonder if it;’s in the fridge. Did I put it in the fridge? I wonder if it’s still good if I didn’t put it in the fridge? Or did I leave it on the counter? It’s got light sour cream on it. Is that real dairy? I wouldn’t get that sick, right?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t eat counter chili.”

“I love ‘The Affair’ even if I don’t like any of these horrible people. They’re awful. But they have great apartments. Great kitchens. I like my kitchen. It has chili on the counter.”

“I really ought to get off the stick and get a hotel for Disney this weekend. I canceled the one I had because I am convinced there is a cheaper one out there. Hotwire is an addiction and I need to get help. But…the…deals! There are deals out there and I shall find them. They are the Precious and I am Black Smeagol.”

“I am still so hungry. If I eat right now I can’t weigh myself this morning because it won’t be the real weight. Then again I had hash browns and bourbon for lunch so I probably tanked that thing already. I should eat.”

“I have to sleep, man. I have to work out at 7:15, and if I don’t leave on time the kid will wake up and I’ll have to take him, too, and that running stroller and him together weigh like 70 pounds and he’s a weight wearing an Afro, At least he holds the phone up so I can hear the Andy Grammar song he’s playing. He’s a little DJ.”

“I need to figure out how to make more money. Like, now. I should read that book my friend Kim had me buy about platforms, that I never read, thus I am sitting here at…what…2:47 a.m. now wondering how to get a platform to make money. She’s always right. And she’s got a platform. I bet she’s not asleep either.”

“Maybe I’ll write on that blog I never write on. That’s a platform.”

‘I wonder if that chili’s still down there.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Talked to “Gilmore Girls” fans.

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

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

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

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

levar-morefishforkunta

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

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

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


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

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

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

SPOILER ALERT FOR A VERY POPULAR TV SHOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Being Early To Things Is Awesome

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne!!

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

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

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

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

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

Being early is awesome.

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

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

Give yourself over to it.

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

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

Yours, Dude.

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

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

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

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

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


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

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne. Happy Friday.

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

Hi.

Hi.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. Rock on.


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

by SweetMidlife
IMG_2327

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Girl Was Alright With Him: Thinking of Daddy on Father’s Day

by SweetMidlife

Daddy and me

Hi! It’s Lynne. Haven’t written in awhile. We say that a lot, since there have been long stretches between when we actually do write. But I really wanted to today, because it’s Father’s Day, and our Daddy has been on my mind a lot this week. Actually, he is on my mind every day,  as he has been over the last 4 years since he passed away. We’ve written a lot about him over the years, and how awesome he was, and about grief and loss, but I had another thought that I haven’t been able to verbalize until now, and I wanted to share it. Cool?

Every year, either on my dad’s birthday, or Father’s Day, or on the anniversary of the day he died, I post a video of me and him dancing at my 2010 wedding. It’s a really, really sweet video that was shot by my friend Patrise on her phone, and when she recorded it and shared it, she had no idea how I was going to cling to that video over the years to see my dad swaying, and smiling, and singing. And as I was preparing to look for the video and re-post it on Facebook, I started thinking about how we picked the song we picked. No, actually it was the song HE picked.

See, I had been kinda planning my wedding my whole entire life, cataloging things that I thought I might want to use whenever that day happened, like the style of cake, or the dress, or what I would walk down the aisle to. I sometimes put thought into WHO I would marry, and that, like those other details, didn’t wind up working out like I planned either, which is good, because when you meet the right person, which I did when I met Arthur Childress, those other things hopefully become what you both want, and the celebration is now based not on old dreams, but on your happy reality. Such was the case, too, with the song for the daughter/daddy dance. I immediately thought of “The Sweetest Days” by Vanessa Williams, which is a gorgeous, beautiful, makes-me-cry song about looking at your life and realizing that what you have right now is, well, sweet. This is a song that Daddy and I used to sing together when it came on in the car when it came out 20 years ago, so while we were wedding-planning, I figured that this was perfect.

It should also be noted here that my dad, at this point, was 2 years into his fight with cancer, and that he, at this point, was having a lot of good days, and a lot of bad days, and during the months leading up to my wedding, was not having good days. So if my dad was straight to the point about things his whole life, he was absolutely not mucking around now about the things that he wanted or didn’t want, because he knew how precious time was. So this is how the conversation went about the dance music.

Me: Hey, Daddy! You know what we should dance to? “The Sweetest Days”by Vanessa Williams! Isn’t that awesome?
Daddy: No. I want “The Girl’s Alright With Me” by The Temptations.
Me: (pause because I did not see it going down like that) Really? But you love that Vanessa song.
Daddy: Yes. But I want “The Girl’s Alright With Me”.
Me: Well, umm, how about “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”by Marvin Gaye? More people know that song.
Daddy: I don’t care. I want “The Girl’s Alright With Me”.
Me: (realizing that this was done) Okay, cool. We will tell the DJ.

And on that beautiful October day, that’s what Daddy and I danced to. I used to love to tell the story of how insistent he was, because he loved that song, but I never really put into words what I thought he was trying to say with picking that song. And since he isn’t here for me to confirm my thoughts, this is my supposition of all that. I think I am right.

Daddy didn’t care about what songs were popular, or who else could sing along with us during that moment, and that is because that moment was about me and him. It was about our love radiating so much that people would see what we meant to each other. And in that moment, Daddy was telling me that me, the girl in question, was alright with him. I always knew that my Daddy loved me, and he always told me that I was beautiful, even when I didn’t believe it, but him picking this song, on that special day, was a signal to everyone, but mostly to me, that he thought I had done good with my life. That even with all of the questionable choices I had made with money, and with bad housing decisions, and with car accidents, and not always doing things right, that in the sum total of everything, I was alright with him. And with him picking the language of his idols, The Temptations, to tell me that, was awesome. I also think that because Daddy wasn’t feeling great, even though he was still fighting, that he wanted to put all of that stuff out on the table. And on the dance floor. And he did. And we did. And it was awesome.  I was alright with him. More than alright. And I will cherish that forever.


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.


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