with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: New Years

2018, as interpreted through my Spotify “Top Songs” playlist or “Barry Manilow ain’t never lied to you”

by SweetMidlife

There’s a lot to be said about the year 2018, other than “over.” Some would call it a 365-day-long dumpster fire. The more optimistic among us might say it’s the necessary sink to the bottom to inspire a conscientious climb back to a better world.

As a lifelong journalist who believes that looking at hard cold data – also known as the receipts – is an important gauge of where we were at particular moments in time, because memory is spotty and also we lie to ourselves sometimes to obscure our dumbassness. When Spotify, the popular music streaming platform, compiled a playlist of the songs I listened to the most in 2018, it seemed an intriguing way to chart where I was emotionally during the year. Music, after all, is more than just a collection of notes we like bopping to, although it certainly can be that. The songs I had on repeat, I figured, meant something to me, soothed or riled or tickled something in my chest. And Spotify doesn’t lie – I can try to be cool and current with the Top Hits of NewNextNow or whatever it is, but I’d imagine the average release date of my playlists songs is 1987. Whatever. I ain’t ashamed. Bring on the Anne Murray weepers and get it over with.

“Oh No,” The Commodores: I had this, my favorite melodramatic Lionel Richie-esque weeping-into-power ballad, on a playlist I’d made during a brief dumb dating situation the previous year because it was fun to listen to while I was happy. Once the dumbness abated and I was no longer happy with that person but working towards being happy not being with them, it was fun to belt out in the Palm Beach Post parking lot while procrastinating getting out of the car and going to work already. Sometimes wallowing is healing.

Uptown Girl,” Billy Joel: I am not the biggest Amy Schumer fan. Not by a lot. But her rom-com “Trainwreck” has earned its sweet, cynical way onto my go-to list of movies I put on while writing, because it’s well-written, funny, and features the instant classic comic pairing of Bill Hader and Lebron James. And any film that (SPOILER ALERT!) finds its final romantic reconciliation in a cheerleading routine set to “Uptown Girl” earns my love, because Schumer’s character has previously expressed scorn for both cheerleading AND “Uptown Girl.” But she participates in said routine, set to said song, because the love of her life loves those things and she knows love means sacrifice. I love that song, and I love being reminded of the hope that someone could love me, maybe, that much again.

“Here Comes Your Man,” The Pixies: Part of good parenting is making sure that your kid is exposed to good music, so if one day his taste sucks you can at least be sure it’s not for lack of trying. This here song was on a bank commercial, and my son was attempting to recreate it from his booster seat perch in back of my Prius. So I cued up the song and watched his little eyes light up. “MOMMY!” he squealed. “THAT’S OUR SONG!” Yes, my darling, it is. I win…something.

“Freedom Hymn,” Austin French: I share a Spotify account with the aforementioned kid, who likes to fall asleep to a playlist that is almost entirely composed of Contemporary Christian tunes and Andy Grammar. He’s a spiritual, mellow 5-year-old, I guess. I admit that I don’t listen to this stuff a lot if he’s not in the room, because some of it seems monotonous, but this is one of Brooks’ favorites. I don’t know what he likes about it, but I love the concept of it, that we fight against the wisdom that we know makes us free, if we just surrender to it. Me and God have had an interesting run through this morass of loss I’ve fought through, so remembering that He’s there is a big deal for me. Thanks for the song suggestion, Kid.

“No More Lonely Nights,” Paul McCartney: When Linda McCartney died, I heard a DJ explain that this song was written by Paul about the one night they ever spent apart from the night they got together until the day she died (I think he’d been detained for trying to take hashish through an airport.) I stumbled on this, a favorite of mine since 1984, and I remembered that story and started to cry, because it reminded me of every night I spent apart from my husband in the 5 1/2 years we were married, and the nights forever I’ll have to spend without him. And…it didn’t break me. The more I listened to that song this year, the more I could relish those amazing moments we shared and wish we had more without wanting to curl into a fetal ball and roll into a corner. I just let it be. And yes I’m very clever.

“Stomp!” The Brothers Johnson: It’s my go-to running song, inspired by its place on a playlist from my favorite step class in 1995 at York, Pa.’s Unique Physique. The teacher timed the “Everybody take it to the top” part for moments when we were up on the bench grooving. And it was glorious. And that bass line is some funky business.

“Brokenhearted Me,” Anne Murray: For some reason, the more I listen to this anthem of well-considered wallowing, the more it sounds like a John Legend song to me. Can’t you hear him hovering over the sad piano, leaning into the lyrics of self-acknowledged inability to move on? Can’t you just imagine him tackling the wide-eyed misery of lines like “A million miracles won’t ever stop the pain?” I can! And I like sitting in my car and imagining John and Anne just wailing and making a cross-generational selection of fans weep? Me too!

“Taking Chances,” Celine Dion and “Ready To Take A Chance Again,” Barry Manilow: You know those BuzzFeed quizzes that ask you what your mantra or theme song is? These two are my mantras for 2018 and 2019 and maybe forever, because they’re what I need to embrace about my life and my career. I used to think of them both romantically, but – and bare with me, because this is a whole mood – I am now at a point in journalism where the industry I still love is imploding even as we try to beat back the shards with new tactics but solid intention. Since July 1993, I have never paid my bills as anything but a newspaper journalist, and never imagined I would, honestly. But the reality is that this may not be available for me forever, and as I begin my journey as an author, while still kicking butt for my paper, I have to be brave enough to imagine what happens one day if things change. Also, I have always worked for someone else. Three of my dearest loves are ladies who run their own businesses, who took a chance, who, as Celine sings, jumped off the edge, never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a hand to hold, or hell to pay. I’m not there yet. But I’m working on it. What do you say?


Peace on Earth, Goodwill on Twitter. Really.

by SweetMidlife

I’m sitting up in bed, two days before Christmas, with a lot to do and little desire, at present, to get from under this dreamy purple blanket and do anything about it. Since my laptop’s right here and writing is actual work I can accomplish without moving very much, I wanted to acknowledge something wonderful that’s happened to me in the last week that’s reaffirmed my belief in the kindness of humanity, even in this weirdly bleak dumpster fire of a national mood.

And it’s Taylor Swift fans on Twitter.

Yes, Twitter, that mythical online realm where civility and grammar go to die and be reanimated as the Wight Walkers from “Game of Thrones” – dead-eyed, focused and now armed with a zombie dragon.

About a year ago, I wrote a post on this very blog in defense of Taylor Swift, a very famous and accomplished person whose music is not my favorite, but whose hustle I admire. She’d Tweeted that 2017 had been a great year, and a writer for a national publication tore her a new one for not “reading the room” that the year had been horrific so many others. As a survivor of some heinous loss who’s had a fruitful ongoing recovery and some real triumphs, I wrote that people needed to let Taylor live, and that it was possible to acknowledge the greater state of suckiness in the world without trashing someone for expressing some damn happiness.

I’d almost forgotten about that post – 2018 has been very busy for me: I shopped and then sold “Black Widow,” a memoir about the first year of my widowhood, continued as a columnist for the Palm Beach Post as daily print journalism takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and continued being a single mom raising a great, energetic little boy. But when someone reTweeted the link to the story, a strange thing happened – well, maybe not strange when you consider the power of a fandom as strong as Taylor Swift’s – it caught on. And suddenly I had all these Swifties in my timeline, thanking me for my kindness. It knocked me over, y’all. I wasn’t a fellow stan, or someone they knew – just someone who acknowledged the right of their fave to have some happiness.

We are in weird days – the government is shut down, the economy may be wobbling and there are sad, depressed lonely people all over this country and this world. Happiness is fleeting in some parts, so when you find it, when something sweet and wonderful happens to you, we need to hold onto it and tell everybody. Twitter has no problems with people “cancelling” other people, calling them out and telling them about themselves. Happiness shouldn’t threaten you. It should be celebrated.

Thank you guys for your kindness. You made a tired journalist mom smile. Now…somebody needs to make me get out of this bed and finish my laundry.


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.


You Can’t Do Anything If You Are Passed Out On the Floor

by SweetMidlife

Happy First Monday in January! Lynne here.

I won’t keep you long because I know you have a whole bunch to do. This is the first non-vacation day in a little bit for a bunch of you. Your kids are going back to school, you are going back to work, and if your work is at home, well, nothing has really changed. I just know that we are busy with the tasks that we have to do today, and if you are like a lot of folks, you are also armed with resolutions and changes that you are going to make this year and you are ready and you are going to be organized and pick up after yourself and eat healthy and workout and I am already tired after just writing that list. Because even though all of these changes are designed to make your life better, in the rush to get it all done, we forget that we’re supposed to feel better.

Like this morning, I was running around trying to get the kitchen clean and take laundry downstairs because I am pledging to keep up with housework, and our tree is still up, and my husband wasn’t feeling well so I made him breakfast, and I read my Bible devotional because I need to ground myself spiritually, and then the toddler woke up and I brought him his firetruck so he could play while the oatmeal for my husband was finishing, and I drank some water, because hydration and whatnot. But I remembered that I had been up for hours and I hadn’t eaten anything myself.

Taking these down is another thing I am supposed to do. Yeah.

Taking these down is another thing I am supposed to do. Yeah.

And if you are passed out on the floor from all of the changing, well, that’s no good, is it?

The point of all of this discipline is supposed to be a better you, right? And you need a you for you to be better. So give yourself a break. Tackle a few things, get those square, then start on something else. By all means, have goals and stick to them. But we need you around in the process, okay? Do your thing, but feel good doing it. Take care of yourself.

Smooches.

Here’s some happy music as you go through your day.

 


Fabulous ’15! Five resolutions you can keep!

by SweetMidlife

It's a blank slate. You might as well fill it well.

It’s a blank slate. You might as well fill it well.

 

Leslie here! I greet you on this fine New Year’s Day from the Sweet Midlife’s southern headquarters, over a green smoothie and an episode from Season 4 of “The Wire.” My husband is sitting on the couch next to me under an afghan knitted by my Great-Aunt Martha. Many of those details figure into my New Year’s Resolutions…stop rolling your eyes. Yes, yes, I like you have been super stoked about all the stuff I was gonna do on Jan. 1, involving diet, exercise, job, you name it.

And Jan. 27 I, like you, was like “Screw it. Ice cream and couches rule.”

My sister wrote recently about her resolution to be more loving, and that’s an amazing thing to promise. That’s certainly on my list, but here are five more things I think I can stick to. For real. Stop side-eyeing me. You haven’t read them yet!

1) Be specific about my health goals while being realistic and non-sadistic. That rhymes. Almost like a Johnnie Cochran situation. But there are no gloves to fit into this one, just a middle-aged woman trying to fit into the clothes she was trying to be too skinny to fit into last year (and ain’t that a pip?). Last year I had a very mapped-out goal, to dive into a clean eating program, to work out a specific amount of time, and lose a specific amount of weight. This worked out quite well until a kid came to live with us in March, and to paraphrase Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody have time for making tomato soup from scratch. I beat myself up for my failure to fit my previous resolve into our new life, and got fatter for it. This year, I have decided to be proactive about my eating and working out and not use my fatigue as an excuse, because either I’m gonna do it or I’m not. Won’t get done for me. But I also refuse to use a timeline, and to beat myself up if that arbitrary deadline doesn’t pan out. Instead it’s day by day – I’ve got this smoothie, already told the guys at the gym they’ll see me today, and am going to hit my ab work the minute I get finished typing this. If we get lunch I get a salad or something not fried. I keep that up. I feel good about it. I go to bed and don’t tie my self worth into the choices I made. And then start over tomorrow.

Let's do this! Sweaty and set on change!

Let’s do this! Sweaty and set on change!

2) Call my grandmother more: And my aunties and my uncles, and my goddaughter and cousins and all the people I wonder about but don’t always pick up a phone and talk to.

3) Write everything down – I am not the most organized person in the world (understatement understatement understatement) and making myself write stuff down – my grocery list, the errands I have to run, my blogging and work interview schedule my work out goals – keeps me honest and accountable and not slapping myself in the forehead and going “Acck! I was supposed to blah blah blah!”

4) Finish what I started – meaning the novel I’ve been hovering around for three years in various incarnations. This year. For real. Been too long.

5) Be better to my skin: My consistent skin care regimen for the last 43 years, between a Grand Canyon’s worth of products, has basically been “Black don’t crack.” (Ahem) But my family’s excellent genes don’t mean I shouldn’t wear sunscreen, or daily wash my face with….something, and drink lots of water. I need to not be the first woman in my family to look her age.

I think these are all do-able. Sometimes stuff is hard, the stuff we need to do to survive. But it doesn’t have to be awful, or unpleasant. Let’s do it! Who’s with me?


Older Lang Syne

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

 

Happy January 3! We are having a wonderful year so far. We hosted our family’s annual New Years Day family celebration ,which was always at my Granddaddy’s house until he passed away, and I ate things NOT on the clean eating plan I am starting. My Mommy went home yesterday. which is boo. And today we are all home looking at the pretty snow. See, good start. I wanted to share some observations I’ve made the last few days about New Years Eve and New Years Day and such.

7:30 fireworks are a good idea for little ones.

Watching your little one watching those fireworks was amazing.

I am glad that I chose flat boots to wear out because they are cute and comfortable, and these feet can’t do cute and hurtful.

Cute and hurtful is also a bad combination for spouses too. Glad mine is cute AND sweet.

Having your mom in town is good for your heart.

Having your mom in town is also good for babysitting when she takes your son back home so you and your husband can stay out.

When you get up at 5:30 a.m. with a toddler, naps are in order for you if you are expected to be standing up in public at midnight.

Leaving the house with a headache and taking an ibuprofen means you can’t drink for another four hours.

You know your husband is being gracious when he doesn’t mention you falling asleep at the table at 9:30 pm.

“Fake Flowers, Real Dirt”, is not only a cool name for a band, it’s a cool band.

At 42, when I see drunk girls falling on the dance floor and stumbling down steps, I don’t shake my head at you and scoff at you. I want you to know that drunk and stumbling is not a good time. And it embarrasses your friends. And it takes away from how cute you look. Moderation, ladies. Being able to remember the night before is sexy. Falling is not.

This is a good observation.

Chairs are a good thing. I like them.

Sometimes when you are at a restaurant that has dancing and drinking and music on the top 3 floors, it is okay to go to the restaurant part where it’s quiet at like 11pm so you can drink coffee. So you know you will be awake for the midnight buffet that was part of $15 ticket price.

I will walk up and down several flights of stairs looking for said buffet.

It is disappointing when the buffet was a small table of crab dip, chips, and bowls of macaroni and cheese.

More sad drunk people. I saw a guy do something unspeakable to a giant ceramic bird and I can never un-see it.

Elio’s forzen pizza and tater tots are a good thing to eat at 2 am with your mommy and your husband when you get home.

You realize you didn’t have any alcohol at all that night. Darn it. But I realize that this is okay!!

Having your son wake up at 8 am when you went to bed at 3 is a gift from Jesus, because he could have gotten up at 5. Again, thanks, Jesus.

Sometimes you have to take your son out in public when he is wearing Batman pajamas with feet in them to go pick up the chicken for the family thing.

I found out that my same-aged cousins weren’t coming, and I thought, “Wow, it will be mostly adults there.” Then I remembered that I was 42. This makes me feel safe, though, because although I am an adult, my family always makes me feel protected AND respected, and I am so blessed to have relatives in their 80’s still here. It makes my 60 year-old relatives feel young, too.

My grandmother “put her foot in” the sweet potato pie she made. This is a good thing.

Leftovers are wonderful and foil and Ziploc bags are your friends, so people can take stuff home.

My family is amazing, and watching them accept the friend I invited as one of their own confirms that they are pretty cool.

I feel steeped and grounded in love as this year starts. Looking forward to sharing it with all of you.

 


Resolutions and Whatnot

by SweetMidlife

Our friends are brilliant. Today we have a guest post from Brother Sam. He is married to our Best Friend Nikki, so he is ours now. And he is okay with that.  It’s about resolutions and such.

 

A slightly different take on resolutions from Leslie… I realize I am mixing holiday traditions, but I have just gotten very Scrooge-ish about New Years resolutions. I grant you, I’ve never been particularly big on them, mostly because nobody, starting with me, follows through long term on them with any great success. This year, though, I am personally boycotting the resolution process with malice aforethought. Don’t get me wrong, the list of things I need to improve about myself is long and exhaustive, and the list of things I’m trying to improve, were I to itemize, includes a lot of that first list. There are also any number of people perfectly happy to
flesh out that list were I to forget anything…

Resolutions, though, are invariably about the future; “this coming year I will …” “I won’t…””No more…” “More and better…” . The problem is, the future is always a comfortable distance away. If it’s important enough to make a resolution, it’s important enough to just do, and do right now. The bigger and more fundamental the resolution, the more solidly in the future it gets, too.  “I’ll lose 20 pounds this year” is not a thing that’s gonna happen today, we all know this.

My moment of Zen came yesterday, and it involved diet. I am not an especially healthy eater at the best of times, and this holiday season is NOT the best of times. I have had the advantage all my life of being able to shed weight and put on muscle pretty easily if I buckle down and do the work, so I tend to take advantage of that and eat like a pig when I feel like it. So I was eating a doughnut yesterday and thought to myself,  “Self, this is not good. I am going to eat better and exercise in the New Year, no matter what.” And then I took another bite of the doughnut. Somewhere in mid swallow it struck me what a profoundly idiotic combination of
thoughts and actions I was having. I gave the rest of the doughnut to the dogs. I took the rest of the box to the neighbor a few doors down who is having low blood sugar issues, then walked around the neighborhood a few times. Today, I ate a healthy breakfast, a healthy lunch, and am thawing fish to broil for dinner. I don’t know how long or how well I’ll stick to it, but if I had made the resolution, I would already have missed a day and a half of being a smidge healthier.

So as we start the New Year, don’t just think of all the stuff you want to do this year, think of what you can do this very second, and then, just do it.


Happy 2014: Our Sweet Midlife resolutions to you!

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here! It’s so weird how fast 2013 went – I swear I just got used to not writing “2012” some time around September, and now I have to get used to a whole new year (#firstworldliteracyproblems). It’s been a year of some change for us, including a move, some family deaths and births, some scary times in various industries that affect our families, and the disturbing cuteness of Lynne’s son. I mean, it should be illegal. Like, Cuteness Jail.

Since we’re still alive and we have no choice but to swing into the new year, we’ve decided to just say “Screw it” and greet that sucker with open arms. That means, hopefully, some great changes for this blog, for us, and hopefully for you:

– We resolve to be more consistent in this blog, meaning that unless something really nutty is going on (and we’re sending threatening glares at our family to not do anything nutty) we’re going to post every day. That means we’re going to have to find new ways to express our worldview, which is people who aren’t as young as we used to be, not as old as we hope to be, and not as fabulous as we can be but trying to get there every day. That also means some occasional chiming-in of our friends and writers we admire as guest bloggers. If you like us, tell some friends about us, so they can like us too!

– We resolve to stop calling ourselves fat and generally give ourselves a break. We got some stuff we’re working on. But how can we teach the little ones to love themselves if we can’t do it?

– We resolve to finish what we’ve started, no matter what. For Leslie, that’s her novel. Foe Lynne, that’s a play and some other creative projects. Yell at us until we do it, y’all.

– We resolve to call our grandmother more.

– We resolve to be present in the moment, to stop texting while talking to people, to be present in each bite we take, to make eye contact and not make people feel like we’re wasting our time talking to them.

We enjoy sharing our weirdness, enlightenment and crankiness with you, and we look forward to keeping it up. Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, and many lovely days to follow.


Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell, “modesty”, representing God and giving each other a freaking break

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here, still simply having a wonderful holiday time in the Sweet Midlife northern offices, watching our office assistant eat cereal with his hands. He’s not that good at typing but he’s got the hand cereal thing down.

Like a lot of people facing the end of the year with some changes they’d like to make in the next one, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos of famous folk who have made some changes too, including in the poundage department. One of those folk is Erica Campbell of the gospel duo Mary Mary, a beautiful lady who was introduced to the public when she was younger and heavier, but is now a more svelte, albeit curvy, married adult. She has written publicly about her struggles with weight, and specifically said that her quest to be more fit was not about her public image but to honor and protect the health God gave her, for herself and her family.

Campbell put some photos on Instagram promoting her upcoming solo album, and Sister looks gorgeous. She could also not be any more covered up – She’s wearing a form-fitting white dress with a turtleneck that covers, you know, her neck, with sleeves to her wrist and a hemline falling below her knees, with only her lovely shins, hands and face showing. Yes, the dress shows her curves, because why shouldn’t it? She’s grown. She’s married. She’s beautiful. They’re not sexual. They’re “Here’s me looking my best.”

You would think that the Christian community would clap their hands and celebrate not only her continued success in the business, but also hold Campbell up as an example of how to be healthy and beautiful while upholding recognized standards of appropriateness. (I hesitate to use the word “modesty,” because its modern connotation too often puts the onus on young women to be the bastions of propriety, giving them the responsibility to keep young men honest and blaming the girls and not the guys if things get out of hand. That also negates the girls’ own sexual identities and just focuses on them as tools of the devil or something backwards like that.)

But that applause, if it was there, has been overshadowed by what Bob Geldof might call the clanging chimes of doom, or, as we in the church community call it, much shade.

And I wish I was surprised.

Stacey Woods, a pastor with a large Internet presence, wrote a very public indictment of the photos that I imagine is supposed to be convicting but which seems to be shaming this woman for having a body while claiming to be in the body of Christ. She writes  “This is not ok. Yes, you are a beautiful, curvy woman but no ma’am you are singing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We compel men to come through our love for Jesus, but when we wear things that are distracting, the message is somehow lost and it becomes about us and not about Him.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake. To quote the esteemed “Field of Dreams”‘ James Earl Jones’ Terence Mann reacting to Kevin Costner’s Ray’s indictment of his writing as a wedge in the generation gap between him and his late dad, “It’s not my fault you didn’t play catch with your father!” That means, of course, that whatever stirrings of rebellion and dissent existed between them were already there when Ray read Mann’s work, and wasn’t his fault. And if a man is struggling with his focus on spirituality and a well-shaped woman causes him to stray from an Instagram photo, that’s not her fault. Erica Campbell’s sole purpose in the world is not to stop been from thinking bad thoughts. Her witness as a Christian, and as a person trying to make money as an artist, is also for women who might want to be healthier but still be vibrant, and for her and God. She said herself that being healthier was part of her way to honor God, and if she chooses to show that in a TURTLENECK DRESS DOWN PAST HER KNEES, then your struggle is between you and God. Don’t put that on her.

Lynne writes about her spirituality more than I do on this page, but my relationship with God is something I take very seriously, while still understanding that it is MY RELATIONSHIP. I understand that Erica Campbell chose at an early age, and still chooses, to make her relationship with God public, and to use it to inform others. She is a public person and therefore subject to scrutiny. But…and I’m gonna be real here, because I think we can be, right?…women can be so hard on each other. And it doesn’t change when it’s under the auspices of religion, or race, or national pride. I am sure that Pastor Woods thinks she’s making a statement that will instruct and protect, but by going to that ‘Your job is to not distract men from God” space, she’s negating Sister Campbell’s autonomy as a Christian and as a woman. She also questions her Christian sincerity, which is neither her place or her business.

There’s another thing – people in the black community, and in parts of the black Christian community, are all about telling you your skirt’s too tight but not addressing the obesity that is killing us. Why aren’t we saying “In the name of God, take care of your bodies?” Ruben Studdard, the famously fluffy “American Idol” winner and recent “Biggest Loser” contestant, told me a couple of weeks ago that sometimes we in our community don’t support each other, maybe out of jealousy, and because we project our own struggles onto other people. He recalled hearing people audibly prefer Luther Vandross when he was heavier – “‘So what you’re saying is you like Luther unhealthy,'” Studdard told me.

I want to believe that the admonishment of Pastor Woods, and of others, is about what they believe is a Biblical and cultural duty. And they are entitled to their opinion. Campbell, for her part, has said that she’s sorry she offended people but that she thought the photos were cute and appropriate, and other people, including singer (and Christian attractive person) Yolanda Adams, have given her their support.

As humans, we have complicated reasons for the things that we champion or demonize, and because I don’t know Pastor Woods I can’t get into her head. I do wish that she’d maybe addressed her statements to Campbell personally, or not hung her out as a bad witness to men. This reminds me of the Miley Cyrus “slut-shaming” situation, where women, including me, addressed concerns about what appeared to be her publicly losing her mind in a Twerky, humping, naked flourish. A lot of people were like “What will your young fans think? It’s your responsibility to always be a role model for them and not make them be slutty!” I think that’s stupid – if Miley is the fragile gateway between you and a life of shameful Twerkitude, maybe you need to examine your own soul (and your own butt.) My issue was more that I wasn’t sure this was going to lay a foundation to be taken seriously as a older artist once this stage was over.

But that’s on her, just as Erica Campbell’s career is on her. It’s not on you. And your struggles are not on her. She can be a beacon, but if a stranger is causing you to struggle, don’t look at the pictures. But don’t make their existence your excuse. It’s not their job, and it’s not hers.

What do you think?


What a dog taught me about gratitude, or “Yay! Grass!”

by SweetMidlife
Stop and smell the grass. Or rub in it like a sweet crazy dog.

Leslie here! I don’t have a dog, but I have become close to two of them, Kira and Doubleday, the canine children of my friends Libby and Adam. My husband and I had the pleasure of sitting for them while their human parents went to Key West for New Year’s weekend. The time with them clued me on not only on the world of doggie drama – brief squabbles over who gets the best floor pillow and Kira clocking Doubleday’s extra food – but how it’s possible to stop, drop and literally roll into life’s simple pleasures without the world stopping in its tracks. In other words, nobody’s gonna die if you take a minute and smell some flowers.

Or some grass.

Enter Doubleday.

Libby and I took a walk with the doggies on the Intracoastal Waterway yesterday, on one of those delicious Florida winter mornings that feels like a temperate spring that make people want to move here. Kira, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, was on my arm, and is a pretty chill walker. Pit bull mix Doubleday, on the other hand, always runs outside as if she has never seen outside before – she glances every which way, smelling the air, feeling the ground under her and getting so overwhelmed by all the exotic wonder that she sees every single day that she can barely stop her little doggie head from exploding.

It’s hilarious. And it was especially awesome yesterday, when, mid-walk, Doubleday just dropped to her back and started rubbing herself from side to side in the grass, like a little gray fur-covered pendulum, her tongue hanging out dramatically and her ecstatic panting seeming to say “OH MY GOSH! IT’S GRASS! DO YOU KNOW GRASS? HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THIS BEFORE? WHERE DO THEY MAKE THIS STUFF?”

This dog gets walked every day, in the same place. Nothing here is completely new to her. But Libby says that at least once a walk, her sheer puppy joy at the simple pleasure of rubbing in the grass takes over and she just cannot help herself.

I’m about to sound like an Afterschool Special here, but don’t you think we can learn something from this goofy lovely dog, who doesn’t care what’s happening as long as she can lose herself in the wonderfulness of a moment? Of course we can. I’m going to start posting Doubledays of the Day, small ways in which we can shut down our day for a few minutes, without hurting anybody, and let life in.

Today, I took five minutes between writing stories to make a cup of tea. Tea is underrated. And it’s the most chill time of my day, even if I have to get up to make it.

Do you guys have suggestions? Bring them on! And go smell some grass!


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