with Lynne and Leslie

It’s Not Your Puppy, or Being Happy For Other People When They Have the Thing You Wanted

by SweetMidlife

Hi!! It’s Lynne! Ir’s been a long time since I have written, mostly because I have been busy with the the theater I founded and run, Building Better People. We do professional theater for a kid audience, as well as classes for kids, and everything that we do is based around themes of kindness and respect and forgiveness. We had a show yesterday, and one of the lines of the play stuck out in my head, not only because I wrote it, but because I realized that I needed to hear that message preached to myself. Oh yes.

The play is called ‘We Got It!”, and it’s about empathy, and the second scene of the show is a game show called “How Would You Feel If Someone Said That To You?”, where an actor is pitted against the audience. Another actor, playing the host, asks the players questions that bring up the golden rule in doing or saying to people what you would want them to say to you, and in one of the scenarios, the contestants are asked what they would do if a friend of theirs got a puppy, even though the contestant wanted one as well but doesn’t have one. The kids in the audience usually answer things like “I would ask if I could play with their puppy!”, or “I would be happy for them.”, which is a good contrast to the actor, who says, “I would say, ‘Who cares about your puppy? I don’t!” , to which the host says later, “But it’s not your puppy!” And every time I hear that line (or say it, since I am in the play at times), I laugh at how bratty it is to not wish people well just because you are jealous. Even though that’s hard.

Well, dang, I have had several moments lately where I had to be reminded that other people’s puppies were not mine, and that it was the right thing to be happy for them and their canine-having selves. I recently applied for 2 things that I didn’t get, the first being a grant for my theater, and the second, a chance to speak at a local event. I get rejection stuff all of the time, because life, but both of these “Thanks for applying and you’re awesome but sorry, not this time” emails were different because both asked for my support for the people who WERE chosen for the things that I applied for by either voting for the finalists for the grant I didn’t get, or my attendance at the event I didn’t get selected to speak at. And I have to be completely honest that my initial reaction to both, even though I was convicted in about 90 seconds, was “Ain’t nobody got time to be helping people who got what I wanted. LATER!” And if I was a character in my show, I would be the example of what NOT to be.

I need to get over it. And I did.

Because if I had gotten those honors, I would have wanted people to show up or vote. Because we can’t, won’t, and probably shouldn’t get every single thing we pursue, and that’s good, because everything isn’t for us. It’s not. Say that out loud. Everything isn’t yours because it is not statistically possible, but because we learn from the things we DON’T get just as much, if not more, than the things that we do. Years ago, there was an actor/businessperson whose career I greatly admired, as they were doing many of the things that I had always wanted to do, and I said, to myself (Myself always hears the petty things first), “They have my career.” But no. They had their career. The career they worked for, and sacrificed for, and had successes with and failures with, and learned from all of those. What I had was gazing into someone else’s life while not taking the steps to get MY career. So that’s what I am doing., and it is a roller coaster, complete with loops, but the ride is worth it, y’all. And part of that is supporting other people in the goodness that is their life, and hope that I get theirs, and I am gonna vote for the people up for that grant, and I will try really hard to attend that speaking event, and I will put out all of the goodness that I want to come back to me.

Me as the person who can't be happy for someone else's puppy.

Me as the person who can’t be happy for someone else’s puppy. Picture by Bellephont Photography.

Not just because I want extra goodness, but because that’s the way the world works. And I want to be a part of that.

Have any of you ever been in the place where you had to be happy for people who got the thing you wanted? What did you do?

 


“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.


Wear Cute Shoes, But You Also Need Pants or Checking Your Priorities

by SweetMidlife

Hi!

Lynne here. This won’t be a long one.

Not always a good look.

Not always a good look.

So, I’ve written a lot about how I am working on being more organized in all ways in my life, and this touches how I spend my time, the fact that I can actually put things flat on my nightstand without causing a landslide of bills and Christmas cards from 2013, the state of my dishwasher, and the state of my car, whose backseat may have french fry residue from taking 2 preschoolers to McDonald’s. It totally does. This is a work in progress.

But what I have found out the most is that organizing my physical world isn’t just about the tangible appearance of things, but that it’s about the inward emotions that cause you to keep your world cluttered or your schedule over-packed, and that may tell you that you can’t do any better than you are doing right now. All of that is a lie, but it feels like that sometimes. And all of this inner-looking causes you to be more mindful of the things that you tell yourself, and how they manifest (I used a big word before 7:30 am and I feel like I need some reward for this. Thank you.) themselves in your priorities and whatnot. Because sometimes you think that something is important to you, but when you look at how you actually spend your time, you might see that this isn’t actually  as true as you think it is. And you might think that something ISN’T a big deal to you, but when you actually look at your life, you realize that you spend more time doing that particular thing than you might have thought, and definitely more than you want to admit.

I thought of this yesterday, when my son and I were getting ready for the day. We headed into the bathroom it brush teeth and wash faces, and I had my phone in my hand, because before this, I had been looking at something on my beloved Facebook. The words “beloved Facebook” totally just came in my head, and I almost didn’t write that down, but it is true, I spend a lot of time there, to the point that if I am reading it and then have to do something else, I either keep my phone in my hand or my eyes on my laptop, or I rush through the other things real quick so I can get back to the blue and white land of comments. And as wonderful as Facebook can be in reaching out to people and staying connected to family, and as much as I use my phone to have really wonderful conversations with the people in my life,  it can also be a time suck if it distracts you from living the life in front of you. Or the toothbrush in front of you, which is what happened yesterday when I found myself trying to get the toothpaste out of the cabinet and pick up my brush without having to put my phone down, and when I did, looking nervously to make sure that my phone was still there. I am sad to admit that. But it happened.

My phone should be an addendum to my actual life, which includes things like eating and writing and personal hygiene, and not the thing that I come back to after I get those pesky things done. For me it’s my phone. For you, it could be the TV, or talking, or daydreaming, or anything. And all of these things are good things. But if they aren’t the main thing that you know you are supposed to be doing in your life, then, well, do some reordering.

Don’t let the accessories in your life become your life. Because you can’t go out in just heels, a purse, awesome shoes, cute earrings, and a headband, no matter how bumpin’ those things are. You are gonna need some pants and a shirt too, y’all.

 


Taking Care of Yourself With Massage Envy

by SweetMidlife

Hi everybody. Lynne here. It’s been a turbulent 2016, and the last couple of weeks have been, well, very much so. Leslie and I are going to write more about our thoughts on all that, but in the meantime, I accepted the opportunity to try out the Massage Envy chain of spas. I hadn’t written my review yet, and I thought about delaying it while we get our thoughts together about the world, but then I realized that these things are actually related. Life is hard, and turmoil in the world, added to the duties of our daily lives, leaves us, well, stressed-out. It’s a lot. A very lot. And this is why I thought it timely to write this post. We all need to care for ourselves and this is one way to do it.

So, I have gotten very few massages in my life. I think it’s like less than 6 actually, which is why it’s funny that I have gotten 2 in the last month. First, I won a free massage at a spa in Georgetown, and I redeemed that in June. Then a few weeks later, we got the chance to write about Massage Envy, and I said “Yes, please.”  Now, I didn’t know a lot about Massage Envy before this, except that there is one very close to me, and that Leslie had a membership and talked frequently about how wonderful it was. I did know that it was a chain, and I have to admit to you that my inner snob took over a bit because I assumed that it was going to be kind of fast-food massage. I have no idea what that even means, since, like I said, I am no expert on massages, but I had that in my head as I arrived at the Severna Park, Maryland location. Boy, was I mistaken.  I was greeted by the staff member who made my appointment, and she brought me a cup of water and told me what to expect, and who would be doing my massage. I was given a questionnaire to fill out that asked about my everyday life, and stresses, and places in my body that might carry extra stress, and asked about medical history and if there were parts of my body that needed extra attention, and if there were parts that the therapist should leave alone. This made me feel great, and I was beginning to realize that this was not a one-size-fits-all kind of a place. They wanted to really fit this massage to MY needs.   She then walked me back to the relaxation area where clients waited for their massage therapist to take them back to their massage rooms, and more of my preconceived notions went bye bye.  I think that I thought that, being a chain, it was going to be very clinical, with florescent lights, and not be very relaxing. Well, I was very, very wrong. The room had beautiful low lighting that added a tone of calm. Some people checked their phones, others drank water, and others just, well, relaxed in the comfortable chairs. It was a great vibe, and I was also very impressed with how quickly the therapists came in to get their people AND how relaxed that even was. It was like they floated in, and their clients floated out, but all still keeping the relaxed mood. When Joe, the therapist I was assigned, came in, I was really excited. But excited and chill.

When we went back to the room, which was just as beautiful as the room we had just left,  Joe said that he had read over my form, and went back over some of the things that I wrote. He told me that he specialized in deep tissue massages, but would go easier from the start, and that if I felt uncomfortable at any time during the massage, I should tell him and he would adjust. This made me feel at ease. You ever been in a situation where you are a newbie, and you aren’t quite sure how things work, and you feel uncomfortable, and you feel weird speaking up because maybe what you feel is normal, even though you should ALWAYS speak up, but you second guess yourself? Joe took all of that out of the equation, and it meant a whole lot. That meant I could let my mind go and just enjoy my hour-long massage, and that is just what I did. It was relaxing, so much so that I dosed off at one point. I may have drooled. Sorry, Joe. And when it was over, he said, “Miss Lynne, we’re done.”, and he said he would meet me in the hallway to discuss suggestions on future massages, and then left the room so I could get dressed. Oh, I didn’t talk about that part. If you are uncomfortable with being in your birthday suit in front of people you don’t know, they tell you to get undressed to your own personal comfort level, which is really cool. And then you get under a sheet, so that helps too.

So, I got dressed, and got my stuff and myself together. I was feeling really chill at this point.  Joe was waiting for me outside the room, and he told me some of the places where he had found extra tension in my muscles, and that he has given his recommendations to the front desk, and that he hope to see me again. I went back to the front, where I was greeted by the same person who checked me in, and she gave me the information Joe gave her, and said that he suggested that I get a massage every month. This is where I thought things might get uncomfortable, because I wasn’t planning on singing up for a Massage Envy membership right then, but, as I was getting used to being on this visit, I was wrong. There was no hard sell. I asked for a price list, and they told me how the whole thing worked, and this is what I found out. You can do a la carte massages at an introductory price of $59 for a 60 minute session, or you can do a membership for $69 monthly. This gets you a monthly massage, but also perks, like being able to add your family onto your membership at a special price, being able to rollover your monthly massage if you miss it, the ability to gift an unused massage to a friend (which Leslie had offered to do for me before) at only $10, and the ability to earn free massages and upgrades. You can read more about all of that here. You will also see that they also offer facials., so you can be relaxed AND have glowing skin. That’s good stuff.

So there you have it. I think that Massage Envy is a wonderful investment in your well-being. There is a lot of stress in the air, and making the comment to give yourself set-aside, committed time to relax and be cared for is crucial. It really is. I highly recommend treating yourself to some good at a Massage Envy near you.

Disclosure: We were given a free massage in exchange for this post, but all of the opinions here are valid and absolutely real. 


Book Review: “I Have A Voice” by Tyler Williams Will Help You Find Yours

by SweetMidlife

HI! Lynne here!

We were given a copy of Tyler Williams’ memoir/motivational book “I Have A Voice” to review, and, dude, I can relate.  See, the book is all about  this young man’s journey to find, then value his own expression, and that journey takes him from his days as a child performer, to fronting a band of his young friends, to being a NASCAR driver, to taking acting lessons, back to singing, and now to sharing his story. Now, I have never driven NASCAR, because backing into a parking space is enough of a challenge for me, but I have done a lot of those other things on the list in my life as a performer, and right now, am at the beginnings of my life as the founder and artistic director of a theater. I am having a fantastic time, but my opinions of how things are going can fluctuate a million times within a day, based on how many people bought tickets to our shows, or if someone gives our theater a great review, or if a class isn’t selling like we want it too. Tyler went through a bunch of ups and downs as he found his way, at times completely abandoning what he had loved up to that point, until other things that I won’t spoil for you happened. Read the book. Because I think that no matter if our path is creative, or technical, or whatever -ive or -al it might be, you might have wondered if you should keep going, or if this was even the thing that your heart and soul really wanted. Yes?

Real inspiration!

Real inspiration!

All of this might sound flaky to those of you who are perfectly happy with your jobs or careers,or your hobbies, or your life and have never thought about making a change. It’s not, though, because it isn’t just about a job: it’s about doing something that allows you to use or even find your voice, your expression of who you are.  In his really honest telling of his life story, Tyler talks about being so sure of what he was doing that he knew that he wanted to do it forever…..until it he didn’t because the evidence in front of him told him that maybe he needed to find another dream Or did he?. And this is what I loved the most about this book: It is very relate-able. In the book’s 27 short chapters, Tyler uses his steps and missteps and back again to talk about the inner foundational beliefs about himself, and yourself, dear readers, that you might have to confront and then change if you are really going to find what you should be doing, Sweet Midlife Reader. He gives advice on simple but deep points like not giving up hope, and being okay with questioning what the heck you are doing with your life, to learning that conflict can be good. I found myself taking notes, and underlining things to come back to, and saying “I know that’s right!” out loud. It’s a really clearly written book that will really motivate you.

If I had any critique of “I Have A Voice:, it would be that while the book starts off telling Tyler’s story and accompanying wisdom in a linear fashion, it starts to skip around the timeline a bit as it goes on, which was a bit confusing. There were also points where the advice fet a bit repetitive. and I know that I felt rather Grinch-y saying that it had to many words of motivation, but after awhile some of it were the same words, so maybe they could have been condensed a bit.

Overall, I really enjoyed “I Have A Voice”. Again, I am literally in a place right now where I am following a dream that I have had for a long time, and I am using Tyler’s writings as an encouragement to work my dream and my voice. I think they could do the same for you, Seriously.

Disclosure: We were given a copy of “I Have A Voice” for free in return for an honest review, and all opinions are our own. 


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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