with Lynne and Leslie
Tag Archives: family

Coleslaw, Loss, and Perspective

by SweetMidlife

HI! It’s Lynne! We haven’t written all summer, so I hope it was a good one. I am writing this gingerly because I had surgery on my left index finger last week, and I am writing with it sticking up in the air. This will be short :).

Today marks 20 years since the death of Britain’s Princess Diana, and seeing all of the specials and articles that have been commemorating the day, I remember where Leslie and I were when we found out about the Princess’ death. We were dealing with an overabundance of prepared salads and disappointment.

Our dad, Ed, was about to turn 50 years old, and Leslie, my mom, and I had planned a surprise birthday party for him that weekend. It was actually about 3 weeks before his actual birthday, but because my parents were living in Charleston, SC at the time and were planning on coming north that weekend, it seemed like a wonderful time to get our MD family together. We planned the shindig for a Sunday, in the backyard of the house in York, PA, where Leslie had an upstairs apartment that she called “The Hallway”because it was really narrow. It was a great hangout, and we were really looking forward to celebrating our dad with people who loved him so much. Leslie had even ordered like gallons of potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and tuna salad from a caterer, and we were feeling very accomplished, and we were all ready to pick them up on Sunday morning, and get our salad and our party on at the same time.

So, on Saturday, I was headed up the Baltimore Washington Parkway, headed to Leslie’s, when I got a call from Mommy, who said the thing that you don’t want the people you have planned a surprise party for to say, and that was this : “Lynne, we’re not coming.”

Say who now?

I pulled over at a gas station, because I knew that this was going to be something I needed to be still for to hear.

My dad spent most of his professional career in transportation management, and at that point, was managing the school bus contract between the company he worked for, and the Charleston school system. This was right before school was to start for the year, and things weren’t going smoothly, and since he had no idea that we were planning a party, he decided that they couldn’t leave, and that they could just come home the next weekend.


So, she had to tell him about the party, but his duty was still to his job, so we had to call everyone and tell them that the party wasn’t happening that weekend. And we still had to take possession of all that prepared salad, because the lady had already made it. And we were bummed. We wanted the party now, darn it, because we had planned, and because we missed our parents, and because this isn’t how it was supposed to go, and we had a lot of tuna salad to eat now. Between my mom and us, we let everyone know, and we went to Leslie’s room, and fell asleep with the TV on, feeling sorry for ourselves.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and the news was on, and it was talking about what had happened in Paris. I woke Leslie up.

“Leslie, the Princess died.”

And we were snapped out of our sleep and mostly our disappointment over missed parties. Because two young boys had suffered more than the loss of plans. They had lost their mom. And the whole world was seeing it. I have no idea how long we stayed up, crying in disbelief, but I know that our attitudes changed, because we would see our parents next week. And after we went back to sleep, we got up and picked up the salads, and Leslie had friends come over, and we ate. And the next week, my parents came, and we had the party, and it was glorious. The picture at the top of this post was taken there. And you see happiness and relief at being together.

And this is what’s important. Well, parties are important, because they celebrate life, and life is precious. My dad died 15 years later, at 64, 3 months before his 65th, breaking our hearts, and also missing out on the really good senior-citizen discounts, a thing he was really looking forward to. I write this not to make you sad, but to implore you to make the memories that make the pictures, and enjoy your lives, and roll with the changes and the plethora of mayo-based foods. Enjoy your people. They are what is important.

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?

The twins and Dolly wish you a “Hard Candy Christmas”

by SweetMidlife

Merry Christmas! This is Leslie, and behalf on Lynne, our family, humanity, the 1984 Duran Duran fanckub, people who love cheese and Grumpy Cat, we would like to wish you a happy holiday. And we’d like to do it with the help of Miss Dolly, and some sad hookers.

You see, Miss Mona and the former employees of the Chicken Ranch in 1982’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” are parting ways, because…well, it’s a long story. And even though they are not a traditional or even legal family (or involved in legal, family things) they are very unhappy to have to leave each other. But Miss Mona, who is Dolly, tells them that sometimes they have to get through things even if it’s hardscrabble, like a Christmas so thread-bare that you only get hard candy for Christmas. You’ll be fine and dandy.

So whether today finds you flush or flushed, hardy or hapless, go hug someone you love. Or call them. You won’t let sorrow bring you way down. Tell ’em Dolly.

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.

Disappointing my grandma, making my life a little easier. Forgive me.

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here! I moved away from Miami, where I was living as a underemployed Gen-Xer with my parents and sister, to York, Pennsylvania, and for the next 19 years, up to today, have never lived in the same state as any of them, or as my extended family (except for my almost triplet Nikki, who was in Orlando when I moved to Florida again ten years ago, or my almost quadruplet Kiki, who moved here after I did and was my running buddy for a while.)

This means that as much as I have made the places I have lived, including West Palm Beach for the last decade, my home, there is always that other “home,” be it Maryland where I was raised, or Little Rock, where my parents settled. Most of my travel in that 19 years has been centered on those other places, where vacation time has not meant that I was resting. More often, like my parents before me, who moved away from Maryland with us temporarily in the early 80s and for good in the 90s, those trips are almost as scheduled as my actual job – an hour for lunch with this aunt, two hours with Grandma. A drink with this friend before dinner with another. And hey, we told So-and-so you were in town, and she’s just down the street so you can fit her in before you get on the plane, right?

This has left me, and now my husband, happy to see the people we love but exhausted by the time we get back on the plane, in serious need of a vacation after our vacation.

All of which is to say – the next time I go “home,” I probably won’t be telling anybody, except for the people associated with the event I’m going to. I hope that’s OK. You can blame my dad. Who died last year.

So that’s not going to do you a lot of good.

I should explain.

About a year before Daddy passed, three years into his fight with cancer, which never fights fair, he told me that he was now only traveling to places he really wanted to go, and not out of obligation. I don’t know if he knew how bad things were gonna get, and how fast, but by then he’d had more than 60 years on this planet – half of those spent buying plane tickets. And as much as he loved our family, he said that he’d learned that his time, money and desire not to be exhausted and have an actual restful experience at some point on his vacation were more important than other people’s guilt trips over not seeing them for twenty minutes on the way to see someone else.

“It became about obligation and not about quality – ‘You saw him, you should come see me,'” he told me. “I realized I was always the one who was going to see everyone else. I did all the running. And that doesn’t seem fair. It became expected, and we got caught up in it. Don’t get caught up in that. Go where you want, don’t be guilted into going everywhere you’re invited, and if people say something, remind them they can always come see you. They have an airport, too.”

And then he finished with this.

“Why do all of my trips have to be about being tired at the end of them when no one else’s are?”

Wise, that one.

My husband and I spent thousands and thousands of dollars traveling last year, more than usual, because of my father’s illness and eventual death, and all of the things surrounding that. Those were not fun trips, of course, but they were necessary and satisfying, and we were honored to be there with Daddy, to hang out with him as much as we could, and then to honor him at his funeral and then at another memorial service. We also went to a baby shower, a wedding, a headstone unveiling and Thanksgiving, and packed into all of those trips at least three other visits or stop-ins each trip. We were thrilled to be invited and enjoyed ourselves because, again, we love those people and wish we saw them more often.

But Scott said something profound to me the night we got home, as we grumpily unpacked around midnight and grumped around the cat and pretty much faced a night of grumpy sleep before starting the work week more tired than we were than when we left.

“You know what it is that gets me? That’s supposed to be our vacation, and we didn’t even take three hours to say ‘Let’s go to dinner at this place we really like, just the two of us, because we like it, and not because we’re meeting someone.’ Or go to a basketball game at Maryland, which we would both enjoy, or go see a show. We didn’t do anything that wasn’t about seeing other people besides sit in the hotel room and watch football, and that was wedged between three other visits.”

I was momentarily speechless, and your girl is never speechless, so this was big. Huge, even. And it hit me. He wasn’t saying we were never going to visit our family. He just meant – and I agree- that assuming everyone stays alive this year, we’re going to try to center our travel in 2013 on things that are fun, like going places we’ve never been before. Or going to Vegas. Or going back to the Bahamas or taking another cruise. Or heading to California and driving the coast. Maybe even just driving to the Keys and spending more than a night at a time.

It’s not that we never have fun at home with our folks. We do. And time is short and never promised. But you know what we’ve noticed, that my dad noticed? All of the people we love take vacations, too. They go on cruises, or to the beach. Sometimes they even come down here and see us. But if they don’t, they don’t feel the need to explain it to us. Countless times we’ve gotten emails and texts from people that say “Hey, I was an hour away from you. I should have called you. But I couldn’t get away, so I didn’t.”

And that’s fine, because they were on a trip to do something else that wasn’t about seeing us. Would have been nice. Can’t take it personally.

And I hope no one else does, either. I am going to have to call and explain to the couple of people expecting me to visit that I won’t be able to make it. I’m going to do things I never get to do in my own life – sit with a few people I seldom see and enjoy their company without checking my watch, or making them feel they are punching a clock. I want to sleep late, and not light out before my hosts gets up because I’m on a schedule. I want to spend my time being truly present with the people I am with, and making sure they feel that they have my full attention and love. And when I get on the plane to come back, I want to feel rested and know that the things and people I didn’t see this time will hopefully be there and happy to see me the next time.

You know. Like a vacation.

Be a Better (Loved One) Challenge #3: Hug Somebody

by SweetMidlife

It’s September 11, a day of reflection, mourning, and remembrance for many people.  It’s a day that makes many think about not just what we’ve lost, but also how blessed we are to have what we have, and the biggest blessing is the other people in our lives. So, today, go up to the people you love, and just wrap your arms around them. Unannounced, no fanfare.  Just walk up, open arms, enfold loved one.  Loving physical touch is so huge, and sometimes says things that words can’t.  See, simple can be beautiful! So go, on. Hug away.

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