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Tag Archives: friendship

NBC’s “Strong”: Why my trainer and I wouldn’t win the show but are winning, anyway

by SweetMidlife

 

Not on a TV near you. But still rocking.

Not on a TV near you. But still rocking.

I am Leslie, and I watch too much TV, which is OK because sometimes it’s for work and the other times it’s so I catch up on my “Murder She Wrote” game and I refuse to be judged by you or anyone about that, OK? I WILL NOT BE JUDGED.

So one of the things that happens with all this TV, particularly if I’m too lazy to find the remote and bleep-bloop the commercials, is that I have to actually watch the commercials, which is why during “The Voice” a while back I caught word of “Strong,” which is what “The Biggest Loser” might be if every contestant had their own trainer, no one was really fat, the trainers had to compete physically right with their clients, and they all had to do a modified version of “American Ninja Gladiator Habitrail Thunderdome.” And somehow Sylvester Stallone was involved.

This looks intriguing, not only because I am over “The Biggest Loser” and its head games on people who probably need therapy more than they need to be shamed about “only” losing 5 pounds a week, and because the dynamics of the male trainers and female clients reminds me some of that between myself and my trainer, Victor Ayala. We’re not on the show, and I can’t see us jumping off scaffolding tethered to each other on a giant bungee cord, because Leslie does not do that. Also, I have no interest in being tired and sweaty on camera. I don’t even like being tired and sweaty at Walgreen’s on the way home.

But Victor and I do, at least, have that same connection that the pairs on “Strong” seem to have, with all the emotional connection and breakthroughs and whatnot, even if we’re not being paid big NBC dollars for our efforts. We’ve worked together off and on for about a decade, most intensely in the last several months, since the death of my husband Scott, who also worked with Victor.  We don’t have a network contract or the pull of the camera, but we do have that bond established by friendship and that time he looked me up and down and said “I swear to God, you’re doing this right this time, because I’m telling people I train you and if you don’t get in shape it’s on me.”

And that made sense to me, so I’m 13 pounds, a dress size and a half, and some inches down. I’m not sure why NBC went with the male/female dynamic – there doesn’t seem to be a romantic element to the pairings, but I can tell you n that at least in my experience, I work better with a guy trainer in general, and Victor specifically. I had a female trainer once, years ago, and as much as I liked her I couldn’t help comparing myself to her, even though we were a decade apart and completely different body types and fitness levels. I looked at her and thought “Why can’t I be a cute little blonde with no body fat?” I mean, I did not really want to be a cute little blonde, because I’m very happy being a black woman with blond highlights. But that’s the female fit body I saw every week, and it kinda messed with my head, even though I (temporarily) lost the weight.

I am not competitive with Victor, because I cannot compete with a man who ran a marathon in the South Florida heat in a sweatshirt, long fatigues and a weighted pack on his back. I can only hope to learn from him, when he’s yelling at me to not punk out on my stair runs, or sneaking up on my on the stair climber and saying “Why are you only on Level 6?” Or when he’s out of town and texting my workouts to me in sadistic bursts – “Do 1000 crunches. And then run two more miles. And I wanna see pictures when you’re done so I can tell if you’re actually sweating.”

He crazy. But our bond is about history, a shared loss, professional respect and a deep friendship where you need the other one to do well. For Victor, that’s pushing me to be the best, healthiest Leslie I can be, and for me, that’s not wasting his time and reputation. I don’t know if that’s something Sly Stallone would put on TV. But if there’s no bungees involved, we’d consider it.

 

 

 


Fake it till you make it: Creative widowing, one day at a time

by SweetMidlife

 

IMG_0635

I think you guys know that I (I, being Leslie) lost my husband at the end of July, a phrase that, as I’m writing it, doesn’t make me seize into sobs and hurl the computer across the room, so progress, right? My sister has held down the blogging fort, for real, even though she’s been dealing with her own grief over Scott’s death, cuz her was awesome. So today, for the first time since that horrible stupid thing happened, I’m back blogging. And I promise not to make you cry..

…much.

I am new at this craft I’m having to master involuntarily, because it’s either figure it out or Brian Wilson-ing it in bed for the rest of the year. I’m still working it out, and I got through last week’s challenge of coming back to work. And guess what? It was kinda crappy, mostly because I had to come home and have my husband not be there, and realize that he never is going to be again, but that this is the deal, so I’ve got plug through. I like my job, and also my paycheck, so I’m going back again today, with a made-up face, a smile, and these bits of knowledge I Forrest Gumped my way into:

– Sometimes you have to fake it: The above picture was taken on Friday, which was pretty awful. I actually cried in front of people, which is not a thing I do, and the looming task of going home…again…to start this hamster wheel all over felt like a giant hamster was running the wheel over my head. But you know what? I pulled myself together, wiped my face off, touched up that lipstick and smiled. Always smile. It freaks the hamster out.

– Let people help you: I am bad at accepting help, sometimes taking it as some sort of affront to my strength. This is stupid. I need help, I’m lucky enough to have people who want to help, so I welcome it. Sometimes people are trying to lift you up because you really are sinking, and sometimes because you’re skimming along but they can see the rock ahead better than you can.

– It’s OK to cry. Rosey Grier said so.

I have no doubt that Week 2’s gonna have its own potholes, and I’m gonna run right into them. But I’ll have to dig out of those, too. I can’t get cable in a pothole and “Dancing With The Stars” is on tonight.


So then there was that time I ruined “The Little Mermaid” for my friend

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Mickey and his friends have told some good stories. And some are about compromising your dreams for a dude.

Mickey and his friends have told some good stories. And some are about compromising your dreams for a dude.

I swear I am not that person.

I am not that awful pop culture ruiner who lives to horn their buzz-kill way into conversations they aren’t sometimes even in, lying in wait to hear others discuss their entertainment loves, the things they hold dear, and then crap all over those dear things because they are evil. Nonetheless, yesterday I innocently but completely ruined “The Little Mermaid,” a favorite movie of my friend Carol, not because I was trying to, but because I couldn’t shut my trap.

I was right about what I said. But now I feel bad about saying it.

Here’s what went down: Somehow, Carol and I, who sit near each other at work, started talking about Idina Menzel, of whom Carol is a huge fan and whom she saw in concert with her daughter. We laughed about how at her upcoming show, 80 percent of the audience won’t know her as the Tony-winning Broadway legend but as the voice of Queen Elsa from “Frozen,” because that movie’s so over-the-top popular with the young kiddies that they’re practically a cult now. And then we laughed about how “Let It Go,” the cult theme song, isn’t even all that good a song, and how we liked “Frozen” OK but didn’t love, love it. (Stand down, “Frozen” fans. I am not the enemy.) And for that second we were so connected and chill.

And then Carol said “Well, my favorite Disney movie is actually ‘The Little Mermaid,'” to which I should have responded “Really? That’s so great! What great music!” because those are things I believe, without mentioning the thing I most believe, which is that “The Little Mermaid” is a movie with great music and a heroine who actually gives up her voice – HER VOICE – for a chance at meeting a guy she’d never actually spoken to when he was conscious. She gave up her voice for love. She had no voice. I don’t know what to say here. But her voice though.

I should not have maybe said that last part, or at least as emphatically as I did. But I did, and I saw Carol’s eyes kinda widen and try to figure out whether she should laugh, cry or smack me.

“You overthought it, girl. You’re getting too deep and you ruined my thing,” she said. “You’re evil.”

I started apologizing because I was not trying to be that person, or blow her mind or change it or do anything to her mind. I was just frothing at the mouth about a thing that has been a thing for me for a while, and which, again, I am right about, because it is exactly the wrong message to send to girls that giving up the most treasured part of yourself like Ariel did. She was young and sheltered and felt sure that this burst of wonder and curiousity she felt for Prince Eric, who she saved from a shipwreck, combined with the fantasy importance she’d already built up about the people on land who understand and don’t reprimand their daughters, was worth not only her beautiful singing voice, but her ability to speak at all. She also got a painful mystical tail-ectomy to form legs she had to learn to walk on, meaning she could never go home to the sea and travel freely in her natural state. Of course, when kids see it they might just hear the wonderful songs, or the silly fish and crabs and stuff, or thrill to the adventure.

But then they’ll learn that the title character, admittedly misguidedly, traded her voice for a guy. No…not even a guy. The chance to get a guy. And then the evil witch her she traded it to stole it, tried to pass herself off as the lady who’d saved the prince, and then tried to kill them both. As you do. I have thought this for 25 years, but Carol had not, so I took her out of a place where she could just enjoy a thing and into a reality where she could never look at the movie she loved the same again.

I felt awful.

“Do you feel awful? I don’t think you feel awful enough.”

But I do. I really do.

By the time I left the office and she had literally walked me to the stairwell to tell me again that I was an evil thing stealer, Carol smiled and told me that when she spoke to her awesome college-aged daughter next, she was going to ask her if she ever thought about Ariel’s sacrifice and what that actually meant, because even though I had messed with her head – “Mind blown!” – I had given her something think about.

“You’re still evil, though.”

Yeah. I know.

Her voice, though.


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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