with Lynne and Leslie
Tag Archives: life

Fear and things

by SweetMidlife

Hi! It’s Lynne.

I spent a lot of time yesterday making a final decision on the next show that the theater I run (we do shows with professional actors for kids) is going to do, and after a bunch of time going back and forth, I decided on a show about a town of people who are afraid to go outside and live life until someone shows them how to get through that fear, and they get to live full lives. It’s a wonderful message, and I was feeling really great about it. Then I read about the shooting at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale. And on the way to pick up my son from preschool, and while I was there, and then while I was at Trader Joe’s, I realize that I was uneasy, because I began to eye the people around me suspiciously. And I mean everybody. And it was a horrible feeling.

And I wanted to go back to my house and barricade us inside.

Bad things happen. It’s on the news, and it’s in our lives. I have very dear friends who are hurting unimaginably  because of something horrific that happened to a dear friend of theirs.

And life still happens, even in the face of hate, and things that don’t make sense.

I believe in being cautious, and smart, but even that doesn’t prevent bad things from happening.

Fear can come from big and little things.


Today, it snowed here, and my son has been itching to go outside and play, even though there wasn’t a bunch of snow, and even though it was still snowing. So we put on our stuff, and we went out, and we played with digger trucks in the snow, and we saw 2 of our teen aged neighbors riding their bikes. The little one and I walked up the street to see them doing wheelies, and ride really fast, and on the way back to our house, my son asked if we could ask the boys to come play with us. And I  tried to avoid it. I said we were going in soon, which we were, and I said that the boys were already playing on their bikes and wouldn’t want to stop doing this to come play in our yard. And as my kid looked at me and begged me to PLEASE go talk to them, I realized that I didn’t want to ask them because I was scared. I was scared of rejection, and that they would say no, and that my kid’s feelings would get hurt, or that they would feel obligated because a little kid was asking, and they really wouldn’t want to, and I imagined all of these things, and he still pleaded me to go ask, and so we did. And the boys were beyond sweet, and asked him about bikes, and we talked about my son’s new bike, and the boys rode really fast so he could see them make tracks, and one of them even got off of his bike and raced my son up the street on foot and let him win. And it was lovely and my son now knows about the kindness of big kids.

It’s good.

None of this changes that bad things happen, and that even if you cross all of your t’s and dot every i (and do that), bad things might still happen.

But live, okay? Say hi to new people. Go play in the snow. Travel. Grow things. Be a growing thing. Live.

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.

Moving house: Or why I hope to never have to leave my new house

by SweetMidlife
Our new living room, mid-box.

Our new living room, mid-box.

To review: Last summer, I (being Leslie) unexpectedly started a new chapter of my life when my lovey-dove Scott passed away unexpectedly. Obviously, that was a world-rocker, but that world refused to stop spinning so I had to start rolling with changes, mostly just continuing to live the life I already had but without my Scotty. Which sucks because it took so long for me to find a good guy in a grab bag of losers, and I only got to keep him 6 1/2 years. That was a lot of work. I’m exhausted.

Meanwhile, there was one change he and I had already planned, which was to leave our lovely South Florida rental home, where we moved in 2013, sometime in the first part of this year. The landlords were looking to sell it and we decided, as much as we loved it, not to buy it because we wanted an extra bathroom. So we’d started just doing random searches – I wanted to stay in the little town we lived in and Scott wanted to move across the canal into West Palm Beach, for school district and prettiness purposes. After he died, and my mom the queen of the universe, moved in with me and the little one I live with, she and I started tentatively looking close by, to check out prices and different areas, but weren’t set on a date…

…Until our landlords decided to sell our house, like, immediately, and at the beginning of February we found ourselves on a ticking moving clock with 30 days and a suddenly short supply of available homes anywhere we wanted to be. Of course. We looked out of our target area, even, and then made an offer on a nice house in the right neighborhood that we didn’t love, but that was better than living in a van down by the river. We had hoped to find a miracle, but were willing just not to be homeless.

“Do houses just show up at the last minute?” we asked our realtor, who shook his head about 24 hours before calling us to say that a lovely place around the corner from he and his family had a brand new “For Rent” sign on the front lawn. Miracles, anyone? The moment we walked in that afternoon, we were in love – high wooden ceilings, a Florida room that’s all windows, and an over-sized master suite for me. Although I did offer it to my mother, of course.

“doyoumaybewannatakethebigroomiwillsleepouttherenexttotheboydontyouworryaboutit” I said, hoping she would pick up on “My goodness I want that room.” She did. I am so glad she did because I super wanted that room.

And now I’m in it, surrounded by more boxes and stuff than I knew I had. The move was a monster nightmare and I am never doing it again.

But I am so happy. I feel weird about not being in this house with Scott, and I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little guilty to know that I am in a much nicer house and that my life and the Kid’s are going on without him. But he would want me to. We can’t live in a van, we couldn’t live in the old house, and we, again, would not fit in a van. It is normal to miss him and wonder what he’d have thought of the place, which is in the school district he wanted and is probably the result of some heavenly maneuvering (OK SCOTT YOU WON.) But it is also normal for happy things to make you happy, and this new place is happy. We are happy. We are not quite complete. But we are happy.

And I hope we can one day buy this house and live here forever because I hate moving and am never doing it again.

Five reasons your toddler needs a job. Like now.

by SweetMidlife

baby area

This is Leslie, writing from what’s left of my living room after the toddler we live with tornado’ed through it like a giggling brushfire this morning. I had heard tales of tiny humans and their destructive capabilities for eons – and had observed the evidence in many a friend’s bright colored plastic-covered backyards, the sippy cup farms in their back seats, and the Stockholm Syndrome look the parents have when they get out of the house for an hour, like “I really like wearing clothes with zippers, but isn’t there somewhere I should be?”

I now have those things – the  sippy farm, the living room-turned-Chuck E. Cheese. I also have some stuff that used to work that doesn’t work. The person responsible for that is adorable, the light of my life, and unemployed. Because he is less than two years old and McDonald’s frowns on employing toddlers – his verbal skills wouldn’t cut it in the drivethru. But here are five reasons I wish they did:

1) Because he breaks stuff: As part of his development, Toddler is an explorer. He’s a pioneer. He’s all about figuring out stuff with his hands, and we encourage things like opening and closing doors, knowing the difference between up and down, in and out. But that’s become an exploration in taking the remote from UP on the coffee table and throwing it DOWN on the floor, or taking the expensive iPhone charging cable OUT of the computer and then shoving it back IN, causing it now to charge like snail juice. If he were a teenager, this would mean his allowance. But he doesn’t get an allowance. So…yeah.

2) Because he can’t drive: The closest thing Toddler has to a workplace is Baby School (otherwise known as day care), and he has set hours, just like he would if he were a Wal-Mart greeter. And if those hours, as well as his doctor’s appointments and such, conflict with that yoga class I wanted to go to, or a Happy Hour invitation…Well, he can’t drive. Or afford a cab.

3) Because he can’t stay home by himself: and babysitters won’t just come to your house and watch your cable. They likes cash.

4) Because he won’t stop growing out of his clothes : And Gymboree won’t just come to your house and watch your cable.

5) Because he’s a picky eater: Brother eats a lot. All I’m saying.

Why does YOUR toddler need a job? Tell us below!!

The impending end of “Parenthood,” grief and “appropriateness”

by SweetMidlife


This is Leslie, and both my sister and I are dreading the end of our frustrating, exhilarating and ultimately emotionally binding stint as quasi-members of talky-talky fictional Bay area family the Bravermans, of NBC’s “Parenthood” (or as my husband calls it, ‘I just hate those people.’)

I don’t hate the Bravermans, a multi-generational, sometimes too-close band of brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, nieces, uncles, aunts, nephews, aunt’s boyfriends, niece’s rage-happy boyfriends and whatnot. I love them. And I include all of those relationships to point out the complicated and very realistic way in which the scripted family is connected, and how the actions and affections of someone you didn’t even consider yourself all that close to can impact your life, particularly if, like the Bravermans, you’re all up under each other all the time and don’t seem to have enough friends you aren’t related to.

Those sometimes painful but unbreakable ties, as in life, sometimes exhibit themselves in times of stress, as in last Thursday’s episode, when the Bravermans are gathered in what Lynne and I can tell you is the unhappiest place on earth – a hospital waiting room at some Godforsaken hour waiting to hear if your father’s going to live or not. And in that moment of overwhelming fear and dread – their father Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) has probably just had a heart attack – any other emotion that manages to edge its way into the room is welcome, at least for a couple of seconds before the clouds come crashing down when the doors swing open.

So as they’re sitting there, trying not to cry, sister Julia (Erika Christiansen) walks in obviously dressed in the outfit she was wearing the night before (She’s…reacquainting herself with her ex-husband. Without her pants.)  Her sisters and niece rib her about it, which to me seemed not only completely natural – these people are all up in each other’s business, after all, so of course they’d comment – but healthy, because it’s normal to not want to talk about your father possibly dying several hundred feet away.

So normal did it seem that the moment sort of went over my head, until I read the recap on EW.com, which I read faithfully. The writer, Michelle Newman, liked the episode but was bothered by the mid-tragedy jocularity – ” I get that it’s a natural instinct in times like this to try to deflect the enormity of the situation, but the gossipy nature of their conversation seemed inappropriate, no matter how much I wanted to know all the deets,” she writes.

I read that passage over three or four times, and then called my sister and paraphrased it for her. And as good a writer as Newman is, this made us wonder if she’s ever been in that waiting room, if she’s ever lost someone. If she has, and she grieves differently, no judgement. I hope that her method got her through, and that she is doing well. But we wholeheartedly disagree, like, a lot, that appropriateness has anything whatsoever to do with that moment. Not in the thick of things.

Look: An unscheduled walk of shame to focus on is a gift in this situation. Lynne and I are part of the sad Parental Loss club, but since childhood have been going to funerals, sitting vigil in waiting rooms and at bedsides, and, as of the death of my mother-in-law almost five years ago, sitting shiva.

And while I believe that it’s inappropriate to start stuff with your family in a moment of weakness, like, unrelated stuff that could wait, life continues even as Death prepares to ring the doorbell (Lord, I wish you could yell “We aren’t here!” and turn the porch light off until it goes dejectedly back to its car and goes away.) Babies will pee in the pew at the funeral. The florist will mistakenly but beautifully decorate the wreath from your cousin Chick and family “Chicken Family,” and everyone you are related to will laugh so hard that it’s painful, even as the rest of the mourners look at you like you crazy. Your father will miss Gladys Knight’s performance on “Dancing With The Stars” because he’s on his way to dialysis, and even though he needs the dialysis to live, he will grumble about it, because he was only watching this stupid show for Gladys.

Every single one of those things has happened in the past 30 years to us and I can tell you this – You do not stop loving, eating, peeing, laughing or being human in the middle of tragedy. Humanity is a gift in these cases, in those rooms. Humanity keeps you sane, or as sane as you can be kept, because you’re trying to scratch your brain out of your skull trying to keep it from chanting “He’s gonna die. He’s gonna die. Hey, Hoda’s hair looks nice! He’s gonna die.”

The Bravermans are not perfect. I do not understand some of their romantic or parenting choices, or entirely where their money comes from, or how moving from a giant rambling house with land in the expensive Bay area to an expensive big Victorian in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco is considered downsizing. I think, again, that they’d all benefit from having friends they aren’t sleeping with whose last names are not and have never been “Braverman.”

But I understand their passionate devotion, how they have never loved anyone more than each other while considering each the burr under their collective saddles. I understand how hard it is to extricate yourself from your family, even if you wanted to, and how sometimes you get all tossed together like an artisanal cranberry and feta salad, bumping against each other, and don’t even realize how good you go together until the spinning stops.

And I know that in those moments, I would not dare tell someone not to crack on their sister’s presumed previous activities, or their hair, or Hoda’s hair, or what’s on the front of the paper, or whatever worms its way into the room. Because I have been in that room, and know this: The pain that might be coming? THAT IS WHAT IS INAPPROPRIATE. It’s evil. It’s the Devil. It’s inevitable, maybe, but it sucks and it just feels wrong. Pain is interrupting your walk of shame, and Gladys Knight, and life, not the other way around. So if being a little tacky gets you through? You get a pass.

Life is Messy

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

The metaphors in this post really kinda wrote themselves.

We hosted a concert at our house last weekend featuring my friend Nikki Lerner and her band. She is really amazing and you should check her out if you like good music.

Since we wanted people to be able to enjoy the music and not be distracted by the large amounts of dust and toddler toys here, we hired someone to come clean our house the day before. Because this is something we are not usually able to do, I was very conscious of keeping things nice. Again, I have a toddler who has literally left his mark on our household (usually in fingerprints on glass surfaces and in milk rings left from morning bowls of Chex). And also because I am also prone to living my own general stickiness on things, and can let things pile up before it really bothers me.

I was so, so afraid of protecting our investment. Which is why we went out for cheap eats that night, and why we heated up frozen things for our own dinner the night of the party.

The party went fantastically well, and people threw away their trash and at the end of the night, things looked great. Not like it did when we had parties in college and woke up to a living room containing half-full red Solo cups that have spilled onto your student housing rug, plates of hardened sour cream and onion dip and chip crumbs, and some drunk dude named Beef who you don’t really know and is passed out on the floor.

So on last Sunday morning, we marveled at how beautiful our kitchen looked, and how spotless are bathroom counters were, and how our living room was spot-free. And I briefly thought we could bubble-wrap the kid or just eat out of our toaster oven forevermore, but I knew that wouldn’t work. Because in daily life, we have to eat and touch things and brush our teeth. And the toothpaste will dribble and the fingerprints will come because you have to live. So, of course, the trick is to clean up after yourself as the messes happen. Don’t make deliberate messes for the sake of making messes, and don’t make messes that you expect other people to take care of.

This child still lives here, and the house is still relatively clean. Yay, miracles and Clorox wipes.

The purple dinosaur is amazed that things look this good.

You see where this is going right?

Loving and living to their fullest extent is an amazing way to live, but it also leaves you vulnerable. Because people can hurt you. And you can hurt people. And we can get bruised and stained and beat-up and covered in tartar sauce. I love tartar sauce.

But it’s worth it. Get messy. Risk loss. Be careful with hearts because they are precious. But if you do break something or mess it up, fix it. Steward the people and chances you have been given because they are precious.

But live and eat and dance and if you spill stuff, clean it up.




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.

Five Minute Friday: Brave

by SweetMidlife
“Brave.” It’s not just a movie with a delightfully stubborn ginger girl warrior.

Leslie here.

I always laugh when people misuse the word “brave” to the point where it doesn’t make any sense, like a “brave” use of color, or a starlet who “bravely” leaves the house without make-up. Here’s your frigging cookie and your merit badge. Gah.

I learned what brave was in the past year, watching my Daddy fight the cancer that would kill him, holding on for a month and a half after the doctors told him he was done, like, at that moment, so he could meet his first grandchild. In that time, he also watched a lot of “The Big Valley” and fled hospice to go to church and Red Lobster for the biscuits. That was brave. No whining. A little fear, but mostly just the same resolve and clear-eyed commitment he’d shown his whole life. Chemo is brave. Oxygen tanks in an elevator is brave.

Not wearing mascara? Not so much.

My mother getting on without him? Brave. Preemies and single moms and injured animals who fight to stay alive? Brave.

Me? Humbled.

Body as a billboard: What am I selling?

by SweetMidlife
What are you trying to say?

Leslie here!

“Your body is a billboard!”

Those words are written in cheery bold letters on a dry erase board near the entrance of my new boot camp, introducing the warm up to today’s torture session…um…workout. It’s a pretty bold statement, but fairly obvious: Your body says a lot about you – sometimes the message is interpreted in a way that is judgmental or unfair, but it’s true.

And right now, my body is saying: “Ask me about cheese!”

A flabby body, which I currently have in parts, might say “I am not taking care of myself,” even if the underlying truth is some illness we can’t see, or just an understanding that some things are more important than gym time, like feeding your family and whatnot.

Alternately, a very toned, cut body might say “I am taking care of myself” or “I have nothing else to do but be at the gym three hours a day,” which is not the reality of, oh…anybody I know that isn’t a trainer at my gym.

Having said that, I have to think about what MY body says to the people at the new boot camp, who never met Marathon Me or even Crazy Crash Diet That Made Everyone Think I Was Dying of Consumption Me. And they don’t know that I used to be actually flabbier than this. What it says is “I am an overweight middle-aged woman.”

And there is nothing inherently wrong with being that, because I am also a happy married woman with great friends, an awesome job, supportive family and a cat who hasn’t tried to kill me this week. And after months of dance training and trying to control somewhat the things that I am ingesting, my waist and legs are looking pretty spiffy.

But if I’m honest – and I try to be – I know that I have been off and on in boot camps since last fall and have gained and lost the same seven pounds. And I feel like I’m wasting my time, the trainers’ time, the kettle bells’ time, because I’m not being consistent with the working out and the good eating like I should, because if I did my body would say something different.

So here I am in my shoes, with my gym bag packed, on my way to the second week of my new boot camp, knowing that it can not change me if I don’t go. I know that I can’t be different or do the things I know this older, bigger but awesomely leggy body can do if I don’t suck it up and get it done. I’m never gonna look like I did when I had nothing to do but work out, because that’s not my life and I wouldn’t want it to be.  But I sure can do better.

So here is what I want my billboard to say: I am a middle-aged woman who is proud of her miles but is the most fierce she can be without ignoring her love of her husband or of cheese.”

That’s a slogan I’d be proud of.

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