I’ve 20 days left to raise funds to make my album happen.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty terrible at self-promotion. I can’t be anything other than myself. I do my work and hope it speaks for itself.
But sometimes you have to see yourself as others see you.
My friend Chelsea — an exceptional writer whom I met several years ago when she interviewed me for an assignment about Christians who exercise curse words — offered to write yet another.
And it’s just perfect. Here’s an excerpt:
“That’s what I’m looking forward to, when Leslie’s record comes out. Knowing her and her work, I know it will be sour, bitter and sweet in perfect proportion, like an old-fashioned made right. It will be sharp enough to make the heartbreak culprit bleed, while being gentle enough to bind up your own wounds. It’ll stroke your hair with reflective insight and slap your ass with humor.
Best of all, Leslie’s record will give you more than words. Hers is the big, bad, ‘you can’t ignore me now’ voice of the woman who really tried to do it all the nice way, and is finally going to speak her mind.”
As of today, I am 40% funded. That is amazing! But I still have more to go. Click to make a pledge here. Don’t be afraid to pledge now; the funds will not be deducted unless the project is entirely funded on March 29, 2017.
And, as always, sincere thanks.
Please support me in following my dreams. My goal this year – my fortieth on this planet!! – is to have my book published and this album recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and distributed.
There is no guarantee as an artist, but if anything I have written over the past several years has resonated with you, my hope is that my music will speak to you, as well. Every single contribution certainly helps, no matter what amount.
From the bottom of my heart.
¡¡¡¡ CLICK TO DONATE !!!!
I was out the door at 7:15 am yesterday, bound for a new church gig in Sheepshead Bay. Exhausted from the day before (brief video shoot in Central Park to promote fundraising for my album and co-hosting a baby shower in my home for a woman I had never met), I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through the morning.
But work is scarce right now, and any day I’m hired to sing is a good one.
The church gathered at an old-timey yacht club, right on the water. Originally established in 1908, it was built as a family summer home for Rheingold Beer. Upon arrival, my grumpiness over the 90-minute subway commute dissolved. The creaky dining hall overlooked the peaceful bay, which was well stocked with neatly parked sailboats. Seagulls, pigeons, geese and swans fluttered about, happily. After all, the forecast predicted an unseasonably warm day.
Song leading went as well as it could. The congregation was small yet familial; they embraced me with open arms and hearts.
Almost immediately after the service ended, an older gentleman appeared behind the bar and began polishing glasses.
“Excuse me,” I said, as I zipped my black leather jacket up over my spring dress. “Do you happen to know if anyone here offers sailing lessons? Last fall I took a course out in California but I won’t be going back there because — “
I stopped myself. This guy did not have time for a breakup story. It wasn’t pertinent, anyway. Furthermore, he had a bar to open.
I cleared my throat and began again.
“I took sailing lessons a few months ago and would like to keep up my chops.”
“You gonna be around this summer?” I could almost taste his Brooklyn accent.
“Yes,” I smiled.
He extended his hand.
“I’m Bob. Nice to meet you. Next time you come back, ask for George Johnson. He’ll throw you on a boat. He’s always looking for crew.”
“Great! Oh, wow! That’s great! Thank you!” I chirped, and skipped out the door.
I navigated my way back to Manhattan on the Q train, which recently has been extended up to 96th Street and 2nd Avenue. It isn’t my normal route home, but I was up for adventure. Especially since the temperature was steadfast at a perfect 65 degrees.
I exited the train, took off my jacket and slung it over my shoulder. The sun was bright and warm. A gentle breeze flirted with my hair. I felt good. Confident. Cool. New York is my boyfriend and he was treating me to a glorious day out. And, in a few months, I would be sailing again.
I casually strolled up 96th towards the park and noticed a very petite, blonde woman being walked by her three dogs. The male pit-mix puppy whined with excitement and anticipation.
“I know, Mac,” she blared. “We’re almost there. Just two more blocks. But you have to be patient.”
Mac shot her a look, barked, and kept tugging towards the park.
I giggled, audibly.
“Isn’t it wonderful to be wearing a dress in February?” the woman said to me.
I looked down at my clothing, then back at her. I had briefly forgotten it was February.
“Yes!” I shrieked. “I’m originally from California and I quickly realized that, although snow is fun and cute, it’s not necessarily welcome in my daily routine. I much prefer this.” I gestured with open hands to the clear, blue sky.
She laughed. “I went to college in California!” The five of us kept heading in the direction of the park.
Eventually we sat down on the same bench. She let her dogs off the leash.
“I’m sure I’ll get a ticket, but who cares? MAC! GET BACK HERE!” She bellowed, then bolted off the bench to retrieve him.
I turned my face towards the sun, closed my eyes and smiled.
“What’s your name?” I asked, when she returned with her exuberant, wayward puppy.
“I’m Candace,” she extended her hand.
“Leslie,” I said, and shook it. Her firm grip pleasantly accompanied her kind eyes.
Out of nowhere, a park ranger appeared and inched towards us in her golf cart.
“Here we go,” Candace rolled her eyes. She gathered up the dogs and held them close.
But the park ranger didn’t budge. Mac started impatiently whining again.
“Oh, fuck it. I’m just going to go ask if my damn dogs can have a little joy off their leashes today.”
I watched her as she marched towards the golf cart. Three minutes later, the dogs were released. The park ranger continued to sit still.
“Wow! That was impressive!” I called, as I shielded my eyes from the sun.
“Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want,” Candace smiled. “Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. Don’t let them take you by the balls! Take risks! Be confident! Believe in yourself!”
I began to feel like I had been to church twice that day, and the sun was still high in the sky.
“So, what do you do?” Candace asked, as Sadie the Weimaraner dropped a muddy ball into her lap.
“I’m a singer and a writer,” I replied. “In fact, I just got back from Nashville where I wrote an album.”
“Wow! That’s great!” Candace exclaimed. “MAC! MAC! STOP DIGGING OVER THERE!”
She turned back to me.
“What kind of music is it? What genre? What led you to writing it?”
I took a deep breath in.
“Well, it’s a culmination of a lot of things,” I answered, a little too eagerly. “It might sound like a cliché, but it all began with a bunch of lyrics in my head over my latest breakup.”
I paused, then laughed.
“I guess you could say I publicly process my heartbreak. With my divorce, I wrote a blog that is becoming a book. And now? An album.”
“I totally get that!” she chimed in. “I’m divorced, too. And I recently had to end a promising relationship, myself. But more on that later. What happened to you?”
We settled into our park bench. I told her the story of my divorce and she listened intently, sometimes nodding and humming in agreement; sometimes with occasional outbursts of disbelief.
“WHAAAAT?!!? Who does that?! How is that even legal?”
We howled with laughter. I silently took note of how easy it was to talk about my divorce; to actually laugh about it. I am relieved it is behind me. Certainly, time lessens the severity of the wounds, but it is what you do with that time that matters most.
I moved on to the story of my latest relationship endeavor.
“I guess the best way of putting it is to quote my therapist,” I concluded. “Right guy, wrong time.”
“Yeah, but you have no closure! I mean, GOD.” She threw her head back. “I swear, men are missing a sensitivity chip.”
I laughed, then twisted my lips, swallowing to keep a surge of pain from becoming too overwhelming.
“Very true. But, to be honest, if all of this hadn’t happened, I may not have gone to Nashville and written these songs. I’m not going full-on Adele or Taylor Swift here, but I believe writing – creating, really! – is cathartic. And in turn, healing.”
“It certainly is,” Candace agreed. “Hey, listen – ”
She pulled a card from her doggie diaper bag and gave it to me.
“I’m a CEO and produce a lot of high-end events. I think you should come to them and meet people. Network, et cetera. Aaaand,” she winked, “You never know whom you might meet!”
I beamed. I certainly wasn’t about to tell her I normally work high-end events as a Captain or bartender for extra money.
“I know you probably need some more time to heal, but you should definitely dress up, come out and have some fun. MAC! MAC! WHERE ARE YOU?”
I dug in my purse, fished out my own card and handed it to her.
“I would love that, Candace. I really would.”
She smiled, then glanced at her phone. She had two missed calls.
“Well, I should probably head back home to the kids,” she stood up. “Let’s be in touch! And until we meet again – keep writing. Don’t be afraid to get that album funded. You can do it!”
We hugged. Then she was gone. I sat still on the bench and allowed my pale, bare legs to be saturated with a little more sunlight.
Did I just meet an angel? I thought. A small, feisty, strong, independent, successful, very genuine and caring angel who, yesterday, celebrated her 47th birthday with just her kids.
I allowed my mind to wander into fantasy. I imagined attending one of Candace’s events, smartly and sexily dressed, swirling a gin martini in my hand and entertaining droves of astonishingly attractive, extremely wealthy, outlandishly smart and genuinely good men. They would all clamor for my attention. I would casually yet humbly inform them how my book just hit the New York Times bestseller list, then hum a few choruses of the songs of the songs I had just co-written. A well-known producer would hear me from across the room, cease his trivial conversation with a couple of over-processed, under-intelligent, too-skinny women and approach me.
“That’s brilliant! Sing it again!”
My entire album would reach funding in two minutes, plus a little extra to help me pay my taxes and buy another dress for the following evening’s event.
Everything happens for a reason. Glad I took a different route home that one Sunday. Thanks, Candace!
But as the sun started to sink a little lower in the sky and the gentle breeze turned just a few degrees cooler, I shook it out of my mind.
Reality: I don’t need a man – or fantasy – to accomplish one single thing I am meant to do. Certainly, at some point, I would like to share my life with a partner. I am a relationship person. I have a huge heart. I may be a fool, but I am not afraid to love, and boldly.
But when I am hurt – when someone breaks my heart – I scream from the rooftops, cry in public, scrawl furiously on the page and fervently compose, because that is how I cope. I share my heart. That is how I heal.
And it’s okay. It’s okay to be human.
My pain has been turned into art. That can only ever be a good thing.
I will love again, I am sure of that. I’m hoping I have at least forty years left on this planet. There’s got to be a “right guy, right time” in there, somewhere. But I’m not worried about that right now. There are far more important things ahead. My job is to to keep riding the momentum that’s just been created.
Candace is right: Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. I’m certainly not going to let anyone take me by the balls. I’m confident. I’m taking risks. And I do believe in myself. More and more, each day.
I’m following my dreams. I can’t wait to see where it all leads me. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s already a success.
Please support me in following my dreams. My goal this year – my fortieth on this planet!! – is to have my book published and have this album recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and distributed. There is no guarantee as an artist, but if anything I have written over the past several years has resonated with you, my hope is that my music will speak to you, as well. Every single contribution certainly helps, no matter what amount.
From the bottom of my heart.
In the wee small hours of this Christmas Eve morning, we were stalled in a snowstorm over Donner Pass. The delay was distressing to our drivers because we needed chains. Morale was low.
Yet, around 1:30 am — after a snowball fight with the crew — we carried on.
We are all exhausted, but for some reason I was the last man standing on my bus. I sat and watched all the snow-covered evergreens go by.
Then I realized something.
In ten years I really haven’t had Christmas. And, as a native Southern Californian, I certainly haven’t ever experienced a white Christmas.
This morning, I got to enjoy thousands of Christmas trees in my home state, as I breathed in the crisp, fresh air of the glorious Sierra Nevada mountains. The trees were beautifully decorated in glorious, white, frosty powder.
I wept alone as I gazed out the window. Each tree was uniquely ornamented, designed by the force of nature. I wanted to share it with everyone, but dared not wake my dear friends who were cozy; fast asleep in their bunks.
It’s been a lovely and difficult holiday season. I’ve probably felt sorry for myself more than I should, yet sometimes in suffering, I wonder where God is. I know I’m not alone in this.
But early this morning, when the storm cleared, there appeared a single star.
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” ~Matthew 2:10
I am overjoyed, because I choose joy! I choose to rejoice in the things I have, instead what I don’t. God is real. He is kind and good. Maybe shitty things happen, but they are never far from His reach. He is love.
And, too, may you all choose joy this season. No matter what you are facing. You are so loved!
Merry Christmas, my friends.
For the last ten years, I have been on the road at Thanksgiving and Christmastime. It was hard, at first, because I was married. I didn’t want to be away from my husband or family. But then I found myself going through a divorce. The road was a soft place to land during a confusing, difficult and traumatizing time.
And then there were a few years where I was single. Transitioning. Moving across the country. Still, the road was good to me. Then I was pursued. Treated as I have always dreamed. I fell in love again and was finally in a good relationship. I had it all.
Two months ago, my relationship miscarried. I never saw it coming.
And what can I say? Nothing. If anything I have learned through my divorce, it is to let people go. I am done fighting for a relationship that only I want. People choose to leave, for whatever valid or huge-pile-of-horse-shit reason. It is the worst, most familiar feeling in the world. So much so you start to befriend the ache in your heart and pit in your stomach. You keep telling yourself that someday, someone will actually choose you and be all in, no matter what. You have to believe it, because otherwise, you sincerely will become jaded and succumb to anger and all of its accompanying pain and grief. You’ve been in this place before. You can certainly do it again. It is an old friend.
And the grief. Oh, the fucking grief. It is an unexpected, rude and sometimes cruel visitor. An unwelcome one, too. A memory, song or a familiar smell triggers the wave that pulsates through your entire body, sending your heart all the way to your wobbly knees. It’s like a bowling ball that’s constantly hitting the gutter, unable to knock over any pin with precision because it was tossed with the sloppiest, most unplanned aim.
“You’ll find someone better,” people say, seemingly flippantly. But it isn’t helpful.
A good male friend recently said, “Leslie, you’re a smart lady. You know pain and I’m not in any way going to talk you out of it. Welcome to disorientation and all of the accompanying shitty, self-loathing and self-questioning feelings that come with it. I don’t know the journey ahead but I know this, too, shall pass and you will come out the other side and know more about you; deepen yourself and find your true relationships and community in the midst.
It’s one of those things. When you hit rock bottom, what do you do? You kinda just sit there and play with the rocks for a bit. You know this is not about you or anything you’re lacking. It sucks and is hard that you’ve come this far to lose this much. I know you feel duped and like you shouldn’t have given so much, but you had no other choice. You had to give yourself.”
He’s right: I did have to give myself. And I was happy to. My relationship was good. The best of my life, so far. I haven’t anything terrible to say about it, except for the way it ended. Or just that it ended, at all.
I told myself I wasn’t going to write about any of this. Who wants to hear about yet another breakup? But here I am. Back in the land of writing as catharsis.
“I don’t know why you fight it,” my dear friend Meredith smiled, knowingly.
I am not looking for attention or sympathy. I am also not looking to censor myself or my feelings. This is who I am. I write to process. I’ve even begun writing songs. If my lot in life is to love and lose, then I might as well capitalize upon the real, raw and vulnerable place in which the pain repeatedly shoves me.
So as I type this from my stale hotel room in Newport News, Virginia, I am yet again thankful for the road. It does not allow me to fully get lost in an ocean of self-pity or grief. My friends out here listen and let me laugh and cry, without any judgment. They’re even helping me create music. It’s as if I have thirty overprotective big brothers. And I am very loved and cared for by them.
I long for the day when I cease crying over this loss. My heart doesn’t believe it, but my head knows it will come in time. And it is what I do with that time that will help shape my immediate future. I am already grateful for the opportunity to have succeeded in relationship where the odds were probably stacked against us, from the start. But when you choose to love; when you choose to make it work, it does. And well. It isn’t that hard.
Perhaps I’m the biggest fool on the planet, but I’ll keep getting back up, dusting myself off and jumping back in the ring. Because I was made for, and to, love. And, again, the risk of loving is always worth taking.
Thanksgiving was harder than I thought it would be.
After ten years on the road I am no stranger to lonely hotel rooms during the holidays. I’m thankful for my good friends — my family, really — out here.
We had a lovely dinner and I went to bed early but was wide awake at 3:30 am, lyrics screaming in my head. I didn’t stop writing until 6:00 am. Who knows if they’re any good? That’s not for me to judge right now. I’m not throwing anything away.
Last heartache, I wrote a book. This heartbreak, I am writing lyrics.
Maybe I’m just meant to suffer. But I will not be silenced. And I will never give up hope.
I am worthy of love. I am worthy of belonging.
I am worthy of someone shouting from the rooftops and even stupid fucking social media that he is my partner.
I am worthy of respect.
I am worthy of someone not running from me in fear.
I am worthy of commitment and fidelity.
I am worthy of being held when I am crying in the dark, even if it’s because I spilled all the Q-tips on the floor, or I am having period cramps, or my uncle is dying.
I am worthy of someone loving me for ME – for exactly who I am, this very exact moment. Even if I’m not 115 lbs or have conquered an extreme sport; even if I have grey chin hairs and a fleshy tummy.
I am worthy of love because I am already loved: wholly, completely.
I am worthy of being in relationship because I am a really good partner. I am a good friend.
I am a good girlfriend. I have the desire and potential to be a good wife.
And I will hold out for someone who wants the same things I do.
Who wants me for me.
And that is that.
Here’s a picture of me working out at the gym. Isn’t it great? I’m all sweaty and don’t have makeup on. I didn’t even hold the camera up at the right angle. Gasp! But I’m still posting it so I can prove to you, social media-infested world, that I care about my body and body image.
I have been aware of my body and body image ever since I was told I was fat at the age of ten. The dieting started in high school. When I got to college, I gained the typical freshman fifteen, only to lose it that summer. I gained and lost, gained and lost. Right out of college, I worked as a Production Assistant/Assistant Producer at a prominent television news station and was told I should lose weight to guarantee future work.
That would not be the last time I would hear that statement.
After having been married two years, I joined Jenny Craig and lost 20 pounds in six weeks. Once I hit my goal, I quit the program but was terrified of gaining any weight back. I became obsessed with exercise and counting calories and managed to lose ten more pounds. My friends were worried about me, but I scoffed at them. I was finally skinny!
Yet, even at my lightest weight and smallest size, I wasn’t happy.
So I became a fitness instructor. I loved it. It came naturally to me. I had energy and athleticism and people flocked to my classes. I once spontaneously ran a 5K without training and placed third in my age category. I walked into the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center and joined the Masters Swim Team without having any experience. I was good.
But I still thought I was fat.
Enter divorce and the divorce diet. Weight loss is inevitable because you are so emotionally fucked up, eating is the last thing on your mind.
And then people validate it.
“I’m so sorry your husband cheated on you and became a bigamist, but oh my GAW, you look FANTASTIC! Are you working out more?”
Nope. Just starving myself because it’s the only thing I can control.
When my divorce was final in 2011, I traveled to Paris with one of my best friends. We ate delectable food, drank amazing wine, rode bikes all over the city and I kissed random Parisian strangers. It was the highlight of my life during an extremely dark time.
But part of it was overshadowed by fear and anxiety. I was slated to open a show almost immediately after returning from my vacation and I lost sleep because I was worried about not being able to fit into my costume.
That is so unbelievably fucked up.
When I moved back to New York in February 2013, I slowly started to gain weight. This was due to a number of reasons, including the drastic change of weather, lack of exercise, stress and eating too many hors d’oeuvres off the catering trays while trying to make ends meet. I missed teaching fitness classes, terribly. One chilly evening, I randomly met up with an old boyfriend who told me I “looked hotter than ever.”
Maybe I’m not as fat as I think I am!
A few months later I was told – again – I needed to lose weight for work.
I was devastated, but immediately joined an expensive weight loss program. I shocked my body into submission. I ate one small meal a day and “supplemented” the others with what was basically overpriced Slim Fast shakes. With exercise expediting the process, the weight fell off in less than a month. But it came back with a vengeance once I returned to eating any normal food, at all.
I just finished a grueling-yet-satisfying tour. Despite it looking carefree and glamorous, road life is extremely difficult. You eat whatever you find, sleep where and when you can, and if you are lucky enough to have an hour to yourself before load-in and sound check, you’re too exhausted to even think about getting on a treadmill.
It all adds up. And when you start to see unflattering pictures of yourself on stage, you are the most aware; embarrassed; judgmental; the harshest critic. It isn’t the angle from where the picture was taken. It’s you.
Oh, my god. I’m so fat.
It’s a voice in your head you battle daily; almost hourly.
Enter social media news feeds, infiltrated with bikini and workout selfies (you’re welcome for adding to the mayhem!); your already-thin friends squealing about their new and improved lifestyle change, how magic and delicious their brand of overpriced Slim Fast is. On top of seeing old photos of yourself from ten years ago, raging PMS-style annoyance and a gaggling of unfollows, it simply makes you feel bad.
But you’re done with the expensive crash dieting. You know what works. It’s about balance. It’s about burning more calories than you consume. You already exercise. You just have to step it up. And that doesn’t mean jumping around like Jane Fonda at home. Run faster, longer, harder. Lift more often. Cut more calories. Eat more vegetables. Drink more water.
Remember that any lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s simply about balance. And balance should be authentic and consistent.
In four days I will turn 39 years old.
Do you want to know a secret? Despite being at my heaviest weight, I AM THE HAPPIEST AND HEALTHIEST I HAVE EVER BEEN IN MY LIFE.
So I’ve decided to do something new for my birthday this year.
I’m going to love and accept myself for exactly who I am, at WHATEVER SIZE OR WEIGHT I AM.
Who I am is not about what I look like. At all. Ever.
My physical body is bikini-and-beach-ready now, because it functions. And well.
I am a beautiful person. I have a good heart. I am loyal. I love freely and fiercely. I sing and write pretty damn well and I have great legs.
Just because I like to eat doesn’t mean I am fat. I don’t need to look like you, my roommate, other singers, an Olympic athlete, or some random celebrity that we will inevitably end up body-shaming, anyway.
I’m going to be me.
Because I’m fucking awesome.
Day Six, Hour 72 of captaining/catering for #TechCrunch. Forgetting it was in the back pocket of tired black pants, my almost-year-old iPhone took a swan dive into the toilet bowl.
In a flash, I rescued it from “clean” water, but I knew the end was near. I didn’t have time to be upset.
I had to get to another catering gig.
When I got off the train somewhere on the Upper East Side, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I thought about how hard I have worked this past week, to little personal and financial gain. I began to spiral down the rabbit hole of self-pity, realizing the last-minute pee I needed before a double shift will most likely end up taking more than my entire paycheck.
Yes, I shoved the phone into a bag of unfairly-New-York-expensive, low-quality rice, but let’s be honest: Siri sounds like Barry White, I somehow ordered an Uber ride to Nantucket and Google Maps thinks I’m still married.
Too exhausted for tears, I waited in silence to cross the street. The little old lady standing next to me spoke.
“Miss! Miss! Oh, Miss? Can you help me, Miss?”
I was almost late to my second job without any way to communicate, but I couldn’t leave her hanging. Besides, it was nice to take my mind off my champagne problems for a hot second.
“Absolutely,” I smiled. I offered her my left arm, praying her seemingly frail health wouldn’t be too terribly affected by any residual toilet juice.
Together, we began to hobble across 67th and 2nd. The two plastic bags she carried swung from side to side and occasionally brushed my leg.
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” I chirped.
“Yes, it is,” she replied. “My knees are shot, but I am glad I chose today to get outside.”
“I understand,” I said. My own feet throbbed, swelled and ached inside of my supposedly orthopedic catering shoes. The veins in the backs of my legs screamed, and I had long noticed a not-so-fresh-smell under the arms of my black shirt.
I glanced at the woman and guessed she was at least 80 to 85 years old.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Lillian,” she replied. The red-handed warning light began to flash, despite us having traveled only a quarter of the way across the wide intersection.
I gasped. “That was my grandmother’s name! I’m Leslie. It’s so nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Lillian shot me a half smile and returned to putting one foot in front of the other.
When we finally reached the curb, Lillian released her grip on my arm and clasped her arthritic fingers into mine. I noticed the curvature of her bones, marked by brown spots and broken blood vessels in odd places, and the fleshy, soft, delicately translucent feel of her skin. She gazed up at me as she patted my hand.
She took in a deep breath.
“Well, Leslie — ”
This is it! I thought, excitedly.
If I had been on my phone this whole time, I would have missed this very moment. I helped a little old lady across the street and, in return, she’s going to give me some piece of advice, wisdom or encouragement. This is the best thing that’s happened all day!
With raised eyebrows, I grinned at her, expectantly.
Lillian looked me squarely in the eye.
“Have a nice life!”