The Season of Sacrifice

Many of us are ready for 2020 to be over. Some of us have made the ultimate sacrifice: Losing family members to Covid.

Others, are complaining that their families will not be able to join them for a traditional Christmas.

Some of us, are grumbling because we will be alone on Christmas and cannot go into restaurants and celebrate with our friends with our favorite yuletide cocktail!!  I for one am nostalgic for those days.

Something hit me when I was complaining to one of my friends. Let’s think about the principals in all of this.

Joseph. Imagine what he thought when the angel came to him. “DUDE, You want me to marry Mary when she is caring another’s child?? I ‘m not even the baby daddy.“ Especially during the time that Joseph lived, he made a sacrifice to risk his reputation and possibly his livelihood because the angel asked him to. Now that is a sacrifice.

Mary. Imagine her anxiety when the Holy Spirit came to her and said “I am going to move over you and you will Carry the son of God.“  Imagine HER conundrum. “That’s a big compliment and all, but CAN’T you find another unassuming 14-year-old girl that would do this for you.There are a lot of girls my aged down at the Nazareth bazaar that would be much better .“ Talk about pressure. Talk about BABY on board!! To be carrying the leader of all nations, the great “I AM.” Don’t you know she was terrified to bump into something that could jeopardize the prince of peace? And that doesn’t even begin to go into her sacrifice. She had to sacrifice her normal life for an extraordinary one. She knew that she could be stoned to death because she had conceived a child out of wedlock. She sacrificed a NORMAL life and the fear of death.

Jesus. He just looked down upon the people and said, “now wait just one minute. I have a cushy gig sitting on your right hand. You want me too sacrifice my life  for these ungrateful  ,unkind humans? Many don’t even love their neighbors!” 

God looked at his only begotten son and said “ Ah, I am sacrificing my only child.“

I am sure God put this thought  into my head so I wouldn’t pity my status this year. And when we look around and think we’ve done a good thing just remember OUR  sacrifice can’t even touch their sacrifice.

Sorry to be so reflective. I wish you all a HAPPY and HEALTHY  holiday.   Merry Christmas Xoxo 

HOPE…. the gateway drug

I recently had a visit from a minister friend of mine. Our chat turned to books… of course it did. I had recommended The “Dearly Beloved” to her. It was one of my favorite books of 2019.

We entered into a spirited conversation about the meaning of HOPE. I took a literary point of view and she, a theological one.

I brought up the Wizard of Amherst, Emily Dickinson. How Hope “is the thing with feathers and perches in the soul.” I grumbled that hope seemed pretty FLIMSY to me. Even the sound of hope is too gentle for my needs. I went on to add, that I needed something more stubborn, more substantial, like FAITH.

Now that is a is concept I could stand behind. That I needed. Faith sounds like a suit of armor that will protect you when the going gets tough. And the GOING can get pretty tough.

Undeterred, she answered, “AH, But it is God who says … Faith, Hope and Love…” So we’re bringing Him into this discussion…Checkmate.

People ask me, “WHY, are you so positive?” Like it’s an indictment. Yes, I know I have no family. Yes, eating alone may not be fun. Yes it would be nice to have company. They often follow up, “I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store just weeping yesterday, don’t you ever cry?“ The answer is no. However, I WISH I COULD cry. Blame it on Elizabeth. I think she infused me with so much hope when I was a baby, it was just the gateway drug to faith and love. Besides, if I could unlock those tears maybe I would never stop crying.

Maybe it’s just part of my DNA, like survival. I have to have faith that I will join my family one of these days when my work here is done. In the meantime I have a village of friends that I LOVE!

Maybe hope, like exercise, requires doing, requires believing until it becomes part of your wardrobe. I don’t know. Remember, I lost that theological argument to my minister friend. As Sarge used to tell me as a child “that’s just the way God made you Leslie.” I wish he had made me taller. Prettier. With a more “generous endowment!” I wish he had made my gateway drug a “craft beer” that my “hipster” good friend drinks!

Maybe if we wear that flimsy slip of HOPE we can comfortably and more easily suit up in the armor of Faith. What is your gateway drug?

Leslie XO

Behold the Daffodils

 Most people have a strong sentiment when it comes to 2020.
    “Good riddance“ “I am staying up just to make sure 2020 goes out“ and… “Is it 2021 yet??     

In all of this chaos and forced confinement… Behold the daffodil.

I am sure when William Wordsworth wrote the poem “Daffodils“ he didn’t envision them blooming in November. And yet. Here they are. Maybe this flimsy little flower is trying to tell us something…PAY ATTENTION .

There are many blessings that 2020 has presented to us. More time to spend with our immediate families. You may get to know your children better during this time,  SO pay attention. Playing games together or watching Netflix can yield interesting conversations. “Why don’t we learn chess?“ Queen’s gambit anyone? Or perhaps your children will question some arcane “tradition“ to  which you reply, “That’s just the way it’s done“ and they answer “Why? Who says it has to be that way? You are stumped like it was Final Jeopardy. They may say in their new found adult voice, “ We want to do it another way.“  or “why do we  have to eat turkey and dressing. Can’t we have roast beef or even salmon?“ (  YES ! Everybody cook salmon!… Inside joke and a nod to my favorite food group) If we PAY ATTENTION  we may actually learn something from THEM.
Or it may produce uncomfortable discussions about the state of our country and how we goofed things up for them.

Or maybe we will want to escape and read the book we have been meaning to read. 

If we PAY ATTENTION, this forced confinement has produced some flexibility and a  new and interesting perspective.

Don’t have immediate family or someone to eat with? The task for some of us is to PAY ATTENTION  just a little bit harder because blessings DO abound.

Putting our lives in second gear for a little bit is not going to kill us – the virus may. We ALL need to pay attention because the universe is speaking to us. Only we ourselves know if this  is a course correction or a brief respite on our journey. Whatever it is there are blessings to be found…Even in a daffodil blooming in November.

A Circle of Friends

This year, due to the pandemic etc. it may be hard to give thanks. But this year, thanks in part to the pandemic, I have MANY reasons to be grateful.

My friends have always been a giving crowd. When my gym, my beloved wellness center, had to close due to Covid as did my Pilates studio, I was worried (and let’s be honest here, stressed to the max) that my “bargain  basement body”  that was just getting back into the swing of things after the virus, would COMPLETELY atrophy .

My friends got busy. They devised a schedule and someone would walk with me each and every day. It is like a daily devotion and a work out all in one. A Sign- Up Genius without the food! We social distance, we chat about things of significance to things that are very shallow… Our hair! I always know what day it is because I just have to think who did I walk with today.

We have continued this as faithfully as a mailman. And I realized friendship is tougher than any pandemic. Some have even extended their “service” to driving me to my various Leslie Inc. appointments. “Driving Miss Hootie,” as one refers to this endeavor.

I always say I am blessed to have this phenomenal village. Some even FaceTime me in the mornings in their bathrobes while we are drinking coffee.

So I am grateful this Thanksgiving that the pandemic has allowed me to deepen my friendships while still getting my exercise and a little fresh air.

Leslie XO

Force of Nature

People wouldn’t exactly put Robert and force of nature in the same sentence. But here we are, and I do.

My brother Robert died suddenly of a massive heart attack last week.

It is the weirdest feeling being the only one left in your family. It also seems odd to balance this unimaginable grief when my dream is coming true of having my book published. It is also strange to have all my family members sitting up on a cloud, happy and WHOLE and healthy and I am left here dragging around this old bargain basement body. Talk about FOMO. AND having an enviable “change of address.”

Death attacked Robert’s heart, but it also attacked my brain and my heart. And apparently my voice.


If you knew Sarge you knew that she was a force of nature. In his own quiet humble way, Robert was too.

He had an idealistic childhood. He rode bikes, played football, baseball, and he was a pretty good golfer. He got into boyish mischief with his buddies and cohorts Sandy, Craig, Trae, Jimmy, Lew and Clair. He loved motorcycles and rock music. To hear Robert tell it, there was no decent music after the 1970s were over!!

We loved spending weekends with our grandparents Bama and Pop (We called her Bama because Roll Tide was too hard to say). The biggest treat of the weekend was eating Oscar Meyer hot dogs because mama always served generic brands. We always questioned whether we were eating real food or not!

The only thing that distinguished his childhood from other boys was he spent many a summer sitting in a New Orleans hospital room keeping his sister company. Me. How many rambunctious boys do you know who would actively choose to sit in a hospital and be quiet rather than stay home riding bikes and playing with friends?? Robert, that’s who. He was a force of nature in his understated brand of compassion that made me feel like it was going to be OK as long as we were together.

Even with all of this, his life really didn’t begin until he met the love of his life, Allison. I have never seen such a devoted husband. He was a force of nature in his love for her. Then, along came two sons. He absolutely doted on Hutch and Hudson and he didn’t mind being called “Mr. Mom.” He was a force of nature in telling me about their accomplishments and in his pride for them.

He also adored his in-laws. I recently ask him why he still called them Mr. and Mrs. McClendon. His answer was quick and sure. “It is because I respect them too much to ever call them by their first names, Les.”

Anyone who knew Robert well, would know not to question his loyalty to Auburn. His love of Auburn football was not to be toyed with. Those who got in the middle of Robert and a football game would encounter his force of nature which was neither quiet or subtle!

So maybe the real juxtaposition here is to see my mother’s full throttle force of nature versus my brothers quiet contemplative force.

I needed both forms in my life. I will miss them both.

The Gift

The Gift

Image result for present pictures

Many of you would consider having your health the greatest gift, but I am here to tell you it isn’t. During my convalescence, and really from the very beginning, my health has been a precarious thing. It seems like an unwelcome shadow following me around reminding me of my shortcomings and that it can take me down at any second.

How can we thrive when our health falters? If it is not our health, then, what is the most important thing? Our relationships. My friends have come bearing food, homemade soups, my favorite food: salmon, visits, Starbucks, clean juice, and doing tasks like stripping my bed, taking me to doctors’ appointments raking leaves and coming nightly to massage the muscles in my left arm. I am aware of their unique gifts and expressions of love. They even take me to the beauty shop, engage in Instagram takeovers and talk football. While the state of my health has not been robust during the season, the state of my relationships has never been stronger.

The greatest relationship is the one that I have nurtured during this time with God. It could be mother nature or the universe. He, /She has given me a greater appreciation that I am not going through this illness alone. My friends are the outward expression of God. But I am keenly aware that he is walking each and every step of this journey with me. He is reassuring me as I “slow walk” with “anemic stamina,” He is walking the journey with me. I am struck that during the season of Advent, familiar words and passages strike me in a different way, a more profound way. They penetrate my brain in a way they never have before. I have been such a stress case for most of my life especially the last year of my life when ironically “my dream has come true.” It is a gift that I have had to slow down and stop. This ability to know it in the moment brings such a gift of peace. Sometimes it takes years of looking in the rear view mirror of life to ascertain how a particular struggle has shaped us.

I hope you all receive the items on your Christmas list. At the same time, I hope as you gather with family members who may drive you crazy and friends who may do the same we are all present  walking this journey together and that is the greatest gift you can give or receive this season.

Merry Christmas,

Leslie XO

Gratitude…. ACTUALLY

November blog pic

Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us. For some of you it will be a time to gather with family. For others it marks a big lunch to usher in frenzied days off shopping.

For me, it has taken on a deeper level of meaning. One that is only gained through grace.

Many of you have wondered where my blog has been.  On October 20 I woke up with my left hand on fire. It had red patches of heat, my wrist puffy with fluid and my hand swollen. I couldn’t do anything with it.  Some of you know that my left hand is my only working hand. My good hand. My independence.

For two nights I didn’t sleep, completely undone by the pain.  But then I got busy trying to figure out what was happening to me.

My internist did a battery of tests and ordered other tests. She first thought it was gout since gout originates in a joint like my wrist. Then she sent me to my rheumatologist. In the meantime, I had developed crazy mouth sores. She prescribed a special “magic mouthwash,” so I could eat. Tests ruled gout out and everything in between. My puzzled rheumatologist said this pointed to a nasty virus.

“A nasty virus wreaked havoc on my left side?” I was put on so much medicine to help with nerve pain. I felt like a cross between Elvis Presley and Daisy Jones!

The following week he had found the proverbial needle in the haystack. 5% of stroke victims have something called an arthritic virus which attacks the unaffected side. “You are not a textbook anything,” he concluded.
My neurosurgeon was my next stop. “All roads lead to Timmy,“ I said to him as he walked into the room. I outlined the sequence and symptoms. He concurred with everything including the rheumatologist suggestion that I get off social media until I could get well which he predicts will be December or January.  Nerve sensation is the last thing to come back. AARGH. I added FOMO to my long list of symptoms.

My friends and my brother, my wondrous village, have stepped in. BIG time. They have taken me to doctor’s appointments, brought me food, brought me Starbucks and immunity drinks, taken me to the wellness center to walk around the track and come by on Fridays to strip my bed and do a load of clothes. They have even come over when I’m in my nightgown to massage therapeutic cream into my muscles.  I told you they were great. They have EVEN kept my presence on Instagram alive! Taking pictures after I’ve gotten my hair done rather than when I’ve been in my nightgown and robe.

Yes, I am still quiet and healing. I am open to the lessons that God or the universe is teaching me during this period of adjustment. One thing that is abundantly clear during the season of gratitude, I have many blessings to count.  I am very grateful to the men and women in white coats. And to the wonderful friends that have kept Leslie Inc. and ME afloat. Before you indulge in Black Friday temptations take a minute. Reflect on your blessings. We all have a lot to be grateful for… ACTUALLY.

Leslie XO

#BeforeAnyoneElse

#March2020

#WhosYourBAE

A change of address??

blog pic october

SO… Two weeks ago, marked the third anniversary of my mother’s … You know. Sure, I have always hated, loathed, and downright detested this day. Like I needed an anniversary to remember?? As if I would ever forget for the rest of my life.

But, the thing that has made me SO uneasy, I’ve determined, are the words themselves. The anniversary of my mother’s…. DEATH. I trip over them like a raised nail looming off the page on the calendar each and every year.

Maybe, in many ways I feel her presence even now. As I edit my novel, I hear her looking over my shoulder saying, “Now Mary Leslie don’t split an infinitive or misspell a word.” Or I debate, “did this quote come from Shakespeare or the Bible?” And I can hear her as clear as day “the majority of the things worth repeating are either from Shakespeare or the Bible.” She is always there with a comment that can make me laugh or when it comes to grammar fill me with utter dread!

I could say the other reason I stumble over those words of finality is because as a believer in God, I believe in eternal life. I mean, after all, it is the bedrock of our belief system. Now, heaven itself is a different matter. For some, it would be the perfect golf course. For others, a tropical beach reminiscent of Club Med. Maybe even a fishing pond in repose at sunset. For some, it is the grandeur of snow-covered mountains that puts us in close proximity to heaven anyway. Regardless of your idea, it is as if we just wake up someplace else. With a better mind and a healed body. The latter has always been a big draw for me. What does heaven look like to you?

And then it came to me. Eureka! Sarge has merely had a “change of address.” I can live with that.  And I think it is just clever enough that Sarge herself would be amused. She loved a good turn of phrase!

Next year when you see me on or around October 3 you can remind me of my mother’s “change of address.”  You can even ask me “how are Sarge’s new digs?” I might even smile and respond “heavenly.”

Leslie XO

Nothing better than the smell of a book

Julia is a Marketing and Communications Intern at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. This article about my love for libraries (and LIBRARIANS!) was featured on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library blog.

At the age of 60, Leslie Hooton’s wish to be a published author came true. She is publishing her first novel, Before Anyone Else, with Turner Publishing. It was an accomplishment she dreamt of all her life. A childhood visit to the library with her mother was the start of her dream. In fact, the first memory Leslie recalls in her life is the smell of library books which developed into a life-long passion for reading those books. For Leslie, her library card was the equivalent to her passport to exciting books and adventures.
Leslie grew up in a small Alabama town comparable to the setting of How to Kill A Mockingbird. A stroke at birth kept Leslie in a wheelchair for much of her childhood but a visit to the library and a library card changed everything. “The library was my happy and safe place,” Leslie said. “When I would go it was like a passport to the world.”
The library was a place where Leslie could explore the world and experience things she didn’t think would happen in her real life. Being able to access the world was important to her. It allowed her to be independent and to connect with her thoughts. And it was something her local library gave her the chance to do.
To Leslie, a fourth-generation attorney, the library was a comforting place; she’d grown up there. Both her mother and her aunt were librarians. In fact, Leslie would spend hours writing in her high school’s library which is also where her mother worked. “I was happiest when I was quiet and writing in the library. I would go to the library before anyone else would get there and smell the books. I wasn’t alone.” She’d found a sanctuary among books.
And Leslie continues to read and write. An avid blogger, Leslie has found a way to marry both of her passions: through blogging. Her blog, What Dreams May Come, is about her love of libraries and why she enjoys writing.
Leslie has been a resident of Charlotte for 30 years. Her favorite Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branch, and the one she calls home, is the Myers Park Library. She says she would spend entire days there if she could. “It was like a full-time job,” she said. “I would go with my legal pad and sit at a certain desk. I would write until 1 p.m., eat lunch, and go back to writing.”
Leslie is a great friend of the Library and she is an inspiration to others. The theme of her personal life story and testimony is apparent: never give up on your dreams.
Today, Leslie can say that she is a participating member at the Sewanee Writers Conference, a member of the Myers Park Library Board, a lifelong friend of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and, finally, she now calls herself an author. Her book, Before Anyone Else, will be available in March 24, 2020. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will also be in most libraries.

‘Tis the season

sorority

‘TIS THE SEASON

I have never written a blog specifically because a friend asked me to. But here goes my very first inaugural “commissioned” blog post!!

Do you know what season we are in currently? Not football. Not back-to-school. Not even Christmas shopping for you early birds. It is RUSH season. Where freshmen and sophomores go through college rush. The pictures will be posted on Instagram and Facebook.

I am writing about the pictures that don’t get posted. A girl crying until her eyes are red and her face blotchy or collapsing into her mother’s or best friend’s arms. It can be brutal. Sorority rush. It is what happens when you don’t get your bid. You get CUT. This is the ABSOLUTELY perfect description of rejection. It is like taking a knife and gutting a girl’s self-esteem, her worth and everything she thought she knew about the world. No amount of Mederma or Vitamin E is going to erase that wound.

I have two experiences from sorority rush. The first was really awful. The second was worse.

I was a freshman the first time I went out for rush. I was cut after the fifth day. Even though I was a double legacy I was sad. But I also knew the truth about myself and so it was just a topographical wound.

The second time I was a sophomore. I had been dorm president, SGA Senator, inducted into Lambda Sigma honorary for rising sophomores and knew a ton of people. I was ready.  On the last day I got cut. Never mind, that a legacy should get a courtesy cut on the third day they took me to the last day before inflicting the wound. I went home thinking I would never go back to Auburn.

We may tell our children it doesn’t matter but we turn around and buy outfits, call people to get recommendations and all those other things.

Because the truth is, when we go out for rush, we want people to like us. We want people to WANT us. That is one of the most basic human emotions. A basic desire to “belong”. As a parent, it is hard to mount an argument against something as fundamental as acceptance. Getting rejected before school even gets started seems barbaric. Being deemed “Unchosen” when you are 18 or any age, is a hard thing to recover from.

College is not the real world. You’re probably going to do just fine out in the “real” world! I still can summon the raw hurt after all these years. I wish I had some enlightened advice. Because “it SUCKS” isn’t exactly profound. In truth it takes a while to stitch up one’s heart and maybe it doesn’t get completely stitched back. My scars are still there. I wish I had some magic suture that would stitch the wound up until it disappears.

Unfortunately, just like acceptance, being unchosen is a part of life. Spouses, friends, teammates and sororities at some point may let you down. We have to forget our “followers” and concentrate more on our “friends”.

I did go back to Auburn.  I got up and went to class. Every. Single. Stupid day. Until the pain wasn’t the first and last thing I thought about. It is up to us to CHOOSE ourselves. The question becomes what do YOU do next?

Leslie XO

#BeforeAnyoneElse

#March2020

#WhosYourBAE