KIND Bars & Caffeine

I am a quiet person. I lead a quiet life. Just me and my computer. Oh yes, doing my Leslie Inc. activities for the body.

As I look through the pictures of 2021 it is hard for me to even believe that this was my life. A BOOK TOUR!! Encountering luminaries like Ann Patchett! Zibby Owens! And the wonderful authors that showed up. Colleen Oakley, Patty Henry, Kevin Wilson, Kimberly Brock, and Jill McCorkle. And then there were the authors that offer blurbs like Kristy Woodson Harvey and Lisa Barr. There were all you wonderful people that came out to my book signings. My heart flung wide open at the very idea you would show up. No crickets. Just laughter and people offering hugs. How did I get so lucky?

There were wonderful events on podcast with Julie Chan, Dara Levan, Katie Fulton, Berit Lohn, Tracy Curtis, and Lisa Harrison and Brenda Gardner.

And then they were the kindness of the bookstores and book people. Park Road Books and Sally Brewster – there are not words to thank you. This is followed closely by Ann Patchett at Parnassus. It was in that bookstore, in that moment, I felt overwhelmed and choked up when Kevin Wilson squeezed my hand and Ann Patchett gave me a hug. I have to tell you, this is the papal equivalent to a blessing.

Then I headed for New York City to attend the Zibby Awards presented by the indefatigable Zibby Owens for Before Anyone Else. This was the literary equivalent to the Oscars.

I had a lovely evening at the Auburn Oil Booksellers, and a fun evening at FoxTales with Hyphen going for a drink, and hearing “Purple Rain” that choked me up yet again with Lisa Harrison. All this was followed by events at Page and Palette which resembled an open mic night which I was very nervous to just talk. But Stephanie, dear Stephanie told  me I did a good job.  And just signing books and more books and even more books in Birmingham at Thank You Books! There were the book clubs with Francene Katzen in Richmond, Jenna  Olson, Sally Dysart, and Cammie Monroe in Atlanta. When I visited my hometown, Vanessa Harper made me feel like a bride with food, chandeliers, and a towns full of people waiting on the girl that grew up there. Each bookstore has their own DNA and each Booktalk had its own DNA. Like friends, these bookstores became very special to me – and there were some bookstores I didn’t even manage to get to – like Litchfield. My energy was limited.

There  were the people that drove me or flew with me. Kimberly Mize, Mary Scott Peterson, Lew Burdette  and Harriet Pharr. There were others that just dispensed advice and hugs as were needed.

In fact, this year has been the opposite of quiet. It has been chock-full of people and moments. I often joked that I subsisted on Kind Bars and caffeine. Eating and drinking on the go to give me a big dose of energy.
Maybe I should ameliorate the saying and just say I subsisted on KINDNESS this year. And laughter. Love. Joy. Because you gave me all these things in heaping spoonfuls.  Thank you. I hope to see you this summer on the summer tour. If you offer me a KIND bar I probably won’t refuse!


Leslie Hooton


What are you going to pack??

Life is beginning to “BLOOM” again with possibilities. People are preparing to go on vacation. What are you packing?

Richard Rohr wrote, “I am someone who journeys with trauma.”

Do you “journey with trauma?” I believe trauma is like an umbrella which includes any sadness, grief or disappointment that lingers or haunts you.

Sadness is not something that stays put in one ZIP Code. It will pack its bag or carry-on and accompany you on any “fun” trip. It doesn’t even need a passport, boarding pass or a window seat. It can show up anywhere. That’s what makes it so scary. We are sipping a frozen cocktail and somehow the sound of “Marco Polo” triggers something and we are reduced to salty tears.

I accept Richard Rohr’s premise that we journey with these ghosts. So what do we do about it??

I suggest we pack lots of joy, gratitude, appreciation and happy memories to insulate and buffer that “sharp edge” of grief, sadness or disappointment. These “cheerful companions” can dull those “rowdy interlopers” and even  cause them to evaporate into the sun-kissed atmosphere over time.

But if you see someone walking with a heavy load – BE KIND. Being authentic. Sharing often diminishes our own  pain.

Just think of joy, gratitude, and happy memories as “SUNSREEN” to protect you from the burn of trauma.

So as you travel, don’t forget to pack the sunscreen! Your skin and your heart will thank you. Xoxo

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of The Secret of Rainy Days!!


Just a Day on the Calendar

NOW we are in the aftermath. The “undoing“ of Christmas. The messiness. Throwing away paper. Making exchanges. Packing up until next year. I have a question for you. Did this Christmas live up to your EXPECTATIONS??
The rush towards Christmas Day is one full of being in overdrive and feeling completely overwhelmed. In fact this year I took to answering my phone “corporate headquarters of the  OVERWHELMED. Can we help you?”

So much emphasis is placed on the perfect family picture. In the perfect outfit.  YIKES! Finding the outfit that still FITS!  Choosing the perfect setting. No matter who is mad at who or who is a little “altered.”

More emphasis is placed on the perfect gift and having an extra gift in case someone shows up that you hadn’t counted on giving you a gift.

We plan. We make lists. We lose and remake lists. And then we begin again. Countless texts and emails go back-and-forth to family members deciding on plans and menu items. Do you have the person that says…“it doesn’t matter to me” and then they  complain about where the squash casserole is that mama used to make? It’s maddening! How many times did we utter “that’s SO Passive aggressive” under our breath. Between sleep deprivation because we are up late wrapping presents and drinking too much we get into arguments that would never have happened.

What if December 25th was just A DAY ??? 

I don’t have any living family. It is very strange to be in the world without relatives. It is weird not to be making Christmas arrangements.  But it can also be FREEING. I stayed in my workout clothes all day. I tried to clean up my house because FEMA would turn around and say “no thanks lady we can’t help.” And then something happened. A friend texted me to come over and have brunch.  I accepted. She arrived to get me in her pajamas. My kind of friend.

 Later, another friend texted to see if I wanted to go on a walk. I accepted. I FaceTimed with another friend “just as I was” in my workout clothes. I never even managed to put on a bra.

 I realized the poet John Donne was correct “no man is an island.” I accepted every single invitation and my house is still messy. But I had FUN being with friends. I realized maybe it is a good thing not to have expectations. Because if they are not met and we did not get the perfect present we are not disappointed. I woke up on the 25th and said as I do every day a prayer of gratitude that I was here another day.

I consider each day a “Do Over.” A chance to be better. A chance to be kinder. A chance to listen. A chance to HEAR my body. 

Leslie Hooton

In my  prayer on the morning of December 25th I closed with a smile. I realized that in that moment the world had opened itself to me in possibilities. I had to have faith and hope that something good was going to happen. And it did.

I don’t think you have to be as drastic as I am and make this discovery when you don’t have family. You can make it starting today. You can go ahead and try to set out and make each holiday, each day really, special and perfect but maybe balance those expectations with the notion that each day BLOOMS and SPARKLES  with possibilities for us to discover. Even holidays. Even failures. My New Year’s resolution is for balance. In my personal life and in my body. I want to stay upright. What is your unspoken wish or desire as you begin the New Year? Maybe it is just to throw out expectations and live quite freely and happily in the moment….

Luxuriate in the WOW

My friend and I were talking recently. Her child spent a WHOLE hour at a party. Her child suffers from social anxiety…SO…this was a BIG deal. It was an exciting day for her to see her child conquer their fear. If only for an hour.

It was also a really exciting day for me. I received some “early BUZZ!” For The Secret of Rainy Days! 

“For some mothers this isn’t a big deal,” she said.
“But, for you, in your LANE it is a huge deal. Just like this recognition for “The Secret of Rainy Days” is HUGE for me in MY LANE. Aren’t we lucky to know the difference and have GRATITUDE?”

My friend and I were on the phone. It was a Wednesday. And we decided it was worth a glass of wine to toast these milestones…for us.

I came up with a phrase: “Luxuriate in the WOW.”
We toasted our day and promised to “luxuriate in our own WOWS.“

The writer, Anne Lamott, has written a book called “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.”

I think we spend a lot of time in the HELP department of PRAYERS. Maybe not so much in the WOW department. At least not me. At least not lately.

I’ve decided life is too short not to recognize the many WOW moments. I am absolutely NOT talking about honors etc. I am talking about the little things that are just spectacular: SUNSETS, a baby’s first steps, and OK YES – some early BUZZ for a book that I’ve been writing for most of my life.


I think it helps the dopamine or serotonin in our brain to spend time  luxuriating in the gratitude and even in the rarified air of the “WOW department.” God gave us this beautiful world with moments of pure ASTONISHMENT. So after a season of sadness, I decided myself to linger a while in the WOW department. The air is just the same as it is on a Tuesday or a Wednesday – it is just the way my lungs breathe it in or maybe it is the way my brain takes it in…or my heart.

Luxuriate in your own WOW. It’s OK if you want to luxuriate in the NOW. Just look up from your device and it will just hit  you in the face. WOW!

“The Secret of Rainy Days” is available for PRE-ORDER NOW on Amazon or your favorite independent bookstore!!                                                                        



Pilates, Positivity and the Pandemic

Everyone thinks I’m so positive. I am here to confess…I’m not!
I have taken Pilates for the better part of 16 years. And… For the better part of those 16 years I’ve hated it. Loathed it. Despised it. When Tuesdays, my Pilates day, rolled around, I always woke up with a serious case of dread.
It wasn’t like that in the beginning. I approached it with vigor and perhaps vanity. I wanted “Sarah Jessica Parker abs.” Laney, my Pilates instructor, or as I have affectionately nicknamed her, my Pilates dominatrix always said…”Everyone’s Pilates looks different.“ That was just her way of letting me down gently.

I soon learned I would not ever have ANYTHING close to “Sarah Jessica Parker abs.” I switched my attention to the clock. How soon will this wretched torture be OVER??? How could a bunch of exercises be SO hard?? Cadillac? The little chair? Innocuous contractions could render my muscles sore. 
Then the Pandemic happened. Everything closed. Even the Pilates studio. At first I was thrilled! Then…Something happened. 

My body GREW weak. I had trouble getting out of my tub. I had to install bars. I HATED THIS!! You would think I would be prepared. My “bargain basement body“ and I prayed that if the Pilates studio would EVER reopen I would CHANGE my attitude.

It did and I did. My Pilates studio put significant safety protocols in place. The door is open in cold weather, temperatures are checked upon entry, you have to wash your hands before and after you finish and always WEAR a mask .Is it a pain? YES. Only rivaled by the pain of my first few lessons. But I didn’t care. I could hear the Pointer sisters “I have a New Attitude.“ My Pilates dominatrix noticed. “Look how strong your right side is getting.“ Even my physical therapist noticed, “Maybe Laney needs to work on your good side.“ 

Some things however have NOT changed. I still call her Pilates dominatrix. I still shout out “Pilates Tourette’s.“ Words that are uttered in the Pilates studio that will STAY in the studio. And yes, it is still HARD. Really HARD. I don’t care. I am getting stronger. And guess what?? I NO longer have to use the bars in my tub to steady me. I am grateful that Laney has SO much patience and has crafted lessons that benefit MY body. Because, as the saying goes, “Everybody’s Pilates looks different“.

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.