The Year Of Leigh, The Year Of Hattie, and Sarah MacLean's Brazen And The Beast


Birthday cake from my 36th birthday


One month from today, I'll turn 40. Five years after The Year Of Leigh began.

I realized I never wrote much about how that came to be or what it meant, other than a brief reference in this post about my decision to move to San Francisco, but it very much centered that year. I used #TheYearOfLeigh on Instagram. (Someone who's into weightlifting is also using the hashtag. Very much not me!) When I turned 36, friends convinced me to keep going and how can you not when they make you a Year Of Leigh cake? So I added #eternalyearofleigh into the arsenal.

But if I'm honest, it was almost a joke at that point.

For close to t 10 years I had believed the year I turned 35 would be an important one. I don't want to get into the how or the why or even what all I thought would happen because I'm still making sense of it. I don't think I was wrong or that I misunderstood. But let's just say my 35th year of life did not turn out the way I hoped.

When I turned 36 and the big things I hoped for hadn't happened...well, it rocked a few foundations of my life. I became resigned. This was as good as it was going to get. It wasn't a bad life, such as it was, but it hurt too much to keep hoping for what I wanted, only to never receive it. I decided to focus instead on what I needed in order to have a good enough life and try to orient my life in that direction.

I don't think I was wrong to do so. Those guidelines have served me well, even though I'm not there yet. 

At the same time, I'm sad for my 36 year old self. I knew then, even as I was grieving, that The Year Of Leigh was no small thing regardless of what did or didn't happen. But I couldn't honor or celebrate the other accomplishments at the time so I'd like to do that today.

The big thing, of course, is that I moved to San Francisco sight unseen. Never so much as visited California before I uprooted my life and moved from Nashville to the Bay. I still can't believe how it all came together. I still can't believe I did it! 

Whenever I doubt my badassery, I think about all of my big out of state moves this past decade but I especially think of San Francisco.

It started with paying attention to my intuition. Then a conversation with a friend who invited me to housesit for the summer. After I said yes to the adventure, a job interview fell into my lap. I moved with a job offer and got to work with some of the best coworkers I've ever had. I never found my own place but I lived with dear friends and their kiddos and my favorite cat Ezra and the best ocean view. (I miss those sunsets so much.)

I made wonderful new friends. I ate pho and soup dumplings on the regular. I bought breakfast sandwiches from my favorite bakery and ate while sitting on the beach. I reconnected with a few of my cousins who lived in the Bay Area.

The Year Of Leigh was about possibility and adventure and a fair amount of sass. It was an attitude and a promise.

I got to experience another side of myself: I'm someone who can start over in a big city. I was not prepared for how dense SF was but I adjusted and, in so many ways, I flourished. I hadn't used public transportation since my grad school days in Chicago but I figured out the buses and sometimes I'd get off early just to enjoy a walk through a different neighborhood. If you know how indoorsy I am, you know what a miracle that is. 

While I lived there, I decided to brush off the manuscript I'd finished a few years prior. I read it again and believed I still had something so I hired an editor. I lost close to 90 pages of revisions due to a computer fluke. (The words that came out of my mouth.) It took time to get back to it but last year A Storied Life made it's way into the world. And it all started with The Year Of Leigh.

2015 didn't turn out the way I imagined but who would I be if I hadn't taken the risk? I'm glad I'll never know.

And yet. It's nagged me, the year I view as a failure no matter how much good came out of it.

Then this past summer, I read Brazen And The Beast.


I was primed to love this book because of my own, albeit much less goal-oriented, Year Of Leigh. I was 100% here for The Year Of Hattie. Hers didn’t turn out quite the way she originally imagined either.

Hattie is 29 and she’s got things to do before she turns 30. Her plan covers business, fortune, home, future…and losing her virginity so she’ll be off the marriage market and maybe then her dad will start to seriously view her as in line for succeeding him at his business. Her plan does not involve finding an unconscious man tied up in her carriage when she’s supposed to be on her way to said virginity-losing. Best meet cute ever.

Whit grunts more than he speaks and his reputation as Beast precedes him. But Hattie isn’t afraid of him and she’s willing to do what it takes to keep her family safe and get the keys to her dad’s kingdom in the process. Whit was super swoon-worthy and I loved his awe of Hattie and her badassery. They are both forces to be reckoned with, albeit in different ways, making for quite the team.

When this wasn't making me smile with glee, it made me cry. Hattie is my favoritest and Whit must grunt forevermore.

This book was a gift. As I approach 40, I’m ready to bring back the spirit of The Year Of Leigh. Maybe I won’t find a Whit to call my own but I suspect I’ll find something that much better.

CW: sexism, past child abuse, violence, past attempted murder, bombing, fat-shaming (which is countered), panic attack


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No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol {review}



My Review - 5 Stars

“It was a truth universally acknowledged that by age forty I was supposed to have a certain kind of life, one that, whatever else it might involve, included a partner and babies...If this story wasn’t going to end with a marriage or a child, what then?”

I’ve been trying to come up with the words to explain how much this book means to me. I’ve read some incredible nonfiction this year but this memoir about a woman creating her own blueprint for the single life was the book I *needed* to read. It was so good for my soul. I viscerally related to Glynnis MacNicol’s experiences, particularly the way she embraced her singleness, and felt so understood. Her words so deeply resonated with me, especially with my 39th birthday around the corner. While I remain open to meeting the love of my life, the last few years I’ve focused more on what my ideal single life looks like because I fervently believe my life has value even if it looks different from how I imagined. To that end, I've been hungry for stories of other single women who are doing the same. 

It’s a rich memoir, whether she’s asking herself what 40 means to her and whether she wants to have kids as a single woman or she’s grappling with the decline and eventual death of her mother or she’s reveling in the realization she has a life people envy her for. Best of all, it’s a memoir exploring singleness that does not end with the author in a relationship. MacNicol isn’t following a conventional path and I soaked up her wisdom as someone who is a few years ahead of me. Highly, highly recommended.


No One Tells You This


If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?

This question plagued Glynnis MacNicol on the eve of her 40th birthday. Despite a successful career as a writer, and an exciting life in New York City, Glynnis was constantly reminded she had neither of the things the world expected of a woman her age: a partner or a baby. She knew she was supposed to feel bad about this. After all, single women and those without children are often seen as objects of pity, relegated to the sidelines, or indulgent spoiled creatures who think only of themselves.

Glynnis refused to be cast into either of those roles and yet the question remained: What now? There was no good blueprint for how to be a woman alone in the world. She concluded it was time to create one.

Over the course of her fortieth year, which this memoir chronicles, Glynnis embarks on a revealing journey of self-discovery that continually contradicts everything she’d been led to expect. Through the trials of family illness and turmoil, and the thrills of far-flung travel and adventures with men, young and old (and sometimes wearing cowboy hats), she is forced to wrestle with her biggest hopes and fears about love, death, sex, friendship, and loneliness. In doing so, she discovers that holding the power to determine her own fate requires a resilience and courage that no one talks about, and is more rewarding than anyone imagines.

Intimate and timely, No One Tells You This is a fearless reckoning with modern womanhood and an exhilarating adventure that will resonate with anyone determined to live by their own rules.


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Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.

The Question Single Women In Their 30s Ask Each Other


Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash


It's possible this question came up at some point in my 20s. I clearly recall a couple of conversations around it in my early 30s.

I've lost track of how many times the question has come up in the past year or two as I straddle the line between mid and late 30s.

"Have you thought about having kids on your own?"

It's not a question we start with. No, it comes up when we're well into the conversation and our meal or drinks are almost gone. We've pushed back a little from the table we're sitting at, our bodies more in tune with ourselves and each other.

It's not a question I would want my married and mothering friends to ask me, though it's possible one or two have. I would probably be horrified if a relative brought it up. (This is different from me raising the topic with them, when I can set the tone for the conversation with the people closest to me.)

But when I'm with my friends who are also single, the question is natural at this point. It might flow out of a discussion of singleness or dating or something else altogether.

For those of us in our late 30s and early 40s, the question takes on a different tone. Not all of my friends want to have children but most of them do. The years of this particular possibility start to dwindle and it may not be left to fate. We may still get married but will it happen while we're still able to have biological children? There's an urgency there now.

So this is why we ask each other. We want to know whether the dream of motherhood matters enough to do something about it. Do we want to be mothers regardless of whether marriage is in our future? 

This question is both clarifying and revealing. Each time it comes up, we learn something about each other and we reaffirm our respective decisions.

For me, I've determined parenthood isn't something I would want to purposefully do on my own. Wanting to be a mother has always been in the context of raising children with my husband. 

That could still happen but it might not. It won't negate feelings of sadness if I find myself in the same situation a few years from now. But it does show me I don't need to take concrete action toward motherhood either.

I remember the granddaughter of a hospice patient who adopted her daughter when she was in her 30s. She lived next door to her parents and they watched her daughter while she was at work and the set-up completely worked for them. I've met a few other single women since then who adopted and at least one friend is seriously considering it now.

A couple of friends have tried or are thinking about trying IVF. I always think of one of my high school English teachers when this option comes up. She was the first person I knew who was unmarried and had a child this way.

A couple of friends volunteer for CASA or something similar. They're not acting as mothers but they are playing an important role for those children and that's worth noting. There are a number of ways to nurture children without being their sole caregiver.

There is beauty and joy in cheering someone on who is pursuing a path different from mine and in talking things over with someone who has come to the same conclusion.

More than anything, I'm grateful to be friends with amazing single women who are a safe place for the hard conversations and who consistently champion one another. I've grown to love discussing this question with them because it reminds me of the support and solidarity we extend to one another, no matter where we land on the subject. 

But I Wasn't Alone



Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash


My mind did not initially register what I saw.

I walked toward where my car was parked and saw a white car with random parts on the ground in front of it, the bumper hanging partially off, the headlight busted. What happened to that car, I wondered. How did that even happen?


"You guys," I yelled to my friends, trying to keep the note of hysteria from creeping in. "Look at what happened to my car!" 

Melissa and Danielle rushed over from where they'd been headed and we gaped at the destruction. 

This was not how the weekend was supposed to go.

We had picked a random town in Wisconsin to meet up at the end of July. I hadn't seen Melissa and Danielle since before I moved to San Francisco but now that we lived in adjoining states, it was time to catch up. 

We've been friends for almost 20 years now and it's easy to feel like we're still in college when we're together, no matter how much has changed since then. Saturday evening  we'd visited a brewery and then found a restaurant serving our beloved fried pickles. We all agreed: these were as good as the ones at La Grotto's. No small feat. Sunday morning we'd planned on checking out a cute coffee shop we'd passed on the way to the brewery.

That plan was put on hold as it became clear my car had been the victim of a hit and run. While a few hotel guests had witnessed it happen late the night before, they had been unable to catch the license plate. 

On any given day, my mind is a wild cacophony of thoughts. Put me in some sort of difficult situation and those thoughts take a hyperbolic and/or fatalistic direction. Welcome to the jungle.

I needed to drive home that afternoon. Was my car even drivable? If it wasn't, how would I get back to the Twin Cities? I didn't know any mechanics there. How soon could it be fixed? What would I do if I had to stay in Wisconsin? What about work? 

Then looming behind all that: the knowledge my temp job would be ending soon without any good prospects on the horizon. I was about to be unemployed again while having to pay my deductible and a portion of the rental car for something that wasn't my fault. Stressed was an understatement.

This all passed through my mind in seconds.

Then I took a deep breath. If I'd been there on my own, I might have fallen apart. The last straw and all that.

But I wasn't alone.

I looked at Danielle and Melissa and this zen state came over me. Unlike most things in my life, I didn't have to go through this on my own.

Sure, there was still strong language but the hysteria that tried to take hold quickly ebbed away. Everything rolled off my back. I focused on one thing at a time: talking to the sheriff's department, calling insurance, determining if my car was drivable.

Emotional equanimity is the gift of the healthy Four and that day it was on display in full force. I am convinced my friends were a big part of that. Their presence kept me present. They kept checking on me because they were ready for the breakdown. I was upset but I held it together because what else can you do?

Instead, I focused on what I did have.

My friends stayed by my side while I made phone calls and waited for the police. They waited with me and took me out for tea while we waited for a mechanic and drove to get  gorilla tape and took my mind off of the weight of this new disaster. 

Unless you have been single for many years, I'm not sure you'll understand how much this means.

I wasn't alone.

Let me repeat that: I wasn't alone.

I'm in charge of everything in my life. Whether it's chores around the house or everything that comes with moving out of state, it all comes down to me. It can be exhausting but I'm used to it. I don't have a choice. Either I take care of things or they don't get done. Full stop.

When it came to this car debacle, I still had to make all the phone calls and deal with the car rental company and the mechanic. But I had two dear friends by my side and that made all the difference. Having Melissa and Danielle there to bear witness and help out in tangible ways was a balm. I didn't know how much I needed that balm. 

The gift of presence goes farther than any of us ever know.

To Be The Girl On The Back Of A Bike


"I want to take you for a ride on the bike," he declared, his eyes intent on me, a whisper of excitement curling up at the edges. 

It came out of nowhere. Our conversation consisted of the usual topics and always, always I tried to figure out where I stood and where I wanted to stand. It was one of those days where summer transitioned into fall and our friend group's plans bled from one fun thing to the next on the weekend. Scraps of surrounding conversations filtered into my awareness but nothing could distract me from his gaze.

How did he manage to do this to me? We were still only a few months into this equilibrium and at least every week he'd do or say something that made me question whether he wanted something more again. He made me question my very sanity. I didn't want to be hurt but I wasn't ready to let go of him entirely either.

"We could go right now," he continued. It was a dare and maybe it was a message. We couldn't leave this gathering together and not be plagued by whispers. Maybe that was part of the problem. For every sweet thing he did, a friend would squeal, "I really think he likes you again!" and I'd wonder. But I also couldn't forget the phone call where he said he couldn't do this, that he didn't want to lose me but he realized he wasn't attracted to me after all. 

I tried not to think about that phone call.

I tried not to think about what a motorcycle ride would mean. There was no doubt I'd go. He wasn't anything close to a bad boy but my heart forever trended toward those with an edge. Give me a tattooed, bearded man with a bike and I'll be content. Or in this case, one out of three.

"How about tonight?" I countered. We were all going to a cookout and it would give me a chance to swing home and change into something else. Too many people had gotten road rash over the years for me to want to test that fate. "I don't want to ride when I'm wearing shorts and flip flops. And I'll need a helmet too." 

He should have thought of this before he ever asked but I pushed the doubt back into the recesses of my mind. He sought me out. He wanted to take me for a ride. He didn't make this offer to any of our other friends.

I wore jeans to the cookout, a thrum of nerves beating in my stomach. After we'd eaten, he came over and asked if I was ready to go. I followed him out to my car, where I changed into sneakers.

I looked at him expectantly for a helmet but there wasn't one. He made excuses. He hadn't wanted to drive all the way back home to get it. Granted, it was a longer trip for him but he chose to get coffee with a few friends during that time instead. He chose something else over me. Again.

He would wear his helmet- it only made sense in his eyes- and told me nothing would happen to us in my hometown. This wasn't 100% true. Accidents could happen anywhere, anytime, and they certainly did here. 

I should have put my foot down. I should have walked away from the blurred lines of our friendship.

But I wanted to be the girl on the back of a bike. I wanted to forget all my worries for even an hour as the world rushed by. It could simply be him and me. Full stop. I hoped I wouldn't live to regret it.

I wrapped my arms around him and felt the muscles of his body beneath my fingers. I should have held on tighter once the bike began to move but I needed to keep space between us and remember. How many more ways could he show me I didn't matter enough? And still, knowing all I knew, I wanted him to want me. I deserved better and yet I wanted the thrill of a motorcycle ride to take me back to the day he first asked me out and the time he surprised me at work. 

The temperature dropped as we rode down familiar streets. I wished I'd grabbed a jacket but the day had been sunny and warm. I shivered and took in the roar of the motor and the town I knew so well. My hair tangled and darted around my face without a helmet or hair tie to tame it from the wind. It battered me without restraint and I could only take it. 

After a while, we stopped by to see some married friends in their new house. He'd wooed her on the back of his bike and they looked at us with knowing grins as we stepped inside. I wanted to tell them there was nothing to see in my wind-whipped hair and rosy cheeks.

This ride meant nothing. I would not hold on to the hope of him. This time I wanted to mean it.