A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Don’t look back? Don’t tell me what to do.

It’s a widely known fact (i.e. “pin-worthy” quote) that one of the main reasons people give up on their dreams is because they focus on how far they still have to go instead of how far they’ve already come.

Or for you visual learners…

Look behind you, you're more awesome than you realize! from "Don't look back? Don't tell me what to do," by The Bearded Iris

You do it too, right?

Whether it’s pounds, possessions, or powerful titles, it’s human nature to discount our accomplishments and anxiously agonize over the next umpteen obstacles in our path.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

My recent acquisition of In the Powder Room has come with a list about 39-miles-long of all the things I (probably) need to do to successfully (I guess) run a small business (theoretically). It’s pretty damn daunting. The mean girls in my head have been very hard at work reminding me that I’m “just a writer, not a businesswoman.”

And you know what? Pardon my French, but fuck that fucking shit. I don’t know about you, but the BEST way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do something.

*runs with scissors toward electrical outlet wearing tin foil socks and a water bra*

Listen, two years ago I wasn’t even ready to call myself a writer out loud. In my head, I was “just a blogger” and an average one at that. I didn’t know the difference between SEO and SBD. (Still don’t, really. Details.)

There’s a lot of cereal box philosophy out there telling us to “put your past behind you,” “never look back,” and “be present,” but sometimes you HAVE TO LOOK BACK in order to really appreciate just how much progress you’ve made.

Last weekend I returned to the biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton Ohio and had the opportunity to visit with friends and reflect on what a huge difference two years can make.

It was exactly what I needed: perspective.

Two years ago I was a relatively new columnist at In the Powder Room, a global online community for women.

Today I own it.

Two years ago I was an anonymous “mommy blogger” (barf) who had just been outed in my community and was wrestling with whether or not to quit blogging in order to protect my family.

Today even the parents of my Cub Scout den read my blog…and seem to like me anyway. 

Two years ago I hadn’t yet met any of my blogging “friends” in person.

Today I have actual sisters whom I first met ONLINE (gasp!), and whose preferred method of publicly greeting each other involves enthusiastic breast honking.

Blogging friends Nicole Leigh Shaw, Kim Bongiorno, Robin O'Bryant, and Leslie Marinelli at #EBWW2014 via The Bearded Iris

Say hello to my little friends: Nicole Leigh Shaw, Kim Bongiorno, Robin O’Bryant, Leslie Marinelli, and Leslie’s rapidly sliding dowager’s hump at #EBWW2014

Wait. Maybe that one isn’t a good example.

Two years ago I had just quit drinking wine and was really struggling with depression, anxiety, and my muffintop.

Today I am two years sober, I have a much healthier outlook and lifestyle, and my muffintop has decided to share the wealth and populate my pants.

Two years ago I returned from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, my very first professional conference, and publicly declared, “…my name is Leslie Jeanne Marinelli and I am a writer.”

Today I’m a published author, editor, and speaker with a sequel in the works.

Of course there are ups and downs. That’s life. But just focusing on the progress made instead of the distance left to go is an excellent way to stop crying, turn off that Hoarders marathon, and do the next right thing. (Uh…hypothetically speaking.)

Yes, it’s a big undertaking to go from Editor-in-Chief to CEO (“of 1,” as my husband likes to point out), and embark on a rebranding and web redesign project. Frankly, my to-do list is ridiculous right now. But looking back on the progress I’ve made in the past two years helps me keep today’s seemingly insurmountable challenges in perspective.

No, I don’t have an accountant yet. Or an attorney. Or a “licensed” aesthetician. Hell, I just opened my own post office box a month ago and thought that was celebration-worthy. It’s the little things, you know?

And I’m here to tell you that if you put enough of those little things in a row, eventually, you get a big thing (heh heh heh), and if you suit up and show up and work hard and have enough sex to offset all the hours you spend on the computer, good things can happen.

So that’s what I’m going to keep doing.

Two years from now, who knows what I’ll be looking back on. Hopefully not an even larger badonkadonk. Although…if my dowager’s hump keeps moving further south, maybe I could become a brand ambassador for bell bottom jeans or compression socks! (Hashtag: brightside.)

Okay, enough about me. What do YOU think about me? Kidding. No, really—let’s talk about you. Tell me something you’ve made progress toward in the past two years, besides arterial sclerosis and seasons 1-6 of Mad Men.


  1. hollow tree ventures

    I love everything about this. A big WOOOOHOOOOOOOOO for you – and for all of us who’ve been busting our humps (or, in some cases, humping our busts) and need to celebrate how far we’ve come!

    • The Bearded Iris

      “…humping our busts”! BWAHAHAHAHA! There is really something wrong with us, isn’t there?! Thanks for being here Robyn and for the encouragement!

  2. Jane

    Yeah for you!!! I quit my job that I loved but that was no longer good for me anyway- and am much happier in my new position. I’ve learned a lot and know that nothing is the end of the world! There’s nothing wrong with looking back as long as we keep moving forward.
    And I am so happy to see how far you’ve come. You’ve always been amazing to me!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oooh, good point – keep moving forward, YES! So glad you are in a better job and congrats on having the courage to leave the old one. That takes chutzpah, girl! (Which you obviously have in spades.) And thank you for the support and encouragement, Janie! One of these days we are going to be in the same city again, I just know it. Love you.

  3. Menopausal Mother

    I am so happy for you Leslie—look at how much you have accomplished these past two years! I can’t tell you what an honor it was to finally meet you—I learned so much from our conversations and I appreciate the advice you gave me. You are smart, funny as hell, friendly and lovely. Keep up the great work you’re doing and I look forward to seeing you again at ERMA 2016! **P.S. I wanted to include that selfie we took at ERMA on my post today about the conference, but it turned out too dark so I had to use other stuff 🙁

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh hell to the yeah on the next EBWW. Erma fo’ Life, YO! (And so glad you liked it!)

      Wish we had gotten more pictures together! It was so damn dark in that ballroom.

      Have you written a skin care post yet? I am still drooling over how gorgeous your skin is, Marcia. I mean DAY-YAM. Like buttah.

  4. Robyn Monticone

    Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished in the past 2 years! This was exactly what I needed today. In the past 2 years (& 2 months) I have gone from being in the ICU after being hit by a drunk driver, to being able to walk short distances & take care of my 2 1/2 year old daughter when she gets home from daycare. There are so many things that I can’t and won’t be able to do, but at least I’m not still in the hospital with a catheter. So I’ve got that going for me. Best of luck in the next 2 years!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh Robyn, WOW. I am humbled by your positive attitude. So your daughter must have been a newborn when you were hit?! Holy hell. How terrifying! I’m so glad you are on the mend and getting stronger every day. What a gift for your daughter and entire family that you are such a fighter. Thank you for being here. I’m going to be thinking of you and praying for your continued recovery!

  5. L. Hewitt

    I would just like to officially say “I told you so.”
    Can’t wait to see what you do next!
    Love It & You.
    My progress – bought a really ugly house and have learned to mow grass.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Girl, that is AWESOME. I do not know how to mow grass and it’s one of the few things in life that I am really afraid of (other than elevators). And knowing you, you may have bought an ugly house, but it will not be ugly for long. Love you too!

  6. Maria Chilson

    I would love to help with your to do list. I have experience running a website. I am a intellectual property paralegal and I also have experience with social media law.

    I am an avid reader of your blog and In the Powder room.

  7. Maria Chilson

    The year for copyright protection for In the Powder Room is outdated:)

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thanks Maria. Fixed it. I’m in the process of working with a designer to build a whole new site, so that’s where all my energy is going right now. Should be up and running in the next week or so.

  8. Dawn@LightenUp!

    Congratulations again! And you make great points about discounting our hard work. I am facing that now with my book, feeling like giving up with this overwhelming business of publishing, forgetting how hard it was just to write a book, and not celebrating the fact that I got it done at all.
    Luckily, I have you for inspiration. Rock on.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thank you Dawn! The publishing business really is overwhelming sometimes, but I agree with you, the most important part is writing the book! And having edited your work before, I already know your book is going to be hilarious and very well-written, so definitely take some time to celebrate your accomplishment. And then, just tackle the mile-high publishing crap one small task at a time. Every journey begins with one step. (Listen to me, all philosophical and shit.) Love you and wish we could have spent more time together at Erma!

  9. lisa thomson-The Great Escape...

    “Dowager’s hump…” I hadn’t put a name to it before but yup. Love this quote Leslie and it’s so important! I tend to get overwhelmed if I think about what I still have to do. Thanks for the reminder of how far I’ve come. I agree looking at the past can help us do better today.

  10. Allie

    Congratulations! I am so happy for you. You have inspired me, for sure. I’ve only been at this a little ever a year, but just in the last month, I feel like I’ve finally got some traction. Fingers crossed that I can keep on keeping on!

  11. Kate Hall

    I binge-watched all of Breaking Bad. That’s a major accomplishment. I’m still not comfortable calling myself a writer – I feel like when I say it, the person I say it to is laughing on the inside or even worse, is going to ask me what I’ve written. Um…tweets? A blog? I’m excited for you and ITPR! Now THAT’S an accomplishment. This was a really encouraging article because I was reminded how far I really have come in the past two years. Thank you!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh I’m so glad Kate. Please do give yourself a huge high five for all that you’ve accomplished in the past two years. Your tweets alone are drool worthy. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me with your work on Twitter, and YES – that IS writing. In fact, brace yourself, but that is even harder to do because you only have 140 characters. That kind of joke writing is precise and tight and an absolute SKILL, and it is your wheelhouse, baby! Rock that shit.

  12. Liz Carey

    Love this! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  13. Crystal Green

    You are anything but mediocre! I LOVE you and I love reading your work. I am eager to read your second well written book, Ms. Writer!
    I needed this push today, and it came at the right time.

  14. Allysgrandma

    I went back to work after my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and was running the place within 15 months. Thank goodness my eldest got married last month to a nice Catholic young man (2 months before she turned 35) and my second granddaughter is arriving in August, almost six years after the first! My #1 SIL is being medically discharged from the Marine Corps and his wife, my youngest, mother to my granddaughters was the official photographer for the Gary Sinese Foundation’s and the San Diego Padre’s military appreciation season fundraiser season last Sunday. My middle daughter survived punching her police boyfriend and has her dream job as a 911 dispatcher in Reno where my two eldest live. I have continued to make quilts in my spare time and have decided flying to Hawaii is worth getting over my fear of flying (with Valium support!). Congrats on your success.

    • The Bearded Iris

      OMG, Cheryl, all that and WITH fibromyalgia. You are a machine! You go girl!

  15. Dee @ The Kitchen Snob

    Thanks for reminding me to notice how far I’ve come! In 2013 I finally started my blog that I had been thinking about for years. Sometimes I feel like I’m not where I need to be but when I look back, I realize how far I’ve come and that it’s all the tiny baby steps I’ve put into it that have gotten me here.

  16. Kristin Shaw

    I love the way you’re looking back over what you have accomplished! It’s big-time awesome. I’m proud of you, girl!
    (P.S. I wonder who took these gorgeous and perfectly-framed set of photos of you and your friends? Ha. Loved seeing you at Erma.)

  17. Andrea

    Two years ago you were where I am right now. If my math is correct, in two years you’ll be queen of the internet and I will have finally mastered Gmail.

    Great meeting you at Erma.

  18. Kim at Let Me Start By Saying

    I am so proud of you, and am excited every day to see where you’re going to be tomorrow.

  19. Abby

    I don’t know why I’m just seeing this post now, but it rocks. You rock, and even though I’m kind of in the position you were in two years ago–at least in my own head–I hope to be where you are now in two more years. I also hope to one day honk your breast in a totally non-creepy way.

  20. MommaLynnea

    well… I have come a long way in the last 18 months…. my jewelry design business is continuing to grow and flourish as I hit the art shows in 3 states. My kid is growing up to be a really great young man. My marriage is back on track.. well ok.. we know where the track is and we hop on the train more often now than we were.

    I faced myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I was overweight and unhappy. So I did what any middle aged 50 something woman does. I started ballroom dancing. I actually performed in public (yes they made other people watch me) after just 6 weeks. Let me tell you it is hard to feel confident when your arms flap in the breeze. 2 weeks ago (about a year) I did a performance…. 60 lbs lighter… more graceful.. and yes.. less flappy. AND I actually had fun and smiled. Somewhere in the last year I found myself again.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh my gosh MommaLynnea, this is a GREAT story!! I’m so impressed you started ballroom dancing and have made so much progress in your life! I’ve always wanted to learn to tap dance, but haven’t taken classes yet…partly because of time limitations, and partly out of the fear of having to be in a recital and embarrass myself and my family (more than I usually do). Maybe you’ll inspire me! Sounds like you’ve had an awesome year! Hugs. -Leslie

      • MommaLynnea

        lol.. guess what… I feel that way too… I wish I could tag you or something so you could see the videos… and the progress. Just do it… really you can..

  21. Leigh Ann

    I am amazed and inspired by how far you have come. Mainly because when you were feeling like you shouldn’t even call yourself a writer, I saw you as one of the big dawgs.

    Two years ago I was sure the Austin producers had made a mistake in casting me in their Listen to Your Mother show, and it ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done. This year I got to take over as one of the producers, again, sure it was a mistake and that I would be the one bringing everyone down with my incompetence. But it turns out we kicked ass and now WE are the ones who get to help other writers have one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.

    • The Bearded Iris

      That is so inspiring Leigh Ann! This was my first year being a part of LTYM, and it really was amazing. I can see why people want to become producers after being in the cast. I bet you were fantastic! Can’t wait to see your footage.

  22. Angela

    I am in shock. I had no idea that ALL of that stuff occurred over the very short timespan of two years. Congrats!
    It gives me unending hope as I start my blogging adventure. I am at a turning point in my life right now and feel that with all the changes going on, what’s one more? Right? I am trying to discover after 46 years on this earth what I want to do. I like to write (I have a journalism degree for crying out loud), I have 5 kids (yes all from the same father and no we are not Mormon or catholic), have been doing in home daycare for the past 5 years ( more economic necessity than my undying love for the little ones) and am currently moving from a lifetime of suburban living to 80 acres out in the country! Do ya think I can find some things to write about? Hell yes. The problem is just getting up the gumption to do it.
    All of this to just say congrats and thanks on plugging away and showing us that it can be done!

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