More (or less) Glamorous?

I still remember the first time I heard mention of More magazine. A relatively new publication in the early 2000’s, it’s name was invoked during a meeting with a publisher I was working for at the time.

“I want our new magazine to have the look and feel of More” he said, scanning the room for some sort of a response from his nearly-all-female editorial and design crew. Being unfamiliar with it, I rushed to the nearest Barnes & Noble during lunch, bought a copy and quickly discovered that it was a women’s periodical aimed at the over-40 crowd.

I hung on to the issue for months while we developed concepts for our newest publication but admittedly… I never actually READ the articles. Personally, I was barely squinting at the big 3-0 on my horizon line at the time so the notion of topics such as wrinkly neck skin and finding the perfect “age-appropriate” power suit weren’t even remotely on my radar, much less my mind. 

Having indulged—for almost two decades now—in Glamour as my go-to guide for style, advice and articles to which I can relate, I remember sitting in my office (on my perfectly-sculpted, gravity-defying derriere) and scoffing at the idea that I would ever want or need to refer to “that” particular periodical in order to find some form of common ground in printed media.

However in the last two years, whilst flipping through issue after issue of what appears to be an ever-growing population of 20-something models of perfection, I have begun to notice a few disconnects between myself and my Glamour

For one, the faces peering out at me from between the pages look younger and younger with each passing month. Also, when I see a color, outfit or style that I like my first thoughts are NOT… “How can I re-create that look?” Or… “How can I get my hands on that?” But rather… “Could I even pull that off? And if I could somehow manage to pull that off… would I look ridiculous like I’m trying to be 25 again? Where would I even find it?” And… “How much does it cost? Couldn’t I buy a nice new piece of lawn furniture for that price?”

Another clue indicating that perhaps I am no longer Glamour-girl material is that the articles are increasingly failing to meet my editorial needs. Instead of learning how to properly exfoliate, get him to call the next day, manage a monthly budget or balance a checkbook — I’d like to know how to keep the skin around my knees from sliding any further toward the floor, help him to appreciate the true value of feng shui living and effectively manage a 401k in a volatile market.

See what I mean? Disconnects. Me and my not-so-much-gravity-defying derriere are no longer scoffing. For we are slipping further and further from the carefree, I’ve-got-my-whole-life-ahead-of-me-so-who-cares-if-I-make-a-few-stupid-mistakes-and-poor-decisions, youthful grasp of the bronzed, toned, air-brushed zygotes now gracing the pages of Glamour and slowly—but surely—being beckoned by the section of the newsstand that houses More.

THEN…

… AND NOW?

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Greener Grass

I was jealous of a woman that I passed at the grocery store last week. It was around noon and I clearly remember thinking that she was probably on her lunch break by the way she breezed by at an alarmingly high rate of speed. She was tall, thin and attractive… but surprisingly her beauty was not the object of my scorn.

No, I was envious of her because it was obvious that she had a job. A real, professional job. One with paid vacation, full medical (probably dental too) and a 401k. She was very well-dressed in a crisp, white blouse tucked into a smart pencil skirt paired up with some killer heels. And she walked with purpose — a woman on a mission.

Once upon a time, I knew that mission well. The object is to get through traffic to the store, gather everything on your list as well as something halfway decent to eat, get back through traffic and slide into your parking spot in 60 minutes or less. After all, the day is now half over and there are STILL calls to be returned, emails to respond to and deadlines to meet.

Yes, cruising by her in my khaki shorts, flip-flops and loose-fitting summer top I had plenty of time to take in the scene. I had no where specific to be. I got up at ten, fed the cat, watched Hoda and Kathy Lee conduct a few “ambush makeovers” on the plaza during the Today Show, showered and threw on something I found laying at the bottom of my closet. I had no list. My mission was simple: To procure some bagels and OJ.

But I found it to be quite a curious thing—my jealousy of this woman—because whenever was working, I envied all those women dressed in khakis, flip-flops and summer tops. They always shopped at a leisurely pace, flip-flopping their way around the store… taking time to sniff and squeeze the produce and casually wait for the sorts of food that needed to be sliced, trimmed, weighed and wrapped.

I often fumed at the notion that these privileged women obviously enjoyed the luxury of having no schedule and certainly nothing that even remotely resembled a deadline as I would tensely zip straight to the freezer section, filling my cart with armloads of Lean Cuisine and frozen (not fresh) veggies. After all, my “smart pencil skirt” was riding up, my “killer heels” were giving me blisters and as for my “crisp, white blouse” — there was a strange, unidentifiable smugde on the collar.

I have lived on BOTH sides of this fence and every time—no matter which side I seem to be standing on—I ask myself why it is that the grass really DOES appear to be greener on the other side. Why is it that I am never fully content with my own yard?

While watching a Sunday morning news program one day I heard a scientific explanation of why grass literally does appear to be greener on the OTHER side of the fence. When looking over the fence at your neighbor’s grass, you see only the sides of the blades of grass which look like a sea of green. However, while looking straight down at the grass beneath YOUR feet, you see the grass… but you ALSO see the patches of dirt in between. You’re acutely aware of all the natural flaws and imperfections.

Apparently, vantage point makes ALL the difference. Where we are standing at any given time has a direct effect on how we see the world around us. Literally and figuratively. Perhaps I’ll try to remember that the next time I go to the store and see that working gal. Perhaps I’ll look close enough to notice her frazzled, white-knuckle grip on the cart handle as she heads for frozen foods. And perhaps I’ll pick up an orange or an avocado, give it a squeeze and then casually flip-flop my way over to the deli counter.

5 Reasons NOT to Watch the “Criminal Minds” Marathon While Completely Alone

Recently, while home alone for the night, I had the brilliant idea of watching a four-hour Criminal Minds marathon. Now, I know what you are thinking… the mind reels that one may actually be capable of sitting on one’s own @$$ for that long a period, however, I can assure you that I DID get up from time to time.

I managed to climb out of the comfort of my recliner for several reasons. I got up for pizza, to use the bathroom, to lock ALL of the doors, to feed the cat, to close ALL of the blinds and windows, to get a diet pop, to check EVERY square inch of the basement and ummmm… to get more pizza.

I should mention here that I am quite familiar with this program about the FBI’s BAU a.k.a. the Behavioral Analysis Unit. (By the way, don’t you just adore using acronyms? I do. It makes me feel so much more intelligent and worldly) Anyhoo… I absolutely LOVE the show (about as much as I like using acronyms). And it doesn’t usually matter whether or not I am alone when I watch it because I know it is purely fiction.

Well, fiction that is based on fact that is. Yes it is fact-based fiction about the psychological profiling of real-live nut-bags who like to stalk, maim, torture or kill otherwise normal citizens like you and me. Which is why, perhaps, that it may NOT have been in my best interest to watch four whole episodes whilst being alone in a big, empty house that is still relatively new to me.

Here are just a FEW of the reasons why watching four hours of this particular program (all by oneself) is probably not the brightest of ideas:

  1. You’re convinced that a stranger has indeed been stalking you for 6 months (even if you’ve only lived at your current address for 4).
  2. You’re certain that the friendly neighbors who love to chat you up everytime you pull into the driveway or push your garbage can to the curb are indeed serial killers who are hiding a secret torture chamber beneath the unassuming, non-descript-yet-mysterious-anyway grey tarp in their back yard.
  3. When the Fedex man arrives on your doorstep the following morning carrying an unexpected package — you refuse to answer the door no matter how interesting or impressive said parcel may look.
  4. You believe it IS entirely possible that while you were away one weekend some creeper or creepers managed to break into your home and hide tiny cameras in every room… leaving absolutely ZERO trace of their ever having been there. And they are watching you at this very moment. And laughing.
  5. You are 100% sure that the single dude on the corner with the perfectly-manicured lawn and glass animal collection in his front window is a sociopath currently working on an entirely different type of “collection” in the garage that he never seems to use.

The Runaround

Drawing a deep breath, pen poised perfectly on paper in order to execute some highly-anticipated and voracious note taking, I posed the question to the voice on the other end of the line: “… OK, but what type of law does this situation fall under?”

Voice on the other end of the line: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Well, would it be probate?”

Voice on the other end of the line: “I’m not sure. Maybe. That sounds about right.”

“Maybe. Sounds about right.” I say to myself, repeating her and considering another way to extract the necessary information from this person — my closest link to anything remotely resembling assistance in the matter.

Hmmmm… I don’t really want to venture into these unchartered judiciary waters with the paper-thin supply of confidence that comes pre-packaged in a phrase like “Maybe. Sounds about right” but what other choice do I have? 

Me: “Since you aren’t sure what type of legal matter this actually IS… Where do you suggest I start?”

Voice on the other end of the line: “Visit your county courthouse first thing Monday morning and ask them where to begin.”

Me (inside my own head): “I thought I was beginning with YOU. Someone I believed to be well-equipped in this arena. But whatever.”

Me (actually speaking): “OK. I’ll do that. Thank you.”

Bright and early on Monday we arrived in the courthouse lobby. The nice officer standing guard at the door will know where to direct us.” I said to Lee, my fellow voyager. And he most certainly did direct us to the sixth floor of an adjacent building.

After bounding down the stairs—pleased to have at least a scrap of direction on our legal quest—and crossing the busy intersection, we managed to weave our way through an obstacle course of revolving doors and metal detectors to the elevator that would surely deliver us to the sixth and proper floor.

Upon arrival on the sixth floor and a simple inquiry directly regarding the matter at hand, we were swiftly directed to the fourth floor. The fourth floor houses the County Law Library and—or so we were told—any and all of the necessary forms for the remainder of our journey.

Feeling a teensy bit wary of the whole Nobody-Knows-What-the-Hell-They’re-Doing thing, we got back into the elevator and rode it to the fourth floor. Surely the Law Library would hold the preciously-guarded secrets of the mysteries surrounding our increasingly-tricky trek.

After signing the Law Library Guest Book on the fourth floor, a friendly librarian asked how she could be of assistance. For what would be the third time in explaining exactly what it was we were in search of, the librarian declared that the place we most certainly needed to be was… on the fifth floor.

It was precisely at that moment that I burst into a fit of laughter as though suffering from some form of tourettes. And I’m certain that the poor, innocent librarian-turned-target-of-my-mental-breakdown suspected as much.

I explained my odd and inappropriate behavior to her by recounting ALL of the places we had traveled to on our adventure of odyssean proportions. But sixth floor, fourth floor, fifth floor, across the street, across town, across state lines, across the border… it no longer mattered.

Dizzy and reeling from countless elevator rides and red tape… I was fairly certain that if we ever located and retrieved the proper paperwork appropriate for our legal situation… neither one of us would know how to pick up a pen, much less spell our own names.

We did eventually procure the information we’d been searching for with such great gusto. And when we did—after flipping through a jillion jargon-packed pages—we swiftly stuffed it into a folder and have not spoken of it since.

A Supporting Role

One of the reasons I have been writing so little these days is that I am currently leading a very small existence. And a smaller existence does not typically lend itself to interesting adventures, misadventures, witty observations or deep philosophical epiphanies.

It has, however, offered a few “A-Ha” moments along the way.

A lot of language gets thrown around about our own personal “journeys” and how important and unique they are. And especially how we must make the MOST of OUR journey and do everything in our power to ensure that OUR journey is the BEST journey it can be. Stop by any newsstand these days, take a peek at the women’s magazines especially and you’ll see what I mean.

But last weekend as I reflected on my scaled-down activities as of late… the week now behind and the one that was in front of me, I got to thinking… maybe my existence isn’t always about MY journey like the world would have me believe. Maybe, at times, I am merely playing a part in another person’s journey. End of story.

The smaller existence I am referring to is that I currently have no “real” job offering me zilch when it comes to my own daily, defined purpose. There is no need to get things dry cleaned these days or to attempt the nitty-gritty navigatation of office politics. Since I am not around the water cooler or the break room, there are very few people to discuss the media circus and lunacy that is the presidential campaign or Snooki’s fitness for motherhood.

Currently my job—which I must mention, is one that I gladly volunteered for—has been to help provide and manage the care of my soon-to-be father-in-law in the wake of his wife’s sudden passing. And let me tell you that for me this is an entirely new experience. I have no children and have worked in an office all of my adult life… providing me ZERO experience in caring for another person.

This new experience includes (but is not necessarily limited to): Making repeated (often maddening and fruitless) phone calls to various outside entities designed to help in situations such as this one. Ensuring that he gets his medicine on time, all day, everyday. Making sure he eats or is offered some healthy food throughout the day. Keeping him company by sitting on the porch making small talk, petting the cats that he loves to feed and laughing about the things the neighbors do.

I know I’ve sort of stated this before, so forgive me if this post feels a bit redundant. I told you I didn’t have a lot to write about these days. But it did occur to me that this “season” in my life is not about me. The world teaches us that we must be the star of our own show — all the time. Well, I am here to tell you that this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Sometimes our name is NOT one that will appear at the top of the playbill. Sometimes there will be little, if any, applause. Sometimes ours is merely the role of supporting character… and the majority of our time will be spent behind the curtain.

The Backseat of the Bus

Being a self-sufficient, single woman with no children for the majority of my thirties, I have been allowed to be—shall we say—selfish. There is no mistaking the fact that it has been “all about me” for quite some time now and honestly I have, admittedly, had no problem with that.

Life is pretty simple and things tend to go “my way” when I am the only one making the decisions and calling all the shots… for myself. For example, I have thus far used some form of the words “I” or “me” NINE times in this entry. See what I mean? (OK, make that 10).

So if being in the driver’s seat has been my status quo for so long — you can only imagine the adjustment that might be required if or when the time comes that said seat should be forfeited for any reason.

With the recent loss of my fiance’s mother, I have found myself in a brand new seat. As I struggled, after the first two weeks, at the advent of my new seating assignment, my mother said to me: “Joanna, it is time now for you to take a backseat on the bus.”

Of course she was referring to being the support person for someone whose needs are far greater than my own. Her words have been such a perfect reminder of precisely what my role is right now. And her wisdom and way of thinking has inspired me to fully embrace the responsibilities that accompany the view from the back.

It has been from the vantage point of this new place that I have begun to “see” many new things for the very first time.

I have seen that…

  • It is much easier to push than to pull, therefore helping someone from behind rather than in front.
  • I am capable of caring more for another person than I ever dreamed possible.
  • Suddenly I have all the strength I need to do what is necessary for the other.
  • The world exists largely in that which lies beyond my own reflection and it is a whole lot bigger than I ever thought it was.
  • I can be much more useful offering a hand in someone else’s journey when I am not so focused on the drama, flaws or calamities of my own.
  • The obstacles I thought were mountains usually are mere molehills.

So as it turns out — the view from the “back of the bus” really is the one that offers the best perspective of all.