The Devil Wears Sweatpants

Today was a day of much celebration and cheer. A moment I have been waiting for — admittedly not all that patiently. The phone rang and on the other end were the magic words I’ve so longed to hear: “They want you to start tomorrow!”

As anyone who has searched long and hard for employment in their field knows… it is a thing of beauty when that call comes. Emotions of joy and relief wash over you as you stand just a tiny bit taller… feeling a little less loser-like and little more confident. You consider, for the first time in awhile that you may, in fact, have something to offer the outside world. And it is a good feeling.

I, for one, could barely contain my excitement. I did the proverbial “happy dance” while shouting THANK YOU at the top of my lungs scaring the hell out of the cat. Then promptly called my mother and counted the seconds until Lee came home. I considered how to celebrate. Hmmm… margaritas tomorrow evening with the girls at my favorite Mexican restaurant? Si. Perfecto.

After sharing the details of the new gig right down to the color of the carpeting and the window-to-wall ratio in my new “cube” I realized that Lee—although excited as well—was indeed weary of the sound of my voice. And perhaps it was time to consider prepping myself for my shift from stay-at-home-do-nothing person into 9 to 5 working gal.

And here is where the story takes a very dark and unexpected turn. No, this is not where I tell you that they called back and informed me that they had mistakenly called the wrong person and that I am, in fact, still a loser. Gotcha’ there for a second didn’t I? No, that has already happened to me so as I stated above… this is where the story takes an UNEXPECTED turn.

It was time to approach (gulp) the closet and see what I had in there (double gulp) to wear for my first day at the new office. I feel that here is where I should mention that I have known this day would come. Oh yes, this Day of Reckoning with my closet and my work clothes a.k.a. ALL things NOT made of super-stretchy-love-my-body-no-matter-how-many-bagels-with-cream-cheese-I-pound-and-glasses-of-wine-I-drink elastic and spandex was on the horizon.

I just kept operating in my fantasy world, walkin’ around with remnants of cream cheese on my face figuring “I’ll dust off those workout DVDs and my Ann Taylor pants with absolutely NO give will still look fabulous by the time I get THE CALL” and all will be well with the world. Well… such was not the case. The DVDs are still dusty and the Ann Taylors are still hangin’ in the closet.

This, my friends, is what the sweatpants industry never tells you in their happy commercials where everyone is blissfully snuggling on the couch munching buttered popcorn and watching movies or gathered ’round the breakfast table slamming pancakes. Sweatpants and their seductive cousins Yoga Pants, Pajama Pants, Lounge Pants, Flannel Pants and Fleece Pants are of the devil. Mark my words… they will be the death of your waistline, hips and butt if you spend enough time in them.

You’ve been warned. Your regular pants may be uncomfortable on occasion… but like a parent disciplining their child when they are naughty… they keep you in line. Oh, the waist is getting snug!… or, My ass looks like two pigs wrestling under a blanket in this pencil skirt!… or, I’m about to pop the button on these trousers and bust out a window in the breakroom! are all ways that your “working clothes” keep you from swimming in that murky River of Denial that can only be found deep inside the soft, warm folds of the evil embrace of Sweatpants.

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Crashing My Pizza Party

The Romeo’s Pizza coupon hung on the bulletin board in the kitchen for months. With it’s piping-hot pledge for a free 1-topping pie whenever I wanted, I knew it was something to be savored and not squandered some random night after a few too many beers.

Thus, when the phone rang at 1 p.m. on an otherwise-quiet Thursday afternoon with a request for an immediate interview THE NEXT DAY with one of the leading, most-coolest, most-coveted employers in Columbus… I felt the time had come to redeem that coupon.

I know, I didn’t HAVE the job yet. I didn’t even have the awesome, knock-their-socks-off-they-will-surely-choose-to-employ-me-the-moment-we-shake-hands interview yet — the small, step-in-the-right-direction victory felt like cause for celebration. It’s either that or I just REALLY had a hankering for some pizza.

I made the call ordering up my FREE pie which would—in a mere 15 minutes—be sitting on my coffee table with an ice-cold beverage. I drove the 5 minutes to pick it up (so as to avoid the delivery charge, making it TRULY FREE) and settled down in front of a chick flick of my choosing.

At first bite, I was blissfully savoring the emotional high of the moment. The company of my man (yes I DID share the pizza), a DE-LI-CI-OUS, saucy pizza, a mediocre Sandra Bullock movie and the knowledge that my newly-organized portfolio and smoothed-over power suit were going to land me a killer J-O-B on the morrow.

With 2 slices down, I decided that it was too good of an occasion NOT to indulge in 2 more. (Don’t judge me… They were small pieces.) So I filled up my plate with 2 more pieces and settled in front of Miss Bullock for the remainder of her luke-warm performance in a so-so movie that could only be described as a romantic thriller.

It was at that moment that the phone rang again. I wonder what this is about? Maybe it’s another interview?! Wow, when it rains it POURS!! Rushing to the phone with bloated confidence and an even more bloated pizza-tummy, I was puzzled to see the same number as earlier in the day. Huh.

  • Job Rep on The Phone: “I’m sorry to inform you Joanna, but the interview for tomorrow has been cancelled. I just received word that the position has been filled.”
  • Me (to myself): “Damn.”
  • Me (to him trying NOT to sound desperately pathetic and crushed): “Oh? That is disappointing news. Any thoughts as to how this happened? … Well, I know you’ll keep trying to get me in front of them. Thank you for calling.”
  • Him (only the fragments I retained): “We will keep trying… This happens… patience… It will happen … stay positive … talk soon.”

After hanging up I looked down at my sad little half-eaten victory meal… then to Sandra Bullock’s frozen face on the screen where I had paused her… and back to my once-lovely slices again. At first I had no desire to finish eating it. I mean, it tasted great and I still wanted it. But somehow it felt wrong to eat it.

A few tears and an encouraging, sympathetic pep talk from my sweetie later I slowly picked up the remains of what was once my celebratory victory pizza and decided it WAS still worthy of consumption. But it’s purpose had changed. It had become comfort food.

Now the coupon is gone. It is—without a doubt—squished into a tiny, yellow and red paper ball, covered with half-eaten slices, greasy napkins and used plastic utensils… and sitting at the bottom of Romeo’s dumpster. Right next to my overly-inflated ego.

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.

NYC: A Much Needed Break From… Absolutely Nothing

So I took a little blogcation for a few days in order to get away from the hectic pace that is my life these days. The so-called hectic pace being largely comprised of job hunting, unpacking sweaters and tuning in to watch The View every morning. During this blogcation I am excited to say that we took a real vacation to the very place that embodies the truest of hectic paces — The Isle of Manhattan.

I have never been to New York City (since I am told that my little pass over the GW bridge last summer doesn’t count) and it was an amazingly adventurous and eye-opening treat! I hopefully gathered a bit of fodder in which to share with you here as I jotted a few things down… at the hotel, on the subway, while my pizza cooled in Little Italy and in my seat at the Garden—waiting for the Rangers to take to the ice.

As incredible as it was to finally visit the famous, fabled, pulsing, living, breathing city that never sleeps… it has also been refreshing to come home to a world where I need only hop in my car to get anywhere I need to be and enjoy a bathroom in which I can actually turn around.

I hope you’ll check back in the days ahead as I promise to do my best to share a few little bites of a very Big Apple.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

How is it that children see things so much clearer than we do sometimes? Perhaps it is because their brains aren’t as cluttered with all of the crap we adults tend to carry around. We underestimate their ability to comprehend, process and understand what we deem to be “adult information” and we often overlook how tuned-in they really are.

Three summers ago when I moved back to Ohio from the southwest and began my job search, I thought FOR SURE I had stumbled upon or been led to the perfect job for me. It all came about so easily and so quickly and I pridefully thought to myself: This is really going to work out much better than even I had planned. The job was near Cleveland, the pay was great, the company seemed solid and well-established, and the work was creative & diverse. The HR Director had even used these words: “We really think we have a good fit here” while referring to me as a candidate for the position. All 4 of my interviews with the various “suits” had gone well and I felt fairly confident that this thing was all sewn up.

I’m sure you can tell where I am going with this by now… I didn’t get the job.

The rejection letter came, a charming form of correspondence with which I would later become very familiar… and I came unglued. I mean REALLY unglued. Unfortunately, my then 12 year-old nephew, Cameron, was at the house at the time.

I should mention that for about 6 or 7 years now I have struggled with depression and anxiety… and I was in a bit of a fragile state of mind at this particular time anyway, so this letter was the last straw. In an attempt to protect the innocent as well as whatever is left of my credibility with whoever may be reading this, I won’t go into detail about HOW I came unglued. Let’s just say that the wheels pretty much flew totally OFF my wagon.

My mom and dad tried comforting me, all the while my nephew is in the other room, hearing terrible things spew forth from my mouth as I am screaming and sobbing and raging about all sorts of things that I’m pretty sure were not even remotely related to this “You Suck” letter. And I’m ashamed to admit it, but Cameron overheard things that no child should ever have to hear from an adult whom they love. Scary things.

A few days later, when I had gained some composure and perspective, in addition to a refill of my medication… it’s OK you can laugh at that… I took Cameron out to lunch, just the two of us, and I apologized to him and I asked if he had ANY questions he wanted to ask me about what he’d heard me say that day. Cameron is an extremely bright and mature child, therefore nothing was off-limits. I wanted him to know that it was ALL out on the table in front of us. He expressed his feelings of sadness and concern that I was so upset, but I believe he genuinely understood that everything was going to be OK… that I was going to be OK.

I wish that at the time, I had had the confidence in myself that my nephew had in me.

Fast forward 10 months.

It is 5:30 p.m. on a weekday. I am home from work and I pull my new car into the driveway of my house. Because my family has practically established a 2-block commune in our little town of Minerva, it is quite the norm for a stray child to appear out of nowhere with a hug and a bright “Hi Aunt JoJo!” And on this particular day… it was Cameron.

He gave me a huge bear hug and asked how my day was. I hugged him back, locked my car, gathered up my things and started toward my parent’s house to say hello. But Cameron stopped me. He put his little arm around my waist and turned me to face my house. And he said, verbatim: “Look at you now, Aunt JoJo. Look at how far you’ve come.” At first I thought he was just being silly and sarcastic and I smiled and hugged him again. But since I was not completely certain what he meant by that, while we were still hugging one another, I asked him: “What exactly are you talking about, Cameron?”

He lifted his chin up to meet my gaze and he said to me: “Your car. Your house. Your job. (And he nodded in the direction of each of those things) Look at all you have now. And to think that just a few months ago you wanted to give up.”

I was speechless. I started to cry. I squeezed him tighter and I cried harder. All I could do was nod in affirmation. At that point in time I was so overcome with emotion, that his small 4-foot-something frame was supporting ME. I held onto him for dear life and I have never felt a bigger knot in my throat.