Anniversary of the Thrisis

I don’t believe in magic and I must admit that there are times when I (a self-professed dreamer) am not even certain there’s such a thing as fate. But there I was at the local library—in the middle of “Fiction K-M”—hoping and praying that the right book would miraculously pop out in front of me, making it’s life-altering, earth-shattering presence known.

Unfortunately, it was not to be… admittedly, as a graphic designer as well as would-be writer, I DO judge books by their covers and nothing was grabbing me. Though I did leave with some lovely, conciliatory parting gifts in the form of an Ernest Hemingway documentary on DVD and an Annie Proulx novel I’d never heard of before.

I’d gone to my local library under the guise of obtaining a card and becoming a registered voter in my new county of residence. Though truthfully I was there for some much-needed inspiration. Wandering amidst endless titles of some brilliant and some not-so-brilliant works of literature, I had hoped that somehow some “Word Magic” would rub off.

You see, today, June 28th, is the one-year anniversary of “Woman In Thrisis” and I had hoped to have something genius and inspired to share for the anniversary entry! But alas, these days I have been cheating on my blog with Linked In, Indeed, Google Maps and Monster.com in order to secure full-time, PAID employment… and I fear that all of the rejection and searching is zapping my creative energy.

So, however uninspired this may be right nowJune 28, 2012… I felt a Happy Birthday wish was in order anyway! It truly has been an amazing and fun ride so far. I have connected with so many great people all over the world as a result and feel that I have created a tiny corner of cyber space to inhabit and share my musings.

As for this first year “By the Numbers” (not that it matters as much as it IS nice to record)… I have written 195 posts, grabbed (and desperately hope to keep) 180 faithful followers. The blog has been viewed over 43,500 times and had the blissful honor of being “Freshly Pressed” once.

With the big 4-0 sitting out there on the distant (but not nearly distant ENOUGH) horizon, a few years from now… a name change for “Woman In Thrisis” will most likely be in order. But until then… fingers crossed that I will find as much joy and fufillment in year two as I have in this one.

Thanks for tuning in everyone!

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“Men Don’t Make Passes…

… at girls who wear glasses.”

Isn’t that how the saying goes?

“Awwwww man!” I cried out from beneath the golden glow of the living room lamp. “It looks better. Damn.” Wondering what all the fuss was about Lee yelled out to me from the computer room.

“Isn’t that what they are for, Joanna?” he questioned in a slightly exasperated but still inquisitive tone. “Aren’t your new glasses supposed to make things clearer for you?”

“YEEEEESSSSSSSSS. But only for when I’m toiling away in front of THAT thing all day long.” I groaned, while stomping into the room he was in and making wild gestures toward the computer screen. “They weren’t supposed to be for reading too. The doctor said so. He said that I was mildly far-sighted and that the ONLY time I needed to use them was while sitting at the computer. Do you KNOW what this latest development MEANS!?!” I whined.

“That you need glasses? That you’re eyes are going bad?” Lee said in a teasing manner.

“Well, yes… THAT. But it actually means that I AM GETTING OLD. When you first liked me, I was a mere kitten at 17… with perfect vision. Now look at the version you’ve got. I’m getting old.” Defeated, I lumbered out of the room—shoulders slumpled, glasses in hand—and plopped down cross-legged in the recliner. As I slid the glasses back onto my face I thought to myself… At least I can still cross my legs under me. That’s something. Isn’t it?

I pretended to read but what I was actually doing was studying the backs of my hands and the tops of my thighs… assessing them for similar signs of wear and tear like my eyes are apparently beginning to show. Thiiiiis is how it starts… I said to myself. First it’s the eyes, then it’s something else.

After awhile of trying to frame the words on the page with my corrective lenses I developed a headache and realized that I’d plowed completely through chapter 18 entirely unaware of what it had said. I sighed, put the book down and headed into the kitchen.

Since I was no longer reading, I slid the glasses on top of my head and proceeded to rinse a few dishes. Peering into the darkness on the other side of the window above the sink I noticed an unfamiliar woman staring back at me. My first thought was of course… When did this happen?

Then the next one came barreling down… even more terrifying than the last… In another 17 years, after losing not only my sight and the ability to cross my once-nimble legs beneath me, I will have lost my mind too. Therefore I’ll probably have one of those chains around my neck, dangling from either side of my face so that I never, ever lose them.

Oh sure, I imagine that I’ll “misplace” them from time to time — searching wildly about the house, turning over couch cushions and scattering tubes of BENGAY and bits of mail from AARP… But of course it will only be a matter of time before Lee walks in (with his superior vision) and points out to me that they’ve indeed been on my head the entire time.

For the sake of posterity… here I am… still young “enough” to be sans-chain.

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?

Slow Learner

I rolled my eyes in bitter disgust at my reflection in the rearview mirror. I was, as many women do, taking in one final overview before heading out.

And let me tell you that yesterday’s “overview” was not so bright. In fact, if ever there were a day to Photoshop one’s own face… this was it.

With one blemish on it’s way out but still lingering over the threshold of my cheek and a brand-spanking-new shiny one announcing it’s rude and unwelcome arrival, I was not in the greatest of moods.

Add to those two little dermatological gems the half-inch evidence mark of what is now being referred to as the “curling iron incident” from two days prior and yes… I was disgusted.

Really? I am 37 years old. I am starting to get laugh lines and on occasion, a few grey hairs at my temples. I SHOULD NOT still be getting pimples and I most certainly SHOULD know how to handle a searing-hot hair implement by now. In fact, shouldn’t there be a law that zits and wrinkles NOT be permitted to occupy the same space? I know I’ve brought up that issue before! UGH.

Strolling down the center aisle of the local drug store I spotted a former classmate I’ve not seen in at least 18 years. I immediately became entranced by a bin of $4 DVDs — sifting through them with great care and reviewing the plot summaries with unbelievable laser-like focus.

Once he passed by I moved down the aisle in search of what I’d come for. “THAT was close!” I said to myself and pressed on. “Hopefully I can slip out of here unnoticed and spend the remainder of the day locked up safely in the house, praying for the pimple cream and neosporin to work their medicinal magic.”

On my way to check out, a woman about my age caught my attention. The first thing I noticed about her was her height. (Standing at a whopping 5’2″ I am intrigued by any female over 5’7″) The second thing I noticed was the manner in which she was holding her head up high as though searching the store for her spouse or child.

It wasn’t until I got much closer that I noticed the skin grafts. They covered her entire face. I was quick to look away as I did not want to stare, but as I turned away I felt heat spreading up through my neck and cheeks as I flushed at my own ridiculous vanity.

“Reality check girl.” My inner voice then said to me. How dare you be so self-absorbed and obsessed with a few stupid temporary blemishes that no one would even care enough to notice when it could—in reality—be so much more than that!

I’ve shared posts similar to this one in the past… but obviously I am a slow learner. I’ll likely never know her story or her name, but hopefully the image of her standing tall, head held high and fearlessly facing the world around her is one not soon to be forgotten.

“Youthful beauty fades with time, but, with cultivation, inner beauty grows richer.”

A Safe Space

There is a place in which I’ve spent a considerable amount of time throughout the course of my 37 years. And it is the only place I have never felt afraid.

When I was a small child it was the playroom for my sister and me. Painted bright yellow and full of toys, I spent hours in there pretending to be a doctor, a veterinarian, a mommy, a school teacher and eventually an artist.

As a teenager, when my parents converted it into their bedroom (farther away from our rooms upstairs… probably so they couldn’t hear all of the screaming) it was the place I went to beg, borrow or steal my mom’s favorite sweater, red purse or pair of heels.

As Empty-Nesters, my folks moved back upstairs while my sister and I built lives of our own… She just down the street and me on the other side of the country. Whenever I visited—heavy luggage in tow—it was a sanctuary as the “guest bedroom” and always a chance to take a deep breath and a step back from the ledge I was currently standing on during some silent but turbulent times.

At 31, after receiving a devastating blow followed by a mediocre severance package in the boardroom one day, my sanctuary 2,000 miles away suddenly became my new home. Falling from a spacious, ammenity-packed condo with mountain views to a single room overlooking our backyard, my father swiftly installed a new ceiling fan, lighting fixtures and cable connection to make me feel more at home in my humbling new digs.

Ever a victim of wanderlust and clueless to the nose dive our economy would soon experience… A voluntary but hasty adventure west and back again at 33 ushered in what would soon become a ten-month stint in what had officially become my “home” when I was homeless.

And now—whenever I want to visit from my new “home” two hours away—the room is always waiting for me. Like right now… as I type these words in front of the open window. It is quiet here. There is peace here. There is love and laughter here. There are sweet memories here. There is comfort here. And there is always… ALWAYS a good night’s sleep.

Cardboard Time Capsules

Unpacking after a move can often feel like the opening of a time capsule. There are pictures, clothing and miscellaneous items—all from another time in history—packed into boxes you long forgot existed. When you inevitably uncover them you find yourself transported back to that moment… that week… that summer… that period in your life when things were vastly different.

Perhaps they were better times, perhaps they were worse. Perhaps you are overcome with feelings of nostalgia, joy, surprise, grief or even relief that you are now sitting exactly where you are sitting at this particular moment in time. No matter the emotions that may wash over you, one thing will almost always be certain: Life looks different than you thought it would back then.

This week Lee brought in some boxes from the garage where we are still storing and sorting through my things. One of them contained a photo album, several envelopes with loose photos and a few cards and letters. He asked if he could look at the album and of course I said yes as I pulled my chair along side his in order to get a good look myself.

It was an album I put together of the summers I’d spent working on a dude ranch in Colorado during college. I was happy to see that although the photos were nearly 17 years old, I didn’t look radically different than I do today… minus a few laugh lines and crows feet. But the thing that struck me the most was the fact that Life hadn’t really touched me yet. In those images, Life and Circumstance had yet to ruffle my youthful feathers. Or trip me up and skin my knees.

Back then I operated under the naive assumption that the worst that could happen was a bad hair day, a rained-out horseback ride, accidentally calling a guest by the wrong name or a few broken dishes. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. Though I wouldn’t trade my then child-like idealism and ambition for anything. I would learn soon enough that the world wasn’t fair and sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard you work to avoid them.

We all do, eventually.

After we got done looking at the album and he got up and turned his attention to something else, I lingered over that box of photos and letters—this cardboard time capsule—and I looked at more images of times when I was younger, thinner, prettier, tanned and toned. And honestly, the thoughts and feelings they conjured up have been tumbling around in my head for days. Only now are they coming out through my fingers on the keyboard as I share this with you.

Truth be told I envy that girl and yet I remember that EVEN SHE occasionally thought (waaaay back then) that she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or good enough… yet. She thought that ONE day—when she was older—she would come into her own and everything would be perfect. Everything would be just as it should be.

Well, here she is. Here I am. That “one day” has arrived and you know what? I’ve decided after peering inside of my time capsule, that since I can’t go back and fix her unattainable aspiration for perfection… I can fix mine. I can live in THIS moment, enjoying all that I have right now, promising to always try and stay present. But most of all… no matter how many more time capsules I uncover in this lifetime… to stay grateful for all that has been and currently is.

Stir Crazy

Only three weeks in and I have found myself at somewhat of an interesting crossroads. The sleeping in has been quite dreamy, the zero-pressure atmosphere delightful and the yoga is devine. But not unlike Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away… I have simply had enough of myself. And I don’t even have a volleyball named Wilson to talk to.

That’s right, I said it. I have grown weary of my own company AND the sound of my own voice as it bounces off the ceiling while the cat just sits there blinking at me. This is unchartered territory for me and it is a rather strange land in which to navigate. It’s no wonder that people get so weird when they live alone for years and years. It’s really not all that surprising that some wind up writing lengthy manifestos and exhibiting questionable behavior. If left alone for too long a human being can get… well… a little whacko.

No worries, dear readers. I haven’t begun writing a manifesto or threatening letters to the government or Elizabeth Hasselbeck on The View (even though I AM tempted because she is just THAT annnoying). I am not assembling explosives in my basement or digging a bunker or anything like that. I am just becoming acutely aware of my own, personal need to interact with people a bit further beyond cyberspace.

Not only do I feel the need to reach out, yesterday I actually got out to do a little shopping, run a few errands, etc. Oh what an exciting expedition it was! It wasn’t until I opened my mouth to speak to another human being that I realized how much I needed to get out. The teller at the bank looked at me like I’d spontaneously sprouted a second head right before her very eyes when I finally choked out the proper words to communicate to her that I needed to open an account.

I wondered what her deal was giving me the look she was giving me and then I suddenly realized it was because I was nervous. ME! Nervous! I will talk to anyone! I DO talk to anyone and everyone… and yet it had been just long enough since I’d spoken to someone other than Lee or Stanley the cat that I felt a bit nervous at the sound of my very own voice directed toward another living, breathing person.

I practically leapt across the counter and told the cashier at Big Lots the entire story of Lee’s proposal when she complimented me on my engagement ring. I got about three sentences in before I heard the little voice inside my head telling me to shut the hell up, take my purchases and go because hello?? SHE DOESN’T CARE.

In the pasta aisle at the grocery store I wanted to tell the sweet, old lady who smiled at me that I had just found the missing remote to my DVD player amidst the stacks and stacks of boxes in the garage and also that I couldn’t believe the garbage man hadn’t come yet to gather our trash! I mean, how long is that can going to have to sit on the curb anyway!?!?

Do not fear. I didn’t act on the impulse in the pasta aisle or any other aisle for that matter. I quietly selected my items and wandered the store, browsing and just enjoying my freedom in general. For I know that ALL TOO SOON I will be punching a time clock and wishing, longing… PINING for these days of pure, unstructured time.

Soooo… there’s that… and the fact that I am also taking the appropriate measures to ensure continued and sustained sanity by messaging many of my friends and contacts in the city to set up brunch/lunch/dinner/coffee ASAP. And to those of you “friends and contacts in the city” whom I have contacted to DO brunch/lunch/dinner/coffee ASAP who may be reading thisPlease do NOT be afraid. I promise to drink only decaf and mum’s the word about the garbage man. Even though he IS always totally late in picking up the trash.

The Last Day

When you’re actively employed—waking up early to the nagging of the alarm clock and slogging to work day after day—one cannot help but imagine that the day will inevitably come that is their “Last Day of Work.” Whether it be to retire, begin a new job or explore a life/career change… we imagine it will be miraculous and glorious with the choirs of angels singing and the clouds parting and all that jazz.

Well, dear friends and readers… today is that day for me and so far there are no choirs of angels or parting of clouds. Now, bear in mind that I have never and I mean NEVER left a position without another similar or better position waiting in the wings. Or at the very least several promising interviews on the books and resumes scattering the earth like propaganda leaflets being dropped by plane.

I have always worked. Since I was 15 years old I have held down at least one and as many as four different jobs at a time. So I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be leaving a job with a generous, comprehensive benefits package behind in pursuit of “whatever happens.” But this time… THIS time is unique.

This time I have a supportive and encouraging man in my life who sees my full potential and recognizes that “it will be OK” if I don’t find that dream replacement job tomorrow. Words cannot express the peace and joy with which his calm confidence fills me.

In the interim, my plan is to try my hand at domesticity. (Please pick up reading wherever you left off after the laughter has stopped.) Martha Stewart I am not, but that doesn’t mean I cannot learn the artful ways of the domestic goddess. Right? You’re still laughing aren’t you? Until the dream job comes calling I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity to get back in shape and keep a home. I’m serious.

Ten of the 50 pounds I recently lost have moved back in and taken up residency on my ass and both of us abhor the wallpaper in the living and dining rooms. It’s officially time to tackle my fear of the oven and its cousin, the stove. My wardrobe needs a good looking over and some serious organization.

The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll miss the office gossip, dressing up for work each day and talking to other professionals… but I suspect there will likely be a bit of a honeymoon period for me, my sweats, my yoga mat and the cat. I promise to take as many of you who care (or dare) to join me along on this new expedition—and with the whole domestic goddess goal in the mix—I can also promise that it shan’t be boring.

The House That Re-Built Me

Standing squarely, both feet planted firmly on the ground and staring straight down the road toward a brand new life one cannot help but feel a range of emotions. There is excitement and anticipation for the adventure that is about to begin and yet it is accompanied by tinges of nostalgia and sadness for that which is being left behind.

This is what I’ve been experiencing on a nightly basis upon my return home from work. I have moved many times in my life. Twelve to be exact… and yes that makes this particular move of mine “Lucky Number 13.” But for anyone who has moved you know that some homes hold special places in your heart. This home has been just that for me.

I consider myself fortunate to have called so many unique, beautiful and interesting places “home” over the years — like a dude ranch high in the breathtaking Colorado Rockies and an ancient adobe-turned-studio-apartment in New Mexico (where I slept in a loft above my walk-in closet… accessible only by an equally-old, wooden ladder.)

Also in New Mexico, there was the four-bedroom, brick ranch that I helped to gut and remodel with my own two hands, blood, sweat and tears… And the gorgeous upstairs condo overlooking a bare, unblemished desert. From my windows there I could watch the mountains as they transformed from purple to a fiery salmon and eventually a deep blue in one 24-hour period.

And as fascinating and different and “exotic” as those destinations were from the place in Northeastern Ohio where I was born, raised and currently reside… my simple two-bedroom home has been a sanctuary. I walked in the door three years ago… 50 pounds overweight and pretty beaten down by life. Suffice it to say that it was through both circumstance and choice that I arrived in this state of being and unpacked my things within these walls a completely different person than the one who is typing these words.

The 100 year old charm is built right in, constantly making itself known in the creak of each floorboard — this home, all that surrounds it and the time that I have spent here has literally served in the re-building of me. It sits across the street from my parents, two blocks from my sister and seven nieces and nephews and is literally surrounded on ALL other sides by people who knew me as a child.

In the town that I came from and during the time in which I grew up there, the notion that it takes a village to raise a child was not only accepted it was EXPECTED. So when I returned to that very same neighborhood, 33 and broken, it seemed that my family, everyone around me, as well as the house and the neighborhood itself… all had a hand in putting me back together again.

With just the tiniest bit of sadness and a giant heap of gratitude I have begun re-packing my things into boxes and am thrilled at the thought of a new life ahead. The lump in my throat that forms each time I remove a picture from the wall tells me that the house’s work is done now. At least it is for me.

With hammers, nails, lumber, drywall and shingles it provided a quiet shelter during the storms, a safe place to pause and heal, reflect, refresh, reset and renew. It has finished its work in me. And when I leave my keys behind, I’ll know the time has come to move on.

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Tossing the Rulebook

I’ve always played by the rules. I’ve always done what I’m supposed to do in the order in which I am supposed to do it. College… Work… More work… And continued work. But in a couple of weeks I am going to embark on a journey I never thought I would.

With no job waiting in the wings, I gave notice yesterday at my current place of employment. YIKES! That’s right folks. In this crazy, unpredictable world, shaky political climate and moody economy… I am packing up my house and heading south (only about 140 miles south) to start a brand new life and adventure with the man I love. And I couldn’t be more thrilled!

I am not leaving just any old garden-variety job and home behind. Which is why, perhaps, this leap into unchartered waters feels so foreign to me. The current job is a good one that came complete with a decent title, five zany suite mates/co-workers, a nice office and interesting work.

The home—100 years old, cozy, loaded with character and decorated just the way I want it—sits right across the street from my childhood home, my beloved parents, my “little sister” (their golden retriever) and a mere two blocks away from my big sister and seven nieces and nephews.

But as with everything… there is a trade off.

What I am gaining in the deal is a partner and a friend with whom to share the rest of my life. And I could just stop right there as it is more than a fair trade to spend forever with my best friend. But there also is a new home, which I am told I can decorate any way that I choose. Though we’ll see about that… He didn’t seem super thrilled when I actually told him how I felt about the lamps in his living room. And a “job” that will allow me to play Little Betty Homemaker (at least until I find one with a real paycheck).

The new “career” in and of its self should be pretty interesting since I know I have mentioned before that I tend to be a bit domestically and culinarily-challenged. I figure now is as good a time as any to learn… Provided I don’t burn the house down by leaving a stray oven mitt on a burner or something random like that. (It’s been known to happen.)

Of course, if nothing else… the transition should provide some fairly good fodder for this platform here. I’m sure they’ll be some interesting stories about my Glamour mags taking over the stacks and stacks of Sports Illustrated currently perched on the back of the toilet. Or baskets, candles and picture frames replacing biographies of Howard Stern, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Ernest Hemingway. (OK, Hemingway can stay… but the other stuff just might be gettin’ bumped by Pottery Barn.)

There’s bound to be an adjustment period to the Lifetime channel being on by default when he flicks on the tube looking to watch Sports Center. Sometimes there’s nothing quite like a poorly-scripted, horribly-portrayed, exaggerated, cheesy, over-the-top tale of a woman scorned… even if it IS Bowl Week (which by the way, lasts for THREE weeks… NOT ONE as the name suggests).

In any event, I hope you’ll stay tuned while the adventure unfolds and I try something I’ve never tried before by taking a great big step right off my “map” … into the glorious unknown.