Met Gala Musings

By 11 a.m. the day after The First Monday in May, we’ve seen all the looks from “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” So what we’re really interested in now is the gossip of the evening.

Which celebrity iced out another? Who got sloppy drunk? Who did our celebrity crush hook up with? (What? We’re only human here.) Alas, we’ve misplaced our Derek Blasberg this morning, so we’ll just stick to a quick review of our favorite Met Gala looks. Florida does love camp, after all.

(Images are clearly not ours. We were tending to children’s competitive soccer tryouts in Clearwater last night, not ascending the Met steps.)

Our beloved queen, Celine

On Realistic Expectations, or, “How Lin-Manuel Miranda Brightened My Day — Again”

Day 2 of a Chronic-Fatigue-As-Caused-By-Antihistone-Markers bout. I’m EXHAUSTED. I’m also wildly frustrated. Given the well, chronic, nature of autoimmune symptoms, it’s really hard to build momentum, and I feel like I never make any progress.

Progress on what, you ask? Well anything, really: work/rebuilding my business, cleaning, furniture hunting/decorating (good LORD, that’s a topic of its own), etc. Not exactly Lin-Manuel Miranda levels of creative output, but important nonetheless.

This made me feel better.

I realized that even though I know most celebrities have teams of people handling their business, I always think of Lin as a one-man band. Oh, a collaborator to be sure, but someone who handles all of his projects, travels, writing, etc., by himself. One more way he’s separated from the rest of us. How reassuring to know that in order to create all of that magic, he might need more than a Google Calendar reminder!

LMM looms large in my mind of late because we’ve just had 6 weeks of what I refer to as a “Hamilton Intensive,” as my daughter chose Eliza Schuyler Hamilton for her Famous Americans Project. Several weeks of study, prep and presentation, all while listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, was capped by finally seeing the show in Tampa. More than once during these weeks, it’s occurred to me that Lin is only a year older than me.

It’s not a comfortable thought.

Look what he’s accomplished! (No, seriously, look. Unbelievable.) Meanwhile, I successfully responded to a few texts and emails today. I used to write historical fiction while getting straight A’s, playing sports and nurturing a script project I called “Dodson’s Creek,” named after my best guy friend (on whom, for the record, I did not have a crush by that point). I was a smart, overachieving emphath! What happened?!

No, don’t worry. I’m not really weighing myself against a once-in-a-generation talent. But we do compare ourselves to others’ successes. It comes up briefly, a fleeting comparison that asks, “Why couldn’t I have done that?”

Reminders, like LMM’s tweet, that there’s always more behind the scenes, are balms to that itch of comparison. No, no one does it all on their own. No one has it all together. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone needs help. We know all of that. But when someone shows the work, the process, the team, the anxieties experienced – that’s where it really connects.

Some things, like shared anxieties, can affect all of us at any point and make us feel like we, too, can overcome! Others, like a full team working with/behind you, don’t come until you’ve reached a certain level of business or financial success. But that’s still helpful to know because you’re not paralyzed by chasing unrealistic expectations of what one person can accomplish.

I’m no less exhausted as I reach the end of this post, but I have reached the end of writing a post! I’d call that progress, and all thanks to a tweet-behind-the-curtain.

On Luke Perry

Confession: I’ve had “publish block” with this blog. Not writer’s block – I have plenty of ideas, and indeed several drafts of posts. But I can’t seem to hit publish, which we’ll dissect at another time. Because today I’ve at least temporarily scaled that wall, and all because of the loss of Luke Perry.

Luke Perry’s dead. What the hell is happening?!

I sobbed for 20 minutes when I heard the news this afternoon. “But he was so great in this role on ‘Riverdale!’ And the ‘90210’ reboot is happening! He’s only 52!” Ridiculous in its own way, of course, because *I don’t know him!* But Luke sure was a part of my life.

I begged my mom to let me watch Beverly Hills, 90210 when it came out. I watched soaps like “Guiding Light” and “Dallas” with my parents, but at 9 years old, she (smartly) decided this new teen drama was beyond the level of acceptable drama.

But with the faces of “Dylan McKay” and Jason Priestley’s Brandon Walsh all over magazines, and in some cases, on my friends’ pillowcases, “90210” was hard to ignore. They were so beautiful! Never mind that they were several years older than the actual high school students they were supposed to play, most of the cast was just dazzling. I read every article I could about them, and some time in middle school finally started watching reruns.

(I feel like the first episode I saw was when Emily Valentine threatens to burn down the West Beverly HS float, but this might just be a trick my brain has played because Emily Valentine is such a gloriously ridiculous character.)

Between reruns and new episodes, 90210 and Dylan took me through high school and college. Then, thanks to the now-defunct SoapNet, those reruns saw me through my wedding, home-buying, a recession job loss, death, the haze and daze of new motherhood, a new business. Friendships, crushes, heartbreak, true love.

Then Luke reappeared in a whole new light, as Fred Andrews on “Riverdale.” (Shows about teen angst, when well done, will always have a place in the Clary home.) And he was great.

When we heard the news today, my best friend said, “It feels like we grew up with him.” She’s right but it wasn’t just growing up. There’s never been a year when I haven’t watched Luke Perry in some show or Hallmark movie.

With long-running series like 90210, or as I realized when “The Young & the Restless'” Kristoff St. John died last month, there’s so much character development, not to mention the reruns, it’s easy to feel connected to the characters. I saw that Jon Cryer tweeted today that Luke was “a character actor who happened to be in a heartthrob’s body.” Luke Perry may not have won an Academy Award or starred in what “the industry” would consider prestige television (although the impact Beverly Hills 90210 had on TV shouldn’t be understated), but I’d wager he connected with so many more people than many of his more lauded peers. And that’s what is so hard to say goodbye to.

Tim Tebow, a National Championship and My Downfall

January 9, 2017 – When my colleague took this picture of Tim Tebow clearly falling in love with me,* I was working on the lead media operations team for the College Football Playoff National Championship.

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Marcus Spears & Tim Tebow prep for SEC Nation after the 2017 National Championship, while I do a discreet baby Gator chomp while not-so-discreetly taking this photo. Photo credit: A wonderful colleague whom I shall not implicate by name in this scheme, though she made it happen. Also WHAT is happening with my hair color? Blaming stadium lights.

I kept saying during that week of work leading up to the game that the year had no place to go but down. But I was mostly joking.

I had been killing it professionally. KILLING. IT. I was working on accounts I was truly passionate about and with professionals that I had admired since the beginning of my career. I was president-elect of my Junior League and riding high on some opportunities I’d worked towards for a long time. The “public” side of J. Clary Public Relations was never better.

But as I should know, you should never believe your own press for long. Because sure enough, 2017 was going to go downhill.

Wait. To truly understand the feeling of the fall, you have to understand why working media operations for the college football national championship was such a high.

For a PR professional, working the National Championship is a week of major events with hundreds of media touches, stories, stat delivery during the game, event operations, credentialing, fan engagement, working the press box. You have to think quickly and you’re up early and working late the whole week before the actual game. You also have to be professional enough to remain neutral about “your” team in the midst of college football heaven.

In sports terms, you’re a starter if you’re working at that level. Being on the lead media operations team for an event like this is a BIG forking deal, even if you’re not a college football fan.

But I AM a BIG college football fan (much to the surprise of a very few sexist men I encountered that week, but we’ll save that for a different post). So being handed FULL credentials for this event was next level.

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Photo credit: ME! Standing on the field before the 2017 National Championship BECAUSE I COULD.

When my colleague took that picture by SEC Nation (don’t @ me about neutrality with my baby chomp – my job was done). We had just emerged from the tunnel, my four colleagues and I holding back hundreds of media members waiting to emerge on the field for post-game interviews and shots. In my memory it looks something like a college football coach holding back the players in the tunnel.

les miles tigersLes Miles “holding ’em back” at LSU. I 100% picture myself like this with the media, which isn’t an accurate memory. 

I ran onto the field with the media, huge Alabama players trudging off the field in defeat and stood 3 feet away from Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban shaking hands, close enough to see the tears in Saban’s eyes. Clemson players danced around me.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP CONFETTI RAINED DOWN ON MY HEAD!

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And all of this AFTER I’d exchanged “Go Gators” with Tim Tebow, one of Gator Nation’s most beloved individuals.

By the way, does this girl look sick to you?

Because I was, and the year’s downfall I’d jokingly predicted was about begin.

By April 2017, a string of stressors triggered an advance in physical health problems I’d been managing for several years. Doctors had thought it was fibromyalgia. But the new symptoms I was experiencing didn’t make sense. By the end of the year, I was in swift decline with no help in sight.

The symptoms, the search for a diagnosis and then a search for how to manage when there is no cure are garbage. We know I have POTS (post-orthostatic tachycardia). We also know I have another autoimmune disease that is “like lupus” (same symptoms), could be drug-induced lupus if I had ever taken any of the prescriptions that cause it (I haven’t), but this one is going to take more study.

The point is, being that sick and that consumed with getting healthy again, I couldn’t sustain everything I had going on – family, friends, work, volunteering, etc. So I did the thing they tell you to do and started letting go.

The problem with letting go is that it’s not necessarily a one-way transaction, especially when you own your own business. I let go of some things I chose, and was let go (not fired – just using corresponding language) from some things I didn’t. When you are the business, if you’re not growing, you contract. And I’m sad to say just after its nine-year anniversary, J. Clary Public Relations contracted to nothing.

I suppose it had to be that way for awhile, but it hasn’t made the pill easier to swallow. I love my work. My brain doesn’t shut off from the communications prism. I want to work.

I really don’t know if I will ever work on anything that – for me, personally – is as exciting as the National Championship. Sometimes I’m afraid my professional life will be like the hours spent that week in Meeting Room 1B waiting in case there were any media credential errors.

meeting room 1b

Meeting Room 1B or Credentialing Error Purgatory. Don’t get jealous, kids!

I do know, though, that being open about my illness is critical. I’ve heard from so many people reaching out with messages of support, suggest recruiting companies, amazing gifs (crucial) and love.

I’m pretty sure I still have the chops to work at a high level. I just don’t know what treatment holds, so I don’t know if my body will cooperate with the heights my mind could take me. So this post won’t have a nice, tidy ending just yet. We’re heading into overtime.

But I like to think at the beginning of another year in the future, I’ll be looking back at January 2019, illnesses in check, and chomping the hell out of a healthier phase of life.

tebow chomp

Tim Tebow chomps during the 2006 National Championship on Fox Sports.

(Sidebar: I would NOT want to work the game if the Gators were in the National Championship. See: professional neutrality.)

*My husband, also a UF grad who pulled MAJOR dad duty Championship Week, thought this moment was 100% worth it.

Resolving the “New Year, New You” Issue

As a PR pro who’s had to comb through editorial calendars for client opportunities over the years, one of the most reliable issues to plan for in almost any publication is January: “New Year, New You!”

new-year-new-you

It’s not just lifestyle/beauty publications (but don’t get me started on the body image witchcraft and gross expectations that many of those sell!). Tech, general business, sports, education, insurance. They’re all going to feature some type of article on resolutions or “best practices” to set something up for success in the new year.

No surprise there. We all talk about New Year’s resolutions: who makes them, who doesn’t, who keeps them, who resolves NOT to make them… I typically fall into the latter category, mostly because I would never intentionally set myself up for failure! Last year I made the mistake of resolving to try using a written planner, rather than just relying on my Google Calendar. And well… I should probably give that its own post as it’s a great way to understand your host’s personality! So we’ll save that for another time.

But 2018 has been one of the bleakest and most painful that I have experienced. Judging by my Twitter & Facebook feeds, many people would agree right off the bat, but for me it has nothing to do with “the world on fire,” tragic news stories, the continued descent of our politicians into power-hungry gridlock or the general sense that humanity would like to rip its collective heart out.

For me, “Peak 2018” is diagnosis after diagnosis of debilitating chronic illnesses. A categorization of being a “7 on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of disability,” with only a “hope” of someday getting daily life to a “3.”

A friend told me how skinny I looked, as a compliment, and asked what I was doing. “Well I’m taking an anti-lupus drug with a side effect of maybe having detached retinas and going blind someday, but it also causes you to lose pesky pounds! And I can pretty safely travel to any malaria-prone country because it treats that, too!”

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Image: Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Great Gatsby” (2012), Village Roadshow Productions

And yet…

The homily at Mass today reminded me of that giant concept: PERSPECTIVE. The priest shared a story of how a family from his former parish had sent a mass text to all of their friends and family a few weeks ago to joyfully announce the birth of their son. They had discovered – and shared during the pregnancy – that their son had a chromosomal disorder, one which carries a devastatingly short life expectancy.

But the parents’ text on the birth of their son was as joyous as any parents’. They encouraged all of their friends and family to visit them and their son as often as they could while he was alive, and to do so joyously. This child was a gift, they said, and they wanted him to be celebrated as any child would. Perspective!

When I say “perspective,” I don’t mean thinking of how people have it worse off than I  do. I’m perhaps overly empathetic, so understanding that perspective usually isn’t far out of my mind.

I don’t even think I’m talking about counting my blessings, though I do and will.

I’m talking about finding a perspective of joy. Living the joy of life even through pain,  suffering and uncertainty. I don’t know what that looks like for me yet. I’m still processing it. And yes, the other perspective will probably help shape it. I’m living with chronic illnesses, not wondering when my child will die or watching my child battle osteosarcoma, as a friend currently is. (I do worry that my daughters will inherit this someday but that’s nowhere near on the same level.)

My understanding of my own faith will play a huge role.

But I am resolved to look for and find the joy. This is one New Year’s Resolution on which I may falter, but will not fail. I’ll update you on my progress throughout the year in different ways.

On December 31, 2019, I intend to report that I kept this resolution.

But it’s still 2018, so if you’ll permit me, I’ll say goodbye to this year with the sage words of Beyonce.

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Image: “Sorry” by Beyonce. Rights and general gloriousness owned by Queen Bey.

 

 

 

 

In a Navy State of Mind

No, not the color, (though I’m often in a navy state of dress), but as in the United States Navy.

I’m writing as I watch College Game Day ahead of the Army-Navy game, with all of the inspiring spots and stories of integrity, grit, honor and duty. And this after a week of mourning but celebrating the life of naval aviator, 41st President and exemplary gentleman, George H.W. Bush.

But it’s also the day after Pearl Harbor Day, which calls to mind my grandfather, “Pop,” Eugene Simmons, a survivor of the bombing of the U.S.S. Arizona. It’s so long ago, and obviously our family is not unique in having a loved one be part of a seminal moment in history.

But the older I get and the more I understand, the more overwhelming it is to think of him in that battle.

When I was 23, I was lamenting having to be at work by 8:30 a.m. My grandfather, President Bush and millions of other young men had chosen a far more difficult path in service of their country.

That Sunday morning in 1941, Pop was running back onto the USS Arizona when the bomb dropped into the engine room, where he normally would have been stationed. He had gone to early Mass that morning, something that didn’t necessarily always happen when he was 23 and in the Navy! He was blown off the ship into the water, left in a coma and declared MIA for 3 weeks until they could identify him. Thankfully, he survived and while I’ll listen to your arguments that there was ever a better grandfather than my Pop, I won’t believe them.

Giving thanks to God today for Pop, and remembering the sacrifice of all those who served at Pearl Harbor and in the years of war to follow.

Anchors Aweigh!

Pop

Always by the sea: Jeannie and “Pop,” Ocean House Hotel at Bass Rocks, Gloucester, Mass., July 1998

So This is Happening

Spotted: Jeannie Clary finally getting up the nerve to start a blog.

This blog has been lingering in the various corners of my mind for SO long. I’m a writer, a public relations consultant and an over-thinker, so my brain feels like it’s always humming with thoughts waiting to bust out. But I couldn’t put my finger on needed to do – ridiculous for someone as familiar with blogs as I am.

Then yada yada yada, I’m blogging now.

And who am I? That’s one secret I’ll never t — Wait. Strike that. Unlike “Gossip Girl” I will actually be sharing a lot about myself, so I suppose an introduction is in order.

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Image credit: Deja View Photography

Hi! It’s me, Jeannie.

Right now, it feels like it’s going to be a little broad. I’ll share stories about how I shoehorned my career into something that would work with two kids and an airline pilot husband, and what it’s like balancing that with mom-life, leading a volunteer organization and living with a chronic illness. I’ll make references to shows (I make no apologies for referencing “90210,” “Dawson’s Creek” or “The Good Place” too much, so be aware) and songs and post GIFs. I’ll let you know about products and brands I’ve fallen hard for, and share links to clothes that make me want to cry.

This will go live before I’m ready, but let go and let God, amiright? So in the immortal words of Liz Lemon…

Let's do this Liz Lemon

Image credit: NBC Universal/Little Stranger, Inc.

XOXO