Placing a Red Bow on Downton Abbey

Why Some Stories Don’t Need a Reboot

“So,” I said, turning to my friend as the credits rolled up the movie screen. “Did you like it?”

Lady Mary cThe “it” I was referring to, was the movie adaptation of Downton Abbey, the British TV series broadcast as part of PBS Masterpiece Theatre. The series ran for six years, following the lives of an aristocratic family and their domestic servants. It was standard Masterpiece fare, character-driven and rich in visuals and dialogue along with being a guilty pleasure. Think, The Crown meets The Young & the Restless.

My friend’s reply was typical Lady Mary. “It wasn’t great, but good enough. It felt like a longer version of one more episode.” My friend and I were a good dichotomy for the typical target audience for Downton Abbey. While she was a loyal royal watcher from the beginning, I came along late in the game, with a hard-binge of six seasons on Amazon Prime. Knowing its audience, the movie trailer didn’t pretend to market itself as a vehicle for anyone who wasn’t already a fan of the TV series.

But should Good enough be an acceptable review? Why is it that movies seldom capture the essence of that unique story that catches fire with readers and viewers? Too often, the magic of a carefully drawn-out story just doesn’t lend itself to the 2-hour adaptation on the movie screen.

Let’s look at another story that caught fire several years ago, when journalist, Jeanette Walls wrote of her life, in the memoir, The Glass Castle. This book spent over 260 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and it’s hard to find a book club that didn’t devour this classic, or a reader who didn’t bond with the story on some level. Yet, when the movie version of The Glass Castle finally debuted, starring a strong cast consisting of Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, the story fell flat, perhaps suffering from having to leave too much heart on the editing floor.

Sometimes, we should leave the best stories in their original packaging. It is a rare instance when the written word transfers so eloquently to the movie screen. To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind. But more often, the result resembles my feelings when turning off the TV after viewing El Camino on Netflix, a movie picking up immediately after the last scene in the incredibly rewarding last episode of Breaking Bad. While it was nice to see Jessie, our anti-hero again, did we need to revisit what was already the best ending ever for any TV series?

And yet, it can certainly be argued that the best movies come from successful screenplays. Local author, Bonnie Jo Campbell has been touring the country as the film adaptation of her novel, Once Upon a River makes an appearance at many film festivals. We can only hope it pays a visit soon to our area.

Here’s a thought… maybe some endings are best left alone, even if it was nice catching up with the Crawleys and the downstairs staff in Downton Abbey. I wonder what the gang from Mad Men has been up to?

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Women’s LifeStyle.
Look for her debut novel, Chasing North Star in September 2020. Follow Heidi at and

Hitting the Pause Button on Your Career

“I’m so done with the 9-5 career,” my friend explains, taking a stab at her salad. She sits back and sighs. “Staff meetings, sales calls, budgets…I just don’t care anymore about climbing the corporate ladder. I just want a job that I don’t have to bring home with me at the end of the day.”

Woman working - CopyShe’s not alone in deciding that the next chapter in her life doesn’t necessarily include power-lunches and clothes that require dry cleaning. So what do you do for a living? is the question often asked at networking events. But, is it professionally acceptable to bag the power-suit and just get a job that doesn’t define us?

While Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg correctly stresses in her book “Lean In” that more women need to have a seat at the corporate table, It’s not the only option for achieving a professional balance in life. But there are many factors in deciding whether to chuck the heels and briefcase.

Let’s look at the downside of stepping off the corporate ladder…

  • Most part-time jobs are hourly and pay substantially less than full-time jobs. While we might have a romantic vision of living a simpler life based on a lower income, are you really ready for fewer nights out on the town, and less trips to the café for $7 iced coffees?
  • Like it or not, jobs define us in our culture. Many people can’t fathom why a woman with a bachelor’s degree in Business is suddenly ringing up scarves at the local boutique. Something terrible must have happened, is often the thought that pops up.
  • Working a so-called regular job can sometimes come with a boss who is not only much younger, but also less knowledgeable in the world of business. The reality is, you may be taking orders from someone who has yet to get their first credit card. And YOU will have to suck it up, buttercup.

But there is an upside to non-career / part-time employment, and the benefits can make all the difference!

  • At a regular job, the hamburgers don’t follow you home at the end of the night. That’s right, clocking out at 8:00 means you’re done, not just taking a break until your home, and opening your laptop after dinner to continue working on your current project.
  • Stress levels go way down. For the most part, a regular job is generally less stressful. Gone, are the weekly budget meetings, sales sheets, and cold calls. That’s not to say that all part-time jobs come with less responsibility and goals, but the level is generally less.
  • Designer Hours – OK, the downside of working part-time is that you will generally have to work hours that are less than ideal, like evenings and weekends, but owners and managers will also work with you in putting a schedule together that fits your lifestyle. This can allow for you to be home for your kids when they get out of school, or open up a 3-day weekend. It’s up to you.

At the end of the day, we all need to do what’s best for us. Career vs. job, it’s really about what looks best on you. Here’s a thought … let’s not worry about how our jobs define us.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Women’s LifeStyle.

Feeling Invisible isn’t a Superpower

n-OLDER-WOMAN-SITTING-ALONE-628x314A 50-year-old French author, not worth naming, recently remarked in a magazine that women older than fifty are invisible to him. “The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all,” he is quoted as saying, showing his maturity level to be closer to a pubescent boy than his actual age.

While the paper-thin insights of this one man isn’t worthy of rebuttal, the truth is, the belief that women 50+ lose their luster is shared by a disproportionate number of people in modern-day culture. A recent study revealed that more than two-thirds of women over the age of 45 have experienced a fallen lack of confidence—judged negatively because of their age from the opposite sex, and by younger women.

Technology also plays a role in the perception of older women being out of sync with social media and the digital world, which is not at all true. But perception is everything, and while the cliché is that men grow old in a dignified fashion, women just grow old. As a woman 50+ with my own domain, Twitter handle, and Facebook professional pages, my online footprint is impressive, and I look within and see anything but.

WhitmerOn the local-front, Michigan Governor Whitmer, at age 47, is just hitting her stride. Other notable West Michigan women include WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and countless other professionals, artists and creative souls finding their voice at an age that shouts from the rooftops, “I’m just getting started!”

Glenn Close - CopyLet’s follow the lead of 71-year-old actress, Glenn Close. As a 2019 Golden Globe winner for her portrayal in The Wife, she delivered this impassioned acceptance speech honoring her late mother.

“… I’m thinking of my mom who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. And in her 80s she said to me, “I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. …What I’ve learned from this whole experience is, women, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we’re lucky enough, and our partners. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, “I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.”

The other day, as my grown son gazed at the DIY décor flowing throughout his parent’s living room, he looked at me and asked why I never displayed my artistic flair while he and his brother were still living at home—not comprehending the sacrifices a mother makes when given the choice of self-expression or simply keeping a home from imploding.

But the truth is, we need to make time for ourselves at every phase in our lives. Women in particular are far too willing to sacrifice self-worth for the sake of loved ones, and it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision.  My job is balanced with my passion for writing and my life-long goal of becoming a mediocre golfer. As a woman 50+, I’m looking forward to the second half of my own story.

Follow Heidi’s column in Women’s LifeStyle  of Greater Kalamazoo Magazine