Honored just to be here

I couldn’t be more excited! I am a finalist! In a contest! A beauty contest!

Do you know what that means to a woman in her 40s? This is better than the time the Minnesota State Fair carny guessed my age to be 28 (I was 38 at the time). Yeah, I’m more excited than that–and I was pretty pleased back then with duping a young guy into giving me a stuffed animal!

In May, I entered myself in More magazine’s Women With More contest (you can see my entry here — big thanks to Traci Palmer at Traci Palmer Photography for the permission to use this shot). Beauty is only one of four categories. Readers this year could enter in the categories of Passion, Ambition and Style, too. Why throw my hat (or head) into the beauty ring? Well, I’d like to think I’m a woman with more (no caps), so why not find out if I’m a Woman With More (note the caps)? Half the criteria is about my appearance and personality, sure, but 50% of my entry was based on the inspirational quality of my story. I figured any woman who writes a book titled How to Look Hot & Feel Amazing in Your 40s: The 21-Day Age-Defying Diet, Exercise & Everything Plan ought to find out if her story’s the type of cream that rises to the top, right?

Well, when I got the email last week from a More magazine editor dubbing me as a “Finalist” (she used a capital!), I definitely felt on top of the world (or at least at the top of the refrigerated bulk tank). Just to be clear, I’ve been encouraged to emphasize I’m not yet a Woman With More (with caps), I’m only a finalist in the midst of the selection process. In order to proceed, I was asked to submit five more photos taken within the past six weeks.

Well, I couldn’t go back to the beautiful images taken by Traci Palmer for my book (since she lives six hours away and I was specifically directed to avoid professional photos), and I found only three recent shots I’d classify as both “candid, relaxed, natural” and complimentary. So I put my husband to work. Let me mention, he’s a hunter, not a gatherer. Which means he was all “if you need two photos, let’s take two photos,” and I was all “if I need two photos, I need 200 to choose from.”

Here are a few of the gems I rejected:

But amidst the chaff, I found a few grains I hope may propel me from “finalist” to “winner,” including this one (nice work, Honey):

Monica Lee Close Up

Honey asked me why I’m bothering to write about this finalist status (he’s such a man). Here’s the deal: There are four other finalists in my category, so the odds of actually winning the grand prize (a trip to New York for a photo shoot and appearance in a future issue of More magazine, plus an array of skin care products, which beats a stuffed animal from any midway hawker) are not in my favor — better than winning the lottery or getting hit by lightning, but not a cinch bet. Past winners include a surgeon, a cancer survivor and an actress, among other Women With More (with caps), so could be I’m just a humble woman with more (no caps). Bragging about my finalist status might be as good as it gets. If you don’t hear about further developments as I progress through the selection process, it’s because, well, there weren’t any. But right now, I feel like I do when I’m holding a lottery ticket before the $140 million draw — excited about just dreaming of winning. Continue reading