Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Michelle - Down 2 sizes and 18 pounds

Wow. So I have been working very hard to drop all of this extra weight I've been carrying around the last couple of years and am very proud to say, even broadcast that I went from 172 to 154. I have a goal to get to around 145 and stay in that vicinity - so still about 10 pounds to go - but I can't tell you how much better I feel about myself and how big a difference it makes in feeling confident.

Here's how I did it (so far):

1) Eat WAY less. Typically I have 2 slices of toast (diet bread at 40 calories each) with 1 tbsp (that's 1/2 a serving) peanut butter with coffee for breakfast. For lunch, I usually have a cup of soup (I measure it - a can has 2 or more servings - don't eat the whole can) with rice crackers or rye crisps, a wedge of Lite Laughing Cow cheese and an apple. I also only eat low sodium versions of soup - writing down what I eat everyday and weighing everyday I have learned EXACTLY what makes me fat. For me it's salt and sugar. Dinner depends on my schedule as I may only have time for a Lean Cuisine (nothing over 325 calories). If I don't have a show, I'll eat very specific portions of fish or chicken (3 oz) with a full cup of steamed vegetables and something like brown rice or couscous. I also cut way back on alcohol - another food group that really sends the scale tipping.

2) I'm active EVERY. DAY. I either work out on the elliptical machine, do a pilates routine (sometimes both) or I am in a very physical sketch comedy show that includes dancing, running around and a scene where I have to hold my arms up the sides (straight out) for about 5 minutes (this has been a huge help!)

3) I am dilligent in making healthy choices at restaurants. Less a slip or two here or there I will order grilled vs. fried, fruit vs. fries, salad vs. sandwich, etc.

4) I didn't get carried away during Thanksgiving and worked out on Thanksgiving. No seconds (of anything).

5) I eat an apple a day. It's full of fiber and requires a lot of chewing which helps me to feel full and satisfied.

6) I eat my meals sitting down, and chew slowly.

7) I do not eat while I cook. I chew gum.

8) If I'm hungry I will drink a full glass of water - I believe I have minsinterpreted thirst for hunger my whole life.

9) I try not to ever eat late. (I've slipped here a couple of times because I couldn't eat before shows that I'm in, but for the most part I'm done eating by 6:00.)

10) I have publicized and shared my diet plans and progress with supportive friends and now here too. This accountability helps me to stay focused and the possible embarrassment of gaining the weight back would be that much worse.

Here's to celebrating the holidays not worrying about what I'll wear. I have a new red dress that is 2 sizes smaller than last years hanging within view of my exercise machine. It reminds me of what I've been working for and don't want to see slip away again. I had to ask the saleslady twice to bring a different size - what a happy day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Working from Home - Perfect Except for Humiliating Run-Ins with UPS Man

Working from home is truly a joy, however there are a few disadvantages. I've come up with my Top 10 below. Oh none of these would ever outweigh the advantages - but in this world nothing is ever perfect.

Drum roll (if you're into that sort of thing):

1) Getting coffee doesn't actually get you the 10 minutes of "I need to step away from this problem, clear my head and return to it with a fresh idea". At least not in my small condo it doesn't. The short trek from my desk or favorite chair to the coffee pot is nothing more than crossing a room.

2) You will never look your best when the doorbell rings. Our UPS man has become accustomed to my crazy pajama/lounge wear/workout wear clothing choices, bad breath, glasses and tangled claw clip hairdos. Not to mention my lack of bra before 5 PM (unless I'm running errands!) Although he's used to it, I never fail to see his disappointment when I come traipsing to the door for work or early Christmas packages. It's like he thinks I'm going to get all gussied up just for him. He's semi-cute but has horrible road rage and I've reported him more than once for very bad driving. He threw a Gatorade bottle at our car once, denting the front hood. Oddly, he's very nice to dogs and children, basically everyone, unless he's behind the wheel of his truck.

3) The world goes on outside - and you're unaware. I typically leave the house everyday by around 5:30 for a rehearsal or show - or errands - but there is the occasional day when I have all my errands done and no rehearsal or show to get to and never (actually never) go outside. These are sad days, but what am I an old person - going out for a "walk"? I work out in our bedroom when my husband wakes up (so I'm not lazy - if that's what you were thinking!), I have every technical device invented to keep me in touch with work, friends, family. My mailbox is inside. My dog gets walked by my husband or neighbors. Occasionally it just doesn't happen. I know I'd miss going outside terribly if something happened and I couldn't anymore (global Armageddon, imprisonment), but aside from some guilt and a mild case of regret, I don't fret about this too much.

4) You get very sick of your furniture/decor/paint color/etc. Spending so much time at home makes home a very boring place to be. No longer your haven away from the office, home becomes boring resembling a familiar but worn out old shoe...suddenly you notice all of the things you don't like about your space. Lack of natural light, no elevator, no plant watering crew.

5) You can no longer escape messes at home at the office, or office messes at home. They are both there for you.

6) Thin walls/ceilings will challenge your affection for your neighbors and provide you with far too much information about their home life. Not to mention how much they can challenge your ability to concentrate. I am, however rather lucky in this department, since I really love my neighbors...just wish some of them were ready to go to school during the day. No matter how cute, loud is loud. (Especially if you're working on a rather detailed coding issue.) But, for the most part, this is not really a huge problem.

7) You get your social interaction virtually. This is both good and bad. No more sitting through boring meetings with people you'd rather not share air with, but also, no more fun meetings with funny and attractive co-workers either.

8) No more camaraderie that is found on crowded train cars when someone farts. (Upshot is obviously no farts...at least not of the stranger variety.)

9) Time moves faster...from home. Feels great to be done with your work day faster...but also feels like another day flew by and that life is slipping away.

10) No free lunches, birthday cake, office supplies, ergonomic desk chairs, downtown views, official-looking badges, fancy desk phones, endless paper, copier ink replacements, happy hour invites or gossip.

Well, that's all for today. I'm going to go get a shower and wait for the UPS man.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fashion Flashbacks - Welcome or Worse for the Wear?

I love the fall! Cooler temps mean I can return to the warm, safe cocoon of layers and coverage. Then I see any one of the what seem to be thousands of adorable 18 year old Loyola kids in my neighborhood skip past me on the sidewalk, cigarette in hand, ironic fedora on head, gigantic luggage sized purse on a frighteningly stick like arm and the teeny-tiniest skinny jeans tucked into the most fabulous boots.

I hate it, but it's just the strange cycle of fashion. The last time skinny jeans, leggings, jeggings (the combination of these two horrifically judgemental fashions), stirrups and off-the shoulder sweater tunics was "in", I weighed about 98 pounds, and had that same outfit in practically every color of the rainbow, plus in black with rhinestones on the huge fold-over shawl collar. HOT.

Comfortable? Yes. But this outfit makes everyone look like the weird Saturday morning guy that told us to eat apples and cheese. Oddly lumpy top supported by toothpicks on the bottom.

After thinking leggings would be the absolute worst thing to make a comeback, I hesitate, as I should, since I happen to be wearing a pair right now. Although I've paired mine with a more fitted tunic. Now I think the worst fashion flashback would be parachute pants. All that frickin' swishing. And the static electricity. And all those dumb pockets. Plus, they're freezing.

What I'd like to see comeback? Those adorable turtlenecks with little things on them that match sweaters?

I paired this with a pair of boys (they were cheaper than the "girl" pair at JC Penny's) parachute pants. I liked to mix genres at this age. My shoes were white snakeskin pumps, that I wore everywhere. Including riding my bike.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Audacity of Nope

So the new show that I'm in called The Audacity of Nope has certainly received some interesting press. Chris Jones of the Trib announced our title a couple of weeks ago on the front page of the Live! (Question - is this Live like - "Live" every day as if it were your last or Live - like Saturday Night "Live"?) section as some sort of reaction to Chicago's failed bid for the Olympics. Nevermind that we came up with it back in June, and that there was a lot more animosity toward the president at that time for not following through on some important issues and for being as he always has been, non-committal on supporting gay marriage. But, we were thrilled that this news did play into our overall theme of "NOPE". But we're also getting a thumbs up from more conservative blogs because of our title...too soon? Such fun that our title is stirring up so many assumptions! Want to see for yourself? Get some tickets!

Personally, I'm in a tricky place because as a straight person, I do not think it's my place to be the voice of gays or anyone besides myself for that matter. I'm no Oprah. But, in terms of the President and most politics, I do have opinions. This revue has been named in such a way that expectations of the content and themes are being assumed. It's extremely exciting to be a part of such a fragile thing as an "irreverant revue" whether given that description under the guise of a title, or past productions and reputation.

I'm really digging the mild controversy and real interest in our show. We've got some stuf up our sleeves...like all art, comedy doesn't hold anything sacred - with the exception of the quality of the joke itself. The key is timing.

The thing people don't understand about comedy writers and comics in general is that we shift gears very quickly turning tragedy into comedy much faster than normal people. It's something we HAVE to do to entertain people in a timely fashion. It also can silence rooms of "civilians" and end dinner parties early (why we like to socialize with each other).

It's also a survival mechanism. We have to "get there" faster so that the comedy is already bakd when the public decides they can finally exhale. Take 911 for example. I was in a comedy writing program during this time - in the second level of a five-level course - so still pretty early in the process. My class was on Wednesday nights. To my surprise our class was not cancelled, further our instructor asked us to put aside our sadness and stress and try to "find the funny". Most of us, myself included, freaked out, and started to leave when he asked us to sit and explained that this is also a way to cope. There is humor in every tragedy, you have to know where to find it. For starters, it's never the victims. Go after the criminals, the talking heads reporting on it, nature's reaction. Slowly, but surely, our pens started moving. I thought very hard and then remembered, at some point during the day of coverage it occurred to me that Katie Couric was dressed a little slutty that day. (Who wears one barrette?) Then other people's observations started to come out too. The luggage of two of the terrorists didn't make their flight. Pretty much everything Ashleigh Banfield said.

Later, when our show was produced, people were ready, and we had volumes of sketches to work with - there was no delay of "okay, now let's sit down and write about this". That would have been too late.

There is always constant pressure on comics to produce timely, truthful and thoughtful material - before everyone else thinks of the same jokes - and we're kidding ourselves if we think that people aren't also thinking the things we say before they do - duh, it's why they laugh!

Comedy is a game of being 10 steps ahead and keeping an open mind about everything you do. I wrote a song called Shame - which is no longer relevant because Obama revealed his intention to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and a tentative oppostion to DOMA recently. I worked for hours on the song, then just scrapped it. You have to be very happy to throw ideas away, no matter how wonderful. The beauty is the mind is an incredible thing, and so is life. There is always something funny going on and new ideas to discover.

Until next time, it's back to the drawing board for me...and here's a video for you!


Friday, October 2, 2009

No Olympics. Good. No constant reminder that in 7 years I will be old as hell.

Okay, so I was sporting my Chicago 2016 orange tee shirt provided to me by, well probably me (tax dollars HARD at work), thinking I would be wearing it until at least 11:30 or so, but no such luck.

Chicago didn't make it past the first round. Down to Madrid and Rio (which I really hope it goes to Rio now...since it's never been there before). The excitement prematurely snuffed out and a depressed weekend ahead for many. (Glad I'll be out of town, actually.)

Wondering what this is saying to the rest of the world about our town. Also wondering, how much money did we lose trying to get this?

I mean they really spared no expense. Even this free t-shirt is long-sleeved, and a good brand.

I was on the fence about it...mostly because hopefully by 2016 we'll be long gone, having settled nicely into our Manhattan digs with Chicago events and worries only of moderate interest to us. But who knows? Perhaps we would have still been here - it would have been intesting for both Rob (a news producer) and me (a performer) to be able to work with all of that material.

Perhaps this just lit a torch under both of us to high-tail it out of here.
Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Crank Out the Funny or...You're Fired!

So who else caught the season premiere of SNL this weekend? UGH. So disappointing.
It's still the "BE ALL, END ALL" dream job, however it's irritating to watch again this season.

The sketches that drag on for days. The hosts that bring nothing to the table. The boring musical breaks. Pretty much anything Kenan Thompson does (are there honestly NO OTHER funny black guys to replace him???? Come on! And while we're at it, Lorne Michaels, please meet Amber Ruffin, Dionna Griffin, Claudia Wallace all extremely talented black women).

The current pace of the show is exhausting. The scenes go on so long - why isn't head writer Seth Meyers editing anything? If the writers and cast could learn to edit themselves quicker, we'd always be wishing for more...instead of wishing for the end.

I know they have some new blood in there (specifically some intense writing talent via Second City), but unfortunately, the premiere didn't offer anything fresh, except for a couple of new faces that only stood to embarrass the cast and show.

And here's a question, WHY the new faces? Why did Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins get fired? I liked Casey Wilson, I just think she needed to invent more opportunity for herself to be seen and she'd still be around. (Not sure if the rumours about her having to lose weight to stay on are true or not - and this should NOT be an issue anyway...it's SNL not Melrose Place!) Michaela had some great characters...not sure at all why she was booted. Age?

Here's the thing about comedy. Age = Life Experience. Life Experience = Funny. And is replacing curvy or older women with fresh-faced idiots that cause FCC problems, simply an effort to get a younger demographic? And is aiming for a younger demographic really going to help SNL? Don't young people prefer to make and watch their own videos as opposed to some old tired sketch show? Really, who is at home on Saturday night watching anything on network television? Probably an older demographic that would appreciate a cast that looks more like them.

As a person involved in the comedy scene - I wonder...is it not enough to just be funny? I am just about exactly the same size as Casey Wilson, and only a little younger than Kristin Wiig. However, as long as I can keep creating new characters, writing things that make my fellow castmates and I laugh, and keep getting cast, I'll never stop! And I hope Casey and Michaela keep going too.

But the thing that remains true whether you are on SNL, an improv troupe, a traveling company or just trying to be seen, if you're not regularly bringing the funny, you're not a factor, and likely fired. It's a high pressure, high stakes life. Every opportunity you have in front of an audience is an opportunity to strike gold...or to fall flat on your face. The key is to keep inventing. To stand out at places like SNL, Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade you have to bring the funny. And I mean, really funny, not just slightly amusing. And you have to be a machine. The funny needs to be cranked out by the yard and on a regular schedule. Some people only have a handful of funny ideas in their entire life...the people that succeed in the SNL pressure cooker have endless ideas. And these are ideas that work. Perhaps Casey and Michaela had a shortage of ideas. Or maybe it was something more arbitrary like demographics and appearance. In any case, you can bet your chances of survival are much higher if you can be counted on to bring unique, interesting, and memorable characters and scenes to life. And all the better if they only last three minutes or less.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Year's Emmys - Still nothing interesting comes to mind.

So it's been a few days since the Emmy's aired and to be honest I have been brainstorming as many ideas as possible to give some sort of opinion on the whole thing and all I can come up with is that I have none.

Sure, NPH was good, but didn't meet my high expectations. Kristin Chenowith was incredibly annoying regardless of the sincerity of her excitement. Tina Fey looked beautiful in black. Again (yawn). Jessica Lange should lay off the Botox. And the Moet. Seth McFarlane's date looked like a runner up in the Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest (Myrtle Beach). A telling choice that shows it's not just his humor (which I love!) perpetually stuck in seventh grade. The whole night was so boring that in fact the most shocking moment to me, was laughing at Jimmy Fallon. That short sketch was funny - and I don't always enjoy him.

The whole thing felt a bit like watching junior varsity football. Which is always what television is to the movies. During the reign of the Sopranos, television nearly surpassed movies in coolness (nearly). HBO and other cable networks were pushing some seriously edgy material and the public ate it up like hotcakes. Now, the edgy thing is overdone, and the shock value has faded. This year's Emmys reflected that dullness. Not to mention that Leno taking on the 5 night a week spot historically dedicated to "appointment television" drama series, the NBC has all but flown the white flag.

Hulu, YouTube, TiVo, OnDemand - they're all taking share away from the traditional networks. And the big advertisers did not get the memo 5 years ago to go out and hire a bunch of social media marketers to get in the game early and are now scrambling to make their case online, while still sinking megabucks into tv ads that aren't being seen.

But the biggest reason the networks are in trouble is that they're putting out crap - and with other choices people aren't forced to watch. Lots of people are creating their own entertainment and spending their free time marketing themselves...not watching whatever is put in front of them. The successful shows found that by being niche, they can pull socially savvy audiences. The stuff I like, Lost, Mad Men, 30 Rock, The Office, pull so-so ratings but have very vocal fan bases. I've never seen one episode of Two and Half Men. Apparently that pulls unbelievable numbers, but I've never seen anyone put anything on their Facebook page about it.

Today's consumer is very self-reliant. We are very "i" focused. We can customize everything we use in our daily life to compliment whatever personal interests we have. There are very few things we are stuck with listening to or watching. We have Sirius radio in the car so we can listen to all 80's Alternative all the time and never know what new music we're suppose to be downloading. We never set foot in a bookstore anymore because we can buy new books for $9.99 and read them on our Kindles. We can block spam, banner ads and popups, and if we don't, they're so cleverly selected for us based on the other stuff we have online that they actually present the one and only item we would ever need or want to buy.

Your new spokesmen?
I can think of only two places left in the world where media decisions are limited and that is in doctor's offices and hospitals where you cannot use your iPhone to watch whatever you like because "cell phone use is prohibited". So best of luck to the advertisers in Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens and Highlights for Children magazines. You have the burden of carrying the entire weight of the survival of traditional media on your shoulders. Here's a couple of tips for you. The pull out postcards still don't work and free perfume and makeup samples do!

Your product here???

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

When the Going Gets Floating...

So I'm seriously well into my "sabbatical" and have remained busy doing all of the things I promised I would. But, it's an odd feeling - floating between the projects of my choice. Of course I do not miss going to a job everyday and having to postpone my own personal projects, but I have not felt very grounded. Still, the experience has been incredibly life altering, even if I haven't outwardly changed that much. I still set daily and weekly goals for myself. I still keep a detailed status report on all my projects (old habits die hard). I'm still really busy.

At the same time, I feel comfortable and happy in this ongoing purgatory of uncertainty, opportunity, and "TBD" status. It feels like something really amazing is just around the corner. I just have to be on the look out for it and ready to pounce. It's like being next - which is really better than it being your turn. Anticipation is one of life's most enjoyable creations. I currently am Mayor of Anticipation Station.

There have been lots and lots of job postings in my "day job" field, and I have been compelled to throw my hat into the ring for some of the more appealing and fruitful opportunities. However, I think there must be something in the universe that is deciding a few things for me...and so up to now, the old life has not moved back in.

This whole experience has actually changed a lot of things about me. I am a better person in some ways. I'm definitely a much better wife. I'm able to do things for him that I never did before. And I'm also able to support him in a new way, that I hope makes him feel important and valued. Weirdly, I don't know if I'm as good of a friend anymore. I just feel really focused on my own projects right now. I see my old life as not just being a slave to the job, but also to all of the social commitments I ended up getting myself into and then resented later. I'm learning to say no more often, and letting go of some of that guilt.

I'm also a completely different consumer. I was an avid shopper to say the least, and the fall has always been my absolute favorite clothes season, ever since my mom took me to Belks for new penny loafers. Although I still look through some of the catalogs I get, I don't feel as compelled to buy the latest trends. Plus, I spend most of my time at home writing, or at rehearsals, neither of which require anything more than jeans and a shirt. I also am getting comfortable with not being as generous as I have been in the past. I would spend thousands and thousands of dollars on lavish gifts for my family and friends every year, and I'm not really sure why. I fear it's that I felt I needed to do this to retain their love or friendship. Now that this type of giving is no longer possible, I feel liberated. Now I don't have to try to one up myself. I'm especially looking forward to the holidays and reverting back to a more "normal" level of generosity. It will be rewarding to make or buy items that I can put more thought into, instead of just paying more. I also wonder if people thought I was a little too generous, like maybe I made them feel uncomfortable, and maybe they thought I was a little pathetic. I always felt like, if you have it, spend it, I'll make more - and you could get hit by a truck. Now that I have very little and live on a very, very tight budget (about $20 a week for "spending money"), I have found that I'm actually happier. I feel smarter. I feel healthier. And I resent my debt so much more. If I didn't have that - I would really never be worried! I have nothing to show for those three payments I have to make every month. I didn't use them to pay my college tuition or to pay for life-saving surgery. I didn't use them to fund a film or a play. I just bought crap. Crap that is currently sitting in three huge garbage bags by the back door waiting to go to Goodwill. And in three smaller carrier bags waiting to be evaluated for consignment. ROI? A truckload of regret.

So now I enjoy a slower pace and grocery store shopping. I rode my bike to the grocery store this morning - because I have the extra time - I don't have to drive anywhere anymore. I noticed a nice side effect of the bike riding is that whatever I buy I have to carry, so no superfluous items ever make it into the basket. This saves money and calories!

I hope you find your moments of anticipation to savor today - and hope you can find ways to simplify your life and time to realize your dreams.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Mind Your Manners - and General Peeves

Okay - so I'm going to go ahead and say that I might just offend some of my readers. Hopefully not, but with all of this stuff being said about having general courtesy and manners in light of the Kanye and "You lie!" incidents, I feel I have a couple of things to add.

In regards to general behavior and decorum, when did it become okay to celebrate your birthday for longer than the actual day? I would say about 50% of my friends take birthdays to the extreme. January is not just a month anymore - it's "Karen's Birthday Month". Telling people it is your birthday and announcing your plans and how special you are was once frowned upon. Doesn't anyone else remember their mother whispering in their ear that this is obnoxious? Sure, the casual email - it's my birthday - let's eat, drink or whatever is completely fine. It's the full blown multiple day celebrations that I find ridiculous. And these aren't milestone birthdays either. They range from say 27 to 43. Here's the deal with birthdays, everyone has one, and it's a birthDAY not a birthMONTH. Obviously there are exceptions for people who have something a little more to celebrate on a birthday (surviving cancer is one), but generally, could we all just tone this down a little?

This brings me to the general shift in the way people talk about and perceive themselves. It use to be that people who said things like "I'm awesome" were conceited jerks. What happended to that? Self-confidence is one thing, complete self-adoration another entirely! If you're truly awesome, the world will let you know.
The Facebook Status is the best way to measure this about yourself. I update my status often (mostly to market shows I'm in or producing, but also to share the occasional injury or odd circumstance). However it can get ugly in a hurry. Read it out loud and measure how high it is on the brag scale. If it makes you giggle, please post, if it makes you cringe even a little, it's back to the drawing board.

And whatever happened to thank you notes and real "in the mail" invitations??? I host a holiday party every year and spend HOURS handwriting and addressing the invitations. It's kind of replaced our Christmas cards and isn't it so nice to get something in the mail? I'm not too opposed to the emailed thank you...it's still the gesture that counts the most, but saying nothing is really, really, bad behavior people. E-vites are cute to replace the at work email blast to grab a drink, but for a real, bonified event? No way.

Eating on the run has impacted table manners. I was recently at a wedding and one of the people at our table had not received her entree yet. Everyone except for say 3 of us at the table started - now this wasn't going to be a "it will get cold go ahead and eat" situation, her meal was on the way. And anyway, it's polite to wait, or at least wait until the person who has not yet been served says, "Please, go ahead and start." Not only that, they looked at us waiting like we were crazy.

Things just seem to be getting out of hand. Let's all try to just be nicer and quieter. Softer, and less braggy. Maybe it will spread like an uncovered sneeze. Which, don't even get me started on the disgusting things I've seen people do on the train...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mindless Junk for a Friday Before a Holiday Weekend!

Greetings! It's the Friday before a holiday weekend, and if you haven't already left work, you're farting around the web before you get that awesome email from "HQ" letting you know you may leave early today.

Here's some mindless junk to enjoy and pass the time before you get out of there.

1) Michelle Dugger has finally updated her hair. Jesus is real. Just in time for baby 19. I think perhaps I should pray more - I mean 19? I wouldn't mind just the one! Anyway. I like the Duggers. Those kids are amazing. They built their own house, then took those skills and built a huge addition to another giant family's house. What did YOUR kids do today? I'm just saying. Weird, sure. But they seem pretty normal in their interviews...I mean they have a sense of humor. And I really don't care if they're brainwashed, a well-behaved child is a beautiful child. Also, there's no denying that (I mean aside from the 19 babies) that Jim Bob and Michelle have some serious chemistry. I think that's refreshing. Especially since a lot of couples act more like Jon and Kate.

2) Labor Day Pains. It's the last weekend of the "summer" so end of season parties and sales abound. It's an odd place to be when you don't really see any "end in sight" to your current situation (more on that later). I've noticed that a lot of people are quite depressed (well, those who do not have school age children). It is sad, especially when you live in Chicago and the doom and gloom of winter will be upon us too soon. I happen to like the Fall (I know - that's crazy talk), it's my favorite season - I love the chance to finally throw on jeans and a long-sleeve tee shirt. I love the sound of crunching leaves underfoot. I love the non-sound of children playing during the day because they are off to school. It's not the fall and winter I dread, it's the March-May time here when the weather is snowy, slushy, rainy and the rest of the world is warming up and green.

3) Sabbatical Update: In the running for a couple of things - all very different. It's a wait and see situation, and one that I am more than happy to wait and see on. I've been very busy with my sabbatical activities and kind of dread having to make the inevitable decision on where and when I will return to the rat race. (And if I will have to). I have completed my manuscript for Louisa and the Circle of Hugs...and will be sending that off to potential agents/publishers next week. I got new headshots which I am absolutely thrilled with...we'll see if that gets me anywhere. I feel like so many things are on the brink, yet so far I am still firmly planted on the edge of change. I imagine the next several weeks will be very interesting for me and will (hopefully) present a lot of choices. It's a good place to be...but also I feel more pressure than ever to make the right choices for myself. I am proud that I have actually succeeded in getting myself into this position in the first place. I feel like I've taken full advantage of my time and really focused on my own wants and needs. But, the dwindling savings account causes a little bit of discomfort (still have 4 months saved), but does not yet lead to panic.

4) Anybody else getting tired of this lady?

She's EVERYWHERE! Don't get me wrong. She's got that "girl next door" thing going selling us everything from KY Warming Gel to Blinds to Pepto...but seriously, how will I ever break in if they only use the same actresses over and over???? A few years ago it was this blonde chick with a flippy haircut? She hosted While You Were Out for about 2 shows and disappeared for a bit. She was everywhere, but then poof gone. This Erica Shaffer person has proven to have some serious staying power. Good for her, I guess, but I just wish advertisers would open it up for a little more variety. Like chubby red-headed people who make weird faces???? (I'm available!)

5) PLUGS! If you're in the Chicago area, come see some really good improv this weekend. (Redeye, Reader and Yelp Recommended!) Visit www.whatisph.com and click "Who's playing". I'm up twice tonight (both the 8 PM and 12 AM shows and next Friday for the 12 AM show.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday, Monday! Refreshing Perspective.

I might possibly be the luckiest girl in the world. Monday morning is no longer a deeply depressing time for me, as a matter of fact it's usually a day filled with productivity, anticipation, and promise. Obviously it wasn't always like this for me.

Every morning when I wake up I usually grab the old iPhone and thumb through Facebook status updates (this is my equivalent to flipping on the news). Most updates on Monday read something like this "Oh Monday, you dirty bitch"...etc. (this week's contributing writers...Ashley and Ali), "Where did the weekend go?", "Coffeeeee", etc.

It's a rare find to see anyone very inspired by the fresh start to the week. There are a few exceptions, usually presented in scripture by some of my more religious friends, but lately, there have been a couple of people who are just downright humble and grateful for what they have - and it has been quite a refreshing change to read their posts when they are surrounded by deeply depressing and gloomy sentiments. So to Jeff and Kristen - thanks for always keeping the glass half full, and for the occasional Springsteen lyric.

Now onto more shallow subjects. Saw both District 9 and 500 Days of Summer this weekend. District 9 was good - although I'm not nearly as in love with it as everyone else seems to be. For example, a person whose opinion I value very much said the social commentary was done well and not at all heavy-handed - but I found the whole thing a bit cliche. That said, the story did move well, and was entertaining...although if you have as strong a gag reflex as I do...be prepared to watch through your fingers. It's still a go see - if only to make sure you're not the only one at the party not in on the conversation.

500 Days was great. I get the feeling it's the kind of movie you don't mind watching over and over. I also really like that it's unconventional, and by being unconventional, completely realistic. There are so many more "what could have beens" than happy endings in our real lives. And certainly many more unrequitted heartbreaks than movies usually portray. A refreshing perspective.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Starbucks Hour by Hour

Greetings loyal followers, friends, relatives and passers by!
I've been sitting in a Starbucks for a few hours now (nursing my extravagant grande skinny vanilla latte so as not to come off too moochy). I have to tell you, this place becomes a completely different scene every hour. Hour one, the soundtracks to both Dirty Dancing and Shag play loudly waking up the weary 9-5ers and coercing them to their trains, desks, and responsibilities.
Music shifts around 10 to the Paul Simon Graceland album (start to finish). I realize that I should always type to "Obvious Child" as I crank out 3 pages in record time.

Luckily today has been very productive. Since my morning interview (for some freelance writing) was cancelled, I cranked out three (3!) sketches and also got myself out of the house. My main task today is to put the finishing touches on Louisa and the Circle of Hugs(C) and finally pack her up and off to publishers! Only a page and half left to go! (Look, it's not a Harry Potter 400 pager; it's a young child's book for dealing with death and dying so a page and a half is both heavy and long to me).

In other news (as I shift in my hard chair - you'd think with an ass the size of mine I wouldn't be uncomfortable anywhere, but even with all of my padding this chair is keeping me at nun-approved posture), I have (maybe) acquired an "AGENT". Yes, this is extremely exciting and I am doing everything they tell me to make my shot of getting a shot more likely. Starting with new headshots. Or "headshits" as I keep erroneously typing on my stupid, loathsome iPhone. I have been set up with someone who goes by one singular name for this. I have never in my life actually met a person with only one name until now and I am already feeling very Hollywood. Turns out he's extremely nice, normal and has a great sense of humor. I'm really excited about this. His only recommendation for my "look" is to acquire a "side bang". I sincerely hope he was referring to the long side-swept version and not some freaky hipster Chrissy Hynde thing (which by the way she pulls off no problem, me not so much).

Speaking of rockers...is anyone else also becoming annoyed by Kristen Stewart and her "method" impersonation of Joan Jett? In preparing for the upcoming Runaways biopic, she seems to be attempting to embody the coolest rock chick in history with a total lack of earnestness. Seriously, we already know you're not that cool, you've signed on to what is today's equivalent to the Sweet Valley High franchise. I know, I know I'm setting myself up for a barrage of attacks from some seriously hating 13-year olds with bedroom furniture fancier than mine, but you know what? Suck it vampire teeny-boppers. Anyway, Kristen: Stop being such a dumbass when you get interviewed. You'll be really embarrassed later when you look back.

Needing to wrap this up...the Bucks has gone into "smooth jazz mode" which means my right foot is asleep from sitting on it all day and I need to casually shake out the pins and needles without drawing attention to myself.

Hey, do me a favor and comment...let me know if you're still digging the blog and what you'd like to see more of!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday - Just another day

Greetings! Perhaps you're hopping on at lunch. How much time is too much time to spend online?

A recent medical study found that children have hit an all time low for Vitamin D deficiency (lowest since before they started adding it to milk). Scientists and doctor's think it's because they aren't spending enough time outside...without sunblock. A person should get 10-15 minutes of sun (without sunblock) a day according to the report. Crazy! I guess that means this will be a short post and that I need to get outside today!

I was up until 3 AM painting the bathroom which is still being renovated. I got the first coat up and I'm still covered in khaki paint 2 showers later.

I can't wait to have the house back. It's exhausting having strangers coming and going all day everyday. I just want it to be done!

Outside, some cleaning, then pH rehearsal. What are you doing today?


Monday, August 3, 2009

Week Three Already?

Greetings everyone! Happy Monday!

I must confess that I have been busy looking for a consulting gig...this earning no money thing has me terrified!

Hopefully I'll be able to find something that will do more than just cover bills and also allow time for all of my ventures.

I have been continuing my research regarding the children's book and have just about finished editing it. I should be able to start sending it off to publishers for their consideration soon. Not sure how I'll afford to copyright it or mail it...but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Our bathroom renovation is almost complete! (Good thing too because we have guests coming this weekend!) The glass tile has all been installed and I picked the grout color yesterday. I have to go get paint today and we'll tackle that tomorrow. Also going to the grocery store today...extremely exciting, I know!

Going to Lollapalooza this weekend. Such a shame about MCA from Beastie Boys. Also, a shame that they schedule great bands at the same time (Depeche Mode and Kings of Leon). Picking the old school choice simply because I can probably see KOL again soon, and because those snotty little hipsters have been all cranky about their success. I'd hate to offend them by only knowing songs off of just two, instead of all four, of their albulms. Note to these brothers: Get a sense of humor and a large helping of humble pie. I'm an oldie that can still afford to come out and see you, you ought to embrace that you have a couple of hits that more than just your stringy-haired, skinny-jean wearing, vampire obsessed girlfriends know.

Jon and Kate return tonight. We'll be tuning in to feel better about our lives and relationship and also to see if Maddie finally goes on a murdeous rampage (this is inevitable, that child is a powder keg with a fishbowl of keepsake matchbooks.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Today I am Baking a Cake

Because I can. Because it's cheap and fun and I can do that somewhat quietly. And because I never had time to do stuff like that before.

From scratch too people.

I also have to work on some more marketing stuff for an upcoming show I'm in...if we could only agree on a title! It's hard to get started without a TITLE! I really like Leave It, It's Beaver. But we'll see.

Worrying about money after paying all of my bills this morning and watching the account trickle down. Still have a few months before it gets scary...but not use to that!

Wish me luck with the cake. I usually can't get them even and the top layer ends up sliding off and smushing into the cake dome.

Oh - for any better the cable man came yesterday at 1:04 and stayed until 3:45. It was extremely annoying! Then the contractors showed up. It sucks to have people in your house when you don't feel good. Today just contractors and not until later this afternoon.

I must bake now.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Week 2 Day 2

I am a hypocrite.

No doubt about it. I quit my corporate job because I wanted more for myself. So why don't I have an OUNCE of sympathy (or interest) in why T.R. Knight quit Gray's Anatomy (a show I haven't watched since Season 1, mainly due to the ridiculous amount of pouting faces). He left a three-year $14 million contract because he thought his character was not given much of a plot line.

There are times to take your show on the road my friends, and times to take the money and run - back to your trailer. To do a sick amount of online shopping.

Now I keep reminding myself that I left a very well paid position to pursue a life more fulfilling...but, seriously, is it the same? Oh no! It is a little. So I feel like now I'm one of those whiny people. Add "practice pout face" to my list of things to do today.

Okay, next subject. As I sift through "work at home" and "part time writing" opportunities, I continually come across these weird jobs where apparently you're suppose to deposit these huge checks into your bank account and then send them to other people. Okay, so how many alarms go off? First, you of course have to give them your banking info to "deposit" money - which I doubt if any transactions actually proceed in that direction, and then, even if they did, you're laundering money, correct? Perhaps I didn't understand fully grasp all of the concepts on the Sopranos, but I'm pretty much certain that that's not an up and up way of doing business. Has anyone else seen these? I wonder how many desperate people have fallen for this? It's despicable!

Need to rest so I can make to rehearsal tonight - plus the cable man is coming! (Conveniently between 1 and 4 - any betters out there?).


Monday, July 27, 2009

Week 2. Guilt in Taking a Sick Day During a Sabbatical

Hello friends! Hope you are well, I have been nursing some sort of flu for about a week now and finally will be able to get to the doctor tonight (5:45 was his earliest appointment - I must not be the only one!)

This whole thing is a huge adjustment. It's hard to go from being a full time over-extended tiger lady to being on "sabbatical". I'm having a hard time adjusting to the free time and I unfortunately was filling it up too much - just like before and the reason I'm worn out. As usual, my body takes over and makes me sick so I HAVE to take a break, and that is just what happened.

I feel incredibly guilty sitting in my favorite chair inside and with a blanket on me...it seems like only workers should be able to get "sick days". This is a sentiment also expressed (passive aggressively of course) by others in my household. Because I had so much initial support, I didn't realize that this would be difficult, but it is proving to be a bit challenging. There have been several responsibilities that have shifted on the domestic front and everyone is having to adjust.

I apologize that I haven't been writing. I started full steam ahead and I wore myself out! I took a few days to rest but did continue some of the goals I had last week.

On Thursday, since I didn't feel great and couldn't sleep, I was up at 6:45, cleaned the house and took the train downtown to the farmers market and purchased ingredients to make gazpacho. (Which didn't turn out so great). I was able to get so much for just $11.00! Two peppers, globe zucchini, two tomatoes, a box of raspberries and a bouquet of snapdragons.

I also spent a few hours at the gorgeous Harold Washington Library researching grant writing and coping books for children. (The librarians there are very helpful!)

I checked out a few books for kids to help them cope with dying and now think that the voice of my book is both original and appropriate. Kids are a lot smarter than you think.

Friday I wasn't feeling too hot and all I did was run a couple of errands and did some chores.

Saturday and Sunday were lazy days on the beach - trying to rest. Friends from Des Moines came in for a Cubs game. We had a great time and that sort of sent me over the edge - and so looking forward to going to the doctor later.

Hope everything is well with everyone else! Sorry this one is a little boring.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 3 - Laundry and Writing

Unload dishwasher. Check.
Sort laundry. Check.
Do three loads of laundry. (In process).
Brew coffee and eat very last homemade cinnamon roll from freezer.

Ah...blog time!

So as you all know, I've left my corporate job to pursue writing, acting, etc. You probably also know that I am hoping to keep my hand in by doing some part time or short term web consulting. This means my resume is posted and that occasionally throughout the day I am contacted by various recruiters for positions that they think I would be a good fit for. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these recruiters think my goal in life should be to sell insurance. (One year at an Agency overseeing a web redesign and launch and apparently, I am an expert insurance salesperson.) Many of these calls are from the same company - just different "team leaders" duking it out for my short term disability selling prowess. They often lead with the fact that they have a particularly popular (annoying?) poultry mascot, and wouldn't I like to be a part of that?

Not really, although I know people who are very happy working for this poultry mascot. They often report on it on their Facebook status. I also know that person is extremely successful, I just wonder what our resumes have in common? Ten years of web design, information architecture, online marketing and content management = your neighborhood broker?

However, I would gladly do a commercial for Allstate. I waited in line for the bathroom at the Ivy with Dennis Haysbert and wow, was he suave! He's about 6'5 and extremely well-groomed. He was very gentlemanly and his booming voice is even more stimulating in person.

Occasionally I run into some really awesome recruiters who understand what my goals are and understand the kind of value I actually have to offer a company. These people are awesome and work very hard to make both their clients and candidates happy. I'd tell you who they are...but I don't want to share them!

Does anyone else get completely bizarre calls for jobs that are in no way on their radar or even in line with their resume?

So along the same lines as yesterday - in a life when your days don't have much structure...you really have to implement a structure in order to be productive.

I have loosely broken out each week days activities and focus:

Monday: Chores (obviously this Monday that sort of fell to the wayside)
Tuesday: Completely devoted to pH. We have our Grand Opening Gala coming up and of course my duties as Grant Writer also mean working on various items for the group. Plus rehearsal and the additional Leadership meeting and my day is pretty much booked up. (www.whatisph.com)
Wednesday: Completely devoted to GayCo, another ensemble I am involved. Today's agenda are that pesky marketing calendar I have been procrastinating about and writing a couple of sketches.
Thursday: Chores again, mostly of the "special project" variety. Things like cleaning out the silverware drawer and organizing the utensils. Also - more of a relaxing day.
Friday: Often a show day - so I tend to lay low, but read a ton of newspapers and web articles to be on top of current events.
Saturday & Sunday: For shows, additional rehearsals and fun only.

FYI: Insurance sales recruiters need not call. Unless it's Dennis Haysbert.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 2!

Hello friends! It is Day 2 and so far my day has been fairly interesting in both domestic and career fronts.

First, my dog decided to not complete a "business" transaction which meant tossing the morning schedule for a butt bath and de-pooping session. Ha! You think it's gross to read about? I had to actually deal with it!

Second, an old boss (quite high up) asked for a little assistance in connecting with someone. Ah, social media - you are such a powerful creature. I was very happy to pass on his name and glad that I could help. It's just funny how one day you're a lowly contractor, the next you can help someone out in (very) high places.

Today's agenda (thrown off a little):

GayCo Fall Show Marketing Calendar and Brainstorm graphics ideas for show.
Target (yikes - without disposable income - terrifying!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Sketch Writing (at the beach)
Grant Writing Meeting(?)
pH Rehearsal (Ride bike there so I get some much needed exercise)

Update on yeserday's events:

I had an audition but when I got there and saw the show dates I had 2 conflicts so I didn't end up going in. However, I did run in to one of my old castmates from Rx Rated and he is also focusing on his acting career now. We agreed to set up a time during the day - natch! - to write/talk improv, comedy, etc.

A little advice to anyone else on sabbatical:

1) Structure your day.
2) Do NOT and I mean do NOT turn on the TV for any reason. I just wasted 30 minutes watching some family clear their house of antiques and sell them at auction so that they could buy a big screen TV. They would have been better off keeping the antiques and riding their bikes around town looking for more crap.
3) Procrastination still exists even in la la land. (Crap.) Bite the bullet and do the things you least enjoy first. (Like writing a marketing plan - yuck!)

Even without the absolute dread of going to a job I don't like, it is still hard for me to get up in the morning. I usually stay up until about 1 or so and often can't sleep through the night. But I can't justify sleeping in when I'm not really taking a break from anything.

Also, I find myself fighting some sort of cold/flu thing and I wonder - how does someone with no 9-5 job take a "sick day" without coming off as a sloth?

Now I know why Stephen King still makes himself write 8 hours a day. Well done creepy and imaginative rich guy, well done.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 1 - July 20, 2009

Today is the first day of my self-imposed sabbatical. It may seem crazy to be "taking time off" when so many are being forced out of work, but the rat race was making ME crazy and so here I am...six months of Scraping By money saved to sustain me and a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams and projects to finally work on. It's actually kind of a good time, with so many friends out of work, I have a whole network of "day time" friends to collaborate with on some of my projects! Plus, it's rather gauche to overspend on anything these days...so I'm kind of able to say I'm living "green" or "lean" or simplified...or just poor.

I'm sharing my days on sabbatical with the world - or the one or two friends or family members who feign interest - because I think taking some time off to really think about what is important to you is well, important.

Too often people settle for what their life is...I just refuse to do that. I was bored, I was very unhappy and I was resentful that I wasn't doing what I wanted to be doing. I realize I'm not alone - and that many, many, many people simply cannot just fly by the seat of their pants and quit their day jobs...however this blog isn't about running away from work, it's about running to the work you actually want to do. I don't believe in sitting around eating bonbons...I believe in dedicating the appropriate amount of time and energy to my own personal business endeavors, instead of some horrible conglomerate's business endeavors.

Here's a list of things I'll be working on while on my sabbatical...which I hope to rename something less temporary than "sabbatical" once I find a way to make any money doing some of the following:

1) Edit children's book I wrote nearly 10 years ago and work with neighbor on illustration.

2) Write my one woman show and try to produce it...

3) Write sketches for GayCo show that I will be in this fall.

4) Get an agent.

5) Get in shape.

6) Learn to live with less.

7) Learn to become a gourmet cook with a limited budget.

8) Focus on improv troupe (pH Productions) and make them a lot of money writing kick-ass grants.

9) Sustain my brand as a web strategist by leveraging social media and creating stellar marketing campaigns for the Fall GayCo show and my own show.

10) Take better care of myself and my family.

Day One Snapshot:

Awoke: 7:30
Met husband at the train with dog.
Walked dog, fed dog.
Made coffee.
Started this blog.
Made list of other items to do today:
1. Edit Louisa and the Circle of Hugs(C). [Update: Done! 11:15]
2. Work out (bike ride) [Update: Decided to do Windsor Pilates instead...As Seen on TV! and not out of the DVD box in probably 2 years!]
3. Grocery Store [Update: List, done!]
4. Prep for audition at Second City (update/print resume, find headshots).
5. Audition at Second City.

Hope you might join me on this adventure (which will surely have its ups and downs).