Stoop Sittin’

If you do a quick perusal of anything I write about or share, it won’t take you long to figure out that I’m a big fan of dogs in general. And I’ve got what some have called an “unhealthy obsession” with my own dogs. Or, as my neighbor once put it, “I’ve never seen a human love her pets as much as you love those dogs.”

And it’s true. They’re perfect light creatures meant to bring nothing but happiness and companionship into this world. So, yeah, I’m pretty obsessed with them.

But it’s not just their doe eyes and floppy ears that I love. I’m constantly learning from them.

Okay, listen. I realize that people saying they learn from their dogs is as innovative and refreshing as people saying “boy, men and women are really different, aren’t they?” So let me be clear that I understand that I’m not breaking new ground here. I’m not trying to. I’m just trying to further fertilize ground that has been broken for years so I can plant a new seed for this current season.

I’m not totally sure but I think I really like that metaphor.

clyde 3

Anyway, I want to tell you a little about one of my absolute favorite activities my dog does that is the best lesson in the world for me.

Clyde (my younger pup aka my Tasmanian Devil with a heart of gold) has a lot of quirky personality traits. But I’ll be damned if there has ever existed a dog more happy to be alive than that little hooligan. His favorite thing in the morning is just to go outside and sit and smell the fresh air.

Though right now we only have access to a balcony for them to enjoy the breeze without going on a full walk, he and my girl Bonnie don’t care. She likes to sit outside and watch over her kingdom (aka the apartment complex) and yell at intruders. And my Clyde likes to just look and smile. He just sits outside, takes in the smells, and is more present in the moment than any zen monk who ever meditated for hours.

My in-laws joke that first thing in the morning, Clyde likes to get up and just sit outside by himself. He smells the early morning air and listens to the birds as the world awakens. It drives them crazy because he wants to be outside at least an hour before sunrise to really take it all in. But he’s more than happy just enjoying it on his own without any distractions.

At home, he sleeps in and enjoys morning cuddles. But you’d better believe after his day has started, all he wants to do is enjoy the fresh air on the porch and feel the cool breeze on his perfect golden mane.

My absolute favorite thing he does, which is what I titled this piece after, is when we walk back in from a walk and he just wants to sit on the stairs of the apartment complex by our entrance. The first time he did it, he just sat down and looked at me, basically beckoning me to sit by him. At first, I thought we didn’t have time for this. But I quickly realized that he just wants a couple minutes to soak in the beauty around him with someone by his side. So for such a worthy cause, there’s always time to be made.

clyde 1

Now, when we walk in  and he’s in the mood for “Stoop Sittin’” he just walks right up to the step and sits down with his little cute face turning around to me asking to join. When I sit next to him, he often puts his paw on my knee and smiles his big dopey smile. And I get to scratch him while we simply smell the air and listen to the leaves and watch the hummingbirds fight each other over the apartment feeders.

It’s bliss.

I have a tendency to move fast. I like to be productive and get going. I like to be active and get my energy out. Funny enough, both my dogs have similar tendencies – especially my sweet little psychopath boy. But if he can insist on finding time to simply be in the present moment and enjoy the world around him, I certainly can, too.

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Femoir: The Podcast – COMPARISON – Show Notes

It’s another Femoir: The Podcast, friends and here are the show notes for all the things that are chatted about during this episode.

It’s a lot this time, so strap in… here we gocompare!

I mention 123 and me. I meant 23andme. Silly mistake!

I also talk about The Chicago Comedy scene, Wikipedia, and my previous podcast called “GUT.”

Then I mention what my favorite Zen Good/Bad story, Mindy Kaling, a great article by “Thought Catalog” called This is how we date now, my soul buddy Renee.

Then I invent Nude Feeds… naughty! And I make W sounds like “Cool Whip.

Subscribe for free on iTunes. Episodes out every other Tuesday!

Don’t Take It Personally

I’ve got some pretty thick skin. It’s pale, that’s for sure. But it’s also thick1300559_1383703671938_full.

I have to. I’m in the entertainment business.

I know from experience on all sorts of ends of the creative process that there are a thousand considerations that go into any decision. I know that, at the end of the day, this is a business and business decisions are made that have little to do with my personality.

So I’ve learned to take very few things personally. And I think it’s a valuable approach to most things in life.

Because here’s the thing- that guy who was an asshole to you on your drive over here? Odds are he’s just having a bad day for reasons that have nothing to do with you, you just happened to be around when he needed someone to yell at. That seems much more likely than the idea that he found out who you were, decided he didn’t like you, and has been studying you for months to know the exactly moment he could meet up with you in traffic and be an asshole to you because you personally deserve it.

Unless someone I know, love, and respect looks me in the eyes and says, “I’m going to say something to you about you personally that I hope you seriously consider…” I pretty much assume most decisions and interactions with people I have throughout the day aren’t worth taking personally.

As silly as this sounds, too, I apply this to both good and bad interactions. One of my favorite stories is about a boy and his horse (abridged version #6 here on this juicy list). I take that approach to getting too many emotions involved with people- positive or negative. People I’ve just met, even if I’ve had a great interaction with them, don’t really know me. So even if we’ve had a great interaction, I don’t really take it personally. I don’t go home thinking I’m so spectacular or amazing. I enjoy the positive energy shared, am grateful for it, and move along without investment in an outcome. For all I know, that person could only be being so kind to me because they want me to act in a certain way in the future that I may or may not comply with. and then they’ll get angry and turn on me. And, if I’ve taken their positivity towards me personally, I have to take their negativity as a personal attack, too. When the truth is, they have certain wants and needs that I don’t meet. And that’s a-ok. And it has nothing to do with me.

So let’s all just relax a little and take most things that happen less personally, eh? I know it’s fun to play the victim, but odds are whatever happened to you probably had nothing to do with you.

Podcast Episode 65: All In – Show Notes

pooh bearMany apologies for the delay in this Femoir: The Podcast, friends! This episode, I talk having a personality that only knows how to go “All In” on something.

I talk about my upcoming web series (again), The Other Client List.

I also talk about a girl that makes me giggle like crazy. You can follow her hilarious quips on Twitter.

I talk about studying improvisation everywhere I could. Some places include The Second City Chicago, iO Chicago, The Annoyance Theater, with Gary Austin Workshops, at The People’s Improv Theater and at the Master Improv Retreat, UCB, and The Groundlings. Among other places. Like I said… a lot of friggin improv.

I also try and make reference to this Winnie The Pooh Quote. It’s a good one.

 

Episode 59: Meditation – Show Notes

The latest episode of Femoir: The Podcast is available online streaming or on iTunes for free!meditation I talk about meditation- which is a subject I’ve written about before. I throw out some different kinds of meditation including Tibetan, guided, zen and TM. I talk about some meditation apps you can get at the App Store. All in all, I basically make the case for meditation. And I’m not the first person to do so. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPLn1ZgGxos Catch ya next episode, friends.

Podcast Episode 51 – Show Notes

This episode of Femoir: The Podcast was all about Quiet Time. What it means to you and me.

It was a quick podcast. Not much to report.

This was the quote I referenced

In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.

Take a listen. Catch up on the other episodes on iTunes for free.

Tell me what you think and what you want me to ramble on about in the future.

It’s a Workout For Your Brain

meditationWhen I was in high school, a classmate of mine was really into Buddhism and meditation. Like, really into it. Especially for a high schooler. He practiced for hours daily, led meditation and discussion groups, and quietly ate healthy, vegetarian lunches by himself most days. He was a delightful and fun guy to be around and I always enjoyed asking him about his practice. Especially since I enjoyed meditation and spirituality as well, but didn’t have the discipline he did to follow through with the hours of practice.

One day after school, I was talking to him about his meditation specifically. I asked him how much time he takes out of his day to meditate. He responded, “It actually puts more time into my day.”

If that were a basketball game, that answer was the equivalent of a badass alley-oop. Except the person setting up the alley-oop had no idea they had set the dunker up perfectly.

I immediately understood his point. And he’s right. Every time I’m disciplined in my own meditation practice, I never notice how much time it takes “out of” my day. I always notice how much more it puts in. I’m much more present. I’m able to cultivate more compassion more easily because I’m in touch with my breath. I notice how much more efficiently I work. I notice that my brain feels sharper and I’m more in touch with my own emotions and those around me. And I also notice that I’m more at peace with whatever external things happen around me. I’m not always in response to them, letting my emotions fly off the handle no matter what’s happening. I’m more centered. Every day is more productive and positive.

I approach meditation like a workout for my brain. When you go to the gym, you can just wander around and do barely anything helpful. Or you can go, be very concentrated in your movements, aware of your surroundings and your body, and be really efficient. If you’re more present and aware, it adds time to your day. So better to do ten minutes of meditation before 45 good minutes at the gym than spend 2 hours sitting on the bike pretending you’re helping yourself while having an excuse to watch Sex in the City marathons.

Like my own workouts, I’m not always perfect in my practice. I don’t make time to meditate every day. The funny part is, the more I meditate, the more I’m OK with the days I don’t get to practice. Because I’m more OK with everything in general. So it makes me want to meditate even more. It’s a great cycle to be caught up in.

I have a couple apps I use right now. Mindfulness and Simply Being. I also have a Pocket Zen app that sends me reminders to be more aware of different elements of life throughout my day. It sounds annoying, but is actually wonderful.

Do you meditate? Does it help you? Do you have a specific time or style you use? I’d love to hear about it.

And if you don’t yet make time to meditate, try it. I always think about what my friend said to me when I was 16. It doesn’t take time out of your day- it actually adds to it.

10 Things I’ve Learned About You, LA

I live in the beautiful Los Angeles where I daily pursue my dream of getting paid to play make-believe. In the two years I’ve lived here (combined with the several years I’ve been honing my skills on stage and on set), here are 10 of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned to date:

1. Learn how to say no.

This lesson has not only been the most challenging for me, but it also seems to be the most rewarding. The beautiful part of Los Angeles is that there are so many projects happening at any given time and so many wonderful people to work with. The tough part of Los Angeles is learning which projects you should be working on at any given time and which people will best serve you in this moment.

I have an extensive background in improvisation. My brain is hard-wired like an improviser. My immediate reaction to most circumstances is “Yes!” Combine that with my polite midwestern nature and you get a formula for a person who does not understand the concept of “No.”

But I’m learning it. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you need to do it. Even if it’s a cool opportunity, you need to listen to your gut and decide if it’s best for you in this moment. Just because everyone else seems to hop aboard one wagon doesn’t mean that you need to take the same trail. There are always plenty of opportunities available. And if you miss one, there will be another. You need to leave yourself open to doing what’s absolutely best for you in that moment. And that means learning to say “no.”

Plus, there are a lot of people here (and everywhere) who prey on people who just say “Yes” to everything. You need to learn to protect your open spirit so it can say “yes” to the right people, not just the first ones to ask.

2. Don’t be afraid to say yes.

Having said all that about the ability to say “no,” don’t forget the power of “yes.” Oftentimes, we turn down opportunities out of fear. We don’t meet up with people because it might be awkward. We don’t make that leap because we don’t see the net that will catch us.

Well, I say “Leap and the net will appear.” I say it, but I didn’t make it up. John Burroughs did. But I agree. And so does every great risk taker who’s ever made any difference in this world.

Sure, there’s a good chance you’re going to fall flat on your face by saying “yes” to something. There’s a good chance nothing will come of some meeting. But there’s always the possibility that you’ve planted a seed that will grow into something beautiful in a future you don’t yet see. And even if it doesn’t, you’re a better and stronger person for facing your fears head on rather than excusing yourself from taking risks.

3. Bring something to the table.

I just wrote a 10 episode web series. My partner and I are currently working on producing it. We’ve been meeting with lots of different people to create a team to help us produce it. In the process, I’ve been able to bring onboard a lot of friends I’ve met over the past couple years who’ve helped me out a lot. I’ve met a fantastic director/DP who’s going to be helping us out. I’ve been in talks with people from all angles of production that I wouldn’t otherwise have an excuse to meet. I’m bringing something to the table by creating a foundation upon which so many other creatives can build. And I’ll have something (awesome) to show for it when all’s said and done.

So rather than just meet with people and blow hot air back and forth, do something you can talk about. Create a project you can collaborate on. Have something you’re invested in that you’re proud to show. Show you’re an active part of the creative team, not just a fan on the sidelines hoping the coach runs out of active players and starts calling in random fans.

As they said in the 90s, “Don’t just TALK about it. BE about it.”

4. Everyone has their own agenda.

The sooner you learn this, the sooner you can go back to loving people.

People seem to get upset when they meet with others who don’t respond exactly they way they want them to. Or they get upset when someone seems to take advantage of them. I believe it’s important to understand that every single person you interact with wants something from you. And you want something from them. It’s an even exchange.

Once you understand that, you can embrace every interaction for what it is- rather than what you wish it were. The commercial agency you’re meeting with wants to make money. They want you to be a person who makes money for them. They want you to prove to them that you’re worth their time and attention. In exchange, you want an opportunity to audition for major products and campaigns. You’re not there to make best friends with your agents. You’re there to prove you can do the work and make them money. And they’re there to prove that they can get you enough opportunities to help you.

Everyone wants something. Everyone has an agenda. If you can understand how (or if) you fit into someone else’s agenda, you can save yourself a lot of heartache.

Why didn’t the casting director call you back? You didn’t work for the part this time. You’re not a bad person. You’re just not right for them right now. And that’s a-ok.

Why didn’t that guy you’re really into want to be with you? Because you don’t fit into their life right now. They have their own problems and issues and you don’t help to solve them. You’re not a bad person. You’re just not right for them right now. And that’s a-ok.

Why did that person I trusted take advantage of me? Because you thought they didn’t want anything out of the interaction so you trusted them too much. You’re not a bad person. You’ve just learned a valuable lesson that everyone wants something. And that’s a-ok.

Even if someone does something out of pure altruism, they’re doing it because that altruistic act makes them feel good. And that’s a-ok.

5. Just because someone says it’s a pig doesn’t mean it’s going to produce bacon.

If someone asks you to work on a “pilot” for them, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually a pilot. It could just be an idea for a show they have that they want to make into reality with your help. It could be a great pilot that gets picked up and makes you a star. Or it could be a waste of time. Go with your gut.

If someone says they’re a “manager,” who can help you with your career, it doesn’t mean they have any knowledge of the business or any connections that could help you at all. They could catapult you to the next stage of your career. Or they could just want to walk around Hollywood telling people they’re a manager. Go with your gut.

If someone says they want to “collaborate” with you on a project, it doesn’t mean that they actually want to join forces. It could mean that you just got really lucky and a person with more knowledge and connections has decided to help you out because they have a great feeling about your talent and future. Or they could just want to get in your pants. Go with your gut.

6. Time is your most valuable currency. Spend it wisely.

Eventually, you’ll run out of money. We all do. Why do you think I blog so much? I need something to do from the comfort of my own home that I pay too much in rent for.

I used to give my time freely and spend money wisely. But when I ran out of money, I realized I don’t have the liberty of spending my time freely anymore. It’s one of the only resources I have unlimited access to, but it’s not unlimited in itself. If I overextend, the projects that really do need my time don’t get enough of it because the projects that don’t need my time are sucking up too much of it.

This goes back to point #1. Learn to say “no” to things and you’ll have more time to spend wisely on the people and projects that serve you best.

7. Most people don’t suck.

You hear a lot of complaints from people (especially in LA) about how many people here “suck.” I respectfully, wholeheartedly disagree.

Sure. It’s a big city. There are a lot of douchebags and biatches. And the embracing of a somewhat superficial culture can sometimes bring out the worst in people. And I’ve met my share of crazies… believe you me.

But for the most part, I’m surrounded by incredible, creative, hard-working, wonderful friends who are nothing but supportive and exciting human beings. Both natives of LA and transplants have proven to be absolutely awesome. I asked a stranger to help me out the other day when I was in a bind. He did so happily and without question. I constantly meet new people who are challenging and wonderful. I have some of the best close friends in this entire city.

The only people here who suck are the ones who are busy complaining about how much the people here suck.

8. You friends and family want to support you… but not all the time

I do shows often. I’m “grinding hard” as they say. I have a great group of friends who will happily come see my shows when I ask them to. And I’m lucky enough to have wonderful family near and far who can help me out of any sort of bind.

I know that (especially my non-entertainment) friends like to come see my shows. But I also know that I’m asking a lot of them when I want them to come to each of my three shows that week. I’m also happy to go see my friends shows. I love how creative my friends are and want to see them in their element.

But time is a precious commodity (see #6), so respect the fact that people will only give so much of it to you. Even your best friends. So don’t abuse their desire to help you. And don’t get upset if they’re not always able to be there.

9. Get over it.

I’ve read that the one trait the happiest people all seem to share is the ability to bounce back quickly from whatever may happen.

So whatever’s going on in your life, accept it for what it is.

Somebody hurt your feelings? Accept the fact that they’re hurt then get over it. There’s too much beauty in the world to dwell on the petty.

Didn’t get that big opportunity you were working hard for? Accept the disappointment then get over it. Let it fuel you for the next, even bigger opportunity. Know that even in not getting whatever goal you set out for, by giving it your all, you’ve already transformed into a better person.

Have to spend three hours in the car every day to get to work and auditions and everything else you’re doing? You’re lucky you have a car to be stuck in, first of all. And secondly, get over it. Listen to a good e-book. Enjoy the fresh air on your face. Make friends with the strangers in traffic next to you. There’s a lot of people who live in LA. A little traffic is the price you pay for living in paradise.

Achieve superstardom at a young age? Awesome. Good for you. Now get over it. You didn’t do it all by yourself. Be grateful to the loads of people who have helped you out and start giving back immediately. You weren’t divinely ordained to grace earth with your presence. You’re a person who got really, really lucky. The world that’s embracing you right now will forget you in a year if you don’t give them a reason to continue to be interested. Keep working. Keep improving. Don’t rest on your laurels.

10. Enjoy the ride.

It’s easy to get caught up in the drudgery of daily existence if you’re not doing exactly what you think you should be doing. You could be frustrated that life isn’t panning out as you expected, so you don’t see the beauty that surrounds you. You’re angry you’re stuck in 6 pm traffic on the freeway, so you overlook the way the colors of the sunset look just behind that silhouettes of palm trees in the sky.

It’s normal to lose sight of this stuff on occasion. But always bring back the perspective. Enjoy the moment. Life is too short, fragile, temporary, and precious to not be preset for every single breath.

Body Image

It’s no secret that women are hard on themselves. It’s becoming more and more prevalent daily with the ability young kids have to access information and see popular culture images.

But I’m not here to write a dissertation on body image issues. I’m just here to give my two cents.

I’ve had them. Everyone has them. There are still parts of my body I’d like to improve. But as I’ve grown through the years, I’ve had a significant perspective shift in how I view my body.

First of all… I work out. Often. I change it up. I push myself. Sometimes I’m running. Sometimes I’m lifting. Sometimes I’m hiking. Sometimes I’m swimming. Sometimes I’m just frolicking. Frolicking is my favorite.

But in working out my body regularly, I have naturally developed an understanding and appreciation for it. It’s responsive and healthy. And I’m grateful for that. By pushing myself a little bit every day, I’m slowly improving. I’m not going to have an amazing p-90x style change in a short period of time, but I am going to slowly but surely slim down and strengthen myself.

As I work out regularly, I want to give my body the things it likes. I don’t like eating bad foods mostly because it makes my body feel badly.

I don’t drink excessively because I don’t like how it makes my body feel. I do comedy. Of course I drink. Often. But very rarely is it excessive in any way.

I don’t eat tons of sugar because my body doesn’t respond well to it. I have a sweet tooth- that’s no secret. But I’m reasonable about and aware of my intake amount. Not because I’m a crazy health nut, but because I’m a reasonable healthy person who pays attention.

And instead of obsessing over the the things I don’t like, I recognize something that could use improvement and I work on it. For example, I’m not a huge fan of my stomach. I’ve talked about that before. It’s the most obvious place I gain and lose from. But instead of obsessing and trying to hide it, I’ve been trying to turn it into my strength. I do ab work every day. And I push myself a little farther every time. I engage my abs during every exercise. I am always aware of them. And you guess what? They’re improving. They’re not yet at Pink’s level but they’re a lot better than they were a year ago. And a year from now, they’re going to get even better.

I’m an athletic woman. I have bigger arms than your average petite lady. I will never have tiny arms. So what do I do? I work on them. I get them strong and cut. Why? Because they look awesome. I even got a compliment on them from a friend the other day! She asked me if I work out because my arms looks so strong! Can you believe it? It was so exciting!

There are times when I’m in better shape than others. But overall, I’ve found that simple exercise and body awareness have made me love it and stop obsessing over every little supposed “imperfection.”

There’s not a lot I can do to protect other young women from having body issues. I can’t hide images from the media. I can’t ask our culture to totally change our values overnight. All I can do is work on myself and my internal confidence and happiness with my healthy body. Then I can  hope to make a small difference to my circle of friends, who can in turn make a difference to their circle of friends, who make a difference to their circle of friends, who can… you get where this is going.

As long as I’m always incrementally improving, that’s ok by me. Because if we’re not actively working on improving ourselves and learning from our past… we’re stuck.  And who wants to live their life being stuck?

Except maybe a honey-obsessed person in a field of beehives. I bet they wouldn’t mind that. As long as there were no bees.

Alright. Be proactive about having positive thoughts and images about your body. That’s all. I’m done.

The Dinkiest Gym in All The Land

My gym is terrible.

It’s dark and smelly.

At any given time, at least half of the cardio machines have an “Out of Order” sign on them. At least half of the supposedly “working” machines do not function properly.

The pool is filled with old people, fat people, or some combination thereof.

The sauna stopped working.

The weight room is gross. I’ve seen the same water bottle sitting in the corner for a week, giving me little faith it gets cleaned on a regular basis.

The mats for stretching are from 1912 and barely hanging on by a thread.

In the locker room, half of the lockers are bent out of shape so they don’t open properly. Some of them are cut so you can’t put your lock in them. Others are sticky inside.

In the shower rooms, most of them don’t have a curtain for privacy. And the hot water only works on some of the showers. And one time, I showered right after they cleaned it with industrial cleaner and I got a sinus infection for a week from the strong fumes.

It doesn’t have air conditioning. At least it doesn’t feel like it.

You have to pay 50 cents for parking every time you leave.

Supposedly, it was going to start construction three months ago. Some people walked around. Nothing has been started and nobody has been warned.

And yet I love it.

I am totally anonymous there. I don’t have to impress anyone. Nobody pays attention to anyone else. Everyone has the same crappy expectations. Everyone is just in there to do some work on themselves and get the hell out. I know where everything is. I recognize people who work and workout at the same times I’m there. I’m comfortable. I trust it.

What the hell is that all about?