Dear Dad: On the Occasion of Your 70th Birthday, I Want to Say Thank You…

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/26/14)

Dear Dad:

On the occasion of your 70th birthday, I want to say thank you…

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…for working hard in the steel mill for all those years so that you could support your family and send me to college.

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…for taking me to Disney World for my 5th birthday!

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…for being an excellent dance partner.

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…for coming to my rescue when I was scared during a thunderstorm, even though it meant breaking your foot.

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…for making sure there was always some time to have fun together.

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…for your service to our country when you were a young man.

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…for giving me an appreciation of country life.

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…for loving my mother, and showing me through your example what love is.

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…for always being the person I can call when I have car problems.

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…for coaching me and going with me to the dealership to buy my first car, which I drove out to Los Angeles.

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…for having a bit of a mischievous side.

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…for having an excellent sense of humor, and showing me how not to take myself too seriously.

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…for being the kind of guy who can rock a pair of suspenders.

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…for showing me through your actions how important it is to help other people and to be of service.

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…for traveling to the far sides of the country to visit me.

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…for taking me to and picking me up from the airport, endlessly.

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…for giving me so many birthdays to share with you!

With Much Love,
Your Daughter,
Amy

 

Welcome Back, Monica: An Open Letter to Monica Lewinsky

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/25/14)

Dear Monica-

I hadn’t realized you had disappeared somewhat from the public eye until yesterday (I guess that’s how “disappearing from the public eye” works). I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and came upon a video a friend had shared from Upworthy – “Monica Lewinsky Gives Her First Public Speech in 16 Years And Says Exactly What Needs To Be Said“. Based on my friend’s comment, which amounted to, “Hey, we’ve all made crappy decisions, let’s have some compassion”, I decided to have a look.

Compassion has been a theme in my life lately. The past couple of years have thrown some pretty awful things my way, including being publicly maligned on social media – though on a much smaller scale than what you’ve had to deal with – and I’ve discovered that the only way to really cope is to actively practice compassion. It is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges to embrace, but one that also reaps the highest rewards.

In watching the video of your speech at the Forbes Under 30 Summit, I noticed that I could not stop smiling. It seems like a strange reaction, but I was delighted by your honesty, your willingness to accept responsibility for the poor choices of your youth, and your commitment to giving purpose to your past.

Hell, I’ve made poor choices. I made ALOT of poor choices in my early twenties. Thankfully, through life experience, I’m making far fewer poor choices now that I’m heading into my forties. I’ve suffered the consequences from those bad choices, learned something, and have been able to grow and put them behind me. Due to the global publicity of your choices, you have not been so lucky. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to have to revisit choices I made 16 years ago every day.

I remember in the late 90s and early 2000s joining in on the “let’s bash Monica Lewinsky” bandwagon. I didn’t think of you as a real person then, you were simply a character in a political theater piece that seemed to have very little to do with my reality. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by that now. You are a person – a smart, strong, capable, ambitious, generous and warm-heated person at that. I’m sorry that I ever let you become something other than that in my mind. You are a person that deserves to have a happy and productive life. Compassion is teaching me that we all do, and that I need to take more care in how I perceive people in the media. No story is black and white, and it is important to remember that there is always a real person, with real feelings, behind every story – a person whose truth may be drastically different from the story that is being spun by the media.

There are always going to be trolls and cyber-bullies. I read some nasty things in reaction to your recent Vanity Fair article as well as your Forbes speech. None of us will ever be free of those who lack compassion, who refuse to give anyone a second chance, who refuse to take the high road, who are incapable of having empathy for someone’s imperfect humanity. But I hope that you will weather the naysayers so that you may find your purpose.

Our world needs more women who can rise out of shame, more women who are educated, well-spoken, and compassionate, who can provide a voice for those who do not have the strength to speak for themselves, who lack the courage to face humiliation with their heads held high.

I’d like to live in a world where Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton can co-exist. I don’t think having respect and compassion for one should negate that for the other. I believe I can hold each in high esteem without being contradictory. I hope more and more people come to that conclusion as well. It would be a damn shame for the world to lose out on the gifts you have to give. The time is right for your new beginning, and I am excited to think about the ways in which you will have a positive impact on our world.

Welcome back, Monica. I, for one, am really glad you are here.

Sincerely,
Amy Clites

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Why Getting Older Has Made Me More Indecisive and Less Opinionated, and What That Has to Do with Renee Zellweger’s Face

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/23/14)

Unless you are completely disconnected from the Internet, chances are you read something about Renee Zellweger’s face over the past couple of days. It seems just about every media outlet, celebrity journalist, blogger, and anyone with a Twitter account has piped in with their two cents. Scroll through your newsfeed and you’ll no doubt see before and after pictures of her face, expressions of shock and dismay, and opinions about women over 40 getting plastic surgery. Some people find her new look appalling. Some think we should just ignore it. Others have defended her.

My original reaction was one of mildly shocked confusion. How could someone’s face change so much that they no longer look like themselves? I clicked back and forth between pictures, trying to figure out what was different, but the changes are subtle. Yet, there’s no denying she no longer looks like Bridget Jones. I felt the familiar mild annoyance I generally do that women over 40 continue to perpetuate this notion that we all have to live up to impossible beauty standards, and continue to look like young versions of ourselves, even when we’re older. I, myself, have considered plastic surgery on this nose of mine, thinking that would solve some of my problems and people in Hollywood would like me better. So far, I’ve succeeded in talking myself out of that. I have worked very hard to like who I am, and I don’t really want to undergo elective surgery that may drastically alter my appearance. I want to look like me when I look in the mirror.

But then I read her response in People magazine and I thought, “Hey, she’s right, who am I to shame someone whose appearance has changed?” My confusion and annoyance about the differences in her face morphed into annoyance about all the attention people were paying to it. I liked that she had made many of the same changes that I’ve been working on as I get older, namely slowing down, spending more time with a few important people, getting more rest, nurturing my creativity, and learning more about my authentic self.

But then, goddammit, I read this article in LA Weekly, and my opinion changed again. Amy Nicholson makes a great argument that it’s okay – nay, that it’s actually very important – that we’re upset about Renee’s Zellweger’s face. The actress’s refusal to acknowledge that she has had any cosmetic procedures to alter her look, that they are instead the result of being well-rested and happy, is a terrible affront to all us average Sallys out there. No matter how much sleep I get, or how many home-grown vegetables I eat, I’m never going to look like a “movie star”. Nicholson argues that her changed appearance just proves that talent and personality are much less important than beauty.

I already know that beauty is king, I don’t need any additional reinforcement of that idea.

So, here’s where it gets tricky for me. I appreciate Zellweger’s response that people should focus more on the positive changes she’s made in her life to make it happier and more fulfilling, and spend less time obsessing about her looks. But I also agree with Nicholson, that ignoring it does nothing to mitigate the idea that women need to always look as beautiful and as young as possible, even if it means going under the knife.

This makes me want to tear my hair out! I don’t know what to think anymore!

I was very opinionated as a teenager, and in my early 20s. But since I hit 30, if you present me with two opposing ideas and make a good argument for each, I cannot decide how to feel about it. I no longer see issues in black and white. I’ve had too many life experiences, things I thought would never happen to me and family, that have forever altered my ability to see issues as inherently good or inherently bad. I tend to shy away from hot button issues because my thoughts aren’t generally solid one way or another. I’m terrible at arguing a point, especially with someone who is very persuasive, because I then see it from another point of view and my own arguments seem hollow.

I thought this development as I get older, this inability to be fervently opinionated, was the result of having a more tender heart, of feeling a little weaker. A friend (someone who is, coincidentally, a great persuader), challenged me that it is not weakness, but wisdom.

I’d like to believe my indecisive nature is a result of wisdom gained over the years, but I’m not so sure (ha! There’s that indecisiveness again). Now with Renee Zellweger staring me in the face with her new face, this issue is more confusing than ever.

Does anyone else have this problem?

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Morning Pages Insight – What I Want

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/20/14)

Part of the creative recovery process laid out in The Artist’s Way are the morning pages. These are perhaps the most important tool of the entire journey and must be completed every day. First thing in the morning, you are to write three pages of free association. No editing, no censoring, just get it all on the page, even if it is nonsensical garbage.

I’ve come to the point in the process where we’re asked to go back and read these morning pages, looking for insights and calls to action. It’s a rather astonishing exercise. First of all, I’m awed by the sheer number of words and pages. If I dedicated myself to writing three pages every day, I’d have a book in two months. Wow. Secondly, while there is quite of bit of blathering on about mundane daily life, there are some genuine themes emerging, and bits of writing that I’ve done that are resonating with me.
Early in the process I made a stream-of-consciousness list of what I really want in life. Some of it is just basic, like wanting good health. Some of it is my dreams, like starring in a movie. But all of it is illuminating. I feel a little naked exposing this to you all, but I feel like naming what I want and putting it out there into the Universe is the first step in calling it to me. I am working hard to visualize abundance for myself and my family and friends, and to honor the notion that the Universe is conspiring to give me everything that I want. And that’s not a selfish notion – I believe that is true for everyone. You have the capacity to have everything that you want.
So, here it is. Here is what I want.

What I Want

  1. I want financial security.
  2. I want a strong and healthy family.
  3. I want a strong and healthy body.
  4. I want a rewarding, intimate relationship.
  5. I want a clear, healthy, and creative mind.
  6. I want to be respected in my field.
  7. I want to be a successful writer.
  8. I want to make my living from writing and acting.
  9. I want to be creative every day.
  10. I want to play in the sun and grow a big garden.
  11. I want to live somewhere that is beautiful.
  12. I want to marvel at nature on a daily basis.
  13. I want to travel and see more of the world before I am dead.
  14. I want to nurture the important friendships in my life.
  15. I want to see my parents and my family more.
  16. I want to have a peaceful relationship with my husband’s family.
  17. I want my friends to have the things that they want.
  18. I want to be happy.
  19. I want my friends and family to be happy.
  20. I want to spend as little time working as possible, and as much time playing and exploring my hobbies and helping people feel inspired by the world around them.
  21. I want to be a force and a voice of good.
  22. I want to be a good person.
  23. I want to be involved in my community.
  24. I want to be a good role model to young and old alike.
  25. I want to grow old gracefully.
  26. I want to embrace my flaws.
  27. I want to feel confident and strong.
  28. I want to banish anxiety from my life.
  29. I want to live peacefully, surrounded by nature and my cats.
  30. I want to write some books and go on a few book tours.
  31. I want some of my books to be turned into movies, movies in which my friends and I can star.
  32. I want to explore the world and explore my inner world.
  33. I want to meditate more and talk less.
  34. I want to be a beacon of light to others in the world who feel lost.
So there you have it. That is what I want, at least on that particular day in September of 2014. I feel it is so important to name these things, so that I can make a move towards attaining them.
What do you want? Have you sat down and written it out? I challenge you to take a little time to be abundantly clear, down to the smallest details and the biggest concepts, of what you want out of this life. And then tell me all about how you are achieving these things. We can do it – together!
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Adult-Flavored Halloween Rice Krispie Treats

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/19/14)

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No, they don’t taste like adults. They are Rice Krispie Treats that elevate my Midwestern dessert of youth to a more sophisticated level. It’s Rice Krispie Treats for those who have developed a palate but aren’t afraid of casseroles.

Hubs and I were invited to a pre-Halloween backyard screening of Beetlejuice this weekend, and these seemed like the perfect thing to nosh on while watching the Sand Worm try to eat a flannel-clad Alec Baldwin. My friends have hosted these outdoor movie nights before, and I’ve developed a personal trend of bringing themed Rice Krispie Treats. They are the perfect backyard party food: they’re homemade but don’t take tons of time, they travel well, they can be eaten with no utensils, and pretty much who doesn’t like Rice Krispie Treats? They went perfectly with the Kale Caesar Salad our lovely hosts made and the tub of Kentucky Fried Chicken that another guest brought (he won the party, by the way, with the KFC). Just the right amount of fancy flavor and trashy party food.

I winged the recipe, because, really, how do you mess up Rice Krispie Treats? But here’s a good plan to follow, in case you are cooking-impaired. You can easily double the recipe for a big party, or, you know, just wing it like I did.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treats

ricek2Ingredients:

  • one stick of unsalted butter (you could use less, but hey if you’re gonna go for it, go for it)
  • 8 cups mini marshmallows
  • 10 cups Rice Krispies (I used the store brand, who can tell the difference?)
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 drops red food color
  • 6 drops yellow food color
  • black and orange sprinkles and spider rings (optional, obviously)

Directions:

  • Coat a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray (I also used a 9×9 inch pan to make enough for a party).
  • Melt butter in a non-stick pot, cooking until it is slightly brown and nutty smelling.
  • Add the marshmallows, pumpkin spice, and food coloring and stir until melted.
  • Remove from heat and add Rice Krispies. Stir until well-coated.
  • Press the mixture into the prepared dishes (I used a spatula sprayed with cooking spray).
  • Sprinkle orange and black sprinkles on top.
  • Allow to cool, then turn out onto a cutting board and cut into squares.

These were a big hit at the party, and hubs was sad we didn’t have any more at home. I suspect I’ll be making another batch for Halloween night, to snack on while we hand out treats and scare the crap out of the trick-or-treaters.

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Happy National Feral Cat Day!

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/16/14)

Happy National Feral Cat Day!

Did you even know there was such a thing? I didn’t, until this year when I suddenly became involved with the plight of the feral cat. I didn’t ask for three strays to show up on my front porch one day last March, but once they were there, my little ol’ heart couldn’t turn them away. These three cuties were still young and were much friendlier than a typical stray cat, but they were clearly the product of an unchecked neighborhood cat community that would continue to multiply unless someone stepped in to do something. That someone turned out to be me.

Did you know that feral cats who have already been fixed can  be identified by their ear tip, like this cutie I met in Virginia?
Did you know that feral cats who have already been fixed can be identified by their ear tip, like this cutie I met in Virginia?

Thus began my trip down the rabbit hole. I wanted to get these three little squirts, whom I named The Lull Street Stray Cats, spayed and neutered so that they wouldn’t multiply. My original intent was to release them back into the neighborhood. I did quite a bit of research and discovered that Trap/Neuter/Return programs, or TNR, have proven to be the most successful in managing feral cat populations. The most recent statistics provided by theAmerican Humane Association show that in the United States, over 70% of cats turned into shelters are euthanized. Instead of turning these cats into animal control where they would most likely die, I found an organization called FixNation here in Los Angeles that provides free spay/neuter/vaccinations to homeless strays and feral cats in the region, as part of their TNR program. What they’re doing for homeless cats in Los Angeles is truly amazing. They have sterilized over 100,000 cats and are on the front lines of helping to reduce and control the homeless cat population in the area, and educating the public on how to treat these cat colonies humanely.

I ain’t gonna lie to you, suddenly finding myself responsible for these three little lives was a little overwhelming. It’s not as simple as putting the cats in a box and whisking them off for their appointments. You have to take a class on how to trap them correctly, there’s paperwork to fill out, there are decisions to be made and it is time-consuming. On top of that, I soon began to think that The Lull Street Stray Cats were just too friendly to condemn to a life on the streets. I realized that they were so well-socialized they deserved to have homes. Luckily, FixNation also provides low-cost spay/neuter/vaccinations as well as free microchips for those cats who will ultimately find homes. Considering the average cost of fixing one cat can range between $60-$200, I was grateful that I found a place that caters to bleeding hearts like mine and offers services that cost well below what a private vet would charge. In addition, I discovered that the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services offers free $30 vouchers to help with the cost of sterilizing a pet. They are given out first-come, first-served at several local shelters, and there are no income restrictions to qualify.

Even with all these financial incentives, it was still going to be a bit daunting to pay for all this, so I decided to run a crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo. I am lucky to have wonderful friends with generous hearts, and through donations was able to pay for all the services the kitties needed.

The Lull Street Stray Cats had their visit to FixNation and took up residence in my house for about a month until I could find them all homes (that’s a story for another day). I’m happy to say that one of the little furry nuggets wiggled his way into our hearts and has found his forever home with us. His name is Murray, and quite frankly we couldn’t imagine life without him now.

There are still feral cats in my neighborhood that need to be spayed and neutered, and I am committing myself to the task of taking them to FixNation and releasing them back into the neighborhood. It seems the best way to keep the neighborhood cat population low and to give these cats a fighting chance at a decent life.

I hope you’ll consider being an ally for stray cats in your neighborhood. If you’d like more information about how to care for feral cats in your neck of the woods, please visit Alley Cat Allies.

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NAKED PICTURES OF ME – Do I Have Your Attention Now?

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/13/14)

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I’ve been thinking a lot about attention lately, and how it relates to art. Or, more importantly, how it relates to making a living in the arts. To distill it down to its essence, it seems you cannot have success ($$) without attention.
 
So basically, whether or not you are going to succeed, whether or not you are going to make money and not have to pack it all in and move back in with mom and dad back in Indiana, is all based on whether or not you can attract attention.
 
Yet I feel the word “attention” is much maligned in the media (thus bringing even more attention to it). “Attention” is often paired with “whore”, so anyone seeking attention is cast in an unflattering light.
 
I guess my question is, what does it take to attract attention to yourself, to your work? In a cluttered market, what makes you stand out? I’d like to think talent is important, but I’ve learned the hard way that talent is not an essential part of the success equation. It’s not really even necessary. I’ve been deemed “talented” by just about everyone I’ve worked with, but after 20 years I’m still just barely scraping by. I’ve been told by some of the most esteemed teachers in the business that I have “it”, that I have what it takes to “make it” if I just hang in there long enough. That I am special.
 
That’s nice to hear, but the harsh truth is that I am not special in the marketplace. I am either uncastable, not fitting into any perceived, marketable category (how many times have I heard “I love you, but I don’t know what to do with you”, or conversely, “I already have half a dozen women just like you on my roster”?) Too many soccer moms, too many funny aunts, too many nosy neighbors, too many average-looking, middle-aged women. I don’t stand out.
 
While I relate this conundrum to acting, I do think it applies to just about any artistic medium. What does it take to attract attention to the work you do? And how do you avoid being called an “attention whore” for trying to get people to look in your direction for more than half a second?
 
I know – you build a website, you send email newsletters, you post constantly on Facebook and Twitter, you send out mailers, you take class after class, you pay for casting director workshops, you “build your brand.” Hell, you make sex tapes or have naked pictures of you leaked. You spend 95% of your time promoting yourself and 5% of your time actually making art.
 
I think the way we educate artists is fucked up. I spent 7 years and $85,000 on my education. I spent 95% of my time working on my art and 5% of my time learning how to promote myself. I now can’t get a job. Why aren’t institutions of higher learning focusing more on how actors treat themselves like businesses? Why aren’t we learning how to make a business plan, how to set up an LLC, how to file taxes with deductions, how to create a marketing plan, how to have CONFIDENCE in your brand so that you can tout to the world how awesome it is? Artists should be required to minor in business or marketing.
 
Instead, it seems the only way I’ll every pay off my student loans is by getting a job outside my field of expertise, outside of the business that I trained for and paid big money to learn how to do expertly.
 
Seriously, though, and I know I’ve gone on a little rant here, but it is important – how do you attract attention without alienating everyone? You must be just as sick of getting invited to 75 improv shows a week as I am. Now that there are so many ways to scream out to the masses, how does that even get heard? Success is no longer based on what you have to offer, but on how loudly you can scream.
I told you there would be naked pictures of me.
I told you there would be naked pictures of me.

Deciding To Go Out: One Introvert’s Thought Process for Accepting a Social Invitation

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/12/14)

introvert

As a self-diagnosed introvert, talking myself into attending some kind of event/party/meeting/seminar/class/friend date/anything that requires leaving the house results in a pretty intensive, although totally predictable, thought process.

Friends may wonder why I’m generally not very spontaneous. It’s because I have to allow time for this process to talk myself into going to whatever it is I’m invited to. It goes a little something like this:

  1. Receive invitation. Read it and pretend not to have seen it for at least two hours. (I say read, because all my good friends know that I don’t do phone calls. Text messages and emails are my preferred modes of communication.)
  2. Two hours later, read it again.
  3. Look at the date/time this event is to take place, and hope there is already something on the calendar.
  4. Realize there is nothing on the calendar and that I have no reasonable excuse to not go.
  5. Think up alternate reasons why I may not be able to go. Don’t I have some kind of deadline looming or something? Doesn’t someone need to be driven somewhere? Is my favorite TV show on at that time?
  6. Realize I have no good alternate reasons not to go.
  7. Decide to do nothing about the invitation for the moment, until I can think about it some more.
  8. Next day, revisit the invitation. Imagine what it might be like to go, if I decided to go.
  9. Think about who I might see, what I might wear, how long the event could go, how much energy may need to be expended.
  10. Fight the urge to just not accept the invitation for no reason.
  11. Ignore invitation again for a little while until I can think about it some more.
  12. Look at the invitation again, and think about saying yes.
  13. Do nothing.
  14. A bit later, practice saying “yes” by telling my husband that I think I might go to this thing.
  15. Feel disappointed that he can’t come up with a reason for me not to go.
  16. Do nothing.
  17. Eventually, come to terms with the fact that I am accepting the invitation.
  18. Finally, after exhausting all options, accept the invitation with enthusiasm.
I realize I am outing myself to all my friends by admitting to this thought process. Please don’t hate me or stop inviting me to things! I think what is important to understand is that I don’t go through this because I don’t want to go to something. I actually do generally enjoy myself once I’ve gotten out of the house. But I know how much social energy it takes for me to enjoy events, and I know that I have a limited supply. Too many things happening back to back exhaust and deplete me, and I worry I won’t have time to re-charge when I need to. This is simply a tool of self-protection. I agree that it’s kind of ridiculous and needlessly confounding, but it is how I am. My inner introvert insists on it.
Anyone else out there relate to this? Do you have a crazy personal process you go through when confronted with social opportunities? Does it make you feel guilty?

Happy International Stage Managers Day!

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/10/14)

Did you know October 10th is a holiday? (Stand by Sound Cue 1 hand-clapping)

Well, you do now! It’s International Stage Managers Day! Woo hoo! (Sound Cue 1 hand-clapping GO).

Those of you in the theater world know just how invaluable a good stage manager is, and how the success of a show is largely in their hands.  For those of you not in the theater world, here’s just a small sampling of the kinds of things that stage managers do:

  1. Setting up rehearsal schedules and making sure everything runs on time, which means constantly reminding actors when and where they need to be.
  2. Scheduling costume fittings and making sure actors remember to show up.
  3. Overseeing all the physical attributes of a production such as lighting, sets and costumes, and making sure actors don’t mess those things up by doing stupid things like eating in costume or touching props that don’t belong to them.
  4. Writing down all the blocking for the director during the rehearsal process, so when an actor forgets where they are supposed to be someone can remind them.
  5. Being “on book” during rehearsal in case an actor forgets his next line, so he can be fed the line after calling “line”.
  6. Taking line notes during rehearsal so that when an actor says a line incorrectly they can be reminded to say it correctly.
  7. Preparing a prompt book for all the lighting and sound cues during the show.
  8. Calling a show during performance (i.e. being in charge of all the cues and telling board ops and backstage crew exactly when to execute each cue so things run smoothly).
  9. Being in charge of all the backstage and on stage areas during the show.
  10. Ensuring the welfare of the entire cast and crew by knowing safety regulations, laws, health codes, etc.
  11. Keeping track of actors’ valuables during the show.
  12. Basically being a superhero that the production could not possibly live without.
Everyone involved in a production has a relationship with the stage manager, they are the hub of all activity. It’s a tough and often thankless job, especially when they have to deal with egomaniacal actors or directors (not that I would know anything about THAT of course).
If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment today to thank and maybe even hug a stage manager. You should also buy them a cup of coffee and even bake them some cookies, because they are the first ones to come in and the last ones to leave each night. They deserve some damn cookies.
Thank you to all the wonderful stage managers whom I have worked with over my 20 years in the theater. You guys are all rock stars!!
stagemanager

On Solitude or Being My Own Best Friend

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/7/14)

I’ve really liked myself for quite awhile now.

Wow, that sounds arrogant, doesn’t it?

Let me rephrase that in a more palatable way. I’ve learned how to enjoy my own company and to not get anxious about being alone. In fact, those times when I am by myself are some of my most enjoyable and satisfying.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember being a teenager and worrying about whether my close friends were hanging out without me. That was such a terrible, lonely feeling, knowing they were at the mall without me. Probably having lots of fun and buying some new, cute thing to wear. Or maybe going to the movies and seeing that one film that I really wanted to see – but they didn’t think to invite me. God, that was an awful feeling.

I was an awkward adolescent (who wasn’t?), and certainly wasn’t a good friend to myself. But sometime around my mid-20s – it took me that long to grow out of my awkward phase – I discovered I enjoyed hanging out alone. I found that sometimes when friends would call to invite me out for drinks or a show, I would actually decline, just so I could continue doing whatever it was I was doing by myself. It could have been organizing my CD collection or rearranging the living room furniture, it didn’t matter. I was having a good time and I didn’t want to stop.

Now that I’m almost 40, I’ve found that time alone is absolutely essential to my well-being. I don’t know if I’ve been an introvert all these years and didn’t realize it, but after time spent out with friends I need a couple days by myself to recharge. I love being with my friends, of course – they’re my friends for a reason. But I have a threshold for social activity that I reach pretty quickly, and only time away from all the interaction can recharge my batteries.

I see things differently when I’m alone. When I’m quiet, my mind has time to wander, uninterrupted, revealing new thoughts and ideas. I hear sounds I might otherwise miss – that sweet little bird in the tree, singing his little heart out, unaware that anyone is paying attention. Or the sound of my cat, Murray, laying ten feet away and happily purring in his sleep. When I’m alone, I have permission to linger, I don’t have to explain what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I can just be with the experience.

I’ve been actively working on being a good friend to myself for a few years. I smile at my reflection in the mirror. I sing songs when I’m alone, just because it feels good. I celebrate my accomplishments and don’t let myself wallow too much in my defeats. I’m better at saying no when my schedule is getting too full, even if that no is met with disappointment from others. I give myself permission to indulge in the activities I enjoy – browsing garage sales for nothing in particular, creating a miniature gnome garden under the tree in the front yard, making a complicated dinner just for fun.

Discovering the pleasure of solitude has been a gift to me. Having alone time is part of my personal equation for happiness. And as I’m getting older, I’m getting more adamant about making time for me, just me.

Do you enjoy being alone? When was the last time you took yourself out, alone, just for the fun of it? Or turned down an invitation so you could have some time to yourself? Did you feel guilty, or is it important to your well-being?

solitude