We are a week away from the start of another school year and my son reminded me that Christmas is only four months away and that they should start their Christmas wish list soon. I remember the PAGES of a Christmas wish list I wrote as a kid. That anxious cry, “When is it coming?” I remember the endless hours of pouring over the toys in the Sears catalogue, creating and changing over and over again the perfect list. I also remember the lament: “When will I finally be grown up?” “I can’t wait until I’m older!” The pinning away at all the things I couldn’t do because I was too young. Then suddenly, it seems, I don’t make Christmas wish lists anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. Was it thirteen? Did I make it that far? What changed? I can’t say it was the realization of who Santa was, I always had my hunches. Was it the realization that my single mother really never could get everything on that list? Was it a shift to the people around me, that turned my focus on what I would be getting everyone else rather than what I would be receiving? That list of what I want did certainly morph into the Christmas list for others. A long stretch of names and the item(s) that were calculated with careful consideration. I used to pride myself on getting gifts that surprised people, that had them exclaiming, “How did you know?” In all honesty, I was always good at just banking away information I picked up on throughout the year. The friends that dried their lettuce with paper towels at the dinner party in June got a salad spinner, the friend that put a book under my mug to save her table got fancy coasters, the friend that told me secretly that Beauty and the Beast was her favourite movie got tickets to the live show. Something else changed with gift giving that my husband and I discovered very early on in our relationship: we were both impatient. We would see something the other would like, buy it, and stash it away for all of a day or maybe just a few hours and then we’d break saying, “I got you something for Christmas, do you want it now?” The other would respond, “Of course!” and we didn’t have to wait months to enjoy the reaction. In fact, our anniversaries consist primarily of a dinner or a movie because gifts just come when we see something that makes us think, “Hey, they would really like that!” and we pick it up immediately and bring it home with a “Just because it made me think of you” rather than an obligation. Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated around here, other than helping the kids organize their cards so that no one feels left out at school. The romantic bubble baths, gifts, and last minute dinner dates are because “It’s Wednesday” or because “I don’t feel like cooking” or “We haven’t hung out just you and me in way too long.” It is amazing how quickly the desire to receive something, turned into a desire to get things for others. I smile at how the kids share what they want with each other, cutting out pictures and drawing their ideal toys. I let them continue dreaming that they can have it all because somewhere along the line we are all told that we can’t have it all and then self-help people ask us, “Why do you people think there is a limitation to what you can have?” Maybe I should start making a Christmas list again. My kids seem to be having a pretty damn fun time dreaming of all they want. Maybe next time they show me their list, I’ll have one to show them too. My guess is that making a Christmas wish list is a hell of a lot more fun than making my usual To-do list! What would be on your wish list?
As an improv instructor I stress the importance of putting yourself in (safe!) stressful situations as it has been scientifically proven to be healthy for you. I took my own advice and decided to go head first into something I’m actually terrified of: riding a motorcycle. As an actor we often hear the advice, “Work on your craft. Update your resume with new skills!” So I figured this was an endeavour that would help me personally and professionally. I mean, I remember how terrified I was when I got my drivers licence, swearing I would never drive a car again, that I just got it for identification, and here I am decades later and I drive both automatic and standard with ease. As an instructor at Durham College we must call in to register with an agent, so after finding a weekend that worked with my schedule on line, I called in and found out it was their “Ladies Weekend.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, would women complain more? Would some of them keep us at a slow pace that would make the rest of us have to wait around while they finished crying? I’m telling you, I had ALL the stereotypical thoughts but I also wondered: would they be more encouraging to each other? Would the instructors be kinder? There was no real way of knowing other than going.
The first night was the class room night and we instantly liked our instructors, they were funny, and stressed how we would all have fun and would ALL learn how to ride motorcycles this weekend. They also immediately started encouraging us to return for the M2 exit course and to consider becoming an instructor. They kept saying “We NEED female instructors!” I liked that, they made me feel like women riders were a desired and an important part of the motorcycle community and I realized I had another stereotype hidden that I hadn’t been aware of: I just automatically thought male motorcyclists thought women riders weren’t as good. Weird, right? Why would I prejudge these people I never met? Maybe it’s because when I look at a bike with a passenger on the back it’s ALWAYS a woman. I’ve never seen a women riding a man around. Maybe I just didn’t know about this culture at all!
Bright and early Saturday morning, we were in the parking lot with our gear and were asked to pick a bike. Yikes! Are we really going to get on these things?! I also have to stress that it was the HOTTEST day of the summer so far, a reading of 45 with the humidity and we were out in the sun, in jackets, jeans, gloves and helmets…was this even possible? The guys were fantastic about giving us lots of breaks, taking the lessons step by step that by the afternoon we had ridden, stopped, learn all our essential parts, how to get on and off, how to start them, all without even turing them on. That’s right, in all that gear, in that intense heat, we were pushing each other around to get the feel of braking and the bike itself. BUT, we survived and by the end of the day we were riding motorcycles! Not one complaint, we women doused ourselves in water, talked and laughed during these breaks and commented on how the wind was exquisite and we did what women do: we talked! I got to know about them, their families, and why they all took this course. Some women had bikes, some were married to Harley riders. These women were, for the most part, just as nervous about riding, but they were determined. I was wrong about women slowing anything down, we did what I guess women tend to do without thinking about it: we listened, we didn’t question, we were cautious, we followed instructions and we did it without complaint. It was a great experience of no egos, no make up, everyone sweating and sharing sunscreen and stories. I got home, ate like an animal and crashed for twelve hours!
The next day my arms were aching from the pushing, my butt was saddle soar like I had been horse back riding all day, I was exhausted from the heat, and I was SO READY to get back on the bike! Sunday, we did emergency breaking, slaloms, traffic avoidance, everything that would get us ready for the testing. I realized my love for speed and my pining for driving a stick shift was transferred onto this bike. Two of the instructors pulled me aside and asked, “You’re telling me, you’ve never been on a bike before?” and I would remind them I’ve only been a passenger once in my life and screamed the whole way. One of the instructors started calling my his “Favourite Student” so I knew I was doing pretty good. I was nailing the emergency breaking and found the extra action of down shifting (not required) was easy and I think I have to attribute it to my years of dancing, it was just an extra step, the whole mechanism just another dance routine - slam your foot down before your foot hits the ground, so beautiful, so was squealing to a stop!
Then it was test time, my only thought - they are timing you, get going and then gun it! I got big smiles and a thumbs up a few times. When they took me in to get my results I was shown my score sheet and they stressed “This doesn’t mean you were absolutely perfect, but for anything we could deduct points for, you got zero on everything.” I was beaming! I took great pride in getting high marks in school, it never occurred to me I would get a perfect score, I just wanted to PASS, to not injury myself, and most of all, to not give up, but now…well, I am in the process of purchasing a motorcycle.
Getting out of my comfort zone was as exhilarating as I remembered it, the women were so fun, a few of them I exchanged contact info with, the instructors all got big hugs from us for making the weekend such a wonderful experience. I HIGHLY recommend the course at the Whitby campus.
So, M1 licence has been officially added to my acting resume, now on to face my second fear head on: I’ll be up in Uxbridge in two weeks taking my restricted and non-restricted firearms course….double yikes!
I went under the knife again last week. It is amazing that once you’ve made the decision to do something how unprepared you tend to be. Even though I watched tons of videos, read reviews, scanned numerous plastic surgery sites, I was not prepared for what happened after the surgery, which I’d like to share with you here.
Consequences of a “Nose Job”:
First of all, welcome to a wonderful rule of physics - swelling follows the law of gravity, whether you like it or not! I was ready for the pain, I was ready for black eyes and swelling, I was not, however, ready for all the swelling to drop to the lower part of my face! I looked like I had gotten a face lift and collagen injections all in one day! The lower half of my cheeks looked like water balloons which elongated my face in general, I felt like Eric Stolz in the movie “Mask”! My lips were so puffed up and round, like the kind you get in a Mrs. Potato set.
Secondly, you will lose weight, whether you like it or not. This sounds great but remember, there is joy in food, such comfort, and that is ripped away from you first thing as you lose the sense of smell. Food becomes only texture and temperature and even though you are eating to fill the hunger, without actually getting to enjoy your food, you tend to start reciting the phrase, “What’s the point?”
Thirdly, this lead to what I really hadn’t expected which was depression. I actually started regretting what I had done and was just sitting in pain thinking “What have I done?” over and over again. With each of these side effects I went to the internet, typed in what was happening to me and found out that they were all regular byproducts of the surgical procedure. One doctor’s site said that each person reacts differently and some people may need Valium or anti-depressants after surgery. It wasn’t in any of my hand outs, yikes! But at least it made me aware that what I was experiencing was normal.
Lastly, you lose your smile. This was the most devastating part for me as my life is comedy and as a social butterfly, I didn’t like the thought of finally getting to go out and I couldn’t smile at anyone. This is due to the type of surgery I had which slices into the muscles and nerves of the upper lip so I am looking at weeks if not months until my smile returns to normal. Double yikes!
Okay, now you’ve heard all the bad news, but it’s just my way of letting people know what really can happen (like all the stuff they don’t tell you that can happen during pregnancy and during labour that, if people found out, would probably never have children!). I’ve already had people ask about the procedure because they’ve always wanted to get some work done. I figured I’d share it with everyone.
I like my profile now, I like that I’ve lost five pounds, I like knowing that as the swelling continues to go down my new nose will continue getting thinner and more refined. The decision for rhinoplasty was something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager, so my poor husband had to support me in my decision, but he reminded me, “I married you with the old nose” and my kids were very upset when I told them what I was going to do, “We think you’re beautiful, please don’t change your nose!”
If you’re making the change, my only wish is that you do it for YOU and not to please anyone else, because you’re going to come out the other end and the first thing people have been saying is, “I don’t really see that much of a difference” and “What did you get done?” Your “imperfections” are YOURS, people typically don’t see them and those that do, well, maybe you should get them surgically removed.
So the photo for this blog is the first Meme I've ever created. Kind of fitting as Star Wars IV was probably the first movie I saw in a movie theatre. So, will there be spoilers in this blog? Yeah, probably, but I say, if you haven’t seen the new movie by now then you aren’t that into the saga and have no real reason to complain. For the rest of you, read on.
So, I, like many people, was anticipating this movie, with a director like J.J Abrams behind it, I trusted that it would be fantastic. He was, after all, the one that turned me back on to the Star Trek legacy. Unfortunately, I live with a bit of a nerd: my husband. Who, while watching the trailers, was giving me insight into the storyline (as he’s actually read these stories…think of that folks! These stories are actually in book form! Crazy!) and I knew going in that Leia and Han had twins and one turned to the dark side as the new Vader. So, about 1/4 into the film I turn to him and start whispering questions about the character’s relation and he just waved me off with, “They must have changed that for this movie.” That is kind of a big deal to me, I don’t like drastic story changes, now I was really pissed that he had told me anything. As a parent, more questions start brewing, particularly how Leia and Han could have raised such an Emo teenager (follow @emokyloren for some great laughs). Where did he get the melted mask? Why was that the only piece to survive? What if he only found Vader's boot? How bad was the parenting of these two galactic heroes? And in the words of my comedian Andy Bush, “Man. look at what 40 years did to Princess Leia! It turned her into a poorly written character!”
Before the movie came out, the film makers were getting worried it wasn’t going to be as good as everyone was hoping. In my opinion, yeah, that kind of happened here. But, now get this, as I read the posts of people who had watched it, I started to see something really incredible that has lead me to believe: this is a “guy” movie. Men on Twitter, who saw the early premiers, said they “Cried their eyes out” and were “Puddles”. As I sat in the theatre I couldn’t help but notice I was flanked by young males, um, wiping tears away. I was still sitting there fuming about plot points and bad acting and these guys were crying?! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a few girl friends on Facebook state they loved the new movie but the “guys” have already gone and seen it 3 or 4 times already. Really? Wouldn’t that make you question even more plot holes? Is this what becoming a parent has done to me? Am I this jaded? Has age made me more practical? Am I expecting more than I should from a fantasy story, built on the the Joseph Campbell hero mythology? Um…yes.
I did something I said I would never do again…theatre. “But Stephanie”, you might say, “Didn’t you get a degree in Theatre?” Well the answer is yes, I’m still a strong believer that an actor needs to spend time on stage as this is the very root of acting. The skills you develop in memorization, blocking, projection (reaching that last person in the back row), rehearsing, and being on, live, where anything can happen and you have to deal with it, are traits that make you a stronger actor. There is the instant gratification: the applause, the standing ovations, the laughter and tears right in front of you at every performance. There have been stories of screen actors going to their first public appearance and being shocked that they had crowds of fans, screaming their names, as they had been locked away in a sound stage for months before. There is also the ability to manipulate the performances, one of the New York actors in the role of the priest in “Doubt” said he fed off the energy of the audience and would adjust the idea of if his character was guilty or not based on what the audience was feeling on a given night. It also allows for an audience member to be able to see a show a second or third time and get a whole new experience. Now here comes my big “But”…Theatre is TIME CONSUMING. In comparison, for a commercial you typically walk on set, do a quick blocking and start shooting, you could be looking at working at a day of work, two at the most, sometimes double or triple what you would make on the stage in under 24 hours. Films are knocked out in months (weeks in the case of movies like “Sharknato”) but a play takes months of rehearsals and then the weeks or months of the run of the show, it is a huge commitment…one I was trying to avoid. So, why go back? Frankly, I was offered a role I couldn’t refuse: Miss Shields in the musical version of “A Christmas Story”, yes, I got to dust off my tap shoes and sing “You’ll shoot your eye out.” The nights were long with rehearsals, the choreography…exhausting, the errors and missed cues stop your heart, but man, there is nothing like singing your guts out to an audience that came to a little community theatre production and walked away amazed and entertain. Being part of a “family” of actors who work together for months is incredible, even the backstage crew are a huge part of what makes these shows work, everyone is essential and appreciated. There is nothing like the applause, the feeling of accomplishment, the end result of saying “I did it!”
Going back to your roots is a wonderful chance to relive some of your best and tiring parts of life. Maybe try dusting off something you haven’t picked up in a while and see if the thrill doesn’t come back, I “Double dog dare you!”
I have been noticing I’m a lot more reserved in the company of other parents. With four kids, we are at a lot of after school programs: Swimming, Scouts, Dance, Cooking, Drums, French, and the list goes on. At these programs we send off our children to engage in an activity that will (hopefully) make them more rounded individuals, giving them life skills that will aid them in getting a good job, or to just keep them away from TV for a few hours. In this time, we, the adults, stand or sit around and inevitably, start talking to each other. 99% of the time we talk about our kids, this alone is a wonderful people watching endeavour. You have the people who brag about their kids, is it because they never succeeded in this area of life? Are they hoping this will make us look more favourably on these wonderful parents with child prodigies? Then there are the parents that are there against their will, do the kids just want it more than them? Did the “ex” sign the child up without consulting their schedule? There are parents that complain about their kids the whole time, I kind of enjoy these parents, seeing that I vent about my kids, publicly however, with my @antimommy account on Twitter. As I talk to theses parents, I gauge how much we can talk outside of our main topic of children. I’m interested in finding out what these people do, how they met their spouses, what they like to do as hobbies. I find that when the topic comes to what I do for a living there is some shock. “You get up on stage and make people laugh?” “You audition for roles?” and then most times the conversation ends with “I could never do what you do.” Which, of course, goes against everything I teach at my acting school. I truly believe anyone can improvise, we do it everyday. The essence of improv and acting is play, and we all did it when we were the same age as our children are now, inside said gym, classroom, or field. I’m not sure why parents drag their kids (and in some cases, the whole family) around to cater to these 45 min. of self expression and creativity, of team skills and physical development, and forget that they are made of the same stuff their kids are. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks and in the case of improv, it is re-igniting the skills of creativity and spontaneity that we were all born with, everyone was a skilled player in the game of “pretend!”
If the conversation finds itself at this point, I turn the attention back to the kids, I mean can you imagine if they find out that I have an extreme blue sense of humour that can only be deemed Politically Incorrect? Or that I’m currently pitching a TV Show called Cougars where women are sleeping with men half their age? Nope. I can’t relate to most parents. I’ll just be here holding the coats.
While driving in the car, my nine year old, reading a book for "Tweens", called from the back seat, "Mom, what's a broad?"
"It's another name for woman," I started, "But it's not an accepted term, some see it as derogative..." now I was stumbling, "Ah...some people don't like that term, they think it's a name that makes women feel...insignificant, waved aside." Or does it? What comes up for me when I hear "broad" is a strong woman, in her late 60's, with a cigarette in one hand and playing cards in the other hand, a woman who raises one eyebrow at you and replies dryly, "Who the hell are you supposed to be?" or "Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy night". The term brings up images of the film noir's femme fatale who has the power to throw the detective off his game, just by walking into the room. "Some people kind of like the term," I continued, "It could be seen as a nickname of sorts, like dame, tomato, chick, Betty."
What is an excepted nickname for a woman? More importantly, why do some, perfectly acceptable terms for "woman", get on our nerves? My big pet peeve is when I'm (very politely) called "Ma'am" by someone serving me in a store. I, like many woman, insist, "Oh, please no, I'm too young to be a ma'am!" but if someone calls me "Honey" or "Sweetie" I soften to them, terms that imply weakness and frailty. I am a ma'am, and after having four children, I am certainly old enough to be called one, but my crazed desire to cling to my youth leads me to instantly like someone who refers to me as a "babe" or "chick", other terms for young offspring.
As I blather on about the political correctness and feminist views on labels I glance up in my rearview mirror and notice my daughter's furrowed brow at my explanation. That is when I suddenly stop and ask, "Uh, what's the sentence?"
She glanced down and read the sentence that spurned on this intellectual dissection of the battle of the sexes, that had me questioning my own beliefs in what is acceptable to call woman, and what created a panic to install the right phrasing for the sake of my daughter's development:
"I have been to England, have you ever been abroad?"
I shared a picture on Facebook and some people were horrified, it was a picture of a deer, obviously hit by a car and someone had tied a "Get well soon" balloon to it's leg. I thought it was hilarious and promptly shared it. Many responses were "Who would do this?" and "Why would anyone think this was funny?!" I looked at the picture more closely to see if I could see what they were seeing, did the person hit the deer on purpose to capture the shot? Not likely. Was there anything immoral or illegal? Nope. I think this is one of those half glass moments, where some people only see death, and mockery. I am on the other side where I see someone making the best of a bad situation. I mean, the balloon is instilling positive thoughts of getting better, there's the irony! And I love me some irony. There is nothing anyone can do for the deer, I'd be mortified if I saw a picture of someone trying to recesitate a deer, to tell you the truth! Let's also look at the amount of effort this kind of picture requires: Deer are usually found in more suburban or country areas, therefore the person would have had to drive, possibly quite a distance, to the nearest store that sold helium balloons, ordered one, and then would have driven back to snap that picture. That in itself deserves a nod in effort for the sake of art...and by art I mean humour. There have been more attacks on people's "funny" posts on Facebook than I've ever seen before. "You should be more aware of how your posts will effect people" is the mantra of these internet police. I remember the days, when something seemed offensive to you, that you could just... turn it off. Do these people think that their finger wagging will actual change a person's sense of humour or their opinions? I'm scratching my head looking at the heated debates and rise in emotions in the comment sections, why don't these people just "unfriend" the offensive person and move on? People are getting more and more sensitive and this need to attack and judge is giving us movements like banning the word "bossy". Stand up comedians are avoiding colleges because they have been instructed to be sensitive, radio personalities have moved off radio to podcasts and satellite radio to find a forum to speak honestly and openly. Humour is going underground, jokes are threatened to be a black market item! So, you can ask this comedian if I will be censoring my Facebook page? My reply: in the wise words of Bette Midler, "If they can't take a joke, fuck ‘em”
Yes, that’s right, I’m taking pole dancing. It was a spontaneous decision when a friend of mine said it was on her bucket list and I blurted out, “I know someone who teaches that right down the street”; we were signed up and in a class within a week.
We went to shake our booties and to laugh our faces off, but I ended up learning more than just “peek-a-boos” and “wall slides”. Here’s a few of my main life lessons…that my pole taught me:
1) Don’t crowd the pole. If you are always up against the pole you are too close to maneuver, you tend to choke the pole and you might as well be a fireman sliding down it as you hold on for dear life. To make the move work best, keep a bit of space. You’re not “one with the pole”, be your own woman.
2) Make it pretty. Thumbs, flexed feet, and open knees make you look clunky and awkward. Be aware of how your body is being perceived, if you had no idea you were doing one of these actions let your teacher point it out, correct it, and move on. Be aware of how others perceive you, a very minor adjustment is all it takes to get your point across of “look at me” vs. “what are you starting at?”
3) Bruises are free. With mastering a trick, there comes some work. The tops of my feet were covered in black bruises the first night until I settled into the feeling of the grip and how strong my arms really were. We all showed up the following week, sore but determined; we tackled the next challenge and the next.
4) Drop it Low, Rise it Slow. Take your time, particularly with the final touches. Why rush the end when it’s your moment. Take the time to relish in the grand conclusion of what you are getting across, especially when all eyes are on you. Sexy comes with slowing down, nothing is missed, everything is deliberate, you can’t mess up rising slowly, you can only look like a pro.
5) Look out, look up. At my latest class my teacher said, “I challenge you to look out when you spin”; turns out I was looking in towards the pole, which, in reality, made me look like I was turning into my armpit…yeah, nice! I did the turn again facing out and the first thing I felt was…well…dizzy. The whole world was rushing past me, not just that safe, cozy, armpit. It was a strange sensation, so much to take in, because there was MORE to take in. Self-reflection is great but open up and look around you, there is more out there, more to look at then just an armpit.
The three poles in the studio all have names. Mine has been ordered.
- See more at: http://thelocalbizmagazine.ca/2015/02/everything-i-needed-to-know-about-life-i-learned-at-pole-dancing-class/#sthash.JNp9e67K.dpuf
I am speaking at the Bridges to Better Business event for the Small Business Week in Lindsay, ON. The topic? Return on Investment. Yippee! Right up my alley!
I will be speaking about the importance of connecting with someone, in order to keep you top of mind, so when they pick up the phone or click that mouse, your name will be the one they are headed toward. I can’t tell you how many people miss this one logical step in the networking process. They remember their cards, they remember to dress professionally, they have an elevator pitch and a smile and a firm hand shake and then they….well, they just sell you to death that you try to find an excuse…any excuse…to get away from them.
Now, if you’re reading this and you think, “Nah, she can’t be talking about me!” let me ask you this. In your last few conversations with people you just met, did you talk about your business? If you said yes, then you’re probably one of those people. Your business shouldn’t be the first thing you talk about, it should be the last. Your “business” is the person in front of you. People want to talk about one thing: themselves. As a business professional, you have to restrain yourself and turn that into your advantage. Asking questions of someone, finding out about them, and better yet, their passion will transform them into a different person: their eyes glow, their smile beams, they talk more rapidly and with passion. When you speak again, asking more about their passion they will consider you a friend. Remember the saying: People won’t remember what you did, but how you made them feel. The best salesperson is the person who makes people feel valued and heard (like the salesman’s mantra “Find their pain/pleasure”)… and that your meeting was more than a sales pitch; it was a gathering of friends.
I have left conversations without mentioning what I do, until the very end, when we must part, and they ask if we could chat again and I hand over my card and they exclaim, “Oh how cool!” And then they start asking me a ton of questions and they are sure to check out my website. People contact me all the time because their friends told them, “You have to meet Stephanie. She’s so (funny, awesome, crazy, hilarious, etc.)”. I’ve never heard anyone say “My friend told me that you are local and have programs that are reasonably priced and have skills that will help aid my business goals.”
See if you can make people “feel” more, rather than “buy” more, and believe me, that will be the biggest return on investment.
- See more at: http://thelocalbizmagazine.ca/2014/10/feeling-someone-up-another-perspective/#sthash.b4yRA7nE.dpuf