Sunday, October 25, 2015

TO MY KIDS: PLAY SOMETHING

Dear Scotty and Kennedy,

By the time you are old enough to read this, you will have grown up in a home where your father’s football jerseys – both collegiate and professional – line the hallway that leads to our bedrooms.

Where we root for the Michigan Wolverines and Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday and the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Where your dad’s experiences on the field made for interesting chatter at dinnertime, and where I would regale you with stories about how running competitively for most of my childhood was one of the greatest things that happened to me.

You may have gotten the memo: Your father and I not only enjoy sports, we value it. But the reasons are far deeper than colors, chants, or an outcome displayed on a scoreboard.

We want the both of you to play something to see for yourselves.

It doesn’t have to be football, and you don’t have to run track.

Just play something, anything: tennis, baseball, softball, or basketball. Or you can choose cheerleading, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, or golf.

Frankly, we don’t care.

Because there are lessons we desperately need for you to learn.

I know what you’re thinking, sitting there on your bean bag chair, wearing headphones and staring into your i-whatever: Thanks, but I’m good. I’d rather stay right here in my room.

And I know where you’re coming from.

You’ve owned your own tablets since the age of two, and you’ve never lived in a world in which a screen cannot be manipulated with the swipe of a finger.

I get it. I do.

But there are some things that cannot be replaced with electronics.

Your handheld devices can’t teach you how to look someone in the eye with your head held high; they can’t teach you how to cheer someone up or cheer someone on; a tablet can’t teach you how to tell someone Congratulations with grace, especially when you wish you were them.

And, don’t get me wrong, I want you to taste the particular brand of rare, sweet nectar that only victory can give you.

But I want you to lose, too.

Yes, lose. You read correctly.

Because, as the saying goes, Winning isn’t everything.

Because developing poise is far more important than any win will ever be.

Poise comes when you’re sucking wind during the second half of track practice and you’d much rather be at home putting your feet up, but you stop your bellyaching and finish your laps strong.

But poise looks different in the workplace.

There, poise is resisting the temptation to turn your cubicle upside down when your boss tells you you’ve been laid off.

Or when you’ve got to get a story on the air in an hour because the six o’clock news waits for no one, the phone is ringing off the hook, and you’re hungry because you’ve skipped lunch, but you push on because a deadline beckons.

(This was once my reality.)

And then there’s perseverance.

You’ll come to know that quality when you desire nothing more than to remove your helmet, return it to the coach, and storm off the field, but you decide to honor your commitment and stick it out instead.

And, like poise, perseverance presents itself in a myriad of different scenarios throughout adulthood.

Like when your alarm sounds at 4 a.m. and you want to press snooze because you just got off your first job at midnight. But you can’t because you’ve got to cater breakfast for 100 people this morning at your second job.

(And this was once your father’s reality.)

You see, my sweets, these kinds of hard-earned lessons are more valuable than gold, and they never, ever go out of style.

And while participating in athletics isn’t the only way to hone these skills, it’s a fantastic place to start.

Teamwork, confidence, feeling the rush of endorphins, and maintaining good health are all gifts that await you when you play sports.

All of that. And much, much more.

I promise you it’s all worth it – the good, the bad, and everything in between.

So jump.

Try to kick, hit, or catch that ball.

Smile.

Laugh.

Learn.

Sweat.

Grow.

All you have to do is play something.


Love,

Mom

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

THE DAY I GOT PAID TO DRINK

Click bait alert: To be clear, I got paid to drink coffee.

And 5-Hour Energy.

But, mostly coffee.

Which is ironic because the name of this commercial is When Coffee is a Hassle Try 5-Hour Energy.

And I was also getting paid to have my hair and make-up done.

And I was sitting around, waiting.

A lot.

Such is life while on set...

I had resigned from my post as Deputy Mayor of my hometown (Westland, Michigan) nearly six months prior to pursue my freelance writing career, and I was also studying to earn my yoga teaching certification -- a program which wasn't cheap and that I paid for by doing commercials and industrial films.

All but one of the commercials I had shot up to that point were for local companies, which meant the commercials were pretty much only seen in my neck of the woods.

On November 30, 2010, I auditioned for a national television commercial for 5-Hour Energy.

Honestly, I didn't give much thought to whether I'd get the part or not.

When you audition as much as I did, it becomes a grind, and you develop thick skin. (Which is excellent training for the real world, by the way.)

I may think I did well, but it only matters what the client (read: casting director of that particular company) thinks -- and I may have, in fact, done well.

But for whatever reason, if my look is not what they are looking for, I won't be chosen.

And it's on to the next.

So for this 5-Hour Energy audition -- which took all of 45 seconds -- the client asked me to act as if I was pissed off while waiting in line for my coffee.

That's it.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I guess I was the right kind of pissed because five days later, my agent, Linda, called to tell me that I got the part, that the commercial would be shot at a coffeehouse in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and that the client would be in touch within the next day or two with more details.

Fast forward to Friday, December 10.

I awake at nearly 6 a.m. and drive to the set with a suitcase filled with business attire in tow.

The protocol with regard to wardrobe on commercial sets is that actors bring four or five clothing options that the client would like, but there is also a stylist on set who may bring clothing as well.

Nothing I brought tickled the client's fancy, so they clothed me from head to toe in a pair of black slacks, a button-down shirt, and a thick, heavy down parka. 

Meanwhile, I was offered to try a smorgasbored of 5-Hour Energy, but because I had never had any before, I was afraid of how I might react.

I didn't want to become Carlton in that Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode when he takes speed at the school dance.

So I stuck with coffee.

And I watched Regis and Kelly.

And I think I read half an issue of Cosmopolitan.

And I read a newspaper.

And waited.

And then waited some more.

Finally, it was time for me to shoot my part, which, no lie, took not even twenty minutes.

My wait was longer than my actual work.

And then the crew had lunch catered.

It was delicious.

And then I blew that Popsicle stand and spent the rest of the afternoon at the T.J. Maxx up the street.

In all, my time on set was about four hours.

And I was compensated damn well for it.

So much so, that when my check arrived in the mail about a month later, it satisfied the balance of my yoga teacher training tuition. And then some.

Here's the finished product. You'll find me at 0:04 and 0:09 in all of my pissed off glory:



And to be clear, I was acting.

I would sooner leave an establishment before I ever looked like this in a coffee line.

I worked at The Coffee Beanery once.

I know what those baristas go through when they're in the weeds...



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Monday, October 5, 2015

FOOTBALL, BLOGGING & BREAST CANCER

Blogging is a funny thing.

Writers spill their heart, soul – and their entire life, really – onto a blank canvas in their own little corner of the internet, and, subsequently, people read, follow along, and become invested in the stories and happenings of the blogger.

Readers feel as if they actually know the blogger – even if they’ve never met – and, in fact, true friendships are made and entire communities are built…all behind the screens of tablets, PCs, and cell phones.

And that inherent connection is taken to a whole different level when the readers are bloggers themselves. We come to know each other’s families, interests, and even pet peeves.

That’s precisely what happened with Holly Bertone and me.

Over a year ago, I crossed paths with Holly – a blogger who lives in Virginia – on a blog networking site, which led me to her blog, and I was immediately drawn in by Holly’s content and colorful photos.

But one photo in particular revealed Holly’s character in a way that few others could: It depicted Holly, eyes closed and smiling, being kissed by her husband on her closely shaved head:
Holly, who is a step-mom, author, and avid DIYer, is also a breast cancer survivor.

Her lifestyle blog, The Coconut Head’s Survival Guide, offers a unique blend of posts on tablescapes, recipes, and more, and also candidly details her efforts to beat a devastating disease.

So when Holly inquired if Scott and I would like to collaborate with her on a breast cancer awareness public service announcement (PSA), we answered with a resounding yes.

Scott then called up the Detroit Lions (whom he played for from 1991-1996) and asked if they’d be willing to provide two NFL footballs for a PSA photo, which they did immediately, and then I interviewed Holly for a blog post (which you can read here) that she and I would cross-promote on each other’s blogs – in addition to the PSA photo – for the entire month of October.

Here’s the finished product:
 
I know, I know: Everything is awash with pink this time of year, and there’s seemingly no shortage of messages championing this cause.

In the NFL alone, players don pink mouth guards, towels, socks, and cleats all month long.  And field turf and game balls are adorned with pink ribbons.

And rightfully so.

Awareness still needs to be raised.

Because women like Holly  – wives, mothers, daughters, and friends – who put on a brave face while enduring the unthinkable deserve to be acknowledged and honored.

Because they truly are warriors.

Because, all too often, we – their supporters – draw our strength from them.

And if a humorous PSA prompts even one woman to get a mammogram, or another person to do something to support the cause of finding a cure for breast cancer, that’s fantastic.

So, yeah. Let us all continue to paint everything pink.

Blogs, footballs, and everything in between.


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