Night Night Stories: How I Keep Cool In a Heatwave

We’re in high summer here in Seattle. It’s also a heatwave and Northwesterners traditionally have no air conditioning. It never got hot enough to need it in the past. So we’re baking over here.

One thing keeping me cool is winding down at the end of the day. As I mentioned last time on my blog, reading to my son is one of my favorite nighttime activities. Below is the next installment of Night Night Stories: The Ear Book by Al Perkins.

There are more Night Night Stories up on my YouTube channel – please check them out! 

Introducing Night Night Stories on YouTube

Part of our evening routine these days is reading a bedtime story. It’s my favorite part of the day with my son. Settling down for the night, getting cozy and reading a book. Some of the books are oldies from my childhood, such as Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Some are newer, like the Tiger Tales books he loves because they have cutouts he can stick his cute little fingers through.

I’ve also found this quiet time an excellent way to connect with him on a deeper, more impactful level than regular daily activities. Expert advice tells us that reading to your baby from the beginning helps to build vocabulary, stimulate imagination and improve communication skills. What’s not to love about that?

It’s funny, but I’ve also found reading to him a creative outlet for me too. I get to make up voices and movements and encourage his reactions – which is a little bit like the ‘Yes, and’ rule of improv. It seemed like a perfect match for me to start recording these sessions and putting them up on my YouTube channel. Watch below and tell me what you think in the comments!

Summer: Time for Work. Time for Play

Summer has always been my favorite season. When I was a kid the reasons were obvious: no school, warm weather, my August birthday. The unrelenting humidity of Orlando and New York City, the two cities I’ve lived and worked in since becoming an adult, made it less fun. I longed for the mild, sparkling green summer in the Pacific Northwest. Lucky for me, I get a second chance at those days of my childhood. And I get to share it with two of the people I love the most – my husband and son. 

We’ve basically pushed the reset button on our life. New kid. New state. New home. New acting market. New real estate business. It’s a touch luxurious to have this opportunity and I’d love nothing more than to have a carefree summer of sprinkler games and popsicles, but I have work to do. My husband and I are building a new business from the ground up and there’s a huge learning curve. I’m getting to know the ins and outs of what it means to be an actor in Seattle. Most days I only have time to work during nap time. It’s not easy – and it’s going a lot slower than I would like. I’m often frustrated. But I am getting a little bit done every day; building momentum, knowledge and experience with each baby step.

And that time when my son’s awake? I’m going to soak it up as much as I can.

The Brink: Facing Fear With a New Creative Venture

I’m on the brink of starting a new writing venture. It’s probably the biggest creative challenge I’ve ever taken on. And the viciously ugly one-eyed fear monster is staring me in the face. You know the one. It’s the one that taunts:

Who are you to do this?
You’ll never finish.
You can’t write.
You suck.
You don’t know how to do it properly so why even begin?
You’ll never get published. Why even try?

And so on and so on. On and on until I’ve practically talked myself out of writing at all. Except that I can’t – not this time. This is a project I’ve been thinking about and working on for 3 years and I’m ready to take it to the next level.

But that next level is wet my pants scary. Because if I start, I may never finish. And it might not be good. And there’s a huge possibility it won’t get published. But it’s something I MUST DO. So I will….someday.

No. Not ‘someday’. That answer is my old thinking. I know I must get started. Now. This minute. While the inspiration is hot. Because the longer I procrastinate the quicker the flame will burn out and my project will fizzle out completely.

Way back before maternity leave, June is when I had planned to start. June sounded so realistic. Plenty of time, I thought. Months, in fact. Well, that was before I knew what went into taking care of a baby. I thought I had no time before baby when I lived in New York and worked a full time office job on top of acting. But now I’ll be lucky to get snippets of paragraphs written during nap time. As I learned in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, most people don’t have enough time to pursue their creative endeavors. We all have to make a living somehow and the dream that I’ll be able to write in a cabin on Whidbey Island overlooking the Puget Sound with no interruptions is just that – a dream. The best thing is just to start and keep going no matter how long it takes me. And so I will. Little by little, until I’m done.

Jane the Virgin No Longer a Guilty Pleasure

Rarely do I get to do many non-baby related activities these days, so when my mom asked me if I wanted to go to a Seattle Arts and Lectures Town Hall meeting featuring TV critic Emily Nussbaum, I jumped at the chance. As long as dad could babysit, that is.

Ms. Nussbaum started the talk with the history of television – breaking it down by genre and decade. I don’t read much criticism so maybe this perspective isn’t new to those that do, but it was eye opening for me. I never thought of TV in this way. Like most Americans, I basically watch for enjoyment.

Television shifted in the late ’90’s when shows like The Sopranos and Sex and the City broke free of the formulaic scripts they had built upon for decades. The anti-hero emerged which caused shows to get more interesting. Plot lines didn’t have to be resolved in 22 or 48 minutes – they could evolve over a season. That’s one of the things that drew me to Breaking Bad back when I was a budding TV fan. (Before that I was all about theater – anything else was beneath me. I was a snob.)

She taught me that it’s okay for me to be a fan of television – that it’s no longer considered some sort of lower art form. TV has won the right to be taken more seriously over the last several years with smart writing, great actors and intelligent show runners. That I shouldn’t be ashamed of binging Jane the Virgin on maternity leave because it’s a really good show, dammit, and there’s nothing else like it on TV.

Ms. Nussbaum made me proud to be a television actor.

Learning. Growing. Having a ball.

Watching my son learn to crawl is revolutionary. He doesn’t give up. He gets frustrated, sure, but keeps going until he grabs that toy. He gives me a big smile and it’s all good. And he starts again. 

See, he’s not bogged down by his ‘failures’ because he doesn’t consider them failures. He doesn’t even know what that is. He’s learning a new skill and he will keep trying until he gets it. He’ll practice for a while until it becomes second nature and he’ll move on to the next thing. Which, in his case is, walking. That’s life.

What I love about this process is seeing how much fun he’s having figuring it out. He’s not anxious or in pain – he’s having a ball.

Acting, especially the auditioning process, is a constant learning process. It’s a little like learning to crawl, then walk, and talk, and use a fork, and drink from a cup. A baby’s life is a constant new adventure. So is an actor’s.

You sure as hell will fall down. A LOT. But it doesn’t hurt you unless you let it by allowing your ego to take over. (Trust me – I’ve got TONS of experience with that.) Babies don’t have egos that I know of so they’re not affected by all of our adult dilemmas and societal pressures. It’s a wonderful thing to watch and I believe we could all gain a valuable lesson by watching babies learn. Who knows – you might start having a ball again too. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Are You Having Fun Yet?

Acting is fun. That’s why we got into it in the first place. To play. To pretend. Yet so often actors are stressed out, negative, heartbroken. I’ve totally been there and I get why. When you choose to make your life as an actor, there’s suddenly so much pressure and the play gets lost – and it’s usually the first thing to go.

Audition. Be well trained. Have a headshot that looks exactly like you. Pay rent with a day job. Get a good agent. Network. Prepare 20 monologues. Study. Be available 24/7. Get rejected. Over. And over. And over. Always have a great attitude! 

Clips from a recent self tape submission. Shot at midnight after class. I was tired, but enjoyed every second of it.

Something has happened to me since I’ve moved to Seattle. I’ve felt a shift. The audition room is fun. Class is fun. When I book my first role here, I know I will have fun on set. What gives?

I’m not entirely sure. But I think it mostly has to do with a mindset change. My whole existence isn’t based on booking a co-star. It’s important to me, sure, but not EVERYTHING anymore. This realization has freed me.

A mindset change takes practice and consistency and I’ve tried many different tactics over the years. Perhaps I’ve finally found the combination that works for me. 

If you’d like to know a few tips on how I overcome the Debbie Downers, leave me a comment or shoot me a message. I’d love to connect with you.

Lessons Learned from Botched Baby Food

“It smells like a burnt marshmallow,” my husband said as he entered the kitchen. Ashamed, I adverted my eyes. I was in the middle of making homemade baby food. Except the pot had run out of water and the stove was now cooking the pan instead of the carrots. It smoked up the entire house before I even noticed.

I had thought burning water was a ridiculous thing people say to be cutesy when describing how they can’t cook. “Me? Cook? Teehee. No way! I burn water!” That burning water wasn’t actually a thing that could happen. But it did. To me. Mom fail.

My puree DID NOT look like this.

But I didn’t let that stop me. I scrubbed the pan and kept steaming. My baby was going to have carrot puree for dinner no matter what it takes dammit! I want the best for him – homemade, wholesome organic food all the way! Erm, um, after several pulses in my Sage Spoonfuls branded baby food processor it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t steam the carrots enough. Double mom fail.

How did this happen? I followed the instructions in my Sage Spoonfuls branded cookbook. But my sad excuse of a puree looked nothing like the author’s beautiful concoctions. I was upset.  My ego was bruised and I hated myself. How did I ef up my baby’s dinner twice in 10 minutes?

It occurred to me that this is often how I feel after a botched audition or not booking a gig I think I’m perfect for. The ego overtakes and sends messages to make me feel ashamed, worthless, like I’ll never get it right. With one slight difference. I got over the carrot incident. It’s already a running joke in my family and I’m in on the laughter. 

So, why, is it so different when it comes to acting? Maybe because the stakes are lower. No carrots for dinner? Okay, we’ll have sweet potatoes instead. It would do me a world of good to adopt this attitude more consistently when in the room. Didn’t book this job? Okay, I’ll get the next one. Or at least get a milkshake on the way home.