Not so fast

I was catching up today on numerous e-blasts and emails I get on various subjects and professions from advertising to entertainment to frugality to marketing to story pitches.  As Tess McGill said, You never know where the next big idea will come from.  One of them was referring to the impending sale of Saturn from GM to Penske Motors.  It quoted a source in the Detroit Daily News that said it’s in the final stages of negotiations, “was at the 2 yard line” and was expected to be signed in the next 24 hours.  Great news for not just the Saturn dealers but Saturn owners everywhere.  Their brand was going to be continued ensuring the value of the cars they owned.  Everyone remembers how Oldsmobile sales plummeted, trade-in values sank and service issues arose after GM announced it was discontinuing the decades old line.  Everyone connected with Saturn wouldn’t have to deal with the same issues and problems.

Not 6 hours later as I was driving up to visit my niece and nephews, the news cast said the deal had fallen through, Penske was not going to buy the line, GM was going to phase it out in less than 2 years and another brand, not quite as venerable, was disappearing from the landscape.  What struck me was how fast it all happened.  This wasn’t a baseball or football game where outcomes can change on a dime.  In a sporting event, that’s supposed to happen, or at least the possibility of it changing always exists.  This was a business negotiation that had been in the works for months and poof! gone.  The changing business climate isn’t just the brands disappearing but the speed in which the change is happening.  Staying flexible and agile will be key going forward for any business concern, be it a one person voiceover business or a multi national multi platform entity.  The old rules won’t apply anymore, in fact I don’t think they’ll ever apply again.  Exciting and scary at the same time.

Thank goodness I drive a Geo, oh wait, that doesn’t exist anymore either.  See, that big giant eraser IS trying to wipe my very existence away.  I’m not imagining things.

Me ‘n’ Elvis

This past summer I had an opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do, drive through the deep South.  And when I say deep, I mean DEEP.  I left Chicago, headed down to a first communion in Bloomington, Indiana and the adventure began from there.  Passing through Kentucky and Tennesee-where Jesus seems to own a lot of billboards-I spent a few days in Atlanta at my sister’s.  The ancient Model T I drive, really a 13 year old GEO and I’m proud of her-what’s your point?, was given the once over by a very trusted mechanic, and off we went to Mobile where I had a lovely time with some former clients of mine.  From there we skirted along the bottom of the country, and it really felt like I was at the very bottom before crossing a miles long bridge into New Orleans.  I found the Big Easy to be a lovely city, especially the people and in spite of the unbelievable June heat, I really enjoyed my stay and look forward to my next visit.  Before long I turned the little green machine’s nose to the north and we visited charming Natchez, Mississippi with all of her pre-Civil War antebellum mansions, bustling Jackson, Oxford home of Ole Miss and the most charming town square there ever was, and Memphis.  Of course I had to visit Graceland, after all, I remember where I was when I heard Elvis had died.  I was at band camp.  I just love saying that!  One time, at band camp…

Graceland was fascinating, not in the expected way.  It’s a nice suburban home on 10 acres accessed by a really busy commercial road stuck in a bad decorating 70’s time warp.  The interesting part came when I was waiting for the bus to take me back across the street to the strip mall/museum/gift shop(s)/airplane hanger/garage.  The cute little girl working the line was answering some of my many questions when she volunteered that there were people who came to the mansion over and over, sometimes on the same day, sometimes as part of a year long pass, sometimes to just sit in the same house where he lived.  I was floored-repeat visits?!  Not long after I returned home, Michael Jackson died and the coverage on the media was exhaustive to say the least.  I was sad for his family and children and mourned the passing of part of my youth but otherwise wasn’t really touched all that much by his death.  The proximity of these 2 events got me thinking about the lack of tent-pole icons in my life.  I questioned whether there was something missing that I didn’t have that presence.  I think because I was so close to my family and really had all my emotional, spiritual and physical needs met, I didn’t have to fill any void with someone or something I’d never met.  That made me feel really lucky.  And blessed.

My laptop died in Memphis, just like Elvis did.  It was time to get home.

Headwinds and Tailwinds

Holy mackaroly!  Fall came blasting in last night with bang.  Yesterday was absolutely beautiful, temps were in the high 70’s, low 80’s.  Sunny skies with with puffy clouds lazily rolling by.  Everyone in Chicago was out taking advantage of the unbelievable blessing Mother Nature gave us.  That is one cool thing about the people in Chicago, when we get good weather, everyone is outside enjoying every last bit of it.  The bars and restaurants were hopping with various and sundry NFL games on their big screens.  I was able to keep up with quite a few games on my run as they all had their windows and doors open to the day.  It was fantastic.

For once, the weather forecasters got it right in their assertion that things were going to change pretty dramatically that night.  Sure enough, as I was enjoying the Colts on Sunday Night Football, the wind picked up and the sideways rain started.  Sideways rain always fascinates me, but I usually only appreciate it when I’m indoors and dry.  The rain didn’t last for very long but the winds kept up all night long, bringing much cooler temperatures.  By the time I woke up the next morning for my run, it was in the low 50’s and the winds were still howling at about 35 MPH, gusting to 50 MPH.  Reason enough to blow off my run right?  Unfortunately the grown up in me did the right thing and ran anyway.  I hate being a grown up sometimes.  Anywho, according to the Worry Channel, the winds were coming from WSW so as I was getting ready to run, I figured I’d have the headwinds at my face for the beginning of the run, when I was at my freshest.  And even better, when I was tired, I’d have a tailwind to scootch me along.  A good idea in theory.  What I didn’t count on was when winds are sustained at 35 MPH, it really doesn’t matter which direction it’s coming from, I’m going to be buffeted either way.  And forget it when a gust hits.  It was all I could do to maintain my direction.  Like the good little soldier I am, I completed my 5.5 mile trek but the last mile was done with my head down and my upper body pointing into the wind, a pose usually observed during blizzard season.

I hope to high heavens this isn’t a portend of things to come.  I’m just not ready for that.

Indignities

As the indomitable Bette Davis said, “Old age is no place for sissies”.  Amen sister.  As I dwell in what I hope are the middle years of my life, I am constantly amazed and dismayed at the new and innovative ways my body continues to betray me with each passing day.  I had a early taste of what it might be like as I’ve been turning grey since my early 20’s.  I started coloring my hair when it got to be entirely too painful to keep pulling the offenders out.  Being tall definitely helps me carry this off as grey hair is harder to spot on a tall chick.  I’ve lived with this one for so long, I didn’t think of it as evidence of old age.  Recently though, the reminders of my advancing age have become a speed bag of blows.

I’m not just speaking of the everyday aches and pains that happen to a body.  Yes the day after I do lunges in my workout my butt is killing me but seriously, I’m still sore 3 days afterwards?!  When did my upper arms start resembling raglan sleeves on a sweater?  What on earth is with these rock hard rolls on my midsection-which could never be mistaken for 6-pack abs more like several Pillsbury Grands rolls fresh out of the popout can-and why won’t they go away no matter how many miles I run or sit-ups I do?  And don’t even get me started on my ever evolving GI tract and the foods it has decided it just didn’t want to deal with anymore.

This my friend is a journey not for the weak but for the strong.  For the ones that won’t allow themselves to look backwards in a wistful way to what they once were but instead embrace fully who they are at this moment.  Ooh, gotta go, the oven buzzer for my Pillsbury Grands just went off.

Touchstones

My high school closed.  Not recently, it actually happened a few years back.  Aging building and declining population all contributed to it’s demise.  But I’m reaching one of those seminal years, not saying which one, where my former classmates and I gather to reminisce.  However my school is not only closed, a good part of it is demolished.  And a few years ago, my parents took over my room for their expanded bathroom and closet.  So when I go home for said reunion, the room where I spent my formative years is gone.  The door now leads to a linen closet.  The sanctuary that I retreated to, the place where I shut out my oh-so-annoying brothers and sisters, the door I slammed with all the angst ridden drama I could muster, is no more.  It’s now a sanctuary for sheets and towels.  I often tease my Mother when queried, that of course I am going to sleep in my room.

Then a few months back, my company was closed.  A firm that had existed for close to 50 years was shuttered.  Kaput.  I started getting concerned.  It’s as if a giant eraser was sweeping over the blackboard of my life, erasing any evidence that I had indeed been a part of these things.  In some ways, erasing my very existence.  See, I still have angst ridden drama in me.  Anywho, it’s unsettling to say the least.  If you chose to look at it that way.  Not so fast Mr. Eraser.  On an intellectual level, I get that change is inevitable and shouting at the wind isn’t going to alter that one bit.  And that change is very uncomfortable.  But within all the chaos, I have a choice to either be a victim of the change or a victor over the change.  It’s definitely easier to sit on my tukhus and whine but it’s going to be the same when I’m done with the drama.  The big giant eraser is going to continue to alter my future by changing the past.  I just need to keep changing my perspective.

I’ll be in my linen closet.

What is your Happiness?

The fall television season has started this week.  For the first time in a really long time, I don’t have the schedule memorized.  I don’t have to, it’s not my job anymore.  But I am trying to watch the new shows and am getting to know my old favorites once again.  One of my all-time faves is The Biggest Loser on NBC.  I am addicted to this show and find it to be very inspiring.  Yes, I am usually sitting on my couch while I am watching but I am inspired nonetheless!  The monumental task they have ahead of them is daunting.  Not only because of the physical limitations each contestant faces but the emotional and psychological baggage that needs to be managed.  One of the trainers, Bob Harper, was really pushing one of the female contestants, Shay, this past week.  She walked into the ranch the heaviest woman ever to be on the show.  The previous week she’d almost walked off the show because it got too hard.  This week as she was doing pushups, he was asking her about happiness.  Was she happy?  No she replied.  Why not?  When was the last time she remembers being happy?  She honestly couldn’t remember.  But didn’t she deserve happiness?  She couldn’t answer.  It took him several minutes of hard convincing for her to say out loud “I want to be happy”.  It was humbling to watch.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d said out loud I wanted to be happy.  I did say to my Mom a few weeks ago that I was surprised to admit that in spite of all of the personal and professional turmoil I’d gone through this past year, this summer was the best one I could remember in all of my adult life.

Close but no cigar.  That really doesn’t count as asking for and admitting I deserve to be happy.  I’m not quite sure what my happiness will be but I think realizing that I want happiness and saying it out loud is a huge step.  Now I just have to figure out what that means for me and how I’m going to make that happen.

Use Your Words

My Sister in Law sent me the nicest note of encouragement recently regarding my writing and posting.  She said she looked forward to reading them every day and she thought my Dad would be proud of how I was using my words.  Her phrasing made me smile instantly.  It was such the thing for a Mom of 4 to say and I could hear her saying it to one of her kids whilst they stumbled for the words that weren’t coming as fast as their developing little minds were wanting them to.

But the phrase “use your words” got me thinking.  I’ve always been a geek when it comes to language, at least in my adult life.  Scholastically not so much, in fact I even misspelled surgeon in a spelling test, not so good for the daughter of such a man.  But as an adult, with a voracious appetite for reading, some of that language sunk in.  To the point I became something of a collector of words.  Using them in a sentence correctly alway gave me a bit of a thrill.  I am the kind of person that actually uses the word harridan, proclivity and as evidenced by the previous sentence, voracious.  Not in an intellectually snobby way at all.  Finding new words was a treasure to be unearthed with glee.  The English language is endowed with wonderful words that seldom get taken out and dusted off.  Crossword puzzles were a great source of new material.  It became something wonderful to share with my Dad, the English major turned surgeon, and when he consulted me on a french word or phrase that he was unfamiliar with, a great source of pride.

I think these postings are a way to continue the conversation with my Dad, something I am no longer able to do.  I am able to craft a story and a message I think he would be happy to read as my SIL (our acronym for sister-in-law) pointed out.  I continue my hunt everyday for new words and thoughts and take an immense amount of pleasure in each post.  S-U-R-G-E-O-N.  Never forget that one!

Use your words.

Fearlessness

Safely ensconced back in my abode after all the glitz and glam of my trip to LA gives me a great opportunity to reflect on all the fun I had and the wonderful people I met.  This trip was packed with some pretty cool events, an Emmy post party, a Santa Monica restaurant opening and a visit to a studio.  Plus lots of chances to get together with friends.  But through the entire weekend, I realized I’d packed some even more precious than the 8 pairs of shoes I’d brought.  What?  I was there for 3 1/2 days.  What do you expect?  Even more important that these fabulous accessories, I’d brought along my fearlessness.  My audacity.  And I pulled it out and put it on more frequently than my lipstick.  Because of this I didn’t hesitate to walk up to an unknown Emmy winner, ask to hold his statue (they really are heavy-probably 8-10 pounds), hear about his sound work on the show House and then have him offer to take a picture of me holding his award.  Which will most likely be my Christmas card this year!  I talked to and congratulated several other winners, among those were Cherry Jones, an actress who I’d admired for quite a while, to the point of writing her a fan masher letter when I saw her in Doubt.  And here I was congratulating her on her win.  I met the President of a major network and kidded him about some things he said.  I busted someone on her Chicago accent, something I am so aware of as I try to neutralize my own, and it was the lovely actress and animation voice Megan Cavanaugh and we proceed to have a great conversation on trying to get the “chicago” out of our speech.  Then there was the guy on the set of Chuck who so patiently answered all of my numerous questions about sets and shooting and props.  If you’ve ever been with me, you know I ask a lot of questions!  All of these things would never have happened had I let myself get all self conscious and fear being judged.  For some reason, whenever I go somewhere else, I pack my fearlessness and audacity along with me.

The tricky part is to not put them away with the luggage when I get home.  Keep these two traits with me at ALL times, not just when I have nothing to lose in a strange place and amongst strangers.  Charge forward fearlessly even when I know I may see these people again and they may laugh at me behind their smiles.  Forget being judged.  As Virgil said Fortune favors the bold and since I plan on having a lot of success in my future, I’d be better served with fearlessness as my guide.

I can’t believe I brought another Latin saying into this writing, my Dad is just hooting right now.  It’s still a dead language.

One thing and one thing well

Every time I go out to LA, I indulge myself in an obsession I am fortunately not able to partake in here at home.  A few years back I discovered In n Out burgers and pretty much died and went to heaven.  Of course they are a calorie counters nightmare  but oh are they worth it.  I budget my daily intake (yeah right!) so I can indulge at least once before I head back east.  This trip was no exception and was squeezed in just minutes before I had to return the car to the rental lot at the airport.  Thankfully they chose to place a store right in the landing zone of LAX.

As I was waiting for my culinary indulgence to arrive, I thought about the philosophy of the chain and how it worked for them.  See, I love these so much I wrote to the company begging them to open an outlet in the midwest.  And I received a reply to the effect that they won’t be more than a days drive from their farms and suppliers in order to maintain the quality of their product.  The even more interesting thing is the menu.  They have 3 items on the menu besides sodas.  Burgers with or without cheese, fries and shakes.  That’s it.  No breakfast, no chicken, no wraps, no tacos-just burgers, fries and shakes.  They concentrate on doing basically one menu and doing it really, really well.  And from the line that is always to the door when I visit, it’s most definitely working for them.

Which got me to thinking about how thin I sometimes spread myself in my endeavors.  It’s easy to get distracted by a shiny new interest, especially if the old one is no longer exciting or is ending up being more challenging than anticipated.  But the key is to keep plugging away at the core of the activity or business and really work at doing it well.  Find ways to make it new and exciting once again. That’s where the success starts coming in droves.  And pretty soon, you have a line out the door waiting to use your service.

The human touch

I recently had the opportunity to do some hobbing and knobbing with some wonderful people who were if not at the top of their field, at least they were pretty close to it or were on a pretty steep upward trajectory.  I was a guest at a party and my inviters weren’t able to arrive until about an hour after I did.  So I went in not knowing anyone.  Which can be pretty intimidating even if everyone isn’t in Black Tie!  But I plunged right in and started introducing myself to whomever would shake my hand.  I was surprised at some of the business titles at well known companies I met and most like would have had my confidence shaken had I let myself think about the jobs and responsibilities behind those titles.  Fortunately I was able to put the jobs and the titles aside and just relate to the person I was talking to at that moment as a person and not a job.  And listen to the worry in the new mother’s voice as she told me about her newborn still in the hospital after 2 months.  Or the Dad so proud of his son starting at college at Wake Forest.  And the interesting thing that happened is these people, who are faced with folks wanting something from them on a daily basis, seemed to relax for a bit and just be human.  It wasn’t easy cutting through the facade they put up for ease and efficiency, but once I was able to, a real connection was made.   I learned an important lesson that I will try to remember in the future-people are not their jobs or their accomplishments or their fame but they are the parents, siblings, children, friend and lovers who face Little League games, births, graduations and deaths just like I do.  This is what binds us together as humans.  The rest is really just window dressing.