Friday, November 29, 2013


Much has been made this year of the once in a many lifetime confluence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.

I'm not usually big on the holidays because of all of the preparation for so little actual dining time, resulting in so much cleanup.  I was glad that my mom decided to go to a restaurant for the first time.  She chose a buffet at a popular restaurant near her so we could go to her place after we ate, light candles and open gifts for kids only.

The vast repast included turkey, carved sirloin and ham my brother couldn't stop raving about. Crab cakes and amazing grilled salmon for seafood lovers, butternut squash ravioli for vegetarians. Sides included several kinds of soup, 3 kinds of deviled eggs, several salad options, delicious Brussels sprouts, crusty baked mac 'n cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing (not as good as my mom's IMO and too salty), sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. Dessert was several kinds of cookies, delicious cheesecake and very pumpkiny pumpkin chiffon pie.  We all went around the table and said what we were thankful for.  The only downside: no leftovers.

It did seem a little less homey to eat out and then gather at my mom's (possibly the first time ever with no food except for a fruit platter), but IMO worth it because of all of the saved time and effort. 

My mom had two menorahs prepared with candles so my niece and nephew could each light one. We sang the blessing. The kids enjoyed opening their gifts, even though my mom and I got my nephew one of the same books.  He looked forward to returning one and choosing another gift.

Then my mom pulled out something from her freezer.  She'd made our favorite stuffing and wrapped portions in foil for us to take home. The thoughtful gesture, knowing that stuffing and leftovers awaited restored any missing joie de vivre.

There are many different kinds of holidays and people to share them with. The sense of family and celebration comes from within.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Obamacare and I

As a gainfully self-employed person, my current insurance plan was one of those canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. I wanted to believe the ACA was a good thing for me and America. That I could still get good coverage, and save money.

Hearing about all of the problems rolling out the federal marketplace site kept me from hopping onto the  site right away. But my current insurer set an end of November deadline for choosing a new plan through it....

So earlier this week I went to the federal marketplace site and painstakingly typed in all of the requested info for my application, feeling a bit odd as I wondered about the safety of my and other Americans' data. And then when I went to register...poof. I got an error message that said to try again later. I called a broker (recommended by a friend) who prefers BCBS plans, and got his take on the whole process.  Even after all I've read and heard, I wasn't aware until talking to him that I could just buy private insurance and bypass the marketplace. If I decide to do that, I'll have to see if there's a way to unregister?

I have 2 undergrad and 2 graduate degrees and passed the IL bar exam, yet I can't seem to grasp the ins and outs of all of the different plans or what the best approach for me is despite all of the information out there. It looks like I'll pay a lower monthly premium than I do now, but  my deductible will be nearly twice as high and I won't have as much 100% coverage, and, depending on the plan, might have some copays, unless I go with an HSA plan...which means more paperwork and things to figure out. Hope I stay healthy!

The special Aetna site won't let me log in, and says to call a certain 888 number. The wait was 30 minutes. I called back, deciding to suck it up and wait. The line was busy. I'll try again later.

So far, this has been a frustrating process...and despite spending several hours reading, clicking, entering and browsing, I don't have a new plan ready to go, nor am I sure if I want to be in or out of the marketplace.

I hope the process is going more smoothly for others.... 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do what you say you will

If you say you're going to call or communicate with someone, complete a task or be somewhere by a certain time, follow through. The other person or people are counting on you.  Respect the bond of your word and other people's time.  Don't let them or yourself down.

Perhaps co-workers need your part of project or information so they can move forward with theirs in a timely manner. Maybe your significant other, family member or friend is waiting for you to let them know when you're available so you can get together.  Perhaps they juggled their schedules to do whatever was agreed upon, but you were late.

I took an acting class in which one topic was professionalism, including punctuality.  Yet we'd start late if someone hadn't bothered to show up on time.  I've also been at rehearsals that fellow cast members couldn't make for one reason or another.  Their absence makes blocking, dancing and running scenes without them and then catching them up harder for everyone else.

Why do one or two people get to hold up others?  As Spock said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  I believe meetings, rehearsals, gigs, etc. should start when scheduled to respect the time and other commitments of those who did arrive as scheduled.       

Some voiceover scripts take longer to be vetted by the client than expected, leaving me with less time to record than expected.  The client's delivery date can't always be extended, so I may have to work faster.

Of course there can be extenuating circumstances.  People might sick, for example.  Some blame weather or traffic.  That won't fly with Chicago casting agencies or production companies. They don't want to hear that traffic was bad or parking was hard to find. They expect talent to leave earlier.

Do your best to do what you say you will.   

Friday, November 08, 2013


Feelancers never know when the phone will ring or they’ll get an email asking for a quote or offering work.  We just go about our business, completing projects already on our plates or prospecting for more.  But we’re always hoping more work comes in.  

For actors, suspense for a gig can last days or weeks. In addition to auditioning (and waiting to hear about a callback, or having a callback and waiting while not thinking about waiting for the call that we got the job or the shoot date to pass) or quoting our rates for projects when we may not know when the shoot/recording date(s) will be, we also get put on check avail and hold (or “on ice”).

Check avail means a client may want to book you on a certain date.  I got one yesterday for a VO job in the suburbs tomorrow, but I don’t know exactly when I’ll hear if I’m doing it or not.  For almost a week, I’ve also been on hold for three days this month for an on-camera industrial for a major corporation, and have been told I’m one of two finalists for the role (I don’t know how many auditioned). 
That agent has called a couple of times since.  When I see their number in Caller ID, I think they’re calling to let me know one way or the other.  But it’s been about something else.

If I happen to get something else for one of those days, the corporation gets first refusal.  I have to contact the agent before committing to the second opportunity.  This leads to more suspense, wondering if #1 will release me or book me, and what either means for #2.

Even if I don’t get the gigs, check avail and hold means more client interest than an audition or a callback.  There’s a chance the client will want me for a future project, and it’s good for staying on the agent’s radar and reminding them you can do that kind of work. 
So I don't sit by the phone and keep wondering when I'll find out, though there's nothing I can do to make it ring, I focus on other tasks.  A watched pot will never boil and all that.  But knowledge is power, as, IMO, is knowledge of my schedule and whether I'm working for a client or not on a given day, especially when the potential job is only a day away....