Pushing Your Luck…or Making Your Luck? The Choice Is Yours!

Dear Readers,

You wait to get your vehicle inspection done (you have till April 5th)  5th of the month

You wait till April 15th to finish your taxes or file that extension. (Don’t do it!)

You wait to get gas when the car is “E”, usually because you are almost home.

You see the “check engine” light pop on. PSA- Sometimes this is because your gas cap is not fully engaged. (that was a lesson that cost me some money)

You spend a little more time getting ready and don’t leave enough of a buffer (traffic/lights/weather) for parking to get to your appointment on time.

You text that “one message” while pulling up in traffic despite it being ILLEGAL.

You put off getting that crown put on the temporary tooth and it falls out forcing you to go get emergency surgery, in a week when you already have a lot of time and energy commitments and really could have stood to do without that complication.

If this is just me, feel free to breathe a sigh of relief and move on, but I don’t think it is.

So I think that here an there, pushing your luck on these things is okay, and I can attest to the fact that it works out about 50% of the time.

I think it’s when it becomes a habit that you need to put on the brakes and examine why you keep “hoping it will all work out in your favor” instead of doing the prudent thing and making the change in behavior needed to avoid “needing luck” for things to go your way.

Put another way, don’t you think we all really make our own luck by making responsible choices and doing the maintenance on the car, our teeth, and our taxes?

Think About It.

Artist to Artist- In the moment with Eva McQuade!

Dear Readers,

Eva McQuade is an award winning actress, writer, and producer.  To list all her roles would take most of my blog post, so we will just say, if the character has lines, she has said them. Here are just a few of those roles…

Two years ago, I was delighted to work alongside her in “My Big Fat Bahookie” 

BahookieShootEm
Pastor Adipose and Madeline Face Off

A body positive play written and directed by Lorella Loftus.  It was a joy to work with her and I am happy to say we became good friends out of that bonding experience. It doesn’t always happen with shows, sometimes you come together for those 12 weeks and you do a show, you tell a lie that tells the truth and everyone goes home and you see each other here and there but you don’t bond as strongly, that was not the case here.

Eva sat down with me to talk through her origin story, how she came to be in Austin and her latest project (opens Friday!) – Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Professor HastonEva McQuade, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, I know how in demand you are, so let’s dig right in, Are you named for anyone? 

EvaA soap opera star!

Professor Haston- That’s something we have in common! 

EvaJenny

Professor Haston- But back to you, tell us about how you became an actor?

Eva– In second grade, I was in a Valentine’s day show with a coke bottle choir. Had to play a song. “Love Me Tender” and I don’t know there was something about seeing all the people happy and the fact that I made them happy made me feel very happy. In high school I started doing more theatre, and I was in a Midsummers Nights Dream, where I was taught by a great teacher, Ms. Cindy Grauke, she was a wonderful person. She was a fun cool lady, and she was different and was really interested in helping kids to pursue their dream if they wanted to do theatre.  She was just very open to collaborating with kids to help them figure out what they wanted to do. I grew up and studied journalism and worked for newspapers in San Antonio. I graduated from college and was trying to be a grown up instead of a “starving artist”. My friend Rhys, he was working with a newly-formed theatre: The Overtime Theatre, and said the director John Poole knew me from college. When I came to watch his show, “Faustus,” I talked with John. He asked, “Why aren’t you acting?” I said, I don’t know, I never thought you could be an artist and be an adult and in order to do this, you had to live in a garret and eat brie” but then again, brie is a very expensive cheese so more likely you have to live in a garret and eat Velveeta. So he told me about this parody of “Flash Gordon” called “Flinch Gordon” and told me I should be in it and it just sort of snowballed from there, when I met my husband (then boyfriend) he lived in Austin and along with a thriving theatre and film community, made it an easy decision to move here. So I did.

Professor Haston-  How do you handle rejection?

Eva- Um, there have been some parts that have been very difficult to lose. I have auditioned for the role, Tracy Turnblad about 8 or 9 times. That has been the most difficult one to lose. Of course I get over it, and there are times which are harder than others. So many musicals I would love to act in and people just do not cast me in musicals. I say that and then again, I have done three over the course of my acting career. BUT I would love to do more musicals. (hint, hint)

(Interviewer note- EVA THE MUSICAL- IT BEGS TO BE MADE!)  Get on it, world! 

Professor Haston- What is your reaction as a Latina actor when you see that Latina parts are not being played by Latinas?

TeatroVivo

Eva-I think it’s a problem in Austin, which has always been surprising to me. Austin, Texas shouldn’t have a problem casting color/gender blind. We need more diverse casts and the spirit of inclusivity is missing from many Austin productions. So much can be learned by casting outside of the box/norm. So much potential for growth. I can only hope by continuing to audition for roles, maybe even especially those NOT directly asking for Latinas, things will change and I’ll make a difference in someone’s mind.

Nekkid

Professor Haston- We all have haters, how do you deal with them?

Eva– I am my worst hater. I am working on it. I am doing what I think is interesting and entertaining. I think people are being nice and they don’t really mean it. I have one guy who does not like me and he either does not mention me or he says really snarky things Aabout me, so I definitely have a hater.  Again, I tend to think that he is right, and everyone else is being kind. 

Professor Haston-  I get that, I mean like Bette Midler says, The trick to being famous is “you have to think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and KNOW you’re not”  sounds like you have a healthy dose of that and while we are on the subject.. I happen to know a lot of people who are NOT nice that have said you are talented. 

Eva- Who? 

Professor Haston- You want me to name names? 

Eva– See??????? 

Anyway—

Professor Haston- What inspires you?

Eva– The show I am working on is inspiring me and I hope it will inspire other people because it’s about our environment and the world we are living in now and it has a message. Doing a show with a message always inspires me. My Mom inspires me. She recognized my acting as something brave. You are doing a lot of things you want to do with your life, and you aren’t scared.  She was a single parent and she went back to school after a long time away, and she became a teacher and she spent 11 years taking care of my grandmother with dementia, so she did what she wanted to do, but it took her awhile to get there. It’s a great reminder we only get one life and you should do what it is you want to do with your life. What are we doing here if not doing what we want to do. Those are the things that will push me: the idea you only get one life to do it all in and why not?

Professor Haston- Why do you act? 

Eva– It’s a difficult thing to have a day job -some friends have multiple!- to get to do this thing  you really want to do. And to audition and then to wait and not get it. Sometimes you get it. It’s a terrible thing to want to be an actor, because you really aren’t yourself most of the time. I also think that is the wonderful thing about being an actor.  The first show I did was Romeo and Juliet – set it South Texas in the 1940’s and it was a bilingual production. This woman came up to me after the show and she was crying and she was with her daughter and she said, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear a play like this in my language and it’s speaking to me and I understand it.” That was so much goodness and joy and love. She felt heard and listened to and that sticks with me, through the auditions and the rejections, and it’s why I do this.  Then one night after “My Big Fat Bahookie” – on the night a row of people left (yes, it happens!) and then one woman comes up to you with tears in her eyes and says, “I have had a problem with my body all my life and she doesn’t feel good about herself and this show helped her feel better about herself. That’s the person I do my art for and that’s why. It’s an honor to be able to do this thing we do called art.

Professor Haston- What advice do you want to share with my readers?

Eva- It’s never too late to do what you want to do.  Put it out in the universe that you want to do something, and then you will be amazed at the things that open up when you do that.  Ask yourself the question- Why not you? Don’t live a life of regret. It’s said that we go to school and we get a degree or degrees and then we get a job that maybe we like or maybe we don’t and then we spend about 40 years working to do something you really want to do. The goal would be to go and do something with your life. Travel, see plays, you only get one life in your life. GO DO SOMETHING WITH IT! 

Supportive people in your life are everything, it makes a tremendous difference.

My goal is, as ever to inspire one person every day, so I hope Eva’s words inspired you.

Think About It.

If you are in Austin, you can see Eva in action starting this Friday!

Last: An Extinction Comedy opens this Friday at the Vortex! It’s a scripted-improv paleo-futurist apocalyptic adventure through the waning days of our species with a band of comedians determined to be the pie in the face they wish to see in the world! Don’t miss it!

 

Artist to Artist- In the Moment with Professor Peña!

Dear Readers!

Gabriel Marcelo Peña is my dear friend, an actor of great talent, and we studied the Meisner method together under Richard Robichaux.  I met him when I was stage manager on his first big show in Austin “The 21 Would Be Lives of Phineas Hamm”

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written, directed and produced, by Rachel McGinnis Meissner and we became fast friends.  

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Recently he took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk with me about all things art, theatre and life!

To see more about Gab and his many talents- Check out his website- gabrielmpena.com

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Without further ado, Let’s get to the interview!

Professor Haston-Who are you named for?

Professor Peña – My full name is Gabriel Marcelo Peña- My mother was going back and forth between two names.- “Damian” (like “The Omen”) and “Gabriel” and Pops said they should hedge their bets and go with the angel- so Gabriel it was. I love words and the origin of things so I looked it up and the name has Hebrew origins – Gabriel the Angel appears in Islam, Christianity and Judaism which appeals to my sense of a mixed and multicultural heritage. Additionally, in all those stories- Gabriel is a communicator– I am a communicator and even my nickname (Gab) means to talk.  Marcelo- comes from the Italian actor, Marcelo Mastrioanni –my pops was a big fan of him, so they went with that for the middle name. Also, my father was very close to, and really loved his grandfather who was an Italian immigrant to Mexico so the name is perhaps a bit of an homage to him, Rodolfo DiCapelo. I’m guessing at the spelling of his name, family legend is that he changed the spelling and/or pronunciation of his name when he entered the US and then AGAIN when he migrated to Mexico. I come from nomads.

Professor Haston- How did you come to be an actor?

Professor Peña- The origins of it – I was in middle school and I felt very isolated and very “other”, in large part due to being a Latino in a Black and White Southern town, and due to a lottery system program I got thrown into a different school. I thought, great I already don’t have friends, now I go to another school where I will have still have NO friends. I got a chance to do the morning announcements, which I thought were boring and stale, and so when I got picked to do them I presented them with a point of view and some enthusiasm and people started to acknowledge me. This was a cool new experience at the time. Then after that, I copied my sister, Paula (thanks P!) and followed her to an acting camp and loved it. From then on, it developed into, “Oh, now I get to do things that I don’t get to do in my real life” Like my first kiss, was a stage kiss – Or on stage, you get to yell at someone or beat someone up- you get to do this because it’s written down and it’s the job. I really fell in love with it then, I realized it was a license to do and experience things fully or freely in a way that I don’t always get to in my daily life.

Professor Haston- Can you talk about the hard parts of being an actor or times that it hasn’t been so great?

Professor Peña- I remember intentionally distancing myself from it once. I was studying theatre in college when I went abroad for a semester in Argentina. I was not fully dedicated to the idea of performance as a profession. In fact,  at the time, I was very deliberate about not doing any theatre, not seeing any plays. Yet, while abroad, a guy at school reached out about doing “True West” I kept finding myself jotting down ideas and thinking about the role. So even when I wasn’t trying to do theatre, it followed me anyway. Fast forwarding to now, I moved to New York a year ago, and it’s been an adventure. New York is no joke, although I have found a slice of it that I absolutely love. I have a B.A. in Theatre and I have an MFA in Acting and I will say it’s been a big adjustment going from acting and artistry EVERY day at school to not having a guarantee of when the next role will be. To give you an idea of the importance of the drive required out here, last year, on one of the casting sites I use for auditions, I self-submitted 141 times and heard back less than 3% of the time. But, overall, I find it is best to forget about each door knock and move on to the next one. 

Professor Haston- In addition to being a writer, singer, actor and musician and you are a producer of multilingual plays- How do you choose just one to focus on when you are talented in so many things?

Professor Peña – My identity as an artist is ever-changing and evolving. For a long time, I thought of myself as a music person, then as an actor. Then as an actor who played the rebel, or outcast. Also, my Latinidad, or relationship to being Latino, is something that has developed a lot and that’s a big influence as well on my art. I once heard that an actor is always working, though not always employed. It’s the idea, the notion, that you are not always getting paid to do it, but you can work on your craft no matter what. To measure that “work” I started using an app called “Toggl”  (because it’s what we do in the 21st century) to track how much time I was putting into my part-time job (because I have to eat) and track how much time I was devoting to my acting career. I decided to challenge myself and see if I could spend as much time on my acting as I was spending on my part time job. I think “Toggl” is meant to keep track of business projects, however, I use the free version of the app for what I need and I love it. I have it on my computer, iPad, and phone and I’m able to retroactively add events if I don’t use/have one of those devices to record my time and/or if I forget to. I’ve divided my time into 5 categories (I had “commuting” as a 6th separate category but now I include any commute time in with the activities I’m recording). This is, again, a way to see if I’m balancing my time well. If I’m investing too heavily in one area or not enough in another. While the goal is to at least have 50/50 between my part time and the other categories I find it important to remind myself that the ENTIRE amount of time I’m recording is an investment in my acting career. It’s a great way to motivate myself when I feel somewhat powerless or stuck and it also validates that I am putting my energies into my dreams. A big part of this is not beating myself up for the results, it’s a barometer and allows me to be aware. In the show “Slings and Arrows” a Canadian show about a Shakespeare company, they say, “Acting is an act of faith” – and I think that’s true but it doesn’t hurt to plan and prep.

The following are the categories I use to track my time and I’ll list examples of what I mean next to them:

Action – Acting Gigs, Rehearsals, Classes, Workshops, Working/Memorizing material, anything that would fall under “Acting”, “Performance”, etc.

Administration – Going through breakdowns, Sending submissions, Updating my Website/Resume/Headshot, etc. The “Paper Work” part of being an actor – which is a SUPER important part of it.

Associative – Meeting other professionals (actors, directors, so on), Creative Projects (music involving my experiences as a Latino actor in New York City), Research (which theaters are equity houses, info on casting offices, etc). The moves that are important for “playing the long game” of an acting career.  

Well-being – Meditations, Workouts, Physical Therapy, seeing plays and movies and “good” tv, taking in museums and art, day trips.

The events/practices/things that “fill me up”. 

Job – Thing that helps me make money to keeping doing what I want to do. It’s important that I title it “job” rather than “career” because it helps me keep perspective on the ultimate goal and/or what I want to prioritize.

Professor Haston- What is your reaction as a Latino actor when you see that Latino parts are not being played by Latinos?

Professor Peña- I have a strong personal reaction, professional reaction, and an intellectual reaction. My journey is complicated in that, I am not what popular media says is a Latino and I play with that dynamic in my music and my writing. Someone, i.e. popular culture, trying to tell me what my identity is, or should be, feels like a quintessential experience of a minority or person of color in the United States. It’s extremely complicated and very personal and also something that I think that hopefully is becoming more and more of a discussion, and little by little is getting more complicated, in a good way, problematized in a good way, and righted in a just way.

Professor Haston- What do you think makes you a successful artist?

Professor Peña – I think I feel successful when I can think to myself, I made “this” – I made that role. That isn’t to say there were not other people who contributed, the writers, the director, the crew, they all contribute but I like to feel like, “I put my name on that”. When I finish a song, I get the same feeling, that’s when I feel successful.  It also validates me as an artist to talk about my art. Doing things like this interview helps me stay present to the idea and feeling that I want to do this acting thing, out of the wonderful irrationality that is love.

Professor Haston- What advice would you give to your younger self?

Professor Peña- (chortles) Oh man, so many things…… Okay, well two things:

  1. “In the best way possible, if you can, let yourself take it less seriously.”
  2. “As patient as you are, sometimes you aren’t, and that’s okay, but believe me, believe me, believe me, the more you embrace the idea of not having a clock on things the better, better, better you will feel.”

Professor Haston- What is some of the best advice you have ever received?

Professor Peña- Ooh, there is a long list from my folks that just lives in my skin. However, one of the conscious responses that comes to mind is from Richard Robichaux- (Professor at University of California at San Diego),  “Trust that you are enough.”

The Meisner technique, as taught by him, helped me be as dangerous as I wanted to be, in the context of a stage, without anyone getting hurt or going too far. His teaching and his classes really helped me evolve back to being a kid and finding that sense of play. His technique helped me boil it down to the basics and really get back to myself.

Professor Haston- How do you respond to criticism because we all have haters!

Professor Peña- I love the framing of that question. I actually like critiques. I think there are so many ways to take it. Like, Oh cool, I see how I can take that and make it better because of what you are offering me. I can always “leave it” instead of taking it if I disagree. I have been fortunate enough to not have people just be mean for the sake of being mean. I don’t do or like social media so I’m sure that helps. I prefer face to face with people. Also, grad school is an excellent opportunity to learn the value of critique.

Professor Haston- Who is your favourite artist and why?

Professor Peña- Bruce Springsteen- He is my favourite because I have always felt an authenticity from the guy. I first listened to a “greatest hits album” because my pops had mentioned Bruce, and I remember hearing “Born to Run” and immediately loved the song. I was so in it, and then I didn’t like any of the other songs on the album. But because I was in middle school and only bought one cd every other month, (which was my favourite event as a kid cause I LOVED music, still do) I had to listen to the record over and over again and it grew on me. Bruce, in addition to having great music, is a great lyricist and storyteller and the poetry and lyricism in music was a new element for me to focus on. Before I was about instrumental or sonic experience of music with bands like Led Zeppelin. With Bruce’s music AND lyrics, though, there’s the sense that every song is about somebody that is fighting to stay alive, fighting for something better. The fact that he tells stories about people who are not pretty and up there and rich. He tells stories of teenage kids trying to get out of a dead end town, he tells stories about people working all day in a factory. He tells stories of immigrants who die crossing the Rio Grande. He seems like a real, kind, human being. A very wise, very empathetic guy. When he performs, he steps on stage and unzips his skin and ribcage and is just out there.

Professor Haston- What inspires you?

Professor Peña- What inspires me are the souls around me that unlock a part of my soul. My family, my partner, my friends. What inspires me are artists that are telling “people people” stories. I get inspired by any environment I am in. I was going to say the city, but the truth is, I am inspired where I am all the time. When I was in California, it was California. When I was in North Carolina, It was North Carolina. I am in New York, it’s New York. I’m very fortunate in that sense, to be constantly surrounded by inspiration.

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It seems a good thing for us all to take away, “Be inspired, right where you are,” and a good place to end so you can head to Arkansas to start rehearsal in Native Gardens

It would be impossible to encapsulate the entirety of awesomeness that is “Gab” in just one interview and that’s actually a good thing. How boring would life be if one interview covered the whole of the human experience of one person?

Think About It.

Princess Awesome Asked ME to Guest Post! How cool is that?

Dear Readers!

Today I am honored to tell you about a great thing that happened!

I wrote a post for a company I love called Princess Awesome, they let me know it would be posted today. I love this company and love their message.

In their words- “We believe that if a girl likes purple and also likes trucks, she should be able to wear a purple truck dress. And if a girl likes princesses and also aliens, then an alien princess skirt is for her.”

In mine–

Their goal is to “change the conversation” we have with little girls, with particular attention to how their clothes define who they are, it’s so easy to get lost in that mindset of “little girls wear pink and are pretty and nice and don’t get muddy” well… to that I say, “Open your mind” and also, “Meet my daughter” she LOVES getting messy and doesn’t care about wet in the rain and if she slips in the mud, she gets right up and smiles and heads right back to what made her dirty in the first place!

So if that is the case, maybe what we think about little girls isn’t really accurate, maybe it’s time for that to change… Past time, really!

Think About It.

Here’s the post- 🙂   “And Not But”

 

Happy New Month!

Dear Readers,

If you are wondering why I am wishing you a happy new month, it’s because I was reminded that we are 3 months into the year 2019 and it might just be time to take a look at the resolutions, or as I prefer to call them, “promises I have made to myself”

Instead of a resolution, what promise will you keep that you have made to yourself?- Professor Haston

Some people are talking about “less screen time”– We have touched on that in the blog before, that is different for everyone. Though I consider myself to be very conscious of that, it was not until I started tracking it that I realized how much I do use my phone so I became aware of it and have already made that a new promise to myself.

I promise when I am with my child, I will be on the floor and “looking at her and playing with her and my phone will be in the other room”

I have been doing this about 50% of the time, I think that is good and I can be better. Sometimes the phone is in the room and if she is playing with another toy or with her book, I will occasionally text or scroll. I think that is okay, and it’s important to me that she never thinks my phone is more important than she is so I have developed the not so great habit of sneaking my phone out and back under covers but I don’t want to teach her sneaky behavior either so I guess the goal is back to 100% no using phone when she is awake.. I might not be able to make that goal but here in the examination of it, I see it needs work. It’s progress, not perfection, right?

But enough about me — how about you?

What promises have you made? What promises have you kept? Do you need to hit that “reset” button ? Forgive yourself if you are not as far down that road as you want to be. You are on the road, aren’t you? So let’s have some praise for that and then move into whatever your “NEXT” is.

Think About It.

Our Little Nature Lover!

Dear Readers,

A few months ago, I discovered a great thing about my daughter.

She loves the outdoors. I mean really loves it. Every chance she gets she is moving slowly outside so she can be in it that much more.

In fact, I have started to give us a 10 minute “nature buffer” so she can amble around. It’s helping me to arrive on time with a LOT less stress, all in aid of helping her have the time to enjoy nature.

She can’t get enough of it. I find this highly amusing since I do not care for the outdoors AT ALL.

I mean, most of the time I would choose reading a book curled up on the sofa under a blanket. Then there are those times the book gets closed and I will watch a movie with her. Curling up with her, watching a movie is my idea of a great time. She loves the park and the pool, equally. The unadulterated joy on her face is so clear, that it has led to a funny outcome.

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I have actually started to see the world through her eyes and have grown to appreciate nature more and as I look at the stick or rock that she picks up and hands to me, I wonder with her at all this beauty.

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She will go out of her way to pick up a rock or stick or a blade of grass and she loves to run up to trees and sit under them. She is perfectly content to sit outside and walk around and gets so much joy in the great outdoors.

Her joy has actually led to my enjoyment of these outings to the park or even our yard.

NatureGirl1

I was struck by this today and realized she is teaching me to appreciate something I didn’t even know I was missing.

I feel humbled by this and can only hope she will keep teaching me to have “fresh eyes” when looking at something.

So whether you have a kid at home or not, I think we can all embrace the idea of learning something new about something we see every day. It might be a coworker who displays an interest in something you only have a passing interest in so you ask more questions, and learn some interesting things that if you had just dismissed it, you would have missed out on learning. How about a friend who tells you about a new hobby that you know nothing about? What could you miss out on by not listening, but only waiting for your turn to talk? We can all learn something from each other.

Think About It.

It’s the first thing we need, and the last thing we do… What is it?

Dear Readers,

When was the last time you said, you know, I have a ton of things to do, but you know what, I am just going to rest and do nothing today? Yeah, right!

With the idea that I always want to provide value to you, my dear reader, I would say that you are probably like most of us and you are WAY too busy with the stuff and things of life and as you work or take care of others, you should always remember to take care of yourself first. It’s easy to forget but keep this in mind.

It’s the first thing we need, and the last thing we do? What is it? 

REST!

Think about it, you would tell a good friend who told you they were tired or run-down to rest, right? Why not tell yourself the same thing? Because dear readers, you take care of others first and yourself second. Stop that, stop it right now.

Playing with my little girl, always fun, AND I need a break from THAT too!

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I know what you are saying, “Professor Haston, that sounds nice but between working full-time and taking care of my kids and my family… etc… I just have to put self-care on the back burner. Adding self-care to my list, is just that, another list ! Well, I hear you, and I think it’s worth adding it to your calendar as a to do at LEAST once a month. Baby steps, people!

Even carving out just 15 minutes to JUST BE and not scroll and not email and not log on to yet another location, but rather just BE you and just breathe.  (Something I did in November that I would DEFINITELY consider self-care)

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I think self-care gets a bad reputation but if you consider that you can’t fill others from an empty cup. When you don’t take care of yourself FIRST, your ability to take care of others takes a real beating.

Self-care is not Selfish, it is Self-Renewing. – Professor Haston

So as I do in every post, I like to give you something to takeaway, what would fill you with relaxation and “FILL” you up? Don’t give me a to-do list. This is about sparking joy and giving your self something to be happy about. This is my current list and here is the cool thing about self-care, there isn’t a wrong way to do it. For some, it will be reading a book, for others, that feels a lot like school. No problem, find something that makes you happy.

  1. Read a few minutes of a FUN book (not a self-improvement or business book)
  2. Go to the movie theatre and see a movie by myself.
  3. Get a manicure or pedicure or both.
  4. Make a coffee/tea/cocktail/phone/slack/skype date with a friend and KEEP it.

I can’t speak for you, but here are a few things that I do for self-care. Feel free to comment with your own ideas, let’s learn from each other.

Think About It.