What My Son’s Swim Class Taught me about Acting and Parenting!

I was very committed to getting my 4yr old to swim this summer. I loved swimming as a kid and would train with my swim club before or after school several times a week.   I signed my son up for a 2 week intensive swim class.  He had spent time in pools before but hadn’t really taken to it – I knew this summer would be different!

At the first class he wouldn’t even get in the pool.  At the second class he managed to get in the pool but hung onto the side in abject terror.  By the end of two weeks there was some progress.  He was in the water begrudgingly and even doing the occasional skill with the lifeguards, but he was far from comfortable and terrified of getting his hair wet.

It was so frustrating for me watching the other kids in the class making huge strides – jumping in, swimming, and going under water all with pure joy and exuberance.   Then I realized parenting is just like acting.  You research, make choices and form a plan but when “action” is called you throw it all away and just live in the moment. You have no idea what your scene partner will throw at you or where the scene will go.  You release control and go for the ride.  It’s “magic time” as Jack Lemmon used to say.

I was refusing to listen and be in the moment with my son.  I was holding tight to my plan and refusing to let go!  There was no point pushing for the results I wanted.  I needed to let go off my expectations and trust him.  He will swim when he is ready.  Comparing my son to other kids is a trap that can happen in my acting career too – “compare and despair.”  It reminded me of this fantastic article by Dallas Travers.

My son will not be swimming this year and I’m totally fine with it.  He is cautious kid who takes a while to warm up to things. He observes, gets the lay of the land (or the lay of the pool as the case may be) before jumping in. All I can do is continue to expose him to water and when he is ready he will jump in – literally and figuratively.

As I continue my parenting and acting journeys however, I have a feeling I will need to remind myself of both these lessons!

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Grant, Powell and a Squeeze of Lemmon – Classic Films I’m Watching this Summer!

I’m an actor and also a TCM NYC Classic Film Tour Guide.  It’s a great fit for me – passionate about both Film and NYC, I love how the two intertwine. I’ve been re-watching some of my favorites recently and thought I’d compile a list for your summer-classic-film-watching-pleasure!

In chronological order:

1. My Man Godfrey – 1936.

A classic screwball comedy.  The real-life divorced couple of William Powell and Carol Lombard have great chemistry. I also love Mischa Auer as Carlo, who is always sighing in the corner and does a hysterical monkey impression!

2. Bringing Up Baby – 1938.

Another screwball comedy filled with snappy dialogue, Howard Hawks infamous medium two-shot and an independent, strong willed Katherine Hepburn battling Cary Grant. (For fun watch the 1978 Superman afterwards, Christopher Reeves based Clark Kent on Cary Grant in Bringing up Baby.)

3. The Shop Around the Corner – 1940.

Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan.  My favorite scene is Jimmy Stewart slowly reading his letter of reference after he gets fired – so sad!  Inspired by the Hungarian play Parfumerie which also inspired the Judy Garland musical The Good Old Summertime, the Broadway show She Loves Me and You’ve got Mail.  (Some have implied that Stewart’s unrequited love for Margaret Sullivan is what kept him a bachelor for so long.)

4. Life with Father – 1947.

Set in the 1880s, William Powell is fantastic as the curmudgeonly father.  Parenting styles have changed a lot since then -“You’re too young to know what you like.  You have no business not liking oatmeal.”  It also stars Irene Dunne and a 15yr old Elizabeth Taylor.

5. The Naked City – 1948.

Attributed to bringing shooting back to NYC! Amazing footage, shot in 107 locations with a lot of hidden cameras.  It is a fantastic artifact of post-war NYC.  It inspired the docu-drama style – films like Kiss of Death and Call Northside 777 and won Oscars for cinematography and editing.

6. Some Like It Hot1959.

A charming and hysterically funny movie starring Marilyn Monroe, who gives one of her best performances.  The first of Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder seven collaborations. AFI’s #1 Funniest American Movie of all time!

7. The Apartment  – 1960.

Classic Jack Lemmon. A category-breaking blend of romance, comedy (straining his pasta with his tennis racquet,) drama (the suicide attempt,) and commentary on corporate America.  By 1960 The Production Code was beginning to lose its grip and the numerous playboys having extra marital affairs was pretty scandalous for the time. I love the typical unsentimental Billy Wilder last line, “Shut up and Deal” too.

8. Wait Until Dark – 1967.

A scary movie – Alan Arkin is an awesome bad guy who torments Audrey Hepburn.  You can visit the NYC location for the film on St Lukes Place.

9. Cactus Flower – 1969.

A fun and quirky film.  In her first movie role Goldie Hawn wins the Oscar for best supporting actress.  Ingrid Bergman, in a rare comic turn, also stars as the mousy secretary who finally blooms – and lets her hair down in an awesome 60s dance scene!

10. Marathon Man – 1976.

A fantastic thriller with amazing performances! The Classically trained Laurence Olivier and the Method based Dustin Hoffman sometimes had conflicts.  After Hoffman said he had been up for two days to get into the part, Olivier responded “My dear boy you look awful, why don’t you try acting.” Also known as the film that put a lot of people off going to the dentist!  The torture scene was originally meant to be a lot longer but it made the test audience nauseous so they shortened it. The first theatrically released film, to shoot with Steadicam too.

Happy Watching! What films inspire you?  What are you favorite classic films? I’d love to hear.  Let me know below.

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Time – There is a new Sheriff in town!

Juggling an acting career and motherhood, Time is often on my mind. Every day feels like a race against the clock as I try to get as much work done as possible in the 3hrs my son is in PreK.  I’m still surprised how much time it takes me to get my son out of the door in the morning, but that is a whole other story!

Pre kid – I often used to complain that I didn’t have enough time. All I have to say…. WHAT WAS I THINKING???

However Time is a funny thing….

Years ago, a bar I worked in closed unexpectedly and I collected unemployment for a few months before I found a new gig.  I was so excited about the idea as I’d have all this free time to focus on my acting career.  I was convinced it would create huge breakthroughs for me. However time expanded and I found myself just as busy without a job as I was with a job! I saw friends and went to the gym and without structure it took way more effort to get stuff done than before.  I got more done in an hour before heading to work than in an entire leisurely afternoon! Time was NOT the problem.

I need to remind myself of this lesson!  I can get a LOT done if I do the “right” things.  I try and focus on the out of my comfort zone actions, scary actions that yield the biggest results and not get trapped in minutia and busy work.  It has taught me to focus and prioritize and I’m a lot less precious with things.  I don’t have time to obsess over emails and re-read them a thousand times, I just have to hit send and move on.

In his book The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks states that we often think of time as outside of us as if it is something we can’t control.  In contrast he encourages people to shift to what he calls Einstein time and the concept that You’re where time comes from. I’m what he calls a classic victim of time as I have a lifetime habit of complaining about time.

His example –

Your son comes in and says, “Please play ball with me.”

Your respond “Sorry, I don’t have time right now

Next imagine instead that he comes in and says, “I’ve just cut my foot and there is blood everywhere.

Of course NOW you will help him.  In those two examples you had exactly the same amount of time, the TRUTH was that you did NOT WANT to play ball but you WANT to take him to the hospital.

Gay Hendricks would advocate saying “I want to finish what I’m doing before we play ball” as opposed to using a lack of time as an excuse.

When I first read The Big Leap, I tracked how many times I said, “We/I don’t have time,” it was astonishing! Habits can be tough to break but being accountable certainly helps!  So I declare – Time, There is a new Sheriff in Town! 

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