Posted by: maureen in play, meditation, decision on
May 1, 2013
That’s what Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side
, reportedly told his mother on the second day of kindergarten.
I can relate at least a dozen times a day, whether making beds or washing dishes or working out: “What, again?”
Matthew Sanford in his book, Waking
, calls this a quiet death. The day we realize, for example, adult life is deeply repetitive.
Maybe that’s why they call it the grind.
The grind is a series of decisions
, and the most important decision you’ll make is your attitude about what you’re doing right now.
When I remember to approach making a bed
the way an artist approaches a canvas--to really get into it for the sake of that and nothing else--my brain goes out to play. What’s fun for my brain is solving problems, apparently. Because by the time I’m finished I have the answer to something I’ve been wrestling with. Maybe it’s the subtitle for a new book. Maybe it’s what to make--er, assemble--for dinner.
Whatever it is, it reminds me housework is as much meditation as anything else. It’s a lovely frame for the rest of life--disguised as a mindless, boring task that was always anything but.
Posted by: maureen in play, personality, laugh on
Mar 13, 2013
Once upon a time the people ushering me from one rung to the next on AT&T’s corporate ladder gave me some coaching.
I was about to be interviewed for a midlevel management position, and the suggestions were specific: “Cut your hair. Wear a suit and top it off with one of those (silly) little ties. And whatever you do, tone down the bubbly personality!”
Which I did. I sat in the lobby of a swanky office building in Kansas City, petrified. The receptionist--who later became one of my best friends because she was a sweetheart and thought I was, too--took me in. And at first she decided, “What a (insert unflattering noun).”
I carried off that oh-so-cool corporate demeanor for--what?--about three hours once I got the job. I’m surprised I was hired, considering the receptionist had shared her first impression of me with anyone who’d listen.
I had a lot of fun during those couple of years in corporate America--flying to and from New York City, for one thing, to attend still another marketing meeting--even though I hated the actual work. Which mostly meant, to borrow from Dave Barry, keeping the blame balloon afloat. I wasn’t very good at that, to begin with--but we had a lot of laughs at my lame (and occasionally adequate) attempts.
Oh-so-cool is so not me.
The highlight of that job was after my boss told our staff he thought we had a very honest, open group. I turned to my nemesis and said, “I agree. I have to believe that what you say behind my back isn’t any worse than what you say to my face.” Everyone cracked up. My boss pulled me aside later to tell me he thought I was the reason the group was so much fun. An agent would echo that many years later: “You don’t have any filters.”
Okay, so that would suck if I aspired to be a poker player. But I hate playing games--except for Scrabble, and Tetris.
I’d rather play it straight.
Posted by: maureen in work, play, moment on
Feb 4, 2013
Ever wish you could take every book you’ve ever read, and read it again? I do. I bet it would explain a lot.
Many years ago I read The Three Boxes of Life
, by my friend Dick Bolles
. Dick pointed out we used to spend the first part of our lives learning, the second part working, and the third part playing. The goal, however, should be like what Lawrence Pearsall Jacks
described: “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both.”
From then on, that was my
goal--for who I am and what I do to be the same. To be learning, working, and playing at once--and not have it be obvious, even to myself, which I’m doing more of at the moment.
If you can succeed at that, the people who hassle you for working such long hours won’t matter as much. Not that they’ll believe you when you say, “I’m not working. I’m playing!”
But that’s okay. As Mother Teresa
reminded us, it was never between you and them anyway.
Posted by: maureen in wisdom, play, laugh on
Jan 8, 2013
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
That’s wisdom--or at least, I’d call it wisdom--from a new book, The Dude and the Zen Master
Jeff Bridges is one of the authors and this little gem is worth lingering on, I think…
“Kevin Bacon and I recently worked on a movie together, R.I.P.D.
Just before we’d begin a scene, when all of us would feel the normal anxiety that actors feel before they start to perform, Kevin would look at me and the other actors with a very serious expression on his face and say: ‘Remember, everything
depends on this!’”
I’ve had a little bit of a thing for Kevin Bacon ever since his character in A Few Good Men
teased Tom Cruise’s character about the not-so-strong witnesses he had in reserve. “And handsome, too,” Cruise’s character fires back. Bacon’s character cracks up. To think he might be as playful in real life? Oh…
It reminds me of a story I once heard about a bus driver who, when asked how long the trip was going to take, said the following: “I don’t know. We’ve never made it.”
Who can you make laugh, today?
the Lord’s work.
So help me God!
Posted by: maureen in smile, present, play on
Dec 22, 2012
“It never gets old.” That’s the report I gave Katie when I woke her up on a recent Saturday morning, telling her how much fun I’d had prepping the show the night before.
You should’ve seen the look on her face. That smile! It was as if I’d given her the best Christmas present ever.
You want your child to be happy? Go first. Let her watch you be happy
One thing that makes me happy is keeping samples of my best work handy. They help me remember what I’m playing at.
I don’t know if this is my best work, but it was handy--a video excerpt of my interview with Tama Kieves earlier this year
I get inspired all over again when I watch.
And if the same thing happened when you did? That would make me really
Posted by: maureen in work, tennis, play on
Oct 16, 2012
“What is it about Katie that makes watching her play tennis such a joy?”
That’s what I pondered through Kate’s last match of her high school career. Oh sure, there’s the hairstyle and the hair ornament and the endless touchups of the bright red lipstick between games--the woman has her priorities--as well as the sportsmanship that’s made her a legend.
That isn’t it.
She dives after every ball with intensity--but that isn’t it, either.
It’s her personality. It’s the look of relief--and the sharp exhale--when the opponent with a particularly killer serve smashes the ball into the net. It’s the delight when she accidentally flings the ball so high it hits the bubble above the court. “Cool!” she exclaims, as she loses the point but wins over more of the crowd. It’s the smirk she gives a teammate who hollers an encouraging cliché--when she’s apparently thankful for the sentiment but wondering some variation of, “Have I not trained you to be more creative?”
“It’s not tennis to you, is it?” I thought to ask during still another recap of the season. “It’s improv.” Her face lit up. “It is,” she said. “It’s a performance. I’m putting on a show, and I want people to be entertained.” With Katie it’s all about fun, something that--from casual observation all my life--I realize is rare. It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s whether you have fun. Have fun, and learn a lot. Katie knows at seventeen what it took me much longer to realize--and some people never do.
It’s not work. It’s play. And if that play on words is impossible to process, I hope you’ll consider the possibility you’d be better served--and better at serving the world--in a different line of work.
Posted by: maureen in play on
Sep 17, 2012
I’m going to tell you a toy story. No, not that one
. But the hero hailed from the same town as Pixar Studios--Emeryville, California. His name is Mike Wood, and he was teaching his little boy how to read when he had an idea. What if he could create squeezable letters of the alphabet that would make the sounds the letters make? When you squeezed a B, for example, you’d hear “buh” as opposed to “bee.”
Mike left his job as an attorney to make a prototype. He raised eight-hundred thousand dollars, and met with a buyer at Toys “R” Us. The buyer told Mike if he could make the toy at the proposed price, Toys “R” Us would buy sixty thousand of them.
And the LeapFrog
company was born.
Soon Mike was getting letters from happy customers. “My child was supposed to stay back at the end of first grade,” one parent wrote. “He didn’t want to go to school. He was embarrassed and humiliated. I’d tried everything. I bought him the LeapFrog product and he worked on it all summer. He just got out of the second grade and he’s the best reader in his class.”
Doesn’t sound like child’s play to me.
Posted by: maureen in play, moment, awe on
Jul 29, 2012
When’s the last time someone got tears in her eyes because she was having so much fun working with you?
It happened to me Saturday. I interviewed Katie for the show, to help teenagers--and their parents--decide what extracurricular activities would pack the most enrichment for the time spent.
Katie hasn’t participated in everything--but if you listen to her
, you may wonder what’s left. She crammed more into her junior year of high school, for example, than I thought would fit. And while she’s the first to admit this lifestyle isn’t for everyone--unless living on the brink of exhaustion sounds fun--it makes her one heck of a tour guide for the after-school crowd.
When Katie was little we kept the outside-of-school stuff to a minimum. I was only being selfish. I
wanted to play with her. I knew the time would come when she’d want to be involved in everything, and we’d only see her for meals and changes of clothes. That time is now. I invited her on the program in part for the chance to get reacquainted.
She couldn’t get over how much fun she had, how quickly the time passed, and how easy it was. I couldn’t get over how poised she was. She did better as a seventeen-year-old than some of my other guests who supposedly make thousands of dollars on speaking gigs. I was in awe.
I was in awe, and she was in heaven. Toward the end of the hour I could see the tears welling up, that’s how much fun she was having. To have it happen on the radio, with me, will be a difficult if not impossible moment to top.
Posted by: maureen in play, game, expression on
Jun 12, 2012
There’s a wonderful expression that goes something like, “If you aren’t playing in a big enough game, you’ll mess up the game you’re playing just to give yourself something to do.”
That will be all.
Posted by: maureen in television, play, entertainment on
Mar 4, 2012
If all your kid wants to do is watch television, maybe you have a problem.
If all your kid wants to do is play
television, maybe not.
I’m glad Kevin Clash loved watching Sesame Street
so much he devoted his life to Being Elmo
People like Beyoncé are glad Vinnie Potestivo spent his childhood playing TV. Vinnie, who auditioned Beyoncé for her first acting role, used to work at MTV and now has his own entertainment company. “I’m the oldest of six,” Vinnie says, “and I have a lot of cousins. So I always had an audience. I always had willing participants. And since I was the oldest the other kids did pretty much what I wanted them to do. We’d put on plays and make videos, and I just always dreamed of doing it for real.”
Now that he is? “It’s every bit as much fun as you’d imagine.”
What if you
imagine getting into the business yourself? Vinnie suggests you submit an application
. He promises to look at it.
And tell him The Career Clinic
sent you. It would be a nice way to thank Vinnie for being such a treat on the show.