Saturday, January 25, 2020

Why Can't I Watch What Everyone Else Likes?

I am struggling with something. I am unable to watch many movies and TV shows that it seems the majority of people enjoy, and I'm starting to feel really abnormal. When I ask friends for recommendations for a great Netflix series to binge or for a movie to escape life with, I get suggestions like: "Handmaiden's Tale," "Don't F*ck with Cats," "Game Of Thrones" and others. I watched the first episode of  "Outlander," thinking I found that escape and a friend who knows me warned me to stop. The next 2 episodes, I was told, were filled with some pretty gory violence, including a horrific homosexual rape scene that even they had to fast-forward through. And I thought I was watching a "Somewhere In Time" type of time-travel love story. Geesh!

Scenes stick with me. I know that most are fiction, but the fact that some creative mind somewhere came up with such explicitly gruesome ways to torture someone, to inflict physical and mental pain, and further--to set up these scenes, to act them out over and over and then edit those scenes for hours- wow! That's intense.  The news cycle gets tougher to take every day, and now, at least for me, it seems entertainment has become tougher, too.  And that it is even IS entertainment for so many but not for me makes me feel like I'm not normal.  My soul becomes drained ...I look for an escape. And I can't find it in ways so many others can.

I have the ability (or, I guess at this point, I realize it is a curse) to be able to place myself into another's shoes. I have learned that this makes me an "empath." To see things from another's point of view, even if I don't agree,  has been helpful to me in personal and professional relationships. But this ability doesn't serve me well when I think about what another is feeling when I am watching a violent movie scene. It haunts me.

When I grew up (here comes the proverbial OK, Boomer), the shows on the 3 significant networks were just not that violent. The world was, but the fake world wasn't. In fact, I try to take solace in the fact that statistically, the world is better in 2020 than it was a hundred years ago--but our 24-hour news cycle that focuses on only reporting how shitty people are has many believing otherwise.

A quick sampling of some of my "favorite movies of all time" pretty much gives you an idea of what I consider entertainment. Sound of Music. Funny Girl, Airplane! Titanic and I could list tons of romantic comedies starting with Pretty Woman and going from there. My today streaming list includes The Crown, The Kominsky Method, Grace & Frankie, Nurse Jackie, Dowton Abby. My TV shows from the past to now: MASH, Cheers, Frasier, Will & Grace, West Wing, ER, Hill Street Blues, Thirty Something, Parenthood, This Is Us. Madame Secretary.

What's wrong with me, that I literally feel anxiety watching a movie knowing what might be coming up; that I can't watch what everyone else likes?  Should I suck it up and try? Does not watching these critically acclaimed shows have me missing significant parts of pop-culture? Will I never be able to answer trivia questions on things that came after 2005? My poor husband has to watch everything he likes when I am out of town. He is lucky I travel a lot.

If there's anyone else out there that is like me in this way--maybe we can form a support group. In the meantime, suggestions for positive movies, shows, and documentaries are welcome. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Walking The Dog Through My Neighborhood's Grand History

To listen to a spoken word version of this blog click HERE

My husband and I downsized to a condo this past fall, and one of the biggest adjustments has been the routine of walking our dog. Our previous home had a fenced-in yard, so all we had to do was to open the door. Our new living arrangement has us walking Scooby at least 4 times daily, which is good for him--and for us. Beyond the exercise, though, is the sense of history and nostalgia that overcomes me on my neighborhood walks. My current residence, a quaint condominium complex, sits on the grounds where an exquisite mansion called Harbel manor once stood.  

Harbel Manor
where our condo complex sit now
Harbel Manor was the elaborate estate of rubber baron Harvey S. Firestone. While not as large or architecturally significant as Stan Hywet, the estate of his Goodyear counterpart, Frank Seiberling, it was still a marvel set on 60 plus acres in West Akron. It is unimaginable that this house, like so many of its era, was sold to developers and torn down, but I understand that it was a common occurrence at the time. These huge mansions were seen as money-pits, and easier to tear down before many had the vision to re-purpose them into offices or apartments. How cool would it be to be living in a condo that was a converted wing of one of these incredible homes? It is doubtful that Akron could have supported two historical mansions - Stan Hywet and Harbel Manor, -but I’m guessing the tearing down of homes like these nationwide led to the founding of many historical societies here and elsewhere.  

Stan Hywet
The Seiberling Mansion
I grew up in this neighborhood, so to be living in it again at this point in my life is cool. My house was just off Merriman Road, a street known for its stately mansions. Although our home was lovely, it was modest compared to the nearby estates that were the heart of this neighborhood. Most of the homes on Merriman and surrounding streets were built between 1911 and 1930 by the rubber barons of Akron; the founders and executives of Goodyear and Firestone and the many other companies that flourished and made Akron the "Rubber Capital of the World." Back then, the smaller homes were around 5,000 square feet, while the largest, Stan Hywet, built by Goodyear's founder Frank Seiberling, was 21,000. 

When I was young I'd ride my bike uke up and down Merriman Road and marvel at the incredible size of these magnificent estates. I was especially enamored by the home of Paul Litchfield, the first CEO of Goodyear who was famous for many things, but most notably his overseeing the building of the first Goodyear blimp. His mansion was named The Anchorage (seems like all the estates had names back then) and sat on the corner of Merriman and Mayfair behind a tall black iron gate to which an anchor was attached with a chain. (I need to google the significance of the anchor) Litchfield and Seiberling were good friends and the Anchorage was nicknamed Little Stan Hywet, and he entertained quite a bit there. He hosted millionaires, politicians, scholars and even Amelia Earhart. who was in Akron buying tires for her plane before her infamous flight around the world. 

Th Anchorage
The Litchfield Mansion
That house provokes a strong childhood memory. One day I came home from a bike ride and my probably 7-year-old self told my dad I wanted to marry a prince and live in one of those castles, specifically The Anchorage, someday. My dad, who started Wilson Plumbing and Heating in Akron (now in its 3rd generation) was a practical man, but he humored me as I chattered on. I knew he knew a lot about these big mansions because they all had boilers, and he was a boiler expert and had been inside so many of these homes doing work- so I asked him a lot of questions. “Who lived in these mansions?  Were they big families like ours? I never seem to see any kids around.  But they give full-size candy bars out at Halloween, and the people answering the doors all look like grandmas.” He said many of those homes only had a few people living in them. "Why do they need all that room?" I asked. I suggested we switch houses with those people, they could live in our smaller house with 2 or 3 people, and our big family of 7 could live in one of the big homes. He smiled and gently explained that if you live in a big house like that, you have a lot of rooms to heat, and that would cost a lot of money. I didn't quite get it then that people with lots of kids had far less money than people with fewer or no kids and the irony that the people who needed the big houses couldn't afford them because they had all these kids! Ha!
Scooby walking along Firestone Mansion Gate

As I walk my dog every day, I happen across another mansion right across the street. It was once the home of Harvey S Firestone, Jr, and I imagine when it was built, it was just across the field from his parents' place. This home, thankfully, was not torn down, and it still sits in all its glory, a reminder of the grandeur and history of this era of Akron. It is currently listed for sale with Sotheby's, and from the photos, it looks as though the owners have retained its historic majesty. It’s a mere 5 million, and if someone decides to turn it into apartments, I’d love to be a tenant. In the meantime, I’ll keep walking the dog.
Harvey Firestone Jr Mansion Today

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Grief's Life Lessons

Click here for spoken word version of  Grief's Life Lessons


Your brain's natural emotional response to loss, although it doesn't feel natural at all. Grief is the true emotional suffering you feel when someone or something you care about is taken from you. After a loss, grief's pain can come on so suddenly that it cuts like a knife, stabbing you when you least expect. It then can also fade to a dull throb that is just "there" somewhere in the background.

Sadly, grief is a malady for which there is no cure, but there is some respite in its lessons.

1.  Things Do Get Better...with time
After I lost my husband, I remember someone said to me that "in time...things will get better." And I was so frustrated by that. I didn't want to hear it. The pain was so strong (especially at night, when totally alone with my thoughts) that I wanted someone to just make it STOP. Right. Now. Can I hit fast forward? Can I take a pill to numb myself? Can I go to sleep and wake up in a month, or two or more and feel better? With every loss I have experienced, I know, things DO get better. Memories that used to induce tears and be so unbearable I'd push them from my mind, begin to offer comfort and bring a smile, even a laugh as I cautiously allowed them back in and fully embrace the details of an experience. To listen to that song again. To open that closet. It takes time, and although I hated that revelation, it also kept me sane knowing it would get easier.

2. Each loss is unique
When I was in college my grandma died. She was well into her 80's and I was not particularly close to her, and although I felt sad, I was surprised and even felt a bit guilty that it didn't affect me more.
The next death I experienced was the death of my beloved first dog. I had her for 12 years and although I have had many more wonderful dogs since Jessie--I still feel her absence in my life.
She was my first experience of responsibility. She depended on me. She helped me through jobs, relationships,  breakups, marriage, and kids. When I made the decision to end her pain, the memory of her head in my lap as she transitioned still makes me tear up. I think of her often, still, almost 25 years later. I remember thinking that I grieved more for that dog than I did my grandma, and feeling that was wrong. But now I get that you can grieve the loss of all kinds  Loss through the death of a person or pet. The loss of a relationship. The loss of a job. The loss of freedom may come when you experience illness, a disability or a financial crisis. The phases of shock, anger, sadness and overall emotional confusion is grieving. Don't feel you have to lessen or trivialize your feelings of grief because it doesn't match an other's loss experience. Pain is pain.

3) There is guilt in relief
With any death, there seems to always be guilt and it is unproductive, but you feel it nonetheless. The loss of my husband came after his valiant battle with cancer. When he died, it was awful, and yet I was relieved. I was relieved he was out of pain. I was relieved the difficult process of caring for him,  my kids, and working--was over. I was relieved my daughters' fear and pain watching their dad fade away was over. And there was guilt in that relief. When I watched my mom slip away from Alzheimer's... her smile, her spark, her personality and her memory of all of her kids was replaced with anxiety and fear and anger--I felt relief when she was released. And I feel guilt in that relief. The death of my dad and my brother were sudden, and that grief was so much different. It's so hard to rationalize why one loss left me shattered, for months, even years... while I seemingly recovered from another differently. I felt worse about my dog than my grandma? What were my last words? How could I have behaved differently? What could I have done better? They are gone and you are here and all you do is think and over-think. Guilt is part of the process.

Grief changes you. It can make you angry and bitter. Or more empathetic and understanding, Or both. But as painful as it is to experience, to not experience it would be worse. Because if you feel intense grief it means you felt intense love.

Grief is the price you pay for love. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

4 Things to Consider Before You Quit Your Day Job

Welcome to my blog, and accompanying podcast. If you prefer to listen rather than read, or listen and read along, click here for the podcast.

Have you ever wanted to quit your day job? I just finished my first full year of self-employment and today I want to share my thoughts on 4 things to consider before you leave a job--whether by choice or necessity. And while these might be especially applicable to my area, the radio business, some could be true of any business. First, a little background.

In mid-2018, I did what I wanted to do for a while; venture out, be my own boss, and start my own business. I wanted the flexibility to be able to get on a plane and spend time with family and friends far away when I missed them-or when they needed me. I wanted work to fit into my life, not the other way around. 

It wasn't a completely insane idea, because I had actually started a side hustle 20 years ago. I was in my 12th year as program director for WDOK in Cleveland when I decided I wanted to step away for full-time voiceover work, but back then, I had a bit of a cushion. The famed and fabulous radio consultant Mike McVay--who was our consultant (and my mentor) at the time, had recommended me as an image voice for a number of his AC client stations after hearing how I sounded on 'DOK. So armed with his recommendation, about 10 stations as clients, and a cool little home studio my husband built for me, I worked from home and had the ability to be around more for my school-aged kids. To make things even better, after I left the station, Mike asked me to join McVay Media as one of his AC specialists. But 2 years in- it happened. I got a phone call and a job offer and was lured back to radio programming because, well, quite honestly, I missed the heck out of radio, and also, financial security became a priority after my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Going back to full-time radio work in 2001 was not only good for my mental health but also my fiscal health, because within a year I was a widowed single mom and sole support of my 2 pre-teen daughters. 

I've spent years in multiple formats, the last 12 in country radio, but always wondered, "what if I had stuck with the voice imaging these past 20 years? Would I be like Roberta Solomon, Jen Sweeney or a host of other female imaging pros that I so admire now?" The itch to get back into full-time VO work just never went away. I had continued to do freelance voice work and writing projects all these years-so what if I tried it again? I mean if not now, then when, right?

So armed with probably too much confidence (um...what's that saying? "confidence is the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation?") I walked away from a well-paying gig to relaunch my career in voice-over and writing. I'm not naive, I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I would be lying if I said I was surprised at the various things that have made it so tough. 

Here are 4 points to consider before making your move.

1. You Will Be Humbled
With a VP title and the responsibility of overseeing a couple of radio stations and a staff of people reporting to me, I had a certain amount of power and privilege. That perhaps gave me an over-abundance of confidence and ego that I could do anything! On the one hand, without that confidence, I may not have made the jump...but once away from a position of authority, things change. You no longer have a staff of people looking for your direction, advice or opinion. Your phone rings less. Show biz, like any biz, is full of people who have to act like they like you to get what they need, whether it is a song played on your station, or a staff member wanting something. Now, the decisions you make affect far fewer people. Advice? Don't be a jerk. Be the person people will miss (not be relieved) when you turn in your resignation. Be the boss you'd want to report to. Be clear, honest, and fair. Be the colleague people will want to stay in touch with when you don't have any power anymore.

2. You'll Grieve
If your work was a big part of your identity, you'll miss it. Or maybe you won't. But I do. So much of what I did in my day-to-day engaged a big part of my brain's creative side. I love actively creating with other people. I loved my team. I loved brainstorming ideas for marketing, contests, and promotions, writing creative copy, and doing all this with a team of creative people. And the music! Country radio especially is known for its relationships with artists and labels. Record label reps became my friends and many artists have my cell number and they actively communicated with me on a regular basis. I miss all of that. There was pressure, sure. There were nonsense, politics and hard work...not all were creative and fun--but when you do something for so many years and then you stop, you have to know you will grieve that part of your identity. Consider and come to grips with how much of what you are is what you do.

3. Ageism is a thing-but don't let it stop you
I'm at that strange time of life. Not yet at retirement age, but closer to the end of my career than the beginning. So I get a lot of comments like "how are you enjoying retirement?" and I find it challenging to not sound defensive or aggressive when I attempt to explain that "I'm NOT retired" and in fact, I am working a lot harder for a lot less. And speaking of a less...start that process now...but I'll get to that in a moment. When you leave a job by choice or necessity, it is important to remind yourself that while you may find yourself competing with people a good bit younger than you for future opportunities, you have a wealth of experience that is incredibly valuable, so don't let your age shake your confidence. In the right situation, you can mentor someone younger, and they, in turn, can mentor you. The best work situation is a diverse one, so be proud of the experience and the knowledge you bring and USE it to your advantage.

4. Live on less. A lot less
Pretty much every financial expert out there encourages you to live well below your means, and I can't stress that enough. I saved half of every paycheck for well over a year. I set a goal of how much I would need to live on (to pay the mortgage, utilities and have some sort of disposal fun money) just in case I didn't get any clients for the first 6 months. If you have a partner who is bringing an income, whether it is less or more, live on just one income for 6 months. It's amazing when you really pay attention to where your money goes you realize how much you waste on stuff you just don't need. Even though I thought I had a grip on the finances, this past year has really taught me some financial lessons.

In closing. It's been a scary year of rebirth and growth; of exciting successes and more than a few disappointments. I thought my name, my track record and my list of accomplishments all would have people lining up as clients left and right, ha! So it's been a little harder than I thought. But I do have some great clients that I am proud to represent with my voice, and my writing skills. And I'm going to keep plugging away. 

And maybe...just maybe I have one more radio gig left in me before that elusive retirement. I guess as they say in the radio business....stay tuned!

Click to learn more about and hear demos Sue Wilson Creative

Friday, December 6, 2019

All The Ways To Give

I attended a remarkable memorial service a few months ago for a most remarkable man, and it is still affecting me. After hearing the story of this self-made billionaire and philanthropist from the many who eulogized him, it is clear that Mort Mandel fully participated in every one of his 98 years, right up to his last breath, and in doing so, enriched the lives of so many. In a quote from his 2013 book "It's All About Who" he said, "I think of the world as having a huge number of candles and only a small percentage are lit. I devoted a big part of my life to lighting as many candles as I can. To light a candle is to make the world a better place."  The things Mr. Mandel did for others went far beyond his financial generosity, and during this season of giving, his example has inspired me to think about the many ways we can light a few candles, even if we don't have the financial wherewithal of a wealthy entrepreneur. Here are some ways to give that go beyond a monetary donation.

Every single one of us has something we can teach someone. If you have strong communication skills, you could work with someone who struggles with social anxiety or has difficulty being “heard”. Perhaps you have killer social media skills.
Teach someone you work with how to improve their online brand.Tutor a child. Give a music lesson. The best thing about sharing knowledge is that you can give it away and still have everything you started with.

We all have a lot of stuff that we just don't use, or need. But where to begin? There’s a very cool charity called GiveBackBox that makes it easy to donate, while being “green”. Here's a quick summary: The next time you get an Amazon delivery, save the box. Then, fill it with your unwanted items, such as gently used clothing, shoes toys, or household goods. Go to GiveBackBox and print a prepaid shipping label. Attach the label to your box and drop it at a UPS store -or wherever you ship your items, and off it goes to make a difference in the life of another person. Find out more HERE

There are so many wonderful organizations in your community that need help. If you love animals you can walk dogs or cuddle with kittens in your free time. Stuff envelopes, file, or help with administrative duties in the office of a non-profit you believe in. Serve food at a local food pantry. If you need ideas, this website Northeast Ohio Family Fun has a ton of volunteer suggestions.

Blood donations can help save people's lives. Right now, in the time you are reading this, someone, somewhere is greatly in need of blood. It truly is the gift of life.
Visit The American Red Cross to learn more about blood donation.

Share (the love)Facebook has a wonderful Fundraiser feature that lets you raise money for your favorite non-profit and makes it easy for your friends to just click and donate--with money going straight to the charity. You can also use Go Fund Me or other free crowd-sourcing sites to raise money for your own cause--maybe you know of a family that needs help with medical bills or perhaps you learn of another worthy cause. Once you set it up, you can use any one of the many social media platforms to spread the word. Pay It Forward For Pets.
This organization does tremendous work to improve the lives of pets--and people! One of my particular favorites is a wonderful local animal welfare non-profit,

Whether through money, time, or talent, may we all be inspired light a few candles to spread whatever light we can, for as long as we can.