full time

It’s a Conundrum

I have so many good days, when I am super productive, I have tons of energy, and I get more accomplished than I had ever thought possible. On such days, sometimes a crazy thought creeps through my head: what if they’re gone? What if just as suddenly as they came, I will never get a migraine again? Then, like a load of bricks dropped on my head, I wake from my sleep with the throbbing pain behind my right eye and I hope that I get the medication in me in time so that I can take the lowest dosage possible. So, how can the good days seem so immeasurably good and then the bad days I am just so thankful for each task that is completed. When making toast seems like climbing Mount Everest, the vast contrast between the good days and the bad days of this working mom is mind blowing. But here’s the real kicker: I speak for a living. As a migraine sufferer, on bad days, I don’t want to talk. At all. The sound of my voice seems to echo against the inside of my head and is excruciating. How frustrating that all of the things I am passionate about, including voice over, are not easy on migraine days.

Making it Work

As a working mom I try hard to exhibit good coping for my twins Emma and Jack, so laying curled up in a ball on the sofa all day is not a good longterm strategy for a chronic problem. When I’m “lucky,” and believe me I am using that word loosely, my migraines will come on a weekend and I can sleep them off. Often they come as they like as they are triggered by all sorts of things: stress, lack of sleep, my cycle, the weather, so in short- life triggers them. When they come on a week day I try to take the medicine as early as I can. I tend to be a heavy sleeper and wake up confused, but if I can actually get the medication in me early, that helps. I try to always have both coffee and ginger ale in the house as they help. My strategy then changes. Daily routines will be completed, but anything extra gets pushed to another day. Nothing fun will happen on a migraine day. I try to give myself a break and only do what is essential. Booked work will be recorded. Auditions will likely be skipped. All emails will be replied to. I will likely defer any direct marketing. In terms of mom tasks, if I can ask Harlan to help with anything, I do!

Planning Ahead

My migraines started when I had my twins, almost 17 years ago. It is safe to assume I will have them until the kids go to college, so now, like with everything else, I plan ahead. Here are some tricks that help me a lot, just in case a whopper of a head ache should descend:

              • Pack school lunches the night before. I actually make sandwiches or entrees for a few days at a time so that I just have to grab the sides each night. It really speeds things up!
              • Have set laundry days.
              • Order groceries weekly so your house is always stocked with the basics at minimum.
              • Plan your food for the week. I have a weekly print out so if I am down for the count someone can figure out the food.
              • Make sure to refill the migraine medication regularly. It is terrible to realize that you have run out at 3 am when you really need it. Keep a stock of it on hand.
              • If you cannot drive on your medication, as I often cannot, make sure you have carpool arrangements that are flexible for your kids.

Voice Over Specific Issues and Migraine

There are work related tasks that I will and won’t do on migraine days. I will happily do any self-directed sessions at my leisure. I will happily record short and normal length scripts. A migraine day is not the day to have an ISDN session with new clients and multiple people giving directions. My brain just can’t process the input and it is not a smart, career promoting move. I also wouldn’t promise to deliver 10,000 words of eLearning with a migraine. It doesn’t mean I couldn’t record a few modules, but I pride myself on being a meticulous editor, and nothing is meticulous when you are on such strong headache medicine. The other task I would avoid on migraine days is voice matching. I have a knack for being able to match others’ voices and my own past jobs. But, on a headache day, that is just too tricky and I would wait.

Pros of Working with a Migraine Sufferer

Yes, I wish my migraines would stop and never come back. But, I do think they have changed me. I have so much more understanding of what people with much more serious chronic illnesses go through. I am much more patient. I am genuinely thankful for every non-migraine day. I am very sympathetic when others have to reschedule and are under the weather.

The Changing Face of Learning

Do you ever spend time around young people? As the parent of teenage twins, I can tell you that they learn and absorb information and academic content VERY differently than I did. I loved going to libraries and digging through stacks. At their age I remember researching on micro film and micro fiche. Everything I read was tactile and had different textures and weight to it but was some kind of paper or scanned version of a paper.

Today, I see my children sprawled across their bed surrounded by multiple devices. They read a lot but they only read books when a teacher gives them an actual book. Instead they read on many devices, seemingly at once. They will have their phone out, their computer out, and an iPad out, and they will be working on multiple screens getting input from all of them. To say that I am both baffled and simultaneously concerned about them getting cancer from all of the electronics is one thing, but the point is, as someone who deals with eLearning content all of the time, that this generation absorbs content differently than Gen-Xers.

As a full-time professional voice over actor who narrates eLearning modules on a regular basis, I am connected with a lot of content creators on LinkedIn and I follow a lot of them on Instagram. I saw this fantastic graphic posted by the instructionaldesignlady pictured here. This graphic fascinates me as I work with content for all platforms, but more and more content is going from mobile learning to Ubiqitious learning, so let’s tear into this a bit.

The Shift From Traditional Learning

Once upon a time, companies used to have to gather all of their employees in one spot to train them. If millennials and xenials don’t like interacting with actual paper, imagine how their heads would explode if they had to do back in they day traditional corporate training, or even get on a plane and fly somewhere to be trained, which used to happen, often!  HR departments began to realize that they could hire folks like me to narrate their training modules, and this training had a great value, because now days of work did not have to stop and large groups of people did not have to be moved to one location to get this training done. I still am hired to do plenty of traditional eLearning on a fixed computer or network, it still happens a lot, and there is still a lot of very creative training like this.

M-Learning Emerged

A few years ago I started to notice a big shift to mobile learning. I attended an eLearning Guild conference in San Diego in June of 2017 and the entire focus of the conference was on everything mobile! Now companies could train the employees anywhere, anytime, and why not have fun in the process. Gamification became a big buzzword. At that point, we went from just being narrators as voiceover actors, to really giving the content creators and instructional designers the characters for the roles that they needed. 

U-Learning is the New Rage

So what is the trend now? As the instructionaldesignlady says, “Ubiquitous learning is the highest form of learning that occurs in a variety of learning environments using a variety of digital learning tools. It’s learning interactions that happen anytime anywhere. This is why perpetual learning is the new normal.” So when she talks about perpetual learning, she is talking about my kids with their multiple stimuli, and at the same time the fact that these devises are glued to them, it can happen any time, any where.

From an employers perspective, if you were trying to reach out to your young, blossoming work force and mold them, now instead of having limited time and boundaries, there are no boundaries in this environment and the possibilities are infinite. If U-Learning transcends the boundaries of eLearning, than the only barriers are imagination and budget.

What are the implications of this?

If we’re connecting the dots, this means that there is a lot more training work and specifically U-Learning work for us to create and brand! There will be plenty to be voiced and narrated, and instructional designers will be busy as can be, because as the landscape changes, the need is only increasing significantly. Further, as the technology improves by leaps and bounds, companies want to have the cutting edge training with the most innovative tech for their teams. I watch with awe as  see the LMS improve, I see more talent in design, so as the overall creative space is improving, there is more and more room for all of is to collaborate and create outstanding eLearning and U-Learning.

Where Am I Going With This….

Even though I work full time, as a mom of teenage twins, I am in the car A LOT. My SUV has a great sound system, and I confess I enjoy belting it out. The other night I had a realization though: unless my four year old niece is in the car, I am typically belting it out alone. And it is not that I am not playing great music, because I can assure you that it is always a party when I drive. I think it has more to do with the personalities of my husband and kids.

I asked  my son Jack why he didn’t want to belt it out? Perhaps the music should be even louder? His response: it’s just not him. He, and they, are just not wired up that way. In contrast, I can’t keep it in. I dance. I rap. I pour my heart and soul into it. ACDC. Snoop Dogg. Gladys Knight. Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t matter, I’m into it! So what on earth does this have to do with voiceovers? Well, people often ask me how I got into voice over or how I started booking work. It’s a tricky question. There are a lot of talented people who do what I do. There are also a lot of people who have had access to the training that I have had. They may even have the demos that I have. So, what sets us apart? Our schtick. Our unique personality and spark. The ability to put my dignity, airs, “whatever” in the metaphorical back seat and whoop it up for the clients, is essentially what I have been practicing for years. One of my beloved coaches, Fred Frees, used to tell me if I was going to “make it” I had to be fearless in front of the microphone. This singing in the car is exactly the same thing. When you have the reckless abandon to belt it out in front of everyone, odds are you will also be fearless in front of the mic.

Are there personality traits of Voice Over Actors?

So here’s an interesting question that I get. Just like in every field, all types come to voice over. I do find that the industry friends that I have are kind, supportive, and an overall super friendly bunch. We all have to wear our emotions on our sleeve, because if you can’t hear them, no one will hire us! So, I do find that in voice over people are typically willing to share, and that openness makes everything better.

Do We Actually Sing In Our Work?

Yes!  I have had to sing for Indie Video Games, Toys, and Commercial Jingles. I have also sung for mobile apps with Nursery rhymes.  Some people who have had a lot of musical training have singing demos. I do not, folks just ask me to do it and I send them my best. A lot of the voice over talents that work in animation sing a lot. As that has never been my bread and butter, I do not do that.

What If We Don’t Sing or Sing Terribly?

Don’t worry! Our job is not musicians. There was a spec on a job I was sent last week that specifically said that they wanted someone who was not perfectly on tune so that it sounded natural and not overly polished. I think a more commonly sought after skill is the ability to sing in character, which has a lot more to do with staying in character, and less to do with hitting each note perfectly. That being said, when I have sung for toy demos, I have to do scales and have to hit each note in the middle and it takes a lot of work and concentration for someone who did not grew up singing!

My Thoughts

I did not go into voiceover because I wanted to sing. To the contrary, the jobs that involve that component are typically my hardest.  The point of this is that the silly abandon that we have when playfully, often gleefully belting it out in the car whether we are alone or have an audience of 3, that is what we need to bring with us into the booth for every job. The ability to switch gears as quickly as a song changes on the radio is priceless. The ability to reinvent ourselves every two minutes is also priceless. All the professional training in the world cannot change the feeling that you have in your gut. I have been told by another coach that I “dive in” rather fast. I believe that, too, is one of my greatest assets! Whether it is a new station I am imaging for and each take on a line needs to be fresh, or a 15 second holiday spot, or an eLearning module, be the talent who is willing to shake things up and delight your client at every turn!

When  People Just show Up

As a full-time working mom, I have a pretty rigid routine from day to day. On Sunday mornings, I typically relish my quiet time with my kids, and although I am home alone with them because my husband is usually playing basketball, I am usually working. On a Sunday morning, I tend not to be in my recording studio, but instead tend to be comfortably seated at the kitchen island and I usually maximize my time between 9am and 12 pm writing my weekly blog post and working on that weeks marketing goals. So this Sunday, when my very loved and very welcome in-laws walked-in unexpectedly and unannounced at around 9:15 am, I had a quick choice. And really, it was no choice. I needed to abandon my work plan and go with the flow. The work would be there when I came back to it but my opportunity to make my family feel welcome and appreciated would be fleeting.

In order to understand this scenario, you need to understand a few key details. First, members of our immediate family, both on my side and on my husband’s, all have our garage code. So, they tend to just enter the house, much like on a sitcom. We often have no idea who is coming when or how long they are staying. They just show up. Luckily they all get along really well. Next, this may give you the mis-impression that I am in some way relaxed. Quite to the contrary, I am wrapped very tight. When my twins were born, my husband and I agreed that an open-door policy was more fair to all grandparents. We didn’t want them to miss out, and so all of this craziness, is the result of said policy. So, I have had to change my behavior and learn to “go with the flow” a bit. What does that mean. Well, according to zenhabits.com, “What is going with the flow? It’s rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.” So yesterday, it meant holding off for a better time to write and just enjoying my family. And you know what, I did!

There is another issue at play. I think people get a vibe when they are greeted. Do you want the people you love most in the world to feel welcome and like there is a red carpet for them, or do you want them to be unsure if they should be there? I want my family to want to come over. According to hospitality.net, “the spirit of welcome is so important in creating a strong foundation for the guest experience. Each person, each point of contact, can add so much to the ‘welcoming’ experience for guests! A welcome goes beyond words, it creates a feeling of caring and gives a sense of pleasure. A sincere welcome reaches out and positively pulls guests in to the hospitality environment they have chosen and makes guests feel like they have made a good choice. A cordial and courteous welcome gives guest the feeling they have been invited to join the setting even though they chose to go on their own. The power of welcome is to affirm the guest made the right choice and is further welcome to enjoy.” I think we only get one shot at this feeling, and if I had excused myself to go do work, it just would have been all wrong.

It takes a Village so In turn we need to be part of the Village

When I think about how families connect, I often think about this video I once saw of a family singing Les Mis karaoke:

 

It’s amazing, right? I find this incredible because my family will come together to watch Seinfeld or a movie, and we really come together to eat, but this is well-beyond our skill set. But what I think we do best as a family is raise mensches, and I couldn’t do that alone. I think that the reason my kids are so sweet is because they have the attention not just of their parents, both of whom work, but of their grandparents, their aunts, and their uncles, and I think it does take a village. When that village is fragmented, the kids are the ones who suffer. When you wonder how these characters end up on Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil, maybe it was those moments of choice and instead of sticking together and just being together they chose wrong over and over again. My daughter has been watching a lot of Dr. Phil recently, and when I see clips where he admonishes family like this I gather that they made one mistake after another until they stopped supporting each other.

The Time Goes way to Fast

I feel like just yesterday my  twins were tiny babies coming home from the hospital. We were worried that the pot holes would hurt their heads because they were so small.  Now they will be driving in a month. I spend many hours every day alone in a padded foam booth. So, when family comes over unexpectedly, I have decided to look at it as a gift. I think sometimes it is life telling us to slow down and take it in. I do feel like hitting pause is ok. I am blogging 24 hours after I planned. I am not sure when I will work on my instagram posts. Will I get them done? Yes.

How did our day end up yesterday? We had a wonderful lunch as a family at our mall. We took my little niece with us too. We then went to Target and the grocery store. My family come out from NYC and we grilled for dinner. We were all together and it was wonderful. At the end of the day, it was more important to me that my family feel important and loved.

It happens to be a beautiful sunny day, so I may want to take my kids out for lunch, but I think that will be okay too.