Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Back To School

I went back to school today, and I am exhausted.

To be fair, I did not actually start taking courses. Rather, I went to school with one child and began investigating new schools for another. I did not have to crack open a book (except for the guide to middle schools). I received some handouts, but did not have to fill in any of them. I did not have to raise my hand to answer a question so that I'd get a good class participation grade, and I didn't have to check my cell phone at the door (as many schools now require). I did not have to stand on a cafeteria line and take a chance on school lunch, and I did not have to worry about whether my outfit would please the "in crowd." I just had to listen, and watch, and try to understand what my kids go through each day.

Most days, I go to work, and give it my all, then come home and give that my all too. I am quick to remind my kids how easy they have it--not having to worry about making a living and supporting, and being responsible for, other people. All of those things may be true. It may be that the sum of what I do each day is more significant or time-consuming or brain-absorbing than what they do. Yet, at the end of today, I wasn't quite sure. Of course, we adults worry about money and about helping to mold caring, responsible children, and about doing our jobs well. But if we are lucky, our jobs are in a field that we have at least partly chosen, not in five to eight assorted subjects, some of which we like and understand and some of which completely puzzle us. If we are lucky, the children we are trying to mold have some underlying attachment to us, and we to them, so that the molding, while tricky at times, is a labor of love. And if we are lucky, the worry about money, though it may never let up, doesn't occupy our every waking moment.

Today, I saw first hand some of the things my kids have to handle during the myriad hours when they are not with me, and I have to say, I was impressed. They adjust to how different people want them to think. They stay engaged over and over again on a schedule that might have our heads spinning. And they do all of this while they are still in many ways trying to figure out who they are.

Today, I went back to school. I leaned a lot, and I had moments of wanting to return to some simpler version of life from my past. Having seen what I've seen, I think I'll just keep trying to support my kids while they handle it, and I'll thank goodness every day that I am where I am.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Promo Day

Today, a promo that I edited "hit the airwaves"--YouTube, social media--those "airwaves."

Now, I edit every day. Things I edit play into news and business shows, and for years, other things I edited were seen by hundreds of thousands of people watching TV. It's just what I do. But today, when my promo hit the mini-airwaves, I was struck with an excitement that I haven't felt in a long time.

Perhaps it was the fact that I'd done this piece of editing on found time, in minutes and hours between getting children to school and getting myself to work.

Perhaps it was that it was a labor of love, a project that made me smile with each soundbite and image and snippet of music.

Perhaps it was that it was for an organization I believe in, an organization that I hope will benefit from my work.

Perhaps it was that it allowed me to prove to myself what I can do.

Perhaps it gave me a little sense of product being as thrilling as process.

Just as a promo allows you--forces you--to tell a big story in a very small period of time, this "promo day" allowed me to celebrate, just for a moment, a new twist in a long career path.

A promo that I edited "hit the airwaves" today. Check it out at

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quiet, But Not Really Quiet (With Thanks to Matilda)

Did you ever wonder what happened to the quiet, peaceful weekend you were supposed to have when you had no plans, or the quiet apartment you were supposed to have when the kids had gone to bed and you'd passed the time when noise is allowed by building rules? Quiet, it seems, is not really quiet.

Now, in these specific circumstances, I brought the "not really quiet" upon myself, simply by having children. Whether they're crying as infants or expressing themselves as teenagers, children are, by nature, designed to take away quiet, and not just the volume version. For, you see, when I talk about quiet, I'm talking not just about volume, but about peace of mind as well. And that kind of quiet is hard to come by, whether you have kids or not.

Quiet is having a clear head when you need one.

Quiet is the feeling that what needs to be done is done.

Quiet is the feeling that you can read, or craft, or whatever it is you do with completely free time, without feeling as though you are neglecting something.

Quiet is the ability to be still--in your thoughts, in your choices, in where you are right now.

The truth is, quiet is not such a simple thing, and no matter how much I think I may crave quiet, it is perhaps the noise that really keeps me going. The constant striving for something different or better--the lack of quiet--is what keeps us active, and perhaps active, even if it's noisy, is the best way to be.

So, I can retreat if I want, shut out the noise when I need to (and believe me, sometimes I need to), but ultimately, it is the noise that will keep me striving for more, looking to make things better, and making sure life stays interesting, every single noisy day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


My daughter is in search of the perfect monologue, a minute or so snippet of a play that, when she performs it, will be the calling card that tells people who she is and what she can do.

While I have taken a little dramatic license with my description of a monologue, it sounds an awful lot like something more familiar to us non-actors--a resume. Just as a minute of monologue will get my daughter in the door or not, considered highly or not, a resume (often read for even less than a minute) is designed to do the same for us. A monologue may be full of words written by someone else, but how my daughter plays those words will make all the difference. And while the words of a resume may be our own, it is often how we tailor them to our audience that gets us more than just a first look.

For my daughter, there is the challenge of finding something enough "like her" to be believable, yet enough of a stretch to show off her acting. Long enough to generate interest, but not long enough to bore. For both of us, it seems, there is this imperative to put our best self--our most "right for the part" self--forward, in not much more than the time it takes to say "Hello, how are you?" And that's not easy, when we are far more than just a string of words.

I wonder sometimes why so much has to be based on so little. Sure, there is a skill to presenting yourself well in a few words, whether out loud or on paper. But does that skill really translate to what your skill level will be once you're in the door? Is your success in the one-minute exercise an indicator of your flexibility or your ability to work hard or your efficiency of language? Or is one-minute presentation simply the only way to keep things running in a fast-paced world?

My daughter will undoubtedly find a monologue that she can make her own, at least for now. Who she is and who she wants to present will change from audition to audition, just as the person I want to present will change from job to job. The key--for both of us--will be finding the things that "play" quickly and well--that tell the story of us, and what we can do, all while our audience is still listening.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Scheduling Errands

I like running errands. It makes me feel as though I am using my spare minutes, and between working and parenting, there are not many of those, so when I can squeeze the necessary and the "just for fun" stops into my day, I feel as though I have accomplished something. If I've gotten milk, I can say that if I accomplish nothing else all day, at least I've gotten milk. If I can pick up some needed school items as soon as the office supply store opens in the morning, it's one less thing to worry about later. And if I head to work just early enough to hit the bank first, I'm not scrambling to figure out how to buy fruit or pay a babysitter later. For me, errands are less about doing chores and more about using spare minutes to make life work.

I discovered this morning that errands have an additional purpose. One of today's errands took me farther afield, out of my path, but well within my capability. As I walked to take care of it, I wondered whether it would make me late to work, or wiped out once I got there. As I relaxed into errand mode, however, I began to enjoy seeing an area I don't usually travel. I started to enjoy the extra walk and feel good about being able to accomplish just a little more. In the end, I was not late or wiped out (well, at least not until later). While the errand was a small one, I had accomplished it before my work day even started, so again, I had the feeling that if nothing else productive happened, at least I had that.

For most of the time I was working in soaps, the days started so early, I couldn't even imagine getting anything significant done before taking out my script and stopwatch. It was a schedule that I lived for years. If I had errand time, it was later in the day, too late for considering errands "under my belt" before the day started. Somehow, everything--or at least enough--got done.

These days, post-soaps, there are lots of pieces of adapting to a world of new work--new people, new challenges, new pay scales, new expectations. What I am realizing is that along with all of these comes new interpretation of time. If we are to succeed as jobs change, it will be by making the most of the time that we have, no matter when in our day that time falls. For me right now, that is in a long morning, but, work being what it is, that schedule could change at any moment. The errands will still get done (at least most of them). The challenge will be adapting them and the rest of life to changing schedules. But that's just how work is these days. 

So, if we are to buy that milk and get to the bank, it will be because we have adapted to new schedules, and have found new ways to schedule our errands. And, in the process, we will likely also find new ways to measure our daily accomplishments--milk, bank, work, or otherwise.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Screen Vision

It's not hard to have tunnel vision, or, in the case of those of us who look at screens most of the day, screen vision. When we are focused all day, every day on what we see and do on the screen in front of us, we spend many hours thinking of not much else, and the hours after that unable to think of much else.

Yet, every so often, when we take a break from our daily screen routine, we are able to see a little farther. Whether it is a conversation with a person we rarely see, or a newspaper article that provides some inspiration, or a little observation while we ride a bus, time away from our normally narrow range of vision enables us to see things that might seem obvious, but have eluded us as we look straight ahead.

There's nothing wrong with staying focused on our daily tasks, those things literally or figuratively in our "screen vision." But doing more than just getting through our days requires a little more. It requires that we look away, that we open our range of vision a little wider, so that we see and hear more than just what's right in front of us. It might be that we get a different perspective on the news when we talk to someone about it, rather than just reading or watching updates.  It might be that we discover a gem in our career development not from scouring a job board or keeping our nose to the grindstone, but from reconnecting with a friend. It's not about denying the usefulness of our screens, for work or otherwise. It's simply about turning away long enough to see things from a slightly different perspective.

So when you're done reading this, take a look around you, even just a little to the right, a little to the left. You never know--it may give you a whole new perspective.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Year Stops

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to start a new year, whether the new year is on the secular or Jewish calendar or whether it is the anniversary of an event or job. We are programmed, it seems, to think that a new year should produce changes--improvements, perhaps, in our outlook, choices to do things differently, recognition that with the new year, we are, in some way, starting over.

Yet, the more I have thought about it all, I cannot help but see the real value in the "new year" as the fact that it makes us STOP, whether for a day, or for just a few hours. While stopped, we can do the thinking that we never have the time or energy to do. While stopped, we can both appreciate and assess where we are, without necessarily having to decide where we should be. While stopped, we can live in the moment, rather than having to plan for the next one.

So, while the start of a new year may be a momentous thing, I am actually looking forward to the stopping that it brings. There will be plenty of time to move forward--a whole year ahead. There aren't that many opportunities to stop, so we may as well take them. Before it's time to start going into the new year.