Monday, September 1, 2014

Working The Holiday

I heard from a friend who felt bad that I had to come back from the weekend early so that I could work tomorrow. As far as I'm concerned, I beat the summer holiday weekend traffic, and I'm grateful to be working, holiday or not.

A hundred years ago (well, not a hundred, just a long time ago), when I was first working at OLTL, there was talk that the Friday after Thanksgiving would be a work day. So I very quickly went from being a college student heading home for the holiday weekend to a working person whose family came to me, cooking turkey and the fixings in my third floor walk-up apartment. Years later, I carried scripts and schedules with me when I had work to accomplish over the Christmas hiatus. These were just things I did--if the job required it, it was just what I did.

All these years later, you might imagine I've been working long enough to say "no." Perhaps I have. And yet, I've also been out of work for long enough stretches that I'd rather say "yes." I remember all the holiday weekends when I nearly went crazy when I realized that no one would be reading my brilliant cover letters on a holiday. Realized that what felt like "dead time" for me was actually "easy living time" for other people. Realized that all I could do was immerse myself in the holiday (just without spending any money!), since I was powerless to change what would happen after the holiday.

So, yes, I am cutting the holiday weekend short to work tomorrow. And when I show up at work, I'll be very grateful that I did.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Early Alarms

I woke up to an alarm this morning. After going alarm-free on the weekdays for much of the summer (I wake naturally by 7), I set an alarm for a Saturday, of all days.

Was it preparation for the impending start of the school year? Perhaps. It will be a shock to all of our systems when my kids have to go back to flying out the door in time for buses and trains that get them to early classes. I may be a morning person, but the absence of a buzzing/ringing/trumpeting sound at five a.m. has been a relief, even to me.

So why, then, on a Saturday, did I choose to wake to that sound? Because I saw what I wanted to get done, and I saw it passing me by. Sure, I could luxuriate in hours of sleep and wake up at noon--that's what Saturdays are for, right? Or I could fit more of what I like to do (and a few things that just need to be done) into a Saturday, simply by rising to shut off the ringing/buzzing/trumpeting and facing my day.

Having packed in a day of fun and accomplishment, I am glad I did it. Had I slept till noon, I wouldn't have done half as much, and I'd likely be tired anyway. It's been a good last Saturday before school, and it's given me faith that the early-rising days ahead will fill us with new experiences and accomplishments.

It's not that those days of early alarms will always feel good. But some days, like today, I think we'll consider them worth it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peanuts Quiz

I don't do quizzes-really, I don't. All those "what kind of person are you?" or "who's right for you?" or "what should you do next?" things generally strike me as no more helpful than a fortune cookie in determining who I am and how I should live. Yet, today, when I saw a quiz about what Peanuts character you are, I just couldn't resist. You see, I am a Peanuts lover from way back. So, considering that Snoopy and company started shaping my life at a very early age, I figured the least I could do was find out (through a VERY scientific survey!) what Peanuts character I most resembled.

As I started answering questions, I didn't think about guessing. I simply answered honestly and left the rest to chance. And when all was said and done, I was Linus, and the accompanying description stopped me in my tracks. It talked about philosophy of life, and approach to things, and it reminded me a little about who exactly I am.

I know--it's just an online quiz. But in a life in which I sometimes feel that I'm just trying to keep up--to stay competitive, to make a living, to maintain an organized and productive household--it is easy to forget exactly who I am and what I think about anything. So, for me, Linus was a wake-up call-- a reminder that I am more than what I do, and deeper than what I "produce."

I can't say I'll now be taking every quiz that comes down the pike, but this one was a good way to start my day and to end my week.

I guess maybe all these years later, Snoopy and company are still shaping my life.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Un-clutter My Heart

My home has two kinds of clutter--the large objects that we have bought or acquired that are fantastic but have no place in an NYC apartment, and the piles of paper and assorted small objects that manage to self-generate on a fairly continuous basis. I have just about given up on the big ones. My main responsibility is keeping the small ones at bay. Which, believe me, is no small task.

Each night (or every few), I tackle a pile. The items, which range from mail to old school papers to hair ties to pieces of toys or games, are redistributed--sent back to their original owners for reorganization. The problem is, while the "original owners" may be willing to claim a hair tie or some stray Legos, the majority of the items tend to remain unclaimed, so it is up to me to decide what little treasures escape the garbage.

Easy, right? If no one wants it, just toss it. This may work well for toy parts and rubber bands, but what about last year's essay that got an A+? What about the cartoon that took hours to draw, or the paper evidence of a game that occupied my son and my sitter for hours? What about the manuals to random items and the discount flyers for the ten musicals we want to see but might never get around to? Nobody wants any of this, but if I am not the guardian of our past, present, and future, who will be? And so, the piles get chipped away, or moved to other piles, but are never quite gone--the daily self-generation makes sure of that. So the clutter remains.

Many years ago, I heard a "clutter consultant" (I think they are mostly called professional organizers now) speak about how clutter in your life could really get in the way of your getting things done. I get it--there are many things I'd rather do with my time than sift through papers and piles. The question is, where do necessity and history end and a clutter-free space begin? Would I give up items that make me smile in order to have a clear dinner table? Can I remember enough of my kids' growing up not to have props to refresh the memories?

I like smiling, and I like memories. So, while I'm sure I can get a lot better at moving through the present-related clutter, I suspect I'll be holding on to some of the stuff from the past. If I have to share my space with a first grade cartoon or a fourth grade essay, so be it. I'll clear my table, and my head, some other way.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


How many hours of how many days do we spend looking for something better? Better body, better job, better wardrobe--no matter where we are now, it seems that we always feel there's something better out there.

There's nothing wrong with self-improvement. If we go to the gym or eat healthier foods to have a better body, we win. If we take a course or read a book to know or understand our field (or another field) a little more, it can't help but make us better. "Better" is a good thing, right?

Striving to BE better is a good thing. Where we get stuck, I think, is in believing that where we're not is better than where we are--in forgetting to be grateful for what we have because we're so busy looking for something better.

Am I suggesting that we settle? Absolutely not. There are always changes that can be made and improvements that will, well, improve us, and our lives. But when we focus only on the improvements and the changes, only the "better," we risk messing up the "pretty good" that we already have, and in the long run, that doesn't make ANYTHING better.

So, go ahead--work at being better. Just don't forget that you might already have it pretty good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As If...Suddenly

Sometimes, you can go through things feeling as if you are all alone. As if no one can feel how you feel. As if, even if you used to have a spot where you fit, the fit isn't quite right anymore. As if your work and your words don't have the same effect as they used to. As if you can never really explain why A isn't connecting to B, and why how you are beginning isn't getting you to the right ending.

And then suddenly, you talk to a friend who understands, or a co-worker who feels what you feel. Suddenly, words that it seems as though you have said a thousand times are heard, and appreciated. Suddenly, a step you've taken actually opens the door on which you knocked. Suddenly, the joke you tell makes somebody laugh, and the words of help you offer actually help someone. Suddenly, the creative juices you couldn't get to flow are there again, as if they'd never left. Suddenly, you are seen the way you'd like to be seen.

And suddenly, it's as if the feeling of alone was just a moment in time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothing Yet

I've been working with iNews this year. This spreadsheet-ish type program coordinates the pieces of a newscast, showing editors what video clips need to be built, showing directors and producers how the show will flow and how long written pieces and videos run, and, in general, tying together the work of many people in assorted rooms and on different floors. With iNews, I can get clip numbers and notes from producers and writers that essentially give me a roadmap for how to work, even if I am sitting in an edit room alone.

Quite often, news stories connect directly to one or more videos that exist on the major news sources. Sometimes, however, if the newscast is taking a different approach, I will see the note "nothing yet," meaning there's no matching footage. So, I move on, creating other videos for stories that already have video.

The thing about the "nothing yet" note is that it rarely stays until the broadcast. Sometimes, it is replaced with the name of a video clip--many stories just need a few hours to have video released about them--so I build it. Sometimes, I am directed to use photos--a reasonable substitute if there is no moving video. Sometimes, the story is made "on-cam"--while a picture (or video) may be worth a thousand words, a story can still be worth telling, even if the anchor is just telling it. And once in a very long while, the story is simply removed from the show.

The point is, "nothing yet" rarely means that the producer has given up on the story. It simply means that there is not a simple solution. Throughout the day, a new search or a new way of thinking usually produces results. "Nothing yet" is not an answer--it's just a temporary placeholder.

If we were to give up looking every time we couldn't easily find the "pictures" we wanted, we wouldn't have much of a story to tell most days. The best stories happen when we hang in, look at things from a different angle, and apply what we know to finding what we know might be out there. Stopping at "nothing yet" leaves us with, well, nothing. Going beyond "nothing yet" gives us the chance of creating endless new stories, often complete with pictures AND video.

It's not about living by spreadsheet, or coming up with the flashiest "pictures." It's about remembering that, in news and in life, "nothing yet" is far more than "nothing."