Sunday, September 30, 2012


Today I went with two of my kids to Governor's Island, an odd little spot across the water from Manhattan, reachable by a free ferry.  The adventure, of course, is not free, since once there, you rent bicycles and have lunch.  Nonetheless, it has been a place of fascination for my son ever since his camp had a field trip there last summer, and it is only open from May through September, so on this, the last day of September, we were off!

I could tell you about our biking and the quadricycle my daughter and I struggled to pedal (man, I really thought I was in shape before that!!), and how we got caught in the rain, but truthfully, that's not really why I decided to write a post called "Islands."

Over the last month, I'm sure I have talked at least once about the isolation of not working.  Many hours spent alone, looking for job leads or doing the housework that now falls squarely on you, and a general feeling of battling the financial and emotional stress of the situation alone, an island in a rather unfriendly sea.  Almost as hard, I have learned recently, is choosing not to be an island, in short, asking for help when you need it.  Not being able to do what you want, the way that you used to, makes you feel embarrassed and powerless.  But what I have realized in the moments when I chose not to go it alone, is that asking for help, hard as it may be (and I've certainly cried before, during, and after doing it), may be the most empowering thing you can do.

When I was working as an AD, if a problem arose, I'd go to the people who could help solve it.  If we needed a last minute, unexpected prop, the prop department or the scenic designer.  An actress or director spilled something on her pants--wardrobe.  Someone wasn't feeling quite right--the cameraman who also happened to be a paramedic.  The point is, when I was working, I was never an island.  Why should I be one now?  I still have the job of protecting and supporting my family.  I still have the job of connecting to people so I can get work.  And if asking for help here and there makes those things possible, it is no less important than getting a card with a turkey, not a pumpkin, for the One Life to Live Thanksgiving show.

There is no way any show I've worked on would have happened without many layers of support--a small city, I used to call it.  Asking for help and working together was how it happened.  I may be alone a lot of the time, but I am not alone in this process.  So no more island for me--unless I'm sailing to it on a ferry with my kids.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Moving On

When soap life ended, one of my colleagues moved to North Carolina.  Another applied to grad school in education and is now working toward being a teacher.  Whether because they'd found different callings or they were simply looking toward the future, they moved on.

While I thought at the time that I was moving on too--networking through Women in Children's Media, attending Director's Guild events to expand both my knowledge and my connections, and learning some After Effects, I am beginning to think that "moving on" needs to mean a little more.  For while in my head, I have believed that I can move on to other forms of television, the reality (no pun intended) is that "moving on" may mean something other than just shifting genres.  My colleagues who moved on looked at their skills and their lives and made choices that depended not on the transferability of skills on a resume but on their innate skills or what they wanted for their lives, be it a desire to help others or a desire for a slower, simpler life.  Underlying it all, they had the bravery to make the leap from the known to the relatively unknown.  While I've thought I was moving on, I think perhaps I was moving in a circle, following only the path of the items on my resume, networking too close to home, trapped in the patterns I've worked within for so many years.

So from today, the circle gets bigger.  Editing starts to mean storytelling, storytelling means putting together pieces to entertain or educate.  Directing means working with people, encouraging their strengths and making them a team.  Producing means covering the bases to get the job done, and writing means using the words to put out any number of messages.  Bottom line, no video necessary, no need to see my work on TV.  My skills go farther than that.  I'm moving on.

Friday, September 28, 2012


It was one month ago today that I started publishing this blog, and I thank all of you who have been reading every day (or even every few days--hey, I worked on a soap, I know viewers skip days).  Feel free--no, I mean, FEEL FREE--to share the link with your friends.  Maybe they'll also find something they can relate to.

When I started the blog, I didn't plan how long it would go.  I just started, knowing that because of the soap reference, it would be daily, and then I set it in motion, which is, I guess, how many soap operas started.

My own career in soaps--television, for that matter--started much the same way.  A lucky break gave my first job, and things were set in motion.  I never thought when I started as a production secretary, "Oh, I'll be a producer or a director, or a writer."  I just started.  I worked hard.  I made mistakes and learned from them.  I laughed when I could.  And when opportunities arose, I jumped in.  And before I knew it, 23 years of promotions and firing and coming back and memories and good friends had happened.

I don't imagine that this blog will last for 23 years.  Hey, it doesn't even earn me the $234 per week I was making when I started as a production secretary.  But as I learned then, you can never be totally sure where something will lead once you set it in motion.  I never thought I'd get to direct on a soap or believed I'd have actual Emmys in my apartment.  I never, never dreamed I'd work with Bill Cosby or that doing so would come out of being fired from a job I loved.  And yet, all these things happened from what was set in motion that day when I started at One Life to Live, typing (on a typewriter, not a computer) production schedules, buying groceries, and delivering scripts.  So I guess you never know what will come from this blog.  Thanks for sharing the ride so far with me.  I'll try to keep it a really bumpy, really interesting one.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I'll Sit in the Dark

I often spend a large part of my day at home in the dark.  Not dark-dark--it is daytime, so some sunlight comes in, but I often turn on few if any actual lights.  My husband finds this incredibly funny--the first thing he does upon walking in is turn on lights.  I just find that the dark focuses me (though I will admit, there are isolated days when all it really does is make me want to go back to bed).

Why the dark?  When I was working in TV studios and edit rooms, I was certainly no stranger to the dark.  The studio was always dark (not dark, as in nothing happening, dark as in no light!), except for the set where we were shooting, the control room was lit only by a wall of monitors and some spotlights illuminating our scripts, and the edit rooms were often just me and the light of the computer screen.  So despite the fact that I have for years avoided driving in the dark, I became quite accustomed to working in the dark, shutting out all except the work at hand.  Old habits die hard, I guess.

I've read all sorts of things about working from home--dressing the part, setting aside a work space and work hours so that the time you save on commuting doesn't get completely consumed by your dealing with all sorts of household chores during the time when you're working.  So, since our apartment doesn't really allow for a separate work space, and I can't really justify wearing "Dry Clean Only" clothes when my day is bookended by waiting at school bus stops, perhaps the dark is just my way of carving out a work space for myself.  So let them laugh, and squint, as much as they want.  I'm in the dark, and I'm getting my work done.  And I like it that way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Yes, there is some irony to my writing about a meal on a day when I've been fasting.  Truthfully, I've been thinking about food since I woke up this morning and didn't have breakfast.

So what makes dinner blog-worthy?  It is a baggage-filled meal in our home.  While breakfast and lunch tend to be eat-what-you-want meals, we really do try to eat together, so unless we're ordering in, which we try not to do too much these days, the challenge is to find something, or a set of somethings, that will satisfy everyone.  Well, actually the other challenge is to find something I can make without ruining.  For which we have all (or at least most of) the ingredients in the house.  And which will be reasonably healthy.  See--baggage.  Oh, and we've got one who won't eat anything that was ever cute, and another who avoids cheese, and a third who will try things as long as he can put unlimited ketchup on them and as long as he didn't eat six times between coming home from school and sitting down for dinner.  And a big somebody who sometimes eats lunch at 12 and comes home starving and sometimes eats at 3 and would happily just have salad.

So, here I am, once again pondering dinner.  When I was working, there was a time when we decided that our babysitter should give the kids dinner so that they were not always waiting to eat with us at 8pm.  Problem was, even if they ate at 6, they wanted to eat again at 8.  We gave that up pretty quickly.  Now that I'm here most afternoons, timing is no longer the problem, but deciding what to have remains.

So--where was I going with this?  Oh, yes, as full of baggage as dinner was even when I was working, it has become a central part of my existence now that I am home.  It is part of how I "prove my worth" in our family unit now, and honestly, if I were cut out for proving my worth that way, I would have become a chef.  So while I do it, and my husband and kids are not malnourished (or obese), I look forward to the day when my "worth" gets proven some other way and we go back to having some dinners made by my husband (who actually could have "proven his worth" as a chef).

For tonight, I'm just glad to be eating and writing.  Another year of fasting done.  Shana tova and bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur

With Yom Kippur quickly approaching, I thought I would be writing about atonement or guilt, or at the very least, about fasting.  But I find myself compelled by the "Yom" part.  The part that means "day."

My days go very fast.  The morning part, when my time at the gym, waking, feeding, and preparing lunch for 3 kids and getting them all off to school makes 5-8:30 go very fast.  The midday part, when I try to accomplish as much working and looking for work as I can between 8:30 and 3, goes very, very fast.  And the "kids are home" part, from 3:30-10:30 (yes, they stay up too late), when I retrieve and/or transport the kids and get them fed, homeworked, and bedded down, might seem long, but goes so fast, I'm collapsing into bed before I know it.

So for me, this Yom Kippur is about taking a day to slow down and think about the days.  I know I am filling them--I could make long lists of what gets done--but am I filling them with things that will matter a month from now, a year from now, five years from now?

Well, let's see.  Going to the gym--I think that will give me more energy not just today, but a month from now.  And hopefully, a healthier body five years from now.  Getting the kids on their way for the day will mean (I hope) smarter kids, and hopefully, starting (gulp) 4 years from now, good colleges.  Working--particularly if it's on good projects for good people--generates powerful energy for me and for them.  Looking for work, will, I hope, make a difference next month and five years from now in my family's future.  And the interactions I have with my kids--whether it's my high schooler hanging out at the dinner table to talk about her day, or my middle schooler doing a crazy song and dance once she's eaten, or the heart-to-heart talks I have with my third grader right before he goes to bed--there is no question that those things will make memories that will last well beyond five years.

So as I take this Yom Kippur to evaluate my days, while I can say that I'd probably be better off spending a little less time yelling and a lot less time surfing the internet for the next big job lead, I can honestly say that most days are filled with pretty good stuff.  And this Yom Kippur, or five years from now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Not Perfect

While my kids were away for five weeks this summer, I spent many hours each day excavating in the room they share, trying to go through and thin out 14 years of accumulated books, toys, school papers, and assorted tchotchkes.  I would like to say that their room now looks as though it was renovated by a decorator, but I can't.  It's a whole lot better, but certainly not perfect.

I find myself saying those words a lot.  When I can't drop my daughter at her friend's for a sleepover until 8pm--not perfect, but it's still a sleepover.  When I tell my son he needs to ride his bike in the local park, not the one that would require schlepping the bike on two trains and a ferry--not perfect, but it's still biking.  And when the pasta's somewhere between al dente and mush, so neither my husband (the al dente guy) nor my kids (the mush fans) is completely happy-- not perfect, but it's dinner.

I wonder sometimes, does my complete embracing of non-perfection mean I am settling for less than my best?  And does it teach my children that whatever you can manage to do is enough?

On the contrary, I think I consider "not perfect" to be one of the best coping skills known to man (or mom).  "Not perfect" means that the effort and intention count almost as much as the result.  "Not perfect" means that it's okay to go to sleep even if not all the messes are clean.  And "not perfect" means that there is no reason to beat yourself up every time things don't go quite right.  Because, let's face it, lots of times, things don't go quite right.

So while I am home with my children, freelancing/unemployed (not perfect), perhaps the best thing I can teach them is that "not perfect," even if it's not the goal, can actually be pretty good.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pen Tops and Bottom Lines

When I was a PA at One Life to Live, in the days when I set four alarm clocks because I was sure I would be fired on the spot if I were ever late to 7:30am rehearsal, there was an actress who rearranged the tops of all of our pens each day.  Blue pens ended up with green tops, purple pens had red tops.  You get the idea.  She said it was so that any actor who borrowed a pen and didn't give it back at the end of rehearsal could look at it later and know it needed to be returned.  I think she did it mostly because it was great fun.  She was a tremendously gifted actress who did wonderful work at One Life (and went on to other things after), but when I think about her, the first thing I think about is how she always found ways to make the long days fun, both for her fellow actors and for the crew.

As we go through life, it is, of course, terrific to do the best job we can, to excel in a certain area, to be known for being at the top of our profession.  But when people remember us, I wonder, do they remember how proficient we were, how every "t" was crossed and every "i" dotted, every penny saved and every minute used to its fullest?  Or is what they remember how well we "played with others," how dedicated we were, how we were able to laugh and make others laugh while accomplishing the work?

Perhaps that is why, in the end, networking is how people really get jobs.  Nowhere on a resume full of facts and bottom lines does it work to say "rearranged pen tops during rehearsal" or "made crew laugh on a daily basis."  Nowhere amidst the quantification of results does it fit to say "excels at making team members feel good about their work."  Only someone who was there with you can know and adequately convey those things.

So while we continue to keep track of the numbers and results and bottom lines that we can list to make us stand out, I hope that we can also remember the things that have made our coworkers stand out for us.  The little things they did just because it was great fun.  Because a red pen with a purple top could make you laugh all day, and maybe, by the end of the day, even help your bottom line.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Behind the 8(am) Ball

Almost every day, I am up at 5am, eating, going to the gym, emptying the dishwasher.  "5am?!" I hear from friends and family.  "Why?!"

When I wake up at 5, by the time anyone else is up, I've done a million things.  Nothing fancy, but a million things.

This morning, fighting the cold that seems to have settled in as a houseguest in our apartment, I slept.  And slept some more.  And when I still wasn't feeling better, slept a little more.  By the time I got up, my son and husband were already up, and my day had begun.  Dishes to put away, plans to make, things to clean.  Since we're not doing much of anything today, there's plenty of time to do it all, but somehow, sleeping just a few hours later has made me feel a whole day behind.

Instead of starting my day eating my breakfast by myself (often in the dark, so that no one even thinks to get up), I am eating it while supervising my son making his breakfast.  Instead of laying out the day's arrangements for my half-asleep husband, I am sleepily waving goodbye as he heads off to work.  Instead of loading breakfast dishes into an already-emptied dishwasher, I am stacking them in the sink until I can get around to the unloading. 

Before I know it, it's 5pm, and what have I accomplished?  One of the best things about rising early is knowing from the get-go that you will have something to show for your day.  While the extra hours of sleep may have helped my cold (or NOT!), they have left me behind the 8 ball all day--chasing the messes instead of anticipating them.

I don't think ANYONE wants to set an alarm on the weekend, but I think I will for tomorrow.  A cold is a cold, but there's just too much to do to be behind the 8(am) ball more than once!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Every Limbo Boy and Girl

I have pretty much always flown by the seat of my pants.  When we had our first child, people couldn't believe she was our first--we didn't make nap or feeding schedules, and we were remarkably calm about all things baby.  We just took it as it came.  Even when we had three kids and multiple babysitters to get them here, there, and everywhere, and weekly notes to keep it all straight, we remained "take it as it comes."  True, a last-minute change could topple our proverbial "house of cards," but we would put it back together and move on.

Freelancing, however, has sent "take it as it comes" to a whole new level.  Now the house of cards has turned into a game of limbo.  When I follow a job lead, while 80% of my brain may be writing an awesome cover letter, at least 30% of my brain (yes, I know that's 110%--it takes that much sometimes!) is trying to process what child care I will need if I get the job and it starts two days from now.  Will I have time to teach the babysitters the current routine?  Will any of our former babysitters even be available, given that we haven't used them in months?  But wait, the job fell through, so never mind.  Limbo.

Activities are the same story.  Do I say yes to the things the kids want to do, in the hopes that the work and the money will come through to fund them, or no, because we're just not sure.  Limbo.

Can we plan to take a trip during a school vacation, or will I need to be home for the work that might come?  Limbo.

When my daughter, the infant with the "take it as it comes" parents was a baby, "what came next" was no more complicated than a bottle of milk and a diaper change.  Now, at 14, she knows better.  She lives every day with my limbo, and the pieces of her life can't help but be held in limbo too.  Limbo is hard, and sometimes she just says, "Yes or no, just give me an answer so I can move on." 

Would that limbo in life were as simple as limbo the game--you could just make yourself smaller or thinner or more flexible, and you'd be guaranteed to win.  In the life version, no guarantees.  Just the chance to keep playing the game.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Show Black

Today, I had the privilege of traveling to New Jersey to help a friend shoot a talk show.  As I dressed to go, I found myself choosing all black, "show black," as we used to call it when I was working on COSBY.  On show taping days, crew were supposed to wear black so as not to distract the actors or the studio audience, and to minimize our being caught on camera.

For me, the whole idea somehow heightened the excitement of the whole experience.  It made me feel like part of a team and made taping day a special day, the day when we "baked the cake" that we'd been mixing all week.

So today, dressed in "show black," I headed out to New Jersey, not entirely sure which of my hats I'd be wearing there, just knowing that a friend had a project, that he'd asked me, and that it would be a chance to step back into the studio atmosphere I'd missed so much.

And what hat DID I wear?  Well, several, actually.  A bit of wardrobe, a bit of PA, a bit of producer.  A little stage manager, a little AD, a little runner.  And by the end of my time there, I had a hat to take home--editor.

I am heading to a networking event tonight, and I have dressed up a little, but still with my "show black" underneath.  I'm not ready to take it off.  Thanks to a friend who had a dream and asked me to come along, I got to "play" in a studio for a day.  I'm holding on to that for as long as I can--until the next time I get to put on my "show black."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Today, in honor of having a job interview, I  bought myself a yummy coffee drink.  An interview?  Yes, I agree.  A nice way to start the New Year, right?  What?  Oh, yes, I'm the one who signed into the company's guest log and signed out 14 minutes later.  Am I SURE I had an interview?  Well, yes, I mean, no, I mean, yes, it was an interview.  A few questions, a few answers, that's an interview, right?  And I got dressed up for it too, so I KNOW it was an interview, perhaps slightly more productive than the first interview I had right out of college, when I interviewed at a theater and couldn't name my favorite playwright because most of my knowledge was about television.  That one lasted longer, though, I think.

I used to think that getting to the interview step was a huge thing.  It certainly feels like a huge thing as you try to dress the part and research the company.  But it occurs to me that interviews are much like what I said when I was timing show content during rehearsals and taping on a soap.  The pace of any scene, I used to say, could totally change based on what the actors ate for lunch.  Really.  You could have a one minute scene that would suddenly be 20 seconds.  Or three minutes.  I swear.  And I am beginning to think it might be that way with interviews.  Perhaps your materials cross a person's desk after he or she has had a fantastic lunch and is inclined to think anything is possible.  Interview scheduled.  But if your resume hits the person's email after bad burgers, you might as well keep pounding the proverbial pavement.  You'll never get the chance to dress up or do that research.

So yes, I did have an interview today.  And yes, it did last less than 14 minutes.  And no, I probably won't get the job.  But I dressed up, and the research I did included watching old sitcoms.  So, all in all, nothing lost.  And when you add in the laughs, perhaps something gained.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Calling In Sick

Did you ever wish that you could call in sick any time you wanted?  I actually never did.  I generally went to work unless I was half dead (case in point, when I was a PA, my producer forced me to stay home for most of a week because I was insisting I could still work with bronchitis).  So aside from giving birth, having shingles, and undergoing gall bladder surgery, pretty much I was there.

"Calling in sick" when you're a freelancer is a fuzzier area.  I woke up this morning feeling pretty lousy.  Were I going to work, I'd have autopiloted myself to the bus and train, then fought through the day at work, likely rallying once I was with "the team" and concentrating on the show we were making.  But at home, it was unbelievably hard just to walk the few steps from couch to computer.  Sad to say, the computer by itself just doesn't serve the cheering squad purpose that a production team does.  It doesn't keep you focused (on the contrary, it provides a million things to KEEP you FROM focusing!).  It doesn't act as the executive producer you are trying to impress.  And it certainly doesn't give you ever-present crises you have to jump in and fix.  So while for years I could work through colds, coughs, morning sickness, and even pinkeye (sunglasses and all!), today's sniffles had me shuffling back to the couch on a regular basis.  Go figure.

Thankfully, despite my lack of a cheering squad, I seem to have beaten the sniffles, so back to the computer I go.  So long, couch.  I won't be seeing much of you tomorrow.  No more calling in sick for me.

Monday, September 17, 2012


We are on the Express bus to the Bronx for holiday dinner.  My son lives for the Express bus, and why not?  It goes faster than a normal city bus, has comfier seats, is silent (full of people heading home to their out-of-midtown destinations).  AND, it has giant windows that let you see absolutely everything outside without the noise and crowds of actually being outside.  It is a true paradise for an observer of life (and for someone who just likes fast vehicles).

I will leave the fast vehicles part to my son.  For me, an observer of life (except for the fact that I am writing this as we ride), I get to see this oddly pristine version of New York City--rivers, and bridges, and trains parallel to highways.  It is an idealized view, separate from the stresses of tight spaces and high prices and loud noises.  But in the quiet of it all, I can think about the new year and the parts of our celebration where the stresses don't matter.  Children dressed up and getting at least a little taste of what their parents and grandparents have been doing for years.  People who smile and say "Happy New Year" just because you are part of a community.  Music that fills you because you've heard it so many times before or because it inspires a hundred people around you to sing together.

We spend most of our days in "express" mode, hurrying from one commitment to the next, barely thinking about what we are doing, so there is some irony in a bus called "Express" being the thing that allows me to slow down and think a little.  I may not aspire to drive one of these the way my son does, but it sure has been a nice ride.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight, and I find myself excited and a little scared.  Excited about the feeling of starting a new year, perhaps one that will turn around the series of months that have left me more than a little discouraged.  Scared about the prospect of sitting in temple, listening to the familiar melodies, and having several hours to dwell on all the things I wish were different.  For while the year since last Rosh Hashanah has had many wonderful moments--my daughters' graduations from elementary and middle school, my son's starting a school gifted program, rewarding summer activities, new connections and friendships--it has not exactly been the year I was thinking about last Rosh Hashanah when I knew that soap life was ending and I was eager and confident about all the things I could do going forward.

So I will sit in services hoping to be "written in the Book of Life" for the coming year, looking around at the community of people doing the same, knowing that I am not the only one in the group facing challenges, knowing that my challenges probably pale in comparison to those of some members of that community.

I will sit in services looking for answers that are no more likely to come on Rosh Hashanah than on any other day (perhaps less so, since I won't be home pounding the virtual pavement), but hoping that something about sitting there will make them come.

And I will sit in services at the very least knowing that, in some small way, I am not alone, which some days is half the battle.

Rosh Hashanah readings talk about being written not in the "Book of Work" for the coming year, but in the "Book of Life."  So as I sit in services, I will try to remember that while work was so much of my life for so many years, life can be so much more.  And then maybe, just maybe, by next Rosh Hashanah, there will be a whole new set of stories, full of both work and life.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


For the last few years I worked on One Life to Live, there was an actor named Sean Ringgold who played a character named, well, Shaun.  Shaun went from being a few day incidental character to part of the show's core.  Why?  Was his character super-interesting?  Sure.  But what I saw was more than just a good character.  There was not a single day that Sean the actor came to the studio not grateful for the work and excited for every new challenge the writers and directors threw at him.  Whether called upon to play his bodyguard side (he was a BIG guy) or be a big brother (turned out to be uncle--this was a soap, after all!) to his teenage sister, he gave it his all.

I was fortunate enough to direct him quoting Shakespeare in a steam room (no, you didn't misread that), and I will never forget how he embraced the oddness of the situation and played it for all it was worth.

So why am I writing about Sean?  I think about him often, and what he brought to the mix every day.  Sometimes we need to be reminded how lucky we are for every opportunity we are given, for every group of collaborators who help us to be better, for every idea that becomes great because we are willing to take a risk.  And sometimes it takes someone like Sean to remind us.

Thanks, Sean.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Every Day

One of the most frequent comments I have gotten about this blog, both from readers and from some of my family members, is "Wow, every day?!  How can you think of something to write about every day, much less actually write it?"

What I tend to respond is "Some days are harder than others," which is something I've said about so many parts of my life--getting kids to and from 3 different schools, living in New York City with kids, having 3 kids in the first place.  And like so many things we try to do every day--going to the gym, keeping a clean house, flossing--some days ARE harder than others, but we do these things, either because we need or love to, because we know they are good for us, or because the discipline of doing them gives us a great sense of accomplishment.  Most of the time, it's probably some combination of all of these.

I started this blog because I believed I had something to say, both for myself, and, I hoped, for other people, and I have to say, the commitment to write it each day combined with the excitement of seeing that people really are reading is pretty similar to the adrenaline of going to the gym.  So while I may have to fight through some days to find a topic worth putting out there, I find that the fight makes me more observant, more aware of what is going on around me, and what that might mean in that moment and possibly more broadly in my life or life in general.  And isn't that something that's well worth doing every day?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Closing Doors, Opening Windows

It has finally become cool enough to stop using our air conditioner every minute of every day, which is good, because AC is like insult to injury for an unemployed person.  You're no longer going to your lovely air-conditioned workplace, where someone else pays the AC bill AND since you're at home all day, you spend all the money you're NOT making on your own air-conditioning bill.  (And as an added bonus, you get telemarketers calling you every day about switching your electricity provider, promising they'll save you money on your AC bill!)

But this is not a blog about air conditioning.  It's a blog about doors and windows, well, proverbial ones, at least.

When One Life to Live ended after so many years of it and so many years of me at it, a door definitely closed.  The door from the studio to the lobby, which you closed very slowly during taping so as not to contaminate the audio track.  The giant door to the loading ramp, where all manner of sets and props came in and out every day.  The door from the set to the control room where I went back and forth from talking to cast and crew in person to talking over headset and watching them on a wall full of monitors.

But as I sit at home with the AC off, windows open, I can't help but think of all the "windows" that have opened since the day those doors closed.  While exploring a transition to children's TV, I have met a whole new group of people through Women in Children's Media.  I have had the opportunity to edit for a reality show and the time to learn some After Effects.  I have been available physically and mentally to help my kids with school transitions.  I have found the inspiration to write.

The traditional "one door closes" idea would suggest "end one job, start another you might never have thought of."  That hasn't quite happened yet, but in the meantime, though I really, REALLY miss those doors, I try each day to keep all the windows open and enjoy the "fresh air."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I've Looked At Eggplant from Both Sides Now

This morning, my son sold vegetables.  No, really, he did.  I even bought eggplant from him.  At his new school, students help run a weekly farmer's market, weighing produce, making change, and saying "thank you, come again."  The academic benefits are obvious--addition and subtraction, weighing and measuring--but I was amazed as I watched so much more going on.  If all the early-riser kids who came were to take part in the venture, they really had to work together.  In order to make the venture work, they had to step outside themselves to talk to each other and to their customers.  For a group of children likely used to being on the other side of commerce--the "I want"ers in the store, not the "how can I help you"ers--this was a quick education in seeing things from the other side.

It is unbelievably easy to see only from your own side of the fence.  To assume that because your resume has all the right keywords, you have to make the cut.  To believe that if your email isn't being answered, you are simply being ignored.  To feel as though you are the only one on your journey.  But when we step back a little, it is unbelievably easy to see that jobs are about more than keywords, that other people have a variety of things besides email filling their days, and that a whole lot of people are making a journey very similar to ours.

At the school farmer's market, my son was called upon to move from "I want" to "How can I help you," to see things from the other side of the table.  Not a bad lesson to learn at 8, or at any age.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Queen of the World

For 40 minutes every morning at the gym, I am QUEEN OF THE WORLD.  Not Queen of the Gym--there are many people in way, way better shape than I.  But with my elliptical and my "Law and Order," for 40 minutes each day, I feel powerful.  I feel as though I can conquer the world, or at least Level One on the machine's QuickStart program.

I have never been much of an athletic person.  In high school, I managed sports teams because it enabled me to get out of PE.  I learned about scoring certain sports, and I had some camaraderie with the team members, but mostly, I got out of PE.

I have had a few athletic spurts along the way--the purchase of a home stair climber when I was first working, several stints doing the 5-Boro Bike Tour with my husband, and a short-lived Y membership so that I could swim in the mornings before work.  

Mostly, I have been in not great shape and not much of a fitness role model for my kids, so at 10 weeks and counting, this is probably the most sustained stretch (pun intended!) of exercise I've ever done, and the fact that I haven't quit despite having to do it at 5am now that school has started suggests to me that maybe, just maybe, it has become as routine as, and perhaps more important to me than, brushing my teeth.  Because while brushing my teeth may give me fresh breath for a few hours, the gym gives me a powerful feeling I can turn to all day, so that in the weak moments, when I am feeling more like a lowly servant, I can remember being QUEEN OF THE WORLD!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lady in Waiting

Ever since my involuntary (not always unpleasant, just involuntary) transition to being a stay-at-home mom, a chunk of my day has been dedicated to the dropping off and picking up of children.  I wait inside and outside of schoolyards, I wait for afterschool to let out, and today, I am waiting for a school bus, which, if all goes well, will appear with my son--his first school bus ride home, since he now goes to school across town.  This morning when I waited, the bus that was supposed to take him to school never came.  "Oh, no, nobody told you?" I subsequently found out.  "That bus stop has been moved to another block.  Oops."  So I wait this afternoon, the situation largely out of my control, fingers crossed that lightning won't strike twice.

When I was working, there was very little waiting.  With so much TV to shoot and edit each day, there was no choice but to be "full speed ahead."  It was, in fact, part of my job to find things we could do if what we were scheduled to do was delayed.  Crew down time was wasted money, so anyone who could minimize waiting was practically a hero.  But now, at the bus stop and in my life as a freelancer/job hunter, I wait for things I can't control.

I wait for but can't control when an HR manager will read the resume I emailed or analyze the data in my online application.  I wait for but can't control whether or not I will get hired for reality work so that the people who want me to have reality experience before they hire me will see that I have some.  And I wait for but can't really control when my unemployed friends and I will be back to working, either together or in different places.

I would like to be the AD or Director or Stage Manager who moves the waiting along, but instead, here I am, with a bunch of other moms, on a corner looking for a school bus I can't control.  Tomorrow, maybe I will be able to control some of the things I'm waiting for.  For today, I'm a lady in waiting.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


In honor of Sunday night having been a huge source of drama in my own childhood life (Oh, no, I forgot to do part of my homework!  Oh, no, you're supposed to sign this!  Oh, no, all the girls are supposed to wear red tomorrow and I don't have anything red!), I am dedicating today's blog to drama--a bit of the daytime soap variety and a bit of the family real-life variety.  And up goes the curtain!

On a soap, the drama of the transition to middle school or high school is all about who will date whom or who will get picked on.  Nobody ever bothers to mention exponentially harder courses and getting hopelessly lost in the new, bigger school.

On a soap, kids tend to skip certain ages and are rarely seen except during summer stories and on major holidays.  In life, kids go through every age (thank goodness for that!) and are there pretty much all the time, needing help with dramas ranging from new teachers to BFFs who aren't anymore to what to wear on picture day (Do soap kids even have picture day?  And if they do, how come their school pictures look like headshots and my kids' don't?)

On a soap, characters just have what they need, very little drama necessary, provided by a set decorator and costume designer and kept forever neat and clean by prop and wardrobe people.  In real life, there are never enough hands or enough hours to keep things neat and clean.

On a soap, grownups pretty much work when they feel like it, so the drama of starting a new work week or looking for a new job is virtually nonexistent.  In real life, well, we all know about that.

And on a soap, you don't really see the weekends, so the drama of Sunday night--I guess that's a drama all our own!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday, In the City, Definitely Not the Fourth of July

With the school year begun, we are now largely in the city on weekends--classes, commitments, and homework tend to make it essential.

So there was no rushing yesterday to drive two and a half hours.  Just a quiet Friday night recovering from the first few school days.  And today, there were no tag sales and no summer theater, just laundry (back to doing it in the basement after months of doing it in the grandparents' country house), errands, cleaning, fights about cleaning, more errands.  Real time to process things that need to be done at home (going away on weekends lets you escape for two days, but somehow, you always return to the same messes you left.)

My mom used to say after vacations, "Back to reality," and I guess that is true.  And as unpleasant as some realities (leaking air conditioners, walking in the city heat, tight apartment quarters) may be, there is some comfort in reality.  The feeling of accomplishment when we address problems instead of just putting them off while we eat freshly picked tomatoes and lie in the hammock all day.  The excitement of getting to see our own city and explore what it has to offer.  The simplicity of sleeping in our own beds and going to the gym and not having to drive to be home.

Reality may not be earth-shattering, but from where I stand on this Saturday in the city, I guess it's pretty good.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Quiet, Please, I'm Editing

As I attempt to embrace my freelance life, it occurs to me that I should brush up on a few skills, including, but not limited to, the following:

1.  Time Management--There are a finite number of minutes between 8:30 school dropoff and 3:00 school pickup.  Use as many as possible.

2.  Wrestling--Sometimes it takes that to gain control of the computer if it's outside the hours of 8:30-3:00.

3.  Meditation to Eliminate Sound--It's not simple to think, much less write or edit, with three kids and a husband practicing piano and watching TV, and when they're not here, construction in the apartment upstairs.

4.  Tremendous Willpower (or locks on the kitchen drawers and cabinets).  Some mom who lives here buys really yummy treats for her kids.

5.  Juggling--With three kids, three schools, and approximately 15 afterschool activities and volunteer commitments, this one should be self-explanatory.

6.  Closing of Vents--When you're working full-time, you generally know the people you can vent to.  When you work from home, there's no one in the room you can vent to, except maybe your family, and they tend to out-vent you pretty quickly.

7.  Patience--To know that the next gig will come.

8.  Weightlifting--To handle things when the next three gigs all come at the same time.

9.  Clarity--To know that even if freelancing is open-ended, weekends are still weekends, and you should try to enjoy them.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I took my daughters to bus stops to start high school and middle school.  New notebooks, sharp pencils, carefully picked outfits.  Then I took my son to his new school, where I sent him into a crowded schoolyard, armed only with his backpack and his class number postcard.  The girls had seemed almost numb on the way to their bus stops, ready and yet terrified to face their new challenges.  Their brother asked me on our way out the door, "Do we really have to do this?"  I said to him, "You're the bravest guy I know.  You'll be fine."  "No, I'm not," said the boy who normally owns the world.

But as I watched him find his new class and stand with a group of total strangers as he waited to go inside the school, brave was all I could think.  He was scared, but he did it.  He found where he needed to be, and I can only hope it got less scary from there.  Either way, he did it.

It's so obvious to think of firefighters or soldiers or people who are sick being brave, and of course they are, but my son and his sisters reminded me this morning that sometimes brave is just being scared and getting through it.  Getting through it--whether you're taking the leap to believe it will be okay or just getting through it because your mom or the world says you have to.

Like going to a networking event and doing more than just stare at your free drink.

Like taking on work that's not quite in your comfort zone and learning what you need in order to do it.

Like asking an important person to go for coffee and realizing that sometimes she's a scared human being just like you.

There are opportunities all the time to fight through the old patterns to get to the new.  To go from the exhaustion of being scared to the exhilaration of getting through it.  The first day of school may only come once a year, but the chance to be brave--if you're willing--can happen every day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time and Punctuation

Tomorrow, I get my time back.  Well, at least between 9am and 3pm.

My kids go back to school, two gone by 7:3o, the third by 8:30.

I ought to be full of exclamation points.  Hours of uninterrupted time on the computer without worry that someone will exit my editing or an unsaved writing sample to play a video game!  Hours without hearing kids' TV unless I want to watch it as research!  Hours of not negotiating fights!  Hours of being able to accomplish!  Wait, what am I trying to accomplish?

Some time between when the kids came back from their grandparents' and now, the last day before the first day of school, there suddenly became a whole lot of question marks.

When you're working, there are a lot of definites.  A lot of periods.  You need to be at work at a definite time.  Period.  So you have to leave home at a definite time and take a definite train.  Period.  There are definite hours when you need childcare, and there is a definite time when you'll be home.  Period.  (Well, okay, not necessarily when you work on a soap opera).  And some days, if they're really good, there's an exclamation point!

When you're looking for work, it's all about the question marks.

Will anyone call me today about a job?  Will I be able to get last minute childcare if someone does call me today about a job?  Why shouldn't I eat the cookies on the counter?  They're here, I'm here, and I did go to the gym today, didn't I?  Do I say "Writer" first in my LinkedIn profile or "Director"?  Or "Editor"?  Does anyone really know what an AD is?  Do I really have to clean the house just because I'm home and everyone else is out?

Though this may not continue when I wake them at 6:30am, my kids are right now so excited about school (exclamation point!) that I hereby resolve that, starting at 5:30am (when I'll get up--gulp!), to live by the exclamation point.  Write those letters!  Send those resumes!  Go for coffee!  (the caffeinated version, of course--this is exclamation point time!)  

And use every one of those minutes until 3:00!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Welcome Back

Welcome to week two of "Not Washed Up Yet," and if you've been reading each day, thanks.  I encourage you to comment, here and on Facebook.

My "Welcome Back" is not just to you.  As part of getting back to our school year routine, the kids and I went to an Ice Cream Social at our Hebrew School today.  Though I'm not always social, I rarely pass up ice cream, and I figured it would be a good way for all of us to continue our journey through back-to-school mode.

True to my not-so-social-self, I mostly sat with my own kids and their friends, but I did talk to a few people I rarely see except at Hebrew School pick up and events.  You see, sometimes what we all call socializing is really just looking for some sort of normalcy, which back-to-school kind of gives us.  So even if the kids and I haven't seen many of the people all summer, seeing them again somehow returns us to that place where we mostly know what to expect.  For many months in the spring, we, the parents,  knew we'd see each other weekly while waiting for our kids, and now that will start again.

Part of the challenge of life in general and unemployment in particular is that you are always fielding the curve balls because you never quite know what to expect.  Today's "welcome back" party reminded me that sometimes a little normalcy goes a long way (especially when it comes with a side of ice cream).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

Still upstate, absorbing the last days before the schedules begin.  And in this moment, it does feel as though we've had a glorious summer (not sure if all my children would agree, but this is my blog, after all).

Have we struggled over things we can't do because they cost too much?  Sure.  Have we fought over whose chosen activity we get to do each day?  Of course.  Have we sweated more than we liked some days?  Well, it is summer, after all.

But we also created an office-slash-hangout for my new high-schooler, a special sleep-spot for my new 3rd grader, and a desk with a super-duper hanging wall for my new middle schooler.  We (the parents) shared a dinner of take-out burritos twice a week when the kids were at their grandparents' house.  We went to the 75th anniversary of Tanglewood and got a fireworks display right above our heads.  We went to a whole lot of tag sales and held a disastrous one of our own, followed by a number of trips to donate all our items to charity.  And we went to a County Fair, complete with farm animals, rides, and fried dough.

It's funny how just when you think there's nothing you can do, there are actually a whole lot of things you can do, things you could never see when you were working so hard doing what you had to do.

Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Living Outside the Box

When I was working full time, I had a babysitter--or multiple babysitters--for any hours before 7pm that my kids weren't in school, and in the summer, every week required camp that spanned virtually the whole day.  Our weekly schedules were regulated by a note that started each week, and with few exceptions, if I was at work, I was working, and it was up to the babysitter to execute the details of the weekly schedule.  My work was a box I lived in for 10 hours or more each day, and home, which included all the kids' activities, was a separate box.  If transportation to activities couldn't be coordinated to work for all three kids, the activities couldn't happen.  They just didn't fit in the box.  And thus, all three kids took the same karate class, and all three kids had piano lessons at home.

Now that my work box is gone, it is as if the rules for what can be handled have changed.  I have no more hands than any babysitter we ever had, and no more ability to be in three places at once, yet now that the work box is gone, I seem to feel that what we do should no longer have to fit in a box.

Living "outside the box" means some good things--like summer weeks with no camp--just sleeping late and letting our days evolve.  But living outside the box also means that when we go to plan school year activities, nothing starts out being impossible.  I am here, and can give everybody everything, right?  I am Supermom, able to leap three kids to activities all over town, even out of town!

Okay, so first, I am NOT Supermom.  I have been going to the gym, and I certainly try hard, but I am no more able to get from 1st Avenue to 12th Avenue in 5 minutes than anyone else, and no more able to help my kids do three hours of homework in 2.

And what happens if I get work and the many-armed being that we have created outside the box just won't fit back inside the box?

It occurs to me that life, at least mine, is a series of choices about living inside or outside the box.  Do we reach for things that are hard but might be new and exciting, or do we go with the things that are familiar and easy?  And in a family with 5 sets of interests, what does one person's living outside the box mean for the others?

Like any good soap story, this one is ongoing, so--tune in tomorrow (or more likely, in a few weeks) to find out whether we're inside or outside.  And definitely tune in tomorrow (really tomorrow) for more "Not Washed Up Yet."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Front Row

As a Director and an AD on a soap and an AD on a sitcom, I sat in the front row of a television control room, alongside a technical director and a Production Assistant.  We talked over headsets to people in the studio and over our shoulders to Producers in the back row.  We watched a wall full of camera monitors and made choices every minute about what to say and which camera to use.  We were, as I used to say, "in the trench."

These days, I am quite often fielding questions like "what is your dream job?" or "what do you see yourself doing?" since both my resume and the range of jobs to which I've applied include directing, producing, ADing, stage managing, writing, and editing.  I find these questions hard to answer--there are many things I'd like to do (and thanks to the nature of soap production and a very open-minded producer, I got to do a lot of them over the years).  The easy answer, if anyone could really understand what it meant, would be "I want to be in the trench."  Whether it's with my hands on an editing console or talking to an editor about choices to tell a story better, working with actors to get the best performance or working with a production crew to figure out how to fit all the necessary equipment in a tight space, I want to be in the trench, on the front line being part of making the product better, whether it's for TV, web, or anywhere in between.  In the trench, close enough to my collaborators (as I was in the front row), to communicate almost without words and to know at the end of the day that something I said or did made a real difference in the work we created.

So in answer to those questions, put me in the trench.  Put me in the front row.