Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I have often thought that I keep moving so I don't have to dwell on the past. So, if possible, I am always moving forward. But sometimes, you can move forward, yet sit still at the same time. Long car trips are full of moving forward, yet sitting still. And sitting still is full of reminders.

A sweet cup of coffee reminds me of Wednesdays last winter, when my daughter and I shared 99 cent sweet coffees and cocoas at 7-11, because I was home and around to share coffees and cocoas with my daughter.

The song "Raining Men" reminds me of the OLTL Christmas reel montage I edited featuring all the men on the crew. And of every other OLTL Christmas reel montage I ever edited.

The song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" reminds me that music from my lifetime has actually made a difference in people's lives.

Barbra Streisand's "Memories" reminds me of-- well, you name it.

Happy New Year emails remind me of a year full of coffee dates with friends--and with people who became friends over coffee dates.

A mailbox full of holiday cards reminds me of all the friends who have remained friends for years--with or without coffee.

Arriving home reminds me of a year ago, when arriving home simply meant returning to my computer full of cover letters and resumes.

Watching the ball drop on TV, sitting on the couch with my family, reminds me of all the years when New Year's depressed me, and of all the years, like this one, when I let it be just a night when we stayed up late. And when I moved forward to the year to come.

Holiday Light

On our last night before returning to the city, we took the holiday lights drive we usually do much earlier in our trip. The city may have a specially colored Empire State and animated store windows, but there is nothing like the suburbs for displays that reflect the full range of holiday decorations.

We are merely observers--we do no decorating of our own. We marvel at other people's blending of music and lights or of the traditional and the new. Our holiday lights drive has become a kind of tradition, so in a way, our viewing is as ingrained as the people's decorating. I guess each of us, in his or her own way, wants the time of year to stand apart, whether as a holiday, as the end of a year, or as a time of sharing experiences with family. In doing our holiday drive, we continue a tradition of spending time together (though, these days, together in multiple cars). We share the enjoyment of "the good ones," the boredom between "good ones," and the debriefing once we're home.

So, for us, holiday lights are not just about Christmas, or about lighting the way for Santa. They are reminder that tradition matters, and that no matter what you celebrate, you can always do things to make sure you celebrate together.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Counting Down

As we inch closer to a new year, it is tempting to count down, as I did as an AD for so long--5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

But as I think about that counting down, I think about all the things that went with the countdown. I would get the Stage Manager's signal that "the floor was ready." I'd need to see that the first few camera shots were ready. And, of course, I had to make sure that in the control room, the Lighting Director, TD, and Director were all set too. Only when all the pieces were in place was I to start my countdown. That way, with everyone on the same page, the scene could come together with a shot at success.

So, as I count down to 2014, I am reminded that counting down is not just about waiting for the event. It's about preparing for it. Am I doing what I can to make the new year a successful one? Am I checking that my "floor is ready" for action? Am I looking around to make sure my colleagues, personal and otherwise, are on the same page? Am I confirming that the first few "shots" of the year will be good ones?

Directing might be about having the ideas, but for me, ADing was--and is--about making the ideas happen. As I count down to 2014, I am working hard on the pre-production to make sure the "scene" will be a buy. There's not much time left, so I'd  better pull it all together. Because no good AD would ever count down without the floor and the booth--and everything else--being ready.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Spending Patterns

It seems that every time we leave the city, we are compelled to shop. Not only are other parts of the country cheaper, they involve having a car to tote your purchases, which makes the whole experience a generally more civilized and less back-breaking one.

There have been years when I returned to the city with half a new wardrobe. There have been years when I traveled back with party favors for multiple kid birthday celebrations. There was last year, when budget dictated that the "treasures" were limited to groceries. And now, there is this year, when it appears that I have lost all ability to acquire anything for anyone except my kids. I don't know if it's my joy at seeing them get a treat (particularly after the months when that was necessarily limited). It could be my inability to think about things for myself unless I am actually by myself (which doesn't happen much on a family vacation). Or maybe, just maybe, it's a sign that I am actually satisfied with the way things are right now.

It's not that I wear the most up to date clothes. But I have the pieces and parts to be comfortable and presentable. I am not toting every top of the line gadget. But I am able to keep in touch and in tune. My home is well stocked with both the functional and the cute. Which makes me equipped to do and to enjoy. So, while the process of shopping may still be fun, and the feeling that I can shop, if not with abandon, at least without worry, is a good one, the idea that my spending patterns might mean I'm at a moment of satisfaction in my life--I think that's the best of all.

Nothing--But Everything

Sometimes on vacation, it feels as though you have done exactly nothing. If it's a sightseeing trip, you might have an agenda, but if it's just a relaxing trip, the days seem to slip by, and at the end of each one, it's a little hard to tell what has really happened.

Perhaps this is just just the definition of vacation, but when you are used to measuring days by how much you accomplish, it's a little hard to handle. Not to mention a little hard to blog about.

So as I was writing this blog, I tried to think about what I HAD done today, and it turned out to be a little more than I thought....

I made up for my absence at home by sending emails to get the ball rolling on some things.

I went shopping with my kids, during which I found out a little about what is and isn't important to them--and what is and isn't important to me.

I watched my kids gain a little more insight into their family history, as their relatives told stories about them as kids (and about my childhood as well).

I talked with people about more than just work, even if some of the "more" was just salad vegetables and cooking time .

I banked sleep for when I'm not able to get as much (even though I know that the banking won't really work).

So basically, I did nothing today. Except, sometimes, nothing is everything.

Friday, December 27, 2013


One year ago today, when job prospects were once again looking bleak, I got an out of the blue call on my cell. Turned out the rumor I'd read in the press about the revival of the soaps was not just a rumor. People I knew were involved, and they wanted me. They wanted me.

Isn't that what any job search is really all about? While we certainly want a job to pay the bills and make us feel fulfilled (or at least reasonably satisfied) on a daily basis, when we are looking for one, aren't we really just looking for someone to want us?

So, on that day one year ago, while I remember wondering about the money and the setup and the time frame and the possible travel involved, mostly I remember the excitement of getting that call in the first place. Of feeling that if I was called on my vacation (of course, with cell phones, who even knew I was on vacation?), I must really be wanted.

A year has passed, and, of course, that venture came and went. It's hard to believe the call was just a year ago, a call that both excited me and tied me in knots, a call that led to five months of work, time with good people, and a feeling of having been part of something special.

But we move on. And, lo and behold, when we search some more, if we are lucky, we find new places. Places where, once again, we are wanted.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Same Eyes, Different Day

For as many years as I have been making the trip down the Eastern Shore, I don't remember ever seeing the sun set as I crossed the Chesapeake Bay. You could argue that I have never traveled at exactly the right time. Or perhaps I just never noticed. In any case, today, our crossing began with the sun making its way down and ended as it disappeared below the horizon, which, as you can imagine, was a beautiful thing. And something I don't remember ever noticing before.

When we arrived at my childhood home, my whole family immediately noticed the absence of a bush that has been at the foot of the driveway since they've been coming here--in fact, since I was a child. While the bush had become quite large for a bush, it was a small thing compared to a sunset. Yet, after years of it being the first thing we've seen upon arrival, it was a major thing. For some, perhaps more major than a sunset on the Chesapeake Bay.

On a daily basis, we see the same things in different ways. Some days, we are far too busy or preoccupied to notice a sunset, others, we are mesmerized by it. Some days, we barely notice the things that change in our surroundings, others, small changes are the first thing we see. The nice thing about this is that each day, we can approach life with new eyes. Eyes that see a sunset some days, and missing greenery others. Eyes that mourn life changes one day and celebrate those same life changes the next. Eyes that can see the good in each new adventure.

And eyes that every single day remember to be NOT WASHED UP YET!

It Must Be Vacation When...

You set no alarm. And it's okay.

There are a million things to do before going away. And a million things that will go undone until you return.

The front hall is full of not just coat and shoe clutter, but suitcase clutter as well.

You realize how many chargers it takes to run a family, since unplugging and packing them all is taking a lot more time than you expected.

You realize how many clothes you must have, when you pack and see that the drawers are no emptier than they were before.

You feel a sense of chaos that will likely last until you leave.

You feel a sense of calm, because if you can get through the chaos, you will really, really be on vacation.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thank Goodness

I could likely be working for the whole Christmas through New Year's period (that's a new place to be!), but come the 25th, I will be on vacation with my family. I will not be working.

The people who worked with me for twenty years came to know how difficult it was for me to take time off. Early on, I begged my producer to let me work when she sent me home to nurse a case of bronchitis. And even at the end, I would sooner squeeze in appointments and errands than take off days to do them.  Call it loyalty, call it work ethic, call it making a buck--I have always had a hard time turning down work.

Yet, this year, though I can still remember twelve months ago, when I was free and clear to travel but sad and depressed about no work to come back to, I am choosing family. Maybe it is the chorus of voices ready to go away. Maybe it is some kind of new-found perspective. It's not easy for me--it's still hard to believe that work will still be there a week later, and that I won't feel the effects of a lost week of salary all year--but I am ready to take the leap of faith. The fact that you have been out of work doesn't mean you can never take a vacation again. The fact that you are working doesn't mean only a choke hold will keep the work from disappearing. And most important, family vacations with the husband and children who have been in your corner, work or no work, won't happen forever.

So, thank goodness for work. Really. Thank goodness.

But thank goodness for vacation too.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Two Trunks

We recently received a notice that the trunk room in our building was to be renovated, and if we wanted whatever we had stored there, we needed to retrieve it--soon. So today, I made my way down, with a child assistant and a doorman, to claim our things. What exactly "our things" were, I wasn't really sure. You see, whatever we stored there has been there longer than the child assistant has been alive. We clearly haven't missed it. So what would we gain by having it, except the knowledge that we weren't abandoning some part of our past--a part that we clearly wanted enough to keep, but not enough to see regularly?

After some degree of struggling (very good thing the doorman was there!), we arrived upstairs with two large trunks and a bicycle, not exactly welcome additions to an already crowded apartment. But the child assistant didn't care. All she wanted was to get into those trunks and discover the treasures inside.

Snap, snap, and the two enormous cases were open. The treasures? My life history in t-shirts, a long obsolete video camera, and a cuckoo clock too fragile to take out of its box. There were probably a few other things, but these were the high points. So much for the buried treasure.

My mother has always said that storage was just a step toward giveaway. I'm not sure if all of our trunk items will go the giveaway route--now that I know that my personal history in shirts exists, sentimentality may take over, and we may have to make room for trunks full of stuff that will remain unused. I didn't miss them when they were buried in a locked basement, but now...

It's funny how trunks both contain our memories and make those memories disappear. And then turn our memories into just a bit of treasure for those who unearth them. Because, while the child assistant won't have much practical use for any of the items she found, those items will be a source of stories for weeks to come.

All because we retrieved, and opened, our two trunks.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mundane Therapy

I hate when my husband talks about cleaning. There. I said it.

The thing is, when you live in a city apartment with three kids, it's hard to keep anything neat for long. The stuff (infinite) will always outrun the space (finite), and when you add that fact of physics (okay, perhaps not physics, but that sounded good) to the fact that I am a clutter-accepting person (a gene I have clearly passed to my children), cleaning is generally a losing battle. And I don't like losing battles.

But, alas, cleaning must be done, and so, on a day that couldn't possibly be the first day of winter, when I might have been enjoying the spring-like outdoors or shopping the pre-holiday sales, I was home cleaning. Straightening, wiping, organizing. It is far from perfect. But the process was oddly therapeutic. Sometimes there is a comfort in mundane things--as if, no matter what chaos swirls around you, certain things stay the same. And even if part of what stays the same is the untenable clutter, you can always do the straightening, wiping, and organizing to make it just that little bit better. And to make yourself just a little bit better too.

Chaos will still be here tomorrow, and a great deal of mess will be too. So, perhaps tomorrow,  I'll make time for a little more therapy.

Ticket Refund

Tonight, in the bit of time between working and the start of a holiday party, I ventured to Grand Central to accomplish an errand I've been meaning to do for weeks.

Take pictures of the concourse? No. Buy a train-related item as a holiday gift? Not that either. I was returning the remainder of my Stamford train ticket.

For the first few weeks I worked in Stamford, I bought my train tickets daily. After all, who knew how long the venture would last? Then, for a few months, when I made the journey daily, I joined the ranks of the monthly pass folks, flashing my color-coded card for the conductor each day. It saved me both a chunk of money and the time of buying a ticket in the early morning hours. And it made the gig feel somehow permanent. But when, in July, it became clear that the daily nature of the job was evaporating, I switched from a monthly (only worth it if you are going almost every day in a month) to a ten-trip, usable for up to six months.

I never finished that ten-trip. The days became fewer, and then over, and, while I held on to the ticket, thinking I might return to Stamford, eventually that door closed.

Last night, the woman at the ticket window asked me if I knew there was a ten dollar fee to get a refund for my ticket. "Better something than nothing," I replied. The ticket is just a worthless piece of paper to me now, one extra thing to carry in my wallet. So I turned in my completed claim form, and she gave me my copy. I will receive my money (minus the ten dollar fee) by mail.

A ticket refund, and the end of a chapter.

Friday, December 20, 2013


I made a list this morning. In general, I am not a list-maker--my memory is fairly good, and what needs to get done gets done. Nevertheless, I dutifully typed a list in my smartphone notes--errands, bills to pay, emails to send. Lists help you get things done, right?

It is now more than twelve hours later, and when I opened my notes to start this blog, there was my list of ten things. Ten things, and so far, one done. Yes, one. What can I say? The days are busy. So much for lists helping me get things done.

So, why bother making lists?

In my case, taking the time to make the list gives me some control over the items on it. It forces me to step away from the things I do automatically, and focus on the things that are not so automatic. Inevitably, writing down some reminds me of others, so that, even if not everything gets checked off in the course of the day, things that could be easily overlooked are now on the radar. And the list keeps them that way. There is so much in our lives that we do automatically. Stepping back to make sure we do the not so automatic things reminds us that we, not our day-to-day circumstances, are in control.

My list may get longer before it gets shorter--sometimes lists just work that way. But if each time I see it, I am steps closer to accomplishing what's on it, the time I took to make it will have been worthwhile. And maybe, just maybe, a few almost forgotten things will get done.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How We Live

This morning on the bus, I listened to a father explain to his (I assume) five year old daughter the different ways she could spend the $20 he'd given her for the school book fair. He showed her pictures of hardcover books and paperbacks on his smartphone, and pointed out that if she chose a hardcover, she'd have the one book and nothing else. If she chose a paperback--the floppy kind, he called them--she could get lots of books. And almost before he had finished, she had said that she DEFINITELY wanted lots of books, the floppy kind. He may still have been talking, but her decision was clearly made.

I tell this story partly because it was very entertaining to watch, but mostly because it represented to me so many things about how we live these days. We give our five year olds twenty dollars and expect them to make spending choices. We check our smartphones to make sure we are up on school activities and to teach things to kids along the way. We teach our children the bus and train stops at such a young age that they are public transportation gurus by ten (which is good, I guess, because in NYC, by eleven, they are expected to travel to school alone). We--mothers and fathers--juggle the transport and the teaching and the general maintenance. The sharing might not be equal, but there is sharing. We have choices, and we give our children choices. We make sure we are everywhere (even when it feels as though we are everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time).

And we write about little things that feel like big things, and share what we write with hundreds--or thousands--of people. Because that is how we live.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rules For The Road

One of the hardest things after coming from soaps--once one of the most steady TV gigs of all time--is that there seems to be an uncontrollable desire to look for something equally steady. The problem is, today's TV world is not a steady one. It is a largely freelance world, full of shows and networks that don't last forever. It is a place where it's much smarter to be current than to be comfortable. A place where sitting still is temporary and staying on your toes is necessary.

We soapers, however, weren't "brought up" that way. Like our soap town counterparts, we "grew up" among an extended family of sorts. We were loyal and dedicated, sometimes dysfunctional, but always committed to the process and the product we had learned and come to love. Our jobs were more than our jobs, and "going to work" was more like reconnecting with family.

So, how, now, do we make sure we have the skills we need to survive in today's TV world? While I am by no means an expert, I have learned a few things that bear repeating (including to myself, since I can never be reminded too often).

1. Any show can end, any network can fold (or downsize or restructure). Be prepared for when it does.

2. Listen to as many stories as possible from people who work in multiple places. Not only will you gain invaluable perspective about where you are, you will be developing contacts who can someday get you into those places.

3. Learning and working hard and "nose to the grindstone" are great, but make sure to pick up your nose often enough to see patterns and connections.

4. Keep your résumé (and your LinkedIn and your contact list) up to date. Freelance worlds (unlike some soap storylines) move quickly, and you should always, always be prepared.

5. Think of every experience as a learning experience--learning about the right way, the wrong way, a different way, and a faster way are all valuable.

6. Expect nothing, but appreciate everything.

7. Look out for yourself. You are not surrounded by a soap family who has known you since you were twenty. If you don't look out for yourself, who will, really?

8. Keep your eyes and ears, mind and heart open. It's a tough road sometimes, but even the tough roads can lead you to great places.

9. Embrace the journey.

10. Just make sure you wear the right shoes for it.

Dreaming and Doing

I've been reading a lot about Tainted Dreams, a new soap opera created by a producer I worked with on and off for years, and featuring the talents (in front of and behind the camera) of a great many of other colleagues from my half a lifetime in soaps. It amazes me, actually, that without the structure or backing of a network, this intrepid and dedicated group made something that could become the next generation of the genre. They had an idea--a dream--and took steps to make it a reality.

When you have a dream, but no structure, the "making" can be hard. But when you are surrounded by structure, while "doing" may be easier, dreaming can be a challenge. I have watched this group of people do both the dreaming and the doing, and I am hopeful that the response to it will show that you can dream and do if you really put your mind to it. And that the genre that people keep trying to pronounce dead is still very much alive.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blurring Days

When I was working in soaps, I worked maybe two Saturdays in twenty years. Saturdays were replacement days, or special shoot days, but either for logistical or for budgetary reasons, they were rare. Very rare.

These days, as a freelancer (and as someone working in news), I work a lot of Saturdays. I am actually surrounded by people who work Saturdays, Sundays, overnights, you name it. If there are shifts to be covered or money to be made, people are there. And whether on my part, it's for the money or for the experience, there I am, in the midst of it all.

What I find interesting, however, is how the blurring of the line between weekday and weekend is remarkably similar to the blurring when I was looking for work. In those months, though I knew nothing would happen on weekends, it didn't stop me from reading job listings early on a Saturday morning. While I might have been putting children on school buses during the week and letting them sleep late on the weekends, my head was in job search mode no matter what the day on the calendar.

Some might argue that such blurring is unhealthy, that we need to set boundaries that define our weeks. But, while I am fine with boundaries, I credit those months of blurred boundaries with giving me more flexibility and more of an open mind. Once I discovered that I could relax sometimes during the week or work sometimes on the weekends, the opportunities I could explore expanded, and my view of those opportunities expanded as well.

Realistically, I do have children, and their lives will continue to have things like school that define their weekdays and weekends. Nevertheless, if my working and non-working experiences can give me--and them--a broader idea of defining time, I figure we will all be better off. After all, it's not nearly as much about the day of the week as it is about a week filled with good days, whether they are Tuesdays, or Thursdays. Or Saturdays.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Swedish Chef-ing It

Not only did I make two soups today (not one, but two!), I am happy to report that I also coined a phrase. For when I decided to make soup, I didn't consult a cookbook. I didn't look online. I just opened the freezer, decided which things needed to go, and started filling a pot. Really.

It's not that I'm a great cook. I'm definitely NOT a great cook. But I wasn't in this to follow a recipe or cook like a gourmet. I just wanted to reduce the freezer inventory, warm us all up on a snowy day, and have a plan for dinner. And so, in that moment, I declared that, whatever the result might be, I was Swedish Chef-ing it.

Swedish Chef-ing it? Remember that Muppet with a mustache and basically no eyes? The one who bopped around in a chef hat, waving his wooden spoon and babbling in Swedish (well, Muppet Swedish). I don't know if he ever actually cooked anything, but he certainly made for a lot of fun in the kitchen. Did he have a plan? Maybe. A recipe? I doubt it. So, today, I Swedish Chef-ed it. A wooden spoon, a few pots, and a belief that it would all work out. And it did. Several hours later, the soups were a big success, even among the pickier members of my household.

I'll admit, my Swedish Chef-ing could have resulted in our needing to order pizza. Had I followed a recipe to the letter, I could have fairly well counted on a result that looked like the picture in the cookbook. I just couldn't do it. Instead, I chose to go the route of a chef with no eyes. Risky, but ever so much fun. Today, some pretty good soup came out of that. And on a daily basis, some of our best creations come out of our Swedish Chef-ing--our letting loose and letting things fall as they may.

I have a feeling I'll be using my new phrase on a regular basis, in the kitchen and elsewhere. It's incredibly freeing to be bound by nothing but a wooden spoon and a little jibberish. And the belief each time that the dish will cook just right.

Personal Attention

With my daughters out for the evening, we were down to one child tonight. And after returning from dinner out with the temporary "only child," when we were snuggling on the couch, watching a movie of his choice, I thought about how absolutely gleeful he was. For this one moment in time, we were completely immersed in what he wanted to do, and you could see that he was happy about that.

On a daily basis, ministering to the needs of a family of five is a challenge. While I certainly try to make sure everyone gets personal attention (and I think I sometimes succeed), the personal attention can be short--walking to an activity, listening to a story from the day, studying for a test. The needs of the rest of the family are always just a step away, and my attention is interrupted. Regularly.

Now, I think there is something kind of exciting about a family of five working together, members taking turns to be in the spotlight, siblings helping siblings when parents aren't available, getting the job done as a team. But as I sat there on the couch with my gleeful son, I thought about how it feels at work to be singled out. Sure, it's great to be part of a team. But when we are singled out for our own accomplishments on the team, we too are gleeful. We too like the individual attention that my son was so excited to get tonight.

On a daily basis, I will still be ministering to the needs of a family of five. But, thanks to seeing the glee in my son's eyes tonight, perhaps I will be a little more cognizant of what personal attention means to us all. It's saying "good job," not just to the team, but to the individuals on the team. It's taking the time to discover, even just for a moment, what each team member loves. It's closing out the needs of everyone else, even if only briefly, to give that personal attention to one person. It's oddly easy. But, like so many easy things, it makes a difference. To the person. And ultimately, to the team as well.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cyber Life

This week, as my Yahoo went haywire (apparently along with a lot of other people's), I became keenly aware of how wrapped up my life is in the Internet.

Now, this might seem odd coming from a person who posts a blog online every day. Of course my life is wrapped up in the Internet, right? What I discovered, however, is that there was far more I couldn't do than get email. With my Yahoo mail gone south, I couldn't retrieve old emails whose senders' addresses I needed. I couldn't retrieve coupons or offers that had been sent to me, or links related to my kids' schools. Worse yet, I couldn't even know what I was missing, since I, well, couldn't know what I was missing. I would like to say that it was a lovely feeling of being unreachable--disconnected--as if on vacation--but it turned out to be agitating on more levels than I could believe.

Underlying it all was the issue of control with which I imagine we all struggle. We all like to believe that we can control our circumstances, and that even if there are many things beyond our control, the day-to-day stuff is well within our tight grasp. For me, email is part of that sense of control. In just moments, I can schedule child care and meetings and coffees and work. I can save $3 here and $5 there, and feel informed about what's going on with my friends and in my community. And I can delegate and administer. I can be in control.

I am still receiving emails that were sent days ago about events that are over, but I have hope that my mailbox, and my sense of control will return very soon.

I guess it's all just a hazard of living the cyber life.

Loose, Yet Complex, Structures

Now that I am working, each day, it seems, I am reminded of how dependent I am upon the loose, yet complex, structure I have created to handle all of our family's academic, logistical, and basic needs. And, when one piece of that structure begins to wobble, I am reminded of how different it was for those months, almost years, when I was out of work.

Today, I was frantically texting and calling friends and acquaintances, trying not to break a sweat, when I realized I wouldn't come close to picking up my kids on time. When I wasn't working, I broke a literal sweat, since it was my feet dashing to pick up my kids, trying to avoid the cost of buses if I could just as easily walk (or race walk!).  

Today, I asked a fellow parent to help out in my pick up crisis. It was when I wasn't working that I actually met this fellow parent, and talked to her enough to feel okay asking her for help today.

Today, I worked hard, because for me, that's the right thing to do, and because I have something to show for it. When I wasn't working, it may have felt as though I was working hard job hunting, but I rarely had anything to show for it.

Today, as I raced in the evening dark to bring us all home, I remembered the days when I wasn't working when I sat and waited at pickup, or ran errands between dropoff and pickup, or sometimes brought us all home by 4, and before I knew it, dozed off--ever so briefly--on the couch in the afternoon sunset.

Today, as I tried to make plans so as to avoid future crises, I was reminded of how dependent I am on the loose, yet complex, structure I have created, now that I am working. I was reminded of the wobbling. And the sweating.

And of the really supportive pieces and parts--and people--that keep the structure from falling down around me every single day. Now that I am working.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ten Minutes into Thirty

My son's school bus pick up time has changed again, this time to ten minutes earlier. I guess the bus really wasn't getting to school on time after all.

But this is not a blog about buses (if it were, my son, the bus expert, would be writing it for me). On the contrary, it is about the ten minutes. Yes, ten minutes. For, as I discovered today, sometimes ten minutes is really a half hour.

Perhaps you are now completely confused. Everyone knows that a half hour is really thirty minutes, not ten. The thing is, in the ten extra minutes I had today, between putting my son on the bus and getting to work, I did at least a half hour's worth of errands. And because I turned my ten minutes into a half hour, I arrived at work with dry socks to replace my snowy wet ones (I was shooting for non-leaking boots, but we can't have everything, can we?) and a gift for an upcoming birthday (and it's not easy to find just the right thing).

What form of magic did I use to turn ten minutes into thirty? Sheer determination. While the altered bus time might not be of any great significance, I was (and am on a daily basis) determined to use that ten minutes for more than just a less hurried trip to work. There's a limited amount of time in a day, and there are an infinite number of things to do. Ten minutes is basically a gift, and to squander a gift, rather than use it to its fullest...

Because of my sheer determination, I had time today to make sure my feet were warmer and my presents were bought. And to be at work on time to boot (no pun intended). Far more than anyone can accomplish in ten minutes. But totally doable when ten minutes turns into a half hour.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Life Goes On

Through birthdays and anniversaries and new jobs and new babies, life goes on.

In New York, and North Carolina, and every place where people have ended up, life goes on.

As kids grow, and things change, and we survive things we thought we might not, life goes on.

When new people come into our lives, people we might never have met, had things stayed the same, life goes on.

Because we live through joys and sorrows, surprises and disappointments, and still come out ready for more, life goes on.

Since there is so much left to do, and we refuse to give up until we have at least tried to do it, life goes on.

Today, tomorrow, and next week, whether we expect it to or not, life goes on.

Different Times, Different Rhymes

What began as a blog written during the day (when I was working from home or looking for work) or written at night (to explore what had happened during the day) is quickly becoming an early morning blog (since I quite often fall asleep before I get to it at night). And it's interesting how different your perspective can be based on when you're writing...

Day--what's happening right now--on the street, at a bus stop, after an interview.
Night--what happened (perhaps many hours ago), and how everything else that happened in the hours afterward connected with that one event.
Early morning--what happened, tempered by a good night's sleep since it happened, therefore, the distance (and possibly dream state) to process it fully.


I suppose this is no different from how, every day, there are circumstances that change our perspective. About how the same event, surrounded by different circumstances, can be a completely different event for us.

It's seeing the differences, and valuing them, that keep life interesting.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Most of Weekends

It seems to me that quite often, when I talk about my weekends, what I talk about is how much or little got done. Whether I caught up successfully, whether the apartment was cleaner when I woke up on Monday than when I got home on Friday, whether we banked a little extra sleep, whether we are prepared to face our week.

I read the "Spare Times" section of the paper every Friday. I am well aware of how many shows and museums and events are available (and possible, now that my kids are old enough to enjoy a variety of things). But when we arrive home on Friday night, it is as if something changes. The goal is less "go do," and more "get it done." Get homework done, so the next week might be a little easier. Clean up bathrooms and kitchen, so we will at least start from clean. Pay the bills and make the calls and do the errands--all things that are just impossible during the week.

Now, as a person who values accomplishment, I am pretty pleased when, come Sunday night, I can look around and see that we've made progress. I just wonder if we are missing out by not doing more family explorations and cultural events each weekend. Would my kids feel more like a team? Would we be more educated? Would we be happier at the end of our weekends? Or would we just be exhausted?

Every week, when I read that "Spare Times" section, I am struck by how much there is to do. And when I read about other families field tripping it on their Saturdays and Sundays, I am definitely impressed. Perhaps there is a happy medium that we haven't quite reached yet. Or perhaps the unlocking of our weekends involves making adjustments to our weekdays.

But this discussion will have to continue another day. I've got laundry to do.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Almost Live

I didn't watch the live Sound of Music last night. As excited as I am about any live or live-to-tape multi-camera production, particularly those in New York, at the moment, I am working in news, and in news, when Nelson Mandela dies, you log a lot of overtime hours.

Thanks to the DVR, I will get to watch the "not-live-anymore" version this weekend, and I am curious to know whether I will be more captivated by the story or more captivated by the process that went into the production.

Once upon a time, I was the person in the control room shooting the dramatic stuff and the music, and just looking up once in a while at the news on the network monitors. I remember looking up when Nixon died (I was fascinated by the funeral coverage for years). I remember looking up on 9/11, when I arrived at work just around the time the news started carrying the horror stories. And I remember looking up at election coverage (many times--it was a lot of years!)

These days, I am often one of the people putting together some of those things I used to look up to see. And on a day when I might have been home watching the live Sound of Music, I was helping to chronicle the life of Nelson Mandela. I'm still helping to tell the stories--they're just different stories.

And thanks to the DVR and my love of multi-camera and musical theater, I'll still get to watch The Sound of Music (and likely be jealous of all the people who worked on it). Almost live.

Our Stories

My son is a huge fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series, so much so that it would really help if the author of the series could publish a new book at least once a month. Not realistic, I know, but for a kid who likes following the exploits of a fleshed-out stick figure who can't seem to come out on top, there are never too many titles. I have tried getting him into similar looking books--there are many, many series now that are following the model of drawings interspersed with text--but it is the antics of Greg (the "Wimpy Kid") that he loves. He'd sooner read those books over and over than explore every other cartoony hero.

As I watched him devouring the most recent book in the series (which I had intended to pre-order, then intended to get on its release date, then finally got last week), I couldn't help but think about what stories do for us. For my son, Wimpy Kid not only makes him laugh, it provides a window into things he hasn't experienced in his own life yet, and makes him feel more prepared to handle things like school craziness and family drama as they come along. And is anything we adults watch or read really so different? Sure, sometimes we watch and read in order to escape, but don't the stories we see often help us deal with situations in our own lives? While the adventures of Greg, the "Wimpy Kid," and of our fiction and TV heroes may be way more "out there" than what we will ever live through, the emotions of the characters are still human emotions. The choices are still human choices. And sometimes, a little reference on being human doesn't hurt.

I dare say my son will be reading this latest Wimpy Kid book over and over until the next one comes out. And if it makes him laugh and gives him a relatable role model--a kid just trying to make his way through a tricky world--that's just fine with me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Empty Studios

A former Stamford (and ABC) colleague posted a photo of the empty Stamford studio today. This enormous space that used to be wall-to-wall full of All My Children and One Life to Live sets, many ingeniously designed to share walls and doors so as to save space and money, is now an empty shell. And though I have read numerous posts about the demise of the Stamford venture, this picture really got me.

I remember that when One Life to Live finished shooting at ABC, while I edited shows for weeks afterward, I specifically avoided going back into the studio. I had lived with the idea of the show ending for a long time. I was at least somewhat prepared. Yet, I knew, somehow, that the empty studio would bring it home. Edit rooms were just cubicles with computers. For me, the studio and the control room were the places that brought the show to life, the places where the team worked together. So once I had survived the last shooting day and its accompanying on-set speeches, I knew I couldn't go back. I could handle the end, as long as I didn't go back to the studio.

Clearly, when I saw the Stamford studio photo posted today, it was like the "going back" that I never intended to do. Any set is really just an empty shell until the work of scenic designers and artists and the collaboration of a production team make it a living, breathing thing--a place where stories are told. And when it returns to that empty shell...

Will I survive? Sure. Will we all? Of course. And while the photo was everything I hoped to avoid seeing at the end of ABC, I'm not sorry that I saw it, and that it moved me, today. It reminded me of the community it supported, even just for a moment in time. And of the people I hope I will cross paths with again, somewhere down the road.

Maybe I Shouldn't Have...

Spent a year sending blindish resumes answering posts for jobs that probably didn't even exist. Perhaps it made me feel that I was doing something, but what exactly was that something?

Stopped writing my children's book series. But somehow, it's hard to indulge dreams that might come true someday when you have bills that definitely come in the mail each month.

Said "yes" to so many things--it's exhausting sometimes keeping up with them all.

Bought the giant bag of chocolate chips. Things like that just aren't safe in my apartment.

Sat on a chair that my toe happened to be under. I imagine I'll be walking a little funny tomorrow.

Life is full of "shouldn't haves" (and "should haves"). The best we can do is move on from the "shouldn'ts" and not be controlled by the "shoulds."

Oh, and protect toes from dangerous furniture.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Awards Season

It's been an awards kind of week--not winning awards, just being bombarded by emails and posts and thoughts about them. For, while the online soap reboots-slash-Stamford-slash-Soap Camp (wow, that's a mouthful) may have ended, both the Television Academy (NATAS) and the Directors Guild (DGA) have acknowledged that it was not all a figment of our imaginations. They have created award categories that include our efforts in Stamford (as well as the efforts of many other teams producing soaps for the Internet). And as a member of what is fondly known as "the Daytime Community," (that has kind of a nice ring to it, doesn't it?), I have ended up in the loop for making sure these productions get the proper consideration.
What's a bit funny about all of this is that, while it is paying tribute to something that for now is in the past, it is actually looking forward as well--acknowledging the fact that television, or what we used to call television, is now available in many formats, and that those of us who have created television are now expanding into realms we might never have imagined. Yay for us!
A year ago, I was marveling at the fact that I could  submit material I had worked on in the last two weeks at ABC. Now, I am marveling at the fact that what at times seemed like a grand experiment is now part of a new set of awards. So maybe it mattered a little more than we thought. Maybe, rather than a blip, it was actually a step. For us, and for the storytellers who come after us.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving With A Side Of...

How is it that what starts as a holiday ends as just a harder return to regular life? I mean, on Thursday, it was all about food. With a side of gratitude. Friday was all about leftover food. With a side of shopping. Saturday was all about "some other kind of food, please." With a side of transit and traffic. But today--today is just a Sunday. With a side of "wiped out from the weekend." And the additional side of expectations that things have been done--it was a long weekend, after all. It all seemed so simple when it was just turkey and the sides.

Alas, Thanksgiving and its weekend are over. Back to regular life. With sides of early alarms, tight deadlines, and dinners far more likely to be spaghetti than poultry. What started as a holiday and ended as a long weekend playing catchup is done for another year.

So, back to regular life. But if we did this weekend well, perhaps it will be regular life--with a side of Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

You Know Experience Has Changed You When...

You know that doing any serious job exploration on a holiday weekend is worthless.

You have begun to understand that spending a few dollars doesn't mean you're breaking the bank.

You see that fun is found in the improvising--you don't always need to have a plan or a goal.

You hear your kids talk about money with a sense that they really understand.

You have made friends who don't share your workplace each day.

You have learned that it's okay to take a little break--from work, from everyday responsibility, from filling every minute with parenting.

You have made peace with the fact that the challenges will still be there tomorrow, so if you're not willing or able to face them all today, that's okay. It's really okay.

Black Friday. In The Black.

On Thanksgiving, I heard a journalist say that she didn't really agree with all the uproar about stores deciding to start Black Friday sales on Thursday. While many people were arguing that this step forced employees to work instead of being with their families, she asserted that many people might be happy to work, particularly in an economy plagued by lack of work. Perhaps they did not celebrate Thanksgiving anyway, or perhaps they would happily adjust their family dinner schedule accordingly, if it meant a paycheck that included extra work hours.

I did not shop on Thanksgiving night, and despite my considering it, I did not get up to shop at 5am on Black Friday. I did, however, find myself in the middle of Black Friday crowds during the day, and, as a person who has spent the last few Turkey Days essentially unemployed, I kind of understood what the reporter was saying. For me, this was the first Black Friday in a few when I actually felt comfortable spending any money. There were no fistfights over big-ticket items, but, because it has been a reasonable work year, I could say yes to purchases I might have avoided the last few years. After years of not even wanting to go into a store for fear of spending money that just wasn't coming in, I was joyful to spend just a little time in the shopping frenzy.

I can't say whether working on Thanksgiving created a hardship for retail employees. But, as a person who spent many months over the last few years unemployed, and as a person who saw countless people heading to their hospital, restaurant, and transit jobs as I headed to Turkey Day dinner, I can say that the reporter's words rang true to me.

I didn't come out of Black Friday (or Black Thursday night) with all my holiday shopping done or with large items that I could only have gotten then. But it did feel good to be in a position to participate in the frenzy a little. And perhaps some of those unemployed or underemployed who were working felt (or will feel) a little bit of that too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Three-Year Plans

I am not a person who has a 10-year plan. Or a five. Or even a one. I can't really even say what I'll be doing a month from now. But yearly rituals like Thanksgiving do cause a person to reflect and to look forward. And it was at Thanksgiving dinner this year, when we went around the table listing the things for which we were thankful, that I realized just how much has happened, planned or not, in these last three years. There was a Thanksgiving when presumed overeating pains turned out to be gall bladder pains (and by Chanukah--not Thanksgivukah--that year, I was having surgery). There was a Thanksgiving when I was mourning the fresh loss of my work at ABC, and a Thanksgiving when I was completely consumed with (and agitated about) finding new work.

And now there is this year. No medical emergencies, no fresh losses. Just the embracing of the new life that continues to develop each day. A life that includes work, but a healthy dose of home. A life in which I appreciate both the older-ness of my own children, and the younger-ness of my cousins' children (including a brand new one born yesterday). A life in which, at Thanksgiving dinner, I can name more things to be thankful for than the length of my turn will allow.

I didn't plan these three years, and I am not likely to plan the next three. But a year from now, or two years, or three years from now, when Thanksgiving comes around again, with or without a plan, I will likely say I am thankful to have made it through a whole new set of adventures.

Because life isn't really about making plans. It's about what you do each day, planned or not.