Thursday, February 28, 2013

Accepting (Embracing?) Fate

Yesterday, I fell asleep on the couch mid-afternoon.  Which is, on the one hand, one of the glories of the freelance/job search life. Your hours are yours to structure.  As long as you fulfill your obligations, work-wise and family-wise, whether you nap in the afternoon is really up to you.  Nonetheless, I awoke beating myself up for the lost hours.

At midnight last night when my middle school daughter and I finished her math homework, it suddenly became clear. My nap was fate. The only (and I love my kids, but the ONLY) reason I was able to stay up until midnight with my daughter was that I had taken that nap.

Tonight (having not taken a nap), I left a CMA program without staying to network, and ended up walking out the door with a person I hadn't seen in some time--we had a brief but great conversation, one that never would have occurred had I forced myself to stay longer.

Often, one of the hardest things to do is step back and accept things that happen.  I'm not saying that everything always happens for a reason, but I do know that the results of things unplanned often end up better than anything I could plan.

This has been a year of rolling with more punches than ever before, and I would like to think I've come out stronger for it. So, if once in a while I feel the need for a nap or an early exit, I'm going for it.  Hey, you never know what fate will give you in exchange!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Worth It

I read yesterday that in a few weeks, the children's network Sprout will begin airing animated music videos created by Laurie Berkner and Little Airplane, a company long known for its innovative approaches to preschool television.

What struck me about this particular news was how it pulled together so many pieces of my experience. Two years ago, when I participated in Little Airplane's Academy "How to Make a Great Preschool Series," not only did I meet many people from Little Airplane, I also met several producers from Sprout and an up and coming producer who worked with Laurie Berkner (and who introduced me to the Children's Media Association, whose events I have been attending faithfully ever since). In two years, a collaboration whose beginnings I essentially witnessed has come to fruition.  I can't help but be excited for all of the people involved (not to mention the preschoolers who will enjoy the shows).

At the same time, I can't help but think about the path I have taken in the two years since that weekend at the Academy.  I am not employed in children's media, but I have learned a tremendous amount about it through my involvement with CMA.  I wrote a series of stories for preschoolers which, though not even published, may someday lead to some books or a show or an app.  And I have realized that in children's media, or perhaps in any number of things that you create, it takes a long time to make a start, a long time to make a change, a long time to make a difference.  It takes patience, and persistence, and an unwavering belief that the end result is possible.

I am so happy for all the people who have created "Sing It, Laurie." They clearly had that unwavering belief, and they remind me that things that are worth it take time. And that often, taking the time is well worth it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Structural Changes

A year and a half ago (or two years, depending on the time you start counting), when it became clear One Life to Live was dying, our ideas of renovating our apartment pretty much died too.  No pass-through kitchen, no carving out better spaces for my kids, no putting protective walls around my husband's desk, no built-in shelving for our various collections.

Now, it turns out, One Life to Live is not dead after all.  And, since I will be joining the show in Stamford in less than two weeks (yes, I will be ADing there), there is now an urgency to get as much done at home as I can, before every hour of my energy starts going into this new venture.

Am I saying I am renovating our apartment? Heavens, no. We all know that takes way longer than two weeks.  Why, then, the talk of what we would have done?  Well, I realized today that if I was to accomplish all the things on my to-do list, I was going to have to work on a few things at the same time.  So, in order to watch Emmy submission DVDs while making eggplant Parmesan, I turned my dining table into the pass through kitchen counter I never built. Instead of holing up in our narrow, closed off kitchen, unable to do anything but cook, I was suddenly able to accomplish two things at once. A "structural change" in the absence of a structural change.

I have a feeling my traveling to Stamford will require a great many of these "structural changes." While we won't be moving or anything that extreme, we--all of us--will need to do things a little bit differently to make it work.

Today's experience, which really just required an open mind and a willingness to carry a few ingredients to the table, was, oddly, a rather eye-opening one. Often we think major structural changes are required to fix the difficulties in our lives. Sometimes, that's true. But sometimes, a few minor tweaks and a slightly different approach are all the "structural change" that we need.

So, in the next two weeks, I will be working on some of those different approaches, and I feel sure that the "structural changes" will continue for a long time before we ever get around to hiring a contractor.  Perhaps by that time, we will have made so many adjustments to our own structures that not much demolition will be required.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Different Worlds

This morning, as the first scenes of the new All My Children were being shot in Stamford, CT, I was delivering Purim treat boxes to homebound elderly people in my neighborhood.  I say this not to put myself forward as a do-gooder--I wasn't actually that good at it (it's hard not to be awkward making conversation with strangers)--but because I was struck by how these so completely different scenarios could be going on simultaneously and how for me, one would not have been possible without the absence of the other.  A year and a half ago, I was so busy working on a soap that doubt I would have said yes to delivering treat boxes or even have been in a position to be asked.

Sometimes it is only the absence of what is familiar that allows us to explore the unfamiliar--to put ourselves in those awkward places like making conversation with strangers.

So, while the absence of what was familiar for so long has undoubtedly made this a difficult year for me, I cannot help but be grateful to have been introduced to different worlds. Worlds I never would have visited, were it not for my familiar day to day fictional world having been taken away for a while. Who knew I could be such a world traveler?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What I Learned Without Trying

My son, who has been trying to help me with a topic for today's blog, keeps launching into songs and riffs I didn't even know he knew.  Which has made me start thinking about all the things I have tried to learn, and all the things I have learned without trying.  I mean, we all spend a large part of our lives taking classes and going for training, watching tutorials and reading how-to books.  But how many of the things we know well did we learn that way?

For me, the "learned without trying" skills far outnumber the ones I have learned from books and classes.  I know how to AD because I have watched some of the best, and I have watched how my work affects the other members of my team. I have learned to edit by seeing what I like--what makes me cringe and what makes me cry, getting notes from producers and then trusting my gut.  I know how to parent, at least some days, by listening to my kids, and I know how to write because, well, because of all of the above, plus a good start from my high school English teachers.

The point here is, while we can try to take every course that's out there, try to prepare for every possible scenario, and try to prep our kids for every test they have, so many of the things we learn, as children and as grownups--often the most important things--come not from what we try to learn, but from our just being open to and observant of the world and people around us.  So the next time I ask my son what he learned today, perhaps I will be thinking about something he observed out the school bus window.  And the next time I beat myself up about all the classes I haven't taken and the books I haven't read, I'll remember the number of things I've learned every day--without even trying.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Late Showers

A new habit has begun at my apartment.  We finish dinner and clear the table, then I announce that I'll be taking a shower, sometimes my second of the day.

I have been a morning shower person for as long as I can remember.  A hot shower, after all, is part of a wake up routine, right?  Part of getting ready to face the day.

What I have discovered these past few weeks is that, while morning showers and evening ones include essentially the same elements, they are actually (and undeniably) fundamentally different events.

The morning shower is part of a process--the process of waking oneself up, of preparing to face the world for the day. It is essentially something done FOR other people--so they get the awake you, the hair washed you, the shower fresh smelling you.

The evening shower, on the other hand, is really just for yourself. (I suppose that if you work at a smelly job, it's for your family too, but that's not what I'm talking about here.) It's not about getting ready for something or about putting your best self forward.  It's about enjoying the hot water just because it's hot, enjoying the moments alone after a day of constantly meeting other people's needs, enjoying the feeling of washing off one day to move toward another.  It doesn't necessarily replace the morning shower (though it helps on a day you oversleep!). Rather, it is kind of like an end of day gift to yourself for a job well done.

I'm sure there was a time when I would have said that taking two showers in a day surely meant a person had too much time on her hands. And maybe I should be busier.  Maybe soon, I will be far too busy even to think about such a luxury.

Or maybe, just maybe, with a little extra time, I have stumbled onto something great, something that, like this blog, I will hang on to doing, even if the clock says there's not enough time.  Just one of those choices that, thank goodness, a little free time enables us to see.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A-Head Hunter

A few days ago, I had coffee with a headhunter.  Not because I am being headhunted--there aren't many headhunters recruiting people who do the assortment of things that I do (though there have been many times over the past year when I've really wished there were!).

This particular headhunter happens to be a friend, so it was mostly just a friends reconnecting coffee, but people often do what they do for a reason, so, not surprisingly, my friend the headhunter had some good ideas about my ongoing search to define (redefine?) myself and my work.

First, she took the kibosh off of putting your college graduation year on your resume. As she put it, isn't an employer going to know, either from your resume or from meeting you that you're not 22?

Next, she cut to the chase, and made me do so too. Apparently no one really cares about the 10 jobs you had before your most recent one.  Go figure.  Then feel free to take a lot of things off--the white space will feel good!

And, probably most important, she reminded me that social media is only really effective if you make it that way.  It's not enough to write a blog and post it to sites. That, and anything else worthwhile, needs shouting from the rooftops, with things like messages to LinkedIn connections, active seeking of followers, and links on Twitter.

And so, this week, a friendly coffee turned out to include some very good actionable advice, which I have already begun to take.  There may not be many headhunters for what I do, but that doesn't mean I can't or won't be found.  It just mean I need to do more of the hunting--and the gathering--on my own.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


As the title suggests, I overslept today.  Perhaps it was a reaction to being "back to school" after vacation.  Perhaps I stayed up too late (and was so tired I forgot to set the alarm?). Or perhaps there was just something in the air--as the day went on, I found out that several of my friends had overslept too. Whatever the reason, I woke up to find it light--oh, no! Light!! (It is always pitch dark when I get up, shower, make school lunches, wake children).

Within 20 minutes of my flying out of bed, one child made it out the door, dressed, fed, and with a lunch.  Shortly after, the other two also made it out.  So, with the exception of the time it took me to recover from the shock of it all, everything basically worked out.

Some people might say this whole experience means that I don't need to get myself or my kids up nearly as early as I normally have been.  Hey, it worked, didn't it?

Others might argue that we are all going to bed too late.  Which would be true.  But mostly unavoidable.

Yet others might believe that this was my warning about simplifying my 14-course school lunches.

I choose to believe that it is a little bit of all of it.  We can aim to fix our problems so they don't result in crises.  But, in the end, since we can rarely fix ALL our problems, it really comes down to how we react when the crisis DOES come.  Today, we all, each in his/her own way, reacted.  Everyone got to the right place, and less than 24 hours later, we have all moved on to the next challenge.

Which, for me, is making sure to set the alarm.  Because I'm already up too late!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Day After

When I was a kid, I cried every year at the end of my birthday because after months of anticipation, the big day was over, not to be repeated for a whole 'nother year.

Now, President's Day is by no means the only school holiday of the year.  And, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, it was just an extended weekend rather than a full week off this year.  We didn't even go on some big, fancy vacation.  (We barely WENT anywhere--the farthest was Westchester to go grocery shopping).  And, yet, I woke up today with that "end of birthday" feeling.  Despite the short vacation being not particularly earth-shattering, I was here for it.  Not the first time over the last year that I have been, but perhaps the last. As each vacation passes, I realize that by the next, I might be working, no longer able to share the sleeping late and figuring out what to do and playing hours of video games with my kids.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss the sound of the video games already. (I'm sure the kids would be happy to fill that void for me this weekend!). For that very brief time, I allowed myself to be "on vacation" with them. Not completely free of responsibility or digital connection, but free of running constantly, free of guilt about scheduling every minute of my time.  And it was great.

As time goes on, there won't necessarily be vacations we can share.  It's not easy matching up the schedules of so many people, and, work being work, I won't necessarily be able to choose my schedule.  So, I'm glad we had these few days, video games and all.  Perhaps they will inspire me to make parts of our weekends little mini-vacations, complete with a little sleeping late, a little shirking responsibility, a little just stopping and spending some time together.  Because even if you cry when the weekend is over, you don't have to wait a whole year for one to come again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Good Day

How do you define a "good day"? Depends on the day, I guess, and on the "you" involved.

Midday today, my son told me it had been a very good day. We'd played video games at the Sony Wonder Lab and had a strawberry smoothie while we were waiting to go in.  We'd had a rare fast food lunch.  He'd been able to deposit money in his newly created bank account, and even got free stuff from the bank teller.  From his point of view, a great day. Even if we'd had to do more walking than he'd like and had needed to get up and out early on a day off.  Even if we had to drop off and pick up his sister and even if I said "no" to several requests for toys.  Even if he came home and fell asleep at 5:30, likely coming down with the virus his sister had last week.  For him, at least in that moment, it was a very good day.

As for me, in that same moment, I called it a good day too. Never mind that I got up and out early to make the day work. Never mind that I came home exhausted.  Never mind that tomorrow I will be playing catch-up on all the life errands that I ignored today.  In that moment, it was a good day.

I've heard "good days" talked about in so many ways.  A production company that shoots everything it's supposed to calls it "a good day." A person who's sick but feels better than normal has had a "good day."

As far as I can tell, the sheer urgency with which my son called it "a good day" when the day was just halfway done is probably the way to go--to find the good before giving way to the bad, the ugly, and the exhausted.  Let's face it, particularly as adults, we don't often have days that we consider good from beginning to end.  But if we can focus on the good--highlight it as it is happening--I would venture to say we'd be defining many more of our days as good.

By the end of today, there was enough tiredness to make me think that it was just fine that the kids would go back to school tomorrow.  The exuberance about a good day can't always last forever.  But if tomorrow turns out to be just an ordinary day, I will be particularly glad to have the memory of my son exclaiming that it was a very good day.  We should all do that a lot more often.

Monday, February 18, 2013


When I sat in the coffee shop yesterday and successfully wrote my blog, I was actually intending to write several.  I mean, hey, how many times do you get a few quiet, sit still hours at a time of day when you don't just want to sleep? And you never know when things will get crazy and I will be grateful to have "banked" a few posts.

Turns out, a few was harder than I thought.  It's not that I can't write that many words in one sitting. But, as attractive as the thought of "banking" might be, and as integral as it has become to soaps over the past decade, part of what I love about doing this blog is the writing every day.  Sure, it's nice to see my little creations in virtual print, no matter when they were written.  But the process of writing something each day is so much a part of it, that it somehow feels wrong to have a whole slew of written pieces that just get "plugged in." For me, the process is almost as important (if not more so) than the product.

I suppose that I have always been a process over product person.  This is not to say that I'm looking to put a shoddy product out in the world.  There is, however, a particular satisfaction to the "thick of things" feeling as something is being put together.  Watching a cameraperson scramble to get a beautiful shot despite the obstacles.  Making cupcakes with a child, even if the result doesn't look as though it came from a bakeshop.  Writing each day, even if it means struggling for the creative when the work of the day has wiped you out.  It's all in the process.

So, while I do keep careful track of ideas--story starters, as it were--that come to mind, the text of what you see each day will almost certainly have been generated that day.  For me, it's just part of the process.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Having dropped my daughters at play rehearsal, I now have two hours to kill.  Too schleppy to go home, too long to wait in the rehearsal lobby.  So, what to do?

I could wander the neighborhood.  After all, I am unencumbered by children complaining about walking.  It's not raining, and this particular neighborhood is incredibly populated with places to see.  Places to see and spend money. I mean, I'll walk through a store anytime, but if I shop my way through every two-hour rehearsal, my daughters' performing arts careers could become quite expensive--even aside from the lessons and costumes and tickets.  So, no store-hopping.  And, while it's not raining, it's a bit cold for a "good exercise" walk--I can see people literally being blown down the sidewalk.

It's times like this when a $2-4 cup of coffee starts to look pretty cheap. On the $2 end, cheaper than a subway ride to go somewhere.  And even on the $4 end, cheaper than being able to go AND get back.  A table, some people watching (and people-listening--a particular privilege when you're both in New York AND close enough to Penn Station to hear out-of-towners too).  And, the opportunity to write a blog before 9pm, virtually without interruption (except for my own checking of email and Facebook every so often--did I mention that the coffee comes with free Wifi?).  Now I begin to understand all the people I used to see typing and drinking coffee when I was hurrying to get coffee before work.  It may be a reasonably relaxing atmosphere, complete with caffeinated treats, but with a keyboard and clear head, it's a cost-effective office that works.  Even at 5pm on a Sunday. And, considering that I will be full of caffeine at 5pm on a Sunday, by 9, I might even be able to write 3 more blogs!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Want Hierarchy

There is something very profound about children, and yet, something very simple.  On the one hand, they are these little beings who reflect a little bit of you and a little bit of how you raise them, and a whole lot of things that you don't recognize from anywhere. On the other hand, they just want what they want and spend every waking moment (and probably some sleeping ones) basically just trying to get whatever it is that they want.

Take my son.  He loves screens.  TV, computer, video games--you name it.  But since he is also highly motivated by medals, he puts aside all screens, at least for 25 minutes a day, during the piano practice marathon, because those who practice for 114 days straight get a medal.  So all it takes is a small reminder of the medal, and he's sitting at the piano in no time.

Then there's my daughter, the pasta lover, who would happily eat pasta at every meal if we let her.  So much so that, when she heard I might not be able to make pasta school lunches when I went back to work, she suddenly became highly motivated to learn to cook. Well, at least to cook pasta.  And get up earlier to do it.  She wants what she wants, and she's willing to get up early to get it.

I find that the trickiest part is figuring out each child's "want hierarchy."  While kids will never be completely predictable (and that wouldn't be much fun anyway!), knowing which wants trump the others tends to give you a pretty good idea about what they'll do.  Medals trump screens, pasta trumps sleep.  All in the hierarchy.

My own "want hierarchy" is much less simple and much more variable.  Probably like most parents, I want more sleep.  But only some days do I let this want take over.  Oh, and there's chocolate.  And marshmallows.  And eggplant.  Other than that, I am much harder to pin down, actually hard to buy gifts for, since my list of wants tends to be full of abstracts, hard to wrap up with a bow on my birthday.

When is it that our wants stop being the semi-transparent ones of children?  Or is it simply that the "want hierarchy" dynamic is so specific to parents and their kids that it's just not an issue for us as grownups?

For me, the good news is that, at least in several areas, my kids' "wants" will lead to very good things. Maybe my daughter will become such a good cook that she'll make not just pasta for her lunch but dinner for tired, post-work me as well.  And hey, with 114 days of practice under his belt, her brother can serenade me while I eat.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Drama and Duct Tape

We have just completed repairing my kids' karate chest protectors with an enormous amount of duct tape.  You know, the silver kind that makes a lot of noise when you pull it.  They will once again be able to withstand the punches and kicks of sparring, all thanks to a roll of silver tape.

Would that every blow we had to take in life be lessened by a roll of duct tape.  I mean, it's tough stuff.  Why can't it fix the times we hurt our kids' feelings while trying to protect them? Why can't a little duct tape fix the gap between the money coming in and the money that needs to go out, or tape up the hole in us when we feel as though we just can't do it all?

Many years ago, my kids and I learned how to make things like wallets out of duct tape.  We probably still have some of the ones we made. So clearly, duct tape is not just for lessening the blows.  It is capable of so much more, and so are we.  And perhaps, we are pretty strong without it.  We fix the holes, the insecure spots, ourselves, because, as well as duct tape works on chest protectors, it just wouldn't look right on us.  Much as we like how effective the duct tape is, it is up to us to find our own strength for facing the blows of life.

So, while I watched my kids tape up their karate gear, I realized that I had actually gotten through a drama-filled day without the assistance of the big silver roll.  It's good stuff. But it's okay--let there be some drama and a few blows once in a while. Duct tape or no, I can take it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Take on Valentine's Day

One of the very lovely things about a year away from One Life to Live is the friendships that I have developed with my former co-workers now that we have to work at staying connected.

When I was traveling to West 66th Street every day, while I might spend hours with my co-workers there, once I said "that's it everybody, thanks very much," I eagerly went home to my family each night.  I rarely spent time with work people outside of work.  What I am discovering now, as we have all moved on with our lives, is that we still have a lot to talk about, and it's not all One Life to Live.  Producers have become writers, writers have written new things, ADs have become actors, casting directors have used their people skills to explore other professions.  I have delved into children's media and blogging. We have all found parts of ourselves that we've had time to develop, and these explorations make for very interesting coffees and lunches and dinners when we are back together.

I wouldn't wish anyone--including myself--time being out of work, but on this Valentine's Day, a day full of connecting and expressing appreciation, I am grateful for the things and people I've gotten to discover this year.  To all who have opened themselves to new things since last Valentine's, you have a lot to celebrate.  Buy yourself a candy heart, and let's have coffee sometime so I can hear about all your new journeys.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's Ten O'Clock Again

Once again, I find myself writing at night.  You would think that, with buses and trains and time at home, I'd be more than done by now, but despite the fact that I'd love to be done for the day, here I am, once again at ten o'clock.

When I worked in a place that had an "Order of the Day," there were many hours during which it was perfectly clear what was supposed to happen when.  Many days now, I may have the boundaries--dropping off a child, picking up a child--but the rest of everything just falls where it can.  And most days, writing manages to escape those boundaries. Sometimes, writing at night gives me a whole day's worth of activities and observations upon which to draw.  Sometimes, writing at night means writing half-asleep after I've worked a whole day or sat reading with a child.  And sometimes, writing at night just means writing grumpy (as my family can tell you, the "Momster" begins to appear around 10).  So if I still worked by an "Order of the Day," I would most definitely schedule blogging in earlier.

We all know how hard it is to carve out time for things, yet how many of us make "orders" or "lists" to ensure we make time for that time?  I see many people I know raising their hands--I am friends with a remarkable number of organized people, including one who is a professional organizer and a bunch who could be.  But, while at work, I happily organize information and keep others organized, at home, I am much more an "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" person, inclined to roll with what comes. Which probably makes for a more interesting blog--one that captures the ups and downs of 7am and 10pm.  Because 7am and 10pm are not the same every day.  And sometimes, that's just how life is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Euphoria in 7 Cameras

I thought it might matter that I hadn't done multi-camera AD work in a long time (most of my gigs this year have been on the editing end).  But a 3-day orchestra gig and 7 cameras later, it's as if I never missed a beat (no pun intended).

What, you may ask, does this mean?  It means I can look at pieces of paper with numbers and descriptions for every shot each of 7 cameras needs to get in an hour and a half show, and simultaneously look at tiny monitors and tell camera operators when they need to adjust their shots. Oh, and when they have a great shot that the director should see.

None of this has to make sense. The point is, after months of going down many, MANY avenues, trying to clarify what I do, and what I CAN do, today, I was reminded that, while I may do many things, and be able to do many things, there is a reason why the AD thing is something I am known for doing well.

Just a little euphoria in 7 cameras.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Not two hours into Day 2 of my 2 1/2 day gig, my phone buzzed.  And buzzed again. And again.  Until I turned off the buzz because I was in the middle of watching an orchestra rehearsal.  But I knew, with that many buzzes, something was wrong.  And when I was able to check, "Buzz 1" was from the school nurse--"Your child has a fever. She has to be picked up." Thankfully, with the help of a good husband and a good babysitter, everything worked out.  But the fact that, after weeks of me being home, this happened on my first day (in a long time) being on a job--CLASSIC.  My first day on Bayou Billionaires, I got a call that one of my kids had thrown up at school.  What are the odds?  And how is it that I worked for so many years and almost never had these issues with my kids?

The "how is it?" question has an easy answer--Aggie.  For a great many of the years when I was working, I had a fantastic nanny who managed things at home--including sick kids--so that, when I was at work, I was at work.  It didn't mean I never worried about my kids, but it did mean I never had to worry that they weren't being taken care of.  But alas, older kids and only part time work later, there is no full-time "extra me" to manage these situations, and that is an adjustment for all of us.  So, while what happened today can't possibly happen every single time I start a freelance job, the fact that it did, and that people jumped in and made it work out makes me realize that we are all perfectly capable of making adjustments, and if there is one thing that I have tried to teach my family members, it is that.  In life, there is the "how things should be" and the "how things are." And the people who succeed are the ones who adjust to the "how things are" rather than bemoaning the failure of "how things should be."

I don't quite know how tomorrow will play out--whether things will return to normal, or whether I will have a sick-at-home child on the final day of this gig.  What I do know, though, is that we will all adjust and make it work. Because, I am proud to say, that is what we--all of us--have learned to do.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Opportunities

A few weeks ago, a friend connected me to a new job opportunity.  A few emails, and I am doing the job for the next few days.  It is truly a reminder of how much gets done outside of Indeed and Craigslist and even LinkedIn.

Several of my jobs over the past year have been that way. Perhaps it is my industry, but a whole lot more seems to happen separate from interviews and lengthy online applications than with those formalities.  There's a shorthand in personal contact that, I guess, just can't work in a more formal job search.

What's particularly interesting is how closely personal interactions work the same way.  Why was I supposed to give a speech yesterday?  Because being a drop off/pick up mom has put me in the path of people who need people (okay, this pun I couldn't resist) to make speeches.  People know me, now as more than just a name on a list. Why have I become friends with parents of some of my children's friends?  My children have already vetted them (well, at least their kids), and I (at least sometimes) trust my children's judgment. Plus, it's just easier to have friends who connect to the same places I need to take my kids.  And easier is helpful.

It doesn't make me feel good about the hiring process to know that this is the way it works, but, in a lot of ways, it actually makes sense.  Which means that the hours and days spent filling out all those online applications could probably have been better spent having coffees with potential contacts. Or keeping up constant email dialogues with every person I've ever met, even if they've moved to the woods and are now raising chickens.

Okay, this has gotten a little extreme, even for a diehard networker.  For now, I will just thank goodness for the new connection (and make sure I do right by it), and keep doing whatever I can to keep connecting all the people I know.  So that we all have new opportunities for new opportunities.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Big Speech

If you read earlier in the week, you may be expecting me to talk about the speech I made this morning.  But alas, the event where I was to give the speech was cancelled due to the weather, so what was to be a nervous excitement kind of a day turned into a fairly normal Saturday, full of errands, cleaning, and homework.

You might think (as I did), "oh, good, don't need to be nervous." We did have a good day without my speech.  I think, though, that we often forget how useful a little nervous excitement can be.  We've all felt it--when we started a new job or had to make a presentation or go on an interview.  And if we didn't let it paralyze us, didn't the nervous excitement make us stand a little straighter, think a little faster, rise to the occasion?  And if we fought through it, weren't we treated to a degree of euphoria that wouldn't have existed if we were just going through a normal day?

Perhaps I will have another opportunity to give the speech (though it will likely need revision, since it was based on a Torah reading that changes every week).  And I'm sure that before that, I will have other reasons for nervous excitement, which is good. There's nothing wrong with normal, but a little rising to the occasion can't help making us grow.  And though I don't need to be taller, OR older, I'll take a little healthy growth on a Saturday.  Or on any day of the week.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Joy of Parenting

Having children makes you do all sorts of things you don't want to do.  I mean, let's face it, does anyone like changing diapers or cleaning up spitup?  Or adding the cost of a babysitter to any night out?

But every so often, having children also lets you do things you might not otherwise be able to do. I ate many a piece of birthday cake at the numerous parties my kids attended when they were little.  I visited places like Dylan's Candy Bar for the first time because one of my children was invited there, and I got to see the video Elmopalooza because I have children. And tonight, I got to go to Friday night services because my almost 15 year old was bound and determined to do it.  Not eager to fight to convince her younger siblings, I had given up the idea.  It was snowing.  We were inside and warm.  And it would be a hard sell, particularly to my 8 year old.  But she wanted it--children often want things, as I've learned over fifteen years of parenting--and before I knew it, she'd brainwashed her brother and convinced her sister, and we all set out, snow boots and all, to be a part of the festive Shabbat service.  
I'm sure that tomorrow, I will do have to do something--or twenty somethings--I don't really want to, because of the kids.  But today, I got to do something enjoyable and worthwhile because one of my children fought for it. These kids can be a pretty useful thing.  I guess I'll keep them.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I have, over the years, read more articles about balancing career and family than I can count.  And, over the years, I have developed an image of myself as one of those circus clowns who twirls plates on long poles.  When the balancing act works, it is a thing of beauty.  When it doesn't, there's a loud crashing noise and a huge mess.

There's a new balance on my mind these days.  It's less about making sure I am where I need to be at any given moment--I know that I will be at kid dropoffs and pickups, because that's my job right now.  The new balance (no sneaker pun intended) is the one I negotiate between the things I do as a currently "at-home" parent and the things I do as a person who intends to be working full time again.

What does it mean to balance those two?  It means that, while it's great to "have coffee" with friends, it's important to make sure that at least some of my coffee dates are with work-related contacts.  It means that, while it's great to use my talents and current free time to help out people and causes, it's important to realize that not every minute of my "I'm not working" time is actually free time.  Just as there once needed to be a balance between full time work and parenting, there now needs to be a balance between freelancing/looking for work and enjoying the perks of having home as home base.

The plates don't seem quite as high on the poles as they once did, and my fear of dropping them is not as present as it once was.  But I'm still eager to put on the plate-spinning show. And  if so, I'd best keep practicing my balancing act.  Every day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Wednesday

On Wednesdays, we get dollar coffee (or hot chocolate, depending on your age) at 7-11. It's a small thing, perhaps, but a big cup of this small thing, and only a dollar.

Once upon a time at One Life to Live, there were control room coffee runs (less dependent on the day, more dependent on the director or producer).  A list of each person's drink of choice was made, and interns would return with armfuls of yummy treats that made the long days go faster.  It wasn't dollar coffee, but it was a similar small thing that made a big difference.

Life is so full of things we have to do--school and work and afterschool activities. Buying groceries, making dinner, cleaning, and paying bills.  So many things that have to be done and that we do, fairly diligently, week in and week out. And amidst them, now there is dollar Wednesday coffee.

When the One Life studio moved far enough away from the coffee shop to make coffee runs unrealistic, the days of that afternoon treat ended, and a certain feel good perk of just getting through a rough afternoon or a rough week went away.

It's amazing how such a small thing can make a difference, and how, in the runaround of everyday life, we often leave out these small things, writing them off as too expensive or too caloric or just plain unnecessary.  And, though they might not seem necessary, maybe they really are.  Maybe they help us feel better, even if just for a few moments, or work better, even if just for a few hours, or just plain BE better, because we treated ourselves or someone else to a little bit of fun.

And that's one of the best things I can think of to do on a Wednesday.  Or any day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Writing Lessons

I spent a chunk of today starting to write the d'var Torah, a literary criticism-slash-inspirational speech that I will be delivering at a community Shabbat service this Saturday.  For those of you who read the "Commitment" post a few weeks ago, this is evidence that I did slow down and say "yes."  I won't give away the topic--you'll have to wait until at least Saturday for that--but I will share a few of the things I've learned so far.

1. We grownups should have a whole lot of respect for our 13 year olds who write Bar/Bat Mitzvah speeches and for our middle and high school students, who are called upon to analyze text every day. It's not easy.

2. Speaking is not the same as writing.  I keep reminding myself that I will have to say out loud, in front of a bunch of people, whatever I write.  So, please, no crazy long words that I'll trip over in the moment.

3. A d'var Torah is not a blog.  I've been writing this blog for five months now, and I'm pretty comfortable with it. But there's text to analyze here, people.  This is not just a witty personal commentary (though I hope it will end up somewhat personal and at least a little bit witty).

4. It's okay to say "yes," even when you're not sure you can do something.  It tends to stretch the brain, and who among us couldn't use a little brain-stretching every now and then?

5. As a former co-worker taught me, some of the best things happen when you just let yourself feel.

I'll keep you posted.  Literally.

Monday, February 4, 2013

It Could All Change

As we head into another week of the school bus strike, it feels as though the intricate arrangements for getting my children to their schools in the morning and home in the afternoon are not just a temporary solution, but the new normal.  Every thought process I go through about activities presumes no school bus.  Every imagined note to a babysitter presumes no school bus.  And yet, at any moment, it all could change.

Throughout my life, I have had friends who made summer plans, five year plans, and even life plans. Every so often, I've thought about doing that.  Even tried.  Problem is, most of the time when I make plans, so many of the underlying circumstances change, the plans no longer make any sense. Take summer camp--which New York City families tend to plan in January or February.  If I set it up to make sure my kids are covered if/when I am working, the scheduled weeks always end up to be weeks when relatives come from far away and expect my kids to be available. Work comes when it comes, so plans to go to meetings or school events are almost always tentative. Maybe it's a family of five, maybe it's the industry in which I work.  Or maybe I am just not a person who was meant to make plans.

So, while any day, we could back to having a school bus, any day we could go back to me working long hours and having babysitters ride herd at my apartment each afternoon, all I can--no, need to--deal with now is now.  The NOW normal. When things stop changing, I'll make some plans.


Don't hold your breath. The now normal changes just about every day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Directing Team

I woke up this morning to the news that One Life to Live's Jill Mitwell (and her directing team, which included me, as an AD and a Stage Manager) won the 2012 Director's Guild (DGA) Award for Daytime Drama.  It's amazing to think that One Life to Live aired just ten episodes in 2012--over a year ago--and one of them won a DGA award.  I guess what we did back then did live on after all.

I didn't go to the awards ceremony. Numerous East Coast commitments have generally kept me from attending LA awards ceremonies, so I wasn't there applauding during or toasting afterward.  But when I read the news this morning, I couldn't help but be transported back to the days when I talked Bob Woods and Hilary B. Smith through their cabin scenes as a Stage Manager and talked camera operators through scenes of Heaven as an Associate Director.  I was reminded of what it means to be a directing team--to work together to make a Director's vision a reality. It mattered that my Stage Manager colleagues and I made sure the props were on set.  It mattered that my AD colleagues edited the pieces and parts to make a moving story.  It mattered that my Production Associate colleagues kept track of continuity, given that the episode was shot on multiple days.

And so, when I read the news this morning, I realized that it didn't matter so much that I wasn't there to hear the award winner announced.  I was there when it really mattered, working as part of a team that made the award-winning show.  And while I may give up a trip to LA and the chance to glam up for a night, I will never give up the memory of being part of that team.  And I will keep looking forward to my next team.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Secrets of the Very Tired

My kids are not little anymore. I don't carry small human beings in my arms or strapped to my chest or on my shoulders, yet, some days, I am exhausted as if I do. You would think that life would be simpler when kids take care of their own bodily needs, pack their own backpacks, sometimes even travel on their own.  Simpler in some ways, maybe.  But in others, way more complicated.  And way more exhausting.

The thing about babies is that, even if you keep them on a schedule, it is a schedule set by you.  Where you go, they go. Or if they have to nap at home, you arrange accordingly.  No matter what the equation, you're in it.  While crying fits or explosive poop may make it seem that they are in control, in the end, you are the one who pulls it all together, who keeps it in control.

Now that my kids are older, there are days when I very clearly feel as though I am no longer in control.  They go off to school each day and have interactions that I may not even hear about.  They have interests and activities, which certainly make them fascinating people, but which also have me running all over town. We are no longer parents with children.  We are a household with five completely different sets of needs, and let's face it, it's not easy to meet one person's needs, much less five people's.  No wonder I'm tired.

I don't see our schedule getting any simpler anytime soon, so I'm prepared.  But here's the question--do I tell my friends who are struggling through lack of sleep babyhood that the tiredness will just pretend to go away, yet sneak back just when they feel they are re-taking control of their lives?  Do I warn them to pace themselves and to beware of letting their kids pursue all their interests?

Nah, they'll just have to discover this for themselves.  It's more fun that way.  And anyway, I'm too tired!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Translating Skills

Several months ago, I had an interview for a job at a company where I'd been wanting to work. I didn't get the job, but I think often about how well the interviewer was able to translate my past experience into good qualifications for this vastly different job. We spent a long time talking about how, as a Director, I didn't need to know all the technical aspects of a camera to work with camerapeople or all the ins and outs of the lighting grid to tell a Lighting Director what I wanted to see.  If I was to be a coordinating force among members of a team, I needed only to be able to see how the parts made up the whole, and to make sure each part made its contribution well and on time.

As my children get older, I am finding that philosophy very useful at home as well.  As with shooting a television show, running a family has particular goals, and in both cases, recognizing the needs and interests of all the team members, and finding ways to meet those needs and still accomplish the goal puts a person in a good position.  So, when one child wants to go somewhere and I need the others to follow suit, what is it that will motivate those others (because, as in a workplace, in a family, different people respond to different things)?  I don't need to know why my son likes the TV shows he does, only that he will respond if it means being able to keep watching them.  I may not understand everything about my daughter's homework, but if I give her the tools (a quiet room, a computer, colored pencils, whatever) she needs to complete it, we will all be happier.  In life, those who succeed as managers are able to keep both the goal of the group and the interests of its members in mind.

I can easily count numerous times when understanding the motivations of each family member has helped me accomplish things for us as a family group, and, believe me, the sacrifices necessary to motivate each person are almost always worth it.  I'm not sure if there's a resume adjustment necessary here, but I've got to love the fact that my directing skills translate, not just to other jobs, but to day to day family life as well.