Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thinking Out of the Control Room

I've been dreaming about trains--catching trains, missing trains, train tickets. Just part of the new life of Stamford every day. 

When I first became an AD, I dreamed in "control room speak"--two-shots and singles and matching for the edit. Counting down and picking up. When I had a conversation with someone, I thought about how the person or I might be "doing business" or "crossing past" while we spoke. After a few years of ADing, the intensity of seeing life this way lessened, but I still think about shooting a "tight insert" of an important object, and when I recently had surgery, my first thought when I woke from the anesthesia was that what I was seeing in the recovery room would never match what I saw in the operating room--it would never edit together.

I imagine that many people who spend years learning and practicing their job or craft have a hard time letting it go, either in their lives or in their sleep. Perhaps it is a sign that the job is somehow meaningful, and perhaps it is the brain's way to help us understand it better.

I have hope that the dreams about missing trains will go away soon--that's just a growing pain of a new situation. But thinking in AD speak--that's an entirely different story. So don't be surprised if, when I'm talking to to you, I'm seeing you in close-up when you are saying something important, and looking at your hands when they are nervously fiddling with some object, and expecting you to cross past me when you want to avoid something. It's just part of my thinking out of the control room. And it's all part of telling a good story.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


After a day of chaos and noise--the sounds of 15 year olds giggling and 8 year olds playing video games then pounding out piano practice, it is suddenly quiet. Gloriously quiet.

Don't get me wrong--I wouldn't give up the chaos for anything. Half the time, I'm probably part of the source of the chaos, whether I'm exploding the kitchen to make dinner, or scheduling so many activities for us that we can't possibly have time to slow down. But, at the end of the day, I like nothing more than the silence made from no screens, no negotiations, and just settling in.

For years, I figured this was a result of working in a TV studio or editing room all day. While my husband might go through entire days with no human interaction, I was generally on overload by day's end.

Turns out it wasn't just about work, because even when I was spending hours in a deathly quiet apartment each day, I still craved my evening quiet. Perhaps it is just my way to make the transition to sleep, even on days when you'd think sheer exhaustion would be enough.

My daughter and her friends giggling (15 year old slumber party--what else would I expect?) will probably go on for hours, thankfully in another part of our apartment. For now, I've got an 8 year old who's put down his game remote for his beloved Wimpy Kid book, and a husband working out the latest crossword puzzle. The noise and chaos will start again tomorrow. For now, I'll just enjoy a little quiet.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

This is not my holiday, so this has not been any sort of religion-related day for me (except for having matzah pizza, one of my favorite Passover treats, for lunch). But, nonetheless, it has been a very good Friday. As I was not working (union holiday for some unions), and my kids are still on vacation, it was a largely unstructured day--a bit of sleeping, coffee with a friend, and digging through the rubble in my apartment, created in my virtual absence over the last two weeks. My kids have risen to the occasion of self-sufficiency pretty well, but being my children, they are not exactly compulsively neat.

So what makes a good Friday? Time to talk to my high schooler, who is often so busy doing homework that she can't even think. A daylight walk in my neighborhood and a bus ride to another neighborhood without strict time limits. Being able to spend a little money on my kids or myself after a year of worrying about almost every penny. Breathing the air in my apartment and knowing that I can do it for a few days but won't have to do it every hour of every day. A good Friday is a day when I can look back on the past week and forward to the coming week--and feel lucky about both.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Thursday Becomes Friday

OLTL will not be shooting tomorrow, I assume because of some union rule about Good Friday. So today was my "Friday," coming home as if it's been a whole week of work. I'm sure that will play tricks on my body clock for days, but it does allow me to reflect on Week 2 of OLTL a day early, so here goes--

1. There's nothing that can compare with a good soap character scene--not crowds, not celebrities, not fancy stunts and effects--and I am happy to report that there will be plenty of those character scenes (right alongside the fancy stuff) on this new One Life to Live.

2. Yay for catered food that gives enough choices to make observing Passover guidelines not hard at all.

3. It is amazing how the body hangs in for what it needs to--if tomorrow were a work day, I would be raring to go, but since it's not, my body has hit weekend mode already!

4. There's nothing like being largely home for a year to make you learn more about what makes you tick and what makes you happy. The trick is to remember to listen to what you've learned over that year.

5. Week 3 (and 30-some more) are just around the corner, so I'd best make the most of this three day weekend.

And thus ends OLTL Week 2--nothing profound, perhaps, just another week of a lot of people happily at work. Tune in tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shoulda Done It On The Train

When I first started to work in Stamford, people told me how great the train ride was for getting work done. After all, you're a captive audience for an hour. That's a lot of time for reading or working--or writing a blog, right? Which is all well and good, unless you spend one way just struggling to stay awake and the other debriefing from the day with fellow staff members. So, at just before midnight (yes, we finished before midnight today!), I am working to encapsulate the day into a tidy 400 words. While my kids, who haven't seen me all day, are desperately trying to stay up as long as possible to talk to me about every little thing. They would certainly say I should have done this on the train. My husband, who has barely been able to talk to me, would also say I should have done it on the train. And I, who would like to fall into bed right now, would absolutely say I should have done it on the train. Or on the lunch break, or during the morning 15 or the afternoon 15.

I try to avoid "shoulda" as much as possible. I just don't think it's generally too helpful to be facing backwards, beating myself up about what might have been and what I could have done to change things. So I am just not much of a "shoulda" person. But I am a "do it" person, so what I take away from today, as I fight to keep my eyes open long enough to hit "publish," is a resolution to turn "shoulda" into "do," so that next time I can come home more able both to listen to my home team AND to go to bed. Because, when tomorrow morning comes, I certainly don't want anything to make me say that I shoulda--just gone to sleep!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Double Louie

Early on in my time at the ABC version of One Life to Live, there was a night security guard named Louie who worked the 11-7 shift. He was the friendliest of guys, always the first to greet me when I arrived just before 7am rehearsal, but we all kind of wondered how he, at barely five feet tall, and at least seventy years old, would be able to do anything if any serious security problem arose on his shift. I am fairly confident that, at least during my time knowing him, there such a situation never arose.

But I digress. I was thinking about Louie because, when I walked into my building lobby last night (this morning, really) at 12:45am, I was greeted by the same doorman who saw me leave at 6:30am (and saw me leave at 6:30am again today). In those early days at OLTL, if I worked a long day in the studio, I would see Louie both in the morning and at night, thus, a "Double Louie." He would look at me, a twentysomething who probably looked fourteen, and in his heavy Caribbean accent, he'd say, "Long day, Miss Tracy." And that was a "Double Louie."

Louie left ABC, I suspect to retire, not long into my tenure there, and I suspect that he passed away many years ago. And over time, my work hours changed enough that I became unlikely to pull a "Double Louie" anyway. But I still remember how nice it was to have someone noticing my comings and goings, and I am grateful that my doormen have filled that gap. When I was out of work, they noticed my going to the gym in the early morning hours and cheered me on to keep doing it. They observed my comings and goings dropping off and picking up children, and in a silent way, they gave me the comfort of normalcy in an abnormal situation. And now that I am working again, leaving very early and coming home very late, they are at the ready with a "have a good day" and a "welcome home." Louie may be long gone, but now I can have a "Double George" and a "Double Bob." In a life of new experiences every day, it's really nice to know you have one of those on your side.

Monday, March 25, 2013

OLTL Week 2--This Is Really Real

When the alarm rang at 5 this morning, and I remembered that my kids would be on vacation and still sleeping as I made my way through the morning dark to the train, my part in this Stamford endeavor suddenly became real. This was not just a week of little jaunts to a shoot--this was the beginning of what my life will be, at least for the near future. There will be days when I bound out of bed at 5, and days when it is more of a struggle. There will be weekends when most of what I do is recover from the week. And the rest of what I do is make sure we are all ready to start the new week. And there will be many, many school vacations when I am out the door before sunrise, when it might be much more fun to sit home in my pajamas all day.

By 8:00am, I was back in this new world, almost as if I'd never left on Friday. There have been many times over the last year when Monday was my "clean-up day," full of tying up loose ends and scattered clean laundry from the weekend. Now, the cleaning up I'm doing on Mondays is about camera shots and blocking (which means that I will clearly have to fit in a lot more of the home cleanup on the weekends!) But, as we all know, that's reality, probably more real than a life with "clean-up Mondays."

It is 1am, and after a long day of shooting, I have just arrived home to stray piles of clean laundry all over my living room. So, on Day 1 of Week 2, it seems that the new reality has set in.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Building A Team

You would probably expect this title to be referring to the new soap endeavor. But it is the weekend, and I am fairly committed to not losing the family part of this blog, so the team I'm talking about has just two grownups and three kids, and, one way or another, I am determined to make us a team.

This weekend largely focused on my daughters' performances in a play called "The Granny Awards." They played singing, fighting stepsisters, and performed the show four times, two of which I saw, two of which I didn't.

There was a time when I couldn't imagine not seeing every performance that included one of my children, and I certainly saw many parents there who caught all four shows. But when five members of a family have five different sets of things to be accomplished, you make choices, and recently, I've noticed that making those choices is what will end up making our family a team. We can't all be part of everything each of us does--it's just not physically possible. My son's little league season will start in a few weeks on the same weekend one of my daughters has a performance and the other has a rehearsal for another show. So we will certainly go in different directions. And it will be hard for the actors to care about the baseball player's practices and hard for the baseball player to care about the actors' rehearsals. But in the end, we will be home together, folding laundry (okay, under duress, but...) and eating dinner together, sharing stories of the things we did.

As far as I can tell, being a team is about not just working together toward common goals, but also working with each other to accomplish the team members' separate goals. We're not the perfect team yet--that's not so easy. We may have a long way to go. But we're working on it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Catching Up

I am currently surrounded by the five days of newspapers I didn't read while I was working at One Life to Live this week. I know--none of it is news anymore. But one of the big changes when I wasn't working much was actually going through the paper daily, so it seems a little weird just to see it pile up in the recycling bin. So here I am. I have never been a news junkie, but I figure I should at least know what went on outside of my subway to train to van to studio existence. 

Problem is, who wants to read old news?! So l'll get the high points and skip the low ones and move on with my day. My "news" is the news of the day, and there just isn't time for stopping for much else. Getting dinner on the table trumps evening TV, and getting caught up on sleep trumps a several foot high pile of papers. And since having some semblance of a neat apartment to come home to trumps a lot of things, this pile of papers will soon be headed for the recycling bin.

It's interesting how a television studio, particularly one out of the city, is almost like a casino--full of artificial light, a world unto itself, a place where you can be almost oblivious to what is going on outside. Hours go by, light becomes dark, it begins to snow (which it did on Monday), you consume yourself with the stories being told inside, and the world outside just keeps spinning.

This new world is one I'll get used to--or get re-used to, since I did work in a studio for years (though, since the previous one was at a TV network, it was full of news feed monitors). But I suspect that the news I'll be more consumed with catching up on will be my kids' school accomplishments, and the progress of my friends' job searches, and the need to re-organize and restock the fridge. And the newspapers will end up no longer surrounding me, but back in that pile.

OLTL Week 1--Reflections

As I finish the first five days of ONE LIFE TO LIVE production, I can't help but reflect on what has been a long, but very satisfying, week.

1. For love, or money, the challenge, or the novelty, people are working incredibly hard on this. It is rather awe-inspiring.

2. Starting production at noon with a crew breakfast that features meatballs and cheesesteaks makes a person unclear all day about exactly what time it is.

3. In life, as in work, it is useful to remember that there is usually, if not always, someone who has it tougher than you.

4. When creating something new, it's great to go with what you know has worked in the past, and even better to take new chances.

5. The number of hours both awake and away from my kids will likely catch up with me this weekend. Hopefully, that will result in snoozy snuggling with them, not exhausted yelling at them.

And so, Week 1 ends. And as with any good soap opera, we will be back at it on Monday. The journey continues....

Friday, March 22, 2013

After Midnight

I had a feeling there would come a day in this new working life that I would be hard-pressed to publish by midnight. There have certainly been days when I've been so tired, the words seem incoherent. But, though I am not tired now, I'm discovering that meal breaks are just not enough for reflecting on, and then composing about, a day. So, while it has been an exciting day here at OLTL, it is a day that will go into tomorrow, meaning that this post will go into tomorrow as well. Which, in an odd way, is what I write about a lot of the time--taking a situation that is handed to you, and adjusting accordingly. I am sure that there will be many, many all-consuming OLTL and AMC days to come (it's no wonder I started a blog after I had stopped working full time!). But, as I have done before and always encourage my kids to do, I will adapt. I will be more conscious of writing earlier or writing in free moments.

As last night went late for the production of Episode 1, yesterday's blog is obviously way late. And as OLTL will get to more normal schedules, my blogging in this new era will too. It's all good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oltl Day 3--Shared Experience

As I look around at the Oltl/AMC cast and crew, I see people I've worked with and people whose names I've heard for years. And people who have worked in other parts of TV and film. And people who live nearby and are getting the "big break" that I got almost 25 years ago. And I am struck by the combined total years of experience surrounding me. While people in other parts of my life are amazed to hear me say, "I was at One Life to Live on and off for 23 years," here at Stamford Soap Camp, my story is not that unusual. Many of us "cut our teeth" on soaps, then stayed for numbers of years that no one today even thinks about working in one place. We may have worked on different shows, and with different production and post-production models, but we all were part of creating daily scripted television for more years than most television shows even aspire to last. And many, many of us experienced the fall of soap production in New York, making our shared experience a combination of exhilaration and grief.

What all this shared experience means is that both the production and the product stand to be the best of all the worlds from which we come. For while we may have been doing some of the same things, we have been doing them in different ways. As I brought new knowledge back to soap life after I'd worked for four years in the sitcom world, each of us here will be contributing his or her particular body of knowledge, and that's an exciting prospect. So, when we begin to air on April 29th, look for a show that will reflect a huge amount of shared experience--and some of the best talent that the soap world has to offer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Prepared For Anything

This morning, as I got to Grand Central, I realized that I hadn't put on makeup. And, because I had just missed the subway and had waited seven minutes till the next one, there was no time even to think about finding a place to buy makeup. I had to make my train, so off to the train I went.

Now, it's not as if my "makeup look" is radically different from my "non-makeup look." It's quite possible that some people didn't even notice the difference. The bigger issue is that, while on the Upper West Side, I could just walk out and get whatever I needed, in Stamford, a train time is a train time, and there aren't exactly five chain drugstores right outside the studio door. So I need to come prepared.

My husband has always laughed at the fact that I carry a big backpack wherever I go, when he walks out with almost nothing. What million things could I possibly need? Turns out, in Stamford, there are lots of things I could need--headache and cold medicine, makeup (!), dry  socks (for when it's raining on the way to the train), an umbrella (for when it's raining on the way home from the train). So, out with all the useless stuff that has just piled up in the bag. Welcome to Stamford. It's a new life, and I've got to be prepared for anything.

Monday, March 18, 2013

OLTL’s Back—Day 1

The day started with a van in the dark, lots of hugs, and speeches about the historic value of what we were doing. Then, suddenly, it was almost as if what ended last year never had. Sure, the studio was oddly tighter. And the control room was oddly hotter. And there were only three cameras and only two booms. And the team was a mix of many teams. But twenty-some odd scenes and many hours later, doing much the same work that we’ve done for years, we had completed Day One of shooting the new One Life to Live. And we were done, and it was snowing, a bunch of us jumped into a van and just made the train back to New York, and shared old soap stories on the ride home.

I thought I would be writing a profound post about this day—after all, it is profound for so many people and for so many reasons. But it is also the end of a long day that begins a long week, so perhaps I will save the profound for another day. One Life to Live is working again. So, I’d better get to sleep before it’s time to go back for more.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baseball and Perspective

My son is starting Little League baseball, which means I am probably at least 2-3 years behind the curve, since many of the parents have had their kids on teams of one sort or another since kindergarten. But no matter.  He--and our whole family--will catch up, and if he likes it, I'm sure it will soon be as if we've been doing this forever.

As I sit outside a school gym, waiting for him and about 150 other kids his age to be evaluated and put on teams, I am struck by the amount of perspective I am gaining on my own life by spending two hours with several hundred eight year old boys.  Today, I have learned:

1. The noise created by three siblings in a largely carpeted apartment is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the sound created by 150 third grade boys, some with metal bats, standing in a decidedly un-carpeted public school hallway.

2. Never put a metal bat in the hand of an 8 year old boy who is going to have to wait on line for a half hour (I didn't, but a whole lot of people did). It's nearly impossible for them to resist swinging (at a person or at the door that is locked), and you definitely don't want to be responsible for that!

3. There's nothing like a big group to make you appreciate your own child, who might not want to wait for anything at home, but waits patiently in public while chaos is going on around him.

4. Like so many activities we get our kids into, baseball cuts across huge ethnic, social, and economic boundaries that we might never cross ourselves. The list of names called included just about every ethnicity I could imagine. I hope that the whole experience will as well.

5. In life, as in baseball, it's important to develop a perfect pitch, catch whatever balls are lobbed at you, and always come out swinging.

Like my daughters' play rehearsals, which run our family's organizational life, my son's baseball is likely to become the centerpiece of many weekends for the next few months. He's so used to being carted to everyone else's events, this stands to be a big change for him, and, I hope, one he will like. Because I have a feeling there's a lot more I can learn about life--from baseball.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mice and Cookies

Almost sixteen years ago, before I was even pregnant, a friend with a one year old (who was also the friend who helped me handle morning sickness once I was pregnant) introduced me to the children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I remember thinking how funny it was, and how much I loved the pictures. It was an easy read when I read to her son, and I think I bought my own copy before my daughter was even born. It wasn't until much later that I discovered it was not just a genius children's book. It was a complete reflection of my life (and perhaps any mother's life) with kids. In the book, what starts as a simple request turns into a whole day's worth of chain reaction events. A cookie needs milk, milk needs a straw, a milk mustache needs a napkin--you get the picture--and before you know it, the mouse and his human companion have gone on a whole series of adventures. The concept has been so popular that there are now many spin-offs from the book, each with its own chain reaction day.

My days are very often these kinds of chain reactions, perhaps just with fewer crazy events, and with children instead of cute illustrated animals. But the frequency with with which one child request kicks off a variety of tasks or journeys makes me laugh at the fact that I ever read the Mouse book as just a cute children's story.

Today, my having let one daughter go to a sleepover knowing she'd have Saturday karate turned into a subway trip to pick her up and a stop at a deli to feed her because I'd been so wrapped up in what train to take that I hadn't packed breakfast. The deli stop caused just enough of a delay to make us late for karate, which caused me to be late for a meeting (and her to have to do pushups), and the day continued from there. I won't take you through all of it--it would just make you as tired as I am (there's actually a picture of the exhausted human companion at the end of the Mouse book!) Suffice it to say that almost every day of my life, I understand why these books ring so true to us as we read them to our kids.

It's hard to believe it's been so long since I discovered that crazy Mouse. But, even now, the thought of him keeps me smiling when my days continue to be an awful lot like his!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Birth Day (Well, Almost)

Fifteen years ago today, I did not yet have children. Well, that's not entirely true, as I was just a day away from delivering my first. But while my belly was huge, fifteen years ago today was my last day without visible children. 

I'd already been through a series of career moves by then--hired right out of college, promoted several times, fired, hired to work freelance, hired to work prime time. As I describe it all, it sounds like practically a lifetime. Yet, in a way, a day later, a whole other lifetime began. 

Two more kids have joined my first since then, and I have been a working person through practically all of it--all, if you consider job-hunting as much working as actually working. 

As toddlers, my kids saw me head off each day and went to gym classes and play dates with a nanny. As school age children, they have seen me as the mom who hurries off to work after the class publishing party. Over the past year, they have seen me as the mom who is suddenly around for field trips and pick ups. And over the coming year, they will see me (or not see me much) as the mom who is part of a new venture (and as the mom who gets to work with Corbin Bleu, the actor they have seen on TV and Broadway). 

When I worked on a cyber-bullying story, I saw how it might help kids like mine. When I worked on music shoots, I hoped (well, at least most of the time) that my kids would share the music with their friends. When I brought home a paycheck, I knew that it would help pay not only for the rent and electricity, but also for a class or camp I wanted one of my kids to experience. In one way or another, every thing I have done in my career has had a whole different spin since that night fifteen years and a day ago. It's taken some creative logistics and whole lot of humor, no question. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Perks of Being Unemployed

Okay, first, I never saw the movie (or read the book) I've referenced here, but my daughter talks about it all the time. And second, before you say that there couldn't possibly be any perks of being unemployed, read on. And know that I can only write this with a sense of humor because starting Monday, I will be anything but unemployed, at least for the next few months of soaps online production.

So, without further ado---

1. You learn a little more about the people in your building. I never would have known about the elderly man who sits in the lobby, either alone or "holding court," all day every day or the woman who comes home midday to walk her dog when no one else can. I never would have known that I was far from the only person looking for work--it has been a way more common situation than I'd imagined.

2. You learn a little more about your apartment. I would like to say you keep it a lot cleaner, but that would be a baldfaced lie.

3. You experience a school bus strike not just as an untenable monkey wrench in your daily schedule, but as a chance to see new things with your kids and encourage their independence.

4. You have the ability to decide on a dinner and buy the ingredients that day to cook it. (Okay, I did this probably fewer than ten times over the course of a year, but...)

5. You have time not just to keep in touch with old friends, but to make new ones, and to cultivate those friendships so that they will continue even when there isn't as much time for coffee meetings and lunches.

Clearly, the perks aren't the whole story. My children, who have heard a lot of "no," and my husband, who has dealt with a lot of bill-paying, and my bank account, which hasn't seen a lot of action, can all tell you that. But, as I head into an exciting new challenge, I am determined to remember what most of this last year has done for me (not just TO me) and my family. If we can't find value and joy in even the hardest of situations, then, the way I see it, we waste a whole lot of time along the way. I haven't got that kind of time to waste. And, when you think about it, does anyone, really?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wiggle Room

As I was walking out the door this morning, at the time I know I need to in order to make the train to Stamford that I'm supposed to take without taking a cab to get to the train station, my daughter said, "Mommy, I have a question." I listened as I opened our door and she started to ask, but by the time I would have had to answer, I had said, "Bye, have a good day," and I was gone.

That is the difference between Stamford and the Upper West Side (where the ABC soaps were based for years). There is no wiggle room, at least none without cost. If I don't make the correct train, I will be late to work, or standing at the Stamford station or taking a cab from the Stamford Station or driving to Stamford myself. There are options, but each is costly in one way or another, and if I am traveling to Stamford to work, I certainly don't want to be spending everything I work for on those kinds of options.

As I walk through Grand Central every morning, I see thousands of people who are doing the very same thing. For years, I heard members of the One Life to Live crew talk about how long they'd be waiting for their next train or bus if we didn't finish in the next fifteen minutes. At the time, what I took away from it all was an ongoing resolve to stay in the city--to remain free of such unforgiving transportation schedules and the ramifications of them in an industry that frequently works long days. And, yet, here I am. As all of those friends of mine got used to the effect of train and bus schedules on their days, my family and I will too. We will learn to ask questions earlier, and make lunches more efficiently. I will learn to make the train time my friend (as I am doing right now, writing this post so that my home time will be freer for my kids).

And we will find wiggle room again. It might just be in other places.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Small Victories

As I am not quite full time in Stamford yet, I was home today. But, as my son was not quite full time at school today (half day for parent-teacher conferences), what started out as a day intended to accomplish all the little things that will fall through the cracks once I am full time turned into a not so productive, schleppy kind of a day. Complete with rain.

On a day like this, made up of too-short pockets of time, it is easy to bemoan the number of things that have not gotten done, and believe me, I'm not too happy about the status of my to-do list. But I find that it is much more productive to focus on all the little things that DID get done, the little victories in the face of an unusual schedule and less than perfect weather conditions.

I put children on school buses (okay, that's not really an accomplishment, it's just a daily event). I made three lunches (okay, well, two and a half, really, since one child had a half-day and didn't really need a lunch. And I gave two drinks to one child and none to another, but...) Perhaps I should skip past the kids' departures!

I scheduled yearly checkup visits with my kids' pediatrician (which will have to be changed because not only are they too soon for the insurance company, they are in direct conflict with another commitment). I cleaned piles of stuff off the couches (and those piles have now been replaced with other piles). I laid out an ad for my daughter's school yearbook (which will likely change when she sees I have used a several year ago picture of her). I bought tickets for one daughter's play (but only for other people, not for us, since we can't seem to figure out which of the six performances we'll attend). It appears that all these things will be on a to-redo list tomorrow. Sigh.

So, on this half-day conference day, what I can say I really accomplished would be picking up my son from his half-day bus and having my conference with his teacher. With a few rain-filled bus and subway trips in between. Oh, and lunch and a book for the half-dayer.

And, I guess today, those will be my small victories.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Can Do That!

Almost 15 years ago, I co-produced and directed a video called "I Can Do That," which aimed to help girls learn about and aspire to careers not traditionally pursued by women. We interviewed working women about their jobs and preteen girls about their aspirations, and to this day, I think about how capable the girls were of saying they were good at doing certain things, at owning their strengths. It has taken me years to get to that point, despite having accomplished a variety of things in my career and with my family. When I think back to those girls, I am reminded of how interesting that ability made them, and I wonder if they, now women in their 20s, have continued to have that ability as they have started their careers. (Given that they were part of a video about non-traditional careers, I also wonder where they ended up!)

One of the nice things, I am realizing, about Stamford, is that, while I am doing some of the same things I have done for years, it is different, and new enough to let me be that "I Can Do That" person. I can bring all that I have learned--on soaps, on sitcoms, on reality shows, and in life--and know that, in doing so, I can own my skills. I can say "I'm good at," and back it up with confidence and experience.

Although "I Can Do That: A Career Video For Girls" came out over a decade ago (and with help from my producing partner and a whole lot of donors, was distributed free to hundreds of schools nationwide), it still resonates with me today. Because, while many of us may question our abilities on a daily basis, it is always a good day to change course, and instead have the strength to say "I can do that!"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Second Sets of Eyes

When I started writing this blog, one or both of my daughters read each post before I published. They gave grammatical and content notes, or sometimes just a thumbs up. It was because they read every day that they knew what I was thinking and because they read every day that they were able to "pinch write" for me when I was sick. But days go by quickly, and the habit of having them read has largely fallen by the wayside.

I realized last night how much I miss that step in the process. It was a night when I was writing far too late. When, after a long day, most of me just wanted to be in bed. But I wrote the post, and when the girls asked to read it and did not exactly give that thumbs up, I was far beyond being able to revise it before posting and going to bed. I hit "publish," and I went to bed feeling terrible that I hadn't been able to address their notes.

While almost any blog comes from the writer's thoughts and feelings, and while one of the glories of this blog is writing and not spending days and months to revise, there is nothing like a second set of eyes to make a post (or any piece of writing) at least a little bit better.  Not only was having my kids read a way of letting them approve writing that might make reference to them, it was almost a bonding experience, a reminder that sometimes kids know better, and I gave that up in order to be able to write and publish whenever I wanted, without being responsible to my young editors.

How I felt after last night's un-edited, not exactly thumbs up post has taught me a lesson. So, though my kids may be doing homework or practicing piano, I will once again be calling upon them to read. Because, while "Not Washed Up Yet" may be filled with my words, it is the story of us all.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thinking and Feeling

When I was between jobs, I did a great deal of feeling. Which is not to say I didn't think a lot too--about how to rework my resume, how to learn new computer programs, how to coordinate my children's schedules and activities when I was sitter-free. But I had a lot of time to feel as well.  Feel sad, feel frustrated, feel angry, feel discouraged. And once in a while, when I was enjoying my family or returning from a good job interview, I would feel elated.

Working, however, means a lot more thinking than feeling. While in my line of work, there is an element of feeling to make the most sensitive edits and tell the most compelling stories, a working person is generally expected to think through solutions, work out logistics, and leave emotions at home. So, this last week, the thinking has largely obliterated the feeling.  When we sit down to family dinner these days (yes, we try for that daily), the discussion quickly turns less to how we feel and more to how we will get all of our daily jobs done.

There's nothing wrong with thinking.  In fact, the mental gymnastics are kind of a welcome relief from any number of feelings I've had over the last year.  But not wearing my heart on my sleeve creates a completely new vibe at home, and a new vibe for writing this blog. I have to dig deeper for the real emotions. They're there, just sometimes a little harder to find.

So, despite the new writing challenge, I'll be embracing some of the thinking for now. It makes things a little trickier.  But it feels pretty darn good.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Don't Forget To Enjoy

You would think that, having had more at-home time on my hands than usual, I would have spent a lot of hours preparing for my kids' birthday parties.  But suddenly the first was upon me, and I was completely UNprepared. So I spent much of today baking a cake, cleaning, and in general, worrying about my daughter's party.  Had I arranged just the right things for her and her friends? Would the logistics come together, or were there gaps in my planning that would cause the whole thing to come crashing down?

And then I realized that this is a celebration of her birth a bunch of years ago.  Though not planned to the nines, it is a party in a line of parties that have been uniquely hers. And it is an event that will occur just once this year. No matter how it comes together, it will come and go before I know it. So above all, I should make sure to enjoy it.

What? Enjoy it? It's my daughter's party--I'm just the organizer.  Maybe, but how often do you have the opportunity to do a kids' activity?  How often do you have the opportunity to make your own pasta bar and watch how different people approach it? How often do you have the opportunity to eat cake and ice cream and get a little extra icing because it's you who made the cake?

I find that as parents, and just as people in a busy world, we spend so much time making arrangements for everything, trying to ensure that things go off without a hitch, that we often forget to stop and enjoy the fruits of our labors.  With the rush to the next event always upon us, we end up more concerned with continued accomplishment than with what we have actually produced.

So today, as I watched nine kids stuff teddy bears, and sing, and chow down on pasta with assorted sauces and cake with green frosting, I laughed and snapped funny pictures and licked the frosting from the spoon.  Because a birthday comes just once a year.  And you shouldn't forget to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eyes Wide Open

I went to the eye doctor today. As many people do, I walked out of the doctor's office with a prescription for new glasses and a pair of hugely dilated eyes. And, as I stepped out onto the city sidewalk, even on this gray day, I was hit with the brightness of the world, brightness that was actually painful to my post-eye doctor eyes. I really just wanted to close my eyes and sit in the dark. And yet, sometimes it's much better to go through life with our eyes wide open.

More and more, we are called upon to make decisions without all the facts--without wide open eyes.  When my kids were small, if I signed them up for Gymboree, I knew that it was at a certain time each week for a certain number of weeks.  While work was different every day, it had a basic structure that I could see.  These days, it seems nothing is quite that clear. I have no problem with a little leap of faith here and there, but having my eyes wide open for a few hours today made me realize how helpful it can be to see the whole picture. It allows us to plan and anticipate and feel as though we are not always balancing on the edge.

Now that my eyes are back to normal, I'll admit I'm largely back to "leap of faith" mode. I will probably continue to sign up and ask questions later. But, having seen a little more for a few hours, I'd like to think that from now on, I'll be looking at things with my eyes a lot wider open.  On a much more regular basis.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Three Days

So, I have gone to Stamford for three days now, but that's not what I mean by "three days." Three days--sometimes four or five--is what I have lived through by the end of each day.

There's the day when I start getting everyone ready and head out myself.  Then there's the day of work, when home hardly exists. Then another day of transport to an event, and a whole new day when I arrive home and face kids and forms to sign and an apartment to put back in order.  All before I can end this day (or four or five days?) so I can have energy for tomorrow.

No one can really live three (or four or five) days in one, but perhaps the reason I feel, as many working outside the home moms do, that I am different people during the course of each day is that I really am.  The me who attended an event tonight was not the same me who was in Soap-ville all day. The me who was at work was not really the same me who fielded kid questions when I got home.  While, of course, these are all parts of me, they remind me just how many sides of me there are, and how many paths I can follow.  Maybe I've only worked for three days, but with the volume of stuff that has filled those days, I can safely say that that I've got at least a week under my belt. But, like parenthood, this time won't be counted in days and weeks and months. It will be counted in what I accomplish...and with at least three days every 24 hours, I'm bound to accomplish a lot!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Soap Camp

I never went to sleepaway camp. Not that I ever particularly wanted to. So, when I say this, I probably have no idea what I'm talking about. But here goes--

I have enrolled in soap camp. That's the only way I can describe this initial phase of the soaps online. I take a train to a different state. A 15-passenger van picks me up from the train to get me to the campus. Once there, I see all manner of people I have know, in person or by reputation, for over 20 years (okay, nobody goes to camp for 20 years, but go with me here!) There are "good to see you" hugs and stories of our pasts or what we've done since we saw each other last. There are new faces we try to check out.  And there are long cafeteria tables where people eat multiple meals together. And, in addition to multiple meals, there are snacks all day. (Okay, the food is probably beyond that of any sleepaway camp I never went to, but, again, go with me here.)

This "soap camp" is not where I imagined a year ago I'd be now. I don't think most of us imagined we would be brought together again, especially in this "bring all the NY soaps together" way. But, for right now, it is the first week back to camp, and it's fun to be back.

Let the canoe races and talent shows (that's what you do at camp, right?) begin!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stamford, Day 1--First Impressions

1. A lot of people do this. The people I am seeing are largely dressed for work and are walking in a way that makes you know they do this every day.

2. Notice the title. Not "Soaps, Day 1" or "One Life to Live, Day 1." Clearly, the part that's earth-shattering for me--at least while I'm commuting--is the commute.  I imagine this will change

3. I woke up at 4:30am today, pre-alarm, and stayed up.  If I do that regularly, I could do most of the morning things--school lunches and such--that I have been, and still get to a 5:55am train. And how different is 4:30 than 5, really? Okay, it's a little different, but...

4. I'd better have things to do on the morning train. It is so quiet, I could very easily fall into a deep sleep and miss my stop.

5. Catered lunch at the studio every day, so I don't have to think through packing my own lunch at 4:30am, is huge!

6. Even more huge is seeing so many people, many of them old friends, WORKING.

More from Stamford and New York tomorrow....

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Joy of Six Free Washers

A few weeks ago, I wrote about euphoria from seven cameras. This post is not that. I didn't have a transcendent moment. But I have to say, after trip one to the laundry room, when the place was so crowded, I headed back upstairs with my piled-high cart of laundry, having trip two start with a view of six wide open large washers lifted at least some small part of my stress on a day filled with arrangements for and anxiety about my first trip to Stamford tomorrow.

Somehow, no matter how you try to make work about work and home about home, there can never be a real division. Working efficiently depends on creating structures that allow you to leave home. Managing home efficiently depends on pushing work aside long enough to make sure you (and your kids) will have clean clothes to wear all week. And when fate intervenes to make either side less efficient than it ought to be (what do you mean, I can't do my huge pile of laundry right now?!), it's not pretty.

And so it was that the absence of any free large washers just about sent me over the edge, and the sudden appearance of six big empty ones became the most beautiful sight in the world.  The laundry is now back in my apartment--not back in the drawers yet, that's a whole 'nother story--and soon we will work on the sleep part of the home front.

Tomorrow, my first report from Stamford (well, at least about Stamford).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

And The Winner Is...

As I walked my daughters to their play rehearsal today, their brother scootering along (and usually ahead), one of them began to complain about being cold.  Now I have sympathy for people who are cold--I am almost always cold myself.  Yet the complaining child was wearing a t-shirt, just a t-shirt, under her coat.  I am generally cold despite several long-sleeve layers, and she was complaining while wearing just a t-shirt.  Since we were bordering on being late to rehearsal, going back upstairs for another layer was definitely not an option.  She would just have to be cold.  And get to rehearsal.  So, what began as a tirade about her not thinking about it being winter turned into an entire riff (which distracted us for most of the half-mile walk) about how, while my kids might well be the geniuses of the household, I was the winner, hands-down, of the prize for common sense.  I acknowledged that I can barely help them with their math and science homework (thank goodness my husband can!).  But I very firmly, and actually quite enthusiastically, maintained my position as the unquestioned common sense winner.

At the time, I really just started this to keep us laughing and walking, but as it went on, and even after, I found myself owning that made-up title in a very powerful way.  Job change makes us question every bit of what we know and what we can do, and in that crazy moment today, I realized and celebrated two of my greatest skills--common sense and adaptability.  I took what could have been a complete meltdown and falling apart of our journey and made it a laugh riot.  (Perhaps I should add sense of humor to that skill set.)  I said out loud that I was the winner, the household common sense expert.  And I said it a few more times, just for effect.  While it may not be something I can put on a resume, it is certainly something I will keep in mind when meeting new people and facing new situations.

Thanks to my riff today, we made it to rehearsal on time and not frozen.  I am not convinced that the t-shirt on a winter day thing won't happen again.  But next time, the hands-down common sense winner will once again be on the case.  Because using our strongest skills to tackle the trickiest situations--that's what we winners do.

Friday, March 1, 2013

One Little Word

It was a dreary day, one not conducive to stepping out the door, much less  staying out.  I wrote to the friend I was supposed to meet for lunch, unsure about where to meet, and after several e-mails with no conclusion about a meeting place, the whole idea of meeting at all became overwhelming when put up against staying inside and fighting the battles of getting things done.  So I wrote to say we should cancel, to which, my understanding friend wrote, "Awww."

A little word, and yet, one that made all the difference.  One that conveyed that my presence mattered, that my choice affected someone else.

All too often, in an effort to avoid pressuring friends or to allow people in our lives to make the decisions, we step back and don't convey how we really feel, when, with just one word, we can remind our friends that they matter.  I was certainly better off having joined my friend for lunch, and yet I would have missed the whole thing if not for that one email response.

So glad for that one little word "Awww."