Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lost, But Not Forgotten

Over the last few weeks, I have watched, in person and via Facebook, two of my friends deal with profound losses in their lives. I am normally a forge-ahead kind of person, but these events, though not really part of my own life, have stopped me in my tracks.

Bad things happen every day, I know. Big bad things, and little bad things that, in the moment, we consider big. So why is it that these particular events have hit me so hard?

Perhaps it is their juxtaposition with my unemployed/employed drama--they make the intensity of that seem excessive. After all, when I struggled to maintain both a healthy bank account and healthy self-esteem, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by healthy family members who propped me up when I needed it. My tears were tears of missing and frustration, but not tears of irreparable loss.

Perhaps it is the devotion I saw my friends exhibit to their loved ones. Who among us, with busy lives and hours worth of mundane concerns, really does right by those we love when it matters most? Yet, I saw my friends do that, and it moved me--and made me hope that I could-and would-do the same.

And perhaps it is my imagining of the kind of emptiness that I am watching them feel. For, while I have experienced loss of one kind or another, I am fortunate not to have had to feel that kind of loss first hand. Even so, it hurts to imagine what you could lose when you least expect it.

I will, as usual, forge ahead--what else can I do--and I hope that the passage of time and the support of good friends, Facebook and otherwise, will help my friends through these hardest of days. As just an observer in it all, I can say that watching them handle both the caring and the loss has given me some much-needed perspective, and a whole lot of gratitude for all the good in my life. And, as they are healing, I hope they know how much of a difference the depth of their feelings has made for those of us just watching. There is loss, but there are memories too, and neither will be forgotten.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Working In Television

Before I went back to working a million hours on this Internet TV venture that is the soaps (which premiered today!), I spent many non-working hours figuring out how to transfer my skill set to something other than television. After all, I had been coordinating people and digital images and paperwork for lots of years. Wouldn't that make me marketable to do any one of those things in a non-TV world?

The transferring skills thing never amounted to much (though it made perfect sense to me), and before I knew it, I was back doing essentially the same thing I'd done for years, just with some different rules and a commute to a different state.

But today, as I read about the online premiere of the soaps I've been working on, I was reminded of some of the really great things about working in television. Here are a few:

1. Not always, but sometimes, a whole bunch of people write articles about what you're working on. Pretty cool.

2. You get to work with highly creative, and often quirky, people (which automatically gives you permission to be quirky when you want to be--as evidenced by my sushi socks and checked sneakers). Also pretty cool.

3. You get to tell stories. Or help other people tell better stories. Which is just plain fun.

4. Even people who don't watch the shows you work on think your job must be very exciting. And, though it may not be glamorous every moment, it is pretty exciting.

5. Hours spent together + quirkiness tends to make a group of people look a whole lot like a family. And it's kinda fun to go to work with family.

I still believe in transferable skills, and I am sure there will be countless opportunities down the road to transfer some of mine. But for now, I will happily work in television. There are still plenty of stories left to tell.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

I walked the city streets with one of my daughters today, along blocks where we've been a thousand times. Yet, after many weeks of hours on trains and hours at work, the walk was a new discovery for me. For the last few weeks, my walking has been only purposeful and hurried--fast to make a train, fast to get home sooner, fast to get somewhere after work just a little late or to make it before somewhere closes. So, while we certainly had an agenda (some things have to get done on weekends or will never get done at all), we had time to talk, and observe the locals and the tourists and the store windows, all things that you miss when walking at breakneck speed. So today, everything old was new again.

Tomorrow at work will be the same. I will take a train, same as usual. I will edit or work in the studio, same as usual, either way, working to make dramatic shows. The difference is that tomorrow, after weeks of anticipation, we will get an idea of the public's reaction to what we've been doing all this time. While we are working on making episodes, episodes will come online to be seen everywhere. It might be old hat by now for us, but it will be new for thousands, no, (we hope) millions of viewers. And just as my walk in my familiar city took on a new feel today, I suspect that work will take on a new feel tomorrow. Will it be excitement, or anxiety, or relief? I don't know. I only know that tomorrow, for me, and for the rest of the production team, and for the viewers of One Life to Live and All My Children, everything old will truly be new again.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Falling Asleep: A Weekend Tribute to Commuters Everywhere

(with thanks to Emily, who kept me awake, against great odds, as she wrote this)

I'm falling asleep.
I'm falling asleeZ.
I'm falling aslezZ.
I'm falling aslZzZ.
I'm falling aszZzZ.
I'm falling aZzZzZ.
I'm falling zZzZzZ.
I'm fallinZ zZzZzZ.
I'm fallizZ zZzZzZ.
I'm fallZzZ zZzZzZ.
I'm falzZzZ zZzZzZ.
I'm faZzZzZ zZzZzZ.
I'm fzZzZzZ zZzZzZ.
I'm ZzZzZzZ zZzZzZ.
I'z ZzZzZzZ zZzZzZ.
Zz ZzZzZzZ zZzZzZ.

Enjoy the weekend, folks!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Back to the Village

I walked in a half hour late, not unexpectedly--it takes as long as it takes to get from CT back to NY, no getting around that. But, despite my plan to meet my kids, I couldn't walk in a half hour late, particularly in what my husband would call my "clomp-clomp shoes," and have all eyes look at me. So I tiptoed up to the balcony and sat alone. Did I feel odd knowing that my kids were somewhere downstairs? Sure. But as I craned my neck to see downstairs (even though I knew they must be in the one section I couldn't see), I saw people in practically every row who knew them. People all around who would look out for them. Perhaps I should have been brave enough to find them, even in my "clomp-clomp shoes," to put aside my own embarrassment in order to be right there with them. But as I continued to survey the room, it felt good to know that this place had somehow, sometime along the way, become a real community for us, a part of the proverbial "village" that we need to help raise our children.

Where was I? Temple on a Friday night. And what I took away tonight was that the Judaism in our lives is as much about the community as about the prayers, as much about having a place to belong as having a place to worship. Even when we're late. And wearing noisy shoes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Turning on a Dime

It's almost impossible to believe that at this time a year ago, I was spending whole days at home, reluctant to go out (because going out inevitably cost money), going on class field trips and meeting school buses, and writing a series of kids' books, in the hope of getting them published or made into an educational TV show. It's almost impossible to believe that a year ago, I was claiming unemployment benefits each Monday morning and was in the "will I ever work again?" frame of mind that led to my first job in the reality TV world. It's almost impossible to believe how things can turn on a dime.

I have gone from being more present than my kids probably wanted me to be to virtually absent in their weekday lives. I have gone from incapable of paying any bills to eager to pay them all. I have gone from sighing and crying on a fairly regular basis to being so tired some days that I feel nothing at all.

Things have changed so quickly and so dramatically that it's hard to believe that unemployment, complete with Internet searches and command performance visits to the Department of Labor and networking coffees, even happened. Yet, I know--from the way I am committed, even on the bad days, from my acceptance of the change to my family's life (and their acceptance too), and from my ability to sleep very little and still be productive--that the year of unemployment lives inside me, and likely will, even if this gig lasts a long time.

I've learned this year that things can turn on a dime, and that the course of history can change just as fast. But, for better or for worse, the history remains a part of us. As well it should.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Premiere Party

Last night, at an hour when most of the soaps online team is still very much entrenched at the studio, we were all together, but this time at a theater at NYU in Manhattan. A theater complete with a red carpet entrance, press galore, loyal fans, and a "first look" at the pilot episodes of One Life to Live and All My Children (which will be available online starting next week). I am not a frequent guest at premiere parties, so the whole thing was pretty exciting to begin with, but once I was in, I realized that it was much more than a glam event I got to attend. I was surrounded by cast and crew colleagues decked out for the occasion. There were people with whom I've worked for over 20 years, and people I've met over the last six weeks. And while all of us might have been excited about the opportunity to "get fancy" for the evening, we were united in something far more significant--the revival of shows that were pronounced dead a year or two ago, and the return to work for several hundred people. Several hundred.

We watched the pilots, rapt by the stories and characters that have been a part of so many viewers' lives for years, and new characters we hope viewers will be excited to meet. And we celebrated the teams of people who believed that this was possible and worked tirelessly (these people work till 4am!) to bring the endeavor to this point.

As I made my way home afterward, I felt special carrying the souvenir tote bag filled with promotional materials. I felt special about being an active part of making this dream happen, and about being a member of the team working so hard each day to make the shows the best they can be. There are a whole lot of us back to work, and what we deliver starting Monday will be the virtual family members that fans have followed for years. And as with One Life to Live's live shows and musicals and Daisy Awards, I was there. It was a moment in time, not just a premiere party, but the start of something big. And very special.

And I was there.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

You Know You're On Auto-Pilot When...

1. You're fairly certain that the clicking sound you're hearing on the train station floor is your feet, but you can't for the life of you connect your steps with the sound you're hearing.

2. You're sure you made 3 kid lunches this morning, but you can't for the life of you remember what you put in them.

3. You're immensely grateful that you put your cards and train tickets in the same pocket every day, because otherwise, you know you'd be standing in a station having no idea where to find ANYTHING.

4. You know you drank coffee, because the pot says 5 cups and you always make seven. Oh, and because your cup is dirty.

5. You're wearing the same earrings you've worn for the past three days, because it's a whole lot easier than trying to match something new to the clothes you picked while dressing in the dark.

6. You wake the wrong child first because, unbeknownst to you, they have switched beds in the night, and, well, the top bed kid always has to be up first.

7. The milk being in a different spot in the fridge completely confuses you.

8. You have no memory of walking to the subway. You only know that when you got off, you saw the same very tall person who gets off there every day.

9. You know the train to Connecticut takes at least 45 minutes, and you couldn't have been on the train that long yet, could you? Yet, here you are.

10. When you get off the train, you are much closer to the van pickup spot than you ever are. Is the van just closer today, or did you really sit that much farther forward on the train?

Here's the thing--if the kids got up and to school, WITH LUNCHES, and you got to work on time, and reasonably well-dressed, and were caffeinated enough to accomplish something while you were there, perhaps auto-pilot is not such a bad thing. Who says manual would get you to your destination any better anyway?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Opening One Week From Today...

One week from today, the product of the gig I've had these last 6 weeks-the online revival of One Life to Live and All My Children--will begin to appear on the Internet (Hulu, Hulu+, and ITunes). It will be the product of not just a lot of people's hard work, but also producers' and fans' belief that such a thing both could work and should be done. It's actually kind of amazing.

Having spent most of my career in television, I am fairly used to doing the work and then forgetting about it (or already being involved in the next production challenge by the time "challenge one" has hit the air). The charge I get is generally from the production process, not from the audience response.

I have often wondered whether a more immediate audience response, like the one in the theater, would give me that same charge, or whether the "can't fix it in the edit" feeling would simply terrify me. This weekend, I watched my teenage daughter on stage in a musical she loves. While she did not have a big, lots of lines part, she was "on" every minute. Clearly, she was getting a charge from that live audience feeling, and though I have no aspirations of being on stage, there were moments that I wished I could be part of that live energy too. No matter how many people watch a show on TV or the Internet, it's not the same as a living, breathing audience clapping right there where you can see and hear them.

In the case of the soaps online, however, while we won't actually hear the applause, the response will make or break the gig, for me and for hundreds of other people. So, while I will be forging ahead with the shows that will air in the coming months, I suspect I will be far more interested in the audience response than ever before. We might not actually hear the applause, but we will be able to see it in posts and tweets and hits. It won't be live, but it will be immediately measurable, just about the closest we "live-to-tape" TV folks can get to a live audience. There's no preview period--it's straight to opening night for a pair of shows we hope play for a very long time. And yeah, I'll admit it. I get a charge from that too.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why It Feels Okay to Go Back to Work on Monday

1. What's at home for me all day? Really? Putting away laundry? Cleaning the apartment? Yup. I'd rather be at work.

2. Fewer hours at home to have to tell my children over and over to go to bed, practice piano, clean their room....

3. A fairly defined set of things to accomplish, rather than a list so long, there aren't nearly enough hours in 2 days to accomplish everything.

4. Lunch made by someone else.

5. My kids say they'll clean up with my sitter tomorrow--now that's something I can look forward to.

6. A paycheck. Enough said. And considering the various expenses of a weekend...enough said.

7. The satisfaction of getting up early and being on a schedule. Okay, first of all, this particular weekend was so busy that I was up early anyway. And what, am I crazy?!

8. Being appreciated for more than just my ability to make pasta and run out for Chinese.

9. A bit of quiet. Well, until I hit the subway, and the rattly train, and video footage to edit.

10. Did I mention the paycheck?

Truthfully, I love my weekends, even if they are ridiculously full--I'm sure I will be sad when they are not. But on Sunday night, when there's so much left to do, and a house of people ready to be back to routine, who hasn't thought Monday might actually be a respite?

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I will likely mourn the ending of yet another weekend....

Osu and More

We spent most of our Saturday at a karate tournament (No, I don't do karate. My kids do.) My kids, along with hundreds of other kids and adults, performed katas (routines of punches and kicks) and weapons katas (same as above, but with a long "bo" stick in hand), and fought in the kumite (sparring) portion.

It's always amazing to me to see the range of what people are able to do at these tournaments. Some kids (and adults) perform such involved routines that you have to believe they are in the gym for hours each week, much like the gymnasts at the Olympics. Others (and my kids fall into this category) clearly enjoy it and work hard, just at a different level.

When my kids started karate several years ago, all I knew was that it could help them with balance and focus and coordination and toughness. Several years later, I can now see all of these things, plus a small knowledge of Japanese, and a facility with the word Osu (pronounced "Os," which they say when walking into the dojo or into a tournament event, or in response to a correction or instruction from their teacher. It means "respect," (and probably a whole lot of other things I don't kmow). It starts and ends my emails to their Sensei, and, I have to say, has added a degree of respect to a variety of aspects of their lives. Funny how a little word, just used often, can make a difference. With it, and their involvement with karate, they have gotten a lesson in how hard work and respect for those who know more and can teach you matters, and that is a lesson that we can all use.

My kids did not walk away from this tournament as big winners, but they walk away each day with something more--Osu--which is more than any medal or trophy can give.

Friday, April 19, 2013

You Can't Stop The Beat

This weekend, my daughter will complete her performances in a teen theater production of Hairspray. When all is said and done, I will have seen it 3 or 4 times. And then we will all move on to the next thing--little league, state tests, piano recitals, summer camp. As the song says, "You can't stop the beat" (or, better yet, "you can't stop an avalanche").

I don't think we live a particularly big life, really I don't. But I guess with five people, each with a whole set of life activities, you just have to do some simple multiplication to know that every event will end up leading into (or more often overlapping with) another.

So, how is it, with a beat that you can't stop, that you make sure to celebrate the successes? To applaud enough at the performances, to light all the birthday candles, to prepare for the tests, and to cheer at the games? And to mourn the losses? How is it that you even know which are the non-negotiables and which are the "it will happen agains"?

Perhaps the trick is thinking about it all less as multiplication and more as musical theater. Mathematically, it might be impossible to make all the equations work. The numbers are the numbers, and numbers are consistent. But in musical theater, though you might try to make it perfect and consistent every night, things change. Sometimes people will miss their marks, and sometimes everything will come together for a show that sings. So if our beat never stops, sometimes the best we can do is try for that perfect performance, then accept and move on when one show's not so perfect. Would a missed note or a missed step make us give up on the theater? Of course not. So, when the beat never stops in our lives, the best we can do is just to keep dancing. Enjoy each song. And remember that we will almost always have a chance to do it better at the next show.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

You Eat--I Mean, Learn--Something New Every Day

Okay, be prepared. And be full. Because this is a shameless tribute to the TV/Film entity affectionately known as Craft Services.

Confused? I don't know who made up the name, but Craft Services refers to the food people, the team who makes sure that, whether it's a four hour day or a fourteen, the cast and crew eat regularly and eat well.

And why a whole blog post about Craft Services? Because I learned yesterday, after weeks of wondering if I was taking from the correct (caffeinated, please) coffee pot each day, that they only do caffeinated on shoots. And, because, on any given day, I can choose to be a vegetarian or a carnivore, or just a chocoholic, and eat well no matter which I choose. And because I really do believe that the reason our crew is surviving--and staying cheerful--through some very long days is that they are well-fed.

As with anything new (well, new to me), Craft Services comes with its own set of "rules," and I would be remiss in my blogging duties if I didn't include them here:

1. Try stuff. How many places will you go where there is such an assortment of foods you could never make yourself?
2. But don't eat too much. Sadly, producers still aren't building a nap item into the production day.
3. Thank the chefs and servers--because of what they do, not only do you eat well, you don't have to worry about preparing and carrying food at the ungodly hour you get up to come to this job.
4. Eat strategically at the evening snack break--there is no train ride that feels longer than a late night one when you are hungry.
5. Forget there even is a dessert table. Once you're standing there, you know you won't be able to resist, and that brownie now, and the next day, and the next day, and the day after that will have you finding no work clothes that fit on the day after that.

And thus concludes my ode to Craft Services. Stay tuned for continuing updates from the place we lovingly call "Soap Camp."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lessons From High School

Years ago, one of my high school teachers was known to quote the phrase "Self-discipline is the yoke of a free man." I don't think I thought much about what it meant at the time, except to know that she used it to keep sometimes rowdy high school boys in line.

These days I get it a whole lot more. Self-discipline is what makes me leave home in time to make my train. Self-discipline is writing a blog every day. Self-discipline is doing laundry even when you don't want to. And self-discipline is what I try to teach my kids when I need them to choose, on their own, to do their homework before watching TV. (I have never used the phrase with them, but believe me, they know there are yokes in their otherwise free existence!)

In our day to day lives, it takes a lot of the self-discipline that my high school teacher talked about, just to get things done. In the best of cases, we are just accomplishing the things we'd like to, with little help from that yoke. As my teacher recognized, we just need a little help sometimes to do the right thing, and the proverbial yoke is the help we give ourselves.

It's amazing how things from your early life stick with you. Though I don't always remember what I had for breakfast (and let's face it, why would I need to?), the high school lessons still inform parts of my life today. And while I may not be free (yoke included, thank you), I'm writing the blog, headed out the door on time, and doing just fine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Transferable Skills--My First Day at All My Children

For those of you who are following the online soap news, yes, I know that All My Children shot for two weeks last month and started its new shooting cycle yesterday. But for me--and, hey, this is my blog--today was Day 1. First day to work with All My Children actors, directors, and producers. First day to discover a story and a show feel that might be different from what I was used to. A friend asked me yesterday if it was hard to be in a place where there was a new experience almost every day. I said then, and having had a major new experience today, I still say now that the new experiences only make me better and stronger and smarter.

When I was looking for work, there was a lot of talk from me (and most of the bazillion people with whom I had coffee) about transferable skills. Did being a casting person make you marketable as an HR professional? Did being a producer in soaps make you marketable as a reality story producer? And did being a studio multicamera AD make you marketable in any number of positions dealing with handling data and organizing people? (Clearly the people hiring for facilities managers and asset managers didn't think so). In the end, it was largely my editing skills that people understood, so transferable became a lot narrower than I'd wanted to think.

Today, on my first booth day at All My Children, I discovered that while there might not be easily recognizable ways to transfer my skills to the world at large, there were absolutely recognizable ways to use my skills telling different stories with different people. Sometimes, I think, the key to that Holy Grail of transferability is the willingness to lose yourself in the similarities and lose your fear of the differences. It doesn't mean I can be an air traffic controller just because I do traffic controlling every day. But it does mean that I can tell multiple stories with pictures and work to coordinate a whole lot of people with different needs.

Today's new experience is over. But the way I see it, it was just another step. A small but significant step in a lifetime of transferable skills.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Magic of (Online) Television

I saw Dr. Joe Martin today. Well, okay, I saw Ray MacDonnell, the actor who has played Dr. Joe Martin on All My Children since I was a kid watching the show with my mom. And though I work with actors every day, in that moment, I got the charge of being in an exciting place. The charge I got 25 years ago when I walked into One Life to Live fresh out of college. The charge I get when I see online promos for this TOLN venture that I'm a part of. I'm just doing my job, not so different from all the people I see go through Grand Central each day, but as part of my job, I get to see Dr. Joe Martin.

I've been working in television for a long time. You might think that the excitement would be long gone. Not really. There are definitely actors I know as friends and scenic tricks I see right through. But it's still the "magic of television" feeling for me when I see stage crew moving a prop tree. It's still exhilarating when I see someone I watched as a child or someone who's on a show my kids watch. And, let's face it, the shows you watch wouldn't be nearly as exciting if the people making them didn't pour a whole lot of genuine emotion and excitement into them.

On April 29th, just two weeks from today, I (and, I hope, many other people) will get to watch new episodes of One Life to Live and All My Children--shows that, a year ago, were pronounced dead--online. And though I've been right there as we've made them, I suspect I will still be on the edge of my seat. Because that's what the magic of television is all about.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Looking For Sleep--In All the Wrong Places

I fell asleep at my son's little league game. Well, to be fair, actually at the pre-game practice. And baseball is not exactly a watch-every-minute game, right? And I was only actually asleep for about 60 seconds. Just long enough to jolt awake so that I wouldn't be labeled (at least not this early in our first season) as the parent who fell asleep at her son's baseball game.

Again, to be fair, I have actually fallen asleep or just about fallen asleep in a number of "not ideal" places this weekend--the kitchen floor, the rest room at JCPenney, the cereal aisle at Fairway. Lack of sleep has a way of catching up with you somewhere, and since I rarely allow myself extra hours in bed, well, you get the picture.

But while tired is, I guess, not ideal (and potentially dangerous), the tired I'm feeling these days is an oddly good tired, a tired that comes from long work hours (yay, I'm working, and with people I like, on a project I like!), shepherding kids who are involved and engaged in genuinely interesting activities, and trying to maintain a tornado-free household. (Okay, the last one is not a good tired, just a necessary tired.) My point is that even if no one wants to live tired, or drift off in random places, there's nothing wrong with a little exhaustion as a result of hard but satisfying work.

I hope to get a good night's sleep tonight and start a new week--and a new show--raring to go tomorrow. But if you should see a dedicated mom snoozing at a little league game next weekend, don't be surprised if she looks an awful lot like me. Just don't tell anyone.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Yesterday, we finished the first cycle of shooting One Life to Live. On Monday, we will start a five-week All My Children cycle (while, of course, still editing One Life to Live). I don't think any of this will really register until Monday, when I'm back in Stamford, or even Tuesday, when I'm actually in the studio shooting, rather than in an edit room. The process might be the same, but many of the people will be different. It will, no doubt, be a big transition. And within a few days, it will likely be as if it had always been that way.

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I tend to have a psyche that adapts to transitions. When OLTL ended, I walked into a different life with a lot of time at home. While it was not without stress, it was a life that fairly quickly became the new normal. And now that I am working and commuting and working some more, it's sometimes hard to believe that all those months at home really happened. Again, there's a new normal.

Sometimes I think that the ability to make transitions, both the small ones and the big ones, is the very best life skill we can have, and the most important skill we can give our children. It might be important to have memory of what has happened before--I certainly don't want to repeat mistakes I've already made--but the ability to move on, to make each new thing an opportunity and an adventure, has served me well. It has allowed me to use my skills without being locked into the last way I used them, and to enjoy each new project, professional or personal, for what it is, not just how it compares to the last one.

So come Monday, I'll be excited to transition to a new chapter in my Stamford experience. Just another step in my new normal.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Guest Writer Emily: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Writer Behind This Blog

Mom. Director. Editor. Chef. Transportation Coordinator. Blogger?

Yes, that's right. My mom, Tracy Sharon Casper Lang, does all of those things and her hair never gets too frizzy! Today we will be discussing how she does not (or can not) drop down dead from exhaustion every single day.

First on the list: Mom to the three little (well, not so little anymore) monsters, me included. Tactics for surviving and controlling the monsters: 1. Tickle time! We (me especially) are all ticklish, and it is a great tactic, and high up among the cards. 2. Buying stuff for us kids. :) Not great money wise, but it sure makes us happy! (hint hint...) 3. Last but not least, the amazing, the one and only Momster!!! This is when the hugs go away and the claws come out! Beware the Momster and never stay up too late, because that is when she lurks. How she survives: Babysitters and my dad. How we survive: Babysitters and my dad.

Next: Director and Editor. Tactics: This is not really my area of expertise, but here goes: Direct well, and don't make bad decisions. Edit how your boss wants it. This also has real world applications: Be a good leader, follow the leader. How she survives: I don't know...

What's next? Oh yeah, "Chef Supreme!" Ummmm...Maybe not quite that, but she does make great pasta! Tactics: Follow the recipe. Warning: not following this tactic could lead to disasters in the kitchen. Take extreme caution. How she survives: The Super Supreme Chef, my dad, or a rotisserie chicken from Fairway. :(

Last but (I think) not least, Transportation Coordinator. Tactics: Repeat everything two to three times, so the information sticks, write a weekly letter to those chosen few: the babysitters. How she survives: Once again, this job depends on the babysitters and my dad, although she must tell these people exactly what to do before they go on their respective missions.

As you can see, my mom does A LOT. She depends on her helpers at times, but she is often the mastermind. I hope you enjoyed my guest blog! Tune in tomorrow to read another one of my mom's MANY blogs!

So long! Sayonara! Adios! Au revoir!
-Emily :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013


When you're part of a start-up, even a start-up based on old models, there is no built-in structure. In a way, almost every process is up for grabs. It is daunting, but at the same time, exhilarating. It is a chance to make what was non-functional functional, and what was good better. And that's where I am. There is a certain independence about it all. That is, if the creation of the structure doesn't bury you first.

My family is in the midst of a similar independence. For, as I spend many an hour as part of a team creating something from scratch, finding what works and what doesn't, they too are feeling their way along, pushing the boundaries of how what they want to do fits with what they can do. Some days, I wonder if they are doing a better job with the independence thing than I am. While I don't see all of their processes while I am working, it seems that they are finding new ways to accomplish things, both separately and together, and will soon have a completely new structure of their own, one that is not regularly dependent on my participation. Which is good. And yet....

Let's just hope that the start-up that's taking me with it will be just as successful as my family at this whole independence thing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sibling Days

In the midst of a late night shoot, I peeked at my Facebook, only to discover that today (well, yesterday by that point) had been National Sibling Day. Who knew there even was such a thing, yet how grateful I was, having worked all day, to be presented with a new and different topic for the daily post.

As unemployment slash freelancing was isolating, working long hours can also be isolating. While the collaboration with cast and crew invigorates me, the days leave me with little time or energy even to think about my siblings, much less talk to them, so how great to have a moment in time (or, in this case, a moment in a late night car service) to reflect on how my brothers have influenced this last year in my life. For, while they are night and day different from each other, they have each contributed to my current sanity after a year of rockiness.

When I was home, one of my brothers called me every few days, mid-morning, when he just seemed to know that I'd be alone staring at unproductive leads on the computer. We might talk about the job search. We might talk about my kids or his travel or nothing much at all, but he provided a much-needed lifeline and sounding board throughout days that were otherwise much too quiet. My other brother, less of a talker, more of a pragmatist, was my reality check, my reminder that a new job didn't need to be a forever job, and that my skills, though perhaps less than understood, were valuable and marketable.

So today, on (the day after) National Sibling Day, I celebrate my siblings. If you are lucky, your siblings remind you that you are not alone, that there is someone on your side even if not at your side. I am lucky that way, and if I've done the job as a parent that I've tried to, my kids will be lucky that way too.

Happy Day After National Sibling Day.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

9 to 5, 5 to 9

Several months ago, I heard a prominent children's media executive speak. Did I take away invaluable information about how to make a children's show or how to get a children's media job? Not really. The piece I remember most is what he said when asked about his family--he replied (I'm paraphrasing here) that what he did from 9 to 5 would never be more important than what he did from 5 to 9.

These days, my 9 to 5 is more like 8 to 10, with an hour and a half travel on each end, which could throw a huge monkey wrench into the 5 to 9 thing. Or it could just make the hours that are left really valuable ones.

For much of a year, my 9 to 5 was a conglomeration of networking coffees and addiction to LinkedIn. 5:00 (3:00, really) became both my close of business and my salvation. It was easy to focus on the homefront, since I was home to experience it. Now, the challenge is to carve out the sense of 5 to 9, even if I am not physically with my family for all those hours. That's what I think the speaker meant--not necessarily being home for a 5:30pm family dinner and an 8:30am family breakfast (I'm not sure much of anyone in NYC does that), but being present for our spouses and kids, and making home a priority, even when work is all-consuming.

My early morning and late night trains are not going to change, and that's okay. My commitment to helping get the soaps online is not change either, again okay. As long as when I'm readying cameras all day and riding trains at 7 and 11, I'm thinking about 5 to 9. And making the most of whatever part of it I've got.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Facing Backwards, No Windows

I thought I'd progressed over three weeks of train traveling to Stamford. I know which subway car gets me closest to the Grand Central steps and how much time I need to go to the ATM and still make the train. And I know that my goal is to be in a forward facing seat on the train to Stamford. Unfortunately, what you know and what you can do are not always the same. Today, on a train crowded in every car, it was a long walk for a spot, culminating in a seat that not only faced backwards but also bordered a wall rather than a window. As hard as it is to stay awake looking out the window, it is nearly impossible to stay awake while looking at just the back of a seat, so by the time I heard "tickets, please!" it was waking me up from a deep sleep. On the one hand, why wouldn't person sleep on a train ride when there aren't nearly enough hours to sleep at home? But having come way too close to missing my stop more than once, I know better-- leave the sleeping for home and the writing for the train.

I wish I'd gotten a window seat, and a forward facing one at that. But we don't always get what we want, and I'm sure there will be many, many things this week that matter a lot more. For now, a ride, a blog post written, and the start of a new week will be just fine with me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Show Is Over, Say Hello

My daughter just completed six performances of Guys and Dolls with Polaris Productions, a theater company dedicated to giving kids the opportunity to experience performing and working together as a theater community. The months leading up to this weekend have been a blur of rehearsals and the accompanying logistics, and I am happy to report that the days and weeks and schedules were well worth it, both for my daughter and for us. We enjoyed a weekend of shows, and she was positively gleeful (until, of course, it was over, and she had to return to the reality of homework and the prospect of no more rehearsals with her new community of friends).

What I do for a living (and what I didn't do for most of a year) is not so different--working with a team to create something that gets applause, live or otherwise. Sometimes, things go perfectly. Often, things go wrong--a forgotten line or a scenic piece that won't work quite smoothly--but the team works beyond what doesn't work--works together to make that magic that gets the applause. There may be solo moments of glory, but the excitement lies largely in the team effort.

I can see why my daughter is sad to see this ending. For these few months, she stretched her own abilities and got to work with other kid (and adult) performers and a creative and technical team that pulled off a full weekend of fantastic shows. I know from experience how hard it will be to find that again. Thankfully, I also know from experience that it can be found--maybe not the same, but still good--so I'm not worried. She'll be back at rehearsals and back on a stage before we know it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Power Weekend

I thought that weekdays of leaving home at 6:30am and returning at 11pm were intense. Turns out that weekends of transporting kids to and observing karate class, little league, and youth musicals, followed by late night tax preparation, are no less intense. The biggest difference is that, in this weekend schedule, I am not the one proving myself. I may take getting people to places on time seriously, but I am not the one getting up on stage and hoping to remember my lines. I am not the one up at bat dying to make a hit (and afraid of striking out). I am just the "chauffeur" (a funny term for the city, where getting everyone around is done by bus or train or on foot). And being the "chauffeur" feels good.

Over a year of sporadic freelancing, I spent a lot of time getting to know our family rhythms, and it's amazing how less than a month of working has taken most of that away. So these days, while some people might be looking for two days of recovery in their weekends, I don't mind having some power weekends. Being able to reconnect with my husband and kids' needs, rather than having them live by mine (which they mostly do during the week), makes the amount of schlepping worth it somehow. I can't say I'm so powerful at midnight when I've finally stopped to write this, but I can say that these weekends make me feel powerful.

Just have to make sure I save some power for Monday.

Friday, April 5, 2013

OLTL, Week 3--Reflections

1. An open mind is a terrible thing to waste. You learn something new every day. Every cloud has a silver lining. Cliches may be a lousy way to start a blog, but they can be a shockingly accurate way to describe a week.

2. You know you're tired when you don't remember writing the notes you now see in your script.

3. You've got to love working in a place where "getting the job done" includes having actors entertain you on a regular basis.

4. All these pieces and parts we've been shooting are finally coming together into real shows. Which is exciting. And good, since we hit screens of all sizes in LESS THAN A MONTH!

5. The obligation to get to 5 reflections is officially lifted if you don't get home from work until after midnight.

And thus ends another fine week of soap camp.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Smart People

I have always known that my husband and my brother, both professors, were smart people. They read lots of long and varied books, do major crossword puzzles--the kinds of things you think about smart people doing. The thing is, we (if we are lucky, and I think I am) are surrounded by smart people every day. Not necessarily the brain surgeon, rocket scientist, puzzle maniac types, but smart people nonetheless.

Nowhere is this as obvious as at a start-up endeavor. Today, I sat in a room with assorted people at work, trying to come up with a schedule to make one of our processes more efficient. While we didn't exactly generate a plan right then, I walked away feeling as though I had been in a room with smart people, in which I was considered smart as well. Each of us brought something to the proverbial table. Each of us had some part of the information that would go into making an effective schedule. And each of us respected the fact that without the contributions of the other smart people in the room, the schedule, and the resulting workflow, just wouldn't happen. Smart is not just about retaining knowledge. It's about understanding where that knowledge fits into the big picture. Understanding how what you know how to do can, in combination with what others know how to do, change the way things are done.

I will never be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist, and I would venture to say that most of the people I see daily won't be either. Lucky for me, I get to work with smart people every day anyway.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


When we are done shooting for the day, I'm not sure where most of the people go--they just sort of disappear. I figure many of them must either live nearby, be staying in a hotel, or really love driving. All I know is that there are these dedicated people (who seem to work a lot of hours) who either alert me to or drive me to the next train out. And know just how many minutes it will take at any time of day to get from the studio to the train. And know every possible route to get there. So I get on a van and then a train, and I am home.

There are many things that amaze me about this OLTL/AMC endeavor--the teams that are working together, the sheer dedication of the production crew, the fearlessness of the performances. But I am impressed daily by this transportation thing. Really. Not only is there a commitment to getting people to the studio to work, there is a commitment to getting them home. And while I imagine that it would be, well, awkward, to have a hundred people stranded and sleeping on couches all over the studio, that commitment makes a difference to me. And, I would guess, to the various other people who ride in the vans and on the trains with me every day. Sometimes it's about the little things.

And the big things with wheels.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

'Twas The Night Before...

The first day back to school. This particular Spring Break, now ending, was the subject of many discussions over countless months. There was hope of a trip to Florida, but a realization that we couldn't foot the bill, then months of watching airfares, followed by days of trying to negotiate around play rehearsals, and, in the end, all of the above complications plus a little thing called "Mommy's got a new job (and won't be going anywhere)." So this was not a trip vacation. Rather, it was a discovery vacation. For my daughters, discovery of how self-sufficient they were able to be, from planning parts of their days to creating their own lunches. For my son, it was perhaps more structure and less sunshine than he might have wanted, but discovery that he still had ample time for playing video games and accomplishing a very long list of test prep homework. As for me, I couldn't solve every home crisis long-distance, but thanks to email and cell phone, I was as close as I could be from a different state. Feeling guilty sometimes, sure, but actively involved from afar.

On this night before they return, we are up far too late--a combination of a sleep schedule I didn't get around to adjusting back, and loose ends that I should have tied up days ago. But aside from our being tired tomorrow, I would like to think that we would all review this break as a pretty good one. No suntans, no airplanes, and no Mickey Mouse. Just a week to find out a little more about ourselves and our capabilities. And anytime's a good time to do that, isn't it?

Monday, April 1, 2013


I bought a monthly train pass this morning. Okay, I know that sounds like the start of a "too much information" kind of blog, but for me, it was about more than just the standing on line on the first of the month or the looking to save a few bucks. Buying the monthly pass was an announcement to myself (and, I suppose, to Metro-North) that I will be doing this job, and therefore, traveling to this job, every day. At least for the month of April.

I have spent the last year both looking for full time work and trying to negotiate the networking life of a freelancer. And, while, over that year, I made interesting new contacts all over, I accomplished neither a full time job nor a full slate of freelance gigs. And along the way, the trust in anything that would be permanent enough to warrant committing to a monthly pass kind of evaporated. This current endeavor may not be permanent, but it is certainly closer to that than I have come in quite some time. So, while I am being careful not to lose the contacts I have made all year or lose the "eyes and ears open" mentality, I am becoming more able each day to believe that I can actually make plans, believe that I can actually buy monthly train tickets.

The first morning two weeks ago when I made the early morning walk to the subway to start my trip to Connecticut, it was middle of the night dark, and this morning, at the same clock time, it was already mostly light. Things clearly change every day, so I might never buy that monthly pass again. But for the moment, it will mean one less step in my daily journey, a few more dollars in my pocket (if I've calculated the probabilities right), and a dose of faith that, at least for this month, I can count on something.

As of tonight, two train rides down. And a whole month of them left to go.