Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hot and Cold. And Back Again.

One of the random challenges of working in television is the fact that video equipment, and therefore, the places where video equipment is used, must be kept cold. Which is lovely on a fall or winter day, not so lovely on a spring 90 degrees and humid day. So, when I dressed in the rush of getting out the door and the sweat of a 75 degree, 75% humidity 6am, I ended up with, well, an outfit 75% designed for a day at the beach. Which was marginally okay walking to the actor van to Stamford (though the 25% concession to a cold studio meant I was sweating before I hit the van). When I reached the studio, however, the reasons for my wardrobe now miles and hours behind me, I just wanted to go home and start over.

Alas, we don't (especially when we work many miles from home) usually get the chance to start over, whether in wardrobe or in life. And most of the time, I'm good with that. I really am. There are enough things in my life I wouldn't want to repeat, and enough things I've learned from experience, that I'd sacrifice a lot by going back again. And, in the case of today, in the scheme of things, did a wardrobe misstep really ruin my day? (Okay, debatable, even if I am behind the camera.) But, really, except for having everyone's fantasy of being able to go back to bed and start over later, I barreled through, as we all do, whether past crises of wardrobe or past things that are a whole lot more serious. All we can do is cry a little, learn a lot, and, oh, pick out our clothes the night before.

No tears today. But I'll be hitting my closet as soon as I get home.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Settling In

Starting anything new is hard, and the soaps online endeavor has been no different, both for the production in general and for me personally. But today, somehow, despite a gray start and a slow morning train, I began  to get the feeling we were settling in. Perhaps it was explaining it all to a visiting friend (sometimes you realize while explaining that something is much more clear than it feels with just you in the middle of it). Perhaps it is the fact that there is a scheduled summer hiatus with a scheduled return to work date (schedules tend to lend a feeling of security to things). Perhaps it is feeling that I suddenly know what questions to ask and which people can answer them (unanswered questions tend to lend a feeling of insecurity to things). Perhaps it is a newfound ability to anticipate the snack foods, just a little (though there seem to be surprise offerings every day). And, above all, perhaps it is beginning to know not just what I need but what I can live without, and being able to make the choices and requests to ensure that I manage both of these.

I haven't hung a sweater on a hook yet, or left a spare pair of shoes or hung my personal pictures on the walls. "Settling in" in today's world isn't what it used to be. And that's okay. For now, I'll settle for settling in without settling down.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reading and Reading

I read a few books to my son tonight and stayed awake doing it. Which is huge for me, particularly on a day when I'm already tired when I walk in the door at 8.

Then he read a few books to me (well, one and part of another, when he realized my eyes were closing), and I fell asleep. Dead asleep. Don't know how long he stayed up (he could have been wandering to the kitchen, having a second dessert) asleep. Didn't unpack the lunchboxes, didn't run the dishwasher asleep. Didn't set the alarm (which could be the start of a whole series of disasters tomorrow) asleep. Lying in a bed full of books asleep.

Thankfully, there is my blog, the one thing that made me start awake at midnight and get up to unpack the lunchboxes, unload the dishwasher, clear away the books, and SET THE ALARM. Oh, and write the blog. Reading to my son may be full of potential risks, but writing a blog--that'll save me every time!

(Oh, and by the way, Notwashedupyet crossed the 20,000 pageviews mark today, so, many thanks to you all! And keep reading.)

Despite the risks, my son and I will too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

If Life is a Bowl of Blogs...?

Almost every time I publish a new post, I find that moments later, hours later, even days later, I think of things I could have added to the given topic. Things I missed, whether actual events or deeper reflections. But time doesn't stop in this blog world. Publishing happens quickly, and those things left out just have to wait for next time.

In a lot of ways, day to day life is a whole lot more like blogging than like publishing a book. For in our day to day lives, we rarely have time to review and rewrite. Rather, we are called upon to act and react immediately and decisively, to gather our facts and emotions, often more quickly than we'd like. And then to live with the consequences of our actions, often having those same moments later, hours later, days later feelings of having missed something that I have with my blog. And while, as with the blog, we can always do it differently next time, we also face the fact that what's said is said, what's done is done. There's no taking back, there's just moving on.

Perhaps that is why this blogosphere works well for me. Like my life, it is a commitment to forging ahead, to appreciating what goes right and making peace with fixing the "not so right" tomorrow. To living with circumstances that are sometimes perfect, but more often, just the best they can be in that moment.

So, even if you have no intention of blogging, I encourage you to check out this blogger's way of thinking. Because even if you leave out something today, you might still be able to review and rewrite it tomorrow.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Holiday Weekend

Yes, I know it's a holiday weekend, full of remembering (at least for some) and the welcoming of summer (for many more). For me, however, it's Tag Sale Season again, that glorious time of the year when other people's castoffs become my treasures. On any given weekend, while the city is bursting with street fairs in many different neighborhoods, the country (well, at least the country where we have relatives) is bursting with tag, barn, and garage sales in every little town and village. We could be in the city acquiring spices, manicuring tools, and socks, all of which will be available on another set of blocks next weekend if you miss them. Instead, we are in the country, acquiring used books and jewelry, random kitchen utensils and tools, sheet music and more, all for less than what it would cost to snack at that street fair.

What's the appeal, you ask? Something for close to nothing, perhaps (and, believe me, my kids speak right up when they feel things are "overpriced"). The thrill of the chase, certainly, because you really can't tell, from an ad or even sometimes from the curb when you drive up, whether a sale will be a good one for you. And an odd feeling of recycling, when you see things have a second life instead of just ending up in the trash heap because they no longer fit their owners (or fit in their owners' homes).

So, rather than a beach (way too cold where we are) or a cookout, this has been our kickoff to summer. And when we go back to the city, it will be with some new reading, a bit of new music, and a whole lot more fun in the kitchen.

The Other Side of the Wall

I just saw a production of The Fantasticks, a show in which a wall (sometimes actually seen, sometimes not) is a fairly major character. Which led me to think about how, quite often in my work, I am in a control room that is on the other side of the studio wall. While we in the control room see what is happening on set on multiple monitors, and hear what is happening beyond the wall over speakers and over headset, we really just see and hear what those things allow us to, making our view beyond the wall a fairly limited one (as in the musical).

Thankfully, I have had ample opportunities to spend part of my time on set, seeing how the cameras get the shots we see on screen, how the actors feel their way around the sets, what the assorted people who hear me on headset deal with in addition to the voices shot straight into their ears all day. It is much needed perspective that makes me do my job better and helps me help the team better as well.

For most of us, there are many, many walls in our lives, some solid brick, others we build in our minds. Sometimes they serve a purpose, sometimes they just serve as an obstacle to living fully. There's nothing wrong with making those divisions. Sometimes a wall protects our family time from the intrusion of too much work. Sometimes a wall protects our quiet time from too much noise. But sometimes, we need to peek past that wall so that we don't completely miss what is on the other side. It's all in the knowing when to peek.

So, here's to the walls--necessary and unnecessary--in our lives. We may not live in a musical, but as in The Fantasticks, how we deal with the walls makes all the difference in our world.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Leaps of Faith

So many things that work out in life are the result not so much of a logical progression of events, but more of a series of leaps of faith, those moments when you practically will something to happen because you believe that it can.

Like making a doctor's appointment for the time when your child's bus usually arrives, knowing full well that yesterday the bus was a half hour late. And believing that even if the bus is late, the child will somehow get to the doctor and the doctor will see the child despite the late arrival.

Like believing that a camera will have time to move to a different part of the set, even though the dialogue that was supposed to cue the move was never said and the actors are talking and moving faster than humanly possible.

Like creating something new, even though people say it won't work and there are obstacles at every turn.

Logic would be of little use in any of these situations. It doesn't make sense that any of them would work. But, with a leap of faith, and the preparation to back it up, I have seen them all work, which keeps me believing that the leap is the best way to go.

So, to those who leap, go for it, and to those who haven't allowed for a little leap of faith sometimes, what are you waiting for? A leap may take you farther than you ever imagined you could go.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lunch and Learn

I had lunch with a former coworker today. A former coworker who is now pursuing, successfully, a completely different path. So, over lunch, we talked about her path and mine, her days and mine, and how each of us might like to have just some of what the other has now.

And, of course, we talked about days past, the shared experiences from working together. And it was in talking about it all that I realized that sometime, while I wasn't looking, I moved on. The workplace we shared is no longer my most recent thing, not really even close. The references from there, nice as they are, will be old news by the time I use them again. And my description of myself might still include that as history, but will no longer focus on it as identity.

Even as I was priding myself on my aggressive job search/networking efforts, I had no idea that the redefinition of me would happen not so much because I moved into a completely different arena, but more because I opened my eyes to new people and new ways of working. And because I allowed people to see ME, not just the person I tried to be to fit in correctly.

It's amazing how sometimes the biggest changes happen when your eyes are closed, or looking elsewhere. Children grow up not from birthday to birthday but on random days when you're busy doing the laundry. Your work identity changes not so much because a particular amount of time has passed, but because you have accomplished new things, all while just trying to be part of a new team, trying to get the job done.

I knew that today's lunch would be a great reconnection with a friend. Thanks to my friend, it was so much more--an opportunity to see not just how far we've each come in a year, but to look forward to what we're going to do with ourselves as we go farther. To talk over some of the past, but then leave it in the past.

I can't even imagine what we will each have accomplished by the next time we meet. I look forward to meeting the new versions of both of us.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trivia. Not Trivial.

I woke up this morning to the happy news that I'd "won" the Cynopsis Kids Trivia Contest from last week. "Winning" really just means being one of a certain number of people who answer correctly, and the prize is simply the printing of your name and company in their e-newsletter, but, nonetheless, I was pretty excited to be recognized for knowing that Oscar the Grouch's pet was none other than Slimey the Worm.

Perhaps it was seeing my name--and my blog's name--in print. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I do have some head for trivia. But more likely, it was the reminder that, while I am currently working on TV for grownups, it is the Oscars and Grovers and Snoopys and Arthurs of this world that REALLY make my heart sing.

I have always been (okay, not quite always when I wasn't working) a firm believer in the fact that every event in our lives somehow prepares us for the next challenge--creates the steps that we need to move forward. Even while doing things we enjoy, we can be learning and preparing for what we'll do next, and perhaps my trivia "win" was my reminder to keep the children's projects, and all the other "next steps" I was considering, fresh in my mind, even as I enjoy the work I am doing now.

So, don't close too many doors, even as you are traveling that bus or train to the "now." The "next thing" is still around the corner. And it's not necessarily trivial. And you'll need to keep your eyes and ears--and your doors--wide open, so that you'll see it--and invite it in when it arrives.

And you never know--it might just come in the form of a Grouch in a trash can, and an unforgettable worm.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nice To Be Important/Important To Be Nice

Today in the studio, a member of the crew came up to me and said, "I don't know if you're the right person to ask, but you seem to know about a lot of things, so--"

I was, in that moment, both relieved and flattered--relieved because I, not knowing all the names as well as I should, have from time to time asked the same thing of other people, flattered because I guess this means I have presented myself as a reasonably competent, knowledgeable person on other days in the studio.

This whole thing reminds me a bit of the "nice to be important, but more important to be nice" quotation I have heard for years. Today made me grateful for a place where people are all in that trench together, where what I know can help someone else, and where our working together as a team (whether we know all the names or not) can really get the work done faster and better (we finished an hour early today).

I'd like to learn all the names, and I'm confident that I will over time--this is a relatively new gig for us all. In the meantime, I'll plan on doing the job well enough to be "important." And more important, I'll plan on helping the team work together by being "nice." Because that's how it ought to be. And we'll all hope for more "done early" days because of both.

Monday, May 20, 2013

You Know One Life to Live is Back When...

After five weeks of shooting All My Children, the crew in Stamford is now back to One Life to Live. They're both soaps, right? So, what's so different?

Well, mine is just one view, but here goes--

I know One Life to Live is back when--

1. There's a nightclub in the studio. Shelter is back.

2. Dreams of Bo and Nora wake me up before my alarm goes off at 5. I guess I should be glad I wasn't awakened by dreams of Billy Clyde Tuggle on the All My Children days!

3. We get to decide whether to edit AJ and Miranda or Matthew and Destiny. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

4. New actors, new stories--and different pets.

5. These are the characters I've lived with for years. It's like reuniting with family. Funny (and great) how quickly the All My Children characters became my family too.

So, there you have it. Just a few thoughts from Day One (well, Day One yet again) at the place where soaps (and soap campers) live.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Drawing Lines

I have never in my life been able to draw a straight line, even with a ruler. Which, as you might imagine, made elementary school poster making somewhat of a challenge.

It should, therefore, come as no big surprise that my ability to draw clear lines in life is, well, somewhat fuzzy.

Take my son's little league game yesterday. While my son was not "home in bed sick," when we got to the game, he was just not up to playing. So, I, having watched enough professional basketball games on TV to know that sick or injured players sit on the bench and cheer the team, drew the line--insisted he stay and cheer his fellow players. Until my husband pointed out that making a child watch something he clearly wanted to do but couldn't wasn't drawing the line--it was crossing the line.

Sometimes in life, it's hard even to see the line, much less figure out where you're supposed to be in relation to it. Where is the line between being there for your work and being there for your family? Where is the line between healthy food and "fun" food? Where is the line between what you need and what you just want?

Just as my inability to draw straight lines made me come up with creative ways to avoid them when making posters, I would like to think that my fuzzy view of lines in life means I approach my life choices just as creatively. The line, even between the same two things, is not necessarily the same every time, and it is the zigs and zags that not only make things interesting but also ensure that we'll do right by work and family, wisdom and fun, want and need.

So I don't think I'll spend too much time practicing with a ruler. I'm past poster making (except with my kids, and they are pretty good with lines.) As for me, I'd rather just enjoy the zig-zags.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Great New Day

Last night at 6:20, I bemoaned the fact that the train to get me home was running 14 minutes late, and turned out to be a local. Last night, once I was home, I realized that the events of the evening were the result of a derailment/crash in another part of Connecticut. This morning when I got up and read the paper, I realized that one of the trains that crashed was likely the express I was waiting to take.

Thankfully, the crash caused no life-threatening injuries. But it changed the day for a whole lot of people, in more than just a "my train is late" kind of way.

So today, I have drunk in life a little more, hugged my kids a little tighter, seen my surroundings with slightly different eyes. I got home a little later than planned last night. Just a little later than planned.

And today was a great new day.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Short and Long Term Solutions

It was announced this week that Prospect Park will cut the number of new release soap episodes to 4 each week--two One Life to Lives, two All My Childrens--apparently more in line with viewing habits--which will mean less production and, therefore, less work for many of the people in Stamford with me. It has come, as you might imagine, as a huge shock to many. Our "soap camp" has, in just a few months, become a real way of life, similar enough to TV soap production of years past to make people who were part of that believe it would be a similarly long-term gig. And it may yet be.

But the events of the week have brought me back to what one of my brothers reminded me over and over during my job search. As I looked for what would be the "perfect fit," he would tell me not to look for something long-term, life-consuming, like the soap work I had had for years, but to look for a job. Just a job. And maybe just a "good for right now" job. Fifteen to twenty year jobs like the one I had just finished didn't exist any more, he said, so to look for them would just be a disappointment. (Okay, I'll admit I'm embellishing what he said, but the message was the same). And over the course of a year, I thought of his advice quite often.

So now, here we are, more of us than you'd think who are veterans of those jobs that were more than jobs, reminded that perhaps my brother is right. Things change--for better and for worse (and, as recent TV show cancellations demonstrate, very, very quickly in the entertainment arena). And we are really just extended freelancers on a gig that may turn long-term, or that may just be a gig.

The thing is, while it might not turn out to be a long term solution to the missing soap production in our lives, it is absolutely a short term solution to bill paying day and our desire to tell stories and our need to be in a place where our good work is appreciated. And, as my brother still reminds me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with short term solutions. They may become long term, or they may be steps to the next short term. Either way, they are, by definition, solving the "now."

And that's all good.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I worked today on a One Life to Live Remote shoot--a combination of day and night scenes (you'll just have to watch to see exactly what)--thus, the reason that my blog today waited until 1am.

I am tired, to be sure--there's a lot of standing and some running--a monitor on a stand rather than a control room, and a crew full of people accustomed to working the Law and Orders and White Collars of this world. It is truly amazing how different life becomes when you leave the four walls of the studio. And it turned out to be a welcome challenge going into the end of my week.

Once upon a time, soaps did ginormous location shoots in other countries for a week at a time. On One Life to Live, there was Austria and South America and a bunch of places in between. Toward the end, however, a day or two in New Jersey or on the studio roof for scenes from 8 shows became the norm. And as an AD, I rarely went on location--near or far--so today was a great reminder that the skills of good storytelling do translate from studio to location. I fit in with people used to working differently, and it was great to see that, in the end, though our backgrounds and paperwork might differ, our desire to tell good story united us as a crew, and enabled us to be waiting for darkness (already ahead of schedule by then).

I could say more deep things about working with a new crew, but then I would never wake up to work with the daily crew tomorrow.

So--Tune in tomorrow for the further adventures of Oltl, AMC, and me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bloggers, Unite!

I like the blog format. It lets me say a little bit about a lot of things (okay, sometimes a lot about some very little things), and the commitment to do it every day is a terrific challenge for me.

I find that I also like reading other blogs--well, at least some of them. They fit into my schedule and, because they contain limited content, they leave enough to my imagination to get me thinking.

One of the ones I've discovered is Planet Preschool, a weekly offering on the Kidscreen website. I was initially attracted to this one because of my interest in children's media--it often gives me a great window into how children's shows make it to air, which is helpful for someone trying to cross over. But I have discovered over weeks of reading this one that it also gives me enormous insight into the creative process, blog and otherwise. I couldn't help but laugh at a recent entry about the writing of that blog--how what seems like a small task of 500 words can be a whole lot harder than you'd think. As a blogger who has sometimes turned to my children for a guest stint, I can certainly understand that. But with incredible wit, the writer, Josh Selig, comes up with a totally clever solution for his 500 words (no, I won't spoil it for you!).

The point is, we can all learn a tremendous amount from looking at how other people do what we do. Just as I have learned much of what I know about production from people I've worked with over the years, I love learning from other writers (including my daughter and some of her friends) who are exploring the power of this short format.

I can't say whether this one is 500 words--thankfully, I don't have to count. Just another day of another source of inspiration.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Children Will Listen

I often wonder how my children will remember these last few years in our family's life. For, just as they have all become thinking beings, they have watched the demise of Mommy's job and Mommy gleefully home to meet school buses (after years of never, ever being there), the stretches of Mommy unemployed and questioning every activity and every ice cream cone that would cost money that wasn't coming in, and Mommy's return to work and virtual disappearance for most of the work week. Were they very little, I could count on their forgetting all of it by the time it would matter. But they are not little. This all has to be going in and shaping how they will view work, and parenthood, and stability (financial and otherwise). This is not my parents' generation, when discussions of stress and money happened in separate rooms after the children went to bed. This is apartment life, where virtually no room is really separate, and more often than not, I am the one who goes to bed first, meaning discussions often happen with an audience.

Will the fact that I was home for a while--that they got a taste of Mommy there to deliver forgotten school books and transport kids to afterschool--make my going back to work an even harder piece of their childhood memory? What will resonate most--my losing a job, all of us having to change spending patterns, my depression at the job market, or my euphoria (at least some days) from being back to work? And will I be able to see the effects now, or will they appear in the job and life choices they make, their overall sense of security, their relationship with money?

I have read statistics about job loss being one of the most stressful events in a person of family's life, and, while I know for sure that we have experienced it on a somewhat minor level, the emotions were not minor, and I imagine the effects on me--good and bad--will last a long time. I just hope that my always listening children can use those effects for good--to learn resilience and adaptability and a bit of financial wisdom. Then, whether or not the bank would consider this last year worthwhile, I will know it has been this way for some sort of good.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Soap Camp 2--New Campers

Attendance at Soap Camp is on the rise. Little by little, soapers who may not have thought of trekking to Stamford are coming to check it out.

And what are they finding when they make the trip? They're finding is that "campers" from all sorts of Stamford "camps" are on that train from NYC. They're finding that soap production for the Internet is a whole lot like what they used to do for TV, and yet, entirely different. They're trying out some systems that were used on soaps they never worked on before and other systems that are just like going home. They're getting used to lunch time being 3:00, and dinner consisting of assorted snacks and hors d'oeuvres. They're working with tape people and film people and digital people. They're getting used to a whole lot of on-set publicity, and more mainstream magazine articles about soaps written in a few months than they likely saw in their entire soap careers. They're seeing that this venture might turn out to be huge, and long-lasting, and that it will need to be sustained by the huge groups of soapers who worked in the NYC area before the NY world of production changed.

It's exciting to see new faces (and old friends) at Soap Camp. After all, what camp can really make a go of it without a steady stream of new, eager campers? With new campers come new ideas about how to work better, and that's a good running start for any Camp Spirit Day. Let the camp games continue!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day At My House

Surely you have been bombarded with ads about Mother's Day bouquets and brunches and generally flowery celebrations. Now for the Mother's Day that takes place at MY house...

1. There has been talk of breakfast in bed. Problem is, now that my kids are old enough to make it, they sleep later than I do, so I've already had breakfast at least once by the time they're up.

2. It's way hard to want any Mother's Day gifts when you spend most of your free time trying to reduce clutter in your home. Probably realizing that, my family gave me candy. And Thai dinner. No more clutter than wrappers and dishes that go in the dishwasher. Nice!

3. As far as I'm concerned, a day of no nagging goes a long way. Today was not a day of NO nagging, but there was room cleaning and piano practicing, so I figure I'm still ahead of the game in Mom-Land.

4. I don't think it's in my makeup to be completely stress-free. So to go with all this Mother's Day relaxation (haha), I spent an hour (okay, many hours) following a school online auction. And agonizing about down to the wire bids. Daily stress quota officially met.

5. There are a remarkable number of mothers in my life, many, many who should have received Mother's Day greetings from me today. Problem is, when you become a mother, you meet lots of mothers, but at the same time, become too busy being a mother to talk to any of them on Mother's Day.

6. Funny thing, you can take the cooking and cleaning and laundry out of the Mother's Day, but since it just comes back the day after, why bother? And if you take it out, no one will have clean clothes or dishes for the week, and does that really help anyone, least of all Mom?

So, thus ends another fun-filled Mother's Day at my house. I have gourmet chocolate, and my apartment is basically ready for the start of the week. All in all, I consider it a success.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Laughter and Laughter

No, I haven't jumped ship to work on a sitcom (though I did enjoy working on one fifteen years ago, and I just heard that the one for which I edited last year is going to a festival--yay!). I have been watching Mr. Bean videos with my family, and if you know Mr. Bean, you know that it he has a great way of making you lose yourself in sheer laughter.

You would think that working in soap operas would be the farthest you could get from a "laughing matter." I have found, however, that a good soap opera (and I've worked on several good ones) has as much, and sometimes more, humor than a sitcom. And the pace and schedule of soap opera production means that if you can't inject a little humor behind the scenes, the days and weeks are just plain long.

I have said (and others say about me) that if I am laughing at a scene, it must really be funny. I find that I can no more laugh at something that's not really funny than cry at a scene that just doesn't deliver. And I am happy to report that this last week of All My Children has given me laughter both at scenes in front of the camera and with colleagues behind the camera. And Mr. Bean, well, Mr. Bean has given me the kind of all-out laughter that just kind of cleanses your body and clears your mind for the next big thing.

So, now, I am ready for both Mother's Day and another laughter and tears filled shooting week. Hope it's a laugh-filled one for all of you too.

Friday, May 10, 2013

You Know You're In The Right Place At The Right Time When

1. You have a conversation and your conversation partner looks you square in the eye the whole time.

2. You say "five, four," and someone you might not even see finishes with "three, two," as if the two of you are one continuous counting person.

3. People take you seriously when you say a line would be more powerful if said as scripted (or not as scripted).

4. You can't help but spend your train ride home discussing with passion the past, present, future, emotional, financial, and logistical sustainability of the project you're working on.

5. The head of a nine year old or a twelve year old or a fifteen year old fits as comfortably in your lap as those heads did when they belonged to infants.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Seizing Moments

When working long days many days of the week, a person should come home on a rare shorter day, right? Turns out, that's not really the case for me. On the contrary, my long days have made me view the shorter ones as opportunities to get done all the things that tend to fall through the cracks, too many to accomplish just on weekends. So, with a vengeance, I shop or pick up dinner or get forms signed or go to the bank--anything that can be done in those free moments, because who knows when I will have such free moments again.

Seizing the moments in our lives may be one of the biggest challenges we face, and I'm not really talking about the moments seized for food shopping. It is things like this, in fact, that often get in the way of the real moments. Many a night, washing the dinner dishes takes the moments that could be spent finding out about a child's day. Picking up milk replaces lifting someone's spirits. Scrambling to pay the bills (even if it has to be done) gets in the way of paying attention.

My tendency to seize the moments these days comes from knowing that some things will never happen if I don't do them the minute I think of them. Now, it's just a question of remembering that the hugs and the talks are just as important to my health as that new carton of milk, and that the investment in being there for my family is as important to our well-being as the timely paying of the bills.

There are moments to be seized every day, whether our time is tight or not. Our challenge is to seize not just the necessary ones, but the important ones as well. Because, like it or not, we won't ever get them back.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


We're shooting a big, fancy, dress-everyone-up party on All My Children this week--the first, really, in this studio. And yesterday, just before I left work, I got a phone call saying that the crew should all dress for a party. So that we could be extra extras? No. (Which was good, because nothing in my closet would have held a candle to what the costume designers came up with for this). This was simply a gesture of spirit. A gesture of unity. So there I was, sitting in the control room with two producers in cocktail dresses and a technical director with a tuxedo jacket. And I was out on set with a stage manager in a tuxedo t-shirt and wardrobe people in long gowns. Not since I dressed up in a cow costume for Halloween at One Life to Live years ago have I had a spirit day like this (and I don't remember if I had any company on those cow costume days!)

As for today, not everyone joined in, but the fact that the idea would even be floated in a workplace makes me know that I am in a good place. And it is rumored that there will be more "spirit days" down the road. Only problem is, while dressing up "for a party" might be okay on the commuter train to Stamford, if we get to cow costumes and crazy hats and pajamas, I may get some mighty strange looks from all the suit types. No matter. I'll take it for the spirit--and for the team--any day of the week.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"In Control"

I have seen the The Muppets multiple times, and while many of the songs play in my head when I think about the movie, it is one of the non-musical parts that I was thinking about today. The wacky, wild drummer character Animal is in group therapy, and when he starts to get wild, he is called out and he calmly responds "In Control." It is sweet and a little sad all at the same time. On the one hand, he is learning to manage his emotions. On the other hand, he is being forced to give up his drums and his all-out enthusiasm. So I'm not really sure how exactly I feel about it.

I thought about Animal today because I realized that there are so many situations in which we are not asked, not even allowed, to be "in control." I'm not talking about being the boss, I'm simply referring to having some sort of a say in how we work and how we live. We can go to work with a plan of what we want to accomplish, but we are not always in control of whether that plan will be interrupted. We can be in control enough to say that our children need to go to the doctor, but completely NOT in control of the doctor's diagnosis. And being "out of control"--not wild and crazy, just not able to call the shots--is a very hard place to be.

Though I have spearheaded many a project, I'm not necessarily looking to be "in control" in the "in charge" kind of a sense. That said, an AD is, by nature, eager to control the pace and rhythm of a day, whether by choosing how to accomplish tasks or by choosing an order for them. So, while I embrace my "inner Animal," trying to maintain some degree of individualism in a put-you-in-a-box world, I find that I also need the "in control" part of Animal's Muppets world. I need at least the illusion that I can control my work day. I need at least the illusion that though I can't protect my children from everything, I can at least process the facts and make informed, "in control" decisions for them.

And then I have to hope that, when the illusion part is all I get, I can make do with only sort of "in control."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Both Sides Now

There are some Mondays when the 5am alarm calling me to the 7am train is just painful. Realistically, the 5am would exist no matter what. Kids have to be awakened, breakfasts and lunches have to be made. The only difference is that, for the better part of a year, I could finish doing all these things and then, when necessary, come home and take a nap. Or sit zombie-like in front of one too many job websites. Now I am "on," from 5am until who knows what hour, and some days, that's just not easy.

What strikes me as somewhat interesting is that for close to 20 years, I did basically the same thing. Perhaps I didn't leave so early, and perhaps I didn't travel so far, but I worked steadily, every day, many hours, no naps. So, nothing has changed, right?

The difference is that now I have seen the other side. Unemployment was certainly no picnic, but it gave me the view from home that I'd never had before. It opened my eyes to free time to think, wandering in my own neighborhood, and naps. I had never missed any of these things because I had never even known they existed. And now that I am without them, it's not that I'd want to go back to unemployed. It's just that I remember some of the good moments. And I sometimes feel worn out from so many hours of "on."

But that's how life is, I guess. We can't miss what we never knew, and in chasing new challenges, we also leave behind the pieces that don't fit with these challenges.

I'll be back at 5am tomorrow, "on" for all the hours, and glad to be, even if I know the flip side exists. Because truthfully, even when you know that there's more, it's okay to pick the part you knew before, even when it means giving up the nap. And even when you've looked at life from both sides now.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I have been reading R.J. Palacio's book Wonder. It's a book for kids really, published by a kids imprint of a big publishing company. My son's third grade teacher used it as a read-aloud to the class, and it features characters who are, for the most part, ten year olds. And it is the best read I have had in a long time.

As a busy working mom who has precious few hours to read (even my train hours tend to be dedicated to work), I am pretty picky about what I read. So, having heard about this book both through my Children's Media Association colleagues and from my son as his teacher was reading it, I was excited when he brought it home from the class library. And while I don't dare take it all over town with me, I am grabbing moments all the time to go back to it.

And why is THIS book worth my time? Because in chapters often not much longer than my blog posts, it makes me alternate between laughing and crying. Because, in its use of different narrator perspectives, it reminds me to listen to my kids both when they are screaming for attention and when they are not, both when they are the clear good guys and when they are not. And because it is giving me one clear example after another of both how ugly and how beautiful the world around me can be. And making me wish that each of my sentences could be so powerful. Aah, something to shoot for.

At the rate I have reading moments, it will take me at least a few more days to finish the book (gosh, I hope the third grade class library can wait a little longer to get it back!) It is truly amazing how a few well placed words and some really sympathetic characters can grab your heart. I hope this author gets many more chances to do that, and I encourage you to find this one if you haven't already. Even if your reading is in five-minute snippets, as it has been with me, it will be five minutes that will affect you for five hours--or five days--after. And when's the last time any of us read something that did that?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Don't Look If You Don't Want to Know

Midway through my son's baseball game, where I was freezing, despite it being May and my having brought a mug of hot coffee, I bought a large cookie from the concession stand (hey, it's a bargain at a dollar, and the concessions money helps fund the league). As I unwrapped the cookie, I started--it's instinct--to look at the nutritional information on the wrapper. And then I stopped myself. I had bought the cookie to perk me up in the cold. I certainly knew when I bought it that it wasn't fresh fruit or a salad. Was I really planning NOT to eat it if I saw on the package that it had a lot of fat and calories? Of course not. So I stopped myself and ate the cookie.

And thus, my title. If I really just wanted to eat the cookie, then why bother knowing its nutritional makeup? Just to make myself feel bad about eating it?

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like having information to help me make informed decisions. I actually like the calorie counts posted in restaurants and the nutritional breakdown printed on wrappers. It's just that, if I am going to make a decision without choosing to consider all the facts, I don't think it's so useful to know all those details in the first place. As I tell my children, "Don't ask me what I think if you don't want to hear what I think." Would knowing there was going to be a mid-year school bus strike have kept me from sending my kids to far-away schools? No. Would knowing about exact train fares and exactly how long traveling to work would take have kept me from accepting a viable job? No. Would knowing that a cookie probably contained my full day's worth of calories and fat have stopped me from eating it? In that moment, no. All cases in which it might be better to take the leap without all the facts. All cases in which facts might cause more angst than security.

I understand that this "close your eyes and jump" approach might not work for everyone. For me, it is just the simplest way to limit overloading myself with an exhausting array of information. Sometimes life requires a leap of faith, a leap not based on a close analysis of the facts. And sometimes, I'm willing to take that leap.

And eat that cookie.


After what felt like a long week, I was grateful for the company of a friend on the train, the chance to have dinner--late dinner, but dinner--with my family, and the permission to fall asleep on the couch while snuggling with my kids. And so it is that Friday's blog is being written on Saturday. And not even that early on Saturday, since, oh my gosh, I don't have to get on a train at 7:00.

This particular Friday was the end of a week in which the soaps premiered online (with very good response), the Daytime Emmy Awards Nominations were announced (and Oltl, which aired just a few weeks of shows in 2012, got 3 noms!), my kids were in multiple performances that I couldn't see in person, and we celebrated a birthday in my family and mourned a loss in someone else's. And, as I write all this, it becomes quite clear why, on this particular Friday, I fell asleep on the couch with my kids. Fridays are about celebrating the end of the week, but they are also about recovery. Recovery, so that you can move into the weekend. And recovery so that you're ready to start all over again on Monday.

And so, since it is already Saturday, I will move on quickly from Friday. I've celebrated, I've recovered (well, a little). Time for the weekend. So bring it on!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Body Above Ground, Head Above Water

At some point in these last few weeks, I discovered that I could get to my morning train just as fast by walking as by taking the subway (with its dreaded "minutes till the next train" sign). Perhaps it was that I had to mail a letter that day and I hadn't yet passed a mailbox. Perhaps it was accumulated frustration about the stress the subway arrival board created at that hour of the morning (8 minutes between subway trains can easily make you miss your other train). Whatever the reason, I somehow began to walk, not to the subway station, but directly to the train station. And it may be one of the best things that has happened to me.

First, it saves me not only $2.50 a day (hey, that's half a fancy coffee!) but also the wear and tear on my neck from looking up at that "minutes till the next train" sign. Second, it is replacing some very tiny portion of the gym workout I am unlikely to be able to resume any time soon. It's not the elliptical, but it IS half a mile at a pretty steady clip (well, at least some days!). And third, I get to see what's going on out there--what shops have opened and closed, what streets are the best to walk, and where the closest mailboxes are.

The most important piece, however, is that, for that twenty minutes--the period of time between when I leave home and when my kids start to head to school--I am reachable. Because I am not underground, I can call home if I need to remind someone of something, and my husband and kids can call me. It's a small thing, I know, yet it gives me the feeling that I am not leaving everyone completely adrift, especially on days when I race out, knowing that I haven't really covered all the bases.

Now, it's a somewhat tricky thing to write about something like this in a blog. After all, I may decide three days from now that my legs are too tired or the air is too thick (though I can't imagine subway air being any better!). But with so much of this blog being about discovery, this seemed like an oddly significant one. Aren't we all constantly in search of ways to make our jobs fit better with the rest of our lives? And maybe just knowing that I have put the discovery in print will help me keep it going. That and the relief in my kids' voices when I can fix a problem, not in person, but at least above ground and over the phone.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birthday With a Working Mom

There's nothing like a child's birthday to bring out every insecurity a working mom can have. When will she make the cupcakes for school, and assuming she finds a time between midnight and 5am to make them, how will her poor child transport them to school (since Mom will of course be working and unable to attend the class celebration, even though everybody else's mom does)? Will she be able to leave work early enough to get a cake and be home in time for birthday dinner? Will the birthday child forgive the fact that Working Mom left so early she could barely say "Happy Birthday" in the morning, so everything has to wait until night? And will said birthday child be pleased with the gifts Working Mom got recently and long ago, some during moments when there was no money to spare, others bought in moments grabbed in a now very busy life?

As another birthday comes to a close, I am happy to report that Working Mom did good this time. Earlier than usual was early enough, the presents were right on target, and there was a real celebration of someone's having been born.

Just because you're a working mom doesn't mean you have to be a full of guilt mom. It just means you've got to dance a little fast sometimes. And what's a birthday without a little dancing anyhow?