Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Showtime and Show Time

Tonight begins the series of shows that are the culmination of my kids' summer theater workshop. While I'm convinced that the workshop really just started, somehow a month has passed, so it's showtime. And while, a year ago, I was a free agent, able to hang out for the shows and the days in between, now I am part of a show myself, so tomorrow, it will be show time for me as well, clearing soaps to go on the Internet and the air for (I hope) an eager audience.

You would think that my working in TV makes me the ideal mom to aspiring actor kids. But my show time is so different than theirs, it is often hard for me to find the parallels. Yes, we both work with teams of people to tell stories, but often while they are out front, I am simply dealing with the nuts and bolts of getting something out. While they are worrying about their costumes, I am just making sure I have something to wear to work.

So tomorrow, I will have my show time, and I will be glad to have a show that needs my time. And afterward, I'll enjoy their showtime--costumes, music, and all. And me just clapping from the audience.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Worlds of Television

The last few days, I have been walking past a huge prime-time episodic shoot on my way to the train station. There are multiple blocks bordered by large trucks, some clearly containing equipment, others, people, and yet others, the craft services (food, that is) that will feed the cast and crew all day.

Since I travel early, I see nothing of the shooting--just people milling about, walkie-talkies everywhere. And yet, I  am fascinated by the production, its scope, and how it takes over this small part of the city. It is a reminder in general that television production is alive and well in New York, and a reminder to me that television production is not just one world, it is many worlds, and that the parts of it that are alive and well can be worlds as separate from me as the world of corporate finance.

Are we all telling stories? Sure. But how we work to tell those stories is different. While this production that I pass each day is incorporating the real city, it is also facing the challenges of the real city. In the studio, we don't have the difficulties of a living, working city, but we don't have the feel of that city either. And these different challenges tend to mean different people called upon to meet them, meaning that a person who's used to the studio just isn't the first choice for that job on the street. Both television, both storytelling, but different enough to feel as though they are two different worlds.

There was a time when I would have railed against this dichotomy in my industry. These days, I just walk by, happy to see that people (including me) are working, and simply curious to know where I'd fit in to help tell those stories if I were stopping before the train station to work on the shoot with all the trucks.

Perhaps someday. Someday, that is, when the worlds of television don't seem quite so far apart.

Monday, July 29, 2013


For a few days, I am living the life of a "pre-children" person. It has been a long time since I've been this, and it will be a long time until I am this again. Some observations:

1. It's okay to come home early, even if you're not "coming home for the babysitter."

2. It's easier to leave for work early when it doesn't feel as though you're deserting a whole household. And it's really, really easier to leave when the only lunch you have to make is your own.

3. The fact that you won't be running home to your kids doesn't mean that you miss them any less during the day.

4. Dinner in a restaurant with just grown ups is actually kind of fun. You can talk about movies and songs from your youth without having to explain every single one.

5. Just because you don't have to set a good example to anyone about going to bed doesn't mean you can't just be tired and go to bed.

6. With no kids around, there's always a free computer. But is it as much fun when you don't have to fight for it?

7. I guess the kids aren't the only mess-makers, since the mess is still here and the kids are not. Sigh.

8. You'd think that a vacation from the kids is a vacation. But when you're working, kids or no kids, you're still working. The difference, I guess, is that you're working one job instead of two.

9. No number of kid-free days stops you from thinking that a small person could come around the corner at any moment. And stopping short in case they do. And feeling a little sad when they don't.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


I am constantly sending my friends job leads. Though I am well aware of (and lived through) the statistics of how few jobs are actually gotten through postings, I still can't resist forwarding an HR lead to my HR friend or a marketing lead to my marketing friend or a full range of leads to the friends who, like me, could go in many different directions. When I wasn't working full time (and so wanted to be), I think it was, at least in part, a way to increase the success rate--even if I didn't get a job, I would be happy that a friend had gotten one with my help. 

While I am working now, countless job emails still fill my inbox daily, and I can't help but read them. It gives me perspective on what's out there and the feeling that, were things in my career to change again, I wouldn't once again feel that I was starting from zero. And maybe my continuing to forward things to friends is my way of giving them that as well. Let's face it, the job world just isn't what it used to be, and I'm probably not the only one thinking (or needing to think) in a more freelance way. Jobs don't necessarily  last forever these days, and keeping  my eyes and ears open is just the smart way to go when I've got to be prepared to jump, or run, or just climb to the next place or the next level.

Some large percentage of jobs are gotten through networking--I get that. But to me, part of networking is looking out for your team, whether your team at work or your team of friends. So, as long as those emails keep landing in my box, I'll be checking them out. And for those people on my networking list, keep a look out, because you never know what'll come your way.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Second--And Third--Chances

Tonight, at my daughters' insistence, we saw a summer stock production of Les Miserables. I'd seen the Broadway production years ago, and remembered several good songs and the good nap I took halfway through Act 2. And the intensity of the recent movie was just too much for me. So I was hesitant, to say the least, to give the show a second, actually third, chance.

I am happy to report that my daughters were right-- this production was fantastically acted and directed, and it moved--no room for naps this time. I can't say that I was crying at the end, but I was impressed--okay, pretty blown away--by the production values.

This is not a theater review blog, and I'm not writing to review the show I just saw. My point here is that, had I gone with my own opinion about my previous experiences with this musical, I would never have gone, and I would have missed something really good. Because I was able to step back and trust someone else's opinion, I gave myself a second, actually third, chance.

Second chances are hard. We don't like to be wrong, and we certainly don't like to be wrong twice. And yet, some of our best experiences come when we leave ourselves open to new experiences. And even something like the same show can be different when placed in different hands (and handed to different places!)

So here's to second, and third, chances. (And nights of good theater).

Friday, July 26, 2013


As I rode the train this morning, I actually felt the absence of the small sidekick who has been with me all week. After riding numerous buses and trains with my son every day, both in and out of NY, I found it odd to be alone, to have my phone to myself, and to have no one to whom I could point out people on the train and scenery outside of it. For most of this week, he was not just my kid, he was my sidekick.

Some of our very favorite characters rely constantly on their sidekicks. What would Batman do without Robin? What would Snoopy do without Woodstock? What would Lucy do without Ethel? Somehow, when you're working out things, or have things you want to share, or when you just want to have a little adventure, a sidekick makes it all better, more fun.

I used to think that the baby age was so great, and don't get me wrong, I did love that stage with my kids. But now that they are older, the fact that they can be sidekicks to me, and to each other, has been a lovely new development. They can help with navigation and get me to go on adventures I might otherwise pass up. They can make the mundane a little more exciting, and sometimes even prop me up if I need a little of that.

The way I see it, jobs (and many other things) may come and go, but ask Lucy and Ethel, Snoopy and Woodstock--a really good sidekick is forever.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Theater Kids and Smart Grownups

Last night, I had the opportunity to see a performance by students at Rosie's Theater Kids, a program that introduces kids from low income New York City public schools to musical theater, then invites particularly interested kids from the schools to participate in long term musical theater training and arts and academic advising. For the last ten years, the program has introduced thousands of kids to the New York theater that many of us take for granted. The performance was impressive, and equally as impressive was the fact that many of the kids personally thanked us (a Children's Media Association group) for coming. The talk back with the kids and with the staff made it clear that this is more than just a music and dance school. It is a place that gives kids not only the skills but the character to go with them. This approach resonates right down to the "effort-based" audition process. What matters most is not the kids' innate talent, but their eagerness to learn and to be part of a team.

The whole experience made me think a lot about how we consider our coworkers. How many times do we offer up respect to the person who might have a particular talent, but not to the person who is able to bring out other people's talents? How often do we focus only on quantifiable accomplishments and ignore those that are less concrete? Obviously, real life can't always be like a kids' enrichment program, but the mindset behind Rosie's Theater Kids would open our workplaces to a whole new set of skills and talents--things that might go unnoticed in traditional workplace operation. An atmosphere where effort is rewarded would pay us all back, and I, for one, would like to see that.

And see more from Rosie's Theater Kids.

Coffee Break

Over the last year and a half, I have become quite adept at "meeting for coffee." Whether a one-hour networking thing, or a several-hour, once a week debrief-slash-talk down-from-the-ledge with an unemployed friend thing, or a writing session between kid pickups, the coffee break has become a somewhat integral part of my life.

This morning, I had coffee at Starbucks. With my son. And as we sipped our coffee (in his case, hot chocolate), we chatted, and wrote (he, his entry for an online writing camp he's doing, I, the beginnings of this post), and learned a little bit more about each other. It was an hour-long encapsulation of my year of coffee breaks. Did it give me a job lead? No, but it got me thinking about my capabilities and those of the person sitting across from me. It wasn't the "me time" you'd think about when you think about going for coffee, and yet, it was, since I got to see my son in a bit of a different way, and enjoyed his company while doing that. So, as happens with many coffee breaks, I walked away with a little more spring in my step, both from the coffee and from the company.

In the midst of my job search, someone had told me how useful "having coffee" with people could be. Today, I got to see a new version of just how useful.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Changes of Scenery

I remember when I first stopped working at ABC, I was incredibly excited about the opportunity to spend time in my own building and neighborhood during the day. After all, I had spent years leaving early and returning late, never being able to get any sense of the area where I lived.

Within a few months, the novelty of my neighborhood had somewhat worn off, particularly given that being unemployed, I spent most of my time inside sending resumes so that I wouldn't be outside spending money. And in the midst of all this, the neighborhood where I'd worked became strange to me--I'd gone there on auto-pilot for so many years, and yet the change of scenery completely changed my view.

Today, my son and I hopped a bus out of town, and for just a day, had our very own change of scenery. A place with cars and highways and open areas and larger living spaces. And it was amazing to see how stepping out of our day-to-day normal made us both think a little clearer, look a little closer, enjoy things a little more.

Tomorrow, we will return to our own neighborhood, the scenery of our everyday life. I can only hope that today's change of scenery will make the normal look a little more unusual, and the day-to-day a little more fun.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Roller Coasters

After a year or more of never being quite sure where I was on the roller coaster of life, I spent today putting most of that aside and riding some real roller coasters. Okay, well, they were the ones kind of halfway between the baby versions and the huge ones you can't even believe exist, but they were still roller coasters, and for me, that was huge.

Those of you who read my "Being There" post a few days ago may recall that I was more than a bit nervous about my week of adventure with my son, particularly given that top on his list was going on amusement park rides that I have successfully avoided for years. My desire, however, to make this a week about "being there" won out, and after an early lunch, I found myself with my son, on a subway train bound for the rides. I'd done the research, knew exactly what the whole thing would cost and which things we wouldn't do. And I promised him that I would do my very best to do the things he wanted to do. Which meant that within a half hour of our arrival, I had clutched on to the safety bars of three "run along a track high in the air" amusements. "I just have to survive this," I thought as the rickety cars went around. Somehow, that, combined with the ear to ear grin on my son's face from the time we walked to the train to go until practically the end of our day, got me through. Would I do it again? I'm not sure. Today, all that matters is that I faced down my fears, and after a year of life roller coasters, realized that the coasters that take you on a 90 second ride may be the scariest thing in the world, but they're not really the roller coasters that will affect you the most. It's the ups and downs, the uncertainties and the "sure things" that put you off balance every day of the week.

Today, I didn't ride roller coasters just because I love the thrill. I rode them because it would make my son happy, and because I have realized this year that it's okay to step out of your comfort zone sometimes. It's actually okay to push yourself beyond your normal boundaries--it's a good reminder that you are capable of more than what both you and the people around you assume.

Week of Adventure, Day 1--I'd say it was a success.

Stay tuned for further reports from our Week of Adventure....

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Berry Picking

So, I imagine you're wondering what "berry picking" could possibly represent in the world of life and work and soaps.

But sometimes "berry picking" is just "berry picking," and berry picking is what I did with my daughters today. But the bags we carried home included far more than crazy good blueberries (sometimes things really are as good as you imagine they can be). Our bags included broccoli (sometimes you have to be willing to climb through lots of underbrush to get to what you want), peaches (often the best things are worth reaching up and shaking a few branches to get to), cucumbers (sometimes the giant leaves hide the real thing, sometimes they just hide the place where the real thing USED to be before everyone found out about it), and, the best, best thing--eggplant (never give up on finding what you really want--it's there, just sometimes a step farther than you're used to looking).

Well, I guess "berry picking" may not be just "berry picking" after all. All that tasty goodness, some time in the fresh air, and a learning experience too. Who knew a giant field could be so full?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You Know It's Saturday Again When....

You wake up without an alarm, but you realize that it's no later than you wake up WITH an alarm.

Doing what you're assigned at work is replaced by trying to do simultaneously the 15 things that the 4 members of your family want you to do at home.

You stay awake until the end of the movie because there's no alarm tomorrow (oh, and because you snuck in a nap earlier today).

You spend at least part of the money you made all week buying things everybody wants and nobody needs.

You have time to enjoy things that everybody wants and nobody needs.

You realize it's okay that you made some messes today--you've still got tomorrow to clean them up.

You realize that you wish you could have another today, because you're not ready to clean up the messes tomorrow.

You come to the conclusion that perhaps there should be a little more Saturday in some of the other days of the week.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Being There

There is some indication that the heat will break a little after today, which is good, because despite the fact that I have sent my son to outdoor baseball camp all week (bad mommy), I will be lousy with him next week (bad mommy) if our scheduled week of adventures has me running around in 95 degree heat. I am already iffy about his amusement park idea (bad mommy), since I can't imagine putting him on rides alone or getting ride-sick when I'm the only person there with him (bad mommy, and in public!)

I have spent a lifetime working many hours to make the money for all the adventures but rarely having the time to be a part of all the adventures. Now, while I'm excited about "being there," I am also crazy afraid that my version of "being there" will make my young co-adventurer eager to send me back to work. But I guess that's just the way it is when you're a go-to-work parent, or perhaps when you are any kind of parent at all. Your own needs and abilities aren't always going to match the needs and abilities of your kids, and so along the way, someone is going to be either disappointed or exhausted or both. And yes, you will run the risk of being bad mommy.

But where would we get in life if we didn't forge through "crazy afraid" to get to "being there"? So I'm ready for our week of adventure, bad mommy risk and all. At the very least, it will likely make for some hugely entertaining blog posts. And if we're lucky, it will be a mom/son week to remember.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

You're On The List

Back when I was a booth PA, and terrified that I would be fired if I estimated the time of the show incorrectly, some wise, more experienced coworker assured me that a PA wasn't really judged on all that timing stuff. The real test was whether the PA was a person the other control room people wanted to sit next to, especially on the very long days.

I have worked in a variety of places, and long ago, I started making a mental list of the people I'd hire (if I were ever in a position of hiring) or at least those I'd like to work with again. I carry that list with me wherever I go--at this point, there are a lot of names on it. The people on the list are certainly talented in their arenas, but more important, they are people I'd be happy to sit next to on a set or in a control room, even on the very long days.

I used to think that the genre in which I worked was the most important consideration. After all, how could I devote time and energy to work that didn't move me, work that didn't do something great for the world? It's not that I don't want to do those kinds of projects. But on a day to day basis, the inspiration I get from working with the kind of people who make it onto that mental list of mine is right up there with the inspiration I'd get from a particular project.

One of the very nice things about my most recent gig with the soaps online has been the opportunity to work not only with some of the people from my list, but also with people who have become new additions to the list. (It's important, when making such a list, to update it constantly--you never know when you'll meet your next great collaborators). You might think that, having worked in soaps for as long as I have, I wouldn't have new people to meet, but happily, I am constantly exposed to new personalities and new ways of working.

Which, I'm happy to say, makes for an ever-growing, very full and exciting, list.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Second Chances

A week ago, through a series of events that gave me some unexpected roaming time, I happened upon a a store that was offering a sizable discount, that day only, if you signed up for the store credit card. Now, I love a good bargain, so this offer was mighty tempting, so tempting that I spent quite a while there, assessing how many things I'd buy with the discount, thinking perhaps it was fate that I'd happened to have unexpected roaming time on that particular date.

In the end, I walked out with no purchases and no credit card. My reluctance to have another card in my wallet was just too strong. But, make no mistake, I thought about it for days afterward, wondering if I'd done the right thing.

Today, I had another bit of unexpected roaming time, and what do you know? The sign was up in the store again--same offer, same "Today Only." This time it must really be fate, right? I was getting my second chance. I mean, what are the odds I'd end up there on the very two days they were running that special?

I am not a proud owner of the store credit card. Today, when I had a second chance, I decided that the second chance was not a sign that it must be done, but simply an opportunity to have closure from my experience of last week.

Sometimes second chances are more about being able to think than about being able to do. We can't always revisit our decisions, so we've got to plan to do pretty well the first time around. But when that second chance presents itself (and it doesn't do so often), we can't slack off--on the contrary, we need to do even better.

I can't say whether my decision today was the right one (and, I'll admit, it wasn't exactly an earth-shattering decision). The point is, I had a second chance, and I think I used it well, used the extra processing time that we don't often get, and made a decision that I can live with, at least for now. As far as I'm concerned, I didn't squander my second chance. And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Seeing a summer stock production of Singing in the Rain this weekend prompted a series of discussions about how it is that some of the leads in that show had also been leads in other shows just a few weeks before. How was it that they could learn not only the dialogue and songs, but also the choreography, of one show while performing in another? It is my impression that this is what actors in summer stock do. Which makes it not necessarily unusual, but impressive nonetheless.

The whole thing got me thinking about multitasking, a term most likely coined in the last decade. For many of us, this refers to our cooking dinner while checking our email or running on the treadmill while reading the newspaper. But for a summer stock musical theater actor, there is singing, dancing, and acting simultaneously AND learning the next show while doing the first. Kind of makes what we consider multitasking seem pretty elementary.

Elementary or not, multitasking is what makes us able to be both employees and parents, both teachers and students of life, and, in my case, a director and an editor and a writer. Used wisely, multitasking can make us the "triple threats" in life that those musical theater performers I saw were on the stage. We may not all be able to sing or tap dance or remember pages and pages of dialogue (and believe me, I have certainly had moments of feeling like a hack because I can't), but the multitasking we do daily, sometimes just to cover the bases, helps us make the most out of every day.

And that could make anyone sing and dance.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Owning It

This morning, as I flipped through one of the free newspapers that helps make my commute bearable each day, I came across a small piece announcing that One Life to Live would be celebrating its 45th anniversary and its debut on OWN today.

Now, it is always exciting to see something in print about a project you're working on, but we in soaps have even more reason to be excited. For most of those 45 years, there was little or no publicity for One Life to Live or for any soap, particularly in outlets that didn't have "soap opera" in the title. Soap operas were essentially marketed only to soap fans, which meant that no matter how much time, money, creative energy, you name it, you might put into a special episode or series of episodes, the result was not the earthshattering one you felt it could be. Sure, there was satisfaction in a job well done, and the soap audience was a dedicated and faithful one, but there was often a tinge of disappointment that the work was not reaching a larger audience.

So, for me, no matter how far the reincarnations of One Life to Live and All My Children go (and I certainly hope they will go far, both on Hulu/ITunes/TOLN and on OWN), part of the accomplishment here will be putting them "on the map," with traditional and social media, in a way that was sadly lacking for so much of their long history. There's a reason that I saw a blurb about OLTL in a mainstream newspaper this morning. As with so many of our endeavors in life, making it is only the first part of making it seen, and there is no better anniversary present for OLTL than a step--lots of steps--in that direction.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rewriting History

I've been thinking quite often this summer about this time last summer, when all three of my kids were at camp near their grandparents' house, and I spent my days completely consumed with either pursuing job leads or trying to become a children's author, or reorganizing an unorganizable kids' room.  From Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, I rarely left home, convinced as I was that even just walking out the door seemed to cost money. We never much did any of the things that parents do when they have the luxury of a few child-free weeks. It was all I could do just to get through the long, discouraging days and still have a smile by the time my husband finished work. So our luxury came and went, and before we knew it, the kids were back and a school year began. And the job hunt was still there.

If the same thing were to happen again, how would I handle it? Would the experience have taught me anything?

The blessing and curse of our being human, I fear, is our ability to put things behind us, to rewrite history enough that we can live with it. A blessing, because we don't have to walk around with our past difficulties following us every minute, a curse because we forget just enough to be at risk for repeating our mistakes.

I am grateful, enormously grateful, that the pattern of this summer is different from that of a year ago. I can, and have to, leave the house. I attempt to reorganize, but not for eight hours a day. I have at least a little of the mindset and the money to try to enjoy the luxury of a loose summer. And I am hopeful that the combination of last year's experience and this year's will serve me well going forward, will remind me that job-hunting is not just about checking search sites any more than being a good partner is just about making the money to pay the bills.

So how am I handling the history from last summer? I never forget that it can be a cold world out there (and not the cold of good air conditioning!). With any luck, I've also learned how to stay warm in that cold world, so that next time, I'll be ready to write some brand new history.

All In The Timing

Those of you who tend to read immediately after I've posted may have noticed somewhat of a delay in your reading material these past few days. Truth is, sometimes your best laid schedule plans just don't work out, particularly when you are away from home and are doing things that are, well, unscheduled.

It's not that my life, or my family's, is strictly ordered. I was the new mother who never put my babies on a nap or feeding schedule. I just fed them when they were hungry and let them sleep when and where they wanted. We eat dinner at six on some nights, nine on others. We're a roll with the punches group.

This blog, however, has become part of what is as close to a nightly routine as we get--whether written on a train or in a free moment somewhere during the day, or written once I've settled in for the evening, it is reviewed and posted along with my setting of an alarm and starting the dishwasher and choosing tomorrow's clothes (okay, the "tomorrow's clothes" part is a ridiculous exaggeration--that never happens). In any case, posting is part of a routine of sorts--the closest to routine I seem to come. And I used to beat myself up if something got in the way. I remember frantically looking for Wifi in an airport once so that I could make sure to post by midnight.

But sometimes, much as you try, the timing you are planning just doesn't work out. Sometimes routines are broken by out of town guests or new opportunities or interesting conversations or just an undeniable need to sleep. And in these circumstances, we can give up the new or different things or rail against how they have upset our routine. Or we can embrace them for the great things they are, and let the routine slide just a little. So, just as I always figured the baby would get enough food and sleep even if we didn't stop and drop everything to accommodate that, I figure a blog post will still be worth reading, even if it is posted a little later because a little life-living got in the way.

And if you're reading later because you too have some life-living to do, yay for you. A routine might be great for the day to day, but open eyes and an open-minded schedule will let you see a whole lot more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stranger on a Train

For several hours each day, I sit alone, or squished between people, on a train. I am a stranger. A quirky, production-dressed person among vacationers and people in suits. I am alone. For even if several of us emerge from the train to travel in the van to the studio, until then, we are almost always separate, each among strangers on the train.

Not until this week did I feel this so clearly. Normally on a soap, we ADs are on different schedules, one with a short day, the other with a long. So I spent months becoming used to the aloneness. But after a few weeks of only post production, the same schedule, and therefore often traveling with a coworker, traveling alone actually felt very alone. It's not that we had talked for the whole ride or anything, but somehow traveling alone again made me quite aware of being a stranger on the train.

It will be nice when we return to production again. It's not that I'll necessarily be traveling with coworkers, but I will get to return to what I used to call "the lovely mix of studio and editing" that was my job. So that even if I am a stranger on the train, I will be surrounded by lots of friends once I get to work.

Because there's nothing wrong with being alone--often it's great--as long as you know that you won't be a stranger on the other end of your trip.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Corner of the Couch

Most nights, I end up on the couch. Not to watch TV, just to take a small respite from the noise and running around of the day. To stop and listen to someone play the piano, or have someone lean against me to read, or simply to write my blog. It is just a corner of what is now a fairly old couch, and it is really right in the middle of all the action in my apartment, yet, somehow, curling up there takes the edge off a rough day and gives me space to appreciate a good one.

Most of us do an awful lot of moving around during our days. Even if our jobs are seemingly sedentary, there is the going to and from, not to mention all the side trips before and after work to make sure all is taken care of for home. So, in my opinion, it's important to have a place at the end of the day where the moving can just stop, a place that reminds us, even just for a few minutes, that we are home again. And since a  home is often defined by the noise and activity of its inhabitants, what better place than a central couch to soak up the feeling of home (and to drift off for a catnap if necessary)?

So if it's the end of your day, or when it is, I highly recommend finding your own "corner of the couch." It'll let you stop, AND keep you going.

Different Crazy

I ended up in a number of situations today where people apologized for things being crazy when, truthfully, I viewed the situations as just part of the ups and downs of everyday life. It'a funny how, as you live and work through a variety of things, you realize that every family and every workplace has its own version of crazy. Think yours is the only place where there's one person who challenges everything? Think again. Think yours is the only place where people are constantly walking fine lines of personality dynamics? Again, think again.

I don't really think "my life is a soap opera," yet I'm realizing more and more that there really is no "normal," probably in my life and work or in anybody else's. Or maybe it's just the same "not normal" all over. Normal, it seems, is more about how we process what is happening than about what we are facing. There are always going to be easier days and harder days, but the juggling of personalities and tasks and family and workplace politics seems to be as present in any number of arenas as it is in mine. And, while there might be days when I'd like the path to be a straightforward A to B to C, the throwing in of a Q or a Z along the way sure makes things a lot more interesting.

So, no need to apologize for things being crazy. It's just a different crazy. And I like it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Second Days

Starting something new is hard--and invigorating and exciting--but, okay, hard. Giving something a chance to get past "new" can be even harder.

A week ago, I talked down a teenager who was questioning everything after the first day of assigning camp show roles. Yesterday, it was a fourth grader who'd talked previously of playing for the Mets saying he didn't want to do baseball all day. And in the face of such extreme emotion, whether it was anger or tears, it was hard for me not to say "you can just stay home tomorrow."

But as a "don't give up" parent and as a parent who's already paid the money, I said, in both cases, "You've got to make it through this week, and then we'll talk." We're talking, but not about that, because, in both cases, by the end of Day Two, it was as if it was a different place, or a different child, or both. Apparently, making it to Day Two sometimes makes all the difference in the world.

Now, you might argue that kids are far more adaptable than we grown-ups are. And you might be right. But the Day Two thing-- whether literal or figurative--is something we could all stand to remember. Starting something new can be hard, yet if we allow ourselves the time to adjust, to get to Day Two, what is new can often end up being the most rewarding.

In the course of just one week, I held my children accountable for continuing what they started. It was kind of scary for all of us-- I mean, who wants to turn around and go back to something that didn't feel good on Day One? But their ability to adjust reminds me that accountability is okay, and that adaptability is even better. And that the combination of the two opens up a whole lot of very good second (and third, fourth, and fifth) days.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wisest Use of Time

When I was  in elementary school, more years ago than I care to remember, I won a graduation award given to the person who'd made the wisest use of his or her time. I was, at the time, always into one thing or another, probably always trying to prove myself among higher scoring students, to teachers I wanted to impress, among the people who got onto the cheer leading team or got leads in the school play.  Whatever the reason, I do remember being in constant motion back then, even if it was just the motion of having long philosophical phone conversations with my friends.

These days, there is still a lot of constant motion, between coordinating the lives of three kids and making enough of a living to hold up my end of the household.

The problem comes, I find, when my use of time is interrupted by delays over which I have no control. I don't remember if there were those in elementary school. Perhaps I was enough of a self-involved  kid back then, I could just barrel right through. Somehow, as a grown-up, barreling through  is harder. For, out in the world, there are things that are other people's jurisdiction. Out in the world, there is a structure, a hierarchy, and unless we are the boss everywhere, we end up bound by that structure. The challenge, then (and perhaps this was the challenge I met successfully in school), is to make the wisest use of the waiting time. For me, that means writing a post for my own blog instead of mindlessly reading the posts of strangers. It means culling through the paperwork that clutters my life and my apartment. It means networking efficiently. I'm sure none of these things would have won me that "wisest use of time" award way back when, but these days, it's much less about winning awards and much more about just getting the jobs done.

In elementary school--even in high school--I probably thought I could control my world. All these years later, I have realized I most certainly can't. What I can control is my response to my world. 
In elementary school--even in high school--I probably thought I could control my world. All these years later, I have realized I most certainly can't. What I can control is my response to my world. Which means that what I can do is keep being that person who makes the wisest use of her time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Coming Home

Every time we return to our apartment from being in someone's suburban or rural house, I am struck by the various disfunctionalities (even the word seems disfunctional) of our cozy high-rise dwelling. Is it the city, I wonder, that creates all these things that our suburban friends and relatives don't seem to have to deal with? Things like dust that just won't disappear? Appliances that seem to go south more often than they should? Temperatures that we just can't seem to regulate? Are all these things just a part of choosing to live in the city, or is there more going on? Could it be that we have never quite accepted the cost of a cleaning person, despite the fact that our family generates more mess than most? Is it the fact that we fill our lives with so many activities and interests and outings that the time left for household maintenance is time when we are just plain exhausted? Or is it the fact that we have filled our space with so many "finds" that we can barely dig through to see the problems until they are big ones?

Don't get me wrong--home is still home, and it's always nice to come home. And maybe, no matter where you live, you always think the grass is greener somewhere else. It's all about choices. Which things you choose to have guide your life, and which things you just accept as they are until you really have to make a change. So, while I would love to come home to a clean, uncluttered, completely functional apartment, I suppose that on a daily basis, I decide that other things are more important, money-wise and otherwise. And thankfully, I have the opportunity to visit those friends and relatives who make it all work.

As for me, someday. Maybe. I hope.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

You Know It's Vacation When...

1. You've finally stopped getting up when it gets light (and realize that in a day or two, that WON'T be the right thing to do.

2. You blog more about your kids than about your work.

3. You read a book, a whole book, and not in fits and starts while on a moving vehicle.

4. You watch a 30 year old movie on a TV screen without falling asleep, because you didn't get up as soon as it got light this morning.

5. You've been reading industry-related articles and job postings, but not nearly intensely as usual.

6. For a few days, you  don't have to dress for home climate and walk climate and train climate and work climate. You just have to dress to be comfortable.

7. You realize that vacation means you have something to go back to, when a year ago, vacation wasn't really vacation, it was just days not working  in a string of days not working.

Just one more day, and so glad that after that day, I have something to go back to.

If A Tree Falls...

For the first time since Hurricane Sandy, I have found myself without Internet, and so, unable to post my blog. On July 4th, I had already written before I realized the post couldn't go anywhere, but today, I knew before writing, so what would I do? Just skip a day? Or write in the spirit of my daily commitment and in the hope of making multiple posts once I was able? After all, if you write a blog post but don't post it for anyone to read, is it really a blog post anyway?

And then, in the course of my day, I came across a copy of a new book, P.S. Be Eleven, the sequel to the middle grade novel One Crazy Summer I read a year ago in preparation for a Children's Media Association event. I'd enjoyed the book (and the author's talk) so much that I'd read all about her beginning to write while doing a day job. She wanted something so much that she gave her time and made a commitment to go after it. And there was my answer. My writing Notwashedupyet posts each day is not just a commitment to the people who read. It is a commitment to myself--to take the energy that once had me considering writing a book and put it into what is for right now more manageable--writing every day. Not enough to be a book, but enough to be a complete thought, enough to help myself, and perhaps some other people, process what goes on in a work and family life each day.

So, hopefully, a day or two from now, several posts will go up at the same time. In the meantime, I'll be writing. And reading P.S. Be Eleven.


On this Fourth of July, when I was probably supposed to go to a patriotic parade, I slept a lot and went shopping. And as we drove to see free country fireworks (which turned out not to exist this year!), I began to think about all the things in our lives that are free.

1. Fireworks. Obviously very expensive for the people who put them on, but quite often free for those of us who want to watch.

2. Lying in a hammock with a breeze. Too bad I tend to fall asleep so quickly, I don't appreciate the "free" for very long!

3. Hugs from children. Okay, there are times when the hug has "I want something" mixed into it, but sometimes a hug is just a hug. And it's free.

4. Wifi at the public library (well, at least in NYC). When I was between jobs, I couldn't always justify paying for a Starbucks coffee to get free Wifi there, but I could browse the shelves at the library, and no one expected me to buy anything.

5. Cleaning up. Okay, free doesn't always mean fun. And hey, I often find money in backpacks and couch cushions when I clean, so it's not just free, it's profitable.

6. Saying something nice about someone, whether just to be friendly or to help that someone get a job. Free to you, priceless to the someone.

On this celebration of freedom, hope you've enjoyed being free and all that comes for free.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Making Plans

Freelancing is a little like dating--there's the excitement of something new, but also the insecurity of something well, uncertain. Will it continue, will we keep liking each other, what will I have to do to prove myself, and if it ends, will I find something just as good or better? And how long will finding something else take?

For years, though I was technically freelance, I was working long-term--kind of like dating that turns into marriage. And while both long-term work and marriage have their challenges and quirks, there is a certain security there that just doesn't exist when you're truly freelance.

In the last few weeks, with the entrance of OWN and the beginnings of scheduling more production, the soaps online have begun to feel more like a long-term endeavor rather than just dating. And so, little by little, I have begun to make plans. To work on choices for my family while factoring in my work. And that's good for everybody.

Not much is forever these days, but for now, I'll take "making plans," that step between dating and something more. Because dating might be fun, and I'm sure I'd learn a lot of things about a lot of things. But for now, a little security is nice. So, for now, I'm happy to be making plans.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pick Me

My daughters are aspiring actors. Which means they audition. A lot. Whether it's a workshop or a show or a school group or a camp, it seems there are endless opportunities for them to recite a monologue or sing a song or read an audition script.

Many, many of these auditions result in nothing. Much like the job search endeavor, in which hundreds of resumes disappear into the HR abyss, the audition process has you put yourself out there over and over again, often with statistically minimal results. And, much like the job search endeavor, it can be incredibly demoralizing. Yet, as I did (and do) while job-searching, they persist undaunted (well, perhaps not undaunted, but un-crushed), getting the next song or the next monologue ready, looking for their next big opportunity to act.

And while there are inherent similarities between the job search process and the audition process, there is one essential difference. When I was job-searching, it was largely so that I could continue to support my family. They don't have to audition. They are kids--no one says they have to perform, much less make money doing so. Yet, they are possessed by it. Not only the excitement of doing a show, but also the thrill of being chosen, picked, to play a part. And that is something I can definitely understand. How many times, working or not, did I want to be the one picked for the job, the task, the honor? It feels good to picked, especially when you know it wasn't easy for that to happen. So, while I suffer with them through the agonies of all the times they are NOT picked--because they're too tall, too short, too young, too old, too soprano, too pale--I can also see how they put themselves through an endless series of "pick me" situations. The desire to be picked never really goes away, whether it's about livelihood or about self-esteem or just about being allowed to do what you want to do.

Perhaps someday I will see them on the Broadway stage or in a film. For now, I will just be there to pick up the pieces (just as I've picked up my own) when "pick me" doesn't work out quite the way they'd hoped.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Take Your Son To Work Day

I know. There's an official date for this. But when summer calls, and you work in a place that is even dog-friendly, I figure it's not such a leap to make July 1 an alternate day to celebrate.

So at 7:30 this morning, instead of spending his first vacation Monday sleeping in, watching TV, and perhaps playing in the sprinkler in the park, my son traveled with me to the train station I see every day, and for just a dollar added to my ticket, traveled with me to work.

The truth is, my work is fairly quiet these days, so his presence there was not a problem. And thanks to electronic gadgets, there was an endless stream of things for him to do while I accomplished my daily tasks.

And as he played and drew and observed while I worked, I began to get a sense of what work probably means to a kid.

Work means taking a train, which is often more comfortable than a school bus.

Work means having a kitchen stocked with things to put on toast, endless hot chocolate powder, cool cups with tops, and even spray whipped cream in the fridge.

Work means being able to order in Chinese for lunch.

Work means Wifi all day.

Work means doing a bunch of tasks that seem not so different from school--listening (to an edited show), taking notes (on how what the actors are saying differs from the script), and adding up stuff (amount of the show shot by each director).

Work means getting paid to do a whole lot of things a kid can do well, yet is done by grown ups who actually get paid to do it (and how come kids don't get paid?)

All in all, a highly successful Take Your Son To Work Day, even though the official one won't roll around till next Spring. And a great start to Summer vacation--even better than sleeping in and playing in the sprinkler.