Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sense Memory

As I walked home tonight, I saw very small children in very small superhero and princess costumes, pumpkin-shaped buckets in hand, being led around by parents. And I was transported back to a year ago, when on Halloween, I made my way up to the Bronx, where my family was staying with relatives. There was no Halloween in my neighborhood on this night last year, because there was no power in my neighborhood on this night last year. And in all our preparations for Halloween this year, I had completely forgotten that. It wasn't until I saw the costumed children that it all came flooding back. Suddenly, and without warning, I remembered the costumed children I saw in other neighborhoods as I made my way to the Bronx that night a year ago. Sense memory is a powerful thing.

While I consider myself to be a person who processes information quickly, I am a not a person who tends to remember volumes of facts. I may have enjoyed my college history courses, but I certainly can't recite the details of dates and places. While I remember being good in chemistry and algebra, my memory of the related formulas left my brain long ago. While facts may fade, what remains, quite powerfully, is sense memory. Walking on my college campus might bring a rush of 20 year old emotions. Hearing melodies in temple brings back memories of childhood. And tiny trick-or-treaters on a dark New York City street bring back vivid memories of a several day--no, several week--period when our lives were turned upside down by a hurricane. Fact memory may go and not return, but sense memory sticks with you.

There's no real lesson here--just a feeling, really. A gladness to be reminded of a time when relatives took us in and we took care of each other. Gratitude that our loss was just a temporary absence of power and some spoiled food. And a smile on my face when I saw those tiny princesses and superheroes and realized that we'd made it--safe and sound--to another Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Showing Up

Okay, I remembered to join the volunteer conference call I was supposed to be on. Well, actually, I remembered 20 minutes late and 10 minutes before it was over, but who's counting, right? I participated. Well, actually, I pretty much just listened. Except when I said "Hello." And "Goodbye." But I was, well, at least sort of there. I showed up.

Thanks to technology, "showing up" has taken on a whole new meaning. There's no way I could have gone to a real people around a table, get home at 9:00 meeting, but a phone call I could handle, even if I said virtually nothing. So, I showed up.

I wonder, is "showing up," even by conference call, really half the battle? What good did it do for me to call in essentially just to listen?

Showing up, whether in person or by phone, means that the outcome matters to you. It means that you care enough to support people, and that you are there to take on necessary tasks or offer opinions. While showing up might not get the job done, it is certainly a step in the right direction, and if you take enough steps, you do eventually get where you're doing.

Tonight, I showed up, while being in the middle of "showing up" when my kids needed help with homework and Halloween.

I showed up, and perhaps that will make all the difference.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Embracing Change

Last night, as part of a concert series we have gone to for years, I saw Van Hughes, along with a number of other talented singer/actors, perform songs from assorted Amanda Green musicals.

Who is Amanda Green, you ask? I'll admit, I didn't know either before last night. Writer/composer/lyricist responsible for Broadway shows like Bring It On, Hands on a Hardbody, and High Fidelity. Impressive, to say the least, but this blog is not really about Amanda Green.

When Van Hughes was introduced, the name rang a bell, but it wasn't until he came out and I cross-referenced with the program that I realized that he was, in fact, the same person I knew from One Life to Live--a late replacement for a popular character toward the end of the show's run on ABC. And while I barely knew him when he was at ABC, it was one of those experiences that has happened quite often over the years--my saying to my husband, "hey, I know that guy," or having us go to a show because I know someone in it. It has been a situation that I suppose I've taken for granted all these years. Except now, since I am not actively working in dramatic television, it is this odd connection to the past, a remnant of sorts. While I'm sure that I will continue to see people I have known in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows--after all, I worked with them in New York, and actors in New York work in the theater--I suspect that the connection will become less a connection, and more just a blip at the start of my theater experience. For better or worse, things change. And as they change, we can mourn the change, or we can embrace it. I may not go to the theater to see co-workers much anymore, but it doesn't mean I won't go to the theater.

Today, on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, a former co-worker of mine wrote about how the event completely changed her life, and how she has moved on, in what she considers a really positive way. While there is loss, there is tremendous gain in moving forward. And though whatever I have lost work-wise can't come close to comparing, perhaps the lesson is similar--if we embrace change, we open ourselves to the new, and all the really good things--shows and otherwise--that we might not otherwise have seen.

A year ago, I couldn't publish because the power went out. Today, the power is very much on, and several hundred posts later, I am still embracing the changes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Faith and Finders Keepers

This morning, as I was carrying the piles of clean laundry to their respective rooms (my Sunday night stamina generally lasts through the sorting and the washing and the drying and the folding, but not through the delivery!), I discovered that a significant part of my son's baseball uniform--the pricey heart-guard shirt we were given after we'd bought another--was missing. In my attempt to protect it from the hot-beyond-hot dryer, I had hung it over a laundry room cart. Problem was, it never made it back upstairs with me. So at 7am, I was back to the basement laundry room, hoping against hope that we wouldn't be on a baseball equipment mission later this week. And as I entered the laundry room, I spotted a glimmer of white hanging among the fleet of carts. The shirt was there, just waiting for me to come back and get it.

Obviously, I am happy about not having to run the errand, and happy about not having to spend the money. But, in that moment, all I could think was that there is something nice about a world (well, at least a building laundry room) in which your things get left for you, in which they don't just disappear because you made the mistake of leaving them. Our laundry room is a well-traveled spot on Sunday nights. Yet, no one took home our shirt.

Believe me, I realize that I was lucky. I realize that perhaps more often than not, things left WILL disappear. It's not that I'm planning to trust completely in honesty and people's ability to resist an attitude of "finders, keepers." This was just a good way to start a Monday--with a little more faith in people, and with one less errand to add to an already busy week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Planting Seeds

Sometimes I wonder about the job I'm doing teaching my kids to care about their world and the less fortunate people in it. After all, with busy schedules and periods of time when we have been heavily focused on my jobless situation, there has not always been a lot of time or energy to look outside ourselves. Once upon a time, I was an active volunteer, but that was largely pre-children. So, am I teaching my children anything about their responsibilities in the world? About what they can do to make other lives better? I wonder.

And then, from time to time, I see that maybe a little something has gotten through. When my son writes his story for school featuring a child who is homeless, I realize maybe something has gotten through. When my daughter joins not the Glee Club, but multiple community service clubs, at her new school, I figure maybe something has gotten through. When my teenager is eager to spend her free time helping younger kids put on a show, I can see that something has gotten through.

Will their version of caring for their world look just like mine? Of course not. It may well be more personal and even more meaningful. And, while I won't take the credit for those good things they do, seeing them act with that kind of compassion makes me feel as though I haven't completely dropped the ball on this one. 

Sometimes it's just about planting the seed, then watching how it grows.

Legos and TV

There are once again Legos all over the floor, with one daughter building with my son and me trying to sort the little buggers by color into separate Ziploc bags. And my son points out how great it would be if ALL of us were building with him. The ship would be way bigger and would happen way faster, because it would be a family thing. This is the same kid who lobbies for family game night and family movie night on a regular basis, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

The thing is, I always considered Lego building a fairly solitary endeavor. My son, however, clearly views it as a group activity, an opportunity for collaboration. And in my time sorting Legos and providing needed pieces, it occurred to me that his view of building Legos is not so different from my view of making TV.  Part of what I do is editing, which can be a very solitary endeavor-editor and computer in a dark room for hours on end. What makes it fun for me, though, is the collaboration, the part when it's not just me and the computer in the dark room, but me, the computer, and other people with talents and opinions working together to make the work better, and to make the process a social one, as well as a creative one. Which sounds a lot like my son and his Legos.

When it comes to Legos, I am rarely the one with the creative vision. I am the assistant, the finder of pieces, a part of the team. But both in Legos and in TV production, it takes a team. And that team makes it a lot more fun.

Friday, October 25, 2013


This week, I received a package. A large, heavy package, which is pretty unusual, even when it's my birthday. As I began to open it, it became clear--the telltale black box inside, out of which came an Emmy. My fourth, which would join the others in my living room.

This was an Emmy for work that I did on the last ten episodes of One Life to Live that aired on ABC in 2012. Work that I did in 2011, which feels like a very, very long time ago.

I remember in my childhood watching the Emmys on TV, and hoping that I would someday have one. I remember interviewing celebrities for a radio show in college, and seeing Emmys in their homes and offices. I remember the years on One Life to Live when the Emmys completely ignored our show. And then, somehow, I ended up with four Emmys in my living room. They are largely Emmys that appeared in my living room in large boxes, months later than, and completely separate from the awards ceremonies. So these Emmys were not acquired while I was wearing evening gowns. On the contrary, at least a few have made their debut here while I was in my pajamas.

It's a funny thing how something that was so far away feels so different when it's close by. While I am certainly grateful to have worked with teams of people who created good work and won, most days of the year, I don't think much about the statues being there. They're just there.

This Emmy's arrival couldn't help but be a bit melancholy. When I did the work, we--the ABC One Life to Live crew--were still together, and now we are scattered all over the map. The Emmy's arrival is a reminder of the good, but a reminder of the sad as well. The announcement this week that online soaps will now be Emmy-eligible means that my Emmy days might not be over. The work I did earlier this year could be recognized. But Emmys can't bring back what is gone. They can just be a "hang in there" greeting card that arrives in the mail.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Does It All Mean

Does the fact that I was breathing heavily from running five blocks from my son's bus stop back home to get his school shirt when I realized it was a field trip day and running back five blocks after having my just-showered husband throw the shirt down our hall while a neighbor held the elevator (which had stopped four agonizing times on the way up), only to have my son ask why it took me so long when I got back moments before the bus came mean that I am out of shape?

Does the fact that I do not have indigestion after pulling together assorted leftovers from every corner of the fridge, not to mention making supplementary salad and rice because despite the number of containers, the leftovers were not enough, and feeding everyone, including myself, before the piano teacher arrived mean that I am an excellent short order cook-slash-waitress or that I just have an iron stomach?

Does the fact that I accomplished getting children to three different schools in three different neighborhoods (including one in another borough) and getting them home safely after all their various activities mean that I am a truly dedicated parent or that I was just lucky today or that I am actually crazy for sending them to three different--and spread apart--schools in the first place?

Does the fact that I type my blog on my iPhone because I can therefore do it anywhere and without competing with anyone for a computer, since my iPhone is one of the few things that is truly my own, password-protected, and not to be touched without permission, mean that I am a committed writer or just a 2013 person with a phone attached to my hand?

Sometimes things are not quite what they seem, and sometimes, what they seem to be, and what they are, changes from day to day. And what it all means--well, that's up for grabs.

Which keeps things interesting, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


If you don't practice piano, then you can't watch TV! If you don't stop hitting your brother, then you'll be losing your iTouch! If we don't leave right now, then you'll miss the bus, and I don't know how you'll get to school! I find myself constantly playing the if/then game. I'll admit, it doesn't always work for child discipline. But it does help set some boundaries.

When you think about it, life is really a series of if/thens. Every step we take potentially affects our next. Every choice impacts the outcome. And, if we would like to control our outcomes--our "thens"--it falls upon us to control our "ifs" as well.

Last night, as I fell asleep writing, and woke up hours later, still needing to write, it occurred to me that, in order to get past the "if I sit on the couch to write, I will likely fall asleep," I should set up some if/then boundaries for myself, in the same way I set them up for the kids. I considered "if you haven't written your post, then you can't have dinner," but that seemed a bit too harsh, and a bit unfair, since I am the one making the dinner for everybody else. Then there was "If you haven't written yet, then the couch is off-limits," which is obvious, but clearly didn't work, since I am writing from the couch as we speak. And, "If you don't write a post, then you will have missed a day" makes tremendous sense, but doesn't always manage to win out over sleep.

So--what's a reasonably capable person/parent to do in order to enforce an if/then? As with my kids, the potential loss of dessert is compelling, and yet....

For me, the dessert "if" would probably work pretty well, but I would like to think that when it comes down to it, for us grownups, the real ifs and thens, not the fabricated ones, are what keep us going. Knowing what we want to accomplish and what it takes to get there. And that if we don't do what it takes, then we won't accomplish those things.

Life is made up of if/thens. And if we keep our eyes on the thens, then the ifs will just be a small and manageable--and worthwhile--step along the way.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Skin You're In

When I was in the eighth grade, I read To Kill A Mockingbird for school. Thanks to a mind fascinated with analyzing literature and an English teacher who helped make the book sing, I was enthralled. I related to the book on so many levels that even now, I think about parts of it in relation to certain situations I encounter.

One of the most well-known quotations from the book, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it," comes to me quite often. We tend to view situations only through the lens of our own experience. What we want in life or work is influenced by what we've had (or not had). How we go about finding what we want is also based on the skin we've walked around in before.

How many times do we laugh at how other people are handling a situation or see only our own view on a subject? It's not easy to view anything except from our own perspective, with our own particular experiences as a guide. It's only when we, as Atticus Finch says to his daughter, "climb into his skin" that we really understand someone else's choices.

Even when I was working with the same people for years, each of us came at the job from a different direction, so it is not surprising that I now see many, many approaches to working (and looking for work). We don't often even try to climb inside any skin but our own, and without doing that, we are left critical and judgmental of people's approach, a place even more dangerous in the job market than in long-term work.

These days, when I often barely have time to read any book, much less a classic, I am grateful for the reminders that middle school English left me. And though I'm happy with the skin I'm in, I am also aware of trying out some others, if only to understand a little better how other people are approaching things. Because there is not just one way. And if I am to survive in this freelance world, I'll have to understand them all.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Good News and The Bad News

1. The bad news is, numerous large textbooks live at home, cluttering my kids' room or my living room, or both. The good news is, if they go missing, we know that they must be somewhere in the apartment. The bad news is, finding anything in my apartment is no small task.

2. The good news is, my kids are now old enough to help make and clear meals. The bad news is, having them do so requires a gut-wrenching amount of patience on my part. The good news is, I have a few more people who can make me scrambled eggs and toast.

3. The bad news is, I keep everything, meaning I live with way too much clutter. The good news is, the Halloween costumes that I probably should have given away long ago still fit people in my household, and have saved me from Halloween store trauma. The bad news is, the not-chosen costumes are still exploded all over the floor.

4. The good news is, we managed to have dinner early enough to have a real evening. The bad news is, there is enough homework going on that it will be past my bedtime before I know it. The good news is, at least I will have time to digest before I go to bed.

5. The bad news is, piano practice has not been completed yet. The good news is, it's relatively quiet in my apartment. The bad news is, piano practice hasn't been completed yet, so it won't be quiet for long.

6. The good news is, my son's school robotics program has re-sparked his interest in Legos. The bad news is, we are now stepping on Legos of every shape, just about everywhere we walk. The good news is, there are at least some hours in the day when there are activities that require hands, but not a touch screen.

Thankfully, almost all bad news comes with accompanying good news. Remember that old question, "Which would you like first, the good news or the bad news?" Doesn't seem as though the order matters much, does it? That is, as long as you get to hear both.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Aah, Weekends

Do you ever find that your list of goals for a two-day weekend is longer than your list for your whole five-day work week ? In our household, weekends are for accomplishing all the things we can't manage during the week--groceries, laundry, and such--but also for fulfilling more social and enrichment activities than a family of five should have. Gone are the days of sleeping late, and more importantly, of having the weekdays be accomplishment time and the weekends be resting time.

So, how, then, do we keep the weekends from becoming just a more intense version of what we expect from ourselves during the week?

A few thoughts--

1. Laugh. Even if the time is full, it needn't be as serious as work. Laugh.

2. Set time boundaries for accomplishing things, or at least for the time you spend trying to. The natural boundaries of work tend to provide the boundaries during the week. On the weekends, it's up to you to set them.

3. Allow meals at odd times. Among the most regulated weekday things--for adults and kids--are mealtimes. Breakfast must be at a certain time in order to make a bus or train to work or school, lunch is at a designated lunch period or lunch hour, dinner is defined by afterschool activities and work hours. So, on the weekends, try breakfast at 12 and lunch at 4. It's very freeing.

4. Make sure to do at least one thing you can never do during the week. Whether it's reading a book, or going to the gym, or just enjoying a walk in your own neighborhood, this will remind you that, even if it's just as full as the work week, the weekend is different, and should be treated as such.

5. Breathe in the weekend, just a little, before you go back to work/school on Monday. Don't worry. You'll have a chance to try out all of these things in just a few days.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


I discovered this evening in a conversation with my daughters that something I said once in the midst of saying the opposite something a thousand times was the thing for which I was held accountable.

Now, as a parent, I should know that kids never forget anything you say. Even as toddlers, they manage to repeat the words you don't want them to or the not so nice things you said about someone in the privacy of your own home. Even at a young age, kids make you accountable for pretty much every word you utter, whether it was said intentionally, or in the heat of battle, or when you were barely even awake in the morning.

The good news, I suppose, is that, while they are essentially just looking out for their own needs, kids remind us that we are, in fact, accountable for a whole lot of what we do every day. They keep us honest in a way that many of us would never be on our own. They hold us accountable. How we handle the fallout from what we've said or done may be what takes the time and effort, but owning that we said or did it in the first place is really the hardest part.

When I was a PA, there were many things for which I was held accountable, most of which were things over which I had little control. I had to estimate scene times, despite the fact that actors could perform the same scene completely differently from one time to the next.  I was called upon to make sure cast was ready, despite variables of costume and makeup and oversleeping that I couldn't change. And yet, I learned along the way how to change the things I could and at least manage those I couldn't. Even if there were times when I probably shouldn't have been held accountable, I discovered that accountability was as much a function of good management as it was a function of personal integrity.

My kids would never let me get away with such platitudes. They would just remind me that I said what I said, and that it was now my responsibility to give them what I said I would.

Perhaps from now on, I should be a little more careful about what I say. Especially in front of the kids. I am likely to be held accountable.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Job Descriptions

When I started working some 20-odd years ago, I went grocery shopping for my boss. I sorted fan mail, and I knocked on dressing room doors to hand out script changes, most of which I had painstakingly cut and pasted by hand. It was a less than glamorous life some days, but I loved it, and from all these little pieces, many of which were not part of my official job description, I learned from the bottom up, and from the inside out, and it made me better at the next step.

When I learned how to be an AD, once I mastered the nuts and bolts, I discovered that being an AD is about more than just readying cameras and making edit notes. Being an AD is about supporting the director, whether the support is pointing out a shot or supplying a much-needed cup of coffee. It's about being in the trench. Perhaps not part of the job description, but it made my subsequent step to directing one that just made sense.

When I interviewed to work on a sitcom, I was to use all those camera readying skills, but, underlying it all, I was hired to help make things work, to see challenges and say, "yes, I can make that happen." And after four years on that sitcom, I learned that most things about which you say, "yes, I can make that happen" really do happen because you approached them that way. And that "yes, I can make that happen" has stayed with me ever since.

Life is not about your job description. It's what you choose to do with where you are, even if--and especially when--you're willing to go beyond your job description. When you're willing to say, "Yes. I can make that happen."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Friday Again?

It has begun again--the Mondays that fly into Fridays. The weeks that collide with weekends too fast for you to keep up.

When the school year started, I thought perhaps this year might be different. The weeks seemed slower, and easier to navigate through. We could actually tell one day from another.

And then homework and activities hit. The homework and activities that sort of help us tell one day from another, but make the days go so quickly that we barely stop long enough to be aware of any of them. So that one day it is Monday, and before we know it, it has become Friday once again.

Is this one of those "time flies when you're having fun" situations? I doubt that anyone would say that whole weeks were that kind of fun. But, at the very least, it means that the parts that are not so much fun go quickly too. And, with things going so quickly, you rarely hear anyone say, "I'm bored," a line which, to me, is far worse than any feeling of having missed things when the week went too fast.
Tomorrow will be Friday again, and while I can't quite remember every thing that got us here from Monday, and I'm not sure I remember Tuesday at all, I know that we packed a lot of "far from boring" in. Which makes it a pretty good week. A week deserving of the weekend ahead.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The "Me" I Like To Be

Today, someone I have known for only a short time told me that I was just like a friend of hers. She went on to say that her friend looked nothing like me--okay, now I was confused--but that I seemed to care about other people, just like her friend.

As I said, the person saying all this was not someone I know well, so I found it fascinating that she had a clear enough picture of me to compare me so favorably to someone else in her life. I worked in one place for a long time, so I was used to the people there knowing me not only as a co-worker, but as a person. I don't expect that from people I have only recently met. I mean, how could people know much more about me than how I dress?

It would be nice to think that, over time, you can put enough good energy out there to have that kind of a reputation. But sometimes, it is unclear what kind of energy you put out there on a daily basis, especially when your energy is tested every day by things like unemployment and frustration.

Today, I got the feeling that the essence of me, the "me" I was for all those years with the same family-like co-workers, is still here. It's the "me" who bounces back, the "me" who really does enjoy doing for other people, even if it's just offering shared snacks (I mean, who doesn't like a snack?). It's the "me" who really is, as they say, "not washed up yet."

I'm hoping to keep that "me" around for a long time to come.

I've Got This

I fell asleep writing (or trying to write) this post last night. And when my husband woke me up to move to my bed and set an alarm so today wouldn't fall apart, my waking up words were, "I've got this," meaning I knew what I was writing. And I would be able to write it. Except that, in order for today not to fall apart, I really needed to go to bed.

Before I fell asleep, my daughter, who is preparing for her bat mitzvah, held up her folder of things she's studying, as if to say, "Write about this." Which, I think, is what sparked my "I've got this." On a day to day basis, there are countless things my children need to do or know with which I can't help them at all. It appears that I have forgotten most of math and a great many of the historical facts I ever learned, and everything except the broad strokes of science. Yet, when it came to my daughter's bat mitzvah prep, for at least one night, I reached back into my own childhood, and felt completely qualified to help her. I guess that, while some things either disappear from our bag of tricks, or perhaps never made it into the bag in the first place, others are very much there, and remain, even if we aren't quite aware they are in there.

I'm not honestly sure if she considered my help helpful. After all, there were places where I diverged from the sound file the cantor made her. But sometimes, what we do is more about what we are doing than about what it actually does. Whether or not my help was helpful to her, it reminded me of the set of skills that I have acquired along the way, some of which have actually hung on. The same set of skills that caused me to pick up a French book a few days ago with the belief that I have enough French reading comprehension left to understand it. (The jury's still out on that one--I'm doing okay, but am just a page or two in).

The point is, each of us has a whole bunch of knowledge and experience to use and share--it's just a question of stepping forward with that knowledge, of being able to say, "I've got this." And more often than not, we'll find out that we really do.

Have it, that is.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tools of the Trade

I left my phone on the kitchen table this morning, my just-charged phone, my un-missable with its brightly colored case phone. The phone that, between checking email and writing blog posts, is practically surgically attached to my hand for many hours a day. By the time I realized, there was no time to go back for it. And so, for the better part of my day, I was transported back to a time when we couldn't be reachable every second of every day. To a time when we had to trust what was going on without us, and had to wait to find out all the useful and useless things about which we now get regular smartphone updates.

Once I got past the moment of panic that my children wouldn't be able to reach me and that I wouldn't receive work or school related emails I'd have to act on right away, I have to admit, there was something very freeing about my hands being just my hands and my being unable to "check in." While I consider my phone more a tool than a distraction, for one day, I discovered that my own non-electronic toolbox was enough to get me through the day. Granted, there were no crises that really required my immediate attention. Still, today reminded me that if there were a crisis, one way or the other, it would work out, even without my being on speed-dial.

Don't get me wrong--I will be absolutely sure I take my phone tomorrow. Despite reading all sorts of posts recently about breaking from your devices, I'm not looking for such an extreme step. Today's test was great, but I still like feeling as though the world is in my hand, and that my kids, though out and about, are as close as a ringtone.

It's just nice sometimes to know that you have a lot more at your fingertips than a touchscreen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What Do You Do?

I had a conversation this morning with a new friend. We talked about many things, among them, the idea of how defined we are by what we do, rather than by who we are. As a person who has struggled the last few years to redefine myself after my "what I do" went away, I, of course, could easily relate to this. What was particularly nice about discussing it with someone new was that she came to the conversation knowing me as just a person she'd met--not really a person who'd worked in soaps, then been out of work, then found other work. I was just a person with the plate full of life ingredients that I have now. Yes, facing work and out of work challenges is one of those ingredients. But also on that plate are being a mom, exercising the muscles to write a daily blog, and caring about the small community that connected the two of us in the first place. For the first time in a long time, I found myself able to react as a person, not as a working person or as an out of work person. Just a person. And I was grateful.

Maybe it was a function of how we met. Perhaps it was our coming at life from oddly similar, yet 20 years apart places. Or maybe it was just that, over time, I am getting a little better at stripping off the layers of "do" to let myself just "be."

It's hard to say, and I'm sure an hour of "be" won't completely change how I think about myself, but it did give me the idea that it is possible to think differently, that it is possible to think about ourselves as more than just what we do.

Today, I got to know a new friend a little better, and I got to know myself a little better too. And I am grateful.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Advance Planning

My daughter is trying to work out her Halloween costume. On the one hand, it seems early to me--usually we scramble at the last minute for costumes. On the other hand, I'm grateful that perhaps we won't be scrambling at the last minute. On the other hand (yes, I understand I only have two hands), I am extremely afraid that I will be roped into creating some big, complicated thing between now and October 31st.

Okay, so Halloween's not exactly my best holiday. I'm really good at the gift holidays--I like buying and making stuff for people. But when I am called upon to transform people for one night while trying not to spend the bunches of money that all the trick-or-treat pop-up stores would have you spend, I tend to be more than a little overwhelmed. It gives me even more appreciation for the costume and wardrobe people who used to outfit dozens of principals and extras for the One Life to Live Halloween shows (not to mention every episode all year). It's not easy to make someone look like someone else while staying on budget.

I have hope that my daughter will figure out a person or a character or a food (I love seeing people dressed as food) to be, and with enough lead time for me to have a chance of making it work (there have been years when my creations have been vetoed day-of). And while I'm giving out candy to other people's kids, I can get a jump on ideas for next year (and write them down so I won't be in the same place a year from now).

For another take on this story, check out

Friday, October 11, 2013


I'll admit it--I have a thing about noise. Which is funny for a person who edits, and, therefore, listens to video clips over and over, loud enough to judge sound quality. When I edit at home, my husband says he doesn't know how I can stand it. And yet, I can.

For years, though, when I have come home from a day of work, either in editing or in production, I find myself overwhelmed by the noises--big and small--of of my very own living space. Whether it's piano practice or post-dinner impromptu kid performances, bickering children, or a telephone solicitor causing the phone to ring, to me, it's noise. Some people walk in the door and turn on the TV for company and sound. I turn it off for quiet.

I try to understand, really I do. I mean, kids are supposed to make noise--this is not the Victorian era. And if you have a piano in your apartment, better for it to be played than to be used as a clothing rack. The telephone solicitors, well, we'll leave them out of this. The trick, it seems, is to find the moments of quiet in the midst of all the noise. And not just literal quiet, but figurative quiet (as in not negotiating every argument) as well. So, whether it's escaping to an empty room (though people small and large always seem to follow me), or just changing my focus so that I don't have to engage in every conflict, I find ways to shut out noise, keeping life a bit more peaceful for myself, and probably a lot more functional for everyone else. I don't deny anyone a little noisemaking (okay, I have been known to insist on lower video game volume). I just create ways to separate from the noise and find my own quiet. It's like most everything in life--what you get is largely about what you carve out for yourself.

I am grateful to work in a field that is not full of quiet cubicles all day. I have carved out a life in a field full of noise. And it's up to me to find the moments of quiet to balance it out.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Too Much? Or Really Not?

Thanks to a very patient piano teacher and some very cooperative fellow piano parents, we have changed my kids' piano lesson schedule multiple times this year, and we are only a few weeks into the semester. Activities just keep coming up, and it's hard to say no to things that could be enriching, educational (in an academic or in an extracurricular way), or just plain fun. And I want my kids to be able to try them all.

I never considered myself one of those parents who had my kids running from one activity to another. When they were little, in fact, I barely let them do anything outside of school, because it was just too hard to get everyone home at the end of the day. Consequently, there was no violin until it was required in 4th grade, no Little League until age 8, and a constant search for activities that were "of general interest" (thanks, Cheaper By the Dozen) and/or within walking distance of home, so that they would work for everyone.

Now that my kids are older, and mobility is less of an issue, it is hard to say no to the plethora of interesting kid activities that our city has to offer, which is why piano lessons get moved, and schedules are negotiated weekly (often daily), and my kids are frequently up late doing homework. They--and, therefore, we--are busy. Too busy? I don't think so. They are making the most of their hours, doing what I call "gulping life," participating in as many activities as we can juggle logistically and financially. At the end of the day, they might be very tired, but I believe it is a good tired, a tired born out of embracing all that life has to offer.

So, I will keep arranging and rearranging schedules as necessary. We're gulping life. And there can never be too much of that.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Long Haul

Almost without fail, I go to bed earlier than at least one of my children. This actually makes perfect sense, since in the morning, I am up more than an hour earlier than anyone, making sure that everyone will be prepared--food-wise, signed-note-wise, and otherwise--for the day. It's the right thing to do, I know it is, for the greater good and all, but I can't help feeling guilty sometimes when a child is still doing pages of homework as I allow myself to be overcome by sleep.

When I was a kid, I seem to remember my mom staying up till all hours on big project nights, typing for me (it was pre-computer--my typing would have made the project a week overdue), and just offering moral support. I imagine there were some late nights when it was just regular homework, and she wasn't there with me late into the night, but my recollection is of having the company, of her being there for the long haul. My children's recollection will be of my being too tired to think, and being snug in my bed as they got through the last of their schoolwork.

So what does it really mean not to be there for the long haul?

1. It means that I'm not there to perk up a child when she feels she couldn't possibly write another sentence (but given the assignment, she'll be writing more like five more pages).

2. It also means that I am there to wake up said child in the morning, so she can actually get to school with the assignments she stayed up so late to complete.

3. It also, also means that when said child goes off to college, she will know how to do these things without me sitting next to her.

4. It also, also, also means that because I am reasonably (well, sort of) well rested, I will be able to work through assorted other crises with said child, and her assorted siblings. In short, I will be there for the long haul that really matters.

Okay, Mom-1, Guilt-Zero. Clearly, the long haul is about much more than just working the long hours. And when it comes to that real "long haul," I'll be there.

Virtual Coffee

I've found myself in a few situations recently in which emailing with a friend felt like a lifeline. Lucky for me, my friend wrote back. Quickly, and repeatedly, as if we were having coffee across the table from each other. Email, texting, and messaging make it remarkably easy these days to communicate without saying a word, or to say lots of words across an enormous distance. It's like a virtual coffee date.

The problem is, as great as these virtual coffee dates can be, they lead us to assume that quick email replies are the norm, which, of course, anyone looking for a job knows is not the case.

I grant that my friend is my friend. She has a genuine interest in my well-being, and we have both been helped by email conversations. No hiring manager has that kind of interest in me or any other candidate, and let's be real, would you invite a hiring manager on a coffee date, virtual or otherwise?

The truth is, job hunting is not like having coffee. The goals of finding a place where you fit in, and where you feel warm and invigorated, might be the same, but the two things are completely different. So emailing with friends shouldn't be just like emailing your résumé.

I am sure that most of us will continue sending our one-page life stories into the job email abyss. That is what we do. Perhaps some day soon, the rate of email response will catch up with the rate of Internet job applications. But I won't count on it. In the meantime, I'll keep having coffee dates--the real AND the virtual kind.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Going On With The Show

The end of long-term employment takes a toll on many parts of life. For me, one of the bigger effects was the elimination of trips to the theater. While we had always looked for discount tickets, we had diligently and eagerly gone to see many shows, even when that meant paying for the babysitting necessary to make the night out possible. But when money was tight, and a choice had to made, theater was one of the first things to go.

It may be a while before we return to seeing the number of shows we once saw, but I am happy to report that these days (and specifically tonight), enough of a weight has been lifted for us to find ourselves in the theater once more. And for people who live in NYC at least in part for all that the city has to offer, this return has been a big step, a vote of confidence in our ability to adjust to the new work normal. On the up side, we are not compelled to schedule around the long studio days that I once worked at ABC.

It's easy to give up things when the going gets tough, and, almost without fail, the things we give up are the joyful ones. What's hard is to consider the joyful things worthy of keeping, and to work to keep them. So, tonight, going to the theater meant more than just watching stories and listening to music. Going to the theater was (and is) a commitment to keeping things that matter, not just for the basic needs, but for the needs that keep our spirit alive along with our body.

I look forward to seeing curtains rise many more times over the coming months. It's time to go on with the show.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Seasons Change

There's nothing like a trip to the country to make you aware of the changing of seasons. In the city, it is often just about temperature and store decorations. In the country, changing leaves and chilly nights remind you that summer really has given way to fall.

While I am not that much of a summer person, the transition to autumn has always been a melancholy time for me. I might prefer both the clothes and the temperatures of fall, but the earlier hours of darkness and the resumption of responsibilities that were eased over the summer tend to make me a little rocky. Not destroyed, just rocky.

Today, however, as we drove on country roads lined with gloriously red and orange trees, as we ate some of the fruits and vegetables I'd picked myself, and as we said goodbye to the last of our summer activities, I found that though I felt the change of season, I felt it in a hopeful way, rather than in a melancholy one. Perhaps that's a by-product of a few years during which "seasons" in my life have seemed to change way more often than every few months. When nothing is really a given any more, the only real given is change. And it's a whole lot easier to handle change when you handle it hopefully.

I am sure there will still be days when the evening cold or the 4:30 dark will leave me feeling a little gray. But there have been gray days in every season, and uncertainties about what each "next season" will hold, and I have survived. And if I can do that, I might as well just enjoy the changing leaves, and get ready for the next change of season.

Get Outta Town

Despite having a full plate of potential activities in the city, we left town to visit relatives for the weekend. It is hard sometimes to "drop everything," step out of our routines, to do something like this. We become so used to the mindset of "getting things done," being all the places we are supposed to be, that to put all of it aside, even just for 36 hours, seems like a huge step.

Yet, now that we have done it, I see all of us getting much-needed sleep, which we probably wouldn't have allowed ourselves at home. I see family conversations that might not have happened in the course of our normal "accomplish it all" weekend days. And I see bags of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables that I picked myself (and not from the shelves of a crowded grocery store).

Sometimes, dropping everything and "getting outta town" is just what everyone needed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Did I Miss A Day?

Did you ever have a day that felt like so many days rolled into one that you weren't quite sure whether the end of the day was, in fact, the end of that day or the end of the next one? I went in so many directions today, and it is so late as I am writing this, that I actually have had moments of wondering whether I missed a day of posting.

I happen to be a person who thrives on going in many directions. I am often at my most satisfied when I am thinking quickly and making things work out right even when it seems impossible to make things work out right. The doing time is very exciting. The only problem is that the processing time ends up almost non-existent, which brings me to the question of whether I missed a post day. I didn't. I know that. But at the rate at which I jump from thing to thing, it's not always simple to separate the days.
In any case, having clarified that question, I will move on to say goodbye to a day full of doing. And a proper hello to the next one.

So no, I didn't miss a day. I was just too busy doing to be sure. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

There's Early--and TOO Early

I get up at 5am. There are those who might argue that 5am is ridiculously early--it's dark, and pre-newspaper, and so soon after 11pm. And yet, 5am keeps me sane. It gives me time to get myself in order before starting to wake my household, and time with absolute quiet in a household that is generally wall-to-wall noise. I might be tired sometimes, but by and large, 5am is my friend.

Last night (this morning?), however, I got up at 1:30am. And I am here to report that 1:30 is NOT the same as 5.

1:30 is your body saying, "okay, I've had a catnap, why would I sleep now?"

1:30 is no new emails to read yet, because who would be writing emails at 1:30 in the morning?

1:30 is can't do useful things like empty the dishwasher because it would make noise, and even worse than being up at 1:30 is having other family members be up WITH you at 1:30.

1:30 is "I just want to be sleeping. Why can't I be sleeping?"

1:30 is "The 5am alarm will be going off in less than 4 hours, less than 3 if I don't go back to sleep soon."

1:30 is all the things that need to be done tomorrow that you're awake enough to worry about but not awake enough to do anything about.

1:30 is knowing that your normal afternoon slump will likely happen in the morning. And perhaps again in the afternoon.

No, 1:30 is not the same as 5.

Never before have I realized (and appreciated!) how many glorious hours of sleep 5am really afforded me. I'll be shooting for that tonight.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Having gone to a committee meeting focused on community organizing tonight, I began to give a bit of thought to the idea of community. For, you see, when I joined said committee, I was thinking about it as just relating to the community of people right there (or perhaps the community of out of work people with time to spare, since at the time, I was out of work and available to offer some hours). And somehow, while it is based in one place, this committee has become about more than just organizing within that community. It has become about building community in general.

When I was working at One Life to Live (yes, here we go again!), the place was a huge community for me, and then multiple communities as producers and staffs changed and shifted over time. By the time West 66th Street was over, it had left me with an extended community of hundreds of people, even more if you counted the people I met on Cosby when I left OLTL for four years. It was a community in which I enjoyed spending long hours for many years, and it has been a community that has helped me both emotionally and networking-wise over the last few years.

I am realizing, however, that I am part of many communities, as perhaps we all are. Each time we communicate with other people about the things that interest us, we are part of a community. Each time we take our kids to a new activity or even just to their schools, we are part of yet another community. Even each new gig, however short, can introduce us to a new community. Each time we make connections with other people, we are opening ourselves to new forms of community.

My meeting tonight included making group decisions, celebrating past successes, putting dates on the calendar,  and signing up for jobs within that community. But, even more important, it reminded me of the importance of seeing the communities around me. Of realizing that community organizing is not just about what you do at a monthly meeting. It's about the connections you allow yourself to make every day in between.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Today Is Just Like Yesterday...Except It's Not

Yesterday was a crazy, hectic day, starting with a mad dash to get children and their respective stuff out the door to school and ending with complex emails to set up things for today. What came in between, I'm not even quite sure, but I was quite sure that today would be exactly the same--at least on the crazy, hectic score. But, while there were definitely some similar morning mad dashes, what, on paper, should have been just as looney a day turned out quite different after all. No day is really ever just like the one before it.

Now, this ought to be obvious. Each day has its own date. Each day is someone's (well, a lot of someones') birthday. And no one I know would argue that his or her birthday is exactly the same as the day before or after. And even if you do the exact same thing every day, who's to say that the hundreds of people with whom you interact each day will also do exactly the same thing?

Counting on the repetition (good or bad) is probably an age-old survival skill. If you know, based on yesterday, what to expect today, you can protect yourself. You can do things better, or at least, more efficiently. And you can ultimately be bored to death, because, like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, you are seeing literally the same thing every day.

I girded myself for battle today, assuming it would be just like yesterday. Except today wasn't just like yesterday. Because today never is.

Thank goodness for that.