Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vacation Parenting

I thought it was challenging to parent during the school year--alarms to set, sleep deprivation (mine and theirs), homework to be done, schedules to be followed, and always somewhere to run.

I am finding that parenting during vacation can have its own challenges. While the relative absence of alarms and the resulting lack of sleep deprivation might be glorious things, not to be underestimated, I think I miscalculated a bit the value of all the other things that go with the school year, like...

1. A calendar or planner book that actually tells you what needs to be done each day. It's a bit strict, I know, but it does help with the "Mom, I don't have to do that," to be able to point to a page in a book that says, "Oh, yes, you do."

2. Partners in crime, or rather, in parenting. The words of a teacher or a coach or an anybody other than a parent can go a long way in motivating a child.  Vacation days might provide family togetherness, but they often eliminate those valuable partners, leaving you out there to go it alone.

3. Built-in activities. How many times have you heard from a kid on vacation, "Mom, I'm bored!"? School week activity schedules might leave you cross-eyed over who should be exactly where exactly when (and how the heck they should get there), but they are what they say--activities--filling, and filling well, hours of what could be "Mom, I'm bored!" time so that you don't have to.

Think I'm ready for the kids to go back to school? On the contrary, I'm actually enjoying the time, challenges and all. I'm learning that sometimes, I don't need a teacher to help me say "do your work." My kids and I are all learning to plan time without a planner (and to accept when not planning leaves things not quite done). And I am learning to stand up for what I want to happen, independent of where we HAVE to be and what we HAVE to do.

Soon we will be back to facing our normal, everyday challenges--getting up too early and working too late, combining school and job and the expectations of too many people--but with the help of all those tools not around over vacation. I guess parenting is a challenge, no matter when it is. But I'm working on it...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

With A Little Help

Have you still ice skated if you went around and around with the help of a walker-ish sled-ish thing that keeps you balanced?

Have you still cooked a gourmet meal if your chopping and measuring was followed by someone else's stirring and serving?

Have you still served your community if you made meal packages just once, not every month, or given a homeless person some food from your bag just once, not every time you were asked?

Have you still helped a friend if all you could offer was a kind email rather than a hug or a cup of coffee?

Have you still accomplished getting a job if the job is just temporary or if you got it because of who you know or if it's not the job you imagined you'd have?

Have you made the right choices if you still need help answering some of the hard questions?

Have you made the right decisions if you're still seeking advice about the next set of decisions?

Have you done right by your children if they still ask questions that other people can answer better than you?

I would venture to say that the answer in all these cases is "yes." Just as finding a job with help is still finding a job, skating with help, cooking with help, and raising your kids with help are all still real. Getting help doesn't lessen an accomplishment. It simply reminds us that accepting help, whether of the mechanical or personal variety, is a show of determination, not one of weakness, a show of ingenuity, not one of dependence.

Today, I was glad that I had the walker-ish sled-ish thing to help me on the ice. It turned what could have been a five-minute painful event into an hour-long demonstration (at least to myself) of what I could do. I am glad to have had the friends who helped me get jobs and the co-chefs who help make dinner happen. I'm glad to admit that a little help, well, helps. And it makes being out there on the ice of life just a little more secure.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Running To, Running From, Standing Still

It is almost a new year, and I am finding myself more at peace with that than I have been in a number of years. I am not living in uncertainty, as I was the year my time at ABC was ending. I am not living in guarded excitement, as I was the year One Life to Live online suddenly became a possibility. I am not living in desperation, as I was when job prospects were looking bleak, or even in uneasy anticipation of going back to long hours of production, as I was when I had worked in the same place for years. This year, I find myself  feeling "on vacation" from it all.

Perhaps it is a good moment in my career--working, but not always obsessed, money coming in, even if sometimes not enough, learning each day, but not paranoid about not learning enough. Maybe, however, it is something different--something in me that the last few years have changed. After time spent too caught up in what needed to be done to stop and enjoy what I was doing, maybe things have changed. This year, I feel here when I am here, not five steps toward somewhere else. This year, I feel sensible without feeling over-cautious. I feel forward-thinking without feeling always behind.

Obviously, I am grateful that certain parts of the last few years are behind me, even if they have delivered me to where I am now. But this year, I am just as grateful for for being delivered to a new mindset, one in which I can pause from looking back and ahead, and simply enjoy now. There will be new challenges in the new year, whether that year brings new experiences, or more of the same. But for today, I am just walking in the now. And saving the running to and running from for later.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Taking Chances

We went to a new restaurant tonight. Totally not blogworthy--except when you consider the fact that we rarely do it. With multiple family units needing to agree on things like food, it's not easy to choose a place to eat, so once we've found things that work, well, we just don't take chances. Particularly with limited vacation time, we wouldn't want to mess things up.

There was negotiation--would this replace our old favorites? Would it have good choices for everyone's tastes, or would some people be miserable and others happy? Was it well-described and well-reviewed? Was it worth the risk? Is anything new really worth the risk?

It's not easy to take chances, especially when the chances feel far more important than where to go for dinner. We'd like to have all the answers up front, but we can't. We'd like to know that the risk taken will produce success, and that our lives will be somehow richer for it. We'd like to know that our daring will make us heroes. And most of the time, we can't know any of these things. Chances are just that--chances. The results might be good, but we don't know that. We might be opening up new paths and opportunities, but we can't be sure of that. So most of the time, we just have to take the chance, and cross our fingers for the results.

We took a chance on a new restaurant tonight, and I believe it was a success. When it comes to bigger chances, will we take the risk? When there's a chance for something better, something different, it's often worth it, but you just don't know. It's up to you whether to find out. That is, if you're willing to take the chance.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Almost Like Home. But Not Quite

I set an early alarm, almost like at home, but didn't have to face elevators or public transportation.

I woke up my kids, almost like at home, but didn't have to try to see them in the dark of 6am or make sure they left the house in time and with backpacks of everything.

I tried to get a lot done, almost like at home, but was okay about it when there were still things left on the list at the end of the day.

I spent time with my children, almost like at home, but the time was spent playing games and talking things over, not arguing about homework and cleanup and getting things done.

I talked about my work, almost like at home, but for the purpose of catching people up, not for the purpose of making change.

I watched my kids work through stuff, almost like at home, but not stuff with school friends, stuff with each other.

We don't change who we are when we leave home, but we do get to experience a little something different. Almost like home, but not quite.

Friday, December 26, 2014


We arrived at our vacation destination today--not a resort or tourist spot, just the home of out of town relatives, and before I knew it, we were in the middle of an intensely strategic game of Yahtzee. (Okay, perhaps there's not so much strategy to Yahtzee, but go with me here). We rarely play group "board" games at home (despite having closets overflowing with countless ones accumulated over the years). In our "free" time, we are cleaning or "screening," or doing assorted other presumably important and amusing things. But rarely board games.

Perhaps sometimes that's what vacation is all about--not fancy trips and fascinating places, but enough of a change in scenery to free you from daily patterns. Maybe it's about sleeping later, or talking more. Eating foods you'd never think to make, or trying a craft you never did before. Or playing Yahtzee for hours, without feeling pulled away by emails that need to be sent and clutter that needs to be cleaned.

There will, I'm sure, be days when we look for the excitement of sightseeing tours, gourmet buffets, and fancy shows. For now, however, just a break from daily patterns is more than enough. That, and a few more games of Yahtzee.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday Illusions

I spent the day relatively unaware of Christmas Eve--well, except for the pre-taped segments and the videos for "news" stories about Santa Claus. The streets seemed no more or less crowded. The people seemed no more or less dressed for a holiday. I edited the news as on any other day. As I walked home, the bouncers were still outside the bars, the streets were still full of people, the stores--well, at least some of them--were still open. I guess that's Christmas Eve in the city.

Now, I suppose what I saw as normalcy was not quite that. I'm sure that many of the stores and restaurants were actually NOT open. I imagine that many of the people at my work were heading straight to Christmas Eve festivities. I'm sure that at least some of the people on the street were on their way to or from holiday events, not just home from work. I know that instead of doing homework, my kids were enjoying their first day of holiday break. I remember that I am just about ready to have a little break myself, courtesy of this holiday season.

And I am realizing today, as I do every day, that sometimes what you see on the surface is not quite the whole picture. Sometimes, what's underneath, and behind, and real can a whole lot better. So it's important to keep looking.

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Little Perspective

A friend ending up at a hospital, a town and people's homes completely destroyed by bombing, former coworkers whose lives have changed immeasurably since you last saw them--all it takes is a few minutes reading email, Facebook, or a newspaper (not necessarily in that order!) to see that what is going on in your own life is pretty tame by comparison. Job changes? Sure. But have they caused you to move or downsize or alter your life in ways that you feel every moment? Losses? Maybe. But have they shaken everything that makes sense? Can most of us even fathom our homes crumbling around us, much less our entire town or city?

I was struck today by all the things going on that make me feel pretty lucky about where I am and what I'm doing. Looking around you doesn't mean denying the importance of what's happening in your own life. It just gives you a little perspective when your "everyday" begins to feel a little too important. So if I wish for anything right about now, it would be the perspective to recognize that things are pretty good, the vision to be excited about what's ahead, and the compassion to look outside of my own "everyday" to all that is going on in other people's lives.

A little perspective can go a long way.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Lifetime To Live

I arrived home to a large box containing an Emmy, my Emmy, won as part of the directing team at the online version of One Life to Live. The work for which we won feels like a lifetime ago, and maybe it just about was. The Emmy may have been awarded in 2014, but, Emmys working how they do, it was for 2013 shows. The Emmy may have been awarded six months ago, but ordering and mailing being what they are, the statue is like a holiday gift. And in a lot of ways, the life I am living now, almost two years later, really is another lifetime.

Two years ago, I was going into Christmas/New Year's week unemployed and discouraged, only to receive a tentative call about the soaps just after Christmas. Today, I am working, fairly regularly.

Two years ago, I accepted the job at the soaps and spent five months commuting to a different state each day, often returning to fall into bed long after my family was asleep. Today, I walk to and from work, and share dinner (not 6pm dinner, but still, dinner), with my husband and children.

Two years ago, I was celebrating the rebirth of what had once been. Today, I am discovering daily what might be.

Two years ago, I couldn't have imagined working in news or being an editor every day. Today, I am doing both.

Two years ago, I was on the "help me" end of having coffee with friends. Today, I can try to be of help.

My new Emmy will join the ones I won while at ABC--an exciting, yet somewhat mind-boggling addition. Who would have thought that what lasted such a short time could yield such a large reminder of that other lifetime?

These days, I suppose that many of us live through what feel like multiple lifetimes. Whether because of job change or other circumstances, we are constantly called upon to reinvent what we call our lives, and most of the time, we do it, stepping bravely (or not so bravely) into our next lifetime. Do I miss the lifetime that led to the big Emmy box? Sometimes. But right now, I'm too busy managing my new lifetime to think too much about it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"It Came Without Packages, Boxes or Bags"

It was a gift-less night of Chanukah tonight. Late nights and laundry to be folded and an inescapable resistance to adding to an already cluttered space, and before I knew it, we were sitting around the menorah, singing, without packages in front of us to follow.

I had a "bad Mommy" moment. While Chanukah is never an extravagant holiday at our house, I am generally pretty good about coming up with at least a little something each night--this year, even things left in the morning some days when I'd be working late. But tonight, when I'd been essentially home all day, my gift-giving had just dried up.

And there we sat, around the menorah, singing. And when the singing was over, I expected "Why?" and "Aw, man, Mom," and the looks of disappointment that a parent knows all too well. What I got was a continuation of life. After a chuckle or two over our quirky way of lighting the menorah, and a brief playing of a musical gift one of the kids had received one of the other nights, we all returned to our evening. The homework got finished, and the laundry got folded, and we moved on. In the timeless words of Dr. Seuss, "It came without ribbons! It came without tags!" For just a moment in time, Chanukah was about sitting together, enjoying the candles, and listening a little before returning to our respective chores and interests.

I guess sometimes Chanukah (thanks again, Dr. Seuss!) "perhaps...means a little bit more."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lucky To Have Known You

Twenty-something years ago, when I started out as a production secretary at One Life to Live, a director (who, I soon found out, had essentially pioneered soap directing) took the time to talk to me. This director, to whom I sent script and floor plan packages so often that I knew his address and phone number by heart, taught me how things were done--and done correctly. He cared deeply about the work we were doing, and more importantly, about the people who were doing it. And when I had learned enough to become a booth PA timing his shows and helping him give notes to the actors, he continued to support my endeavors. He was one in a series of mentors who have shaped my career and life for over twenty years.

Larry Auerbach died today. Ironically, just a few days ago, I referenced him in my "I'll Be You" post. While twenty-something years of work days may blend together, certain influences stick with you, and Larry was one of those influences for me. I still remember his shot number stamp and my standing with him as he gave notes to the actors. I remember hearing from him when I was making an educational video, and getting a long letter from him in response to a holiday card I'd sent with pictures of my kids. I am part of the Directors Guild because of Larry, and a beneficiary of its programs because of all the battles he fought to make the DGA stronger. Like so many other people in television, especially those of us in multi-camera television in New York, I am better off because of Larry.

And I feel incredibly lucky to have known and worked with him.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


There was a crew picture. A parting gift. Hugs and handshakes and "happy holidays" and "hope to work with you somewhere soon." My most recent gig is over, and the wrap made it feel as though six or seven weeks had been months, or even years. One might argue that the hours put in added up to more than the actual six or seven weeks, but overall, that is how it often goes in production--the intensity of working together on a project makes the wrap of that project a big deal.

As I said my goodbyes, to people I'd worked with in other places and people I'd met there, I couldn't help but think about the other wraps I'd been through--OLTL at ABC, Cosby--and the jobs I'd had that had just kind of ended, like the soaps in Connecticut, and a variety of reality shows. It may seem strange to make a big deal after a relatively short period of time, but there is something nice about celebrating, and celebrating connections, rather than just heading off to the next job. It's not about the party (well, at least not for me). It's about the moment taken to recognize the group effort, and it is a reminder that while the team needed may be large, the production world is actually pretty small.

I am hopeful that I will work again with many of the people in the giant crew photo. The wrap day was just another day at work--and yet, a reminder of how lucky I felt to have worked with all those people in the photo now.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Breaking Patterns

The last few days, I have been working a job that is fairly all-consuming, both in hours and in brain-space. While I have rarely in my twenty-something year career worked out of town, I have to imagine that this is like working out of town, in a foreign country, in a different time zone. Funny thing is, I am working right across town.

When I worked in soaps, I used to say that I my success at what I did was largely dependent upon my ability to separate work from home. At work, I thought about work, and I made the leap that my husband and caregiver would handle home, even when production ran until all hours. I didn't even attempt to micromanage one place from the other, and I couldn't see how people did that and remained successful in either place. There was a pattern of sorts to my life, and most of the time, it worked.

These past few days have been almost like a return to those long production day days. The difference is that somewhere along the way, the lines between work and home got blurred. Perhaps it is a question of older children, older children issues. Perhaps it is one too many days of job-hunting from home while also being in charge of meeting buses and going on field trips and taking kids to classes. It is less easy to separate home from work, less easy to know that home will survive while work goes on in that "foreign country" across town. Somewhere along the way, the pattern was broken, and it is not simple to recreate it.

The funny thing about patterns is that, even when we don't realize it, they control our lives. Even when we think we live in chaos, it is a chaos within patterns and structures we have set up. Even if we are creating new things every day, we are often doing so within a world of patterns that we know. The patterns help us know where to go and underlie what we need to do. And it's often not until the patterns are broken or changed that we remember that they were there in the first place.


Patterns can change, perhaps more quickly than they once did. The challenge, then, is working within patterns, but working on having them bend rather than break, so that when changes occur, we too can bend to handle them.

Even as I write, the pattern is changing again. Production jobs change constantly, and the patterns that go with them have to change too. The best we can do, then, for our patterns and for ourselves, is to bend--just without breaking.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'll Be You

Many years ago, I worked with a director at One Life to Live who gave some of his best notes by saying "I'll be you," and proceeding to demonstrate what he wanted the actor in question to do. As you might imagine, this became particularly memorable when you saw him "being" a child, an ingenue, or a dog. Quite often, however, it was a far more effective, and efficient (and soaps thrived on efficiency!) way to convey a note than just saying what he wanted.

As I prepared today to step into slightly different job shoes, I found myself trying to "be" the person whose job I'd be doing. After all, shadowing someone is generally an effective way to learn--more effective than just reading a manual. What I realized along the way, however, is that while I might watch carefully for a guide for how to be, my way of doing the job might actually be quite different. I could try to imagine myself "being" the person I watched, but when I stepped in, I would almost certainly do it differently. And I suppose that as long as I could pull out the main points from the "I'll be you" lesson, I would be okay. Clearly, those ingenues would not be acting the scenes the same way as their middle aged male director. But if they were able to pull some guidance about blocking or intention from the "I'll be you" exercise, then it would have been a success.

We'll see how I do, "being" the person I've been watching. It seems to me that good performance comes from both attention to "I'll be you" and infusion of the role we're playing with the skills and talent that are uniquely ours. "I'll be you," then, is not an instruction book, but an interactive demo video of sorts, one that we can adapt to our own needs. And if the combination of what we bring and what we've learned accomplishes the task or the emotion or the needs at hand, then the "I'll be you" exercise has been worthwhile. We can never really be what we see in "I'll be you." We can simply allow it to make "us being us" a whole lot better.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where Working Meets Middle School

It's hard to be a grownup, isn't it? A working grownup, especially, whether the working is at home or caring for kids or at a workplace or simply looking for work.

I have begun to realize, however, that being a grown up working person is not that different from being in middle school...

1. No matter where you're working, and what kind of work you're doing, you almost always have to please multiple people at the same time. Kind of like the English teacher and the math teacher and the science teacher, each of whom expects that you can spend your whole evening doing homework for his or her class.

2. The people you talk to matter. When you're a grownup, you call it networking, but it's really not so different from thinking about who you're gonna sit with at lunch.

3. The amount of money you have in your pocket can really affect your outlook . Sure, for a grownup, it's about paying the bills and for a middle schooler, just about getting a snack with the group, but either way, it matters.

4. People can say harsh, even mean, things. Do your best, and develop a thick skin, and you will hold up better for the long haul.

5. Sometimes, the travel back and forth is the hardest part.

6. Social media may help you stay in the loop, but only as long as you don't let it take over your life.

7. In both work and middle school (well, at least middle school in NYC), getting in seems like the hardest part. It's not easy, but it's just the first step--and hopefully, it gets better from there.

8. That feeling of wanting (needing?) to be the best, the fastest, the funniest, the most liked doesn't go away, does it?

9. Middle school is temporary. Turns out, many times, so is work. In either case, if you've loved it, you can walk away with good memories. And if you haven't, well, it's not forever.

Think you're far beyond middle school? Think again. It's middle school, all day, every day. Hopefully just with a little more experience helping you to handle it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Open Mind, Insert ______

In the last few years, I have had more new experiences than I can count. In addition to parenting (which, I suppose, is a new experience every day), I have ended up in a variety of work (and not working) situations, each of which has come with its own set of rules and challenges. How is it that you take what you know and adapt it to handle what you don't know? How do you take what's old and adapt it to something new?

What I am learning each day is that an open mind is the best thing I can take into any new situation. I used to think that I had to have a font of knowledge. Perhaps, to a certain extent, that is true. The knowledge from previous experiences can certainly help with the new ones. But rely too much on the old, and you are likely not to adapt to the new. Keep looking for what you knew somewhere else, and you are likely to miss seeing what is in front of you.

What I am learning, perhaps slowly, is that one of the best tools in my bag of tricks is an open mind--open enough to try something new, open enough to support the people who are new, open enough to see what might work and what can change. It's not about throwing away what came before. It's about really seeing--and working with--what is coming now.

With an open mind, just about anything is possible, and as far as I can tell, that's a pretty good way to think in a freelance world. So if you're filling in that blank, perhaps it's "Open mind, insert possibilities." Yep. That works. Until it's time to open your mind again and try something else.

Monday, December 15, 2014

All The Difference

There are days when I know first thing in the morning exactly what to write. And there are days when it takes until the very end of the day to have any idea. Today, it took until the very end of the day to realize that what was most blogworthy was what had happened first thing in the morning.

It was a productive day, full of working at home and cleaning (both the short-term and the long-term kind). It was a day of finding things (cleaning will frequently do that for you) and discovering things (when you work without the presence of tech support, you learn to troubleshoot yourself). It was a day when I could say, and see, that I had done a lot of things. But when it came to writing, I wondered what all--or any--of that meant.

And then, I thought about what had started my day (well, not quite started, as I began working quite early, but you get the idea). In the midst of the working and the cleaning and the "oh, my gosh, how will I get it all done," I met a friend for coffee. And, in the words of Robert Frost, "that has made all the difference."

Now, you could argue that it was the jolt of caffeine that gave me the spring in my step and the energy to accomplish the work and the cleaning. I'm sure that the caffeine didn't hurt. But what really carried me through was the having met in the first place. In the scheme of a busy weekend, it would have been very easy to say "another time." In the midst of so much to do, it would have been logical not to go out at all. Yet, in defying ease and logic, I invited support and understanding and laughter. In spending an hour drinking coffee, I infused my day with the feeling of being accepted--no matter what I accomplished, thought about--even when so many days leave no time for thinking, and important--even when what I do doesn't always seem important. The "all the difference" was not about a hearty dose of caffeine. It was about the dose of friendship that we all would do well to take each day.

I would venture to say that I accomplished more today than I would have, had I not taken the hour for coffee and the chance to see a friend. Sometimes the road you take in the morning makes all the difference...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It Seems Wrong...

...that children who stay up later than they should and sleep less than they ought to still have enough energy to talk their tired parents into just about anything.

...that takeout meals happen more during the week, because you're busy, than on the weekends, when you're relaxing.

...that all the things you never learned haunt you and many of the things you did learn escape you.

...that having a person come to clean your house requires getting your house clean enough to be cleaned by someone who doesn't live in it.

...that when you're working, you have the money, but when you're not working, you have the time.

...that it takes more time to clean up from the home-cooked gourmet meal than you spent eating the home-cooked gourmet meal.

...that you're so busy seeing to it that your kids have opportunities that you sometimes forget to take the opportunity to see your kids.

...that the only way you seem to be able to accomplish enough on the weekends is to get up as early as you do on the weekdays.

...that in order to get rid of the dust that's making you sneeze, you have to get eye to eye (and nose to nose) with the the dust that's making you sneeze.

...that working faster doesn't necessarily give you more time to play.

...that there aren't a few more Saturdays in the week.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"But You've Only Done..."

Over the last few years, I have joked many times about the difficulty of moving from one genre of TV to another. It's often as if potential employers are saying "You've only ever done 22 minute shows, and here we do 23 minute shows. How could you possibly understand what we do?"

Clearly, this is an exaggeration, but while no one has actually said those exact words, the attitude is out there, making it hard to transition between genres. There have, I'll admit, been moments when I realized that certain production models really wouldn't match up with my skill set. But there have also been many times when I could see the same patterns across multiple genres--where clearly, "someone used to 22 minute shows" could perfectly well deal with "23 minute ones." And my recent weekly travels between news editing and sitcom audience switching (how much more different could those genres be?) have provided some great examples of that...

Does making sure the news stories are edited in time for the broadcast really require so different a skill set than making sure cameras have their shots in time for the action of the scene?

Does making sure you have the pieces you need to edit the story properly really require so different a skill set than communicating constantly with audio, video, and post to make sure you have the pieces for the shooting of a show?

Does looking for ways to generate edited news clips faster really require so different a skill set than looking for ways to make studio production more efficient?

Does choosing the most compelling shots to show assorted world chaos really require so different a skill set than choosing the shot that will best show the the star's entrance, the stunt, or the joke?

There have been times when I have realized that perhaps I can't make every possible leap between productions, but thanks to some lucky opportunities, I have also realized first-hand that the so-called "23 minute shows" have a a lot more in common than their "22 minute" counterparts than one might think. The bridges in between are there. Perhaps someday, it won't be only the lucky opportunity that allows us to cross them.

Friday, December 12, 2014

In and Out of Sync

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What You Find...Sometimes

Sometimes, celebration is found in the small moments, just as much as in the big events.

Sometimes, happiness is found in the effort made, just as much as in the result accomplished.

Sometimes, peace is found in the cacophony of togetherness, just as much as in the quiet of solitude.

Sometimes, learning is found in the day to day interactions, just as much as in the scheduled courses.

Sometimes, friendship is found in the little emails, just as much as in the well-planned get-togethers.

Sometimes, warmth is found in a real hug, just as much as in a giant parka.

Sometimes, appreciation is found in the on the run "thank-yous," just as much as in the cards and the pronouncements.

Sometimes, love is found in the little words and deeds, just as much as in the grand gestures.

Sometimes, what we're looking for can be found in the places we wouldn't expect, so it's important to keep our eyes open. All the time. For the big things, and the small.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Channeling My Inner...Me

I went to work today wearing a Snoopy pullover, Snoopy earrings, and red boots. Obviously, I don't work in a bank or a corporate office. Still, these choices were "out there" choices for work, even for me in my production/post-production life.

As I made my way to work, I thought about what people might think, and about how I'd decided to leave the house dressed this way, and the only thing I could think was that I was channeling my inner--not child, exactly, because it wasn't childhood I was looking for. Not my inner weekend, because it wasn't just a choice of being casual. What I was channeling, I realized, was myself--the self who has loved Snoopy for years (and owns Snoopy earrings from the Mall of America to prove it), the self who enjoys bright colors and wacky socks, the Muppets, and old music.

Most days, we walk out of our homes, dressed and prepared to show the world exactly what we want the world to see--us as business people, us as hip to the latest trends, us as the right size or the right shape, or the right fit for where we are. Obviously, there are times when this is unavoidable--corporate work demands corporate attire, "black tie" means "black tie" (or some version thereof). Yet, we choose how we present ourselves not just at those times, but most of the time. We choose to present ourselves to the world not so much as who we are, but as we would like people to see us in any given moment.

Today, I channeled my inner me--the me that sometimes gets pushed to the back in favor of the me I'm trying to present each day. It felt good. Will I be wearing Snoopy daily from now on? I doubt it. But channeling my inner me reminded me that at least sometimes, it's okay for the world, and us, to see a little bit of who we really are.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What You Bring To The Table

One of my favorite parts of working on a soap was dry rehearsal, the early (painfully early) morning rehearsal, in which the director and actors came together to walk through the blocking of the day's scenes, usually in a large mirrored room, where the available tables and chairs were rearranged to form restaurants and hospital rooms and doorways and airplanes. As a PA, I timed the rehearsal (and kept track of cuts and people coming in late and notes that would have to get to other departments). As an AD, I copied shot information from the director's script into my own, and tried to imagine the scenes from the camera's eye view. And later, as a director, I got to share my vision of the day's scenes with the actors and learn from and adjust to what they brought to the table.

Brought to the table--perhaps that phrase describes what I liked best about dry rehearsal. While there were certainly people who picked up the script for the first time as they walked in the door, many of the actors arrived having worked on the material for days before (not easy, when they might have shot completely different scenes on the days before). Either way, however, the best among them brought a great deal of their own preparation into that room. They didn't just appear, waiting to be told what to do. They brought with them their own particular thoughts about the characters, or feelings about the scenes, or opinions about the long story. There were days when it was too much, when I watched the precious minutes of rehearsal tick away, as director and actors worked through a scene. But in the end, I tended to be impressed when everyone had that kind of investment, when that work happened because the different people "brought something to the table." Sometimes things took longer because the players were invested enough to have different opinions, but almost without fail, the work was better when that something was brought.

I've been thinking a lot recently about that phrase. As I, and many of the people around me, try new things, jump into new roles, how do we make these transitions work? What I learned in dry rehearsal all those years ago still rings true. When people bring something to the table--be it knowledge, or previous experience, or critical thinking, or even just the kind of curiosity that makes you dig deeper and ask the important questions, the entire production benefits. On a soap, it didn't matter whether half of the people in dry rehearsal showed up in their pajamas (it was early, and the actors would be spending hours in fancy makeup and costumes, so who could blame them?). What mattered was that they came "ready to play," that they brought their particular skill set "to the table" and used it to make the work better.

As I have made my way through a freelance life, when I have wondered why my skill set hasn't always gotten me job offers left and right, I have also learned how much I do "bring to the table"--skills learned from working, to be sure, but also the skills and knowledge acquired from reading, observing, parenting, and being an active participant in the world around me. What you "bring to the table" isn't always list-able on a résumé. But it matters, perhaps more than any line in "Experience," "Education," or "Special Skills." And while what exactly you "bring" matters, it matters more that you bring it--whether it's to the table, or to the rehearsal hall, or to wherever else you go.

Monday, December 8, 2014

When The Dust Settles

It is dusty in my apartment. Unbelievably dusty. Sneezy, eyes watering, antihistamine dusty.

Now, dust is a fact of life in New York City. I have visited people's homes all over, and nowhere but here does the dust start accumulating as soon as you create a new surface.

In this case, however, it is a cloud of dust somewhat of our own making. For, while dust happens daily, the kind of dust I'm talking about here is the "when you go through things, you find it" kind of dust. And, as many of the things we are going through are twenty year (or more) old things--well, you do the math. These aren't dust bunnies. They are dust dinosaurs.

So, I am sneezing.
But I am hopeful. I am hoping that when the dust settles...


...We will have found some long lost somethings.

...We will have eliminated some of the somethings that have done nothing for us but gather dust for twenty years.

...We will have fought over what to keep and what to toss, and reconciled over the results.

...We will have remembered good things that get forgotten in the rush of daily life and growing kids.

...We will have smiled over baby pictures and preschool art.

...We will have reminded ourselves that it's possible to keep the memories without keeping every single memento.

...We will have created pathways, both concrete and abstract ones, that we can use going forward.

...We will have shown our kids that cleaning up can be more than just a weekly chore, it can be an opportunity for discovery.

...We will have created an environment with a little less dust and a little more function.

...We will be a little more equipped  for living here comfortably, and for for moving from here, should we ever need to.

...We will have created a space that is more open, more workable, and more "us now" than "us then."

I am still sneezing--the dust hasn't quite settled yet, except in my head. But I'm beginning to see through it. When the dust settles, I can tell, the picture's going to be a whole lot clearer.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breaking Through

Sometimes it feels as though the hard things are hard and the easy things are hard, and that you're never going to make any progress at all. After all, shouldn't hard work and desire and general aptitude make most things possible? Isn't that what we were taught growing up? Learn what you're supposed to learn, and keep at it, and you'll make it, whatever and wherever "it" is.

But some days, it feels as though all the general aptitude in the world just can't keep up fast enough with the world. Sometimes it feels as though everything you've learned has somehow become worthless when you turned your back for an instant. Sometimes it feels as though it will take a lot more "sticking with it" than you have the energy for.

Luckily, sometimes, there is a breakthrough. Some piece of a task that suddenly clicks. A new view of a situation that reminds you that you know more than you think. A long-lost item that gets found in the search. A person who reminds you that the aptitude is still there. It's just resting up for a "need to know" mission.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, there is a breakthrough. It's not always easy to hang in for. It often comes far beyond the time in which you would have given up. But it is possible, and it's real, and it can be what keeps you going until the next one.

I have almost given up, a few times this week, and too many times to count over the years. I have almost given up on jobs, on home improvement, on teaching my kids something I want them to know. But I've seen it happen--that "ding" of breakthrough, that little thought bubble of "aha!" So I'm hanging in. Staying in the game until that breakthrough comes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How're You Doing?

How many times a day do you ask or answer that question? How many times do you really know what you're asking, and how many times do you really know what's being asked? And how many times do you really want to hear the answer?

Is it "How're you doing?" meaning "Is this a good time?" or "How're you doing?" because you look a little under the weather, or "How're you doing?" because a person would like to say more than "Hi" but less than "How has your day been so far?"

And what about the answer? Is the answer to "How're you doing?" "Great!" because you want to appear happy to a boss or a friend or a stranger, or "Okay, I guess," because there's so much okay and not okay stuff swirling in your head that you're not sure, or "Not so great today," when you really want to vent a little?

The truth is, "How're you doing" can go any which way, for the asker and the askee. As I said to a co-worker today, in an exchange of "How're you doing?" that went in all possible directions, it's rare that the answer to "How're you doing?" is ever perfect on all fronts at the same time. When work is going well, it's the kids, when the kids are doing you proud, it's that nasty fall cold, and when you are perfectly healthy, and even well-rested, there is inevitably a work situation ready to put a monkey wrench in all of it.

So, go ahead, ask "How're you doing?" It's a bit friendlier than "Hi," and much more concise than "Tell me about your life." Just be prepared for what you hear--the answer just might surprise you.

Friday, December 5, 2014

One Day Only, Hours Left, Ends Tonight

My inbox is full of them--reminders that I can save, but only for a limited time, that I can make all my friends and relatives happy at the holidays, but only if I act now, and that I must make time in my schedule to shop online, in-store, but most of all, TODAY.

There are some among these many emails that I automatically delete--stores whose list I am on because I shopped there once or entered a contest once or simply fell into the chain of online marketing. But each day, there are also many that catch my attention--might that be an unusual gift for that hard to buy for someone? And at 20 or 30 or 50 percent off, how can I go wrong, right?

So, each morning, as the emails fly in, I consider. I plan. I use far more than my available time and brain space to think about how I will act on them. And then I go about my day, which most of the time leaves no time for any of it, and before I know it, I have missed the "one day only," even with the multiple reminders of "hours left."

I could just delete them all each day. I could limit myself to saving just a few, so that I might have a fighting chance of acting on any, instead of being overwhelmed by many. But somehow, whether I use them or not, whether I simply delete them in a mass elimination effort at the end of the week, I like having them there. I like believing that if I act, I will get a deal or a bargain or the perfect item for someone on my list. And I like knowing that I have a time limit to do it, even if I end up on the wrong side of that time limit at least 80 percent of the time (now THAT would be a nice discount).

Today was no different--I missed an "extra 15% off--last day" and a "35% off--15 hours only." What can I say? Life gets in the way, and other deadlines tend to outweigh those.

Not to worry--my inbox will be full again tomorrow, and as for the "limited time only"? I am quite sure it will start all over again.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What If? And What Is.

I made my way to work, same as always. (Okay, it's not actually always the same, as I throw in errands and detours and parent responsibilities almost every day. But I digress). So--as I made my way to work, not quite the same as ever (ahh, that's better), I found myself noticing new buildings, and wondering what it would be like to work in those buildings (the work perhaps being totally different than what I do now) and signs for new stores, and wondering how my path might change with the opening of those new stores (in some glorious expanse of free time that wasn't accompanied by a depressing expanse of no income). Suddenly, a trip to work became a trip into my imagination, an exercise in "what would happen if..." Why, I wonder, when we work so hard to achieve normalcy--an almost unattainable goal, as a parent or as a working person--do we find ourselves so curious about change?

I continued heading to work, where much was normal. I faced the normal challenges, inserted my own creative voice when necessary (sometimes) and my own efficient pace when appropriate (pretty much always). And in the midst of the "normalcy," I fielded calls and emails to handle the breaks in normalcy from the other parts of my life. And I realized how "okay" my normalcy was. While the imagination journey, my walk of "what if?" on my way to work, had been freeing, my day of relative normalcy was actually freeing as well. We can't help wondering "what if." Wondering keeps our eyes and ears and mind open, and that is rarely a bad thing. But in the midst of all that imagination, the normalcy of where we are now can be freeing too--freeing us to manage what is never a normal life, freeing us to enjoy seeing that we can do what is needed, freeing us by letting us work with people who have come to understand and appreciate us.

There's nothing wrong with imagining--it keeps us one step closer to whatever may come our way, and that much more alert in what we're dealing with now. But while we go freeing our minds to imagine "what if," it's not a bad idea once in a while to enjoy--and appreciate--a little bit of "what is."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Unbalanced Balance

After several last minute school tours (you don't get the "first minute" ones unless you sign up immediately, and, alas, life got in the way of that), we took a deep breath and turned in our "school choice" form. "Choice" here is a relative term, but it is a step in the process, not the last step, but a big one, and we took it.

And then I went to work.

What we had done seemed monumental--the culmination of research and visits and discussions and (at least for me) angst. And yet, when it was over, I was editing as though nothing had changed, having conversations about current affairs as if nothing had changed, celebrating and bemoaning the same things as always, as if nothing had changed.

I guess that's the blessing and the curse of working. Had I been home, I might have been able to think about the process or our choices all day, but surrounded by work colleagues who likely had no interest or investment in the process I had just completed (and why should they?), all I could do was shelve my thoughts and do my work.  At times, that felt like a sad thing. Had I been home, I might have ended up stewing or second-guessing all day, but surrounded by the responsibilities of work, I had little time or brain space for stewing or second-guessing. All I could do was shelve my stewing and do my work. And maybe that was a good thing.

Every day, we make personal choices that may affect how we work but can't affect how we are at work. I guess that is just part of the balance--being able to hold the personal strongly enough in our minds that even when we have to put it aside for the professional, we never really let it go. And concentrating enough on the professional that we allow it, when we need, to give us a little relief from the second-guessing of the personal. Most of the time, it is an unbalanced balance, and yet, we manage.

I have hope that when the results of our choice form arrive many months from now, I will still be working. (For a person who has been out of work--ever--that is generally the goal). And when that day comes, I will once again face the unbalanced balance. The same way I do now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Do I?

What do I listen to--what my kids want, or what I believe is good for them?

What do I look for--the best, or the best fit?

What do I respond to--the importance, or the money?

What do I see--the upside, or the downsides?

What do I hear--what other people think, or what matters to me?

What do I strive for--accomplishment, or simplicity?

What do I aspire to--parent of the year, or just the best person I can be for today?

What do I understand--only what is in front of me, or what the things I can't see will mean?

What do I feel--exhilarated, challenged, or overwhelmed?

What do I choose--what seems right right now, or what will still be right, even if things change?

What do I know--what will check all the boxes, or what will make people happy?

What do I listen to--the noise all around, or the stillness within myself?

How will I know what's right--or do I just accept not knowing?

When will I learn--or does learning come after the listening and the seeing and the feeling and the understanding, mostly when it's much too late?

What do I do?

What I can. Because that is all any of us can do.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Women of a Certain Age

Several years ago, shortly after my time at ABC had ended, I met a longtime friend--one of those friends you may rarely see but who seems to understand you anyway--to talk about my next steps. As she had also changed jobs several times, each job seeming (at least to me) more interesting than the last, I figured she would have good advice to give.

"Have coffee," she said. "Almost anyone is willing to take the time it takes for a cup of coffee to share his or her experiences with you." I have had many cups of coffee since then.

"Talk to lots of women your age," she added. Now, for all the years I'd been working, I'd never thought much about age. I had worked with people both older and younger than I, and I'd spent far more time considering how they did their jobs than how old they were or where they were in their careers. So, to seek out women my own age was kind of a new concept. I tried, I think, though in reality, I probably focused more on people's jobs than on their ages or places in life.

Yet, this weekend, as I found myself in email exchanges with four "women my age," (more about schools for our kids than about jobs for ourselves) simultaneously, I thought back to what my friend had said. There was, I could feel, this underlying shared experience, an understanding about a place in our lives, both as women and as parents, that made the dialogue so simple, and yet incredibly satisfying. In that moment, I somehow finally understood what my friend had proposed all those years ago. We "women of a certain age" feel what it is like to be accomplished, yet always potentially on the cusp of having to start over. We share a feeling of being young daily, but perhaps older than we thought when we have a birthday. We share that feeling of being seasoned parents still coming up against parenting situations that challenge us. We understand because we have "been there," or at least come awfully close. It's not that we can't communicate with and learn from the older and the younger. There are always things to be learned. It's simply that we can have a shorthand that helps us get to the learning a little more quickly.

So, today, I give thanks to, and for, all those "women of a certain age" who make my life easier, more interesting, and, let's face it, a whole lot more fun.