Monday, March 31, 2014


Quite often, I am tired when I write. Frequently, the demands of a day, be they work, or home management, or parenthood, take a great deal of energy. By the time I am writing, it is either the end of a long day or the very early start to a new one, and often I wish I could be in a warm cozy bed, not a care in the world.

Today, I heard a 96 year old man speak. More specifically, a 96 year old Holocaust survivor, who spent years of his young life hiding in factory stalls and forests, not eating for days, and escaping from multiple concentration camps. He told his story with clarity and with details I wouldn't remember for a week, much less 70 years. You could have believed it was an adventure novel, except you knew it was real.

As his talk ended, I couldn't help but wonder how I, or any of us, who tire from everyday life and who long for our cozy beds, would have handled such a situation. At every turn, this man realized he needed to act in order to survive. At every turn, he did what needed to be done, both for himself and, when possible, for his family. I pictured him walking for miles without food when I have a hard time even moving in the morning without breakfast and coffee. I pictured him thinking constantly about his next strategy, safeguarding possessions by burying them, safeguarding relatives by teaching them codes. There was no time for relaxing on the couch or lounging with a newspaper.

Obviously, we are lucky to live in a very different time. But perspective, whether it is from a survivor of extreme things or from a neighbor whose life is just a bit more complicated than our own, is something that we need, no matter what our time and place. It might not keep us from being tired or craving the comforts that surround us, but it is a reminder that we too can survive. In a way much less heroic than this 96 year old speaker, but survive nonetheless.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Sometimes, life would be better if we got our way more often.

Sometimes, life would be better if we could compromise more easily.

Sometimes, life would be better if we didn't surround ourselves with so much stuff.

Sometimes, life would be better if we didn't fill our heads with so much other stuff.

Sometimes, life would be better if we made more time for our friends.

Sometimes, life would be better if we had more patience with our families.

Sometimes, life would be better if we had time every day to go to the gym.

Sometimes, life would be better if we had eight hours (or more) every day dedicated to sleep.

Sometimes, life would be better if we forgot about all of our screens and devices.

Sometimes, life would be better if all of our screens and devices worked right when we wanted them to.

Sometimes, life would be better if the laundry did itself, and if dust just stayed wherever it is that dust comes from.

But sometimes, the only thing that can really make life better is a little (or a lot) more chocolate....

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taking Stock

Early on in my One Life To Live career, I saw a play called Taking Stock, which was directed by an actress on my show, and starred her husband. One of the perks of working on soaps in New York was going to the theater and seeing people on stage whom you knew personally. It wasn't that the tickets were free (though once in a while they were). It was just a nice feeling of being part of something exciting.

But I digress. I was reminded of this particular play (Taking Stock, that is) as we faced down our taxes tonight. Tax season is always stressful, requiring gathering of papers that have ended up here, there, and everywhere, and making phone calls or sending emails to acquire information we either can't find or never got.

What I realized this year, though, was how doing our taxes is kind of a "taking stock" moment (well, more like series of hours). As we calculate what was made and what was spent, we are also going back over the year in question. We remember things we did, and things we didn't do, and how the year differed from the one before and from the one we are in now (particularly interesting during these past few years of on and off work). The bills and receipts actually tell a story, a story that we normally just see word by word (merely getting through each day of our lives), but at tax time, can see as a whole sequence.

As our tax prep tends to be a multi-day process, I haven't "read" the whole book yet. But I am beginning to get a feel for the chapters. And as I do so, it's becoming easier to take stock of the year that has passed. We may not have liked it all, but we survived it, and stepping back, we can more easily see what worked and what we hope might be different when we do taxes next year.

It's not always easy to "take stock" of our lives. It's often more comforting (even if chaotic) simply to race through the days and not try to look at the whole picture. But taking stock forces us to take a glimpse, even just for a moment, of where we've been, and to look forward to where we are going.

And as we go through those chaotic days, sometimes it's nice to have had that glimpse, to have "taken stock."

Friday, March 28, 2014

A New Chapter--Session 2

A month ago, in a post called "A New Chapter," I wrote about joining a writing group in which I'd be penning a chapter of a children's book. I had decided that new chapters in life are worth it, so I took on the challenge. I was excited, and I was scared.

Tonight, as I made my way to Session 2, mostly I was queasy. Over the last month, in the midst of a busy life, I had generated a chapter, but over the last month, I had also read other people's chapters--chapters that seemed to have far more details and more plot and more original ideas than mine. Was I really qualified to be in this group, and more immediately, would I get through the few hours of Session 2 without having a nervous breakdown or a fainting spell or both?

The fact that I am writing now fairly well confirms that I didn't have that nervous breakdown, and I'm reasonably certain that I was conscious the whole time--no fainting spells. And while I felt my head about to explode for most of the evening, I was far from alone. By the end, I was exhausted, but I was no longer queasy.

On the way to making a coherent book, each of us will have a lot of editing to do. As I learned when I was directing segments on One Life to Live, no amount of creativity makes up for parts (scenes then, chapters now) that don't fit together. So I will be adjusting along the way--seeing what works and what doesn't, and allowing my chapter to start becoming part of a whole. On One Life, where scenes for a single show were shot on a variety of days (and pickups from one show to another might be shot weeks apart), directors had to work within the layout of sets, and had to pick up character and prop positions from each other. There were certain "rules" of geography and history that had to be followed. Here, I will need to follow not just the emotions of my character, but the "rules" of the book as well. It might be awkward. But as a friend of mine put it, awkward often just means you're learning.

I figure I'll be doing a lot more learning in this next month. And, with any luck, I will walk into Session 3 with a stronger chapter--and without feeling quite so queasy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview Questions

As a person who was unemployed (or out of work, between jobs, freelancing--take your pick!) for what seemed like a very long time, I am always fascinated by the whole job search (and rescue?) process.

I have, over the years, been ignored by job posters and Facebook job networking groups, and I have, quite often, evaporated into the ether of online application forms. I have been on interviews that went so quickly that if they started early, they ended before their scheduled start times. I have waited on things that sounded promising, but never came to pass.

I have also been hired sight unseen from a networking site, hired through just emails by a person who "heard about me," and hired to "start tomorrow" on a job I knew little about except that a friend referred me.

On the flip side, I have watched friends of mine go through multiple many-hour interviews for each job that comes up. Hours upon hours of their time are spent preparing and rehearsing, not to mention getting to and from the location many times and talking for hours to teams and leaders and everyone (it seems) who might possibly have contact with them should they get the job. I don't think they necessarily get the jobs any more often than I do. They just walk down a longer path to the disappointment.

So, how can it be that the process is so different in their world and in mine? Perhaps it's that in my field, since most jobs are freelance, there's no obligation to find the exact "right" person. The person might be in the job for such a short time that it doesn't matter, and, being freelance, could be cut loose on Day 2, no questions asked, if things aren't working out. And if the person knows how to do the work or operate the equipment, does that person's overall knowledge of the field or work ethic really matter?

As I talk to friends who have had to go the long interview route, I can't help but wonder--do you really get to know someone better by putting her/him through a marathon series of interviews? Is the time spent really time that makes a difference when hiring choices are made? I may wonder sometimes about what can seem arbitrary in my field, but it's hard for me to watch friends jump through hoops, over and over, only to have to do so again when long interview processes produce no results.

I am not, and may never be, a hiring manager (unless you count my hiring of babysitters over the years), and I am sure that there are ins and outs I don't know. (And, for the record, I happen to think that work ethic does matter, even on a short-term freelance job.)

My question is--if job searching is hard regardless, why are we making it even harder?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


My son curls up next to me to read, and he asks, "Have you done your blog yet?"

"No," I answer, "but I'll think of what to write about, and if necessary, I'll write it in the morning."

As he has expected, I'm sure, I am asleep before I've even strung two sentences of an idea together.

One of the great things about kids is that, if you let them, they know you pretty well. Another of the great (and, okay, sometimes not so great) things about kids is that they hold you accountable. They remind you--over and over--that everyone else's parent will be at Family Friday. They remind you that you still haven't bought them that electronic gizmo that they still want and you said (did you really?) you would. They stand next to you until you feed them what they perceive to be a real dinner (cereal is not dinner food).

We are all accountable in one way or another--to our bosses or to our friends, to our parents or to the IRS. Accountability is a big pain sometimes. But when we make a commitment to ourselves (say, this blog), accountability becomes more like encouragement. For me, every time I talk to someone who reads the blog, I am accountable. For me, every time I see the growing number of posts or the growing number of views, I am accountable. And every time I feel how I do writing a new one, I am accountable. What's special about this accountability is that it is ultimately to myself. I may love that people read, and that once in a while, I provide a thought or a laugh that helps their day, but in the end, I am doing right by a commitment I made to myself. And accountability for that--no matter where it comes from, is always appreciated.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


I returned to work today, after just a few days away. The thing is, I was so "away," mentally, at least--my time filled with numerous personal errands that needed full attention--that it almost felt as though I'd been gone for weeks.

As I re-acclimated to being in a workplace, focused on the tasks at hand and the people to whom I am responsible, however, what I realized (aside from how tired personal stuff can make you) was how grateful I was that there was work to return to. (Forgive me, all the English teachers in my life, for the preposition at the end of the sentence!)

Any number of times in the last few years, "returning" from personal business days would simply have meant returning to job listings and focus on a phone that didn't ring or an inbox filling with junk mail instead of job mail. Returning was certainly not a relief--rather, it was an obligation, and an often unforgiving one at that.

So today, when I returned to people who had missed me, and tasks that, after a short re-entry time, I knew exactly how to accomplish, I breathed a sigh of relief. And smiled a smile of gratitude.

Time away, even just mentally, may be important, but having somewhere where you can return makes that time seem a whole lot better.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Knitting Lessons

I spent a bit of time today at the knitting class in my building.

Didn't take me for a knitter, did you? I'm not--well, I wasn't--but when the building's community committee announced the class, my son was fascinated. He is a clever guy with all sorts of things you create with your hands (not just Legos), so he and I went last week, and by the end of two hours, we were off and running. Today, at the follow up, one of his sisters joined us. Have we made sweaters yet? No, but we all have growing "something's" on our knitting needles.

Why is this blogworthy? Well, I might talk about how therapeutic it was to step away from life's responsibilities for a while, or how endearing it was to watch a room full of older women share their knitting experience with my kids. But the reason that compelled me to write about this was something the teacher said as a woman was bemoaning a stitch mistake she'd made. "It's not a mistake," the teacher said. "It just didn't turn out the way you expected."

What she said was so simple, and obviously, it was meant as an encouragement to people who were learning something new. But in the course of the day, I continued to think about her words, and how transferable they are to so many things we face in life. We can choose to think of a lot of the things we do as mistakes. Which is, frankly, debilitating. Of course, we can pull out all the sayings about learning from mistakes, which might be great, and are probably true, but to think of some of those mistakes simply as things that turned out differently than expected seems a lot more productive. It's not that we can't learn from them. It's just that we can also view them as just variations that we might not otherwise have seen.

I'm not sure I will get any farther than a scarf, but I know I'm finding this knitting thing to be a welcome diversion from some of the mundane or stressful things in life.

Who knew that I'd come away with a life lesson as well?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dark Days

When I was first working at One Life to Live, there were very few days when the show was dark (not taping). After all, with a show airing every weekday, there was a lot to do. By the end, we were "six-packing," shooting the equivalent of six or seven shows in five days, so that there were holidays and even whole weeks when the studio was dark. It saved the show money and gave staff and crew an often much-needed break. A break to be with family on holidays or to accomplish personal business. While it was primarily a cost-cutting measure, it had the side effect of implying that it was okay to stop for a holiday or family event. It was okay if One Life to Live was on TV that day, but you weren't working on One Life to Live that day.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying that today, a family event took precedence over the blog, not just because of time constraints, but because of emotional ones as well. Sometimes, as in both the early and the later days of One Life to Live, it is okay to put work, whatever it may be, on hold for family. And though I guess I did not really end up doing that here, I at least gave myself the option of the "dark day."

Because, let's face it, we all need the option of a "dark day" once in a while.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Quite often, it feels as though we act alone. That our efforts are a little in a vacuum, and that no one knows exactly what we are dealing with, and that the outcome of our efforts lives or dies based only on our effort.

Yet, once in a while (more than that, if we are lucky), we are reminded that we are NOT really acting alone--that there is help if we ask for it (and sometimes even if we don't ask). There is appreciation for the work we have done, and the results we have created. All because, even when we think we are acting alone, we are part of a community.

For many of us, there are multiple communities--those we enter by ourselves, and those we are part of by virtue of our kids or our jobs or our hobbies. But however we become part of a community, we benefit only by leaving ourselves open enough, letting our guard down enough, to let the community help us. It may feel simpler to act alone, but it can be far more satisfying to act within a community.

I looked around today and realized there's community all around me. Even if I seem to act alone, I'm really glad it's there.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Eight Hour Shifts

I feel quite confident that my day today was more than 24 hours. The funny thing about not working (I took today off to deal with life stuff) is that time boundaries become blurred. At work, you know that you are at least starting with an eight hour work day (Okay, well, many of the jobs I've had started with a 12). You know that you are traveling a certain amount to and a certain amount from, and you know that you will have a "shift" before work, getting your household out the door, and a "shift" after work, dealing with homework and dinner. Sure, things may spill over. You may work longer. The evening "shift" may run longer than you'd like. But you more or less know how your day will break down.

On a day off, particularly one taken for the purpose of getting things done, there aren't really shifts. There are just tasks and an urgency to use every minute, and stretches of time not really broken up by defined periods of travel. You'd think that a work day feels long, just by virtue of it being work. But a day off, at least in this case, can feel like three. (Even my son commented at the end of the day about how it had felt like more than one day).

I would like to think that my feeling of a more than 24 hour day means that I accomplished a tremendous amount. Perhaps that is true. But if you think you are surviving work all week, just waiting for the days to be over, try taking a "get things done" day. It'll make those work days look a lot more like the 8ish-hour days they really are.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Impressions

Today, I met a woman who just started work where I am working. She introduced herself, and she asked where I had worked before this. Impressed with her poise and outgoing nature, I told her that I came from soaps (she found the soaps-to-news thing fascinating), and that I spent many years never imagining working in news, but had found news to be an interesting reminder of the control room urgency that I had loved so much.

"Where were you before?" I asked her. She replied that she had graduated from college not that long ago (and implied that this was her big break, after a series of small freelance jobs). While it had been clear to me that she was young, I hadn't really considered that she might be right out of school. Her self-assuredness belied her young age, and her natural curiosity about meeting new people and finding out where they came from was refreshing. As I walked away from our conversation, I hoped that a person like that would go far.

The reality is, whether you are a recent college graduate, or a long-time professional, this job thing is not easy. It is not easy to walk into new places (much less even to have the door opened so you CAN walk in). It is not easy to learn new things and be as upbeat as this woman was. And yet, we do it. We walk into new situations all the time. We keep knocking on doors, looking for that friendly face and offering our talents, because that is exactly how we DO learn, and how we DO realize that we are capable of a whole lot more than we might have thought. And I would like to think that those doors will open a lot more often if we approach every situation as this woman did--with friendliness, curiosity, and genuine interest.

So, whether it's our first day, or a day too far into our career to count, we can all learn from the woman I met today. First impressions matter. They matter a lot.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Out Into The World

I put the first draft of my children's book chapter out into the world today. (For those of you who may not have read a few weeks ago, I am part of a group of writers co-writing a middle grade chapter book). When I say "out into the world," I really just mean to the group members who are partnering with me to read and edit. But it might as well have been the world when I hit "send." Though I realized that this was simply a step in the process, and that the people to whom I was sending my draft would also be taking the leap of sending me theirs, I couldn't help but gasp just a little when I heard that "whoosh" sound, and gasp a little more when responses to my missive entered my inbox.

You would think I'd be tougher. I mean, each day I send a post out into the world (and by "world," here I mean a potentially very large group of people.) There are some days when I hesitate, and others when I post and move on. But this chapter book is a new experience. Who would have thought that in writing a fictional character, I was exposing more of myself than I do writing about my own life every day?

Along with the emails from my partners saying that they look forward to reading my chapter are their own chapters--perhaps sent with similar trepidation. Over the next week, as they read and edit my chapter, I will be reading and editing theirs. I know I will have many "aha" moments when I see what my co-writers have done, and a little part of me dares to hope that they will have an "aha" moment or two while reading mine. There will be moments when I feel like a hack, and moments when I feel as though I've really found something. It's scary and risky--and exciting. And somehow, if I can stand the fear and the risk, my work will be part of a book that will have "aha" moments from each us. And will go out into the world. This time the real, 8-12 year old world.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Goggles That (Almost) Broke The Camel's Back

Despite it being Monday, I was okay today. I was surviving an edit room as cold as a meat locker. I was conquering the beasts on a to-do list and doing battle with online merchants who had missed their deadlines.

And then came the goggles. Well, actually, then came the LACK of goggles. You see, in order to play field hockey during school PE this month, my daughter needs sports goggles. By tomorrow. Problem is, the sports stores in NYC have not yet realized that such a need exists. (Is field hockey considered a suburban sport? And don't kids' eyes need to be protected for a lot of sports?)

So, in the precious moments of my mid-afternoon lunch break, and in the exhausted, pre-dinner and pre-laundry moments after work, I trekked to two sporting goods stores and a department store, none of which displayed anything even passable. And I returned home empty-handed and, frankly, pretty defeated. The goggle search had consumed time that I really need for other things and energy that I couldn't afford to spare. It had turned a survivable day into one that ended in failure. Failure that I felt right down to my tired feet.

Thankfully, all was not lost--once home, I resolved to write a note to the  gym teacher explaining the search. Goggles weren't gonna break me! 

Then, lo and behold, my husband discovered an old pair of goggles that just might work. But, by golly, I will never let a pair of goggles defeat me again! (a little like Gone With The Wind, huh?)

Next time, it will be an unusual color of shirt. Or an exotic vegetable.

Monday, March 17, 2014


In an ordinary week, one day tends to drift (or slam) into the next. It is rare that we stop to--well, stop at all--to see anywhere but straight ahead.  Thankfully, from time to time, we have occasions that force us to stop, force us to look back or to the sides, to assess where we have been and how far we have come.

Occasions can carry a lot of pressure. Have we chosen the right card or the right gift? Have we remembered the date correctly and celebrated enough but not too much? Have we made the occasion special enough for something that comes once a year or once in a lifetime?

Yet, in the rush of everyday life, sometimes just the stopping for the occasion is enough. Sometimes it takes just a moment to remember or to celebrate. And sometimes that moment is worth more than just the right card or just the right gift. It's about recognizing an occasion, and stopping long enough to celebrate. It's about taking just a little time to see somewhere other than straight ahead.

We can view occasions as just greeting card holidays. I choose to see them as a reminder that there is more than just what's straight ahead of us. And a lot of things worth stopping for.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Part of a Team

Today, my kids were part of an amateur short musical. They've been rehearsing for weeks, but I have heard little at home and seen little when I picked them up from rehearsals. The performance was as new to me as it was to the rest of the crowd there.

Now, it is natural to be happy about and proud of whatever your kids do, and I was. But what particularly struck me about this performance was that kids ranging in age from 6 to almost 16 collaborated to make something that came together remarkably well. As I watched the older kids with the younger ones, I appreciated not just the musical they were performing, but the camaraderie they had developed while making it.

As grownups, we rarely think about the age range on our teams, at work or elsewhere. Instead, we appreciate what the team members each bring to the table. When it is about the work, it doesn't matter how old the players are. It only matters that they are committed to the project. Today, these kids were. The project was great, and now, a group of kids who otherwise might have minimal contact with each other will have a group of younger or older kids in their lives--kids with a shared experience to unite them. 

And that's what being part of a team is about.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Friday? Are You Sure?

This week, on Monday, I thought it was Tuesday. On Tuesday, I was pretty sure it was Wednesday. On Wednesday, it felt like Tuesday. And on Thursday, I was positive it was Wednesday. It's kind of amazing that I made it to Friday.

I am not normally so mixed up. My days are defined by kid transport arrangements and deadlines. A whole house of cards could fall apart if I truly got my days mixed up.

So I have decided to come up with a way to remember which is which--

Monday--The day when no one wants to go anywhere (not made better this week by the changing clocks).

Tuesday--The day when the return to going everywhere starts the cycle of sleep deprivation. Everyone's still going, but there are signs of impending overload.

Wednesday--The day when overload begins to hit code red. It's no wonder I thought a bunch of days were Wednesday. Code red came early this week. And then stayed. Perhaps this clocks thing was still affecting us? Or perhaps it is just normal overload.

Thursday--A day on the way to Friday, but if you haven't even recovered from Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday will put you over the edge (and, in my case, make you think you're still in the middle of Wednesday).

Friday--Really? Are you sure? Some weeks, it's clear that you've made it to Friday. Others, it takes till coming home at the end of the day to know that you've gotten to the end of another week. That perhaps you can sleep a little later tomorrow. That you have faced all the weekday craziness, and have lived to talk--and blog--about it. And hopefully to keep your days a little more straight next week!

Friday, March 14, 2014

By Encouragement or By Example

My son's response to being told to go to bed is an earnest, well-conceived (and extremely funny) diatribe on how I should tell his sisters' teachers that they are giving too much homework. There are "bullet points" about the health benefits of sleep and about adding up the hours in a day. Before I know it, I've been following the argument for fifteen minutes, and he is no closer to bed than he was before.

Call me an ineffective parent. Really. Go ahead. Because, believe me, sometimes I feel like one. When our kids are babies, there may be lots of things we can't control, but by and large, we run the show. As they get older, it becomes clear that we may be the CEOs, but we are surrounded by not-so-small-anymore managers, each with his or her own agenda, and by golly, those managers are really pretty good at what they do--largely because we have trained them that way.

By encouragement or by example, we have trained our mini-managers to do as much as possible in a day. Don't we get up early or stay up late to finish a project or clean the kitchen or do our taxes--because it just won't all get done in the normal hours of a day?

By encouragement or by example, we have taught them to speak up for what they believe in, whether it's social justice or just the right to choose when to do chores. Don't we come home railing about the wrongs we've endured (or conquered) at work or the tasks we've refused to do?

By encouragement or by example, we have taught them that creativity and resourcefulness go a long way. Don't we find ways to rephrase things to get what we want and craft crafty arguments to sway people?

Which brings me back to my son and his very creative diatribe in defense of his sister. What can I say? I have to respect it.

And when I'm struggling to wake up both sleepy him and his sleepy sisters in the morning, I'll remind myself that it's all thanks to my encouragement and example.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Great Delays (A Guest Blogger Day)

Sometimes, you need a little different perspective on what's going on around you. When I asked my son what I should write about, he offered to write for me. These days, I rarely turn down offers of help--there are not enough hours in the day--so here (with some edits) is what he wrote...

"Today when my daughter and son were leaving Hebrew school there were some great delays. For starters my son made Hamantashen cookies at Hebrew school and since his class was the last class to make Hamantashen cookies his full class had to wait a whole 20 minutes just to get a homemade cookie. Another big delay was when we went on the uptown M15 bus we were taking a local but when we got to the stop no local bus came for about a half an hour and only in that time 2 select buses passed which can clearly show you that taking the M15 at night is a very bad idea."

A little plot, a little attitude on the day's events, and a little takeaway for future reference--that's basically what our days are made up of, isn't it?

Oh, and let's not forgot a little appreciation--today, in my case, for my guest blogger.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Milk at 11

Okay, it was really 10 when I went out for milk--11 just had a nicer ring, like " News at 11." And I think I must have been at least a little bit asleep when I went, because the whole errand took far longer than just getting milk.

Why does it matter that I went to buy milk at 10pm? It doesn't, except that it meant that I would have milk in the morning, and, oh yeah, that I didn't stop in my travels with children to get the milk. Somehow, our conversation about the day (which I found out was not so great) took us home, not to the store. I was concentrating so intently on the drama of young lives that detouring for milk was unthinkable.

I don't necessarily like going out at 10 to buy milk, but I do like the idea that I allowed myself to be so wrapped up in our conversation that I would need to. It is great to plan ahead--to anticipate needs for supplies or child care or to make advance arrangements for days off or special events. What sometimes gets lost in all of that, however, is our ability to live in the moment--to focus completely on a conversation that is happening right now or an event that is happening today. To listen to immediate needs rather than chase upcoming ones.

Yes, I kind of sleepwalked through buying milk at 10 (and came home with a few other things besides milk). But what led to that--focusing on the kid news of the day at 7:30--made it all worth it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


As I drop my daughter at one of the many schools she and her siblings have attended over the past 13 years (I have never had two kids in the same school), I see girls of all ages wearing the school uniform I remember so clearly from 11 years ago--when we turned it down. I remember my tears as I wrote the "no, thank you" letter. I remember my realization a few years later that my son might not have existed had we been paying for private school. I remember my relief when I became unemployed that at least we would not have to think about changing the kids' schools (as we might have had to do if we could no longer afford tuition). It appears that the decision I cried over all those years ago turned out to be a lucky one--at least for us.

I can't help it--seeing the uniform still makes me gasp, just a little. It makes me think of all the "might have beens." These days, though, it also reminds me of the "how it is," which, honestly, is pretty good. Is it how it was "meant to be"? Hard to say--can we ever really know what was "meant to be"? More often, we just roll with what is, our challenge being to embrace our choices and the effects of those choices. Each choice makes the next just a little bit different. Each choice makes our lives anything but uniform.

I'm not sure what life would have been like had we chosen those little blue jumpers all those years ago. All I know is that I dropped off my daughter at a school where she is happy. And at the end of the day, I returned from a job to my three kids, grateful that our life is how it is. Not uniform. But pretty good.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Process of Elimination

I think I did well with my 300 things. Honestly, I stopped counting--it was too hard to keep track, and at a certain point, the mindset of elimination just took over.

Some thoughts on that mindset---

1. When you start eliminating, it feels a little like losing something. And then you realize that you are gaining too--gaining space, gaining room to move, gaining attachment to the things you choose to keep.

2. As with everything in life, some things are easy--the clothes that look bad, the books you never even liked, the half-full cosmetics that you would never use. And other things are hard--the sweater you got as a gift, but that doesn't quite fit, the mementos from events gone by, the supplies that you thought would be useful when you bought them. Save your energy for the hard stuff.

3. Sometimes it seems that a goal is unattainable. And sometimes it is. But a goal gives us a direction, a place to look when we are not sure what exactly we are doing. Even if I fall short of my "one hundred things," the fact that I have that goal keeps me working toward it.

4. Elimination, unless you have moving men coming tomorrow, really is a process more than a single event. And, in my case, a process that will last quite a while.

5. Elimination doesn't have to mean losing memories. Have I forgotten my former jobs because I haven't kept every piece of paper associated with them? No. The important stuff lives in me, not in an overstuffed cabinet. Will I forget my wedding if I eliminate some of the books I used to plan it? What do you think? And won't I feel better remembering myself in an outfit that used to work than I feel wearing it now, when it no longer does?

The process of elimination continues, with the goal of ending up left with the most important pieces. And isn't that what the process of elimination is usually about?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Progressing and Processing

I was on the go pretty much from sunup to well after sundown today. There were moments of down time, but moments so short that they were basically over once they started. I was in multiple boroughs and at multiple events. A lot of things just landed on the same day.

On the one hand, the day became about getting to each place on time--making sure that people were dropped off and picked up on time, and that I arrived promptly (against perhaps steep odds) to things that had hard and fast start times. My progress all day was amazing--from one thing to the next as if each stood alone.

What we sometimes forget in all of our running around, in all of our efforts toward progress, is taking the time to process what we have done (or seen or thought or felt). There are times (today included) when progressing can feel more important than processing. And yet, if all we do is run from event to event, glad to have been on time, what is the use in our having gone to any of the events? What has any of them done for our lives?

There was a lot of progressing time in my day, but I am happy to report that the processing won out as well. I am still hearing the songs and speeches--and feeling the emotion--from the bat mitzvah I attended. I am still a little breathless from the musical I saw from a "front center orchestra" seat (thanks to the generosity of a friend). I am still replaying conversations I had with my kids as we walked long distances to get from place to place. Clearly, it was a day devoted to progressing, but one full of processing as well.

It amazes me sometimes how much we try to do in our days. The key, I guess, is making sure that the feeling of accomplishment--the progressing--doesn't always overtake our ability to feel--the processing. Because thinking about things you've done, long after they are over, is worth more than any set of deadlines met. Sometimes, the processing ends up being the real progressing.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

One Hundred Things

No, I will not be listing one hundred things on any topic. Aside from it being far too much for you to have time to read, it would get in the way of at least a hundred things I need to do this weekend.

One hundred things refers to the thought I brought home with me today. Having read an article about a guy who wrote a book about de-cluttering when he realized that the stuff around him was taking his time and energy away from the more important things in his life, I wondered what it would do for me--for my whole family--if we worked not just on cleaning and straightening up, but on elimination of some of the accumulated clutter that might be tripping us up (literally!) in just the same way.

At dinner, I announced my intention to eliminate one hundred things a day. I think my kids may have been momentarily stunned (though they recovered quickly and resumed conversation about their weekend plans). After dinner, the process began. The first five items were easy--sweaters I'd been thinking to ditch when I'd looked at myself in the mirror wearing them. I even got up to fifteen pretty quickly, 24 if you count the books I took off the bookshelf last night. That, combined with assorted long unused cups and bottles in the kitchen, and I was on a roll. Question is, do the discarded broken candles and duck sauce packets count as one item each?

One hundred items a day won't be easy. My daughter was quick to point out that 25 might be a more realistic daily goal. But I am sticking with one hundred. If I had kept count of the duck sauce packets and the candles and the disposable chopsticks that will never be used, I probably did make it tonight. And even if I can't make the hundred every day, it is the extreme nature of the goal that will keep it interesting. If all goes well, so interesting that my kids will give it a try with their stuff. As the guy I read about pointed out, being surrounded by stuff we could easily live without gets in our way on a daily basis. Instead of enriching our lives, it can block our path to living our lives, and I certainly don't have time for that.

I'm shooting for three hundred things by Sunday. And yes, the broken candles and duck sauce packets do count--if not individually, as some kind of number toward the total.

Stay tuned...

Friday, March 7, 2014

The List Lives On

For years, I have kept a mental list of the people I'd go to if I were building a production team--co-workers and bosses who made my work life easier, or more fun, and who were hands-down great at their jobs. "If I am ever in charge," I'd think, "these are the people I would have around me."

More often than not, I am not in charge. I am hired, not hiring, working with, not choosing. So the list grows, but only in my head.

Every so often, however, I see a job posting that so reminds me of one of my "list people" that I pass it along. While this won't mean I will be working with the people on my list, it means that someone out there might get to.

I used to think that the passing on of job leads was just my reaction to so many of us being out of work after ABC. A lot of time has passed since then, though, so it must be about a little something more. It's about sharing the talents of people I know. It's about saying "thank you" in some small way for their making my work life better over the years. It's about making sure the "good guys" get all the chances they deserve.

My "list" lives on. Whether or not it will ever be a hiring list for me is hard to say. For now, it will just be a reminder of where I've been, and a bit of a road map for how far we can all go.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What's New?

I went to a meeting today during which I was asked "What's new?" My response was pretty much a blank stare, followed by a desperate search for something--ANYTHING--to say. The other people, while perhaps not so desperately searching, were similarly blank.

The truth is, in lives as busy as ours, there are actually new things every day--every hour. Yet, when we are called upon to report what is new, all those "new" things seem either trivial or so embedded in our everyday life that they don't bear mentioning. What people are generally looking for are new jobs, new schools, marriages, births, deaths, and awards, and these "new" things just don't happen that often.

After surviving that moment of the blank stare, I returned home thinking a lot about that "What's new?" question. While the daily new things in our lives might not be worth including when someone asks us, they are worth our registering--even celebrating. Too often, we just let them blend in with the daily fabric of our lives, which is a tribute to our adaptability. We just don't always give ourselves the credit for handling the "new" or the time for processing it.

I suspect that far too many new things will happen for me to stop for each one. And I am fully prepared that my stare will be just as blank when I am asked the next time. It's a big question, and we are generally far more equipped to answer the small ones, like "What time is it?" or "What's for breakfast?" But even if we can't answer for the world, we can remember for ourselves.

So, what's new? Something every moment.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So Surprising?

Is it so surprising that you're tired--when, on too little sleep, you started your day traveling to one end of the city and ended it somewhere completely different?

Is it so surprising that you feel as though you are spinning plates on a pole--when you are constantly balancing the needs of children and employers and, oh, yourself, any one of which could come crashing down at any moment?

Is it so surprising that it seems nothing is ever completely done--when you and the world just keep adding things to do?

Is it so surprising that a cup of coffee doesn't necessarily fix the afternoon slump--when we all know the afternoon slump is the result of the sleep deprivation (see above), and the plate spinning (see above), and the adding things (yes, see above), and that, of course, the coffee won't hit till hours later, like bedtime?

Life really is logical--well, at least sometimes--but I guess it keeps things fun to be surprised--even if, much of the time, it's really not that surprising!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Today, I received a residual check from an episode of One Life to Live that I directed. Apparently, the episode re-ran on cable somewhere, and as its director, I was compensated for the rerun.

The check won't change my life--it is just about enough to buy a sandwich for lunch. Nonetheless, when I opened it, I had an odd rush of emotions. It was a reminder of what I went through to take the step from AD to Director--the learning and the waiting for the director assignment calendar and the hoping that a show split into parts would turn out to be mine. The marking scenes and working with actors and telling a story in my own way. The taking producer notes and negotiating shots with cameramen and re-blocking a scene to make it work better.

It was a reminder of places and people and ambitions and neuroses about ambitions. Of a format that was part of my being for a very long time.

And it was a reminder that, while what's going on now might be satisfying, there is always more than just now. There is what was, and there is what will be, far too much to live just in the "now."

It has been years since I directed the show that resulted in this residual check, but opening the envelope took me back as if it were yesterday. As if when I opened the envelope, a whole world came flooding out of it. I won't be using it to buy a sandwich. It will probably just go into the bank--in the ups and downs of a freelance world, a little perk from the past can come in handy.

For today, it was more than enough to be treated to all that the envelope brought back.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy Accidents

I had intended to go to a de-cluttering workshop today. After all, what apartment or brain can't use a little de-cluttering once in a while?

I never got there. Between kids and their homework and me and the housework, it just didn't quite work out. Instead, I ended up making sandwiches at a meals for the homeless program where many of my friends and their families volunteer. While my son was a peanut butter spreading maniac, I tried to keep up with the jelly, and was able to reconnect with friends as, together, we packed up several thousand sandwiches. Then we went home and, as always, attacked our cluttered apartment.

It would be easy to bemoan the fact that, as often happens, I missed something I wanted to do because it didn't fit in with the needs of everyone else. In this case, however, it turned out to be kind of a happy accident--in not fighting for something I thought I wanted to do, I ended up being part of something bigger (something that might not have given me instructions on how to de-clutter my home, but gave me a little perspective on whether de-cluttering pointers were what what I needed most).

Sometimes we need to do more than "go with the flow." Sometimes it's important to stand up for what we want.

But sometimes, a little happy accident ends up being just what we need.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


When I was in college, I wrote a play. Just a one-act, no work of genius, but produced in a small campus theater. Early in my soap career, I dabbled in writing scripts, and several years later, I wrote proposals for a few TV shows, one for kids, another for adults. And, over the last ten years, I have created chapters for both a book of essays and a children's educational series.

If you Google me, you will find none of these things. What you will find (in addition to assorted references to my twenty years in television) is this blog. While none of my other writing efforts made it to the outside world, a blog goes out each day, approved by no editor (except sometimes one of my children). It doesn't require pitches or an agent. It goes through minimal revisions. And it makes it to the outside world.

I'll admit, the process is a mixed bag. Along with the intense satisfaction of "publishing" every day comes the frustration of thinking of an idea or change right after I hit "publish." And yet, if there are things left out, there is always the next piece, or the next, at roughly 24-hour, not 24-month intervals. While a day's post may not be perfect, I can always move on to the next. And isn't that kind of what life is about--moving on from the "not so perfect," determined to make it just a little bit better next time?

So, for now, I remain a "publishing," yet unpublished author. I'm still getting it right, and I love having the chance every day to do that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Walls, Doors, and Taxis

Some days you might find yourself climbing the walls when things just aren't how you'd like them to be. Other days, you refuse to let anyone put walls between you and what you want. There are days when you feel strong enough to scale any wall to accomplish anything you'd like. And sometimes, just sometimes, you have it in you to tear down the walls that are controlling you and others.

Thankfully, there are also doors. Doors out of where you are, or into someplace else. Doors to opportunity, and doors of escape. Doors that make you wonder what's behind, and doors that you know take you into the safety of your home. Doors that change your surroundings, change the balance, change your life.

And then, there are taxis--for when you just don't have the energy for breaking down the walls, and you can't even find the doors, and you know that you will climb a wall if you can't open the right door. Fast.

Not every day is the same--the walls that surround us and the doors that we allow ourselves, and our ability to navigate either one change regularly, and we just have to keep up.

Lucky for us, once in a while, a taxi pulls up just when we need it.