Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Elevator Pitch

Tonight, I attended a networking event. Quite often, such an event would serve as material for a blog post. In this case, I came home feeling as though it might actually provide material for three or four posts. You see, networking can bring out lots of things in a person. When done well, it can also lead to a discovery or two.

In preparing for tonight, I researched the people I might be meeting--after all, it's important to be prepared, right? As I was researching them, however, I found that I was also researching myself. 

Researching myself? Don't I know who I am?

The thing about an "elevator pitch" is that it is a description of you or your project, short enough to be conveyed during an elevator ride (or, in this case, during a six-minute appointment). What could I possibly convey that would make a twenty-something career that ranged from soap work to news make any sense, much less be of any interest, to people who were in neither of these worlds? I was stumped, and as my networking sessions drew near, I had no idea what I'd be saying. Worst case scenario, I thought, I'd make a fool of myself in front of people I would (because of making a fool of myself) never see again. And so, it began....

"Tell me about yourself."

It was time for my elevator pitch, and I suddenly heard myself start to say, "after twenty-something years working mostly  in soaps, I am now working in news, which, for twenty-something years, I never thought I'd do."  And my elevator pitch was born. From here, I could talk about how telling a story in news was a lot like telling any story. How my editing informed my directing. How much I had learned from doing news after so many years of doing dramatic. By the time I came home, I found that not only had I left people with an interesting picture of me, I had also begun to clarify for myself how the wildly assorted pieces of my career actually fit together, more than just as a sequence of events.

Sometimes, an elevator pitch is good for more than just networking.

And sometimes, a networking session is good for more than just one blog. Tune in tomorrow.....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Barbie Head

Raise your hand if you had one of those Barbie heads. You know, the oversized blonde head and shoulders of a Barbie that sat on a base, inviting girls to do and re-do her hair and makeup.

Though I don't remember being a particularly girly girl, or much interested in hair and makeup, I had one--a much desired birthday gift at some age--and thanks to tag sales with fifty cent price tags, my daughters had one too.

Why would I be thinking about a giant Barbie head? It's odd, I agree, but as I started to ponder not just how many hats I'd be wearing this week, but how many different heads I would have to inhabit, the image just popped into my mind. You see, by day, I will be a News Editor. But tonight, I was a Single Camera Dramatic Editor (a favor for a friend). Tomorrow night, I will need to think like a Director/AD when I attend a networking function. And in my spare time, I will be a Children's Book Writer, as I work on revising my chapter and reading the others that surround it.

Barbie, even in her larger form, had nothing on me. She may have been able to have multiple hairstyles and a variety of makeup looks (much too ambitious for me), but her head remained the same--and anchored to that base! Mine, on the other hand, has learned to adapt to the tasks at hand. At least I hope it has, so that I can make the most of all the places it goes with me. So that I can be the Editor and the Director and the AD and the Writer--maybe not simultaneously, but all in the same week. And so that I can be working AND parenting well EVERY day.

And so that, even if I am nowhere near blonde or perfectly coiffed, I make sure I take the right head to the right event. And smile while I'm there.

Monday, April 28, 2014

I Never Thought I'd Still...

I ran into a neighbor who owns a dance studio as she was pulling fancy ballet costumes out of the laundry. Having seen her do this before, I said, "Ahh, the costumes," to which she replied that she hadn't imagined she'd still be doing this at this point in her life. Perhaps she thought that by now, she would have an assistant who laundered the costumes, or an infinite budget for dry cleaning them. But, arts budgets and arts funding being what they are, she found herself still putting costumes in the laundry room washer.

"I never imagined I'd still be doing this at this point in my life." How many of us have said this in reference to one thing or another? We hadn't thought we'd still be refining a résumé, hadn't thought we'd still be unsure of what we wanted to do with our lives, hadn't thought we'd still be scrambling to pay bills or get household chores done each week. Often, life just doesn't turn out quite the way we imagined. And yet, we move on. My neighbor, the dance teacher, still washes the costumes for her studio's shows, and it is clear that she does it with great care, even if she might wish she had help. We renegotiate work and home tasks weekly, because that's just how it is. We don't always get to choose what we are doing at any stage in our lives, but we do get to choose how we handle what we find ourselves "still doing."

And I would like to think we end up with results we are proud to show off, just like the dance teacher with her costumes.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Broken Glass Just Happens

The glass went flying from my hand, into the air, almost in slow motion. I knew, in what seemed like more than the milliseconds that passed, that this would not end well. And when those milliseconds were over, the tiny Curious George picture was broken into tiny pieces of glass all over my kitchen floor. I uttered a guttural sound, devastated by both the broken glass and by the loss of a non-valuable, yet beloved, part of my whimsical collection of glassware. Breaking a crystal goblet might have upset me, but breaking Curious George almost brought me to tears.

Having cleaned up the glass, I thought, "I wasn't even doing something stupid" when it broke. I wasn't trying to fit things in obvious non-workable spots, or handling multiple glasses at a time, or counting on wet hands to put away glasses safely. This broken glass incident just happened. It just happened.

I would like to think that I could control all the "just happeneds." If I could, the glass wouldn't be broken, my time of being out of work might not have existed, separation from all my ABC friends might never have occurred. And yet, when I think about all of the interesting things that have happened BECAUSE some of these things just happened (well, nothing yet from the glass, but...), I can't help but think that perhaps it's okay that we can't control all the "just happeneds." We would likely make the safe choices, the choices of what we know. And while this might keep us protected from a lot of uncertainty and stress, it would also keep us from experiencing the new things that come along when things "just happen."

I am still sad about my Curious George glass. But we move on. And prepare ourselves for the next thing that "just happens."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Moving Garbage Can

It occurred to me this morning that, in the course of making breakfast and packed lunches for me and my children (my husband does his own thing), I moved the kitchen garbage can no less than ten times.

Now, it could be that this just means we have a small kitchen (which we do). It could mean that I am working far too hard on breakfasts and lunches if I have to be in so many parts of the kitchen in such a short time. (Perhaps true, but I like people, including myself, to be well-fed, including snacks!) It could mean that we need a smaller kitchen garbage can that wouldn't be a constant obstacle. (Again, perhaps true, but then I'd spend half my life putting garbage bags down the compactor chute).

What I choose to make of the constant movement of the garbage can (often without my conscious realization that I am doing it) is that I refuse to let small obstacles get in the way of my doing what needs to be done. Let's face it--most days, there are lots of obstacles--late trains, annoying co-workers, computer glitches, missing ingredients for what we are trying to cook. Any one of these things could stop us in our tracks, and in combination, they could make us want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers up over our heads.

But mostly, we don't. We face the obstacles, we work around them, or in the case of me and the garbage can, we make adjustments to do the things we want to do. We refuse to let the too-small kitchens and too-large garbage cans of life get in our way. We've got meals to make (and eat!) and things to accomplish.

And how ridiculous it would be to let a trash can--or anything else--get in the way of any of that!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Writing Process

I attended the next meeting for the children's book project tonight. Having made revisions I was happy with, and having made special arrangements to get there on time, I was excited to meet with the group and see how everyone was doing.

I am exhausted.

The process of writing is different for everyone. For me, fiction works when I am largely the scribe for my characters, listening as they talk, watching them move, and recording their words and actions. It is a process that lends itself to solitude, to quiet, to being "in the zone."

A book written by 20 people, however, requires a lot more than solitude and quiet. It requires discussion and consensus, compromise and middle ground. And for a person coming from solitude and quiet, these things are not easy.

But, as I recover from my exhaustion, I remind myself that, like most everything else in life, this is a process. It is an opportunity not just to generate something new, but to learn something (or a lot of somethings!) new as well. I am not just generating a chapter of which I can be proud. I am learning to work with a group to generate a book of which we will all be proud.

The learning process isn't always easy--often we learn the most when it's hard. So I suppose it's a good sign that I'm exhausted tonight.

It's all part of the process.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Break and Dr. Seuss

After over a week of Spring Break, my kids returned to school today. They weren't suntanned from a week in Florida, or windburned from a week on the ski slopes. There wasn't even any jet lag (unless you count getting up at 6am today after ten days of sleeping quite a bit later than that). Their return to school was from a week and a half at home. With me working, their break was simply that--a break.

Before and during the break, I found myself feeling guilty about all the things I hadn't done or hadn't planned for them. Now that the break is over, however, I am feeling a little "Dr. Seuss" about it. What Dr. Seuss could possibly apply, you ask? Well, I could be talking about Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (one of my personal favorites, complete with pants-eating plants!). The one that popped into my mind, though, was How The Grinch Stole Christmas. You see, while I may have felt a little like a Grinch, stealing some exciting vacation from my kids because I had to work, I am realizing now that it is the end of the story that rings true here. Despite the Grinch's efforts, Christmas comes to Whoville. He marvels that " It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags." That is basically how this Spring Break came--no airplanes or trains, no giant celebrations or gifts. And yet, I would venture to say, it was a break that we will remember (and not just because my kids are now old enough to remember things!)

My kids discovered each other (and themselves a little bit too). They might not have been holding hands and singing in the square like the Who's, but they learned some new dance moves, shot funny videos of each other, and tried out some new games.

They slept a lot. Like the Who's, they slept through hours of stuff happening (I mean, the Grinch steals basically everything, and they--except Cindy Lou--sleep right through it!), but when they woke up, they were pretty optimistic little creatures (not unlike--you guessed it--the Who's).

They ate interesting foods. Okay, no Who-pudding or Who-hash or Roast Beast, but in the absence of lunchboxes filled by me each school day, they didn't starve.

They improvised (remember Max the Dog as a reindeer?)

And, in the end, I think they considered it ten days well-spent. No ribbons or tags, boxes or bags, but in the end, not a break stolen from them, but kind of one given. Their hearts may not have grown three sizes (I don't suspect they needed to). But it turned out to be kind of a Who-feast of sorts for all concerned.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I found myself revising my kids' book chapter again tonight. No new deadline, really, but I read the chapter someone else had written, and it sparked something in me. Just a few words here and there, and I immediately knew I had changes to make. It was as if something the other person had created had sparked a whole new idea for me.

It's amazing how something quite small can act as a spark for us. People often ask me how I continue to have things to blog about each day, and truthfully, I find that many days, my writing is about reacting to the sparks that happen around me. Whether it's a person I meet or a funny situation I witness or am a part of, if I keep my eyes and ears open, there is always a new spark.

So, if there are always new sparks, why do we so often continue through our lives without changing? The key, as I see it, is being open to noticing the sparks--and to reacting to them. Last night, I could have read the other person's chapter, thought, "great chapter," and let it end there. Instead, I allowed it to affect me, and to spark a change in my own writing. I could view the bumps and annoyances of daily life as just that, bumps and annoyances. Instead, I allow them to make me think about where they really fit in, and what they mean, and quite frequently, they spark my daily blog.

When you think about it, a spark is really just a spark until you help it light a fire (or you let it burn you!) The key, as I see it, is grabbing all those sparks, and letting them make the best fires possible--the fires that make us creative, and productive--and warm and light along the way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Home, Sweet Home

I entered the elevator, my hands full of bags of takeout dinner, and the stranger who entered with me asked "what floor?" and pressed the button for me. As we rode up (he got off way before I did), I thought about how long I'd been saying that floor. How long I've been living in the same place. Despite job changes that have made us talk about moving, and school choice crises that have made us think about moving, despite financial setbacks and space constraints that, over the years, have made us feel we could never stay, we are still here. That floor in our building is our home, and we have managed to keep it that way for a long time. And it feels good to walk in to a doorman who says "Welcome home!" and an elevator on which you press the same button each day.

In my reverie about the "comfort of home," I couldn't help but think about a blog post I read recently--a post by a friend of mine, who has recently started a blog, in which he describes his bi-coastal life as part of adapting to a changing industry. For him, the whole concept of "home" has had to change. In my eyes, he is a huge industry success story, but reading his blog, I see that success comes at a price.

I arrived at my apartment, feeling as though more than just a few moments had surely passed, as if I had experienced a life revelation of sorts. There is home, and there is success. In the best of all worlds, we can find a lot of both. Most of the time, we find a little of each. When are we the happiest? When we make our peace with where the two meet.

I  am excited to direct you to my friend's blog, Whether you're interested in some technical/artistic views of today's TV production landscape, or simply in a different perspective on work and life, it's a good read.

No matter where we live (or work), I figure we can all use some new perspective once in a while.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Death Of Coffee As I Know It

My coffeemaker died today, and I am distraught.

Okay, despite the fact that I have a bit of a caffeine-withdrawal headache, that's a little extreme, don't you think? It's not as though I even drink that much coffee, and when I drink coffee, it is full of so much milk that the volume of coffee consumed amounts to about eight ounces a day. And it's a coffeemaker. A COFFEEMAKER. But that coffeemaker is part of my daily routine, and now that it is broken, so too is my routine.

And that is why I am over-dramatizing the death of a kitchen appliance. It is not the appliance itself that I am mourning. Rather, I am mourning (again, extreme, but go with me here) the loss of the routine that the appliance was a part of.

Each day, we are faced with new challenges, and by and large, we handle them. No two days are the same, we think, and yet, in reality, some parts of our days ARE the same. The alarm that wakes us up, the shampoo we use in the shower, the coffeemaker we turn on each morning. It is these routine things that form the base from which we go out and face all of those challenges. And when a piece of our routine is gone, our base changes, and that can be unsettling.

When I was first out of work when my time at ABC ended, one of the trickiest things was establishing a routine to my days. I was so used to a certain daily schedule, certain buses and trains, certain coverage for my kids, that the hours at home seemed endless some days, largely because I hadn't yet found a routine. Not only was my big picture life changed, each minute of each day was changed. So, rather than facing challenges from a base of routine, I was faced with the challenge of creating new routines. It was scary and daunting, but it happened, little by little, and ended up preparing me for the ever-changing routines of a freelance life. Many things will continue to change, but if we are able to find some things that stay the same, we can be stronger when facing the things that change.

I will survive the loss of my coffeemaker, and before I know it, I will have purchased a new one. The routine has been shaken, but just for a few days. For now, you will find me pouring boiling water over a cup (either improvising coffee or going with tea!). In search of my new routine.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Secrets To A Successful Weekend (In No Particular Order)

1. Sleep.

2. Keep children from arguing. (Better yet, since it is the weekend, let them argue, but don't get involved!)

3. If you are working, so be it. But if you're not, leave work at work till Monday.

4. Do enough laundry to get people through the week, but not so much that you are exhausted before the week starts.

5. Go outside in daylight. You never know how much that will happen once the week starts.

6. Let it go. For at least one thing over the weekend, just let it go.

7. Sleep some more.

8. Eat, and take the time to enjoy eating, good food, whether that good food is gourmet cheese or Marshmallow Peeps.

9. Wear comfortable clothes whenever possible.

10. Enjoy the people in your life. Once the week starts, you may be just ships passing in the night. While it's still the weekend, accept, and forgive. And mostly, just enjoy.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


A few days ago, I had coffee with a friend. One of those "see all the time, say 'hello,' then go our own ways" kind of friends. We'd talked for a while about going for coffee, but busy lives being what they are, we'd never quite managed to make it work. Until this week.

I couldn't tell you exactly what we talked about over our gourmet beverages. What I can tell you is that when I walked out of the coffee shop, approximately an hour after I had walked in, it was as if I was on a new block in a different neighborhood, going to my job for the very first time.

No, my coffee was not spiked (though the caffeine did stay with me for many hours). I had simply been so engrossed in our conversation for that hour that I had really put aside everything else that usually clutters my brain--schedules and work and the best path to walk and being on time. I gave myself over to this hour of coffee and conversation, and what I got back was not just connection with a friend, but a new outlook on the world as well.

There's a lot going on in our lives every day. Most of the time, when we are doing one thing, we are thinking about another. Multitasking, we call it. It can make us more efficient, and more consistently aware of all the things we have to handle. I am actually a very good multitasker--I don't think I could get myself and my kids through each week if I weren't. But what I learned this week from that coffee was how great it feels to give our multitasking heads a rest, and just focus on one thing. I came away from that coffee refreshed and seeing the world through new eyes (at least for the period of time between then and when I got to work!). In the process, I also strengthened a friendship by being really "present" as we talked.

Multitasking may be great for getting the most things done, but sometimes, it's the "single-tasking" that helps us see all those things a little more clearly.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Circus Of Life

Tonight we saw Cirque Du Soleil, an extravaganza of movement and light and sound--more going on than you could possibly take in all at once. I found myself having constant thoughts of "how did they do that?" I was exhausted just watching the performers--how could they even learn to do all those things, not to mention perform them, timed correctly, every day, sometimes twice a day?

What they do, of course, is their job. They have been training for years to learn their specialities--whether acrobatics or juggling or balancing. When they get out there, they are simply doing what they have trained to do. Very fast. And very well.

Once I recovered from the sound and motion, I began to think about how similar what these performers do is to what many of us do every day. No, we are not acrobats or contortionists or jugglers. Yet, what we do each day to make our lives work is a constant balancing act. Making our families and our bosses and ourselves happy often takes a bit of twisting ourselves into a pretzel. And who hasn't felt as though he or she is constantly up in the air or jumping through hoops at least a few times a week?

I say none of this to minimize the work of the performers I saw tonight. They do a fantastic job entertaining and astounding audiences all over the world. Their work is hard, and it takes years of practice and a willingness to put themselves in potentially dangerous spots every day. But when we look at them, and wonder why we can't do such amazing things (aside from, oh, fear of heights and pain?), I would encourage us to see what we accomplish each day--whether it is at work or at home or in our communities. We may not be acrobats, but we fly sometimes too. We may not be jugglers, but we manage to keep all the balls in the air. We may not balance large objects, but most of the time, we get a lot of things done without hitting anyone in the head.

And that, you see, is what makes us the stars of our very own life circuses.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shoeless Wonder

I remember the day, years ago, when we got new carpet and decided that from then on, we would all take off our shoes in the apartment. Since then, I have read countless times about how much from the outside comes in when you leave your shoes on. Besides, many days, I would like nothing more than to take my shoes off as soon as I walk in after a long day.

The problem is, when I take my shoes off, it appears that I have actually taken my first step--yes, first STEP--toward falling asleep.

It sounds crazy. I know. People sleep when they're sleepy, shoes or not, right? Yet, somehow for me, leaving my shoes on keeps me active--keeps me up making dinner, or going down to the lobby for mail. Shoes keep me doing and thinking and thinking of what to do. And the minute the shoes come off, it seems that the thinking and the doing just go along with them.

So--how to serve the cleanliness and comfort factors while remaining as productive as possible at the end of each day?

1. Standing. (I'm actually standing as I write this blog. It may not be the most comfortable position, but I am still awake and writing, so who am I to complain?)

2. Engaging. While I don't necessarily need to help with every bit of homework or be a player in every video game, staying tuned in to what my family is doing not only keeps me awake, it keeps me AWARE--of, well, what my family is doing. Which is probably a good thing.

3. Writing. Whether I'm standing up or not, grabbing moments to write always makes me happy after the fact. I have taken off my shoes, and I actually still have something to show for it.

4. Cleaning. Oh, never mind. It might be a good one, but who wants to give it that much credit? When you write, you have something on paper or in a computer document to show for it. When you clean in a household of five, what you have to show for it lasts for about two seconds.

5. Putting away your shoes. You'll be needing them, and in good shape, for your next time out (if you let yourself sleep at some point, so that you can wake up for your next time out).

So--having made it through a whole blog post, shoeless and awake, I now declare that it is time to enjoy my shoeless wonder-fulness. Tomorrow is another day. And I suspect I'll be needing to wear shoes.

Choice Time

It is Spring Break, at least for my children. But as I am in the lucky position of having work, I am not on break (unless you count not having to wake children at 6am, which, believe me, is a HUGE break!) So, off to work I go each day, leaving them to sleep and enjoy some much-needed respite from their busy school day lives.

There was a time when I would have written extensive notes about how they should spend their days--places to go, things to eat, friends with whom I'd made plans. Not this time. Whether it has been choice or inertia on my part, this Spring Break, there are no extensive plans. It's kind of like an extended period of "choice time" in school--a period during which (usually because the class has been good all week) the kids get to decide what they will do for an hour. They can do artwork or play games. It is a bit of unstructured time in a very structured day.

So, what does "choice time" mean at home? Some days, I suspect it means hours of playing video games. But what I am seeing is that it also means learning a new card game, or brushing up on chess (with a computer program, but still chess). It means getting creative about what's for lunch. And, perhaps most important, it means working together as siblings to make a day work. Since there are not my usual extensive plans to create individual activities and play dates for each child, my kids need to rely on each other, perhaps more than they're used to. While we are only a few days in, I would like to think it's working pretty well.

It is absolutely possible that this "choice time" is a result of my negligence about making plans. In the scheme of busy lives, however, I have this funny feeling that a vacation of "choice time" is actually the best possible vacation. We (my children very much included here) run around a lot on a regular basis. In addition to school, there are always practices and rehearsals and classes and events grabbing at our time. We cannot really survive a week without a written plan and detailed arrangements about who has to be where at what time, and how everyone will actually get home. The getting people to and from might be my problem, but the having to be here, there, and everywhere impacts my kids on a daily basis. So, while they might wish to be in Disneyworld for their vacation, I suspect they can appreciate almost as much the opportunity to sleep late, and to make some of their own choices about how much or how little they will do each day.

This "choice time" week doesn't mean I'm not planning for summer camp. Even the best "choice time" in the world can last too long. But for this vacation, it's "choice time" all the way. And if all goes well, we'll be better off for it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


In the early hours of this morning, I submitted the next draft of my children's book chapter. It is full of holes in logic. It is bereft of the constant movement that I learned to keep up when I was directing soap scenes. It has a character I love whose heart I have probably not revealed enough yet for anyone else to love her. But I have submitted the chapter (to my editing partners). It is on time. And, as I remind myself, it is just a draft.

It is an unbelievably hard thing to think in terms of drafts. We humans like instant results, and drafts just don't fit that. We'd like our work to be publishable the minute it comes out of our creative heads. We'd like someone to snatch it up, and tell us we are brilliant, just for thinking of it. We'd like to be original, and wise, and relevant every time we put pen to paper. There may be people out there who have all of these things happen to them. I am not one if those people.

I have to believe this draft will be a step toward something good, and that by writing drafts, I will come upon the things that work, and fit them all together in a chapter that will be more than a draft. In the meantime, I will be developing a healthy respect for the draft. It is a kind of trial run that we don't always get in the other parts of our lives. It is a way of putting it out there without totally putting it out there, and for that, I am grateful.

On the next draft, perhaps I can fix the logic part, and the movement part, and the heart part (and likely at least six other parts that come up in the editing process). It doesn't have to be publishable or brilliant yet. It just has to be in a turned-in draft. And I'm happy to report, it's turned in.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Taking (Pass) Over

We are pretty good guests. We bring a dish, we offer to help serve and clear, and most important, we hugely appreciate being guests. Despite having cabinets and closets full of daily plates and glasses and barely used formal dishes, we have rarely hosted any dinner party.

Passover can be a huge dinner party. A Seder, the special Passover meal, involving both ceremonial and traditional foods, is a giant undertaking, and one for which I have been a guest pretty much my whole life. Not this year.

A few weeks ago, we found out that our usual Seder spot was not to be. Relatives would be traveling, meaning that we would be on our own. Would we try to be guests somewhere else? We are good guests, after all. Or would we go it alone, perhaps even become full-fledged hosts?

After several weeks of pondering it all (or not really dealing with it, depending on your point of view), I settled on the answer this weekend, and tonight (yes, I know, a night early), I hosted Passover for the very first time.

The guests? Just us, plus one. A day early? Well, at least I'd be home to cook, and set the table, and have the brainpower to figure out what was needed. The readings? From a single Haggadah that has been on my bookshelf for as long as I can remember.

It was an evening of improv, really. Improvising how much of anything to make. Improvising who would read what. Improvising the exact order in which we'd eat the foods I'd managed to assemble and prepare. But in the end, not only were we stuffed, as if we had been to someone else's home for the Seder, we had (if briefly) told the Passover story, complete with questions and plagues and opening doors and mispronunciations of unfamiliar words. It might not have been our normal holiday tradition, but it was an evening that I will remember for a long time. We took a holiday during which we normally just show up as guests, and we made it our own. We cooked and we ate and we learned a little something about freedom along the way.

Whether by choice or out of necessity, we are sometimes called upon to take over. To do more than just show up. To make the decisions, and, in doing so, to make our own new traditions.

And sometimes that can be the most freeing experience of all.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Big Gay Italian Wedding

Tonight, I took my daughters and a few of their friends to see My Big Gay Italian Wedding, an incredibly funny--and touching--play written by and starring a longtime One Life to Live friend of mine. I had seen it in its infancy more than ten years ago, but I was excited to share it with some other people.

The fact that both the playwright/star and the director are my friends gave us the lovely perk of post-show pictures with the cast. I wasn't surprised that the group of girls, many of them huge theater fans, were excited about that. What did surprise--and impress--me, however, was how completely into the show the girls were. They laughed heartily at the loud over-the-top family members, they clapped along with the music, and they were genuinely moved by the vulnerability of the lead character. It didn't matter that many of the characters might be outside of their daily experience. Their reactions were lovely and human. And I was glad to know that, at least in one little corner of my world, we are raising our kids with the compassion to understand choices and families other than their own, and to feel for people other than themselves.

And I am glad to know that My Big Gay Italian Wedding is here every weekend (and now, in other places too!) to remind us how important those choices--and our big, crazy families--are.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Marketable Skills

Many, many years ago, I had lunch with one of my producers. I don't remember how the lunch came about, but I do remember, to this day, the main piece of advice this producer gave to me, advice that I think about and share everywhere I go.

While it was important, she said, to focus on doing a good job each day, it was equally as important to focus on the marketable skills I could learn along the way. At the time, I was probably considering training as a booth PA, a job that, at that point, I barely even understood. But since, at least at that time, people knew what a booth PA was, my training to do that job would give me a marketable skill wherever I went. If I liked it (it happened that I did), all the better, but either way, I would walk away with a skill set that could be transferred to other places. When I became an AD on OLTL, it turned out that the AD skills were also marketable--I used them to transition to prime time work as well. And the editing that I learned as part of my AD job has turned out to be perhaps the most marketable skill of all.

Obviously, you want to do as good a job as possible in the place where you are. Having people like you there doesn't hurt either--that will provide you with networking and references that you will undoubtedly need. But, as that producer told me all those years ago, the skills that you learn and add to your bag of tricks are sometimes the key to staying alive in a job market that is even more constantly changing now than when she gave me the advice.

Whether you are just starting out or deep into your career, it is never too late to start pocketing (and keeping track of) those marketable skills. You never know when they'll come in handy.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fighting Through

I am lucky enough currently to be within walking distance of where I am working. (I suppose that technically, even when I was at ABC, it was walking distance--just a very long walk!)

Most days, I do walk, almost on auto-pilot. It is exercise, it saves the money of bus fare, and it gives me time to process things--home issues on my way to work, work issues on my way home, the quirks of people on the street at any time.

There are days, however, when even the short walk feels as though it will be exhausting. On those days, I find myself drifting toward a bus stop. While the bus won't get me all the way, it will do most of the hard work, and that is tempting. Sometimes, I do take the assist. But most days, I find myself walking past the bus stop--fighting through whatever foot pain or tiredness got me there in the first place. And I get to work, just the same, a bit of exercise under my belt, and a feeling of accomplishment along the way.

Now, walking fifteen minutes to work is not a huge accomplishment. I am not infirm, and many days, that is all the exercise I get (unless you count cleaning up after kids and boiling water for dinner). The accomplishment, as I see it, is the fighting through on those days when I really don't think I'll survive the fifteen minute walk. Fighting through that is generally just the beginning of the fighting through that I (and we all) do all day. Days are full of things we don't want to do, or don't think we can do. How we handle those things is what really determines our days. Do we look for the easy out--like the bus? Or do we fight through situations and find out that we really can handle them without any assist at all? Tests of our fight-through ability happen every day--how often do we find that when we do fight through, we actually reach our goals and feel better for it? 

I can't say that I will never take advantage of public transportation on the days when I just don't have it in me to fight through. But most days, I'll keep fighting. I know from experience that it makes me feel better--and stronger--at the end of my path.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On A Wednesday

If I remember correctly, I had a co-worker at One Life to Live who swore that every significant thing there happened on a Wednesday. Not plot points on the show, of course--any soap person could tell you that the important days, at least back then, were Mondays and Fridays. But behind the scenes, things happened on Wednesdays. Or so she said. Firings, edicts, big meetings, new policies. Perhaps even the announcement of the soaps' cancellation. Back then, if it was a Wednesday, you would do well to watch your back.

Honestly, I haven't thought too much about that Wednesday thing these past few years. I've been concentrating on Mondays (when I was unemployed, and that was my day to claim benefits and to start a new round of job letters), and on Fridays (when another week is done--for me and my kids--and I shift into weekend mode).

Today, however, so much seemed to happen that I actually asked, out loud, "What day is it?" While the Wednesday thing has not been consciously with me for years, clearly, it has been kicking around my subconscious. It was a feel-good moment, actually--that moment of connecting the present with the past. I guess that's the nice thing about having had a long history somewhere. That history is always somehow with you, even when you think you have moved far away from it.

Obviously, not everything really happens on Wednesdays. If we had done a scientific study back then, I'm sure we would have realized that. It was just interesting to feel as though we could see a pattern, even if we tended to see it in retrospect, rather than in real time. And, of course, if you're always worried that something will happen--on Wednesday or on any day--you tend to give up just living that day. And with a finite number of days in each week, who among us can really afford to give one up to worrying?

This Wednesday came and went, and I have hope that tomorrow, being Thursday, will be somewhat less eventful.

And if Friday brings a cliffhanger, I'll know that my history is still very much a part of me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Sounds like a bad thing, doesn't it? And yet, in a world where it seems that everything changes constantly, it occurred to me that "predictable" is a little comforting--at least sometimes.

What is predictable?

That if I sit in a certain corner of my couch, I will, despite my best intentions, fall asleep. (This is now SO predictable that my children interrogate me every time I choose to sit there!)

That my kids will stay up too late and be hard to wake up in the morning. I'm not quite sure how they can't see the craziness of this predictable pattern, but at least I know what I'm dealing with every day!

That there will be pasta made for at least one meal a day in my house. The kids lobby for it, and it's easy to make--even on auto-pilot on those days when the kids are hard to wake in the morning. Which is (predictably!) every day.

That there will be a talk about the week's logistics every Sunday and many talks about summer camp every spring. It doesn't mean that the decisions all get made or that the weeks and summers run without a hitch, but at least I can count on having the conversations!

That work will end early on the days I don't need it to and late on the days I do.

It would be easy to think of "predictable" as negative--boring, uninspired, unoriginal. What I am learning, however, is how very comforting it is to have a handful of things that I can predict. Whether it's work (after a time when whether I'd even HAVE work was unpredictable), or home dynamics (because in a household of five, things tend to change CONSTANTLY), "predictable" means that I can plan, at least a little. "Predictable" means that, at least some of the time, life is not a complete guessing game. "Predictable" means that I know what to expect (good and bad). I may not always like the outcomes, but at least I know enough about how things will work that I have a chance to influence those outcomes.

For me, "predictable" is not a dirty word. Rather, it is like the pillow that I sleep on every night or the breakfast I eat each morning. A little "predictable" gives a lot of much needed shape to my days and much needed comfort in a chaotic life. 

So, the next time you're accused of being predictable, say "thank you." You just might be doing yourself and others a huge favor.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cutting Room Floor

So--for those of you who were anxiously awaiting my makeover reveal on network--well, online--television tomorrow, you'll have to stay a-waiting. My segment, you see, has ended up on the cutting room floor.

Now, as an editor, I know how often even the things you think are working don't end up working. Whether it's minutes or seconds or whole scenes that need to be cut, you do the cutting because it makes the product better. Or shorter. Or more suited to the needs of the audience, or the producers, or the network. That's what we editors do, and if things are left on the cutting room floor, they weren't meant to be--at least not in the project at hand. One of the hardest things about editing (or any type of creative work, really) is letting things go. Even if our work isn't always brilliant, it is our work, and we get attached. But in order to do better work, we need to keep honing, keep adjusting--keep letting go and moving forward.

This time around, my makeover and my appearance in front of the camera weren't meant to be. Perhaps there'll be another time. Meanwhile, I'll just keep editing, in work and in life--leaving plenty of things, I'm sure, on the cutting room floor.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy Endings

As I watched the final performance of the show my daughter has been rehearsing for weeks (and this past week, for many hours daily), I couldn't help but think ahead to all the things that would now happen, since the time spent in rehearsals, and in transportation to and from rehearsals, would now be free time. In a busy life, there are rarely endings, happy or otherwise. There are simply events that punctuate the weeks, that make us pause for a moment, or celebrate for a few days. They are not endings. When they end, we simply move on to the next thing. Sometimes, that "next thing" is equally satisfying, sometimes not, but regardless, we move on, no real endings, just a series of new beginnings.

When the show was over, I hugged her and gave her a congratulations gift card (my answer to bouquets of flowers that die in a day). And we headed home so that she could do her homework, because homework, it seems, doesn't ever end.

Perhaps I am cheating life by zooming past the endings.

Or perhaps I am just lucky that each ending seems to be simply a step toward the next beginning.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Associated Costs

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I heard a casting director speak. She talked about auditions and preparation, and all the things you would expect a casting director to know. She also talked about the real costs associated with being an actor. Or the parent of an actor. There are headshots and classes and tickets to shows your kids are in and travel to auditions-- the list goes on.

I am learning more each day that not just acting has associated costs.

For every job you take, there is the associated cost of child care (not to mention the cabs to race home to relieve the child care when you work extra hours). There are also the costs of events missed, time and energy stretched, and takeout meals when you have no interest in cooking at the end of a long work day.

When your children play on sports teams, you know there will be the associated costs of the league fee (you've gotta have uniforms!) and the necessary equipment. But do you ever think about the buses (if you're running on time) and cabs (if you're not) to get to games and practices? The extra loads of laundry you do when the uniform has to be clean for multiple games each week? The snacks you end up buying at the field for yourself and your child when you realize you brought nothing but the baseball equipment? And the extra child care you might need if the games and practices are at times when the job you take (see above) makes you unavailable to go yourself?

When you send your kids to schools that aren't close to home, your children may receive a free Metrocard to get there each day, but you're on your own when it comes to getting to parent events. And whether school is far from home or not, there are the associated costs of supplies, and brownies for bake sales, and fundraisers. That's just how it is.

It has become clear to me that acting is not the only thing out there with associated costs. Everything in life pretty much has them, whether the costs are strictly monetary, or whether they are emotional as well. If there are things we want, we have to be willing to pay the price.

The question is, what associated costs are you willing to pay? Is your children's acting or playing sports or going to a particular school worth the time and the travel if it makes them happy? Is your work worth the hours away and the taxis and the child care because it clears more than it costs and/or it satisfies you?

Every day, we are faced with balancing the associated costs with the value of what we are getting. There are no easy answers, and the balance changes every day. The trick is making sure that at the end of each day (or at least at the end of each week or month), we come out in the black.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Does It Mean You're Doing Too Much If...

You fall asleep before your kids (which would actually imply that they are doing more than you, or that you are doing too little). Hmm...

You recycle the takeout containers because you just can't bear to wash any more of them for re-use.

You make sure to print out tickets and coupons you'll need during the day--then leave them in the printer when you race out the door.

You're really not sure whether the events and actions in your dreams are things that actually happened or not.

When you try to go through piles of paperwork, the piles somehow manage to get bigger, rather than smaller.

You depend way too often on the newspaper masthead to remind you what day it is.

I am happy to report that today, I at least know it is Friday. And that, while I know for sure that I will be doing too much this weekend, at least it is the weekend.

And I am grateful.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Test Prep

My son has just completed three days of New York State Tests. He is not alone. Countless kids have done the same thing, and will take more tests in a few weeks. Thankfully, he goes to a school where I believe he has been prepared. While I may not agree with so much time going into test prep, I do agree with a school's giving kids the tools and confidence to succeed, and my son's relatively calm handling of this week suggests to me that they've done a good job with that. We'll see what happens when the scores come out (if I recall correctly, many months from now).

Sometimes it seems as though a disproportionately large part of our lives (and our kids' lives) is spent taking tests. Tests to get into kindergarten, tests to assess knowledge and aptitude, tests to move on to any new place you'd like to go. Over the years, my husband has cautioned me countless times to remember that a test says something (we may not be quite sure what!) about our child on one day, while we have known the child day in and day out for years. It is so easy to go along with test scores--to give them the same power in our minds that they have over school choices and opportunities (at least in New York). The hard part is separating out what the tests do say, and what they don't.

Does a test score mean that a child is less of a worthy student? Or more of one? Not necessarily. How often have we worked hard in our jobs, only to find that others pass us by for small reasons?

Does success on a test mean that the way ahead is clear? For that matter, does lack of success on that test mean that the way is doomed? I would like to think not. The reality is, at least in New York City, test scores are weighed heavily. The other reality is that not all of our best paths in life are the obvious ones, so if the tests take something away, I would like to think they give something--perhaps an opportunity we might not have considered--back as well.

I am definitely glad that this round of tests is over, even if I know that the next round is just around the corner. Do I wish the school days could be full of more than preparing for tests? Sure. But for better or for worse, we will always be preparing for one type of test or another. And if we can come out of that prep even a little more ready to see and face what lies ahead, we will be prepped to handle whatever that turns out to be.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


So you're going about your daily life, making sure your clothes basically match and your hair's basically brushed, and you have ways to get your children to and from every which place they need to go, when suddenly, you are asked to have a makeover. The makeover that maybe you wanted when you were suddenly out of work after twenty-some years and felt old when you read job postings. The makeover that maybe you thought about when your "comfort over style" mindset seemed to catch up with you at parents' gatherings. The makeover that you fantasized about but feared, every time you watched What Not To Wear.

Earlier this week, I was asked to be part of a makeover segment on Arise Entertainment 360, the magazine show on the network where I've been editing news footage. "Who, me?" I thought. Better yet, "Why me?"

But curiosity won out, and today, I shot the beginnings of what will be a "Spring Makeover" segment, with a big reveal on the show on Tuesday. (You can check it out at Arise.TV on April 8 between 2 and 3pm EST).

Over my years in TV, I have been in front of the camera only a handful of times. I was a cow on several of One Life to Live's Halloween shows. I was interviewed on a local news show about my educational video. And that's about it, except if you count cameos on the yearly OLTL Christmas reel.

So, today, as I walked into a clothing boutique (multiple takes, but with attitude and on cue each time), tried on clothes (what was more fun--the trying on things I could never afford or the reacting about each one for the camera?), and began to have my hair done, I got a rare glimpse into the other side.

Don't worry. I won't be giving up editing or directing or writing for acting. I actually found that I couldn't help but think about how to direct and edit the shots I was part of. The experience, however, was a lovely break from my every day routine. A reminder that it's okay to think out of your box a little. That it's okay to think about changing things sometimes. And that it 's okay to accept an offer, even if you're not sure why it was offered.

Check it out--this Tuesday on the Arise.TV show Arise 360. Hey, it might be your only chance to see me on camera. Unless you've got a tape of me in the cow costume.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Editing Rules

I began editing my children's book chapter today. Now that there are clearer "rules" to unite the book, I need to (among other things) make sure that my chapter "follows the rules."

As I began the process (which, I can see already, will happen in stolen moments here and there), I realized that I could throw out my whole original idea, pronouncing it too far from the rules, or I could make adjustments, essentially "telling" my character that her journey would now be a bit different, but that I would guide her along the way.

As crazy as this sounds, when you are writing a character-based chapter, you are kind of talking to and following your character. Well, at least I was. So, my initial response to the "rules" was that it would be hard to follow them while maintaining my character--more important, that it would be hard for her to exist within the newly minted "rules."

The truth is, in life, "rules" change all the time. We--and our children--are constantly having to adjust because the rules have changed. It's not easy. And depending on the personalities of our kids, it sometimes seems impossible. As parents, we might wish we could shield our kids from change or force our kids to fit the rules, but ultimately (often with our help), they make change work for them. Sometimes, they even come out stronger for it.

So, I will persist in my editing, and in shepherding my character through the "rules." Who knows? Maybe (as my children often do), she'll teach me a few things along the way. And maybe, when all is said (written, that is) and done, we both (and my chapter) will come out stronger.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Forward March

As I thought about the last day of March, I remembered that it was March of last year when I began traveling to Connecticut for the online soaps. It was a time of so many emotions--excitement about being among friends, comfort in doing things I'd done for years, trepidation about being far (in real time, not just bus time) from my kids, eagerness to prove myself to whole new groups of people, and sheer joy to be not just working, but working as part of something new, and even daring.

As we come to the close of this March, I am reminded of how distant that memory is. Of how one adventure is so quickly replaced by others, yet remains a part of our makeup as we move forward. Of how we work with what we are given, and our minds and hearts go along...

At the moment, it's hard to imagine a daily trip to a different state. A daily job that often deposits me at home at 2am, only to return a few hours later. A year ago, that trip and those hours were part of the  greatest new adventure--what I called "soap camp."

We move on. Another March--a very different March--done. And a new April to come.