Sunday, August 31, 2014

Early Alarms

I woke up to an alarm this morning. After going alarm-free on the weekdays for much of the summer (I wake naturally by 7), I set an alarm for a Saturday, of all days.

Was it preparation for the impending start of the school year? Perhaps. It will be a shock to all of our systems when my kids have to go back to flying out the door in time for buses and trains that get them to early classes. I may be a morning person, but the absence of a buzzing/ringing/trumpeting sound at five a.m. has been a relief, even to me.

So why, then, on a Saturday, did I choose to wake to that sound? Because I saw what I wanted to get done, and I saw it passing me by. Sure, I could luxuriate in hours of sleep and wake up at noon--that's what Saturdays are for, right? Or I could fit more of what I like to do (and a few things that just need to be done) into a Saturday, simply by rising to shut off the ringing/buzzing/trumpeting and facing my day.

Having packed in a day of fun and accomplishment, I am glad I did it. Had I slept till noon, I wouldn't have done half as much, and I'd likely be tired anyway. It's been a good last Saturday before school, and it's given me faith that the early-rising days ahead will fill us with new experiences and accomplishments.

It's not that those days of early alarms will always feel good. But some days, like today, I think we'll consider them worth it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peanuts Quiz

I don't do quizzes-really, I don't. All those "what kind of person are you?" or "who's right for you?" or "what should you do next?" things generally strike me as no more helpful than a fortune cookie in determining who I am and how I should live. Yet, today, when I saw a quiz about what Peanuts character you are, I just couldn't resist. You see, I am a Peanuts lover from way back. So, considering that Snoopy and company started shaping my life at a very early age, I figured the least I could do was find out (through a VERY scientific survey!) what Peanuts character I most resembled.

As I started answering questions, I didn't think about guessing. I simply answered honestly and left the rest to chance. And when all was said and done, I was Linus, and the accompanying description stopped me in my tracks. It talked about philosophy of life, and approach to things, and it reminded me a little about who exactly I am.

I know--it's just an online quiz. But in a life in which I sometimes feel that I'm just trying to keep up--to stay competitive, to make a living, to maintain an organized and productive household--it is easy to forget exactly who I am and what I think about anything. So, for me, Linus was a wake-up call-- a reminder that I am more than what I do, and deeper than what I "produce."

I can't say I'll now be taking every quiz that comes down the pike, but this one was a good way to start my day and to end my week.

I guess maybe all these years later, Snoopy and company are still shaping my life.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Un-clutter My Heart

My home has two kinds of clutter--the large objects that we have bought or acquired that are fantastic but have no place in an NYC apartment, and the piles of paper and assorted small objects that manage to self-generate on a fairly continuous basis. I have just about given up on the big ones. My main responsibility is keeping the small ones at bay. Which, believe me, is no small task.

Each night (or every few), I tackle a pile. The items, which range from mail to old school papers to hair ties to pieces of toys or games, are redistributed--sent back to their original owners for reorganization. The problem is, while the "original owners" may be willing to claim a hair tie or some stray Legos, the majority of the items tend to remain unclaimed, so it is up to me to decide what little treasures escape the garbage.

Easy, right? If no one wants it, just toss it. This may work well for toy parts and rubber bands, but what about last year's essay that got an A+? What about the cartoon that took hours to draw, or the paper evidence of a game that occupied my son and my sitter for hours? What about the manuals to random items and the discount flyers for the ten musicals we want to see but might never get around to? Nobody wants any of this, but if I am not the guardian of our past, present, and future, who will be? And so, the piles get chipped away, or moved to other piles, but are never quite gone--the daily self-generation makes sure of that. So the clutter remains.

Many years ago, I heard a "clutter consultant" (I think they are mostly called professional organizers now) speak about how clutter in your life could really get in the way of your getting things done. I get it--there are many things I'd rather do with my time than sift through papers and piles. The question is, where do necessity and history end and a clutter-free space begin? Would I give up items that make me smile in order to have a clear dinner table? Can I remember enough of my kids' growing up not to have props to refresh the memories?

I like smiling, and I like memories. So, while I'm sure I can get a lot better at moving through the present-related clutter, I suspect I'll be holding on to some of the stuff from the past. If I have to share my space with a first grade cartoon or a fourth grade essay, so be it. I'll clear my table, and my head, some other way.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


How many hours of how many days do we spend looking for something better? Better body, better job, better wardrobe--no matter where we are now, it seems that we always feel there's something better out there.

There's nothing wrong with self-improvement. If we go to the gym or eat healthier foods to have a better body, we win. If we take a course or read a book to know or understand our field (or another field) a little more, it can't help but make us better. "Better" is a good thing, right?

Striving to BE better is a good thing. Where we get stuck, I think, is in believing that where we're not is better than where we are--in forgetting to be grateful for what we have because we're so busy looking for something better.

Am I suggesting that we settle? Absolutely not. There are always changes that can be made and improvements that will, well, improve us, and our lives. But when we focus only on the improvements and the changes, only the "better," we risk messing up the "pretty good" that we already have, and in the long run, that doesn't make ANYTHING better.

So, go ahead--work at being better. Just don't forget that you might already have it pretty good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As If...Suddenly

Sometimes, you can go through things feeling as if you are all alone. As if no one can feel how you feel. As if, even if you used to have a spot where you fit, the fit isn't quite right anymore. As if your work and your words don't have the same effect as they used to. As if you can never really explain why A isn't connecting to B, and why how you are beginning isn't getting you to the right ending.

And then suddenly, you talk to a friend who understands, or a co-worker who feels what you feel. Suddenly, words that it seems as though you have said a thousand times are heard, and appreciated. Suddenly, a step you've taken actually opens the door on which you knocked. Suddenly, the joke you tell makes somebody laugh, and the words of help you offer actually help someone. Suddenly, the creative juices you couldn't get to flow are there again, as if they'd never left. Suddenly, you are seen the way you'd like to be seen.

And suddenly, it's as if the feeling of alone was just a moment in time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothing Yet

I've been working with iNews this year. This spreadsheet-ish type program coordinates the pieces of a newscast, showing editors what video clips need to be built, showing directors and producers how the show will flow and how long written pieces and videos run, and, in general, tying together the work of many people in assorted rooms and on different floors. With iNews, I can get clip numbers and notes from producers and writers that essentially give me a roadmap for how to work, even if I am sitting in an edit room alone.

Quite often, news stories connect directly to one or more videos that exist on the major news sources. Sometimes, however, if the newscast is taking a different approach, I will see the note "nothing yet," meaning there's no matching footage. So, I move on, creating other videos for stories that already have video.

The thing about the "nothing yet" note is that it rarely stays until the broadcast. Sometimes, it is replaced with the name of a video clip--many stories just need a few hours to have video released about them--so I build it. Sometimes, I am directed to use photos--a reasonable substitute if there is no moving video. Sometimes, the story is made "on-cam"--while a picture (or video) may be worth a thousand words, a story can still be worth telling, even if the anchor is just telling it. And once in a very long while, the story is simply removed from the show.

The point is, "nothing yet" rarely means that the producer has given up on the story. It simply means that there is not a simple solution. Throughout the day, a new search or a new way of thinking usually produces results. "Nothing yet" is not an answer--it's just a temporary placeholder.

If we were to give up looking every time we couldn't easily find the "pictures" we wanted, we wouldn't have much of a story to tell most days. The best stories happen when we hang in, look at things from a different angle, and apply what we know to finding what we know might be out there. Stopping at "nothing yet" leaves us with, well, nothing. Going beyond "nothing yet" gives us the chance of creating endless new stories, often complete with pictures AND video.

It's not about living by spreadsheet, or coming up with the flashiest "pictures." It's about remembering that, in news and in life, "nothing yet" is far more than "nothing."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Re: Summer Sundays

All over the country, kids have already gone back to school. Not so here, and yet, Summer Sundays are leading us there. I can just feel it.

What distinguishes a Summer Sunday?

1. Re-turn. As I traveled home, I needed only look around a little to see that what people do on a Summer Sunday is return from where they've been. And get ready to return to their normal weekday routine.

2. Re-store. I am not so good at this one. In an ideal world, part of a Summer Sunday is restoring order in your surroundings so that you start the week with the home organization to back you up. The frequent delays in return can easily make this a challenge.

3. Re-fresh. The changing of your brain to ready it for your weekday challenges. Whether you're working or unemployed, there will DEFINITELY be weekday challenges.

4. Re-new. Hopefully, the weekend leading up to that Summer Sunday will have made you feel like a new person. Unfortunately, sometimes that means a new person who has to go back to an old life.

5. Re-peat. Perhaps your Summer Sunday is one in a whole season of Summer Sundays. Perhaps it is something you repeat just once a year. Either way, it feels as though you've been there before, but are still perfecting all your "re's."

6. Rest, relaxation, and respect. Hopefully you come out of your Summer Sunday having gotten a little of the break you've needed, and a healthy respect for both the rest and for the weekday life to which you're coming back. After all, there aren't many Summer Sundays left. You may as well make the most of them.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making Air--And Decisions

On any given work day, I must make hundreds of choices--how to start a video, how long to make it, what parts are important, whether I will answer a phone or leave it for someone else. Some of these are important choices, some are trivial, but either way, most of them are made quickly, with not a lot of looking back involved.

You would think that with so much experience in split-second, "make air" decisions, I would have no problem making decisions in the rest of my life. The problem is, while work may involve "making air," life involves a lot of other "making"--making kids happy, but also making them good people, making things work, but also making sure I can pay the bills for the making, making the most of our days, but also making sure to leave energy for the next days, making fun foods, but making sure to eat healthy ones as well. The list could go on. The point is that while hundreds of our daily decisions can be quick and clear-cut (particularly if our jobs demand that), we are constantly called upon to make decisions that are not so clear-cut, especially in that deciding moment. "Making air" is one thing. Making the most--and best--of life is something entirely different.

Just as I like to think I learn something new on every job, I guess I learn a little more about making decisions each day. I may never have learned enough to make it easy, but I'm trying. And I'm grateful for the ones that, like a decision made to "make air," leave me able just to move on to the next.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On Location

I used to wonder why the soaps felt it was so important to do location shoots. I mean, there were times when something in a script called for a place that simply couldn't be built in the studio, but there were also times when it seemed as though the idea of travel came first and the scripts to be shot in the faraway place came after. Either way, I always wondered if the audience really cared where it was shot, as long as it was a good story.

Today was a day when I realized the joy of locations. As I traveled out of town (not even that far), it felt as though a weight was lifted, a door was opened. Could driving happen in the city? Sure, but the scenery and the fellow drivers would be different. Could shopping happen in the city? Of course. But it wouldn't have the same rhythm or vibe. Would we eat out in the city? Maybe--just not in the same way.

Sometimes it just takes stepping out of your door or your four walls or your comfort zone to tell a different story--a more exciting story. On the soaps, I saw us create forests and beaches in the studio (I loved those "magic of television" moments). I also saw how going to a real beach or forest somehow upped the excitement for cast and crew alike.

We can't always "go on location." As in television, neither time nor budget allow for it. But taking that step out when we can afford to is worth every minute and every penny--and it keeps us, and our "audience," going once we're back inside our "studio."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Late Train of Thought

Today, I waited for a train for over an hour. It was not a train that would make me late to work or destroy my day. I was meeting the train, not taking it, so all I had to absorb was the hour lost standing in the station, unable to accomplish much of anything.

As I stood for the hour, I thought about how the people on the train (whose day probably was being upended) must be at least as frustrated as I was. Mostly, though, I thought about how there was absolutely nothing that I, or the people on the train, could do about the situation. Nothing.

I'm not used to that. I mean, isn't there always something you can do? Take medicine if you are in pain, get a tutor if your child needs one, bulk up your résumé or call in your contacts when applying for a job, go online for a recipe when you have no idea what to do with what's in your fridge?

Today, as five minutes passed, then fifteen, then thirty, then an hour, I felt an odd acceptance, even peace, about the fact that I was not in control. Don't get me wrong--it's nice to be in control--of your career and your income and your kids' successes and the state of your health and home. But it's not always possible. Much as we'd like to, we can't always be in control.

Sometimes it takes a late train to remind you that things being out of your control is not so bad. It's definitely survivable. And once in a while, it actually helps you get back on track.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nap When You Can, Focus When You Have To

Sometimes on days when I am not working, I wonder how it is that I have the time and energy to work as hard as I do. On work days, I somehow manage to survive without the "nap item" that I have talked about (but never succeeded in) adding to a production day. Yet, when I am not working, it seems that there ought to be nap items SEVERAL times a day.

Perhaps our bodies just adapt to what we expect of them. When we are working, we expect ourselves to stay alert and active, ready to face any challenge, and to fit all the non-work necessities into the bits of time we have left. When a whole day without as many clear-cut responsibilities is upon us, is it so surprising that our bodies jump at the chance to take it down a notch? To relax a little from focusing and achieving?

The trick, as I see it, is to embrace the bit of relaxation without taking our eye off the ball. For, while not resting when we have the chance is a waste, napping right through what might be our next big opportunity or accomplishment is no better.

Perhaps kids have the right idea--they grab on to the freedom of their summers as long as possible, knowing full well that when summer ends, there will be plenty of focus, and plenty of accomplishment.

So, if you have a few days, or even a few hours, make sure not to waste them--nap, or plan, or just de-focus for a bit. Once you're back on the job, you'll be doing what needs to be done--and you may not get the chance.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taking Direction

I found myself giving direction today to my son and to a friend. Guess who took direction better?

If you guessed my son, because you assume kids are naturally more directable than adults, you'd be wrong. It was actually my friend, who was just in need of a little outside input. Turns out that we adults need direction sometimes too. And unlike kids, we are willing to admit it--well, at least sometimes.

I have worked as a director. I have figured out camera angles and character motivations and story trajectories. Yet, on a day when my normal routine is interrupted, I find myself as in need of direction as the actors and camera people with whom I have worked. Each of us knows our skill set. We know what we need to accomplish to get through a day. Yet, when we are taken off track, whether because of changes in our work or because of summer vacation or because of a change in scenery, we are left standing, skill set in hand, wondering where it will all lead us today. Or tomorrow. Or in a year.

Today, I gave some direction, and I also happily took some. Just like seasoned actors, we basically know our roles--it just takes a tweak here and there to help us perform at our best. And it doesn't hurt, when we don't quite know how the story will end, to have a little help--direction, that is--along the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Revisionist History

It was back to the drawing board on my book chapter today. It is not a simple thing to write a book with twenty people, so now comes the part in which my chapter must gel with the others. So, against the backdrop of an unscheduled hiatus from work, I generated some new story, some clever (I hope!) conversation, and a few (fingers crossed!) meaningful thoughts. It was, I believe, a productive day.

Yet, surrounded by the walls of my apartment, and this and other tasks at hand that needed to be accomplished but wouldn't create fireworks or income, I was thrust back to the feelings of other days--days when I was job-searching and believing I might become a full-time writer and sequestering myself in my apartment, lest I spend money or stray from my path of trying to get things done. I was struck by how quickly those feelings jumped back into my consciousness. They appeared as I typed, and as I gulped a cup of tea to keep my mind going. They appeared as I struggled to complete things and as I realized that my working time was done and the task of making dinner was upon me.

Just as stories we read take us back to other stories or to experiences we've had, the circumstances of my day today were just a little too close to those from my not-so-distant history. While we all may aim to move forward daily, we can't help but be influenced by our history, whether it's life history, or work history, or a little bit of both. The key, I guess, is to revise it enough to work with the other chapters of our lives, so that our history informs us, but doesn't stop the action, so that it helps with (we hope!) clever conversation and (fingers crossed!) meaningful thoughts. And so that it becomes just a part of the story that we manage to revise each and every day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Long-Term Connections

Last night, a former colleague of mine won a Creative Arts Emmy for her work on The Sound of Music Live. As excited as I was a few months ago to win an Emmy for my One Life to Live online work, I found myself equally excited to hear her news (and to see the lead-up, as she actually dressed up and went to the event, rather than watching on a phone, as I had on Daytime Emmy night).

One of the best things about having worked in places for extended periods of time (a rare occurrence these days) is that you form connections that stay with you. Sure, there is networking potential in these connections, but there is also the connection that just makes you happy when someone you know wins an Emmy, or starts work on a show you've heard of (or haven't!), or has a baby. Working someplace for a while isn't just about an ongoing paycheck that is not dependent on constant hustling (though that is an undeniable benefit). It is about developing something that lasts, often well beyond the life of the project.

I am so excited about my friend's Emmy win. It is a reminder of how much there is to look forward to out there. And a reminder of how much years past connect me to life now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Been There, Done That?

Almost a week ago, I wrote about seeing a production of Guys and Dolls, and through a strange combination of curiosity and logistics, tonight I was in the audience again. And while this was my second time seeing this production, and my seventh or eighth seeing the show, there were still things that were new to me, still new joy, new laughter, new appreciation.

As I pondered all the things I appreciated even more the second time than the first, I wondered if they were things that had been there before or not. And I thought about how often we look for new experiences, feeling as though we have no need to repeat what we've already done. We, of course, spend our money to see a show we haven't seen rather than to see again one we have loved. We try to expose our kids to different things rather than repeat trips to the places they already know. We are constantly on the lookout for the new and the different.

While there is nothing wrong with new experiences, we miss the boat a little when we assume that new experience has to be with something we've never before encountered. Just as I saw different things in Guys and Dolls than I saw a week ago, we all have the opportunity to experience things differently, even when on the surface, the things are the same.

I could easily have said "been there, done that" to the question of seeing Guys and Dolls again, but I'm so glad I didn't. Because sometimes, "been there" doesn't even come close to "done that." So it's worth doing again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Visiting Hours

The last in a long string of out of town guests have departed, leaving us one step closer to the normalcy that will soon become a school year filled with early mornings and tight schedules and packed lunches and "what should we make for dinner?" It's scary, a little, and sad, because we miss them and the excitement they brought. While family life never really lacks excitement of one kind or another, there is a specialness that comes with visitors that we can never quite match with just ourselves. In the last few months, we have learned a little about France and a little about Israel, a little about Florida and California, and a little about people we mostly know from emails. And we have escaped a little from the normalcy of life.

So, now we return, to a daily life filled mostly with each other and a daily schedule filled mostly with meals at home and conversations only about New York. Back to normalcy. Which, I suppose, is not the worst thing. Until the next visit.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Brand New Year

A year ago, I was closing out the online soaps, traveling to Connecticut on what felt like a random series of days to screen the last of the shows re-edited for OWN and create "asbroads," scripts that matched as closely as possible the video that would air. It was an iffy time, going to a place that was emptier and emptier each day that I arrived, knowing that any day, my trips there would be done.

And then, like a package from the sky, Arise landed on my doorstep (actually on my cell phone). It was new--because it was news. It was scary--because it was new and was through a friend's reference. It was confusing--because new things frequently are. But it was exhilarating in the way that new and scary and confusing things often turn out to be.

And now, as if in the blink of an eye, a year has passed. A year since those last melancholy days in Connecticut. A year since that "what will I do now?" feeling was setting in. A year of getting comfortable and resisting getting comfortable and getting comfortable again. A year of learning and finding out how much I still have to learn. A year of moving forward. Of moving on.

It's funny how at each stage, you're not quite sure how you'll make it through, only to find that you've made it through when you weren't even looking. And the weeks pass, until you're looking back at a whole year.

And each day, in some way, starting a brand new one.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eternal Optimist?

When I was at ABC, particularly during the back half of my time there (after I'd been away and come back), I was quite often the resident eternal optimist. Or perhaps I was just a realist with a good attitude. Having been out in the cold world of looking for work, I had a keen appreciation for my job and my paycheck, and for the luck of being in a place where people generally understood me, and almost always challenged me.

It would have been easy to be pessimistic when we worked later than we were supposed to, when my directing career moved slower than I wanted, or when we heard the announcement that the soaps were cancelled. Yet, while I certainly had moments of gray--okay, darker than gray--thoughts, it was the belief that something better could--and would--happen that kept me going each day. If I went in each day believing that the day or the week or the show would be good, there was a reasonable chance that it would be.

A lot of time has passed since ABC, and I sometimes wonder if I am still that eternal optimist. Do I still believe that saying it's a good day will make it one? Do I still believe that people are mostly doing their best, and that if I do mine, it will be enough? Do I still believe that whatever I have trumps whatever I don't, and that I am lucky to be where I am because it is better than being nowhere at all?

I have thought many times over the past few years that my eternal optimism was gone--snatched away in a combination of unemployment and disappointment. It turns out that it was just in hiding. For better or worse, I think I remain an eternal (or at least a most-of-the-time) optimist. Because it's a whole lot easier to be happy that way.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Character Shoes

I took my daughter to buy character shoes today. Character shoes. Not clown shoes or school shoes, but character shoes--simple strapped pumps that could just as well be Sunday best shoes or career shoes, but are designed for the movement, dance, and look of musical theater. You'd think, by the name, that they are to fit a specific character. It turns out that they are just the opposite--designed for uniformity, not specificity. An item to be added to an ever-expanding bag of tricks for a theater artist.

As we pondered the black and the tan (and the caramel, a much softer version of tan), and the lower heel and the higher heel, I thought a lot about "bags of tricks." Each of us, it seems, whether we are in musical theater or any other field, starts assembling a bag of tricks, whether those tricks are skills or costumes or props. What we take out of the bag for any given "audition" may differ, but if we don't at least attempt to assemble our "bag," we have given up before we even start. If we fail to carry with us the tricks we have acquired along the way, we are selling ourselves short at our next stop. Our "character shoes," whatever they may be, help us go from step to step.

I am hopeful that the character shoes (ordered, so as to get just the right fit in just the right color) will be just one in a series of items and skills a that my daughter can add to her "bag." Because, in theater and in life, you never know what you're gonna need to walk the walk. Or dance the dance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stationary Bike

Life has once again thrown a monkey wrench into my plans for the gym, just as I was finally getting a foothold (pun, I suppose, intended) on the stationary bike. It's amazing how many things can get in the way of something seemingly so simple.

In any case, I began thinking about the bike. In the course of a half-hour on a stationary bike, you go, well, nowhere. But as you go nowhere, there is a screen telling you that you've gone six miles, that you've burned some calories, and that you can catch up on some news or music or reruns while you motor ahead. So, while you are going nowhere, you're actually getting farther ahead than you do in many other parts of your life.

We are so accustomed to feeling as though we must have visible accomplishments each day. Have we finished a task, or brought home a paycheck? Have we cooked a gourmet meal or made the house visibly cleaner? Yet, as on the stationary bike, forward movement is not always completely visible. Just like that "calories burned" line, which pops up only once in a while on the bicycle screen, our accomplishments can be fleeting. It doesn't mean they didn't happen.

Don't get me wrong--I will still be climbing over the monkey wrenches to get to the bicycle, and to whatever else needs to be accomplished. But as I climb, I'll be trying to remember that the places where I stop to rest are important too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I'll Know?

As I watched a production of Guys and Dolls (in which my daughter had a small role), I found myself pondering the lyrics of one of the show's songs, "I'll Know," in which two of the main characters say that they'll know "when their love comes along." Obviously, this being musical theater, they really just think they know, and, of course, things catch them by surprise. In any case, the song left me wondering whether we really know much. I mean, how often do we really know when to choose work and when to choose home? How often do we know when work is working, and when it's not? How often do we know when to choose money and when to choose fulfillment? When to look for something, and when to choose what's right here?

In times when I was out of work, "knowing" was about how I'd pay the bills, and whether I'd look for jobs out of my chosen field in order to do so. And even then, as the questions mounted, "I'll know" was a hard thing to say, since I never really knew which instincts to trust.

The truth is, most of the time, we don't know. We may think that we do, at least for a moment, but the moment passes quickly, and we are left with just guessing. If we are lucky, the guesses are good ones, and the outcome, though unknown, is a positive one. There are certainly things I've done without "knowing" that have turned out well, so I suppose the flip side is opportunity not completely controlled by what you know.

Once again, I am left wondering how life would be as musical theater. I guess, in the end, I just won't know.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Taking A Meeting

Over the last few weeks, I have watched my kids get to know their out of town cousins. It has been a process, for sure. For kids who are used to a whole school year or a whole camp session to make friends, it is not simple to create immediate bonds with people seen only every few years. Yet, as I have watched, I have begun to see the crossing of age boundaries and the willingness to try new things. I have seen looking after and looking ahead. I have seen real signs that progress has been made.

As I watch, I realize how much we expect of kids. We expect them to forge connections, when we ourselves struggle with that every day. We expect them to look out for the underdog when we ourselves spend so much of our days looking out for ourselves. We expect them to try new things when we ourselves get stuck on the "new" all the time. And when they succeed, do we congratulate them, or more important, do we take a lesson from them in our own lives?

Watching my kids get to know their out of town cousins has reminded me how much we can do to expand our circles and our outlook. It takes a leap. It takes patience, and persistence, and the willingness to communicate with the bigger and the smaller, the people who know more than you, and the people who know less.

But, as far as I can tell from the meetings I've witnessed these few weeks, it can be well worth it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Holding On To The Joy

I have been editing a promo video for a teen theater program. It will be full of rehearsal and performance footage, which is terrific, but it will also include interviews with the kids, which have been truly inspirational.

Granted, these are kids. They are not, for the most part, saddled with the responsibilities of working to support a household and family the way we adults are. Still, they lead busy lives and deal with the stresses of high school and college (or getting into college), and, I'm sure, assorted family stresses of their own. Yet, when they talk about the theater, they do so with sheer joy. They may touch upon learning skills that will be useful to them in other tasks or in life, but mostly, what they convey is appreciation for this moment in their lives and for their enjoyment of it.

How often do we enjoy what we are doing? Not just appreciate what it does for us in terms of money or skills, but appreciate the way it fills us? While we may need the money and the skills more than your average teenager, ultimately, we need some of that joy just as much.

I imagine that these kids will go on, whether in theater or not, to take on responsibilities that sometimes eclipse the sheer joy that they are expressing now. But I am hopeful that they, and we, can hold on to a little of that joy, at least sometimes, at least for a little while.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Supposed To

If you do good work, you're supposed to remain employed.

If you try your hardest, that's supposed to be enough, at least for the people who know you.

If you go into situations with a positive attitude, you're supposed to come out with a positive outcome.

If you start exercising when you haven't before, you're supposed to lose weight, or at least look as though you have.

If you get a good night's sleep, you're supposed to bound out of bed, ready to face the new day.

If you worked your normal, everyday day, you're supposed to have enough energy left at night to cook and clean and manage both disputes and bills.

If you have a three day weekend, you're supposed to feel the restorative power of it for a whole week.

Clearly "supposed to" is just that--"supposed to"--something that someone sometime supposed. If you're waiting for "supposed to," I recommend getting used to "what is," or at least "what you make happen." You'll be a whole lot happier. And isn't that what we're supposed to try to be?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Parallel Construction

I was helping a friend edit a letter today. I enjoy editing--it awakens that middle school grammar student in me. Besides, MS Word's spelling and grammar check doesn't necessarily address things like commas and parallel construction.

Parallel construction? In a letter? Though the actual term eluded me when I was doing the editing, I couldn't help but propose making the items in a list of things have the same grammatical structure. Parallel construction. (Yes, I know I play fast and loose with grammar in this blog. And yes, I know two nouns don't make a sentence. And that you shouldn't start a sentence with "and.")

So, aside from following rules in a grammar book written decades ago, why does parallel construction matter? I would argue that it lets the reader know what to expect, and then fulfills the expectation.

Knowing what to expect is often what gets us from one point to the next in our days, our weeks, and our lives. It is what makes us feel safe in the face of things unknown. It gives us a bit of a road map for how to react. It serves as a "home base" of sorts when we feel as if we are running in lines that are definitely not straight. It allows us to compare apples to apples when we often seem faced with grapefruits and papayas.

I am hopeful that my venture into parallel construction was helpful in the editing job I did for my friend. For me, it was a reminder that a few rules and patterns can be a pretty good thing, especially when so many things in life can be, well, a little unexpected.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


In the production of a TV show, things change. Scripts change, schedules change, camera shots change. Some changes require detailed explanation, but on many shows, changes are "announced" with colored pages. If you are given a colored script page to incorporate into your white script, you know that something has changed on that page. If you are given a schedule on colored paper, you know that the day's order of events has changed. Often, there is even a designated sequence of colors for "first revision," "second revision," and so on. Sometimes it seems like a tremendous waste of paper, and yet, it works (well, at least most of the time).

Life comes with lots of revisions. How many times do the events of your day actually go in the order that you planned? How often do your interactions actually follow an expected script? The tricky thing is, in life, you don't get the "heads up" of a colored piece of paper. You just find out in the moment that something has changed. You don't have the luxury of everyone being "on the same page." You all just have to catch up together.

Sometimes, I wish that life had a color-coded revision system. Impossible, I know, but wouldn't it be nice to see change coming (in the hands of a capable PA)? Wouldn't it be nice to know that others could see the changes as you did, so that you could react in unison, rather than haphazardly? Wouldn't it be nice to have a cheat sheet if you were having trouble keeping up with the changes?

In life, though, we are pretty much on our own when it comes to revisions. It's tricky sometimes. But I guess the good news is that handling life's revisions on our own puts us way ahead of the curve when we work in TV production.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chance Meeting/Meeting Chances

In an incredibly odd moment of coincidence, this morning I ran into a former One Lifer on my way to work. Now, perhaps it is not such a huge coincidence--he lives in my neighborhood, and I have seen him there before. Yet today, it felt so completely out of the blue--a different path to work, taken at a slightly different time, and suddenly a person from my past was saying "hello."

But enough about the coincidence. What made the incident blogworthy was not so much the chance meeting. Rather, it was my stream of thoughts between the meeting and my arrival at work. In the few moments during which we crossed the street together, he asked what I was doing, and I did the same. We smiled, and he stopped for coffee as I continued on my way. As I walked, I thought about what my response had meant to him, and to me. Was he pleased or impressed to hear that I had been working someplace quite different from One Life for almost a year? Was I pleased or impressed or surprised to hear myself say that it had been that long? Was it what I wanted to hear myself saying, or find myself doing? Who did I want to be when running into someone I used to know?

Spending time out of work plays a bit with your identity. On the one hand, it leaves you free from tying "who you are" to "what you do." On the other hand, it leaves you feeling somewhat inadequate when you say who you are and what you are doing. Having spent time out of work, I was immensely grateful today to be able to say that I was working, and not just for a month. I was greatly relieved about being able to leave our conversation and head to work rather than home to job search. I was happy for what he was doing, but not jealous of it. And most of all, I was taken aback by the "settled-ness" of where I seemed to be in life, after what had seemed like an eternity of "unsettled-ness."

It's funny how our impression of what we are doing can be as shaped by how it sounds when we say it to someone as it is by our day to day experience doing it. Where will this conversation go? Probably nowhere. But sometimes it's good to have a chance meeting on the street to remind you to pay attention to where on that street you're actually headed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Checks and Balances

You do the right things, you make the right choices, each a "check" on your list of life. You run out of time, you get distracted, you run into unforeseen circumstances, and suddenly, you haven't checked all the little boxes.

If life were a list of little boxes and check marks, I'd probably do a lousy job at it. For while I might make lists, I rarely check the boxes one by one. While I might have goals, I rarely accomplish them in a straight line or on an assigned schedule.

Luckily, there is balance to go hand-in-hand with the checks. Sometimes, checking off one box doesn't work with checking off the others. Sometimes, as worthy (or exciting or lucrative) as a goal might be, that goal doesn't balance well with the rest of life. You find that accomplishing a goal that elevates you, but leaves you off-balance, isn't good for anyone.

I imagine we all struggle with checks and balances daily. Is a job high-paying enough or satisfying enough to take us away from our families? Is the security of where we are more important than the excitement of where we might be? Have we done all the things on our list--checked them off--and are we more balanced or less because of it?

Sometimes I wish I were better at the checking off. I do. Whether exploring all options or doing chores or making decisions--just putting all those little checks in those little boxes would probably be satisfying. Perhaps some day I will be better. Or perhaps I will decide that maintaining balance, which is often even harder, is actually a little more important.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Life Well Lived

Today, we celebrated the life of my father in law, who passed away recently. There were stories and songs, pictures and dances, and a group of people brought together for the endeavor. As I listened, I was struck by how many lives he had touched, and in how many different ways. And I was struck by how I heard over and over that he had said in life that this was what he wanted after he was gone--to have people come together to laugh and eat. So, largely because of him, I was part of a family reunion of sorts. It was happy and sad and overwhelming. For me, it was both closure and re-opening of the loss. Yet, in the end, I came away with a picture of a life well lived.

Ever since college, I have struggled with the idea that I should be trying to do work that helped the world in some way. While you certainly wouldn't think of soap opera production as helping the world, there were times when we told a story that might help someone somewhere. In the end, it was a job, and I accepted it as such, as I have so many of the jobs I have done. I am not qualified to cure poverty or cancer. I am not equipped to do most of the things that will help the world. But I was reminded today that a life well lived is sometimes less about the big effects you create than about the series of small ones you are a part of. Have you helped bring people together or taught children a bit of what you know? Have you allowed people into your life or fought hard enough for an idea that it lasts? Have you given a hug when it was needed, advice when you could, or space when that was all you had to give?

As I find my way through jobs and parenthood and life in general, I would like to think that I will have put together a life well lived. Perhaps it's hard to know when you're in the middle of it all. But perhaps being a part of song and dance and family and celebration is a pretty good start.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Remember that triangle you were taught to draw to show that things that are farther away look smaller? To show perspective? Pretty cool, right? Turns out perpective comes up all over...

The fact that a several hundred piece puzzle may look hard to you, but that it looks beyond impossible to a seven year old.

The fact that in the city on foot, a mile is huge, but that in the country by car, it is just a blip in a routine drive.

The fact that what is normal to you can be earth shattering to someone else.

The fact that what is all consuming to you can be irrelevant--and invisible--to someone else.

So much of life is just like that triangle you were taught to draw. The things that look big and small just do because of how you're looking at them. And everyone looks differently.

It's just a matter of perspective.

Sent from my iPhone
Check out my blog--

Friday, August 1, 2014