Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Promo Day

Today, a promo that I edited "hit the airwaves"--YouTube, social media--those "airwaves."

Now, I edit every day. Things I edit play into news and business shows, and for years, other things I edited were seen by hundreds of thousands of people watching TV. It's just what I do. But today, when my promo hit the mini-airwaves, I was struck with an excitement that I haven't felt in a long time.

Perhaps it was the fact that I'd done this piece of editing on found time, in minutes and hours between getting children to school and getting myself to work.

Perhaps it was that it was a labor of love, a project that made me smile with each soundbite and image and snippet of music.

Perhaps it was that it was for an organization I believe in, an organization that I hope will benefit from my work.

Perhaps it was that it allowed me to prove to myself what I can do.

Perhaps it gave me a little sense of product being as thrilling as process.

Just as a promo allows you--forces you--to tell a big story in a very small period of time, this "promo day" allowed me to celebrate, just for a moment, a new twist in a long career path.

A promo that I edited "hit the airwaves" today. Check it out at


Monday, September 29, 2014

Quiet, But Not Really Quiet (With Thanks to Matilda)

Did you ever wonder what happened to the quiet, peaceful weekend you were supposed to have when you had no plans, or the quiet apartment you were supposed to have when the kids had gone to bed and you'd passed the time when noise is allowed by building rules? Quiet, it seems, is not really quiet.

Now, in these specific circumstances, I brought the "not really quiet" upon myself, simply by having children. Whether they're crying as infants or expressing themselves as teenagers, children are, by nature, designed to take away quiet, and not just the volume version. For, you see, when I talk about quiet, I'm talking not just about volume, but about peace of mind as well. And that kind of quiet is hard to come by, whether you have kids or not.

Quiet is having a clear head when you need one.

Quiet is the feeling that what needs to be done is done.

Quiet is the feeling that you can read, or craft, or whatever it is you do with completely free time, without feeling as though you are neglecting something.

Quiet is the ability to be still--in your thoughts, in your choices, in where you are right now.

The truth is, quiet is not such a simple thing, and no matter how much I think I may crave quiet, it is perhaps the noise that really keeps me going. The constant striving for something different or better--the lack of quiet--is what keeps us active, and perhaps active, even if it's noisy, is the best way to be.

So, I can retreat if I want, shut out the noise when I need to (and believe me, sometimes I need to), but ultimately, it is the noise that will keep me striving for more, looking to make things better, and making sure life stays interesting, every single noisy day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


My daughter is in search of the perfect monologue, a minute or so snippet of a play that, when she performs it, will be the calling card that tells people who she is and what she can do.

While I have taken a little dramatic license with my description of a monologue, it sounds an awful lot like something more familiar to us non-actors--a resume. Just as a minute of monologue will get my daughter in the door or not, considered highly or not, a resume (often read for even less than a minute) is designed to do the same for us. A monologue may be full of words written by someone else, but how my daughter plays those words will make all the difference. And while the words of a resume may be our own, it is often how we tailor them to our audience that gets us more than just a first look.

For my daughter, there is the challenge of finding something enough "like her" to be believable, yet enough of a stretch to show off her acting. Long enough to generate interest, but not long enough to bore. For both of us, it seems, there is this imperative to put our best self--our most "right for the part" self--forward, in not much more than the time it takes to say "Hello, how are you?" And that's not easy, when we are far more than just a string of words.

I wonder sometimes why so much has to be based on so little. Sure, there is a skill to presenting yourself well in a few words, whether out loud or on paper. But does that skill really translate to what your skill level will be once you're in the door? Is your success in the one-minute exercise an indicator of your flexibility or your ability to work hard or your efficiency of language? Or is one-minute presentation simply the only way to keep things running in a fast-paced world?

My daughter will undoubtedly find a monologue that she can make her own, at least for now. Who she is and who she wants to present will change from audition to audition, just as the person I want to present will change from job to job. The key--for both of us--will be finding the things that "play" quickly and well--that tell the story of us, and what we can do, all while our audience is still listening.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Scheduling Errands

I like running errands. It makes me feel as though I am using my spare minutes, and between working and parenting, there are not many of those, so when I can squeeze the necessary and the "just for fun" stops into my day, I feel as though I have accomplished something. If I've gotten milk, I can say that if I accomplish nothing else all day, at least I've gotten milk. If I can pick up some needed school items as soon as the office supply store opens in the morning, it's one less thing to worry about later. And if I head to work just early enough to hit the bank first, I'm not scrambling to figure out how to buy fruit or pay a babysitter later. For me, errands are less about doing chores and more about using spare minutes to make life work.

I discovered this morning that errands have an additional purpose. One of today's errands took me farther afield, out of my path, but well within my capability. As I walked to take care of it, I wondered whether it would make me late to work, or wiped out once I got there. As I relaxed into errand mode, however, I began to enjoy seeing an area I don't usually travel. I started to enjoy the extra walk and feel good about being able to accomplish just a little more. In the end, I was not late or wiped out (well, at least not until later). While the errand was a small one, I had accomplished it before my work day even started, so again, I had the feeling that if nothing else productive happened, at least I had that.

For most of the time I was working in soaps, the days started so early, I couldn't even imagine getting anything significant done before taking out my script and stopwatch. It was a schedule that I lived for years. If I had errand time, it was later in the day, too late for considering errands "under my belt" before the day started. Somehow, everything--or at least enough--got done.

These days, post-soaps, there are lots of pieces of adapting to a world of new work--new people, new challenges, new pay scales, new expectations. What I am realizing is that along with all of these comes new interpretation of time. If we are to succeed as jobs change, it will be by making the most of the time that we have, no matter when in our day that time falls. For me right now, that is in a long morning, but, work being what it is, that schedule could change at any moment. The errands will still get done (at least most of them). The challenge will be adapting them and the rest of life to changing schedules. But that's just how work is these days. 

So, if we are to buy that milk and get to the bank, it will be because we have adapted to new schedules, and have found new ways to schedule our errands. And, in the process, we will likely also find new ways to measure our daily accomplishments--milk, bank, work, or otherwise.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Screen Vision

It's not hard to have tunnel vision, or, in the case of those of us who look at screens most of the day, screen vision. When we are focused all day, every day on what we see and do on the screen in front of us, we spend many hours thinking of not much else, and the hours after that unable to think of much else.

Yet, every so often, when we take a break from our daily screen routine, we are able to see a little farther. Whether it is a conversation with a person we rarely see, or a newspaper article that provides some inspiration, or a little observation while we ride a bus, time away from our normally narrow range of vision enables us to see things that might seem obvious, but have eluded us as we look straight ahead.

There's nothing wrong with staying focused on our daily tasks, those things literally or figuratively in our "screen vision." But doing more than just getting through our days requires a little more. It requires that we look away, that we open our range of vision a little wider, so that we see and hear more than just what's right in front of us. It might be that we get a different perspective on the news when we talk to someone about it, rather than just reading or watching updates.  It might be that we discover a gem in our career development not from scouring a job board or keeping our nose to the grindstone, but from reconnecting with a friend. It's not about denying the usefulness of our screens, for work or otherwise. It's simply about turning away long enough to see things from a slightly different perspective.

So when you're done reading this, take a look around you, even just a little to the right, a little to the left. You never know--it may give you a whole new perspective.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Year Stops

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to start a new year, whether the new year is on the secular or Jewish calendar or whether it is the anniversary of an event or job. We are programmed, it seems, to think that a new year should produce changes--improvements, perhaps, in our outlook, choices to do things differently, recognition that with the new year, we are, in some way, starting over.

Yet, the more I have thought about it all, I cannot help but see the real value in the "new year" as the fact that it makes us STOP, whether for a day, or for just a few hours. While stopped, we can do the thinking that we never have the time or energy to do. While stopped, we can both appreciate and assess where we are, without necessarily having to decide where we should be. While stopped, we can live in the moment, rather than having to plan for the next one.

So, while the start of a new year may be a momentous thing, I am actually looking forward to the stopping that it brings. There will be plenty of time to move forward--a whole year ahead. There aren't that many opportunities to stop, so we may as well take them. Before it's time to start going into the new year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Cosby Years

I woke this morning to a review of the new book about Bill Cosby. Having worked with the man himself what now seems a lifetime ago, I was, of course, drawn to the review, and will probably read the book. Reading the review brought back an experience that, though many years ago, is still very much a part of me. On "Cosby" (the CBS version), I learned that...

1. Working with big celebrities is cool, but working with a great crew is just as cool.

2. You can send a thousand letters to try to get a job, but nothing gets you in the door faster than someone recommending you.

3. Just because you haven't done something before doesn't mean you can't. It just means you have to be humble, and eager, and hardworking. And then learn stuff you can use everywhere you go after.

4. If you're gonna work on a sitcom, it's good to laugh along the way, and to make sure that you have some funny stories to take with you when it's over.

5. If you can have patience through the hard first steps of a new experience, you can make it to the easier second and third steps.

6. It's rarely a bad thing to do a little moving--even if you didn't choose to move. It often gives you people and experiences you never would have encountered if you had just stood still.

7. You get a lot farther in the world when you say "yes," and then work like crazy to make "yes" happen.

8. It's important to enjoy where you are while you're there. The life of a TV series can be short. Life in general goes pretty quickly too.

9. Making the right decision quickly is a good skill to have. The studio audience doesn't have a lot of patience for "re-do's."

10. Everything you do makes a difference in your life, whether you feel that difference today, or tomorrow, or twenty years later.

I hear Cosby's doing another show. Maybe I'll get to learn a little more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Who Are You Exactly?

I watched someone today almost not be able to go into a place she needed to go because she was carrying no ID. As she frantically searched for something that might prove she actually "existed" (which, in an odd turn of twenty-first century reality, turned out to be her Facebook page on her phone), I thought about what it meant to travel the city (or anyplace, for that matter) without ID. After all, kids far too young for driver's licenses get themselves around all day in a public transportation city. As parents, we get used to them traveling alone or in small groups, and we offer cautions about handling strangers and diverted trains, but how often do we really consider what it means for them to be out in the world? How often do we think about what we grownups, with wallets full of cards, take for granted? And as grownups ourselves, how often do we even consider who we are once we walk out the door into a world of strangers?

As we post pictures and links and declarations on a variety of social media platforms, and as we do our jobs and live our lives each day, we are developing an identity that travels with us. Powerful as those profiles might be (and as a frequent job-hunter, I can attest to their power), they don't necessarily tell the "man on the street" or the guard at the door who we are. As many times as we introduce ourselves more as "what we do" than "who we are," who we are still matters, whether to a security guard or to us.

Watching the woman having to negotiate security with no document to prove her identity was certainly a cautionary tale for me--of how we live in the world, and of how it is we identify ourselves. It will likely change how I walk out the door, and how I let my kids do so. But it also made me think a lot about making sure that the "who we are" doesn't get lost in the shuffle of "what we do." Because whether or not we have a card or piece of paper to show at the security desk, we need to know who we are, and no job or accomplishment or raise is going to tell us that. It's not just about facing the world with an ID card in our pocket. It's about knowing for ourselves, and being able to tell the world, exactly who we are.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In New York...

There are days when I forget we live in a city. This thought may seem ridiculous to someone who doesn't live in the city. After all, how is it possible to forget, when you ride in an elevator each day, when you look out your window at other high-rises, when you hear traffic and construction and sirens at all hours? Yet, home is home, so when you're helping with homework or making dinner or watching TV, is living in the city really any different?

Today, however, we were reminded--in a big way--of where we live. What started as a trip to a theater street fair (how New York is that?!) continued with multiple intersections with a (the?) Climate March, complete with balloons and drums and signs and what seemed like the entire police force. And once we were past that, we were upon the Mexico parade, not to mention most of the world out doing weekend shopping.

It is easy to forget that you live in the city--that is, until you walk out the door and encounter the people and the places and the activities and the walk-everywhere feeling that made you stay in the city in the first place. There are times when life in the city is hard. Between navigating multiple schools and carrying purchases on foot and paying for what seems like everything, a person could tire quickly. But on a day like today, I am reminded of some of the why. The seeing people and events we would never otherwise encounter. The sights and sounds that are free. The constant education, no matter what school you go to.

It was a crowded, hectic day in the city, to be sure. But it was also a day in the city that reminded me, just for a moment, why we're here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Process, Product, and Success

We had a tough schedule ahead of us--commitments that had us going from one end of the city to the other, with just a Metrocard and the hope of enough energy and enthusiasm to carry us through. And when all was said and done, we had done it, Metrocard intact (and refilled), enthusiasm and energy still there, and all getting along reasonably well. I classified it as a success--no, actually a miracle.

What's interesting is that our day consisted largely of things for which we won't see results for days, and for which the results might not be the ones we want.  I ought to be nervous or worried or unsatisfied, but the truth is, we were so successful in our travel and compatible while traveling that at the end of the day, I'd almost forgotten about results. At the end of the day, it was about process, not product.

On any given day, a good product is generally the goal. Whether it's a well-made video or a well-written essay, a good grade at school or a raise at work, the product is what we tend to see and celebrate. Yet, what's often more satisfying, and almost always more in our control, is the process. We can choose how to get from Point A to Point B. We can decide whether to be stressed or just focused. We can choose whether to work alone or to engage others in our work. We can't always say how the endeavor will turn out, but we can say a lot about how we'll feel along the way.

Today, I chose to focus on getting through our day with our energy and our sense of humor intact. Who knows what the coming days will bring in terms of the results of the day? For today, it was about process, not product. And in the process, I can say we enjoyed a happy, successful, productive Saturday.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday Cliffhanger

On a soap opera, Friday is a cliffhanger day--much anticipated, because you know that some huge piece of story will happen, but ever so slightly unsatisfying, because, as the name suggests, you are left hanging until Monday.

I thought a lot about soap opera Fridays today. In my life, there is this race through the week--the imperative to accomplish enough each day, to sleep enough each night to make it through each day, to make sure my kids complete their assignments on time, and to mind the structures that get us all where we need to go. Sometimes it feels like a 50 yard dash toward Friday (sometimes a marathon). Sometimes the days feel mundane (kind of like the traditional. "nothing happens on a Wednesday on a soap"), yet taken together, they form a path toward Friday.

More often than not, however, the Friday that felt like a finish line all week turns out to be more like a cliffhanger. Will weekend plans come together? Should I sleep to ensure energy for the weekend, or stay up late because it's the weekend and I can? Will the weekend chores get done by Monday, and will Monday's return to work and school come with resolutions to things left up in the air on Friday? As on a soap, in life, you are often left with a Friday cliffhanger, and you can view it as exciting (I suppose there's adrenalin in the unknown) or as frustrating (why do you have to wait for two days to get answers?)

Both on a soap and in life, Friday becomes a break of sorts, a time to pause, and to take a breath to gear up for the next piece of your story. Monday may bring surprise story twists or unexpected resolution. But for now, while you're hanging on the side of that cliff, you might as well hold on tight and just enjoy the view.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Old Friends and New Thoughts

Earlier this week, I reconnected with a friend from elementary school. Now, I have friends and relatives who have been in touch with childhood friends for years. I, on the other hand, have largely floated from one group to the next. While I certainly have ongoing friends (and I am grateful for them!), my daily contact ends up being mostly with the people in my path, whether through work or through parenthood or through some other current endeavor.

I have no idea where this reconnection will lead. Like spending time with your siblings, connecting with someone from childhood is a reminder of years past--years that perhaps form who you are now, but are quite removed from the person you see in the mirror today. Is your past self worth remembering? Are your experiences from childhood ones that you remember fondly, ones that might give you strength when you are feeling overwhelmed, or are they reminders you'd rather leave behind, of days when you were awkward or scared or less than you thought you should be?

I have no idea where this look back will lead me. For now, it is simply a reconnection that is making me think a little out of my daily box, and I figure thinking out of the box is generally a good thing. It's not that I won't be forging ahead in the here and now. It's just that I will be opening a door to remembering what led up to the here and now. I will likely learn a little something in the process. And make a new old friend along the way.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back Story

I read a scientific journal article tonight after dinner.

Surprised? Did you assume I'd be reading entertainment or parenting magazines, or watching TV for fun or research?

The truth is, while I am no scientist, I am the resident proofreader for my husband's work. My elementary and middle school grammar lessons (including diagramming sentences!) stuck with me in a big way, meaning I am kind of fearless when it comes to "copy editing" pretty much any kind of content. Do I follow a certain book of rules? Probably not. But I can say with confidence that documents I proofread generally turn out better.

Now, I am not writing about this to toot my own horn. It just occurred to me that, just as people reading this post might be surprised to hear that I'm reading scientific papers, many of us are surprised by people we know all the time. We go through life putting people in categories--little boxes of sorts--but more often than not, people don't easily fit into boxes. A presumably serious person at work turns out to do standup comedy on the side. A seemingly mild-mannered mom does improv. People can surprise you, no matter how well you think you know them. And things you don't know about a person can really affect the person you do know. Kind of like the back story of a soap opera character, the pieces of our histories and our sets of skills--obvious or not-so-obvious--inform the people we are and the decisions we make each day. They don't make us different people, but they do make us fuller people.

So the next time you think you know exactly who someone is, or exactly what he or she can do, take a moment to remember that there's often more than you can see--a back story that molds the "front-burner" story every day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

But Who's Counting?

I've read that it's important when creating a resume to quantify your accomplishments. It doesn't matter if people think you are a good salesperson. It matters that you sold 1000 widgets per year or netted your company half a million dollars. It doesn't matter if you are a good mentor. It matters that your "mentees" received fifteen raises over two years. It doesn't matter that you work until all hours to get the job done. Unless the job has results you can quantify.

I have always found this part of resume creation challenging. When I worked as an AD, my ability to work with people and to shuffle scenes for efficiency might have saved the production money, but was never recorded as such. When I work as an editor, my ability to process both the needs of the story and the cutting of the video quickly may mean I get more done in eight hours, but ultimately my work contributes to the same half hour or hour long show. How is it, then, that you quantify creativity and efficiency and work ethic in a field not steeped in numbers?

I could argue that a Writer/Director/Editor resume doesn't need to be about numbers. But ultimately, numbers are the common ground on which people compare. No one can measure your work ethic on a piece of paper. Efficiency is subjective, unless it has a figure attached to it. And creativity is really about what you choose to believe.

I have spent years trying to turn a career of hard work and coordinating people and making story choices into a set of numbers that a resume reader (human or computerized) can understand. It's not easy, but if it needs to be "by the numbers," I'll have to work harder at counting my accomplishments, and adding up their value.

But along with the numbers, I'll be hanging on to the creativity and the work ethic. Because people may be counting up, but they're also counting on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing and Learning and Writing

In more than two years of writing this blog, I have learned a few things. Some of them were expected. Others, well---

1. You are rarely the best judge of your own work. The days when I really love what I've written aren't necessarily the days when I get lots of likes or comments. As in most parts of life, you can never be quite sure when you will affect people or effect change. You simply do the work and let the rest follow.

2. Desire is one thing, follow-through is the real thing. I began this blog with the idea of writing every day in the spirit of the everyday nature of soaps. I am, in some ways, so far away from the soaps right now that it wouldn't be unthinkable to stop writing every day. And yet, I persist, because, well, I persist.

3. The same situation rarely looks the same twice. Over two years, I have probably written about certain things more than once. But the fact that we've seen an event before doesn't mean we'll see it the same way again. Or that it will mean the same thing in our lives the second or third time around.

4. Sometimes it feels as though you are working for everyone else, and mostly, you are. But it is possible to carve out something that is really your own. You just have to know that things erode, and you have to be prepared to keep carving.

5. You may have heard, and believed, that time is money. But the time that you spend not making money can be pretty valuable too.

6. I didn't set out to write a blog for years on end. I just set out to write a blog. You don't always have to see the whole road ahead of you. You just have to take the first few steps. And then keep walking.

7. If you believe something can be done, sometimes you'll surprise yourself with your ability to do it.

8. Sometimes it takes staying up late or getting up early to accomplish what you want. Do one or the other, or both, but make sure to do some sleeping in between.

9. While it may seem like fun to count your accomplishments, it's actually more fun just to keep accomplishing.

10. Days and weeks and years pass quickly. Make sure to fill them with things that will make you happy and, at least sometimes, satisfied.

And the learning and the blogging continue...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lessons in Life

Today, I talked to a friend who was bemoaning the end of summer, and the accompanying start of school. She did not relish going back to being the homework enforcer, and to having nights and weekends full of committed time. She found herself wondering why it all had to be so intense.

I certainly get it. While I appreciate the time during which my kids get education and stimulation from someone other than me (because it is likely a broader range of education than I could give them), I do wonder sometimes what we are accomplishing by flying out the door to catch buses and holing up at home in the evenings and on weekends to do yet another assignment.

And then one of my kids comes to me and asks why she is given more to do than there is really time for, and I realize that what they are learning, along with math and science and history, is how the world works. There is almost always more to do than you have time for. You are almost always forced to partner on a project with someone who wouldn't be your first choice. You are quite often compelled to wait for your co-workers to pull their parts together so you can complete yours. And most days, you are called upon to be the enforcer or the enforced--or both. So, while I am not advocating turning kids into grownups too soon, I am grateful that my kids are learning life skills along with their textbook facts.

It will be vacation again before we know it, and we will have at least a short time to be free of schedules and enforcement. It's not that I won't appreciate that-- really, I will. But until then, I'll be helping my kids make those buses and finish those assignments--and being happy that they're learning a little more about life in the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ode To A Weekend At Home

I woke up in my own bed. I took my kids on a city bus to run an errand, and we walked twenty city blocks to follow the errand with a trip to the Cupcake ATM. We walked to another bus and printed out a long receipt before getting on. And then some of us ran around the corner to acquire ingredients for tonight's dinner.

The above is an absolutely mundane list of things accomplished in a day. What makes it not so mundane is that we haven't done anything close to that in months, as this is the first weekend in a long time that we have actually spent in the city--the first weekend when all of us woke up at home and felt our own carpet beneath our feet and no urgency to be anywhere else.

We are runners--not in the athletic sense, but in the life sense. There is almost always somewhere to go and a schedule to keep. With five members of a household, I guess that's not so surprising. So, when we came to this weekend with nowhere in particular we had to be, I'll admit, it was a bit of a shock. All day, I think I was waiting for something to change, for someone to call us to action. Sometimes, however, a weekend at home is really just that. It's not that you do nothing. It's just that you don't have to do much on a timetable. And you don't have to leave your own surroundings to do it.

I am sure that this phenomenon of a home weekend won't last. While we may not be traveling, soon commitments will fill up our Saturdays and take command of our Sundays. So, we'd better enjoy it now--the feel of home carpet under our feet, the luxury of running out for an ingredient. And the trip to the ATM, whether for money or for a baked good. There's nothing quite like a weekend at home.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Want List

Many, many people make "to do lists," detailing the mundane and not so mundane tasks they seek to accomplish in a day, or a week, or a month. These lists are full of the cleaning and the phone calling and the milk-buying that need to be done. If all the items on the "to do list" are checked off by the end of the day, or the week, or the month, a person has presumably succeeded.

Today, I spoke with someone who has a "want list." On it are items large and small, free and not, that she wants. Unlike a "to do list" (which could be called a "need list"), a "want list" is full of things that may not be necessary, but that make us smile. While a "need list" may keep us responsible and on track, a "want list" reminds us that enjoying life matters too. Checking off items on the "to do list" may make us feel virtuous, but hitting the ones on the "want list" can actually make us feel happy.

Now, I have never been too great with "to do" lists. For the most part, I can keep my tasks in my head, and even when I do make a list, I tend to stray from it. I am tempted, however, to make a "want list." While it's not binding, it seems that it would be empowering. After all, if what we are working toward is not just making mundane phone calls and ensuring an adequately stocked refrigerator, but instead, being able to have the experiences or items that we want, aren't we more likely to work toward checking items off? We may reference a "to do list" to keep us organized, but we can reference a "want list" to keep us motivated, and to remind us what really matters to us. Even better, a "want list" reminds us that what we want matters, sometimes even more than all the things we have to do.

And in the midst of all the cleaning and the phone calling and the milk-buying, a reminder of what we really want--and that what we want matters--can be a very good thing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In The News

When I worked in drama and comedy and reality, I was largely unaware of what was going on in the world. Okay, that's not exactly true--I was aware when things affected me. But if news didn't affect me directly, there was a reasonable chance that I didn't know it was happening. I entered a television studio building early in the morning, only to emerge hours later. There were things I saw out of the corner of my eye on control room monitors, but I have a feeling I missed a lot.

These days, working in news keeps me a lot more informed. While I certainly don't know close to everything about anything, I am much more aware of what is going on in a lot of places. I make my way home at least a little informed about what has gone on, rather than oblivious to the happenings outside the studio. Some days, it feels good to be aware of the world outside my "bubble." Other days, it is exhausting.

Today, working in news was, of course, mostly about the 9/11 anniversary. As I strung together video and photos of all the parts of that day and people's reactions to it, I was reminded of a day when even the bubble of a soap opera studio didn't keep me from knowing what was going on. As I edited a montage of people's memories of that day, I thought back to my own, which was good, because it is important to remember. And yet, today was one of those days when I headed home exhausted from all the videos and images and assorted ways of telling the story. Working in news keeps you informed, but it also tends to give you more information than you are able to process. Particularly on a day like today.

There may come a day when I go back to entertainment, when I no longer have on my radar what is happening in Africa or Europe or the Middle East unless it affects me directly. For now, though, I am happy to know. Happy to be working, and learning, and being aware. Even on the exhausting days. And even on the days when we would all know anyway. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Jumping In

Today, I offered to help finish clips for a show that was "crashing" (translation: scrambling to get done) for air. Yesterday, I said "yes" when a friend asked me to be co-class parent with her. It seems that I am just jumping in all over.

Jumping in certainly made me busy tonight, and I imagine the class parent thing will keep me busy--at least sometimes--for months to come. I wonder--should I have kept my mouth shut--in either instance?

Yet, when I revisit both events (because each happened pretty quickly), the answer I come back to is "no." I didn't collapse from being busier tonight. On the contrary, I was invigorated--at least in that moment--by being part of the "crashing" effort. And while I haven't done anything as class parent yet, I would like to think that this job will keep me "in the loop" and feeling helpful in my daughter's school.

Jumping in is not about committing to more than we can handle (though every so often, we do end up with a lot to do). Jumping in is about choosing to engage in our world--not just in the big ways, but in the little ones as well. It can sometimes be about networking and self-promotion. Most of the time, however, it is about making the choice to say "I am here. I can help," rather than saying nothing and observing at a distance. Ultimately, it is about being a participant, rather than just a spectator. Taking an active role in what goes on around us, so that we can enjoy the experience, and can enrich it with our particular skills and talents.

So, while you won't see me taking the field to play on a sports team (definitely a spectator there!), I have a feeling I will keep jumping in, whether for an hour, or for a year. It keeps me hopping. And that's a whole lot better than sitting still.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Settling In

There are once again children lining my living room floor doing their homework. School is back in session, and with the exception of references to assorted summer experiences, it is hard to believe we ever left. It's amazing how we just roll with things, like it or not, perfectly prepared or not, because, well, that's just what we do.

On the first day, I had the odd sensation I have each year on Halloween--that despite knowing the day was coming, I somehow arrived at it not quite equipped. Yet, with only some of the requisite supplies, we made it through Day One. On Day Two, we knew that there would be a weekend, so whatever happened would be okay--it would be the weekend.

Now that we are into full weeks, the beginning has quickly started to feel like the middle--assignments, planning ahead, incorporating extracurriculars, even working toward next steps. There is not a lot of time for stopping and thinking, or for cleaning the floor where everyone is lying to do homework. (Yes, they do have a room and desks-- they just prefer to be horizontal in the middle of things). There is simply doing, and moving, and rolling with things. And preparing to roll with the next set of things. It is just Week Two, but I guess we are settling in.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Promo Time

In my "spare" time, I have been editing some promo videos for a non-profit. In some ways, creating a promo is just like telling any story--it just has to be told in a matter of minutes, rather than in a half-hour or hour (or twenty-something or forty-something minutes, which is really what half-hour or hour shows turn out to be). So I have been chipping away at hours of fantastic footage (kudos to a great shooter) to try to make the best 1-3 minutes I can. And along the way, I have made a few discoveries about short form. And long form. And life...

1. In a promo video, there's not much time to "live" in an emotional moment. That doesn't mean there should be no emotional moments to live in. It just means that they should be chosen very carefully. And that "living" has to happen quickly. Kind of like in life.

2. In a promo video, the beauty of a shot matters (believe me, I am grateful for every one that makes me gasp), but not as much as the telling of the story. Which is not so different for any length story. Longer stories just have a little more time for the beautiful stuff. So you take the beauty you have time for. Kind of like in life.

3. Sometimes, you just have to cut things you love. Which happens whether you have three minutes or thirty. Any number of lovely, emotional scenes were cut from One Life to Live when they weren't necessary to advance the story. Every so often, they were included in a podcast. Most of the time, they were just cut, and we moved on. Kind of like in life.

4. If you do the work, what you are left with is the best of the best--the things you really, really loved, complete with moments you can savor, and a piece that speaks both to people's hearts and to their attention spans.

And isn't that what telling a story is all about, whether it's a film, or an episode, a book or a promo, or, well, life?

Monday, September 8, 2014

One Step At A Time

A friend of mine accomplished an all-day bike event today. I don't think I could do that. Another friend has lost so much weight that she looks like a different person than when I last saw her. Yet another has gotten a new, even more interesting job than she had before.

Some days, my biggest accomplishment is getting myself and my kids to bed before 11pm. Or making lunches. Or cleaning stray toothpaste off the bathroom sink.

As far as I can tell, there are opportunities every day to feel overwhelmed. After two days of a school year, I am already worried about next steps--test scores and peer groups and all the things I need to know but don't. Some days, the small accomplishments are enough to balance out my worry that I haven't done enough. Other days, they just aren't.

And then I think about my friend. He wasn't a biker the last time I saw him. He didn't just decide to do an all-day ride and then just do it. There were months, if not longer, of training and preparation, both physical and mental. He accomplished the ride, I am fairly sure, because he worked his way toward it and pushed through the times when such a thing might be overwhelming. He believed not only that he could do it, but that it was worth the doing. And, I suspect, he took it one step, and one pedal, at a time.

I don't have to accomplish everything all at once. I can get through elementary school (well, at least a few weeks of it) before planning for middle school. I can get used to high school (at least a little) before stressing about college. I can get back to thirty minutes on the elliptical before even considering biking all day. And I can be happy about just getting dinner on the table before worrying about cooking a gourmet meal (which half my household probably wouldn't like anyway).

The point is, most of these things can't happen overnight. And they don't have to. Just as my biking friend worked toward riding for eleven hours, I can take steps toward everything. The steps might even be fun, or, at least, satisfying. And in the end, I'll get there--or, at least, somewhere. One step at a time.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Little Help

Parenthood can be hard--ask any parent. Sure, there are all the "aww" and "wow" moments, but on a day-to-day basis, there are decisions and crises and advising and cooking for and cleaning up after moments that could, if you're not careful, easily obliterate the "aww" and the "wow."

Thankfully, as a parent, you are not all alone. You have other parents with whom you can exchange stories of decisions and advising and cooking for and cleaning up after. Sometimes, however, even more important are the non-parents in your life who step in and say "hey, wait a minute--look at it this way."

Now, I am not always a fan of advice from people who haven't been in the trenches I've been in. When raising children, though, I've been finding that it's not so terrible to take help from outside the trench. People outside the trench can see ahead a little farther than you can. Sometimes they can anticipate what you're too deep in the trench to have thought about. They can react from a place of quiet at times when all you hear is noise.

It's  not our fault that we get caught up in the decisions and advising and cooking for and cleaning up after--we just do, and most of the time, that's our job. But when we accept a little non-parental help, ultimately we can do better for our kids and for ourselves. We can see a little farther, plan a little more. And then enjoy the "aww" and the "wow," just the way we're supposed to.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Enjoying--And Appreciating--The Ride

When I started work at One Life to Live all those years ago, it was as if I was living some kind of a dream. Having been a fan of the show for years, I was now walking into its studio each day, meeting actors I'd watched on TV, seeing up close the sets where all the action took place, delivering the scripts that gave the shows all their words and stories.

There was ample opportunity for me to be a gawking admirer, and there were certainly moments when I had to catch my breath when discovering some new person or new magic. As lucky as I felt, however, I was there to work, and while the "magic" hung around in one form or another for years, I translated my opportunity to enter this "dream" world into learning and working hard and moving up. I wasn't just there because I was a fan. I wouldn't have lasted two seconds if that had been the case. I lasted because I took an opportunity and I ran with it. I proved, in running errands and typing schedules and observing other people and listening to mentors, that I was there because I could do this--not because I'd watched it on television, but because I worked at it in real life.

For all the years since then, I have watched other people do the same thing--well, variations of the same thing. I have watched people start things and expect that the opportunities will fall in their laps. I have seen people think they can rely on their past or their connections, only to find that these things are very soon not enough. And I have seen people who, like me, took the dream they were given and ran with it, saying "yes" to both the exciting challenges and the mundane ones, learning from every task and every conversation. Appreciating where they are, even on the days when where they are doesn't quite live up to the dream. I see those people, and I am reminded of myself, and of the great ride I have had since those first OLTL days all those years ago. It is a ride worth remembering, even when some days, the ride has become bumpy.

So today, I salute the people who take their opportunities and run with them. Even if the dream doesn't feel worth it every day, the work and the willingness to learn and the openness to new experiences will matter. If all goes well, these things will start you off on a very long ride. One worth remembering, and passing on.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pushing 100

As a news video editor, I build video clips, some with audio, some without, to help show the stories the newscasters are telling. My clips get from me to the broadcast by something called "pushing"--essentially I transfer a data file to the server that plays back clips during the show.

So, why am I passing along this piece of information that matters little to most people reading about it? Well, today, I "pushed" close to 100 video clips to the three different shows for which I edit. 100 video clips in eight hours, leaving me minimal time to think, and yet I came out of my day thinking more clearly than I often do when I've done less.

While I'm not saying that I want to work so hard every day that I can't think (I'm sure a few things in my personal life would suffer), there is definitely something to be said for working so intensely at something that the time goes quicker and you feel both accomplished and exhausted when you are done. In my time between jobs over the past few years, one of the most difficult things has been to assess my accomplishments each day. When you are used to getting things done, it can be debilitating to land in a position where the the things that really feel done are few and far between. And while working hard may feel as though it ages you daily, I have a feeling it can actually keep you mentally and physically younger.

So, while I may not be "pushing 100" in the video clip department every day, I am glad for the days that doing a job keeps me moving and growing. And pushing toward the next 100, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Deep End On The First Day

I found out today that my daughter has swimming class on her first day of school tomorrow. Swimming, with assorted props and costumes required. Tomorrow.

It is not easy to find swimming props and costumes in New York City at the end of the summer. After a work day that ends at 7pm. It doesn't mean we didn't try--we pretty much always try. But a sweaty hour later, we realized that we'd better come up with props and costumes at home that would work, which we pretty much always manage to do. So, problem solved, at least for tomorrow.

I am glad to have solved the problem, at least temporarily, but I find myself wondering why such a problem even has to exist on the first day. What happened to the days when all you had to think about on Day 1 was what outfit you'd wear, whether you'd finished your summer reading, and which of your friends would be in your class? These days, we add the stress of a bathing suit, transportation (will the bus come? Will the train be late?), and forms without which you might not be able to start the year.

I am sure that twenty-four hours from now, we will be calmer and ready to face Day 2, and the whole year in front of us. Well, my kids will be calmer and ready--I'm not sure about myself. We just have to get through a day of feeling as if we were thrown into the deep end. And make sure we can tread water well enough to survive.

It's All Just Practice

As I was going to work today, my daughter was going to an audition. I watch her, and I think about what it would be like going on job interviews (because that's kind of what auditions are) over and over again. "Performing" in whatever way you're asked, only to find out most of the time that they are looking for someone with more experience or less, someone shorter or taller or blonder or darker. So I told her that, as far as I could see, it was all just practice. Each time, just a mini class in how to do whatever part of the auditioning process that audition entailed.

I'm not sure if my sage statement helped her at all, but as I thought about it, it began to help me. You see, we (or at least I) go through life wanting to be on top, wanting to know what we're supposed to do and to be able to move from task to task or position or position. When this isn't possible, or when what we are doing doesn't work out quite as we'd like, we think that we've failed, or chosen badly, or just need to be somewhere else. If, however, we were to view each of our experiences as "just practice" for whatever might come next, might we be able to see the frustrations as learning experiences (either about tasks or about people)? Might we be able to see failures as simply education in what direction we really should go? Might we be able to use our "aargh" experiences to help us next time we're in that, or another, challenging situation?

How would our outlook change if, instead of viewing life and work as wins and losses, we viewed them more as a series of practices? Would we take bigger risks, or listen a little more to "team members" or "coaches"? Would our "game" be better because we used our "practice" time more wisely?

I suspect that my daughter will be putting in a lot of "practice" on the way to getting the roles she wants--that's just how auditions are. And if, along the way, I can take a little of my own advice, I'll be appreciating my "practice time" a little more too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cole Slaw and Catch Up

There was actually no cole slaw at our house today--no summer salad of any kind--it just strikes me as the quintessential Labor Day food. And while I am a member of a union (along with many of my former OLTL colleagues, not currently union-employed), and while I was impressed to see how many people posted union-related items on Facebook, Labor Day at our home ended up being not very much about union labor (or cole slaw), and a whole lot about catching up. Labor Day is one of the last chances to finish summer homework and to start packing the school bags. Labor Day is a day to reminisce about the summer and to look forward to the school year, to put away and to take out, to clear out, to catch up, to buckle down.

Did we succeed in any of our Labor Day labors? Well, summer homework is nearly complete. Reminiscing continues, and looking forward is creeping in. And while the school bags haven't yet been packed, there has been some clearing out, and the beginnings of putting away. Just as union labor is something that may be celebrated on one day, but really comes into play all year, I am realizing that Labor Day is not this miracle day on which all can be done. It is really just a day, sometimes (but not always) complete with cole slaw, to take a few steps and make a little progress.

And I guess if that's what it's all about, we have Labor Day'd pretty well.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Working The Holiday

I heard from a friend who felt bad that I had to come back from the weekend early so that I could work tomorrow. As far as I'm concerned, I beat the summer holiday weekend traffic, and I'm grateful to be working, holiday or not.

A hundred years ago (well, not a hundred, just a long time ago), when I was first working at OLTL, there was talk that the Friday after Thanksgiving would be a work day. So I very quickly went from being a college student heading home for the holiday weekend to a working person whose family came to me, cooking turkey and the fixings in my third floor walk-up apartment. Years later, I carried scripts and schedules with me when I had work to accomplish over the Christmas hiatus. These were just things I did--if the job required it, it was just what I did.

All these years later, you might imagine I've been working long enough to say "no." Perhaps I have. And yet, I've also been out of work for long enough stretches that I'd rather say "yes." I remember all the holiday weekends when I nearly went crazy when I realized that no one would be reading my brilliant cover letters on a holiday. Realized that what felt like "dead time" for me was actually "easy living time" for other people. Realized that all I could do was immerse myself in the holiday (just without spending any money!), since I was powerless to change what would happen after the holiday.

So, yes, I am cutting the holiday weekend short to work tomorrow. And when I show up at work, I'll be very grateful that I did.