Friday, October 31, 2014

'Twas The Night Before...

It is almost Halloween again, and I have found myself behind again. This time around, I could blame it on working a few very long days. The truth is, I find myself in some version of this situation just about every year.

Why, I wonder, do I find myself repeating the same pattern each year? One of my biggest goals in life is learning from mistakes, so that the experience makes things better the next time. Why, then, do I let myself end up in this same place each Halloween?

I could buy our costumes. (And by ours, I really mean my kids', as I rarely muster the time and energy to don more than a wacky hat or googly-eyed pin--though I was quite famous at One Life to Live for a cow costume I wore a bunch of times.) Yet, each year, I decide that those costumes are too store-bought or too expensive, and so we go about doing our own, which is sometimes cheap (amazing what you can do with cardboard boxes and outgrown, yet not discarded, wardrobe items), and sometimes, well, not. Which means that a process that could have ended with a credit card swipe weeks ago lasts up until the big day.

Each year, I vow to do better the next year. (It seems that we do this on most holidays!), and each year, it is pretty much the same. But this year, something is a little different. While I am running around for supplies, my kids are largely creating the costumes. While I might be feeling guilty about what I'm NOT doing, they are learning, through necessity, how much they CAN do. Their costumes will come together because they have stepped up for the occasion, and when I see the pictures, I'll remember not what I didn't do, but what they did. Not how short we fell, but how well we adapted.

Tomorrow night, our home will be full of enough candy to last us till the spring. And along with that, there'll be memories of how with a little work and creativity all around, we made it past "'twas the night before," all the way to "trick or treat."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What You Wish For

People are always saying "be careful what you wish for," so I started thinking about what it is we wish for...

To be the people we WANT to want us.

To be working...but to be available for every special event and kids' milestone.

To be paid for a week's worth of work...but to have an extra day off here and there to get everything done.

To go to work without having to leave home in the dark...but to come home early enough to have family dinner.

To be healthy...but to have a day once in a while just to stay cuddled up in blankets.

To be successful...but to choose how and when our success plays out.

To be successful...but to be able to choose what that success means.

To be trusting...but not so trusting that we are naive.

To be available for whatever is needed at home...but to be working, as much as possible.

To be around to drop off and pick up our kids...but not to have to fight with them about their homework.

To produce accomplished, successful children...but not to have to listen to complaints about practicing whatever it is they might become accomplished and successful in.

It occurs to me that our "Wish Lists" could go on like this for a long time. That doesn't mean we should stop wishing. It just means that maybe it's true--be careful what you wish just might get it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Laughing All The Way

I worked hard today. I did the employee thing and the mom thing and the household manager thing and the educational consultant thing. It was all very serious--things needing to be done, goals needing to be met, and not really enough time to do it all. I am tired, but I made it through.

In the midst of it all, I wrote a few emails that were not so serious--okay, they were downright funny--that gave both me and their recipients a good laugh. And perhaps that--even more than all the hard work--is what actually got me through today.

We think that it is the hard work, and the dedication to our tasks or our families that keep us going. If we just work harder, squeeze more into a day, prove ourselves just a little more, we'll be more successful. We'll be happier. But is that true, really? Of course, it takes stamina and determination (and creativity and grit) to do everything we need to do in a day. But what does it take to survive at the end of those days? I think that the survival part has a lot more to do with being able to laugh a little in the midst of it all--at something our kids do, at something crazy that happens on our way to or from work, at an email with a friend, or at how we look at the end of a frazzling day. There's a lot of serious to be handled each day, but there's a lot of funny to be found too, and I find that the days when I'm able to enjoy the funny are the days I end up not just satisfied, but happy as well.

So go ahead, work your hardest, get it all done. But don't forget to put a little laughter in it. At the end of the day, that can make all the difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I begin every day looking for balance. Will I work hard enough at work, but not so hard that I am too tired to be worth anything at home? Will I leave home at home enough to focus on work when I need to? Will I set aside my kids' needs long enough to consider my own, and put my needs aside enough to make sure I am meeting theirs? This balance thing is tricky. I may begin every day hoping for it, but how many days do I really achieve it?

I suspect that most of us walk around off-balance most of the time. There are days when we do really well at work, and those days, maybe we aren't aware of every little thing going on with our kids. There are days when we really feel like Supermom, but have no time for the long, hot shower or trip to the gym that we'd like. There are days when we get a glimpse of what we really want for ourselves as people, but are off to the next thing before we can make anything happen. So, while we can start every day hoping for balance, what we get on most of them is just a tightrope--the challenge of balancing, without the tools for accomplishing it.

I have a feeling that my search for balance will be a forever one. If I can give my all at work, yet leave a little of me available to my family, if I can make a living, without making that my life, if I can walk away from most days feeling as though I have accomplished something, not just professionally, but personally as well, I guess that is all the daily balance I can really ask for.

Perhaps just a pole and a pair of sticky shoes to go with that tightrope...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lip Balm and Laundry

Just about every Sunday night, we set out to turn three large laundry hampers into clean clothes for the coming week. It can be an arduous job. Between the sorting and the schlepping and the folding  and the fitting back in the drawers--let's just say that it's not anyone's favorite activity of the week. Yet, we barrel though, and sometimes, now that everyone can help with sorting or folding or distribution, it becomes a way to spend some quality time together. Okay, maybe the "quality" part is debatable, but it's definitely "together" time.

Sometimes, we laugh over how tricky it is to tell these days what belongs to whom. Sometimes, we grumble about the food wrappers or tissues that have been left in pockets and have gone through the wash. And once in a while, when what has gone through is a lip balm, we find ourselves doing much of the laundry again. Lip balm can do a number on laundry.

Luckily, this doesn't happen often. After all, in a busy life, it's hard enough to do everything, and nearly impossible to fit in re-doing anything. And finding you've missed things (whether it's in sorting laundry or in doing any task) can be demoralizing. But these things happen. They just do. And what I've learned is that we move on. If it takes re-doing, we do it. If it takes some apologizing, we do it. If it takes spending some of our time not exactly the way we want to, we do that too.

Kind of like life, isn't it? We don't just stop doing the things we want to do, just because they might cause a difficulty down the road. We can be more careful, sure. Careful to put the lip balm somewhere else, careful to remove the candy wrappers and the tissues and the quarters and the dollars and the earbuds from our pockets before loading the washers. But things happen--dollars get washed, and wrappers get dried, and lip balm does what it does, and life bumps along, and we deal with it. We don't stop our lives because we've hit a snag. We learn from it, of course. We become a little more vigilant perhaps. But when we stop carrying snacks or spare change or lip balm because of what we fear MIGHT happen, we might as well throw in the towel.

And let's face it--who really wants to wash another towel?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Catching Up and Out

There are Saturdays when I wake up refreshed from a different kind of sleep than I've had all week, and there are Saturdays when it seems that I won't possibly be able to make up for the sleep I missed out on for five days. And there are Saturdays when, either way, I'm up and out the door. Today was one of those days...

What did that get me?

A walk in the clearest air we've had since it started raining days ago.

A chance to talk about my week with friends and with potential new friends.

A little more knowledge and a little bit of music.

Perspective only gained by stepping out into the world.

The right to take a nap later and feel justified in doing it.

The knowledge that, whatever I did the rest of the day, at least I'd done something.

Sometimes, Saturdays are about catching up, and sometimes they are about getting out. And sometimes, it's worth managing a little bit of both.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

In The Audience of Life

When I was done doing the work that, it seemed, might have kept going had I let it, I race-walked (dressing for the day, including high-heeled boots, doesn't lend itself to running) to see my daughter in a show. Having made it in time, I settled in to lose myself in what was happening on the stage, which I did for a large portion of the two-plus hours I was there. While the day had sent my head in all sorts of directions, sitting in the audience forced me, just for a moment in time, to put all else aside and focus on what was right in front of me.

Now, my day was unusually event-filled, but when I think about it, almost every day presents me (and many of us) with more things to think about and more things to do than might be humanly possible in a 24-hour period (particularly when ideally, at least six of those hours are devoted to sleeping). We get good at multitasking, and we try desperately to split our brain to be able to consider and manage the tasks of work and life and present and future all at the same time. Sometimes, that makes for a sharper, more active brain, other times, just an overwhelmed one. And almost all the time, a great deal of race walking.

What's great about being part of an audience, however, is that it forces us to set aside what we need to do, and focus simply on what we get to see. To set aside, even if just briefly, all the things that require decisions and choices and taking responsibility, and just absorb what is set before us. It is a rare opportunity, and one that we do well to seek out and take.

Watching a show or a movie, or even a sporting event, doesn't remove our responsibilities--it simply puts them on hold. Processing and handling what happened in my day will likely spill over into many days--that's just how life is. But for a moment, I put it all aside and sat in the audience. And that gave me lots of reasons for applause.

Friday, October 24, 2014

From School to Work

I visited multiple schools today. If you are a parent in New York City, that's just what you do. And if you are the parent of more than one child in New York City, you do it a lot. At a variety of stages in your child's life, you are called upon to choose (I use this term loosely, since you may "choose" what you want, but someone else actually "chooses" whether you get it!). You visit, you compare, you prepare for tests, you take them, you discuss, and discuss, and discuss, and then you fill out a form and wait to find out what happens.

It is a long process, and today was just an early step.

I learned a lot of things in just one day, things that I have probably learned before, things that, as I think about it, are remarkably similar to looking for work...

1. It's difficult to know for sure what something is until you see it. No amount of reading and asking around can really prepare you for "being there." And just as you can't be quite sure how a job interview will go, you can't quite be sure how a school visit will go.

2. Wanting is important, and waiting is hard, but both are unavoidable parts of the process. In both job-hunting and school searching, it is important to be invested--to figure out what you want, and to do your best to go after it. Unfortunately, after you've done your part, and become suitably invested, the rest (and that "rest" may take a while) is not necessarily up to you.

3. You may think that there is one "right" place for you--or your child--and that you will have failed if you don't get in to that one "right" place. Despite appearances, this is as untrue in school searches as it is in job searches. We are adaptable people, really we are, and often, we find real satisfaction, and growth, in places we never thought were the "right" ones.

4. When job-searching, you dress the part, set up all the logistics for the part, study for the part, put your very best foot forward, and play nicely with others when you're there. Not easy, right? On the school hunt, add to that making sure your child does all these things too. Suddenly, the job hunt sounds a whole lot simpler.

5. Ultimately, in both processes, even if you start out thinking you can control your destiny, you quickly learn that "control" is a very, very relative term.

Like job searching, school visiting (if you are a parent in New York City) can happen a lot more often than you ever imagined. Pace yourself, on both fronts. Chances are, you've still got miles (and interviews and days of waiting) to go.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Managing Drama

Today, in the drama of work (I can't help it--I work in an industry prone to drama), I found myself staring straight ahead at my computer, chugging through my work at hand. Sure, I paused, and even peeked out my office door from time to time, so as not to miss anything, but for most of the hours I was there, I forged ahead with a kind of intense focus.

I say this not to demonstrate how hard a worker I am. While I do derive satisfaction from a job done well and quickly, what struck me about this day was the degree to which I found the focus calming. Somehow, in the midst of chaos, intense focus relaxed me. If I couldn't control what was around me, I could at least control what was in front of me. Whether or not anyone would care to see, I would have something to show for my time, time that would, with such focus, pass quickly.

Often, we get caught up in the drama. It is easy, and it is fun (or wearying, depending on the nature of the drama!). But when the drama is over, where are we? In my business, perhaps just prepared for more drama. Today, I found out that for me, the not very dramatic computer screen was my lifesaver. It kept me focused, and productive, available enough to witness drama, but distanced enough not be overcome by it.

In my business, there will always be drama, and that's okay. Drama can be fun, as long as we know, at least some of the time, just how to manage it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Control Freak

No, I am not one. Ask anyone. I am the most easy-going and collaborative of people. I love other people's input--I just find that sometimes, a big meeting to hear everybody's input can agitate me. I could certainly sleep till 11am sometimes. I just find that a five a.m. alarm lets me get more done. And I confess, when I was working as an AD, I would sometimes ready a camera that I thought looked good so that the director would cut to it.

Okay, maybe I am a control freak.

In all seriousness, I think most of us are probably control freaks in one way or another. Though we may not all feel a constant need to control other people, most of us feel a lot better when we believe that things are a little bit in our control. When we go to the gym, we may be happy because we lose weight or gain energy, but ultimately, we feel good because we have taken control of our health and stamina. When we do more than we have to at work, we may think we are doing it to impress our bosses, but often, we do it more so that we can have control over how things turn out. Having control feels good. Handling things completely OUT of our control usually doesn't. We want to be able to do something, whether that something is effective all of the time or not. We want to be in control of our surroundings. I would venture to say that even the most easy-going and collaborative among us are really looking for control.

So, maybe in some ways, we are all control freaks--all of us just looking for ways to make sense of things that don't always make sense. Each of us trying to be on the "make it happen" side, rather than the "what will happen?" side. Some really good camera shots got on the air because I "took control" and readied them. Some of my best decisions have been made without the help of a committee meeting. And I really do accomplish a lot at 5am.

Sometimes, it just pays to be a control freak.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Crossed Signals

Some days, all the pieces connect. The buses are made, the "t's" are crossed, and the coffee does its job. You and a friend are on the same wavelength, and you know exactly what you need to do (and do it) by day's end.

Most days, however, you function on less than complete information (despite extensive technological gizmos for communicating information). Most days, you are grateful for the precious few moments that connect, the brief moments when you are on the same wavelength as ANYONE. Most days, you are the recipient of so many crossed signals that it's remarkable there's more left than rubble on the tracks at the end of the day.

Luckily, we are lighter on our wheels than your average train. Luckily, despite signs to the contrary, we are slightly more in control of our tracks than the average train. Luckily, even when we get our signals unbelievably crossed, the results are more often annoying than dire, more often momentary than permanent.

Some days, it feels as though just about all of our signals are crossed. And maybe they are. But we are trained to handle it, and move on. Because we have places to go. And we won't get anywhere without getting back on track.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Showing Up

This morning, I attended a committee meeting, not because I had committed to (on the contrary, I had spent a week consciously NOT committing to attending or not attending). Two hours later, having spoken a little and listened a lot, I prepared to return home. As I was leaving, several people thanked me for my insights and input during the meeting, and said they were glad I had been there. In two hours, I had not volunteered to do anything. In fact, when we went around the room stating what our actions would be before the next event, I said "pass." Yet, when it was done, people were still glad, at least so they said, that I had been there.

Often, we are required to have such clear definitions of our usefulness. Did we accomplish a task? Did we earn a certain amount of money, or solve a very particular, previously unsolvable problem? What I found out this morning, two hours after I showed up at a meeting I could just as easily have skipped, was that sometimes, just showing up and being ourselves goes as far as doing the most work or solving the most problems. Sometimes, speaking our mind or our heart, without the preparation of knowing that we'll have to, is the greatest contribution we can make. My time could have been spent sleeping, or negotiating kid conflicts, or preparing my apartment for the coming week. Instead, I showed up, and a few times, I spoke up. My presence and my words mattered. And that felt good.

Sometimes, the best present we can give ourselves is just showing up.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Releasing The Past

Today, in the course of cleaning (it's the weekend--what else would I be doing?), I came across preschool artwork and handouts from fifteen-years-ago seminars, welcome packets from companies I've left already, and little souvenirs whose origins I barely remember. Before I knew it, I had filled a giant garbage bag. It was just the tip of the iceberg, but it felt good.

I am a keeper. Whether it's a gift from a friend or relative, or the evidence of a purchase, or the construction paper "snapshot" of a child from some moment in time, I default to keeping it. After all, you never know when you'll need it, to refresh your memory, or to prove your case with a service provider, or to re-teach yourself something you learned many years ago.

The problem is, when you keep all of these things, you can't even find them quickly enough to accomplish any of these worthy goals. Are you really going to spend an afternoon going through preschool artwork to remember your kids at that age? Is the information from that course really relevant--or accurate--in the workplace anymore? Keeping may be a lovely thing, but when it means that the climbing over and the wading through precludes actually using what you are keeping, somehow, the "lovely" kind of goes away.

I am not wholesale releasing my past. Neither time nor emotion would allow that. But even if I do fill a few more bags, I am realizing that releasing the tangible pieces of a past doesn't mean the past won't endure. It just means we have to hold on to it in different ways--in the work that we do NOW, in the records we keep and use NOW, and in the memories we enjoy and retell NOW, even without the construction paper evidence to back them up.

Releasing the past doesn't have to mean letting it go. It just means moving it around a little, so that we can still have room to enjoy the present.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Right Turn

I stopped ever so briefly, to explore a store just after it opened. I decided to take a particular train, and come out at a particular exit. I chose to run a particular errand, for which I had to turn a particular corner. And as I walked to my destination, before me appeared an old friend with whom I spent the next ten minutes catching up.

It was wonderful to see my friend. After all, in the chaos of everyday life, weeks and months go by without your being able to schedule lunches or coffees or even phone calls. We get wrapped up in our own "craziness," and the last thing we're thinking about is checking in to find out about someone else's "craziness."

I walked away from our conversation somewhat amazed by how many little decisions on my part landed me on just the same block at just the same time as she was there. Any one different choice on my part, or on hers, for that matter, and we wouldn't have seen each other. Months might have passed until we communicated at all.

Sometimes, in our lives, we are worried that we have made the wrong turns--the big ones or the little ones. Today, I was reminded that even the questionable turns can turn out well, whether they produce a task completed or a friend seen or, well, nothing at all. You never quite know until you make the turn, until you allow yourself to veer off an otherwise straight path, and see what's around the corner. Sometimes, around that corner, you realize you've made exactly the right turn.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tell Me The Positive

Tonight, in a meeting about the children's book I am co-writing, we began by each sharing a good experience we have had during the last few rounds of edits. I'll admit, I was glad when the sharing went the other way around the table, so I had ample time to frame my answer. These last few rounds of edits have been tough, as the editing group has tried to mold a coherent narrative out of the wildly divergent pieces we have all created. I have had frustrations, and sad moments, and "grrr" moments--a bunch of them. But when faced with this task of sharing a good experience, I couldn't help but shift my focus from what had bothered me to what I had gained from the process.

It was a brilliant way to start a meeting, actually--to disarm what might have turned into a venting session and turn it into a gathering that emphasizes similarities rather than differences.

So many things that happen to us can cause frustration--roadblocks at work, challenges in a job search, conflicts with family members. After the fact, we can often look back and see the good that came out of that frustration, but what if we were able to focus on that good sooner? Might we then be able to turn these frustrations into more productive choices? Might we be able to appreciate our challenges, rather than just struggle with them? Might the resulting product be stronger for it?

I came out of tonight's meeting feeling more like a team member than when I'd walked in, and with a brighter outlook than I'd expected to have. Challenges are hard. But when we can stop and focus on the positive, even just for a moment, we can often turn our challenges into some of our most brilliant successes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Standing By

In control room lingo, somewhere in between "floor is ready" and "5, 4, 3, 2, 1," there is the phrase "standing by," which means ready and waiting for the producer or the director or whatever comes next. Standing by can last a moment, just before a countdown, or much longer, if all the necessary parties are not quite ready. And if it drags on too long, "standing by" becomes "standing down," a kind of "at ease" place, so that people can relax if it's going to be a while.

When "standing by" is just a kind of "get ready," it's exhilarating. It's that moment just before you make the creative leap, the second just before you give it your all. When it lasts longer, it's just the opposite. It robs you of those creative juices. It uses your anticipatory energy and leaves you with nothing to show for all your readiness. In that case, standing by becomes just what it sounds like--remaining still while things just happen around you.

It occurs to me that when I was working as an AD, I tended to avoid the "stand by" step at all costs. If I could go right from "floor is ready" to "in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1," I was much happier, and I would venture to say, the day went quicker. Which makes it not so surprising that these days, "stand by" is a phrase that pulls the life right out of me. Neither life nor TV production is really about standing by. Rather, they are both about jumping in--being actively involved, and moving the day and the project forward. When we "stand by," we often miss out, both on the experience, and on the excitement that comes with it.

So, whenever I can, I'll be skipping the "standing by." Life's too short, and there's too much to do. Floor is ready? In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sculpting Choices

When I was in high school, we made heads out of clay in art class. Now, I was never that much of an artist. Up until that point, I had mostly made assorted rickety bowls out of clay. I did attempt a strawberry, but a lifelike head was, it seemed, far beyond my innate capabilities.

Being the hard-working, diligent person I was, however, I worked hard on my clay head. And while I don't remember quite what I created, I very distinctly remember the art teacher examining my work, complimenting me on my sculpting talent, and proceeding to change almost completely the thing I had created. The sculpture that I still have today may resemble a real person, but it is not any person I remember sculpting. It may have my name etched on its base, but it is strictly the work of the art teacher.

It's interesting how this experience from too many years ago to mention has stuck with me, even more than some of the experiences I've had developing my own work. Perhaps when we develop our own work, it becomes such a part of us, we rarely step back and remember the experience. It is the compromises in our own work that we remember. The clay head, even after the art teacher's adjustments, is far from a masterpiece. But it is a story that still resonates with me now. On that day, I allowed the art teacher to alter my choices, maybe because it didn't matter that much to me, maybe because she was the teacher. Who was I to question her?

Whichever the reason, I made a choice all those years ago that left me with an odd sculpture and a funny memory. And perhaps that is a good way to think about our choices. Not every choice can matter deeply (we'd be exhausted), so it is up to us to focus on and make the choices that do matter--that leave us with work or art or a life we can feel good about--and let go some of the ones that don't. Not every choice will leave us with a product we can be proud of--that's just how life is--but as long as we save our energy for the important choices, most of them should at least leave us with a good story. Or a memento--even if it's just an odd-looking clay head on the shelf.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Freelance List

Recently, I've been talking to a freelancer friend who has been called upon to have a hand in a great many things at once. While I can see that such a situation might be overwhelming, I can't help but be jealous sometimes that, because of being a far better networker than I or just far more talented than I, she is in demand, it appears, almost constantly. She is wanted, perhaps even at places she doesn't want. She is needed by people at a variety of levels. She receives confirmation of her abilities from many directions.

Now, as a freelancer myself, I know that periods of relative success can frequently be followed by periods of utter darkness. Yet, when I look at my friend (or, for that matter, many friends who have made a reasonable career of freelancing), I come back to that question of what it is that makes you the freelancer that people call. How many gigs do you need to have done to be considered a "go-to"? How many people's contacts must you be a part of in order to receive continuous requests? Must you appear available to be desirable, or are you, in fact, more desirable when you're unavailable?

I suspect that I will still be trying to figure out the work game long after I've stopped working (does anyone really stop working anyhow?). In the meantime, I won't stop wanting to be wanted, and needing to be needed. No matter how hard we work, I guess that's just how it goes. And maybe one day, when my working and networking stars align, you'll find me on the top of--or at least somewhere on--every list.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ramp To Monday

I spent the day on my normal trajectory toward Monday--pronouncements about homework and bedtime, goals for apartment state and laundry. And then I realized that this week, Monday was not really Monday.

For me, there would be work (and I'm generally grateful for that). But for my kids, there would be no early wake up, no having to turn in papers and homework, no racing out the door. And suddenly the weight of Sunday was lifted. After all, Sunday may be part of the weekend, a day to enjoy and savor, but more often than not, it is a quick ramp toward Monday. If all you do is enjoy Sunday, the ramp to Monday is steep. The only way to make it more gradual is to devote Sunday to Monday preparation, and that is not always an easy or pleasant thing.

I will be waking up tomorrow, same as always (though perhaps a bit later, since I won't be making school lunches and hurrying people out the door). This week, our "Sunday" will, I guess, be a Monday. And hopefully, we'll have a less steep trip down the ramp to show for it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

For A Friend

Today, courtesy of Facebook, I found out that a former One Lifer was in the hospital. Within hours, there were lovely comments from many of us "Lifers," wishing him and his family well.

Obviously, Facebook is full of newly shared information and good wishes every day. This day, however, really struck me, as a group of people, many of whom hadn't seen each other in years, rallied around one of its own. There is nothing that any of us can really do. Yet, the outpouring of support was a reminder that those OLTL ties were incredibly strong ones, ones unbroken by years apart.

Facebook words might not really help someone's health, but today they at least made me believe that the connections we all had mattered for something. They allowed us to share in trying to bolster an old friend, and they reminded us that something that is over can still live on in the bonds it creates between people.

My thoughts are with our friend and his family. And with all of those who are still united by One Life, all these years later.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fixing It

I am a fixer. If something's wrong, I immediately jump in to explain it or make it better or rationalize why it was a good thing to have happen because of the benefits it will provide going forward.

A fixer is a good thing to be. Being a fixer helped me get through many a day (not all, but many) when I was between jobs, and it has enabled me to teach my kids flexibility and resilience as they navigate through the frustrations of school and life.

The problem, however, is that sometimes, what we need is not fixing, but just listening, not rationalization, but just a hug. Sometimes, it's too soon to think about how the current setback will help us down the road. We just want to survive it in the moment. Yet, the fixer in me barrels on, determined to find the good, determined to keep walking the path.

While I am not encouraging wallowing (I have certainly done enough of that in my life!), I am trying to remind myself that, though every situation may have a "going forward" purpose, sometimes it's okay to wallow before fixing, to lend a shoulder before offering a hand up. Being able to forge on is a great skill, but if we don't also pause, ever so briefly, in the moment (positive or negative), we rob ourselves of the opportunity to grow from it.

I am happy that I can "fix" things, for myself and others, at least sometimes. That I have learned enough to know that most of the time, life goes on, if you let it. Now I just need to make sure to temper the fixing with a dose of compassion. Life may go on, and it may be very productive to forge beyond our stumbling. But sometimes a hug along the way may be what's needed to get to the real fixing.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Second Jobs

I left home today with a mission--several missions, actually. Since the name "Mom" carries with it the jobs of "chef," "secretary," and "personal shopper," I was to come home with not only a day checked off on my work time sheet, but also with fall clothes, new snacks, and appointments and phone calls made. And since most of us moms moonlight as "chauffeurs," our work is not really done until the last child is home.

It can be exhausting to have so many "jobs." Hey, it can be exhausting to have one job (do I really know anyone anymore who just has one job?). It can also be, at least in the case of these multiple jobs, incredibly satisfying. You see, if you do only one job, and you have a rough day of it, all you have to show at the end of the day is tired eyes and a feeling of failure. If your day has been filled with multiple jobs, you almost certainly end your day having accomplished something. You may not have been a hero at work today, but you are a hero at home when you arrive with new lunchbox treats. You may not have saved your company money today, but you have earned your family money by following up on health insurance claims.

These days, whether we literally go to multiple workplaces or simply accomplish many things for many bosses all day, most of us are handling second and third jobs. It may not be what we had in mind, but it's what we do. So if in my case right now, the second jobs fall into the category of "Mom," that's okay. On the résumé in my head, it's just a few more lines. And who knows? Someday those may be just the lines that matter.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Small Screen Life

When I thought about working in television, it seemed like such a big, fancy, glamorous thing. In twenty-something years, there have certainly been big, fancy, glamorous moments--a black-tie Tavern on the Green party in my first summer at One Life to Live, a soap stylist doing my hair for my wedding and a soap cameraman shooting it, smiles from handsome actors, and meeting people I'd only ever seen on TV. But twenty-something years later, the experiences that have filled my days and made a career are not the big, fancy, glamorous ones. They are the little moments, the working together and beating the clock, the doing more with less, the making it work day in and day out.

All these years later, I look at the people who have continued to do the big, fancy, and glamorous, and I realize that the life I have made is not big, fancy, and glamorous at all. Of course, there are exciting moments--I work in a field filled with drama and costumes and big stories and creative people. Yet, the piece I quite consistently seem to carve out for myself is not the big, fancy, glamorous one. All these years later, it continues to be about the working together, the more with less, the telling a story. And the going home at the end of the day to a life that, while full of activity, is also small.

When I thought about working in television, my current small screen life was probably not quite what I had in mind. Perhaps there were more fancy meals and fewer "pasta before homework time" dinners. Perhaps there were more fancy outfits and fewer "comfortable enough to walk home in" shoes. Perhaps there were more glamorous friends and theater outings and great artistic thoughts.

But what we see on the big screen, even the screen in our minds, is not always the real thing. It is a set of images, a story, a picture of how things might be. So, when I look back on the screen life I have made, it may be a smaller one than I'd imagined. Smaller stories, smaller circles, smaller moments. It has still been a life "on the screen." My very own small screen life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Seek, And Ye Shall Find

Today at work, I had a bit of a research job--for part of my day, I was "looking for" instead of "putting together." While I had moments of frustration about not having all the pieces at hand, or at least easily findable, it was an interesting piece of detective work, and a nice diversion from the everyday.

As I searched through file after file, I realized I was finding out more about the organization of things than I had discovered in months of working. While my detective task might not have been a completely successful one, it was a huge success for the long haul, as I will know things going forward that will help my work flow.

Sometimes that's how life is--often, what seems like a wild goose chase helps us understand the farm. Sometimes a mystery that we can't quite solve informs how we solve the next one that comes along. Sometimes it takes stepping out of our everyday mode to know how to handle our every day tasks.

Today, there were moments when I wondered if my "search and rescue" mission was a waste of time. By the end of the day, I realized that searching, even when you don't find exactly what you're looking for, is rarely a waste of time. It's just another way to see the big picture.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It Never Really Goes Away

I hopped on the subway to go to a show tonight, and when the doors opened at my stop, and I saw the station scenery that I'd seen for close to twenty years traveling to ABC, I gasped, literally gasped. It was a reaction so visceral, so unexpected. "Wow," I thought in that moment, "it really doesn't go away."

I haven't worked at ABC in almost three years. Since my time traveling to that station, I have commuted to Connecticut, traveled to assorted edit houses all over the city, and recently enjoyed an on-foot commute. Perhaps each of these is ingrained enough in me that I could do it again without thinking too much. Yet none of them is ingrained enough in me to send me reeling years later.

There are so many days when I am amazed at the degree to which I have moved on, at the degree to which my life is so separate from all the years that led up to it. And yet, in an instant, it all comes back--the crack of dawn days when that train station was empty, and the start-of-school time days, when it was jam-packed with teenagers. The early in my career days when I carried tokens, and the more recent days when I stopped to refill my MetroCard. The days when I bounded up the stairs, excited about a day of production, and the days when I trudged up, dreading a day filled with too much drama.

No matter how much we think we've moved on, when something has been so much a part of us for so long, it never really goes away. It doesn't mean we have to live in the past. It just means we have to appreciate the gasp once in a while--the flooding back of memories in a life that often only seems to move forward.

As I stepped off the train, I was struck by "it doesn't go away." I gasped. And then I smiled. Because as far removed as it all might be, it feels good to know that it never really goes away.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dirty Laundry

On Sunday nights, I join most of my building floor in doing laundry. It's not that we do it together. It just seems to be a night when many of the people along our twenty-yard stretch of hallway choose to journey to the basement to get ready for their week.

I am struck each week by how much I can guess about people's lives from their laundry carts. For while we may all live on the same floor, greet the same doormen in the lobby each day, press the same button on the elevator, we are a floor of vastly different people, and laundry night points that out as clearly as anything.

As I head downstairs with my overloaded, not very organized cart, a cart that shows the wear of the many years I have used it, unable or unwilling to spend the money to replace it, I pass a neighbor whose small cart, which always looks brand new, seems to roll easily from her closet, where all her dirty clothes are neatly tossed all week (no picking up socks from all over for her!) to a single washer (or perhaps two, if delicate items need to be separated). As I stuff as many whites as possible into the largest washer, I notice the guy from across the hall, who uses the jumbo washer for just a bed's worth of sheets and pillowcases. Were I to do the bed linens weekly, it would take multiple washers, perhaps even multiple trips, to do so. As I set up my dryers with fingers crossed that the large piles will dry if I give them fifty minutes, I note that some of the dryers spin with just three items. Who, I ask you, has just three items on a Sunday? And when I am done, and I ride up in the elevator with my still overflowing cart next to a person who has neatly folded a week's worth of outfits while still in the laundry room, I think about how I will negotiate this week to make folding a family project.

Each week, we emerge from our hallway doors to do laundry. We are the same in so many ways--a myriad of shared experiences, simply because we live on the same floor of the same building. But on Sunday nights, the laundry carts tell the story. Behind each door is a life that spins in its own unique way. We may all start the week in the same way, turning dirty laundry into clean clothes, but I guarantee you, those weeks that we're starting will be very, very different.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fast and Slow

It's hard to get around that the central part of my day was Yom Kippur fasting. Any number of things could have happened today, and yet, they would all be colored by the fact that I wasn't eating, and was doing whatever I could all day to avoid thinking about eating.

There are those who would argue that such a thing is archaic--a remnant of prior observance, and a waste of time and energy. Yet, while I can't say I was happy about not eating, I can say that it gave me a different focus, and sometimes in life, a shift in focus is really all you need.

Fasting meant that at least until later in the day, the kitchen was not the focus of my path at home (I, in fact, avoided the kitchen, so as not to invite any unnecessary temptation). My path, then, focused more on thinking than on eating, more on sustaining conversations than on sustaining a full stomach.

Fasting also meant that entertaining company was not about offering food, but about offering communal activity. In a household where communal often happens only around the dining table, it was nice to see a focus on talking to each other, not necessarily over bowls of pasta.

Fasting meant a focus on connection. Connection to an often unstated past, in which fasting and observance were unquestioned. Connection to a community also trying to find its way through the day. Connection to generations trying to make the tradition their own.

And fasting meant slowing down--accepting that there would be none of the normal running around and thinking weeks and months ahead. And sometimes slowing down is all it really takes to shift your focus.

By nighttime, when fasting was done, focus had shifted again--to entertaining with food, to visiting the kitchen (often), and to planning ahead for the week and beyond. Yet, I can't help but think that the focus change, just for the day of fasting, will continue to color things, even if just for a few days. Whether it's because of tradition, or physical discomfort, or a sense of community,  perhaps this day of fasting will help us take things a little more slowly, with a little different focus.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Too Late

As I sat tonight waiting for Yom Kippur services to begin, I noticed a friend who seemed to be all alone. At first, there was an empty seat beside her, as if she might be waiting for someone, but as people joined her row, it became clear that she was, indeed, on her own. I sat and watched the whole evolution, yet, by the time I put all the pieces together to think of asking her to sit with me, the service had begun, and it was too late.

Quite often, we are faced with situations that we can change. Things that seem not quite right or that are going in a direction that we can see needs to be altered. Yet, quite often, we wait to do anything. Perhaps, we think, the situation will fix itself, or perhaps, we reason, it is just supposed to be that way. So we let it go, and just follow the course of events. Sometimes things do work out, and sometimes we end up with that feeling of being too late. Of waiting too long to jump in to make positive change.

I had been wondering how I would process Yom Kippur this year. It is a day for stopping and evaluating and apologizing before moving on, and I really wondered if I would be able to do any of that, when most of what I do each day is simply forge ahead.

Yet, in that moment tonight, that moment when I was hit hard by my having waited until it was too late, I found a focus for my stopping. When we forge ahead, we certainly get things done, but we also make things go so fast--or at least allow them to--that before we know it, chances are gone. It is too late. I didn't like tonight's feeling of "too late," and if I keep simply forging ahead, I have a feeling I will be surrounded by "too late."

So if this year's holiday changes things, so that once in a while, I act BEFORE it is too late, speak up BEFORE it is too late to make a difference, then it will have been a success. And maybe that's what Yom Kippur is all about--reminding us that it is never really too late to change, never too late, as long as we are willing to look carefully at ourselves and our lives, and willing to make the choice to reach out to a friend, or to extend ourselves to something new. Because in life, we may always feel behind. But it is rarely really too late to make a change.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Science Fairs and Lab Assistants

My day started with an early morning meeting for the school science fair. While I am our family's resident proofreader of scientific papers, I can't call myself a scientist. But when your kid wants to do something, especially something that doesn't involve a video game or a bag of candy, and that might even be a step toward getting him into the college of his choice (well, at least maybe the middle school of his choice), you do what you have to do.

I was not alone. Surrounding me were moms and dads doing the same thing I was--reading the handouts, taking notes, asking questions about this unknown thing that had clearly become the talk of the kids in the school. And even in my under-caffeinated state, I found myself proud of my kid, and proud of myself for supporting what he wanted to do, not just what would be convenient for us. My scientist child may not do a study that saves the world, but I am doing my part to make sure he can do some experiments that help him discover something. I guess you could call me his lab assistant.

Life is full of discoveries--big things that we try to make happen, so that we can find out stuff, or make money, or feel like heroes. It's fun to be out front for those discoveries--no question. But as in a lab, not many of those discoveries would work without lab assistants--people who keep things running over time and keep things organized behind the scenes. Who provide support, so that the primary investigator can do the great studies and think the great thoughts. Today, I was just that--the person who showed up and took notes, who got the details and wrote my name on the sign-up sheet, so that my young scientist can make some discoveries (and likely, a mess along the way).

Sometimes it's fun to step back from being the primary investigator all the time, and just be the "lab assistant." Even if your name tag really just says "Mom."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cynical...Or Not

Cynical is okay, if it makes you take crazy things with a grain of salt. Cynical is not okay if it makes you salty about everything.

Cynical is okay if it helps you protect yourself, your family, or your sanity. Cynical is not okay if it keeps you too protected to experience or enjoy.

Cynical is okay if it makes you think more clearly before leaping. Cynical is not okay if it means you think too much and leap too little.

Cynical is okay if it means you've learned something from your life up till now. Cynical is not okay if it means you are paralyzed by your life up till now.

Cynical is okay if it helps you keep your kids realistic. Cynical is not okay if it lets you keep your kids from dreaming.

A little cynicism may be a good thing. But too much of a good thing....

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Back To School

I went back to school today, and I am exhausted.

To be fair, I did not actually start taking courses. Rather, I went to school with one child and began investigating new schools for another. I did not have to crack open a book (except for the guide to middle schools). I received some handouts, but did not have to fill in any of them. I did not have to raise my hand to answer a question so that I'd get a good class participation grade, and I didn't have to check my cell phone at the door (as many schools now require). I did not have to stand on a cafeteria line and take a chance on school lunch, and I did not have to worry about whether my outfit would please the "in crowd." I just had to listen, and watch, and try to understand what my kids go through each day.

Most days, I go to work, and give it my all, then come home and give that my all too. I am quick to remind my kids how easy they have it--not having to worry about making a living and supporting, and being responsible for, other people. All of those things may be true. It may be that the sum of what I do each day is more significant or time-consuming or brain-absorbing than what they do. Yet, at the end of today, I wasn't quite sure. Of course, we adults worry about money and about helping to mold caring, responsible children, and about doing our jobs well. But if we are lucky, our jobs are in a field that we have at least partly chosen, not in five to eight assorted subjects, some of which we like and understand and some of which completely puzzle us. If we are lucky, the children we are trying to mold have some underlying attachment to us, and we to them, so that the molding, while tricky at times, is a labor of love. And if we are lucky, the worry about money, though it may never let up, doesn't occupy our every waking moment.

Today, I saw first hand some of the things my kids have to handle during the myriad hours when they are not with me, and I have to say, I was impressed. They adjust to how different people want them to think. They stay engaged over and over again on a schedule that might have our heads spinning. And they do all of this while they are still in many ways trying to figure out who they are.

Today, I went back to school. I leaned a lot, and I had moments of wanting to return to some simpler version of life from my past. Having seen what I've seen, I think I'll just keep trying to support my kids while they handle it, and I'll thank goodness every day that I am where I am.