Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter Is Upon Us

On the calendar, it is still weeks away, and in the weather forecast, it is hard to tell some days, but in so many ways, winter is upon us.

In the sky that darkens at 4:30, making for a sometimes endless night, winter is upon us.

In the distance from both summer memories and summer plans, winter is upon us.

In the excitement about end-of-year festivities and the dread about end-of-year bills, winter is upon us.

In the boots and coats and scarves and gloves that have replaced scooters and baseball equipment in our front hall, winter is upon us.

In the decreasing supply of outdoor fruit vendors, and therefore, easy-to-buy bananas, winter is upon us.

In the ending of one vacation and the beginning discussion of the next, winter is upon us.

In the fleece and the wool that doesn't fit in the drawers nearly as well as the t-shirts and the bathing suits, winter is upon us.

In the reviewing of photos representative of a year and worthy of a holiday card, winter is upon us.

In the birthdays that have come up again, as if it wasn't a whole year ago the last time, winter is upon us.

In the cold that makes us want to stay in that has replaced the heat and humidity that--hey, that made us want to stay in too!--winter is upon us.

Soon, we will be immersed in all that winter has to offer, and perhaps we will think of and long for nothing else. Sometimes, it's just the transitions that are hard, and for those, there's no way to get through except to get through. So for now, it's just about getting through. Because winter is upon us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Memories of Things Past

I did a little Black Friday shopping, and was reminded of Black Fridays in years past, when I was the passenger, not the driver, when I simply followed the schedule, rather than making it.

I enjoyed a day of Thanksgiving leftovers, and was reminded of the Thanksgiving weekend not that many years ago, when what I thought was leftover indigestion turned into gall bladder surgery.

I taught my children the card game Casino, and was reminded of learning it from and playing it for hours with my grandmother.

I read holiday sale emails, not job search ones, and was reminded of the last few years of Thanksgivings, when I could never quite settle in to a holiday, because I could never quite know what would happen after it.

I peeled snowy clothes off my kids and put them (the clothes, not the kids) right into the dryer, and was reminded of smaller children and smaller snow clothes, and of the plastic bag shoe and hand protection of my own childhood, when the rarity of snow made it silly to own extensive snow gear.

I bought a bag of fancy chocolates that were certainly a want, not need, item, and was reminded of days when want, not need was limited to things no more than a dollar.

I laughed with relatives, and was reminded of some years when there were more relatives to laugh with, and others when there wasn't nearly as much laughing.

It's funny how moving forward can take us so far back, and how enjoying "now" can also remind us of so much "then." Every day we're creating new moments, but if we're lucky, some of those new moments can re-open memories of things past as well.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanks Giving

I carve the turkey.

I am not that strong, but I manage, even when it 's a large one. I am no gourmet, but I make it look reasonable on the tray and just fine for leftovers. I am dressed for dinner, but I don't mind getting dirty. So, just about every Thanksgiving, I carve the turkey.

Now, it wouldn't be much of a meal with just my efforts. The tray I fill may sit in the center of the table, but it is soon surrounded by assorted side dishes, most of which came about independent of my efforts. And even the turkey I carve would be a giant frozen blob, if not for the efforts of other people who prepare it and watch over its cooking. So, in the scheme of things, my contribution is pretty small.

Every day, however, things work because of small contributions from all of us. TV shows happen not just because of the actors we see and the writers who write the words we hear. They happen with the work--the contributions--of many people, from the chefs who make the food on set each day to the PAs who drive the vans and sort the mail. Children grow and thrive not just because of their parents and teachers, but also because of the countless other people making contributions in their lives.

As my carving the turkey helped make the Thanksgiving dinner, each day, the small contributions of many make the best things in life a success. If we undervalue the small things, we run the risk of making the big ones impossible. So, whether your job is carving the turkey or heading up the table, making the centerpiece, or just loading the dishwasher, remember that it matters, and that the Thanksgiving dinner, or whatever the endeavor, wouldn't be the same without you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Night Before Thanksgiving

As I head to work, I am surrounded by people toting small suitcases in the rain. A travel holiday is upon us. When I get to work, I am soon surrounded by people who will be working all weekend. This is news, after all, and news doesn't stop, at least not completely.

As I make it through this day, rain and slow buses and all, I realize that I am thankful for a lot of things...

A place to go where I won't be solely responsible for cooking the turkey.

A job that lets me go when I need to and welcomes me back with open arms when I return.

A coat and boots in the rain.

A family that is packing with me. It makes for more than just a small suitcase, but it's worth it.

All the snow gear I didn't throw away, even though it rarely gets used in NYC.

A husband who makes pies and vacuums so that I can just focus on snow gear retrieval and packing.

My ability to get up early, so that postponing travel because of weather doesn't have to mean missing a whole day.

And the list goes on. Thanksgiving may be full of food, but the day before Thanksgiving is a reminder of all that goes into and leads up to the day itself. Tomorrow, there will be time for eating. Today, I'm just thankful to have gotten here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Due Diligence

I guess I'm in a catch phrase kind of mood, because today I began to think about "due diligence," another one I seem to hear more and more. As I returned to work after visiting the fifth of seven middle schools we will be seeing for my son, I couldn't help but think of this phrase. Extensive school choice in New York City is a great thing, but it requires really keeping your eye on the ball. It requires due diligence.

Due diligence is doing the research, whether by talking to every experienced parent you know or reading everything you can on the Internet (while being careful not to be swayed by angry people on chat boards) or rearranging your work and life to go on tours and to open houses (in the process of which you get a real feel for how easy or hard it will be to rearrange your work and life, should a school become part of your daily existence).

Due diligence is allowing a large chunk of your brain (which you feel as though you don't even have available, once you've allocated chunks for all the other things you have to think about) to be dedicated to the task of discussing, thinking through, ordering and re-ordering, and literally keeping straight, all the school possibilities.

Due diligence is focusing on the needs of one child (who most of the time needs much more than yet another conversation about schools) while attending to the needs of all your children.

Due diligence is keeping clear the realities without getting overly caught up in the strategies.

Due diligence is committing enough of yourself to the process so that afterward, you will know, happy ending or not, that you committed enough of yourself to the process.

Due diligence is making sure you've left no stone, even the ones with creepy things under them, unturned. Well, maybe not the ones with creepy things under them--does that really help anyone?

Due diligence is doing enough to avoid "didn't do enough" guilt, even when you know that you will always have "didn't do enough" guilt anyway.

Due diligence is teaching yourself, and the kid for whom you're doing all this (even if he doesn't realize it at the moment) that working hard toward something, even something you don't completely understand and can't completely control, is a good thing. And learning that your due diligence, one way or the other--whether in result, or just in your feeling about the process--will be rewarded.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Above My Pay Grade

Suddenly, it seems I'm hearing this phrase wherever I go. It's a way to say "I'm not paid nearly enough for that kind of stress" or "I wish I had that kind of decision making power" or "go to them, they get to decide." Any way you translate it, it is a clear choice that whatever decision is made will be made by someone else.

The first time I heard the phrase, I chuckled. While I had almost always worked under people who had more control over decisions than I, I had always considered it my responsibility and my right to make at least some decisions myself, rather than defer to the people above. I might ask questions or follow directives, but I don't remember ever specifically deciding that my salary absolved me of decision making. I just worked on the team, whatever that meant on any given day. So, to hear someone buck that system, and in such a forward way, amused me.

Yet, after a few years during which I saw how many potential employers these days were expecting an awful lot of skills and hours for not a lot of compensation, I have begun to understand a little more how this phrase has become popular. Even dedicated people draw lines. Even great decision makers know that every decision is not theirs to make.

As many times as I've heard it, though, "above my pay grade" is not a phrase I'm likely to use too often. While I will frequently be bound by the decisions of people in higher positions, I guess I still don't quite believe that where I land in the hierarchy has to determine how much I can say, and how much control I have in creating change. If I consistently back away from making decisions, simply because my position doesn't pay enough for it, I am likely to find myself unable to make those decisions once I need to, not to mention resentful of the people who do make them. And what about all the decisions I make as a parent or as a volunteer, positions whose "pay grade" is ever-changing (or non-existent, depending on your point of view)?

"Above my pay grade" is freeing, to be sure. It's sometimes a lovely release from what can feel like a lot of responsibility for not a lot of reward. But when we write it all off to "pay grade," we risk forgetting how to make the hard decisions at all. We risk losing our ability to be in that other "pay grade." And we risk losing control over circumstances at our work and elsewhere. In the end, these are not risks I'm willing to take--at work, at home, or in a paid or unpaid life. I may not get to make all the decisions, but I'm not writing them off because of "pay grade." I'm taking them on, "above my pay grade" or not.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Tried

I tried to finish a project, but just couldn't.

I tried to give away everything that, as I often say, "someone else would appreciate far more than I," but was left with still over-full closets and many things someone else would definitely appreciate far more than I.

I tried to read the newspaper, but only got through the beginnings of a few articles before life and laundry and dinner beckoned.

I tried to trust my kids to do what they were supposed to without being asked, but still found myself asking and ordering and yelling (and I really don't like to do that).

I tried to believe that I could do just about anything if given a chance, but realized that I am really good at some things and not so good at others.

I tried to make a gourmet meal, but ended up serving spaghetti.

I tried to enjoy my weekend, because that's at least in part what weekends are for. And you know what? I think I succeeded.

Sometimes, the best we can do is try. It doesn't always work. We don't always succeed. But in a world where "can't" happens way too often, at least we tried.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Not To

Tonight, my daughter and I watched an episode of What Not To Wear. In each hour-long episode, the hosts go from having a person throw away her entire wardrobe to giving her $5000 to buy new clothes that are supposed to be more current, more flattering, and more along the lines of what the hosts deem perfect for her.

It's an entertaining show. The hosts' comments, harsh as they may be, make you laugh. Perhaps it's because you agree with their assessment, particularly when they make the guest look as bad as television can. Perhaps it's that you are just glad that they are not coming into YOUR home and throwing away YOUR clothes and assaulting YOUR look. Either way, you find yourself laughing, even if the subject of their critique is frighteningly similar to yourself.

I came out of watching both thinking that I should perhaps throw away everything in my closet (a little extreme, since no one's offering me $5000 for a new wardrobe) and extremely grateful that I am not a makeover subject on the show. I've seen them do wonders for people's wardrobes and self-esteem, but tossing out all the old, even if it would make for cleaner closets and a new me, is more than I'd like to do. It doesn't mean I won't watch episodes of the show--it's one of the better laughs out there. It simply means I'll take the advice without losing the real me. There may be a closet cleaning in my future--What Not To Wear will do that to you. But there won't be giant garbage bins or 360 degree mirrors or critiques, complete with unflattering close-ups, of my every choice and every non-perfect body part. I'll take some of the advice, but I'll keep some of myself, thank you very much, clothes I love and all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who Am I This Time?

At 5am, I was head chef, putting up coffee and making breakfasts and lunches.

At 5:30am, I was friend, sending and answering emails to check in with the people who keep me sane daily.

At 6:00, I was alarm clock. The kind that chirps every five minutes until someone finally actually gets up so that the chirping can stop and kids can get dressed for school.

At 6:30am, I was transportation coordinator, making sure money and instructions were distributed to people who needed them for later.

At 7:00am, I was at-home editor, sending off my current progress from the computer, and book collaborator, typing up a document for the middle grade novel for which I've written.

At 7:30am, I was working parent, making sure that my supplies for my day, and my son's, were packed to make it out the door.

At 8:00am, I was bus guru, putting a child on a school bus and myself on a city bus.

At 8:30am, I was school parent, learning about clever ways to compare fractions.

At 9:30am, I was savvy city parent, using every inch of where I was and every minute I had free to run as many errands as possible.

At 10:30am, I was television AD, marking a script, checking out playbacks, and generally laying groundwork for (hopefully) a successful day. As it turned out, I would remain that, most of my other roles fallen by the wayside, until well into the night. I'm not so used to being one person for so long.

Who am I now? I'm not sure--I guess it depends on the time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Right Place, Right Time

I finished work just after 11pm--late, but not so surprising in the production of television. As I left to head home, I thought about a cab, but before I knew it, had headed to the bus stop. After all, how long a wait could it be? Practically the whole world is out in New York City at 11pm. There would have to be buses.

I quickly realized that the whole world out in New York City is mostly walking. Yet, as I registered the fact that I might have a long wait for a bus, I also registered what was happening as I waited. Across the street from the bus stop, behind cranes that are so common in the city that I hardly notice them, giant Christmas decorations began to appear on the facade of Macy's. Suddenly, a yellow mass inflated into a Spongebob wearing elf shoes. Moments later, elves and boxes of toys were hoisted up nearby. I'm not quite sure how long it took for the bus to come, because for some indeterminate amount of time, all I could do was enjoy being there, as one of those things that normally appear from out of nowhere materialized before my eyes.

Had I taken a taxi, I would surely have been home, perhaps even in bed, before I even got on my bus. Yet, to have been there, in on some secret middle of the night set-up, was worth the few lost moments of sleep. To have seen the group of people working late, climbing around a giant balloon, hoisting, and arranging, and doing whatever needed to be done to create this holiday setup that people would see for the first time tomorrow, made the cold and the tired and the "wish I'd been done earlier" fade away.

Sometimes, we think we're doing it all wrong--making the wrong choices, landing in the wrong situations, making the wrong use of our time. But sometimes, what seems to be wrong lands you in just the right place, at just the right time. When I walk past that corner today, there will be decorations that didn't exist yesterday. But I saw it happen. In the right place, at the right time.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Minding The Gap--And Filling It

I get my kids off to school, then head home to do at-home work before heading to work-work. The time gap cannot be squandered, you see. I am up, have been for hours to get everyone out, so if my call is not till 11am, a world of things can get done by then. Right?

There are days when I fill all the gaps--it's hard to get everything done otherwise. Places to be, things to prove, homework to check, stories to hear, sleep to be had, so that you have enough energy to do everything else, and yes, more things to prove. Yet, there are days when the gaps refuse to be filled--when the at-home work doesn't work, when the sleep wasn't enough to support the energy of filling every minute, when the mundane tasks of life expand to fill those valuable time gaps. On those days, I wonder--was I cheated? Absolutely. Will my ability to get everything done suffer? Without question. But that's just how life is. Sometimes we get to choose how we fill our time, our plates, our lives. Sometimes, the world decides for us.

Today was a day when "minding the gap" didn't quite work the way I'd planned. Here's hoping that there are gaps to mind tomorrow. Because I've got a whole list of things ready and waiting to fill them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Occasion To Remember

Less than 24 hours after my post about looking forward, I am faced with the realization that three years ago today, I was part of taping the last set of scenes of the ABC version of One Life to Live. What's interesting is that after that day, when the "it's over" feeling first hit me, and after two years ago that day, when I looked back at a year that had not proved as productive as I'd expected, and after last year this day, when I had the feeling that a long time had gone by, this year, the day might have passed unnoticed for me, had I not read someone else's post about it. Somehow, the things you think will never fade just do. The pain you think will never lessen just does. The memories you think will control your life forever suddenly loosen their grip.

When I began this blog, more than two years and over 800 posts ago, it was to make some sense of a world that had been up-ended, an era of sorts that was over, and the landscape that was left afterward. What happened over two years and 800 posts turned out to be not just sense, but life. In those two years, I turned the hope of "not washed up yet" into a reality.

Today, I am not sorry that I was reminded of that sad day three years ago. But I'm not sorry that I had to be reminded either. Just as that day didn't define all the years of my soap career that led up to it, that day also doesn't define my life today. It is an anniversary, and a significant one, to be sure. But three years later, I can remember the hugs without feeling the emptiness. I can remember the people without watching them disappear. And I can be so wrapped up in other events that I almost forgot to remember that one.

Happy Last Day Anniversary, OLTL. I'll remember you. Maybe just not every day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Looking Forward

I read a quote this week--actually, I read it multiple times, because that's how Facebook and LinkedIn are. It read "Don't look back. You're not going that way." Now, I don't always put a lot of stock in pithy little social media images, but this one has stuck with me. The last few years have presented a lot of opportunities for me to look back--back on jobs I've had, back on salaries that once were, back to times shared with friends who have since moved away. There has been temptation to look back to chances missed (or denied) and to moments not fully enjoyed when they were right in front of me. A person could get a very stiff neck turning back to look at all that for too long.

But then I look in front of me, where things might be unknown and a little scary. I look in front of me at new opportunities and new connections and new moments that I will get a new chance to appreciate. And I realize that while the path I'm on has been paved with all the things that came before, my steps each day are completely new. I am looking forward. Because that's the way I'm going.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Having It Both Ways

After a conversation with my son, during which I emphatically stated, "You can't have it both ways," I began to think about all the things we'd like to have both ways. Can you both...

...sleep late and get everything done? family-friendly hours and still make enough money for a family?

...use the weekends for catch-up and for goofing off? all-consuming work and still have time to micro-manage home?

...teach your kids what they need to know and still let them be who they need to be?

...spend enough time with your kids and still have time alone?

...feel that you are eating healthy and still enjoy cupcakes?

...have stability (financial and emotional) and freedom too?

...caution your kids about screen time and still carry your smartphone with you and check it on a regular basis?

...have a clean apartment and not spend your life in it cleaning?

...pick the best schools for your kids, even if that means different schools in different locations, and still be a school-involved parent?

...encourage independence and still make very sure that your child goes to school with everything done and packed?

...have company in your endeavors and autonomy in your choices?

...teach your children life skills and still let them feel skilled at life?

So--about that "can't have it both ways"--as sure as I was when I said it to my son, I'm not sure I'm so sure...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Yes, and How

I recently signed on to help with an editing project for some friends of mine. Excited for new challenges, always happy to be asked, and eager to be part of a team, I immediately said "yes." The "yes," however, was in the middle of adding a second job to my weekly schedule, as well as managing school transition plans for two of my children. Sometimes "yes" happens easier than "how."

What I have learned over the past week is that "how" is a relative term.

How would I carve out computer time in a household already taking turns to type homework, watch videos, and web-surf? A little rediscovery of the word "mine" (a concept that mostly disappears when you become a parent).

How would I install and learn a new system quickly enough to get working? Belief that I had to and could (concepts that are your means of survival when you become a parent).

How would I manage not to let down--time-wise, skill-wise, or otherwise--people who had put their faith in me? Simply doing the best I could (a concept you hope is enough when you become a parent).

"Yes" is exciting, and "how" is scary, and there have been a few moments when "yes" almost turned into "no," and "how" almost turned into "can't." I hope to come out of this experience with some new knowledge, friends who are still friends, and the belief that "yes" can make a person really good at "how." Luckily, I've had a fair amount of practice with "yes" and "how." They're just part of life. Particularly once you become a parent.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Let It Go

This week, I...

Mis-remembered a school half-day, so sent my son with no lunch to eat and sent my sitter to a bus stop with no bus to meet.

Did laundry at 6am to avoid the crowd and get the big washers, only to find that other people also use big washers at 6am.

Served dinner practically at bedtime more than once.

Wore a few outfits that probably embarrassed my teenage daughters.

Left work some days very satisfied, and others, well, not.

Didn't do nearly the number of things I was supposed to do at home before and after work.

Didn't solve the crowded closet issue or the how to get everyone everywhere issue or the how to keep the pile of incoming mail off the dinner table issue.

I could hold on to all of it, allow all of the "undone" and the "messed up" and the "seriously?!" to take over. But I would like to think that in among the mistakes, there are a few successes too. I can try to remember better, plan better, solve better. But for now, I think I'll just let it go.

Friday, November 14, 2014

By the Seat of My Pants in the Back of My Head

Many years ago, when I made the transition from Booth PA to Multicamera AD, I was pretty nervous about the learning curve. Would I really be able to learn everything I needed to know, AND be able to speak up in a way I never had needed to as a PA?

There was definitely a learning curve, and I did not become the AD I am today all those years ago. What I found out while training back then, however, and what I have continued to find out since, is that a great deal of what we need to know is not taught. It is absorbed. When I officially began to train, I discovered that there were things I just knew, simply from being in a control room every day. I could learn technique, to be sure, but the underlying ideas and understanding were just there, in the back of my head. I had been sitting next to ADs, hearing them say the words and seeing them make the notes, for so long, that when it became my turn, the change was more natural than radical. I might have had my training notes next to me, but day to day, the knowledge from the back of my head allowed me to fly by the seat of my pants.

It has been a long time, and many jobs, since that transition, but the process hasn't changed much. In each job, there are new things to learn, even if the job title is one you've had before. But if you've listened to the people around you, and kept with you the experiences you've had before, a great deal of whatever you need to move forward is actually alive and well in the back of your head.

At each new job, or job responsibility, I still find myself a little nervous. But what I learned all those years ago still holds true--if I trust what's in the back of my head, most of the rest of things will come, even if I fly by the seat of my pants.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Short List

For years, I have kept a mental list of the people I would call if I were to be assembling people for a production team. I imagine all of us have people we have come to trust, who we know will make every project we do better, and who will have just the vibe we want around when we are creating. They are the people on our "short list."

What started as a "short list" has become a much longer one as I have worked in a variety of places. Most everywhere I go, I happen upon people I'd love to work with again, people I add to that list in my head. While it's possible that I will never hire my own production team, it's still nice to think about being surrounded by all the people who have helped me and taught me and enriched my work experiences for all these years.

What's particularly interesting about my "short list," I think, is that it is not just a list of experts. Though many of the people on my list have absolutely been my gurus in certain areas, others have been people who just help the team--newbies who have a great attitude, people who are eager to learn, people who respect what's out there and are always looking to make things better.

Making real use of my "short list"--now, a much longer list--may never happen. For now, all I can really do is keep track and keep an open mind. And hope that while I'm continuing to make my "short list," I remain on a few other people's "short lists" myself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Wind Beneath

Like most parents, I spend at least some of my time reminding my kids of all the things they are able to do because I work, schlep, shuttle, get up early, and do whatever else it takes to enable them to do what they want. It's true--we parents make a lot of sacrifices to provide the best for our kids.

But as I walked home tonight, I began to think about all the things my kids (and my husband, my sitter, my friends, the doorman, and more people than I can list) do to enable me to do the things that I want to do. Because I work in TV production (rarely a 9 to 5 endeavor), my husband and children sometimes eat dinner and do homework without me. My sitter often knows more about my family schedule than I do, and rolls with my days of work, dark days (the expected and unexpected ones), and schedule changes, without so much as a pause. My friends say "hang in" when I need it, and understand when my emails are few and when they are a lifeline. And my family believes that what I am doing is worth it (mostly) and possible, even when I'm not so sure.

There are absolutely days when my kids would leave home ill-clothed and underfed if not for my efforts, and when the extra things they do are possible because I work to make them possible. But there are just as many days when I wouldn't have a prayer of being a success at work if not for their (and a lot of other people's) patience and understanding and faith. I may be the set of wings that keeps our family moving, but they, and all the other tolerant people in my life, are the wind that keeps those frantically flapping wings in the air.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rolling With It

I headed off to work today, kind of looking forward to the normalcy of things. After all, even if it's called work, there is some comfort in the structure of doing what you do every day, after a few weekend days when you've "made it up as you went along."

Normalcy was not to be. For, just as I had settled in to my intense, but predictable, routine, I found out that a co-worker was out, meaning I would need to pick up the slack and work on a project I'd never done before.

Now, I'm a "roll with the punches" kind of person. I have children. I've been unemployed. I live in New York City, land of train delays and bus re-routes. I wouldn't still be standing now if I couldn't "roll with it." And yet, on a Monday, when all I was craving was coffee and normalcy, "new project" just about knocked the wind out of me.

Luckily, because I'm a parent, and have been unemployed, and live in New York City, the wind doesn't stay knocked out for long. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of the "new project," and though from a distance, it had looked complicated, close-up, it turned out to be well within my abilities. All that, and a chuckle or two with my producer, and what had started as a break in normalcy became an opportunity to learn something new.

The best thing about rolling with it is that it means you don't get rolled over. Sure, change may get in the way of normalcy. How many times have you seen a perfectly good street get torn up to be repaved? You can bemoan the mess, or you can enjoy the big truck that rolls it flat again. How many times have you realized after getting a new job how good a thing it is that you moved on from your old one? Almost every day, we are called upon to give up our normalcy, and sometimes even our coffee, to roll with the next thing that comes our way. We can curl up in our normalcy (and believe me, there was a moment when I almost did), or we can face the new. We can roll with it.

Today was not at all the normal day I expected. What began with a new project continued with a day's worth of reminders that nothing really stays the same for long. But I'm rolling with it. Which, to me, makes a lot more sense than being left flat.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Trip To The Studio

No, I did not go to a TV studio. This afternoon, two of my kids and I traveled to "studio class" at the studio of their piano teacher. As a "working most of the time" parent, I have generally counted on teachers to come to me (or at least pretty close). I doubt that my children would have learned piano had they needed to travel each week for the lessons. But several times a year, our teacher hosts groups of students at her home for an hour in which the kids play for each other and discuss music and technique. For us, the event requires a long train ride or a fairly substantial car trip, and generally some waiting around, as the kids are in different age/skill groups. It can be a challenging weekend commitment, to be sure. But today, with no other major events on our calendar, we headed off to the studio.

In the end, the roads and traffic were kind, each kid had an "adventure with mom" during the other's studio time, and both children had the opportunity to play their current piano pieces in someplace other than home. Yes, it took a chunk out of our day--travel and waiting do that. However, after  years of the convenience of lessons at home, was it really so terrible a trade-off? I don't think so.

Sometimes it takes something that is a little difficult to remind you how easy you have it. For a very long time, our piano teacher has been coming to our home, adjusting to whatever schedule-altering activities we add on, and teaching our kids piano (not to mention the discipline that comes with it). Whether a sitter or I (when I was out of work) has opened the door to her, she has arrived each week--for years--prepared to teach sometimes eager, sometimes tired pupils, who, I remind myself, would never have learned piano had the lessons required weekly travel. We just couldn't have done it.

We won't always be available for studio class, and going to it might never be easy, but like most things in life, it is a trade-off--an exchange for something else that we might otherwise take for granted. Because of a teacher willing to accommodate working parents and busy kids, I have children who will have at least some piano ability for the rest of their lives. As far as I'm concerned, a bit of a trip and an hour of waiting a few times a year are well worth it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mapping a Calendar

Commitments dot our calendar, making a kind of roadmap for our weeks and weekends. If Person 1 has to be at this place at that time, then Persons 2-5 can't do certain things, but have to do others. It is complicated sometimes, but we manage. What's interesting, though, is that many of the resulting pieces are NOT on the calendar. Like a roadmap, our calendar displays the high points--days off from school are like capital cities, events and parties are like smaller towns. Yet, like the map, the calendar doesn't tell us how to manage our days. It simply tells us what's there, and leaves it up to us to do the navigating.

Over the years, our calendar has ensured that I sent my kids to school dressed properly for picture day. It has kept us from being no-shows at birthday parties for which we RSVPed "yes." And when we wrote all our theater subscription dates on it, we saw every show we were supposed to see (let's not talk about when we DIDN'T write those dates on it!)

The difficulty about a calendar is that you have to follow it, just as you would a roadmap, in order for it to help you, and sometimes, when you are driving, or driving through life, it's hard to slow down for that, and particularly hard to see through the "capital city" dots to what it is you're actually supposed to DO in a certain place.

This weekend, we are doing okay with our roadmap. We got a child to a party, because the calendar said to do so, and we successfully figured out a transportation strategy to make that happen (and because of a rare early look at the calendar, we had the birthday present in hand days before the party). And we move on to the next calendar dot, making our chosen stops between points.

I am grateful for our calendar. It keeps me on the road, when I might inadvertently drive right off into one project or another. It tells me when I need to stop for an "engine check," so that our journey doesn't come to a complete stop. It signposts what we need to do and celebrates, at least on paper, what we want to do.

I also hate our calendar, because it reminds me of things we DON'T want to do, or things we have to figure out how to juggle, or simply weeks with way too many stops and starts. Like a roadmap, it tell us when we can't get there from here, at least not without managing some treacherous roads. Sometimes, I'd rather just drive, discovering things as I go, rather than anticipating them along the way.

This weekend, we have (at least so far) traveled a path that got us where we wanted to go, and forced us toward a few places at least some of us could well have skipped. But the points were on the calendar, so we hit them, and we are on to our next calendar line. Following a calendar, or a map, may not be easy, but it helps us get things done, even if we have to fill in a lot of the squares ourselves.

Want to know what our next trip will be? Just check the map--or the calendar.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In A Variety of Places

Many years ago, in what seems practically like another lifetime, I interviewed for a job while I was working at One Life to Live. I remember being terrified that my then bosses would find out. I remember being excited about the possibility of being wanted by people who didn't already know me. And I remember the person who interviewed me saying that it was important for me to work (or to have worked--I forget) in a variety of places.

At the time, I was a little bewildered by this thought. Wasn't I lucky to have stayed at a place for an extended period of time and to have been promoted there? How was it, short of quitting that job, that I was supposed to have time to work in a variety of places?

I didn't get that job. I stayed where I was, and it wasn't until later that I worked in a variety of places, and began to understand what the woman had meant. For while each new place meant adjusting to new people and new expectations, each new place also gave me new ways to think about things. Not only was I able to think differently in each job, I suddenly saw how those different ways of thinking could inform every job I did going forward. I went from Cosby back to One Life to Live understanding how recording the footage from all cameras could save studio time and help in editing. I went from crime recreation reality editing back to other editing knowing how even the most generic image properly placed could tell a story. Editing non-profit promos has made me more aware of making the most of each second of video. While doing multiple jobs has been at least in part a financial necessity, I understand now what that woman all those years ago meant. The normalcy of one job may be nice, but what you learn doing many jobs can be pretty important--and helpful--too.

As I go back and forth between two gigs for these next few weeks, I look forward to seeing the differences--and similarities--and really understanding those words I heard in that other lifetime. I have a feeling that I, and the work I do, will be the better for it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hanging On To It--Even After A Year

I've read that if you have a piece of clothing that you haven't worn in a year, you should get rid of it. Even the briefest glance into my closet makes it clear that I do not adhere to this rule. This makes for a cluttered closet. It also makes for a very varied and interesting wardrobe, which includes items I return to after years of neglect. Many things work very well, even if you've gone through a year or more thinking you'd never make use of them again.

Last week, I began a new part-time gig, doing a variation of the AD work I did for years on the soaps. Over this last year, after the soaps in Connecticut ended (and frankly, for the several years before that, after the soaps on ABC ended), I had just about come to the conclusion that it was time to abandon that AD skill set, much as you'd abandon that piece of clothing that had hung in the closet unworn. After week one of this new gig, I thought perhaps I was wrong to think I could go back--did the skill set still fit me? Today, as I "tried it on" again (it is just a two-day-a-week gig), I realized that it was like the sweater that you love, but haven't donned in a while. Suddenly, I felt the competence and excitement and joy that this skill set had given me, just like the feeling that a long-time favorite garment gives you when you rediscover it. And from all appearances, it seems as though people thought it "looked good" on me. Had I given this skill set up after a year of non-use, I would never have gotten to today. Had I not "tried on" my AD life again, I wouldn't have rediscovered the warmth and fit of something that had felt good for so long.

Sometimes it takes holding on to something for a while until it "works" again. And sometimes, it takes trying it on again and giving it a real chance before pronouncing it "out of date." I'll be keeping some of my old favorites--both skill sets and clothing items--for a while, whether I'm currently "wearing" them or not. Because surrounding yourself with what you love--and with what feels good--never goes out of style.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Awake On The Work-Home Continuum

Despite a long day at work, I came home with energy today. This is rare. Many days, having given my all at work, I come home in not much shape to handle home. Even if I am physically there, I am sometimes not much use to help with school assignments and household decisions. I have used up all of my helping and decision-making energy to do those things at work. After all, that's what I'm being paid for, right?

I once talked to a friend who said that such intense commitment, both in terms of hours and in terms of mental/emotional energy, is a phenomenon specific to New York. He remarked that in many places, a job is just a job. You go, you do your job for eight or so hours, and you come home to spend the rest of your time and energy on yourself and your family. Work is work, but the majority of your day is actually spent on more personal matters.

I am not convinced that how I function is really a New York thing. It seems to me that I would work hard, and intensely, no matter where I lived--that's just who I am. The trick, then, for all of us, is to give a lot at our work, but make sure to save at least some of our energy for AFTER work, when we are called upon to be involved parents, and interested siblings, helpful children, and caring friends. It's not easy, and some days, there's just not enough left. But if we appreciate, and capitalize on, the nights like tonight, when we end up with that extra spurt of energy, it is possible.

I am quite sure that I will pay for my night of being wide awake with a morning of being tired. It's okay. I'll fight the tired when I need to. To have energy for my family after a long day is rare, and I am grateful for it. And that's a balance, an ever-shifting balance, that I hope I can maintain.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Secrets of the Highly Successful

Every few months, I come across an article (is it "the" article, or are there many of them?) about the ten or so things that highly successful people do before 9am. (Or is it 7am? I don't remember). Each time I see the article, I think about the fact that I get up at 5am. Many days, I write. Some days I go to the gym. I pay bills, make lunches, write emails. I do at least ten things each day before whatever hour the article says. The question is, has my doing any of this made me highly successful?

When I think about the "highly successful people" in the article, I picture powerful, high-salaried people in expensive suits who have multiple homes and hired hands to take care of the mundane things that tend to fill a lot of my time. "Highly successful people," I figure, don't just TRY to go to the gym regularly, they actually DO go to the gym regularly, and have the bodies to show for it. They follow those "ten things before 9am--or 7am--with high-powered days. Their early morning accomplishments don't make them tired, they make them prepared. They are off and running before many people have even heard a first alarm.

Today, before 9am, I had cooked, voted, moved money, paid bills, reconnected with an old friend, and done some writing. Yet, at the end of the day, was I any more successful, financially or otherwise, than any other day? Perhaps doing before 9 (or 7) is the way to get everything (or at least, more) done, but I am not convinced, at least today, that it is the key to success. I am not wearing an expensive suit or jetting off to my second home. I still find myself troubleshooting all day, and the treadmill I'm on is more than a piece of gym equipment.

I'll have to read that article a bit closer next time. Because I don't mind getting up early to get things done--it helps. But I've got a long way to go before I believe that my early rising habit has put me on a path to guaranteed success. That's just not how it works. Except in those articles.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Job, Day One (Not Me)

A friend of mine began a new job today. As a person who has started a number of new jobs over the last few years, I can't help but feel the nerves of a new day, the excitement of a new challenge, the relief of a resume/interview battle won and a bank account rescued. Somehow, it is all as fresh to me as on the first day of every job I've started.

Part of what I am realizing today is how different this Day One is from the first days in my own job path. In much of the non-production world, starting a new job means starting something that will last for a while, that will change life not just for a few months or a television season (reality or sitcom length). In the non-production world, though job searching might be more intense, job getting is more of a long-term accomplishment.

So, while I may have felt some of what my friend felt today--after all, I've been there, and not that long ago--I'm not sure I can truly understand what it is to enter into a long-term work relationship. My life is full of hellos and goodbyes and new rules and different expectations. My work is full of striving for comfortable, but not too comfortable, of looking for long-term, but realizing that long-term is largely a thing of the past.

Mostly what I can do is encourage and congratulate and talk over coffee. I can envy the concreteness and be bewildered by the structure. And I can realize that no matter what the field, being wanted, being hired, and being employed will always feel like good things, no matter what the duration or circumstances.

Congratulations to my friend, and to all of us who have read job postings and networked and sent emails and made followup calls and written and rewritten resumes, and who have survived last days and first days, and persevered until we get to a place that lasts--whether for a few days, a few months, or a few years.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Food For Families

Today, I was a part of Food for Families, an effort that brings together a room full of people to make sandwiches and meal packages to feed hungry families in New York City. I have done this before, each time with one or more of my children. It can be challenging sometimes to buy the requisite supplies (5 loaves of bread and 16 pieces of fruit per person, which was a lot when I was out of work, but wanted to take all three kids). It can be challenging sometimes to make hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without returning home covered in the sticky stuff. Yet, along with many other families, we get past the challenges of time or money or comfort, and in a two hour period, we generate about a thousand meal packages, each consisting of sandwiches, snacks, and a drink.

Obviously, we can't fix the situation for people who are hungry every day. But one day each month, hundreds of people--adults and children, I imagine, get a little something extra, courtesy of our room full of people.

While I am sure that the title "Food For Families" came from the idea that the effort was actually feeding hungry families, what I have seen over my years participating is that the "families" part is on the giving end as well as the receiving. Food For Families has become a place where people bring their kids, whether the kids are five or fifteen. Whether the children are capable of making sandwiches or following a list to fill meal bags or simply just bagging the cookies to include, they have a real role in the 1000 meals. Whatever their age, they learn that when families work together, families benefit.

In a weekend filled with the mundane tasks that keep my own family running, I am glad I took a few hours, with part of my family, to help keep some other families running too. It may have done more for me and my kids than a refrigerator full of fresh food and drawers full of clean laundry.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saturday Canvas

Sometimes, Saturdays seem huge. After a week of regulated time, in which the structure of school and work tells you exactly what you'll be doing from sunup (or before) to sundown (and well after), even a Saturday with plans feels like a large empty canvas. How will you fill in the white spaces? What colors will your final product contain?

The freedom of an unstructured day, a blank canvas, can be glorious. It leaves room for no alarm (and a little oversleeping). It leaves time for cooking from scratch (and a little shopping for ingredients). It allows for staying up later if you want (but sleeping more if you need). On a weekday, there may be surprises, but you basically know what your canvas will look like by day's end. On a Saturday, what you end up with could be anything from impressionist blobs of color to harsh black and white photographic. While we may end some Saturdays feeling as though we've accomplished nothing, there's always something on that canvas, even if it's just a few lines. And, unlike during the week, when we are "graded" on the final product, on Saturday, we can just enjoy the process, whatever that process produces.

I'll admit, I don't always like the abstract nature of Saturday. Sometimes, I'd rather just have my assignment and get it done. But I can't help but appreciate a little freedom, and I always like seeing the canvas after a Saturday. It's different every week. It is a reminder that we are all artists, of one kind or another. Well, at least on Saturdays.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

In A Freelance World

Today, I returned to the place I have been working, after a few days away to do another gig. I am still a freelancer, after all, so staying busy, eyes and ears open to new things, is important.

When I walked in, I was welcomed like a long-lost family member. People had missed me when I was gone, and they were happy to see me back.

One of the the things about which I worried when the soaps (ABC or Connecticut) ended was that I would never again find the kind of camaraderie that I had enjoyed for so long. The nature of soap schedules and soap hours (and, of course, the number of years that I spent there) made for close connections. It was, to borrow a phrase, the kind of place where "everybody knew your name." Would I, in a freelance world, be simply an anonymous worker who got the job done, but left at the end of the day or the end of the job, no more attached than when I started? How would that feel, after so many years when I, the person, not just the worker, mattered?

I have certainly had a few jobs where I was largely just a worker. The job began and ended, and while LinkedIn connections may have been made, emotional attachments really weren't. I realized today, however, that there can be attachments again, perhaps when you least expect them. Even as a freelancer, you can have places where you really matter, not just as a worker, but as a person too.

I will remember for a long time the welcome back that I received today. There are connections--attachments--to be found, even in a freelance world. I am grateful to have found some of them.