Thursday, December 31, 2015

Vacation Ends

We do the last of the planned and unplanned activities. We pack bags and look around to make sure we've forgotten nothing. We look behind at what we've done, and ahead at what we still have to do. Vacation is almost over.

The glory of vacation is that, if it's done well, you really can have a break from the routine or the difficulty or the stress of your day to day life. The problem with vacation is that, if it's done well, you have a hard time re-entering the routine or the difficulty or the stress of your day to day life.

So, as we pack, and finish, and look around, we relive a bit of the glory, and we manage a bit of the problem. There wouldn't really be vacation if there weren't the day to day life to take vacation from. And presumably, if there continues to be day to day life, there will be vacation again.

We do the last of the planned and the unplanned activities. We pack and look around, and we prepare to exit vacation and re-enter our day to day. It's not easy. But I guess that's why they call vacation vacation...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stronger Than You Think

There are days when I ask for help to open a jelly jar, but hand me a plunger, and I am a superwoman.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Plunging a toilet takes far more energy than twisting a jar lid (not to mention, the jar lid is far more fun). So, why is it that one works better than the other?

When I open a jar, I want what's inside. My toast or cracker or recipe depends on that ingredient, so getting the jar open is important. When, however, I am called upon (thankfully, not that often) to plunge a toilet, the very forces of nature (okay, well, of mechanics or plumbing, or something) are rising to meet me. If I don't succeed, a flood, or, at the very least, a mess, will result. Somehow, a dry, jelly-less piece of toast doesn't sound too dire in comparison. And so, with the plunger in hand, I cannot risk, or accept, defeat.

Clearly, we are capable of much more than we think, when we are faced with a need or a crisis. "I can't" turns into "I'll try." Fear and uncertainty turn into attempt and success. It doesn't mean we can always do everything on our own. But when we stand up to situations, we are sometimes more powerful than we realize. Perhaps it's a question of summoning the superhero within us. Or perhaps it is simply refusal to let those forces of nature (or mechanics or plumbing) defeat us. Either way, plunger in hand or not, the strength is there. We just have to make sure to use it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Years A-go

Just a few years ago, during a week like this one, I received an out of the blue phone call asking questions about a soap production endeavor in Connecticut. Within days, it seemed like a real possibility. And within months, after long stretches of unemployment and uncertainty and thoughts of changing my career path completely, I was commuting daily to be part of the endeavor. Though it lasted just six months, the project renewed my bank account, some old friendships, and my faith that maybe I could still make it work in TV.

It's hard to believe that the phone call was several years ago. It's hard to believe that it is now just a part of my past. But, I suppose, both the work-related and the family-related in our lives inevitably become that. One day they are huge and central, exciting, or devastating, or earth-shattering. And then, before we know it, they are just part of our history.

I remember the excitement I felt then. I remember the feeling of a new chance, the suspicion about something possibly too good to be true, the relief that a long-carried weight might be lifted. And so, while these moments fade into our history, clearly they remain part of our story.

It was just a few years ago, and yet now so far away. But what I took away from it doesn't go that far away...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Could We Stop Here--Just For A Minute?

That is what I asked my daughters. They had accompanied me on a mission, which we had fairly efficiently accomplished, yet, here in front of us was a place I'd never explored. And when time is (at least partly) your own, what better way is there to spend it than to explore? Right?

They (perhaps a bit grudgingly) obliged, and what followed was an hour (did we really spend that long?) of laughter and conversation and gift-buying and just general fun. In a week of planned and scheduled stops and outings, it was a completely unscheduled piece that could turn out to be one of our most memorable.

It was not an earth-shattering place. It was simply a suburban store full of miscellany, plunked in the middle of familiar and unfamiliar destinations. And yet, our stop there was definitely a high point.

And maybe that is a little like life. We spend so much time making and executing plans, doing the things we're supposed to, on the schedule we've set up. We set expectations, and we try our best to meet them. We bemoan the undone and wish we could change the things that didn't go our way. And yet, often, we find joy in the things unplanned, in the places not on our schedule, in the accomplishments we never even expected. Those times when we stop--just for a minute--can turn out to be some of our best, better than all the things we planned for and worked toward and expected of ourselves.

So, the next time you're wondering if it's okay to stop, just for a minute, don't spend too long asking. That minute may be be the best one (or the best start of an hour) you've ever spent.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I'd Almost Forgotten

What it is like to sleep from night till morning, not in snippets all day.

What it is like to drive, not walk, wherever you want to go.

What it is like to talk about more than homework and college and who will be working when.

What it is like to have time, and space, just because there is time, and space.

What it is like to listen to myself a little more.

What it is like to hear other people a little better.

What it is like to have some weight lifted, even for a short time.

What it is like to step back, even if it's not very far.

What it is like to enjoy stepping forward, even when I don't have to.

In a life that rarely pauses from forward motion, it is easy to forget a lot of things. Luckily, once in a while, we are given a chance to remember...what we've almost forgotten.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


It is the holiday season, and who isn't surrounded by baked goods of all kinds? Even on my overnight shift, we had treats ranging from brownies to dumplings. So, what, then, is so earth-shattering, even blog-worthy at all, about pastry?

This particular pastry, you see, defined the holiday season at One Life to Live for my last about ten years there. Like the Christmas Reel, and the Directors' Lunch, and the show-themed gifts we ADs spearheaded, "the pastry," the creation of a beloved audio engineer, which appeared all over the studio, made you know it was really the holidays.

Yesterday, a box of pastry appeared in my mailbox. It is not the first time. I have been lucky enough to be a pastry recipient for a number of years. It is a tasty treat, to be sure, but the appearance of the pastry was about more than just a sweet tooth. The box, and its return address and the card inside, brought me back to One Life to Live holidays. It refreshed memories and made me think of friends. And it reminded me that things that are gone don't always have to be completely gone.

The pastry will, no doubt, be a yummy snack to share with my family. But it has already done so much more. It has reconnected me with one friend, and reminded me to reconnect with others. And I am grateful...

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's Christmastime In The City

It is a day bookended by work. News, you see, is an every day of the year endeavor, and so my part takes me to work on the last days of holiday shopping. It takes me to work in between the baking and the packing and the enjoying a little school break. And it places me in the city, at least a little, for a glimpse of the lights and the shopping bags and the festivities. And as I look around, I can't help but be grateful--

Grateful that I have enough time to look around me.

Grateful that this year, unlike some of the past few, I may not feel rich, but I feel stable.

Grateful to have seen the Peanuts windows at Macy's, not just from a distance, but close up.

Grateful to have had enough time to shop, but not enough time to over-shop.

Grateful to have reconnected, in person, or by text or email, to people from so many parts of my life.

Grateful to have the time for some time, and to have people I want to spend time with.

Grateful that there are neighbors to feed a fish who can't travel and doormen who will wave goodbye when we leave and welcome us home when we return.

Grateful that even if I don't celebrate Christmas, I have had a bit of Christmastime in the city.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Just When You Think

I've been watching a lot of "Kate and Allie" lately. While others are binge-watching the hottest shows of this year, I find myself on YouTube, returning to one of my favorites from the 80s. I was the age of the kid characters when I got attached to a show about two moms, but it was the adults I was watching then. And these days, as I am suddenly (how did this happen?!) closer to the age of the moms, what brought me back every week then holds me even more now.

What's the attraction? The pace (as with many shows from that period of time) is slower than what we're used to now. Though the characters live in New York, which ought to feel familiar, the only real New York familiarity is in the opening location sequences--the families otherwise inhabit a New York City nothing like my New York City reality. There are no cell phones, much less smartphones (many of the storylines would be radically different if there were). There are no laptops, or kids at different schools, or clutter in a too-small apartment. And yet, I find the shows just as engaging as I did as a suburban teenager all those years ago.

I am surprised, at least a little, and then I realize what should be obvious to a soap veteran like me--good TV isn't always about bells and whistles. It isn't about always reflecting reality. What connects us, as it did on soaps for years, is good characters. Characters who are relatable, not because of the gadgets they have, but because of the way that they manage and the weaknesses that they overcome. Characters who might be a little like us, but not exactly. Characters who allow us to let our guard down and spend a little time with them.

It's not that there aren't lots of shows now that do just that. But it's fun to be reminded that things we enjoy stay the same...and that, as the song goes, "just when you think you're all by yourself, you're not."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I Couldn't...But I Could

I couldn't make it to a dinner with old friends, but I could be there for my kids when I needed to be.

I couldn't run all my errands, because I overslept, but I could make sure I didn't leave anyone in the lurch.

I couldn't answer all the questions, but I could answer some, and try really hard on the others.

I couldn't help make treats for a holiday party announced at the last minute, but I could brainstorm about where to buy something almost as good (or maybe better).

I couldn't approve outfits or pack lunches every morning, but I could teach my kids to plan ahead and think independently.

I couldn't guarantee getting my kids into college, but I could be by their sides, literally or figuratively, every step of the application way.

I couldn't make everyone happy every minute of every day, but I could make some people happy some of the time.

As we travel our path through life, there will always, I suppose, be "I couldn'ts ." The trick is making sure there are a lot of "I could's" along the way...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In Peace

I learned today of the passing of Patricia Elliott, known to much of the world as a Tony Award-winning actress, but known to me for over twenty years as the actress playing Renee Divine Buchanan, wife of the formidable Asa Buchanan, on One Life to Live. As I read countless social media posts, both from complete strangers, and from members of my One Life to Live family, I couldn't help but be sad and happy all at the same time. It is sad, of course, when someone you know passes, perhaps even sadder when it is a person like Patricia. For years, she contributed her acting talent to One Life to Live. But what she also contributed was her funny and generous demeanor, her graceful patience when working with all kinds of actors, and a style that was all her own. She was a much-loved member of a family I was lucky and proud to be a part of.

And I guess maybe that is why there is a lot of happy mixed in with the sad for me today. Reading the posts, from near and far, from One Lifers from the last few years and from way back, has reminded me of what wonderful connections we all formed. Thinking back to working with Patricia has reminded me how we, who some days might have been described as a ragtag bunch, came together to produce all sorts of TV for so many years. Thinking back has reminded me of scenes stretching and lights humming, of countdowns and wardrobe mishaps and clips for blooper reels, and of a group of people with whom I shared a lot of laughter.

I would like to think Patricia is at peace. Maybe she's acting a few scenes with some of the other Lifers who have passed on, some not so long ago. It is sad to say goodbye to family, even family you haven't seen in a long time. But it is a happy thing to be reminded how lucky you are to have had family--by blood, or by connection, or simply from years spent together.

Rest in peace, Patricia, and my other One Life family members...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Is Timing Everything?

Those of you who read regularly (and I thank you for that!) may have noticed that over the past few weeks, my posting times have varied widely, from the dead of night to the middle of the afternoon. The truth is, now that I am working hours all over the clock, the posting times simply mirror the times in my life as a whole. And, as they say, times change. When I first began, I was often writing during what seemed like an abyss of hours during days of no work or while waiting for a school bus that I, now home after years of being at work at school bus time, went to meet each day. When I got a gig, I might write on the way home from it (and when I worked at "soap camp" in Connecticut, "on the way home" was ample time). And when the gig was a later starting one, my post might happen in the morning. The point is, the timing of my posts over three-plus years has been determined largely by the timing of my life. And many days, the content of the posts has been determined by their timing. After all, our view of an event is different if we write about it the next morning rather than right after it. Our outlook on life can be vastly different from one moment to the next, and even more so when you factor in sleep (or lack of it) and distance.

So, as I work my way through the many, many new stages of my life and work, I am fascinated by how they manifest in print. My life view can't help but be all over the place, because my life is all over the place (or at least all over the clock) as well. Time just keeps going, and I suppose we just keep going with it.

Timing may not be everything. But it certainly is something.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

In Your Corner

In your own corner of the world, it sometimes feels lonely and cold.

In your own corner of the world, it sometimes feels as though no one has the same view as you.

In your own corner of the world, it can be hard to see how to get out of your corner if you want to.
In your own corner of the world, it can be easy to feel stuck in the corner.

In your own corner of the world, it can feel as though no one really sees you any more.

And then you notice that there are people in your corner.

And then you realize that with people in your corner, you don't have to feel lonely or cold.

And then you discover that with people in your corner, your view can be a little bit bigger.

And then you see that with people in your corner, you don't have to be stuck or invisible.

Just when you think your corner of the world is all your own, you are reminded that there are actually lots of people in your corner...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Head Games

There were times when I was directing at One Life to Live that I felt off-balance much of the time. Much as I loved the process of working through scenes with the actors and crew, the seemingly constant uncertainty about when I would direct again (and whether I had any control over that) ate at me. I wanted the extra responsibility, the steeper learning curve, and the extra money, but there were times when the head games involved with whether I would continue to do this made me wonder if the step up was a good thing.

It is remarkably easy to let ourselves get caught up in the head games of life. We spend hours of the time that could be productive replaying things that are not. Instead of using our energy to do, we use our energy to wonder, and to second-guess our choices. There will likely always be more going on than we can see, and therefore, plenty of reason to wonder. But I am trying, little by little, to second guess a little less, to use my head a little more, so that the head games can't control it. Head games didn't make me a better director, but they didn't unravel my directing either. When we take charge of how we let head games affect us, we gain the control to keep the games where they belong--either in the work, to make us laugh, or in our creative heads, to make us play better. Because we can't really be on our best game when we're too busy handling head games.

Friday, December 18, 2015


When I have been working, have I squandered opportunities to get ahead because I was worrying about getting behind?

When I haven't been working, have I squandered my free hours worrying about when I'd work again?

When my kids were younger, did I squander the playing hours wondering when I could be finished playing make-believe?

As my kids are getting older, have I squandered the real-life conversations with them wishing we could just be playing make-believe?

When I have had engaging work, have I squandered the time focusing too much on today and not enough on the days after today?

When I have had the chance to listen, to understand, to be there--truly there--have I squandered the chance thinking about being somewhere else?

The days pass quickly, and before I know it, things have changed. Or they haven't. And those moments in which we could have made a difference are gone, squandered, perhaps, almost before we realize we have had them. As I head into a new year, I hope for far less squandering, and much more discovering. Because there are only so many minutes, so many days. So we may as well not squander any of them...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Clear Any More

I used to think that if I had work, that would keep me up, and if I didn't, that would bring me down. But up and down are not always so clear any more.

I used to think that if I accomplished everything on my list, that would bring me up, and if I ended the day having accomplished nothing, that would bring me down. But everything and nothing are not always so clear any more.

I used to think that hearing "yes" would bring me up, and hearing "no" would bring me down. And that is sometimes true. But "yes" and "no" are not always so clear any more.

I used to think that if I got what I wanted, I would be happy, and if I didn't, I wouldn't. But happy and unhappy are not always so clear any more.

I used to think that thinking about today would keep me steady, and that thinking too much about yesterday and tomorrow would throw me off balance. But yesterday and today and tomorrow are not always so clear any more.

I used to think that I could be clear on things if I focused hard enough, tried hard enough. But clear is, well, not always so clear any more...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On A Day Like Today

On a day like today, I would have been in the control room for many hours, part of a production team scrambling to finish shows before a week-long holiday break.

On a day like today, I would have been running around staging funny crew bits for the yearly "Christmas Reel," or searching through hours of footage to find the best outtakes from the year.

On a day like today, I would have been schlepping gifts from home to work, or toting exciting purchases from the annual charity book sale from work to home.

On a day like today, I might have been wearing the Santa hat that an actress gave me and everyone else in the crew twenty years ago.

On a day like today, I might have been figuring out holiday gifts for preschool teachers or treats for the class party.

On a day like today, I might have been battling the crowds to make sure everything was done in time, whatever "in time" might mean.

It has been a long time since I did any of these things, so long that there really isn't "a day like today" any more. Today, I was doing none of these things. I was simply keeping up with what is, and trying to anticipate what might be. And when there is no longer any "day like today," on a day like today, sometimes that is all you can do...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Taking Charge Job

Some days, it feels as though it has been a long time since I have been in a "take charge" type of job. It's not that I don't make decisions and stand up for my choices, but as an "editor for hire" much of the time, I tend to execute more than I lead. The AD/Director/Stage Manager me is on a break of sorts, I guess, so I tend to do what needs to get done, often according to other people's instructions.

What I am realizing, though, is that even when I am not being paid to take charge, there remains a great deal of "take charge" energy in me. Taking charge means showing up and not leaving until you get what you want. Taking charge means making sure that even when completion doesn't happen, forward motion does. Taking charge means seeing people's best and encouraging them to do even better. Taking charge means believing that it (whatever "it" is) will get done, and working like crazy to make that happen.

So, maybe the "taking charge" me is not on a break after all. She's just doing volunteer work at the moment--making sure a family runs, and learning and growing happen, and life goes on--until, and beyond when, the next "taking charge" job comes along.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Where Are We Now?

I had occasion today to speak to a former soap colleague. Such an occasion doesn't happen nearly as often as I might like, and it is always a treat for me to get caught up on "where are we--and others--now?" and to reminisce about the old days. As we spoke, there were moments when it seemed that the years melted away. I found myself feeling right back in that control room front row, in a studio blocking scenes and giving notes. And there were moments when I realized just how long it's been, and how much has happened to us all in that time. Life has changed, dramatically, not just for him and for me, but for hundreds of people with whom we worked in an industry that used to employ so many. And while some of the life changes are ones that have perhaps offered new challenges and new satisfactions, it is still hard not to wonder "What if?"

But I guess that's part of what life's all about--taking what comes, and every so often, wondering "What if?" Appreciating new opportunities and possibilities, but every so often, pondering what might have been. Meeting new people and facing new situations, but every so often, experiencing the joy of reminiscing with old friends about the old situations.

I move ahead, as I keep doing every day. But it's nice, at least once in a while, to take a look back, so that maybe we can see, a little more clearly, where we are now.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Getting In, Part Six: People Who Need People

It is one in a series of college auditions, filled with all the excitement and apprehension created by the combination of two high-stakes endeavors--auditioning for anything, and applying to college. I am simply the driver, the sometimes dresser, and the listener, yet, the excitement and anticipation can't help but get to me a little (okay, a lot) too.

But as the day goes on, we encounter all sorts of people, genuinely friendly, who make the agitated waiting time pass, who answer questions big and small, who allow us to shed just a bit of the anticipation without losing any of the excitement. It is still a college audition, with risks and stakes and unknowns, but it has become an informative and enjoyable day as well.

I can't help but think back to how excited I was when I began working at One Life to Live. Certainly, there was glamour built into a network show in an established television studio in the heart of New York City. But over the years, I discovered that much of my joy in working there came not from the glamour of the network and the studio and the city, but from my time spent with the dedicated, creative people who surrounded me, and from the hard work and the laughter that we shared.

As we were reminded a little today, a place is about more than just its location and its walls and its reputation. In college, as in life, a place is largely defined by its people. And while the people may not be able to make the stress of the process disappear, and they won't guarantee whether the process ultimately works in your favor, they can go a long way toward making the steps of "getting in" at least a little more fun.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Steps Forward, Steps Back

It has been a barreling ahead kind of week--many things accomplished, many things celebrated. And yet, as I end it, I am frustrated by what is still undone, what is not as it should be. Turns out that sometimes, a few steps forward require a few steps back.

It is frustrating. Why can't it be that forward motion can just be forward motion? Why does "full speed ahead" have to come with "wait, come back?"

And so, I "end" my week (for, these days, for me, "end" is a relative term) satisfied, yet not, accomplished, yet not, at peace, yet not. We spend a great many hours and days of our lives trying to step forward--whether personally, or professionally. We are conditioned to believe that forward is the way to go. But what I am discovering is that steps forward can't always come on their own. They take a little recognition of where we've been, and a lot of patience with the process of getting where we're going. And sometimes that means accepting a step back. Until our feet, and the rest of us, are a little more ready for the road ahead.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Choosing Harder

We chose to send our kids to schools that seemed good for them. Which was good, but gave us years of three different schools and transportation that sometimes made us cross-eyed.

I chose to stay at One Life to Live until the day that it finished. Which was sad and satisfying and depressing and fantastic, but gave me months and months of trying to start all over.

We chose to stay in the city rather than move out and adjust to new schools and a commute. Which gave us all sorts of opportunities, but was expensive, and just got more so.

We chose to explore all sorts of colleges. Which left, and is leaving, all sorts of options, but will make the admissions process far longer than the one people with just one choice will experience.

We chose to foster independence and decision-making skills in our kids. Which, I believe, will make them stronger people in the world, but which comes with a lot of bumps and requires a lot of patience along the way.

It's not that all our choices are hard. It's just that sometimes, the choices we make come with hard consequences. We can choose to make things simpler from the start. Or--and I like this version better--we can simply accept that choices have consequences, and keep making the harder choices anyway.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Better Answer

"I'm sorry. That won't work." To which I responded, "Okay, well, I guess I'll just try something else." But then I stopped. Stopped, and instead of backing down or walking away, decided to figure out why it wouldn't work, and how I could change that. And not ten minutes later, the problem was solved, and what had not worked was working.

It doesn't much matter what it was that didn't work. It doesn't even matter that much why it didn't work. During the course of today, in a rather mundane situation, I was reminded that "No" doesn't always have to be an answer that makes us walk away. "It doesn't work" doesn't always have to be a response that makes us give up. "You can't" doesn't always have to be a statement that makes us feel we failed. Sometimes, in both the mundane and the not-so-mundane parts of life, our response can be "I'll get to the bottom of this," "That can't be," or "Let's try another way."

Today, in a situation that itself doesn't matter all that much, I looked for a better answer than "I'm sorry, no," and I got it. Would that we could all go after that better answer a lot more often...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

About Soaps Today

I overheard a conversation about soaps today. The speaker, too young really to have had soaps much in her life, didn't really know how much soap production had happened in New York once upon a time. She didn't really know how many people in television were employed by soaps, and how good the work was for how long. She wondered if the actors needed to be good, and why they would stare, seemingly into space, at the ends of scenes.

As I listened, I thought, multiple times, about jumping in--about clarifying what a huge part of the New York television industry soaps had been, what a tremendous training ground, in front of and behind the camera, what a fantastic family, what a great steady employer. I thought about saying that it is no easy feat to shoot seven shows in five days, to bring characters to life--a life so real the viewer believes it's real--and to memorize pages and pages of lines very quickly. I thought about telling her stories of my twenty-plus years spent in all things soap, and how the skills I am using today (and so many more) started and were developed there.

Instead, I said nothing. I simply sat and listened, amazed that something that was my life (and the life of so many of my friends) for so long is now just a piece of history, a piece barely known by a generation that has grown up with talk shows and DIY and reality television. I realized, I guess, that more years than I thought have passed since we at One Life watched the shows around us close up shop or move to LA (and then close up shop), and then closed up shop ourselves. And I thought about how grateful I am to have been a part of that history, even if, as I witnessed, it is history with less and less of a voice.

I overheard a conversation about soaps today...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Life, Unscheduled

Sometimes, it seems that we live by my schedule--the weekly message that tells me which hours I'll be home and which hours I won't, and determines what arrangements we will need to make to cover all the bases and all the meals. (Other family members could argue that we live by their schedules, which may also be true, but hey, this is my blog).

What I realized today, however, as I found myself walking several miles home from a destination I hadn't even planned, because I had no Metrocard and no desire to spend twenty dollars on a rush-hour cab, is that what we often live by is the unscheduled. You see, if I had a job that had me going to the same place for the same hours every day, there would be some regularity. There would be a clear picture of what could be done and what couldn't, what would happen or what wouldn't, on any given day.

So, because of my scheduled, yet unscheduled, life, today I walked several unexpected miles. And today, because of my walking those unexpected miles, I accomplished some unexpected errands and my son had an unexpected out of the ordinary afternoon. And because of those unexpected errands and the unexpected afternoon, things look different today.

Perhaps we do live by my schedule. But maybe, just maybe, what we really live by is what's unscheduled...

Monday, December 7, 2015

What Day Is It, Please?

As I emerged from the train, I heard a man and woman in front of me discussing their day--what they had done, what they would pick up for dinner, other standard couple stuff. And then they began to discuss what day it was, he insisting it was Saturday, she not so sure. And as if to confirm that I was not, in fact, imagining the whole thing, the woman turned to me and asked, "Can you tell me, what day is it?" As my working assorted days requires me to keep track of days (I suppose there are other good reasons too), I said simply "It's Sunday," and they and I went on our merry ways.

I kept thinking about them--about how amusing it was that they weren't sure, and yet, how freeing that must be. After all, there are times when it shouldn't really matter what day it is--when we are simply enjoying life in the moment, rather than worrying about our obligations for that day.

When I was working in soaps, the relative regularity of the Monday through Friday schedule left me generally aware of the day. There were were producers with whom I worked who kept track not just of the current real-time day, but of the fictional days as well. Not only could they grasp the multiple days of material that we were shooting that day and on the others surrounding it, they could also keep in their heads the days not even written yet that had been discussed in a story meeting, the days being worked on in pre-production, and the days that would be on the air in the current week. It was astounding.

Yet, as I think about the couple from the subway, I am reminded that sometimes, it's not so terrible to go through a day just enjoying it, without worrying about where it fits into a week or a month or a year. Because some days, it matters. But many, many days, life can be good, no matter what day it is.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Path Not Often Taken

I left work after twelve hours, heading home, uncharacteristically, by way of one of the more traveled areas of the city. Turns out "more traveled" is an understatement at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas. So, on my journey home, I shared crowded sidewalks with families just having seen a Broadway show with their dressed up children, shoppers carrying all manner of bags from toy stores, clothing stores, and everything in between, and people taking pictures (with and without selfie sticks) of themselves against a background of every famous building and billboard.

It is easy, as I make my way through my everyday life of work and errands and kids, to forget that I live in a city where so much is going on. It is very easy to get caught up with the everyday (which tends to require a lot of energy on its own!) and forget about the wacky, unique things going on just a few blocks away.

Today's trip home took a little longer. I had to move a little slower to maneuver through the crowds and walk at a picture-taking tourist pace rather than a "get-there now" local pace. But my slower journey reminded me that there's more out there than just to and from. More out there than just hourly schedules and daily responsibilities. So perhaps the trip was more than worth the extra time.

Sometimes you have to step off your normal path to be reminded of where it's possible to go...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Adding Value

Many years ago, when I walked into the One Life to Live studio on West 66th Street, first as a college student fresh off the train to interview, and weeks later for my first day of work, I thought I was walking into a dream. What I was earning at the time barely paid my share of the rent and expenses of my New Jersey apartment. I spent parts of my day answering phones and making coffee. But I could not have been happier. I was in a job that most people could only dream about. I was meeting people and learning things completely unrelated to my college courses. And over the years, there was training, and promotion, and a paycheck that got slightly better, and then dramatically better. The job bought me a dream come true, and over time, a good salary, terrific friends, and all sorts of skills.

Among the things I have learned over the few years since that ended is that jobs can give you all sorts of things of value. At that first, and long-time, job, the value was often clear. But sometimes, what you're getting is not as clear. Sometimes, you just have to look a little more carefully to see the value. A job can buy you...

...Satisfaction at doing something you didn't think you could.
...Satisfaction at doing something that needs to be done.
...New people to enrich your life.
...New people to take you to your next step.
...Money to do what you need to do.
...Money to do what you want to do.
...New skills for today, and some for tomorrow.
...New skills for the current tasks, and for future ones.
...A feeling of power because you affect other people's lives.
...A feeling of power because you can affect your own life.

There are jobs that will check all these boxes, but I've learned not to disregard the ones that check only some. Because value comes in all kinds of forms. And we may as well not miss out on any.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advice From Below

"Just do the bad, and think about the good." I would like to say that I came up with that, but it was actually from the mouth of someone a lot younger than I.

So, what exactly does that mean? For that someone younger, it means doing the sometimes boring, sometimes annoying homework, and thinking about your plans for the weekend. It means sitting stiller than you might like in school and thinking about playing baseball after school. It means dealing with people you might not want to and thinking about the people you'd really like to be with.

For those of us on the older side, perhaps it means working when we have to, and thinking about home because we want to. It means disciplining when have to, but thinking about the fun we'll have with our kids later. It means doing all the things that are required of us as grownups, but thinking about all the things that will make us feel like kids. We can't always choose the things we have to do, but we can choose where we put our focus--what we are thinking about. And thinking about--focusing on--the good things makes life seem a whole lot better.

"Do the bad, think about the good." I think this one may get me through many a day and many a night...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Feeling Today

As I headed out to pick up one of my kids from school, not rushing, not dashing from something else, not squeezing in the pickup between other commitments, I felt a lovely calm. I could walk, not run. I could enjoy, not worry. I could arrive with a look of joy on my face, not with a look of stress.

I have spent the majority of my parental life either having others retrieve my kids or scrambling to fit my own retrieving into an overbusy life. I have raced the clock, banked on on-time trains, and made frantic "I'm running late" phone calls. I have sweated and apologized and felt not good enough. So today, as I walked calmly and arrived on time, I felt an incredible peace. Today, as I walked home sharing a snack and hearing about the ups and downs of a school day, it didn't matter what all those other days had been. Today, as I was neither sweating nor worrying, it didn't matter what tomorrow would be.

Sometimes, the very best thing you can do is just feel today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mistakes In The Rain

We took a cab for a trip usually done on foot or by bus. It was raining, and we were tired, so it seemed like the best idea. Until I realized that it's harder to get a cab in the rain. Until I realized that it's harder for a cab to get anywhere in the rain.

Before I knew it, our short cab ride, from which we jumped out before our destination, had turned into an expensive (well, at least for ten blocks) trip, during most of which I groaned and fidgeted and drove my kids crazy.

As we got out, walking the last few blocks in the rain, my kids were quick to say, "It's okay. It happens," to which my (silent) reaction in the moment was "Would you think it was okay if it were your money?" But as I calmed down a bit in the rainy fresh air, I realized that perhaps they were right. Things do happen, and not always the way we'd like them to. Money has to be spent, not always in the way we'd choose. Time has to be squandered, not always in the ways that make us feel satisfied. Things don't always turn out the way we'd like. And we survive. We get a little wet, when we thought we'd be dry. We take a little longer, when we thought things would be quick. We spend hard-earned funds on things other than must-pay bills and ice cream sundaes. And we move on.

I made a mistake (or at least it felt that way), and then we moved on. Next time, maybe I'll choose differently--or not. And either way, then, as now, I guess we'll just move on...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Day of the Freelancer

The day stretched out in front of me--a full day--minus a nap to prepare for my overnight shift--to catch up, clean up, and generally recover from a hasty exit from town and a hasty return to town.

But what the freelance life giveth, the freelance life taketh away. Before I knew it, my overnight shift starting many hours from now had become a double shift starting much sooner. What was to be catch up time became pack up time. What was to be a vast stretch of time became just a snippet.

And that is basically what freelancing is. For all of the times when freelancing means that your schedule can be your own, there are other times when you realize that no schedule is ever really your own. For all of the feeling that you can say "no," there is the added feeling that "no" might mean "nice knowing you."

So, as a freelancer, I say "yes," not always, but often. As a freelancer, I understand that things can change at a moment's notice. As a freelancer, I realize that one of my greatest assets is being able to roll with the punches, whether the punches are lack of sleep, upended schedules, or mastering tasks I've never done before.

The day that stretched out in front of me slipped away. Or maybe it didn't. Maybe it simply slipped into something just a little different...because often, that's how it goes when you're a freelancer...

Monday, November 30, 2015


As my inbox fills with assorted reminders of Cyber Monday, it's hard not to get caught up in it all--the feeling that if I don't act right now, I'll be missing something, the sense of opportunity passing me by. It is an effectively created frenzy. I am quite sure that the gifts I wait a week to buy will be just as good (and in many cases, just as cheap), but it is hard not to buy into the feeling that I must do it tomorrow or I will be out of luck.

Frenzy is not a good thing for me on a Sunday night. Even as a freelancer for whom these days, Sunday isn't always the end of my weekend, I have enough frenzy on Sunday. There is homework to be packed, there is a routine to resume, and there are deadlines to meet. The last thing I really need, on this or any day, is a little more manufactured frenzy.

One could argue that we thrive on frenzy--that the things that get done get done more reliably when there is frenzy behind them. One could argue that frenzy, not calm, keeps life interesting--keeps us always guessing, always reaching to catch up with the next big thing.

I'm all for keeping up and reaching higher. As for frenzy, I'd like to think I can do better--better than jumping through the next hoop, better than getting caught up in all the hype. So, while I may not blindly delete every Cyber Monday email, I won't be spending my whole tomorrow frantically online for the next bargain or the rest of my tomorrows on line frantically looking for the next big thing. There's nothing wrong with a little excitement, but when excitement turns into frenzy, it's time to take a step back--so that maybe we can actually take a step forward.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Sometimes, it feels as if there's so much running and chasing and searching for and going after. And then, every so often, there's a time when the weather or your location or your current circumstances say you can't run right now. You can't chase today. You have to pause from your search and take a break from the going after. You just have to be still.

It is in the still that we discover we can do a lot with a little. It is in the still that we find new ways to think and different ways to spend our time. It is in the still that we realize stopping can be as important as going. It is in the still that when we look, we really see.

There will be time for running
tomorrow. There will be need for searching and chasing and going after before we know it. For just a moment, we may as well enjoy the still.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ten Minutes With Seuss

At the end of a long and less than productive day, I come upon Dr. Seuss. No matter how many kids' books people unload over the years, Dr. Seuss tends to remain. Somehow, it is sentimental, or relevant, or entertaining, or all of the above, no matter what your age.

This particular one is Oh, The Places You'll Go!, a Seuss almost meant for grownups, or those on the cusp of grownuphood. As I read it aloud (because who wouldn't read Seuss aloud?), I am struck on each page by how relevant it is--to my kids, of varying ages and stages of life, and to me, now, as much as it was when I was when graduating or starting work or being out of work. It jumps right to the fear we all experience. It rather fearlessly reminds us, the readers, that we are stronger and more resourceful than we seem (or realize). Entirely in rhyme, it grants us being overwhelmed by the most terrible of things, and then reminds us that there are paths out of just about everything.

On a daily basis, we are much more often reading fiction or non-fiction or self-help or the newspaper to figure out our world and our place in it. Sometimes, we succeed in our figuring. For me, just ten minutes with Seuss opened my eyes in ways those other things often haven't. Seuss may not have given me the steps to take, but it certainly made me feel strong enough to look for the steps. And sometimes, at the end of a long and not very productive day, a little Seuss strength is a powerful thing.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Table Full

We gather around a full and festive table, prepared to eat more than we should. We've come from different directions, both geographical and psychological, since last we met. There is catching up to do in between the feasting. Will we feel under- or over-accomplished since last year? Will our stories be ones we are excited to tell, or ones we'd rather leave at the door or sweep under the rug with the pie crust crumbs?

I am always struck by how holidays can be both a break from our day-to-day good and bad and a time to examine all that good and bad more closely while catching new people up on the stories. While I might refrain from dwelling on the mundane, I tend to welcome the different perspectives that the holiday table has to offer. Though I may hold back on sharing absolutely everything, I can't help wanting to welcome some new opinions and learn a little from the other people's experiences of the past year. When I think about what I am thankful for, it may include all the yummy treats on the table. More often, however, I am grateful for the opportunity to escape to a new set of viewpoints. Maybe they make sense, maybe they don't. Either way, they have me leaving the table with not just a stomach full of food, but with a mind full of good ideas to ponder for the future. And that is worthwhile, whether it's over stuffing and sweet potatoes or over tea and toast.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Travel Day

It is just a few hour drive. It does not involve catching a train or checking in for a plane. There's no snow gear or sun gear. Just some small bags of clean clothes, our Thanksgiving feast contribution, and electronic devices at a rate of almost two per person. Simple. And, to my amazement, executed fairly simply.

Yet, for something so simple, it accomplishes a few things that are not so simple on a day to day basis--

1. We work together. We may each be packing a separate bag, but we have to coordinate, at least a little, to make sure all the bases are covered. We carry together, we load the car together, and once in a while, we even remember forgotten things for each other.

2. We plan ahead. Okay, it's really just a few days ahead, and we're not going to Mars, but traveling does require a little more planning than the flying by the seats of our pants that we do on a daily basis.

3. (And perhaps this is most important) We escape. While our bags may be full of schoolwork and work work, and while our devices connect us with pretty much everything we are leaving, as we drive away, we leave the every day of our every day. For a few days, we will be in a different place, and at least a little, in a different frame of mind. And sometimes that is exactly what a travel day is all about...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks-giving Feast

Earlier today, a friend posted a link to an article about gratitude. As I read it, I thought both about this blog, which quite often comes around to gratitude, and about my day to day life, which comes around to gratitude not nearly as often. It is, perhaps, easy to be grateful that we are not facing the dire medical issues or personal losses that we see friends go through. It is, perhaps, easy to be grateful for a regular paycheck or healthy children. But what of the things and people all day who turn what could be the rough patches of our days into the smallest of bumps in the road--

The tech help desk associate, who doesn't charge for advice and doesn't judge people based on their degree of knowledge or possession of technology.

The co-worker who talks you over the wall of fatigue on the overnight shift.

The friend who, happening to be up late, remembers that you too will be up, and will be happy to read her email.

The computer program that reaches one hundred percent just as you think you will never make it past eighty.

The neighbor, randomly encountered, who unwittingly provides much-needed perspective.

The long-forgotten skill that suddenly comes in handy.

The long-hidden kitchen ingredient that suddenly helps make a great meal.

The scrubby side of the sponge, which makes washing pots and pans a blip rather than a task.

The fuzzy socks that are in the wrong enough place to be found just when your icy feet need them.

Sometimes, it's the little things that make up our thanks-giving feast...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

No Catching Up

Some days, no amount of sleep makes up for the sleep lost.

Some days, no number of hours doing homework gets the homework done.

Some days, no matter how quickly you walk forward, you still find yourself moving back.

Some days, for every "to do list" item that is crossed off, there are two more added.

Some days, success lasts seconds and failure seems to hang on for hours.

Some days, neat is fleeting, but messy grabs hold and won't let go.

Some days, you wish you could just skip to tomorrow, but you know you're not ready.

Some days, no matter how much you try, there's just no catching up...

Monday, November 23, 2015

I Understand Because

I understand getting caught up in your work, because I've been there.

I understand trying to please everyone (and sometimes pleasing no one), because I've been there.

I understand giving your all and it not being enough, because I've been there.

I understand not knowing quite what they want, because I've been there.

I understand wondering if things will ever turn around, because I've been there.

I understand hanging on tight in the hope that it will make a difference, because I've been there.

I understand guessing right and guessing wrong, because I've been there.

It's not that I've been everywhere. It's just that I have been enough places, and have remained close enough to where I've been to understand. Because...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Getting In, Part Five: Glad To Be On The Bus

The bus bumps up and down. It is fairly comfortable, quiet, easy. But truthfully, I think it wouldn't much matter what it was. I'm just glad to be on it.

It is a long-ish trip for this college visit/audition. It is a journey without a definitive result. It is just part of a process. But now, after days and months and overnights full of research and practical and emotional preparation and agonizing anticipation, we are on the bus.

I suppose it's not all that surprising that I'm glad to be on the bus--I have always enjoyed the being "in the trench" far more than the planning "for the trench." I am almost always happier doing than anticipating, happier moving forward than moving in circles. The assignment of a school project may rattle me, but the process of doing the project excites me. The months of limbo before One Life finished were wearying, but at least the end let us move forward. The anticipation of new work dizzies me, but the actual doing of new work exhilarates me.

So, just like anything new, anything with stakes, the process of applying to college is a little daunting, a little overwhelming, a little scary. But for the moment, at least for me, it is a little better. Because I am really glad to be on the bus.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Getting In, Part Four: Introductions

As I listen to my daughter's introduction of herself in her college audition videos, I can't help but be reminded of the introduction she so effectively learned when taking karate. I don't imagine that either her love of performing or her confidence in presenting herself began there, but it probably didn't hurt to voice that introduction over and over before presenting in a karate class or at a large tournament.

As I continue to watch, I see how much of life in general goes into her performance. It's hard not to see signs of the triumphs of her young life and of the difficulties she has faced along the way. It's hard not to see hope--hope for a positive outcome, hope for success, hope for the future.

When I applied to college, the life and the confidence (was I confident?) and the hope were all poured into pieces of paper--typed essays and filled out forms and lists of school activities and accomplishments. While I may have had some interviews, I largely relied on what the papers and the numbers and the teachers said about me, and I largely hoped that was enough.

I listen to my daughter's introduction of herself in her college videos, and I am glad that in so many ways, she is way more confident than I was. Because these days, in college admissions and in life, the pieces of paper and the hope aren't always enough. So, if you can start with a strong introduction of yourself (in karate, in person, or on tape), perhaps you're already a few steps ahead of the game.

Friday, November 20, 2015

25 Hours

After years of wishing there were more than 24 hours in a day, so that I might have a fighting chance of doing everything that needs doing, I am convinced that today actually had at least 25 hours. By the evening, it felt as though the foot exercises I'd done in the morning had been yesterday, so that I needed to do more. By the afternoon, I couldn't quite believe that all the receipts had the same date on them. Somehow, I had been uptown and downtown and partly across town all in the same day, and had transported a kid to and from school to boot. And in the midst of it all, I had written a proposal and cooked a lasagna.

I am not writing this litany to pat myself on the back for how much I accomplished (though it is good sometimes to remind ourselves how productive we really are). Rather, I am writing it because today I had the realization that, while there can't really be extra hours in a day, there can be enough hours to do an awful lot--and be a lot of different versions of ourselves--if we keep our eyes, and ears, and minds open. We can go through each day with a goal, or two, and be happy when we accomplish those one or two things. Or we can start each day open to all the things we might do, and then just try to keep at it as we make our way through them all. It's not that we won't run out of time in a day. It's just that we might see the day as a lot longer if we are open to using it in creative ways.

It is quite possible that many days will feel far more like 12 hours than like 25. It is likely that the challenge of stretching time will be an unending one. But if one day out of many can feel as though it has 25 hours, just think about all the extra time we have...