Saturday, January 31, 2015

Telling My Story

I reworked my résumé today--again. It's amazing, actually, how you can look at the same document, that presumably describes the same person (I mean, I'm still me, right?), and overhaul it so completely so often. Yet, the same information, presented in a different way, does tell a different story, and sometimes, I'm not looking to tell someone my WHOLE story. Often, it's quite enough to stick with the high points, or the matching points, or just the points that go along with a job.

I guess that's one of the tricky things about a career that has gone in a number of directions. While I don't think of myself as having changed professions, even my soap work contained split jobs--half production, half post-production. And if a résumé is meant to tell a story, mine becomes a rather long story to tell.

So, today, I re-ordered my story. There's no denying that I've been in a lot of places, but instead of listing them all, I'm stopping a little in my storytelling to describe some of them. Because sometimes a list leaves a lot of gaps in the story. And sometimes it makes more sense to tell just part of the story in more detail.

Tomorrow, I may tell a different story. After all, as not every viewer relates to the same shows, not every reader relates to the same material, and it's important to know (or try to know) your audience. But if what I am (whether in print or in production or in post) is a storyteller, then telling my story differently each time should be a piece of cake.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Whose Side Are You On?

When I was a kid, I hated it every time we had to choose teams for a game. Aside from the fear of being "picked last," I couldn't bear the "taking sides." It was one thing if you were on a team and you won--I loved that when I was on the debate team. But when sides had to be chosen, it always seemed hard to know whose side to be on.

Flash forward to now, when it seems that the question of choosing sides comes up all too often. Am I on my child's side if I push him to work at something that doesn't come easily or doesn't feel good right away? Am I on the right side if I push supporting the team or support acting how my child feels? Am I on the right side if I look out for everyone else or if I look out for myself? Just as picking teams all those years ago made you try to balance having the best players against not hurting people's feelings, these days, there's a fine line between doing what feels better in the moment (like letting my kids plan their own time) and what I think will be right for the future (like fighting for learning life skills and time management and piano).

It's not easy to know which side to be on, and when to "switch sides." (As it is no longer volleyball in gym class, you can actually do that). What seems right in one moment can change quickly, so the key, I guess, is watching the sides. Is the side you're on really doing what's right--in general, or for you? Are you pushing loyalty at the expense of self-preservation?

As a parent, I imagine I will always be choosing sides, and defending my choices, to one child or another. And even for myself, the side I'm on can't always stay the same--circumstances change too fast. So perhaps it's nothing like that choosing teams in grade school at all--you can't really choose sides in life, because the rules change too often. The best you can do is look out for your "teammates." And be enough on their side, and your own, to make sure none of you is flattened by the stray volleyball of life.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Faith

Each day, we accept a great many things "on faith." Faith need not be a religious term. It is simply that belief we can have without backup evidence. Even the most cynical among us take things on faith all the time.

Earlier this week, I took it on faith that my children would travel to and from school safely despite the snow. By day's end, when they were all back in our apartment, I knew that my faith had been justified. Many days, I take it on faith that an email I have sent has arrived at its destination. Does "auto-reply" count as confirmation of faith? Some days, I simply take it on faith that tomorrow will be different, and I suppose that any way you look at it, tomorrow is ALWAYS different, even in the smallest of ways.

How, though, do we know when our faith is justified? We could take things on faith all the time, but at what point does that become not trusting, but foolish?

The way I see it, our faith needs to be paired with a dose of reality. There's nothing wrong with faith in people who deserve it, or faith in a system you would like to work, but when that faith gets in the way of making smart decisions, when it blinds you to other things around you, then taking it on faith becomes a roadblock, rather than a path. And both in freelancing and in parenting, you need as many paths open to you as possible, with as few roadblocks as possible. So, I will keep being the faithful person that I am--just faithful and smart. Because even when you're taking it on faith, a little "smart" helps to keep the path you need just a little bit clearer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Just When... think you've got a good thing going, it goes off-track. think you've figured out this parenting thing, you're hit with a situation you've never seen before.'ve worked out a daily schedule, one piece changes, and you're back to figuring stuff out all over again.'ve finally scheduled a coffee meeting or a teacher conference or a dentist appointment, your schedule changes, making the appointment impossible.'ve found things that work, those things somehow get lost.'re finally balanced (well, as balanced as could be expected), someone shakes your tightrope. And steals your balancing pole.'re thinking that you will be nagging your kids about homework forever, you turn around one day and realize that they've done it on their own.'re wondering how you're going to handle the latest career curve ball, the phone rings, and gives you a temporary solution.'re not sure how you'll cover all the bases, your kid/husband/sitter jumps in and makes it a little easier. thought you knew about every tool in your skill set (after all, you've written about them in hundreds of letters and resumes), you realize you have something to add. think things can't or won't change, it turns out they can. And they do. Just when you least expect it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When I Grow Up (With Thanks to Matilda the Musical)

When I grow up, I will be smart enough to know just the right thing to say to open the doors I want to open.

When I grow up, I will be comfortable enough to do what I enjoy without thought of time or distance or hourly rate.

When I grow up, I will be brave enough to believe I can do what I've never done, and strong enough to convince perfect strangers of that.

When I grow up, I will eat what I want without having to worry about fitting into the clothes that make a good impression.

When I grow up, I will be visionary enough to see how the skills from one world can make sense in another.

When I grow up, I will have time for lots of coffees with friends. And available funds and available calories for fancy coffees with friends.

When I grow up, I will be focused enough to make the most of my days, even if the most is enjoying a good nap.

When I grow up, I will be trusting enough to realize that things often work out, even when it seems that they can't.

When I grow up, I will keep loving the music that reminds me that lots of things really are possible.

Monday, January 26, 2015

By The Book

I recently came across an Edith Wharton novel in my building's book exchange, and with a little unscheduled time off this past week, I have found myself transported back to the 1870's while my children do homework, while I'm at drop off events, and even at bedtime.

I am not a person who normally lives in yesterday, much less the 1870's. I tend to read what pertains to what I need to get done--industry news, child-rearing articles, current events. If it's short, even better. In a life when sometimes it's hard even to keep up, there's just not time to sit still, transported to another time. Yet, this week, I was carried away to a bit of high society--a bit of not going out if not properly dressed, a world in which my daughters could not be traveling the city alone, a time in which I would certainly not be working or looking for work, much less checking for moment to moment email updates about work or anything else.

My little trip into the 19th century could make me long for the relative simplicity, the slower pace pre-technology. But while I am enjoying my visits into this different time, I am actually happy when I come back. The days of relative leisure might seem tempting, but I quickly return to checking my email and preparing to work. The elegant wardrobes may catch my imagination, but I am grateful that I can pull on a pair of jeans or fuzzy pants for my day.

Who knew that a trip into another time and some other places would make me grateful for just where I am? Sometimes, in life, it's hard to see past all the things right in front of us, all the things that HAVE to get done. Leave it to a book in our laps to allow us see just a little bit farther.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Interview

My son interviewed me on camera today for a school project. Once I got past how I looked and sounded (I am much more used to being BEHIND the camera), I was struck by the story I told. Based on his prompts, you see, I was essentially telling the story of my career--from what I grew up wanting to do to what I learned along the way, what I'd liked and disliked about certain jobs, and how I moved from one thing to another. He forced me to think on my feet about things, and to remember the good and the bad. He took me back to how I got to places, and with whose help. He asked me if I'd thanked the people who'd helped me. By the time we were done, he had a record of sorts of my career life, and I had an extra little bit of insight into a few things. Perhaps some of the good experiences had some down sides, and perhaps some of the "just getting by" jobs had a little more value than I'd thought.

Most days, we simply try to keep up with the present. Perhaps we hope for things in the future, and sometimes we long for things in the past, but rarely do we take the time to review what we wanted and how that has changed, what we got, and how that has changed us. Telling the story to my young (and brutally direct) interviewer forced me to think about some of these things, and will probably keep me thinking about them for a while.

I'm not exactly sure what he'll take away from this experience, aside from a fuller picture than he gets from my daily dinner table reports. Maybe he'll see that expectations can change. Maybe he'll realize that you can get knocked down and around and still get up. Maybe he'll discover that work is about some crazy, ever-changing balance of doing what you enjoy and making enough money to support your lifestyle. Any of these, I think, would make this a worthwhile assignment for him.

I know already that it was a worthwhile assignment for me.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Giving Back Miracles

This morning, I attended an industry networking event, where I met some new people, reconnected with people I already knew, and listened to talks by several moderators who had volunteered to share their experiences with the attendees. Obviously, at a networking event, you always hope to connect with people who will matter in your career or life path. You always like to believe that if you present your best self, such an event will be better than hundreds of resumes sent out into the abyss. Despite yourself, you go in expecting miracles.

I went not quite sure that I was presenting my best self. I went not quite sure that I was saying what I wanted heard or even hearing the things I needed to hear. But when I came out, what struck me most was not the impression, good or bad, that I'd made. What I took away was a profound sense of what the people organizing the event, particularly the moderators, had given of themselves. They had taken several hours from undoubtedly busy schedules of work and home to be in a room of people who wanted to find out more. Once there, they had given histories of themselves and their own paths, insight into their jobs and honest revelations about what they liked and disliked about them--in short, inspiration to those of us who might still be trying to find our place in the big picture.

So often, when we think of "giving back," we think of soup kitchens and charitable donations and walkathons. This group of people gave back in a way both unique to them and useful to the rest of us. They freely shared experiences. They reminded us that sometimes opportunities come from the oddest directions. They encouraged us to listen to our hearts about what it is we like to do. In "giving back," they gave us the inspiration to jump-start our day, and for many of us, to jump-start the new chapters in our lives.

Is a networking event a miracle making factory? Of course not. But because of a group of people so generous in giving back, this particular networking event will certainly make things happen. Perhaps not miracles, but progress not too short of miraculous.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Exploration and Execution

I would imagine most of us spend our days focusing on execution--not the guillotine kind, but the "getting things done" kind. Ultimately, our days are about whether we accomplished all the tasks, whether we did what we needed to for everyone (co-workers, bosses, children), whether we went to the bank, made the phone calls, generated enough widgets (or whatever it is we generate).

Yet, every so often, in the midst of days of execution, there is a day of exploration--when life (by choice or by chance) is more about finding out things--learning a new program, just because you're curious, following a link, just because you still want to know something, cooking a new dish, even if doing so makes dinner later or awful or necessary to take out, meeting new people, not because you need something from them, but just because they seem interesting.

Often, you get to the end of an exploration day a little self-conscious about all the things you haven't done. After all, we are well-programmed to value the completion of tasks more than the random acquisition of knowledge. It can be hard to see what you've done all day if your exploration didn't allow you to check off any "to-do" boxes, so mostly, we stick with the execution days.

At the end of today, I found myself discouraged about how much I hadn't done. I didn't have a string of emails or a long list of edited clips or even a particularly clean kitchen to show for myself. But when I stepped back and realized how many things I had explored, I felt a little better. There will be many execution days. We might as well appreciate the exploration days when we can.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Twenty Years=Three Minutes

Today, as I cut a reel of some of my editing work, I had the uncanny experience of seeing close to twenty years collapse into less than three minutes.

Now, the three minute part was not unexpected. After all, few people viewing a reel will have an attention span of much more than three minutes, so I went in to the endeavor with three minutes in mind. What surprised me, I think, was how the work included not only projects years apart, but projects wildly different from each other. It's one thing to say that you've gone from dramatic television to news. It's quite another to see clips from those two worlds--and a few others--right next to each other. And while the reel leaves out several of the things I've done in between--you don't always get clips from a gig--it fairly well tells the story of the journey I've taken.

I'm not sure what my newly created reel will accomplish for me professionally. As with a résumé, you try to put your best foot forward, but you can't be sure where that foot will land. But making the reel was definitely an eye-opener--a look back at where I've been, and a chance to think forward about where I'd like to be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Deja Vu, Again

Today, thanks to one of those circumstances that reminds you that television work is not the same as work in corporate America, I found myself not at work, but at home. While I could have taken the opportunity to eat and to nap, given the proximity of the couch and the refrigerator, I actually made myself quite productive, doing some at-home editing and dubbing, with a bit of writing on the side. But when 3:00 rolled around, I was out the door heading for a school bus stop, and from then until about three hours later, I was suddenly in a world that seemed both foreign and strangely familiar. I was reliving my life from two years ago, courtesy of an unscheduled day off, and a little déjà vu.

We like to believe that each day of our lives is different, and largely, they are, certainly when it comes to the specific details. But shift some of the details, and it is possible to feel as though you are repeating things, and take out some of the pieces that balance you now, and it's not too hard to be transported back to another time. Today, I found myself walking paths that I had walked weekly two years ago. I found myself keeping the schedule that ran my life two years ago. And from time to time, it was hard not to feel a bit of the desperation I felt two years ago. For, while today might be a blip, today's activities were just like the ones from two years ago, when I was looking for work. Today's journeys were just like the ones I took daily in the days of "no babysitter, just at-home Mom." Today's conversations even felt as though I had been sent back in time.

Obviously, even as we think we are reliving things "already seen," circumstances are different. So what I experienced today, déjà vu-ish as it was, was not a return to that other time, but simply a reminder--an uncanny reminder--of it. Given the unpredictability of television, there may be a few more reminders tomorrow. And perhaps reminders are not such a bad thing. Sometimes, in seeing what we've already seen, we are reminded of just how far we've actually come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nothing Ventured

For the year and a half or so that it took me to resume fairly regular work, I spent many days scouring job boards and rearranging my résumé on a weekly (okay, daily) basis. And somehow, in the middle of all this, I began attending a writers' group, convinced that my idea for a children's book series would take off from sheer originality, belief, and hard work. It did not, but for that period of time, I traveled each week to the writers' group and spent part of each afternoon writing and rewriting, trying to redefine the me that I could be. After all, wasn't that the time to try new things? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

As I have settled into (knock wood) more steady work over the past couple of years, I have done a lot less venturing. While I keep my eyes and ears open, and while I feel that I am constantly evaluating myself and my situation, the going out on a limb in a writers' group sometimes seems far away. The redefining myself sometimes seems placed on a shelf for another day. The venturing tends to be much closer to home--literally and figuratively.

And yet, every so often, I have a day when the work is on "pause" for a moment and the world is on "quiet" for a moment. There is the briefest flash of what might be, and the time to explore it. These moments don't last long. They are quickly filled with life work and work work, but if I use them well, I can venture ever so slightly into that "might be." It may not be grounded in anything. It may not hold any guarantee of work or money or satisfaction. But it is a bit of venturing that might lead somewhere, sometime when I least expect it. So I venture, because for a moment, I can. And after all, nothing ventured....

Monday, January 19, 2015

Along For The Ride

I spent most of my day with my daughter at an audition. She is of an age now that I don't always go with her, but it was the weekend, and she needed a parent there, and before I knew it, a large part of the day had passed with us there.

Were there things at home that I should have been doing? Probably. Did she need me there every minute of the five hours? Probably not. But when I thought about our day, it was actually with some gratitude for the fact that I had spent time "in the trench" with her. I was not singing or dancing, or preparing what I might say, as she was, but I was there, doing some of the waiting, and looking around at other auditionees, as she must do each time she goes to an audition.

While I have, over the years, been the parent who might stay up all night with a crying infant, I am generally not the parent who stays up till all hours with a teenager completing homework. What I realized today is that "staying up," whether your child is an infant or a teenager, "being there" for what matters to them, is just as important as being "in the trench" with a director was when I was working as an AD. You see things you wouldn't see otherwise. You understand in a way you can't possibly from just hearing a story afterward.

Does this mean I'll be staying up to help with, or at least supervise, late night homework? Not necessarily. But perhaps it will take me to a few more places with my now older children, rather than just to the places I had to take them when they were younger. Because sometimes being there matters, whether you're driving the drop-off car, or just going along for the ride.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Different Weeks, Different Heads

This week, I worked my normal five days, a great relief after a week of just a few days--one form of the freelancer's nightmare. For a freelancer, a stretch of days at the same place, whether those days are calm or crazy, long or short, makes the freelancing thing seem manageable. It offers some degree of security in a life that basically has none.

The freelance life is one that requires wearing many different hats, but a bunch of different heads as well. Sometimes, you need to be the rational one, keeping track of the hours and the paychecks, and making sure that babysitter coverage aligns with actual working hours. Other times, it is much more important to be the passionate, creative person in a letter, or an interview, or a demo reel. And knowing when to shift from one head to the other--and when somehow to manage wearing both--may be the biggest challenge of all. So, on the days and weeks when "freelancer" can simply mean "working person," there is some sense of relief. A temporary managing of just one head (even if that head still has to wear a few hats).

Not every week will be a five-day one. After years of freelancing, I am, little by little, getting used to that. But in both the one head and the many head moments, I remind myself that it is all, in one way or another, part of being "not washed up yet."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lasagna and Life

After a ten-hour work day, I came home and made lasagna.

Now, culinarily, this is no great feat. I took every shortcut in the book, from cook in the pan noodles to jarred sauce to already shredded mozzarella. But at a time not much later than our normal dinner hour, we sat down to a meal of homemade lasagna, lasagna that had not even been a thought earlier in the day.

Why, you may ask, is lasagna blogworthy? (It's okay, I ask myself too!). As I thought about the lasagna, I realized that ultimately, it was the result of my saying "yes" when asked, and saying "yes," and then making "yes" work is pretty much what most of my career, and perhaps my life, has been.

As I left work, I called home for input about dinner, and one of my kids proposed lasagna. I don't imagine she had any idea what kind of work would go into lasagna, but I have a feeling she was surprised when I said "yes," and proceeded to have her read me the recipe. It took a trip to the grocery store. It took two sous-chefs. It took a bunch of bowls and pans, and it took some waiting. At each of these points, "yes" turning into "no" or "I don't know" would have destroyed our chance for lasagna--not so different from how saying "I don't know" to news would have destroyed my chance for this last year of work, or saying "I'm not sure" to work I'd never done before could have eliminated any number of opportunities I have had over the years.

Sometimes, in lasagna and in life, you just have to say "yes," and then make sure "yes" works. And often, in lasagna and in life, "yes" takes you to some of the most challenging and satisfying places you've ever been.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nothing's Perfect

Last night, at the end of my walk home from work, I rode up in the elevator with a building neighbor. Having not seen her in a while, I asked her if she was still working in the same place as she had been, with a commute much like the one I had done while working on the online soaps. She nodded, and bemoaned the commute, but added that the people were great, the work was interesting, and that nothing was perfect.

I've found myself thinking a lot about what she said. In that moment, though weary from her long day, she was able to point out the things she genuinely appreciated about her situation, rather than focus only on the part that she didn't like.

How often do we get the perfect combination of salary, interesting work, work/life balance, and working/commuting conditions? If we were allowed to choose, which would be at the top of our list? The answer might surprise us.

Much of the time, we are not really given a choice. We take the jobs that are available. We work long hours if we have to. We take the trains or buses necessary to go to an interesting job or to the job that pays the most money. And my neighbor is probably right--nothing is perfect. We just make the best of it. For her, daily commuting allows her to avoid long business trips, and for me--well, it depends on the day. It may not be perfect, but most days, it's pretty good. And most days, that's close enough to perfect for me.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What You Know...To Be Real

In a life that seems to change from the moment I go to bed to the moment I wake up, from morning till night and day to day, sometimes it's hard to have a clear picture of what is real and what is imagined. So I have decided to make up a mini-guide--

1. If you have a picture of it in your smartphone, it is probably real (unless your child has hijacked your smartphone and added who knows what to your camera roll).

2. If others have no memory of it, it is probably imagined (except that some of the people in your household never remember anything, and others just remember what's important to them).

3. If it is the same a few days in a row, it is probably real (but whose life has anything the same for a few days in a row?).

4. If it involves chocolate on a regular basis and warm, fuzzy clothes at every hour of the day, sadly, it is probably imagined (except that today, the above came really close to describing my day).

5. If you get a bill for it, it's probably real (but check, because you never know). If you get a check in the mail, it's probably imagined, because who ever gets that?!

Sometimes, there is a fine line between imagination and reality. Obviously, it's important to go with reality with the dates on the calendar and the life-altering decisions. But a little imagining in between--now that keeps it interesting...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

They Also Serve

My kids play the piano. At least one plays music with such tightly written notes that I could never begin to read or play them, as I gave up trying far too early in life. She has tried hard, fought hard, and now, she can play the things with the tightly written notes. And the recognizable songs with the less tightly written ones.

As for me, I turn the pages. For a song not yet memorized, I stand at the piano, and when she nears the end of the page, I flip to the next page in the music book. Not too early, so that she misses the last few notes on the page, or too late, so that she has to pause before starting the next page. Perhaps it is not that hard, particularly compared to what she is doing, but it is a job that requires me to focus completely on what she is doing. And for a person who is used to splitting focus most, if not all, of the time, that can be a challenge.

Clearly, I will never be able to play the piano as she does--my time for getting to that point (even if I ever had the ability) is over. As I turn her pages, however, I am reminded of the importance not just of exercising creativity, but of supporting creativity as well. Even if our own time and talents are limited, our ability to foster the creative endeavors of others is still there. Whether it's getting our kids to lessons or talking about their dreams, going to shows and concerts or using our own talents to promote the arts, or even just turning pages for our resident musicians, what we do matters. Kind of the same way that every cup of coffee brought by a PA and every script revision brought by a writers' assistant matters.

I am getting better at my page turning--self-taught, thank you very much. It may not be much, but if it helps my daughter keep playing and learning, I'll be there to serve, fingers ready, any night of the week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


During the time I was training to be an AD at One Life to Live, I took a self-defense class--the kind with the guy in the big suit with the giant head as your assailant (given by the organization Prepare, which I highly recommend). I took only the several-hour version, so I didn't acquire the full range of self-defense skills, but among the things that I learned was how to adjust my body and voice for maximum display of confidence. And thus, my "AD voice" was born. I realized that by lowering my voice, as the self-defense teacher had talked about for stressful situations, I could not only project an attitude of calm and confidence, I could also feel that calm and confidence myself. This simple adjustment was a tool that stuck with me for years, and in some ways, still does.

In some ways, working is not so different from self-defense. While I would like to think that none of us has a boss or a co-worker or a client resembling the guy in the giant suit and head, most of us are called upon daily to display our value and then defend that value against those who might try to take it away. We are called upon to stand strong in the face of challenge. We are called upon to face things and people we have never seen before, and we are expected to emerge victorious from encounters with things far bigger than ourselves. Is it so surprising, then, that the skills learned in a self-defense class translate so well to the work world?

In the control room, my lowered voice made for a more pleasant sound heard over headsets for hours on end. It created a level of calm for me and for my co-workers that helped us face down the most giant, beastly production days. These days, while my voice is less of an issue (not a lot of talking in an edit room!), the same calm, focused demeanor helps me chop what seems like an enormous task down to manageable size, and to maintain calm, and competence, in the face of new challenges.

It's funny how lessons learned for one purpose can stay with you years later for a completely different purpose. I suppose a little self-defense training goes a long way.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Old Habits, And How They Roll

For a great deal of my childhood, I spent the majority of my Sundays doing homework. It's not that I had so much work due on Mondays (or maybe I did!)--I simply wanted to get a jump on the week, so that each weeknight would be manageable.

Perhaps old habits die hard, because I still seem to approach Sundays with the goal of getting that jump. There are, of course, weeks when our Sunday is booked with events from beginning to end, but when it's not, I can't help but think it should be a day for conquering the assignments that will otherwise plague us all week. Seems logical, right?

It turns out that what might be an "old habit" for me is not necessarily the natural way kids--well, my kids--roll. Midway through the day, there had been a great deal of sleeping, some video watching, and multiple meals, but not much progress on the work. Consequently, midway through the day, there was a certain amount of nagging and yelling on my part, none of which had accomplished much of anything. Yet, interestingly, by bedtime (I'll spare you the play-by-play of in between), the work was done, the backpacks were stuffed, and we were ready to face the week.

I don't know quite what happened. At a certain point, I simply backed off and accepted that things might happen differently than I wanted, which was not an easy thing to do. And in their own ways, in their own time, on their own terms, my kids accomplished what they needed to (or at least most of it). I guess sometimes, in parenting, and in work, it takes realizing that "how I roll" is not always the same as "how they roll." Sometimes it takes a little backing off to give people the space they need to do what they do.

Does this mean I am adopting a "hands-off" approach to parenting or working with others or anything else I do? Absolutely not. Today, however, I learned that while some habits may die hard, they don't generally live the same way for two people. So perhaps I'll be a little more careful about forcing my set of habits onto a set of kids who have their own. That is, once I get out of the habit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Luck Be A Lady

Today, we watched my daughters perform in a showcase performance that featured scenes and songs from the musical Guys and Dolls (a show that we've managed to see a great many times, in a variety of formats, over the last few years).

As we walked home afterwards, we talked a lot about how we and the girls had gotten to this day--how their desire for theater opportunities had led them to, and away from, certain places, what they were looking for, and how exactly they landed in this place, and with this theater group. As the conversation progressed, I was struck by how many seemingly small choices had led to eventually large results. Had school searches gone differently, perhaps they wouldn't have looked for outside theater. Had we chosen to live somewhere else, maybe they wouldn't have ended up in this program. If our Saturdays were still consumed with karate, this opportunity would not even have been possible. So, while taking on a theater training program might seem like a choice unto itself, it is actually also the lucky result of a series of other choices (and, as in Guys and Dolls, the product of a bit of gambling).

Each day, we make choices that, though they seem small, can affect the larger choices available to us. You can't always know what path you are following when you take each step--sometimes, you just have to hope that your destinations are lucky ones.

Today, it was clear that the series of choices that led us here had been lucky ones. An afternoon of Guys and Dolls for us, and for my daughters, a year full of singing, dancing, acting, exciting experiences, new challenges, and new friends. Sounds pretty lucky to me.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Meeting The Needs

When I was scheduled in the studio at One Life to Live, I went into my day with a clear idea not only about the material to be shot that day, but also about the needs of the director sitting next to me. Some directors looked to me for "just the facts"--the consistent readying of shots and a clear, quick idea of how the pieces shot would edit together. Others valued my input about the scenes' emotional content. Still others simply appreciated my being "in the trench" with them, as invested as they were in the process and the product.

Flash forward to now. I am no longer in a soap studio, but assessing people's needs is just as important as it was back then. When I'm working, what can I add to the process? If I am looking for work, how do I most effectively present the "me" who will best fill a company's needs? And when I'm spending time with my kids, what does each one need at any given time--a listener, a fixer, a co-shopper, or a video game companion?

In the control room, my success was built upon both my working hard and my matching my work to the needs of the directors and producers around me. It turns out that post-soap life is not so different--no matter how hard you work and how much you may have to offer, if you don't match what you're offering to what is needed, that feeling of accomplishment--like the one I felt in the control room--may elude you. It's really all about understanding and filling needs--baking with the baking child but listening to the one with a problem to talk through, working quickly toward a live show and more painstakingly toward a fancy promo. When you match your work and attitude to the needs at hand, you can immediately be more successful--whether it's at work, or in life, or somewhere in between.

Friday, January 9, 2015

You Do What You Have To Do

As I sewed ribbon straps on an otherwise strapless dress for my daughter to wear for a performance (I am by no means a seamstress, but you do what you have to do), I found myself thinking about just that--doing what you have to do.

In terms of costumes, that is my normal m.o.--starting with what we have, and working from there. While it is not always the popular choice (who wouldn't want something brand new instead?), and while it doesn't always work (sometimes no amount of trying can allow you to adapt anything from the 21st century to look like something from the 17th century), starting from there saves enough money and running around time to allow for other options when you need them.

Doing what you have to do, however, is about more than using basic sewing skills to solve a costume problem. Each day, we face situations that fall outside of our normal routine. Whether it's a bus that doesn't come, or a paycheck that is late, a homework assignment discovered at the last minute or dinner that needs to be created from what's in the fridge, we are constantly called upon to adapt, to do what we have to do. We could stand in the cold, stubbornly waiting for (and perhaps cursing) the late bus, but instead, we try another form of transport. We could panic about the homework (and maybe we do), but instead, we manage to pull it off. And even if it's spaghetti surprise (yikes, spaghetti surprise!), we make that work too.

In the end, life is a little about what happens to you, but a whole lot more about doing what you have to do to handle it. Whether it's improv sewing or redefined descriptions of ourselves, spaghetti surprise or new paths explored, there is always something to be done if you're willing to do what you have to do. I suspect that the most successful people among us do just that--do what they have to do. And in the end, they make life just follow along.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Surprise Me

I love when people find out, either on their own, or in talking to me, that I write a daily blog. It's nice, of course, that it increases my potential readership, but more than that, it says that I am more than what people see every day--more than just an editor, more than just a soap vet, more than just a parent. It's not that any of those things is unimportant--it's just that it's nice to have a little surprise up your sleeve.

Not everyone writes a daily blog, but I am learning that a great many people have sleeves full of surprises. Mild-mannered techies who do standup comedy or play in bands, parents who improv, managers who are also theater gurus. I would venture to say that each of us has a side, or a side interest, that would surprise people--something that informs the person they see daily, but seems nothing like that person. It's a reminder to them, and to ourselves, that we need not be defined by the jobs we do eight to twelve hours a day. Rather, we are people defined by lots of things, just one of them the way in which we make our money or identify ourselves professionally.

While I might like the world already to know that I blog daily, it is still a treat when it's a surprise--as much as it is for me when I find out something I didn't know about a person I see every day. It's a reminder that we are all a little more than what we seem.

So, go ahead--I'm sure you can--surprise me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Living In The City's Okay Because...

...even if you can't get yourself to the gym often enough, you can tell your doctor, with complete honesty, that you walk A LOT. can get bananas on the street and cough medicine from the pharmacy at almost any time of day, and just around the corner. can often avoid cleaning snow off your car, as long as you're willing to clean it off your boots and avoid slipping.

...when you slip because your boots are worn from walking in the snow, people--even complete strangers--sometimes DO offer to help.

...when you've been walking or slipping for what feels like too long, there's a chance that you're almost home.

...home may not have a lot of space, but if you're lucky, it does have neighbors, and friendly nearby stores, and even a doorman who welcomes you home.

Sometimes, living in the city is tough. But a lot of the time, it's, well, really okay.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Freelancer's Day Off

It was my turn to walk "safety patrol" outside one of my kids' schools. Since it is an activity occurring for several hours in the middle of the afternoon, the obligation required my taking off from work--in my profession, it's not necessarily okay just to disappear in the middle of the afternoon.

It is not an easy thing for a freelancer to take a day off. A lost day of work, after all, means a lost day of pay, and a freelancer never quite knows when lost days of pay will come too frequently, causing "freelance" to turn into "not working." So, day taken, I was determined to use all of its minutes, not just the safety patrol ones, to the fullest. And what does a freelancer do on a "day off"?

1. Schedule appointments. It can be tricky to handle personal appointments on a TV production schedule, so the day off is prime time.

2. Make a "to-do" list, almost a waste of time on a work day, as nothing would actually get "done."

3. Call the people who can't be called from work--because it's too personal or too complicated or requires having too much paperwork in front of you--but who can only be called during work hours.

4. Homemake. Normally seen in the noun form "homemaker." Do things like cooking and cleaning and laundry. Very glad there are not too many of these days off. I'm not that good at the homemaking.

5. Have a long-intended coffee with a friend. Because you both need it.

6. Observe family life while in the middle of it, not by phone or text. I kind of like this one.

7. Check off all the items on a "to-do" list, a list that would ordinarily have many things undone at day's end. Turns out there were a bunch of things left today too.

Today, I patrolled school streets (wearing a nifty vest and everything!), generated a few meals and a great deal of clean laundry, handled a leaky faucet and a few appointments, and even had a cup of coffee. Not bad for a freelancer's day off. And as for the "to-do" list? I'm a freelancer, not a miracle-worker.

Monday, January 5, 2015


My son, lover of claw machines, has progressed to little figure mystery packs. For anywhere from three to five dollars, seemingly a bargain, you can acquire a small toy, often with moveable pieces and accessories. The catch--you don't know what the toy looks like until you've purchased and torn open the pack. You might become the proud owner of the cutest or most useful little thing. Or you might end up with something you never wanted or needed, and with three to five dollars less in your pocket. There's just no guarantee.

As I try to explain to him the risk of his endeavor, I realize that a great many of my endeavors are not that different. Sign an agreement for payment when a project succeeds? Sure. But what if it never succeeds, and the agreement is worth less than the subway fare you spent to go for the signing? Take a job that seems lasting? Seems like a good idea. But what is lasting these days, really? Make choices that allow you to spend time with your family? Excellent. But do you really spend that time, and at what cost to your career and bank account?

The truth is, there really are no guarantees, in mystery packs or in life. You can feel around, trying to make sure the parts that you want are there. You can do your "research." You can make sure you have the resources (three to five dollars or babysitting or means of transport). But when you tear open the package or the job or the piece of life, what you see isn't always what you expected. And often, it's not really what you wanted. Because there really are no guarantees.

So, I wonder, what do I tell my son? Do I keep letting him spend money to open the mystery packs--of figures and of life? And what do I tell myself? Do I simply accept the lack of guarantees, and keep opening my own "mystery packs," often at a cost well beyond three to five dollars?

I suppose that for both of us, there is a lesson for life--if you never try a "mystery pack," you'll never really know what you could have had. And if you try too many, you're liable to pay a high price and get a whole lot of what you don't want or need. There are no guarantees, but there's still research and adventure, and the value of trying. Which is, I guess, what I'll tell us both. So that we can keep unwrapping mysteries, without being too disappointed with the outcome.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Parents' Committee

I spent an hour of my day as part of the Parents' Committee at my daughters' theater group. While the teens are singing and dancing, a small group of parents meets monthly to figure out raising money and handling logistics so that the kids can sing and dance more. I suppose it's like a teeny-tiny PTA (though with my kids in multiple schools, I have rarely worked out time to spend at PTA meetings).

What's interesting about this committee, however, is that just as my kids are getting to the point of doing things on their own--traveling on their own, keeping track of their schedules on their own, making sure they have lunch money or food on their own--I am suddenly involved in making sure they are not really "on their own" in the endeavor.

When the hour was over, I found myself thinking a lot about the "on their own" phenomenon. While it is true that we teach our kids to be independent, and while it is certainly true that in our family, many opportunities have opened up only when the kids could pursue them on their own (without complex babysitting and transportation plans), the reality is that "on their own" still requires support. The lunch or lunch money is still about my fishing out a $5 or my making sure there are lunch supplies in the house. The getting to and from still requires the filling of metrocards and the discussion of daytime and nighttime logistics. And above all, the endeavors, whatever they are, still call for discussion (and more discussion, and more), kind of like a committee meeting, or a series of subcommittee meetings.

I went to a Parents' Committee meeting today, and I would like to think that I made some contribution to my kids' activities, and along the way, a contribution to other kids' endeavors too. Because, in parenting, "on their own" is a relative term. Often, it takes a committee to make sure "on their own" is a success, and to make sure "on their own" doesn't just mean "alone" in life's decisions. It's a tricky balance, especially when you thought that your "committee" work was a thing of the past and that your management of kids' lives was a piece from yesterday. Turns out that there's plenty of room for parenting, by committee or otherwise, even at the point of "on their own."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What Lingers

It has been years now since my time at ABC ended, but my hope for predictability lingers. 

It has been over a year since I was really "between jobs," but the fear of joblessness lingers.

It has been a while since I counted every penny spent on afterschool snacks and "I wants" and things that just come up, but the memory of just small change in my pockets lingers.

It has been hundreds of afternoons since I was the one doing the daily bus-meeting and the transporting, but the wondering whether it was good for my family lingers.

It has been just days since I was away from home and the accompanying home chores and responsibilities, but the thoughts of that freedom linger.

It has been just hours since I woke from the good sleep I got without an alarm, and I am trying to make that rested feeling linger.

Some things don't go away, no matter how far we think we've come since they were present daily in our lives. The memories and the feelings linger, informing every bit of who we are today. In some ways, we never really do "get past" anything. Circumstances may be new, but the effects of what came before--for better or for worse--those linger on.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Today Is...

...The first day of a new year. Okay.

...The first day of a new month. Meaning bills to pay, and schedules to re-start. What exactly happened to the last month when I wasn't looking?

...The first day of the rest of your life. I suppose. Except that the rest of your life has a lot to with what happened before today, so today isn't ever quite the first day.

...A day to set new goals and make new plans for what lies ahead. Mostly, I'm cleaning up the clutter (literal and figurative) from what came before.

...A day to sleep late because you stayed up late (unless you fell asleep long before the "Happy New Year!").

...A day to rest up in preparation for what's down the road, whether it's the same as what was up the road, or completely different.

...A day filled with expectations, met and not. Which, in the end, makes it a little bit like every other "today" of the year...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Questions

On New Year's Eve, many people make resolutions--things they say they will surely do differently, see differently, handle differently.

I tend to come out of New Year's with far more questions than resolutions. Will I live smarter, or more successfully, or healthier? Will choices be easier to make? Will I get more sleep? Will I be a better spouse, parent, communicator? Will I hit next New Year's Eve with a significantly different view of life than I have now?

I suppose that the people who make resolutions are really just choosing to answer all these questions, or at least trying to make sure the answers will be good ones, which seems a bit overwhelming to me. The best I can do, I guess, is to ask the questions, because sometimes, we find our answers just by finding the right questions. Will I be richer, thinner, happier, healthier a year from now? Who knows? I have a hard time predicting tomorrow--how could I possibly predict next year? Hopefully, however, asking the questions is at least a step in the right direction.