Saturday, February 28, 2015

Work That's Not Work

Today, in among piecing together b-roll clips for the news and business shows on which I work, I edited a two-minute package about Leonard Nimoy. For close to two hours, the world buzzing around me virtually disappeared, as I worked to piece our limited available clips and pictures together into a worthy tribute.

Now, I am not, and have never been, a Trekkie. But ever since my high school history teacher, who most certainly was a Trekkie, incorporated Star Trek into a number of his lectures, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner have been on my radar. As I might have felt with the obituary of any accomplished person, I had the very clear feeling that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. While there is always a rush to create something for immediate air, I was determined that this was a rush that I would control. I could be aware of the time, but not to the point of slapping something together, just so I could move on to something else. If I was going to do this, I would do it justice.

When I was done, and the piece aired just twenty minutes later, I understood for a moment the idea of work not being work if you enjoy what you are doing. Sure, a job and a paycheck matter--a lot. But for those few hours, I forgot about the job and the paycheck, and simply focused on the work. And as I emerged, and moments later, saw my "work" as others were seeing it, I couldn't help but be grateful. Because once in a while, we get the opportunity to do work that doesn't feel like work. And once in a while, that feels as good as a paycheck in our hands.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Just Keep Looking

Did your mother ever tell you "just keep looking" or threaten "if I find it first..."? At my house, it's usually "let's clean up, and then we'll find it." There may be things that simply disappear off the face of the earth (or into the depths of the vacuum cleaner), but many things actually are findable. It just takes a little belief and a lot of persistence.

And thus went my day today. I needed a "beep" sound effect, and after some searching, I found one. I needed an transition effect I had never used before, and I explored assorted options until I found one. I needed to tell a story, and after typing enough different key phrases, I found my words and pictures.

We do a lot of searching in our lives. Whether it's finding a lost earring or sock in a chaotic apartment, the best school for our child, the right job (or the place that will hire us) or the best living space, we are always looking, sometimes to the point that we just want to give up, and settle for what's already found. What I learned a little today is that when you keep searching, you often do find exactly what you're looking for, and maybe even a little more. So, while it's not always possible to belabor our searches (we can always wear a different pair of earrings if we can't find the lost ones), it can be very satisfying to hang in long enough to find just the right thing.

There are times when I feel as though being on job searches has really primed me for looking in general. The job market doesn't make for easy finds, and success often requires a rare degree of persistence, and a huge amount of belief. But if we are willing to keep at it, sometimes the search pays off--in an interesting job, and perhaps in some self-discovery along the way.

So, wear different earrings or mismatched socks if you need to give up searching for the missing ones. As for everything else, perhaps Mom was right--just keep looking. You might find what you're looking for, and even a little bit more.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beating The Clock

I am a deadline driven person. While I am fairly diligent in general, there is something about a due date on the calendar or a follow-up email that pulls it together for me. The tricky thing is, all of the dates and emails tend to come at the same time, meaning that almost all the time, I am faced with a finite amount of time to accomplish a seemingly infinite pile of projects.

So, how do you find more time in your time and generate more results than seem actually possible? Believe me, I am no expert, but I've learned a few things...

1. Blast through the easy stuff early, and quickly. When you're up against a deadline, there's no room for the little stuff, whether that's emptying the dishwasher or taking a shower or answering emails.

2. Trust your alarm clock. It may not seem like your friend when it wakes you in the dark, but it is your best ally in finding more time in your days.

3. Accept that there will be pain. Giving up doing what you want may be no fun, but finishing what you need to because you gave up a little here and there is well worth it.

4. Focus. Focus harder. Shut out the world. Not easy, especially when, believe me, the world is quite eager to join you. It won't be forever, and the world will still be there when you're done. Really, it will.

5. If you need an extension, ask for one. I can't tell you how many times I've raced, only to find out that I could have had a few extra days. You're rarely the only one with a busy schedule. Use that fact when you need to.

6. Do your best, and then let it go. Belaboring one deadline project will just put you up against the deadline for the next. As I used to announce when I AD'd, "moving on."

Hard as I've tried, I have never succeeded in stopping time to give myself more wiggle room to "do it all." The key to meeting deadlines is not changing time. It's simply changing your relationship with time--in other words, beating the clock.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It Makes A Difference

It makes a difference when people see past their own challenges to yours.

It makes a difference when someone says "thank you"--in an email, with a gesture, or out loud.

It makes a difference when someone appreciates what you've done--right away, or months later.

It makes a difference when someone remembers--a birthday, a favorite food, your greatest fear.

It makes a difference when someone gives you space--but not too much.

It makes a difference when someone gives you a hand--when you know you need it, and when you don't.

It makes a difference when people offer--their time, their expertise, their compassion.

It makes a difference when you have an answer--even when the answer is "I don't know."

It makes a difference when you play a role--no matter how small.

It makes a difference when people clap for you--loudly, quietly, or in a way only you can hear.

It makes a difference when you realize how many people make a difference in your life--each and every day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You Must Be A Good Parent

It is remarkably easy to feel as though you are less than adequate as a parent on a daily basis. It is, therefore, important to remind yourself that you are probably a better parent than you think...

If you work too many hours, but still find the minutes to check homework or discuss an English essay or laugh at a sentence in a book your child is reading, you must be a good parent.

If you say "no" too much, but say "yes" when it really matters, you must be a good parent.

If you make fish, hoping your kids will eat it, but make side dishes, knowing that even you don't like everything all the time, you must be a good parent.

If you say "yes" too much, but say "no" when it really matters, you must be a good parent.

If your calendar is full, but the days include both your own meetings and your children's tests and events, you must be a good parent.

If you have no time to go anywhere, but make time to be everywhere, you must be a good parent.

If you protect your kids as much as you can from the really rotten stuff, but teach them about the rotten stuff they need to know, you must be a good parent.

If you yell at your kids to practice, but then listen to them and recognize the difference the practice has made, you must be a good parent.

If your kids love every marshmallow treat you've ever introduced them to, but they love Brussels sprouts too, you must be a good parent.

See? You're probably a better parent than you think. Not so hard, was it?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Counting On

Over the years, I have watched my kids learn a variety of math strategies, most of which bear no resemblance to how I learned math. If they work, I'm all for them. Really, I am.

Among these has been "counting on," which essentially has the student figure out an addition or subtraction problem by simply following the counting pattern. It works, it makes sense, and it is kind of comforting, because it lets you use what you already know to solve a problem you've never seen. It's just not the most efficient strategy when you have a lot of problems to do.

Most of us practice "counting on" each day. Though we may not be using this strategy to add or subtract, we are planning our lives with it. If something was a certain way yesterday or last month or last summer, we "count on" it being that way today, tomorrow, or next summer. If a method worked for us last time, we "count on" it to work this time as well.

The problem is, just as "counting on" is not necessarily an efficient math strategy, it turns out not to be a consistently efficient life strategy either. While there may be nothing wrong with using past experiences to predict future ones, life (unlike addition) tends to change. So if we "count on," assuming circumstances we know, we may come to the wrong conclusions when circumstances have changed.

So, it appears that in life, as in math, it is important to have more than one strategy. If you rely only on what you "count on," you will often be confused and disappointed. Sometimes, it takes looking at a problem in a new way, not just the way you know, to find its solution. And sometimes, it is only when we move past the security and comfort of "counting on" that we can really add to our experience, and move ahead.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Unexpected Words

Today, I proofread my chapter in the children's e-book I have been a part of writing for the past year. It was not exactly what I expected when I began this writing journey a year ago. But hey, how many things in life are exactly what we expected? When we bring a baby into the world, do we have any idea what it's going to be like to talk to a ten year old or to advise a seventeen year old? When we apply for and interview for, and succeed in getting a job, do we really know what it will be like going to that job each day? 

In everything we do, there are expectations and reality. If we have done our research, perhaps the two things end up similar. But no amount of research can account for the number of variables in life. If we demand that things turn out exactly as expected, chances are, we will be disappointed. If, however, we accept the changes, the edits, as it were, to how we first saw things, we come closer to getting what we expected. Perhaps things don't turn out quite the way we planned. Sometimes, they even turn out better. But either way, if we prepare for change--in our written words or in our daily lives--we become more equipped to handle it.

I would venture to say that most of what we do in life can produce an outcome we didn't expect. The trick to survival, then, is being able to roll with the unexpected, and being open to the idea that what we don't expect might open ideas and doors for us that we might never have considered on our own.

I may not have expected the words I proofread, but sometimes, that's just how life is. And one way or another, we just keep reading.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

School Vacation

As we near the end of another school vacation week, I find myself pondering what vacation really means to us all...

1. Vacation means sleeping later, and perhaps even sleeping better, because there are fewer stressful things kicking around in your sleeping head. Of course, if you are the grownup in the household, there are always stressful things kicking around in your sleeping head, and never really enough hours for sleeping late.

2. Vacation means traveling paths (literally or figuratively) that you don't usually travel. There was some of that for each of us. And we are all better for it.

3. Vacation means a little less "have to" and a little more "want to." Meaning that the return to "have to" may be a painful adjustment come Monday.

4. Vacation means you're that much closer to something, whether it's the next vacation or the summer or just the return to school.

5. Vacation means a little more guilt about going to work (because you're not sharing the time with your kids), but a lot more realization that working from home only really works when the kids are at school.

6. Vacation means feeling bad if you haven't planned a trip, but feeling good about not having to manage the packing, hurrying, and logistics of a trip.

7. Vacation means lunch for breakfast or breakfast for lunch or whatever a week of being less structured has to offer.

8. Vacation means some plans accomplished and some not, and hopes and wishes for the next vacation.

As we near the end of the vacation, I am sure there will be mixed reviews--it's always hard not to feel that the days were squandered and that you could use just one or two more. But, as always, I think we each will come out of this vacation with a new skill or two, a few things learned, and a little banked energy for the weeks ahead. And perhaps that's all you can really expect from a school vacation.

Friday, February 20, 2015

That Little Risk

Sometimes, I am very cautious--not applying for a job because my resume doesn't match the description closely enough, not making a phone call whose outcome I can't predict.

And then I look at my kids, who audition alongside hundreds of other kids, who try a game or a claw machine just one more time, because, hey, you never know, and I am reminded of all the times I stuck my neck out just a little farther and saw something great, took a leap and actually got something out of it. When you are a grown-up, perhaps you can't take every risk. You still have to be able to put food on the table and be there for people when you need to be and come out of things with a good reputation. But, as my kids remind me, there's still room to try, still room to explore, still room to believe in one-in-a-million chances. You probably are where you are now because of some risk along the way (wasn't my getting a job at OLTL right out of college one of those one-in-a-millions, and didn't everything else, including this blog, essentially follow from that?)

Perhaps there's more risk in taking risk now, but one thing hasn't really changed--you'll never discover much of anything without taking, at least once in a while, that little risk.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Working At Work, Working At Home

As I juggle home editing projects with my work at a news channel, I am struck by how different editing in different places can be...

When I'm at work, my deadlines are the broadcast time of the show, the expected time of the export, the departure time of the person who needs to see it.  When I'm working at home, my deadlines are "bus needs to be met," "someone else needs the computer," "Mom, I'm hungry."

When I'm at work, I have other editors and producers to give input--wanted or unwanted. When I'm working at home, my critics are mostly kids, at least until I'm really ready to send something to a client.

When I'm at work, lunchtime tends to be when the action has paused--either waiting for footage or waiting for scripts or waiting for approval. When I'm working at home, lunchtime is anytime I feel like walking to the fridge.

When I'm at work, troubleshooting often involves asking other editors, the media manager, or IT. When I'm working at home, I am an online tutorial devotee.

When I'm at work, sometimes I'm better because of my collaboration with a producer. When I'm working at home, sometimes I'm better because I have enough quiet to hear my own thoughts.

When I'm at work, sometimes I'm frustrated because of what I don't have enough minutes to do. When I'm working at home, sometimes I'm frustrated by what I can't find enough hours to do.

When I'm at work, it's hard not to get caught up in everyone else's non-work-related conversations. When I'm working at home, it's hard not to succumb to the non-work-related conversations in my own head.

I used to think that I'd be lucky to be working at home all the time. I have often thought that I'm lucky to be wherever "at work" means each day. These days, I'm beginning to realize that the combination of working at work and working at home may be the luckiest thing of all.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Close Enough To Feel

I won't form attachments. I won't count on faces or patterns or schedules. I will be a freelancer, living day to day, check to check, gig to gig, focusing on the work, not the place, the tasks at hand, not the people handing them. I will keep my distance, so as not to get caught in the crossfire. It is an excellent freelancer's credo, don't you think?

But then an email arrives, announcing the departure of someone much more an acquaintance than a friend. And I realize that I am close enough to feel punched in the stomach. Attached enough to be sad about her leaving and excited about her having new opportunities. I discover that it's hard to maintain the distance of a freelancer after half a lifetime as a full-time, part-of-the-team employee.

I am beginning to realize that my version of freelance may never turn out to be quite the freelance I imagined. If you care about the work, about how you spend your days, it's hard to keep from caring about the people. If you invest your time and talent, it's hard not to be interested in the people investing right beside you. Freelance may come with fewer strings to hold you, and may, therefore, allow you to see more in the world, but there are ties nonetheless. Even if you can't always count on schedules or patterns, you can still add up the value of the people you meet, and still calculate the worth of what you're doing.

Work circumstances will change constantly, I know. I can protect myself by not having expectations, by not forming attachments. Or I can choose a new definition of freelance, one that ties me loosely enough to wander a little, but keeps me close enough to feel.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Caution-Child At Work!

I have never participated in "Take Your Children to Work Day." Not only have we never had a school that particularly encouraged taking kids out for a day, I have never worked at a job that really accommodated putting work on hold to entertain my children or anyone else's. Over the years, in fact, I have generally said that my work/life success has been partly due to my ability to leave home out of work, rather than bringing it in.

Yet, today, with a school holiday and juggled arrangements, I found myself with a work sidekick. Clearly, this is not the same as it would have been when my kids were younger. They are all of an age now that their going to work with me does not require my entertaining them for the whole day. And so it was that my son sat next to me for eight hours, largely consumed with apps and videos, a bit of homework, and snacks from the vending machine. There were moments when we were each so involved in our own "work" that we almost forgot the other was there. I'm not sure my son came away with an accurate representation of what I do all day, but he, and I, made it through our impromptu "Take Your Children" day fairly unscathed, and, I believe, with newfound appreciation for each other. My son saw me work hard under time pressure and was impressed with the fact that people knew and liked me (and were very friendly to him). I was impressed (and grateful) that he was able to entertain himself for what could have been eight very long, boring hours, and quietly shake hands with the various people he met all day.

Sometimes, learning comes much more out of necessity than out of intention. Our own little "Take Your Children" day was certainly evidence of that. And a reminder of how we can learn just a little differently when our kids are involved.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tomorrow Today

My daughter performed in a production of Annie this weekend. She was not Annie. Despite her smallish size, she was not an orphan. She was one of the maids at Oliver Warbucks' house (And an apple seller and a New Yorker on the side.) It was a short production--just a handful of rehearsals and a few shows. Yet, in that short time, she learned as many new things about performing as she has in some of her longer experiences. It reminded me of some of the short gigs I've worked. Sometimes, it just takes the urgency of something short...

1. You haven't got much time to make a good impression--so the impression you're making starts the minute you walk in the door.

2. If you don't learn it quickly, it won't matter if you learn it at all, because the whole thing will be over.

3. When it's short-term, it just about has to be front-burner. Why bother, unless you really want to show how well you "cook?"

4. Enjoy it while you can, because when you blink, it will be over. (And if you've enjoyed it, and people can see that, they will be more likely to invite you back!)

5. Take away as much knowledge as you can. Not only will it work your learning muscles to operate at that pace, it will prepare you for learning even more when you have more time.

6. Let yourself be sad when a short gig is over, but remind yourself to be grateful that it happened.

7. Appreciate the long gigs for the security they have to offer.

8. Take a bow. You've kept up, you've grown, and whether you've been up front every minute or not, you've done something that mattered. Which is really the best thing you can take away from any gig, no matter how long or short.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Marketable Skills

To this day, I still remember sitting across the table from one of my earliest mentors, listening to her talk (intensely, because she was intense) about marketable skills. At the time, she was trying to get me to train as a Control Room PA-- estimating and timing shows, helping Directors give actor notes, and supporting the Associate Directors. In a city that was, at that time, full of soaps and full of control rooms, there were numerous places that would understand the title and the skill set. And, hey, if I followed in her footsteps, I could go from PA to AD to Producer.

All these years later, I still think a lot about marketable skills--those jobs, or parts of jobs, that are understood enough in the outside world that they can help you qualify for the next job. These days, editing tends to top the list. In a city no longer full of soaps and control rooms, fewer people now understand the versions of PA or AD work that I did. The skills may be transferable, but if not understood, they become less marketable. People tend to understand "Editor." And when you attach the name of an editing software, you immediately become more understood, and therefore, more marketable.

Today, with the thought of that long-ago conversation in my head, I decided to edit a new project with software I haven't worked on in years. While it might be a slower process, not as automatic as using the program I work on daily, it might add something to my bag of tricks, a new marketable skill for a changing and increasingly iffy world. I was nervous. Could I really do it? Would I be able to transfer what I knew to master something else? Could I really become proficient enough to add it to my "marketable skills" list?

I am happy to report that my experiment has been a huge success. Not only is the new project coming together, I am realizing that with some practice, I will actually have a new skill, one that is useful, and marketable, in a world that is changing daily.

There's almost always a way to acquire new marketable skills, as long as you're willing to take a little time and a bit of a risk. There's no guarantee that the new line on your resume or LinkedIn profile will get you new work. But it might, and in the process, you've acquired a new skill. And that's always valuable, whether it turns out to be marketable or not.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Being There

Sometimes I wonder how many things I've missed over the years because I was working. How many baby milestones, how many school events, how many conversations passed me by while I was timing scripts or readying cameras or perfecting an edit? What's done is done, I suppose, and while I missed many things, I was actually there for many as well. The truth is, it's hard to balance the needs of work and family. It's hard even to balance the needs of different children, not to mention the simultaneous needs of spouses and other family members and friends. We make choices when we have to, and ultimately, we just try to do the best we can. We can't possibly be everywhere every time, but we can make the decisions that lead to "being there" at least some of the time.

Today, I was faced with needing to "be there" with so many versions of "there" that I couldn't possibly be in all of them. Often, there just aren't enough hours in a day or enough ways to get from Point A to Point B. When all was said and done, however, I realized that, though I hadn't been everywhere, I had been in a few places where it mattered. More important, when I was there--be it at work or in the kid trenches--I was really "there"--meeting the needs of work or meeting the needs of kids, almost as if the other "there" didn't even exist.

We can't be there all the time. There are more people and tasks and events than we have hours in our lives, especially when you consider that being there for ourselves matters too. The best we can do is to stop long enough to make choices about where to be, and to be where we choose as fully as possible. I would like to think that in the long run, my children and my family and my co-workers will remember not the hours I spent here or there, but my really "being there" in whichever place when it really counted. Because "being there" isn't just about showing up. It's about really "being there" once you've arrived.

Friday, February 13, 2015

You Don't Have To

You don't have to know it all. You just have to be willing to ask questions.

You don't have to be willing to ask questions. You just have to be able to search up solutions.

You don't have to be able to search up solutions. You just have to know how to "fake it till you make it."

You don't have to fake it. You just have to remember to use what you've already learned.

You don't have to remember everything you've ever learned. You just have to remember enough to transfer old tricks to new problems.

You don't have to do tricks. You just have to appear to have the magic touch.

You don't have to have the magic touch every day. You just have to make it look good most days.

You don't have to make it look good all the time. You just have to make it happen most of the time.

You don't have to make it happen every time. You just have to do your best all the time.

You don't have to feel that your best is not enough. It won't always be. But if you've asked, and searched, and remembered, and even pulled a few rabbits out of a few hats, all you really need to know is that you've done what you can. And that's all any of us really has to do.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clearing The Inbox

Well into my work-at-home, "will I ever work again?" day, I decided to pare down my inboxes--not the kind where you actually have things to be handled, but the email ones, which pile up hundreds of messages in the blink of an eye. Either you've read them, and decided that they might be of value, practical or sentimental, in the future, or you haven't read them, because of time constraints or because they were job search related, and you were working at the time. Somehow, you end up with a massive, largely useless, history held in an online storage vault. And so, today, having accomplished a few things of real importance, I took an hour to bring the "massive" down to just "large."

In among the solicitations for sales and coupons and discounts (easily trashable) were several years worth of job postings. Clearly, days of "I might look back at that one" had turned into months of saved "recommended jobs" notices. As I went back in time, I was reminded of my days at home, applying here, there, and everywhere to jobs I know now probably didn't even exist. I was reminded of all the postings I forwarded to friends, so that they too could feel they were doing something in the battle to find work. I was reminded of just how long it has been since my workplace of twenty-some odd years went away. Time may go quickly, and the day-to-day may often eclipse the big picture. But an inbox full of undeleted emails spells it out in black and white.

When I was finished, a great deal of this "history" was gone. My inbox is not empty--I don't live that way in my email any more than I do in my apartment--but it is far less cluttered than before. I took a brief trip down memory lane, the job-hunter edition, and I feel just a little bit wiser, and a whole lot lighter, than before.

What have I learned from clearing the inbox? There's nothing wrong with being reminded of where you've been, as long as you don't let where you've been crowd out where you're going.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

9ish to 5ish

I have never, in my entire career, had the hours of 9 to 5. As a PA, I worked 7am to wrap, as an AD, assorted hours long and short, but never 9 to 5. Even working 8-hour editing shifts in news, my 9 to 5 has mostly been 11 to 7. I have learned over the years never to count on hours. A scheduled 7pm finish might extend until 8 or 9 or midnight. And so it is that I have led a life with only limited commitments on work days, knowing that what I think is the schedule might just blow up in my face.

These days, I have begun to take back a little control over my hours. Perhaps it's the transition out of extensive child care. Perhaps it's the realization that things missed don't come back. Or maybe it's the knowledge that as a freelancer, you could easily let the work, when it's there, take over your life--and then find things in your life are over when the work's not there.

Today, I was struck by the iffyness of it all--the realization that you can start a work day--at 7 or 9 or 11--thinking it will be one way, and finish--at 7 or 9 or 5--discovering that it has turned out completely differently. It was a reminder that, no matter what the hours, the hours need to be something you can live with. Because while they are ticking by, to a later end, or sometimes even an earlier one, the rest of life will be ticking by too. And you wouldn't want to be so caught up in 9ish to 5ish that you miss it all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Potluck Luck

This weekend, we hosted a potluck dinner for the families in one of my kids' classes. While I am not a particularly social being, I like setting up things, from the arranging of chairs to the welcoming of guests to the organizing of food. When I am hosting, I can be social, but I am glad to have lots of arranging to back me up.

As a parent, you attend lots of these events over the years--birthday parties, class dinners, school fundraisers--and no matter what the occasion, it doesn't seem to change. You find yourself watching your kids interact, and can't quite help interacting with other parents yourself.

What is changing, however, is the conversation. Once upon a time, we mostly talked about our kids and all their little habits. While that hasn't completely gone away, I found that this time, with our kids a little older, we parents were talking more about ourselves. While many of us still introduced ourselves with the emphasis not on our own names, but on "_____'s parent," many of us actually seemed to have identities separate from those of our kids. I spoke to one woman who has gone back to school for a master's degree, and another who has completely changed the course of her career. We talked about city parks and computer networks. It wasn't that we didn't talk about our kids at all. It was just that we talked about ourselves as well. In a life in which worrying about my own jobs or fears or aspirations can make me feel that I am missing or ignoring parts of my kids' lives and needs, this potluck dinner was a reminder that it's okay to be "_____'s mother" and a grownup. It's okay to be interested in your own dreams and successes as well as those of your kids.

Another class potluck has come and gone, and I can't say for sure whether the kids and/or their families really bonded. I can say, however, that I came away with a belly full of good food, and, more important, a head full of of new ideas. And that sounds pretty lucky to me.

Monday, February 9, 2015


This morning, I was part of shooting a video trailer for the kids' book on which I've worked this last year. There was no pre-production meeting. There was no large crew or fancy lighting--just a few of us writers, a few kids, and, it turned out, an apartment so full of prop and costume items that it could be a production studio.

As my colleagues quickly researched eras and styles, I found myself saying "Yeah, I have that," to almost every request, then ransacking drawers and closets to find whatever it was. You might argue that I have a treasure trove--it certainly seemed that way. What I really have is years of my family's life that I cannot bear to throw away. There are toys well past being used that still live in plastic boxes. There are jackets that no longer work, and costumes from years of dress-up playdates and Halloweens. There are pieces of jewelry that would take too much thought to wear daily, but that both bring back memories and create a sense of era.

I am hopeful that our several hours of shooting will make a trailer that accurately represents the book and gets the word out about it. In the meantime, I am happy to see that a messy and overcrowded apartment can serve a purpose. It may not make life smooth on a daily basis, but it makes for an excellent on-the-fly prop and costume house.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


When I was in high school, I desperately wanted to be a cheerleader. It was not meant to be. I wasn't terribly coordinated or flexible, and I can't imagine the little pleated skirt uniform would have done much for my figure. Still, I hummed the cheers in my head as I sat at school basketball games, and I had hope for a while, until I moved on to other things.

Looking back now, I'm not sorry I never became a cheerleader. I probably would have tired quickly of traveling all over with the various teams and having to smile and show off the uniform all the time. Sometimes, however, I think about the cheers and the energy that they brought. These days, being a cheerleader isn't about wearing a little uniform and hanging out with the cool kids. These days for me, being a cheerleader is about checking in on job-searching friends and reminding them to hope and stay strong. These days, being a cheerleader is about commiserating with other parents, cheering them on when they're going through rough stuff. These days, being a cheerleader is about encouraging younger co-workers to learn and explore and be the best they can be, and about supporting my kids through tests and rehearsals and life in general.

All those years ago, I couldn't make the cheerleading team, no matter how hard I tried. What I've learned all these years later is that, uniform or not, there's an important place for us cheerleaders who might not be able to do the jumps, but can spread the spirit. We all need a cheerleader on our side sometimes, and most of the time, we don't care if our cheerleader can jump the highest or dance the best. If she (or he) can give us a little "rah" when we need it, that's worth more than all the jumps and lifts and splits put together.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

You Thought...

...that you wouldn't be going to work, but, surprise, surprise, you did.

...that things would be the same as yesterday, but, surprise, surprise, they weren't. (Are they ever, really?)

...that you were immune to letting stress bother you, letting uncertainty rattle you, letting failure undermine your confidence, but, surprise, surprise, you're no more immune than anyone else.

...that a hot shower and a change of scenery could reset your head from a trying day, but, surprise, surprise, the shower and the scenery only work some of the time.

...that you could change the world, or at least your own world, with a letter or a conversation or a decision, but, surprise, surprise, changing is a whole lot harder than staying the same.

...that, at the end of the day, you would at least have people in your corner, and, hey, you do.

...that, at the end of the day, a warm meal and a warm robe could make a little difference, and hey, it did.

...that you could, for a moment, put away the stress and the uncertainty and the failure, and just smile, and hey, it worked.

Sometimes thinking doesn't translate to happening, but once in a while it does. So keep thinking--you might just end up with what you thought.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Out Of The Little Room

I've been editing in a little room. I have a table and a chair and an editing computer, a giant air conditioner behind me and a TV monitor above me. And with the exception of trips to the coffee maker and the microwave, I don't leave my little room much. You could argue that this sounds ridiculous. But I like my little room, and I focus better when I stay there.

These past few weeks, I haven't spent much time editing in my little room. Circumstances shift, and things change, and we are pushed out of the comfort of our little spaces to see what is out in the world. It can be scary. After all, when you're in a little space with a lot of focus, it feels that you are accomplishing big things. When you step out of the small space into the big world, it's harder to see the accomplishments, harder to focus on the task at hand. It can be scary, but it can also be exciting. Outside of the little room, there are new people to meet and new things to learn and new focus and accomplishments to be found. Leaving the little room doesn't mean we can never go back. It just means exploring, and maybe even enjoying, a few things beyond the door. Stepping out of a place of comfort into to a place of new adventures.

My little room has given me so much--new knowledge, new skill sets, new accomplishments, new friends. But sometimes, it's time to open the door and take a few steps--enough steps, at least, that we can see a bit of what's outside our little rooms.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What's It Worth To You?

If you read enough job postings and articles about freelancing, you can make yourself pretty crazy about the value of anything. Juxtaposed with ads that expect you to offer your services for barely more than (or not even as much as) it costs you to get to and from work and pay a sitter while you're working are columns reminding you that under-charging for your work makes people under-value that work.

So, how do you know what anything's worth in a world where something for nothing has become fairly close to the norm? Some thoughts....

1. If you're learning enough from it that it has some of the value of taking a course, it's probably worth doing--as long as the costs associated with doing it don't add up to way more than any course would cost.

2. If it takes time from your family and gives no value--monetary or otherwise--back to you or your family, it's probably not worth doing.

3. If it is a step toward or a step forward or even just a step in a new direction, it's probably worth doing.

4. If the something for nothing is likely to occupy your brain more than the work itself, it's probably not worth doing.

5. If it's for a friend who will still be a friend, it's probably worth doing.

6. If it's a step back with not even a sign of a step forward, it's probably not worth doing.

7. If it will increase your value--in self-worth, or bill-paying capacity, or new skill sets--it's probably worth doing.

8. If you have to wonder, not once, but over and over, if it's worth doing, there's a good chance it's not worth doing.

In a work world that is turned upside down, it's easy to lose sight of your own worth. Yet, that's the most important time to hang on to the value you have to offer. What's it worth to you? As long as you don't forget to ask that question, you're a step closer to being appreciated for your full value.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

4am Email

I woke up at 4am with a congested headache, likely the result of that nasty combination of outdoor snow and ice and indoor dry heat. Surely, a glass of water would help, so I stumbled to the dark kitchen, poured and drank a bit, feeling the congestion clear with each sip. And then, I checked my email. Hey, I was up, and it would save me time later when I was rushing to make lunches and get kids out the door.

The problem with checking your email at 4am, particularly when you have gone to bed far earlier than the people who send all their emails at 11pm, is that you find out about a lot of things you don't really want to deal with at 4am, things that make it awfully hard to go back to sleep until 5. Mixed in with the department store solicitations and the daily news digests were forms to fill out and questions asked and things that needed responses. So when, having had my drink and calmed my headache, I crawled back into bed for my well-deserved, but almost missed, last hour of sleep, there was no sleep to be had. For while the department store solicitations and daily news digests had been moved to "Trash" without a second thought, the forms and the questions danced in my head as the minutes till the alarm ticked by. And before I knew it, I was up, well before the alarm. Because there is no point in sleeping when you're not sleeping. There are too many things to do, emails to read, responses to be sent.

The headache may still be clouding things, but the thoughts are still clear--never check your email at 4am--at least not if you plan to keep sleeping till 5.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ultimate Responsibility

I often feel as though my success as an AD--or as many other things--has come more from a sense of ultimate responsibility than from a particular natural talent. Ultimate responsibility--you know, that thing that makes you jump in and fix a situation, even when it's not technically your job. The thing that empowers you to speak up about framing a shot better or telling the story better or giving an actor a note to make the performance better, even when that's not technically your obligation. The feeling that the outcome is a product of your own making, even when you are surrounded by people far more accountable for that product than you are supposed to be. Ultimate responsibility.

What's interesting about ultimate responsibility is how separate it can be from job titles and pay scales and just about any other objective measure of a workplace. Ultimate responsibility is about a state of mind, a willingness to take on ownership of things you don't really own, and a feeling that you can make a difference, and that you should. There have been days when I worried that my feeling of ultimate responsibility was misplaced--that I was taking on far more than my obligation, and taking far too much weight off of other people's obligations. That's just how it is when you act from a place of ultimate responsibility. But when I think back, and when I think forward, I wouldn't have it any other way. Ultimate responsibility is what makes me sure of my contribution--to any job on any project--and it's what makes me good at and satisfied with what I do.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sunday Night Limbo

I am quite sure that during my time at ABC, there were Sundays that I spent dreading Monday. Though I was working largely with friends, Monday still meant getting up and out early and possibly working late. Monday still meant proving myself, whether that was by timing the show correctly, or understanding the director's vision in the studio or in the edit, or directing scenes in a way that satisfied both the actors and my producer. 

Sunday is still Sunday, but these days, Sunday is more about question marks than about dread. Will I be working? When? Where? And will I need babysitting, or will my kids' activities and my work (or no work) line up some days so that we can cover the bases on our own? Once upon a time, all I needed was a good night sleep going into Monday. These days, it sometimes seems as though I need a compass and a road map. 

So what about that dread I sometimes had? Usually, it was unfounded. Once I showed up and started working, things generally worked out. It might be early, and it might be long, but it was just the way work was, and the next day, I'd do it all over again. The difference now is that "all over again" has become a relative term. In a freelance life, no two weeks are necessarily the same, meaning that no two Sundays can be counted on to be the same either.

Today was a Sunday of limbo, ending in a Sunday night preparing to work on Monday. As for next Sunday, who knows? I've got a whole week-- working or not--before I'll find out.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Looking At Me

As a New York City parent, you spend a significant part of your life taking your children to places where people evaluate them. There are tests and interviews for preschool and kindergarten, longer tests and interviews for middle and high school, and any number of other situations where your children are subjected to people looking at them to evaluate their intelligence or their behavior or their "play well with others" skill. It's not surprising, then, when you realize that all they really want most of the time is to be left alone--to be allowed to stay in their natural habitat, not obligated to prove anything to anyone.

It struck me, as I sat waiting for my son during one of these visits, how similar--yet different--all of this is to job searching. In both cases, you are being "looked over," evaluated on your past performance and numbers and on how well you hold up on the spot in an "interview." In both cases, the goal is to aim for the top places and the right fit, and to be seen as more suited than all the other people around you. In both cases, you try to put your best foot forward, in an effort to move to the next step.

There is, however, a difference. While none of us may like job searching, our goal, ultimately, is to get people to look--to put forth a letter and resume so compelling that the recipient just has to see more. While our kids may want to excel, or may want to end up in the place with the biggest gym or the best food or the individual lockers, they would rather not be "looked at," even if their performance and numbers make that compelling. Isn't it good enough that they just do what they do on a daily basis?

So, as I go through my own process of letter-writing and thinking "just look at me," I am glad that every so often, my kids can take a pause from that. There will be years more of being looked at in their futures. They deserve a little time for just doing their best and being themselves, while they can still have it.