Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tonight's Homework Is...

Tonight, I oversaw a homework assignment in which my son had to identify groups of which he was a part. Having written some on his own, he asked me to suggest some others, which I did. I watched as he included not all of my ideas, but only those referring to the things he likes to do. It turns out that he didn't want to identify himself as being a part of any group that certainly includes him, but not by his choice.

My dismay at his separating himself from particular groups quickly gave way to a certain respect. You see, he was perfectly comfortable identifying himself as part of the groups he liked, but not as part of the ones he didn't. He felt no obligation to be a part of every group that might take him. He was choosing to define himself not by everything he does, but by the person he feels he is.

As adults, we tend to want to include everything we do when we describe ourselves. If we are capable of doing something, surely people should know it. We look to be part of as many "groups" as possible, hopeful that our inclusion will open doors for us.

What would happen if we, like my son, placed ourselves only in the "groups" that really mattered to us? Would we end up doing more of what we really wanted? Would we end up giving ourselves, and other people, a clearer picture of who we really are or who we really want to be?

Obviously, this was just a homework assignment. But it was a reminder that we grownups might do well to listen to our kid voices, and put ourselves in the groups where we'd like to be, rather than just the groups where we feel we should be. Perhaps along the way, we'd be presenting a clearer picture of ourselves--and giving ourselves a little clearer perspective on who we actually are.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Approaches

Today, it was formally announced that Tainted Dreams, a soap opera (about soap operas!) produced by a bunch of my former co-workers, had been picked up for international distribution. I had the privilege of doing some assistant editing and transcription for the show, so I can say firsthand that it will be a great offering for international audiences. It's amazing to see what can be done with a dream and a belief and long hours and a long list of talented people in front of and behind the camera, and I am excited to see that the dream and the effort have been appreciated.

A number of years ago, the Daytime Emmys introduced a category called New Approaches, to encompass shows like this, made outside of the traditional production model and distribution system. As the Daytime Emmys took place this weekend, I thought a lot about how most of what I (and probably many of the people I've ever worked with) are relying on "new approaches" these days. The rules of the past don't necessarily apply, in getting work, in keeping work, or in the kind of work we do. In order to stay current, and solvent, we often have to rely on "new approaches," whether that means expanding our skill set, scrambling to be able to follow our dreams, or walking multiple paths simultaneously, just to make sure one of them is a good one.

The team of Tainted Dreams took a traditional format, and with a whole bunch of "new approaches," and a lot of hard work, created something that will now be seen around the world, and perhaps, for many more than its current set of episodes. It is an inspiration to me, and perhaps to us all--there is always room for a new approach.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Too Fast, Too Slow, Too Easy, Too Hard

I try to fit a lot of things into what feels like not that many hours. Sometimes, this means that I draft a letter and send it off, spell-checked, but not read and re-read. After all, if I don't get it out quickly, before I get on the treadmill of life, it might not go out at all. But maybe too fast means not good enough, not complete enough, not perfect enough.

I want to make sure I'm taking the right steps, choosing the right paths, doing the right things to get where I'm going. Sometimes, that means that I am too slow to react when an opportunity comes along. I weigh the options too thoroughly, I question my abilities too much. And while I am being too slow, the moment of opportunity passes.

I want things to fit. I want family life to fit with work, I want work to fit my goals, I want to be both here and there. I want it to be easy, or at least doable. But sometimes, easy is boring.

I want to be challenged. I want to feel that I've done things that mattered, even when it was hard. I want it to be hard, as long as it's doable. But sometimes, hard is difficult to manage.

Life would be pretty gray if we didn't go a bit too far or try a bit too hard sometimes. There are times when I realize that going too fast has allowed me to leap into opportunities I wouldn't have taken if I had thought too long. There are times when I realize that taking it slow has kept me from jumping into things that maybe I didn't want to do anyway. I guess all I can hope for is some kind of balance, so that things are not too fast to be right or too slow to be efficient, too easy to be worthwhile or too hard to be manageable. And maybe somewhere in the middle, too much will become just right.

Monday, April 27, 2015

We'll Fix It In The Edit

As my career in TV and video has progressed, I have heard more and more often the words "we'll fix it in the edit." Production crew time being as costly as it is, the general approach is to shoot everything, in as many ways as possible, and construct the final product in a dark room, with more controllable conditions--to "fix it in the edit."

This mindset has certainly provided me with some of my most challenging, and perhaps most satisfying, edits. It's a lot of fun to be able to create a story from pieces, and it is a lot of fun to create a coherent whole from parts that didn't quite work together. Sometimes, however, "fix it in the edit" leaves you with things that can't really be fixed. It is a solution, but a solution that necessitates compromise.

As I worked today to try to fix a broken stuffed animal, I though a lot about things we can fix, and those we can't...

Sometimes, we can find something that is lost by digging deep and straightening up our space, but sometimes, something is just lost in the world, or the victim of "finder's keepers," and no amount of digging or straightening will get it back.

Sometimes, we can fix hurt feelings with a hug or with some comforting words, but sometimes, we can only stand by and watch our children or our friends recover on their own.

Sometimes, we can fix something at work by working harder or staying longer, but sometimes, there are things that no amount of time or work can fix.

Sometimes, we can fix what we said in haste, but sometimes, what we say just can't be "edited out."

Sometimes, we can fix the sequence of events, but only by telling a different story than we were planning to tell.

As I have I learned many a day in the edit room, sometimes things can be "fixed in the edit," and sometimes, it would have been worth the time and money to get it right in the studio or field. As editors, as parents, and as people, we are called upon to work miracles daily. But miracles come with compromises. And sometimes, a repaired stuffed animal, while seemingly whole again,  is never quite the same as before. It may still be soft, and it might still make you smile. But if it's lost some stuffing, it may, like a scene not well-shot, be only part of what it might have been.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Old Habits May Die, But New Habits...

When my time at ABC was over, I missed the people. I missed the paycheck and the familiar place and the autopilot of how each of my days began. And when certain times of year rolled around, I realized that I missed all sorts of things that had become habit--the Christmas gag reel in December, the frenzy of sweeps shows in May, the preparing of expanded credit rolls in November for the shows that would air over Christmas and New Year's. It's hard to see habits die. The habits in our lives give us a solid footing. They remind us where we've been. They let us know where we are and where we are going.

Today, however, as I walked across town with my son, in what has become a new Saturday habit,  I was struck by how good it felt to realize a new habit had emerged. It's not that this is the first--there have been all sorts of new habits over the last few years. But today, I was reminded that sometimes, we can only discover new habits by letting go of some of the old ones. If I were still racing to work at the crack of dawn, I would never have been able to have the coffee conversations I've had. If I were still consumed with just one genre or form of production, I would never have been exposed to the others that have expanded my mind and my skill set. If I were still walking the same path each day, I might never have discovered new paths and different kinds of time for myself and with my kids.

It's hard to give up things that have become habits. It can be scary to make new habits and new traditions, and sad to see times pass without the habits we expect during those times. But if we allow ourselves to break a habit here and there, we may find not only a good set of new habits, but a whole new way to think, and some new and exciting ways to live.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thoughts and Reminders

I thought I led a scheduled life, because I live by school bus times and afterschool activity pickups and school vacations. And then I met a mom of a one year old, and I was reminded of what "scheduled" can mean.

I thought I was pretty successful at getting a good breakfast into my kids before they walked out the door. And then I talked to a mom who makes green veggie and fruit shakes that her kids actually like, and I was reminded of what "healthy" really means.

I thought I was fairly hard-working and ambitious, and then I met a colleague who was thinking new thoughts every minute and making new plans every minute in between, and I was reminded of what "ambitious" really looks like.

I thought I had learned a great deal about networking, and then I listened to other people introduce themselves at a networking event, and I was reminded that I'm still learning.

I thought I was a reasonably involved parent, and then I saw another mother playing catch with her son at the baseball field, and I was reminded that "involved" clearly means different things to different people.

I thought I was living an overwhelming life, and then I read posts about hospitals and journeys and challenges and losses, and I was reminded that "overwhelming" is most certainly a relative term.

I thought maybe I was doing a lot of things that didn't much matter, but then I got a comment on a blog and a hug from a child, and I was reminded that a lot of it matters more than I often realize...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Caffeinated Week

Through the magic of scheduling, this has turned into a week of coffee meetings. Each morning, I have ventured to a different beverage venue to meet a different friend or colleague, and for a combined total of over five hours, I have drunk coffee (or assorted caffeinated alternatives) and chatted about life.

Some of my coffees have focused on work, others on parenting, some, on a combination of the two. There have been days when the focus was squarely on me, and days when I got to focus on someone else (it can be a great relief to step away from your own issues for a while). Yet, each morning, I headed into the rest of my day with a little caffeine, and a lot of new perspective on life.

When I first finished One Life to Live at ABC, a friend told me to arrange coffees to meet new people in my industry (and other potentially interesting fields), and to network in general. Coffee, she said, was something almost anyone could spare the time and money to do, and an hour could work wonders for my career and my mindset. All these years later, I still find she is still right. This week, I caught up with friends from multiple eras in my life. I was alerted to new opportunities and reassured that I was not alone in parenting and life concerns. And I began each day with a mind more open to seeing possibilities.

Not every week will be such a caffeine-filled week, but the insights I've gained over these mornings of coffee will likely stay with me, and propel me toward my next coffee week--and toward all the things out there that are waiting to be found and drunk in.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Take All Of Me. Go Ahead, You Too

I tend to commit fairly fully to things--if I'm there, for that period of time, I'm really there. Whether it's parenting or networking or work, the other pieces often disappear while I focus on one, meaning I come home from work not having made personal business phone calls, and I come home from a little league game having forgotten that I have hours of networking emails to generate. It's not that I can't multitask. I simply find that many of life's situations ask me to give all of myself, at least for a certain period of time, and I'll admit, it sometimes feels really good to give myself completely.

How, though, do we give all of ourselves not once, but over and over, to so many different things? How can we possibly have enough of ourselves to be able to say "Take all of me" to our work, to our families, and to whatever non-work endeavors we choose to pursue? And if we essentially "give away" all, what is left for us when all of the various pieces fall away?

As I walked out of a school counselor's office, having immersed myself in one topic for over an hour, and realized that I had not only a series of emails and phone messages that needed addressing and a whole set of other "things to do" that I hadn't gotten to, and probably wouldn't get to today, I was glad for the feeling of giving my whole self for that hour, but terrified that each piece or hour I give means a piece or hour not used for moving up the work ladder or writing a little more or even cleaning up my apartment. I can say "Take all of me" over and over, and feel good about my sense of commitment, but at the end of the day, there is just one of me, and only a certain number of hours, so "all of me" simply can't be everywhere. Immersion in job will necessarily take me out of the parenting picture sometimes. Immersion in parenting will necessarily take me out of the pursuing ambitions picture sometimes. There is nothing wrong with saying "Take all of me," but "all of me" can't be everywhere all the time. I suppose I just have to hope that sometimes, "some" is enough. That sometimes, "all of me for this hour" is enough. Because you can take all of me. You just have to be willing to share.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Perspective Lessons

I remember learning in middle school art how you could draw a "v" shape with a big thing at one end and a small one at the other, and suddenly, you were creating distance perspective. I was no artistic genius, but I could certainly perform this little trick, and I enjoyed the power it gave me to make something look like, well, something interesting.

In life, perspective is much harder to come by. Every day, we find ourselves in situations that we can view only from where we stand in them. We have only our own perspective, and perhaps that of the people immediately surrounding us, to judge our circumstances. We can't really see any sort of "big picture," as I learned to do in middle school art. We simply see the flat images before us. And often, that's just not enough.

So, where, as grownups, do we go for perspective lessons?

I find a great deal of my perspective in coffee shops. No, I don't go to coffee shops to see how others live (though it is interesting to wonder what all the people hunkered down for hours with cups and laptops are working toward). Rather, I find out, over coffee with friends, and fellow parents, and industry acquaintances, whether my experiences elicit nods or raise eyebrows. In an hour of conversation, I find out whether I am on target or off. I acquire new views and new ideas, all of which essentially make up perspective.

I also get perspective lessons from my kids, and from other people's kids. It's hard to lecture a kid about the value of hard work or the pain of unfair treatment, or the effects of bullying without seeing how at least some of these play out in the grownup world. And if you can't see the connections yourself, your kids--no matter what age--are sure to point them out.

And then there's the Internet. I know, you can't believe everything you read there. But you can get perspective on how many people are dealing with the same things, or worse ones. You may get a much bigger picture, or many more pictures, than you want, but you will clearly escape living in the vacuum of no perspective at all.

Often, most of what it takes to gain perspective is looking to the big end of that "v" you learned to draw in middle school art--seeing a wider view, rather than just the speck of your own. And you don't have to be a genius, artistic or otherwise, to know that a picture with more perspective gives a much clearer sense of what's really going on.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Next To Normal (No, Not The Musical)

Today, I began a week of work. Which seems not such an odd thing. People do that all the time, every week, with nothing earth-shattering about it. Yet, after many weeks of unscheduled hiatus, and many weeks more of on-and-off hiatus before that, today felt bigger than just a regular Monday. We work hard to make ourselves and our kids adaptable, and somehow, in just a few months, my kids and I had adapted to my not necessarily beginning a week of work on Monday. So today felt good with its return to normalcy, yet odd with its redefinition of what normalcy actually means...

Is "normal" working the same hours and days as the people around you? (Have I ever had that "normal?")

Is "normal" knowing what you need to do, so that you can accomplish it efficiently, or reacting to every curve ball, so that you're never quite sure what you'll accomplish?

Is "normal" knowing which bases you need others to cover and which you can cover yourself?

Is "normal" having a plan for how home will work with work, and sticking with that plan?

Is "normal" feeling good about your work or simply feeling good that you're working?

Is "normal" being available to field the crises and semi-crises, or being totally unavailable and trusting that they will work themselves out?

Is "normal" being tired from work or being tired from wanting work?

Is "normal" making dinner before dinner time or throwing together dinner before the time for dinner has passed?

Is "normal" introducing yourself as where you work or as who you are?

These days, I guess there really is no "normal," since "normal" seems to change every day. The key, then, is adapting, making each day right, even when there's no clear way to make it "normal." What will tomorrow's "normal" be, or next week's? I have no idea. Perhaps it's time to start accepting that life from now on will simply be "next to normal."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Imperfect Fit

I didn't used to care about a perfect fit. I figured I had done so many things in my life, and was open to doing so many others, that it wasn't important to look for the perfect fit job. It was more important to look for potential fits and then learn new skills or new information to adjust accordingly.

Then the job searching world came along, reminding me that a person who had edited 33-minute shows couldn't possibly edit 32-minute ones, pointing out that someone who had told stories for grownups couldn't possibly tell stories for children, telling me that a person a year out of college who had garnered an Associate Producer title was more qualified for a job called "Producer" than I, who had produced from a variety of seats but had rarely held the title. And somewhere along the way, I bought into it all. I stopped writing raise the roof cover letters for jobs that seemed interesting, but were not perfect fits. I stopped applying on automated websites to positions for which I wouldn't perfectly hit all the keywords. I gave up believing that I could make a great success without a perfect fit.

The problem is, you miss out on a lot of adventure by looking only for the perfect fit. You stop learning and growing when you accept that all you can do is what you can do right now. The time for perfect fits needs to be over. It's time to start reaching again, to start looking harder for the words that will make me match, or at least make me stand out. It's time to take a little risk and to get the world to take a little risk on me. It's time to stop waiting for the perfect fit and start working with the imperfect ones. Because perfect may not come along too often. And if we keep waiting for perfect, we'll be missing out on a lot of what may be imperfect, but is still very, very real.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inside Out

As I attempted to accomplish the assorted tasks of a weekend, I was struck by the volume of people outside all around me. People carrying flowers, people sitting in cafes, people toting bags of green market fruit, people with bikes and balls. It's not so surprising, really. It was a sunshine and fresh air kind of day, one of the first real spring days we've seen, after a winter we couldn't seem to see past.

I finished my errands and returned home. There were to be other walks to do other things, but at the center were things that needed to be accomplished. No particular focus on recreation, just too many things to be done with never really enough time to do them.

As I came inside, I wondered about all those people enjoying the weather. Was I one of them once? Did I used to have the time and money for brunch-ing in cafes? Did I once take the sunshiney morning to mean that an outdoor activity should be planned? Has my life become so full of to-do's that there's no room any more for let's-do's? Am I so busy covering the bases that I have forgotten to enjoy uncovering the seasons?

There was fresh air, but in the context of getting to and from home. There was time outside, but only alternated with time inside. I saw the nice day, but mostly from the window I looked out while doing laundry and helping with a school project. On a day like this, I wonder, are we sometimes living inside out?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some Days

Some days, walking out the door is the hardest part.

Some days, you walk out the door just fine, but find that getting where you need to go is a struggle every step of the way.

Some days, once you get where you need to go, you realize you'd really rather be right back where you started.

Some days, you're fine where you are, but you feel as though you're supposed to be somewhere else.

Some days, when you think about being somewhere else, you have a hard time imagining not being where you are.

Some days, your imagining takes you to places you never even imagined.

Some days, there's not even a moment for imagining.

Some days, the minutes go so slowly, you figure you'll never be done.

Some days, the moments go so quickly, you can't possibly get done all you have to do.

Some days, the moments make you glad you walked out the door in the morning.

Some days, the hours make you wish you had never walked out the door in the morning.

Some days, you're just ready for today to be another day.

Most days, you figure tomorrow will be.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Stepping Forward

On days when I'm not working, I walk. A lot. Whether it's a choice to save bus money or the determination to come out of an unemployed day at least slightly more fit, I tend to cover multiple miles on foot--transporting children, running errands, or simply traveling from any Point A to any Point B.

Am I really any fitter for my lack-of-work walks? I'm not sure. But it occurs to me that the walking accomplishes something actually more important than keeping me in shape or saving a few dollars. When I walk, I am moving forward. I am taking steps ahead. On days when it feels as though it is hard to make any forward motion (and days not working can be that way), charging out into the world on foot makes me feel effective. It makes me feel powerful.

Today, I stepped back into a day of work. I walked only there and back--no miles upon miles under my belt. I am glad for the work, no doubt about that. But I kind of miss the walking. The charging out. The taking steps, and taking control. So, where will I be going from here? Hard to say. I'll have to take the steps to find out. Wherever it is, I figure I'll try it. As long as while I'm at it, I remember to keep stepping forward.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Publishing Party

Toasts, snacks, and bookmarks bearing the cover art of our title--the publishing of Dear Journal, You're Freaking Me Out is official.

Though I wrote a chapter, participated in numerous author meetings, and edited and helped shoot the trailer video for the book (, the whole publishing part has been a bit unreal to me. While it is not a book in my hand, it is most certainly a book I bought from Amazon's e-book selection ( It lives on my phone, and hopefully, soon, on many other people's phones and iPads and Kindles. It is real. And I was (and am) part of it.

As I mingled at the publishing party tonight, I found myself talking primarily to my co-authors, most of whom would happily go through such a process again. It was challenging--bringing together the needs and interests of twenty writers, creating a coherent entity from so many different viewpoints and styles, carving out time in already busy lives. Yet, in the end, we are staring at a book we wrote. We are toasting not some other author's publication, but our own. We are taking what we learned in the process, and moving on to the next steps in our lives. Perhaps with a little more confidence, a few new skills, and the perspectives of a room full of co-authors, who, in some ways, will become our collaborators for life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Hard Questions

What do you do? What do you want? Why are you here?

These three questions probably cover the majority of what is asked on any job application or in any job interview. The questions may not always sound quite like this, but essentially, what someone wants to know is what skills you have to add, what you are looking to do with those skills, and why you and your skills would fit well with the place in question. When we prepare for an application or interview, we want to answer these just the right way, which seems simple, right? Aren't they pretty simple questions?

It turns out that these are not actually so simple, in job searching or in life...

What do you do? Well, are you talking about your specific job competencies, or are you talking about the myriad other skills you employ every day to make sure people get where they need to be, to keep self-esteem (yours and others') high, and to get the tasks of life accomplished? And are you talking about all the things you've ever done, or just the ones that you like, or those that are relevant now? Not so easy.

What do you want? On the one hand, we answer this question every day. We order lunch, we choose fruits and vegetables, we decide what to watch on television. But do we consider each day what we really want when the day is done? And when we are looking for a job, can what we want include not just what we're looking to do, but how that job should fit into our lives, how it affects our kids and our bank account, and how it should make us feel at the end of the day, the week, the year?

Why are you here? We are in a lot of places for a lot of reasons each day--how hard could it be to say why we are anywhere? We go to the laundry room to do laundry, we go to an out of the way grocery store to get a treat we like and can only get there. We choose to go places because they help us accomplish what we need to accomplish. So in a job situation, if we simply say that "here" fits what we need and what we can do, shouldn't that be enough?

It turns out that, as simple, yet not, as these questions may be in everyday life, they are even more complex when looking for a job. We must try to answer the hard questions for ourselves--after all, what we want is about more than just a title and a paycheck. We must also make our answers logical for someone else, and that can make the hard questions even harder.

There's not a lot of time in a day to ask--and answer--the hard questions all of the time. Sometimes it's challenging enough just to get through the easy ones. But when we can face the hard ones, we actually learn a little something about ourselves. And ultimately, this leaves us far more qualified to answer the hard questions on any application and in any interview.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's A Bargain

Perhaps I will accept less pay or late pay or no pay, if only I can spend my hours working instead of looking for work.

Maybe I will accept computer games and video viewing and staring aimlessly at the ceiling and less than tidy rooms, if only I can know that my kids are safe and healthy and happy.

Perhaps I will accept rejection of and ignoring of and general lack of response to resumes and letters and reels I send out into the world, if only I can be reminded once in a while of some of the pretty good things I've done and all of the pretty good things I can still do.

Maybe I will accept piles of laundry to do and dinner to make and organizing to attempt, if only someone will notice.

Perhaps I will make the requisite phone calls and sort through the piles of paperwork if, at least sometimes, I get worthwhile results.

Life is often a series of bargains--ongoing decisions about what is or isn't worth it to us. Sometimes, even the simplest things become choices to be made. And sometimes, what starts out looking not so great turns out to be the best bargain of all. So be careful what you say you won't do. Sometimes a little bargaining leads you to the most interesting choices you've ever made.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Something Will Be Different

There was no ski trip, no amusement park trip, no beach trip. There was nothing life-changing and nothing to remember forever. And yet, as the latest of our school breaks is about to end, I feel somehow changed. Perhaps it is that the week passed with no work for me, meaning that my kids' lack of structure simply mirrored my own. Perhaps it was the awareness of both times repeating, and times changing. Maybe it was the books read and the talks had in rare moments of stillness, or those read and had in the moments of chaos that only lack of normal routine can bring.

Come tomorrow, I will likely feel the emptiness mixed with relief that sending my kids back to their normal lives always brings me. But this time, something will be different. I know it won't be a sunburn or a windburn--it wasn't that kind of vacation. It will have the chill of times past and the hint of the warmth of what is to come. It will soon dissolve and re-form into a daily routine. But because of what it was, and what it wasn't--and because that's just how life is--something will be different.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nobody Tells You

When you're young, and you desperately want mail addressed to you, nobody tells you that mostly mail is bills that need to be paid.

When you're young, and you want a job so that you can make a lot of money to spend on whatever you want, nobody tells you that jobs don't always last and that a lot of money becomes not that much by the time the taxes and rent are paid.

When you're young, and you envy the grownups who get to choose how to spend their own time, nobody tells you that they're not so much choosing as grasping for moments in between all their "have to's."

When you're young, and you're told that you're smart or gifted or talented, nobody tells you that someday, smart and gifted and talented may not be enough.

When you're young, and you just wish school would be over, nobody tells you that even some of the hardest tests you take in school might turn out to seem easier than the tests you'll face in life.

When you're young, and you think that you can conquer the world, nobody tells you that there will be days when you think the world will conquer you.

When you're young, and you think that the best is yet to come, nobody tells you if that's true or not, because the thing is, nobody knows--you just have to grow up and find out for yourself. Each and every day.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Did you ever notice how many times in a day you jump to attention? The alarm buzzes in the morning, and you jump to attention. Your kids need breakfast or lunch or help finding socks, and you jump to attention. Your work calls to say "come earlier" or "come later" or "don't come at all," and you are at the ready, giving your full attention.

The tricky thing is, it's hard to give your real attention to all those things at once. And sometimes, you're so busy paying attention to one that you can't possibly do justice to the others. So, how do you decide what actually deserves your attention? Is it the work, or the socks? Or is it something else completely, something that may not buzz or beep or yell, but merits even more of you than any of the matters that keep you jumping?

One of the lessons I have learned, slowly, over the last few years of work limbo is the management of my attention. The number of people and tasks demanding my attention grows each day--I can't control that. What I can control, however, is how I react. I may jump out of bed each morning when the alarm buzzes, but I don't have to jump every time there's a hint of a work change, one that often turns out to be no more than a hint. I may not need to jump to attention for every missing sock, but I have become better at focusing my attention at home when it matters and not letting my attention stray to things that don't matter.

There will always be people and situations and tasks that will be screaming, "May I have your attention, please!" The key, as far as I can tell, is knowing when it's important to jump to attention, and when it's enough just to listen but keep our attention where it is. Have I got your attention? Good. Now it's your turn to decide where your attention really needs to be.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Waiting For A Sign

I can't always sit and read for a long time. Perhaps it is modern parenthood, perhaps it is a short attention span, perhaps it just comes down to too much going on in the here and now to immerse myself in the there and then.

This week, however, I had the opportunity to read Waiting For A Sign, a middle grade/young adult novel by my friend Esty Schachter. As the hours flew by, I was taken both back to teenage experiences that suddenly seemed like yesterday and into situations so far from my own childhood that they left me speechless. The "must get something done" part of me surrendered to the "let myself be moved" part. I learned, I cried, I felt powerless and powerful, all at the same time. 

Sometimes I question whether I've taken the right paths. Sometimes I wonder if I've followed the wrong things, listened to the wrong people, or squandered all the best opportunities. Sometimes, I wonder if I can trust my own instincts. And often, I hope that there will be some indication that what I'm doing at any given moment is right.

Reading Waiting For A Sign reminded me that there is always time to make a change, to discover yourself, and to make a difference. Whether you are a teenager or a modern parent. Or just someone waiting for a sign...

One Singular Focus

Being a working parent is hard. Being a working but not working parent of three is really hard, at least sometimes. Wrapped up with the coordinating work schedules with school schedules is spending real time with each child, and wrapped up with all of that is focusing enough on yourself to get from not working to working. When you are meeting a bus, it feels as though you should be sending a resume. When you are planning a birthday party, it feels as though you should be planning your approach to a new company. The result, in general, is that you can have singular focus for only brief times, hopefully long enough times to accomplish something. The by-product, in general, is that you feel guilty much of the time, either for doing too little of the right things, or for doing too much of the wrong ones.

Over the last few weeks, although I have certainly struggled to balance the various tasks, and have realized that "accomplished multitasker" should probably go on my resume, I have also had some moments, even hours, when I had singular focus. Whether it was a several-hour stretch focusing on the needs of one child, or an hour when I thought about nothing but an email about one particular job, I have been reminded that it is actually possible to have singular focus in a multitasking world. Sometimes, that means a phone that doesn't emerge from my pocket for an hour. Sometimes it is the result of a time limit or an undeniable need. However it comes about, it tends to end with a feeling of satisfaction that is hard to match with multitasking. When we spend a little time with singular focus, we come out with renewed dedication to a person or a cause. When we exercise our singular focus, we realize that we don't have to respond to the insanity of our lives every moment. It's all still there when we emerge from our singular focus. We are just able to approach it in a different way, having come from the satisfaction of singular focus.

I suspect that most of my days will be the multitasking kind. Life just seems to demand that. But if I can include moments now and then for single tasking, I imagine that both the working and the parenting and the overall satisfaction will be a whole lot easier to manage.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Second (And Third and Fourth) Opinions

Did you ever notice that you go to the same people for advice all the time? It's not too surprising. If people have advised you well in the past, why wouldn't you keep listening? And if you return to the same people, you can generally pick up where you left off. There is no need to review your whole "back story." Your "advisor" already knows it. It's simple, it's dependable, it's perfect. Most of the time.

Don't get me wrong--I am immensely grateful for my "go-to" people--friends and family members who know me well enough (and have enough patience with me) to talk through work and life situations, not once, but many times. They have helped me negotiate choices, practice interviews, proofread letters, and make it through hard situations, and I appreciate that. Sometimes, however, we need to step beyond our normal "advisors," to look for a different perspective, even if getting that perspective means having to tell our story all over again. While our "regulars" may know us so well that they can fill in the things we forget to mention, new listeners require us to relate our story from the beginning. They force us to think through the pieces we usually gloss over. Whether their sage advice is really sage at all, getting that advice requires us to verbalize our issues. It forces us to dig a little deeper and express a little more. And sometimes, that extra thought, particularly when combined with a new set of opinions, can allow us to think in new, different, and often enlightening ways.

I wouldn't give up my regular "advisors" for the world. They keep me focused and on track. They have the patience to hear the same stories over and over and to understand why they are told. They know me well enough to talk things through in shorthand. But I was reminded this week that an outside opinion can be a fantastic addition to a decisionmaking process. When we have to explain, we learn. When we have to look beyond the normal answers, we often start asking beyond the normal questions. And perhaps we find things we never knew existed.

So, to my normal advisors and to the new ones, I say thanks. I make it through my choices because of both of you. I learn to tell my story, and I see it understood, by both of you. I see things more clearly because you point them out differently. And ultimately, the paths that I take include your advice, all along the way.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Farther, Harder, Longer, More

If I walk a little farther, will the view become clearer?

If I work a little harder, will the path become easier?

If I care a little more, will others care more too?

If I stare a little longer, will the words make more sense?

If I listen a little longer, will the sentences tell a real story?

If I research a little deeper, will I have the answers?

If I open my mind a little more, will I ask the right questions?

If I look a little more inside, will I discover who I am?

If I look around a little more outside, will I discover where I should be?

There will always be farther and harder, longer, deeper, and more. Will they make a difference? Difficult to say. So I guess I just keep at it...

Monday, April 6, 2015

It's All Ice Cream

Having ventured beyond our normal neighborhood, we found ourselves with friends in an ice cream shoppe. (It seems to me that anyplace where you can buy ice cream and stay and eat it there should have that "ppe" at the end of its name). The list of flavors was impressive. There was even a printed card to explain some of the most creative among them. I picked one, and received a cup of it, the size of which I never allow myself. It was fantastic.

I had picked a flavor full of tastes I knew I liked, but the truth is, almost any flavor I could have picked from the list would have provided me with a larger than my normal, richer than my normal cup of ice cream. I had taken a long time making my choice, but essentially, with few exceptions, any choice would have been a good choice.

I wonder sometimes, as we look for the best jobs for ourselves, or the best schools for our kids, whether the same is true there. Obviously, we want things that fit--where we can feel comfortable and competent. We want things that provide us with the best opportunities, whether intellectual, social, or financial. But how often do we pass up things that, just like many of the flavors on the ice cream list, would provide us with a large, rich experience, perhaps just as large and rich as we think our "perfect" choice would? We spend a lot of time and energy trying to get it "just right." After all, we won't always be able to enjoy ice cream in an ice cream shoppe--our waistbands and wallets would surely suffer--so we want to make the experience perfect. But just as I realized in the ice cream shoppe that there were actually many good choices, perhaps in life, there are multiple good choices as well. Perhaps success, and happiness, rests not with getting exactly what you want, but with savoring whatever it is you get.

I enjoyed my chocolate raspberry ice cream immensely. I am hopeful that it won't ruin my enjoyment of smaller, less rich treats in the future. But I am also confident that thinking about it will remind me, at least once in a while, not to sweat some of the choices. Because sometimes, you do okay, no matter what you choose. Especially when it's all ice cream.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

In Control...Of Something

When I talk to friends looking for work, the most common thread among them is a continuous feeling of lack of control over their circumstances. While they may continually revise their resumes and cover letters, while they may look daily for ways to lower living expenses while they are short on income, while they may do research and network and learn new skills and seem to be trying all the right things, they still find themselves powerless to make a change in the circumstance that matters most.

It is a feeling I have felt all too often myself. No matter what job we do, what we accomplish in that job (even if what we accomplish is mostly just a weekly paycheck) makes us feel powerful, at least temporarily. We have done something that has made a difference in our field, to our co-workers, or for our families. How, then, do we find power when it feels as though we are stuck in the rut of the powerless?

What I have found myself suggesting, and trying to do myself, is finding little areas of power in life. When we are in periods of work uncertainty, we won't always be able to find the right people to talk to at a company, but with a little effort, we can find things that are lost in our apartments, which can give us a new sense of control over our surroundings. We might not be able to reconstruct a daily life like the one we had, but if we can construct a shelf or a homemade birthday cake or a historical diorama with our kids, we feel good having something to show for our time and energy. We might be unable to change the money coming in, but we can take charge of what's going out (not a bad habit, even when the work isn't a problem).

The point is, lack of control when it comes to our work lives has become more of an issue for many people, but it doesn't have to mean losing our control over the rest of our lives. Scrub a tub, so that it looks the way you want, and you're taking control. Teach your kids a new life skill so that you're not always doing whatever it is yourself, and you're taking control. Reach out to both people you know and people you don't, and you're taking control. Will it get you from Point A to Point B? Not always. But chances are, you'll feel much more in control of your trip.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Not The Plague

Tonight, with the help of a preschool coloring book Haggadah and paper bag puppets representing plagues from frogs to darkness, I recounted the Passover story with a table full of relatives. The paper bags made it pretty amusing, but as I realized my vehement reaction to having the "lice" plague puppet anywhere near my end of the table, I started to think about all the plagues, and the "plagues" with which we deal each day.

Each day, there are plenty of things to complain about, from the cold that has gone through our household and landed squarely on us, to work situations we struggle to manage, to difficulties with our kids that we attempt to handle. It can be overwhelming. Tonight, however, frog puppet in hand, I tried to imagine adding an invasion of frogs or locusts to our daily difficulties. I tried to imagine three days of darkness, or diseases or deaths completely surrounding us. We can choose to view the "Ten Plagues" portion of the Haggadah literally or not, but either way, recounting the plagues gives us a little perspective on the common cold and the late paycheck. It's not that they don't matter. It's just that they start to seem a whole lot more manageable.

I have experienced Passover seders for years--long ones and short ones, ones geared toward kids and ones geared specifically toward women. But somehow, tonight's, puppets and all, made a particular impression. While some of the things in our lives may "plague" us, I figure we're a lot better off than we may have thought.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Reading The Back Story

Quite often, though we may work with people directly or indirectly for many hours over many days, we don't really know much about them outside of the narrow world of that work. Today, I had the occasion to talk to a co-worker and find out a little about where she came from, what she wants, and why she does what she does. In just fifteen minutes, I suddenly had a different picture than a year of daily co-working had given me, and because of that picture, a new perspective on her work, and on my own.

While it is always nice to get to know someone better, what struck me as interesting here was the amount of (I can't resist this soap word) back story we bring to whatever job we do. Why did we come to where we are now, and how did we get in? What past experiences influence how we react to things now? What do we really want, and what are we willing to do to get it?

As on a well-written soap opera, in life, there is usually a back story that drives the action that we see each day. We can certainly react to and work with just what we see--lots of work can get done that way. But when we take a moment to factor in back stories--our own, and those of our co-workers--we are likely to work better, and to be better as a team. We may all be motivated by doing a good job in the moment, but our individual back stories tend to determine what really motivates us, so it matters that people know them, so that we can motivate our teams accordingly.

Today, I got a little reminder that back story is much more than a soap opera term. It matters at least as much in life as it does on the screen. So, while we're facing things head on, we shouldn't forget to read the back story. It may turn out to be exactly what we need to know.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Steps We Take

Having gotten my last child onto his crowded school bus, I headed off to face my day, walking a block I rarely do, where I came upon a line of small school buses that stretched around two corners. Waiting outside one of the block's bigger buildings were teachers who met every bus, carrying backpacks if necessary, holding hands of children small and large who cautiously emerged from each small yellow vehicle. I was on the block for barely a minute, only slowed by navigating through the crowd of waiting teachers, but as I continued past bus after bus waiting to discharge its passengers, I could tell that this was an experience that would stick with me far beyond that minute. When I send my children off to school, I wonder how they will do on today's test, or how they will manage with the richer kids or the smarter kids or the kids who annoy them. I wonder how they will handle the crush of other students, the keeping together of their own stuff, the independence forced upon them at what sometimes seems an early age.

In my minute on this block, I felt both warmed by the gentleness of the bus monitors and teachers who guided the children off the buses, and chilled by all the things these kids' parents must wonder when they put their kids on those buses. I felt suddenly lucky for how easy my kids' lives really are. I felt grateful that there are teachers who stand outside school buildings and hold children's hands if they need it. And most of all, I felt happy that I had found myself walking on this block, because sometimes it takes walking a totally different path, even just for a minute, to realize how simple the steps we take every day really are.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Daytime Emmys 2015

The Daytime Emmy nominations were announced today, and I was excited to see the names of twenty-some odd years worth of my co-workers all over them. There are, of course, countless people with whom I worked in soaps--on different shows, but still producing and writing and composing and lighting. There are the people who transitioned from soaps to talk shows, and children's media people I've gotten to know through the Children's Media Association. Even though I am not "in daytime" this year, it is still where I am connected, meaning today felt like a big day.

On a daily basis, I don't think much about not being in daytime anymore. I think about having work, in whatever area. I think about finding satisfying collaborations, wherever they may be. I look for new challenges and great co-workers, and I have been lucky to find them, at least some of the time.

A year ago, I had the surprise of being nominated myself, for my work on the online version of One Life to Live. Today, when the Emmy nominations were announced, I felt both connected and disconnected--connected, because I knew so many of the nominees, and disconnected, because it suddenly felt like a long time since I was part of that category, a category in which I lived for so many years, even up until a year ago.

But today, no matter where I am (and some days, I'm not sure), I simply offer huge congratulations to all the nominees, especially those who have shaped my career over the last twenty-plus years. It makes me happy to see that daytime is still alive and well, and that some really good people are out there keeping it that way. And who knows? Maybe next year, or someday, I'll be back.