Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Different Eyes

Today, several decades after my own college graduation, I took my daughter to explore my alma mater. It was a day trip--easy, blessed by good weather, and part of an exploratory process that has taken, and will continue to take, us all over.

I was determined to be just the driver--simply the person who got her there, and accompanied her on the tour and to the information session, not the person filling her head with stories of "when I was in college." After all, my experience was many years ago. She is coming from a different childhood, looking for different things, living in a different time. (Let's just say that while I was excited to take one of the earliest Mac computers--floppy disks and all--to college for typing my papers, she was excited to see that there was visitor Wifi all over the campus.)

As we strolled through the grounds, I tried to reconnect with my own walks there during four years so long ago. I remembered certain buildings and pathways. I had flashes of moments when the place was my whole life. I remembered meals and certain accomplishments. And yet, I actually had no memory of ever entering some of the buildings we saw or even considering some of the questions she asked.

Would I choose it again? Maybe. Just as she is different from me, I suppose that I too am quite different from the me who was taking these tours all those years ago. What we see on one day can look very different than what we see on another, and each thing we do or experience allows us to see the next thing with different eyes.

Today, I took my daughter to explore my alma mater. It was fun for me to see it through different eyes--both hers, and mine all these years later. We may have only one pair of eyes, but when we are able to glance just a little differently, or to borrow someone else's pair, just for a moment, it is kind of amazing what we can see. A little forward, a little back. And almost always, more than what we ever saw on our own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Led To Believe

We are led to believe that hard work is enough, but sometimes, it's just not.

We are led to believe that loyalty is important, but sometimes, we don't know to whom we should be loyal.

We are led to believe that we are in control of our own destiny, but sometimes, it feels as though the control is somewhere else.

We are led to believe that we can have it all, but sometimes, "all" feels like just "some of all" or "all of some."

We can work hard because we want to, whether it will be enough or not.

We can be careful with our loyalty, but still stand up for the things and people we believe in.

We can come closer to being in control of our own destiny if we are willing to take control.

We may not be able to have it all, but we can try to focus on having what is most important.

We can be led to believe, or we can make choices about what to believe. Because there's nothing wrong with a little lead--as long as we are going the way we want--and need--to go.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ten Dollar Bag

Every so often, there is a tag sale with a gimmick--"buy one, get one free," "free stuff for kids"--you name it. Today, we happened upon one at which for ten dollars, you could fill a bag. The bag was not huge, but with careful placement, we managed to fit eighteen items in our bag, meaning that for less than sixty cents per item, we came home with a bag of newly found treasures.

Now, for people used to putting down just a few dollars at a time at such sales, the thought of a ten-dollar bag can be met with a moment of "Should we?" Clearly, when you do the math, the result is far better than fifty-cent odds and ends. Yet, it takes a leap of faith to go for the ten dollar bag. Will the return be worthy of the investment?

What we discovered, of course, once home, was that, as with many of the investments we make in life, the leap was well worth it. For ten dollars, we now had close to twenty new items, most of which were worth far more than the amount we had paid. As we filled our bag, we didn't quite know. But the reality is, when you "fill your bag" throughout life, you don't always know. You make your investment, big or small, of money, or of time, or of talent, and you hope that your choices have been good ones. Whether it's a ten dollar bag, or a much pricier risk, sometimes we just can't know until we fill up our bag. And sometimes, taking the risk can give us some of the best finds of our lives.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Elementary school ended today. For the summer. For this school year. For our household. There will be no more school bus. There will be no more one-teacher conference day. There will be no more mass of parents in the classroom, no more kindergarteners as we make our way. This chapter is over.

So much in our lives is fluid. People drift in and out, one project or event seems to blend into another. It is rare, it seems, that we come to actual endings. Each thing is just a path to another. Perhaps in a few months, this will be no different. School will return, even if it is different school, routines will resume, even if they are different routines. Today, however, I feel the door closing behind us. Like my last day at college or my last day at ABC, this feels like the end of something. And I suppose, just like those other times, this will be the beginning of something as well. So, for today, I dwell in the moment of ending. I absorb what is being left behind. Tomorrow, and next week, and in a few months, we will begin again. Because in a life full of endings, that's just what you have to do.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Driver's Seat

Whether you're literally in a car or not, the expression implies control, doesn't it? When we say we are "in the driver's seat," it means that we are making the choices, in charge of the decisions, behind the "wheel" of life.

I was in the driver's seat yesterday. I drove a friend to and from somewhere where my driving made it easier for her. Yet, while I was behind the wheel, I can't say that I was in charge of anything. Could I have made route choices? I suppose, though mostly I was just following the directions on the GPS. Did I make speed choices? I guess, though mostly I was just following what the speed limit signs told me to do. Did I affect the event or the outcome? Not really. I was simply a part of the process--the one operating the vehicle, but really just a part.

So, what, then, does "being in the driver's seat" really mean? Perhaps it means being proactive in our job choices--except that no amount of networking and emailing and resume revision can guarantee our getting what we aim for. Maybe it means taking more responsibility and ownership of our work--except that so many factors besides our own "driving" affect our outcomes, it can be as if there are multiple drivers. Perhaps it means making everything in our day a conscious choice, except that there is rarely a day when we could possibly execute all the stops and turns to make that happen.

What I do know, both from the drive yesterday, and from life, is that being "in the driver's seat" means, above all, keeping our eyes and ears open. Perhaps we don't always choose our route, but we can choose not to be the sleeping passenger. We can't always control how quickly we reach our destination, but we can choose whether to pause for coffee or whether to switch lanes once in a while. The "driver's seat" may not be the place of ultimate control that we have come to imagine. But it can be the place of engagement that will keep us active participants in our life journeys.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Back On The Bike

No, this is not a tribute to bike-sharing. Though the idea impresses me, I am far from comfortable with putting myself on two wheels in among the cars and buses on the New York City streets. I am, however, on Day 3 of a return to the exercise bike. With school schedules winding down, a window of time presented itself, and I climbed through. So, each morning, for the last three, I have donned my gym clothes and spent a half hour with a stationery bike and "Law and Order." And, lo and behold, despite too much time away, I can do it. I may feel "doing it" later in the day, but I can do it. And each day, I wake up determined to do it. I may have been away, but having gone back, I am determined to be back.

I know--a habit that evaporates with the change in seasons isn't much of a habit. As enthusiastic as I am now, I know that I am filling hours that won't exist in quite the same way come September. But I also know that you can't always make your decisions based on "what will be." Sometimes, you have to make your decisions based on "what is." This week, I have the time and the energy to spend on the exercise bicycle and "Law and Order," and it feels good. Next week, or next month, that could all change. Will it mean that I have started something worthless? An exercise routine that will be routine for just an instant? Hard to say. Because sometimes, we have to get back on the bike without worrying where our pedaling will take us. Sometimes, we need to pedal because it is the right thing now, no matter where we end up tomorrow.

So, for today, I am back on the bike. Pedaling forward, as fast as I can. Because you never quite know what will happen tomorrow, so you may as well ride as far as you can today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Emmys On My Table

On a table in the middle of my living room, there are five Emmys, each with an engraved band that includes my name and the team and production for which I won it. Though I suppose that the Emmys are in my sightline most of the time when I am home, I don't think about them that often, much as it happens with anything you see regularly--you see it so much that after a while, you don't really see it at all.

Yet, every so often, because someone has mentioned them, or because I am dusting the table where they sit, I think about where they came from, about how it was that I went from a kid in the suburbs watching the Emmys on TV to a college graduate working on a TV show to a person with five Emmys on a table. I think about the teams with whom I worked, the people from which are now scattered all over. I think about the long production days and the stressful control room situations and those times when we knew we were doing something really special. I think about the moments in time that the statues represent, moments that, some days, feel very far away.

You would think that those five statues would be my calling card, the prop-slash-resume line that opens doors and smooths the roads ahead. But while I am opening the doors and walking the roads, the statues are pretty much just sitting on the table. Does it matter that I have them? Sure. They are a reminder of people I know, and of the strength of collaboration, and of the feeling of doing work well and being recognized for the result. They are a reminder--and I can often use that reminder--of the fact that where I've been does matter, and of the fact that each thing I do now, whether Emmy-eligible or not, matters too.

There may never be another Emmy added to the five on the table--you never quite know where life will take you. The five may remain just moments in time, reminders of days and jobs past. And while they may not be a calling card, they can still be a reminder card. I was--and still am--a creative and curious Editor. I was--and still am--a passionate AD and Director. And whether there's a sixth Emmy or not, I look forward to many more years of working with teams and on projects that matter. Because that's what those Emmys on my table are really all about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What We Want...And What We Want

We crave the sleep that early wake-ups take from us, yet we miss the regularity of the alarm when it is gone.

We long for a break from school or work, yet we are lost a little in a sea of newly free time.

We bemoan the degree of busy that keeps us from having the time to do things, yet once free of the busy, we struggle to get things done.

We buckle a bit under the stress of an exciting assignment or show, yet we long for an assignment or show the minute we don't have one.

We wish we could just sit still, yet within moments of sitting, we are bored and looking for what to do.

We seek a break from constant challenge, yet we seem in constant search of the next challenge.

We want the security of full-time, yet we can't help but enjoy the flexibility of freelance.

We say we can't bear constant structure, yet we flounder in our unstructured time.

We insist that we are making change, yet we find ourselves often no different.

We swear that we will do better by ourselves and others, yet we become stuck in routines and patterns.

We want what we want, we do what we do, we get what we get. And we hope that somehow, they all balance out...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Worth A Try

"Why do you want to do this?" asks the voice in my head as I sift through job postings and networking events and life opportunities. It might be the money, it might be the nice way it works into my life, it might be nothing that makes sense at all. But ultimately, my answer is "It's worth a try."

Perhaps this response sounds like one of defeat. Perhaps it sounds like a lack of focus. But when I think about the things I've done in my lifetime, many of the most helpful, most worthwhile ones have not been those that I targeted. Rather, they have been the endeavors I happened upon, or walked backwards into, or started because, hey, they were "worth a try." Having started in soaps wanting to be a writer, I trained as a PA, a completely different route, because there was an opening, and, hey, it was worth a try. Many years later, I have worked as an AD, Stage Manager, and Director, all as a result of that first step. Though I had never really worked in news (or really thought to), I took a news editing job because, hey, it was worth a try. Now, because of that step, I am both more informed and more widely marketable, able to look in news, documentary, and short-form directions, not just in entertainment ones.

Sometimes, the steps that will really move us forward are not the obvious ones. Rather, they are the ones we take without looking too hard, the ones we allow ourselves to risk without thinking too much. Why do we do it, if it's not a clear step in the right direction? Sometimes, the right direction is not a straight line. Sometimes, the right direction is made up of all the steps we take because we figure, "hey, it's worth a try." And at the end of the road, we discover that some of these "worth a try" steps took us the farthest of all.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


I couldn't find an open arcade, but I tried.

I couldn't guarantee A-pluses, but I tried.

I couldn't make the recipe look like the picture in the book, but I tried.

I couldn't throw well enough to be a good practice partner for my little-leaguer, but I tried.

I couldn't fix all the teenage drama, but I tried.

I couldn't solve why some kids do nice things and some kids do rotten ones, but I tried.

I couldn't make us millionaires, but I tried.

I couldn't be everywhere every time, but I tried.

I couldn't stop time, but I tried.

I couldn't capture all the moments to save forever, but I tried.

I couldn't make everything even or fair, but I tried.

I couldn't be happy every minute, but I tried.

I couldn't make everyone happy all the time, but I tried.

We may not succeed all the time. Often, trying is all we can do. And sometimes--maybe more than sometimes--that's enough...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thick Skin

I began to grow a thick skin as a PA at One Life to Live, so that I could handle people yelling about the show time changing, even though I had estimated it to the best of my ability. That thick skin remained useful when I became an AD and sometimes I couldn't get a camera person to get a tight shot quick enough or guessed at the "wrong" angle for a stunt. It didn't mean I would never go home and cry or scream or replay events in my head, but my thick skin enabled me to be in high-pressure situations without taking too personally the sometimes harsh words that come out in these situations. The thick skin continued to help when I had to roll with constant changes on sitcoms, and it has been useful when my resume, sent all over, has often appeared worthless. A thick skin doesn't mean that nothing affects you. It just keeps you tough enough that not everything batters you.

The tricky thing about a thick skin, however, is that while it can protect you a little from feeling the everyday blows of life, it can also allow you to close yourself off from the everyday opportunities of life. When you use your thick skin to keep people's comments or criticism from sending you reeling, you run the risk of not learning from those comments and criticism. When you use your thick skin to make you tough, you can sometimes forget to be the understanding person who lives under that thick skin.

I am tremendously grateful for the thick skin I've grown. It has gotten me through many an intense day in the control room and has kept me (well, most of the time) from becoming a blithering mess during stretches of unemployment. I won't be shedding it anytime soon. But perhaps if I relax it just a little once in a while, I'll feel a few things that wouldn't get through otherwise. Because having a thick skin should protect you. It just shouldn't keep you from feeling.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Daytime Drama

On the days I end up at home, doing mundane chores and errands, I long for a little drama.

On the days that are filled with drama, whether genuine life drama, or just overwrought work or life baggage drama, I long for the simplicity of mundane chores and errands.

Why is it that we are never quite satisfied with what we are handed? Maybe sometimes, we really don't know what we want. We chase, because there are things to be chased. We pursue, because we want more, and better, more flexible, and more secure. We tweak, because we want new adventures, but with the stability of everyday routines. We adjust, because rarely does anything really match up to what we need, emotionally or logistically.

Maybe that's why soaps worked so well as five day a week endeavors. There could be days on which the drama was intense, but there could also be days that simply advanced the characters a little, but did little to advance the plot.

Like it or not, we grow both on the dramatic days and on the not so dramatic ones. The mundane ones allow us to rest a little (if we let them), and force us to dream beyond the daily routines. The dramatic days stretch our abilities and expand our view, opening us to new challenges to come. So, if we simply view our lives as a daytime drama, with a mix of slow days and cliffhanger days, it all mostly works. Routine every day would wear us down, and cliffhangers every day would likely wipe us out. I guess it's a good thing that daytime drama gives us a mixture of both.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Back at work, which feels good, but requires new juggling.

Back from time away, during which I glimpsed a different pace of life and a different set of daily tasks.

Back against a wall of money to be made, work to be done, things to be proved.

Back with people I like.

Back in a place where there is a desk at which to sit, a roadmap for the day, a place where I'm supposed to be.

Back out in the world, after days spent inside so as not to spend money.

Back away from the bad. Step toward the good.

Back to doing what comes easily.

Back instead of forward?

Back in the game, even when I'm not always sure what the game is.

Back up after feeling knocked down.

Back down after reaching higher up.

Back among the busy, after sometimes feeling like the lazy.

I guess it's rarely enough just to say you're "back." Because "back" means a lot more than I ever imagined...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Roller Coaster Life

As my roller coaster car (and I don't even ride them!) careens toward its next turn, loop, belly-twisting surprise, I wonder how it is that I will walk away not dizzied from the ride. Life events seem to happen upon one another, asking me to adjust to the growing up of children and the celebrations and ceremonies that go along. Changes in ways of thinking and ways of calculating force me to re-evaluate my choices daily. Opportunities arise and disappear around every corner, and my coaster car speeds past them or toward them, depending on how quickly I can react.

Perhaps in some way, each one of us, even those of us who might never attempt the Cyclone or the Tickler or any other large carnival ride, rides a roller coaster every day. The car where we sit, tightly strapped in case of jolts, goes at a pace we can't always control, in directions that, even if they happen over and over, always feel like a surprise. On the roller coaster that is life, I suppose we are all just passengers, buckled in for a little safety, but ultimately, just making the best of the ride.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Drop Everything

On a fairly regular basis, we, both as workers and as parents, are called upon to "drop everything." Whether it's for a school half day or for a new work assignment, we rearrange our routine to accommodate. We "drop everything" when we have to. I have spent half a lifetime, it seems, rearranging routine, never more so than in these last few years of freelancing. It has been in that time that I really felt the literal image of "drop everything." We go through our lives carrying armfuls--armfuls of responsibility, armfuls of childcare or sports or activity equipment, armfuls of items on an agenda. Because of our armfuls, we become adept jugglers, making sure everything we have to carry ends up in just the right place in our hands or in the air. Yet, on any given day, we can be asked to "drop everything." Do our things fall, and break, when we drop them? If we're not careful, maybe. Do we lose bits and pieces in trying to grab what is out there? Sometimes. And yet, if we are not willing to "drop everything," we can find ourselves unable to experience new challenges. If we are not willing to "drop everything," we can find ourselves with arms too full of what we know to reach for things we could (and should) know.

It's not always easy to "drop everything." It requires us to pause our daily juggling act for just a minute, sometimes more. It asks us to find places for all our armfuls, places where ideally, our armfuls will be safe (and still there when we return for them). It requires us to believe that "dropping everything" is worth it, when juggling everything is the skill we've learned to value.

As far as I can tell, there's really no choice. In order to reach, we must be willing to drop. In order to pick up, we must be willing to put down. We must think of "drop everything" not as an act of irresponsibility, but as an act of growth--one with a belief that what we drop can still be picked up, and that what we pick up in the process is well worth adding to the armfuls.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Life Skills, Part 1

A few things that seem kind of useful in the world...

1. Tying your shoes.
2. Zipping your own jacket.
3. Swiping a Metrocard (NYC only).
4. Brushing your teeth.
5. Turning on just the right amount of cold and just the right amount of hot.
6. Buckling your seat belt.
7. Frying an egg (or at least pouring a bowl of cereal).
8. Knowing the rules to a few card games.
9. Making (without burning) toast, because sometimes bread should be crispy.
10. Plunging a toilet.
11. Peeling an avocado (and an orange, an apple, and a potato).
12. Writing (and rewriting) a résumé.
13. Having a plan (and another, and another).
14. Saying "I'm sorry."
15. Accepting "I'm sorry."
16. Bouncing back.
17. Moving on.
18. Forging ahead.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Places We Know Well

We traveled from home to a place we know well, to patterns that are long established, and routines that have existed for years. Yet, in the midst of all the "going back," there was a realization that things have changed. We have aged, and so the things that move us aren't exactly the same. We have lived through another year of new experiences, and so our view of things is influenced by that. The place has been growing and changing in our absence, so what we remember is still there, but slightly different. What we want and need has shifted, just a little, so what we will take away from this time will shift as well. What we feel has been shaped by change and challenge, and so we arrive with different strengths and different weaknesses. Home has changed in all sorts of little ways, and so "away from home" means all sorts of different things. Tradition mixes with change, away mixes with home, "the same" mixes with "brand new."

But perhaps that's just how life is--ever updating what we think we know, ever changing what it means to say "return" or "comfort" or "the same."

We traveled from home to a place we know well, and we discovered that we still have a lot to discover...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"Like" and Remember

Earlier this week, one of my posts received a "like" from a former colleague, someone I haven't talked to in years. Now, "liking" online is easily done with a simple mouse click. But since I myself don't actually "like" that often, it matters to me when someone does. Maybe it's that Sally Field "You like me, you really like me" thing, which perhaps lives inside each of us. We all like to know that what we do matters to someone, or to a lot of someones. We want to know that we are somehow making a difference.

Yet, on the day of this particular "like," what I felt was more than just "you like me." In an instant, for this was a former soap colleague, I was taken back to control rooms and edit rooms, to long production days and dramatic scenes and big musicals and things I had learned from a master. I guess that's how it is when we get a reminder, ever so brief, of our past. We may insulate ourselves daily with the drama and concerns of today. We may put the past aside. We can even pretend that we don't feel its loss. Yet, it can take just a moment or a "like" to bring it back.

As the week went on, I quickly became re-immersed in the daily tasks of my current life. But the "like," and the memories and feelings it brought back, actually stayed with me all week. I guess that can happen when something has mattered in our lives. I suppose it should. If we're lucky, the memory can motivate us to face our next challenge. It can remind us where we've been, what we've done, and how that mattered.

So, never underestimate the power of a well-placed "like." It may convey "you really like me," but it can end up doing a whole lot more.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Brick By Brick

Most days, my son comes home with basic homework--reading, a bit of writing, perhaps a math worksheet. Today, as I retrieved him from the bus (because that is what you do when you are awaiting word on your next day of work), he announced that he would be building a model of the White House. And that we'd need to acquire Lego to do it. For tomorrow.

Now, it's not that his bus is so late in the day that such a thing is impossible. But as I struggle to make the most of my "not working, but trying to work" time each day before school bus time, I generally perceive the hours from 4:00 on as "settle in" time. I give up being able to accomplish much on my own, since kids are suddenly buzzing around. We generally stay inside, because they have been out since quite early, and if there are no afterschool activities to race to, I am happy to be in with them. So when it was suddenly announced that a trip to buy Lego would be necessary, I simply stared in disbelief. How could we possibly do such journeying this late in the day, much less, complete a potentially major building project in one night?

I have vetoed many a proposed outing in my time because of expense, bad timing, or sheer exhaustion. This one pretty much checked all of those boxes, yet, before I knew it, we were off on a brick-buying excursion.

The thing about doing things you don't want to do is that once you give yourself over to them, they can often be a lot of fun. In this case, in the course of traveling to two--yes, two--Lego stores (white bricks are not as abundant as you'd think), we took three buses and a train. We saw tourists (it's summer in the city), tourist attractions, and a police escort. We spent time talking, instead of plugged in to our individual screens. And we negotiated our way to the bricks we hoped would be enough to build the White House in one night.

Turns out that, just as Rome wasn't built in a day, Washington isn't easily built in one night. The project will likely continue into the weekend. But we have the supplies--the bricks we bought, plus a lot of our own (because you always need more supplies than you realize). We have a plan of sorts. And we have a running start. So there will be a White House.

In a day that ended quite differently than I could have imagined, I learned a little something about building--whether it's Legos or life. Hard as we try, we can't always accomplish what we want in a day. What we can do is begin. We can assemble the necessary supplies, whether those are Legos, or cooking ingredients, or resume bullet points. We can make a plan. We can choose to believe that we actually can do it. And then, brick by brick, we can start building.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Little of This, Little of That

I worked with someone today who talked about wanting to do things right, about not wanting to rely on "little of this, little of that" fixes to problems. As she spoke, I glanced around at our laptop, which is connected to a monitor because the laptop's own screen doesn't work, at a standing fan, which supplements the power of a less than adequate air conditioner, and at the stacks of plates and cups in our cabinets, which don't even come close to matching. Pretty much my whole life is comprised of "little of this, little of that" fixes. And most of the time, it works pretty well.

Do I wish that the devices and pathways in my life were simpler and more straightforward? Perhaps. There are times when it would help a lot if the laptop were actually mobile, the way you expect a laptop to be. There are moments when I think it would be nice not to have a giant fan in my living room. And there are times when I wish I had the kind of job that made it clear, for years on end, where I needed to go, and for what hours, each day. Sometimes, however, all we can do, with our things and with our lives, is make the best of what we are dealt. In the case of my life, that means a little more clutter to get cool air or computer time, and daily negotiation of where I will be and what I will be doing (and, therefore, daily negotiation of how my family needs to adjust). It's not perfect. It's a "little of this, little of that" reaction to a life where the "right way" just isn't always possible.

I would like to think we are being adaptable. I would like to think we are learning the life skills that will equip us for bigger crises than a crippled laptop. Maybe we are, maybe we're not. In the meantime, we're simply saving money and time and energy (okay, maybe not energy with the A/C+fan combo) for the time when we will need to, and be able to, do things "just the right way." I figure as long as we can make it through each day of our "little of this, little of that" life, maybe we'll end up doing just as well as "just right."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Back To School?

Just as my kids are about to finish their school year, I find myself feeling as though I've got a lot to learn.

I suppose this is not a new situation. There's nothing like freelancing to remind you on a daily basis how much knowledge you don't have. Whether it's applying for jobs that require skills you've never before needed, or working at gigs where you are surrounded by people who know all sorts of things that you don't, it's hard not to feel like a full-time student of sorts. Is that demoralizing? Sometimes, I suppose. But as I talk to my kids about the ways in which they are going to develop certain skills this summer, I realize that there is always more to be learned. The trick, perhaps, is to seek out the learning opportunities that actually feel like a summer break, so that you are adding skills that make you happy, rather than just ones that make you ready.

I'm not sure yet what my "course load" will be this summer. It might include some geography, as we travel to explore colleges. It might include a bit of training in logical thought, as I am called upon to balance the needs of my work life and my and my family's home life. There might be some tutorials in social media and Excel, because who these days can't use a bit more of those? The rest will be a "build your own major," based on opportunities--and needs--that arise.

My kids can't wait for summer, and maybe in some ways, I can't either. A change of pace will give us all a bit of time to learn the things that will take us to our next steps. So it's out of school, but back to school. Because it seems as though, no matter how far along you are, there is always more to learn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Everything Was Possible

It's an interesting thought, isn't it? In this case, I actually borrowed it from the title of a book I just finished, Everything Was Possible by Ted Chapin, a chronicle of the journey of the Sondheim musical Follies from conception to Broadway. It was a remarkable book. (Let's face it, any book that consumes my attention when children and employment concerns are buzzing around me has to be pretty remarkable). In a life when I am sometimes satisfied just to get a few phone calls made and dinner on the table, I am amazed by the effort that goes into the shows that entertain us.

As I finished the book (I was actually sad to be done), I closed it, and thought about the title. How much could we do, if at every turn, we believed that everything was possible? How many things could we try on the way to getting it right? How creative might we be if we believed that with enough of ourselves invested, everything truly would be possible?

The past few years for me have been an education in a lot of things that seemed impossible, mixed in with a few reminders that things that seem far away actually are possible. It is easy, when faced with "no," to believe that nothing is possible. As I discovered in the book, Follies faced tremendous obstacles on its way to Broadway--from cast issues, to music yet to be written and rewritten, to a complicated set, to a hard to understand concept. Seven Tonys later, it became a show that made history.

As I think about Everything Was Possible, I think not about what could be, but what has been. Because I kept an open mind, there have been opportunities. Because I had people who supported me, I climbed from one level to the next, made transitions from one arena to the next. Because I didn't allow circumstances to get the best of me, I sometimes made the best of them.

Is everything possible? Perhaps not. But with a little belief, maybe for all of us, there is a moment in our lives when everything is possible. When we can be creators and experimenters, and developers of great things. And by believing that everything is possible, we can come away with a little masterpiece to show for it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

How You Play The Game

For the third year in a row, my son's little league team did not make it past Playoff Game One. Despite a strong season and some pretty scrappy players, they just couldn't pull it off. So we continue with the rest of our lives, no longer scheduling around "maybe" baseball games, looking toward the end of school and toward summer plans.

As we walked home from the game, my son having shaken hands with the other team, and all of us having thanked one of the coaches, we talked about the game and the year. While my son hadn't made a game-saving or game-winning play, he had certainly carried his weight. While he might not be remembered as a star of the team, he had improved on many things over the course of the season, and had really worked hard practicing on his own between games. Is he upset (or are we) that the team won't have a shot at the title? Sure. Winning is fun. Is he (or are we) sad that the season is suddenly over? Maybe, but sometimes moving on is actually okay. Can he walk away knowing he was there when it mattered, doing his best when he could? I think so. And sometimes--whether you're a kid or an adult--that is more important than the winning and the trophies--to know that you have worked, and grown, and improved, and contributed. Sometimes, it really is not so much about whether you win or lose. Sometimes, if you work at it, it really is about how you play the game.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Happily Alone, Happily Not

I walked alone, and I didn't have to negotiate conflicts or walk faster or slower. But I had no one with whom to share my thoughts and observations.

I shopped alone, and I didn't have to say "no" or "we'll see" or "I'll think about it" every five minutes. But I talked myself out of things that looked good, and I had to push the heavy cart all by myself.

I ate alone, and there was just one dish to clear and a little leftover to put away. But there was no one to comment on the food or the day.

I spent the day home alone, and there was neither noise to interrupt my concentration, nor distraction to upend my work. But the uninterrupted quiet made me sad and the undistracted focus gave me a headache.

I was briefly responsible for no one but myself, which made me feel free, but made me feel kind of lost at the same time.

I sat alone, which gave me a bit of peace, but made me feel very lonely.

I spoke alone, which allowed me to finish a thought, but meant that no one heard it.

I woke up early alone, which gave me time to work and think, but made me wonder why I wasn't cozy and warm like everyone else.

I enjoyed my moments alone, but was glad when I wasn't alone any more...

Saturday, June 6, 2015


This morning I happened upon a paraphrase of an Eleanor Roosevelt quote--"No one can take advantage of you without your permission." As I made my way through an upside down kind of a day, I thought a lot about the quotation. While I do a lot each day to shape how my life and work will turn out, there are absolutely times when I feel blown along with the circumstances, taken advantage of at every turn. What am I doing on a given day? I'm not sure--someone else is deciding. Will I make progress? I don't know--that's in someone else's hands. While it may be true that certain things are beyond our control, this quotation was a reminder to me that "beyond our control" doesn't have to mean beyond our comfort level. While we may not be able to make every decision about how our days, and our lives, will turn out, we can take some control of how we are treated. We can speak up, both for what we believe in and for what we are worth. We can say "no" when we need to and "yes" when we want to. We can be at least somewhat in charge of the flow of our days, even if we can't always control how they end.

Both freelancing and parenthood require a lot of adaptability and daily readjustment. There's nothing wrong with having to roll with change--on the contrary, it may be one of the most important life skills we can have. The key is to re-adjust without giving up, to adapt without losing who we really are and what we really want. To give a little permission to the world, but to hold on to the advantage for ourselves. Because that is something that no one should be able to take.

Friday, June 5, 2015

New Rules

We hopped a bus to a new place, so new, it was a bus we'd never ridden before. We crossed new streets, saw new roads, discovered a new sense of time. We looked for old interests in new destinations. We had new conversations and new impressions of each other. We found some new patterns and discovered some new talents. We took an old kind of day and made some new memories. We followed the old rules, but made some new ones along the way. And in the process, we began to see just a little differently. We allowed ourselves to feel just a little differently. We opened ourselves to just a little more of the world, and found that we were just a little happier.

We, whether as workers, or as parents, as students, or as volunteers, tend to live by sets of rules made by others for situations that are sometimes relevant, sometimes not. Rules can give us structure. They can light our path, and give us clarity in what might otherwise become chaos. But sometimes, a few new rules, even just for a very short time, can be just what we need to make a discovery or two. Sometimes, some new rules can make all the difference in the world in how we see, how we feel, and how we play this crazy game of life...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Day Off, Wrong Shoes On

Caught up in all I was doing at home on this (once again) unexpected day off ("day off" isn't for a freelancer always as welcome a surprise as it might be for many), I discovered that I had walked out of my apartment to meet my son's bus wearing the shoes I usually reserve for just in my apartment or building. It was too late to go back--I might miss the bus--and anyway, it wasn't that they'd be ruined. It was simply that they aren't meant for long walks, and, okay, they look a little ridiculous with bright orange patterned socks.

So there I was, hoofing it the few blocks to the bus stop, wishing that my feet were more supported and sure that my lower half would be cause for laughter from the hundreds of strangers one passes on a few-block walk in New York City.

When I returned with my son a half hour later, I was eager to rest my feet. But I realized that not a single person--those I knew and those I didn't--had even looked at my feet. If anyone did, I certainly didn't know it. And on this not-working afternoon, I learned a few things...

1. Most of the time, people are way too wrapped up in their own lives and concerns to be at all aware of your life and concerns, much less the shoes and socks on your feet.

2. There is something oddly satisfying about being so consumed with what you are doing that you forget what shoes you are wearing.

3. Being around to do the things you don't usually get to do (no matter what shoes you're wearing while doing them) is a good reminder that, even for a freelancer, a day off doesn't have to be a disaster.

4. Sometimes, it takes not having enough time for a redo to remind you how adaptable you really are.

5. Feet can survive mistakes and people can survive mistakes, a lot more often than you might think.

And thus ends the day off with the wrong shoes...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Energy Efficient

Even for people who seem to possess boundless energy, there is a limit. We can dedicate ourselves to a variety of causes and a variety of people, but all of our dedication has to fit into finite periods of time. We can use whatever energy we have, but energy too is finite, making it important to choose wisely about what endeavors we "plug in" to. Just as our dishwasher, which we hardly notice, and our air conditioner, which we often feel we can't live without, take more running energy than just about anything else in our homes, the parts of our lives that sap our energy are varied, and sometimes not entirely clear. When we come home from work, are we exhausted because we worked so hard, or because we spent the day dealing with gossip and baggage and the latest stresses of individuals or the group? When we are dealing with the business of running a family, are we worn out because there is so much to do, or because of the constant negotiation between available opportunities and available funds? Are we tired from being up late with our kids, or are we just tired from handling their drama?

Managing our energy isn't necessarily about not doing. Just as we wouldn't just stop using our air conditioner or our dishwasher, we don't have to pull back from everything in order to maintain our energy for the important things. We simply need to be energy efficient. Rather than allowing our energy to go toward drama and gossip and baggage, we can choose to put it toward actual accomplishment. Rather than getting caught up in discussions that go in circles, we can choose to focus elsewhere while waiting for the outcomes of the circles.

Being energy efficient isn't just about "buying the right appliances." It's about making the choices that save our energy for the important things. And that is a "purchase" we can decide on each and every day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Curve Balls

It seems I am always looking for the perfect pitch--the job or situation that will check all the boxes. It will be steady and dependable. It will allow me both to spread my wings as a professional and to be there when needed as a parent. It will give me both sanity and euphoria. It will make me know exactly where to swing to make the biggest hit.

What I seem to end up with most of the time are curve balls. Instead of knowing just where the hit will be, I find myself guessing--swinging when I can, but never quite sure where each swing will leave me, when the balls seem to veer off at the last minute every time.

I am no baseball expert, but I would presume that curve balls must be among the hardest to hit. They mess with our expectations. They set us up, just to take us down. They leave us wondering what exactly just happened.

And so it is that a life filled with curve balls also becomes a tricky one. We expect one thing, and we get another. We prepare for a big swing, only to be left wondering what happened. We find ourselves wishing for just a straight pitch, so that we can really see what our swing is like. We find ourselves searching for the expected, the predictable, so that we have some idea of what the outcome will be.

Ultimately, however, it is the curve balls that keep the game, and the game of life, interesting. What will we batters do when the ball doesn't land quite where we expected? What kind of fancy footwork will it take to shift when the world shifts under us? It may seem that we are looking for the perfect pitch, but would we enjoy that every time? Or would we be bored and start looking for more of a challenge? The curve balls often allow--okay, force--us to stretch a little. They force us to think a little faster, to try a little harder, to believe in ourselves a little more. So maybe it's not the perfect pitch we're after after all. Perhaps it's just the set of skills to be able to hit all the pitches, and the vision to see (and not be blindsided by) what's coming at us.

Curve balls, fast pitches, change ups? Bring 'em on. I'll just have to make sure I come out swinging.

Monday, June 1, 2015


It was a nail-biter--a little league game full of walks and steals and shifting of the leading score. Did the outcome matter tremendously? Not really. While it was the last game of the regular season, it was unlikely to change the standings much, and even if it did, this was little league. And yet, I sat in the stands, feeling every run scored, every error that caused the opposing team to retake the lead, all as if the outcome would matter greatly to our lives.

It sounds ridiculous, I know. And yet, as I think about my state of mind in the bleachers, I think about how a while back, baseball wouldn't have mattered. How a while back, I might have been in the bleachers, but not particularly engaged in the game. So, while the stakes here probably did not warrant the biting of nails or a sinking feeling each time the other team scored, I realized that it actually felt good to be invested enough to care. While I might not have been following every play in the game, I sat on the edge of my seat. It mattered to me what happened. I had somehow, along the way, changed from a parent who was there because I had to deliver my kid to a parent who was engaged in the activity itself. Was I one of the screaming ones? No. I sat quietly, biting my nails when necessarily, but watching intently this activity that my son has come to love.

Keeping up with the activities of a family is not easy. It puts me on the go most of the time. It takes me, literally and emotionally, all over the map. I was reminded today, however, that keeping up is made a whole lot better by truly investing, by being there, bitten nails and all, not just dropping off and stepping back. And perhaps that's true for all of life. Perhaps it is when we truly invest in our endeavors that we feel a real connection to them.

My son's team won the nail biter, through no particular help of mine, but with my eyes watching every minute. And while my nail-bitten hands may never be quite the same, I am happy to see that my connection is new and different too.