Thursday, December 29, 2016

When I Said...What I Meant...

One of the tricky things about words--spoken or written--is the power they have to convey what we'd like them to--AND what we'd rather they didn't.

For example, when I say I am so full from dinner, I don't necessarily mean I won't want dessert.

When I say I am perfect for the job, what I likely mean is I really WANT the job.

When I say "pause," what I probably mean is "permission for a pause."

When I say "we'll see," what I mean is "no" and "yes" and---oh, we'll see.

But, when I say I'll be there, I'll be there. Unless something pretty significant happens.

And when I say I can't, it's because I really can't.

Because most of the time, when I say "I'm not sure if I can," I mean that I will do enough scrambling to make sure I can.

And most of the time when I say "I'll try," I really mean "I'll make it happen."

Words can be a tricky thing. So, we best be sure that we say is pretty close to what we mean...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


It's official--there has been a pause--a hiatus, in TV terms. First, there were the nights that became days that became nights, making me not quite sure what day it really was and for what day I had written. And then there were the hours between those days when sleep was all there could be. But now, there has undeniably been a pause.

I have spent many an hour over the past few years stressed about any posting pause. Perhaps it was the premise upon which this blog had started--that it, like a soap opera, should be an everyday endeavor. More likely, it was the feeling that, like the gym, it was an endeavor that would continue only with complete dedication--that any pause in the action would be the beginning of the end for the endeavor as a whole.

And yet, as I arrive at this moment when a combination of work and life have firmly created a pause, I remind myself of the other--and perhaps more significant--piece upon which the blog was begun, the concept of "not washed up yet." For most of the several years of this blog, I have celebrated the power of being willing to redefine ourselves, of allowing ourselves to change the rules and even break them if and when necessary. So, it is in that spirit that I accept a pause born of family and relative work success and just a general dealing with life. More important, I remind myself that the person who has faced down the work challenges of the past few years, writing all the way, is not a person who will let "pause" mean "stop." Even soaps had weekends (and toward the end of some, reruns!). And even the most dedicated among us can benefit from a pause.

So, stay tuned--there is more to come. Because even after all this time, and even after a pause, I can say with certainty, you and I are not washed up yet.

Monday, December 26, 2016

...And Change

You may notice that I have left out the first part of this, the part that pairs "tradition" with change. While there are certainly common elements between this holiday season and ones past, somehow, now feels far more about the "change" part...

Once upon a time, for many years, I shopped alone, wrapped alone, took complete responsibility for the gifts given at home. Now, I have partners and assistants--kids who have taken on, and once in a while, even taken over.

Once upon a time, for many years, I stood over an oily pan for hours, cooking latkes that might be judged and evaluated, and, good or bad, would be consumed in a fraction of the time that they took to make. Now, I am part of a team, the result of which is a better, happier time, and better latkes as well.

Once upon a time, for many years, I made the plans, packed the bags, worried alone about departures and preparations and completion. Now, I share the plan, share the prep, share the pressure, which makes not just for not just a slightly calmer me, but also a more engaged family.

Once upon a time, for many years, time was a given. We knew when it was ours, and when it wasn't. Now, time is often grabbed, snatched from busy schedules and varied expectations and overwhelming responsibilities. Which makes us have to fight for it more, but allows us to appreciate it more as well.

Once upon a time, for many years, money felt like not much of an issue, then the only issue. Now, it is a part, but not the whole, a means, but not the end. And it feels as though the weight of a thousand pennies has been lifted.

There is tradition, for which I am grateful. But this year, I find myself being just as grateful for change, which has the power to make traditions better, and to help us understand, sometimes, why the traditions even mattered in first place.

There is tradition, and there is change. And the change has made all the difference.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Gift From The Past

I had the occasion to spend a little time with a college friend--a rare thing, as many years have passed, and my keeping up with old friends skill is more than a little rusty. But some set of forces aligned, and this little meeting just came together, just an hour or so, but a moment in time that I find affecting the rest of my moments in time since.

It would be natural, when meeting a friend from a shared past, to spend some amount of time talking over that past--reminiscing, chatting about "where is so-and-so now?" or "remember the time when..?" But our hour had none of that. On the contrary, we talked not so much as friends from the past, but as people who had spent 30 years leading jaggedly parallel lives--in some ways, nothing like each other, in others, full of experiences different but in common. We talked of our positions in the world now, and the challenges of the changes that happen over thirty years. And though we barely scratched the surface, of the past or of our presents, I came away somehow feeling I had happened upon a kindred spirit.

The past is a funny thing. We can put it away, or we can keep it very much alive. We can shudder at it, or we can think back on it fondly. Yet, any way we think about it, it gives us the gift of perspective. In this case, my gift was born from the past, but very much alive in the present. And maybe that is the best way we can appreciate where we have been--by allowing where we have been to open us up to understanding, with the help of those who have been with us, where we are now. 

I had the occasion to spend a little time with a friend from a long time ago. It was a gift from the past. But one that I am happy to have opened very much in the present.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Work Ethic

In my early days at One Life to Live, when I still had four alarms so as not to be late for 7am rehearsal, I believed that you were meant to show up for work, ready to play, unless you were completely unable to do so. I, in fact, felt so strongly about this that it took a producer telling me to go home, and stay home (I had bronchitis) to make me miss any days of work. 

Perhaps it was about the money--after all, as a freelancer, I didn't necessarily get paid for days missed. But most of the time, it had more to do with the work ethic. Changing my regular work pattern would mean that other people would have to pick up the slack. Not doing my job fully and completely would let people down.

My work ethic has not changed all that much in twenty-something years. I still show up, I still try not to make things harder on anyone else. These days, however, it doesn't take a producer to pull my strings. These days, I am more likely to take care of my own needs. These days, I recognize that work ethic is not just about being there for everyone else. It's about remembering to be there for yourself as well. So, maybe my work ethic hasn't changed, but I would like to think my M.O. has. And that that is a change that is for the better. For work and for me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Fight Out Of The Dog

I ready myself for work, struggling past the effects of an end of fall cold, wishing, perhaps, that I could just stay in bed. It is no different than dragging oneself out of bed for work in the morning, except that it is not really morning. No matter what the time, though, work is work, and fight is fight. And I have had enough moments of being without both that on this particular day, I am happy to have a reason to struggle past.

It is said that "you can take the dog out of the fight, but you can't take the fight of the dog." While I know virtually nothing about dogs, I do know that lousy has to be pretty lousy to keep me from struggling past. Five years ago, I was facing the end of my time at ABC, but the fight in me allowed me to celebrate what had been and think to the future. Four years ago, my plans for the future didn't quite turn out how I'd expected, but the fight in me kept me from giving up. And in the years since, I've faced bumps in the road, from jobs that didn't pay to job to job gaps that seemed interminable. I owe the fact that I am still in the game to a bit (or more than a bit) of luck along the way. But I also owe it to the fact that I haven't given up. Each time I have been taken out of a "fight," I have managed to summon my strength to go into the next one. I don't always win--do any of us? But whether it's through a cold or through something farther outside of myself, I get up and fight. Because you can maybe take the dog out of the fight. But you definitely can't take the fight out of the dog.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On A Jet Plane

Some of my friends travel for work. Whether they are TV folks who work in multiple cities, or financial or HR executives who manage people in multiple offices, they live with suitcase at the ready, prepared to cover the bases at home when they are called to get on a plane.

I, on the other hand, have traveled for work only a handful of times over twenty-something years. They have been good trips, to exciting gigs--the opportunities have just rarely presented themselves. I may work many hours, but I work them relatively close to home, rarely in an airport, rarely on the road.

These days, I often field questions about how I survive a schedule that has me working overnights and a life that has me keeping different hours each week. To those questions, I mostly answer "it is what it is." I do what I need to, and what my family needs me to do, to make my own circumstances work, the same way my traveling friends do what they need to do to make their travel, and their families' survival when they travel, work. We each have a particular load that we carry. And we each find ways to be able to carry it.

So, when I field those questions, I remind myself that what I do to make life work is not so different from what others do. Often, others can't imagine staying up all night (and sleeping during the day to compensate). But often, I can't imagine making airports and other cities (and the arrangement this requires at home) a part of my weekly life.

We don't all "leave on a jet plane." But we do all manage the life that our work or other circumstances hand us. So, I guess, in some ways, each one of us is just counting on people to "kiss me and smile for me." Until the next time we "leave on a jet plane." Or don't.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


My smartphone, the source of countless pieces of information in my life, declares quite definitively that it will rain all day (but it doesn't).

A series of texts tells us quite clearly that the times won't work out (but they do).

The always advancing clock reminds me quite firmly with every number change that there will never be enough time (but I find some).

The theater apps keep me informed quite excitedly about all the shows I would like to enjoy but may never have the time and money to see.

The alarm rings quite insistently, until it becomes so annoying that I ignore it or decide that I can alarm myself just fine, thank you very much.

The social media sites foist upon me, quite regularly, the news and opinions I might be better off not hearing.

It will rain all day, and there won't be enough time or peace or money or sleep. I wonder--my smartphone has a lot to say. But is it so smart after all?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Oh, Yeah. That's Me.

I go from a holiday party to work, then race home, on no sleep, and back to work for a gift exchange. It is insanity. But as I make my way home again when the events are all over, I realize that they are events slightly reminiscent of previous holidays. As far back as high school, I had late nights making gifts and tired arms transporting them. For years at ABC, I immersed myself in the holiday season, working long hours on the Christmas Reel, spending many days wrapping and delivering gifts, and dressing for the series of holiday festivities.

The last few years have brought quieter holidays, with fewer connections beyond my family. Yet, in that moment after the last day of holiday running, I saw the "me" who, once upon a time, lost track of time and energy when the holidays had to be celebrated. In that moment, I remembered the "me" willing to immerse herself in the spirit of the season, or, for that matter, in the spirit of anything worth doing. Sometimes recently, I have thought that "me" might have been lost forever. But sometimes, what is lost is just a little lost. And sometimes, forever turns out to be a lot shorter than you realized.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Shameless Promotion

Among the biggest challenges of my post-soap, freelance life, has been the need for self-promotion. I have never been good at tooting my own horn, and no amount of resume revision or LinkedIn updating really makes that easier. I have been fortunate to end up with a series of interesting gigs, but the hustle required in between them has been, shall we say, more than slightly taxing.

So, today, as on most other days, I prefer to do a little "shameless promotion" rather than "shameless SELF-promotion." My friend and former soap colleague Leslie Nipkow has written a book (not so surprising, as she was a soap WRITER) about the wide variety of things that have happened in her life. Read just a few words, and you will realize, as I have, that she is a fighter (in more ways than one), and a humorist of sorts, and an inspiration. And if you pre-order her book today--YES, TODAY--you will help her to help the book really get off the ground and into the hands of so many people who will be entertained and inspired by it.

You can pre-order through this link
You won't be sorry.

If only shameless self-promotion were as easy as shameless promotion. Ah, well--this is a lot more fun...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Yes, I saw Fiddler on the Roof today, so the song is in my head. And it's hard not to reflect on the effect of tradition in my life--in all of our lives--and how we react when traditions have to change. For, while we may not hold on to tradition quite as strongly as the character of Tevye, we tend to build our lives around a certain number of things we can count on. Our traditions give us stability (well, at least a little stability). They help us to know what to expect. They give us a bit of control in a world that often feels out of control.

So, what happens when our traditions have to change? When a new job changes our hours or our days off? What happens when our children age, forcing us to adjust to their changing needs?

Among the things that I have learned over the past few years (and believe me, I've learned a lot!) is that while our traditions may give us the strength to survive change, our ability to adapt our traditions as we change may be what truly keeps us strong. Schedules may alter how we can celebrate and when we can interact with our family and friends, but it is our willingness to work with our schedules that allows us to maintain those interactions. Finances may dictate how far we can venture and how much we can do, but it is our financial creativity that allows us to make new somethings out of nothing, to use what we have, rather than what we don't.

As we head into a time of year during which most of us are surrounded by traditions--the ones we keep, and the ones we must re-examine--I am hopeful that I can take the idea of tradition and make it a reality that works for me and my loved ones now. It is not easy to adjust our traditions, but in doing so, we can hold the past in one hand while reaching out to the future with the other. Letting our traditions change may not make for the perfect musical theatre ending, but I have to believe it will help us come back again and again to see what will happen in the next show.

They Are From Mars, I Am From Soap Opera

I send emails while cooking dinner and putting together the elements my kids will need for their school lunches.

I follow up with insurance companies and service vendors and old friends while on a break from work.

I check for updates while riding the train or the bus from home to work and work to home, no matter what hour.

Some might call it multitasking. I also call it "soap brain." For, while some might argue that soaps were a habit that could turn a brain to mush, the production of soaps required superior expertise in multitasking before multitasking was even a word. How else would 60 scenes a day or multiple episodes a week or costume changes to cover 7 show days happen? How else would timing and shot selection and performance notes happen simultaneously?

It is quite possible that I had "soap brain"--the production version--long before I worked in soaps, and that soaps simply used and honed my skills. But when I do more than I should be able to in a certain number of hours, I thank the soaps. When I can clearly see what happened yesterday and two weeks ago, along with what's happening today and what will happen next month, I thank the soaps. When I am able to handle people and pictures and numbers all at the same time, I thank the soaps.

It's not that I'm smarter or quicker or more talented (some days, maybe I am, some days, maybe I'm not). It's just that I have soap brain. After all, they may be from Mars. But I am from soap opera.

Monday, December 12, 2016

World Traveler

It made sense, working in soaps, to feel as though you were sometimes living in another world (pun, well, sort of intended!). After all, to tell the stories on a soap, you had to be at least somewhat invested in them. So, it would not be surprising to come home still thinking of people who didn't really exist, wanting to live in kitchens and living rooms larger than you would ever have and have adventures much larger than your own.

You would think that working in news would mean that you were firmly grounded in the same world as everyone else. What I have come to realize, however, particularly over this last bunch of months working overnight, is that feeling slightly other-worldly on your transitions between work and home can happen anywhere. These days, for me, it is reconciling a life that happens largely when others are asleep with the days when I actually join the rest of the world in the light. It is reconciling a deluge of news at work with a desire to escape from it at home. It is an ongoing endeavor to live fully in both worlds and to sleep enough to be able to do anything fully in either world.

Whether in soaps or in news, or truthfully, in any work that consumes our time and attention, we are called upon to live to the fullest in the world of our work and in the world of our home and family. The transitions can be hard, whether they involve managing hours or juggling emotions.  So, we do our best, to go from Viki's spacious kitchen to our own bowling alley shaped one. We do our best, to go from being coherent at work all night to being coherent all day to be an effective and involved parent. And somehow, we manage the travel, and a very particular kind of "jet lag." It is, I guess, how the world turns (yes, pun intended!).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

If You Only

If you only focus on the numbers, you will likely miss the words.

If you only listen to the "no's," you will likely miss the "yes's."

If you talk about "doing it better," you might not do it (or anything) at all.

If you always try to go faster, you might forget how to slow down.

If you are always looking for "more," you may become unable to see "enough."

If you always ask "why," you must always be prepared for "because."

But if you always need "because," you may never find the peace of "just is."

If you only focus on the numbers, you will likely miss the words.

And if you only focus on the words, you will likely miss the feelings.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

And We Persist...

I read this week that Tainted Dreams, an independent soap opera about a soap opera that was created and produced by some of the best soap people (and friends) I know (and for which I had a small post-production role) will begin a run on Amazon Prime come January. It is exciting. It is hope-affirming. And it is the result, I'm sure, of not just hope, but a whole lot of hard work and persistence over a long period of time.

For, you see, it has been a couple of years since the show was made. The great-looking, cleverly written episodes were viewable online a while ago, with the hope (both for the genre and for the number of people it might employ) that they would go farther. And after a period of time during which this did not happen, it would have been easy to believe and accept that it was just a moment in time, a time that had passed. Now, that is not the case.

This news of the week was a reminder that it is never too late to believe in what you have done, and never too late to keep fighting for what you want to happen. Life--work-wise or otherwise--doesn't always happen on the schedule we'd like. So, it is up to us to persist when it is important, and to hold on to the belief that something can happen, even when the evidence may not always back us up.

Congrats to all the talented and dedicated soapsters who made Tainted Dreams a reality, and one that will be seen on Amazon Prime in the new year. Kind of gives new meaning to "tune in tomorrow," doesn't it?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In Transit

Yesterday, I saw a musical by this name. Billed as the first a capella Broadway musical, the show was remarkable in its use of both voice and space. It was particularly resonant for a New Yorker who experiences the challenges of city transportation daily. As I continued to think about the show, however, I began to realize that my takeaway was more than just awe at the musical creativity or the remarkable set. Many of us in the city ride the train or the bus to get where we're going, and I suppose that unites us. But what unites us even more is the fact that we are all "in transit" not just on wheeled conveyors from Point A to Point B. We are, constantly, "in transit" between the stages in our lives. Even on days when it feels as though everything remains the same, we spend each moment taking steps toward our next "station." And on days when we are actively trying to change things, we face interruptions and delays, and doors that close right in front of us. Yet, we forge ahead.

Often, a trip to the theatre is about escaping our own story, even if just for a few hours. Today, I was reminded that the trip can also be right back toward our own story, complete with the journey on which our story takes us every day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tune In Tomorrow

Among the most interesting aspects of working in soaps was the degree to which the story (both the fictional one and the behind the scenes one) changed each day. In the fictional world, a character might suddenly end up with a different partner or be played by a different actor. On the behind the scenes side, a challenging day with one set of producers and directors might be followed by a simple day that made you wonder how you had actually survived the previous one. But, because of how quickly things could change, you could be fairly sure that the frustrations of one day could be shelved the next. You might not be able to say "all is forgiven," (anybody remember the short-lived soap-based sitcom of this name?), but you could (and pretty much had to) put your experience of the previous day behind you and move on. Predicted a scene timing wrong? There would be 50 more tomorrow. Didn't get the exact shot you wanted at the exact time? There would be hundreds more shots to come. Didn't see eye to eye with the day's director? There would be a different director tomorrow.

So, while soaps seemed to be--and largely were--an ongoing endeavor, they actually taught me a bit about how temporary things are. Most days, we have experiences we'd like to erase. And many days, all it takes is waiting till tomorrow to do that. We make mistakes, we are beaten down by the people we encounter, we face challenges that can feel beyond us. But, just like on a soap, a new day makes a difference. Just like on a soap, we have the chance to start all over--or at least try something different. We simply have to be willing to put one episode behind us, and move on to the next. And to stay tuned for the next set of pictures on our screen.

Monday, December 5, 2016


My heart skips a beat as I read about the settlement of the Prospect Park/ABC suit over All My Children and One Life to Live, and the return of the rights to the shows to ABC. What kind of soapster would I be, after all, if such news didn't make my ears perk up, at least a little? How could I not care about how the transfer of rights will affect something that was my life for so long?

The end of the lawsuit, and the transfer of rights, will likely mean nothing, except for the network's ability now to use the shows' characters for other shows if they so choose. The likelihood that production of All My Children and One Life to Live would resume is minimal. But the news does make me (and I'm sure a lot of other Lifers) wonder...

Would the shows be able to find an audience after all this time, and by what means?

Would the format, and its production model, actually be sustainable in the current television market?

Would the genre feel outdated, or would it be updated, or would it actually fit right in--just like the soap episode you watch after having not watched for weeks?

Would the canvas be filled with former characters, now at completely different places in their lives?

Would the crew be filled with former soapsters, now at completely different places in their lives?

I guess that last question is the one I wonder about the most. When Prospect Park revived the shows, it wasn't immediate, as originally planned, but it was soon enough after their demise on ABC that countless production people were still trying to find their way, and were thrilled at not just the return of the genre, but at the prospect (no pun intended) of long-term work. 

It has been a long time since that blip on the radar. Resilient as always, we soapsters have moved on--to other genres, to new endeavors, to distant locations. Out of both psychological and financial necessity, we have made new lives, lives interesting in all sorts of ways. So, if the opportunity arose, how many of us would really go back?

The opportunity is unlikely, so the question is really just an exercise. But sometimes, the exercise is what we need in order to understand just where we are and what we want. The truth is, if my phone rang tomorrow saying we could be back to the soaps, I'm not sure what I'd do.

And I suppose that is what they call a real cliffhanger...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Never Before

I am twenty-five plus years into my time in New York, and I have never seen the Radio City Christmas show. There have been years when I've thought about it, and years when I thought right past it, and somehow, decades have gone by without my joining the crowds of holiday-clad people at one of the city's most famous theatres.

Among the wacky things about New York City is that, despite its myriad museums, sites, and cultural attractions, it is also just a place where people make their lives. On a day to day basis, life is about going to work and picking up children. Our weekend options may be different because we live in New York City, but weekends are still filled with negotiation over kids' activities and household chores, choices between all-out weekend fun and hours of accomplishing homework assignments.

I still haven't seen the Christmas show. But this weekend, I spent the better part of a day--more time, perhaps, than I have in twenty-five years put together--in Central Park, another NYC landmark. Aside from walkathons in my early working days, and a few field trips when my kids were deep into their "Central Park Study," at school, I have pretty much considered it "someone else's park," a big, beautiful thing for the bikers and the runners and the Upper West and Upper East Siders. But this time (full disclosure, thanks to a kid and to Pokemon Go), I spent hours walking, and taking in the scenery and architecture of the place and the city around it. What got me there was the kid and the game, but what "got me" was the juxtaposition of city and nature that I suddenly had the chance to enjoy. For those few hours, it was my park too.

Sometimes, "never before" doesn't necessarily have to mean "never." And sometimes, the door to what you've never done opens in the most unexpected ways--with the most unexpected results...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Am For...

You can cry for what you haven't done, or you can sing for what you have.

You can bemoan the times when you didn't go somewhere, or you can celebrate the times when you did.

You can allow yourself to be trapped by what others want, or you can choose to fly to what you want.

You can squander an hour, or you can savor it.

You can do what you do every day, or you can make today different.

You can be only the "you" that's expected, or you can be the "you" that goes beyond the expectations.

You can live in the past, or you can face the present.

You can focus on just the present, or you can look toward the future.

You can be for everyone, most of the time. But sometimes, sometimes, you have to be for yourself...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Never Eat Alone

I go to dinner with some former coworkers, at which one of the topics of discussion is "never eat alone," the idea being that every meal is an opportunity to expand your network, your knowledge, and your world view--if you eat with someone else.

I suppose this idea is not so different from my having tried to "have coffee" with people when I was out of work. Not only does sharing a meal or having coffee expand your network, it keeps you from living an isolated existence, no matter what your current employment or financial status.

While I was once quite committed to the "have coffee" idea, fairly steady work and the preservation of the schedule and energy to maintain that work have come to change my focus. When given the choice, I often opt for the control of the "alone" situation, rather than the risk of the "never alone" scenario. As we continue the "never eat alone" conversation, however, I realize that putting yourself out there, even when there is not the imminent need for connection, is still important, and still empowering. When you eat (or even just drink coffee) with someone else, you open yourself to different viewpoints and different opportunities. When you "don't eat alone," you situate yourself not just for how things are now, but for how they might be if circumstances should change five minutes or five months from now.

I'll admit, often my "never eat alone" company will be my family. While that's not really the intention of the instruction, family too can provide perspective that munching alone just can't.

It took a leap for me to go to the dinner where I had the opportunity to discuss "never eating alone." Often, it is a lot easier to face just a plate in front of us, rather than a person across from us. But when we try never to eat alone, we transform the meal into much more than just a little nourishment. It becomes the source of the kind of energy that helps sustain us going forward.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Did you ever wish you could wipe the thoughts from your head, even just temporarily? It's an attractive thought--it would mean not having to remember our setbacks or stress about the situations we can't change. It would mean sleeping when we need to sleep and focusing when we need to focus. It would mean not allowing reminiscing about the past or anticipating the future to intrude upon acting on the now. It would make so many things easier.

Most of us, however, are not built that way. We can't just turn off our concerns about our day in order to sleep in preparation for tomorrow. We can't just pretend that our yesterdays didn't happen, just because we are now removed from them. And, though I'd like it be easier to sleep when I want to and move ahead when I'd like, I realize that I accomplish because I let my mind work when it needs to. I can face moving toward the future because I use what I learned in the past.

All of the thoughts and worries and plans can make it hard to sleep, leaving me, well, wiped. But without them, I am just a fraction of what they make me. And re-learning what they have to teach me could be pretty exhausting. So, I keep them. I own them. And, when necessary, I shelve them, but only temporarily. Because in the end, there's not so much to gain from being wiped.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Today. Just Today.

It's a good idea to build a closet containing all the right clothes for all the right occasions. But sometimes it's more important just to make sure we are comfortable today.

It is useful to make a plan to sleep right. But sometimes, it's more important just to make sure we sleep enough today.

It is good to have a game plan. But sometimes, it's more important just to play the game (and play to win) today.

We can try to prepare for weather, prepare for crisis, prepare for the unknown. But sometimes, it's more important just to stay dry today.

We can spend time and energy analyzing the "best way," but sometimes, the "best way" is simply what works today.

We can plan for the future and long for the past, but we will ultimately be stuck if we don't embrace (or at least face) today.

There is so much for us to try to do, try to see, try to be. But often, all we really need to worry about is today. Just today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

No Christmas Reel

Once upon a time, there was a time when the return from Thanksgiving weekend signaled not Cyber Monday, but the start of The Christmas Reel. For the last ten years or so of One Life to Live at ABC, this increasingly expanded version of a blooper reel took on a life of its own, as it began to incorporate specially shot stories and carefully planned tributes. It required both the massive undertaking of finding the funny moments from the whole year, and the prepping and shooting of cast and crew to tell a story about said year. While we shot many show episodes during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was hard (particularly for us ADs, who spearheaded the reel) not to focus mostly on the reel. Shown at one of the holiday parties, it was a calling card of sorts for the people who worked on it. And we all wanted a piece of that calling card.

These days, returning from Thanksgiving is just, well, returning from Thanksgiving. We no longer exist in that rarified environment where we could shut out the rest of the world in favor of the world we were creating. The passion and drive and mirth that went into the Christmas Reel now just float along--or are put into Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday.

Who would have thought, on days when The Christmas Reel overwhelmed us, that it would become something we missed? Who would have thought that I could wish that some of this holiday energy were being channeled into the craziness we would create for co-workers to stand on set and watch over lunch? 

But we get attached to traditions, and to the emotions they make us feel and the actions they make us take. There were years when I was far removed from the Christmas Reel, and years when it was the most personal piece I worked on there. There were years when I just ate lunch at the lunch, and years when I held my breath to find out whether coworkers would understand and enjoy what I'd helped put together.

This year, the return from Thanksgiving is just that--a return from some time away (for which I am thankful) right back to what I left. There is no Christmas Reel--it is up to me to find my passion and drive and mirth. There is no Christmas Reel--it is up to me to show off if I want, to be creative if I choose.

There is no Christmas Reel. Which doesn't mean there won't be a holiday. It simply means I'll have to work a little harder to find it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cue--Wait, Don't Cue--The Drama

I had occasion to talk this weekend to one of the earliest readers of my blog. While he'd been quite the loyal reader back then, when each day left the reader wondering if I'd ever work again, he found it not quite as compelling once I'd found steadier work and the tone was not quite so "do or die."

I can't help but compare it to the stories on a soap opera. Crises, of course, always keep the viewer hooked more reliably than just nice conversations. Had Viki had fewer medical and psychological problems, or had Blair been involved in fewer love triangles, would the fans have kept coming back? 

But even on a soap, there were days that just connected the cliffhangers--episodes necessary to get us from Point A to Point B, but not nearly as exciting as the points themselves. If every day had to be a cliffhanger, the writers would soon be exhausted. And if we, as viewers, had to spend every minute of every episode on the edge of our seats, we would be exhausted too.

What I would like to think I do is find the most interesting pieces of those in between days. While it perhaps made for good reading, a frustrating (and often fruitless) job search was not a situation that I, or anyone, would choose to continue living with. Perhaps Viki and Blair could survive the constant ups and downs, but those of us outside that "fourth wall" would wipe out pretty quickly trying to maintain such a high level of drama.

I suppose that is all part of being "not washed up yet"--allowing the drama when necessary, but appreciating the not-so-dramatic days that fall in between. And hoping that dramatic or not, you can continue without preemption or cancellation.

The Sleep Of The Night Owl

Even with daytime sleep and daily vigilance, it takes days to recover from stretches of overnights. And so, along with my turkey and stuffing, I have dined on early bedtimes and afternoon naps. And after a few days of stone-like sleep, I begin to wake in the night. And after a few days of dozing in the daylight, I make it through nap-free. I guess my body is saying "I've recovered now."

Am I ever ready to go back to regular life, whether that life involves overnights or not? Is enough sleep ever really enough? Is diversion ever really enough of a break from normalcy? Probably not, on all counts. But I guess, no matter what our "regular life" is, our "not regular life" depends on it. It's not just about funding the days off and the trips away and the activities done. It is about what it is that we're taking a break from. If we didn't have routine, breaks in routine wouldn't be nearly as important--or enjoyable. If we didn't have "normal," out of the ordinary wouldn't matter so much.

So, I give thanks for the time to have banked some sleep. And I suppose I give thanks for the signs saying I have banked enough, at least for the moment. And I prepare to return to "normal," giving thanks, I suppose, for having "normal" to go back to.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Red Cabbage In Jars

It's an odd food to mention in the midst of this food-filled holiday. But somehow, it popped into my head. It was one of a series of foods that I had never encountered in my southern suburban upbringing that I learned about running errands for my very first boss. There were types of lettuce far from the iceberg I knew. There were pieces of meat and fish specially cut and wrapped, and tiny jars of caviar with price tags I couldn't even fathom. It was an education in food and in New York City. It was many years ago, but it made an impression that lives to today.

I'm not quite sure why this came to mind today--perhaps it was being surrounded by food, or thinking about old Thanksgivings back in soap days, or simply pondering the paths I've walked--on the Upper West Side and beyond. Back then, a day might include tracking down (without benefit of the Internet) groceries I'd never heard of before and calling actors with call times and script changes. I suppose the days now are no less varied. I am just a little more aware of exotic vegetables and no more likely to buy expensive delicacies. These days, I'm doing grocery errands for my family rather than for my job. But there are (thank goodness) still new discoveries and still new challenges. The days of "red cabbage in jars" may be unforgettable memories. But the items I find today help me create new memories. For Thanksgiving Day and every day.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bringing Up Baby

This week, my daughter brought home a surprisingly lifelike doll for her health class "baby project." For 24 hours, she responded to its every cry, by "feeding it," changing its pretend diaper, burping it, or, if all else failed, simply rocking it until that crying stopped. It was uncannily like my first days of parenthood--going from not quite knowing if I was doing well to figuring things out to actually feeling fairly competent, all in a haze of sleep deprivation. I'll admit, it was entertaining for me to watch, and it brought back memories--so much so, that I was telling all sorts of stories that I had long forgotten.

When the day and night were done, she returned the "baby" to school for the next person's turn, hopeful that she had gotten a good grade on the project (her response times and actions were recorded on some kind of electronic thingy inside the doll). It seemed to me she was doing pretty well, but I guess we'll see.

And I guess that's kind of what real parenthood is like from babyhood on--you do what you can, figuring things out as you go, and then you wait to see how you've done. There may be times when you believe the whole endeavor is going well, and times when you don't think that your tired arms and tired eyes and tired everything can take it. But you muddle through, and hope for the best.

The "baby project" was, I'm sure, designed to give the kids enough knowledge to think hard about finding themselves facing parenthood before they were ready. But, from where I stand, it also taught them a little about facing parenthood, or life, at any point. You do the best you can with what you know. You summon whatever stamina you can to get through whatever challenges you can. And then you just step back, and hope it all turns out okay.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I asked questions, and I got answers.

I explained, and I was understood.

I bought the groceries and cooked the food, and I ate what I wanted.

I spoke up, and I was heard.

I reached out, and others reached back.

I learned a little, and I was able to teach what I had learned.

I thanked a little, and I was appreciated in return.

When we leave things unsaid, we may get stuck--stuck with our own questions, our own problems, our own unknowns. But when we begin to speak up for ourselves, so much more is possible...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Days Of Our Lives

There are Picture Days, and Conference Days, and assorted other days that fill the calendar, as if they will affect every other part of the day in question. When they actually occur, it often turns out that they amount to simply a few minutes in the course of a day--teachers can really only see you for five (or sometimes three) minutes, school photographers spend just seconds taking the picture of your child that you will, for a price, own in assorted sizes. These are no longer "days." They are moments--just blips in a regular week. At least that's what I thought.

Except that Picture Day, if we parents don't forget it and send our kids to school in their favorite, wear for three days straight t-shirt, makes for at least a day of discussion and negotiation about wardrobe and hair (will any of it matter if the photo is taken last period, after the wear and tear of lunch and gym?).

Except that Conference Day, if we plan our work and life to be able to go, requires sign ups in advance, and patience when some parents just flat refuse to honor five minutes, and advance preparation, so that the twice-yearly five minutes isn't squandered.

Except that any "Day," whether it amounts to just a few minutes or not, demands our attention and adaptation to a routine that is not our routine, a set of circumstances that makes us think and rethink.

So, I guess I grant these "days" the status of "Days," because they manage to sneak in for not just the moments they take, but for the hours that surround those moments, and the weeks that may lead up to those hours. In moments, the pictures and the conferences and the whatever else are done. But they have altered us, and our flow of time and thought. And, as they say, "these are the Days of Our Lives...."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Picture And The Thousand Words

In conjunction with the "last day of OLTL" anniversary, I came across a crew photo from the show. "Wow," my kids said, "you look a lot younger there!"

Now, granted, the photo was from five years ago, which is a fairly long time for any of us. But my kids' observation made me wonder about how the "me" now is different from the "me" then. I might argue that those were simpler times, when I knew where to go and at what time each day, and when I was surrounded by friends and co-workers who had shared a lifetime with me. I might argue that I gave more thought to makeup and appearance back then. I might argue that those days were stress-free in a way that these days rarely are. But all of those arguments would be sugar-coated. Despite the relative security those days provided, they also held the stresses that any workplace inevitably does--the questioning of one's abilities, the competition for promotion, the exhaustion from long days and challenging people.

So, maybe the changes in me are simply the result of time passage and bigger children (with bigger children challenges). Perhaps they are a reflection of a "me" too busy with the business of life to focus too much on appearance. Perhaps they are the changes that happen in all of us as we make assorted choices along the way.

I will never know what the "me" in that photo would have looked like in the same photo five years later. Even if OLTL had continued, no one can really say whether I or any of the others in the photo would still have been there, or if the years would have done their work anyway.

So, for now, I look back on that picture with nostalgia, and I look forward to now with hope. Because a picture may be worth a thousand words, but continuing to write the thousand words doesn't hurt either.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Five-Year Plan

Full disclosure--I have never had one of these. Not a six-month plan or a one-year plan or a ten-year plan either. So, as I realize that it was today, five years ago, that we shot the last scenes of One Life to Live at ABC, I can't be too surprised that my last five years have been nothing like what I imagined at the time.

There was the period of pursuing children's media (and the absolute belief that the end of One Life was the sign that I was meant to do that). There was the shot at writing for children (and the absolute belief that if I worked at it and put myself in the company of the right people, I could succeed). There was the despair from lack of work and income, and the toying with giving up television altogether. There was the bright light of a soap rebirth that went out far too quickly. There were calls out of the blue for gigs that lasted five minutes and gigs that lasted two years. There was the discovery of new friends, and new skills, and resilience I never imagined I could have. And suddenly, five years had passed, and many, many things had changed.

But as I ponder how five years can just pass, with or without a plan, I am struck by how, with all that has changed, some things remain--
I still feel it when I hear a "Lifer" is sick or gets married or has a baby. I still want to know where my fellow "Lifers" have ended up (whether "ended up" means working or living). And I still remember moments of that last day, though so many years and so many events have passed since.

Perhaps I had some kind of a plan that day. But five years later, I am still just following the path on which I ended up, and trying to make sense of it each day. And I guess that is yet another thing I share with all my fellow "Lifers."

Friday, November 18, 2016

All In The Timing

When you work in TV, time matters. Each production minute is a minute paying crew salaries and equipment and prop rental. And each minute that you shoot has to fit into a designated program length (or be edited out) once the show is put together.

For years, I sat with a stopwatch, estimating scene lengths and then timing the actual lengths of the scenes. For other years, I tracked when we would need to finish each scene in order to finish the day on time. You might say my life was all about time, so much so that I could practically tell what two and a half minutes felt like, even without the stopwatch.

Much of my work is not as time-obsessed these days, though deadlines still loom, and I can still "feel" two and a half minutes. Interestingly, however, the number of days when time turns into not what I planned is still quite high. Time flies when I need it to stand still. Hours go by slowly when I just want to get to the end of a "scene." There are days when I realize I have no more control over real time than, as a PA, I had over the times of the scenes I was estimating. I used to say that a scene's length could change simply because of what the actors had for lunch, and perhaps that is no less true in real life. There will be days when events move slowly--because someone hasn't slept well, or because it is raining, or because of a series of circumstances we can't see. The same events on another day might go completely differently, simply because of factors beyond our control, so that while one day, we are waiting for "it to be over," on another, it feels as though we are struggling to  keep up.

Each day, some part of what we do is a result of timing. We can sit with a stopwatch, real or imagined, and keep track of the changes, or we can simply accept the passage of time and the shifts it creates in our lives. As I learned as a PA, holding that stopwatch doesn't make time go the way you want. It simply makes you more aware of the minutes that pass.

The hours go by, whether in the middle of the night or in the sleeping and doing of the day. It's up to us, stopwatch in hand or not, to grab them, not just watch them, to use them, not just count them. If we do, then it won't matter if they change from our estimate. We'll still beat the clock.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


It was brought to my attention that I had not donned pajamas in over a week. With working overnight and sleeping by day, pajamas just never happened, this time for what turned out to be a long stretch of nights.

Now, there are a great many ramifications of working overnights. There is a necessary vigilance about sleep. There is snack management, so that small meals can punctuate the night without adversely affecting the blood sugar. There is learning to sleep at odd times and not sleep at others and making sure to time the drinking of coffee appropriately for the needed sleep cycle. And there is an acceptance of being just a little ghostlike at times when others are just getting a second wind.

I have gotten used to all of these effects--well, as much as anyone can get used to them. But not until it was mentioned to me did I really think about the pajama effect. For, you see, many people come home after a long day of work and trade in their work clothes for pajamas. It is a transition from formality to comfort, from the outside world to one's own space. And when I work many overnights in a row, it is a part of life that I miss completely. 

I could spend my daytime in pajamas, I suppose, but it would be inefficient, as I have errands to run and kids to transport. And somehow, pajamas for just a few hours is just not the same as pajamas when you know you can keep them on all evening and night. So, I forgo the pajamas. Until I hit a night off.

You might think that the best thing about a day off is sleeping more. Or not having to take a bus or a train. Or accomplishing a few things that otherwise wouldn't happen. Or simply spending your hours the way YOU want. But today, it is the pajamas. Just the pajamas.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bowl Of Cake

In a week that has contained all kinds of things soap--from birthdays to deaths to commemorations (and yes, an election that we might wish were fiction)--I found myself thinking about "bowl of cake," a party food I created for many a One Life To Live celebration over the years. It's nothing particularly fancy--just an adaptation of a British trifle, combining cake and pudding and fruit, with endless variations on the combinations.

I don't quite remember when it was that I transitioned from going out with petty cash to buy a grocery store cake to using my own money to prepare a special creation at home and bring it in, presumably by bus and train. And perhaps my making the "bowl of cake" didn't even last that long. But when I think about it, I am struck by the two things it represented--creativity, as I never made it the same way twice--and community, as it not only managed to bring people together to eat, but was also one of my unique ways of connecting with a group of people who had become like family.

It has been a long time since I made "bowl of cake." It's probably high time  to revisit it. But, with or without the "bowl of cake," I find that life (or at least the joy in it) mostly comes down to those two things: creativity--that piece of ourselves that we put into everything we do, and community--the connections we form, and the strength we derive from being connected--at work, in organizations, even on the bus and train.

The days of One Life to Live, and perhaps the days of "bowl of cake" are long gone. But the days of creativity and community live on, if we let them.

There must be an occasion coming up--time for a little cake, and pudding, and fruit. And a celebration of what makes us unique, and of what makes us part of a group that matters.