Sunday, January 31, 2016

Eyes Wide Open

Having slept for many hours, I had my eyes wide open as I faced my day.

Walking in the brisk air, purposeful, but not racing, I had my eyes wide open to see the sights of the city.

Having nowhere to be but home, I had my eyes wide open to what interested my kids.

Having a few moments of quiet, I had my eyes wide open to look for what might be.

Having a little time to stop, I had my eyes wide open to understand what just is.

Having travel time on a bus from A to B, I had my eyes wide open about my path.

Because I said "yes" when I could and "no" when I needed to, I tried to keep my eyes wide open about what was really important.

Sometimes, half the battle in life is keeping our eyes wide open--even when we're tired, even when what we're doing seems to leave us in a tunnel. Eyes wide open means we are ready to notice, ready to react, ready to adjust. And when we're not quite sure where we're going, eyes wide open and ready are the safest ways to be.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Out To Lunch

I don't go out for lunch. When I am working, it's much easier to eat at my desk. When I am not working, I can't justify the expense. So I do coffee, and the occasional dinner, and otherwise, some leftovers and a lunchbox make me very happy.

Today, however, the hours lined up to lunch out--with my son. He too tends to lunch in--whether it's school cafeteria food or packed pasta and snacks or Mac and cheese in the comfort of home, he happily shuns sitting in restaurants. But it was lunchtime, and a half day of school, and it just seemed like a good day for it. So after some negotiation, and some decision making (we non-lunch-outers aren't used to on-the-spot lunch choices), we found ourselves at a counter with smoothies and a sandwich. Was it gourmet food? Not really. Was it elegant in any way? Nope. But in our break from our normal routine, and in our time together, we found a half hour of comfort and reinvigoration for the rest of our day.

I suppose it is a bit like walking unencumbered after carrying something heavy, or like sleeping for a long time after many sleepless nights. We can appreciate things more fully when we have been without them. We can enjoy a simple half hour because it is suddenly something special.

I will probably still be a lunch in kind of person. But today's lunch reminded me how healing a little day out to lunch can be.

Friday, January 29, 2016

On Sleep

It has come to my attention that my whole life currently revolves around sleep. This is, perhaps, an exaggeration. Yet, with the evolution of an increasingly night-based work schedule, it is hard not to spend much of the day pondering how to score enough sleep to survive the nights.

With my new focus on sleep, I believe I have learned a few things worth sharing. After all, in a world that increasingly twenty-four hour and a work world that is coming to have few to no boundaries, I may be the only one in my social circle working overnight now, but I won't be the only one for long. So, here goes...

1. That old new mom adage "sleep when the baby sleeps" really ought to say "sleep whenever you can." That would leave us all much better prepared for sleeping enough, even when there's no baby.

2. Sleep is more important than answering every call that comes during the day (90% of which are telemarketing calls). Even if you wake up, look before you pick up.

3. There's no shame in going to bed before your children. As long as they're safe. Whether you're working nights or not. End of story.

4. There is no wrong place to sleep. As long as you don't mind being stepped on (if you sleep on the floor), sat on (if you sleep on the couch), or laughed at (if you sleep in a place or position that leaves unbelievably amusing table or sweater marks on your face), it's all good.

5. You will catch up. You will. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even this week, but you will.

6. You will always be in good company when you talk about lack of sleep--everybody's got it, and even if it's nothing like yours, it's something to talk about, especially during those hours you aren't coherent enough to talk about much else.

7. Uneven sleep makes you appreciate a solid, in the dark hours, fuzzy pajamas sleep more than you ever imagined you could. It's kind of like a tray of brownies after a week of celery.

Now, having written an entire blog about sleep, I would like to think that I can make my life revolve around something else. And I guess if that's not possible, I'll just take a nap...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

To Teach A Kid--And A Grownup

Somewhere along the way, in what seemed to be a crazy school process, which ended up with never having more than one of my three kids in the same school at the same time, someone talked about how, kids being different people, the "right" school for one might not be the "right" school for another. How, I thought, could that possibly be true, given that families outside of New York City tend just to send their kids to the school in their neighborhood (a neighborhood in which they have likely settled because of the school)? How, I thought, could that possibly be true, given that even we New Yorkers all tend to be clamoring for the same schools, none of us really aspiring to complicate our lives by sending our kids to different places?

Now, hindsight is twenty-twenty, so I realize that any comment on what is now many years underway would simply be justification. Yet, as we have made our way through multiple schools and the accompanying logistics, I have come to realize that, both with schools and with life, not every choice fits every person. As I make my way through each new career step, some demanding new skills, new hours, new ways to think, I am beginning to see that what is workable--or at least livable--for me wouldn't necessarily be workable--much less livable--for every working mom. As I make my way through each career step, I begin to see that the others navigating through career steps (and there are a daunting number of them around me!) will handle them differently--will have different priorities, different approaches, and different thresholds--and, therefore, will end up in different places (much like my kids, who have continued to end up all over the city).

When I began the NYC schools game, I thought the goals, and the destinations, were clear. And I guess when I began the job journey game, I thought the same thing. Turns out that both had slightly different rules--and winning strategies--than I'd imagined. Turns out that there's more than one way to teach a kid--and definitely more than one way to teach a grownup.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Reel Deal

We media types don't just have resumes, we also have reels. Whether we are directors or producers, writers or editors, people expect to see a video representation of our past work. So, realizing that it had been a while since I updated my reel, or even looked at it, I found myself pressing "play" on my YouTube channel. I'll admit, I was a little nervous. How would a reel comprised of soap scenes, promos, an educational piece, and a smattering of news (many of the clips in long gone video formats) hold up?

Much of the video is not the crisp, clean HD we now look at daily. Yet, as I watched, I was struck by the variety of projects with which I've been involved. I was struck by how the One Life to Live clips still move me, and how proud I am to have devoted my time to projects that were more about creating good than about generating money.

There is, of course, room to update my channel and my reel. But I remind myself that updating doesn't have to mean getting rid of everything old. I may feel far from where I was when I edited some of those things, but that doesn't make them less a part of who I am now. And perhaps, in some way, they are the reminder that being an editor isn't just about the fancy effects, it's about the feeling the work creates. Being an editor isn't just about the jobs you've had, it's about the kind of person you are to work with.

An unexpected glance at my reel gave me a welcome reminder of where I've been, and perhaps where I can go. Maybe a picture (or a video) really is worth a thousand words...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Not Easy

It is not easy to add something to an already long day, whether that day is your own, which began with work overnight, or your child's, which has been filled with the business of class work and homework and plain old getting along. Yet, there are days when something else begs--no, demands--to be added. So when, then, is an add just an add, and when is it too much? And how, on a daily basis, do we know the difference? 
So, let's see--I was probably tired at the end of a long day when I went to many a Children's Media Association event, where I met all sorts of new contacts and friends. I was tired at the end of a long day of Associate Directing when I went home to prepare for directing scenes the next day, which gave me a rush and some extra money in the bank. I was tired at the end of a long day when I went out to a family dinner that tasted and felt great.

Quite often, the events and experiences for which we have to push ourselves beyond the energy we think we have become some of the most memorable ones in our lives. 

All I really wanted was to sleep a little more. And feeling that way, I was mighty inclined to let one of my kids do the same. Instead, I said, "let's try" (and more compellingly, "because I said so"). And because I said so, and because he helped serve dinner to a food insecure crowd, he came home with a little more to think about. And because, tired at the end of a long day, I walked along with him and saw a little of my own table-moving skills and a lot of the best of him, I came home actually feeling a little energized. 

It would have been far easier to walk home and shut down. It would have been far easier to give in to routine and comfort and what we wanted in that moment. But then we wouldn't have ended up with what we got. So maybe easier isn't always better...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Doing The Homework of Life

When I was in high school, I spent the better part of my weekends completing homework for the coming week. One could argue that doing so got me better grades. One could argue that doing so enabled me to spend my weekdays juggling extracurriculars, or that doing so got me out of the cleaning and yard work my parents asked me to do. Mostly, I think, I did it because it gave me a sense of control over my time. If I could accomplish many of the week's assignments on my own schedule, I could then accomplish what I wanted the rest of the time.

In some ways, not much has changed. While I don't necessarily have actual school homework (though I happily encourage my kids on the weekend homework path), my "homework" these days is the preparation for my work hours. Just as I felt better back then if I could control my use of time, these days, I feel better if I take control of getting sleep before an overnight, or packing snacks to survive said overnight. And I feel better if, with my kids, I can "clear the decks," just a little, so that we have some control over our week. As hard as weekends full of homework may have seemed back then, they bought me the control I so desperately wanted. They prepared me for hours of staring at floor plans and blocking scenes when I was directing. And they taught me the value of taking control of my time, and of teaching my kids to do the same.

We can let the homework of life overwhelm us, or we can take control of it. And if we take control, chances are, we will go into the situations of life better rested, better prepared, and better equipped to handle whatever comes our way.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Our Little Part

It would, I suppose, be hard to talk about today without talking about the snow. After all, in my eight-plus hours at work, it was the subject of most of the packages edited, and the content that filled almost all the monitors in a room full of video feeds. There is, I suppose, not much more compelling than a force of nature that affects so many people.

I traveled to work in the snow--by bus, by train, and on foot. And I traveled home in the snow--by train and on foot, because the buses had stopped. And perhaps I was among the lucky few, with not a crazy long way to go. Was I glad to be warm and dry and indoors at the end of all of it? Of course. But for my hours at work, and during my hours traveling to and from, I was also glad to be a part of it--a part of experiencing it, and a part of getting the video about it out into the world. Perhaps I could have been just as happy with a couch and a blanket and a cup of cocoa all day, but for today, I did a little more. Nowhere near as much as all the plow drivers and sidewalk shovelers trying to keep up, but my little part in the storm.

And sometimes, our little part is all we can do.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hours Well Spent?

Today, I did some at-home editing for a friend. It is not always easy to fit in anything that doesn't check either the family box or the paid work box, but with a few unaccounted for hours on the calendar, I figured I'd give it a shot. As we worked through her "passion project," I thought about how I was using my skills (skills I too often underestimate) to help her accomplish something. I thought about how my input was useful, even when I didn't seem to have anything much to say. I thought about how significantly collaboration can change the direction of art.

I am normally in the mode of powering through, with the goal of completion, and despite our hours working, we are a long way from that. But the hours I gave over, to work not designed to bring in money or to support my family, reminded me that, in among the day to day, there can still be moments for the once in a while. In among the "need to," there can still be "try to," that set of things that may not solve any problems, but can open up our ability to think just a little differently.

And so, I go back to my work and family time just a little different than before. I return to the "need to" with slightly different eyes. And I guess that makes those hours, completion or not, hours well spent.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Jobs of Life

I traveled (both literally and emotionally) from being my daughter's nervous mother at her college audition to being a hard-working freelancer, always prepared for another challenge. There were new experiences at both places--new information to process, new journeys to take--and by the time I reached home twelve hours later, I was exhausted.

Now, twelve hours is not that much. In my soap days, fourteen-plus hour days were not uncommon. The biggest difference, I think, is that these days, I am far more different people in a day. A long day on a relatively straight path may be long, but a long day spent on many different paths, each one requiring all of you and more, can leave a person a little spent. It's not that a person can't multitask--I am a multitasker from long before "multitasker" was even a word. It's that when the tasks at hand take on an emotional component as well as a practical one, "multitasking" becomes as much about managing your emotional life as about managing your logistical one. And when emotions are involved, twelve hours can begin to feel more like twenty.

There's nothing wrong with investing a little emotion into our work. The emotional investment can make new skills stick and new relationships grow. And it's hard to keep from investing a little (or a lot) of emotion into parenthood. So, perhaps that's where the exhaustion comes from--it's not just about the hours. It's about the emotion. We can experience, but when we feel, we use a lot more energy. We can learn, but when we feel as we are learning, we use a lot more energy. We can work, but when we allow ourselves to feel along the way, we use a lot more energy. And when the feeling from the different parts of our lives spills over into the other parts, it's no wonder we are exhausted.

I don't know that I'd have it any other way. I certainly wouldn't want to go through life without feeling, and I wouldn't give up being the nervous parent or the curious worker. So, perhaps it will take just a little more sleep. Or a little more quality to the little sleep I get. I guess that's just how it is when you're trying to do--and feel--all the jobs in your life.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How Input Is Input

Some posts are fairly personal. Some, like yesterday's, are personal, but so universal that they become parts of conversations with all sorts of people. And so it was that I ended up in conversations with a variety of people about that one--both people in the middle of the same situation and those years away from dealing with it, people who had gone through it already (and lived to talk about it!), and people who had only their thirty-something year old memories of similar situations.

What I realized in talking to people was that it wasn't just those in the middle of it all who could understand or, more important, offer useful input. On the contrary, people both far away from it and far beyond it offered some of the best input. They could see the big picture, or perhaps the little one, with eyes that weren't quite so glazed. They could offer light that helped me see in my tunnel and that helped me realize that there was, and would continue to be, life outside the tunnel.

In life, and in work, it is easy to think that we can only learn from those who are doing what we do, or from those who have already seen or done more than we have for longer than we have. It turns out that some of the best input often comes from the other places in our lives--people who are younger, or a few (or more than a few) steps away from our situation.

The truth is, you never know where and when you will find the best input on a situation. When you share your own frustrations and challenges, it turns out that there is all sorts of input that can help. You just have to listen carefully, so that the input really gets, well, input.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Getting In, Part Fifty-Five: Ego

Ok, it's really only Part Seven. There are just days when it feels as though it has been going on a long time and still has a long way to go. Sometimes, I wonder if the college admissions process is really just about endurance--if you can make it through, you'll make it through.

Some of us New York City folks like to believe that we have been preparing for this process for years. After all, we and our children have competed for school spots as early as preschool. We have toured and applied at every level--kindergarten, middle school, high school--and we have managed to survive with egos relatively intact. Sounds like good preparation, right? Turns out, there is probably no adequate preparation for the ego roller coaster involved in the college process. We may think we've been ramping up, but...

Perhaps it is that this time, the ball is far more in our children's court, and we parents are participating much more from the bleachers. Perhaps it is the larger range, both geographically and demographically. Ultimately, however, I think it is the workout it gives the ego. In order to write essays and go on interviews and auditions, our kids are called upon to speak well of themselves. Even the most insecure among them must toot their own horns, talk about all their activities and triumphs, make themselves sound like the perfect candidates. And then, after months of keeping the ego high, they (and therefore, we) face the remaining months, the ones in which that pumped up ego is deflated with a combination of non-encouraging emails and flat envelopes. Maybe it is just an introduction to the ways of life. But it is a rocky road for that ego.

I've read the books about how it all turns out fine. I've had the conversations about how all of this is only a blip in a long life. But right now, it is hard. It is consuming and exhilarating and exhausting and debilitating. And while it may feel like Part Fifty-five, it is only Part Seven. I guess we'd better pace ourselves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You Learn Something New Every Day...And Night

It feels good to know what you are doing. It is a feeling that often comes with being in a place or a role for a long time. It is a feeling that comes from learning and listening and doing. And in an ideal world, it is a feeling that grows day by day.

Having been freelancing in one place for a few months now, I have been feeling pretty good about knowing what I am doing. But as a freelancer who works all sorts of shifts, I am reminded almost daily that there is always more to learn. And more important, there are always more people from whom to learn. And that, more so than any skill set or production process, is what keeps it interesting.

Early this morning, I worked a shift I never had before. Though I had overlapped with the shift, I had never looked that closely. So today, over the course of eight somewhat sleepy hours, I learned a new sequence of events and some new skills. And because I learned them from someone new, I acquired them complete with a few new ways to think. For, you see, many people may perform the same task. Many people may have the same set of "marketable skills"'on their resumes. But no two people do a task exactly the same way with exactly the same thoughts. So if we are able to watch all the different ways and understand all the different thoughts, that is when we really learn.

I learned a few "something new's" today. From a few "someone new's." And sometimes, that's the very best way to learn.

Monday, January 18, 2016


"It's just so permanent," my daughter said, as she watched us feed ten years of bills and receipts through a shredder. She was right. What amounted to six grocery bags of uniformly sliced paper strips would soon be gone, and gone or not, the papers were essentially gone already. After all, can you even imagine trying to piece together a slip of paper once a shredder has done its work? Can you even imagine taping together the hundreds of strips that make up a single piece of paper?

We--especially we freelancers--are not so used to permanent. We go through life believing that both the things we like and the things we don't like will change. We forge ahead, believing that we can change paths and outcomes if we try a little harder, "want it" a little more. And yet, the strips of paper emerging from the shredder remind us that some things really are permanent.

I tend to find that in cleaning up, elimination gives me much more of a sense of peace than simply creating order. As bags--of no longer needed clothing or of shredded paper--go out the door, I feel, often quite literally, as though a weight has been lifted from me. Perhaps it's not the actual weight or size of the items being eliminated. Maybe the sense of peace is actually in the permanence of it all. When items are organized, they are still there to become disorganized. When they are eliminated, they are no longer present to crowd me, to create chaos around me, to engender discord in my home. When they are gone, whether by shredding or by placing the bags in a one-way donation chute, the items are gone, permanently gone. So permanently that there is no choice but to move on. And moving on can feel very good.

So, when my daughter says "it's just so permanent," she's right. There are lots of times when we can undo and redo. And there are times when we just have to shred, and accept, and move on. Which leaves us time--and space--to work on what's not so permanent.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Is it enough to do your best, as long as you're thinking the right things?

Is it enough to think the right things, even if you can't be there all the time to do them?

Is it enough to be there, even if what you're doing there is sleeping?

Is it enough to sleep, even if you're not sleeping enough and if you're sleeping at times when you need to do other things?

Is it enough to do other things, even if you're not doing the things that really need doing?

Is enough to do the things that need doing, even if that keeps you from doing the things you want to do?

Is it enough to do the things you want to do, even if they aren't the same things others want you to do?

Is what we do ever enough? Or is it actually always enough?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

...And Things Change...

I suppose there is nothing so earth-shattering about that--it probably could have been a subtitle to "Not Washed Up Yet." After all, I have spent the last few years talking essentially about change--new work situations, new life challenges, new views of the world. And how it is that I, and all of us, adapt to the changes that face us every day.

Yet, as many changes, big and small, as I have managed to manage, I am still learning how. I may not feel every change in my schedule as deeply as I once did, but there's still a little gasp when four days become just three, or when a day off becomes a day working. I may have experienced more kid ages and stages than before, but I still find myself up against attitudes and situations that feel brand new. I have been balancing  motherhood and freelancehood for what seems like a long time now, but it remains a balance that needs constant care and attention.

So I guess that's just how it is. For a moment or two, perhaps things stay the same. But for the rest of of the moments, they change. And if we are to remain "not washed up," it is up to us to handle the big changes and the small with the same adaptability, the same determination, and the same grace with which we handle every job interview, every new social situation, and every birthday.


Things change. Lucky for us, we can learn to change too.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Maybe I Shouldn't

Maybe I shouldn't deliver a forgotten gym uniform or email a forgotten homework assignment. But sometimes I can, so I do.

Maybe I shouldn't nap in the daytime or just enjoy the midday sun through my apartment window. But sometimes I can, so I do.

Maybe I shouldn't buy ice cream or bake muffins or pop popcorn. But sometimes I can, so I do.

Maybe I shouldn't try to be everywhere for everyone. But sometimes, I can, so I do.

Maybe I shouldn't buy fuzzy pajamas and funny socks and colorful scarves. But sometimes I can, so I do.

Maybe I shouldn't pause, or stop, or rest, or accept. But sometimes I can, so I do.

We can live by "should," or we can live by "can." The real question is--when we look back, which will make us happier about how we spent our days...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another Year, Another...

Another year has come and gone since the last episode of One Life to Live aired on ABC. Another year since I made my way out into my new world. Another year since the winter of "what next?" really began.

It is hard not to feel a little melancholy--about the livelihood that went away for so many, about the stories no longer being crafted, about the place and the people no longer a daily part of my life. Anniversaries, I suppose, will do that. But as I marvel at the fact that it has been four years--the length of a high school or college stint, the length from infancy to pre-K--I have to celebrate all that has happened in four years. Alongside melancholy and despair, there have been discoveries of new skills, hours for new friendships, and time for new personal and family adventures. Because one thing went away, others came about. Because I had to look elsewhere, I was able to see things I wouldn't otherwise have noticed.

Four years have passed, and in one way or the other, I suppose we have moved on. I guess it's just a yearly reminder that there can be more than one life to live...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It's Working For Now

There are days when I feel like a stay-at-home mom, and days when I feel like a never-home mom. But it's working for now.

There are times when I feel like a short-order cook, and times when I fancy myself a gourmet chef. But it's working for now.

There are moments when I wonder how I got where I am, and moments when I wonder where on earth I am going. But it's working for now.

There are nights when I feel I've had a productive day, and nights when my day is just beginning. But it's working for now.

There are experiences that feel well worth it, and experiences that I'd just as soon never repeat. But it's working for now.

There are paths that lead in all the right directions, and paths that just keep you walking. But it's working for now.

Sometimes, life is not just about what you thought would be or what you think should be. Sometimes, it's enough when it's working for now...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Early Bird

I am an early morning person from way back. Well, at least as way back as my PA days at One Life to Live. With the insurance of multiple alarm clocks, I showed up bright-eyed at 7am dry rehearsal many days each week. It didn't much matter how late the last night had gone or how long the current day would go. Armed with my pile of scripts and schedules and with my stopwatch, I was ready to face late-arriving actors, energetic or grumpy directors, and everyone in between.

But I digress. This is not about rehearsal twenty-cough-cough years ago. It is, however, about the same idea--that of hitting the ground running, no matter what the time. Today, having breakfasted at around 5am, I found myself warming leftover spaghetti at 9:30. Who, you may ask, eats leftover spaghetti at 9:30am? Well, my kids would likely eat it any time of day. I just wanted it, and I promised myself that it would, at least in part, replace lunch. I wanted it. I wanted it then. And by golly, I enjoyed it.

Not five minutes after I had deposited my empty bowl in the dishwasher, my phone rang, asking me to come into work. Today. As soon as possible. As I rearranged my life and folded my (thankfully, because I'd started doing it so early) fresh out of the dryer laundry in preparation to go, I realized that I didn't need to pack a lunch because, lo and behold, I'd just had lunch. There had, I suppose, been a reason--not just that I'd wanted it--that I was eating spaghetti at 9:30 in the morning.

So you see, sometimes, the early bird catches the worm. And sometimes, the even luckier early bird catches the spaghetti.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Making The Out Time--Or Not

On my control room days, I used to say that whether or not we finished by the scheduled out time was more dependent on the will of the back row producer than on the actual volume or difficulty of the material being shot.  While this wasn't always true--sometimes you just can't get around an effect that doesn't work or an actor who can't remember lines--it was certainly evident often enough to notice. And I would venture to say that the shows for which we finished earlier were often just as good as some of those for which we finished in the wee hours of the morning.

These days, I am rarely in a control room--the opportunities just aren't there the way they used to be. What remains with me, however, is the idea that the choices we make--or that others make around us--can alter dramatically the days that we have. We can choose to get bogged down with the difficult or the not so difficult, or we can choose to motor through both for a quick and successful day. We can become mired in the tiny, or we can see it as just part of a continuously moving process. We can decide that pushing through is the way to go, or we can decide that a nap along the way will make for a better day. Each choice, whether ours or someone else's, can change the course, and the outcome, of our days. It keeps things interesting, to be sure. Because a day is about more than just what you plan on paper. It's about how you--and others around you--choose to move through that day. And that is anybody's guess until someone calls a wrap.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Given Over

As I handed out money and Metrocards and helped prepare supplies and ensure on-time departures, I had the feeling of having given myself, and my day, over to my kids' activities. Let's face it, even from a young age, kids come with commitments and social obligations and needs. We can try to fit all of that into our lives without adjusting much, but in my experience, the result tends to be frustration. There is parent frustration about standing around eating birthday cake with other toddler parents rather than accomplishing household chores necessitated by living with a toddler, attending practices and games and performances instead of working on our Great American Novel, and keeping track of kid belongings instead of organizing our own underwear drawers. And there is kid frustration when parents' parent obligations and plain old grownup obligations just don't mesh.

So for a number of hours today, I give myself over. There will be work, and eventually, there will be household chores and writing. But for just a little while, I am the breakfast chef and the ATM, the transportation coordinator and the sports spectator and the cheerleader in person or on the other end of a text or call. For a short time, I have given myself over. And it feels good.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Out of My Way--With Coffee

Sometimes, I think that there could be a TV series idea somewhere in my coffee "dates." For the last bunch of years, I have met all sorts of people in all sorts of coffee shops to talk about (and perhaps hope for) all sorts of things. What began as a way to get myself "out there" when I was suddenly out of work and without a place to go each day has become a staple of my existence. While I can't say I'd be nearly as entertaining as "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," I would, I imagine, be a kind of microcosm of a world where people go in and out, caffeinated or not, and manage a great deal of their lives in hour-long stretches complete with a beverage.

Many coffees are purposeful--to get information about a person, or a job, or an industry. Some are literally to gird oneself with caffeine for the next big thing in a day. And some are just an opportunity to vent to a friend in the comfort of a cafe that doesn't look like your apartment. But sometimes, coffee is not about what needs to be done. It is about going out of the way to do what rarely gets done. In the midst of the rush of our work and home lives, and of all the coffees done with a purpose, every so often, there is a coffee with no purpose at all, except the purpose of saying "hello." The purpose of shedding a bit of the baggage and embracing some of the self. The purpose of smiling and laughing and feeling connected.

It may not happen nearly often enough. But that kind of coffee is well worth going out of my way for.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Missed Meal

It's an official term--according to the rules of certain unions, if you don't get a break of a specified length at a specified time, you get paid extra (how much extra varies widely by union).

Now, I am a person who goes to almost any gig with enough food to sustain me for a couple of days. Okay, well, maybe not quite that long, but for a good while. Perhaps it is a throwback to my pregnancy days, when waiting too long to eat produced morbid hunger and nausea.  Perhaps it is an inability to make food choices in the middle of a work day, or an aversion to being bound by the prices and selection of whatever cafes or food trucks happen to be close by. Whatever the reason, for me, a meal break is rarely about having time to eat. I can eat on the fly. I've eaten at my editing station, in the corner of a rehearsal room or a soundstage (don't tell the scenic artists!), or at whatever desk I happen to be occupying. I can't help but appreciate a formally established "break from the action," but eating happens either way.

But production is production, and production can't always stop at meal time (unless the production manager, who is counting every penny of every one of those missed meal penalty payments, decrees it so. This happens. Often.).

Today, with this news story and that, there just wasn't time for a meal break. And it was actually one of the better days I've had at work. The truth is, when I'm at work, I'd rather be working. When I'm there for eight hours (or ten or twelve or fourteen), the time almost always goes faster, the satisfaction is almost always greater, I almost always feel more fulfilled if my mind, not just my stomach, is doing its job.

Not every job will come with a meal break or a meal penalty or any sort of consideration of eating or stopping at all. I'm not advocating for hours of noses to the grindstone. But if work sometimes requires a missed meal, I'm okay with that. At the end of eight hours (or ten or twelve or fourteen), I would like to think I'll have something--and not just an empty food container--to show for it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Try To Remember

I don't remember which of the colleges I applied to I actually got in to.

I don't remember my SAT scores or my high school rank or my college GPA.

I don't remember much calculus or much chemistry (though the high points of The Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird are still with me).

I don't remember why I chose the college classes that I did, or how it was that I made most of the decisions I made.

I try to remember to tell my kids that what's so important now won't always be so important.

I try to remember to tell my kids that what feels like a disaster might someday feel like a door being opened.

I try to remember to tell my kids that having all the answers now won't help with the questions that haven't even been asked yet.

I try to remember to tell my kids that they don't have to know the future, because it will almost surely change.

I try to remember to tell myself that all the "then's," whether I remember them or not. may have been good, but that now is pretty good too.

I try to remember to remember. But sometimes, I am far too busy with "now" to remember "then."

Now is calling, and I try to remember to pick up...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Sparking Joy"

Inspired by reading about Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, I embarked today upon a modified version of her KonMari method. I say "modified," because I have not bought the book, and I don't at the moment have the time to do what she really does. I am simply taking some little--okay, tiny--steps.

Kondo's central theme of "tidying up" is that everything around you should "spark joy." From pieces of clothing to books to kitchen utensils, each item in your home should give you a good feeling when you touch it. If it doesn't, Kondo instructs you to "thank it for its service" and send it on its way.

The whole idea seems pretty extreme on a number of fronts. It's hard to imagine a shoe rack or a can opener "sparking joy." And the process of going through literally every object you own to assess its "sparking joy" ability is a daunting one. But the joy thing kind of fascinates me, so before I know it, I have emptied virtually every clothing drawer in my bedroom, and am going through, piece by piece, to assess the "joy factor." Within about an hour, I have filled two and a half bags--clothes whose colors are faded or just bring me down. Pieces that I can practically feel riding up my torso without even putting them on. Pieces that are too big or too small or too reminiscent of times I would rather not remember. And items that spark, well, nothing at all. What goes back in the drawers is still probably more than it should be, and definitely not folded the KonMari way (that is another lesson for another day). But my hour or two of "joy sparking"'exploration is a real eye opener. Clearly, I (and probably most of us) surround myself with all sorts of things, acquired out of real or perceived necessity and kept because, well, "why not?" How often do we really look at how our things affect our lives? We are so busy looking for joy in what we do, we rarely even consider that we start from a place filled with necessity rather than joy.

Clearly, the KonMari process will be a long one for me, and one not nearly as focused as it's supposed to be. But just an hour today was a start. If we can assess the items that surround us, we can be that much closer to the feeling of joy that we would like to surround us. Beginning with each and every thing we touch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

There Are Advantages

There are advantages to working overnight--at 8am, you've already worked and still have a whole day ahead of you (even if it is an extremely fuzzy-headed day).

There are advantages to vacation being over--schedules to support you, and time apart, and new adventures (though all accomplished with way too much stress and not nearly enough sleep).

There are advantages to cleaning your closets--a feeling of accomplishment and added space (though all amidst a cloud of dust and sneezes that shake your whole body).

There are advantages to cooking dinner at home--money saved, and ingredients used, and the cathartic effects of cracking and beating and kneading, and control over what's going in your body (all finished off with the joy of washing more pots and dishes than will ever realistically fit in the dishwasher).

There are advantages to having been out of work--appreciation for the work you have, improved awareness of how things work and don't work, increased compassion for people around you (and, of course, the now forever feeling that you are always on the edge of your next moment out of work).

It is, I suppose, important to recognize the advantages in everything--whether you've chosen it or not. Just beware of those parentheses...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Science and Other Messy Things

Today, in the precious waking hours between my post-work nap and my pre-work prep, I oversaw a school science project. Under my able (well, serviceable) tutelage, two middle schoolers investigated the durability of balloons under the influence of heat and with the effects of oil and soap and soda.

Sound messy? Oh, it was. I spent almost as long wiping up oil and soap and soda as they spent collecting data, and I suspect I will be discovering pieces of balloon in my kitchen for quite a while. Will the science done win a Nobel Prize, or even the science fair? Unlikely. But as I look back on the experiments, and as I look forward to the days of finding pieces of balloon, I can't help but be glad I was there. Often we hand off the jobs that will be challenging, or out of our comfort zone, or, well, messy. But when we embrace those things--when we involve ourselves enough to forget about the messiness of it all--we walk away with stories to tell and laughter to remember. When we step out of our comfort zone, we let ourselves step into places we might never have gone. Today, that was to a kitchen full of oily, soapy, sugary balloons. I wonder what tomorrow's mess will be...

Sunday, January 3, 2016


After a week of sleeping at the same time as everyone else, I am back to overnight shifts (and, if possible, daytime sleep). The problem with seeing the other side is that you get a sense of what you are missing. The problem with stepping away is that it makes re-entry that much harder. And yet, I am reminded...

...That I survived returning to college after breaks much longer than this.

...That I survived returning to work after having each of my children.

...That I survived stepping into places I didn't know after being out of work.

...That I survived going from places where I had friends to places where I felt new and alone.

...That I survived going from jobs where I knew it all to jobs where I felt as though I knew nothing.

Re-entry is probably never easy, whether it is after a short time or a very long one, whether it is to something familiar, or to something completely new. But we survive. We take small steps, then bigger ones. And before we know it, we're back in--to wherever, and whenever "in" is at the moment.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Supposed To

It is New Year's Day, and I am supposed to feel renewed, or excited, or, well, something, about the year to come.

It is New Year's Day, and I am supposed to feel reflective and grateful and somehow deep.

It is New Year's Day, and I am supposed to know what I want, and have a plan to get it.

It is New Year's Day, and I am supposed to look back and look ahead.

It is New Year's Day, and I am supposed to follow the New Year's Day rules.

But how often does life ever follow the rules? How often do we do what we're supposed to, and how much more often do we simply do what works for us?

It is New Year's Day, and I am not doing what I am supposed to. But maybe that's the way it's supposed to be...

Friday, January 1, 2016


I could resolve to eat healthier, or less, but I wonder--how do you manage to eat less when you are awake more hours--close to twenty-four--some days?

I could resolve to make change, but I wonder--how do you make change when sometimes all you can manage to do is keep up with the same?

I could resolve to do more for, or with, my family and friends, but I wonder--how do you do more, when even doing less keeps you very busy?

I could resolve to choose more wisely, but I wonder--how do you choose more wisely, when it sometimes feels as though someone else is making the choices?

I could resolve to do better, but I wonder--how do you do better, when you're not even quite sure what "better" means?

That resolution to eat healthier may turn out to be the easiest one of all...