Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Different Times For Different Times

We rarely made soap episodes for national holidays. After all, how many viewers would be watching their "stories" when a barbecue or a turkey dinner or a suntan or a swimming pool was close by? And so it was that back then, holiday weekends were just that--holidays--long weekends away from production and full of rest and escape, and sometimes, barbecues and swimming pools.

The news, however, doesn't stop for holiday weekends. Whether viewers are out by the pool or on the road out of town, whether they're tuned in or tuned out, the news is on and updating, ready to report change every day.

And so it was that I was tied to home this weekend. In soap days, we would all have been off. In these news times, I am always partly at work. Different times require, well, different times.

And maybe that is actually the key to survival--understanding that we can't apply old rules to new times. Even if we are the same, the times in which we function change. So, we can bristle at the changes to our routines. Or we can roll with the new times, and find new ways.

This different time allowed me to see quieter streets and feel a different pace. It allowed all of us to view the world a little differently and feel a little more powerful. None of which is a bad thing, when you're finding different times for different times...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nowhere To Go

Wait--what? I don't have to go anywhere? Not to work? Not out of town? Not to any kid-related activity?

There was a time--actually, there have been many--when I would have given anything for somewhere to go. There were the months out of work, when I had no job to go to and too much fear of spending money just to go out and wander. There were the days with small children, when I simply craved a change of scenery. But today, once I get past the bewilderment, I embrace the idea. Today, nowhere to go is like a moment of freedom in a long stretch of responsibility. Today, nowhere to go means I can make my own pace, make my own choices, make my own day.

Nowhere to go won't last, and honestly, I probably wouldn't like it if it did. But for this moment, on this day, it is a gift I will keep opening. Because, hey, I've got time. There's nowhere to go.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Open For Business

There are days when it seems all about survival, of one kind or another--making the deadlines, sleeping enough to stay awake when needed, showing up on time, having enough to pay the bills. But once in a while, a day comes along when we allow ourselves to see beyond the survival--when we take a few minutes, or a few hours, to explore something new, when we grant ourselves the dollars or the calories for a treat, when we start a conversation instead of remaining silent. Suddenly, instead of being closed to all but what is necessary, we find ourselves open to the world of what is possible. When we are "open for business," we not only see more, we accomplish more. And perhaps, most important, we dream more. For, you see, closing out all but the most necessary may help us survive the day, or the week, or the year, but opening up to the possible helps us with the kind of survival that moves us forward, past that day, past that week, past that year.

Today, I had the opportunity to be a little more open--to going, to doing, to engaging. And being "open for business," even just for a day, has made a world of difference.

Friday, May 27, 2016

What Happens In The Rehearsal Hall...

Once upon a time, I would walk into the rehearsal hall, thinking a day would be a certain way, only to find that a simple, finish-on-time kind of day had been up-ended by an actor hating the script, or that a carefully constructed, make-a-masterpiece day had been chopped in half because some key component was no longer available for the day. Quite simply, things were not always what you planned for them to be.

I am a long way from a rehearsal hall these days, but the concept of days changing without warning is just as close. Work may be determined by who is sick or what is happening in the world. My hours on a non-work day may fall together completely differently than I imagined, because of a mood, or a late-breaking email, or simply the need for a nap. While we like to believe we can control our days, the truth is, in soaps and in life, there are countless factors beyond our control. The day we finish may look nothing like the day we started. The results of our efforts may look nothing like the goals we set before we began our endeavor.

My soap days were often as unpredictable as could possibly be imagined, given how carefully they were planned and pre-produced, and yet, at the end of the day, we always managed to generate many, many minutes of content. So, if now, days aren't always what I imagined, they can still be worthwhile, whether measured in time spent, or salary earned, or simply discoveries made or moments enjoyed. Because you never really know what you're facing when you walk into that rehearsal hall. So you might as well be ready to rewrite the schedule.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


I know basically nothing about vampires. I watch comedies and crime dramas, not horror movies and sci-fi. And I never even picked up any of the book series that made vampires mainstream.

Yet, when I emerge from work at 8am, shielding my eyes from the morning sun and trying to adjust my body temperature from a night full of air conditioning, I can't help but feel a little like one of those caped creatures. Some days, though I wouldn't bite a neck or suck any blood, I would venture to say that am just "off" enough to make some odd decisions. Most days, I happily head back to a dark cocoon before I can really face the day. It's not easy to live on a different timeline than what seems like most of the world. 

Yet, I suppose unlike a real vampire, I spend part of my "work at night" days getting a view of life that work wouldn't always allow. After my squinting at the sun and my withdrawing to darkness, I walk to school pickups, I enjoy lunch time conversations, I make reasonable, even if not gourmet, dinners. After recovering from the night and re-finding myself, I rejoin the regular human community, almost as if the rest of my day (and night) has not existed.

So, one could argue that I am a vampire. And, as I have no particular knowledge of vampires, I wouldn't know for sure otherwise. But more likely, I am simply another person trying to make it (whatever "it" is) work, given the circumstances I am dealt. And whether we work day or night, close to home or far away, isn't that pretty much what we are all trying to do?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Count The Change

It's hard to ignore--many things are drawing to a close. There's the school year--once so filled with newness and drama, now just one of those circumstances that begins to feel as if it was never otherwise. Afterschool activities taper, and coats are closeted, even on the "not so warm" days. And though we have gone through these changes over and over, I still cry just a little--for the time that has flown, and the experiences that are over. For the changes we have made and the people we have lost. In the moment, I can pretend that I adapt seamlessly. In my imagination, I can believe that every new change is (or will be) a good one. But some days, change is just change, and the rate of change is just too fast. Some days, it's not enough to believe or pretend or imagine. Some days, it's about lifting the weight of change so it doesn't crush your spirit.

Things are changing, as they always do. Will we just watch, or just react, or just manage? Or will we lift the weight, and ourselves, to see past today? Things are changing, as they always do. Will we run away, or run toward, or just run as fast as we can?

We can learn to embrace change. We simply have to keep our arms open and our strength up. Because sometimes change is a little--no, more than a little--hard to handle.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Keeping Score

The scoreboard numbers may say failure, but the catch from out of nowhere screams success.

The dinner that looks nothing like the cookbook picture may say failure, but the scraped clean bowls and plates announce success.

The uncertainty and the limbo and the early mornings and the late nights may say failure, but the bank account mouths success.

The rejecting and the ignoring and the making you feel invisible may say failure, but the little triumphs confirm success.

Sometimes, success is a lot more about process and attitude than it is about numbers and results. We just have to remember to look past that big scoreboard in the field...or in our heads...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Of The Good Ones

I learned this weekend of the passing of a former soap colleague. Winnie and I crossed paths many times over the course of twenty years. She was a fixture in the ABC New York soap world, doing production stints on several different shows. Plenty of people did that--it was a small world, and one looking for specific skill sets. But Winnie was not just another soap world person. She was one of those rare (and even rarer as schedules got tighter and stakes got higher) people who did the work without the baggage. She was professional and efficient, and there was never a day when she came to the studio without a smile on her face. She weathered the ups and downs of ABC, and she did so as a good person who remained a good person. We learned from each other, and I feel lucky to have shared a control room front row with her. 

Life goes on, and things change, and I would like to believe that Winnie is in a place where her smile and her dedication and her good nature are appreciated. It's been a long time since we shared that front row. But my time in the soap trench was better for that time. And better for having known her.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


There are days when sleeping through the morning after working all night leaves me less than well-rested and with a head full of fuzz. Just because you can add up all the hours to a "normal" total doesn't mean they actually provide you with the same amount of rejuvenation. So, some days, I sleep through the afternoon, I crash after dinner, I doze each time I sit. And then, quite often, I beat myself up for the moments missed, the hours gone by, the tasks I've let slide.

But then, I remind myself that in a life when we are asked to look out for everyone and everything, sometimes all we can really do to keep doing that is spend a few minutes, a few hours, a whole morning or afternoon on preserving ourselves. I may miss some of the moments, but when the day is done (what time is that, exactly?), I am still standing. I may sometimes let things slide, but when the day is done (I'm really not sure when that is), enough gets done. I may sometimes have fuzz in my head that won't go away, but when the day is done (or is it just starting?), I somehow manage to see through the fuzz.

And I guess that's kind of what self-preservation is all about--taking the moments when you need them--stepping away, or sleeping through, or just being able to say "I need." And when the day is done, whatever time that is, you'll be preserved enough to look out for yourself. And everyone and everything else too.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Joy Of A Bare Foot

Several years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I wrote about the security I found in wearing my sneakers. What began as the easiest footwear for climbing steps in the absence of elevators and for traveling to wherever we needed to be became an accessory that gave me stability in the face of a rocky path and normalcy in the face of chaos.

Today, I am realizing that wearing no shoes at all can be just as powerful.

I come home from working overnight, and I know I am truly home when I have kicked off my shoes so that I feel the floor under my toes, and then a blanket above them.

I come home from schlepping groceries and retrieving children, and I know I am truly home when I feel the cool kitchen floor under my feet or the hot shower water on them.

I tidy my apartment, and mixed in with my head making the choices and my arms doing the heavy lifting are my feet reveling in the feel of a clear carpet and a clean floor.

I relax after a long day, or a long night, and no part of me is happier than the feet, now unencumbered by socks and sensible/beautiful/(anyway you slice it) confining shoes.

When I go out in the world, it may some days be a pair of sneakers that makes me feel secure. But when day (or night) is done, there is nothing that feels more like home than a pair of bare feet...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Out Of The Park

The baseball field is cold, an eager challenge to our "Isn't it spring yet?" clothes. Yet, we sit, backsides practically attached to the bleachers, for the opportunity to watch our aspiring athlete hit one out of the park. 

Out of the park hasn't happened yet. But we believe. And more important, our aspiring athlete believes. It matters to him that he is doing the work to get better. It matters to him that he shows up and comes out swinging. It matters to him that people notice and teach and recognize. And that he gets to be in the place where out of the park just might happen.

It is often when we see our kids discover what they enjoy (even from a hard bench on a cold day) that we are reminded what is possible for ourselves. When we are not sitting on that bench, are we too doing what we love and what matters to us, or are we simply doing what we have to in order to get by? When we are on the field of our own choosing, do we have people who are teaching us, recognizing us, believing that we can accomplish, as long as we work hard?

It is fantastic as a parent to see our kids immersing themselves in activities that excite them. But when we can take that parental view, and turn it into the view that motivates us as people on our very own search for immersion--that is when we too have a shot at hitting it out of the park.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Little Pictures

Years from now, when I look back on the posts of this blog, I will see the patterns--the times when life was all about finding work, and the times when it was all about enjoying work. The times when my focus was when to sleep, and the times when there was too much time for sleep. The times when I was desperate, and the times when I was euphoric. Each day, I paint the little pictures. But when I look back, far away from where I was, I will see the pieces of a big picture, and perhaps I will understand just how all its pieces came about and came together.

When so much happens each day, it's hard not to get caught up in the little pictures. It's hard even to see what we want, when our daily survival feels dependent on seeing what we need right now. Perhaps the view from a distance is a more accurate one. But if, on a daily basis, we had that giant view, would we choose to engage in the tiny endeavors that make up our days? Would we be so consumed with the "big picture" that we wouldn't allow ourselves to enjoy the little ones? 

When I look from a distance someday, perhaps I will see the patterns. For now, I'm okay with just seeing the little pictures. They will make the big picture of my life soon enough...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Writing The Wrongs...And The Rights

There are times when I wonder if I'm not just glorifying the good old soap days and underplaying the days since. I could argue that my life--financially, structurally, emotionally--would be better, had the NY soaps not evaporated. But would I be right?

There is no question that I met many of my most cherished colleagues in soaps. There is no question that soaps gave me a degree of financial security that barely exists in television production these days. And there is no question that I experienced some of my greatest creative challenges on soap sets, in soap control rooms, and in front of soap editing consoles.

When I make a true accounting, however, I can't deny that I have since spent time with my children that soap hours would never have allowed. I can't deny that I have become a little scrappier and a little more willing to go out on a limb. I can't deny that I have had adventures only possible because I couldn't stay on a soap set.

So, while this blog celebrates the rich soap tradition that carried me so far, it also has to celebrate that which comes after--perhaps a little less secure, a little more off-balance, along a much more crooked path. Because when you make an accounting, it's not enough to write what's wrong. You have to write what's right as well.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Knowledge From High Above

I sit high above the audience, a record-keeper of sorts, operating two cameras for the most recent in a series of years of being the youth theater's videographer. In my professional life, I am far from a camera person, and each year, with one technical challenge or another, I am reminded of the glory of working on shows where there are experts in each area. But in not-for-profit, you do what you need to do, and learn what you need to learn, and I am happy to say that this year, I feel just a little more confident, just a little more prepared. Each year in between, you see, I have faced just a few more challenges that forced me to improvise. Each new job I've had has made me discover that I really can learn, and adapt. Each experience has taught me the right questions to ask and the right people to seek out.

So, this year, as I sit high above the audience, I do so with a little more calm than I've had. I do so with a little more confidence in myself and what I know. Because these days, in not-for-profit, and in the world, it turns out you need to know a little more than you used to. These days, in not-for-profit, and in the world, it helps to believe that if you don't know it, you can figure it out. So that you can be the editor, the videographer, the record-keeper, and a little of everything in between.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

You Don't Really Know

You don't really know what you can handle, until you have to.

You don't really know what you know, until you have to do it under pressure.

You don't really know who people are, until you've listened to a few--or more than a few--of their stories.

You don't really know the rules until you've broken them and paid the consequences.

You don't really know your next steps, until after you've begun to take them.

You don't really know how things will turn out, until they turn out...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bending Your Knees...And Yourself

I wake up in an empty apartment. I have not slept long--just three hours. But I have slept the kind of sleep when you drool, and I wake up barely knowing where I am. It is noon.

I have gotten better about sleeping when I'm on the overnight shift. Used to be, I couldn't string together more than an hour or two at a time during the day. Now, whether from learning or from simple self-preservation, my body has learned to take what is offered. So, when I sleep, I sleep deeply enough to drool, and when I have already slept, I can still sleep again.

I get dressed, pack snacks, make sure things are as "figured out" on the home front as possible, and I head to work. It is 11pm.

I have gotten better about walking out the door at night, at navigating the dark, at making sure I have a safe ride and enough choices in my lunch bag. My brain has figured out how to go through the steps, whether consciously or not, and I arrive on time and prepared for the night.

There are people who have been on the overnight for years, and there are some who say your body never truly gets used to it. And while I have to say I believe them, my body and brain and I are trying. After all, wasn't there a time when we couldn't imagine being many of the things we are now? Aren't there days, no matter where we are, when we wonder how we got there? We bend, and we adapt. And we learn how to manage what is offered and make it work in our own way. And then, when things change again, we bend, and we adapt. Because life isn't just about "getting used to." It's about making sure the bends don't make us break.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Doesn't Always

Getting more sleep doesn't always make you less tired.

Following the path doesn't always get you to the destination you had in mind.

Being tough doesn't always produce results.

Being agreeable doesn't always win you agreement.

Playing it smart doesn't always make the grade.

Taking chances doesn't always give you chances.

Looking both ways doesn't always enable you to see all the cars.

Letting the car turn first doesn't always mean it's safe to cross.

Grabbing at a the new opportunity doesn't always allow you to hold on to it.

Being suspicious doesn't always make you safe.

Being trusting doesn't always make you wise.

Aiming for the most, the highest, the best doesn't always leave you happy.

Going after what you want doesn't always give you what you need.

Doing what you need doesn't always give you what you want...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Shared Memory

We gather to recount stories of someone who is no longer there. The memories reach back far earlier than the ABC memories I normally recount here. They go back to my childhood and long before I was born. And as I look around me, I see that they are memories many of us share, whether we are old or young or somewhere in between. And I am moved by the power of that shared memory. While I do not share the everyday with most of the people around me, we are joined by our connection to the memories.

It occurs to me that what I have been missing these past few years (in addition, of course, to the stable work and salary to which I had become accustomed) is that kind of shared memory. There is power in the common experience that we can share, and that we can feel without even speaking it. There is comfort in knowing that those around us understand because they have been somewhere we have been and seen some part of what we have seen.

We gather to say goodbye to someone whose life we all have shared. And we live, just for a moment, in the experiences her life allowed us to share. Because memories can be so much richer when they are shared...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Days

There is a little chocolate, and a hug or two more than usual. And then there are meals made and dishes put away, homework reviewed and the weekly schedule discussed. It is Mother's Day, but more accurately, it is a day in the life of a mother.

There have been years when I was feted--years with field trips to the Botanical Gardens, and years with bagel breakfasts that put me in a deep sleep for hours. But such things presume that life stops for the day, and these days, life rarely stops. So, if I am to be the one of the mothers for whom this holiday is celebrated, today is a day when I follow the schedule and lead the troops. If I am to be the mother that I set out to be each day, today is a day when I am in the trench, which, it occurs to me, is the place I usually choose to be, whether it's as a mom or as an AD or as just about anything. We can sit around eating the bonbons people have given us and basking in the awards and rewards for things we've done. But given the choice, I'd rather enjoy the bonbons with my team, and I'd rather be doing than sitting.

So, this Mother's Day, I may be celebrated, but I also celebrate the mother's days I live each day...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Finding The Words Of Wisdom

Some days, words of wisdom are hard to come by. We get so caught up in getting there and being on time and doing what needs to be done that there is no wisdom involved. But every so often, even on the busy days, when we're not sure anything beyond the necessary can be accomplished, a few pearls--from strangers, and friends, and musicals, make their way through...

1. "He ain't heavy..."--When each family member manages to help the others in little ways that make a big difference.

2. "Watch the gap."--When we are reminded by strangers to keep an eye out for our own safety.

3. "I know it's today."--When we try to keep believing that what we want will happen, maybe even today.

4. "And I know things now..."--When we suddenly realize all the things we have learned without even trying.

5. "Nobody but me is gonna change my story..."--When we discover that sometimes it's not enough to hope for change--we have to make it ourselves.

8. "Keep showing up."--When people who have been at it a lot longer than we have remind us that we can't get anywhere unless we keep at it.

There is wisdom to be found on even the most mundane of days. As long as we're listening...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Written Into A Corner

Several years ago, out of work and searching for a new self, I began to write children's books. I started with a big idea. I continued with weekly classes. I filled long afternoons and traffic-filled bus rides with tweaks on what I was writing. I worked on having an open mind and a thick skin, entities not so different from those needed in TV work, yet challenging at times.

And then, my book journey ended. It's hard to say--was it the appearance of paid work that took away my time and my energy? Was it simply a change in direction, or was it an acknowledgment that some things just aren't meant to be?

I could go back to my book today, but it would be as a different person. I could pick up those pages and work on them, but who's to say whether I would find them brilliant or boring? Would they give me a feeling of return, or a feeling of failure? Because sometimes, you can revisit, but how often can you really go back?

My children's book may never go any farther than a series of documents on my desktop. It was a moment in time that has passed, perhaps not a success, but maybe not a failure either. I guess it just got written into a corner. And for now, I try not to spend too much of my time sitting in the corner...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cutting and Cutting

I cut and I cut and I cut--not video this time, but vegetables. Once cut, they will spend hours in a pot, melding together to make a soup, which, hopefully, I and others will enjoy.

I am careful to follow the instructions--thinly sliced, or cubed, cleaned, or peeled, or diced. After all, if you follow the instructions of the recipe, your dish will end up looking like the pretty picture and tasting the way the reviews sound, right?

When I am cutting video, I rarely have such specific instructions. While there may be goals to be met, the method for meeting those is largely up to me. I cut not just with my hands, but with my gut. I make my decisions based on feel, not just on a picture or a "recipe." It is empowering, and freeing, and at times, daunting.

So today, as I cut vegetables, I enjoy the process of simply cutting to specifications, and taking on faith that the result will be true to the picture. Today, I don't have to think about how or why. I simply have to follow the instructions, one by one, until all the requisite pieces have made it into the pot. And then, if all goes well, I can enjoy the fruits (okay, vegetables, actually) of my labors. In editing, cutting well is about the tiny choices you make. But in cooking, and in life, cutting well is sometimes just about following the instructions.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

You Can Lead A Freelancer To A Blanket...

After a few days of real, in my bed, during the night, sleep, I am readying to return to the overnight. At the rate I'm going, I will be up twenty-eight hours straight. There must be sleep. There must be some way to break that twenty-eight hours in half, at least, so that my body believes I can really make it through till tomorrow. But how do you make your body sleep when you have essentially just woken up from what was a reasonable, if not perfect, sleep, and when you have all sorts of things that could be accomplished in the time span of a nap?

I surround myself in the blanket, hopeful that with enough external cues, I can make my body believe it needs sleep. I am succeeding, I think, until my phone throws in some external cues of its own--having to do with anything but sleep. A text comes, and then a phone call, and before I know it, I am checking emails to make sure I've missed nothing. The blanket moment and the sleep opportunity are gone, and the breakup of the twenty-eight hours is barely long enough to be called a break. I am off and running again, hoping against hope that if I keep running, I can survive twenty-eight hours and recover later. The blanket will still be there. You can certainly lead me to it. But the question remains--can you make me sleep?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Emmy From A Distance

I was thrilled to see my feed fill up with Emmy announcements. Though I often feel farther and farther away from my daytime roots, Emmy time reminds me of those roots, and of the fact that what may be gone for me is not gone altogether. This year, there were winners who had never won before (both those who have been deserving for years and those who are new-ish to Emmy-worthy roles). There were photos full of co-workers with whom I used to spend every day of my life. There were lists of winners that included colleagues with whom I cross paths from time to time. For me, Emmy time each year is not just a time of melancholy for all that is over, but a time of celebration of how I started on the path to where I am now. It is a time of celebration of the people who shaped me. Am I sad when I see others dressing up and holding the statues that I won't necessarily win anymore? A little. But mostly, I am happy for what continues, and for the people who continue along with it. These days, I view the Emmys from a distance. But not too far away to smile and wave to, and cheer for, those who are still close by.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Immersion For Free

It's not always easy to immerse yourself in someone else's passion. To put away your "buts" and "whys" and "why would you's," just long enough to see through someone else's eyes, believe in someone else's dreams, support when you don't even necessarily understand. We may be used to doing it at our work--after all, we don't always get paid to work on our own passions, and when you're getting paid, you do what you have to do. We are not, however, as used to immersing ourselves without pay. Yet, when we do, we often find new sides of ourselves. When we do, we often find freedom from the set of responsibilities that usually demand our immersion. When we do, we give a rare gift to the person in whose interests we are immersed, and a simultaneous rare gift to ourselves.

I take a leap, and I find myself immersed, and without my normal "why would I do this." I am immersed, and a day unlike any I normally spend has emerged.  I am immersed, and I have taken a trip to a faraway land. I am immersed, and I find the immersion has been so deep that it is almost hard to return to my "what has to be done" the following day.

It's not always easy to immerse yourself in someone else's passion. But when you do, you often end up stronger--and freer--for it...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Standing Room Only

We stand for most of our several hour train trip. It is clearly not what we planned. But when you are choosing between not going and standing the whole way, you happily stand.

We eat early and quickly to make a curtain or a game or a conference. It is perhaps not how we wanted to enjoy our food. But when you are choosing between chowing down and experiencing the whole special event, you happily back-burner the meal.

We sit in the last row of the highest section. It may not be luxurious, and it might even be a little dizzying. But when you are choosing between seeing the show live and just watching a movie from the comfort of your own couch, you climb the steps, you pull in your legs, you learn how to see great sights from a little higher up.

We sit on stools and desk chairs and piano benches. It may not be the fanciest dinner party on our social calendar. But when you are choosing between matched chairs and plates by yourself and sharing time and laughter with family, you find out that how you sit doesn't much matter.

We never imagined standing for a whole train ride. But sometimes, when life is standing room only, it's well worth it to stay on your toes.