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.

Monday, November 14, 2016


I spent years wishing I'd be discovered--discovered as a brilliant writer, discovered as the director or producer or editor that every production would want, discovered as the mom of the year, or the most dedicated volunteer, or the newest whatever...

And then somewhere along the way, I stopped looking to be discovered, and started just to do what needed to be done. And instead of being discovered, I discovered...

...that writing has its own value, published, or paid, or not.

...that being wanted everywhere doesn't matter as much as being needed somewhere.

...that being the perfect mom isn't as important as being the evolving, learning, adapting mom.

...that being asked to go somewhere becomes less important when you are happy right where you are.

...that being the best might feel good sometimes, but being just good might be plenty most of the time.

...that being "the toast of the town" might be exciting, but being "the mom on the couch" might be way more comfortable.

...that sometimes, being the one who discovers can be just as satisfying as being the one discovered...

Sounds of Music

I settle into the audience of my daughter's newest theatre foray, a youth production of The Sound Of Music, featuring kids from less than three feet tall to almost six feet. And for an hour, I lose myself in the music, the small children in adorable costumes with adorable voices, and the somewhat older up-and-comers who guide the show. It is a good week to have the opportunity to lose myself, even briefly (and even when pieces of the story in question bring me right back). That's what theatre does--while nurturing a community of performers, artists, and technicians, it also invites us to be part of that community. As soon as we join the audience, we allow ourselves to feel and to believe. And while we may allow ourselves to escape what we need to face outside the theatre, we also allow ourselves to have an experience that will strengthen us to face it.

I leave the performance knowing that I am at least a little different from the me who entered. It's not just the hills that are alive--it's all of us who have shared the experience of theatre. And that's what "the sound of music" is really all about.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Too Close

I have generally avoided writing about current events here, but I am finding it hard this time to remain outside of events. I wondered why--haven't there been countless other events that warranted my attention? Haven't there been numerous other days and weeks that called for my opinion?

There probably have been. But as I think back to this week, which changed as I watched the vote counts and electoral map emerge, what I realize is that while the numbers may have been close, the effects of the outcome are even closer--too close not to write about them.

I am too close to too many people from all kinds of backgrounds not to worry about their futures and how they will be treated in school, on the street and subway, and by new policies.

I am too close to too many in the LGBT community not to worry that the lives they have made will be ripped apart.

I am too close to too many who have stood up against injustice and hate not to worry that all the work they have done will be undone.

I am too close to too many groups who have been persecuted in the past not to worry that we are headed back to a time when persecution was considered okay.

I am too close to too many who believed that love and inclusion and human rights would prevail not to speak up and thank them for what they did on my behalf and on others'.

I am too close to too many who will stand on protest lines not to recognize that what they are standing for affects me and so many people I love.

I am too close to all of it not to cry about what we have lost and try to believe we can get it back.

So, I guess that is how current events have found their way in--because sometimes, events come far too close to be ignored. When they are so close that each day, you hear them and feel them and see them in the faces of the people around you, it's just not possible to write around them. And maybe, just maybe, I will have come close enough to help--at least a little.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Next Four Years

A friend told me that now that he has emerged a bit from his dismay about the week's events, he is trying to come up with a project or two that he will take up for the next four years. Whether it's learning a new language is getting involved with some kind of service project, he believes that at least he will walk away from the four years with some valuable accomplishment, rather than feeling stuck and discouraged, as he does now.

His plan interests me, as I see how easy it might be either to take the energy of now and spend it on four years of anger and despair, or to let it dissipate, so that four years fly by in the blink of an eye, with nothing to show for them. Four years may seem like an eternity, but it passes quickly. Four years ago, I was already a year past having shot the last OLTL at ABC. Four years ago, I had already almost run through the unemployment insurance I'd never figured I'd need to use all of. Four years ago, I had already discovered that wanting a change and actually accomplishing it were two entirely different things. Four years ago, I still had three kids firmly entrenched at home. Four years ago, I had just barely discovered writing daily. Four years ago, I was seriously considering major career change, when I began to believe that what I had been trying to do would never again be feasible.

The last four years have passed in an instant, and while I can say that good has come from them, that good has been in small, sometimes random, steps, rather than a wholesale plan to make the years matter. I wonder if, had I taken on a four-year goal, as my friend is planning, I would feel more productive now. I wonder if, had I made a plan, I would have ended up somewhere different, somehow better off.

We can't really know where four years will leave us, whether those four years are the product of a new political order or simply the passage of four years in our own small worlds. But when we commit to using the time, not just letting it pass, we have the chance to walk toward a life we chose, rather than just toward a life the world made for us.

Will I take this week's energy, good and bad, and turn it into something productive? I can't yet say. But the idea of viewing "the next four years" as a challenge, rather than simply a tiring journey, is one that I'd like to hold on to.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Numb Is Not Enough

I thought about not writing today. What could I say, when I could barely feel? What could I write that would be smart enough, sensitive enough, relevant enough? So, I thought about not writing at all--just taking a break, allowing the dust to settle. But how, I thought, would I get up? If I allowed numbness to envelop me now, how would I emerge from that numbness a day from now?

So, I write, because we should never stop expressing how we feel.

I write, because we should never stop moving, simply because the road has become bumpier or our legs have become tired.

I write, because I see how others' words have helped me.

I write, because if we allow ourselves to create, we can break through the numbness.

I write, because in holding fast to what matters to us, we have a chance to accomplish something that matters to others.

And I write because numbness doesn't move us forward, stop our tears, or make us stronger.

And when attempting to stay not washed up, that's no way to live.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

If Now Were Then

(Begun to reflect on how years change things, but finished realizing how just hours change things...)

I think often about how my life would look if the NY soaps had never ended or the CT soaps had never happened or my entry to news has never occurred. And on a day like today, when I am working many hours to cover this historic election, it's hard not to wonder what the election would feel like from a chair in a soap control room. Would we be barreling on through 60 scenes, barely even aware that something momentous was happening? Or would we stop periodically to check the progress, even if it slowed the momentum of our day?

So, on a day like today, when I was on line to vote at 6 so that I could head to a more than a double shift of living the events of the day, I guess I am glad that things fell the way they did, so that I can be involved in a way I never would have been. I guess that sometimes, the changes in your life land you in places you might never have gone, and you discover...

...ok, it is now the last hour of my 18 hour day, and with the way things are going, perhaps I'd rather be thinking about sitcoms and soap scenes. Would I have felt better being oblivious? I don't know. But we move on. And I guess that is the message here--we're always moving on in one way or another. If we're lucky, we move on our feet, no matter how much we are battered. And we just keep moving...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Back In The Booth

It is a small control room, and what I will do there is nothing like what I once did. But I will spend election night mostly in that booth, in preparation for which I have been part of a series of rehearsals. My fingernails display the battle scars of those rehearsals. While I am not in the hottest seat, there is still the stress of doing the right thing at the right time, pressing the right button, having the right answer, all in the heat of the moment.

In some ways, it is like coming home--a return to the countless hours over countless years that I spent in a dark, intense room like this one. Yet, it is more like coming home to a different house, where your parents have moved and you have different siblings than when you left. There is a feeling of familiarity, and an excitement about having returned, but these are joined by the worry of whether you still fit, and the wariness of sharing "home" with people you barely know. Will this trip reawaken your desire to be "home," or will it remind you that, as they say, "you can never go home."

It is a different time, a different place, a different genre. And by the time my stretch in the booth is done, I may be too tired even to know what it has meant. Perhaps it is simply looking in the window of "home." Maybe it is redefining "home," whether I want to or not. Maybe it is a reminder to look toward what could be. Or maybe it is a reminder to appreciate what is.

I will emerge from this booth in the wee hours of the morning, different than when I entered (because each thing we do makes us at least a little different). As for what that "different" will look like, I'll just have to stay tuned..

Monday, November 7, 2016


I have spent many months hearing much more about the election than I might have wanted--working for a news outlet will do that to you. I have had moments of "too much information" and moments of "please, just turn down the volume," but I have trudged through, doing my job, engaging in conversations, wondering some days how we actually got to where we did. And now, in these last days, I am worried about outcomes, but I am glad this phase will soon be over.

Today, I spent a few hours not editing politics packages, not checking my email and Facebook for the latest campaign news, not obsessing about tensions and ads and outcomes. For those few hours, I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A LOT of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Together with a group of people young and old, I helped generate over 1400 bagged meals for hungry New Yorkers. It will, in the long run, matter to these New Yorkers who is elected on Tuesday. But today, what matters is that they will have a meal they might not otherwise have enjoyed. And while it always feels good to play a part in doing good, today, it felt particularly good, because in a week full of events I won't really be able to affect, I was able to affect people I will never know, on a level as basic as two slices of bread.

How we create change, both for ourselves and for the world, is not always in the ways we might expect. For me, it was being elbow deep in peanut butter for a few hours and seeing the results of my labor and of the collaboration around me. And there's no antidote to feeling that you can't make change as powerful as seeing that you can.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Stuck In Pre-production

I wanted to like production meetings and table reads, really I did. But, more often than not, while others were discussing the "how's" and the "where's" and the "why's," I just wanted to be doing the "what." I guess I'm impatient that way--only want to clean if I'll really see the difference, only want to cook if the product will taste good, only want to debate the merits if I can then act on whatever is decided.

So, when I arrive at a day that feels mostly like a too-long production meeting, that is much more full of trying to figure out plans than it is of acting on them, I'm impatient. "Let's just agree, and move on to the doing," I think. "Let's stop planning, and simply get going." It's a worthy goal, using time to do rather than to talk. But life, like television, takes pre-production. The right actors don't just show up, unless the casting directors call them. The appropriate props have to be bought or made with the knowledge of why they are needed--they don't just fall from the sky. Life activities take transport and schedule coordination and agreement on interests, and those things don't fall from the sky any more often than the perfect prop or unplanned fake snow.

Perhaps some days, we spend too much time in pre-production. But if we ignore pre-production altogether, we will likely find ourselves shooting a show for which we are totally unprepared. The key is to plan--but not too much. Work out logistics--but not at the cost of not moving. Discuss--but then decide.

Will I ever love production meetings? Probably not. But when I can see them as simply a means to an end, I'm willing to give them a little time. And then it's "on with the show."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Three Minutes

Three minutes was the length of our timeslot to meet with our son's four core teachers. Three minutes to introduce ourselves, make a connection with these important people in our son's life, find out about his progress, and ask about how we might help him going forward. That process--times four--sounds like a lot for three minutes. Yet, probably due to diligent organization by the teachers and, thankfully, good work by our son, three minutes turned out to be enough. We shook a few hands, received a few highlights, and walked away reasonably satisfied and content to go on with our day.

The three minutes, however, got me thinking about what else we accomplish in three minutes...

Three minutes is twice the length of most news packages I edit these days. In just a minute and a half, those packages tell a whole story, capably catching the viewer up on the high points of a news item.

Three minutes is enough to make toast or fry eggs, but not enough to bake a potato, even in the microwave.

Three minutes is the length of time we are supposed to brush our teeth, but don't.

Three minutes is the time you set for "just a little more sleep" (and then a little more again).

Three minutes is the length of a soap opera scene twenty years ago, before attention spans made one minute scenes far more desirable.

Three minutes is how long it is until the bus is supposed to arrive and not nearly as long as it takes to arrive.

Three minutes allows for answering one or two emails, or deleting fifty of the ones that don't even need to be read.

We went into our parent teacher conference wondering how three minutes could possibly be enough. Clearly, three minutes is longer than it seems--either that, or we've learned to make three minutes enough to do just about anything.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Too Much Informatiom

On a soap, you needed to know where-both in space and in content--a scene began and where it ended. You needed to know what was happening in the story today, and what would happen in the set of episodes being pre-produced, and what the viewers were seeing on air. It was a lot to know, and sometimes more than you could possibly keep track of--unless you were one of a handful of producers and directors with whom I worked over the years who could actually keep it all straight. I'll admit, there were days when I just wanted to shut it all off and focus just on the scenes of the day. But doing so might render those scenes disconnected from the episodes they went into. So focusing just on the day was never really a possibility.

In news, where I have worked the last few years, there is a similar explosion of information--at every moment, new events that ask you to connect them with the old, speeches and celebrations and disasters that all have to be connected to what you already know and what has yet to happen. Because of working in news, I have become more aware of world events and places. Because of working in news, I read more editorials and am comfortable discussing more topics. But sometimes, the flow of information is too much. Sometimes, I don't want to hear every speech and know every detail. Sometimes, I just want to focus on the scene in front of me, rather than knowing how it fits into the big picture. But, as in soaps, that is not always my choice. The story goes on, and the pieces all affect each other. And if you skip some of the information, it is likely the rest of the information won't make sense. It makes for a great deal of sensory overload. You can't stop the flow of information, because you need it. And you can't really succeed at today without knowing where it fits into yesterday and tomorrow. So for now, I must deal with too much information--it appears to be a factor, no matter what genre I'm part of. On soaps, in news, and in life, "too much information" is simply the way stories are being told. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Today I Can

I return to my son's school with his forgotten gym shirt because, after years of working too many hours or too far away to be able to, today I can.

I work overnights because, despite not being a post-college kid with a body accustomed to all-nighters, today I can.

I snuggle with my kids or discuss their day much later than they should stay up because, after nights when I wasn't here or wasn't awake enough, today I can.

I buy things on sale that I may or may not really need because, after times of unemployment when I counted pennies, today I can.

I walk when I don't see a bus coming because, after days of sore feet and twisted ankles, today I can.

I schlep groceries to events and groceries home because, after times when I couldn't get to any events or couldn't get anywhere but straight home, today I can.

I help make breakfast and lunch for kids who have proven they can actually do it themselves because, after days of working overnight and not even seeing them at breakfast and lunch-making time, today I can.

Yesterday is yesterday, and tomorrow, who knows. Today, I do, because today I can.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Taken By Storm

Facebook reminds me that four years ago, we were camping out with relatives because a storm had rendered our neighborhood powerless. The powerlessness reminds me of the job in a not-powerless part of town that I managed to get to, no matter how far and how slowly I had to travel. That job reminds me of all the times when desperation suddenly gave way to an opportunity out of the blue. Unexpected opportunities remind me of the path that landed me on a sitcom that led to other sitcoms. My landing on a sitcom reminds me of how I unceremoniously had to leave a job I'd done for so long. The job I did for so long reminds me of friends and adventures and holiday parties and holiday episodes. Holiday episodes remind me of Halloween costumes worn early for production and on time for reality. And Halloween costumes remind me of the year, four years ago, when my neighborhood postponed Halloween, because of a storm and some powerlessness.

Never underestimate how much who you are now is a product of all the times that have led to now. Remember those times, and you will understand yourself just a little better. Feel both the wins and the losses, the strengths and the weaknesses, and you will stand just a little steadier. One thing may lead to another, but it is when we appreciate where we are led that we can appreciate where we have ended up.