Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And There Was Silence

I arrive home from work, and it is silent. It is, after all, 9am--kids at school, husband off to work. And it is silent.

There was a time when the silence dug a hole right through me, when I avoided television so as not to let it absorb my day, but drowned in the writing of endless cover letters and the absence of any response to them. There was a time when I longed for the moment when everyone would come home, when the noise would start, so that I could feel useful again, all the while feeling empty for the hours that had passed and the little that had been accomplished. 

Back then, the silence was painful. But today, the silence is the most comforting sound of all. It allows the sleep I crave and the few hours of no responsibility I have earned. It is head-clearing and body-rejuvenating. It is not the same silence as before. It is a silence I welcome, not a silence I fear.

There were a few hours of silence today. And my peace with them has made all the difference...

Monday, January 30, 2017

It All Changed

It all changed when...weekends went from attending four-year-old birthday parties to attempting to keep up with my kids' comings and goings.

It all changed when...I went from working in the city to commuting to Connecticut, and then back to working in the city.

It all changed when...the Charlie Brown holiday specials came out on video, meaning that you could watch The Great Pumpkin any day of the year, not just on a long-awaited night in October.

It all changed when...I discovered the trains that go diagonally, not just uptown and downtown.

It all changed...when my "day" became night and my "night" became day.

It all changed...when the givens were taken away and new takeaways became the given.

It all changed...well, every day. Because that's what things do--they change. Lucky for us, we get to change with them.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Standing Room Only

After a great deal of ticket research and lottery entering this weekend, I ended up seeing a play from "standing room 'seats.'" For two and a half hours, I leaned against a wall behind the orchestra section, my chin resting on a ledge likely designed for a person much taller than I. I shifted my legs when necessary. I stretched a little when I could. And by and large, I had a view as good or better than that of the people in the expensive seats (not to mention quicker access to the restroom at intermission, and a quicker exit at show's end).

The last time I did standing room was about twenty years ago, for a much shorter show that had no tickets available any other way. Standing room hasn't actually crossed my mind much, and yet somehow, this time, the opportunity of seeing a sought-after show without the hassle or expense of pricier tickets was just about irresistible.

And maybe that's a reflection on my life over the last few years. Often, how you want circumstances to be isn't how they are. Often, you have to think quickly, or allow an opportunity to slip away. Often, to get what you want, you have to try a different approach. Standing room might not be the obvious choice for the theater, but just as I have become willing to work different gigs, different hours, different schedules, all with the idea that I might as well while I can, I realized that I might as well stand (and use the leftover funds for something else) while I am still willing and able to do so.

What I got of out of it was not just a good play. Standing room also reminded me that I can choose how I respond to challenge. Faced with the roadblock of lack of availability and overabundance of expense, I found another way. And finding other ways is exactly how we keep from being not washed up yet...

Binge Blogger

I am not a binge watcher. Despite the newish trend in that direction, give me a few hours, and I will likely choose to run 55 errands or catch up on my sleep. But in light of the newish trend, and of the fact that I have, this weekend, fallen woefully behind on this blog, I will be attempting a little binge blogging.

As with binge viewing, binge blogging takes a certain amount of time, and a certain amount of attention--I'll admit, both challenging for me. After all, there are always other needs swirling around. But if my kids can settle in for ten episodes of their favorite, or soon-to-be-favorite, shows, surely I can settle in for just a few blog posts.

When I began the blog, there were all sorts of hours--hours between churning out new and different resumes and cover letters, hours between the coffees I had to keep myself in circulation and the bus I met because I was now around for my kids. And there were all sorts of stories to tell. Each day, and often each moment of each day, I was adjusting to a new part of unemployed life--logistically, financially, and psychologically.

What I have discovered over these last few years is that, while the drama may be different, if I pay attention, there is always a new story to tell--each day, and perhaps each moment of each day--even when I don't pause to tell it. All those shows that are binge-watched keep coming up with new stories, and I suppose I do the same, simply with a slightly different focus and a slightly different pace. 

So, thus begins my weekend blog binge. Binge-read them or not--like a good show on Netflix (and perhaps longer than a good show on Netflix), they will be there.

And here we go...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It Just Takes

Sometimes it just takes turning to that blank page. 

Sometimes it just takes stopping for that extra moment.

Sometimes it just takes mustering that one more smile.

Sometimes it just takes walking those few steps farther.

Sometimes it just takes asking that one last question.

Sometimes it just takes offering that one more hug.

Sometimes it just takes trying that one new approach.

Sometimes it just takes looking that little bit closer.

Sometimes it just takes digging that little bit deeper.

Sometimes it just takes turning to that blank page...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Drop Everything

It's practically the freelancer's mantra. When you are never sure when one gig might end or the next one might come, if the phone rings, you jump. If you are asked to come, you come. You become accustomed to "dropping everything," adjusting your plans and your schedule, sometimes at just a moment's notice. It's a little like "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie." One reaction leads to another and another, and before you know it, your day can look very different than you originally imagined.

My full-time, staff job friends often can't believe I live this way, never quite knowing the "when," the "how much," and the "how long." They go into each week knowing what to expect, and can't imagine handling the limbo that we freelancers often do. They make plans, and keep them. They "drop everything," or so it seems, much less often.

As a person who has always kind of lived in "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" mode, reacting and following as needs and wants arise, I guess maybe I was somewhat destined for a "drop everything" life. There is a certain energy in never completely knowing what twists and turns your day will take. It may not always be convenient, and it may take more patience that you have the right to ask from the people in your life, but in an odd way, it often works.

Once in a while, "drop everything" leads to a lot of pieces just rolling around. But sometimes, "drop everything" turns out to be a great way to keep life interesting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What Tells Your Story?

I had occasion to tell my story today--not for a job interview or anything official, simply to a work colleague I'd recently met. I talked about my start and finish in soaps, and about my unlikely transition to news, and how it all led to now. It was satisfying to think back to many of my experiences and to think about how they'd made the "me" I am now.

Hours after I'd told the story, however, I found myself thinking about the pieces I'd left out. For, while I'd talked a lot about my hyphenated roles in soaps, and how my step into news had put me on a path to where I am now, there were entire pieces--sitcoms and symphonies, puppet dogs and children's media--that did not exist. It was like the resume you are told to write--not a list of every job you've ever done, but selected high points showing a path. Why, I wonder, did I leave out the pieces I left out? Had they suddenly become small blips in what has turned into a very long story? Were they hard to describe, or just not that relevant?

In one way or another, every experience we have is somehow relevant to where we are now. We learn, even from the short steps. We change with each turn we make. But when we tell our story, where do they fit? When we tell our story, how do we define ourselves?

I suppose, at least today, I defined myself as a soap person and a news person, as a directing person and an editing person, with a writing person on the side. It's not that all the other pieces and parts haven't mattered. But the "me" of today's story was the product of the longest part of my career and the most recent part of my career. And the rest was just, well, the rest.

What tells your story? Just as your resume can (should?) be different for each place you send it, your story can (should?) be different each time you tell it. The chapters are all still there--their effect on the whole story doesn't go away. But it's up to you to choose which ones to read out loud, and when and to whom you read them. Because each chapter makes your story a little different. But it's still your story--and it's up to you to choose how to tell it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Only A Witness

I did not march. Instead, I sat in a dark room, looking at video of marchers and march signs and march speakers and march interviews (and checking for profanity, which was virtually non-existent). I was a witness (of sorts) to history, but I was not part of history.

It was an odd feeling. Having spent the last year feeling more informed, more involved, more aware of the world, I suddenly had the opportunity to be right in the middle of it all, and yet, ended up on the outside looking in.

What will I say, when people talk about this day when people stood up and spoke out? How will I feel, when I realize I didn't speak at all, just watched? Will I regret not being an inside part of this moment in history?

It is a funny thing, my working in news. I feel "in the middle," when I'm really just on the outside looking in. I am bombarded with sounds and images, even though I haven't even left my chair. I wonder, might I have marched if I were still working in entertainment? Might I have marched to feel a part of things or because arts people around me were doing it? Or because that, not work, was what weekends were for?

We cannot always change how where we are in life affects the choices we make. We choose how we choose, and then we live with the consequences. This time, I was only a witness--as a walking New Yorker, as a news video editor, as a person avoiding a crowd. Will next time be different? Hard to say. I guess I'll just have to stay tuned...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Row Too Close

When I sat in front row of the One Life to Live control room, I viewed news of the world through the lens of several small monitors that carried the networks. Mostly, I caught them out of the corner of my eye, while I was primarily focusing on the camera monitors for the show we were shooting. Our show monitors were far bigger, and far more salient to me. Those tiny monitors were simply a glimpse of what was happening outside our studio. If it seemed important, we might put it into the large "line monitor," but only on a break. We were there to make dramatic television, not to watch the events of the world. And that was okay with me.

Today, I sat in front of monitors that showed only the news. I witnessed the events of the day from numerous angles, in more detail and volume than I could have imagined. It is nothing so new--for the last several years, the news has been my front row view. When Nelson Mandela died during my time at an Africa-focused network, I was witness to a bit of history. During the year and a half leading up to the election, I listened to speeches and rallies and craziness that made soap plots look perfectly logical. I have always liked being "in the front row." But there have been days recently when a little multi-camera drama diversion would be welcome.

My "front row" experience, it seems, is an evolving one. Once, the pictures of real life were on tiny monitors, and not so present in my life. Now that they are bigger, I can't help but take a closer look. It may still be the front row. But what I see is some days can be a little too close for comfort...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Day Before The Day Of

It is hard to get around, whether you work in news or not, the fact that today was the last day our current president inhabits the White House and the day before our next is inaugurated. It was hard not to have the feeling of dread or anticipation or whatever pieces of the "day before" feeling you might have. Obviously, this is a highly significant "day before." And yet, it is also a "day before" the way so many others are. You see, on the day, whatever that day is, we forge ahead--happily or not, resigned or angry, but moving ahead. But on the day before, we cannot yet "forge ahead." We simply have to wait until the day, with that queasy feeling of not knowing and not seeing and not being able to do anything about what will happen because it hasn't happened yet. So, while many of the "days of," this one quite included, might be horrible, the days before the days of might actually be worse. On the day of, we can see a little better and possibly plan to do a little more. On the day of, the time for nervous anticipation gives way to the time for determined action. On the day of, we stop standing paralyzed and attempt to move forward.

I can't yet say how I will feel on the day of. But I can say I will be glad when the day before the day of is behind us all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Battles We Fight

As I battle through the effects and needs of a head cold (or whatever I am calling it today), I can't help reflect upon the battles that I--and all of us--fight every day. I'm not even talking about the biggies, really--as I am lucky to have little firsthand knowledge of war or serious illness, I wouldn't presume to discuss those. The battles to which I refer are the smaller ones--the day to day struggles that consume us, and that direct our choices about where and how we will use our precious time and energy.

Some days, the battle is for our time--how do we strategize to be able to accomplish everything that we need and want to do?

Other days, we battle to make sure our kids are succeeding, whether by checking their homework, talking to their teachers, or simply harassing (I mean, encouraging) them to focus on the tasks at hand.

Some days, our battle is for our weight and fitness. We set up resistance against the cookies and try to march firmly toward the gym.

Other days, at least for me, the battle is staying awake through an overnight shift and awake enough (but not too much) during the day that follows.

Some days, we battle to hold on to what it is we said we wanted.

And other days, we battle to hold on to what we have.

And some days, we try to fight all of these battles at once.

And then a head cold (or whatever we are calling it today) happens, and we realize that certain battles can wait while others are fought...

Monday, January 16, 2017

On Occasion

I spent my childhood celebrating occasions--birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, graduations. This tradition carried into my time at ABC--in my first weeks there, we ate cake in honor of someone at least once a week. It's fun to recognize a person's occasion and enjoy a sweet treat in the process. 

As I have made my way through life, occasions have certainly not gone away. I still organize kid birthdays and celebrations commemorating other events. But what I have discovered along the way is that our regular days can be just as festive--and important--as our occasions. Once upon a time, I planned way ahead for s special meal out on a special day. These days, some of our best outings are spur of the moment, with no planning at all. Once upon a time, I stressed myself out making sure cards and gifts and arrangements were all set for the "big day," whatever that "big day" was. These days, I see that sometimes life gets between us and the "big day." And a lot of the time, a celebration deferred, rather than shoe-horned in where there's no room, is the best celebration of all.

I have not lost the value of commemorating the events that are important in our lives. I have simply recognized that the commemoration can sometimes be separate from the occasion, and that the occasion is sometimes less important than the feelings that go along with it.

So now, I celebrate feelings, not just occasions. And I try to remember to find new occasions in the everyday. Because you never really know when an ordinary day will become am occasion.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Road Not (Usually) Taken

I have walked when a cab would have been more comfortable.

I have worked when sleeping would have felt better.

I have cooked when take-out would have been simpler.

I have chosen the harder answers when all I wanted were some easy ones.

I have arrived earlier and stayed later when I might have chosen to watch the clock.

And then, one day, I took a car, and made a food-ordering call, and slept as many extra minutes as I could. Because sometimes, we're allowed to put aside the days when we had not enough money or not enough time, not enough freedom, not enough voice, not enough luck.

Sometimes it's okay to take the road not usually taken...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What's Up In The World?

You would think I would know what is up in the world. After all, I am working in news, bombarded by the latest presidential updates, international conspiracies, and weather emergencies. I am informed, up to date, aware. Right?

This week, I had the privilege of attending Prix Jeunesse Suitcase, an encapsulated version of the international children's film festival that brings together children's content from all over the world. In the several hours I was there, I saw documentaries of child refugees building lives, with or without their families, in storage containers and tents and public parks. I saw stories that made clear that not all schools in the world operate the same way as U.S. schools. I saw despair and hope and new ways to think about childhood and about the world. And very little of this was anything that I had seen in my work in news.

At the event, I also spoke with various children's media professionals I had met when way back when I had more time to attend events regularly. Even just brief conversations made it clear that my place in the world is quite different than it once was. Once, I connected. I could see a particular future. I fit. But this time, the fit was gone. I had clearly walked so far away that it might take many days, even months, to return. 

What's up in the world? Clearly, a lot more than I am seeing each day. The people I once knew have moved on, and, I suppose, so have I. But my time at Prix Jeunesse Suitcase allowed me to see, in more ways than one, the importance of looking at "what's up in the world" from a vantage point other than our own window or the computer screen in front of us. The films reminded me how many stories are waiting to be told, and that someday, perhaps I will tell one of them. And the people reminded me that, while I may not be who I once was, I am not just the person that I am today, and that I could be someone else tomorrow if I so chose.

What's up in the world? If we look around us, rather than just straight ahead, it may be a lot more than we realize.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Domestic Goddess

By day's end, I have created Swedish meatballs, new potatoes, Brussels sprouts, eggplant Parmesan for one child's lunches and pasta for another's, and maybe-they're-healthy date-nut brownies. If I can't even believe it myself, I have the dirty dishes to prove it. It occurs to me that the people who create these recipes have whole staffs to clean up after them.

It is, to be sure, a domestic goddess kind of a day, the only real problem (aside from the dirty dishes, because who wants those?) being that the domestic goddess day is followed by a "bring home the bacon" overnight shift of work. 

I am often touting the advantages of working overnight--it affords me daytime hours for human being appointments and involvement with my children. But like all advantages, these are advantages with risk. Without a great deal of sleep vigilance, those daytime hours are readily consumed with daytime activities. If I am at home, it is hard not to feel that I am, well, at home, and therefore available for a certain amount of domestic responsibility. Once day breaks and I have made it through another night, the new day presents all sorts of missions to be accomplished. And in the light of day, memories of the fuzziness of the night before and thoughts of the night to come are about as reliable as the "always hotter than necessary" flame on my stove.

Thankfully, overnight work or not, home during the day or not, I don't have the desire to be a domestic goddess all of the time. Even if I were to survive, I don't know that my kitchen would. So, I work, and I manage. And I remind myself that one person doesn't have to use all twenty-four hours in every day. And that it is possible to work a few of the goddess qualities without committing to being a full-time domestic goddess. It's time for a little take-out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

But What Does It MEAN?

My son is obsessed with how arcade games work. Does that mean he will be an engineer?

My daughters are walking Broadway encyclopedias. Does that mean I will someday see them on the Great White Way or with bylines in the Arts section?

I got extra work hours today. Does that mean I did something particularly good last week?

If I walk in one direction, does that mean that is the path I will follow forever?

There was a time when I was at One Life to Live--a long time, actually--when I let everything mean something. Getting directing assignments meant I had done something right, being left off the directing schedule meant I was on the outs. Not being chosen to edit a piece meant I was a bad editor...you get the idea. But the truth was, and is, things don't always mean what you think they do. Sometimes, how you are treated has more to do with how someone slept last night or what someone ate for lunch than with anything about your performance. Sometimes, the path you take is just a path, not a highway to your future. 

There's nothing so wrong with looking for meaning--we want the things we do to feel important, to tell us something, to give us clarity. But when we allow--or expect--events or results to mean too much, we keep ourselves from exploring the options and taking the chances that might be meaningful to us down the line.

What does it mean? Sometimes, we don't know, can't know, won't know. So, we search. And then we just keep doing...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Break In Service

It is a pension term, really, denoting a period of time not worked for the union or other benefits-granting organization. It can signal a kind of jeopardy--lack of work, combined with the risk of forfeiting certain long-term perks of working.

Today, thankfully, a "break in service" is just a day or two of time in my pajamas, less focus on alarms, and hours spent closer to home. Today, the "break in service" is not about losing a job, it is simply about winning a little time to breathe, to do, to live.

It is hard sometimes, after "breaks in service" that were far more real and more extended than I would have chosen, to take any "break in service" as a good thing. Thus, we freelancers tend to choose the alarms and the schedules and the longest strings of working days we can get. But perhaps I am making a little more peace with my freelance self, because I kind of like the pajamas once in a while. I am making a little more peace with my freelance life, because I finally know that a break doesn't always mean a loss. Maybe I am making a little more peace with my freelance world, because I can have hours when I am just "me, the person," not "me the freelancer."

The official term is what it is, and I will avoid that version at all costs. But for today, a day or two "break in service" was just what I needed. Because, thankfully, I know that there is a return on the other side. Because sometimes, a break in service is really just a break.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It Goes So Fast

A cousin of mine recently had a birthday, and I couldn't help but think, as I messaged her a happy birthday greeting, and even after that, about how she always says "enjoy it, it goes so fast."

When she said it to me many years ago, I'll admit, I didn't think too much of it. But each year, as one (or all) of my children reached another milestone, it rang even more true. It--whatever "it" is on any given day--does go fast. Talk of naps gives way to talk of play dates and talk of grades and talk of college. Even in our non-parental lives, even the times that feel timeless, and the stages that feel endless, are gone in what turns out to be an instant. It has been decades now since my first day at One Life To Live, and even a lot of years since my last day there. Life goes on, and we go on with it.

So, I have been thinking a lot, not just about my cousin's words "it goes so fast," but also about the "enjoy it" part. It is not always easy to remember to "enjoy it" when we are changing a diaper or nagging about homework. It is not always easy to "enjoy it" when we are struggling through a project or taking criticism or looking for our next job. But these are all part of the experience of living--the steps that get us to the next step, the challenges that make us who we become, the memories that we will have when where we are now has given way to where we are later.

So, as I say "happy birthday," to my wise cousin, I am grateful for the reminder that seems even more powerful to me now than it was when I first began hearing it. And I am careful to "enjoy it." Because "it"--all of it--really does go so fast.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Lean On Me

You know that village that they say it takes to raise a child, find a job, and generally get along in the world? I have been cultivating that village for years, with layers upon layers of babysitting options, with fellow parents who can help me pick up my kids, with current and former co-workers with whom I exchange job leads and workplace tips. The village is a truly powerful thing.

What I have begun to realize recently is that my village, while perhaps no larger than it was before, is actually much deeper. For, as I navigate new worlds and new responsibilities and new hours, the "village elders" who are helping me make it all work are actually village youngers--my kids.

Now, were you to ask my progeny about me, they might say that I'm not around enough, not awake enough, not on top of things enough. But while I am working or sleeping or careening through life, they are helping each other with homework and lunches. While I am just trying to keep up some days, they are getting themselves ahead. While I am trying to manage myself and them, they are looking out for me in ways for which I never even thought to ask.

It takes a village--there is no question. But, these days, that village is an ever-changing place, with all sorts of villagers whose daily contributions make our village run. I used to have to lean on people I'd invited into the village myself. Now, it turns out that I'm leaning on the young villagers who have lived there all along. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Choices We Make

We choose to go it alone, or we choose to be engaged.

We choose to create, or we choose simply to keep in motion.

We choose to be single-minded, or we choose to be open to all.

We choose to walk in a straight line, or we choose to wander.

We choose to muddle through on our own, or we choose to ask for help.

We choose to see failure, or we choose to seek success.

We choose to look for what is not there, or we choose to accept what is.

We choose to cry about, or we choose to smile through.

We choose to fight, or we choose just to be.

And the life that we live...is all about the choices we make...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Produced By

My son has the vision of doing everything out of town that he can't do at home. I didn't create his vision, but I work to make it a reality.

My daughter writes a play and schedules rehearsals for it. I did none of the writing and none of the scheduling, but it will be up to me to make sure the rehearsals can happen.

My whole "crew" would like to eat, and has a variety of thoughts on what and when and how. It is up to me to say "yes" to some ideas and "no" to others. And to, with or without help, make sure dinner is produced.

My kids have school break homework due as soon as they are back to school. I may not read the books or write the papers, but I check in, and push along, and usher to completion.

I have, from time to time, thought that I was much more of an editor or associate director, or even a director, than a producer. During weeks like this, however, I am reminded that producing is much like what I do daily--anticipating, supporting, managing the how and the how long and the how much. Did I generate all the ideas and plans? Perhaps not. But without my jumping in for the "produced by" role, the ideas and plans might have remained just ideas and plans, rather than activities done and deadlines met. Because ultimately what a producer does is help turn hopes into realities, which is kind of what I did. So this week, I can say, was "produced by" me. And I have both the vacation smiles and the loaded backpacks to prove it.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Mom Stays In The Picture

I am the photographer (albeit not a great one). I am the organizer, the family documentarian, the "make sure it gets done" person. I am not "in the picture." I am outside of it.

I read a post this week saying essentially "when you are gone, all your family will have is pictures of you. And they will want those pictures of you. So, just be in the picture--whether your hair is perfect or not, whether you are the weight you want to be or not, or whether you have put on makeup, or not. Just be in the picture."

I spent more time "in the picture" this week. Hair flying, makeup left untouched in my travel bag, far from my best weight, but I was in the picture.

We can wait for the best moments, the perfect circumstances, the way we would like things to look. Or we can make sure we are part of the picture that is. So that when we can't be in the picture any more, we will have evidence we were there. So that when we are gone, the people in our lives have every overweight, hair flying, no-makeup image of us they possibly can.

We can be the photographers, the organizers, the people who make sure it is done right. But sometimes, we can just be there, in the picture. Which is how it will really be done right.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


After a life of being good, but not necessarily the best, accomplished, but not necessarily sought-after or famous, I always wanted to do something about which people would say "ooh" and "ahh." Something that others might not imagine being able to do themselves, but that I was actually able to do. And, to a certain degree, I found that in this blog. For, while there was nothing so earth-shattering about writing a blog, there was a sense that writing daily--making time, as well as coming up with a topic and with words each day--was, in fact, a big deal. So, while I have, perhaps, enjoyed my "pause," I find that I have missed that slightly superhuman feeling of everyday writing.

We spend so many of our days being simply human--doing the work of just getting along, just getting things done--that there is little time left over for anything beyond human. And most of the time, human is enough. Doing our jobs, raising our kids, giving a little to our world--all of these keep us not just busy, but productive. But when we can add just a little bit of "superhuman," whether by creating something new or by going beyond what we thought we were capable of, we can be more excited about all the moments of "simply human." 

Sometimes, "superhuman" isn't about being the best, or the most exciting, or the most important. Sometimes, "superhuman" is less about what it looks like to others than about what it looks like to ourselves.  

Sometimes, "superhuman" is simply about flying a little farther than we thought was possible...