Category Archives: Multitasking

The Show Biz Hiatus Dance

Sorry folks.

I’m a little busy with my day job this week, meaning the one that pays the bills (or at least some of them). I’ve got a dozen ideas rolling around in my head, but I just don’t have time yet to jot them down via keyboard and upload them into cyberspace. So in the meantime…

For those of you new to Very VERY busy mom, I started this blog on North Hollywood/Toluca Lake’s Patch.com, the hyper-local newsite owned by AOL.  This was my very first post and appeared on May 4, 2011. I thought I might reprint it here, since I’m now currently on the opposite end of The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

The Hiatus Dance as a tv sound editor

Man is the only earthly being that senses the concept of time, and as long as he’s been aware of it, he’s been slicing that time into “before” and “after” sections. Nine months of an anticipated due date is followed by decades of annual birthdays (which progressively become fodder for mock and ridicule). Our Gregorian calendar divides our years into B.C. and A.D., which more recently can be dissected into “Before Children” and “After Divorce.” And for many of us who are seasonally employed in the entertainment industry, our world is split into two distinct segments: “working” and “on hiatus.”Last week I was working.

This week I am on hiatus.

Work = money and no time. Hiatus = time and no money. And as Kipling said, “Never the twain shall meet.”

For over a quarter of a century, I have been a television sound editor, working primarily from September through May. I get a few breaks around Christmas and in the spring, but most weeks it’s 50 – 60 hours working on a strict deadline. And then faster than you can say “Nielsen ratings,” I’m unemployed.

Brisco County, Jr.

My busiest week on record is a total of 112 clocked hours, so when I say I was working every waking minute, it’s not much on an exaggeration. You know you’re working too much when you want to dial “9” before making a phone call, or instinctively grab a toilet seat cover when using the little girls’ room. My hardest month was May of 1994, when I was in the midst of May sweeps for my show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., while simultaneously cutting the pilots for ER and Third Watch.

ER

After working 16-hour days for a couple of weeks, I went to work on Friday at 6:00 am and worked straight through until 1:15 Saturday afternoon. Then I went to a wedding.

Third Watch

I was younger then. Today that would kill me. And believe me, I would be praying for death.

Today’s 50-60 hour week should feel like part-time work. But now that I have three kids and a very busy life outside of work, it’s become a hard task to gracefully master. I’m lucky to have a husband who doesn’t work in the industry. He has a normal 40-hour week (albeit an early one – 6:00 am – 2:00 pm) and picks up a lot of slack. If we have home-cooked meals, he’s the one who prepares them. He’s often the parent who picks up the kids from school, takes them to appointments and helps them with their homework. It’s really hard to feel like a martyr when your husband is the one cleaning up the midnight flu vomit. But even he can’t do it all when my workload is heavy.

When I’m on a show, we eat a lot of Costco ready-made meals. I have to just accept the sticky floors and the thick layer of dog hair that accumulates in every corner of the house. Lack of exercise has made my hips even more Jell-O-like, and I blame sleep deprivation for making me forget the names of my children. My responses to Evites are posted in this order: “YES!”…. then “Maybe”… and finally a day or two before the event, a very apologetic “No.” I have a half-dozen saved phone messages from my 10-year old daughter pleading “Please come home Mommy! PLEASE!” and I have to create auto replies for my emails saying that it’s not that I’m out of the office, it’s just that I’m too busy to look at them.

Joan Cusack running in "Broadcast News"

When describing my work schedule to the 9-to-5ers, I compare it to two different movies, which is appropriate since I work in entertainment. The first is from the 1987 film Broadcast News where Joan Cusack has less than 60 seconds to leap over and under file cabinets, drinking fountains and small children to deliver videotape before the station is forced to cut to black. This hilarious scene shows the urgency and panic of working under an impossible deadline, and it’s similar to the nightmares that wake me up when I really need to be getting my beauty sleep.

The Slave Galley in "Ben Hur"

The other film is the rowing of the galley slaves scene in the classic film Ben Hur. I think of this scene whenever one of my at-home mom friends suggests that I make it a point of taking time to relax. This would be akin to a shackled Charlton Heston, rowing at top ramming speed, turning to the guy with the whip and asking “Can’t I just pause a moment and take a little ‘me’ time?”

I have it easier than most. Working in post-production (and for this season working completely from home) I have a certain amount of autonomy and flexibility as long as I get my show done.

Chained to work

Those who work in production are not so lucky. They get up at 6:00 am and travel to whatever location they’re shooting that day, and they are literally slaves until after the last scene of the day when the director yells “Cut.” They might finish up at midnight and do it all over again the next day. Granted, the crew has meals brought to them, but so do prisoners in San Quentin, but at least the convicts get a full night’s sleep.

And then there’s hiatus.

I actually get an adrenaline rush just thinking about hiatus.

Ahhh... hiatus!!!

My to-do list is miles long, and ranges from big projects like cleaning out my garage and painting the house to simple little things like picking my kids up from school on foot, or taking a moment to brush my matted dogs. I’m looking forward to reading a book. Yesterday I went to the YMCA and took my first Pilates class in four months. Unfortunately, today I’m walking like I just road a horse from Bakersfield. I also spent two hours at Target strolling down every single aisle – and I did it with my four-year old. As anyone with a preschooler will immediately attest, this should have been the equivalent of an afternoon in hell. Instead, I had a great time, although a variety of squirt guns and squishy balls magically appeared in my basket.

You used to know who was on hiatus, because you’d all see each other in the unemployment line the following Monday, but now (mercifully) you can file online. Marie et Cie and Aroma Café bustle with new summer regulars who finally have time to socialize or start that screenplay they’ve been talking about forever. The 12-step rooms are packed with those who finally have time to work on their addictions, or who are under the misconceived notion that they’ll get their big break by pitching to a celebrity during an AA meeting.

The workaholics have a big problem. If they don’t have a family or a hobby, the transition from 180 mph to a dead stop is just too extreme. They’ll end up like the stereotypical housewives – eating bon bons and watching Oprah, or in the case of the men, eating ships & salsa and watching ESPN.

Many friends of mine in the industry have a tough time making the work/hiatus transition, especially when they have kids. The ones with a full-time nanny have the easiest time, because they get a long vacation and don’t have to clean up a mess that’s been piling up for nine months. But those with a spouse who stays home with the kids tend to perform a confusing dance of Who’s Job is it Anyway? for the first month or so of hiatus. The hardworking parent finally gets some quality time with his little angels, but completely disrupts the routines established by the long-suffering spouse. The breadwinner thinks he deserves a little downtime but the homemaker resents having him parked on the sofa all day watching Law and Order reruns.

The at-home parent feels like a chump who has to play bad cop with the kids because the good cop/parent is suddenly home, taking back some authority and lets the kids stay up late, have extra dessert, or skip chores. This leaves the other parent dealing with cranky kids the next morning, hyper sugar highs or cleaning tornado-ravaged bedrooms. With this feast or famine style of cohabitation, I’m often amazed that entertainment industry marriages survive at all.

The West Wing

And then there’s the money… or rather lack of it. For those working on a successful show, hiatus is a vacation like one any other deserving American might take, only longer. In the late ‘90’s/early 2000’s I was the dialogue editor on the full seven-season run of “The West Wing,” and I always had an intense summer itinerary with my kids which included touring amusement parks, exploring every park within a ten-mile radius and taking weekly beach excursions.

brothers & sisters

However my current show, Brothers & Sisters, seems to be in a limbo state. It has not been picked up for the fall season, but its set has not been struck either, so I am anxiously waiting for the fall lineup to see if I get to go to the beach or start scrambling for another job. Maybe I’ll be on the next long-running hit show… or I might land a stinker that gets cancelled before Halloween. If the latter is the case, hiatus = beau coup time and a home foreclosure.

So much for the glamorous life of show biz.

Once Upon a Time

Here’s my happy ending –

This season I’m cutting dialogue on the show “Once Upon A Time” which premieres Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 pm on ABC. We did not lose the house, but our credit card debt now rivals those of many small nations. I am still trying to clean out the garage.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting

Rainy Days and Too Much to Carry Always Get Me Down

Mary Belle's broken umbrella

This morning I awoke to the sound of the sprinklers hitting the window way too early in the morning, only to realize that it was actually raining. I swear it was over 90 degrees only a couple of days ago. And because it rains so seldom in Los Angeles, it throws everyone into a tizzy – including myself. Yes, I heard the weather prediction, but I didn’t believe it.

So at 6:45 am I realized that my 5-year old is now three sizes too big for last spring’s rain boots, that he doesn’t own a waterproof hoodie, and that my windshield wipers merely smear, not wipe. I also discovered that every umbrella we own is broken. There were a variety of reactions from my kids about this piece of news. My rebel oldest daughter refused to take a broken umbrella, and I’m sure she was aiming to stand under a rain gutter just so she could wear her soaking wet clothes as a badge of honor. My 10-year old didn’t seem to care that the umbrellas were broken – she just wanted the prettiest one. And my son refused to take the girlie umbrella, even though that was the only one his size.

Today’s rain reminded me of an incident about ten years ago. Mary Belle was just a baby in an infant carrier, and Emily was about 4-1/2 years old. She had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes the year before, and we carried a bag of syringes, insulin, glucose tabs, Glucagon, glucose meter, lancets, and strips everywhere we went. Fortunately Emily performs pack mule duty with her diabetes kit these days, but back then, it was a large bag, and I’m the one who carried it.

Anyway, we were headed to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s for one of Emily’s friends, and it was raining cats and dogs. Emily fell asleep on the way to the party, and when we arrived, I couldn’t wake her up (don’t worry – it wasn’t a diabetic coma… she was just taking a very hard nap).

It was a busy day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, so I parked at the far end of the parking lot. I picked up Emily and figured I could lay her down in the booth inside until she woke up. I scooped up Mary Belle in the infant carrier. Then the diabetes kit. The diaper bag. My purse. The birthday gift. And a bag of toys that were left at our house from the last playgroup that included the guests that were coming to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Then, balancing all these items with my arms, legs, elbows and knees, I struggled to open the umbrella and move everyone out of the car. I did a little twist with my hips and slammed the car door with my butt.

Unfortunately, I was physically incapable of straightening. I could feel the bags slipping. The umbrella caught a gust of wind and I lost it. I was suddenly caught in the downpour and the girls and I were completely drenched. Emily woke up. Mary Belle started wailing. The birthday present fell in a puddle along with the bags.

Just then, a friend of mine and her daughter approached. They were also going to the party. She asked, “Can I help you?”

I said, “No, I’m fine.”

And then I started to cry.

It was the first time as a mom that I realized that I really, truly needed help, that there was no physical way for me to do this on my own. My friend scooped up the bags, her daughter picked up the gift, and Emily was finally awake enough to walk on her own.

I blubbered all the way across the parking lot to Chuck E. Cheese’s. And I suddenly accepted the fact that it’s not so bad asking for help when you need it. I doubt my friend was keeping score, as in, “I helped Cathy in the rain so now she owes me big time,” which was one of my great fears about asking for help. She was just being kind. And by trying to do it all on my own, I was being stubborn. And foolish. And stupid.

I’m still not very good at asking for help, but I’m getting better.

I had originally thought of playing around with the song Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down and titling this week’s blog Rainy Days and sleeping-children-and babies-in-infant-carriers-and-diabetes-kits-and diaper-bags-and-purses-and-birthday-presents-and-a-bag-of-lost-and-found-toys-and-a-broken-umbrella Always Get Me Down, but it would have been just too dang long.

In conclusion:

I believe if God was just a little bit smarter and kinder, he/she would instantly grow an additional arm for every mother of young children whenever it rains. That, and give her the humility to ask for help.

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Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting

♪♫ The 12 Days of LAUSD ♪♫

3 kids + 3 LAUSD Schools

The term “hit the ground running” must have been coined by the parents of school-aged children during the weeks following Labor Day. The days of kids staying up til 10 or 11, eating pop tarts and chips and watching endless hours of the Disney Channel have come to a screeching halt.

No more hitting the snooze button three times before crawling out of bed. I pop up like a Jack-in-the-Box on the first ring, suddenly a Marine Drill Sergeant yelling, “Move! Move! Move!” as I coax my kids out the door using more stick than carrot.

That’s just the morning. My nights are now filled with parent meetings: orientation, back to school, PTA, Governance, committee meetings, and restaurant fundraisers as hundreds of my fellow parents huddle up like a pro football team, strategizing budget cuts, plotting ways to help our overworked teachers, and basically taking our already limited time from our little angels with the goal of improving public education.

Classes for most of the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have been back in session for three weeks now, and with my kids’ ages of 5, 10 and 15, I am now a parent in three different LAUSD schools: Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village; Millikan Middle School & Performing Arts Magnet in Sherman Oaks; and Cleveland High School Humanities Magnet in Reseda.

So in honor of the other LAUSD parents, here’s a little ditty you can sing to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas. I’ve created an accompanying video with subtitles so you can sing along…

The 12 Days of LAUSD

By the 12th day of school at LAUSD

(we got)

12 discarded lunches

11 trips to Staples

10 forms to fill out

9 parent meetings

8 rescinded teachers

7 vaccinations

6 weekly emails

5 unanswered rings

4 requests for cash

3 dozen robo calls

2 buses broken down

and a lock down from a chemical spill

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Filed under Humor, Multitasking, Parenting, Public Schools, Volunteering

My husband asks: “Where’s MY birthday blog?”

There are three things I love about my husband. One: he is very VERY funny. Two: he is not a butt-kisser. Three: he is very low maintenance.

This last feature really came in handy last Wednesday on the day of his 44th birthday. The poor guy had to go into work at 5:00 in the morning and he had a pretty stressful day. He should have come home to a clean house, his favorite home-cooked meal, a terrific gift of the “Thanks… it’s just what I wanted” category, and his adoring children singing a round of “Happy Birthday to You” in front of a delicious birthday cake.

Instead, he walked in the door, and I gave him the following greeting: “Happy birthday, Honey! I have a meeting at the middle school, then a Neighborhood Council meeting. Can we have your birthday dinner on Sunday instead? I know you said you didn’t want a present, so I didn’t get you anything. Can you fix the toilet? It’s backed up again. Here’s your card.”

I handed him a funny birthday card of barnyard animals farting. The kids and I signed it. Our 5-year old drew a picture of SpongeBob next to his name. Then I deserted my husband with three kids, no dinner and a filthy toilet that was a millimeter away from overflowing.

On his birthday.

Did I tell you he was low maintenance? Another husband would already be filing the divorce papers. Actually most husbands.

That night I came home at 9:30 – a half hour after his bedtime (he had to be at work again at 5:00 am) and my husband asked, “Did you write a blog about me?”

“Huh?”

“You wrote a blog about everyone else’s birthday. Did you write one for me?”

I’ve been blogging for four months now, and it never occurred to me that I have a standard birthday blog. I’d be blogging about birthdays every post if that was the case.

Looking back, I did blog about my daughter Emily last July when she turned 15, talking about how I felt like such a clueless mom. In August I wrote a sentimental story on my sister’s birthday called “Life with my Irish Twin.” And last week for my birthday I ranted about how I hate it when people buy me a birthday gift. But my son turned 5 on September 14, and I didn’t blog about him. I informed my husband of this piece of evidence.

“But you wrote about being the oldest kindergarten mom at the school,” he said.

Apparently in my husband’s mind, this was in the realm of the birthday blog tradition.

My husband, who endured a crappy birthday by picking up the pieces of my overcrowded time management, wanted an actual present other than the farting barnyard animals: his own birthday blog.

So here goes…

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my funny, low-maintenance, non-butt-kissing husband, Tom, who always replies to my Patch blogs with something even funnier than I wrote. Thank you for being a great stepdad to my girls by teaching Emily heavy metal guitar and playing endless rounds of pool volleyball with Mary Belle. Thank you for giving me a fart/burp/coconut-loving son who never stops talking. Thank you for helping Emily make a harp in 3rd grade even though we had just started dating and it would confirm early on that I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. Thank you for not leaving me when I volunteered you for grill duty at our block party on the hottest day of the year. Thank you for practicing calligraphy for months to create a beautiful fairy tale book to propose to me. Thank you for smelling like barbeque in the evening because it means I didn’t have to cook dinner. Thank you for making me laugh, fixing door knobs, killing household bugs, washing our dogs, mowing / edging / pool care, cooking way better than I do, being PACE treasurer, dumping the trash (even when it’s raining), watching CSI with me even though it clearly jumped the shark a year ago, plunging toilets and always saving the day when I overcommit… which is often. You are a prince, and I’m so lucky to have you as my husband.

(Big exhale)

Do I still have to cook you dinner on Sunday?

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10 New Uses for an Old Emmy

Emmy & Emmy with a Woody (Barbies - Hugh Hefner style)

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards takes place tonight at the Nokia Theatre in Hollywood, celebrating excellence in television. Between last week’s creative arts awards ceremony and tonight’s event, a total of 101 categories are honored (at least that’s what I was able to count on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences website while my 5-year old was nagging me for milk).

An award may be won by a single person (as in “Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series”) or by each member of a team (as in the 27 writers of Saturday Night Live in the “Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series” category). By tonight, hundreds of entertainment professionals will have these sleek statuettes perched on their mantles, joining the ranks of thousands of others who have won in previous years.

For any of you living a Unibomber-like existence and are unfamiliar with the Emmy, it is a golden statuette of a woman on her tippy toes, leaning backwards and holding large spiraling ball. The ball is actually an atom, which should of course be impossibly too small to see, yet it is actually about ten times the size of her head. Emmy also has wings on her back. Not angelic wings, mind you. They are thin, pointy wings more reminiscent of Freddy Krueger’s razor-like fingers, and probably just as deadly.

It is an honor and a privilege to win an Emmy. But like your Little League, karate, or bowling trophies, what do you do with them after a year or two or a decade or more?

I actually have two Emmys for “Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series” as the dialogue editor for the long-running drama ER. I won them in 1995 and 1998, and then went on to edit The West Wing and Brothers & Sisters, which were not big winners in the category of sound editing. My old sound supervisor gets nominated every year, and has won so many awards I think he probably keeps one in his bathroom. Maybe another in his garage. There’s only so much room on a mantle.

Because our chimney came down in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, we don’t have a mantle to display my Emmys. Instead, the statues rest on top of a bookshelf which houses a variety of parenting, self-help, and spirituality books that I could really benefit from right now, but don’t have time to read.

As I’m in the process of clearing away clutter in my home, I began to wonder if after all these years, do my Emmys serve any functional purpose?

Absolutely!

Here’s my list of 10 New Uses for an Old Emmy:

1. Gold prices are at a record high! Now’s the time to melt that statue and put some food on the table (of course this might be considered somewhat blasphemous).

2. If you lean up against those pointy wings, it makes a very handy back scratcher.

3. You can also use those pointy wings to clean the lint trap in your dryer.

Emmy Use #4 - Exercise ball workout

4. Use Miss Emmy as a model for stretching backwards with an exercise ball during your morning workout.

5. Those pointy wings are great for opening stubborn potato chip bags.

6. Brandish those pointy wings to scare away unwanted door-to-door solicitors or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

7. Those pointy wings are also useful for popping balloons after your 5-year old’s birthday party (which coincidentally I’ll be doing the night of the Emmys. Obviously the only red carpet I’ll be walking on is the one stained by cherry Koolaid).

8. The pointy wings are also great tools for cleaning fingernails, toenails and gunk between your teeth. However, they’re probably a little too dangerous for cleaning out ear wax. I’m not willing to try since one slip might jeopardize my career as a sound editor. And that would ruin my chance of a possible Charlie’s Angels trio of winged beauties.

9. If you’re a little short on cash, you can charge your friends and neighbors (or more likely – strangers) to hold your Emmy as you snap a photo with their Smartphone and let them post it on Facebook. Your customer’s friends probably won’t believe they were at the Emmys wearing cut offs and a tank top, but it’s Hollywood. It’s still more believable than what Lady Gaga wears on a daily basis.

Emmy Use #10 - Play with Barbies

10. Let your kids borrow your statuette when they play Barbies. Although Emmy is too wide to sit in Barbie’s Corvette, you can dress her up in Barbie’s ball gowns. If Ken’s off playing poker with his buddies, your Golden Girl and the blondie with the 36-18-33 body can race off for a discreet double date with Buzz and Woody. Note: Under no circumstances should you invite rowdy friends to the Emmy-Barbie play date! The afternoon is sure to end with a trip to the emergency ward.

Don’t be too discouraged if you happen to be one of the homes lacking the new, functional Emmy. Times are tough, even in the entertainment industry. After tonight, a statuette might be found on a craigslist near you.

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Filed under Career, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting