Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Every Problem Has a Gift for You in its Hands - a Be My Guest Post!

It endlessly fascinates me to see how different people can take one specific concept and turn it into something individual and unique.  I have really enjoyed "Be My Guest" month, a month of "mutual blogging."  As Be My Guest month comes to an end today, Lauren Novo shares her thoughts on the quote she and I both chose to use (and encouraged the universe of Be My Guest-ers to use!):  Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.  (by Richard Bach) 

I became acquainted with Lauren through my coworker Niki Pocock.  When Niki and I talk social media, it seems like the conversation often comes around to Lauren, who blogs at Gen-Y PRogress.  Lauren and I are at very different stages career-wise, but we have found in common a joy in writing and making connections.  Make sure to connect with her.  It will be a gift you give yourself!

“Every Problem Has a Gift for You in its Hands.”

By: Lauren Novo

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. So in January, when my boyfriend and I flipped off the highway and landed upside down in a side ditch, I knew it wasn’t an “accident.” My car was demolished. But we walked out of the vehicle completely unscathed.

Why? I’m not sure. All I know is that it could have been so much worse.

Still, I had to juggle insurance calls, school and work the following week. I had to squeeze in time for car-shopping, and worried I wouldn’t find anything as reliable as the vehicle I had lost. I was stressed. Even a little resentful.

I tried to stay positive. I was beyond lucky to be alive. But still, I couldn’t help feeling annoyed that the accident was not my fault (a possum, YES a possum, hit the front tire, causing the car to spin out) and yet I had to deal with the problem.

I forced myself to sit down and really face my situation. I knew that as much as I hated the idea, I was going to have to finance my next car. I figured out what sort of payment plan I could realistically afford and went from there. And while I was at it, I looked at the other expenses I would be responsible for in May, when I graduate from Florida State University.

So where’s the “gift” in all this? The silver lining? Besides the obvious—my boyfriend and I are OK—I’m finally starting to see the bigger picture.

As a student, I’ve lived in a bubble. I think about life after graduation in terms of my career all the time, but not so much in terms of financial responsibility. I don’t like thinking about losing health insurance coverage the day I graduate. Nor do I want to worry about cell phone plans and actually having to pay for cable and water at apartment complexes.

But that’s life, and thanks to the car accident, I feel slightly more prepared for it. Now that I’ve acknowledged new and upcoming expenses, I know just how far any given salary will go. I know what I need to survive and I know what I need to feel comfortable.

I’m still as excited as ever about my future. But now, I’m happy to report I have a more realistic view of what that future will entail. And that knowledge and peace of mind are most certainly gifts.

Like what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn and read my blog, Gen-Y PRogress: Lauren Novo’s PR Journey.

Wordless Wednesday

"Be My Guest" Month Ends Today!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Sprinkles

Many people believe life is too short not to enjoy dessert first, so here's the sweet ending to this blog:

Tenley's and my trip to Charleston occurred primarily so that I could run the Cooper River Bridge Run with my sister-in-law Laurie to celebrate Laurie's 40th birthday.  Tenley had come along, partially to help my brother-in-law Pat wrangle Riley (23 months) and Peyton (10 months) as Zane played his first t-ball game while Laurie and I ran. 

Tenley saw an advertisement for "Aisle Style," an exhibit of 150 years of wedding history at the Charleston Museum, and we decided to go there for the afternoon after our morning of running (me over a bridge, her after little girls).  Somewhere along the line, Tenley started fantasizing about red velvet cake and I breezily said, "gee we should be able to find that in downtown Charleston." 

The afternoon in downtown Charleston got off to a rocky mother-daughter start.  I was especially pleased that we were doing something quasi-educational instead of blatantly materialistic, especially since had I squeezed this trip into the family budget with a definite "bare-bones" mindset.  Before we even saw the first wedding dress, Tenley laid eyes on the coffee table book "Southern Weddings," and declared that she wanted it.  We proceeded to enjoy "Aisle Style," and cruised briefly through the Museum's other exhibits, and were on our way out of the museum to walk around downtown when the book issue came up again.  The problem:  the $30 book did not meet my definition of "bare bones," especially when I am a pro at finding bargain books; I would hate to spend $30 just to find this book for $12.95 at a remainder table somewhere.  When I said as much, Tenley's response was, "well, then I don't want it anymore."  For about five minutes the afternoon's entire karma hung in the balance.  My speech equating the cost of the book with the cost of a tank of gas to get us back to Tallahassee didn't really do much to improve things.  I had forgotten the intense allure shopping holds for Tenley; "browsing" without buying holds zero logic or appeal.

But we were already downtown, and still on the red velvet hunt, so we decided to keep going.  We strolled through the downtown market, where we have had bargain luck before, and in the shops in the vicinity of the market.  I checked out every street cafe menu, with not a morsel of red velvet cake in sight.  When Tenley was hungry we ate at a Subway (not a lot of local flavor there!).  She found a dress that she thought would be awesome for the 8th grade dance, and I was able to rationalize that expenditure as slightly less offensive to my "bare bones" plan, but she decided it wasn't just right.  That one little glimmer of retail hope did perk her up, though!  As 6:00 approached and we needed to head back to Pat and Laurie's house, we poked in a few more places, the last being Boutique Henrieta.  I asked the gentleman behind the counter a) if I was headed the right direction for my parking lot at the intersection of Church and Cumberland Streets (yes), and b) if he knew of any place nearby that served red velvet cake. 

I wish I could bottle the "desire to help the customer" that Joseph showed.  He said he didn't know, but that he would make a phone call.  The first phone call led to a place that did not serve red velvet cake.  At some point, someone suggested a local grocery store, the same one my sister in law had recommended.  I'm sure Harris Teeter's red velvet cake is good, but we ultimately ended up with GREAT!  Joe decided to call Jestine's, and they asked if red velvet cupcakes would do (answer: YES!).  Apparently the cupcakes are actually sold at an establishment next door to Jestine's, which had closed at 5 p.m., but Leigh at Jestine's said if we would come down she would set us up.  I started talking to Joe about my penchant for blogging about people who treat customers right (even when they aren't buying anything!), and he and I had about a five minute conversation packing in 30 minutes worth of good books, good software, and how doing the right thing usually comes back to you, along with directions to Jestine's, and Tenley and I were off.

When we arrived at Jestine's, we were confused by the line of 30 people snaking out the door.  Was the restaurant not yet open for dinner?  How were we supposed to get in?  I realized these were all people waiting to eat, since there was no indoor waiting area.  I was a woman on a mission, so I walked on in (those 30 people loved that) and looked for Leigh, who happened to be the first person I approached.  She promised to go to the mysterious "next door," said the cupcakes were $2 each and she thought there were six available.  I told her I'd take what they had but I didn't need more than six.  She invited me to sit down and, despite how slammed the restaurant was, asked if I wanted something to drink.  I asked if Tenley could come in and she said she could (those 30 people loved that just as much as when I had brazenly walked in!).  Lo and behold, Leigh provided us with a box of four beautiful red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and technicolor sprinkles!  We slunk out past the hungry 30 and worked our way back to our car.  It's a miracle we didn't drop our treasure sneaking peeks and trying to get the box closed again!

Once we were in the car, it was inevitable we would consume cupcakes before we went anywhere!  I was still fiddling with the GPS when Tenley ate her cupcake.  "You're gonna die," she teased ......... and that's how a day that started 200 feet above the Cooper River also ended on a high note.

Thank you, Joseph, for mapping it all out for us, and Leigh for "putting the icing on the cake"!

I'll "run" into you next week, readers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Be My Guest! Be My Guest! Be My Guest!

Honestly, when I hear "Be My Guest," I immediately think of the song from Beauty and the Beast!  I think it was technically "Be Our Guest," but it's one of those songs that stays in your head for an awfully long time!!

From now through March 31, though, there are a few days left to participate in Be My Guest Month, a month of mutual blogging intended to encourage us bloggers to reach out to each other and "share our space" along with our ideas. 

Lauren Novo graciously agreed to "guest" on my blog and invited me to guest on her blog on the last day of Be My Guest Month, March 31, 2010.  (You can read her blog here.)  We also decided to choose a quote that we would both base our last blogs on, and to invite all of the other "Be My Guest Month" bloggers to do the same!

Here's the theme: 

“Every Problem Has a Gift for You in its Hands.” 

Now go out, find a blogging friend, find those gifts tucked away in those problems, and write about them!!

Monday, March 22, 2010


I have been wanting to write about the making of Water Wings since I participated as a cast member in November of last year.  I have not written about it yet for several reasons.  The first is that, after the November filming, I saw the film on December 12 at its screening and then did not see it again until I got my personal copy recently and was able to re-watch the film several times.  (The second has to do with how personal this topic is to me, dealing with a family member's suicide.) 

In a hyperspeed world where there is very little delayed gratification, the making of this four-minute FSU film was the foremost personal experience in 2009 that I could not control.  Once I completed my day on set, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the finished product that I would not see for three weeks.  By forcing me to take a risk (and wait to see the outcome), Water Wings energized me in a way very few personal ventures have recently. 

I got involved in the local film community when Tenley auditioned, around 8 years old.  It didn't take me too many trips, delivering her (and subsequently her brother) to auditions, to say, "heck I might as well audition too."  Any time I got a chance to be an extra, I did it.  That's how I quickly learned that I must have "that nurse look," based on how many sets of scrubs and white uniforms I have worn on set.  I have also been an attorney, "grieved" at funerals, submitted an entry to an "online dating" service, been a "partygoer" at the opera, a bank customer, a woman on a date at a jazz club, and a bus driver.  When I got an email from the producer of Water Wings asking if I was available to play the mom, I was SO happy to be able to be involved (many student films are produced on weekdays, so I am unable to be involved because of my primary work schedule) and get my first "non extra" role. 

When I arrived on set, I was introduced to my "husband," who had significantly ratcheted up the dysfunction level of our family unit by killing himself.  I also met my three "children," all around 18 and 19 years old.  When I look back on that day, I still am amazed to be perceived as the "mom" in that situation.  I guess 18 is really only five years older than Tenley's 13, but that five-year difference seems like a vast developmental expanse to me.  And, frankly, in many ways I would still rather be one of them. 

This blog's title, "Disheveled," has to do with wardrobe, an aspect of filmmaking that I really need to improve upon (case in point, arriving at the "Recount" set with a suit as I had been instructed but having only a pink suit for a film that was ostensibly occurring in frigid November).  For Water Wings, I had brought a bunch of black/dark things as I had discussed with the director, but at the very last minute I threw in a purple shirt that was balled up in the back of my vehicle, a cast off from some day at the office when I had probably changed into running clothes.  Shane's eyes wandered to the wrinkly purple shirt and he said, "what's that?"  Me:  "Um, something that was laying around in my car."  Shane:  "I like it -- it has that disheveled look."  I guess I was supposed to look like I had been sitting around the hospital for a while.  But in general I don't think irons are a hot commodity (pun intended) with the film/college crowd.  I love being released from the tyranny of the perfectly pressed crease. 

(When I delivered my monologue, I was actually speaking to Carissa who was holding the camera from the patient-in-the-bed perspective.  Dalton Richardson played one of my "sons" and Shane Spiegel is giving direction in this picture.)

I had rehearsed my monologue many, many times by the time I arrived on set.  I had written it down (because I memorize things better if I write them myself) and treated my car to many renderings of it.  However, when I sat down with Shane, the director, to go over my lines right before delivering them, the experience felt eerily like the moment when I was in labor with Tenley, when my thought process (between the excruciating gut-wrenching pains) was essentially, "I wanted this so much but this is not possibly something I can pull off."  My brain was threatening to jettison precisely the words I needed to get us all through the next scenes, where I rail at my husband/son for hurting me and breaking our family. 

This is such a cliche but the main thing I learned from my first "more than an extra" role was ..... how much I still have to learn. 

It is amazing how one sentence said by someone who you are not likely ever to see again can undermine your confidence forever.  I recall working as a substitute teacher at First Baptist Daycare here in Tallahassee when I was in college.  I was on the floor playing with the adorable babies, and I distinctly heard one of the staff, who had been there for a lifetime and was a bona fide "baby person," say, "that one doesn't know what to do with babies."  Not a good omen considering I was majoring in child development and loved babies (still do). 

Working with the film school students is one of those experiences in life where your chronological age really doesn't matter an iota because, in my case at least, I was clearly the student and they were the teachers.  I asked myself repeatedly after the filming if there was any possibility my performance had been a "First Baptist Baby Room" moment -- were the student crew sitting there saying, "that one doesn't know what to do with an embittered-mom monologue"?   I need to get the training and experience to feel confident that, although there's always more to learn, this is no First Baptist Baby Room and I have something to contribute. 

I continue to think, as I take fledgling acting steps, how ironic it is that playing someone else brings you closer to who you really are. 

At yesterday's Writers' Conference, Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, said, "if you put any two things next to each other, you get a third thing." He did a masterful job of explaining how writing intersects with "The Cinema of the Mind."

Maybe in the case of Water Wings, the things the viewer sees are a disheveled, embittered mom and a family on the edge.  The third thing, not seen by the viewer, is the empowerment I snagged by taking a risk. 

I'll "run" into you next week, readers.  I'll be the disheveled one. 

*A huge thank you/credit to John Polatsek for the pictures. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless "Dé Céadaoin" (Wednesday)

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, images of Ireland courtesy of Dan Carubia.


En Route from Dublin to Galway

"The Old Person is a Child Twice"
Irish Saying

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are We Doing Enough to Help Each Other?

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.   -- Jackie Robinson
This week, I welcome Jason Mollica as a guest blogger!  Be sure to visit his blog, One Guy's Journey.  It's a thought-provoking read.  I invited Jason to be a guest blogger as part of Be My Guest, a campaign to encourage a month of "mutual" blogging.  I became acquainted with Jason when he guested on my coworker Niki Pocock's blog.  I think it'll only take readers a few paragraphs to realize that this "guest" makes any blog feel like "home."

First, I was flattered when Paula allowed me to guest blog here. The #BeMyGuest month initiative is a chance to reach out and really provide (hopefully) some wisdom. So a great big Western New York THANK YOU for the guest spot.

I’m a giver. There, I said it right off the bat. I’ve always enjoyed being a person that said, “What can I do for you?” The feeling when you’ve actually done something for someone is incredible. But why don’t we do more for people?

There was a time when it didn’t take much for us to walk over to a neighbor’s house and help with a project. When I was growing up, we had more than a few neighbors that would help out with cutting down a tree or shoveling an elderly person’s driveway. It was the right thing to do.

Nowadays, we hear less and less about the great things people are doing and more about things like the “Real Housewives of Orange County” and what they spend on Botox.

I love the quote by the great Jackie Robinson, who did so much by not only breaking barriers in baseball, but also becoming a role model on how to carry one’s self in life. It resonates daily with me because I often wonder what impact I am having on the lives of my children, family and those around me.

Since I work in public relations, an extension of my job is to “help” others. I listen to our clients, offer advice, and even assist in out of the office projects. But my greatest joy is helping the next generation with anything I can.

I offer resume advice and career guidance (whether it be public relations or getting into radio and television). I have always believed in “paying it forward.”

Stumped about what you can do, no matter how small, for others? Just listen. Maybe someone just needs a few moments to vent or ask your opinion. Sit down and just open your ears. It goes a long way… believe me.

Treat a friend to lunch or a coffee. This seems like the simplest thing to do in the world. It will not only make you feel good, but the person you buy for will also get the added spring in their step.

Lastly, take time to mentor a future pro. It’s a great feeling to be able to help out those who are just getting their career going. Challenge them, teach them, and you’ll be paid back in spades.

So I ask you… What are you doing to help those around you?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Answering the Call

Ring ring!  Ring ring!  Ring ring!

Tony Sturges was in the middle of reading a passage from Exodus 3:1-15 this morning at church. Moses had just encountered the flaming bush. Tony had just read, "When the Lord saw that he [Moses] had turned aside to see," when the cell phone started ringing. It wasn't a "ding a ling" kind of ring, more of an insistent "tech-y" sounding beep. Some readers would have ignored the ringing and forged ahead, trying to keep the parishioners focused. Not Tony. He stopped reading, and waited for the ringing to stop. My guess is that this choice was out of reverence for the word of God, not to embarrass the phone's owner. (Or maybe it was a reflex from years of teaching college and dealing with students' cell phones going off in the middle of lectures.) Whatever his reasoning was, it turned out to be divinely inspired, since the continuation of the sentence he was reading was, "God called to him out of the bush." It took Tony (and the rest of us) a while to stop laughing and to regain some semblance of Sunday morning attentiveness.

There are two other thoughts related to "God's call" that I want to share in today's blog.  The first has to do with yesterday's Thomasville Road Baptist Church 5K/10K, a race held every year to benefit the Florida Baptist Children's Homes.  Since my blog is still (occasionally!) about running and my quest to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes, here's a 2009 vs 2010 comparison:

2009 (5K) 41:28 (13.27 min. mile)  -  2010 (10K) 1:17:10 (12.27 min. mile)

The other thing I want to point out about the Thomasville Road Baptist Church has nothing to do with distances, splits, or routing (how is it possible that Tallahassee goes only uphill anyway??).  It has to do with our numbers, which are handed to us in this condition: 

Look closely at my number.  What do you see in each of the four corners?  While we all need a safety pin on each corner of our race number, only at the Thomasville Road Baptist Church race do the numbers come PRE-PINNED!!  When I got my pre-pinned number last year, I thought the pre-pinning was quaint.  This year I realized that the TRBC volunteers consistently do this.  It's an example of "customer service" that a lot of for-profit businesses could do well to take note of.  Yes, we can pin our own numbers on, but this one tiny touch of "let us make it a great day for you" is representative of an organization that wants to ensure everyone has a first-class experience.  According to Grea Bevis, the Race Director, this is a responsibility of the packet pick-up committee.  When a business (or church group) takes time to attend to little details like this, we customers notice and remember.  Nice job, TRBC.  I know you do this because you feel it is "part of your call" to serve God and community.  Next year, I'll "pin all my hopes" on racing with you again. 

While I am on the subject of things we feel "called" to do in life, especially when we feel God has a hand in it, for the second week in a row I am citing Seth Godin's thought-provoking blog.  Today, he talked about how so many huge corporate behemoths have gotten things turned around, putting the "factory, the infrastructure, the systems, the patents, the process, the manual" ahead of the "irreplaceable people, the linchpins, the ones that make a difference."  It is those irreplaceable, linchpin people who disperse a "call" throughout an organization, living out that organizational mission in every professional choice they make.

If you have personally lost sight of your "call," I encourage you to use this week to look for an opportunity find joy in going the extra mile, putting the "pins in the numbers" ahead of time, and helping a coworker or friend do the same.

I'll "run" into you next week, readers!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I have decided to start adding a "Wordless Wednesday" post to my weekly blog. Fairly simple, the posted picture will be either a) a piece of text, such as packaging, that I found humorous, or b) a typo. If it's not obvious which I intended with the picture I chose, then I probably did not choose well. I'd love to get comments back on these; a fun way to start a little dialogue. So, with no further ado, here's a "Wordless Wednesday" image that I'm "nuts" about!

Author's Note:  (3/3 at 10:37 p.m.).  Uh oh I've already received my first question about why this image made me laugh!  It's the phrase, "get a jumbo nut."  Maybe I'm too easily amused!!!!!!!!! 


Monday, March 1, 2010

Viva LaVida

Once a year, my mother in law treats me, Tenley, and herself to one of the Broadway series touring shows at our local Civic Center.  No matter when the show occurs, it is my birthday present for that year.  This is a cherished tradition, since we both love Broadway and enjoy spending time together.  This year, we were excited to see "A Chorus Line."  I had finally gotten around to watching the movie, and my nieces' dance recital last summer was structured around the theme of "A Chorus Line" so it was a perfect choice for the year. 

When we arrived at the Civic Center, I was standing there trying to figure out where to go.  Our tickets said "Section C", but Section C appeared to be blocked off so I was starting to walk in the complete opposite direction (which would have had me, Barb, and Tenley circumnavigating the entire Civic Center), when one of the ushers noticed that lost look on my face and offered to help.  She noted that these were the floor seats, so we had to go past the blocked off area to get downstairs via elevator.  Before escorting us downstairs, though, she overheard our discussion about getting a souvenir program and pleasantly reassured us that she would be ready whenever we were.  Once we had made that purchase, and came back, she informed us that there was no intermission, so if we wanted drinks or anything from the concession area, we needed to go ahead and do it.  More delay for her while we got ourselves organized.  When I asked about the bathrooms downstairs, she reassured me there would be a restroom stop downstairs. 

While Tenley and I were using the ladies' room, Barb and our usher were talking.  Barb learned that the usher had been working at the Civic Center for twelve years.  As she led us through the innards of the Civic Center (through which you have to travel to get to the floor seats), she chatted with us, smiling the whole time.  When it came time to hand us off to our next usher, I was kind of sad to travel out of the orbit of someone so warm, friendly, and engaged in her job.  That's when I asked her name, since I was already having an inkling of my blog topic for tonight.  Her name, she said (with a smile, of course) was LaVida. 

When I got home that night, I noted in my Facebook status how much I had enjoyed the show, but also how much I had enjoyed getting such fantastic customer service.  A friend of mine who is a certified registered nurse anesthetist said to me once, "I work to support my expensive hobbies."  The more life experience I have, the less inclined I am to settle for the "either or" inherent in that sentence.  I recently read a reference to a book entitled, "9 to 5 Should Be Happy Hour."  I also agreed with Seth Godin's closing line of today's blog, "The less a project or task or opportunity at work feels like the sort of thing you would do if this is just a job, the more you should do it." 

I was at a get-together last night for people interested in the film industry.  A young man sitting across from me, who wants to get into film school, responded to the organizer's question about his goals by saying, "I would be happy to sit in a room editing film all day."  Something tells me he's a pretty darned good editor.  I feel the same way about proofreading and editing the written word -- it's almost relaxing -- and since I take joy in it, my product is (hopefully) a win-win for everyone.

I wish I had thought to get LaVida's picture Tuesday night.  I thought about doing it as we were leaving, but she was pushing a wheelchair into the seating area for a disabled patron ........ with a smile on her face.  I didn't want to interrupt her "happy hour." 

I'll "run" into you next week, readers!