Monday, April 26, 2010

Someone Will Be With You Shortly - A Book Review

When Melissa Lierman sought reviewers for Someone Will Be With You Shortly, I couldn't respond fast enough.  If you know me at all, you know I love reading, and it is always interesting to be handed something "fresh" and to be given a chance to pitch in with a review.

Each of the brief (4-5 page) vignettes in author (and mom) Lisa Kogan's new book feels like going down a slide -- it gathers acceleration as it progresses and you feel a little shiver of exhilaration before getting in line to experience the fun again.

I marked parts of the text that I could relate to.  Does this give you an idea of the kinship I felt with Kogan?

Just tonight, when I sat down to write this review (which is due in 22 minutes), I could relate to Lisa's chapter about dinner parties, entitled "It's My Party -- and I'll Make Witty, Albeit Possibly Inappropriate and/or Offensive Remarks -- If I Want To."  Lisa believes that she is dinner-party-hostessing impaired and apparently her friends agree with her.  They invent things like elective surgery conflicts and other excuses to avoid Lisa's dinner parties.  It comes down to her perfectionism and how difficulty it is to relinquish control and allow the guests to relax.  Her significant other/father of her child Johannes's solution is to pick up the phone, while she is clad in scruffy yoga pants, and invite the neighbors over in 15 minutes.  Although the apartment isn't "company ready" and the refrigerator's only contribution to anything remotely dinner party-ish is some marginally fresh condiments, order-in Thai food saves the day and Lisa, Johannes and the guests enjoy a lovely evening of camaraderie.  I have about that long to get my thoughts down on paper about Lisa's book and I'm going to do my best to give you a "taste."

Another story of Lisa's that could have been plucked out of my life was Chapter 3, "Messing With My Head."  Lisa tells the story of her "very, very, very bad haircut" in this chapter, when she connects her "crummy haircut" from a quick visit to a "no appointment necessary clip joint" to a "seventeen-month-long lousy streak."  For me, it was sort of the opposite situation.  In November 2009 when Tenley wanted a haircut from favorite stylist at Green Peridot, a local salon, the price had gone up exponentially because a) at 13, she no longer qualified for the "children's price," and b) her stylist had moved up the rungs at the "teaching salon" and could now charge more (meaning around $55 total).  Deciding we couldn't both get pricey haircuts, and deferring to the theory that self esteem issues are more critical to a 13 year old than a 44 year old, I went to the opposite end of the Aveda spectrum and got a "student" cut for $12 at the local Aveda "teaching salon."  The cut itself actually wasn't as horrible as Lisa's "fatal haircut" apparently was, but the oddest things requiring a focus on my appearance happened that month, such as my first opportunity to have a role (other than "extra") in an FSU Film.  Haircuts are rarely just about hair, are they?

Lisa does a succinct job of summing up what it is that all of us forty-something moms seek in between all of the fatal haircuts, bad dinner parties, and monkey maulings (see Chapter 14).  We seek (or at least Lisa and I do) those "perfect moments," when "life is inexorably sweet ---- and generally over before you can capture them on the teeny camera in your ridiculously tricked-out cell phone." 

Do you need a laugh in an otherwise hectic, stressful day?  Do you need to know you're not alone?  Need a man to hold your hair while you throw up?  (Well, you may be alone on that one as Lisa seems to have one of the last few alive and even he is in Switzerland eight months out of the year.)  But for the laugh part and the "all in this together part," give Lisa's book a try ...... the humor will "be with you shortly."

On Wednesday, April 29, from 9-11 p.m. Melissa Lierman and Julie Morgenstern will be hosting a Twitter party to introduce the book and Lisa!  Lisa will be answering questions about her life, her column with O magazine, and the book!  Click here to RSVP!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Wordless Wednesday With Local Flavor

A tribute to Community Supported Agriculture, in honor of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day!

Camp Weed, in Live Oak, is a place of recreation, renewal, and reflection. 

The view from my tent at Camp Weed, 4/11/10:

Camp Weed has now partnered with Magnolia Farms to grow organic vegetables on site and serve them at Camp Weed through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). 

Traditionally, food is transported an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates.  CSA members receive vegetables that are picked ripe and delivered fresh within just a couple of days, reducing the use of fossil fuels to transport them. 

Click here for information about Community Supported Agriculture in your area.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Faster, With More Energy

I love being an extra on film sets.  When I try to pin down exactly why I love being an extra, I find that the reasons refuse to define themselves in a linear list.  I enjoy having a "bird's eye" view of the production process, the great people I meet, and the sense of common purpose shared by cast and crew.  Because my full-time job is filled with tasks that will not show any type of defined outcome for years (if ever), it is nice knowing that putting in hours on set now will result in something to watch at an appointed time.  Here is me in a "jazz club" scene for Waking Eloise, an MFA thesis film I know I'll get to see in August.  Hooray, a defined outcome!  (And note the look on my face because it applies later on in this blog.)

I have been auditioning at the FSU Film School twice a year for about five years now.  Until today, I chose one of the "sides" provided by the film school for each audition.  With these sides, one of the FSU Film students reads a part and I read the other while being filmed.  After the first reading, one of the students gives direction about how to read the part differently, and I read it again.  This time I did a monologue that I had chosen; doing so gave me the opportunity to memorize the part in advance.  I have found that trying to read material I am not that familiar with while also trying to emote and make eye contact with the other "actor"/the camera is disconcerting.

As much as I love being an extra, I discovered when I had an opportunity to have a speaking part in an FSU Film (Water Wings), that I love that too, and that the experience rocked my "I -want-to-express-myself-in-addition-to-being-a-mom-of-two-kids-with-a-full-time-job" mindset out of dormancy. (Read about it here.) When I prepared for Water Wings, my role was a monologue with several accusatory questions in a row:  "Why did you do this? Why did you need to hurt me? What was so wrong? What couldn't you take?, etc." When I practiced this at home, I spoke them as I read them, with pauses in between each question. As it turns out, the Director wanted more of a rapid fire delivery. Check.

It was in giving me feedback about today's first monologue delivery that Aaron Nix summarized in four words an improvement I need to make in my acting (foreshadowed by Shane Spiegel's direction in Water Wings) that I also want to make in my running (and in my life).

Faster, with more energy.

As of noon today when the audition occurred, I had not decided what the subject of tonight's blog was going to be.  I still want to write about the "scientific so," but that requires more research (pun intended) as does the reason that several convenience stores I frequent feature men's undershirts and clean "tshirts" near the checkout (apparently sales are brisk, even at a significant markup).  But Aaron's four words crystallized a great blog topic, so here goes.

Last night, in preparation for today's audition, I decided to record myself delivering my monologue.  Someday, when my acting improves and if I accumulate additional credits, I'll get a good laugh out of this.  There's only so much you can do with your point and shoot camera when you are holding it at arms' length and recording yourself, but I saw enough to decided that a) my glasses create a barrier that doesn't help me engage and b) my delivery was so low-key that I wouldn't want to watch me! 

With Aaron's feedback about my second delivery today, the direction I received in Water Wings, and my own observation from my self-recording last night, I am starting to detect a theme!!  Furthermore, what's with that de-energized look on my face in the shot from "Waking Eloise"?

It's exactly what I want out of my running:  Faster, with more energy.

For running, getting to that sub 30 5K is obviously going to require "faster," but the "more energy" part is something I can tackle.  I think sometimes I apply restraint to my running on the premise that I need to conserve energy when there's more need to push myself, and to apply more energy to the things in my life that can improve my running, like better eating habits and more challenging cross training.

As for acting, I love it therefore it's time to figure out how to get to "faster, with  more energy."  As Seth Godin says in his blog about the dangers of the category of "neither", "If you spend your days avoiding failure by doing not much worth criticizing, you'll never have a shot at success."

As the week begins, I encourage you to look for that territory beyond neither.  As Godin says, opening yourself up to taking the risk of being criticized may lead you to "encountering the very thing you're after."

I'll "run" into you next week, readers.  I'll be the fast, energetic one!

Some of the wonderful friends I have made on set -- this one is "Banoffee Pie," and FSU Media Production Narrative Project film!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Good Plain Fun

Today, April 11, 2010, is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  As my contribution, I am sharing an essay I wrote last year.  I originally wrote this essay in response to a Literary Mama prompt.  I never heard back from them, but I loved writing this piece and fantasizing about it actually happening.  I re-read (via audiobook) "The Diary of A Young Girl" prior to writing this essay and discovered that a) Anne Frank's name was probably pronounced like "Donna" as opposed to "Dan" and b) reading this book now that I am the parent of a teenager was a completely different experience than it had been when I was a young girl myself. 

The prompt essentially instructed us to write, in 500 words or less, how we would interact with our favorite author.  How would we conduct the interaction, and what would we ask?

Good Plain Fun With My Favorite Author

Anne Frank’s diary could have been penned by my own 13 year old. When I listened to the audiobook version today, this is the line that most resonated with my current “parent a teenager” mode: “I sometimes wonder if anyone will ever …… merely see me as a teenager badly in need of some good plain fun.”

I would not want to have a serious conversation with Anne. She had enough “serious” in her time in hiding than anyone should have in a lifetime, much less fifteen years. Rather than a deep conversation, I would want to have little snippets of overheard online conversation like I have with my daughter, who is usually too busy having fun to converse at length with me.

(I am waiving “real time” in order to invite Anne into our home as an exchange student. )


Our family lives in Tallahassee, Florida. I am Paula, and my husband is Wayne. Our daughter, Tenley, is 13. Our son, Wayne, is 10. We also have a cat, Alice Cooper. Tenley is a cheerleader, and our son Wayne likes cars and video games.

From Anne:

I am a little apprehensive about leaving my family behind but the adventures ahead will be all worth it! I am 13 (like your daughter!!) and have a sister who is three years older than me. I have had several cats, but I haven’t ever had a younger brother.

I am only 13 but I am positive I want to be a journalist someday. My diary will make the trip with me. I enjoy reading and French, but my family would probably say my favorite pastime is talking. Thank goodness for Skype!

Once our family learns we’ll be having an exchange student, Facebook attests:

TENLEY’S STATUS: Exchange student coming!!!!!!!!!!

FRIEND’S COMMENT: What’s her name?


FRIEND’S COMMENT: Where’s she from?

DAUGHTER: Holland.

FRIEND’S COMMENT: She’ll LOVE the dress code at school.

OTHER FRIEND’S COMMENT: I hope they have belts in Holland.


Fast forward to December, about a third of the way through the school year.

More Facebook:

HER STATUS: Soccer game against Deer Lake tonight with Tenley!


MY STATUS: Go Raa Rams!

ANOTHER FRIEND’S STATUS: My mom is so lame; I’m grounded.


MY STATUS: Hey, back off the mom hating!!

HER STATUS: Tomorrow I start my first Hanukkah in the US! Missing my family (even my mom).



The letter I send home with Anne when she goes back to Holland talks about how we enjoyed having another teenager around (even if it did double the drama factor), and tells her to always remember the crazy funny things she did with her US girlfriends – the dress code, the “sleepless” sleepovers, the shaving cream fights ….. to always know that the Kiger house is where she can lay her head and dream her journalist’s dreams, after days and nights of good plain fun.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Play Ball! (Wordless Wednesday)

Celebrating Opening Week of Major League Baseball!

From the first pitch...........

(Johan Santana of the Mets)

To the last at bat ..........

(Derek Jeter breaks Lou Gehrig's all-time Yankees hitting record)

Find Your Field of Dreams this Season.....

Citi Field, Home of the Mets

When they start the game, they don't yell, "Work ball."
They say, "Play ball."
~Willie Stargell, 1981

(Many thanks to Dan Carubia for these pictures!)

Monday, April 5, 2010

My "4 am Project" Blog

Looking for the magic on 4/4 at 4 am!

I wonder if there is a "Blogging While Fatigued" equivalent of "Driving Under the Influence."  If so, the beautiful thing is the worst thing I can do is not make sense; no one will get hurt!

A couple of weeks ago, I started seeing mentions of "The 4 AM Project" appearing on Twitter.  The goal of the project, now in its second year, is to capture images of the "magical" time of 4 a.m. worldwide (technically, the time window is 4 a.m. - 5 a.m.).  I can't put my finger on what attracted me to this -- it certainly wasn't the prospect of losing sleep!  I think it was the "world-wide-ness" of it.  And as I prepared for bed last night and exchanged messages with people in London and other European cities who were taking their 4 am pictures, then again this morning as I exchanged messages with the Canadians who were just getting their chance, I felt a cool kinship with these people who I am unlikely to ever meet. 

Here are a few images of my project:

1.  Setting up my blog!

2.  Uh-oh.  I don't think my humble point and shoot camera is going to excel at dealing with a foggy Tallahassee morning. 

3.  I think it's so cool how the newspaper landed in a way that showed "Passion Play Marks Easter" face-up.

4.  I had bigger plans to rig up some bunny ears or something on this sign, as if the Easter Bunny was peeking over the sign, but decided to let the sign speak for itself. 

5.  As it turns out, he had already visited the Waffle House (where I also played with my food and met a biker-guy (but camera shy) fellow customer).

6.  But the highlight for me was meeting manager Bruce and Server Stephanie (who wrote out a pretty cool check complete with illustrations and a Happy Easter greeting):

7.  Stephanie had been nice and helpful during my entire visit.  But when I went to leave, I left behind a little stuffed bunny that I had thought may end up being a prop on my outing but I had not ended up using.  I told her to keep it or give it to someone who she thought needed it on Easter.  That's when she said, "well, I have three kids." 

And that's why, despite my enjoyment of interacting with people in Great Britain, Bangalore, and Toronto, the most "magical" moment was the one I had with Stephanie, meeting another hard-working mom who just wants to make her kid(s) smile. 

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My "Guest Blogger" Post at Lauren Novo's PR Journey

I enjoyed being a guest blogger at Lauren Novo's PR Journey on Wednesday (3/31/10).  We each blogged on the same quote:  Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.

Click on the link above to check it out!