Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hey You! Are You Talking to the Air? (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, "assigned" me Mama Kat prompt number five: The 10 Dos and Don'ts of Airplane Etiquette.

I love to fly, and it takes a lot to really tick me off in an airline/travel situation.When I first sat down to compose this post, I thought I would have a symmetrical list - five "do's" and five "don'ts." Turns out I have a few more pet peeves about flight (and airports) than I realized.  

The Don'ts:

1.  Unless you are talking a fellow physician through a lifesaving brain surgery that you alone know how to do and you just can't make it in time, do not walk around blathering loudly to the air (even though you are really talking to your Bluetooth, which we can't see). The details of your latest colonoscopy do not thrill me. Actually, they repulse me.

2.  If it has been ten or more years since you raised your own children, and you find the words, "When I was raising my kids, I never would have [insert offending action here, maybe "let that child run with a lollipop in their mouth"], just don't say it. It's stressful enough traveling with young children. Being critiqued doesn't help one bit.

3.  Don't take pictures of things that you find interesting that will be hysterically funny in your blog if there is a sign posted nearby that says, "No photos." I don't think the TSA is kidding about that and I am probably bitter that can't take pictures of the hysterically funny stuff so I don't want you to be able to either (and I don't want you to get arrested!).

4.  Don't keep your cell phone on after the flight crew tells you to turn it off. Nothing is that important. I don't understand the science of why that may bring the plane down but I really don't want to be the guinea pig. It can wait.

5.  If you see a child doing something that you find irritating, or acting out in a way to which your first reaction may be: "why can't those parents control their child?" remember that although there are certainly children out there whose problems can be resolved via tougher discipline, some children have disorders that cause them to behave in ways that attract attention and that are exacerbated by unusual situations and the stress of traveling. Will it really kill you to walk on by and carry on with your travel plans? Or even to say to that child's parent or caretaker, "sounds like a rough day -  hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly."

6. Respect the fact that people who are traveling to other places speak other languages. They may have to ask the staff person the same question twice and have the answer repeated until they comprehend it. Cut them a break.

7. If you feel like tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise socialmediaing something like, "crap - of course I got seated next to the crying infant - great birth control!" it's certainly your right to do it (I do my share of venting via Twitter too). But even though your tweet won't be read by the baby's parent or, duh, by the baby, I can tell you that as someone who has had to travel with an infant by myself, when I see something like that it plants more seeds of dread inside me about my eventual travel plans. Empathy is a good thing. (Empathy and earplugs.)

The Do's

8.  Dole out as many compliments to airport staff as complaints. If someone goes the extra mile or even approaches their job as if they are happy to be there, let them know you appreciate that. Undoubtedly they get a LOT of nastiness. Good should be recognized.

9.  Lend a hand to a parent of young children if they are juggling a stroller, three carry on bags, a toddler or two, and a latte. They need the latte. Trust me on this.

10.  Despite the frustrations of the current state of air travel in our nation and our world, try to take a deep breath and soak in the majesty of the atmosphere.

There isn't a flight goes by when I don't stare out of the window and thank my stars for what I'm seeing and feeling. 
— Richard Branson, pilot and founder of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Sweet Summer Finale Edition)

As the second week of school gets underway here in Tallahassee, we say goodbye to summer with the Sweet Summer Finale of the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge.
I suppose I could look at the summer as something that started full of anticipation:

and ended up empty:

but I think it is just the opposite.

As a family, we started the summer with room for growth:

and were given so many flavorful moments, such as:

Turning 15 (Tenley) and 12 (Wayne):

Discovering a whole new country and its incredible people in Guatemala:

And remembering that the people (and animals!) who are right down the road are full of discoveries too:

It hasn't been the easiest of summers as we struggled with Wayne's continued job hunt after a downsizing; we definitely felt exposed as some of our protective shell was bitten away:

But as we say good-bye to summer, I know that we come out of it with memories for which to be grateful and the knowledge that so many people, in real life and in the blogosphere, are in our corner.

To all of you who made the summer fun, bearable, amazing, una gran aventura, and full of the knowledge that we have overflowing blessings, thank you -- you put the delicious finale on the summer of 2011:

 I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the final Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. Thank you, Kristi and Alicia, for the time, heart, and passion you have put into this project. I have loved every minute (except for when I sliced my hand doing the "Refreshing" theme!) and cherished the opportunity to do something so "cool" when it was so blasted "hot" outside!

Crazy Days of Summer

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mother's Milk/La Leche de Madre (A Let's Reverb Prompt)

The August 2011 "Let's Reverb" prompt is: Describe an unexpected moment, activity, sighting or conversation that touched you during July. I have responded via a vlog:

Featured in the vlog:

The wooden nursing symbol teether is from Little Sapling Toys.

The picture of the Guatemalan woman is from:  Nurturing Across Cultures and the RebozoWay Project (the Nurturing Across Cultures link should be used if you want information).

Thank you to Little Sapling Toys and Nurturing Across Cultures for permission to use these images.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Get the Picture? (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, "assigned" me Mama Kat prompt number five: top ten reasons why you're glad you're done with school. Due to the time consuming nature of life, I have had to choose just one reason for this post.

I am glad school is behind me because I will not be in any more...

School Pictures

Do you have any school picture horror stories?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Not THAT Blue Sky Edition)

I found this week's Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge theme (blue skies) quite challenging. After all, each blogger is working with the same basic material:

Unfortunately, as I alluded to in Sunday's post, my son has spent way too much of this summer looking at someone else's engineered blue sky rather than the real thing:

I attempted a photo session for this theme that incorporated a kite and some of Tallahassee's beautiful blue skies. Unfortunately, mother nature did not get the memo and forgot to send even a whiff of wind (sigh). But Wayne and his friend Hunter still had a good time, and it was awesome to see them enjoying a blue sky that wasn't trapped behind a screen and manipulated with a joystick:

I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. This week's theme is "blue skies"! Next week's theme is "sweet summer finale" (and there are prizes!!).

Crazy Days of Summer

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breakfast on the Track - Solo

Every year, Gulf Winds Track Club has a "Breakfast on the Track" (BOT) mile run in mid-August. On the plus side for my experience yesterday (8/20/11), my best time in the past six years that I have been running the event (10:49:95). On the minus side, the fact that my "favorite young runner" (my 12 year old son) was not with me because I didn't even ask him if he wanted to come. Here is a picture from last year.

Breakfast on the Track 2010

There was one other BOT when I was alone, but that was because Wayne Kevin was participating in a kids' triathlon, not asleep at home on the couch.

At a Kids' Triathlon

As I have watched his exercise activity decline over the past year and a half, I have grown increasingly sad. As I told my friend Leisa,

"I am a little heartbroken about this but Wayne has hit that intersection where any natural ability to hang with sports has been outweighed (pun sort of intended!) by his weight gain and lack of training. For so many years he participated in everything, including kids tris, and although he was never really a "contender," he enjoyed himself. Now he gets so short of breath he really can hardly complete a mile and had to drop out of the kids' tri in May in the middle of the swimming portion. We thought it was exercise induced asthma but it's really mainly being out of shape and not training. I haven't been a drill sergeant about it b/c a) I am so slammed working as much freelance as I can due to economic issues and b) I am concentrating on my own running goals -- he has to want to do this himself - I won't handle him with kid gloves anymore. Although he did do RealRyde [spinning] with me some this summer and that was good."
An Easier Year (2005 maybe?)
Photo Credit: Tallahassee Democrat
Wayne Kevin is the barefoot runner
I still recall the embarrassment of the President's Physical Fitness assessments of my elementary school years -- lumbering through the "dash," attempting (and completely failing to do) chin-ups, and some other athletic "tests" that I didn't remotely succeed at. That is why it was such a relief when my daughter, Tenley, succeeded at many of the the active endeavors (gymnastics, cheerleading, dance) she tried and when Wayne enthusiastically embraced so many athletic activities -- tennis, running, kids' triathlons, one season of Pop Warner football, two seasons of  flag football, and recreational gymnastics. During summer of 2010, the "shortness of breath" episodes started kicking in, and the pediatrician prescribed an inhaler. That same pediatrician, when Wayne Kevin had his physical this year and listened to my description of the strenuously difficult time Wayne had with his most recent mile, and the DNF during the swimming portion of the kids' triathlon, introduced the idea that this was not asthma, it was ...... out-of-shapeness (thorough diagnostic representation on my part, right?). In a kid who did not train between events, how could I argue?
Springtime Tallahassee Mile 2009
I can't make him train. I am responsible to a degree for a summer spent primarily in front of a video screen while I was freelancing at night instead of making him walk a mile or even a yard ... of course he does have two parents but between his dad and me, neither of us succeeded (much) in reinforcing any type of physical activity.
And although I am ecstatic to be moving closer to my goal of running a 5K in under 30 minutes, I am bereft at seeing the road to physical fitness growing longer and rougher for my son.
When Leisa responded to my message, she said this:
"At some point we can't push and have to focus on ourselves. You keep getting to your goal and hopefully he will come around. The more active he sees you hopefully it will make him turn another corner sooner rather than later!"
Have you dealt with a child (or, heck, with yourself) losing motivation and sliding backwards? Any tips?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The One (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat writing prompt number one: Write a short story prompted by your favorite song. I'm kind of glad.

The One

Each item in the shop had the aura of “vintage.” He picked up a ring whose heart-shaped stone reminded him of the mood rings that had been popular in the mid-70’s and still surfaced occasionally as a fad among the kids he taught drama to.

The shop owner said the ring had arrived as part of a “catch-all” basket full of costume jewelry that had not sold at a recent estate sale. It wasn’t worth anything monetarily, but something about it spoke to him.

When he showed the ring to his granddaughter later that day, she slipped it on, half as a joke.

“Ha ha – I am going out with Jake tonight – maybe I’ll tell him my 'other boyfriend' gave it to me to throw would-be suitors off track,” laughed Tierney.

“Where did you learn such an old-fashioned word as ‘suitors’?” asked Jed.

“I am old-fashioned that way. I still believe in ‘the one,’” said Tierney.

“You’ll find him. You’ll know.”

As Tierney and Jake snuggled on the porch swing later that evening, he mused out loud about how their lives would change when college started in the fall. “We’ll see each other at Thanksgiving break – that’s not so far off.”

Tierney joked, “I wonder if you’ll even be returning my calls once you get sucked into campus life,” and mentally started looking ahead to the long run she and her running partner Dave had planned on Saturday. These long runs were the highlight of her weekends, and an important part of her training regimen.

When Saturday arrived, she and Dave eased into a rhythm around mile three, waving at the other runners fitting in their mileage. “I can’t wait to run cross country at Eastern Carolina,” he mused.

As Tierney considered the distance between Boise and Eastern Carolina, she realized that words were leaving her mouth way ahead of any commands her brain’s thought/traffic control might intend. “So will you be here for Thanksgiving?”

“Probably not,” said Dave. “I think Jocelyn plans to come out and see me,” he mused as he offered Tierney a hand to climb a ridged area on the trail that had gotten slippery with the recent rain. As he squeezed her hand, she realized that the ring her grandfather had shown her was still there, digging in as he tightened his grip. She also realized that she liked the way her hand fit in his.

Tierney’s pulse rate did something hinky, something completely unrelated to the change in the trail’s elevation. Why on earth would her heart choose now to skip one beat?

As she arrived home, cooled down, rehydrated and began her shower, Tierney glanced again at the silly ring that her grandfather had bought a few days prior.

A ring with a history she would never know. One heart that may have represented unspoken connections between couples before she was born.

She had held hands with Jake a hundred times. Only once with Dave.

In one clasp, her heart had returned a call.

A call from Dave.


This is the song behind the story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ("Help"ful Friends Edition)

I love movies, but I don't actually see many of them, especially within two days of opening night. When my coworker and friend, Beth, said, "Let's go to The Help," I started to give my usual "too busy/too much to do/don't want to spend the money" response but something stopped me .... we had read the book together in book club and had all looked forward to the movie .... and the world was not going to come to a screeching halt if I took a couple hours out of my Friday night to watch a film.

The theatre was packed, and I ended up with my friends (and friends of friends) to my left and a guy named Tony and his wife to my right. I recruited Tony to take our picture; he delegated to his wife. On the second try we ended up with this:

(Photo Credit: Tony's Wife)

But I really think this "outtake" most effectively captured the spirit of a "fun with friends" night at the movies:

(Photo Credit: Tony's Wife)

It was a big "help" to my spirits to have a night of "fun with friends"!
I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. This week's theme is "fun with friends"! Next week's theme is "blue skies."

Crazy Days of Summer

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hope For A Family - Carla's Family

(This was the view from CFCA's Shalem Center as Tenley and I waited for our sponsored child, Silvia, to arrive for our July visit.)

As Tenley's and my week in Guatemala was winding down, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) staff talked with those of us who had been on the trip about ways we could continue to partner with CFCA once we returned home. One of the ways is to share the stories of children who still need sponsors, in hopes that someone who is seeking an opportunity to provide hope to a family and expand their own experience of another culture will choose to sponsor this child.

For this reason, I am featuring Carla tonight.


Carla just turned six yesterday (August 13).  She speaks a Mayan language called Q'eqchi'. Her father is a day laborer (as a wheat grinder) and her mother is a housewife. She has a 10-year-old sister and a 12-year-old sister.

Carla's family home has board walls, a tin roof, and a dirt floor. The family does not have electricity, and they get their water from an outdoor pump. Their sleeping facilities are described as "brick with rug." The family prepares food over an open fire.The family's approximate monthly income, in US dollars, is $50.

Her profile from CFCA tells us that she likes to play chase and dance. Her jobs at home include cleaning the table and feeding the chickens. Additional biographical information says she "likes to smile, likes that everything is in order at home, and likes to run errands." Her family is described as "very humble" and they are consistently involved in activities held in their village.

These chickens belong to a family whose home Tenley and I visited.

If you are not familiar with CFCA's sponsorship program, the $30 per month commitment helps families meet basic needs such as education,  nutrition and medical care. Sponsorship also provides the support and opportunities these families need to improve their life situations and provide a better future for their children. CFCA has staff who work directly with the sponsored children and their families to make sure the sponsorship money is spent wisely. In addition to improving the family's nutrition options and the child's education situation, CFCA also works with families to teach them skills they can use to generate additional income; these individuals often go on to teach others. 

As I have thought this week about what I would write about Carla and, in the future, other children who need sponsorship, I kept getting a bit stumped about how to "pitch" this. I decided that my role in this process is to help tell the story, not sell the story. All I ask is that if you are seeking an opportunity to make a difference and this seems like a good fit, let me know. If you could share Carla's story among your social networks and friends, great. If you live within driving distance of me, I will be glad to brew up some Guatemalan coffee and come speak to your group. 

For another sponsor's perspective, check out Lynn Woolf's post, $1 a Day, about her family's  experience sponsoring Flora from Tanzania and Christian from Honduras. Lynn does a great job of describing one of the other benefits of sponsorship - the thrill of corresponding with your sponsored child.

In closing, I read this quote recently and it resonated with me as I continued to process all of the images and experiences from my trip to Guatemala:

Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you. -Andre Gide

I am seeking your help in giving Carla the best 6th birthday present possible -- the gift of knowing someone "completely possesses" the desire to sponsor her.

For more information:
My phone number: (850) 556-3517
My email:
CFCA email:
CFCA phone: 800.875.6564

Note from Paula: It is possible that more than one person may contact CFCA about sponsoring Carla or that a potential sponsor may really have their heart set on sponsoring a boy instead of a girl, a child from one of the 21 other countries served by CFCA, or an elderly person. Please know that CFCA has many sponsorship opportunities available and will be happy to work with you to select who you want to sponsor. You can get more details on that here.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Perfect Roman Holiday Party (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

When Mama Kat published her five writing prompts on Tuesday, one of them made me laugh out loud just thinking about writing to the prompt (the one about when I have laughed at an inappropriate time). But isn't influenced by what I think is funny and gave me, instead, prompt number two:  If you had the opportunity to throw a dream party for your closest family and friends, describe what that would look like.

Party Condition Number One: There would be nametags. There would be nametags because I have prosopagnosia (faceblindness) which would take far more than one blog to explain (although I started down the path in this post last September). It's my perfect party, so there will be nametags, and they will be worn (please).

Party Condition Number Two: The theme will be "Roman Holiday." There will be food and drinks (including non alcoholic versions) prepared by Velva from Tomatoes on the Vine, such as this concoction:

Photo Credit: Velva Knapp

Party Condition Number Three: One of the scads of talented photographers I know such as Jacob Abrams (pictured below) will be there to take photo-journalism style pictures so we will have the memories far into the future and I won't have to spend the whole night thinking "gotta get this so I can put it on Facebook"!

Photo Credit: Jacob Abrams

Party Condition Number Four: If the party is at my house, it will have been professionally cleaned (inside) and landscaped (outside) in advance. Oh, and decorated too. That's not my forte.

Party Condition Number Five: Under the pretense of "entertainment," I will assemble everyone to watch an entertaining short film about Rome (a film I will have arranged for one of the scads of talented young filmmakers I know to make). BUT, the purpose of the film will actually be
to surprise my wonderful mother-in-law, Barb, with the news that she is scheduled to go on her fantasy trip to Rome, at no cost to her!

Barb shares her story with the Florida Vision Summit

Party Conditions Number Six and Seven: Someone will foot the bill for this fantasy trip to Rome (and the Roman Holiday Party) and I will be part of the contingent going to Rome with her. I used to say, "it doesn't matter who goes as long as Barb gets to go to Rome" (this has been a dream of hers for a long time) but now that my appetite for international travel has been stirred by my July trip to Guatemala, I want to be one of her travel companions.

My perfect party would be one where I made a loved one's dream come true .... and had everyone I care about there to celebrate with me (while wearing nametags).


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Summer Pops Edition)

It's nice to give kids a few extra treats in the summertime,

But......when mom needs a summer treat for herself, she can...

Add lime zest:


And some summer spirit(s) in the form of tequila and orange liqueur, to get...

Mom Treats!

The recipe for Margarita Pops came from Family Circle Magazine.
A few more images of my "Margarita Pop Fun" session:

Here's the recipe (click on it to enlarge):

I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. This week's theme is "summer treats"! Next week's theme is "fun with friends."

Crazy Days of Summer

Monday, August 8, 2011

Believing (A Goodbye/Thank You to the MFA Class of 2011)

Spend any time at all on one of my social media sites and you are likely to deduce that I enjoy helping the FSU Film School find people and things. Pigs? Babies? Restraining Straps?

Yes, you heard me right - restraining straps. And here's how the conversation went. A Sunday, around 1:30 p.m. in advance of filming the following day in which said straps would be needed:

Film Student: Can you please call Tallahassee Memorial and see if they have some brown leather straps like you would use to restrain someone?
Paula: Um, sure.
[Paula calls TMH]
Volunteer on Duty at TMH Main Desk: Hello, Tallahasee Memorial Hospital, how can I help you?
Paula: Hi! I am a community volunteer with the Florida State University Film School and I am wondering if you have any leather straps, you know, the kind I could use to restrain someone with?
Volunteer on Duty at TMH Main Desk: Well, you'll need to call back tomorrow and speak to public relations about that.

The straps were needed for this scene in Heather Gillman's Medea:

(Alana Dimaria in Medea)
Photo Credit: David Barrow Wiley
See more of David's work here.

I still wonder what the TMH volunteer really thought about my request!

At some point during this class's time in the MFA program, I was on set with each member, as an extra or volunteer. Before you all go off to the next stop on the journey, a few thoughts.

Having a community volunteer with no formal film training must, at times, be sort of like having a curious three-year old around who can find no end of questions to ask. Thank you, Heather Gillman, for answering my questions about acronyms and terminology even though I may not ever be asked for a quarter CTB again in my lifetime - at least if I am asked I'll have a clue!

Another target of my many questions-to-which-I-don't-SERIOUSLY-need-to-know-the-answer-but-ask-anyway is Hillary Lavin. As a set design volunteer through several films, I came to appreciate the difference that attention to details can make. For instance, you don't want to create an anachronism by placing a "Cars" (released in 2006) themed toy in a little boy's room if the film he is in takes place in 2005. Hillary also answered her fair share of questions I asked about technical stuff, just because I was curious.

This class is the first one I have worked with on pre-production. I still marvel at how much I like something that involves two things I hate - 1) asking people I don't know for unusual things and b) returning things. But something about doing that, with a group of people I genuinely like so much, has alleviated some of my fears. Even if TMH won't take my calls anymore. :-)

I will always chuckle when I think about Jim Ed Wills asking me if I would be okay with having eggs cracked over my head when I was an extra on Playback Henry (the answer was yes).

I thank Faren Humes, whose vision for her thesis film touched on a time and topic that is difficult to address and equally difficult for viewers to process. But it takes courage to lead people out of their comfort zones into a deeper understanding, and Our Rhineland did that. Behind the scenes, I learned a lot helping to recreate Berlin out of Tallahassee and Pensacola, providing casting assistance, and helping locate a cemetery that would permit a night shoot (hint, don't ask in Tallahassee).

"The Red Truck" - The Curse

Matt Ryan produced Our Rhineland and then Faren produced the thesis film that Matt directed, The Curse. (This is where the pigs come in.) I am pretty sure the first email I sent after reading the script was, "we need to find livestock for this?" (Yes.) There were other fun challenges in being a "Curse" volunteer: finding an infant under six months old, researching for multiple location needs, finding a red pick up truck (done!), and locating a barn with a basement. What stands out to me about my interactions with Matt is that he included me in components of the process, such as watching the audition videos of the prospective actors, and asked my opinion. That meant a lot to me and made me even more invested in the final outcome.

There is one other conversation I had with Matt that summarized so succinctly the essence of good acting. We were talking about the search for a German-speaking actor during pre-production for Our Rhineland and somehow digressed a bit into how you know when an actor is going to be effective. Matt said, "you can tell when they believe." It's true. You can take lessons about many parts of the acting process, but letting yourself believe begins somewhere inside.

The best directors and crews bring that belief out and help us viewers believe too. I have faith that every member of the MFA Class of 2011 does that and will continue into the future.

Keep doing what you do.

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. - Kahlil Gibran