Sharon Stacy–Advice For Snowed-In Mountain Dwellers

Hi, Sharon, and welcome to the blog! Can you tell us your occupation?
Stay at home mom

How old are you and where do you live?
37, and Boone, North Carolina

Do you have a website or a blog?
No, but I’m thinking about it.

I’d encourage it. You have some great stories. Tell us the most interesting place you’ve visited?

Can you give us a highlight or two about visiting Fiji?
We stayed in a “bure” that sat on a rock outcropping above the water and the ocean breeze flowed through the room and every day it rained, and I remember how relaxing it was to spend every afternoon napping during the rainstorm, knowing it would pass soon and we could go exploring again. Every morning at breakfast I ate fresh papaya and when we left the staff would turn our shoes facing the door (you don’t wear shoes inside) so we could slip them on as we left. I thought that was the most thoughtful thing.

Thanks! Favorite meal?
Croissants and coffee

Pet peeve?
“Know it alls”

Favorite television show?
Shark Tank and Survivor

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for..?
Healing from Lyme disease

Can you share a little with us about your experience with Lyme disease?
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in April of this year. Lyme is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery. I had been sick for seven months and doctors didn’t know what was going on. I thought I was having strokes or seizures. I could write a book on all of my symptoms, doctor visits, misdiagnosis, but I’ll spare you the details. I am thankful I finally found doctors who looked further beyond my symptoms to find the root cause of what was going on. Lyme disease is brutal, hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. Research is lacking and at this time there is no cure for chronic Lyme. Some doctors even debate that chronic Lyme exists. I feel like this is an epidemic that is about to blow up in this country. I am thankful to God for giving me the strength to keep going even when no one believed me. Right now I am four months into a 14-18 month treatment. I like sharing my story because I want to encourage others and spread awareness.

Are you married?
Yes, to Dusty for thirteen years

Any kids?
Four: Mia (nine) Ben (seven) Sam (three), Jonah (one)

Two dogs, Thile (fifteen) and Lucy (thirteen) .

How do you come up with “Thile” as a dog’s name?
Thile (Thee-lee) was named after Chris Thile of Nickel Creek. When I got her as a puppy they were my favorite band and I thought it would be cool to name my dog after the mandolin player who is a musical genius.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Take pictures

How did you get into photography?
I got into photography in high school because they offered a class. I naturally took to it and enjoyed spending my free time taking photos. I wanted to continue studying it in college but I was persuaded not to 🙂 Now it’s just a hobby.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I live in the same town where I went to college and married a local. I love all forms of creative expression; photography, painting, writing, drawing…I have a Pilates Teacher Training Certification and hope to use it again in the future. I take about 40 pills a day to help boost my immune system and kill Lyme bacteria.

You’ve been in Boone for a while. What’s the best part about living there? What would you change about it if you could?
The best part of living in Boone is getting to enjoy the beauty of the mountains year round. If I could change anything about Boone it would be feeling like I’m trapped in the winter.

Tell us a little about Pilates?
When my husband and I didn’t think we would be able to have a family of our own I decided I wanted to change careers from marketing to Pilates. I liked Pilates and thought it was something I would enjoy doing every day. So I took a 500+ hour program at App State and in the middle of my training got pregnant with my first little miracle Mia. She was about six months old when I finished the program. When my second child was two years old I stopped teaching to be a full time stay at home mom. I still want to get my studio back up and running one day and venture into the health and wellness business. I have a passion to help people feel better.

Can I ask you to offer some advice to people who might have to live in mountain regions in the winter time?
I’ve heard the saying that in the mountains we pay for our summers with our winters. I’d have to say that is pretty true since I drove back to the mountains from the Piedmont today and the temperature changed from 98 to 82. Still warm, but not oppressive.

If you live in the mountains in the winter, it is wise to invest in quality winter clothing. Coats that go below the bottom are always a good choice. The wind can really rip through a poorly made winter coat and leave you wishing you had spent a little extra to get what you needed. And forget cute, no one is checking out your coat and boots when it’s in the teens outside with a windchill of below zero. Underneath those winter clothes, wear lots of layers because most businesses will be blasting the heat and you’ll go from freezing to melting as soon as you walk in the door.

As difficult as it may be, embrace the short days, and find joy in the season. Whether that be getting cozy under a blanket with a good book and a warm drink or sitting by the fire brushing up on your guitar skills. Those of you with small children, I’m sorry, winter is hard, it will pass. Get outside on any day that is above freezing; if it’s below freezing just make sure you cover your face. Go for walks, have friends over, play in the snow, and celebrate weird holidays (Happy National Popcorn Day anyone?) My family likes to plan a vacation in the winter because it gives us something to look forward to and gets us out of the cold for a while. And my last piece of advice for surviving a mountain winter is to get a good snow blower for your driveway!

Sharon, thanks much for sharing some of your story with us. May your children and your family be blessed, and may the Lyme disease journey come to an end soon.

Laura VanOtteren–Advice for College Hunters

Welcome to the blog! Can you tell us your full name and any nicknames?
Laura Michelle Lambeth VanOtteren. One nickname growing up was “Lambchop” and in college I guess you can say I was affectionately called “LaLa”.

What do you do for a living?
I have been a substitute teacher for eleven years (and am guessing I will be starting my twelfth in August). I did teach middle school music for one year. I am also a church pianist and just started that a year ago at Darien United Methodist Church. This church has a neat piece of history: when Sherman was burning his way through Georgia, this church was the only one that did NOT burn.

How old are you?
I’ll let you guess with some clues in future questions. Read on..

Where do you live?
I currently live in Brunswick, Georgia, have lived in the state of Georgia for the last 25 years (that might he a clue to my age), but grew up as an Air Force “brat” for 17 1/2 years, so then I really didn’t know where I was from. (Another possible clue to my age?)

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Two…Egypt and Israel. It was simply amazing to see the ancient architecture still standing and in Egypt when you went underground into the tombs, you still saw COLOR, like the tombs had just been painted! I got my first proposal in Egypt! I thought I was pretty well hidden in the middle of the tour group, but the guide pointed to me and said, “I’m going to marry you in 5 years.” My braces were what saved me at the moment because he said he wouldn’t marry me if I still had those. Israel was incredible because we went with the church and we did everything correctly. Having Communion where the tomb was found was SO MOVING. Walking Via Dolorosa, going to Bethlehem, we did it all right. Even went up to Masada.

How did the Egypt and Israel trip come about?
In my Air Force “brat” days, Daddy’s best assignment was our three years in Belgium I was twelve to fifteen (seventh grade through freshman year). SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) had a wonderful touring company and the only trip Daddy EVER asked to go on was to Egypt and it was expensive! We stayed in four and five star hotels, I think. I was the youngest in the group. The Israel trip was planned through the English-speaking Baptist church that was in the community. This was a trip Mom found out about and only Mom and I could go because there was a base-wide “exercise” going on that Daddy had to stay behind for.

Your favorite meal would be?
I make a killer leg of lamb dinner for Christmas Eve that I love and learned in French class when we were in Belgium. In French class, we went out the whole nine yards and had ALL the courses down to having REAL wine. The beauty of being in an international school system.

Wow, Belgium. Are there other foreign countries you’ve lived in?
Unfortunately no, but many of my friends from my “brat” days (and yes, that is a very affectionate term) did get to or they got to stay at SHAPE a lot longer than three years.

Pet peeve?
Those fidget spinners that are all the rage were the most annoying thing ever in the classroom. They did not serve the purpose they were made for. Sorry.

Favorite book, or movie, or TV show?
“Charlotte’s Web” was a favorite growing up. I think I lost count how many times I read it. I do like to read John Grisham and I did LOVE “The Shack”. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I want to. Love “Dancing With the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent.”

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Well, I was required to take two semesters of organ as part of my music degree and I was church organist at First Baptist Church in Douglas, Georgia for nine years, I think. And before I took the church pianist job I have now, I had been singing tenor at College Place United Methodist Church in their choir for eight years. (Sorry, that is two things.)

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Travel the world and get lots of sleep!

Can you tell us some interesting things that aren’t already covered?
I made seven moves in 17 ½ years as an Air Force “brat” and it’s always fun when people ask me where I’m from because I say “pick a year and I’ll tell you where I was” and that just totally blows their mind. Then I explain why. During orientation at college, when we were introducing ourselves and I said I was from Raleigh, they said “no, you’re not.” I said, “Ok, let me explain” and then I had to tell them my life story and explain that we had just moved from Ohio to Raleigh FIVE DAYS before arriving to campus. So, my accent was screwed up.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for..?
The next year…read on!

Are you married or have you been? Any kids or pets?
Very happily married! Ed and I have been married for 25 years, but only six wedding anniversaries, so when did I get married? (Another possible age clue.) I have two wonderful girls in my house, who are both rising seniors in high school (yikes). We only have one daughter of our own (and yes, she is legitimate, going back to talking about when I got married), but we have guardianship of another wonderful seventeen-year-old that we have known for five years and a situation came up that we knew we needed to open our home to her and we have and we do not regret it one bit! So college hunting has been in the process and applications will be in the near future. This is where the prayer requests are coming from for the next year. There is also a four-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever in this house named Buck and he is just a sweetheart most of the time. I give him the most loving. He was bought to be a duck-hunting dog with Ed, but that is the last thing Buck is interested in.

What’s Buck like when he’s NOT being a sweetheart?
We still see the marks around the house from when he was a puppy and was in the chewing stage. I caught him first chewing on the window ledge! One Sunday morning he got mad when we kicked him out of our bedroom and I think he was bored, so he chewed the wall outside of Josie’s room. And the large picnic table on the porch? Well, he had a dandy time chewing all around that when he was on the porch in his first couple of years. He chewed the benches and the tabletop.

Can you tell us a little more about the other wonderful seventeen year old?
I met Nellie one day while substituting five years ago. She had come to the states for what was intended to be a very brief time and has turned out to be much longer. Nellie has dual-citizenship because her father was Scottish and passed away when she was nine and her mother is American. Nellie, her mother and stepfather came to the states to begin a sailboat ministry. After about a little over a year, her mother went to Scotland to find Nellie a boarding school and Nellie needed a place to stay for the two weeks her mother would be gone. We opened our home to her. Nellie left for boarding school a few weeks later and was very excited about this. She came back in the summertime and continued to go back and forth between her boarding school and Georgia for two and a half years. Then things changed and Nellie could no longer go to the boarding school. This past fall, when she should have been in school again, she wrote a letter to several of us that are close friends and told us everything she had been up to, including the job working at the ice cream shop and mentioned that she was not currently in school. When we read this part of her story, we wanted her to finish school. We face-timed with her shortly thereafter and invited her into our home here in the States and now she is on track to graduate on time with Josie and the Class of 2018! Her goal is to attend Duke University and eventually go into medicine.

So, that is Nellie’s story. I call her “My Nellie” and I have adored her since the day she walked in the classroom and I had her for three days as a student and I was a substitute.

I wasn’t sure how my parents would handle this, but they just opened their arms up wide open to Nellie and they have a second granddaughter who has bright red hair and TONS of freckles. Quite a contrast from my blond Josie!

What’s the most frustrating thing about hunting for colleges? The most fun? And can you offer us some advice for college hunters?
Getting to a starting point, deciding where to look. Visiting the colleges was a ton of fun. Things have really changed since we were in school. A lot more places to eat on campus and the food is SO MUCH BETTER. There are also more choices for dorms – just one roommate like what we had or suites or some have apartments where you can have even more roommates right there on campus. I think living in the suites would be nice. I had two great roommates, so I can’t complain.

Have fun looking for colleges and don’t put it off. Decide on where you want to be…Warm area? Cold area? There are fifty states, so don’t tie them down too close to home. Let them fly the coop! Ed kept telling Josie to apply in Alaska so we could go up in the summertime to go fishing or Maine so they could go moose hunting. He’s always thinking about hunting and fishing.

Laura, thanks much for sharing with us. Good luck and God bless with the college transitions with BOTH your girls.

Travis Cable–Advice for Caregivers

Hi, and thanks for being with us on “Advice for Everyone.”  Can you tell us your name and any nicknames you might have?
Travis. My brothers nicknamed me “Taz” when we were little because they couldn’t pronounce Travis.

Can I use this picture of you and Cody?

How old are you, and where do you live?
28 years old, and Arden, North Carolina.

What do you do for a living?  
IDD Support Staff

What does IDD stand for, and how did you wind up working for them?
Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled. My youth group leader at church was the house manager at a group home in my hometown. I shadowed and worked there for a bit after high school before transferring to Buncombe County.

How did you become a caregiver?
I have several persons with different abilities in my family. Growing up, I was always fascinated with my cousin Vickie’s ability to smile through some of the toughest situations. Vickie had severe cognitive impairments and was the light of our family. She was killed in a tragic car accident one evening after being picked up from her employment site, TVS, in Brevard. When my youth group director suggested I shadow at the group home, I thought of my cousin Vickie. I agreed, and soon had a job. I fell in love with the residents and have been in this line of work ever since.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Tell us about your favorite meal.
Nana’s chicken casserole, broccoli casserole, homemade mashed potatoes, 5 cheese mac and cheese!…with sweet tea of course!

Pet peeve? 
The Kardashians

Favorite book, or movie, or TV show? 
Favorite book series: Shannara Chronicles by Terry Brooks. Favorite movie: Fried Green Tomatoes. Favorite Television Show: Big Bang Theory

Why does “Fried Green Tomatoes” make the favorite movie list?
I love Fried Green Tomatoes because Kathy Bates ROCKS. Also, I think the writers and directors did a great job portraying some of the harsh realities in American History while also shedding light on the life and humor of one of the “black sheep” of society. It’s just an all around great movie. Plus, I love fried green tomatoes!

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
If I asked people to pray for anything it would be for understanding, unity, and compassion.

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids or pets? 
Not married, single, and no kids, but I do have two sweet yet obnoxious dogs. A seven year old Shih Tzu named Sophia and a two year old cocker spaniel/dachshund mix named Mazie. They’re like my children.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Backflips and splits

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
I don’t have spare time so I wouldn’t know what to do with it, but I would love to learn to play guitar.

A magician waves a magic wand and “zap,” you’re a guitar-playing legend.  What kind of music are you playing, and why?
I would probably first learn to play “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and “Chicken Fried” by Zach Brown Band. Two of my favorites!

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered. 
Interesting things: I’ve got four brothers and we’re often mistaken as quintuplets. I’ve been a caregiver for the same individual, Cody, since high school (ten years) and he’s like a brother to me. I’m a pretty boring person otherwise

What’s the story behind THIS picture?
LOL. Of all the HUNDREDS of pictures on Facebook, this is the one you chose! I knew it. This was taken four months after my dear friend Harry lost his battle with cancer. Some friends and coworkers decided we could honor his memory with a celebration of life and created a team called “Special Soldiers” to represent him and some of our other friends battling cancer.  I dressed up as “Mr. Relay” to help raise money for the American Cancer Association in his memory. We raised a few thousand dollars that year and had a great time doing it. We’ve since participated in two more Relay For Life events and look forward to doing it again next year.

Can you offer some advice for caregivers?
Whatever you do…..always bring an extra change of clothes for back up, expect the unexpected, and always remember that your job is to help promote the best quality of life possible for those you are caring for. There is no such thing as a disability……just different abilities

Travis, thanks much for letting us get to know you a little.  May God watch over and guide your adventures.

Tim Chancellor–Advice for Dyslexics With ADHD

I’d like to welcome Tim Chancellor to the blog. Thanks for being with us, Tim.  Can you tell us where you live and how old you are?
Columbia, Missouri, and the big 50…….

What do you do for a living?
I deliver wine and spirits to restaurants, stores, and bars during the week/mornings and own/operate a bus & limo business that I work in the evenings/weekends. I love being a part of people’s special occasions from weddings, birthdays, formals all the way to first time skydiving. We also work with groups that don’t have smiles, like funerals and sequestered juries.

Where can we find you on the internet?  I keep getting encouraged to write a blog as people know of the many stories I have throughout the years of working with “normal” people and celebrities. Maybe someday I will jot down the funny things that happen in a limo and party bus.

Can you share a funny story about the limo/bus business?
Just purchased the limo and a childhood friend had his son graduating from military school…everyone was having a great time, pulled into the driveway, and was helping everyone out of the car when I heard a splashing sound.  I glanced in the car to see a mother’s face of fear, and vomit on sixteen feet of seats.  This eight year old looked up at me and said “sorry dude, I drank too much tonight… I had twelve suicides.” (That’s when you put every soda flavor in the glass.)

I would imagine the family is still talking about that one.  The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Just a few miles from our home, we have a cave called the Devil’s Icebox. You can take a tour underground for several miles; some areas are tiny, crawling through into larger rooms with many branching off tunnels.  Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to find another world to explore.

Your favorite meal would be?
I love a thick med rare steak but, with a mouthful of “sweet” teeth, I can make almost any dessert a meal.

Favorite dessert?
Anything sweet…haha. I would prefer to have my dessert first and vote for having dessert at every meal.  People are conditioned to have a drink at every meal like coffee, juice, soda, beer  and so forth; we need to enjoy dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pet peeve?
Mouth noises…crunching ice, chewing with your mouth open…my wife tells me I need medication.

Favorite book?
“The Shack,” followed closely by “The Alchemist.”

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…..?
Not sure.  I am blessed with tons of experiences (negative/positive) and He places me around people who I can share with and it seems to impact their lives. Maybe continue using me to let people see Him through me.

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?
Engaged.  I call Lisa my wife already…Sept 9th.

I have a daughter 24 and a son 21. Lisa has a son 19 and one 16.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Travel…well I would need spare money for that but I love to explore and learn. Life is about experiences and relationships. Loved the missions trip several years ago to Guatemala mountains.

Can you tell us a little about the mission trip to Guatemala?
I was very active in my church for a while, leadership…was burned pretty bad by the top leadership and board so I went to another church and sat in back and observed.  It was a dark part of life, unemployed, divorcing, etc… I volunteered at different places to stay busy while seeking employment. One place had ties with the missions trip and they asked if I would go and they and the church would cover my expenses. This was such a humbling experience; I was in my self-pity party until I discovered how poor and desperate other people, communities were.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
People are always amazed how I see and do things differently. I am dyslexic/ADHD and have coped with this blessing, using it as a benefit not a disability. I don’t always do things like others and some appreciate the alternative while some don’t.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
My memory is horrible, so I use photographs to mark my experiences. I love to take pics of life.

I love the positive attitude about dyslexia and ADHD.  Could I ask you to offer some advice to either those living with dyslexia or those living with ADHD (or both?)  
Life is really about perception in my experience. You can see anything in a positive or negative light.  I read that 90% of the most successful CEOs are ADHD. Of course they don’t last long, they get fired or transferred to another company to do their magic; one started a major airline, was fired and started another major airline.  Our relationships are like that too…we impact people but not for long.  I like to think we are like those everyday angels that impact your day, even those days we don’t know they’re in our lives.

When I worked for the Missouri Bureau of Investigations, I came up with an investigative concept of pictures. I would have people “paint the picture”…I would use comments like “as I am looking at this picture, I see what next to…?”  This concept would help people provide details that they didn’t realize would be helpful for us.  The Attorney General’s office continued to call me several years after I left asking me if I would help them because nobody else could get the confessions that I got. I told them it was about developing a relationship and trust.  Being dyslexic is about seeing the different angles….yes, backwards numbers and letters but you can also choose to use it to round out the square views.

Tim, thanks much for being with us and for sharing from your experiences.  Take care and God bless.

Heather Denton–Advice for Seafood Lovers

Hi, and thanks for being with us.  Can you tell us your name?  Any nicknames?
Heather Denton (Mrs. Denton – or Dragon Lady)

Where can we find you on the internet?
Instagram – Dragon.Lady.Denton

How did “Dragon Lady” come to be an identifier?
I think I gave it to myself, but I’m not really sure. Somehow it became a thing at school. When I get really upset (usually about bullying) my ears turn red, then my face, then my neck. I get really quiet and dangerous. Kids who have seen her swear smoke comes out my ears. I have multiple pictures made by teachers and students alike, trying to capture the horror that she is – none have come close.

What do you do for a living?
I am a middle school theatre teacher. I have taught at Rugby Middle School for 18 years.

Do you mind telling us how old you are?
41.  Loud and proud.

Where do you call home?
In Hendersonville, North Carolina in reality, at the beach in my mind.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?
My classroom. It’s always changing. Something is ALWAYS happening!

A new student comes into your classroom in the middle of the year.  What’s the experience like for them?   
Well, if they come into my class in the middle of the year, they probably come in with everybody else. Kids get me for only nine weeks at a time each year. So everybody gets a little taste of each exploratory we have. Thus the term “exploratory.” But as to my class – they see me with my multi-colored hair being a crazy lady. I love to make my kids laugh, so I just get weird and silly. I purposely “try” to be cool and purposely fail miserably. Thus, strangely, I AM cool. My kids will experience Shakespeare, Moliere, Sophocles, and Broadway, just to name a few. I lead a very high energy class that (hopefully) everyone knows is a safe space for all. And I don’t mean just a safe space to act crazy and have fun. I mean, no making fun of others (unless it’s me!), no leaving anyone out based on looks, money, etc. and if you identify anyway in your life, you can be who you need to be there.

Your favorite meal would be?
Raw oysters, crab legs, and shrimp. Sides optional.

Pet peeve?
People who ask what my pet peeve is. No, not really. Students who whine. About everything. Ugh! Soooooooo annoying! Why won’t they STOOOOOPPP?

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
Movie – So I Married An Axe Murderer; Book – More of a genre – fantasy; TV Show – Pretty much any cooking show but my guilty pleasure is Hell’s Kitchen.

What’s the appeal of “Hell’s Kitchen?”  (And, if you don’t mind, tell us why it’s a “guilty” pleasure?)  
Well, the appeal of Hell’s Kitchen is obviously Gordon Ramsay. What a hottie!! And it’s a guilty pleasure because it’s obviously trash TV. I should be watching something life changing, like “This is Us” or something. Instead I binge watch old episodes and drool over the cursing, hottie chef!

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for……?
I would say patience, but when I pray for patience God thinks it’s funny to TEACH it rather than just *poof* give it! So, if people want to pray for me, they could pray for my aunt’s health.

I absolutely agree with you about praying for patience.  Bad, bad idea.  Can you tell us a little about your aunt?
My Aunt Diane lives in Waynesville down the way from my mom. They are very close despite Di being 11 years older than my mom. (My mom was a miracle baby!) She has COPD and emphysema. She’s been having a hard time lately.

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?  Grandkids?  Pets?  
I am married to a great guy, Jason Denton. No kids, unless you count the 600 I teach every year. I do have one grandkid. Ha! One dog – Toonie. She is the cutest darn thing!

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Bend and hook my thumbs behind my hand.

I’m not sure I needed to know that, but thanks.  If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Go to the beach (that is, if I had the $), read a book, direct a show. (I have a bunch of free time in the summer so I fill it with directing or acting usually!)

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I am in Killer Theater- a comedy, murder mystery, interactive dinner theater group.

Thanks much.  Okay, this is “Advice for Everyone,” so I need to ask you to give some counsel to help people out.  Can I ask you to give us some advice for seafood lovers?  How to tell a good restaurant, how to get the most out of the meal, the best way to eat oysters or crack crab legs, anything that might come to mind. Hit us with your best shot.
Okay. Advice for seafood lovers. Eat it. Yeah. That’s it. Just eat it! Doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it. Oh, and most importantly, invite me. 😊

That’s brilliant in its elegant simplicity, Heather.  Thanks much for letting us get to know you a little bit, and God bless.

Noel T. Manning–Advice for Limousine Drivers

Welcome to “Advice for Everyone!”  Can you tell us your name?  Any nicknames?
Noel T. Manning II – many call me Noel T.

What do you do for a living?
Associate VP for Marketing and Communications. Worked in broadcast journalism for ten years, and have been reviewing films for numerous outlets since college.

Can you give us a sentence or two on what makes a good movie for you?  How about a bad one?
Tough question. Because you have movies for entertainment, and then movies for art purposes. But first, I always look at the story, the idea, the concept that holds a film together. After that I examine the other puzzle pieces like characters, conflicts, acting, set design, effects, sound design, score … the whole package. A really good movie with an “A+” rating should hit strong on all those marks, and honestly that could be a popcorn blockbuster film or an Oscar caliber arthouse flick. It really varies. Ultimately I look for the purpose of the film, its meaning, and how all that comes together with the director’s intent. A bad film can fall short on several areas. I always go into any film expecting it to be at least average, and then I’ll grade up or down from there.

How old are you?
Older than the original Star Wars (1977) film, and younger than the camp classic Planet of Vampires (1965).

Where do you live?
Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Where can we find you on the internet?
I offer reviews, commentary, and stories to numerous blogs and websites, but here’s a general snapshot: and on twitter @noeltmanning or @CinemasceneUSA

The most interesting place you’ve visited?

Can you tell us a little about the Russia trip?
I went on a study abroad trip for a month to Russia in 1992. I fully immersed myself in the culture, the history, and the understanding of differences and similarities between peoples and nations. I discovered we had much more in common than I’d grown up believing. As a kid, I’d remembered Russia being our perceived enemy (Cold War style), but once I really got to know the regular people, I discovered we were much more alike than I could’ve imagined. We all wanted what was best for our people, and many times it related to a good paying job, food on the table, a good shelter overhead, and a positive future for our children. That really awakened me.

I was in Moscow on the day that Pepsi Cola was introduced to the country; that was an awesome experience to see people lined around the block for a taste of a cola drink that was born in the Carolinas.

I also discovered that the Russians loved American T-shirts (and MC Hammer pants), and I had quite a few. There were many times I literally traded the clothes off of my back for some brilliantly unique souvenirs. I still have a flag that once flew inside the Kremlin during the Cold War days.

The experience was unforgettable. I learned some conversational Russian, and quite a bit about their history too while there. It opened my eyes to a whole new world, and I think I did the same for some of the Russians as well. Even though there is quite a bit of chaos going on right now with Russia and the USA (yes, again), I still value my time and experiences there.

Your favorite meal?
Anything with peanut butter …. and/or chocolate.

Ever had any brushes with greatness?
Yes. Because of my work in TV, film, photography and music over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and interview Oscar winners, Emmy winners, Grammy winners and the like. From Octavia Spencer, to stars from the Big Bang Theory, to Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs, I’ve been incredibly blessed to spend time with some great talents. One favorite memory connects to singer/songwriter Tom Petty.  I was shooting photography for a concert venue while he was in town, and I happened to bump into him backstage before his concert. When he saw me, he beamed with excitement, came up and grabbed me and said, “Hey, man, so great to see you, how ya been?” We exchanged pleasantries and chatted for a while. As we wrapped things up, he invited me backstage after the concert, and said to make sure I brought my sister too if she was around. I thanked him, said my farewell, wished him a good show and walked on … then I realized, I don’t even have a sister.

Pet peeve?
Bullies (of any age)

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
Book: The Traveler’s Gift (Andy Andrews).  Movie faves  – 1. Almost Famous 2. Children of Men 3. Forrest Gump 4. Last of the Mohicans 5. Up (not in any particular order). TV Show: (classic) “The Twilight Zone” (current) “House of Cards”

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
Continued guidance to live to serve God with my gifts and talents (the same for my children as well).

Tell us about your family?
Married since 1994 to Beth Lamb Manning (school teacher). Two Children: Kathryn Manning (college senior and has had two study-away experiences), Thomas Manning (high school senior and multi-marathon runner).

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Drive a limo (once drove Aerosmith).

Can you offer some advice for limo drivers?
Driving someone in a limo can be a lot like being a counselor or bartender. I was amazed at how many people wanted to share with me their stories, concerns with the world, and personal problems. I discovered that you should always be open to listen, express interest, engage in dialogue without judgement, and be open to seek understanding of other opinions, thoughts and cultural differences. Driving a limo introduced me to people of varied life trajectories and backgrounds. I even drove members of Aerosmith once, and Steven Tyler chose to ride in the front seat with me – that simple instance taught me that no matter how famous or important you may be, you can always take time to spend getting to know everyday people… because at our core, we are all regular, everyday people.

… for fun, I’d drive through a McDonald’s drive-thru window in the limo –just to get reactions.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
If money were no issue, I’d travel the world and journal my adventures.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I love to write, read books, listen to music (variety of genres), skydive, run, hike trails, spend time with family and God, explore things beyond my comfort zone, snorkel, take part in community service, engage in dialogue with people different than I am, live life to its fullest every day.

Noel, thanks much for letting us get to know you a little bit.  May God bless you and your family in your adventures.

Katie Winkler–Advice for English Composition Instructors

Welcome, and thanks for being with us.  Can you tell us your full name?My official name is Mary Katherine Winkler, but most people know me as Katie Winkler.

What do you do for a living?
I am a teacher and a writer. For the past 22 years, I have taught English composition and literature at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, North Carolina. I also taught English and German at a Christian school in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where I met my husband, and for three years in Rome, Georgia. Here in North Carolina I taught as a graduate assistant at Western Carolina and East Henderson High School before landing my dream job at Blue Ridge. I started writing for publication over 30 years ago and in that time have published fiction, non-fiction as well as had two full-length plays produced. In between teaching, jobs I’ve had to keep me going include secretary, job trainer, custodian, hostess, cashier, newspaper deliverer and exercise girl for polo ponies and Arabian horses.

How old are you?
I am happy to say that I am 57 years old as of April.

Where do you live?
My husband, adult daughter and I live in the Hooper’s Creek area of Fletcher in northern Henderson County, North Carolina.

Where can we find you on the internet?
My blog is “Hey, Mrs. Winkler: Musings and Mutterings about Higher Education in the South.”

I also have a story appearing in “Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South.”  The book can be purchased on Amazon or at this website.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
It’s hard to pick, but  I will narrow it down to three: London, Tuebingen in the southern part of Germany, and Northern California, especially the Redwoods and tidal pools.

Tell us about Tuebingen?
Tuebingen is an old university city right on the Neckar River in Baden-Wurttenburg, which is the state to the west of Bavaria in southern Germany. It is my favorite city in Germany because of its mix of old and new. There is a beautiful Natur Park (like our national park system) called Schonbuch that is within walking distance of the city. Other favorite walks include the walk to the castle Hohentuebingen and to the pretty little chapel on the hill–the Wurmlinger Kapelle.

What would be your favorite meal?
My grandmother’s pot roast with carrots and potatoes. Now that she is gone,  I make a pretty mean pot roast myself, but it could never be as good as hers.

Pet peeve?
I used to let so many little things bother me–just don’t have the energy anymore.

Favorite book?
I have no absolute favorite books because I love so many, but some of my top choices include the Bible, “Pride and Prejudice,” “Paradise Lost,”  and ”Lord of the Rings.”

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
I would ask that people pray not for me alone, but for a healing of the divisiveness in our country and all the people adversely affected by it.

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids or pets? 
I have been married 28 marvelous years to the best man I know–John Winkler. We have one beautiful child, Hannah, who graduated last year with honors from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina with a BA in Music–voice concentration. The fuzzy family member is Stormy, our 13-year-old cat, aka “Alarm Clock”.

What are mornings with Stormy “Alarm Clock” Winkler  like?
Can I tell you about this morning? I should mention that it’s not totally Stormy’s fault. She has hyperthyroidism, and although she is now being medicated, she is not quite to normal again, but even then, the vet says that her incessant meowing may be more related to age than the thyroid issue. Anyway, this morning, she started up at 4:30. These are not soft, cute little meows. They are loud and annoying as heck! I finally broke down and got up to feed her. As soon as she slurped up the last of her food, she started meowing again. I would be almost asleep and then be rudely awakened again and again. Finally, I gave up.

This morning was a bit unusual. Usually the “alarm” goes off at 6:30, which is fine when I’m teaching, BUT NOT IN THE SUMMER!!

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Many people don’t know that I sing and play guitar and a little bit of piano. There is a reason few people know this.

Hah!  If you had any spare time, what would you do with it? 
I would travel more. Places I have never been but want to go include Scotland, Wales, Canada, the American Northeast and Northwest, the Caribbean, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and Africa. Of course, I want to go back to England and Germany as many times as possible.

 Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I was in school in Tulsa, Oklahomah when the Shah of Iran fell. Because Tulsa was the oil capital of the US at that time, we had many Iranian oil magnates living there. One Iranian oil baron had to get his mother and sister out of Iran because of the political turmoil. He hired me to tutor them in English, but they only spoke Persian! We must have been a sight going around the mall with them in their burkas speaking in Persian with me trying to point out items in English. Another time I did the same with a Chinese couple who worked at the restaurant where I worked. They hired me to teach them English, but it was a bit easier because the husband spoke some English and would translate for his wife. I also worked translating German letters for a Tulsa lawyer who raised a German breed of dog called a jaegerhund. The breed is rare in the US and his supplier only wrote in German. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I fell into these experiences, but they were great.

Can you give us some advice for English composition instructors?
My best advice to English composition teachers is for them to be active writers themselves, preferably pursuing publication and risking rejection. Nothing has helped me teach the writing process more than completing it over and over again myself. Although I have been teaching for almost thirty years and know my subject well, my own writing process reminds me of how important revision, editing and proofreading are–something I can then legitimately require from my students. Writing for publication has helped me hone my skills, learn shortcuts to good writing and pick up tips on breaking through writer’s block. (Secret: there is really only one way to break through–start writing.)

Perhaps most importantly, pursuing publication and being rejected frequently keeps a writing teacher humble. The sting of rejection reminds us of what it is like to be a student, having someone scrutinize our writing and find it wanting. The joy of acceptance teaches us to find ways to publish our students’ work, even if informally, so they too can experience the empowerment that comes with expressing themselves well and sharing their achievements with the greater community.

Thanks much!  Good luck with Stormclock.

Her new name!

And a first in my blogging career.  I’ve never re-christened a pet before.  Katie, thank you for letting us get to know you a little bit, and blessings on your endeavors and adventures.

Thanks. I appreciate the opportunity to share some about myself.

Beth Norris–Advice for Pokemon Lovers

Welcome to my blog! What’s your name, and do you have any nicknames?
My full name is Elizabeth Renee Norris. I go by Beth. My cousins call me Beffy sometimes or Beff. If my friends want to get under my skin, they call me Bethany. They know I hate it because my real name is ELIZABETH. Not. Bethany.

What is your occupation?
I currently work as a Box Office Representative at Flat Rock Playhouse. Yes, I worded this very specifically to make it sound fancy. It’s not, but being a theatre lover, the perks are everything. Some people think sneaking into tech rehearsal would be boring but I would rather sit in a dark theatre watching them run a single transition twenty times than be just about anywhere else.

Where do you live?
With my grandma. I graduated from college a year and a half ago and the same week she broke her leg. I moved in with her to help and then just didn’t want to leave her alone again. Now my aunt is talking about her moving grandma in with them and I am searching for a house to rent with friends. But that requires one of them to find a job down here and that is proving difficult.

Where could we find you on the internet?
I just did a social experiment where a stranger tried to find out as much as they could based on my Facebook. The details are a bit scary and I mean, they dug for info. Even went back a couple years… But for the most part, my Facebook is just filled with pictures and memes and stuff. So if people want to learn about my love for cats and Disney (respectively) or my obsession with Sailor Moon and/or musical theatre, by all means, check out my Facebook.

What’s the appeal of Sailor Moon?
You know, I watched it as a kid and I think the draw at the time was the sparkly costume transformations and the fact it’s an all girl super hero group but I think what gets me about it now is that their strength comes from love and friendship. I have always been fiercely loyal and protective of my friends and I think I gain strength in my life from those around me, too. I think we all do, our people are our support groups. The show helps me believe that compassion is all we need to make the world a better place. Especially in today’s world, it’s encouraging to me to see a main character that is so positive and determined to save everyone. Even the bad guys if they want to change.

How old are you?
Twenty-seven. In a couple weeks. Or maybe by the time this gets published, my answer could be “Twenty-seven. As of a few weeks ago.”

This will publish in early July. When’s your birthday? Never mind, because I’ve taken you at your word and ruthlessly pillaged your Facebook page. June 21st. Happy almost your birthday (as of this writing)! You’ll definitely be 27 then.

“Facebook stalker.”

Sad but true. I’ve ALSO found out from Facebook that we have a Pokemon expert handy, which is cool because I’ve honestly been wanting to find one to interview. Can I ask you to offer some advice to Pokemon lovers?
Ok… so here’s the thing. I don’t believe in anything after the third series (Johto if you are talking cartoon series, Crystal if you’re talking games) because after the second set of Pokemon, they just started getting ridiculous. In my heyday, when it was the original 150 Pokemon, I could recite them all in order from memory. Then they added a few new ones like Merrill and Togepi and then they had a whole new group with like, Chikorita and Cyndiquil. That’s like, over 300. Now, there’ve been three or four MORE sets so the total number is somewhere between seven and eight HUNDRED Pokemon. So my advice if you want to get into this: drop everything else. You have A LOT of catching up to do. Or just be a purist like me. Stop after a couple seasons.

As for the new Pokemon Go game. I was all about it. I was like “yeah! I’m gonna walk and get exercise and it’s gonna be fun because I’m playing a game and I’m gonna catch em all! All original 150 Pokemon!” ….then we found out that you can only get certain Pokemon on other continents. So you can’t catch them all unless you can travel. THEN they added the next generation so now not only can you not get the last few you need to complete your Pokedex but now you also are basically starting over. You only had five left? Whoops. Now you have to get one hundred and five! So advice to people regarding the Pokemon Go? Save money. Do some research. Plan a trip overseas to complete your Pokedex. If you can’t do all that, don’t even get hooked because it’s unwinnable.

Thanks much, and I didn’t know any of that. Pokemon newbies, take heed. Your favorite meal would be?
Anything with cheese. Seriously. I think it’s my favorite food. It’s the thing all of my favorite foods have in common…
Chimichangas (drenched in Queso)

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
SO HARD. Ok. Books. I like series, like not so much stand alone books. So Harry Potter, of course. But also, I LOVE the Circle Series by Ted Dekker. It’s four books and I can’t remember the order… But I think it’s black, red, white, green. (I have the first three in one book so I don’t have to know the order. But I know green is last.)

Similarly, I like TV better than movies because the story continues. I like anything Shonda Rimes touches (Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal, The Catch). Gold. All of it. And I just finished Game of Thrones. The new season comes out in July and I can’t wait. I’m obsessed. TARGARYEN FOR THE WIN.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…?
Direction. I find myself very comfortable in life right now and I know it won’t stay that way forever. Change is coming so I’m trying to figure out what comes next for me. So open doors and willingness and courage to walk through them.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
I can cross one eye and then switch to the other eye in one movement. It freaks people out so I don’t do it often. Lol

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Apart from what I do now? My free time is spent doing theatre. I think I’m currently in my 21st show in fiveish years. If I had more time I would do and see more theatre. I can’t ever see all the shows I want to. Because of the show I’m in now (*shameless plug* Brevard Little Theatre’s production of “Urinetown,” June 22nd-July 2nd) I am missing two other productions I really want to see in the Greenville and Asheville area….

Now, if I had more free time AND a million dollars?I would be in New York watching everything on Broadway, off Broadway, off OFF Broadway, just soaking in everything.

Either that or chilling on a yacht in the Mediterranean. It’s a toss up really.

Out of the numerous shows you’ve done, can you pick one production that was one of your favorite experiences and tell us why?
Oh, man. There are so many. Hmmmm, well at this moment, I would probably have to say “Godspell” at Brevard Little Theatre last year. It challenged me to grow as a person. I gained so much confidence in myself through that show and it was such a close knit group of people by the end of the experience. And I normally wouldn’t bring this up but it was a huge part of the experience- I’m a Christian and obviously there is a religious element to a show called GODspell, so the fact that we were all doing something we love (theatre) AND we were presenting a story that meant so much to each of us personally (I’m 98% sure everyone else is a believer too from the discussions we had and just getting to know everyone) it was a bonding experience unlike any other show I’ve ever been in.

I mean, I’ve been in some amazing theatre spaces with nice equipment (“Peter Pan”” in Anderson, SC was wonderful and “Into the Woods” at North Greenville University was a gorgeous show) but as a performer, my experience in Godspell has set a new bar.

Pet peeve?
I hate bumper stickers. I get it. You like something. But you don’t HAVE to plaster your car with it. Cars are expensive and it devalues them. One day, I’ll be proud of my honor roll kid too. But I’ll stick it on their backpack or something. Not my car.

Beth, thank you so much for letting us get to know you a little bit. Break a leg with the theatre adventures and thanks for the Pokemon expertise and advice. God bless.

Christine Brewer–Advice for Frustrated Gardeners

What is your name?
My name is Christine Brewer, I also answer to Chris, Mom, Mommy, and by a very select few, the nickname “Sully.”

Is there a story behind “Sully?”
Yes, a group of us at the theatre have become a close group of friends and adopted the family name “la Fontaine,” and each member has a moniker chosen by the other family members. The name usually reveals itself somewhere when it is ready. The original members were Lee and Amy Hebb, and Karen and Will Heyser Paone.  They then adopted Katie Kennedy, and soon after myself and Steve and Caroline.  The original four all have crazy French sounding names based on things they like or that they just liked the sound of, like “credenza” and “velveeto” (so named for his love of cheese).  Steve is the Right Reverend la Fontaine, as he got his clergy card and married Will and Karen.  I got mine after coming to the rescue with a costume or prop fix, and someone said I was a miracle worker, like Anne Sullivan.  “Sully!” they said, “that’s your name!”  And so it was, and so it shall be.

What is your occupation?
I get paid to teach high school. I have taught for almost 25 years, and currently I teach Spanish levels 1, 2,3 and two levels of theatre at Clarke County High School.  However, when not teaching, I also work as a costumer, props mistress, director, and actor for community theatre, and I also teach acting classes there.

How does one become a Spanish and theatre teacher?
Really, teachers are frustrated actors, I feel.  We perform for a captive audience, 180 days a year. I loved Spanish and theatre, so I became a Spanish teacher and over the years picked up the classes to teach theatre as well.  When my principal found out my love and experience in theatre, I picked up those two classes.  Technically I am not certified in theater teaching (that wasn’t a thing when I first started) but you are allowed to teach a few classes out of your area with life experience.

How did you come to get bit by the theatre bug?
My sisters and I were always putting on shows in our basement, and my first show in middle school had me hooked. I am drawn to the sense of community and creativity, of making something together that will never exist in the same way again.

How old are you and where do you live?
I am 47 and at the moment, Martinsburg, West Virginia, but hopefully soon Charles Town, WV.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been three times and it has been cool to see the construction progress each time. It’s probably finished by now, but I am not sure.

What strikes you particularly about the cathedral?
I like the architecture, and the fact that it’s been a work in progress. You see these awesome cathedrals in Europe and they’ve been there for centuries; this was great to see because it was fairly recent, give or take a hundred years.

Your favorite meal would be?
Really great lasagna, shared with family and friends.

Pet peeve?
People who put themselves down too much. Sometimes it is a cry for praise, but the negativity gets to me. Oh, also, talking backstage. But that’s very theatre specific.

Favorite movie?
“My Cousin Vinny.” I lived in the South for a while, and grew up in New Jersey, so it speaks to both sides of me.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…..?
Help with daily struggles

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?
I am married (for the second time, took time to get it right) to a wonderful man who works way too hard. We have a lovely, precocious daughter who make us laugh and makes us proud everyday.  

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Tap dance. I danced for years in school, and still pull out the shoes every once in awhile for a show.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Really learn to garden. I try every year, but it seems to end up with me throwing some plants in the ground, sprinkling some seeds and saying  “Ok, you’re on your own now, make me food!”

That’s funny.  Could I ask you to offer some advice to frustrated gardeners?  
Well, as I said, I don’t have the best results, but here’s what I’ve learned:

Watering is key–don’t go on vacation and expect nature to provide. It usually won’t. Get someone to water the garden.
Carrots aren’t worth the trouble–by the time they get big enough to pick, something under the dirt has beat you to it.
Soda bottle bottoms will protect seedlings from bunnies that like to chew new leaves. Starting larger plants instead of seeds will also deter them.
There are these things called squash larvae that will take out your zucchini plants in a week. However, since I usually get a bunch of zucchini before that, it is ok. I don’t know how to stop them. It’s probably nature’s way of saying “You have enough zucchini bread already!”
Nothing tastes better than a tomato from your own garden.

Thank you.  It sounds like you’re not giving up on it, and good for you.  Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
My life is very closely wrapped up in theatre, and I really enjoy the chance I get to be creative there. I love acting in non-musicals–I especially love the challenge of a drama or quick farce. I have created some amazing costumes and props over the years, and I take great pride in that. I’ve made jellyfish, dancing leg lamp costumes, more animals than I can name, and mermaid tails that are super cool.

Would you have a nominee for “most complicated costume you’ve ever made?”
Wow, that is tough. There have been quite a few!  The leg lamp skirts for “A Christmas Story: the Musical” were a little tricky to design, but not really to construct. I had to make Smaug, the dragon, for a production of “The Hobbit” and the body had to hold about 15 children who worked it like a giant puppet. That was tricky because of the scale. It had a paper maché head built on a halloween light up pumpkin, and the mouth moved and the eyes lit up. That was fun.  Last year “The Little Mermaid” had quite a few challenges–mermaid tails and tops that they could walk in but still hide the feet, Ursula’s tentacle skirt that had to fall off at the end, and the electric eels Flotsam and Jetsam that we made as puppets that wrapped around the actors’ bodies. I actually had a former student of mine help on those–she is an art student and designed the head piece that the actors operated. They were pretty spectacular on stage.

Christine, thanks so much for helping out with this and for letting us get to know you a little.  Good luck with the gardening.  Take care and God bless.