Kalin’s Chronicles: Filmmaker Accomplishes Dream in Her 40s

Daisy Bates Poster Women at FortySharon La Cruise is one of my dear friends and former CNN colleagues. After working at CNN, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and Coca-Cola, she left Atlanta for Boston and New York to pursue her dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker.

She has worked on several award-winning films, including:  “Shut Up and Sing” about The Dixie Chicks, and “This Far by Faith” about religion in the African American community.

But at age 49, Sharon reached her goal of writing, producing and directing her own film.  “Daisy Bates:  First Lady of Little Rock” is the product of seven years of hard work.  The film profiles the life of an African American woman who, while in her 40s, fought to integrate Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957.

I have the pleasure of traveling as part of Sharon’s “2013 Southern Circuit Tour” to screen the film, and decided to interview her about accomplishing her dream in her 40s.

On Turning 40:

I had reached a point my life where I wanted to live life on my terms without all the BS. I was finally a grown up! And I was on the way to becoming who I wanted to be—a documentary filmmaker.

On why she chose Daisy Bates as the subject of her film:

In 1997, I was 35 years old living in Atlanta. I attended a photo exhibit that would change my life. “I Dream a World” by photographer Brian Lanker included a companion guide of 75 of the most incredible African American women to ever live, including Daisy Bates. I was shocked that I had never learned about her in school.  I started to research more about her and decided to make the film.

On finishing the film after seven years of work:

Producing “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. This profession is not for the weak of heart. It takes lots of time researching, writing, editing and fundraising for money.  In the film world, if you get funding from government entities it is mandatory that your film broadcast on PBS or you have to return those funds.  But there are no guarantees that PBS will broadcast your film. I was fortunate to be picked up by “Independent Lens,” which was the culmination of my dreams as a filmmaker. When the film aired on PBS on February 2, 2012–I was 49 years old.

On traveling the country to show the film:

The film has been screened everywhere from Hawaii to New York. Sitting through a screening with an audience has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I love connecting with new people, and it has helped to reaffirm why I made the film in the first place.

On being productive in your 40s:

Daisy Bates helped to shake the foundation of America in her 40s.  I spent most of my 40s working on the film about her life.  It was both wonderful and stressful.  But I am really proud of all the things I was able to accomplish during that decade of my life.

Advice for women turning 40:

Don’t live your life in fear–take chances–and don’t settle for less than an extraordinary life.  While I was working on the film I had signs up all over my office to encourage me — my favorite was from the film “Million Dollar Baby.” It said “Winners win because they dare to do what losers won’t.”

I hope Sharon’s experiences inspired you.  Your 40s is the time to make no apologies for what you want in life.  So get started now, and never give up on your dreams!  For more information on Sharon and Daisy Bates, visit http://daisybatesfilm.com/.


Editor’s Update: I’ve added this clip from the documentary on PBS’ Independent Lens website.

Watch A Feminist Before the Term Was Invented on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.


 Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

DNF that sucker and move on

life is short

Life is too short to finish something you wish you’d never started at the expense of starting something you wish you had. It’s too short to miss out on something worth fighting for because you’re too exhausted from fighting for something that isn’t. And it’s way too short not to know the difference.

I’ve been reading and DNFing (don’t worry, I’m not cursing – at least not here on the blog) a lot of books lately. DNF means “Did Not Finish.”

It’s a term that’s used in sports. And apparently a DNF is the kiss of death.  Athletes try hard to avoid getting a DNF. Most people, athletes or otherwise, don’t like DNFing.

We want to finish whatever we started because it’s been ingrained in us since childhood that winners never quit. We never, ever, ever give up.

But what if we did. What if we gave up on certain things to make room for the right things.

I now have over 500 titles on my Kindle. 500. How that happened is a story in itself, but I’ll never be able to get through all 500. Years ago when I spent more time reading physical in-my-hands books, I always finished them, no matter how awful they were. Because that’s what you did.  Because you always finish what you start, and I felt bad for the author if I DNF (as if she’d know.) These days, I still kind of feel bad for the author, but I stop reading if I don’t like it. Why finish a book I’m lukewarm about at the expense of finding one I’ll adore?

Outside of the book analogy, why spend time with people or activities just because you think you’re supposed to, at the expense of meeting people and engaging in activities you’d really enjoy.

Why stay in that relationship, on that career path, in that organization just because you think you’re supposed to. Think about what you’re not starting because you’re so busy finishing something you really didn’t want in the first place.

I think it was Abe Lincoln who first said, “DNF that sucker and move on.” Although I’m not sure because I never quite finished reading his biography. I DNF that sucker and moved on. What are you DNFing today?

My big fat European vacation and why it’s taken me two years to take it

Remember when I wrote this post about what I’d imagined I’d be doing at 40? It involved writing – a blog post, a short story, anything really – while at a cafe in Italy. But it involved a version and a vision of myself that didn’t exist back then. Even if I’d been able to financially swing the trip, in my head I just wasn’t ready.

And I am always in my head.

And my head kept asking “What if you can’t get it together?”, “What if you’re not in the shape you want to be?”,  “What if things don’t go the way you planned?”, what if, what if, what if…

So for two years I let my head talk my heart out of taking a trip I’ve always wanted to take.

This year my heart wins out.

The interesting thing is I’ve made this trip before. In 2005 I flew to Europe, alone, met up with friends and spent 3 amazing weeks in London and Florence.  So what’s so different now?

That trip was pre-40, I was in better shape and was in a completely different mindset. This time, post 40, I felt like I wanted this trip more but that somehow I wasn’t ready for it. Doesn’t make much sense does it?

So what’s changed? Why this year and why now? Because life doesn’t wait for us to be perfect, or even ready, for it to happen. Time passes while we talk about the things we want and think about the things we want. And then before we know it, we’re wishing we’d done it – whatever it is.

I’m tired of wishing and tired of waiting for my life to be perfect.  I’m tired of being so afraid of moving in the wrong direction that I don’t move at all.

My life will never be perfect. I may one day have the financial freedom I’ve always wanted, the relationship I’ve dreamed of having, and the health and fitness that’s been a lifelong struggle for me. But even if those things miraculously fall into place all at once, my life will still never be perfect. But it will always be my life. One that for all its ups and downs I’m blessed to have.

So I’m off to Europe for two weeks in the fall to enjoy my wonderfully imperfect life. It’s my own personal self-indulgence tour, one in which I plan to reawaken my senses. I even wrote my own little travel manifesto, which I’ll share next week. Spoiler – it involves being less self-conscious, more spirit conscious, eating without obsessing, and maybe even a gorgeous Italian or Frenchman or Brit…

As I plan for this trip, I wonder why so many of us put off doing the thing(s) that we really want to do. I wonder what we’re so afraid of and what separates those who “just do it” from those who don’t. What have you always dreamed of doing and what are you going to do to make it happen? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.



Kalin’s Chronicles: Your 2011 Travel Wish List

italian-villasHappy New Year, Women at 40! It’s that time again to reflect on the past year and recharge for the new one. 2010 was a challenging year, so I didn’t get to travel as much as I would have liked. However, I always make a “travel wish list” at the beginning of each year. It feels great to be able to check a city or country off of the list. What’s on your travel wish list?

The same country that was on the top of my list last year, is on the top of this year’s list – Australia! I’ve been wanting to visit this country for a while because once I make it there I will have traveled to all seven continents! Right now I’ll have to live through my friend’s photos from her trip to Australia with Oprah! I was so happy for her, and wished I could have been a stowaway. Other destinations on my list include: Honolulu, Paris, Bahia, Hong Kong, and a return to Cape Town. No matter how much I travel, there are always so many more places to see. (Photo: Gorgeous seaside villa and one of the places on our senior editor’s wish list)

Continue reading Kalin’s Chronicles: Your 2011 Travel Wish List

In pursuit of dreams: Our next 5 question challenge

American Masters: Julia Child “I am sadly an ordinary person . . . with talents I do not use.” That was an insecure and uncertain Julia Child writing in her diary long before she became Julia Child the chef, author and TV personality. In fact it wasn’t until she moved to France with her husband in 1948 that she discovered her love of French cuisine.  Upon discovering this love, Child wrote to her sister-in-law “To think it has taken me 40 years to find my true passion.”  It would be another 10 years and several rejections later before Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published. She was 51 when “The French Chef” began airing on PBS.

When we hit our 40s it often seems easier and more practical to give up on our dreams. With kids to care for, bills to pay, and the reality of life confronting us every morning, stretching our imaginations to include a dream career, travel, entrepreneurship…sometimes feels like child’s play. But if you’ve always envisioned yourself doing something different and being something else, then those visions will always be there. If a vision follows you from year to year, maybe you owe it to yourself and that vision to pursue it, even in the midst of all your reality. And when I say you, I mean me.

Continue reading In pursuit of dreams: Our next 5 question challenge