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.

Kalin’s Chronicles: Forty, Fabulous & Flying High

This past summer I was on an AirTran flight back to Atlanta from Orlando, when the woman next to me and two women behind me started discussing their fear of flying. I was chiming in with my own concerns about flying through a thunderstorm, when the woman across the isle from me said, “If I’m not worried, you don’t worry.”  I thought, “Who is this bold passenger?”

Well, it turns out that Julie Hornwood is an AirTran pilot! (Photo: Julie Hornwood)

Julie is one of more than 42,000 women pilots in the United States – only seven percent of all pilots.  She recently turned 40, so I decided to share her thoughts with you.

Why I love flying

I had wanted to be an airline pilot as far back as I can remember.  I love the cloud formations and decision making abilities and the people I meet along the road.

I fly a 737 as a captain which is the most common type of airplane flown by the airlines today.  I’m on call to fill in for pilots who are on vacation, out sick or in training so my route varies, but most of my trips originate out of Orlando and I fly a lot of Baltimore and Milwaukee routes.

Being a woman pilot

I love being among just a few women pilots because I can inspire girls on my plane to reach for the stars when it comes to their lives and their careers.  And being a tom boy when I was young, I seem to fit right in with the male pilots.  My co-pilots all enjoy flying with me because my tone is professional, relaxed and easy.

Favorite leisure travel

When I’m not working I love exploring new cultures and places.  I love Sandals Resorts, and I love Windstar Cruises.  Sailing and flying are very similar in that a sail is basically a wing turned up to the sky.

Tip for fearful flyers

The pilot has made thousands of successful trips and we are well-trained and very experienced.  It is hundreds of times safer than driving.

Turning 40

There were celebrations from my flight crew, a surprise party from friends and family, and I spent five days in Puerto Rico with friends.  My 40’s are truly freeing of worry about others’ approval.  I’m finally living for me!  Look up in the front as you board your next flight… I just might be there.

I hope Julie inspired you to live your dreams.  Send me your stories about flying with female pilots.  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain.

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.

Pamela Grossman – Living In the Present: Part 2


On Monday I ran part 1 of my interview with WAF Whirly Girl, Pamela Grossman. At 40 Pamela was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, leaving her in a  self described deep abyss of terror, unable to function “normally” for years. Today she discusses how the disorder led to creating In the Present and how she’s facing her challenges head on…

On “In the Present”

As debilitating as her anxiety disorder was, Pamela knew she’d still have to pay her bills and that she’d have to work from home to do it. She recalls sitting on the floor of her living room thinking, “this is my new future. I’m in the present and I have to make the best of it.”  Calling on her years of production experience and her artistic eye, Pamela created In the Present, a high-end corporate and personal gift business. In addition to gifts, her company also creates business branding and printed materials. Current and former clients include Disney, BMW, The American Cancer Society and Turner Broadcasting. (photo: In the Present’s Rejuvenate)

Continue reading Pamela Grossman – Living In the Present: Part 2

Living In the Present: Pamela Grossman – Part 1

pams headshot off the beach balcony How this WAF Whirly Girl launched a successful business, despite being stricken with a debilitating anxiety disorder.

Last week I wrote about being stronger than our fears. I received quite a few emails and comments over on the Facebook page from other women at forty facing their own unique fears. One wrote about going back to school and being anxious about the 20-year -olds in class alongside her. Another wrote about becoming a mom later in life and being mistaken for her child’s grandmother. For most of us these types of fears boil down to mind over matter. Overcoming them involves having less doubt, a little more faith and a dash of “who cares what you think.”  But what if your fears ran deeper – much deeper? What if there was a clinical reason for the fears that haunted you.

If you’re Pamela Grossman you find a way to live through the fear. In fact, you thrive despite of it. That’s exactly what Pamela did when at 40 she was stricken with debilitating panic attacks that seemingly came out of nowhere. Pamela’s the third woman to be featured as a Women at Forty Whirly Girl, and a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk to her at length about the panic disorder that changed her life, her gift business, In the Present, and how she’s living life in her 40’s… (photo: Pamela Grossman)

Continue reading Living In the Present: Pamela Grossman – Part 1