Monday, December 28, 2009

The Gift of Perspective

Given the continuing economic slump and a handful of us on unemployment, our families shared fewer commercial gifts this year (there was a "no gifts" policy but some simply could not hold to it). In the airport, some individuals could be overheard talking about the best gift they received, be it a favorite movie, game, gadget, etc. While I did receive some great presents, by the end of our trip to Wisconsin I had been given a tremendous gift that I hadn't expected.

Some might read this and may think that I'm just a downer, and I'm sorry for anyone who feels that way. It probably does seem that I have an eye toward the negative side in this post - but believe me, I'm only posting these things because they somehow find a way to remind me personally how lucky I am and how fortunate we are to have all that we have. Writing about the mishaps and misfortunes, for me, is therapeutic and puts me at ease as I can then turn to what is right in my life and all that I should be thankful for.

Monday night, we decided we'd bring my laptop along so that the guys could game and we could check emails and such. I started backing up my files and deleting stuff off the laptop hard drive so there would be adequate space to install and run the games, but after a few hours, it got to be 1:30 in the morning, and it was time to close up shop so we could get some shut-eye. Tuesday morning we gathered up our bags, scooped up the cat, got him to the vet for boarding, and headed to Bristol. I hung out at Naveen's office taking care of some things during the day before our flight. One of his work friends was kind enough to take us to the train station, so we left the van at work, took a train to Philly, and managed to fly on schedule despite the winter weather.

When we arrived Tuesday night at Mitchell Field, our flight from Philadelphia was supposed to have arrived around the same time as my sister's and (her boyfriend) Nick's flight from Newark, so my dad waited in the cell phone parking lot while Naveen and I sat at the baggage claim waiting for their plane to arrive. We had claimed our luggage and saw that their flight was "in range," so we waited. And waited. And waited. Due to some misinformation somewhere down the line, we ended up sitting around the destination airport an hour and a half until they finally landed and got their bags. By the time we got to my grandmother's house, it was well after midnight, but we were just happy to see each other and be back with our family.

The next day, Naveen and I were looking on my laptop at images I had saved from our wedding photographer, trying to narrow down pages and pictures to an album that would be affordable for us to purchase. There is so much we haven't done - we still owe a majority of people Thank You cards for their thoughtful gifts, we still hadn't ordered our wedding photos, and we still haven't planned or gone on a honeymoon. But this week, we were going to start getting things done. We determined which pictures and pages we were okay to lose, and reviewed the change requests to the photographer's website which I had made during the day on Tuesday before our flight. I left the laptop open and Naveen and Nick decided they wanted to play "Sins of a Solar Empire" to pass the time for a while.

Unfortunately, even 10 or so gigs of space wasn't enough, or they noticed a slow performance, so they decided to run a routine disk cleanup. Since I hadn't finished backing up my files, and I had heard horror stories about using disk cleanup, I was a little anxious about it and mentioned that I used CCleaner with decent results, but they had already begun and confidently explained that you tell the computer exactly what areas to clean up. It was reportedly going to clear another gig of space, but by the end of the cleanup, they had freed 40 or so gigs, which seemed alarmingly high. Since the computer was still running a bit slow, they tried running the defrag tool, but had to stop it at 3% because we were going to eat dinner and needed to move the laptop to another location.

Later that night, however, when Naveen set up the laptop elsewhere, I heard him mutter something with disdain and I ran to him... almost all my folders located on the desktop and My Documents folders were completely wiped out. Empty. Gone.

I ran upstairs and screamed into a pillow, I was so mad. This isn't usual behavior for me, so everyone was concerned and quickly found out what happened. At first I felt mad at Nick, because I didn't know that Naveen had given the go-ahead on the disk cleanup, and then I was mad at Naveen, but primarily I was just mad at myself, that in my busy life with my long commute and everything going on, I still should have found the time to back up the things I had lost. It didn't take long before I went back downstairs and apologized to everyone for losing my cool about it, but everyone understood and was hoping we could recover some of the files. Nick patiently was able to recover most of the files that had been lost - but unfortunately even a 3% defrag was enough to corrupt a majority of the files. I lost a handful of photos, videos, Maya and Photoshop work, among other things that were important to me. As upset as I could be about the guys pushing the button, in my heart I knew it was a routine cleanup that simply must have triggered a virus (or, as we found out later, something like 7 threats) which caused the mass deletion of my files, and I knew that it was my fault I had not backed everything up ahead of time.

I spent too long talking about that perhaps. I'm still getting over it.

Christmas Day we were supposed to head over to see my paternal grandma, but it was delayed by several hours because my parents' van died. They had just gone in to have the battery looked at, and the technicians at Walmart said it was fine. They don't typically go there, but they've had to cut a lot of costs since unemployment is running out soon for them. So, the battery was dead. With Nick's help, they were able to charge it enough to get it to a local garage where they replaced it and saw that the struts or shocks or something also needed to be replaced (I heard both and never got the final story which it was). Just what they needed, right?

I won't go into much detail, but I've had some moderate health problems in the last month that have gotten worse in the last couple of weeks (so I'm going to the doctor later this afternoon). My issues weren't helped by the fact that last night we had a delayed first leg from Milwaukee, and had to sprint from an outdoor gate at Terminal F to an indoor B gate at Chicago O'Hare in order to make our connection to Philly. We made it, but the running triggered some of the respiratory problems I've been having as well as digestive and pain problems that are becoming chronic for me as well, so it was a miserable flight (not to mention two uncontrolled little boys sitting behind us, yelling playfully, and kicking our seats). When we arrived in Philly around 12:15am, we found out that they didn't get our bag moved onto the connecting flight and so we are waiting for it to be delivered to Naveen's work sometime today (let's hope). Inside I have medicines, gifts, a hair dryer which I desperately need in this cold weather, and a large wedding print (protected only with a cardboard box) that we bought from the photographer this weekend. I hope everything arrives safely soon, and isn't damaged, stolen, or lost.

But as I mentioned, this past week has offered us a very important gift of perspective. We can't stay upset about these things because we must acknowledge what we have - I was able to fly home and see my family, and that was the main thing. However distracted we could be about the negative side, we were there, together.

While sitting at the airport waiting to go home to New Jersey, we received the most unfortunate news of a friend in California who lost their second child. Their first child, an unborn daughter with a rare blood condition, had been lost on the morning of our wedding day, which is forever with us and reminds us how precious life is. This time, they were having a son, who was starting to show signs of problems at the same time in pregnancy as their daughter, but the doctors were able to deliver the 4-pound premature baby successfully, sharing his mother's birthday just a few days before Christmas. Friends and family were overjoyed and sent cards and gifts. They spent the holiday in the hospital because of his need to be monitored in an incubator and with feeding tubes. After only five days of life, he suddenly developed a different rare condition called NEC which affects only 1 in 4000 premature infants, and died yesterday. I can't even begin to imagine the strength our friends have in getting through this second loss.. There just simply aren't words.

My cousin lost her best friend in a head-on car accident just days before my birthday in January. This friend had been her single most important confidant since childhood, and as for my cousin, who is hearing impaired and has worked since high school rather than having gone to college, she has been left this year to redefine herself and cope with her grief largely by herself. Our family has been sensitive to her needs this year, but seeing her on Christmas Eve, it is evident that this pain may take years and some new social conditions in order to heal.

One of Naveen's cousins in India, who he met just a few years ago, was very intelligent and well on his way to a good school sometime soon. But a few weeks ago, he was in a terrible motorcycle accident without a helmet on, and he has only a slim chance to live. If he does survive, it is probable that he has suffered irreparable brain damage and may remain in a vegetative state. This news comes shortly after another cousin, whose wedding was impending, lost her mother (I believe to a heart attack), which was preceded a couple years before by another of Naveen's cousin's suicide at his parents' house, and my great uncle's suicide as well when he thought he might be dying of cancer.

We've been through a lot in the last couple years, but to stay upset about a computer crash, car problems, luggage lost... These things are meaningless. The tragic stories of our friends and families in recent years truly remind us how absolutely precious life is, and how much care we hold in our hearts for everyone. The stories of their joys and moments of happy excitement are what encourage us and keep us going. And, hoping that this post doesn't merely slip into the void, I wish for everyone a safe, happy, healthy new year, and that peace remains in your hearts and minds even through trying times. Distance may separate us, but we are always thinking of you, praying for you, and looking forward to our next meeting.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

AFFS Criticism

So, as we know, mostly there has been super positive feedback about AFFS. However, we also know there are a lot of die-hard muppet fans who are afraid the real puppets are going away (which isn't true). This article by Eric Alba is no different, but at least it shows internal debate: Eric says the animation (in all its technical glory) is really well done, but he also makes a good point that it doesn't have the typical Jim Henson lo-fi lovability. Good argument, I just think that as die-hard as they think they are, these people must not be watching the SS hour, because there are plenty of puppets still bouncing around, and there always will be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Santa Turned Green

When Santa Turned Green - Official Site

Just thought I'd spread the word - "When Santa Turned Green" is now the best selling book at FAO Schwartz and my company just helped with the release of the new iPhone app, which I believe reads the story and you can zoom in on the illustrations, etc. Since Santa's in the mix, it's great for introducing children to global warming and what they can do to help. Just thought I'd share with you!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sleeping Bloggy Online Interactive Game Launched Today (Abby's Flying Fairy School)

I'm proud to say our first online interactive game for "Abby's Flying Fairy School" launched today. This episode is called "Sleeping Bloggy." I'm not sure if the broadcast version of this episode has aired on television yet, so you'll have to let me know about that. Anyway, give the game a shot! ;-)

Sleeping Bloggy Game

(Note: at the studio we are testing it and it seems that the game hangs up after the juice game for most people. Hopefully the Flash company, Firefly, is figuring this out!!! SpeakeasyFX was only responsible for the show content, character animations, and magic fx. While I did not layout this interactive episode, I did a handful of animation on it.)

Women In Children's Media Holiday Party

I think I'm going to go to this, since I have a train pass for this week anyway. Anyone else interested in going too?

*Update 4:45pm - I've decided not to go - I'll be going out with my SpeakeasyFX crew instead! We have a lot of celebrating to catch up on!!!


If you haven't RSVP'd yet,
there's still time!

Event Details:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
6:30-9:00 pm
Vig 27
119 E. 27th Street
New York, NY
between Park Avenue South & Lexington Avenue
on the north side of the street
Members & Non-Members welcome - Please RSVP

Raise a fancy cocktail and toast to another year at the Women in Children's Media holiday celebration.

As a special gift, all those in attendance will receive a 20% discount on new memberships and renewals*!

Light appetizers will be served. Drink specials available from 6-8PM.

Come celebrate 2009 with us and:

  • Meet other children's media professionals

  • Catch up with old friends and coworkers

  • Learn more about Women in Children's Media

  • Hear about all of the things we've learned this year at WiCM

See you there!

*20% discount offer applies to all new memberships and existing membership renewals and extensions. Offer does not apply to previous purchases, although you may add a one-year extension at the discounted rate for any recently purchased new membership or renewal. Offer valid through Friday, January 1st, 2010 at 11:59pm ET.

You must be present at the event and check in with a WiCM staff member to be eligible for the discount. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion.

OUR MISSION: Women in Children's Media (WiCM) is an association of women who are committed to creating and distributing thoughtful, entertaining media to children and young adults. WiCM builds connections, promotes professional development, and inspires our members to lead, innovate, and shape the future of children's media.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

AFFS Character Animation Reel 2009

I've created a reel that you can see if you'd like! It's at the following link:

Link information:

"Abby's Flying Fairy School" (© Sesame Workshop) - Laura Skowronski Nattam, SpeakeasyFX character animation reel for December 2009.

On November 10, 2009, Sesame Street celebrated its 40 years on television with a new and exciting season premiere. "Abby's Flying Fairy School" is an eight-minute cgi animated segment (nine minutes, counting the intro song and 'Spot' film) which airs during the Sesame Street hour on PBS. For more information, please visit the official site:

This includes a portion of my work that has been aired in November-December 2009.

Episodes which have already aired include the following:
"Niblet's Wand"
"The Fairy Godmother Test" (aka "Cinderella Challenge")
"The Pinocchio Process"
"Sugar Plum Fairy Dancing Shoes"
"Genie in a Bottle"
"Say Gezundenschniffle"

Thanks for watching!!!