When You Want to Escape Problems

At its chrysalis stage, a future butterfly can’t go very far. It remains stationary as the butterfly inside matures.

Once the butterfly gains its wings, though, it has options, as long as it has a food source, favorable winds and protection from predators.

Eventually, the cycle starts all over as a butterfly deposits eggs to reproduce. A new caterpillar evolves into a chrysalis that affixes to a new branch or leaf. A transformed creature breaks free and follows nature’s beckoning.

Butterflies hold much significance for many people I know. My friend Mary Nell loved them. They hold significance for many Holocaust survivors.

When We Want to Fly Away From Problems

I heard Jennifer Granholm interview Maria Shriver in a Commonwealth Club of California broadcast recently. It was a broad interview covering territory that included her childhood, her family, her political aspirations (virtually zero), and her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s (among other things).

I was multitasking as I had the interview on, so I missed some of the fine detail, but I did catch and immediately jot down this sentiment:

When you run away from something, the  universe just puts it right back in your lap.

The context of her comment was how she wanted to get away ….. from an aggressive life of politics, Democrats, and the public eye.

Then she moved across the country to California, eventually married Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican politician, and remained very much in the public eye.

We are Emotionally Healthier When We Consider Alternatives to Running Away

Maria Shriver was absolutely right. We can replace things about our environment — where we live, what we do, who we hang around with — but making a lasting change and connecting with inner serenity is immune to most of those attempts (in the long run).

I do think a change can be good sometimes, but to augment an effort to deal with something rather than eliminate whatever it is that needs to be dealt with.

Heidi Priebe wrote about trying to get rid of issues by change alone, “You’re trying to grab at something new with full hands and yet you cannot figure out why you keep dropping it” and “the further you run from your problems, the further you run from yourself.” Her entire piece, Here Is What Happens When You Run Away From All Of Your Problems, is thought-provoking.

Taking Time to Think Things Through

Have you ever been to a butterfly garden? I have been to the one at Callaway Gardens and, more recently, the Butterfly Rainforest at the University of Florida.

Before entering a butterfly garden, there’s a procedure where you have to go to an intermediary room that is protected from the outside (and the inside) so none of the butterflies escape. You have to repeat the same procedure when exiting.

Steps of exiting:

Enter “protective intermediary room.”

Stop and wait, to make sure you aren’t taking a butterfly with you accidentally.


What if life worked that way? If we had to stop and take a minute (or, for the big decisions, a day/week/month) whenever we wanted to escape our environment to think it over and make sure our hands were no longer full of the problems we had gathered along the way?


Photo by Chris Keats on Unsplash

Note: This post is in response to a prompt from The Sway, “Write a post inspired by this word: butterfly.” Coincidentally (or not), a butterfly is one of the images in the coloring book for Alzheimer’s patients and their families created by Maria Shriver.

Five Minute Friday: TURN

Today’s prompt: TURN

I wrote a post recently about Prana (PSA: you can still use code GGPK18 to get 15% off online!) and within the post, I discussed how one of the items they had shared with me could be great for yoga. I had all intents of actually doing yoga and taking pictures prior to preparing that post, but time ran out.

Today I am going to yoga. 

I have gotten so detached from fitness in general (and I believe yoga is about physical as well as mental fitness). I have also been doing Weight Watchers since January and, although I have had success and lost around 15 pounds, I keep thinking how much exercise would accelerate that loss (and make me feel so much better).

Is is time to turn around the long, sad slide of my fitness life.

I, admittedly, gave up about a year and a half ago when it became impossible to run without tachycardia issues even with beta blockers. Somehow, before I knew it, that turned into not just a halt on running but a halt on moving.

How? Why?

But it ends today. I suppose the thanks goes partially to the fact that my friend Diana is teaching a yoga class at noon, partially to a change in my work schedule that frees me up by noon, and the fact that I still feel I owe that blog post a session of yoga.

Let’s hope one session turns into many more.

Whereas my fitness life before was for me and my health, it was also for some public reasons (being a Fitfluential ambassador, being able to be in the “in” fitness crowd). Time to turn back to basics for now.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

7 Personal Finance Lessons from Unexpected Sources


That’s what is happening after this post is done (or at least enough of the process to file an extension).

Therefore, this may be my longest post ever (just kidding).

One of Kat Bouska’s prompts this week is “List 7 things you would recommend to a friend this month.” Because finances and taxes are so heavy on my mind, here are seven interesting things I’ve read, seen or discussed recently ….. and a personal finance tie-in for each.

Goats Stranded on a Bridge

Two goats in Pennsylvania wandered out onto a bridge overpass and got stuck. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation came to their rescue, using a snooper crane to position an employee so he could grab one goat, then coax the other one to safety by tapping (it probably wasn’t exactly a “tap” I guess) on the rim of the overpass.

Photo credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Facebook Page


“They deftly walked along the beam with their very small feet,” the article says. Once they were out there, though, they encountered an obstacle and couldn’t complete the crossing. Sometimes we get ourselves into financial positions that we did not anticipate at first. 

Nugget McFluffyhead

Nugget the lamb is one of three lambs born to a Maine lamb. Nugget’s mom, however, rejected Nugget, whose two siblings were more aggressive and monopolized her two teats. That’s what led Greg Purinton-Brown and his wife Heide to decide to hand raise Nugget.

Personal Finance Lessons

Photo Credit: Toddy Pond Farm Instagram


“A ewe only has two teats, and the other triplets were getting there first,” the article says. As much as we would it to be the case, there’s never enough money or time to do it all; failing to speak up or assert yourself for your share may threaten your survival.

The Penzeys American Heart and Soul Box

Penzey’s Spices is giving away their eight-blend American Heart and Soul Box (a $34.95 value) for free. All customers have to do is pay shipping ($7.95)!

Personal Finance Lessons

Photo Credit: Penzeys.com


Penzey’s put together this box to highlight the soul that cooks of all different origins bring to our nation, calling some of the blends, “testaments to the ever-renewing role immigration continues to play in seasoning the American spirit.” Penzey’s also says one way we can help our nation be more unified is to cook. That’s it, to cook. It turns out cooking at home is good for the budget too. Save money by cooking at home.

Cosmo Loves Thumper

My friend and coach, Kristie, welcomed Thumper the bunny into her home. Cosmo the golden retriever turned out to be the most protective, loving, nurturing BunnyDad (BunnyBrother?) ever.

Personal Finance Lessons


Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance to love someone new, two-legged or four. In personal finance, too, there are times that make taking a chance worthwhile. Volunteering can turn into compensated work. Making the effort to share your work can get your name and brand more recognition. You might also help someone, which feels good in itself. 

Bless the Seeds Before They’re in the Ground

The La Semilla Food Center celebrated its 5-year-anniversary with a seed blessing. The non-profit says on its website that it is “dedicated to fostering a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.”

They also have a cool/humorous sign:

Personal Finance Lessons

Source: La Semilla Instagram


I am taken with the idea of infusing the seeds at the earliest stage possible, before they have turned into a full-grown plant or yielded any fruit. I know this may sound like an exaggeration, but when I do social media for clients, I do see every tweet or other piece of social media posted as a sort of ministry (and I don’t mean that in a necessarily spiritual way). I can’t say this has panned out for me (yet), but be intentional and passionate about every stage of your work and it is more likely to pay off than if it is viewed as “just another job to do.”

Write Down Your Goals

I was the lone voice in the wilderness in support of this statement (on Facebook) this past week among people I value and respect deeply.

Personal Finance Lessons

NOTE: I added the “unknown” (because I don’t know who said it) and “unwanted” (because no one in the thread wanted this quote).

Here’s the thing — and maybe I made a HUGE assumption that because I have clung to the sentiment behind a quote like this (Brian Tracy’s “3% of people have written goals and the other 97% work for them) as one of my main life mantras for so long, then they should (or would) feel as attached as I do. AU CONTRAIRE.

To be clear, my love of the Tracy quote isn’t about wanting to be in charge of legions of people (my time doing that at Healthy Kids left me with lessons learned that will make me a different supervisor in the future). It’s purely about the fact that written goals are more likely to be attained than unwritten ones. Period.


When it comes to your finances, write down your goals. They’re more likely to be achieved that way. 

Get Naked

Oh wait ……… not THAT kind of naked. Naked with your partner about money.

As my husband and I try to resolve some issues we created for ourselves (that were somewhat exacerbated by my working part-time while my father-in-law was with us for three years), I think often of how the path that got us here hinges on our failure to have some basic discussions about finances and values early on.

Why Couples Need to Get Financially Naked recommends these types of questions early in a relationship:

  • What are the three most important money lessons you learned growing up?
  • What are your three biggest money worries?
  • What are your three biggest goals?
  • What are the three most important ways you want to use money to leave a legacy?


Being on the same page as a couple helps alleviate stress (because financial conflict will always be a part of any relationship).

Personal Finance Lessons

Personal Finance Lessons






$100 Starbucks Giveaway

Starbucks Giveaway

Coffee. It has taken on even more importance to me since I have been doing a temporary shift at my freelance position that starts at 3:15 a.m. every weekday.

I probably don’t need to explain why coffee has taken on even more importance to me, do I?

Get your own coffee treats (without the pre-crack-of-dawn part) by winning a $100 Starbucks gift card!


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Five Minute Friday: OTHER

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: OTHER

From the moment I heard that today’s prompt would be other, I knew I wanted to write about other as a verb. I originally thought I wanted to reflect on “othering,” treating people of different colors or abilities as something aside/more/exceptional than their humanity. It is something I probably did (although with good intentions) with my mother-in-law, who was blind. I overlooked her sheer humanity sometimes because I was so focused on the things she did as a blind person (knitting, golfing, ice skating, etc.) that I probably made a bigger fuss than she preferred.

Early this morning, though, I read Scott Simon’s piece A Sister Shares ‘Horrible And Wonderful’ Memories Of Her Brother’s Life And Death. There’s a reference in the piece to being a sister but not as a noun (she was his sister) rather as a verb (she sistered him for lack of a less awkward treatment).

Something about that stuck with me. I thought about headstones (there have been quite a few of those lately in our family) and how they often include the nouns: mother/wife/sister/friend/etc.

At a time when we have lost people in our family and lost friends to disease and accidents, I am struck that it is a potent opportunity to be a verb in the lives around us.

(Bear with me the grammar may be weird but…)

To mother our children

To friend those who aren’t of our blood but make our lives more complete

To sister or brother our siblings (or our siblings of the heart (shout out to my only children friends!)

To resident (reside in) our homes and neighborhoods

To citizen our nation.

Life often calls us to act; I am reminded to choose to do so more consciously.

This is the book Scott’s piece was about. It’s already on my Audible wish list.

Note: The audio version of Scott Simon’s piece can be heard here:

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)



How Golf and Associated Press Style Compare

Even if I had the time, resources and desire to dedicate myself to the game wholeheartedly starting tomorrow, I could never become competent at golf between now and the day I die.

I do, however, have a fighting chance of mastering Associated Press Style, the writing standards created and maintained by the Associated Press. This is a good thing, because correct usage of AP Style is a requirement at my freelance position. There’s a much higher chance of me remembering to hyphenate the word sell-off than there is of me letting my left shoulder turn under my chin while keeping my left arm straight and my hands passive until my club reaches hip height, just the first stage of an effective takeaway in golf.

Why Try To Compare Golf and #APStyle?

I finally decided to pay attention to Quora after approximately two years of getting emails saying “[name of someone] is following you on Quora!” The site has come up several times on Spin Sucks, a blog I read faithfully (and contribute to occasionally).

I kept hesitating to engage on Quora. I have so many social media balls up in the air as it is. Eventually, I decided I either needed to figure out what it was all about or somehow stop the daily emails about being followed there.

If you know me, you can imagine what happened next.

I’m in!

In response to the recent question “What do you love when you read a personal blog?,” I said it’s important to have a personal connection to the topics you blog about and an enthusiasm for them. I said, ” I could write (maybe competently) about golf, for example (with some research) but it’s not a passion of mine so it would just be facts.” (Read the whole answer here.)

In the Spin Sucks Slack group (it’s awesome and free – check it out!), Mike Connell, who had picked up on the Quora thread, said something like “coming up soon, Paula’s blog post about golf.” I am not sure how that ended up merging with my desire to blog about #APStyle, but I rarely shy away from a blogging challenge, so here we are.

Comparing Golf with #APStyle

You may think golf and #APStyle have nothing in common, but I don’t think that’s true.

Both require precision

Golf holes have been 4.25 inches in diameter since 1891. Just ask the professional golfer whose putt lands a millimeter away from the hole and loses a lucrative payout if precision is important.

Similarly, precision matters for a writer or editor adhering to AP Style. I suppose things are a little different these days because pieces that have been published digitally can be revised real-time, as opposed to publishing on paper only, which immortalizes errors forever. But sticking with AP Style keeps publications consistent and hopefully makes it easier for readers to read. Assuming the publication using AP Style wants to generate revenue from paid subscriptions or advertising, it is important that readers make it a habit to come back, as The Lenfest Institute discovered in its analysis of The Seattle Times’ newsletter. Consistency hopefully helps reinforce the habit.

Despite the precision, both have arbitrary aspects

I know golf has a rulebook (for the purposes of this blog, we’ll go with USGA rules). Even as a golf bystander who has never played a single hole and attended only one major tour event, I know (because my husband is a golfer) that even the most black and white rules can be subject to interpretation. Graeme McDowell, for example, won less money in a 2012 championship when he voluntarily took a two-stroke penalty and ended up finishing in 3rd place rather than 2nd because he “didn’t give the branch enough respect” while addressing his ball in a bunker.

Associated Press Style

At the TPC Players Championship at Sawgrass – May 2017

With AP Style, even though there is an official style book (online and hard copy), some decisions are flexible. Individual publications may decide to stray a bit. For abbreviations and acronyms, as an example, the AP Stylebook encourages “avoiding ‘alphabet soup'” and thinking about the context before deciding to use an abbreviation or acronym.

You can’t learn golf in a pinch

As I said at the beginning of this piece, even if I dropped all my other obligations and took golf lessons frequently, had an open-ended membership to a golf club, was gifted with the best equipment, and cared enough to try, I couldn’t become an excellent golfer with the time that’s left in my life (hopefully we’re talking decades here). Golf involves mechanics, muscle memory, discipline, an understanding of the game, endurance, and the ability to strategize. Some of those things (especially muscle memory and good fundamental mechanics) are much easier to develop for a young person.

AP Style, on the other hand, is something even a woman over 50 can grasp. It would certainly have been easier for me to apply AP Style to my current gig if I had accumulated experience using it as a journalist, but it’s not impossible. (The AP Style quizzes are helpful; they are quick to complete and help you become aware of your deficits (and strengths!).

The scenery is different

I have to hand it to golf on the scenery. The gorgeous courses, the ability to commune with nature, the fresh air.

Following AP Style, on the other hand, is somewhat limited to me at my desk typing away. I suppose I don’t run the risk of getting hit in the head with a golf ball or having to fish a ball out of the water, so there’s that!

Visiting the #APStyle Golf Course

I have been thinking a lot about golf hole names since learning that Sergio Garcia named his daughter (Azalea) after a hole at the Augusta National course.

In that spirit, here is a “course” I designed based on the things I’ve learned about AP Style since starting to use it in January 2017, some big and some little. (I do think, though, that an AP Style course would be more along the lines of miniature golf than regular golf — AP Style writers are always trying for a hole in one — we don’t have the luxury of taking several strokes to get to the destination.) I made it a nine-hole. Feel free to create your own nine to fill out 18.

One: Fla. First (State Abbreviations)

AP Style dictates abbreviations for states. Florida, for example, is Fla. In addition, 30 cities can be identified independently, without identifying their state alongside. Writing Explained says, “The norms that influenced the selection [of the 30 cities] were the population of the city, the population of its metropolitan region, the frequency of the city’s appearance in the news, the uniqueness of its name, and experience that has shown the name to be almost synonymous with the state of nation where it is located.” I still don’t get why Milwaukee is there but Orlando isn’t (nothing against Milwaukee), but no one asked me.

Two: Numerically Speaking

With AP Style, the numbers smaller than 10 are spelled out, unless they are ages or percentages.

Three: Article-free Islamic State

This may seem like a weird one to focus on after big things like states and numbers, but I got it wrong recently and am still annoyed with myself. The Islamic militant organization is “Islamic State” rather than “the Islamic State” and it is abbreviated “IS.”

Four: The Walmart Wonder

This is a fairly recent change. For AP Style purposes, the brand ditched its hyphen and changed to “Walmart” this year.

Five: fall for autumn

Seasons are lowercase unless the name of the season is part of a formal event (Summer Olympics, for example).

Six: Dazzling gold rush

I don’t foresee needing this term, but for what it’s worth, “gold rush” is lower case. I suppose a golfer who wins a tournament may encounter his or her own gold rush, right?

Seven: Fly High, Frequent Flyer

Someone who flies often is a frequent flyer, not a frequent flier. AP says “flyer” also applies to handbills distributed to advertise an event, but I have read other opinions on this.

Eight: An Apostrophe’s Place

The AP Stylebook dedicates almost two pages to apostrophes, so I can’t summarize those two pages easily. One important point: It would be easy to trip up on the rule that possessives of proper names ending in S get only an apostrophe (Dickens’ books, for example).

Nine: The Oxford Comma Memorial

This has been the hardest habit for me to break. I was an Oxford Comma fan. My rationale was “I love punctuation, so more is better.” I have to admit, though, that having eliminated the Oxford Comma as required by AP  Style, I am getting used to the cleaner look of an Oxford Comma-free sentence. This is probably how all slippery slopes begin….

The Nineteenth Hole

Many golf courses have a Nineteenth Hole facility, a place where golfers can relax after a tough day on the links.

I’m not sure what the equivalent of the Nineteenth Hole is for someone required to use AP Style. Rebelling by spelling out Mississippi? Throwing in a serial comma? Typing “walkin” closet instead of “walk-in”? For me it means keeping the informal to places like Facebook comments and Twitter.

Ultimately, I remind myself that I am using words professionally (and therefore required to use AP Style if that is the requirement of the employer) to accomplish what words do best: build a bridge between people through information and building community.

Creating links, if you will.


**NOTE: If you are an AP Style pro and I got something wrong, please let me know. I’m still learning.

Five Minute Friday: RELEASE

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: RELEASE

You know how some fishing options are “catch and release”? The person doing the fishing has the thrill of the hunt, but the fish gets the privilege of living to swim another day because it gets released after being caught.

Well, I have had some catch and release experiences lately, except with lizards and not fish. I am not sure what (if anything) the universe is trying to tell me.

Saturday, Tenley and I were on our way to the cemetery for the burial of my in-law’s ashes. My sister-in-law asked us to stop at Home Depot and pick up some ferns to place near the headstone on our way to the ceremony. (Note: Tenley has a brand new immaculate car … this matters slightly for this story. She wasn’t all that excited about dirt/ferns/water in the car but when relatives call, we respond.) As I was placing one of the ferns in her car, I noticed something ALIVE on one of the fronds. A lizard! I quickly took the fern back OUT of the car and performed an elaborate, awkward production to get it off of the fern and onto the sidewalk. I am just glad I found it BEFORE she and I were in transit. Although I caught lizards with my hands when I was a kid, they are not my thing at all these days.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was watching our cat, Alice Cooper stalk a green lizard that was between a window and a screen. Alice is a geriatric cat, and it was fun to see her so excited about something. Her tail was whipping furiously. I was just enjoying it — the lizard was outside and we were inside, as nature intended.

Once our other cat, Bella, showed up, she got in on the fun. I was taking pictures (and videos (see below) and sharing them with Tenley.

UNTIL (wait for it) somehow Bella enticed the lizard INSIDE through a small gap in the window!!

**end of five minutes**

I was no longer enjoying this and wanted her to RELEASE THE LIZARD!

One thing you have to know about Bella is she loves being outside. It was the ongoing bane of my existence that she took advantage of my father-in-law’s frequent trips outside to smoke his cigars to craft her own escapes. He thought it was hilarious. I didn’t.

My strategy was to take advantage of her love of the outdoors, hoping she would keep her prized lizard in her mouth, and get the lizard OUT even though that meant I would have to lure Bella back IN (luring Bella in is frustrating but not impossible. We are the ones in charge of the food bowls!).

There I am, screaming at Bella to go outside, praying she’ll keep the Lizard in her mouth.

Like a recalcitrant toddler, she stopped dead in her tracks short of the door and just stared at me.

She did drop the lizard. It was a bit shocked at this point and probably injured.

I screamed at Bella a few more times to take the lizard outside (why did I think she would obey??!!).

I then gave up and took a broom to manipulate the lizard outside. I have to admit I wasn’t gentle. Maybe the creature would  have had a fighting chance if I had picked it up but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.

Its lifeless carcass was still on our porch where I had swept it hours later.

Unlike its cousin in Tampa, which survived its release, Bella’s prized lizard was not so lucky.

I think she’s still holding a grudge against me!

(See her enthusiasm (and the lizard in the last moments of its life) below — I know I shot this vertical – a mistake in the excitement of capturing the action!)


Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

I am also linking up to Kat Bouska’s site (www.mamakatslosinit.com), under the prompt “Share an instagram image from this month and explain what it means to you.”



Just in time for spring: prAna cotton clothing! #prAnaSpring18

I received two pieces of clothing from prAna for this review. All opinions are my own.

I was getting my nails done recently, and the woman in the chair next to me struck up a conversation. She complimented me on my shirt, a prAna Tilly Top I shared before. Ever since I received that shirt, it has become a frequent go-to. And given that it elicited a kind word from a complete stranger, it looks good too!

I am excited to be partnering with prAna again, this time to focus on their decision to focus on using 100% organic cotton.

I have two pieces of cotton clothing to share.

The Yvonna Tee

This Yvonna tee was perfect this past weekend as we traveled to Riverview (Florida) for my in-laws’ burial of ashes. It was pretty and comfortable, with enough decorative touches that I felt a bit more dressed than I would have in a plain tshirt, especially since it was Easter Sunday.

On the way home…

A closer look…

Closer detail…

The Kornelie Tank

After all that traveling and emotion, what I really need is some yoga.

While I would like to envision myself here:

Photo Credit: prAna

…. I suspect reality will be a little less exotic (but no less relaxing). When I finally get around to it, picture me inhabiting this tank, in savasana.

A closer look…

Even closer…

Want your own prAna?

My readers can get 15% off their prAna purchases when they buy online and enter the code GGPK18 at checkout.

Thank you prAna for your sustainability efforts (and for gorgeous, useful clothes!).


Five Minute Friday: SETTLE

Today’s prompt: SETTLE

“Smelled horribly.”

These two words were part of the first feedback comments we got from a realtor who had shown our house to his or her clients. The realtor was referring to our cats, but until I looked back at the email before writing this post, in my head the recollection was “the house [itself] was horrible.”

It takes a thick skin to read realtors’ comments. I wish this particular one had phrased things differently. There was a way to present the concerns without being so cutting about it.

I suppose from a transaction standpoint it really doesn’t matter to me who settles down in this house next. However, in my mind’s eye I see a family that goes through as many stages as we did. Elementary school. Middle school. High school and graduations. Seeing an elderly relative through two bouts of cancer, countless incidents of letting the cats out, and ultimately their last days before passing away at Hospice House.

*end of five minutes*

Maybe things have worked out this way for a reason. I have long stretches of hours in our home to myself — working from home, working with Wayne on getting it ready to sell, trying to reduce the cat smell. Maybe the house and I are saying goodbye to each other.

I love this house. I love this neighborhood.

I know, blunt realtor aside, it will bring joy to whoever settles here next.

I hardly foresee “horrible” for the next occupant.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

I am also linking up to Kat Bouska’s site (www.mamakatslosinit.com), under the prompt “Share an instagram image from this month and explain what it means to you.”

*written on my iPhone … all thumbs!



What I Learned at a Farmers Roundtable

“It’s hard to inventory fish when they’re underwater.”

This statement is true. They’re underwater and, ostensibly, swimming around.

The first speaker of 20 at the Farmers Roundtable featuring Rep. Al Lawson, Jr., of Florida and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, both Democrats, was advocating for aquaculture to qualify for crop insurance.

As an aquaculture advocate, she was in the minority: Half of the constituents wanted changes for the peanut industry.

Why I Went to a Farmers Roundtable

Since January 2017, I have had a support role in preparing a weekly newsletter related to crop insurance.* In the 56 issues since the publication began, Rep. Peterson has been mentioned six times (10%) and I am sure he has been referenced in many more linked articles. He is the ranking member on the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.

Farmers Roundtable

I have read and summarized articles about similar roundtables held in other places, at different points in the legislative process (the 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire September 30, so the process has had lots of activity throughout the year, especially when President Trump’s proposed budget was released). When I learned one was happening in my own back yard, with Rep. Peterson being the guest of my Congressman, Rep. Al Lawson Jr., I decided it would be interesting to see the kind of full meeting that leads the type of overview provided in a news article.

Plus, having grown up the granddaughter of a farmer who still plowed his field with a mule, I am a sucker for an agricultural story. It’s in my blood.

What North Florida (and South Georgia) Farmers Spoke About

Peanut-Related Issues

Ten of the 20 speakers expressed concerns about peanut-related issues (many of them also farm cotton). I knew from conversations with a legislative staffer friend that peanut issues are big in Florida, but this experience brought that home.

There is no way I know enough to try to explain the peanut farmers’ issues. I believe they stem from changes made to the 2014 Farm Bill that kept North Florida farmers from being able to establish “base acres,” with the consequence being inability to participate in federal crop programs. This June 2014 article details the potential effects, which seemed to dovetail with much of what I heard at the roundtable.

And I believe the Florida Peanut Federation’s legislative principles echo what I heard at the roundtable. Examples:

“Make it [base] for everyone or take it away” – Murray Tillis

“Help young growers with base updates.” – Virginia Sanchez

Note: If you don’t think detailed discussions of peanut-growth financing matter to you, have you slathered peanut butter on your toast recently?

Extension and Education Issues

Four speakers discussed issues relevant to agricultural education and extension. Tallahassee is home to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, which has offered agricultural programs since 1891.

Extension, as explained by the USDA, “provides non-formal education and learning activities to people throughout the country — to farmers and other residents of rural communities.”

These speakers’ issues concerned making sure agricultural policies sufficiently recognize African-American and other underrepresented farmers. the possibility that the FSA (Farm Service Agency) and NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) will merge, and SNAP Education Funding.

Note: Extension and Agricultural Education matter to all of us. Extension provides free or low-cost programs on nutrition, gardening, budgeting, conservation, and animal life, to name a few (thanks to Washington State University Extension for inspiring my list). As far as agricultural education, I’ll let these students from Lake Gibson Middle School explain in “Aliens Visit an Agriculture Program”:


I thought the majority of the roundtable’s time would be taken with produce-related issues, but only one speaker represented produce. His concerns included new trucking regulations requiring Electronic Logging Devices (many in the agriculture industry believe there should be exemptions, contending the regulations make it more expensive to transport their products (or, in the speaker’s words at the roundtable “are killing us”)).

The speaker also said ICE (immigration regulations) are affecting his ability to import workers and discussed food safety concerns.

The most profound thing the man said?

“I think in 10 years there won’t be any produce grown in the US.”


This was the issue concerning the day’s first speaker. I laughed because I had just been reading an article about the aquaculture industry’s efforts to secure crop insurance coverage for aquaculture earlier in the week.

Other crops/products I have heard about in connection with trying to get crop insurance over the past year: hemp, malting barley (hello, craft brewers), honeybees. I’m sure there have been others.

Aquaculture matters because more than 50% of the world’s seafood is produced by aquaculture.


A speaker address Rep. Lawson, requesting that the Working Forest Caucus be preserved. Rep. Peterson, is co-chair of the caucus, chimed in explaining he is a tree farmer himself.

Forestry matters to all of us for a variety of reasons. One interesting facet of this part of the roundtable was the reminder that it is a balancing act to protect the environment while also reaping the economic benefits of forestry. I don’t have the expertise or room to explain this, but if you are interested in an example of the tension between environmentalists and industry, read about the red-cockaded woodpecker, a bird referenced during the discussion.


A speaker encouraged support for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Rep. Peterson told her “we’re 100% behind you” and “we should probably do more.” He also told an entertaining story about Organic Valley milk. Apparently its shelf life is long enough for someone who can’t remember which of his three homes he left his milk in to usually end up with fresh milk.


I did mention trucking when I discussed the produce farmer above, but another speaker focused solely on trucking. A nursery owner, he was succinct and to the point as the previous speaker had covered most of his points.

Crop Insurance

One of my goals of attending the farmers roundtable was to put the topic of crop insurance in a broader context and understand what it means to people who work in the field (pun intended) regularly. In the United States, crop insurance covers approximately 90% of the insurable acres and 130 crops, according to National Crop Insurance Services. The federal government pays approximately 62% of the cost of premiums, according to NCIS. The roundtable did that for me, culminating with Rep. Peterson’s statement:

We need to get everyone in agriculture under crop insurance to avoid disaster programs.

Alphabet Soup

As with any government enterprise, acronyms ruled the day! I still look certain acronyms up every week to make sure I get them right. Here are the ones I captured (in order of their mention):

NAP: Noninsured Crop Assistance Disaster Program

ELAP: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish

RMA: Risk Management Agency

ARC: Agriculture Risk Coverage

PLC: Price Loss Coverage

CBO: Congressional Budget Office

CAT: Catastrophic Crop Insurance

STAX: Stacked Income Protection Program (this link is older (2014) and provides an overview. The speaker was not a fan, to put it mildly.)

MPP: (Dairy) Margin Protection Program

USDA: United States Department of Agriculture (kind of obvious, I suppose)

NRCS: Natural Resources Conservation Service

FSA: Farm Service Agency

EQUIP: Environmental Quality Incentives Program

CSP: Conservation Stewardship Program

SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program


Behind the Scenes

Rep. Lawson’s District Director, Deborah Fairhurst, facilitated the event. Roundtables and other constituent gatherings like this don’t just spring up overnight; they take copious planning. As I wrote previously, my experience with advocacy has shown me time and again how dedicated most legislative staffers are and how well most of them encourage constituents to share their diverse viewpoints, regardless of their boss’ ideology. Staffers are the glue holding everything together, in my opinion.

Also Yesterday

I had to make a time management choice yesterday between attending the March for Our Lives and going to the roundtable. It was not an easy choice to make. Fortunately, the march was covered thoroughly and there will be other opportunities to make my voice heard on the issues that event raised.

I haven’t formulated my thoughts on this completely, and given the strides the young people have made since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, maybe I don’t have the right or credibility to. BUT ……….. we can’t be single-issue voters. Sending emails, posting to social media, making scripted calls to legislators’ offices solely because I know it matters to have a “tick mark” on their tracking system that my issue generated another call … all of these things seem ant-like in their small impact compared to the gargantuan issues, the bureaucracy, the politics of it all.

But I continue to believe each constituent matters (as long as they vote). I continue to believe our small actions add up to large changes.

As a constituent, I hope to be in the room ten years from now when that farmer who said he doubted the US would still be growing produce in a decade stands up and takes his three minutes at a roundtable to celebrate domestic agricultural success.

*I am speaking only for myself in this post. I don’t represent the organization identified in the newsletter I reference or my freelance employer.