Banned Books Week 2020

Banned Books Week 2020 starts today and lasts through October 3.

Since 2014, I have participated in the Banned Books Week Virtual Readout (which, by the way, can be done anytime — not just during BBW). In 2019, I read from The Hate U Give (here’s the recording and my post). In 2018, I read from And Tango Makes Three (here’s the recording and my post). In 2017, I read from I Am Jazz (here’s the recording and my post). In 2016, I read from Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (here’s the recording and my post). In 2015, I read from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (here’s the recording and my post). In 2014, I read from Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (here’s the recording).

This year, I am reading from A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom says it “tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019, targeting 566 books.”

Of the top 10, this book was number three. The ALA says it was “challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is ‘designed to pollute the morals of its readers,’ and for not including a content warning.”

Here’s my readout:

I found this book charming. And its reminder that we can change things in our world by voting is the most relevant message possible for this time in our country’s history.

Have you read any of the 10 challenged books? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thoughts about church

CHURCH

I’m not in a great place mentally about church right now.

I realize the practice of going to a church building to worship has been interrupted in many ways by the pandemic, but my lax approach started showing up long before the pandemic.

I got the weekly email from the church I still belong to on Friday, and it talked about “worship in the parking lot.” Since I have been so sporadic about showing up, I am really not sure who I would still know if I presented myself at this parking lot worship experience.

I think I’ve been a little petulant with God about this. I’ve switched churches (and denominations) many times over the decades. I kind of wonder if I got a little attached to the novelty of being the “new person” in a congregation. There’s a flurry of “being welcomed,” the fun of getting to know new people, the relief of leaving any unfinished business behind.

The church that felt most like home closed in 2012. I had already left it for very good reasons (and the reasons weren’t just about me chasing the novelty of being the new person). Yet, returning to attend its closing service was like a door closing in a way.

I know (fully) that the church is not the building. I know it’s the people, and I know I haven’t contributed in any consistent way keeping the fabric of any congregation from growing weak and being shredded in the last few years.

There’s no neat and tidy ending to this post, just the acknowledgement that I miss making that contribution; I miss the moments of contemplation and worship.

I miss a communion that is about more than bread and wine.

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.) 

Trees, blueberry bogs and video games

It’s Labor Day weekend, so here’s a look back at the SmartBrief stories that resonated most with me last month as I labored over the eight newsletters I edit.

A way to better understand what refugees experience

In the August 17 issue of the BoardSource SmartBrief, I learned about the way The Spero Project helps people better understand refugees. It’s a refugee experience walk in which participants have just moments to grab the items they need the most, go through a simulated journey to a refugee camp and end facing a wall that displays 24 years’ worth of monthly calendars. An organizer reiterates that’s “24 Christmases, 24 birthdays, 24 Thanksgivings,” noting that “the average length of time a refugee is in limbo without a permanent residence is 24 years.”

24 years. An unimaginably long time to have your life in limbo.

REI’s HQ employees will have to get their blueberries elsewhere

REI built a gorgeous new headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., complete with a blueberry bog and a fire pit. BUT … the building is up for sale before any employees set foot in it. In the August 24 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we shared the story of REI’s choice to sell the building it began constructing in 2018. Now the company needs cash since sales slowed during the pandemic, and it also says it is taking a new look at the importance of remote work.

Maybe REI employees can set up little personal blueberry bogs. Is that possible?

In Berlin (and elsewhere), citizens pitched in to water trees

A story in the August 5 issue of the International City/County Management (ICMA) SmartBrief introduced an app being used by citizens in Berlin to save trees that are being threatened by drought. This article delved into lots of topics, including the fact that the US Air Force flew saplings to Berlin after World War II along with food and supplies.

Trees matter, for oxygen and detente.

Berlin
Photo credit: Unsplash/Alejandro Cartagena

A video game could help older adults with depression

I’ve dealt with depression in the past. More recently, my father-in-law experienced depression when he was living with us the last few years of his life. I’m all for pretty much anything that might help people overcome it. That’s why a story in the August 14 Social Work SmartBrief about a video game that might help older adults with depression get better interested me so much.

Please take a break to read this story about brakes

It took five miles and (ultimately) three police officers to help a motorist in Mississippi stop her car after the brakes failed. Dispatcher Bailey Whitehead stayed on the phone with her from the moment she called until the three officers jumped out of their patrol cars and physically stopped her car. Whitehead has been a dispatcher for a year. Learn more via the August 18 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief.

It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of Whitehead’s career accelerates.

Before I leave the topic of public safety and the National Emergency Number Association, I want to mention something that is happening this month that you may be interested in. Country music star Craig Morgan is hosting a Facebook live concert benefiting America’s 9-1-1 emergency call takers this month. It will take place on Wed., September 23, at 4:00 p.m. CST and will be broadcast live on Morgan’s Facebook page. Funds raised from the event will support education and wellness programs for 9-1-1 public safety professionals in local communities across the United States.

Tanks for the memories

In the August 26 ROA SmartBrief, I learned about the deactivation ceremony held for the Company E, 4th Tank Battalion. Tanks have been a part of life at Fort Knox for 70 years, and they are going away as the corps reduces its dependence on tanks in general.

Having come from a military family, this type of thing always tugs at my heartstrings.

This was not just another brick in the wall

This story in the August 12 issue of the Sigma Xi SmartBrief was such an interesting take on how an ordinary object has the potential to do something extraordinary. It detailed the way scientists have discovered how to “store energy in ordinary red bricks by heating them with acid vapor and adding reactive compounds.” I also had so much fun with the wordplay of the headline (I originally wrote “Not just another brick in the wall” and it was improved upon by a colleague with the addition of “This was…”) … and you’re welcome for the earworm.)

The Beirut explosion, explained in profoundly sad, simple terms

In the August 12, 2020, issue of UN Wire, we shared one of several stories in August about the explosion in Beirut. Here’s the quote that got me, from Amal Mudallali, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN, who said the blast was like “15 years of war in 15 seconds, the darkest 15 seconds we have ever seen.”

Lessons from Freddie Gray’s death

As I mentioned last month, I attended the Education Writers Association National Seminar (virtual) in July. I heard Wes Moore and Erica L. Green speak about their book, Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City. I appreciated their presentation, and the fact that Moore found it important to enlist Green’s involvement to give the project a “journalistic lens.” I wrote more about their presentation here. I would appreciate it if you would read and share my post. It’s more important, though, that you read the book (as I’m doing now) and try really hard to learn its lessons and share those.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

The language below is the same thing I always share at the end of these monthly wrapup posts (with a few minor modifications). Before saying what I always say, though, I want to mention what committed, compassionate colleagues I am working with on some of our organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts. We may not ever get it exactly right, but we are working at it. Spending time with these people gives me hope in a divisive world.

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc, including a health care and life sciences editor position that may be open to telecommuters, can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

Want to be hired? Be proudly yourself!

Holley Curry, owner of M&M Monogramming and More, spent a few hours recently reviewing resumes from prospective college-age employees and interns.

Holley legitimately knows what it takes to get hired, since she’s the one who does the hiring! I’ve known Holley for a long time, since before she owned the business. I appreciate her practical take on things and her willingness to be direct. If you have a college student in your life (or if you are a college student), take these words to heart.

This message was written by Holley with the header “MOMS OF GIRLS.” Although the message was originally intended for college girls, I think they apply to a larger audience. Dads of girls need to know this. Brothers/friends/aunts/uncles — anyone who is in a position to encourage a college student.

Here’s what Holley said after those hours reviewing resumes:

MOMS OF GIRLS – I sifted through intern and job resumes for about 2 hours today and one thing was overwhelmingly clear.

The boys had literally listed every.single.positive thing they had ever done. I read things like “made life easier for my boss” and “interests include ‘persuasion’ and ‘competitive video games.’”

I laughed. They stood out. I learned a little about who they really are.

In stark contrast, the girls’ resumes were humble and understated. [Their accomplishments were] blatantly downplayed with phrases like “led with the help and support of others” or “accomplished this with the guidance of so and so.”

I read somewhere once that men go for jobs when they are only 60% qualified and women only when they are 100% qualified. (Ed. note — there are various interpretations of this figure, made popular by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In — here’s one article about it.)

I’m not even sure these guys really knew that they were applying to help pick out thread colors and fonts while giving advice on pillow shams and bath towels.

Did that stop them?

No.

Did they go all out?

Yes.

Why didn’t the girls? Why are they trying to play it safe?

I couldn’t help but wonder … are they afraid of not fitting the ideal mold they think the employer has in their head? Who cares? Why would you want a job if it isn’t right for you anyway?

Just a little food for thought if your daughter is applying for jobs. It’s not like the good ole’ days anymore.

I obviously can’t speak for every employer, but I want to feel like I’m getting a glimpse of someone on paper, not just what someone thinks I want to read.

Tell your girls it’s ok to stand out.

Laughter in a resume is not a bad thing. It’s ok to say you are awesome and you’ve done big things (or even small things) all on your own.

And it’s ok if they don’t get the job.

If they are true to themselves, and their potential employers – they won’t get just any job. They’ll get the RIGHT one. ✌️

***

Thank you, Holley, for these words of wisdom.

If you’re here in Tallahassee, visit M&M Monogramming and More at 2030 Thomasville Road, Suite #1. Their phone number is 850-514-3148 and their email address is mmmonogramming@comcast.net.

If you’re NOT in Tallahassee, visit their site and take advantage of the fact that they ship.

To close out this post, here’s one of their T-shirts, and I think it reflects Holley’s message very well.

Want to be hired? Be proudly yourself!

Dear high school student … 3 things I should have learned

Kat Bouska asks, “What advice would you give today’s high schoolers?”

These are the top three things that immediately come to mind:

Take care of your mental health

I think about this topic often, and it’s a bit delicate to address. I know — now that I have been a parent for 24 years — that we do the best we can as parents. And I know my parents did their best, something I certainly didn’t appreciate when I was a teenager. I’m 55 now, so I’m fully responsible for my state of mind and the perspective I take on the world.

By the same token, being exposed to a fair share of dysfunction when I was a teenager shaped the rest of my life, in ways good and bad. But having a mental health professional to talk to, especially after I was sexually assaulted by a trusted adult, would have been a good thing.

It was easy as a teenager to think some of the experiences I was having were unique to me and therefore mine to carry emotionally/figure out. Maybe that wasn’t the case (OK — I have a master’s in counseling and human systems, perhaps because of those experiences — and I know they weren’t unique to me).

I wonder if it’s different for teenagers today because they can anonymously look things up on the internet, like depression or other mental health conditions. Maybe so, and maybe despite all the bad that exists on the internet, it’s on balance a good thing that there are mental health support resources there too.

Dear high school student ... 3 things I should have learned
She had a lot to learn (still does)

Learn how to communicate face-to-face, nondigitally

Despite the fact that I think internet access may have been good for my mental health (see above), I think I benefited from being a high school student at a time when I didn’t have constant screen access or social media.

I don’t want — by writing this — to lump all “kids these days” into one particular communication bucket. But I do see a tendency to prefer texting over phone calls (me too, but I’m not saying it’s a good thing!). I see less snail mail letters, meaning people are deprived of the joy they bring. I see people who don’t coincidentally discover a song they love because they’re forced to listen to the radio station and can’t pick a curated playlist that ONLY plays their favorites.

Face-to-face communication and the occasional handwritten letter matter. They matter in job interviews; they matter when you have to solve a problem with a friend or while conducting business; they bring more emotional depth to most every interaction. They still matter, and high school students should go out of their way to learn them these days.

Learn about personal finance

Maybe high school isn’t the optimal time to learn all the things about personal finance. I do remember watching a film in home economics (of all things) in 10 or 11th grade featuring a young couple who bought furniture on credit when they couldn’t afford to pay upfront. It ended up leading to distress and unhappiness.

Maybe if I had taken that one lesson to heart, that would have been enough. But I didn’t, and I did a really poor job managing credit. It has taken years to work myself (and my spouse) back up to a modicum of financial health.

I don’t know what could have been done differently. I also know I didn’t necessarily teach my kids well about personal finance. Here again, high schoolers, the internet is your friend. Read about money, prepare to say “no” when offered a credit card you’re not ready for and don’t need. Save even $100 that can just sit there earning interest until you retire.

It’s difficult to see ahead to your 55-year-old self clawing out of a few decades of financial stress, I know, but trust me — learn about money now, apply the lessons well, and you’ll give yourself so many more options to travel, invest, spend your time the way you want to — if you’ll be careful with your money now.

Dear high school student ... 3 things I should have learned

What advice would you give today’s high schoolers?

Dear high school student ... 3 things I should have learned

The thrill of being right

The thrill of being right

RIGHT

I love being right. Who doesn’t, really? Who would choose to be wrong?

In my work, getting to the bottom of what’s right is sort of like one of those nesting dolls.

Not to overstate things, because I’m not an investigative journalist whatsoever (although I admire the heck out of them).

In a typical newsletters, we accumulate eight top stories for the topic (for example, I do a social work newsletter). A team member finds the story and writes a two-sentence summary of the story. It’s my job to confirm that what was written is correct.

The thing is — and I know this will hardly shock anyone — the stories written by journalists are often not right. It’s not necessarily that THEY set out to write something inaccurate, but if they only skim the surface of an issue, or don’t look into both sides, or don’t dig into boring minutes of a city council or county commission meeting (for example), the story our writer is basing their summary on is dubious at best.

It’s in digging through the layers of the truth behind a story that I find pleasure in a job well done. And it frustrates me when someone in a quality control capacity finds something that I missed (they’re just doing their job, I know, but I feel personally responsible for not missing those types of things).

I suspect sometime in my life I’ll look back at my writing from this season of my life and say, “wow you really wrote about mistakes often.”

I suppose awareness is the first step in getting things right.

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.) 

The thrill of being right

If only progress happened faster

If only progress happened faster

PROGRESS

This post is basically one big vent/whine, so I’m not sure what use it is to you as a reader. Maybe someone out there needs to hear “you’re not alone” if you don’t feel you’ve made enough progress on your projects and the technology is also not cooperating with you.

I attended an incredible session a few weeks ago at the Education Writers Association national seminar. It’s one of the two I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. (It was Wes Moore and Erica L. Green talking about their book, “Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City.)

My goal since then has been to write a blog post for work about their session. I’ve outlined it in my head multiple times. It took all of this week to relisten to their session, get the transcript of it cleaned down so I could pick the points I wanted to write about, and write it.

That’s where I found myself today — finally writing it (yay) but also stuck in a bit of a negative thought cycle. I always tell people who are stuck writing to think, “What would I say if I were just sitting down to coffee with a friend to tell them about the topic?”

THAT seems easy. But Moore and Green said so much that matters in such a *big* way — there was detail about the relationships between police and students in Baltimore in 2015, a lot about how the deck was stacked against Freddie Gray from the beginning due to drug use (by his mom), poverty and lead poisoning — and there were big messages of a more overarching nature.

Wes Moore has been held out (rightfully) as an example of a success story. Part of his childhood was in Baltimore, not so dissimilar from Freddie’s environment, and he went on to be CEO of a huge foundation that helps eradicate poverty.

But Moore wrote the book partially because he knows it’s not about one person being held up as a success story because they worked hard and had a lucky break — he and Green both emphasized that the problems them both deemed “intractable” need to be addressed at their roots.

I just hope this post helps someone be inspired to do exactly that (when it’s posted).

(And I ran out of time before I got to whine about technology being uncooperative. Maybe that’s for the best.)

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.) 

If only progress happened faster

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

July — it’s a month that starts off with a holiday that celebrates freedom, but most of us spent its 31 days hunkered down in our homes waiting for positive progress toward getting rid of COVID-19. Those of you who are essential workers didn’t have that luxury, and I applaud you with the most resounding applause I can muster. Thank you.

My colleagues and I are getting a bit tired of writing the three words “amid the pandemic,” but sometimes that’s the only way to express the backdrop of business and life right now, especially when we have a limited amount of space. Therefore, although it’ll make a few colleagues grit their teeth, here are my favorite stories from the July newsletters I edited for SmartBrief — yes, amid the pandemic.

BoardSource

In the July 9 issue of the BoardSource newsletter, we shared an article in which the CEO of PayPal, Dan Schulman, discussed how PayPal is giving $30 million in grants to Black-owned businesses as a demonstration of support. He explained his philosophy:

“Values can’t just be words on a wall. Otherwise they’re just propaganda. You have to live them, you have to act them out. And you have to demonstrate them visibly.” – Dan Schulman

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I have been fascinated by the fact that the pandemic has led to a change shortage and a general speeding up of our society’s progress toward being a cashless society. In the July 24 issue, one of the summaries included three articles — one about the coin shortage, another about how quickly the world will become cash-free once the pandemic wanes, and one about the various ways grocery chains are responding to the coin shortage — that covered different aspects of this topic. This is the only brief in which I routinely run polls, and here’s what people think about the route to a cashless society:

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

International City/County Management Association

We have a section in the ICMA SmartBrief that recognizes when local government professionals make transitions such as retirement or beginning their service in a new place. It was such a pleasure to be part of sharing the news of Jane Brautigam’s upcoming retirement as the city manager of Boulder, Colo., in the July 28 issue.

Jane is the current president of ICMA, and I was at the association’s conference last year in October when she took office. Going to the conference gave me such an appreciation for the role its president holds, and I recall the positive message she shared as she took over. I’m so glad I had that opportunity to be a part of ICMA’s annual meeting and to get to know some of our readers.

Here’s an interview with Jane as she began her term:

National Association of Social Workers

Recently, I drove my dad to a single-day surgery clinic so he could have a procedure done. The clinic had told me they had a “shady spot in the parking lot” where I could wait for him (because the lobby is closed to visitors). I didn’t mind waiting in the car (especially now that I finally have a car with air conditioning).

However, I had not given too much thought to restroom options, since they had said the procedure would last 45 minutes. Apparently I’m really bad at medical procedure math, because I took them at their “45 minutes” word and didn’t factor waiting time pre-procedure, prep time and recovery time into the plan.

About half an hour after I had dropped him off, the staff asked me to come get his jewelry so they wouldn’t be responsible for it. When I approached the door for the jewelry, I asked if I could use the restroom. Although the answer wouldn’t have been a firm “no” if I had been pushier, the answer was, “well then we would have to take your temperature” and they clearly did not feel inclined to do that. I asked if I had time to drive somewhere to go to the restroom (this seems hilarious in retrospect) and they said “yes.”

I went to get gas, which I needed to do anyway. That place’s restroom was closed.

Then I figured Starbucks would be a safe bet. After navigating the Starbucks parking lot (why are so many of them so awful?), I went into the establishment and saw a “restrooms closed” sign.

Then I ended up at McDonalds. Their bathrooms were open (limit 5 people at a time). This has been the second time during the pandemic that a McDonalds has saved me when I needed a restroom (thanks, McDonalds).

I would have needed to do the whole hunt all over again if the staff hadn’t found my dad “cute” and wanted me to come in to hear the post-procedure instructions. Thankfully, I was able to use the restroom then (it had been a few hours since the McDonalds trek). I did fail the initial temperature test (maybe because I had been sitting in a hot car for a few hours? I didn’t want to run the air conditioner continuously so I had been alternating window open and A/C on), but I finally passed and was able to use their restroom.

How does this relate to SmartBrief you ask? The whole time I was on the restroom odyssey, I was thinking of an article we shared in the July 24 issue about how there are so many fewer public restroom options during the pandemic. For some homeless people, this apparently has led them to either wear adult diapers or use “5-gallon buckets filled with kitty litter.” What has our society come to when this is the only option for some of our fellow humans?

National Emergency Number Association

Let’s just juxtapose two stories that represent July for the Public Safety SmartBrief from NENA. In the July 28 issue, there was a story with the headline “Agencies advise against calling 9-1-1 about masks.” Then in the July 30 issue, we ran “Experts advise calling 9-1-1 in certain mask situations.” Different places, different policies. Ultimately, while there are limited times when it’s appropriate to call 9-1-1 about a mask situation, it’s not OK to do it to tattle on someone who isn’t following the rules. That clogs up phone traffic and may keep someone whose life is in danger from getting help rapidly.

Reserve Officers Association

In the July 6 issue, we discussed the National Guard’s response to COVID-19. The National Guard has been part of our awesome free testing site here in Tallahassee (I got tested there in May). The Defense Department has approved giving two medals that National Guard members can earn for their service. They are the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Armed Forces Service Medal. These are well-deserved honors for such critical work.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary Society

An article we shared on July 13 about a 120,000-year-old necklace that helped researchers understand how string originated was interesting enough. But here’s what got me: One of the study’s co-authors, Ofer Bar-Yosef, died in March. His wife was the study’s primary author and said, “I know he would have been very happy and proud to see this paper out.” I found this very poignant.

UN Wire

In the July 13 issue, a story discussed the Srebrenica genocide and how nine additional victims of the massacre from 25 years ago had been buried recently. So many things about this story were so sad, but as with so many things about UN Wire, it was the human face of the mother profiled in a video embedded in the story — a mother who lost her husband and her sons — that made this story stay with me.

“I can’t bring them back, I can’t forgive [the perpetrators], and I can’t take revenge.” – Ramiza Gurdic

Also in my SmartBrief World:

The Education Writers Association National Seminar

I participated (virtually of course) in the Education Writers Association National Seminar, and I very much appreciate EWA awarding me a scholarship to attend. My colleague, Kanoe Namahoe, also attended. She and I are working on a wrapup post, so I’ll link to that next month.

For now, I’ll share that one of my favorite sessions was the one with Nic Stone, author of “Dear Martin” (among other books). “Dear Martin” was challenged in Georgia earlier this year. Very few things fire me up like a book challenge. Here’s something Nic Stone said that I agree with wholeheartedly:

“Censorship issues always highlight to me the way adults in positions of authority think about children.” – Nic Stone

A post about anti-racist workplaces

I wrote What is it going to take to get unstuck from racist practices at work? based on a Quartz webinar I attended in June. If your workplace has done something that helped you and your colleagues make progress toward being an anti-racist workplace, I’d love to hear.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?
Side note: You know this is an old picture because I haven’t gotten my nails done since the pandemic began. :-/

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

I am excited to welcome my friend Victoria Buker as a guest blogger. Victoria and I have known each other for years as cyberfriends, but we’re planning to finally meet when we do the 140 Over 90 Run next summer in Melbourne, Fla., to raise awareness of and support for people experiencing preeclampsia. Victoria can be very persuasive. It’s because of her that I ended up being a faux “toreador” in Savannah when I ran the Bridge Run seven years ago (most team members were toreadors, and one “lucky” runner got to navigate going over the Savannah bridge three times wearing a HUGE bull head.)

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

Victoria ended up not being able to participate (hence our inability to meet), but she made sure I felt like I had team members and didn’t have to do the event alone. She has turned her ability to persuade to a new cause these days: helping educate people about preeclampsia, something she experienced after her daughter was born (preeclampsia can happen postpartum too). Now she has created the 140 Over 90 Run and I’m among a great team of ambassadors. You can read about Victoria’s post-delivery experience here. For today, I asked her to focus on medical self-advocacy, because learning to advocate for herself saved her life.

Victoria’s ABCs of medical self-advocacy

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

Never in a million years did I think it would take every ounce of strength I had to learn to advocate properly for myself. I was 9 days postpartum and for those nine days after the amazing birth of our spunky daughter, I felt like I was dying.

And I was right.

I was developing severe postpartum preeclampsia, partial HELLP syndrome, and an infection that was trending septic. My body was fighting hard, my blood pressure was rising fast (218/118) and my pulse was dropping. I was almost sent home from the emergency room (common because postpartum preeclampsia is super rare) with Tylenol for my headache.

“Can I please have an OB see me?”, I mustered.

I had just saved my own life.

Through this pain, I found a passion …
… a passion for learning how to advocate better for me and my health.

So let me break down what has worked for me into three easy steps — easy as ABC.

A – Ask Questions

I get it. Doctors and providers don’t sit and linger for a chat during appointments, but I bet they would if they could. So help steer the conversation. For example, if you are going to a follow-up at your internist and are discussing blood pressure and your A1C, researching and bringing questions with you from the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association plus others will help guide your conversation.

In my case, when I was told I would be on blood pressure medicine for the rest of my life, I wanted to research other options. I sourced from medical journals, various medical foundations, documentaries, podcasts, health coaches, referrals to dieticians, etc. I asked my doctor if he was comfortable with giving me a year to correct my body while on medication and seeing how my blood pressure and other biomarkers looked through a more whole-body approach. By giving my plan of action, with the tools I wanted to use coupled with medication, I was given the green light to try.

And let me tell you, I ran across that finish line at a year weaned off medication (at 11.5 months) with all biomarkers back in “normal” ranges. Asking questions, for me, helped me be in control of my health and my journey.

B- Be Proactive

“Be proactive” really is in harmony with “ask questions,” but then there would be no “B” in my ABCs. Thanks to the worldwide web, you have a plethora of resources at your fingertips 24-7. Facebook support groups, social networks, digital libraries, access to medical peer-reviewed journals, etc. Take time to learn and dig deep into the conversation, medical procedure or prescribed treatment, so you feel comfortable with your health journey. Not all bodies are created the same and not all treatments work on all bodies.

To also help with “be proactive, be-be proactive” (any former cheerleaders out there? no … ok … moving on), I keep a highlight reel of my medications, labs, questions, treatments, diagnoses etc in a google document that is easy to share, read, and reach as needed for appointments. For me, this helps streamline everything especially when the mom-brain kicks in.

While being proactive, I found great support in the online preeclampsia and plant-based communities. I was amazed at the research I found that helped me solidify the why behind what was happening to my body and my reasoning for going plant-based(i)h} to help with the blood pressure, kidney, liver and A1C issues I had due to pregnancy/preeclampsia.

C- Communicate & Community

Communicate your needs and find a community, both within your medical providers and beyond. I will actually be having my Integrative Medical Doctor/Health Coach on my podcast to chat about the benefits of a well-rounded medical team and how to coordinate that.

Personally, I have about 10 practitioners on my team and that was super beneficial to me taking charge of my health. Mine range from my Internist to a health coach!

Not one person has all the answers.

Most doctors can say, “eat healthy, and exercise.” But do you know how you will do that? Do you need a dietician on your team or a personal trainer/group fitness instructor or health coach to reach your goals? What about a therapist or yoga instructor?

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

I hope these ABC’s help you when you are faced with more than a check-up.

Happy Healthy Advocating!

I would love to hear if this is helpful! Send me an email at vtbuker@gmail.com or pop onto my Facebook Page, Victoria Buker, Coach and Consultant.

About the 140 Over 90 Run

From Paula: Please let me know if you have any questions about the 140 Over 90 Run. It’s available as a virtual option. And lest you feel any athletic pressure of any kind, that is not what is happening here! I’ll be walking and there is a plan to make sure every participant feels supported (that’s important to me, having finished last my share of times over the years). You can save $5 off your entry fee with the code PAULAMOVES5.

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

If you’re “app-y” and you know it, tell me why

“What apps do you utilize most on your phone?”

When I decided to answer this Mama’s Losin’ It prompt, I cringed a little bit. I don’t love staring my social media usage in the face(book). I was intrigued enough to pursue an answer, though.

And since the Five Minute Friday prompt is “smile,” I’ll share my top five apps (by usage) and what about them makes me smile (if anything).

Thank you to TNW/The NextWeb for How to find your most-used apps on your iPhone. The article gave two methods for figuring out how many apps you use. I apparently didn’t have “screen time” turned on, so I went with the “battery usage” option.

Here are the results:

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Let’s ditch the home/lock screen and address everything 5% or over:

WFSU

I use the WFSU app for news — first thing in the morning, between editing sessions at work (I don’t like listening to words when I’m editing), and most of the evening if I’m at the computer working. (I used to play CNN for those times, but I had that through DirecTV, which we don’t have anymore, and haven’t figured out how to sign into it again. I have to admit I’m getting a wider variety of topics by listening to public radio than CNN.)

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Yes (The news itself isn’t always optimistic, but some of the writing and reporting is incredible and many of the non-news shows are fabulous.)

iHeartRadio

The main thing this post is going to do is to back up the fact that I’m a creature of habit. I mainly use iHeartRadio to listen to WQXR while I am editing (before noon). I listen to it for the classical music. I also love hearing the “Know-it-All New Yorker” segment on Mondays, the weather in New York, and all things New York.

I enjoy listening to Stuff You Should Know and sometimes play Coffee Shop Radio at night as I’m reading/going to sleep.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Yes Anything about New York makes me smile. The SYSK guys are funny and smart.

Facebook

I use Facebook for the same reasons most people use it, I suppose. Besides the personal reasons, I do use it for some really cool projects I’m involved in, such as the #NYTReadalong and, most recently, Little Steven’s Road Show for TeachRock. (As a side note, the work Steven Van Zandt is doing to help teachers engage students through history lessons about popular music and culture — provided free to the teachers — is incredible. Check it out and donate if you can.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Connecting with people I wouldn’t be able to interact with otherwise makes me smile. Being involved in cool causes such as TeachRock makes me smile. Otherwise, Facebook has probably sucked up time I should have been spending in nature or with loved ones face-to-face.

Spotify

Spotify completes the trifecta of “things I listen to on my phone.” (My daughter got me an Alexa for Christmas a couple of years ago. My husband advocated for this so I could “stop tapping around on my phone.” It is SUCH a sign of how I am that I would rather silently tap on my phone than verbally tell a device what I want, but I digress…)

After listening to WQXR on iHeartRadio in the morning, I switch to Spotify after noon. I listen to either jazz, classical, film scores, ambient music or something else instrumental. I also have my own playlist of editing tunes on Spotify. In addition, as another side note, my friends Chryssy and Heather have a podcast that’s on Spotify. You can listen to the episode where I was the guest here.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? It does in the sense that it helps me get through the day. I’ve also been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat while walking for exercise recently, and that has definitely made me grin.

Twitter

In September, I will have been on Twitter for TWELVE YEARS. Holy cow. Twitter has changed its interface so it’s hard to see how many tweets a person has sent over their Twitter lifetime. I do know I have sent well over 100,000 tweets.

For reasons I outline in the blog post I linked to above, I have met the BEST people through Twitter. I have developed relationships that led to jobs and, in an indirect way, the job I have now. Some of my Twitter work is professional rather than personal.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Usually. Like all social media, Twitter has its upsides and downsides. On balance, though, it gives me more smiles than grimaces. (I could also use more followers since I’m at a following limit, so feel free to check my profile out. I’m also very proud of my work account, SBLeaders, and would welcome you to follow it too.)

Instagram

I’m on Instagram as much as I’m on Twitter, so it’s a tie. When I first started on Instagram, I was annoyed that I would see the same exact post on someone’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. That’s still the case, but it has gotten a little less aggravating. I like having to see things through a visual perspective. I dislike the crazy follows from clearly bogus accounts.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Mostly. Instagram has enabled me to see my new niece who was born in March — I can’t visit her yet due to COVID. That alone is reason enough. But in general it does entertain me more than it frustrates me.

What about you?

What apps do you use the most? Do they make you smile or frown?

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

I’m also linking up with Five Minute Friday, for the prompt “smile.”

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why