A laugh, a “hi,” and two kisses

A laugh

How do you feel about Pringles?

Wayne called me over to his office (these are COVID times, so that means walking about five feet to the other room) on Friday to watch comedian Lewis Black’s Rantcast about Pringles. (This is relevant because Wayne and I have spent quite a few late afternoons during the pandemic on our “catio” having refreshments. I like something salty with my apple cider (or whatever), so Pringles has been a go-to for me.)


Highlight: “Never have I said ‘Gee I wish it was [BLEEEEEEP] harder to eat these chips'”

Saying “hi”

I’ve been making up for lost time as a “Hamilton” fan since I finally saw the Disney+ broadcast in July.

“Making up for lost time” means listening to the soundtrack for the first mile of my walk every morning, reading the Ron Chernow biography that inspired the musical and watching five-minute segments on my phone whenever I can.

At the 3:19 mark in this cast recording of “Take a Break,” Alexander Hamilton says “hi” to his sister-in-law, Angelica, who has just arrived back in the states from England.

The musical takes a few liberties with the truth. In the musical, Angelica Schuyler is single when she (along with her sister, Eliza) meets Hamilton. Hamilton marries Eliza, but there is a fairly clear attraction to Angelica. Angelica (in the musical) says she can’t afford to marry someone who isn’t rich, no matter their appeal.

(In real life, Angelica was already married to John Barker Church when she met Alexander Hamilton.)

Real life or fiction, it appears there was a deep connection between Angelica Schuyler Church and Alexander Hamilton.

Biographer Ron Chernow says, “I think that if Angelica had been single at the time that Hamilton met the Schuyler sisters, there’s a good chance he would have married her instead. Angelica was more intellectual and, from the pictures, probably more alluring than Eliza was.”

I would be a really awful poker player; I don’t hide my emotions well in matters of the heart. To me, that “hi” expresses so much emotion and maybe a sense of lost opportunity (?). All I know is it gets me every time.

Highlight: “Hi.”


What does a kiss mean midmarriage?

I’ve watched more television during the pandemic than I probably have watched in the last 10 years. Wayne and I are currently working our way through “The Crown.” I’m thoroughly enjoying this show, and I find the key to enjoying it is remembering that it is a fictionalized account of the royal family’s life.

THAT SAID, it would be nice if the last five minutes of Season 3, Episode 5 reflected real life, not fiction (and of course I’ll never know!).

In the scene, Queen Elizabeth has just returned from a trip to the US and France on equestrian business, accompanied by a man who she is extremely close to — probably one of the true friends she has who don’t want something from her due to her role.

Prince Philip walks in to find Queen Elizabeth in her office (I guess she didn’t find him to say “hello” when she got home?). The exchange is very bristly, and I turned to Wayne and said, “they need marriage counseling.”

BUT the next moment after all of the bristliness turns things around with a kiss between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, along with a bit of a marital reprieve.

This episode appears to be set around 1968, so around 21 years into this marriage. I’ve been married 28 years, and I can empathize with how differently two people grow over the course of time. And my marriage doesn’t have any of the pressure the royals face!

Even though this is fictional, it gave me a moment of hope that the scene didn’t end with even more distance between these two (physical and emotional). (The Season 3 trailer is below.)

Highlight: I’ll see you in a minute.

David and Patrick

Like the moment I shared above, which occurs in the last five minutes of an episode, so does my favorite interaction in Schitt’s Creek. The last five minutes of Season 3, Episode 13, have the first kiss between characters David and Patrick.

It’s difficult to explain much of the leadup to this scene without giving everything away. It is about coming out. It’s also about a kiss. However, like the scene in “The Crown” that I loved, it’s about so much more than a kiss. It’s a lovely, intimate moment, full of promise.

Highlight: “We can talk whenever you’d like”

(I’d put a GIF here, but they’re all a bit sarcastic and I just can’t go there with this moment)

Have you seen a hello or kiss during the pandemic that has stopped you in your tracks? Tell me about it in the comments!

I’m linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “Share something that made you smile this week.”

A laugh, a "hi," and two kisses

In December, I met Noor and Aziz

Here’s something good about 2021: Vaccinations against COVID-19, which began in the US on December 14, continued to be administered around the world.

Here’s something frightening about 2021: An insurrection took place at the US Capitol on January 6 and divisiveness is rampant.

Before we can properly start to process what 2021 may hold, it’s time to close out 2020 with my monthly wrapup of SmartBrief stories.

I’m repeating a change I started last month — sharing the most-clicked story for December. I’m also sharing the most-clicked story for the year.


The Sesame Workshop is constantly looking for ways to help children learn and develop. Rohingya refugees are a topic I encounter frequently in another newsletter I edit, UN Wire, most recently on Jan. 4. There are around 860,000 Rohingya and minority refugees in Bangladesh who fled from Myanmar. This resource alone will in no way solve the big problems, but hopefully it helps these children feel less alone and a tiny bit safer.

Top December story: Why equitable boards are so much more effective

Top 2020 story (from 3/27/20): Stimulus package includes universal charitable deduction

Business Transformation SmartBrief

It’s more of a challenge than I thought it would be to find interesting “change management” stories three times a week for this brief and to coach the team through doing so. Maybe the wedding industry is top of mind for me because my son got married in November and my daughter is getting married in May, but it definitely has had its adjustments to make during the pandemic, as you can see from this article. I also just like saying/reading the word “minimony.”

Top December story: The pandemic has changed grocery shopping

Top 2020 story (from 5/11/20): Focus on these 3 areas as employees return to work

International City/County Management Association

There were so many interesting details to this story. I’m always fascinated by large-scale public projects that come together successfully and portray a message meant to unite people. I especially appreciate how this new public square in New Zealand was gifted the name Te Komititanga by the country’s Indigenous people.

Top December story: Ask employees these questions to create connection

Top 2020 story (from 4/21/20): Santa Monica, Calif., accepts city manager’s resignation

National Association of Social Workers

I loved so many things about this article. Although not the most important thing, I loved being able to use a picture of a bona fide hip hop star (in this case, Kid Cudi) as the featured image. It’s easy to get in a stock photo rut with the social work brief, and this was NO RUT PHOTO! I also believe strongly in the intersection of art and mental health, so this thorough piece was a winner with me.

Top December story: How to support a loved one who’s grieving

Top 2020 story (from 5/21/20): How is Brene Brown getting through the pandemic?

National Emergency Number Association

First of all, I’m glad the citizen involved in this story is OK. Second, this story is kind of fun to read in reverse. The last line talks about how dispatcher Cristal Buckner was pronounced “dispatcher of the year” early on the day documented by this story. The rest of the story explains why Bucker (and Matheny) clearly deserved the honor.

Top December story: Director of D.C. 9-1-1 resigning as agency faces audit

Top 2020 story (from 10/27/20): Coronavirus leads to Puerto Rico closing all 9-1-1 centers

Reserve Officers Association

Simply put, I’m grateful to these National Guard members for their role in helping with vaccinations.

Top December story: Congressman serving in Guard now a two-star general

Top 2020 story (from 8/31/20): Portland, Ore., Navy Reserve leader relieved of duty

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

As is often the case with my favorite science stories, the allure of this one isn’t the science (although that’s pretty great too). I have so much admiration for NASA and its scientists. Although I’m just a layperson, I have had a few opportunities to get educated about their processes and methodical approach. Therefore, I have so much empathy for the humans in charge of trying to get the heat probe of the InSight spacecraft unstuck from the Martian surface. The line that gets me? “If [one more attempt to dislodge the probe] doesn’t work, we’ll call it a day and accept disappointment.” I know how hard it must be for a scientist to say that. I hope it comes free!

Top December story: Video shows Milky Way’s transition over 400K years

Top 2020 story (from 10/30/20): Rarely-seen ram’s horn squid caught on video (check it out in the video below!)

UN Wire

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office turned 70 last month. The organizers didn’t plan for it to exist or be needed past the first three years. I agree with its head, Filippo Grandi, that “it is an uncomfortable birthday that we are not in the mood to celebrate.” I, too, hope for a day when we won’t need this agency.

Top December story: Guterres predicts long pandemic recovery at UN summit

Top 2020 story (from 1/22/20): Coronavirus spread prompts emergency WHO meetings

SmartBrief on Leadership

This is not a brief I edit, but it is our brief (to my knowledge) with the largest circulation, so I find its readers’ responses relevant.

Here’s the summary readers clicked on most in 2020 in this brief:

I don’t know why this is, except that whether they are in person or on Zoom, we all get our fill of meetings eventually. Perhaps readers were encouraged by the idea that there is a logical way to determine if they should invest time and energy in a meeting or not.

I also think it’s interesting to look at the “SmartBrief originals” post that did the best last year. These are posts we publish on the SmartBrief site (and here are all 15). This post from July was the top read original.

Who doesn’t want to alleviate anxiety? I can see why this post was so powerful.

About 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 and Future’s other enterprises.

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 and have questions, please 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.

100 miles in December

If you have ever been exposed to an ultra race before, you have seen an event that stretches the participants physically as they attempt herculean distances. The Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic, a tradition in our area, involves runners attempting to complete either 50 miles or 50 kilometers (around 31 miles) before a time cut-off.

I’ve been to the TUDC many times. Usually, I was there to run one of the loops (around 6 miles), to get a run in for myself and also to encourage the “real” ultra runners. Sometimes I was volunteering (checking off runners as they completed their loops, for example).

Lo and behold, due to COVID, the event was virtual this year and participants had a MONTH to complete it (I think the regular cut-off was eight hours when the race was run in-person).

Participants this year could choose either a “200-mile journey virtually between Weeki Wachee Springs and Wakulla Springs during the month of December” or “100 miles virtually back to Wakulla Springs during the month of December.” (I chose the 100-mile option and I live about 15 miles from Wakulla Springs, so a little lenience needs to be given to the “100 miles back to Wakulla Springs” idea,” but it’s still nice to have a goal.)

I saw the notice about the opportunity to sign up on November 29, two days before the event was to start. I signed up for the bargain price of $10. In retrospect, I should have gotten the T-shirt.

How things changed

I had been walking a mile per day — virtually last thing at night — once everything else was done, with the exception of one or two times I walked a 5K for a favorite cause, since I moved to our new house in mid-February.

Prior to that, I couldn’t really tell you when the last time was that I made it a point to exercise.

I had gotten into a major fitness lull, and that is not at all like me.

I rallied briefly in the summer of 2018, when I wrote this blog post about exercising again after a health setback.

But I hadn’t quite made peace with the fact that running was off the table, as it has been since probably early 2016. I did run again briefly after being diagnosed with a tachycardia in 2015, but eventually, even being on a constant dose of a beta blocker didn’t keep me from having a dangerously high heart rate when running.

Fast forward to signing up for the 2020 version of the ultra race.

Spoiler alert: I did the 100 miles (yay!).

I hit the 100-mile mark on December 29. Apparently, your “place” in the results depends only on when you crossed the 100-mile mark, NOT on how long it took you to do it. I’ll take being 29th out of the 58 participants. (Also, ELEVEN people completed the 200-mile race. Big congrats to them!).

A few takeaways:

I still love the running community

I know this is an extremely naive thing to say, but for all the time that I was a runner, it felt like running transcended all of our other differences. A race Saturday was a race Saturday. A training run was a training run. We may have talked about politics, life or work challenges, but there was a sense of unison.

That died for me in November around the election. I know the divisions that bubbled to the public surface were there all along, but (in my view), they took over for a few weeks. I unfriended someone on social media who I had spent countless hours with, both running and socially. Obviously, the onus is on me because I did the unfriending, but it’s still something I grieve.

I’m really not sure how 29 days of walking 2 to 6 miles a day by myself healed something about that, but it did. People encouraged me (virtually). I somehow got back in touch with the concept that we do what we can — and that is an accomplishment in itself, whether it meets someone else’s standard or not. As long as I got to 100, I deserved to be there as much as anyone else. With my people (virtually).

Don’t get hung up on gear and appearances

Somewhere in the process of “Operation Downsize” (our move from a 2700-square-foot house to a 1600-square-foot house), I got rid of lots of my fitness gear, including the logical pants to wear for walking in the winter (sort of a nylon workout/elastic waist idea).

No lie, except for the days it was warm enough for shorts, I did this whole challenge in jeans. And in layers that didn’t match. As long as I was warm (because many of the days were cold for Florida), I didn’t care. Black jeans, navy turtleneck, green overshirt — who cared? Oh – and hot pink gloves. And on the days it was raining a bright orange poncho that I kept secured with a magnetic binder clip.

100 miles in December

I never was a workout fashionista, but much of my workout life was at an organized gym, so I did put a little more effort into looking put together. As a runner, again I wouldn’t be on any magazine covers, but I had gear — Garmin with a chest strap and heartrate monitor, decent running bras, quality running shoes and an entire gear bag with all the stuff I needed — body glide, hydration belt, etc. etc. etc.

I don’t really recommend jeans for workout gear, but they probably kept me just as warm (or warmer) than the nylon. They worked. It’s a pandemic — even if I did run into someone on my walks, it’s not like they wanted to get within six feet of me to inspect my attire, right?

A jump start to what’s next

It would be unwise to announce, “I’M BACK!” Because I’ve committed to being back before and failed to live up to my promise.

I know it matters to have a habit again. I replaced the “last-thing-at-night” walks with “first-thing-in-the-morning” walks and was reminded that what we prioritize gets done. Yes, it was cold. Wet and rainy sometimes. Windy others. I was tired. But I always felt better afterwards.

I may be buying into an old wives’ tale, but I’ve been exercising on beta blockers long enough now to say that nothing quite feels like a “workout” anymore. But walking has to be good for me (even if it feels somewhat mediocre). I know the time out in nature, the time letting my brain unwind a bit, are both things I have needed.

For now, the plan is to keep walking two miles a day and to add some other activities to broaden my physical activity plan and exert myself more. (Hopefully, yoga is on deck as well.)

I’m already signed up for the 140 over 90 Year-Round Challenge. I’m still figuring out exactly what my goal will be, but I don’t need to figure out how much it helps to have an accountability goal/cause. In this case, the cause is supporting women with preeclampsia and raising awareness.

If you’d like to join me, visit this site. You can get $21 off the price of the year-round challenge by using the code NEWYEAR2021 between now and January 5 (while spaces last). If you’d like to support my goal of raising $250 for the Preeclampsia Foundation, visit this link.

100 miles in December

What’s YOUR “December 100-miler”? Tell me what you need to do for yourself in the comments.

100 miles in December

Note: I usually do my SmartBrief wrapup the first Sunday of every month. Tonight, I wanted to write about the 100-mile activity, so I’ll have my December wrapup next Sunday.

Writing my way out: 2020’s top posts

It’s time for my final post for 2020. I took a look back at the posts that performed the best this year, and I’m sharing them here.

Why I don’t call other women “Karen” (unless that’s their name)

Note: The “Karen” post didn’t perform all that much better than any of my other posts when I originally published it on the last Sunday of 2019 with the title of “Please don’t call me Karen.” I shared it as a comment on Medium to Gillian Sisley’s post “Being Called a Privileged White Karen on Twitter,” and that seems to have opened the page view floodgates. I published my post on Medium as “Let’s leave ‘Karen’ to those actually named that” within 24 hours of my comment on Gillian’s post, and it didn’t set the world on fire nor attract any comments.

I’m not sure that the takeaway is of any of that, but thank you, Gillian, I suppose, because more than a quarter of my pageviews in 2020 came from the link I left in your comments. (See the peak there in May?)

Writing my way out: 2020's top posts

It’s hard to address this post concisely without writing a whole other post. I firmly believe in writing honestly about my observations. That’s what I did here. I eventually concluded after so many conversations in the comments and on social media that I didn’t succeed in saying what I really meant. It’s one of the reasons I changed the title of the original post. And that gets to my original point, whether I managed to convey it or not.

Using the term “Karen” is lazy language and — if we as white women REALLY mean it when we say we want to be better human beings — then we have no business squeezing other women into stereotypical nicknames like this.

Otherwise, here are my other nine top posts.

WestPhillyAuthor: My writing inspiration

Don’t overthink. Improvise.

Love first, teach second: A teacher’s message

Mia Sofia is changing families’ tomorrows

Dear high school student … 3 things I should have learned

Peyton Manning tried to be anonymous, but …

6 ways our marriage resembles a tree

At loose ends about my hairstylist

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

As I kick 2020 to the curb and close out this year of blogging, here’s my call to action.

Of course I’d love for you to visit these 10 posts. They’re the ones people have read the most, and some of them are as old as 2017.

BUT before you do that …

Please write. YOU. Please write. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “blogger” or an “author” or a “writer.” We have a world full of problems (and, to be fair, a world that still has some pretty awesome things to celebrate too).

Writing is a powerful way to process the world’s challenges and find your own path toward doing something about them. It’s why I wrote about grocery store dividers and started my path of facing white privilege by writing about it.

You might choose to crumble up the paper (or, if on screen, delete the document) after writing. You might choose to share it (feel free to do so in the comments section here or email me).

My favorite song in “Hamilton” is “Hurricane” because it’s where Alexander Hamilton talks about how “I wrote my way out.”

Your turn … what do you need to say?

Writing my way out: 2020's top posts
Credit: Debby Stubing

When “One More Day” eludes us

Kym Klass wears a semicolon necklace. The necklace is related to the death by suicide of her sister, Katie.

When "One More Day" eludes us
Credit: Instagram/creative.newfie.gal

In Kym’s book, One More Day, she shares about her personal journey through multiple traumatic events in her life. One of those was Katie’s death by suicide on October 31, 2015.

Kym and I have been online friends for quite a few years, enough years to have outlasted the site where we met, Daily Mile. Fortunately, Kym’s work brought her to Tallahassee a few years ago (I’ve forgotten how many, frankly) and we were able to share a meal and time together. (Even though it’s powerful to connect over the internet, there’s still no substitute for looking someone in the eyes.)

Our family has had our own experience with losing a member to suicide. It’s not a community I want anyone to have to be a part of. But once you are, you are. And the others who share that with you take on special significance.

I hope you’ll choose to buy and read Kym’s book.

These are some points that stood out to me:

Grief manifests itself physically

We are kidding ourselves (or maybe we just aren’t fully informed) if we think we can segregate our emotional pain from our body’s functioning.

Kym talks of being “on the couch for about two weeks, staring mindlessly at the television with tears running down my face most nights” during one rough period.

Some of us deal with trauma by eating too much, by exercising beyond reasonable limits, by holding everything in when we don’t even realize what we’re doing. Our bodies know, and tell us eventually to stop avoiding what’s in our heads.

Forgiveness can seem so elusive

I was listening recently to an episode of The Hamilcast podcast where Javier Muñoz, who played Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton: An American Musical,” was interviewed. He discussed moments in the show that have been the most significant to him.

There’s a moment when Hamilton and his wife, Eliza, have been grieving two devastating blows to their marriage, one being the death of their son and the other being Alexander’s unfaithfulness. Eliza has to decide whether to take Alexander’s hand (referred to by Muñoz as “the gesture”) as they walk (spoiler alert: she does).

At the 48:30 point in the episode, the following conversation occurs between Muñoz and the host:

JM: The lyric after the gesture is “forgiveness.” As an actor in that moment, I … decide … there is no right way … it is an individual artist’s choice … I go to the place that I have not yet forgiven myself for. So when she grabs my hand, it is legitimate ‘human being forgiving me externally for the thing that I’m choosing personally that I have not forgiven for myself.

Host: In that moment, do you forgive yourself?

JM: “No.”

Host: You never forgive yourself?

JM: Never. I say “thank you” for someone else forgiving me, but the truth is I’ve not yet forgiven myself for that thing, so I can’t say that I forgive myself. That’s the truth … that’s what the audience receives. I’m not saying, “I forgive me.” I’m saying, “This human being has forgiven me. What does that mean? How do I manifest that? How do I show you that that’s happened and let that physically happen?

I have thought so often about Javier Muñoz saying there’s something in his life he can’t forgive himself for. I don’t know him (but I love his laugh!), yet I wish I could relieve him of the burden.

I don’t want to project my work following my brother-in-law Chuck’s death by suicide in 2008 onto Kym’s experience.

But I’ll say that forgiveness is a multi-faceted thing in these situations. Can we forgive the person who is gone? Can we forgive ourselves for all the things we think we missed? Can we forgive the people around us who, not knowing what to say, either say nothing or utter a ridiculous platitude? Can we forgive a world where loss seems so abundant sometimes?

I liked one of Kym’s stories, about an evening when Kym had questioned her 12-year-old daughter’s priorities after Katie’s death, asking Jenna, “Do you really think this is the most important thing in life right now?” Jenna replied, “It is … to me.”

Later that evening, Kym explained that her retort had to do with how much she missed her sister, and that Jenna followed up by, “… forgiving me, and understanding me in a way nobody else did.” Forgiveness is needed (and handed out) by in multiple ways after losing a family member to suicide. I think it’s hardest to forgive ourselves.

It takes a really long time to begin to heal

Toward the end of the book, Kym talks about a moment of reckoning that led her to a therapist as she came face-to-face with a deeply-held anger. She went to a therapist, who helped her realize that she had been “carrying … baggage for more than two decades.”

At that moment, she decided, “I refused to carry on something else for that long just to feel damaged two decades later. Kym “asked the hard questions,” took an extended leave for work, “shed the hard tears,” and “had the hard conversations.”

In conclusion

I’m so proud of my friend, Kym, for writing this book. I know she didn’t do it to get recognition from those of us who already know and appreciate her. She did it both to further her progress on a path of healing and to help people who have also lost family members to suicide (and/or struggled with their own mental health battles).

This is a book for anyone who needs to know they’re not alone.

Order it here. Read Kym’s blog here. Call 1-800-273-8255 if you need immediate help.

To quote Kym,

We are here to help each other, to lean on each other, and to offer encouragement and support each and every day.

When "One More Day" eludes us

I am linking up with Mama’s Losin’ It for the prompt, “Tell us about the last book you read.”

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

Two-tenths more – going beyond


There’s a trap we all fall into. Maybe it’s presumptuous to say all of us do, so I’ll own this specifically for myself.

When we need to change something, we hesitate because we can’t make that change happen in the big, absolute, life-changing way we envision.

I’ve gotten into a really horrific exercise rut. Over the past few months, I did get more consistent with walking a mile every day. But that mile was almost the last thing I did — around 9:15 at night.

At the very end of November, I saw that Gulf Winds Track Club was doing the Ultra Distance Classic again this year. It’s usually a 50 mile or 50 km (the runner decides race). Obviously, I can’t do that (I’m not running right now). In past years, I would go out to Wakulla for the ultra and run a loop (about five miles if I remember correctly) and encourage the real competitors. It’s pretty funny to be 4 miles into a 5-mile run and be yelling “you’ve got this!” to someone who is on their mile 41 of 50, but hopefully they appreciated the enthusiasm.

Anyway, due to COVID, the ultra is being done differently. There’s a 100-mile option and a 200-mile option — just complete the distance in December, somehow, cumulatively.

It’s ridiculously affordable and I *can* do 100 miles an increment at a time.

Our work tracker (where we as a company are trying to circumnavigate the world) only tracks tenths of a mile, not hundredths. So if I walk 3.21 miles, only 3.2 counts.

The ultra system counts hundredths.


Although this example is about tenths, hopefully it makes the point. If I do 3.2 miles instead of 3 miles five days in a row, I knock an extra mile off of my total. Same goes for hundredths.

The tiny increments do matter.

I’m glad to be involved in this effort that is pushing me beyond my one nondescript mile a night.

Make yourself at home

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.) 

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

November was a full month, personally and professionally. On the personal side, I gained a daughter-in-law on my birthday (welcome to the family, Patience!). On the professional side, I got to explore eight new favorite stories at SmartBrief.

I’ve also added the most-clicked story for each brief so you can see what captured people’s interest the most — in all eight cases, it was something besides the story I picked. (That’s fine, because I like giving some of the stories that may be less blockbuster but still have a unique angle their time in the spotlight).


Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

I’ve thought about Jane Fonda more in 2020 than I probably have in the last 10 years, because Wayne and I watched all available seasons of Grace and Frankie. She has had quite a personal history, hasn’t she? One cool thing she has done over the past 25 years is create and support the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, which began as the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

Here’s the passage in the article about this organization that I loved: “Hope is the best contraceptive. If you help a child see a future for themselves they will be motivated to either not have sex or to use contraceptives responsibly when they do.” I know hope isn’t literally an effective contraceptive, but I fully agree that helping a child feel that their future holds options for them is a large part of the battle against teen pregnancy.

Top story: How to make your words have the biggest impact

Business Transformation SmartBrief

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

Here’s the line in this story that earned it a spot this month: “Be intentional about compassion.” This article was an interesting look at the pros and cons of working remotely, and the passage headed by “Be intentional about compassion” talked about how teams that are succeeding amid so much more remote work are making efforts to check in with each other and help each other out more. Teams that are struggling “tend to leave people to their own devices.”

I also really love this headline. One of my goals as an editor is to create the most compelling headlines possible (as long as they still make sense) and to help the writers on my teams do the same. This one scored a 77 on the Coschedule headline analyzer (a score in the high 70s is somewhat rare and points to (among other things) an effective combination of uncommon, emotional and powerful words). This story was the fourth-highest scoring story in this brief in November (once you take away headlines related to polls, which are big draws too).

Top story: Why pizza has outperformed salads during the pandemic

International City/County Management Association

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

This story is a big deal for a few reasons. First, the fact that Raleigh, N.C., has its first Black female city manager (congratulations, Ms. Adams-David!). Here’s the line that appealed to me: “Sometimes it takes a national search to realize you have exactly what you need right here at home.” This is what Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said about the process of choosing Adams-David. Raleigh got 60 applications and interviewed six finalists.

I read a lot of articles about city manager selection processes, and I’ve gotten interested in patterns that play out. It’s not uncommon for an assistant to make it to the next level and be selected manager. Baldwin’s quote seemed to capture that very well.

Top story: Fla. city manager announces plans to step down

National Association of Social Workers

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

I’m not a dog person, but I do love stories about how much dogs can help people in emotional distress. In this case, dogs have played an integral role in California since a shooting at Saugus High School two years ago. Comfort dogs were used right after the incident, and are still a part of efforts to help students cope with their ongoing trauma.

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)
This is one of my favorite companion dogs, Harper (and Harper’s wonderful owner, Alicia)

Top story: How to cope with a disrupted holiday season

National Emergency Number Association

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

As you can see, we did not share a full two-sentence summary about this story. However, it made a big impression on me. I’ve read several stories about Guadalupe Lopez, the dispatcher who died from COVID-19, and how much his fellow first responders loved him. (Sadly, his wife died from COVID about three weeks ago.) By now (several weeks later), I’ve read other stories about dispatchers who died and more who are ill from the coronavirus. I wish each of them could have more words publicly shared in their memory.

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

Top story: 9-1-1 calls go unanswered for 85 minutes in Ohio county

Reserve Officers Association

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

I’m featuring this story because if there were ever a “2020” reality story, this is it. The “fatality management plan” was mentioned in a tweet from El Paso Mayor Dee Margo as he expressed his gratitude to the National Guard members.

Top story: Trump says Esper has been terminated

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

So many of my favorite Sigma Xi stories have to do with the general category of “scientists who do incredibly specific things to small animals to understand them (along with other living beings) better.” Read the description in the article about their process — the 2-millimeter-wide ridges on the outer surfaces of the wheels they rolled along the fin rays of round gobies, for example — and think to yourself, “these people love science a whole lot.”

Top story: “Anti-laser” could do away with charging cables

UN Wire

Teen empowerment and 41 homeless children (Nov. at SmartBrief)

Forty-one children were among the 73 people left homeless by the destruction of this village. I can’t wrap my head around the lifelong trauma they’ll endure.

Top story: Escalating conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region prompts alarm

About 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 and Future’s other enterprises.

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 and have questions, please email me so we can discuss further.

Here are a few of the most recent US-based positions that have been advertised:

Digital Sales Associate (advertised as DC-based)

Client Success Coordinator (remote)

Digital Sales Associate (remote)

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.

Make yourself at home

Make yourself at home


“Make yourself at home”

My sister-in-law has a little magnet on the extra refrigerator in her laundry room that says “make yourself at home.” (I tried to grab a quick picture of it on Thanksgiving Day, but the picture turned out blurry, so no visuals — just trust me!)..

The reason I took that picture, though, was because that’s exactly how she makes us all feel. (And be assured this was a micro-gathering — two married couples — plenty of social distancing.)

I’ve been really struggling with my lack of domestic capabilities recently.

It’s a little difficult to put words to that struggle. Usually, I remind myself that I have other strengths — writing, advocacy, empathy, social engagement, etc. — and that we can’t all do everything.

And yet …

I did have someone come to clean the house, something that was one of the goals of downsizing — to have enough budget to have it professionally cleaned. That relationship with the cleaner is going to take work, though! I walked through the process with the company’s owner, essentially explaining that I am not great at directing housecleaners. She assured me the person would have a checklist; we discussed some specifics, such as making sure the baseboards were done since animal-owning families especially need that.

The person who showed up was very nice, but said, “What do you want me to do?” AS IF I KNEW! But we’ll get there — and it’s just another communications situation to work through.

But lacking much of a domestic bent, I’d be grateful to have some domesticity fairy clean and decorate all of this, then whip up some delectable treats for any company that shows up.

I love my new house (with its lower mortgage payment), but I need help making myself (and others) at home in my own home.

Make yourself at home

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.) 

Telling Layla’s story

Telling Layla's story


I didn’t understand when I volunteered to help write biographies of transgender people who had been murdered in 2020 exactly what the plan was. (I’m sure that had all been explained in a meeting, but I was new to the group.)

In short, we were assigned to write a longer biography that would be online and a shorter one that would be displayed at an installation in memory of the victims. As it turns out, the coordinator had us concentrate on the long versions, and someone else cut the biographies down for the displays. (The display versions were solely celebrations of the people; the online versions contained details of how they died — this was the big difference between the two.)

What I didn’t get was why it mattered for a group of people in Tallahassee to do this when the list of the (at least) 37 people is widely distributed, on national websites and elsewhere.

Having been through the process, I get it now.

I understand why there needed to be brief display versions.

I understand why there need to be long versions.

And although I suppose 50 different individuals in 50 different towns and cities around the US may have done this exact exercise, part of the point (at least for me) was about what I needed to learn about the story of the person I honored, Layla Sanchez.

Some writer somewhere could have done what I did. Maybe there are versions out there that look remarkably similar (there’s not a lot of information available in some cases as it relates to these victims).

BUT … it was in spending time with Layla’s story, reading about her grandmother’s grief, learning about her hopes and dreams, and packaging all of the information up that I was given the …


… the sentence above was going in the direction of “I was given the opportunity and privilege of sharing her story,” but that doesn’t get at the heart of what I intend.

I will never talk to Layla’s grandmother, but in reading her account of Layla’s life, I grieved too. Stories are one of the ways grief settles in a different place in our hearts, bodies and communities.

Telling Layla's story

Layla was not given dignity in the last moments of her life; telling her story is a way to restore it.

Telling Layla's story

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.) 

It was smart not to cancel

It was smart not to cancel


I started playing Lumosity regularly again a few months ago.

I had played it for a few months in late 2016/early 2017, because I felt a strong need to keep my brain engaged. Living with a person who has dementia, as was the case for us at the time, rapidly makes you worried about how healthy your own brain is.

Once I started freelancing for SmartBrief, though, my brain was getting plenty of workout time every day. I had to rapidly read articles and summarize them into two-sentence summaries. The topics ranged from legal content to crop insurance casinos to pet apparel. It was the perfect mental gymnastics.

Fast forward to now. I’m now a full-time editor for SmartBrief. I still love it, but those concerns about growing mentally stale have been hounding at my brain.

One day, I wrote a summary about a story that covered Ketchikan, Alaska. I referred to Juneau the whole time. When the copy editor asked me why I talked about Juneau instead of Ketchikan, I truly had no clue. WAS I LOSING IT?! (To be honest, I don’t recall which two cities in Alaska I confused. This was a really long time ago, shortly after I became an editor, but if anyone can prolong a concern and turn that molehill into a mountain, it’s me.)

Enter Lumosity again. I’ve been plugging away for months.

Recently, Lumosity players were invited to participate in the US Memory Championship.

I signed up, laughing at the irony of the fact that the whole reason I do Lumosity is because I worry about my fleeting memory.

I could have canceled, but I didn’t.

There were 258 competitors. I definitely didn’t make the top 8 (these people were AMAZING). Yet, it reassured me to hear the other competitors talking about how hard the games were.

They’re probably as difficult in Ketchican as they are in Juneau!

In all seriousness, thank you to the USA Memory Championships for a challenging and fun afternoon. You can watch the entire event here. The final two events are at the 2:50 and 3:22 marks.

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.) 

It was smart not to cancel