About Paula Kiger

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Mia Sofia is changing families’ tomorrows

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows


Tomorrow, March 23, 2020, is a very special day. It is Mia’s birthday.

Mia Sofia is the daughter of my friends, Jelina and Erik. Jelina gave birth to Mia last year on March 23, but Mia had died in utero.

I have never seen two parents so determined to keep their child’s spirit alive — in such a gracious way and a way that helps other families too.

Jelina and Erik have worked hard since March 23 of last year to raise funds for Cuddle Cots so other families who need more time with their babies who will not physically survive can have that time.

Here’s what I wrote last year about Mia and the effort to fund more Cuddle Cots.

This year, Erik and Jelina are asking us to do an act of kindness in memory of Mia, and also to wear lavender and lemon yellow, colors that were part of Mia’s decor.

The self-isolation most of us are practicing amidst this pandemic is going to force us to be a bit more creative than usual with the acts of kindness we choose.

I have decided to find the bartenders/servers named “Mia” on the DC Virtual Tip Jar and make a donation of $3.23 to each one, and to let them know it’s in memory of Mia. It won’t alleviate their biggest financial woes, but it’s something.

I hope that “something” illuminates their day the way Mia Sofia brightened our lives without saying a single word.

I know her mother, dad and little sister Emma will bask in the glow created tomorrow by all the people who show love for her.

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

Other things that are happening on March 23 to honor Mia

Aren’t these lemonade bows perfect?

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

They’re made by Little Royal Designs. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of each bow will go toward purchasing a Cuddle Cot for Lakeside Medical Center. I plan to give the one I bought as a gift, but it will find its way into an Instagram post tomorrow before I pass it on.

This is the plan:

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

There are families facing tomorrows they don’t yet know about when they will have to say goodbye way too soon. Thank you, Mia and family, for the difference you are making for those tomorrows.

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.) 

Acceptance costs nothing


Five Minute Friday Less


Yesterday, I participated in a volunteer gathering to do “headstone restoration” at a local cemetery where veterans are buried.

“‘These colors don’t run’ so we are not canceling” is what the coordinator said Friday night on Facebook.

Things are canceling left and right due to Coronavirus, but I decided I needed to show up and fulfill my commitment even though I could have said I needed to create “social distance.”

Here’s an epiphany: “Headstone restoration is not cleaning the headstones with a cleaning solution and elbow great. Oh no – it is placing braces on them, then manipulating them to loosen the ground around them, then lifting them out of their “sockets.”

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the braces.

The intent is to repack the “socket” so the headstones are appropriately aligned with each other and not leaning at nonuniform angles.

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the sockets. The goal was 20″ deep x 15″ long x 8″ wide.

Justin (last name unknown) from the National Cemetery in Tallahassee was there to oversee the process. He’s the foreman at the cemetery and has been overseeing national cemetery work for 12 years.

Five Minute Friday Less
Justin demonstrating how to reseat a headstone.

I was in awe of his knowledge about the process and his attention to detail.

Once he worked with us to get the first stone in the row at the right height and alignment, he didn’t go to the next one (or have us go to the next one). He went to the last one in the row and got it perfect. It was the “keystone,” he said, and he arranged two strings, one at the bottom and one at the top, to run down the entire line of headstones so we would know how to put all the headstones between the first and the last in place.

*end of five minutes*

There was a lesson in that, it seemed. The lesson appeared to be “look down the road to where you want to end up, and draw a line back from that to your starting place. Otherwise, you could end up out of line.

It was detailed and the work itself was quite physical, but our veterans deserve no less.

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.) 

Five Minute Friday Less

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

OK. Cue the tiny violin because this is truly one of the most “first-world problem” types of things you’ll ever see me write about.

However, if you are a Floridian, you probably get it.

At the end of January, we moved out of the home we had lived in for 15 years. The “cardboard kids” in this picture are now 23 and 20, respectively, and they’re living their own lives in other places.

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

The move was necessary for so many reasons. Short version: This was way too much house (space-wise, money-wise, lawn-wise) once we were down to the two of us.

Although the new house is such a better fit (smaller home, less lawn, lower mortgage payment every month), there’s just this one thing.


We had to switch to a different Publix after 15 years of shopping at the same one.

For starters, let’s look at why so many Floridians are so loyal to Publix. This article is a good place to begin.

When Floridians make the unenviable decision to move away from the Sunshine State, it’s often the loss of Publix that they seem to lament the most—at least if all the Facebook posts are to be believed.

Now that we’ve established that Floridians (many of them, at least) are loyal to Publix, let’s scrape off another layer and talk about allegiance to specific locations, such as the Vineyard Center location (Store #857) that I was at for so long.

I’ve often heard that Publix puts its stores where its demographers say the people are going to be, and I’d bet that’s true for the Vineyard store. This article references that a bit (“Another key element in the company’s strategy is placing new stores in growing or underserved markets …”). Vineyard Center was so empty when it first opened, with a line of associates anxious to check customers out. Not so in January 2020. The place was consistently busy by then.

Here are some memories that will always stick with me about Vineyard Center Publix:

My meltdown

I had one of my worst public meltdowns ever at Publix. Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe since I was there so often, the odds were in favor of Publix being the place where I totally lost it. I was at Publix after work, tired and hungry with kids in tow, annoyed that I was at Publix after work, tired and hungry with kids in tow while Wayne was “decompressing” at the bar after work.

Wayne Kevin, who was in first grade at the time, was looking at the Lunchables. The one he wanted to look at was kind of high up, so I picked him up and propped him on the metal rim of the case. Then he started walking along the rim (I know — in retrospect not a good idea). I was thinking how cute his light-up shoes were and how good his balance was but a fellow shopper decided to give me a lecture about how unsanitary the practice was.


Of course we never think of the good comebacks in the moment. I essentially said the same thing I always say when I can’t think of anything logical … “I’m doing the best I can.” And then I proceeded to cry hysterically right there in the cold cuts aisle. A woman with her own kids jumped in to calm me down. She was a darn angel. She told me about being a single mom, and how we all have these moments. Somehow I managed to grab the chicken we needed for dinner and get out of Publix. (And yes the cashier asked me how my day was going. I blubbered through some nonsensical answer.)

Would I be litigious?

Tenley was probably around 8 or 9 when this happened. We were leaving Publix, and she slipped awkwardly on the floor and fell awkwardly on her wrist as we were leaving (I think there was a small puddle on the floor). Within moments, it was clear she was fine, but a manager had seen it happen and was very solicitous. I realize this makes me sound opportunist, but my immediate answer to her inquiry about Tenley’s wrist was, “I don’t know — there may be a problem,” as in “If I sue Publix about this, I don’t want to have said ‘nah it’s all fine’ right afterward.

What was wrong with me? Did I seriously think I was going to sue Publix and get a monetary settlement over a tiny slip that could have happened to anyone? Fortunately, it all passed over but for some reason I still think about that situation all these years later.

Knowing the Associates

Publix is generally accepted as a good employer, and the high retention rate backs that up. Over all those years, I could count on seeing the same associates consistently, especially my friend Connie. I also saw kids who I had first known as preschoolers grow up to be bagging my groceries and checking them out.

Parking was simple

I’m sure there’s a science to parking lot design, but here’s my layperson’s observation: Parking lots are becoming more compact as developers try to squeeze more money-making space into shopping complexes. Vineyard is still more of a traditional parking lot. No crazy lane arrangements, plenty of space. I can’t say the Southwood Publix parking lot (my new store) is especially bad, but Vineyard was a breeze.

The Cake Book

This section doesn’t apply solely to Vineyard Publix, but it’s such a big memory in general. As a child, Tenley *loved* flipping through the book of decorated cakes at Publix. It didn’t matter what time of year it was … or if it was a whole 364 days until her next birthday … it was just a joy to her to dream about cakes for herself and, sometimes, for her imaginary friends.

She was close to growing out of this by the time we moved to Hawk’s Landing and were shopping at Vineyard Publix, but Publix gave her (and I imagine other children too) some free entertainment (along with the free cookies — which were HUGE with my kids all throughout their childhoods) with those cake books. We also bought plenty of cakes from Publix too. Looking back on it, I sort of regret trying to lure her away so often — I was usually in a hurry … or keeping up with my son … or in some other way not fully present. Still, it’s a happy memory for the most part.

Vineyard Publix sure showed up often in my blog

This is not the first time Vineyard Publix (or Publix in general) has appeared in my blog. Not the first time at all.

A search yields 22 times I’ve referred to Publix in my blog. Granted, some of the posts just mention being at Publix in passing, but still — that’s almost 2% of all my posts!

Somehow, my time at Vineyard Publix spanned my parental breakdown moment described above through the expansion of my writing into topics such as white privilege and microaggressions. (When I started blogging in 2009, I thought I was only going to be writing about running. That didn’t last long!)

When I say microaggressions, I mean the question of whether it’s a microaggression to put the divider down too fast. This piece of fine blog photography came from Vineyard Publix.

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

I knew where everything was

Is there anything better than knowing exactly where your routine items are at the store? I mean … for FIFTEEN YEARS? Here’s the answer: No there isn’t!

Vineyard Publix did a reset shortly before I moved. It was frustrating. People were walking around acting as if the sky had fallen. If you want to see a few eastside Tallahassee residents get discombobulated, put the pinto beans where the chocolate pudding used to be (and don’t switch the signs to match the move right away).

Maybe the reset was a sign that it was time to move on. I was going to have to get to know a new Publix anyway, so what better time?

I could show up as I was

I would usually run to Publix around 5:30 p.m. to grab ingredients for dinner, which Wayne would make when he got home. Most days I was … to put it mildly … barely put together (I work from home). I did throw on a bra and usually a baseball cap so I could slink in and out. Because of the nature of the east side and the Vineyard location, I knew that if I ran into someone, it would generally be an understanding neighbor or someone I could laugh my bedraggled appearance off with.

Now, however, Southwood Publix is a whole new ballgame! These people are from all over, and mostly still dressed for work. I think I’m going to have to step up my appearance strategy in order to avoid embarrassment.

Am I disappointed?

I’m writing this blog in response to the Kat Bouska prompt “Share the last thing that disappointed you.” I am disappointed to have to leave Vineyard Publix.

More than disappointed, though, I’m grateful to the people who always greeted me so professionally, were so kind to my kids, and who truly made shopping a pleasure.

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

February 28 came and went without me noticing, but it was the two-year anniversary of the beginning of my editing career at SmartBrief. (Prior to that, I had been a searcher and writer of stories.) My first brief as an editor was the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association SmartBrief.

Lucky me, I had so much support from the production manager, the editor who showed me the ropes and the brief’s copy editor at the time.

I sort of laugh at the Paula that was so new to the responsibility of editing in February 2018. She was a little intense about it all (shocker, I know!).

I have a renewed respect for my colleagues who have been doing this much longer than I have. Being in work that demands so much sustained concentration for so long every day is a calling that takes discipline. I’m fortunate to be among people who do it so well.

I’m also fortunate that every brief, every day, somehow gives me a moment to think, “Wow. What if that DID happen?” I hope our readers feel the same.

Here are my favorites from February.


In our Feb. 28 issue, we shared the story of Solace Women’s Aid, a UK charity aimed at ending domestic abuse. They are running a Twitter campaign to demonstrate how abuse is often hidden and difficult to recognize. It uses the hashtag #hiddenabuse along with Twitter’s hidden replies feature (something I didn’t know about before) to share examples of why abuse doesn’t always fit the stereotypes — it can look like a typical happy couple.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I learned about the $10 billion Jeff Bezos committed to help alleviate the effects of climate change through the BoardSource newsletter, but we shared a story in the Feb. 24 Business Transformation SmartBrief that took some really interesting angles on how exactly this money might be best used. There are so many competing ideas, from the environmentalists who think Bezos should be “confronting the fossil fuel industry head-on” to the researcher who says he should be “investing in solutions to reduce inequality and pricing carbon fairly.” I feel this whole initiative needs a leader with true backbone to give it direction.

International City/County Management Association

Summit County, Utah, has created a Communication and Public Engagement Department. We discussed it in our Feb. 6 issue. The goal is to reach non-English speakers and promote the county’s offerings and services. We have undoubtedly covered bigger stories, but to the residents of this community, I’m guessing it makes a difference that leadership cared enough to prioritize engagement.

National Association of Social Workers

First of all, it’s National Social Work Month so I’m wishing all my friends and acquaintances (and readers) in social work the best. I appreciate what you do!

A story in our Feb. 4 issue discussed a virtual reality application that helps people understand dementia. I watched the video embedded in the article (even though it’s theoretically optimized to be watched via a VR viewer). Having lived with someone with dementia for around three years, it was gripping. You can try to see the world through their eyes, but it’s so hard. This VR application makes it easier. Hopefully it helps social workers serve those with dementia (and their caregivers) better.

National Emergency Number Association

A contingent of National Emergency Number Association advocates went to Capitol Hill last month for their advocacy day. A number of them met with Rep. Norma Torres, who sponsored the 911 SAVES Act, which proposes reclassifying dispatchers from clerical to “protective service occupations.” I’m probably turning into a broken record about this, but it’s so important to recognize dispatchers for the work they do and to give them sufficient mental health (and other) resources. We covered this in our Feb. 13 issue.

Reserve Officers Association

If you don’t know that I am highly (obsessively, very, overwhelmingly) interested in being an Honor Flight guardian, it’s possible you haven’t been reading my blog for long! I didn’t get selected last year (and — to be fair — the number of veterans qualifying to take Honor Flight is declining as they age and pass away). Yet I still hope…

Therefore, when I read in our Feb. 26 issue that an organization in Chicago is organizing an all-women Honor Flight, I did indeed send them an email and say I would fly to Chicago to participate. (This probably won’t work out — why would they trust a random woman in Tallahassee begging to be a part of it all? How would I make the training that is undoubtedly a couple of weeks before the flight? Etc. Etc. Etc. Yet, if I don’t ask, I’ll never know, right?)

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honorary

After about a year and a half of doing these posts, I’m starting to detect a pattern. My favorite Sigma Xi stories seem to lean toward the ones that include animals doing silly (at least to the naked eye) things.

A story in our Feb. 18 issue discussed grasshoppers that were engineered to detect explosives — the setup involved a little backpack they had to wear. The really downer of the story was this: “The grasshoppers continued to successfully detect explosives up to seven hours after the researchers implanted the electrodes, before they became fatigued and ultimately died.” Talk about sacrificing for science.

UN Wire

It probably won’t surprise you that the UN Wire newsletter has been heavily skewed toward coronavirus stories this past month. There was a story in our Feb. 3 issue that caught my attention in a different way than the coronavirus, though. It was about a practice of ironing young girls’ breasts with hot stones in the hopes of discouraging men and boys from viewing them as sexual targets.” I never cease to be amazed at the injustices young women in our world still experience.

Keeping it Accurate

We editors had an opportunity this month to take a workshop through Merrill Perlman, a former copy desk chief at the New York Times. I took a class from Merrill last year, and it was a huge help to my editing process. I appreciate being given more resources to continue trying to improve my work.

Find the Interesting Stories (and Opportunities) for Yourself

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing similar fantastic stories.

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 questions 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.

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.

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

Share Four Somethings

Here are four things I loved/read/treasured/looked ahead to in February.

Something Loved

My nieces, Jessica and Elizabeth, threw a shower for their sister, Olivia, on Feb. 8. I love spending time with my family in general. Specifically, I love the fact that I’ve gotten to hold my new great-nephew, Paul (Jessica’s son), both times I’ve seen him in the last few months. I don’t get to hang out with young babies very often, so it’s such a special treat when I do. I didn’t take a picture of him, but this was one of the decorations — his grandfather’s bronzed baby shoes and vintage children’s books. I already love Olivia’s baby and can’t wait to hold him or her too!

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Read

It is so hard to pick just one! Here’s what I have read/am reading in February:

On Audio:

Running Against the Devil” by Rick Wilson

Smacked” by Eilene Zimmerman

How Dare the Sun Rise” by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta

Know My Name” by Chanel Miller

On Paper:

School Choice: A Legacy to Keep” by Virginia Walden Ford

Before I comment further, a note that Abigail Pesta and Virginia Walden Ford were both guests on the New York Times readalong, which I co-produce. Find Abigail’s recording here and Virginia’s here.

Each one of these books is good. It is interesting that the top of the list (chronologically) features a book by an author who spent many years deep in the Republican party who has spot-on (in my opinion) advice for Democrats as the 2020 election approaches.

The bottom of the list (Virginia Walden Ford’s book) challenged many of my assumptions about what Democrats and Republicans would/should believe about school choice. In general, I’m an avid public schools proponent. That hasn’t changed, but Virginia’s story is an excellent example of how extremely complicated politics can get. Many Democratic lawmakers, who I would have assumed would have supported the need for deserving children of color to get help when the school system in D.C. was failing them, were downright hostile.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting delegate to Congress who represented D.C., displayed an animosity that surprised and mystified me. Virginia Walden Ford wrote, “What opponents like Norton feared, I believe, had nothing to do with funding and everything to do with optics. The sight of children and their parents lined up to apply for scholarships would serve as visual reminders to the entire world that families sought to escape the public education system in the District of Columbia.”

And I so admire Virginia’s candor: “Did my parents quit their fight for integration after the KKK burned a cross on their lawn? No, they didn’t. And if that didn’t stop my parents, an angry woman sitting behind a dais wasn’t going to stop me.”

I’ve interacted enough with Virginia by now to know that there isn’t much that stops her. I’m so glad I gave this book a chance; it showed me that very few issues are easily defined, especially when it comes to children’s welfare.

(I also encourage you to watch the movie, “Miss Virginia.” Follow this link for the ways to watch it.)

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Treasured

Because we have moved three times since January 29 (out of our Hawk’s Landing house, into a rental duplex, then into our new house), Wayne and I have had conversations about what we should keep vs. what we should donate/discard more times than I can count.

Here’s something that made the cut and always will.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

When Tenley was in kindergarten (back in 2001), the students had a “holiday village” where they could go and buy gifts for their families. I can still almost see the joy in her eyes when she presented me with this “bluebird of happiness.” It’s actually been packed away since I left Healthy Kids in 2014 and I’m so happy it has resurfaced again! It has a companion (this pink bird I gave my mom in honor of her surviving breast cancer). I treasure them both.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Ahead

I’ll be speaking Saturday to the Alumnae Panhellenic group in Tallahassee, at their scholarship luncheon. I’m equal parts thrilled and apprehensive, as I wrote here. Send good thoughts!

I’m linking up with Heather Gerwing.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Five Minute Friday: RISK

Five Minute Friday: RISK


By this time next Saturday, I’ll be within an hour or two of giving a speech to a gathering Tallahassee Alumnae Panhellenic.

I am thrilled to have been asked; however, this all seems like a big risk.

I love public speaking. Yet, I haven’t been involved in Toastmasters for a few years, so it’s easy to get into a loop of questioning whether I care enough to keep practicing my craft. (I know we choose the priorities in life that matter most, but while we still had our old house and its lofty mortgage, I never felt like I could let up on my side hustles that were helping keep us afloat financially. Side hustles take time, time that could have been spent continuing my Toastmasters work.)

Anyway, the lovely lady who called to ask me to speak was an enjoyable chatting companion. She also told me that last year’s speaker was Sally Karioth, who is an internationally renowned speaker. I remember my mother-in-law coming home from hearing her speak and saying, “I just had to hug my husband and tell him I loved him after that.”

WELP. That’s quite a takeaway from hearing a speech!

I’ve actually toyed with making my title, “I’m not Sally Karioth, but I have something to say.”

I won’t do that, but I am glad I am taking this risk. Thinking through my topic (which is essentially how you can go beyond giving money to serve your community well) has — at a minimum — ignited my love for a favorite subject.

And I think I have learned a few things over the years that give me great material from which to speak.

People may not leave and tell their significant others how much they love them, but hopefully they’ll be inspired to show their love to a fellow human being, even if it involves the risk of being a little vulnerable.

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.) 

Five Minute Friday: RISK

The 1994-2014 experience

We closed on our previous house on January 31, 2020, spent the next few weeks in a rental, and spent our first night in our new house February 15. That’s all good, but it has meant a lot of moving.

We had gone through a great deal of our belongings more than a year ago when we first put our house up for sale (yes, it took forever to sell, but it went to the perfect family). Thank goodness, because the process has still been intense and decision-laden as we tried to minimize our amount of belongings while not pitching the things that have enough emotional importance to hang around.

Here’s a piece of paper that made the cut, and even made a box that ended up in our new house first (most of the things we didn’t absolutely need are in a pod still).

It’s one of the many thoughtful gifts my coworkers gave me when I left Healthy Kids in 2014 after working there for almost 20 years.

What changed, what stayed the same since 1994-2014?

Thinking about what has changed and what has stayed the same

Here are the things that have changed. Frankly, one of the big motivators for me to write this is to celebrate some of the things I don’t do anymore.

Coffee I don’t drink coffee anymore! I stopped during the Ration Challenge last year and never picked it back up again. This is so much better for my health.

Altoid Abuser During a multi-year phase of my time at Healthy Kids, I always took Altoids with me to meetings to stay awake. It was definitely a crutch. That ended in 2010.

Habitual Gum Chewer I kept this crutch for quite a while after I left Healthy Kids. I eventually stopped that too, for the same reasons I stopped Altoids in 2010.

Runner Not anymore, unfortunately. My exercise-induced tachycardia (which tolerates other kinds of exercise, fortunately, but not running) finally won out. Maybe there will be a medical advance someday that will make it happen again.

This was like being put into a time machine

I don’t know where she went — something about her water breaking This is my favorite story from my time at Healthy Kids. We were an extremely small group back in 1996. We had a student working for us named Juan. My close coworker, Jennifer, who was also a personal friend, was at lunch when I told Juan that I was leaving for the hospital because my water had broken (I would give birth to Tenley later that night). When Jenn came back from lunch, Juan said, “I don’t know exactly — something about her water breaking.” He thought it was a plumbing situation, apparently. Maybe I should have been more explicit in my explanation to a 20-year-old guy.

There was a rodent in the kitchen One of our buildings was an older building with a rodent problem. Y’all, it was BAD. I could probably write a whole blog about the Healthy Kids rodent situation. The final straw (for me) was the day one ran over my foot when I was in the kitchen making coffee (I’m surprised I didn’t give up coffee that day!).

Fingerprint reader Goodness I’m glad the statute of limitations is over on this and we’ve all moved on. Back when biometric identification on office machines was a newer technology, it was (to put it mildly) a frustration to try to get the machine to recognize our fingerprints. The blog and accompanying video I did to demonstrate this was funnier to me than it was to my employer.

Bowels We were sharing our office with the state agency responsible for Medicaid eligibility (because children had to be ineligible for Medicaid to get Healthy Kids at the time). There were some *interesting* interactions between our staff and the agency’s staff. One woman tried to make her point about how everyone should clean their own dishes in the kitchen. She did it by placing a sign on the kitchen door that said, “Clean your own bowels before leaving.” I couldn’t stop laughing.

This is still true

My Friday Read I still participate in Friday Reads on Facebook and Twitter every Friday. I’ve also started incorporating it into the SBLeaders Twitter account, which I help manage. Here’s an example, and I’d love for you to become a follower!

Love my cat There are two cats now, and they have frustrated us to no end throughout the home-selling process, but yes they are family.

Director of Ooperations, You vs Your I still hate typos. This is a good thing, since I now edit for a living.

Blogger, Optimism Light, Perspicacious Still blogging after all those years! The Optimism Light is still around (on Facebook and Twitter). I changed the blog years ago to “Big Green Pen” and moved the perspicacious part to a less prominent spot, but I still aim for perspicacity.

Mom, Tenley, Wayne Kevin My children (and husband) are my biggest priority, still.

Now that I’ve moved on

I didn’t know what was going to come next when I decided to leave Healthy Kids in May 2014. I thought I would find a way to earn a living that lit a different fire within me and helped me be happier.

Since my father-in-law moved in three weeks later and essentially needed supervision (along with trips to the doctor, trips to radiation and more), life took an abrupt turn once he was with us.

The beautiful thing is that I *did* find a job that lights a different fire within me and has helped me be happier. It wasn’t right away, but the sequence of events had to happen the way they did for everything to fall into place, I think.

But reading over this collection of “things about Paula,” I’m grateful for that 20 years. There won’t be another 20 years where I am physically with my coworkers 100% of the time. (I’m a virtual worker now (which I love!) and our world in general is moving to more virtual teams.)

I have the opportunity to make new memories with my current coworkers, and I’m enjoying that so much. I keep reflecting, though, on the different “me” I bring to these new relationships.

One thing’s for sure: It’s a biological impossibility that I will ever have to leave work at lunch because I need to give birth.

I am linking up with Five Minute Friday for the prompt “experience” (even though this took longer than five minutes to put together!).

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

Heart-melting talent lights up A Night to Shine

When I volunteered at Night to Shine Tallahassee two years ago, I didn’t really know how things worked. (Night to Shine is an event through the Tim Tebow Foundation to give people with special needs ages 14 and up a “prom night” experience.) I signed up to volunteer wherever I was needed. As a result, I ended up volunteering at the “Parent Prom,” which is an opportunity for the parents of the guests to have their own relaxing dinner.

Serving the Parent Prom was fun, and I know it filled a need, but I knew that the next time I volunteered, I wanted to do so as a “buddy” (a volunteer paired with a guest to help them enjoy all the festivities).

I knew the box to check this time, submitted to the background check, went to the required training, and became a buddy!

Night to Shine Tallahassee 2020
My Buddy badge

When the guests arrive, they are paired up with their buddies and enter the Night to Shine event through a lighted archway, traversing a red carpet, as “paparazzi” cheer them on (and do silent cheers for guests who have autism or other reasons to prefer a more quiet tribute).

My new friend, Stephanie

I was paired with Stephanie, who definitely wanted applause! With her beautiful dress and infectious smile, she definitely deserved the enthusiastic welcome she got.

Night to Shine Tallahassee 2020
(Her beautiful dress is a bit covered up here because she has a cape on during the hair and makeup phase, but trust me it was gorgeous!)

The surprise of the night

The list of activities at Night to Shine is lengthy. We went to hair and makeup, petted a bunny, saw a “zebra” and a llama, enjoyed a meal, and went dancing.

At one point, other attendees told us to re-line up at the red carpet for a “surprise.” (I knew it had to be a big surprise, because by then it had gotten pretty cold outside!)

I had an idea of what the surprise may be, partially because I heard similar rumors the last time I served at NTS. The founder, Tim Tebow, doesn’t live all that far away (Jacksonville). Would *he* be the surprise?

Before I reveal the surprise, let me say this. As a Florida State fan, it’s possible I have been involved in a few snarky conversations over the years involving Tebow because he was the quarterback for our big rival, the University of Florida.

There’s no debating his athletic talent.

But I’ve learned about a different talent of Tim’s. I’ve seen him grant the wish of my sweet young friend, Lauren, a cancer survivor. I heard him speak to the NTS attendees (his speech is broadcast simultaneously to the 721 participating locations) the last time I volunteered. He is using his talents to lift others up and to inspire the 215,000 volunteers who serve the roughly 115,000 guests.

And (drum roll please and also please disregard the fact that I took this video vertically!), he showed up in person to the Tallahassee Night to Shine 2020!

But there was talent all around

I was excited that Tim Tebow showed up, mainly because I know how much it meant to the guests, who were *enthralled*!

It was the less famous talents, though, that really made the night magical to me. The people with logistical talent who put the whole event together. The artists who performed (cheerleaders, baton twirlers, bands), the hair and makeup artists, the animal therapy facilitators, whoever had the creativity to bring the “Greatest Show” theme to life.

A more personal moment toward the end of the night melted my heart. Stephanie wanted to do something else besides dance and participate in the “longest conga line” so although the evening was winding down, we headed to the music therapy activity.

The music therapist knew Stephanie, and was not surprised when her request was “Tears in Heaven.” Stephanie had told me earlier in the evening that her grandmother had taken care of her; I gathered that it was after her grandmother died that she ended up living in her current group home facility. She said the song was for her grandparents.

And God bless this music therapist; she anticipated the request, had been practicing it and somehow in the midst of a loud and fairly hectic room, made a “moment” and played “Tears in Heaven” just for Stephanie. It brought back so many memories of the music therapists who used to come to our house when my father-in-law was with us, and how something deep in his brain was awakened by the music in a way nothing else could.

It was a memorable night, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Here’s a wrapup video shot by someone with a bit more video expertise than I have!

I am linking up with Five Minute Friday for the prompt “talent” (even though this took longer than five minutes to put together!).

I am also linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “The last time my heart melted was because…”

Night to Shine Tallahassee 2020

Learn About ACEs and Create a Healthier Future

This post is made possible with support from the American Academy of Pediatrics through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All opinions are my own.

In 2019, I read more than 1,500 articles about social work in my role as the editor of a nonprofit social work membership organization’s newsletter.

Here’s something that is emerging as a common thread more and more often as I choose stories each day: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs for short). 

Each time I’ve read that acronym, it has registered in my brain in a “yes, that makes sense” kind of way, partially because my undergraduate degree is in child development and my graduate degree is in counseling. But college was a long time ago, and the amount of research on the topic has expanded a great deal. It’s time to learn more about the details behind the acronym. I hope you’ll join me. It’s something we all need to know.

What is an ACE?

ACEs happen to children between birth and age 17. These potentially traumatic occurrences include things such as experiencing abuse or violence; witnessing violence in the community or at home; and the death by suicide (or attempt) of a family member.

Environmental factors can also play a part in ACEs. The presence of a family member with mental health problems, substance abuse, or the type of instability that comes from having a parent incarcerated or a divorce or separation.

The long-term effects of ACEs sometimes don’t show up until years later. Adults who experienced ACEs as children have been shown to have higher rates of smoking, heart disease, death by suicide, and depression among other health issues. 

This article explains more about ACEs and how they can show up in adulthood. 

ACEs are not destiny, and we can be the ones to change things

All of us can help prevent ACEs and lead children toward a healthier adulthood. Preventing ACEs makes a huge difference. Intervening in situations causing ACEs can reduce the number of adults with depression by 44%.

Our involvement — by providing safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments in childhood — can have so many beneficial long-term effects, such as more robust brain architecture and more consistent employment. 

That safety and stability can provide a sort of “reset” and keep the body’s stress system from succumbing to the health and behavior compromises that result from ACEs.

Learn About ACEs and Create a Healthier Future

The way women in prison have challenged my thinking

As I’ve been writing this post, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the women I have met through my volunteer work at a prison. I think of them for two reasons. One is the way they talk about the direction their lives have taken and the experiences of their childhoods. Obviously, every story is different, and some people end up incarcerated who experienced no ACEs. 

Research, though, points to the disproportionate amount of ACEs experienced by incarcerated people in childhood. If those ACEs could be reduced, the outcome could be less crime and reduced spending on correctional facilities.

More than talking about themselves and their lives before prison, the absolute first thing every one of them who is a mother discusses is her children. They look forward to making their children’s upcoming visits meaningful; they think — hard — about how the networks of support back at home are helping their children navigate life. They want safety, stability and nurturing for their kids.

It takes reinforcements to provide safe, stable and nurturing environments

If there are children in your life, you can be a part of creating safety and stability while providing a nurturing environment. The way that plays out may be different if, unlike me, you still have children at home, but there are ways each one of us can make a difference for kids in our homes, in our lives, or both.

As I’ve learned more about ACEs, I’ve been thinking about three people who have helped strengthen me emotionally so I can be in a position to help lessen the chances that ACEs will occur for kids I know and love.

  1. Melanie. My therapist, Melanie Pelc of The Living Room, has made a difference for me. Before starting a more formal relationship, she was the social worker for our family when my father-in-law was in hospice. It helped to start our relationship at a place beyond “square one,” since she already knew a good bit about our family dynamics. Also, she comes to my house, which is *huge* because it makes it that much harder to back out of an appointment.        
  2. Sandy. My friend, Sandy P., would make the list anyway, but there’s a particular reason I think of her. We got to know each other through the running community. Although I’m not running anymore, she still makes a huge effort to stay in touch. The most important element that puts her on the list is that she organized volunteer opportunities for us after Hurricane Michael. Even though we like purely social occasions, something was different about volunteering together.
  3. Barb. My mother-in-law, Barb, passed away in 2013, but she was the type of person we all need in our lives. I remember my sister-in-law saying, “you can tell her anything, and she won’t look down on you for it but she’ll help you get perspective.” This is a bit of a paraphrase, not a direct quote, but it captures her spirit. She went through some excruciating trials (such as becoming blind in mid-life) that could have made her bitter or resigned, but she did quite the opposite. 

What are your three sources of support?

What are the three people or resources that will help you create safe, stable and nurturing relationships in your world? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! Or better yet, tweet them to social media with the hashtag #FindYour3.

Can cuttlefish wear glasses? And other SmartBrief highlights

Welcome to the “trying to keep it brief” edition of my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month. (We just closed on our house Friday and immediately headed out of town. Hence the shorter commentary today!)


My favorite BoardSource story was in the Jan. 15 issue and discussed nonprofit mergers. In this podcast, the guest talks about going to the location of a nonprofit that was the result of a merger, and how there were still two separate reception desks for the two previous organizations. Clearly the merger still had some bumps to overcome! The discussion happens at the 8:54 point in this podcast.

Business Transformation SmartBriefI

In the Jan. 22 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we featured an interview with the Chief Information Officer of Target. When he talked about the challenges of recruiting IT talent away from Silicon Valley to Minneapolis at a time when Target did not have a great reputation in this area, he said, “It was about selling people on the future, not the present.” I felt so much optimism in the way he framed this challenge.

International City/County Management Association

There’s a town in Austria that is said to have inspired the setting of “Frozen,” the Disney movie, and that connection has attracted tourists in droves. Mayor Alexander Scheutz is begging the tourists (around 10,000 a day) who want their own look at the Arendelle-like town to stay away. It’s causing multiple issues and he wants them to just let it go (couldn’t help the pun there!). We discussed this story in the Jan. 9 issue.

I also wrote a post in January based on a session I attended at the ICMA conference in Nashville last October. It’s about the manager of Meridian Township, Mich., and what he did when he discovered a report about Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of a resident was reported in 2004 (14 years prior) and not acted upon. Although he had not been manager at the time, he found it necessary to apologize.

Can cuttlefish wear glasses? And other SmartBrief highlights

National Association of Social Workers

Mental health parity is a topic we discuss often in the NASW newsletter. An article in the Jan. 14 issue talked about a young woman named Emma who died by suicide and how her father is supporting the bill. He blogs at GlitchesAndSmiles.com, which is worth a visit.

National Emergency Number Association

Burnout is an issue with the industry of first responders, and in the case of NENA, dispatchers particularly. In our Jan. 23 issue, we shared an article about reducing burnout and stress, something we do frequently. What I liked about this one was the relative simplicity of the concept and its emphasis on the power of writing. Dispatchers were encouraged to write about their experiences in response to email prompts. The writing, and the sharing among each other, led to significant reductions in scores on a burnout assessment.

Reserve Officers Association

In our Jan. 6 issue, we had a story about an Army Reserve unit preparing to deploy. This passage was heart-rending to me, as it would be to anyone with a heart:

Taylor’s 2-year-old son Axl toddled from his third row seat to embrace his father’s legs.

Taylor shooed the young boy at first, but as Axl clung to his legs, Taylor gave in with a pat to his head. Smiles filled the faces of families that admired the heartwarming yet heartbreaking moment.

“Honestly, I wanted to cry,” said Taylor.

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

This one goes under the “wow — science requires people to do interesting things” category. For a study of depth perception, some scientist(s) put tiny 3D glasses on cuttlefish, as we shared in the Jan. 9 issue.

@Doug_Ellison, who is the Engineering Camera Team Lead of the Mars Curiosity Rover (cool gig, eh?), sent a tweet that was a reminder that all science should be questioned.

Can cuttlefish wear glasses? And other SmartBrief highlights

UN Wire

The United Nations began celebrating 2020 as its 75th anniversary year as January began. We discussed this and the “Decade of Action” plan in our Jan. 24 issue. As he briefed the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the dangers the world faces from “epic geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, global mistrust and the downsides of technology.” He said, “commemorating the 75th anniversary with nice speeches won’t do” and encouraged “21st-century solutions” instead. I agree – we need so much more than “nice speeches” right now.

Employment opportunities at SmartBrief and Future

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing similar fantastic stories.

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 questions 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.

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.

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.