About Paula Kiger

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

Needing to be Elsewhere

Sometimes, we have an overwhelming desire to be somewhere else or our life circumstances make it impossible to stay where we are. This week, three organizations/people addressed that need in ways that deserved more than a quick social media share. Therefore, I have chosen to highlight them today.

A Randy Pausch Quote

Every issue of SmartBrief ends with a quote. The featured quote  in many of the January 19 issues came from Randy Pausch.

Being elsewhere

What this quote has to do with “being elsewhere”:

The first time my husband heard “The Last Lecture,” he said “you’ve got to listen to this.” That was a good call. I wouldn’t go on to decide to leave the job I had held for well over a decade for seven more years, but Randy Pausch planted the seed. I listened to the lecture online, bought DVDs of it to share with friends, purchased the book.

As a person who has hesitated far too often to ask “why?” “how?” and “why not?” for fear of being told “no,” “that’s stupid,” or “who exactly do you think you are?,” Randy Pausch’s lecture reminded me that being reluctant to ask the hard and adventurous questions only hurts me and leads to someone else getting to go on the thrilling adventure.

(I also realized while re-watching the video today that Randy is wearing a Disney nametag and (I think) an Imagineering shirt. Now that I have seen the Disney experience as the parent of a participant in the Disney College Program, I love that touch.)

Watch it here. It will be an hour well-spent.

(If you don’t have more than an hour to watch the video, there’s a great ten-minute version here, the last one Randy delivered before his death in 2008.)

Princess Pigtails’ Diary

My friend Shannon recently served as a foster parent for the first time. The Tampa Bay Times published Princess Pigtails’ diary: the first 97 days of a foster mom and the little girl in her care on January 19.

Being elsewhere

Photo Credit: Katie Reeves/KT Creative

What this story has to do with “being elsewhere”:

“Princess Pigtails (PP)” was three when placed into Shannon’s care as a foster child, and almost four when she was placed back with her biological grandmother. Because I have been so absent from working out at the fitness student Shannon owns, I never met PP, but I felt like I knew her through the stories Shannon shared on social media (many of which comprise the Tampa Bay piece).

For her own protection, PP needed to “be elsewhere,” at least temporarily. As you’ll see from the story, our state’s laws, system and philosophy about what is best for foster children are imperfect at best. The placement may have been temporary, but PP made a permanent difference on many hearts (and I believe the experience may lead to positive changes for other children in foster care). Thank you, Shannon, for taking the risk to love this child even though it split your heart open when she moved on, and thank you PP for being a gift to so many of us.

Steve Schale’s Ode to Shitholes

My friend Steve Schale published Ode to Shitholes on January 13. Following the President’s apparent reference to countries including Africa as being “shitholes,” this is the best rebuttal I have read. Being elsewhere

What this post has to do with “being elsewhere”:

The people who are “elsewhere” (elsewhere from the United States, or from elsewhere and living in the United States but on the verge of being forcibly returned to “elsewhere”) often deal with the life inequities that come with what Steve (and many others) refer to as “the birth draw.”

I am so grateful to have spent time in Guatemala and El Salvador (that’s Guatemala City in the image I shared). It wasn’t long enough (two weeks in total) and it didn’t go deep enough (although I am grateful to have gone, for sure!). Both times, because I was traveling with Unbound, we were treated as royalty (literally …… flower-petal paths, extravagant (for the area) meals, and deference). They were beautiful, educational trips, but we didn’t deserve the deference — if anyone did, it was the people who work so hard to support their families in the face of indescribable difficulties, violence and educational deficits.

What can you do this week to find your own “elsewhere” (if that’s what you need) or to help another person whose “elsewhere” has become untenable? 

Five Minute Friday: INTENTIONAL

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.”

Today’s prompt: INTENTIONAL

“Professionals should be intentional about ……….”

In my morning freelance job, I summarize news articles. The goal is to be concise and straightforward.

One type of article I summarize is a professional practices article, such as “how to plan for organizational growth” or “how to prepare for retirement.”

Today, when summarizing one of those types of articles, I started typing “Attorneys should be intentional about their plans for retirement” and then I deleted that word choice.

Besides the fact that there were more concise ways to make the point, who am I to tell someone else a) what they should do and b) to be intentional?

So much of “intentional” comes from being internally motivated, with a lovely layer of strategic methodology on top (or woven through), and I would argue with a generous helping of heart.

As I communicated with someone about a job I had been pursuing today, I had to be honest (yet professional). I don’t know how this ties in with intentional (which is not how my career process has felt since Dad passed away in July and I gained the freedom to work outside of the home if I want to) but an internal voice said “just be honest (and patient).”

It is an ongoing challenge to wait and be patient for life to unfold as it should while remaining intentional about the choices that matter. 
Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Calming Down the Swarm

It’s time to stop.

Location-based social media

What am I stopping?

I am (mostly) ending my relationship with Swarm (formerly Foursquare).

I have been checking in on Foursquare for nine years. NINE YEARS. That comes up to:

Location-based social media

My decision to (mostly) quit was pretty anticlimactic. I got a new phone in mid-December, and had to re-enter passwords for all my apps. I was having trouble (probably user error) logging back into Swarm. One thing led to another and a month went by.

Here’s what I love(d) about Swarm:

I made friends. Improbable as it may sound, I connected with people on Swarm and deepened local connections with Tallahasseeans (and others) I see rarely but still am interested in keeping up with.

Being able to support businesses and causes I loved. I have been the person to put several businesses on the Swarm system as they opened. Checking in to favorite businesses made me feel like I was giving them a bit of social media juice.

Being mayor. I know — I know — it’s so silly. But being “mayor” of places is fun – it was really enjoyable back when it resulted in perks at the businesses of which we were mayor.

The Optimism Light. The Optimism Light is a gift I gave myself a few years ago. I love this little creation of mine that adds a tiny bit of positivity to almost every day (since I cross that intersection so frequently (at least I did while I was still working outside the home)). But it’s still there. I may check in from time to time.

Here’s what I love (less) about Swarm in 2017:

Time. It only takes seconds to “check in,” but honestly. every second counts.

Risk. Specific to the Optimism Light, even IF I am at a full stop, I don’t need to be fiddling with my phone. It sets a bad example. Sigh.

Data. I’ve always been a little skittish about the amount of data I’m sharing with …. who? Whoever is at the controls at Swarm. It’s not like my phone and the location tracker can’t tell pretty much anyone who wants to know where I am, but I am growing increasingly leery of telling the world, “HEY! I’m HOME! (or wherever).”

Facebook – Less yet More. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong, but now when I check in on Swarm and share on Facebook, the image on Facebook is generic. That’s no fun. (It’s a map, which I guess is good, but it used to be an image related to the topic.) On the flip side, choosing to be on Swarm less means I’ll be checking in more often on Facebook, and I am not thrilled about becoming more reliant on Facebook. Swarm seemed to be a bit segregated from Facebook (frankly, I kept thinking Swarm would be purchased by Facebook. Almost everything else has been!).


I guess this all falls in the category of one of those habits where you do it, repeatedly (19,036 times in my case), then stop and think one day and come to the realization that the habit is no longer serving you.

I’m surprised at myself giving it up this easily. Usually I would try to do something strategic like “get to 20,000 check-ins and then dedicate the 20,000th to some significant event (sort of like my 100,000th tweet)”, but it’s just not a big enough deal for me to engineer all that.

Still, I encourage you to embrace its premise:

Location-based social media

(I’m keeping the Optimism Light’s social media accounts open, so please don’t hesitate to visit on Twitter and Facebook.)

Five Minute Friday: SIMPLIFY

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.”

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: SIMPLIFY

When I was within a few minutes of sitting down to write this post last night, squeezing the writing in before getting to bed early (because I had to be up for work at 5 a.m.), my husband called urgently from the guest bathroom ……… where he had discovered a half in inch of standing water.

So much for the simplicity of simply writing for five minutes.

I gave up on the blog post composition so I could get to bed as soon as we had the immediate problem resolved.

I’m still not, however, feeling the “simplicity” prompt.

I’m feeling ……… weighty ……… physically and emotionally. Maybe emotionally BECAUSE of the “physically” part.

I’ve been through the weight loss/gain cycle before (repeatedly) and find myself wondering how I got here, heavier than I was with either pregnancy and, frankly, avoiding socializing with people.

I know it seems simple to say “move more and eat less.”

When I met with my electrophysiologist Wednesday and explained that I had not had any arrhythmia episodes because I hadn’t exercised, he said “at all?” And I responded, “yes — pretty much.” (To his credit, he had good bedside manner when he said it — it could have been sarcastic but it wasn’t.)

I said to him, “I can barely remember the days when it was routine to go out and run ten miles.”

He, of course, reminded me that my medication does work (ahem) and to go at things gradually.

I’ll have to leave this one for this week with the complex issue of returning to simplicity.
Five Minute Friday


This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Make Your Child’s Future Dazzling with Florida Prepaid

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Because our yard is large and has a huge tree-free area, our neighbor uses it every year to stage a pyrotechnics extravaganza (he has a professional license, so it truly is something beyond “sparklers and fireworks picked up at a state border somewhere”).

It takes Bill a long time to set up for the show: getting the license and insurance, spending a day in our yard arranging the various components of the production, etc.

Then, as the new year begins, light, sound and awe fills the air ….. for about 15 minutes.

Another way to spend 15 minutes that involves less explosions and lasts longer is signing your child up for a Florida Prepaid plan. You can even save $25 off the $50 application fee with my special code.

Florida Prepaid Experience

Ignite a Debt-Free Future

Let this sink in for a second: The rate of student loan debt among Americans exceeds $1 trillion. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. According to the Institute for College Access and Success as cited in Forbes, Florida is among the top 10 states for average student loan debt (with an average of $23,379 per student).

I wish I could tell you that my college senior (yay!) and freshman will be graduating debt-free thanks to their Florida Prepaid contracts. I haven’t managed things that well.

However, they will have less debt than they would have if my parents had not purchased prepaid contracts for them when they were newborns. Best of all, you can avoid the same mistakes our family made by securing your child’s debt-free college education before open enrollment closes next month.

Florida Prepaid Options

Every year, the Florida Prepaid program gets more flexible and adds options that suit almost every family. In my last Florida Prepaid post, I focused on the 1-year Florida University plan.

Other options include:

  • 2-Year Florida College Plan
  • 4-Year Florida College Plan
  • 2+2 Florida College Plan
  • 4-Year Florida University Plan

You can read more about each plan here. (There’s also a dormitory plan.)

But The Start of the Year is So Busy

I know it’s a busy time of year. It’s January 7 and our tree is still up. We have pretty much dropped everything to deal with supporting my mom, who has been hospitalized 2.5 hours away since December 11. We are supposed to have had our house ready to put up for sale three weeks ago. And, especially relevant to the audience reading this, I haven’t done my children’s FASFAs yet.

It’s not overwhelming to apply for Florida Prepaid, though — I promise. In the time our neighbor entertained the whole neighborhood with his incredible show, you can diminish the chance your child will leave college in debt. As a parent who has to explain the prospect of ten years’ of student loan payments to my college senior, I assure you that you don’t want to have to do that.

It’s easy to apply. Like I said, about 10-15 minutes between now and February 28. With my code (GREEN1718). you can save 50% off the $50 application fee.

If you invest in your child (or children) by applying for a Florida Prepaid account, you deserve a treat! Take a chance at winning a $10 Starbucks treat just by learning more and spreading the word. Editor’s Note: The giveaway has ended (congrats Michelle!). Thank you to everyone who entered and helped share the Prepaid message. ~ pk 1/12/18

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Apply soon (but definitely by February 28). It’ll be a dazzling start to the habit of investing in your child’s education and success!Florida Prepaid Experience

Five Minute Friday:MOTIVATE

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.

Today’s prompt: MOTIVATE

The first night we had Wayne Kevin home from the hospital, my mom held him, sitting in the recliner, I’m the dark, for hours so I could get a little sleep. I don’t know what she did to keep him calm. He was nursing so all she had was her patience, her love, and her motivation to help me by letting me get some sleep.

Over the past weeks, especially since Christmas Eve when she had a major health crisis and we weren’t sure she would survive, I have thought often of her patience with my son. Was it enough just to sit at her side while she couldn’t talk due to the breathing tube in her throat?

I thought about how many Sunday nights I had failed to call home (Sunday is our usual night) because I was more motivated to get to sleep. I thought about how desperately I want my children to want to call me.

After the crises of the last few weeks, I am motivated to do better.  I almost lost the chance.

(This post written all thumbs on my iPhone from the ICU.)
Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Goodbye, 2017. You weren’t ALL bad.

Happy New Year’s Eve! It has been an eventful last week of 2017, with my sweet mom being very ill at UF Health with pneumonia, so I’m taking a small shortcut for today’s blog and featuring my Instagram “Best Nine” for 2017.

Working clockwise from the top left corner:

  1. It’s funny that this picture is a “best.” Obviously, it’s no great shakes from a photographic standpoint, but the original, and the delicious garlicky baked shrimp Wayne made, qualified as “bests”!
  2. Wayne Kevin’s graduation from Lincoln High School in May. HOORAY!
  3. Bella, Instagram star.
  4. The day Wayne Kevin won a senior achievement award at Lincoln for his role in designing and making tshirts for fellow students through the digital design program. Proud mom here!
  5. Bonnie (pictured here) has cut my hair since Tenley was an infant (i.e., more than 20 years). She has moved on to bigger, better, and more Nashvegas-y things. I miss her. My hair misses her.
  6. ADPi parents’ weekend (which was more like ‘parents’ two hours’) with Tenley. Langdale Plantation is beautiful!
  7. Celebrating our 25th anniversary at Kool Beanz.
  8. At Olivia’s gorgeous Pebble Hill wedding.
  9. (Center) At the beginning of graduation prep, when I shared Wayne’s invitation and name cards.

And that’s a wrap on 2017! Like many others, I leave this year with a bit of a “don’t let the door hit ya on your way out, 2017” feeling, BUT I don’t tend to look at things in that way in general.

If this particular president hadn’t been elected (sigh), I wouldn’t have discovered how strongly I feel about particular issues, especially equity, and may not have spoken up. If my father-in-law hadn’t lived with us, and I hadn’t had to be a part of his final months with cancer, I wouldn’t have understood that it’s as sacred a responsibility to see someone through their death as it is to bring a human being into the world.

My youngest graduated high school (yay!), I celebrated 25 years of marriage, and I spent enjoyable time with my daughter and saw her mature (and turn 21). My mom survived a terrifying medical episode where an ICU nurse told me “if it were my mom, I would come now” (yes, I went — fortunately the nurse’s prediction was not accurate).

Here’s hoping everyone’s 2018 “Best Nine” is full of love, smiles, happiness, health and peace.

Tracking Holiday Progress

“I want one of those watches.”

This is something my father-in-law, for whom we were caregivers for three years, said repeatedly in the fall of 2015, leading up to Christmas.

He had a tendency to watch two things – tennis or golf – on television constantly and a “fitness tracker” device was advertised often.

I don’t know what it was about that commercial or that product that captured his attention so much. Due to a series of “mini-strokes,” his memory was scrambled. He rarely remembered much of anything of consequence.

But there were the occasional exceptions (like the fitness tracker, or the one pair of pants that didn’t fit right), and when those exceptions occurred, everyone in the house knew his mind was set on the topic.

As Christmas 2015 approached, we thought we had the perfect gift for him: the fitness tracker!

Of course, we weren’t exactly sure what it was he would be tracking. He didn’t exercise. He wasn’t keeping track of how many steps he took every day. He didn’t care about graphing progress toward any goal.

But the fitness tracker would be a gift-giving hit!

Christmas morning dawned and we gathered around to open gifts.

Dad opened the fitness tracker. We expected joy, satisfaction, happiness.

We got ……. a mystified Dad wondering what the tracker was.

We explained it was the tracker he had been talking about wanting (for weeks, probably months!). He had no recollection. He also couldn’t really understand why it didn’t show anything on the display (that was our fault for not programming it/charging it up earlier).

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that he didn’t remember wanting the fitness tracker so badly. The incident mirrored so many other patterns in our life together. His retention was impaired. Although he perseverated on select items or experiences, that perseveration evaporated as rapidly as it entered our world.

My thoughts on holidays as caregivers:

Empathy is the best gift of all

One of my ongoing frustrations with Dad’s situation (not with him personally, but with the changes to his cognitive state as a result of his mini-strokes and (possibly) depression) was his utter lack of empathy. He had never been an overtly emotional or empathic individual anyway, but after his mini-strokes, my mother-in-law’s death, and a bout with head and neck cancer, he was even more depleted of the ability to feel someone else’s pain.

His lack of empathy, though, didn’t change the fact that he needed us to empathize with him. He needed us to understand (as long as it lasted) why a commercial promising fitness and fun, correlated with a cool fitness tracker, excited him. (He also needed us to understand his brain dysfunction enough to know he may not actually remember why the commercial lit a particular motivational fire within him.)

Realistic is best when it comes to holiday expectations

I can’t say we’ve ever been a family that has pulled out all the stops in the department of decorating, lavish gift-giving, or constant holiday socializing. However, when my mother-in-law was alive, we had a meticulously defined (and lovely) Christmas Eve tradition. She spent countless hours putting together stockings for every single family member, selecting just the right gift, and orchestrating a spread centered by the Advent candle and the crystal punch bowl.

During our three years as Dad’s caregivers, Christmas Eves were different. Barb (my mother-in-law) was gone, and Christmas Eve was a bit more fragmented. Our kids were growing older, with my daughter away at college, so gone was the frenzy of Christmas mornings with little kids. Still, our foursome was now a group of five, and Christmas morning took on a different tone.

Dad didn’t need the frenzy of a full house on Christmas Eve (he always faded as the day wore on – by 7 p.m. his pain and resilience were always fading).

Key to surviving the caregiving years, especially during the holidays, was being kind to ourselves regarding what we expected the celebrations to look like. Unpredictability is a hallmark of caregiving, especially when schedules are being interrupted by parties, extra errands, and visitors.

See measurement in different ways

If you have ever had a fitness tracker, you may have become obsessed with charting your progress. Did you take more steps than yesterday? Did you “win” a badge on the online app? Did you take enough steps to equate to climbing a skyscraper?

With caregiving, you have to learn to track progress differently. You may not be able to document steady, incremental progress.

With empathy and realistic expectations, however, you may be able to track the most long-lasting benefit of all: the knowledge that you took steps toward helping your loved one (and yourself) reach the goal of having a positive holiday experience.

Holiday Caregiving

pearlsband / Pixabay

Five Minute Friday: DIFFERENT

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.”

Today’s prompt: DIFFERENT

Five Minute Friday

I turned Spotify on to “Acoustic Covers” so that I would have music in the background as I composed this five-minute piece.

Rather than music only, I got voices. This was different than I expected. I suppose it’s acoustic as in “no electronics,” which is different than “no voices.”

“Different than what I expected” seems to be the status quo in my life lately.

(And in the case of the music I’m listening to, I end up at a different place or with a different product than I intended mainly because I didn’t pay attention in the first place.)

I’m not in one of those “ah differences are wonderful and sometimes lead us to something we like even better” moods. Not at all.

As we face the sale (hopefully — please realty gods) of this house, and continue to adjust to the empty nest, I’m struggling to reframe “different” as an “adventure” because right now it feels more like a precipice.

Our whole world seems stuck in the “yuck” of difference. We cling to what we know, feeling safe, rather than exploring (respectfully) what we don’t know (or agree with) because it just feels too scary.

Perhaps if I take a deep breath (and keep writing to sort it all out), the “different” of 2018 will transform into something positive.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.