About Paula Kiger

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.

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

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

I usually write my “favorite stories from last month” wrapup on the first Sunday of each month, but last week I felt compelled to write about voting and common decency.

Now that we at least have results from the election, it’s back to regularly scheduled programming with my favorite SmartBrief stories from October.


Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

I always look forward to hearing about the newest group of MacArthur Fellowship winners. There were 21 winners this year. I enjoy the challenge of trying to squeeze as much information as possible about such accomplished people into our two-sentence summaries (as you can see, in this case I added a rare third sentence to try to give more winners their due). These people are in good company, with one of the many accomplished alumni being Lin-Manuel Miranda (class of 2015).

Business Transformation SmartBrief

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

A Black-owned bank gave Ryan Williams an opportunity when many other potential financiers had turned him down. Here, he discusses why it’s so important to provide capital to companies owned by Black people and explains why that correlates to reducing racial disparities.

International City/County Management Association

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

This flood-protection system in Venice has come up in SmartBrief before. They were put to the test for the first time, and worked (for the most part), leading one business owner to say she was “somewhere between incredulous and happy when it worked.” Maybe it would have been a more dramatic story if it had failed, but 2020 needs some success stories and I’m happy this system protected businesses and a vulnerable city.

National Association of Social Workers

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

We had so many great stories in this newsletter last month. We discussed the elections, challenges of the pandemic, an asexual person’s take on life and more. However, I have a soft spot for farmer mental health, owing in part to having worked on the Crop Insurance SmartBrief before I was an editor. I’m always happy when we can share a story that can help fortify a farmer or help a social worker be prepared to serve someone in that profession.

National Emergency Number SmartBrief

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

The Journal of Emergency Dispatch has such informative articles about the profession. This one, “You Drive the Incident,” was no exception. The author explains how the way a dispatcher modulates their voice can make a notable difference in how a call goes. She also recommends dispatchers listen to themselves on a recording. Do any of us like listening to ourselves? I don’t particularly love it, but when I’ve forced myself to do it when preparing a speech, etc., it has helped me to a better job. I’m sure the same is true for dispatchers.

Reserve Officers Association

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

This article itself is nice, with its focus on holistic health. What caught my attention, though, was the inclusion (for the first time) of postpartum health considerations.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

I’m pretty excited that female astronauts finally have a toilet that is more tailored to their needs. Space is a pretty bad place to have an uncomfortable experience in that area of life.

UN Wire

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

This was a brief mention from a newsletter standpoint, but I was drawn to the fact that India and Pakistan cooperated to undertake “control operations” to prevent locust infestations. The two countries have a tense relationship, so this was heartening news. What if countries (and individuals) took account more often of the risks faced by being stubborn and found a way to come together?

The STEM Summit is a wrap!

On October 22, I had the opportunity to be a part of SmartBrief’s STEM Education Pathways Summit. Our speakers included Nadia Lopez, author of “The Bridge to Brilliance,” who opened a school in Brooklyn that made an incredible difference in its students’ lives. I got to moderate two sessions and help with the social media of the day’s other sessions. It was such a joy to work on this with my colleagues and to virtually meet so many fantastic educators among the 1,000+ participants. You can access the recordings on-demand by visiting this link.

Geniuses, better toilets in space and more
Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

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.

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:

Editor (finance) for tomsguide.com (NYC)

News editor for tomsguide.com (NYC)

Managing editor at T3.com (NYC)

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.

Voting and common decency


I attended Souls to the Polls here in Tallahassee today. I’ve never been to a Souls to the Polls before, and I’m sorry that’s the case. But they’re on my radar now!

Obviously with only one under my belt, I’m not an expert, but the most basic idea is to encourage church congregants to vote early, by marching to the polls on the Sunday prior to Election Day and voting after church.

There were so many soundbites from today’s event, but here are the two that made it to the very top of my list:

“This [election] is about common decency.” – Loranne Ausley, who is running for Florida Senate District 3.

“We can’t sit back and watch what happens; we have to decide what happens.” – Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Like many people, my emotions and fears are swirling right now about how Tuesday’s voting is going to turn out. Down ballot, there are people I’m supporting who I hope will win, and I’ve done my best to support them with time and money. If they don’t win, though, I know they are the kind of people who will still find ways to contribute to our world in ways that help it be a better place.

At the top of the ballot, however, I am aghast at the degree to which common decency has eroded.

*** end of five minutes ***

I’ve already voted, and the only way I know to try to make a difference is to volunteer as an Election Protection volunteer on Tuesday. If you have questions about voting, or if you have tried and been told there’s a complication that will keep you from casting a vote, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for help.

I was thinking today of the phrase “souls to the polls.” Although today’s event was at a Baptist church, the gathering of people and the march to a literal poll for people to cast their votes was an example of what we should do for each other, no matter the denomination (or if someone isn’t a believer at all).

Dr. Jill Biden walked in to “We’ve come this far by faith.”

I’m grateful to have a faith system. I loved the gospel choir’s singing today. I loved the speakers, including George Floyd’s brother and sister, who reminded us in no uncertain terms that their family member’s “blood is on the ballot,” along with other civil rights pioneers who came before Floyd.

We may not share the same faith. You may not have a faith. Whatever the case I won’t stop writing, marching, speaking and advocating for you to be heard. Common decency has to have a chance to stay alive.

PJ and Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd’s siblings. Learn more at the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.

Editor’s note: I usually do my SmartBrief wrapup the first Sunday of each month. I’ll do the October wrapup next Sunday; this week’s message needs to be shared before 11/3.

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.) 


A tribute to my first boss

My first boss, Tommy Spires, died October 19 after contracting COVID-19. He hired me to be a cashier at Spires IGA grocery store in my hometown of Lake Butler, Fla., when I was 16. 

A tribute to my first boss

I’ve said multiple times in all kinds of conversations, “I think about my first job — at Spires IGA — almost every day of my life.” That’s saying a lot considering it’s been almost 40 years since I worked there.

Here’s a loose collection of memories and anecdotes that may explain why

The early 80s were relatively low-tech compared to now

My tenure at Spires IGA occurred before scanners and barcodes. We had to enter the prices into the cash register item-by-item. We had to know what was taxable and what wasn’t. We had to know what was on sale that week (the sale prices came out in the newspaper on Fridays). It will surprise no one who knows me that I did flashcards at the beginning to try to memorize the sale prices. 

I might as well admit how the skill of making change took some practice (it’s still a good skill to know, even though cash registers do the thinking these days for the most part). I remember someone’s bill being, for example $19.25 and them giving me $20.25 so I would give them $1 back instead of $0.75. I remember a customer saying to me once (as if I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, LOL): “You need to give me $1 now.” 

**Note: In my defense, I was the valedictorian of my high school class, but it wasn’t on the strength of my math skills. I think these kinds of situations are why to this day I harp on the need to teach common-sense skills and I gravitate toward people who have them. Maybe I’m still hoping they’ll rub off on me! 

But working at Spires got my head out of theory and into reality … I will always be thankful for that.

Teenagers can be flighty

I guess this goes with the comments above, but there was one day that sticks out in my mind. I had to replace the paper in the cash register (another of those common-sense skills — is there a theme here)? I got the process started, but then the little roller kept going and there was paper spewing out of the machine. I couldn’t stop laughing as the customers (probably not laughing…) piled up in my line. I got on the microphone to page Mr. Spires and it was probably impossible for him to tell he was being paged because I was laughing so hard. 

Over a lifetime in the grocery business, I imagine this type of thing was commonplace. I think he had more patience than I have ever mustered.

But this teenager could be inflexible

Flexibility has never been my strong suit either, although I have gotten better with time and experience. At my current job, I say, “flexibility is the key” often, sometimes in my head and other times to others. I remember a customer once buying, for example, 10 packs of cigarettes and handing me 10 dollar-off coupons for the purchase. I insisted he could only use one. This transaction turned into a production, with Mr. Spires eventually honoring all of the coupons. I’m not sure if he was just humoring the customer or if I had misread the fine print. It was one of those situations where I probably should have stopped insisting on being right sooner and sought help. It would have been easier on the customer and saved Mr. Spires the time involved in resolving it.

He gave me many opportunities

Mr. Spires gave me varied opportunities to expand my skills, be involved with his family and earn more money. 

I babysat his youngest daughter, Sarah. 

I tutored his middle child, Michael. The last time I was supposed to tutor him, the guidance counselor gave me an opportunity to put the gold seals on our diplomas (it was my senior year). I, unfortunately, made some excuse to the Spires family and put the seals on (what was I thinking, seriously?) instead of helping Mike prepare for final exams. I’m sure missing one tutoring session didn’t derail Michael’s career (he now runs the store), but I’ve always regretted that. Another time when talking to all parties involved would have possibly led to a resolution that made everyone happy.  

I spent some time with his oldest child, Shelly, when she visited Tallahassee. 

One of the biggest opportunities was when the store FIRST got a computer. I took the day off school to work with Fernie Spires, Mr. Spires’ dad, on trying to figure the computer out. (Remember how I could barely make change when I started?!). We’re talking floppy disks and thick manuals. This was going to be a process. They wanted me to come back the next day, but my mom insisted I go to school. This was probably a good decision, because we were all clueless, and I don’t think I was too sad to have to return to school. It meant a lot, though, to be asked to help.

Structure is a good thing in a job for me

I’ve been thinking as I prepared to write this about the parallels between that job and the one I have now. I’m so glad I had my career at Healthy Kids; I loved the cause so much and the things I learned there are irreplaceable. However, when I look back, I realize I always struggled a bit with a job that was relatively unstructured. 

At Spires, you showed up, rang up groceries, and went home (whenever I wasn’t ringing up groceries, I was looking for something to do. The freezer case was right in front of the registers at the time, so I was always straightening the ice cream and freezing my hands off). There are parallels with my current job. Although there are always extra things to do, at its core the main demand is editing newsletters and getting them done within a certain time frame every day. Then I can look for other projects. But I end every day knowing I at least did the minimum of what I needed to do.

Standing up all day is intense

My job at Spires taught me rather quickly the exquisite pain of standing on your feet all day (hats off to my pharmacist relatives, among others). It didn’t matter what type of shoes I wore or what strategies I employed. It’s simply physically demanding! I have friends who are my age (or older) who are still working at Publix most days every week. I truly don’t know how they do it.

I also realized all the little mind tricks you need to play on yourself to get through this type of job. We had an 8-8 shift and an 11-8 shift on Saturdays. The latter sounds “easier,” but if I recall, there was only one half-hour break. With 8-8, there was an hour lunch and at least one break (maybe two). I learned to evaluate some options in my life not by the sheer hours involved but by the way they would be arranged.

A last reunion

The last time I recall seeing Mr. Spires was at a 50th Anniversary celebration for my Aunt Faye and Uncle Marvin, who were very close to him. Wayne and I sat down at a table and a man said hello to me. The man obviously knew me. Cue my faceblindness (and to be fair, his appearance had changed drastically over the long period of time since I had seen him last). Anyway, I had to ask him who he was. He told me and all was good, but of course I was embarrassed not to recognize him. 


Peoples’ memories of their first jobs probably vary widely. I’m fortunate that mine are so good, and that my first job laid the groundwork for how I would approach the work world for the rest of my life. 

As I’ve mentioned in this post, there were a few situations that I wish I had handled differently. But I guess most of us can say that about our first jobs. I’m thankful I was shown grace, given an environment where I could learn some real-life skills and — most of all — shown an example of decency.

I’m sure there are decent bosses like Mr. Spires in other industries besides grocery, and in cities and towns of all sizes. 

But it was to my benefit to have my first job at a small-town grocery store, with such an outstanding boss. The takeaways have stayed with me in jobs in New York City, in Tallahassee and now as a remote worker for a global company. 

Thank you, Mr. Spires.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

This pandemic, with its undefined end and the constant worries about health, is a constant drain in many ways.

Kat Bouska asked us to share five things that are bringing us joy right now, and that’s a good idea. Here are mine:

Wedding planning with my daughter

Tenley is getting married next May, so we have a lot to do! Even though the to-do list is long and I don’t have the ability to write the blank check I’d like to write, it’s still fun … and positive … and uplifting.

The day we went wedding-dress shopping at The White Magnolia – Jacksonville was so much fun. I enjoyed the time with Tenley and her friends. I enjoyed the experience of watching her evaluate her choices and pick her dress. Even with the dresses she eliminated as options, the craftsmanship on all of them was just so beautiful. I enjoyed the reminder that people still take pride in their work and believe in intricate detail.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

The Hamilcast

I finally got to see “Hamilton” a few months ago when it premiered on Disney+. Of course that only made me want to see it in person even more. And of course there are no live performances to see right now due to the pandemic.

Therefore, I’m doing something that is helping scratch that itch a bit. I started listening to “The Hamilcast: A Hamilton Podcast” when I walk. I started from the very first episode, recorded in January 2016. I’ve worked my way up to September 2016 (episode #35) and have 204 more to go (and that’s if they stopped recording new episodes today).

I love this podcast so much. I feel like I’m watching an infant grow up (I guess maybe it’s at the “elementary-school age” stage right now?) as the hosts evolve and gain more technical skills (along with VERY FAMOUS GUESTS such as Lin-Manuel Miranda himself). Honestly, though, as much as I’m looking forward to that, I’m enjoying all of the guests (most recently, the hosts interviewed Amber Fang, the creator of the Twitter account @hamiltonasdogs. The account doesn’t seem to be active anymore, but it’s all new to me, so I can enjoy the posts from a few years ago, such as this!

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

My job

I still love my job. That’s a life gift I never take for granted.

Speaking of my job, I get to do one of the more fun parts this Thursday, when I’ll be helping to moderate our annual STEM Pathways Summit (yes of course it’s virtual this year — sigh). If you’re a teacher, have a general interest in STEM topics or want to find some ideas to motivate a student in your life, sign up! Signing up will help you access the sessions on-demand afterward if you can’t come on Thursday afternoon.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness


I miss my old fitness life. Most of that is something I can do take action to resolve (except that I can’t return to running) — but I have not made much progress. I have been much more consistent about walking, though, and that small habit change has made a big difference.

Now to add more activity!

Halloween Decorations

I usually walk at night (because that’s when I finally get around to it). This is our first year in our neighborhood, which has quite the reputation for being a trick-or-treat mecca. I’m not sure how the pandemic will affect the number of kids we have, but my neighbors are KILLING IT with the incredible decorations!

So far, we’ve only got one metal pumpkin decoration out in our yard, but I bought lights yesterday, so here’s hoping it’ll be much more ghoulishly festive by October 31.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

What about you?

I’d love to hear what’s been bringing you joy. Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!

6 letters and a slash mark at midnight

It is becoming more common for people to add the pronouns by which they want to be addressed to their email signatures and other identifiers at work.

I did this about six weeks ago.

Here’s one explanation via Culture Amp of why people add their pronouns to their email signatures (among other places):

If a person has never had to worry about which pronoun others use for them, gender pronouns might not seem important. Steven [Huang, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Culture Amp] says, “For most, their singular and visible gender identity is a privilege. Not everybody has this privilege; those that are referred to with the wrong pronoun can feel disrespected, invalidated, and alienated.” You can’t always tell what someone’s gender pronouns are by looking at them. Knowing and using someone’s gender pronouns is a positive way to support the people you work with.

I’ve heard many variations of “Everyone knows I identify as ‘he/him,’ so why should I make a big deal out of it on Twitter?” It took me a long time to change my thinking on that. Many people have stated it more elegantly than I can, but in general, I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it for someone who may have chosen to use “they/them,” or wants to use “he/him” even though outward appearances may lead people to assume that person identifies as a female. It is, as Thom Gallet writes here, a way to “to create a space that allows people to, instead of correct you, inform you from the outset.”

I recently took another step and added my pronouns (she/her) to my Slack display name at work. (We have two different Slack accounts, one for our parent company and one for my direct team.)

First, I changed my display name in the Slack account for the parent company.

That felt pretty easy.

It’s when I had to decide whether to add my pronouns to my more direct Slack group, the one I interact in all day long, that I found myself questioning what to do. I had added it to my bio on that account’s Slack around the same time I changed my email, but bios in Slack aren’t read that frequently. A display is seen day in and day out, multiple times a day.

One day, a colleague added his pronouns to his display name in that Slack channel, becoming the first to do so (to my knowledge). I admired him for proceeding, and I knew it would probably be a supportive thing to do to add mine as well.

I felt self-conscious as I deliberated about this decision. I know some people find the display of pronouns ridiculous and excessive. From a pure “space” standpoint, it takes up more room if every time my name shows up, the “she/her” is there too.

These are the main thoughts that went through my brain:
– Is this going to irritate the majority of my colleagues?
– Am I being performative by putting my pronouns in my Slack display? (I really hate the term “performative” and I especially hate the idea that my choices are perceived as performative vs. authentic because that’s never my intent)
– Is there some middle ground? People see my Slack display multiple times a day — do they really need to be reminded of my “she/her” every time it pops up?

I went back and forth in my head for about 24 hours. In the midst of my back-and-forthing, one of my colleagues on the diversity committee paid me a very kind, heartfelt compliment about how I live out my life as an ally.

And that compliment kept rebounding off the hard surfaces of my skull as I tried to decide what to do.

Therefore, I did what all ultra-decisive people do (LOL) … and added my pronouns to my Slack name during the off-hours … when no one would see it until the next day.

(Also, it cracks me up that Slack reminds me that I am, indeed, me by putting (you) in parentheses, but that’s a topic for a different post!)

So far, no one has asked about this. In truth, it doesn’t matter so much the questions people have about my choice (which I would gladly answer). It matters that someone who is new to our group, or someone who has been around for years and has never felt at liberty to be themselves, knows the door is open for them to add their pronouns.

And maybe they will feel comfortable doing it at high noon instead of midnight.

Peyton Manning tried to be anonymous, but …

I had a celebration (September 10 was my two-year anniversary as an editor at SmartBrief) and a lesson learned (don’t try to attend two simultaneous online conferences without getting your other work covered) this month.

These were my favorite stories:


I love the fact that Peyton Manning tried to make this donation anonymously. The world needs more giving that’s done just for the sake of doing a good thing rather than gaining attention.

Business Transformation SmartBrief

A reader sent me a less-than-positive message about the poll question in this issue that corresponded with this story (Will state and county fairs recover after the pandemic?) Maybe I failed to convey the connection, but fairs are about more than cotton candy and fried Oreos. In the case of Los Angeles County, the Fairplex is a nonprofit that serves the L.A. County area year-round. According to its website, the Fairplex “provides more than $2.7 million in tax revenue, and an additional $5.8 million from Fairplex-related events.” Business transformation isn’t just about big corporations making more widgets; it’s about businesses serving communities in a way that is economically advantageous.

International City/County Management Association

Full stop … this is my favorite type of story (and admittedly I have a few favorites). If my family sees this, they’ll say, “Yep — mom would totally clean a storm drain twice a month for a T-shirt.” It wouldn’t be about the T-shirt, though. I love efforts that bring communities together. It’s why I was a part of this.

SmartBrief on Leadership

Editing SmartBrief on Leadership is a rare privilege for me — something I get to do when the regular editor is out. One line in this Entrepreneurs article that we summarized is, “Everyone has a role in how we reach racial justice in this country.” It’s so true.

National Association of Social Workers

The bill this article talks about is the John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. The article discusses the “invisible wounds of war” and features a picture of Hannon’s family, survivors of his death by suicide. Thank you, veterans, for your service. I only hope our country gives you the mental health care you need and deserve.

National Emergency Number Association

Dennis Schlies showed incredible professionalism and focus to keep working as a dispatcher even as his own home was burning and he didn’t know the whereabouts of his wife and the older adult in their care (the humans are safe now; the house is not).

Reserve Officers Association

Having grown up a Navy kid, I’m a sucker for a meaningful military ceremony. I love the visual of the fire trucks spraying this KC-46A Pegasus in greeting as it arrived.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

I love how one of the winners of a Breakthrough Prize got the idea for the discovery that led to him winning a prize in mathematics by thinking about “how a droplet of water will spread across the surface of a napkin.”

UN Wire

“Learning is not a crime, and neither is living — on the contrary, these are rights,” said a high school student from Niger who addressed the United Nations Security Council. I strongly agree.

About National Inclusion Week

Last week was National Inclusion Week in the UK (SmartBrief’s parent company, Future, is based in the UK). As part of the week, we were encouraged to make videos about what makes us included at work. Here’s mine:

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.

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

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

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

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

The tweet I sent on my SmartBrief anniversary. I’m so grateful to be a part of this organization.

Banned Books Week 2020

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

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

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

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

Here’s my readout:

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

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