About Paula Kiger

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

JOIN (FMF31 2019 Day 9)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: JOIN

I am a joiner. This has become more and more apparent the older I have gotten.

I know this may sound contradictory, since I recharge best by being alone, but having an affiliation with a group matters deeply to me.

I realize, now that I work full-time for one place again (instead of freelancing for multiple places at once), that my psyche is so much more geared toward belonging.

That’s not to say that the places where I freelanced (including the place where I now work full-time) went out of their way to alienate me. Not at all.

But as a freelancer, there is always, by nature of the arrangement, a sense of being on the outside looking in.

I kind of joke around with my current employer that the main reason I wanted to be full-time was so I could hear what was going on in the “random” channel on Slack. (That’s where people chat about whatever they want to talk about (within reason) rather than work topics). As a freelancer, you were limited to the “general” channel. OH THE FOMO. (But I am kidding — I wanted to work full-time because I love the work we do and needed the income — by the time the full-time opening was available, I no longer was obligated to deal with my father-in-law’s needs as he had passed away, so I could turn myself to working more hours.)

The act of joining was anything but random for me.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

GATHER (FMF31 2019 Day 8)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: GATHER

This word brings up memories of hymns from my childhood.

Shall we gather at the river?

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…

I have been particularly remiss in the “gathering” part of my faith walk lately.

While I do “get” the fact that it can be worshipful to be alone at a sunrise, communing with your higher power or on a mountaintop (OK, I don’t personally KNOW about the mountaintop part) reveling in the majesty of nature, I also believe it’s important to gather with others to worship.

I’ve always said worship is the one hour out of my week that I take to make myself sit down and think about others, while reflecting on how I am living out my faith as I see it.

I often hear people say (with good reason) “but organized religion has gotten so hypocritical.” And it’s true. No congregation I am going to walk into will be populated by people who demonstrate their beliefs flawlessly 100% of the time. Likewise, I present myself to them (and God) just as I am (I know — another hymn reference ha ha), willing to see how I could have behaved differently and learn how to be better to my fellow human beings in the week ahead.

I used to sit in the back of the church, there “just for the worship.” Once I had kids, by nature of children being more gregarious than I am, I had to mix with people when I gathered.

Turns out maybe God had something in mind when he gave me two outgoing children.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

SAME (FMF31 2019 Day 7)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: SAME

I know this sounds ticky, but … where have all the words gone?

I have gotten into this habit, so I am pointing the finger at myself as much as anyone else, but we are definitely embracing word shortcuts more than ever.

Maybe it’s social media; maybe we’re just all busy. Maybe I should practice what I preach and remind myself that “language evolves.”

When I agree with someone else, whether it is in writing a response on Facebook or chatting in person, I am just as likely to say “SAME” as I am to say, “I agree with you” or “I feel the same way.”

Hashtags strike me this way also. I know we only have a limited amount of characters to play with on Twitter (it used to be 140 in the old days; now it’s 280). We may tweet, “I ran 4 miles today. #Exhausted” when we mean, “I ran 4 miles today. I am exhausted now and plan to eat pancakes.”

Hashtags do away with all kinds of parts of speech. Goodbye subject, verb, conjunctions and more. #Exhausted.

Everyone gets the point (usually), and time is saved along with keystrokes.

But the use of hashtags and the omission of everything but the most sparse expressions leave me yearning for a sentence diagram or two.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

Informing, inspiring, inquiring

With every newsletter I edit daily, I aim to help people who may feel a bit stuck — at work or in their personal lives — find a bit of space to see things differently.

The stories I share inform, inspire and lead people to inquire.

Informing, inspiring, inquiring
Photo illustration w/image from Gratisography.

Here are some examples from September.


In the Sept. 4 issue of the International City/County Management Association newsletter, we discussed a Colorado county that created a space for nursing mothers when it redesigned its administrative space and accommodates Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury as she brings her nursing infant to meetings. Having pumped breast milk in a number of less-than-comfortable places 20 years ago, I love this new acceptance of the needs of parents. I hope including this story in the newsletter informed other city and county managers of options they may not have considered.

I have typed/edited Michelle Bachelet’s name more times than I can count in the year that I have been editing the United Nations Foundation newsletter (UN Wire). The Sept. 6 issue had a lead story about how Bachelet was urging “Indonesian authorities to respect Papuans’ right to freedom of expression and refrain from using excessive force.” Farther down in the issue was a story about how Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro “taunted UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet Wednesday over her father’s death under 1970s Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.” (Bolsonaro was striking back at Bachelet’s inquiry about an increase in the number of killings by police in Brazil.) A judge found that Alberto Bachelet most likely died as a result of torture that took place after he was jailed by Pinochet’s administration. I have grown to admire Bachelet over this past year, but this piece of information grew my admiration exponentially.


Many of the stories in the nonprofit sector newsletters somehow touch on wastefulness and how to reduce it. You know the little packets of four crayons that restaurants give kids so they can color throughout the meal? Did you ever wonder what happens to the crayons once the patrons leave? One meal certainly isn’t enough for a kid (or kids) to wear down one crayon, much less four. In the Sept. 5 issue of the BoardSource newsletter, we told readers about the Crayon Collection, a nonprofit that collects used crayons from restaurants in every US state and nine countries and redistributes them to school districts. This story can inspire restaurant owners to reduce waste (while giving schools ideas regarding where they might get more supplies).

There’s a “policy” section in the National Association of Social Workers newsletter that seems, at times, a little less awe-inspiring than some of the stories we share about how social workers are making a difference in their communities (and world), but the Sept. 11 story about a resolution passed by the Seattle City Council is both — a policy story and a difference-making piece. The resolution “acknowledges and promises to address violence against indigenous women and girls after native women.” It was championed by native women, social workers among them. This resolution will inspire a whole city to right some centuries-old wrongs.

I wrote a post for SmartBrief, Helping families find hope again after Hurricane Michael, that describes playgroups organized for children and their families in Bay and Jackson Counties after Hurricane Michael struck Florida last year. I am so inspired by the change these social workers created for children, 10 at a time, by giving them an opportunity to share their stories and process their challenges. The fact that their parents also got to benefit from the Journey of Hope curriculum matters too. The affected communities are not far from where I live, and their well-being is personal to me. I was honored to have a small part in continuing to tell their story at a time when they are still struggling as the national spotlight has faded.

Informing, inspiring, inquiring
A participant in one of the Hurricane Michael playgroups. Photo Credit: PlayBig


How are you at keeping secrets? When the 347-member team behind the Event Horizons Telescope that produced this image of a black hole won the Breakthrough Prize, only one person was allowed to know so the news could remain secret. In a massive understatement, project leader Shep Doeleman said, “I feel like this has been bottled up.” This story in the Sept. 6 newsletter from Sigma Xi , the Scientific Honorary, was news because of the prize, but it made me ask whether I could keep such a big secret. (For the record, I could keep such a big secret; confidentiality is my jam.)

It’s not something I have thought that hard about, but I always assumed any military veteran could be buried at Arlington Cemetery. As I learned from the Sept. 30 issue of the Reserve Officers Association newsletter, there is a history behind how burial rights evolved at Arlington, and there are more changes ahead. The rules have been revised 14 times in 150 years, and the newest set of proposals is geared toward handling a space shortage. The new rules would restrict burials to “those killed in action, recipients of medals for heroism and gallantry, recipients of the Purple Heart medal, former POWs, and U.S. presidents and vice presidents.” The biggest change would be prohibiting service members who die on active duty from being buried there if the death did not occur in combat. This is just something it was interesting to know. It can’t be an easy job to make these decisions and disseminate the changes among the military community.

Finally, congratulations you’re now a first responder (or you need to be). If you’re like me, you have come to assume any call to 9-1-1 will summon help. In general, that’s still true, but the broader network of first responders in our nation is changing. Less people are volunteering to respond to emergencies and disasters, which poses a problem for small towns that rely on them more heavily than big cities do. We discussed this in the Sept. 24 National Emergency Number Association newsletter. FEMA’s 2018-22 strategic plan emphasizes, “shared responsibility across all layers of government down to the individual.” That “individual” part? It’s you and me. “If a whole lot of people were just a little bit more prepared, it would make a very big difference,” said public policy professor Amy Donohue. You (and I) might want to inquire at the local Red Cross about disaster preparation techniques.

Informing, inspiring, inquiring

If you would like to be a part of informing, inspiring and inquiring, learn more about our current openings.

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.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 10/6/19:

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

A Recap

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 on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

(I’m linking up this week with Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt “10 reasons why you love your job.” Although I could easily list 10 reasons, I wanted to keep things on the concise side, so I chose three things I love doing at my job (informing, inspiring and inquiring) and added seven examples (plus the bonus Hurricane Michael post)).

Informing, inspiring, inquiring

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

NOTICE (FMF31 2019 Day 6)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: NOTICE

My daughter is 23. I still think frequently about a daycare I went to when I was trying to decide on childcare options for her.

Each time one of the workers would step away from her class (to go to the restroom, attend to some issue, or whatever), she would look at one of her fellow teachers and say, “notice them for me.” (It was sort of an open layout, so her students were in the line of sight of the other teacher.)

This occurred several times during a relatively short visit.

I know “notice them” was really just a particular way this teacher had of asking her fellow teachers to take over the responsibility for making sure her kids were safe when she walked away, but the word lover in me bristled.

There are times in our lives when we “notice” something that we should do so much more. We should speak up. We should ask what is happening. We should see past the images, sounds and general emotion of the space to find out if there is a bigger issue.

We should act.

There’s a video used in a lot of trainings that depicts kids playing basketball. When played again, the trainer points out the gorilla that walked through the scene, that inevitably very few first-time watchers saw.

The point is to be observant, to not be distracted by a flurry of activity, to attune ourselves to seeing more.

If we do that, we may notice more areas where we can help a fellow human or learn something more about ourselves.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

OTHER (FMF31 2019 Day 5)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: OTHER

Oh the places volunteering to write (and loving to write) will take you.

I have always loved live theater. All of it. Always. I wasn’t, however, a traditional “theater kid.” I don’t have much acting experience besides being Rudolph in a high school Christmas play, taking a few months’ worth of acting lessons from the wonderful Naomi Rose-Mock and being an extra in FSU Film Productions.

Yet, when Broadway World was looking for Tallahassee reviewers, I volunteered. Eventually, I got on the list for being a community reviewer for the Tallahassee Democrat when their structure changed to allow a group of community reviewers rather than a staff reviewer.

That’s what found me at a rehearsal of a local production of “Godspell,” preparing to write a review for the Democrat.

I watched the scene based on Matthew 38:39: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

I have now seen that part of the play twice (because I went back as a paying audience member to see the production in its final form).

Is it bad that I struggled to comprehend this play? (I mean, as a reviewer yes it is!) Something like “turn the other cheek” is such a basic part of the faith upbringing I grew up with, but having it occur right smack in the middle of a melange of beatitudes, parables, soft shoe dance and other theatrical activity was somehow disorienting.

Maybe that’s how it is most like life, though. The opportunities when we are called upon to turn the other cheek don’t come with advance notice (“heads up — you’re going to be confronted and want to fight back”).

Rather, these moments in our lives require us to have a plan in advance for how we will deal with provocation. We can’t expect to be our best if we haven’t mentally prepared and practiced.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

LISTEN (FMF31 2019 Day 4)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: LISTEN

“Listen, you need to think about that decision really hard.”

There’s a figure of speech where we use “listen” in that way. It’s the first word of the sentence, a direction, a command. It’s the kind of thing we say when we are positive the other person should see things our way.

Consider a situation after a public hazard caused an accident.

“Listen, that intersection has been a problem for years. The police department documented a 50% higher rate of accidents there. Obviously there would be a fatality sooner or later.”

This is a situation where a word has evolved to mean something else than is intended (in my opinion). We want the person’s attention. While we do want them to listen, it’s more for informational purposes (and to reinforce the fact that we are right).

True listening, at least the way I see it, is an act that requires discipline, compassion and patience.

Also, in this world of electronic communication, that discipline, compassion and patience need to extend to our screens and keyboards.

Truly taking the time to let someone lay out their concerns and challenges and fears is a rare gift we should give one another more often. As I learned in years of telephone counseling, it also requires opening our mouths at points in the conversation to help things along by asking open-ended questions that will elicit more than a “yes” or “no.”

Listen, being available for someone else is as good for us as it is for them.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

PROBLEM (FMF31 2019 Day 3)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PROBLEM

I believe in keeping it real, so here’s the problem I’m facing, community. It’s a problem that falls squarely on my shoulders (and my spouse’s, I guess).

Despite promising myself I wouldn’t wait until the last minute, I have, indeed, waited until (almost) the last minute to do my 2018 taxes. I sent in the six-month extension form on April 15, promising myself I would be proactive (as proactive as you can be when you’re asking for an extension) and not live through an entire summer with the prospect of getting this done dogging me.

Not to get too far into the personal weeds, but I know I am going to owe (again). Until I got my full-time job (which I love!) in September 2018, I had freelanced ever since leaving my long-time job at Healthy Kids back in May 2014. Never once in that whole period did I sufficiently pay my self-employment taxes. Many of those years, I took premature withdrawals from my 401(K) because of the nature of our lives (my lesser income due to freelancing, two kids in college, life), which made the problem worse.

I dread everything about it. Finding out what I owe (again). Negotiating with the IRS to amend my installment agreement (again).

This situation flies in the face of my favorite mantra, “Every problem has a solution.”

The solution, of course, would have been to lock myself in a room on April 16 and do it. Just do it.

I’m reminding myself, though, that I’m clawing myself out of the situation. Having a full-time job has made me pay Uncle Sam more consistently. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

A few hours between now and October 15 to prepare my taxes, a phone call or two then life will move on. The problem will be in my rearview mirror.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

GIFT (FMF31 2019 Day 2)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: GIFT

I *love* giving gifts. I love pretty much everything about the process. Picking just the right thing, trying to get the wrapping right (I’ll never be a professional wrapper), the anticipation of presenting the item to the recipient.

There are other types of gifts we can give that don’t require fancy bows, glossy paper, or finding the tape (why is it always missing when we need it anyway?)

I’m a bit at max capacity for new things to take on. Between work, my blogging/social media life, volunteer obligations, some help my dad needs and other obligations, my free hours are few and far between.

When an acquaintance asked me to look at some of their writing recently, I rather immediately (internally) went into “how on earth can I do one more thing?” mode. I pictured reams of manuscript such as the ones proofreading clients give me when they turn their books over to me.

I pictured all the social media advice floating around in PR circles that generally have the theme “letting someone pick your brain costs you money because it’s time you could be making money — gently tell them no.”

I stopped catastrophizing for one flat second and asked my friend if it was 400 pages or 400 words?


I can do this. So many people have given me the gift of their time to provide (unpaid) feedback on my writing.

It’s my turn. And I don’t need to find the tape to give this gift.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

WHY (FMF31 2019 Day 1)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHY

The best place to start this year’s 31 days of five-minute free writes is probably why do this again? I have gotten inconsistent about participating in the Five Minute Friday linkup. It’s another thing that only takes five minutes!

The answer to “why do a 31-day commitment again?” has to do with the community and the discipline.

I love and appreciate this community (which has its roots in the Five Minute Friday group).

I remember how great I felt each of the last two years when I completed by 31 days. I had upheld a commitment I had made to myself. More important, I had gained the benefit of writing, which always enriches us (even if the writing itself is marginally acceptable.

There are many “why’s” in life, and I could spend each five-minute period this month exploring the ones that vex me most. But I am glad to look forward to prompts that may be more “hope-making” and less “vexing,” such as “gift” (tomorrow) and “enjoy” (the last day).

I am a little torn, because I have also gotten away from my exercise habit and perhaps I should be walking instead of writing. But writing is exercise in its own way. It may not be improving my cardiovascular health, but it is bringing me closer to myself and a community I appreciate.

That’s the “why” that brings me back to my keyboard this month.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes