About Paula Kiger

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

Five Minute Friday: Question

Five Minute Friday Question


Let’s talk about the questions we should ask to avoid getting into debt.

Knowing the prompt this week was “question,” I’ve been thinking since Thursday about what I would say.

I don’t want to overshare, and it’s a tad ironic that I am writing this when I am five hours away from ending the Ration Challenge, when I tried to understand what a refugee deals with (while also raising awareness and funds for the work of Church World Service).

But I have learned to write the thing that bubbles up the most, and here it is.

I would not face some of the financial worries I face in midlife if I had asked better questions years ago. (Again, my financial worries are minor relative to the survival challenges many people face, but they are my responsibility and responsibility is my deal.)

I wish I had asked in my early 20s when I took out that first credit card, “Is this necessary? Do you really know how it all compounds and adds up?”

I wish at several points in our dating, marriage, raising a family and midlife, I had asked more pointed questions about our choices. (And I am not laying blame here — we are both responsible, but I can only retroactively change one person’s choices — even if I only do that in my head.)

I wish I had asked more “what if’s.” What if someone gets laid off (which has happened to my husband twice? What is someone gets so sick they need almost constant care (which happened with my father-in-law)? What happens if a major issue arises with the house?

What if you sit at your desk one day and say, “I can’t do this one more day“? (Happened to me. Fortunately my current situation is a 180 degree opposite.)

Had I asked those questions then, it would be so much easier for the current questions to include, “Where will the next vacation be?” or “How much more can I give to a favorite cause?” than “How am I going to get out of this debt?”

Five Minute Friday Name
Five Minute Friday Question

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.) 

Feeding a Goal

Five Minute Friday Goal


When I saw “goal” as the prompt for this week, I breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed so easy relative to other Five Minute Friday prompts.

“Seemed” is the operative word here.

I’ll stick to the immediate goal, though. I think I’m going to find it feeds (no pun intended, as you’ll see) into some longer-term goals.

I’m starting the Ration Challenge tomorrow. For seven days, I’ll eat foods that are the equivalent of the rations given to Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I signed up somewhat spontaneously and definitely before I read the “no coffee” part.

I just had to look up how to cook rice (a big part of Ration Challenge week, which makes sense). And I have a home ec degree!

(My home ec degree is a bit of a smokescreen, though. It’s a child development and family relations degree. The college isn’t even called home ec anymore (it’s human sciences now). But still, shouldn’t I know how to make rice?

I’m here to report my first batch didn’t burn and didn’t stick to the pan … and takeaway number one out of what will undoubtedly end up being many is that not a single grain escaped. I didn’t carelessly leave any on the counter or let one bounce away. I’m going to need them all.

Although the primary goal is to raise awareness and funds for refugees, I think deep down I have some other goals. I want to break the cycle of eating just to break up the day. I have been needing to deal with my caffeine dependence for a while (I’m not supposed to have any due to health reasons and let’s just say I break that rule day in and day out). It will definitely not kill me to miss wine for a week.

The goal is to help refugees, but I have a hunch it’s myself that I may be helping at least as much.

*Note: If you would like to contribute, please visit this link.

Five Minute Friday Goal
Five Minute Friday Goal

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.) 

Treating Each Other Well, Always

Treating Each Other Well, Always

A guest post by my incredible friend, Tara Reynolds, a Stage 3, Her2+ Cancer Fighter. Although it doesn’t overtly say the word “well,” it says volumes about the power of treating each other well, no matter what.

I was waiting for my next cancer scan, sitting in the Head and Neck Cancer waiting room.

Often I find conversations with other cancer patients more fascinating than normal conversations because crazy-deep views and reflections/fascinating stories of life get added in. It adds old-age value to my life.

Like this morning’s appointment when I sat next to an old alligator hunter and learned about Florida living in the mid 1900’s 😂. But sometimes it feels beyond heavy too, and I feel scared and sad, like now.

It’s the ups and downs of this journey. I feel like I’m wearing military gear that comes with ticking bombs and hundreds of pounds of metal shrapnel that weighs way too much for me. But I can see a reflection of myself, and that tells me I’m actually wearing a tank top. Can’t compute that. 😢

I’m surrounded by people who have entire chunks of their faces and neck missing, many have affected voice boxes and can only whisper. Someone’s missing a leg. My heart breaks in pieces for the ways our lives have been altered by this disease.

How I want a cure.

It got so heavy in my thoughts, that I stood up and went to the bathroom as I felt a full cry coming on. The old man coming out of our special cancer patient bathroom could barely move, and was unable to speak … yet he communicated with me. He put a finger up to me (saying “wait a minute”), turned back, shuffled in pain, and put the toilet seat down for me with a wink. In the absolute worst of times, chivalry lives!!!

I read Philippians 2 this morning.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2

I am shocked at how this man just lived out that verse in front of me. He wanted to make my weight today lighter. I flung my wimpy arms around him (in a non weight-bearing way) and gave him a huge hug. I want to absorb his love and strength. Cancer patients are allowed to get emotional with each other. I told him he is living the best life – with kindness. He pointed to me, to his heart, and then to his smile. We shared the fighting-cancer spirit look – strong smiling eyes twinkling with hope.

Always. Keep. Hope. No matter how much you cry.

Ed. Note: I appreciate what Tara shared here. (Non-diplomatic version — I commandeered her Facebook post and said, “I need that for my blog.”) She is working on getting back to swimming, something I have no doubt she will do. These are two resources that have been integral to Tara, and their donation links if you’re looking for a cause to support:

Casting for Recovery Florida Casting for Recovery Florida is a volunteer-run
breast cancer fly-fishing retreat that empowers participants to, as Tara puts it, “get back out there.”
Donation Link.

American Cancer Society Hope Lodge The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge is where Tara stayed during her treatment. Patients and their caregivers are not charged. Donation Link.

Although I have shared donation links here, I think Tara and I both agree. The best thing to give is to treat someone else well. It is as easy as putting the toilet seat down. pk

Treating Each Other Well, Always

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Although I suspended the usual rules today because I felt Tara’s message was so important, it usually works this way: “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.” It’s the creation of Kate Motaung.

3 Commercials That Don’t Make Sense

These three commercials have gotten under my skin. I’m sure each of us has some pet peeve about the way commercials misrepresent the world. Mine tend to be around inaccuracy and the assumption that we viewers are gullible.

Here’s my list:

Principal Financial Group’s “Dream Car”

This Principal Financial Group ad represents three generations of a family as family priorities change.


This ad always feels sort of contrived to me. I usually think, “if Dad’s incredible job offer is worth missing his kid’s senior year, it must be pretty lucrative. Could he not help out here and help keep his dad’s dream alive while providing for his daughter’s transportation needs?”

(This commercial may also grate on me because I hear it more times a day than I can count. I listen to CNN streaming on my laptop throughout the day and whatever deal they have for ads, this one is queued up to play constantly, it appears.)


Why is the father asking if she can spend her senior year with the grandparents in front of the daughter? Could he not have held this conversation in private to give them time to adjust (and the opportunity to decline)?

But the scene where the grandfather and the granddaughter both are wearing face masks is adorable.

I did a bit more poking around and discovered some cool facts about Annamarie Kasper, the actress who plays the granddaughter.

For one thing, her Instagram handle (piranhamarie) is cute. I’m sure she doesn’t need our help, but her feed is fun to follow and gives an enlightening glimpse into the life of an actress at the front end of her career, so I still recommend it.

She is also a college graduate and a cellist. This is one of the most unique cello performances I have ever seen:


EverlyWell (for anyone who has been under a rock or who watches zero television) is an at-home testing kit. It was also a Shark Tank winner. This is their ad for food sensitivity testing.


My main “observation” is: I am skeptical. Turns out I have company in this skepticism.

StatNews calls the EW $199 food-sensitivity test “dubious,” noting its reliance on testing for immunoglobulin G, an immune protein, runs counter to findings and recommendations from the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

A TechCrunch reviewer found the $79 EW ovarian reserve test “fine … [but] it’s not very useful unless you’re thinking about trying to get pregnant in the near future.”  (And I realize I strayed away from the food-sensitivity topic, but I appreciated the thoroughness of this review.)

This is another one that I end up hearing so many times in a typical day. Apparently I am on the same algorithm as the YouTube commenter who said, “They play this commercial, every commercial break, on my streaming channels.. At first not so bad, but it becomes a cruel form of torture.. ” Like that commenter, I may not be sensitive to dairy, but I am 100% sensitive to overplays of this ad!

I am all for convenience and saving myself the annoyance of going to a doctor’s office and/or lab. I’m also grateful that our health insurance covers most of these types of tests for a reasonable copay. I just don’t see the medical rigor in many of these at-home tests to merit dropping a couple hundred bucks on them.

BrightStar Care

I could have written this entire post about this commercial alone. (But The Senior List did in Open letter to Home Care Companies- Stop with the Guilt Trip Already, so I’m off the hook because they saved me the work.)

Here it is:


While I realize this is a very subjective thing to say, the images in this ad of health care paraprofessionals and professionals seem so perfect. Although we had some very competent home health care providers during the time Dad lived here, everything (in general) was messier, more hit-and-miss and required a great deal of oversight on our part.

The worst part, though, is that last line “Because Dad made us promise we’d keep Mom at home.” Decisions about caregiving in general, and about whether a loved one should remain in the home or go to assisted living, are difficult. They should be evaluated objectively in a way that incorporates factors including economics, what type of supervision the older person needs and what resources the grown children have with which to provide care.

It’s a tough enough decision as is. No one needs to be guilted by a commercial (although I realize — ironically — that the final line in that ad may make it more effective than it would have been otherwise).

3 Commercials That Don't Make Sense

Five Minute Friday: NAME

Five Minute Friday Name


Many of us say while socializing, “I’m bad with names. I may have to ask you next time we see each other.”

That’s certainly the case with me. The truth of the matter, though, is that I tell people I’m bad with names because it’s easier for them to understand that than it is for them to comprehend my difficulty with faces.

And all of that is ironic because people are so important to me. The last thing I want to do is make someone feel they don’t matter or that I didn’t care enough to remember them.

I have been thinking about specific individuals, and what they must be named, lately due to my work. One of the newsletters I edit, UN Wire, covers events in the world that are of interest to people who follow the United Nations Foundation.

Every time I work on that newsletter (three times a week), I struggle to get my head around the sheer volume of people who are dying or suffering in our world.

I did some crude math based on a recent issue. Adding up the deaths, injustices, illnesses and crimes against humanity, I came up with:


Thirteen MILLION, five hundred twenty-seven thousand, eight hundred thirty-four human beings. The types of issues included being displaced, being food insecure, children who had been raped, women who had been raped, victims of Ebola, births among 10-14 year old girls in Guatemala, UN personnel and implementing partners who had submitted abuse allegations, people injured or killed due to cyclones, people held political prisoner, people displaced/killed in Burundi and Syria, education disrupted and more people living as refugees.

***end of five minutes***

I am preparing to participate in the Ration Challenge, during which I will eat the equivalent food as that eaten by a Syrian refugee for a week. I needed to have a name in my head to picture who this is for. It’s so easy to see the mushrooming numbers of people suffering and forget that every single one of those people is someone’s daughter or son.

I very unscientifically googled “name of a refugee in Syria” and came up with Elhem, a 17-year old who became a mother herself after marrying at the age of 13. She married her older cousin after she began living at a refugee camp. She says her marriage was “not a decision borne out of love or romance.”

I’ve joked around about how hard it will be to live without coffee for a week. I’ve send fundraising emails making fun of the fact that I rushed into this challenge without fully comprehending the “no sugar” and “no alcohol” parts.

But life for Elhem is no joke, and her name will motivate me.

*Note: If you would like to contribute, please visit this link.

Five Minute Friday Name

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.) 

The Endlessly Fascinating Nonprofit World

May was a blur. There’s a reason a group of my friends have a “Mothers Surviving May” party. It’s tough month (even for an empty nester, it seems).

Looking back, here’s what stuck with me most from the stories I encountered as a SmartBrief editor last month. If I had to capture the theme, I’d say, “life is rough and we take care of ourselves best by saying ‘no’ sometimes.”

May 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

We shared a story about how men’s grant proposals scored better than women’s (the study examined almost 7,000 submissions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Even though the reviewers preferred men’s word choices, men’s projects didn’t perform better than women’s.

I encourage you to read the linked article. It was difficult not to walk away from it with a “when are we ever going to have equity?” type of feeling. However, the beauty of science is that the question was asked. Researchers learned more. Potential solutions were floated. It’s a start.

UN Wire

In this article, I learned that around 270,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh had been issued ID cards. This was the first time any of these people had been formally identified as people. So basic, yet so essential. Without ID, they had difficulty getting aid, were more susceptible to human trafficking and were more likely to have difficulty finding family members when separated.


Remember the story I shared from Sigma Xi, about how
Male researchers’ wording favored by grant reviewers? It was the third-best-performing story in BoardSource last month.

These equity issues apply in so many of life’s arenas.

Reserve Officers Association

For the ROA SmartBrief, we discussed how a lack of funding has resulted in delays to repairs needed at Tyndall Air Force Base.

This one is personal. Tyndall is less than two hours from me … less than 100 miles. My fellow North Floridians are still struggling, nine months after Hurricane Michael struck. Hurricane season just began again. I want their lives to get back on track.

The International City/County Management Association

I read a story this month that was included in the ICMA SmartBrief that hit all my favorite targets for stories: facts, a “people” angle, good writing. On its surface, it was about flooding issues in Ellicott City, Md., but at its heart it was about so much more.

I wrote about that story in this Five Minute Friday post. Read it and think about Eddie’s legacy. I’m sure it would matter to his family and friends.

National Emergency Number Association

Elivia Shaw and Paloma Martinez, produced “The Shift,” a documentary chronicling San Francisco dispatchers’ work lives and the stress they experience. One of their goals was to encourage passage of the 911 SAVES Act, legislation that Martinez says “would allow for increased funding, training, and other benefits to people like the dispatchers in [the] film.”

Dispatchers experience stresses many of us don’t understand well. Here’s the documentary; it’s worth the eight minutes it takes to watch it.


I am editing a new (to me) brief, the Smart Cities SmartBrief. It covers smart cities, the internet of things and the “connected world.” I can already tell I’m going to enjoy the subject matter with this brief. Here’s one big “a ha” I’ve already had:

You may be able to use the MTA in New York without a metrocard sometime next year. In theory, the next time I go, I may have to figure out a whole new way to pay. It wouldn’t be the first time, of course. I successfully transitioned from tokens to Metrocards. Still … mind slightly blown!

National Association of Social Workers

It was impossible to choose just one story to feature from May’s NASW brief. Usually, as the month goes by I pop over to my blog and drop in favorites as they accumulate over the month. Because May was such a sprint (and never a cool down), June arrived and I had only dropped in two links. Both were from NASW!

I think, looking at them, that the two things relate in a way.

I am a fan of Brian Cuban. I appreciate his candor about his journey through addiction and an eating disorder, along with his commitment to helping people in the legal profession cope with its stresses.

Cuban’s “Above the Law” post, Using The Power Of Story To Break Law Firm Mental Health Stigma, discusses how breaking the mental health stigma involves trying to understand and acknowledge the root causes behind the challenges many people face. As he notes, waiting until someone has a crisis is not optimal. He writes, “A skin-tight suit of shame … may have been worn for years, maybe decades, possibly a lifetime.”

Earlier, the month, we shared Self-Care A-Z: Black Women and Self-Care from “The New Social Worker.” Social worker Cortney Downs discussed why self care matters, especially for women who feel a burden to be a “strong black woman.” She said part of self care involves saying no. I love her reminder to do it “with a period, not a comma.”

Not that I have walked in Brian Cuban’s shoes or Cortney Downs’, but I have had my own struggles with overcoming entrenched negative self talk. And sometimes I dealt with that by saying “yes” to too many things or the wrong things.

My Second “Originals” Post

Have you seen “The Public”? If you haven’t, you should (in my opinion)! The release of the movie dovetailed nicely with my growing interest in the role of social workers in libraries.

Take a look at Library Social Work: Separating Fact From Fiction, and let me know your thoughts.

May 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

If You’re Looking to Turn a New Career Page

I invite you to peruse this list of openings if you’re in DC and being a part of our team may make sense for you (or if you know someone in DC who is seeking a great opportunity). I 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 6/2/19:

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

To 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 (and which crossed the 100,000 subscriber mark recently!), 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 and Life at SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

Thanks for reading!

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

Five Minute Friday: CULTURE

Five Minute Friday Culture


I chose an article, In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning, to share in the International City/County Management SmartBrief yesterday that had all the pieces I love in an piece of writing of its nature.

The article talked about how Ellicott City, Md., has had two 1000-year floods since 2016. It went into detail about the flooding in general, about the environmental factors around Ellicott City that have contributed to a topography that makes flash flooding worse. There were facts and figures (explained in a relatively straightforward way).

Juxtaposed against that (and my favorite part) were the stories of the people. The business owners who rebuilt after the 2016 floods, amid lofty hopes that life in their quaint community would return essentially as it had been before. The teenagers who grew up in the area. The visitors who kept Ellicott City financially sound. The fact that the whole reason the city was situated where it is had to do with its proximity to the water (in the 1700s).

Much of the “people” part of the story focused on Eddie Hermond, a veteran and one of those people who draws other people into their circle and connects people who otherwise wouldn’t have grown to know and care about each other.

Eddie died after the 2018 Memorial Day flood, swept away by the floodwaters as he was trying to help a woman (and her cat) escape danger.

***end of five minutes***

For Memorial Day 2019, Eddie’s friends planned together where they spent last Memorial Day — the day they lost him. Here’s what the writer says about chatting with Eddie’s friends:

As we talk, a server pours a shot of Jameson’s whiskey and sets it high up on a shelf behind the counter. Sara tells me that it’s a shot for Eddie—that was his favorite drink. The whiskey will sit up there behind the bar until it evaporates, and then they’ll fill it back up again.  

I can’t get that imagery out of my head — of the shot of whiskey, sitting silently on a shelf, evaporating so gradually you can’t see it go until it’s all gone. The cultures of the places we love the most … and that edify us the most … be they offices, homes, churches or something else … have some type of watchful spirit in the Eddie mold. Still remembered, still a part of the place that transcends the tangible.

Remembering the “Eddie” figures in our collective lives matters. Here’s to you, Eddie.

Five Minute Friday culture

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.) 

Should Office Plants be Banned?

“They’ll have to pry my African Violets from my cold dead hands.”

Many of us (I count myself in this number) don’t like unexpected changes in our work environments. Sometimes the change is something relatively minor (maybe a piece of decorative art on the wall was changed). Other times, the change is more drastic (people accustomed to having their own offices are moved to a cubicle setup, perhaps).

Where do office plants fit into that picture, and how rigid should management be about the topic?

Office plant bans

The potential for an office plant ban for Florida state employees

Florida DMS warns state workers may lose their office plants, says a recent Tallahassee Democrat article (the quote at the beginning of this post is from the article). To summarize, the agency responsible for managing state employees and properties is considering a “plant policy” for the approximately 800 people working for DMS. The policy is apparently being developed in response to “negative impacts caused by the flowers, house plants and cacti [employees] use to decorate their desks and offices.”

At first, I primarily laughed at this article. I’ve been a Florida state employee. I’m married to a Florida state employee. If there were a range of “things that threaten the State of Florida employee base,” houseplants would not earn themselves a high spot.

As with any question of this nature, though, the answer lies somewhere in between.

Is the “BBC Ban” a legitimate reference point?

The Tallahassee Democrat article says, “The BBC banned plants when it opened new offices in London in 2013.” Well, yes … and no. This “Daily Mail” article from 2013 explains it. First, employees were “urged not to” (versus being “prohibited from”) include plants (deemed as carrying the potential to “form un-collaborative barriers” along with being allergens and inviting insects) in their office decor. Second, the “urging” extended to other items: “kettles, microwaves, fridges, lamps, heaters or fans” and coat-stands (which apparently obscure the line of vision). The kettles, heaters and fans pose the danger of setting off fire alarms. In addition, trash cans were replaced by “recycling hubs.”

I wonder how many of those prohibitions that were laid down in 2013 are still in effect at the BBC in 2019. For the sake of our discussion, though, the point is that it was not a ban exactly. Here’s the last line of the “Daily Mail article. A BBC spokesman said: ‘There’s no official ‘ban’ on plants. We’d just prefer it if people didn’t bring them in.'”

Are there true problems with plants in offices?

Back to the Tallahassee article. These are the issues a DMS spokesperson shared: “House plants can contribute to mold growth, damage desks and windows in offices and encourage pests such as flies and mites when not properly cared for. “

Mold is something to take seriously. The State of Florida is facing a lawsuit over environmental issues (including mold) in the Northwood Center. As I have written about previously, I have a close friend whose life has been turned upside down by her spouse’s mold-related illness.

After I shared the Democrat article on my personal Facebook page, my good friend who had a stem cell transplant due to Multiple Myeloma told me she was prohibited from having plants at home for 100 days after her procedure due to the possibility of mold and germs.

The Wall Street Journal listed fungi spores that can aggravate asthma, odorless gasses known as “volatile organic compounds,” bugs and surplus carbon dioxide in the evenings “when energy from light isn’t available.” (To be fair, the article also covers the benefits of houseplants.

Is hot desking making houseplants a hot issue?

Most of my previous career, I had my own office. I am now a remote worker, so my plants are my own business (I can’t have plants, though, because my cats see them as snacks). My peers who do work at our brick and mortar office are all seated in a common room.

With the growth of cubicle setups and hot desking, the potential for houseplants to present a problem has expanded. The physical spacing is closer, and the boundaries are more difficult to define. Maybe that’s why the BBC saw plants as a potential “desk-grab” weapon.

It bears mentioning that there are other irritants in the office environment. There’s one comment (so far) on the Tallahassee Democrat article, and it mentions “cologne, hairspray, cigarette, pot, and other odors.” That’s true. Apparently, the houseplant issue has taken root and it’s getting its time in the policy-making spotlight.

A State Worker Says …

As I have thought through this article (and issue), it has become increasingly apparent that — as is often the case — one newspaper article can’t possibly accurately fully capture an issue and its nuances.

At dinner a few nights ago, I eagerly brought the topic up to my husband, who is senior enough at a state agency to be part of human resources policy discussions. I thought he would be as shocked and amused as I was.

His response (paraphrasing here)? “Oh that? That got distributed weeks ago. It’s another of those issues where a tiny minority that doesn’t take care of their plants causes a problem that results in a policy solution that also affects the people who aren’t causing a problem.”

Pruning this Issue to the Critical Point

I’m still amused at the article, partially because the writing highlighted the humor inherent in the situation (props to James Call). As I have thought about it and researched some of the nuances, though, I’m laughing a little less and thinking a little more.

Headlines don’t tell the whole story. Plants to pose a legitimate problem in the modern workplace. Awareness of how our individual choices affect our coworkers is not a bad thing, especially now that we are working in closer proximity to each other and expected to demonstrate flexibility regarding where and how we work.

Besides, maybe taking a quick nature break to step outside and get some fresh air the old-fashioned way might be better for our mental and physical health anyway.

What are your thoughts? Keep the kaffir lily or dump the donkey’s tail?

Did I Really Promise to Go Without Coffee?

Five Minute Friday Promise


Have you ever made a hasty promise, thinking “how hard could that be?”

THEN, upon learning what you had gotten yourself into, did you second-guess yourself? Did you wonder how you could get out of it and if doing so would matter to anyone?

Welcome to my life.

If you’re my Facebook friend, you may have seen my May 1 post about joining the Ration Challenge.

I made the decision to join the Ration Challenge in roughly 2.5 minutes MAX.

There’s no financial commitment (although the organizers hope we use the activity to raise much-needed funds for refugees by eating the same rations as a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan for one week during the week of World Refugee Day (June 16-23 — the actual day is June 20) ).

It’s not as though a restricted diet will cause me undue health issues, since the activity only lasts a week (and yes I will plan to weigh in at Weight Watchers at the end of my week of restricted eating!).

I didn’t read the fine print. I didn’t really read the “print.” I know I care about refugees. I know this will give me a fantastic experience to share on social media to help other people care about refugees.

BUT THERE IS NO COFFEE IN THE CHALLENGE! (There is, if you raise a ton of money.)

I can earn teabags by emailing people, so is it OK if I ask your forgiveness in advance for a few fundraising emails? I don’t even know if it’s caffeinated tea, but maybe I can trick my brain into thinking it is.

I honestly did think about withdrawing.

***end of five minutes***

But it’s not like refugees have a choice either.

Although I am among the biggest coffee fans around (even though I’m technically not supposed to have it due to health reasons), I’m a bigger fan of helping refugee children (and refugees in general) survive.

For all the jokes I’ve made in my life about not being able to survive without coffee, it’s time to keep my promise and do something for the people whose survival is truly at stake.

Note: If you’re interested in joining the challenge (I need company!) or contributing, here is the link.

Five Minute Friday Promise

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: PRACTICE

Five Minute Friday Practice


I read two things within the past week that had passages about eerily similar experiences experienced by girl children of color. Here they are:

4-year-old Kelly

From a post written by Kelly Wickham-Hurst as part of the #31DaysIBPOC (Indigenous, Black and People of Color) Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars.

We walked together the couple of blocks, through the park, and got in line at the ice cream shop. We weren’t there very long when a white woman approached us. A more accurate word would be accosted. She accosted us. The way she walked up to us I assumed daddy knew her. He did not. Almost immediately, she was yelling.

I didn’t grow up in a family of yellers. Naturally, she scared me. I didn’t identify, until years later, that this is what started my panic attacks. Her face was red and she was pointing at him and then at me. Since I was on his shoulders it seemed like her finger was directly in my face.

“Where did you steal that baby from?” she screamed.

3-year-old Anuradha

From Anuradha Bhagwati’s book, “Becoming“:

I was about three when Dad was driving us one day along winding suburban roads. Being economists, Mom and Dad could tell you where everything in the world came from, like cars and refrigerators and crayons. If you were sensible, you drove only Japanese or German cars, because they were better made. This was why we had a Toyota.

I was in the back, strapped behind a seat belt, reading. Mom was in the passenger seat. Dad had stopped driving. Maybe it was a red light. Maybe he was lost. A car sped up from behind us and screeched to a stop alongside us. A man was making big movements with his arms. Dad rolled down his window. The man’s face looked like boiling water. He was yelling at Dad. I didn’t understand what his words meant, but they scared me. I was too young to know much, but I knew that this man felt like he was better than Dad. And this meant we were different.

I looked away from the man’s face, which was red and white at the same time, because he reminded me of monsters in my picture books. Dad didn’t say anything. Something uncomfortable was moving in my belly, like a stomachache when I was sick.

The man suddenly drove away. Dad and Mom were still quiet, then they began whispering in Gujarati. I felt something new rising up inside me. I felt shame. I wanted to be as powerful as the light-skinned monster man, and I did not want to be like Dad.

Humanity in Practice

How does a prompt like “practice” factor into these two little girls’ stories? I would be naive to suggest that these red-faced human beings spewing hatred and ignorance could transform into kind, humane people by taking a class, reading a book, meditating or in some other way trying to better themselves.

I also, in thinking about this prompt and these two people — Kelly who I know through social media and advocacy and Anuradha who I only know through her book — kept going back to what such encounters at such young ages did to and about the actual things they chose to practice.

Did they take up ballet and discover the joy of dance? Or did they instead adapt some deep-down conviction that they were somehow undeserving of the freedom that comes with creativity? Did these types of interactions carve away some essential building block of confidence and change the course of their lives forever?

I also wondered what those of us who have white privilege (and we all do if we are white) can do in 2019 to change things. If you’re reading this, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that you aren’t one of the red-faced people. However, the moments in our lives and the choices with which we are presented every moment give us an opportunity to build up rather than tear down.

***end of five minutes***

I have been grappling for the last few days about personal feedback I received regarding a message I was responsible for approving. After reflecting for several days, I finally (and belatedly) got to the point where I accepted that I had been inaccurate at a minimum and possibly utterly wrong. Here was the inner monologue that took place before I got there:

But I meant well.

But I wrote an entire post on why we should talk about white privilege.

But I don’t use grocery dividers anymore in case it’s perceived as a microaggression.

But I didn’t intend to offend.

But it was just a few words.

But I’m reading “White Fragility” for goodness sakes. I’M TRYING TO GET IT.

Red-faced tirades aren’t the only way damage is done. Quietly abandoning what we know to be true hurts others also.

Five Minute Friday Practice

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.) Also I blew the five-minute limit this week by a bunch. Feel free to go on a red-faced tirade against me about THAT. 🙂