About Paula Kiger

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

SmartBrief: My Favorite Stories (And Open Positions)

In October, I shared a post recapping my favorite SmartBrief stories among the briefs I edit. Since a little more than a month has elapsed, here is an update about my latest favorites.

From ASPA (The American Society of Public Administrators)

Opportunity Zones take another step as IRS releases rule proposal

Why it’s so interesting: I have to admit … before starting to edit the ASPA newsletter, I wouldn’t have known an “opportunity zone” if it struck me in the face. Short version: Opportunity zones, created in late 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, are “economically-distressed communit[ies] where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” OZs are going to be complicated, and it’s hard to say (yet) whether they will pan out to do what they are intended to do, but it’s exciting to think about the possibilities.

From Sigma Xi Science Honor Society

Bodies burn more calories later in the day, study suggests

Why it’s so interesting: Sometimes, it’s not the findings of a study that fascinate me so much, but the methodology. For this study, which found our bodies burn more calories in the late afternoon than early evening, the seven study participants spent a month in a windowless, clock-free lab, having their schedules manipulated and all kinds of things measured. A MONTH IN A WINDOWLESS, CLOCK-FREE LAB. That’s sacrificing for science.

From the National Association of Social Workers

Carolina Panthers tackle player mental health

Why it’s so interesting: I know NFL players earn plenty of money, but they also endure intense pressure, emotionally and physically. The Carolina Panthers were the first NFL team to hire a full-time psychologist. NFL Players Association director of wellness Nyaka NiiLampti said, “mental health is health.” I love that message and believe it, whether we’re talking football, accounting or trash collecting. 

From UN Wire

UNEP: Meat, dairy production driving climate change

I’m not prefacing this with “why it’s so interesting” because it’s more important for me to share that editing this newsletter a) breaks my heart on the regular and b) leave me amazed that I get paid to do this (I have been involved in United Nations Foundation causes for years). This story opened my eyes to the ways the production of meat contributes to heavy water usage and rainforest deforestation. It’s a newsletter that simultaneously leaves me worried about the state of the world and optimistic that causes including the environment, poverty, education of girls, and health have champions.  

From BoardSource

Commentary: Philanthropy must directly face anti-black racism

Why it’s so interesting: This piece does not mince words, and I found it courageous that BoardSource asked for it to be included. It is just a stroke of good fortune, and not something I have the right to expect, to be asked to work with a piece of content that so closely aligns with my personal values. I’ll take it. Excerpt: “…many people face challenges because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their sexual identity, and so much more — but that treatment squarely rests, in fact has been perfected over centuries, on racism specifically directed against black people.” 

From the Reserve Officers Association

Study: Meditation could help alleviate PTSD

Why it’s so interesting: The transition back to civilian life is so difficult for many veterans, and meditation is such a powerful resource. In a study, PTSD symptoms were reduced 61% among veterans who practiced meditation as part of the study.  

From the National Emergency Number Association

Commentary: New title for 9-1-1 operators would denote professionalism

Why it’s so interesting: I have learned so much about the world of emergency management, and especially the unique stresses dispatchers face, working on this newsletter. This opinion piece advocates for changing the way dispatchers’ jobs are classified from “clerical” to “protective service professional,” which would make progress toward helping recruit qualified dispatchers and keep wait times for emergency response from growing longer and jeopardizing people’s health. I’m pretty sure every dispatcher I know would agree. 

From the International City/County Management Association

Petaluma, Calif., manager retires after 35 years in public service

I saved this one for last for a reason.It sounds pretty routine, right? City managers retire all the time. But for that city and for that manager, this is a major milestone. I had to confirm the date of the meeting where a proclamation was presented about his service, so I found myself watching the livestream of the presentation. I wondered what went through the mind of John Brown of Petaluma, Calif., as he was celebrated. The man orchestrated the replenishment of the city’s reserves after they fell from $8.5 million to $5,000 in 2008. Now they’re on target to be at $8.7 million next year. It may not be the most unique story we publish in a SmartBrief newsletter, but a man who gave all of his professional life to building communities and the hard, difficult work of getting a city’s finances in line deserves two sentences. Congratulations, Mr. Brown of Petaluma.

Digital Journalism Job Openings

About Working at SmartBrief and Our Current Openings

In my previous post, I wrote about our open positions and why I am so pleased to be a part of it all. Here’s an update.

digital journalism job openings

SmartBrief’s Open Position(s)

SmartBrief now has a similar position to mine open, for a Media Editor.

If you have experience as an editor and an interest in digital journalism, as well as expertise with media news and trends, I encourage you to learn more about the position and apply. (Please use my name as your referral contact. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have questions.)

The Media Editor position is slated to be in the Washington, D.C., office, but the ideal candidate might be permitted to telecommute.

Note: There are several other open positions in the D.C. office. I assume most of my contacts will be interested in the Media Editor position, but here are the others:

And in the New York office:

About My Experience

When I was sending an email to a few contacts in October, to share the open position(s), it occurred to me that some people are not aware of SmartBrief. Therefore, I wrote a bit in the email about my experience. This is an excerpt of what I said:

Although I just started as a full-time editor with SmartBrief in September, I was working as a freelance searcher, writer and editor before that (since January 2017).
I know people vary in the path they take to find a job that is rewarding and enjoyable. For me, working as a freelancer because I was still taking care of my father-in-law turned out to be the best of all worlds. It showed me why I wanted to apply for a full-time position and introduced me to a product I believe in wholeheartedly, working with other people who have the same focused commitment.
To learn more about what we do, visit the main site here.


To Recap

To follow up on the Media Editor position, click here.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including our newest, 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 Facebook, SmartBrief Twitter, Leadership SmartBrief Twitter, LinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram and Life at SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

Thanks for reading, and I hope to play a part in keeping you informed long into the future!

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

Five Minute Friday: DEEP

Five Minute Friday Deep

Five Minute Friday: DEEP

Here’s something I desperately need: a deep conversation.

I’m not sure when that kind of thing fell out of my world. I suspect it was around the time I left my Healthy Kids job (four years ago). I do know, in retrospect, that the kinds of things you end up sharing when you are in a traditional office (vs. remote) are, to an extent, a function of the fact that you’re all together all day long.

What I mean by that is … it’s a bit of a false intimacy. You share some pretty in-depth details of your life and how you feel about things because you’re all together anyway.

When I ended up being at home, and being with my father-in-law all day every day for so long, there was a shift in how I spent my time. The opportunities for superficial conversations to go deeper dried up, and I became a bit more insular.

Ironically, deeply life-changing things have happened over the four years since I left that job. My father-in-law’s day-to-day life, his two bouts with cancer, his death. My mom’s death. The emptying of the nest when my son moved out the month after my father-in-law passed away.

The “deep” things come at odder places now: an unexpected personal interaction on Slack. A conversation with a stranger that takes a personal turn for the a moment of more personal sharing.

But I need to hear other people out and be the sounding board for them as much as I need to share things myself.

I think I ended another FMF post this same way, so maybe there’s a hint I’m supposed to get, but it’s time to schedule some coffee dates.

Five Minute Friday Deep

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.)

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

Music for Editors and Writers

I have come to the conclusion that, no matter how I try to manipulate the situation, Spotify thinks I like two songs when I am seeking “music without words” as I edit. They are:

This song was lovely and conducive to my editing process … the first 1,293 times, but I need to move on!

And … multiple variations of Sheep May Safely Graze.

I need more than a river and sheep as my editing (and writing) background sounds!

The Backstory

I know we all have our preferred background music/noise situations. I prefer audiobooks when I drive, but if I must drive with music instead, it must contain words.

When I’m doing something that gives me a little “space” concentration-wise (i.e., not editing or writing), I tend toward Coffeehouse mixes (although Spotify hasn’t been setting my world on fire there either — I’ll tackle that at a different time).

When I started writing for SmartBrief as a freelancer almost two years ago, the first thing I turned to was the classical station on DirecTV. Then I moved on to WQXR through I Heart Radio. Eventually, I added Spotify to the mix.

Now, though, I’m needing more variety.

Therefore, I turned to my Facebook community for ideas.

Confession: I haven’t tried any of these yet (can you say “stuck in routine”?). In case you are looking for ideas, though, here they are!


This was just a misunderstanding on the part of the person who was responding (i.e., they missed the “no words” thing) and recommended Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen songs, but Broadway tunes are rarely wrong as far as I am concerned. As a writer, I have to give props to “Hurricane” from “Hamilton” because a song with the lyrics “I wrote my way out” is ….. me. (Sadly, so is “Words Fail” from “Dear Evan Hansen.”)

Words fail, also, when I need background noise that helps me edit (and write) better also. That’s why these suggestions may do the trick.


There is debate regarding the degree to which The Mozart Effect helps people be smarter; I know classical music is one of my go-to’s for concentration. These were some recommendations:

Beethoven Concerti (such as the Piano Concerto No. 5/Emperor Concerto).

Handel’s Water Music (such as Suite No. 1 in F Major)

Mozart (such as Requiem, K. 626: Lacrimosa)

Anything from the NY Times 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music list (such as Mother Goose Suite: The Fairy Garden)

Yiruma (sans the River Flows in You part, such as Prelude in G Minor)


By offering a consistent, mellow-toned, and lyric-less soundscape, electronic music can actually improve performance in immersive tasks, while providing a similar boost during repetitive tasks-through increased happiness and efficiency. ~ EDM Tunes.

Dubstep (such as Dubstep Yoga: Clouds of Wonder)

Ulrich Schnauss (such as Ships Will Sail)

Indie Rock/Jazz/Pop

If vocals don’t bug you that much during work, give them a go. Jazz, hip-hop, indie rock, blues, and everything under the sun are really up for grabs here, but remember that “ambient” is the word of the day for a productive session with music playing, at least if you’re engaged in deep work. ~ Sparring Mind

John Coltrane My Favorite Things (such as But Not for Me)

Miles David Kind of Blue (such as So What)

Wade Morrissette (such as Still) (Side note — the music situation in the Morrissette home must have been fascinating (his twin sister is Alanis))

Miscellaneous Choral/Instrumental

“…music that puts you in a positive mood has a positive effect on your performance.” One hypothesis put forth in The Learning Scientists.

Alice Coltrane (such as Transcendence)

Brazilian music (such as Falsa Biana) (note: I was warned this may result in dancing while editing)

Eklipse (such as their version of The Man Who Sold the World)

Choral Music (such as If I Were a Swan)

Gregorian Chants (such as Introit Benedicta Sit)

Jim Brickman (such as Angel Eyes)

Lindsey Stirling (such as Crystallize)

Mannheim Steamroller (such as Traditions of Christmas, especially (obviously) during the holidays)

Max Richter (such as A Catalogue of Afternoons)

Ólafur Arnalds (such as Island Songs V)

Penguin Cafe Orchestra (such as Perpetuum Mobile)

Tibetan Meditation Music (such as Guided Meditation for Violin and Water)

Tosca Radio on Pandora (which the site says includes dub influences, funk influences, “a knack for catchy hooks,” “beats made for dancing,” and “straight drum beats.”

Movie Soundtracks/Film Scores

The Princess Bride Soundtrack

One friend’s general recommendation of “film scores” led me to this great Medium post, My Complete List of Instrumental Movie Scores to Study To, so thanks, Ellana Barrett, for the recommendations. One recommendation from that list, to give you a flavor: Hand Covers Bruise from the Social Network.

Readymade Playlists

My awesome friend Beth of H.O.P.E. Unlimited (Helping Overwhelmed Professionals Excel (& Exhale) has created her own! Check out Coffee Shop Cowork. Also, check Beth’s business out for your VA needs.

Hearts of Space on Spotify.

“Music to Write By” on YouTube

Silas Hite “Sounds for a Dinner Party” on SoundCloud

Sirius XM Chill

“Theta Music Meditation” on YouTube

Beyond being a “readymade playlist,” this article from Sparring Mind discusses a bit of the science behind music’s effect on productivity and also gives a few excellent suggestions.


I appreciate everyone’s suggestions!

I incorporated the suggestions into a playlist on Spotify (find it at BGP Editing Tunes). While you’re at Spotify anyway, check out the While You Were Working playlist here. The playlist is a compilation of the songs mentioned each day in the While You Were Working SmartBrief (I’m a contributing editor and would love for you to subscribe by clicking here).

What would you add to the list of great tunes for editors and writers?

Music for editors

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

Grateful Challenge 2018

It’s year five of my taking the Grateful Challenge! Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for. (Here are the previous installments: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014.)


This year’s installment:

  1. My mom’s life
  2. Everything my mom taught me, especially about integrity
  3. My mom’s admonition to “be pretty” (which wasn’t about outer beauty)
  4. My husband
  5. My dad
  6. My daughter
  7. My son
  8. My new job
  9. All the time I spent as a freelancer at my new job, before becoming a full-time employee
  10. Everyone at my job who has taken the time to explain things to me, support me, help me figure out the ropes
  11. All the freelancers who I now work with
  12. Backing up to the “mom” section — all the time we had with her between her initial hospitalization in early December 2017 and her death in February — just sitting in a hospital room, time that obviously was a gift (in retrospect)
  13. My house — the memories we have here as we prepare to move out
  14. My friends
  15. All the lessons I learned from three years of caregiving
  16. All the lessons I learned between leaving Healthy Kids in May 2014 and starting my full-time job in September 2018 — freelancing for different places
  17. Returning (somewhat) to an exercise habit
  18. Returning to Weight Watchers, losing 30 pounds
  19. My trip to Chicago, speaking at Type A along with Laura Petrolino
  20. Wayne Kevin’s graduation in May
  21. Tenley’s upcoming graduation in December
  22. Wayne Kevin’s and Tenley’s significant others
  23. Being involved with Charity Miles
  24. The opportunity to review plays for Broadway World and the Tallahassee Democrat
  25. Meeting Chloe Bressack at the Pulse Vigil
  26. Snail Mail
  27. Yoga, the Tallahassee community, the support given to Hot Yoga Tallahassee
  28. The one time in the four years of freelancing I really got sabotaged, because karma worked that one out pretty beautifully
  29. Blogging
  30. Reading
  31. Being together with the whole family in April when we buried Dad’s and Barb’s ashes
  32. Learning to (having to?) say no to a few things
  33. The Five Minute Friday community
  34. Toastmasters — even though I’m not active now, using the lessons from it every day
  35. People who take the time to give me specific feedback about how to improve (at work and in the broader world)
  36. A great therapist, the opportunity to have help working through things
  37. Coffee dates with friends
  38. Not that it’s a “good” thing, but the fact that working through a less-than-optimal credit rating has made me hustle harder (and hopefully will lead to my kids being freakishly careful about money)

In closing

If “success” is reaching 99 items, then this year is a bust! Maybe it’s a function of being in survival mode for much of the year. Maybe I’m writing this while tired. I tend to think it’s more a function of this year falling into a few huge chunks of “life” instead of many small fragments.

What I know, but didn’t necessarily convey in the 38 items listed, is that I am so fortunate … to be doing work I love and to have the opportunity to work from home. To have celebrated a 26th wedding anniversary and to have spent this evening with my two grown children, reassured by them to an extent that they feel pretty good about their childhoods.

I know I have probably left people out, but I guess the beautiful thing is that I can make it a point to express my gratitude in person, in writing, or with a phone call any time I choose.

Want to Join?

It’s never too late to spend ten minutes focusing on gratitude! Let me know if you do the challenge!

Photo Credit: Gratisography

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

Five Minute Friday: VALUE

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: VALUE

Our values show in what we say and in what we omit saying.

My Thanksgiving with family was wonderful in every way, truly.

In retrospect, however, there was a moment when I froze at a when I could have upheld my personal values better. In addition, I started the problem.

An extended family member now works in an extremely rural area of the South. We were discussing all the things that are NOT in the area (decent restaurants, sufficient shopping, etc.). I asked about schools: “I guess there’s one of each (elementary, middle, high)?”. The other person said that was correct, and that there is also a private school.

I said (with, I acknowledge, a healthy dose of my own snark), “It’s probably a super-Christian Bible academy right?”

The family member said it was an “academy,” but not necessarily a religious one.

They went on to say most of their coworkers send their children to the “academy” because the public schools are “dark.”

I. knew. exactly. what. they. meant. and. said. nothing.

My initial assumption about Christian schools was no more fair than the other person’s insinuation that the reason public schools are less desirable is because they have a higher-than-average minority representation.

***end of five minutes***

Every conversation these days (many of them, anyway) seems destined to divide us rather than bring us together.

I have opinions about ultra-conservative Christian schools that are probably overgeneralizations. Having been active in a pretty conservative Southern religious tradition when I was younger, having knocked on doors when I was 17 trying to “save” people, those opinions are mainly built on the fear that they don’t teach young men and women about the array of options in our world (in a variety of ways — gender, body privacy choices, what to read/think/do), but I can’t say they all are that restrictive.

I do, however, know people in our society are doing stupid, fatal things because of the fear of people who are “dark.”

As my acquaintance Susan Turner wrote in the Holocaust Education Resource Council’s response to the Pittsburgh tragedy, “Character is one’s only possession.”

I don’t know what I could have done instead of staying silent in that interaction (besides not initiating that conversational path in the first place) that wouldn’t have created a rift or moment of tension.

But I know it is a manifestation of our privilege that children throughout our nation (and right here in Tallahassee) are still getting worse educations because of their skin color and socioeconomic status — and we haven’t found a way to insist strongly enough that this be changed.

If the idea that “every child matters” is part of our value systems, we won’t make any progress if we stay silent in those one-on-one moments.

Five Minute Friday

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.)

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

#HousefulOfCookies 2018

I miss baking, which I used to do much more frequently. (Yes, for anyone who pays extreme attention to detail, this is exactly how I started off last year’s #HousefulOfCookies post too!)

Thanks to Natasha and #HousefulOfCookies, I’m back in the baking business, at least for one batch of Nutella Brownie Cookies.

I’m sharing a recipe from PointsKitchen*, and hope you’ll join ALL the bloggers in the hop. You’ll be well-prepared for any cookie exchanges you have on tap in December AND for any visitors who hail from the North Pole!

The recipe says it each cookie is 3 Weight Watchers points. Guess I need to add another fraction for the quality control process!

And the recipe:

Nutella Brownie Cookies (by PointsKitchen)

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup white sugar
1 egg
¼ cup nutella
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
⅔ cup white flour
1.5 Tbsp mini chocolate chips
2 Tbsp cookie butter (or nutella) for topping


Preheat oven to 325F, spray a large cookie sheet with non stick spray.
With an electric mixer beat together the applesauce, vanilla and sugar for 2 minutes, add the egg and continue beating, then add the Nutella while still beating.
Using a spoon mix in dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Spoon cookies onto cookie sheet and in the middle of each cookie add ¼ tsp of cookie butter, you can use Nutella for the middle if you don’t have any cookie butter (I used Nutella – pk).

Bake for 8-10 minutes, makes 20 cookies at 3 smart points each..

Nutritional info per cookie..

Calories 70…Fat 2g…Sat fat 0.9g…Carbs 10g.. Fiber 0.5g..Sugars 8.6g…Protein 1.2g

Please join my fellow cookie enthusiasts!

Holiday Rich Butter Cookies – Houseful Of Nicholes
Rolo Pretzel Cookies – Creating Really Awesome Fun Things
Best Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies –  Ashley & Co
Minty Holiday Cookies – Amy Ever After
Scottish Shortbread Christmas Cookie Wedges – Albion Gould
Loaded Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – This Worthey Life
Brown Sugar Shortbread – Eat Picks
Pretty Decorated Sugar Cookies – 100 Directions
Christmas Rose Cookies – Divas With A Purpose
No Bake Cookies – Hysterical Mom
Norwegian Cookies – Kringla – Little Family Adventure
Cake Mix Christmas Cookies  – Mom Generations

** Note

i intentionally did not link to PointsKitchen. Although the recipe is yummy, the site seems a little “iffy” to me! You’re welcome for the lack of viruses/malware!

What’s YOUR favorite holiday cookie?


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

Why Being Generous on Social Media Matters

social media generosity

You. Reading this post. Can you make my life interesting?

If you can’t, kindly move along and don’t waste your time (or mine) trying to connect.

When “I Want to Connect” Just isn’t Enough

When I read an article in 2016 by a professor who advised readers to quit social media to preserve their careers, I was curious to know more about the author.

As I reflexively do almost any time I read something interesting, I visited his website to look for a way to go deeper: A Twitter handle, maybe, or an email address.

That’s not what I got.

True to the sentiments expressed in his article, he has no social media links on his website, and states that he does not have a “general use email address.”

Simply put, he’s not interested in connecting with people like me, unless we have an interesting proposal that will benefit him in some way.

As an enthusiast who is on social media for large parts of every day, both for work and personal reasons, I struggled to understand his viewpoint.

Social Media Connections Matter, Even if There is No Immediate Payoff

Having a 22-year-old child, I am often struck by how precisely she gets to refine choices she makes based on either a) an algorithm (like Pandora Radio), or b) a feedback-based site (like Rate My Professors).

Back in the olden days, we were held hostage to whatever artists some programming director chose.

At school, our student/teacher match-ups were handed down by the logic of who was teaching what, when, and which students fit in those slots.

Heck, we even had to answer the phone without caller ID.

It could have been ANYONE calling, even someone we (gasp!) didn’t want to talk to.

As my daughter grew up, she could craft her own channels ….

…all One Direction?


…Tired of One Direction?

Create your own Katy Perry channel.

She doesn’t have to listen to Beyoncé when she may be more of a Taylor Swift person, but she is missing out on the serendipity of hearing something out of her comfort zone.

Some of my favorite musicians throughout childhood became favorites because I was unexpectedly exposed to them.

While I envy her ability to manipulate her playlist, I am sad for the discoveries she won’t make serendipitously.

Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by being exposed to something we didn’t think we would like.

Giving Us What We Want at the Expense of What We Need?

Many of my daughter’s college instructor choices have been influenced by sites such as Rate My Professors.

I vacillate on this one.

On the one hand, it can be incredibly helpful to know the pros and cons of teachers.

You can be saved from the really horrid ones by seeing the feedback of other students.

Perhaps the instructors themselves are better because they know feedback about them will be public.

BUT, I think college students sometimes do not know what they need from their instructors.

Some of the best academic situations I had were ones that started off rocky …. demanding instructors who insisted I work tremendously hard and did not spoon feed me.

But they were some of the most effective faculty members I had, in retrospect.

I am sure they would have been skewered on Rate My Professors.

We don’t always know what we need; we may not be prepared to evaluate options from the best perspective.

A Generosity Mindset is the Most Interesting Kind

When the author I had become interested in wrote on the contact page of his website, essentially, “don’t contact me unless you can make my life more interesting,” I wanted to shake him out of his deep reverie and beg him to open himself to the unexpected rewards that come from being generous with those who you’ve impressed enough that they try to reach out to you.

As an example, I interacted with Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich and Spin Sucks lead blogger, on a number of occasions.

I’ve asked questions that were quite small, things I probably could have learned from a Google search.

I don’t run a company like she does; I haven’t written a successful book; I’ve never given a keynote (yet!).

But still, although I may not have something to offer her, she responded graciously.

Ed. Note: Since I originally wrote this post in 2017, Gini and I met! Among the truly *best* of things to have happened to me courtesy of social media.

social media generosity

Me, Nick Harrison, Gini, and Laura Petrolino

I can name example after example of ways a simple tweet has led to a true, “in real life” friendship, of ways I have found solidarity with others who support the same causes as I do, and of how social media has given people with disabilities a lifeline to a world beyond their hospital bed or geographical location.

In none of those situations did I know anything would happen beyond a pleasant exchange of 280 characters.

As I wrote here, the threads of social media (and life in general) are often invisible.

If you are choosing to connect only to someone whose value to you is tangible, you’re likely to be missing the deepest connections of all.

A version of this post originally appeared at Spin Sucks as How Being Generous on Social Media Will Change Your Life.

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

Five Minute Friday: ONE

Five Minute Friday: ONE

One offer.

That’s what most everyone has said would happen as we tried to sell our house. One offer (the first) that would be the highest we were going to get.

We turned that one offer down; it was much lower than what we were asking. We couldn’t accept it without being underwater, so we persisted.

And here we sit, nine months after originally listing it, three months after parting ways with our first realtor, and trying to figure out what to do.

Everything about the “potentially underwater” part is no one’s problem but ours (we made our bed and are lying it it…).

Maybe it’s magical thinking, as I know selling a house takes work, plain and simple, especially if you don’t use a realtor, but I keep thinking there is one family out there for whom this is *the* house. It certainly was for us.

We didn’t turn it into the showcase it has the potential to be. We extended ourselves so much to get it, we didn’t leave much room for enhancements (see the “underwater” part a few paragraphs above).

But it holds within its walls all the energy created by a family going through so many cycles of life — almost all of Tenley’s and Wayne’s school years, my father-in-law’s last years, the bulk of my Healthy Kids career and subsequent career change, Wayne’s layoff by the Florida Senate and the rough road that led to.

Maybe there will be rough roads for whatever family ends up here next (all families have them), but I hope to find the one family for whom it is the perfect repository of all the best energy too.

Five Minute Friday

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.)


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

5 Ways to Serve Up Effective Feedback

When I was a kid, I had a contraption I used to help me practice my tennis skills during the summer. It consisted of a stationary base that I sat at the end of the driveway. Attached to the base was a flexible bungee-type rope, and attached to that was a tennis ball. I would hit the ball. The ball would bounce in the road, and thanks to the bungee it would return to me. I would repeat the process ad infinitum.

Giving Feedback

Image credit: Anthem Sports

I thought about that contraption today when I decided to write about feedback. Since I began editing for my current employer, first as a freelance editor in February and now as a full-timer, I am back in the business of giving feedback after a few years on the sidelines.

In my case, it’s a combination of giving feedback and negotiating details of our production process. It’s not Wimbledon, but it’s important to me and to my employer that what we send out in to the world doesn’t commit a fault.

Once you’re on the feedback court, here’s how to have a great game, set and match.

Direct is best

In our work, time is of the essence and the items on which we are collaborating are short. Since all of my communication occurs virtually (i.e., over Slack or email), I have the advantage of being able to send a message the recipient will be able to keep for future reference and the disadvantage of not presenting the feedback in person. Anything vague threatens to dilute the clarity of my recommendation.

The US Tennis Association says “[D]own-the-line shots are often more effective offensively but are more difficult. Crosscourt shots are easier … but also have the greatest margin for error.”

In editing, as in tennis, down-the-line shots (i.e., being direct) often work best.

Hesitation detracts from success

Once an issue presents itself and has proven to be something that needs to be addressed, hesitating to discuss it has the potential to hurt all parties involved. The person who needs the feedback doesn’t have the benefit of knowing what they need to change, and the more time elapses the less they will recall the situation in the first place. It also takes up bandwidth in your brain as the giver of the feedback, and who wouldn’t want to clear that kind of thing out to avoid mental clutter?

Tomaz Mencinger of TennisMindGame.com said quick reactions give a player “more time to get to the ball, make the right decision, balance yourself … and perform your stroke properly.”

In the giving of feedback, too, hesitating to say something can deprive you of a winning point.

Building Trust Matters

As a freelance worker in the four years between leaving Healthy Kids (May 2014) and starting my current position (September 2018), almost all of my work-related conversations have occurred over email, Slack, Facebook (one of my employers coordinated everything through a secret Facebook group before moving to Slack) or Basecamp.

Now that I am responsible for giving feedback to others and negotiating the fine points of grammar, style and various operational issues with other team members, I am reminded every day of the importance of learning to trust each other.

People who love grammar can be a bit wrapped up in its importance (ask me how I know), and unfortunately even in a world dominated by the AP Stylebook, there are still gray areas and people who mean well but simply have a learning gap or strong opinion or some other hurdle that presents itself when trying to iron out an area of disagreement.

Building trust is not always easy (it’s why I am a proponent of trying to help people get to know each other outside of the narrow confines of their assigned tasks), but ultimately it leads to a higher quality product.

I want anyone who gets feedback from me to know it’s about the specifics of the question, not about them as a person, to perceive my comments as a springboard to being better, not an attack meant to quash their confidence or success.

Writing about what makes the best doubles tennis partners, Bill Previdi of the US Professional Tennis Association said, “The willingness and desire to do more than your fair share, to share the credit and the blame, and to stay calm under pressure are the keys.”

No one on a team is going to succeed without communication, on the court or at the keyboard.

Accuracy is paramount

Be specific when discussing something that would best be done differently in the future. Although Karen Hertzberg’s How to give feedback that’s constructive, not crushing is about manuscript critiques rather than the type of editing I do, this point is true regardless of the type of content:

…your job is to determine whether the writer accomplished what they set out to do.

I like that outlook, because I think most writers, editors and copy editors bring a lifetime of accumulated knowledge about language in general, as well as personal convictions about what comprises effective writing, to their work.

It is important to bring into focus the mutual goals of the publication or entity involved when giving feedback.

And in my environment, although the ethos is “pristine editing,” I always remind myself that the ultimate reader may be opening their newsletter as they ride the train in the morning, or as they gulp down their coffee as the day’s demands start to weigh in. It needs to be intelligent yet digestible.

A ball that lands outside of the lines doesn’t help a player score. That all starts with that player’s choice of how to serve or return. Ditto for editing — what I do to make the feedback clear has much to do with its effect on the outcome.

Accepting and Integrating Feedback is Important Too

Many of the best leaders and supervisors have coaches themselves. Remember the contraption I discussed at the beginning of this post? I could have stood in my driveway for five summers, hitting the ball on the bungee until the bungee wore out and snapped, and not become a better player.

There was no one there to tell me anything about my swing, my reflexes, my approach.

“Everyone needs a coach,” said Bill Gates in this TED talk. (Take the 10 minutes to listen to the talk; Gates has a point.)

No tennis player worth their salt did it without being coached, inevitably meaning they got lots of feedback. That’s true in editing and relating to colleagues too — seek out those who can help you do a better job and be a more effective team member.

(Note: The recipient of the feedback has to be receptive too, of course. That could turn into a whole other post, so I won’t pull on that thread right now, but if someone is resistant to feedback, try to work with them on the “why” of that. Accepting and acting on feedback is pretty fundamental (to their ultimate professional success and your product’s quality level).

The Post-Game Ceremony

Here, I need to digress from the traditional post-match ceremony, where there is a winner and a loser.

Virginia Wade said (according to this website):

It’s difficult for most people to imagine the creative process in tennis. Seemingly it’s just an athletic matter of hitting the ball consistently well within the boundaries of the court. That analysis is just as specious as thinking that the difficulty in portraying King Lear on stage is learning all the lines.

Delivering feedback in a professional, respectful, constructive way is about so much more than “learning all the lines.” It’s also about helping everyone win and making each player have a  share of the spotlight.

Giving Feedback


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

Five Minute Friday: BURDEN

Five Minute Friday Burden

Today’s Prompt: BURDEN

The main thing that comes to mind when I hear the word “burden” is how Wayne’s parents and my parents all said over the past few decades “I don’t want to be a burden when I get old.”

I don’t know many people whose attitude is “I’m going to be a stone around the neck of my adult child as I grow more incapable and need more care.”

Yet, the problem we face is the reality of what happens as aging parents age. Either:

  1. They made no plans for their later years (not blaming here, just being honest), or
  2. The plans they did make don’t work out (the long-term care insurance they paid into so diligently turns down their claim, the “healthier” partner dies first, whatever condition assails them is so much worse than they anticipated.

That is where the “I don’t want to be a burden” crashes into all those times we adult children said something like “don’t be silly, that’s what I’m here for.”

I’m in enough caregiver groups online, left over from the three years Wayne’s dad lived with us, to be exposed daily to the candid truth of how difficult adult children’s lives are as they accept that burden.

It’s difficult, but the people in these groups (and people I know in person) accept the burden with such grace and competence it floors me. Having a place to vent doesn’t in any way detract from the grace they show, the love they share and the weight they shoulder.

If you are a caregiver struggling under the weight of the burden, I send my support. If you are not a caregiver, find one and share a word of support, Even a kind word will lighten their load, I promise you.

Five Minute Friday

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