About Paula Kiger

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

NEED (FMF31 2019 Day 23)

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

Today’s prompt is: NEED

Every community needs a pig.

Not the kind of pig that becomes bacon.

An ice pig.

There are other ways for communities to clean out pipes, but I learned about ice pigs yesterday at the ICMA conference, and the name intrigues me!

Essentially, an ice pig forces ice slurry through a pipe at high force to clean the pipes out. Apparently, early versions of this method caused squealing in the pipes, which is what led to the name.

I learned about ice pigs at a conference session called “Lessons from Flint.” It discussed how the water situation in Flint, Mich., turned into such a disaster and how to prevent the problem in other communities going forward.

A woman who spoke was a true water expert. She knew so much about what works, what doesn’t and what various communities have tried. I’m glad I have a transcript of what she said, because taking notes alone wouldn’t capture everything.

One thing I am freshly aware of at this conference is the dedication of people who mostly go unsung who make our communities safe. Whether it’s the streets, the cyberstructure that makes a town/city run, the education system, fairness for all, the water. Someone has to care. Someone has to dig deep into the research about options for solving problems (or preventing them), make the argument to a city council or other managing body, secure the funding and implement it.

I have only spent two weeks in Central America, so I’m no expert, but it was clear that many people in our world pretty much have to fend for themselves. No one is making sure their water is uncontaminated.

“Ice pigs” may sound silly, but they represent one of many ways we have it good here in the USA.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

SENSE (FMF31 2019 Day 22)

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

Today’s prompt is: SENSE

Common sense is in short supply these days.

I’m looking at myself as much as anyone else, to be clear.

When we talked recently, my son listed three problems he was having with his car. Not unexpected, since it’s a slightly older car that we bought used in the first place. Although taking care of the issue is his responsibility (as well as the costs), I still couldn’t help but worry as a mom. He needs his car to get to work and, more important, he just loves his car.

When I texted him the next day to ask the status, he replied that he had fixed one problem (brake lights that wouldn’t go off), taken care of another (a malfunctioning O2 sensor) with a relatively affordable part and refilled the power steering fluid, which had taken care of the power steering issue for now.

Much of the reason he could deal with these automotive issues himself has to do with his course of education after high school. He did a 9-month automotive collision course. During his time in school, he started working for a car dealership, where he still works as an estimator.

As someone with six years’ worth of formal education (a BS and an MS), which cost much more than a nine-month automotive collision course, I am reminded frequently that he made a good choice. It’s a good choice for him and for the future people whose cars he will fix, for his debt load (which is much smaller than it would have been with traditional schooling).

Mostly, I am impressed that his school choice in combination with a healthy dose of common sense are helping him solve his problems in an affordable way!

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

PERSON (FMF31 2019 Day 21)

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

Today’s prompt is: PERSON

I was surprised to see one person mentioned during yesterday’s “in memoriam” moment at the conference I’m attending.

This is my first time at this conference, and I just completed a full year editing the newsletter for this group in September, so there are many things I’m still processing about an annual cycle. Being able to attend their conference makes a big difference in putting the pieces together and understanding how the people who (hopefully!) read the newsletter view their work.

Last year, a California city manager went missing. It was quite a mystery. We covered some of the logistics of that city council’s management of his absence — someone had to do his job in the interim. There was an investigation to be conducted and a reward to be offered.

Ultimately, when he was found deceased, I decided not to run that in the newsletter (rightly or wrongly).

Throughout the weeks between his disappearance and the discovery that he had died (he was found in his city vehicle, submerged in a lake), there were quite a few articles and there was a bit of conjecture about why he had disappeared. Was it on purpose? Was it a sudden medical issue?

Being me, I thought about this situation A LOT.

***end of five minutes***

What I didn’t know was that his peers would have an “in memoriam” segment at their conference. That his name would be among those lost this year. No asterisk, no questions. Just respect.

I appreciate being able to spend time with these people who (hopefully) read the newsletter I help produce.

And I appreciate the dignity accorded to John Wooner, former city manager of McFarland, Calif.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

TELL (FMF31 2019 Day 20)

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

Today’s prompt is: TELL

Editing and live tweeting are very different things, but they do something for me that I appreciate — they make me pay closer attention to whatever is being written or said.

With live tweeting, it makes me attend more closely to the content a speaker is sharing. Also, as someone who doesn’t get to go to all the conferences I would like (who does, really?), I appreciate when someone else live tweets because it gives me access to something I wouldn’t otherwise hear.

With editing, I have to process what has been written more deeply than if I were just skimming it. Liz Kislik’s blog about how to tell someone something they needed to do differently in their work is a perfect example. Our goal is to provide two-sentence summaries of full-length pieces, something that is more challenging than you might think.

It appeared in Thursday’s SmartBrief on Leadership, which I was editing in my managing editor’s absence. Her point? People can wilt if their feedback is the combo of “you did x well” but “you need to do y differently.” The “but” is a sure way to deflate someone before even getting out the words to explain what needs to be improved upon.

She briefly discussed the “and” option, which I also loved because I believe improv is an important tool for all communicators.

However, she transitioned to suggesting “now” instead of “but.” It makes so much sense when you think about it. Such a more hopeful word that implies forward movement and potential rather than some sort of deficit.

Now, how can you relate differently to someone you need to coach today?

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

STRONG (FMF31 2019 Day 19)

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

Today’s prompt is: STRONG

I end up reading about Darren Walker, CEO of the Ford Foundation, pretty often. I edit the BoardSource newsletter, which is geared toward nonprofit boards of directors, for SmartBrief, and he’s a pretty big deal in those circles.

Yesterday, I was reading a piece he wrote that discussed a new vision for capitalism in a world where there is so much inequity, financial and otherwise. Walker was talking about a prominent businessman, and the man’s contention that the companies where his organization invests must create long-term value in the world.

Walker wrote, “I hope that BlackRock’s [the business he was referencing] strong words will be met with equally strong action.”

Isn’t that the disconnect we often encounter? We can create a need for strong action by uttering strong words “I am going to do my part to change that situation,” for example. Conversely, we probably undertake strong action sometimes without having thought about our rationale.

But sticking with the fact that our strong words are not always met with strong action, I think that somehow gets at one of society’s challenges today. We can retweet a tweet about a cause in the hopes of raising awareness. And such awareness is good, because it may encourage/inspire someone else.

But it is in taking strong action that I suspect we stand to make a bigger difference.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

ACTIVE (FMF31 2019 Day 18)

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

Today’s prompt is: ACTIVE

I’m not sure if this prompt response is going to be among my most coherent, because I am incapable of turning off the first #AllWomanSpacewalk that is being livestreamed right now.

The two astronauts are active in space right this second, following instructions given to them from ground control.

Some of the responses on Twitter have been (due to the nature of commenting on Twitter) less than encouraging.

“It’s a shame this has to be news” (I don’t disagree!)

There’s also quite a bit of snark about NASA’s mission.

I’m also annoyed that I woke up early to catch this, and then still managed to miss the beginning (because I was still on the NASA channel where they had broadcast a news conference in advance of the walk).

But I’m here now, writing and listening.

I love all things space, and have had the opportunity to participate in NASA Socials three times. I love the challenge of trying to explain the scientific content to my fellow laypeople.

This is also reminding me of Mike Massimino’s book, where he discussed his own spacewalk as he repaired the Hubble Telescope. I gained a whole new appreciation for the intense preparation the astronauts go through, and how many things can go wrong (hence the intense preparation).

One thing about this spacewalk that sort of coincides with our spiritual journeys is the necessity of trusting the instructions you’re given. Ground control is telling them commands they have to follow, some of which don’t make sense when the astronauts are doing their work outside the International Space Station, in the dark.

We can’t always trust ourselves and our instincts, and knowing when to bring in someone who has our best interests at heart (and much more information to work with) can be key to our safety.

**Note: If this seems long for five minutes, it’s because I messed up the timer somehow. I finally looked at it when it seemed like this had taken longer than five minutes, and sure enough the mark had come and gone. Maybe I just need to concentrate on the astronauts today!

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

CONSISTENT (FMF31 2019 Day 17)

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

Today’s prompt is: CONSISTENT

“At least you (or I, or they, or she/he) are consistent.”

This is something I say in jest … um … “consistently.”

It’s usually after someone has said something relatively self-deprecating, like “I was five minutes late to work again today.”

“At least you’re consistent.”

Even though I say it relatively in jest, I do find consistency to be a huge asset.

Maybe I’m trying to wrap being change-averse and habit-bound into a pretty package, but I know what a difference consistent people make in my life. Especially once I had kids, I came to appreciate even more how much I appreciated the consistent people in their lives.

On the flip side, is it boring to be consistent? Am I missing something by not being more spontaneous?

I suppose there’s a balance here — consistency in the way we present ourselves professionally and among the people in our lives who count on us.

But if I daydream about some less-than-consistent choices, I think I would find myself taking an unplanned road trip on a weekend (once my car woes are settled). Possibly eating somewhere new. I have a $25 gift certificate to a favorite coffee place that I still haven’t managed to use.

Maybe it’s time to set up a somewhat spontaneous coffee date with people who count on me to be consistent the rest of the time.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

AVOID (FMF31 2019 Day 16)

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

Today’s prompt is: AVOID

I am developing a whole little sub-genre here on my blog of posts about “I made an error at work today and am coming to terms that we are all human.” Errors are unavoidable, I know. And I would tell any other individual (mostly) to give themselves grace, but it sure is challenging to do the same for ourselves.

Obviously, there are myriad other choices I could have made for the prompt “avoid,” but this situation is fresh in my mind and they always say “write what you know,” don’t they?

When I discovered the problem, which wasn’t a typo and wasn’t a death knell, I had a choice — let it pass and see if the client noticed (because a reader wouldn’t have known) — or be proactive and tell the client right away.

I told the client right away (which is what I always do), with no small amount of self-recrimination. When I want to be self-deprecating among my co-workers (which, let’s admit, is often because that’s how I am), I usually say something along the lines of “What do I know? I’m a home ec major.” It is not lost on me that in a time of severe cutbacks in the publishing world, I have been given an opportunity to do something that others do so well and would probably want the opportunity to try.

I also worked for 20 years in a quasi-governmental space, so it’s a whole different world working at a for-profit venture.

I’m going to go with the idea that being upfront when something didn’t go right is better for the bottom line than avoiding discussions about what needs to change.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

OPEN (FMF31 2019 Day 15)

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

Today’s prompt is: OPEN

I just happened to catch the story out of the corner of my eye yesterday as I was preparing to go to “live TV” on CNN. The headline was something like “Hamilton star mourns.”

I did not know anything about Miguel Cervantes, who is starring as Alexander Hamilton in the show’s Chicago run right now. I did after reading the story. His 3-year-old daughter died from an extreme form of childhood epilepsy.

I went down the rabbit hole — to his Instagram, which led me to his wife’s Instagram, which led me to her blog.

It’s easy to think being so accomplished in theater must be some kind of golden ticket. Good money, lots of notoriety, a fan base, work you love.

And I wonder how he mustered the energy and concentration eight times a week to play his role, given the challenges faced by his daughter and the rest of his family.

I also read that he and his wife lost a baby between their son being born and this daughter’s birth. The baby had a serious deformity in utero and she shares her story of their choice here.

How do you go through so much pain and remain open to sharing so much of yourself with the world, as he does via acting and she does through her blog and social media presence?

I am at a loss to know how, but something about the way this family has conducted itself gives me hope and empathy.

Their daughter’s life touched us all. Her name was Adelaide.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

VOICE (FMF31 2019 Day 14)

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

Today’s prompt is: VOICE

I have friends whose daughter has had a breathing tube since she was born late last year. Having the breathing tube in means they can’t hear her voice.

She’s having surgery next month during which she’ll get a “speaking valve” that attaches to the breathing tube to enable her to vocalize.

Of course if it saved your child’s life, you would forgo hearing them cry or vocalize, but the mom has said on social media (because the baby has her own page — maybe that’s her way of having a voice) how badly she yearns to hear the baby’s voice.

I get that (as much as someone who hasn’t been in that situation can get it).

The voices of our loved ones matter.

When I was a summer missionary long, long ago, one of my peers had laryngitis and couldn’t talk. She asked me to talk to her family. I did, and relayed messages back and forth.

Why it didn’t occur to me that she would like to hear their voices I don’t know, but she looked pretty crestfallen when I hung up and hadn’t put the phone up to her ear so she could hear their voices (this was long before texting/facetiming/emailing were options — it was a bit of a production to make a long-distance call).

I read up a little bit about the valve that allows an infant with a breathing tube to speak, and it’s a bit complex. It involves more training for the baby’s caregivers (as if they haven’t had enough over almost a year of having a medically complex child).

But they won’t be crestfallen to hear her voice. Quite the opposite.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes