FMF31 2018 Day 21: START

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: START

My wonderful friend Sandy has been the organizer behind trips last Sunday and yesterday intended to provide volunteer assistance following Hurricane Michael.

Last week, we volunteered in Blountstown. We were tipped off to the volunteer effort by a runner friend (who is also the fire chief there). Sandy and I both have great memories of running in Blountstown, and we knew that town fell among many that were not (for whatever reason) getting as much public attention as others (despite equally catastrophic devastation).

One of the things we did when we arrived was sign in. It was a pretty informal sign-in process — just adding our handwritten names/emails to a notepad, with the organizer saying the group wanted to be sure to thank us eventually. Being a rule follower, I signed it (it doesn’t matter to me if someone sends me a thank you note later…).

Yesterday, we volunteered in Seminole County, Georgia. When we arrived, we signed in with our arrival time and completed a relatively boilerplate volunteer information sheet. Still, for a several-hour stint, it seemed like a somewhat formal arrangement.

Sandy, Me, Chika – We chose the “pet supplies” sign on purpose b/c the wellbeing of animals matters during this disaster.

As we were leaving three hours later, the coordinator asked us if we had signed out. We had almost walked right past the sheet. Why did it matter how long we were there?

It turns out that the length of time we were there does matter. The coordinator explained that every documented, qualified hour of volunteer time offsets a county liability to FEMA.

HMMMMMM – that got my mental wheels turning.

SO MANY (blurry-sorry!) DIAPERS (and a great National Guardsman)

(Note: what follows is not an official explanation, just what I have learned from digging around a bit.)

***end of five minutes***

What I gather is that volunteer hours have a role in helping the county get more money when it applies for a FEMA Public Assistance Grant. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the site we were at was coordinated by Adventist Disaster Response. Since this was not their first time at the disaster rodeo, I guess they know all about squeezing the most financially beneficial outcome from anything donated, whether it is time or money.

Adventist Disaster Response Team Member Helps Unload a Trailer

I honestly didn’t know local areas had fiscal obligations to FEMA after a disaster, but now that I have thought about it, the idea makes more sense.

The takeaway, however, is that we shouldn’t discount requests during this disaster period (or any disaster/volunteer opportunity) to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of the paperwork.

It may be a community’s start toward preserving funds that are already scarce.

Five Minute Friday Start

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

FMF31 2018 Day 20: AUDIENCE

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: AUDIENCE

Ed. Note: I did today’s prompt by sharing my thoughts for five minutes on a Facebook live, mostly unscripted. Below this embedded video is a loosely transcribed version (because I didn’t want to listen to myself a second time to dot i’s and cross t’s!).

I am at the point in the 31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes challenge that I start thinking, “Is there some way I could do this that doesn’t involve writing?”

…which I realize is ironic, but I got there last year too, and here I am again.

Today’s prompt is “audience.” That got me thinking about three things, and we’ll see how many of those I can fit in within five minutes (I’d probably be better off staying with one.)

The first is: I love an audience. I enjoy performing, and I’ve really missed my involvement in FSU’s Film School as a background actor and volunteer. And I don’t really have the chops to do live theatre. I could get my fix that way, but it’s not really in the cards right now. I love it and hope to get back to it.

What I don’t love is an audience when I’m working. I thought about that often over the three months that my mom was in the hospital, especially the periods when she was in the ICU, because those ICU nurses do incredible things that require deep concentration while family members are asking questions and are not always in their calmest states of mind.

I would always think about how challenging that is, and that’s probably why, for a period of my life, I was in career planning, because I always wonder how people got there — got to that point in their careers. I had an assessment one time when I was at Healthy Kids that was extremely on target, and one of the findings was “you like to work alone.”

So … props to a life now where I can work alone at home, doing something I love, and get to be part of a great team but not be putting an IV in someone’s arm while five family members are asking me if I’m doing it right … and while someone’s life is on the line. That probably wouldn’t be my finest hour.

The third thing is … I just came back from volunteering at a warehouse in Donalsonville, Georgia, where they are collecting items for victims of Hurricane Michael. It’s the central warehouse, and from there the items are taken to three places: Colquitt, Bainbridge and Donalsonvile. It was staffed by Adventist Disaster Response teams from Blairsville, Georgia, and I don’t really know how ADR structures its teams.

I don’t know if the ADR teams are volunteers, if they’re compensated in some way. What I do know is they were incredible. They had quite a system set up. One guy — it was his 60th disaster being on a team. It made me think a lot about how — clearly they’re doing this out of a faith-based rationale — that it’s part of their faith to do this and to serve others, but they did not care who the audience was.

I suppose to them their audience was God; I suppose their audience had some further reward than getting past the hardships this hurricane has created. But it really struck me how they had a plan, they welcomed us in as volunteers, told us what to do, but they don’t want any personal glory for this.

They just wanted to do what was a fit for their faith and “do unto others.” It was a very thought-provoking stance that they took on how to help best. We don’t always want an audience. Sometimes we try to attract one when we really should keep quiet and mind our own business. We sometimes do things that we might be seeking some kind of notoriety for ourselves when the real reward is in doing the job quietly.

But whatever the case, I do encourage you to become aware of what your style is. For me it has a lot to do with my style and what work environment is best for me. But it is also — having been with these Adventist response people today — it’s a reminder that there’s an audience beyond us, beyond social media (and I know — I post a lot!). There’s an audience beyond the pictures we post and the sentiments we share that is watching to see if we are making choices that benefit the greater good.

My thought for the day is: think about who your audience is; work in a way that is the best fit for you and do some good in the world. There are people out there who need it.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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

FMF31 2018 Day 19: WHO

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHO

Today’s prompt is one I am taking literally.

One interpretation of “WHO” is the acronym for the World Health Organization.

I end up writing and editing content about that “WHO” three days a week, because I edit the UN Wire SmartBrief.

The fact that I get to edit the UN Wire SmartBrief is such a serendipitous thing for me that I am still, more than a month into it, a bit incredulous at how things end up working out the way they were meant to.

I was slightly involved with this newsletter when I was a freelancer, searching for and writing some of the summaries for it, then my duties took me to other topics.

Once I began applying for full-time positions, two of the ones I applied for ended up being filled by other applicants (who are fantastic, by the way). When I applied for the position I ended up in, I wasn’t aware it involved editing UN Wire.

UN Wire is such a personally satisyfing piece of my job because I have been involved in Shot at Life, a United Nations Foundation grassroots effort related to helping children have access to immunizations, for years. Before that, I was involved in the UNHCR Blue Key project for refugees.

I am reminded each time I edit this newsletter about the enormity of the world’s problems, juxtaposed against the miraculous fact that people keep trying to resolve them.

***end of five minutes***

I’ve tried (and not entirely succeeded in the way I wanted to) to explain in writing how it is worth doing the tiny things (tweeting a legislator, calling a legislator’s office, sending a constituent email) to achieve monumental accomplishments.

For example, I was recently involved in a RESULTS effort to get the United States to send a representative to the first-ever “high level meeting” at the United Nations about tuberculosis. Set aside the fact that there shouldn’t even have been a question about our nation sending someone, the process to try to get it to happen involved lots of small efforts aimed at creating the critical mass of public input that would sway those in the position to decide. We appealed to our representatives and senators to sign a letter that encouraged the administration to send someone.

—to send someone to a meeting…

—that would ostensibly set in motion efforts around the world to detect, treat and prevent TB.

Source: WHO

It would be easy to give up on thinking that the five-minute (at the most) act of sending an email could make a difference, but it does.

The US did end up sending someone to that meeting.

Somewhere out there in the world, a simple email may make a difference to someone who needs the opportunity to live.

Photo credit: RESULTS

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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

FMF31 2018 Day 18: SEARCH

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: SEARCH

One of my duties as a freelancer at SmartBrief was searching for stories to be included in our newsletters. Searching was one of my favorite things to do, for a variety of reasons. For the six months or so before I transitioned to being a full-time employee, my searching duties came after a few hours of intense concentration while editing. The searching gave me a chance to switch my brain to a different mode, relax a little bit, and discover what was going on in the world.

Besides my daily searching (which had to do with legal content), I also searched every weekend for agriculture-related stories. As with any industry, I discovered what a vast array of writing exists about extremely niche things. (I also discovered lots of very good writing about these niche things (and plenty of not-so-skillful writing)).

I had a list of sites I visited routinely. One site I visited stayed on the list, not because it had anything I could use for the newsletter and its narrowly-targeted topic, but because I just liked it!

The site is The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Amanda, the author, grew up farming, has definite opinions about many things policy-related, including agriculture legislation and GMO foods. But she is also a practicing attorney and has managed something I haven’t: creating a catchy design for the blog itself! (She also has a fun Twitter stream at @farmdaughterusa.)

I don’t do the in-depth searches anymore, but I get the opportunity to support other people as they learn to do them. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did, and discover the principle that applies as much to searching for news stories as it does to life in general: take a look at the things that don’t initially seem to be a fit, because you may find something even more personally satisfying!

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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

FMF31 2018 Day 17: PAUSE

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PAUSE

When I knew today’s prompt, pause, was coming up, I got it in my head that I should literally pause my life for five minutes as soon as I could once I woke up. I wasn’t sure what the end result was that I was seeking, except maybe some brilliant insight I could then write about for this five minutes.

I made my coffee (because some things really must come first!), then went on my back porch, set my phone timer for five minutes, and otherwise paused life and sat.

I watched my neighbor’s car lights as she headed for work, remembering all the years we were both headed to the same office, and thinking back on so much about that shared experience.

I watched other neighbors’ headlights as they headed off to work, and had one of the many endless moments of gratitude I’ve had for a) having a new job and b) being able to work from home. No “leaving the neighborhood” headlights for me. It’s a wonderful thing!

I heard the birds sing.

I heard the traffic go by in the distance (the interstate is close enough that when things are quiet we can hear its traffic). Maybe it was normal traffic, but in my head, at least some of them were more supplies headed to the areas hit so hard by Hurricane Michael.

I wondered where troopers sent the traffic on I-10 last week when they closed a large section due to the hurricane. Where could they divert traffic that wouldn’t put it closer to the affected area and create more problems?

This last thing is the kind of question I like to toss around in my head. The beauty of an enforced pause is giving my brain time to play in a world where I’m usually demanding it to do something more structured.

It was five minutes well spent.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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

FMF31 2018 Day 16: PRAY

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PRAY

When the kids were still at home, we had a system for designating who would say grace at dinnertime. Since Tenley had been born on an even day, she would say grace on even days and since Wayne had been born on an odd day, he would say grace on odd days. Maybe God knew what (s)He was doing by not giving us a third child — I’m not sure I could have figured out the math of finding a time for him or her to bless the food!

When my son said grace, he sounded like those announcers at the end of car advertisements on the radio. His words were said so fast it was impossible to understand them. It felt (also like the car commercials) like a technicality — getting through what he had to say in order to get to what he really wanted (food!).

It was frustrating, honestly. I would silently think “why can’t he take more time with this?” and wonder if he even cared.

What I realize, now that our house is quiet and I’m the only one praying over our food is that I was the one being critical, not God. Our prayers are not performances and they aren’t meant to be done in a prescribed way. Most of my childhood was characterized by religion-as-a-requirement. We were supposed to pray often (not that praying often is bad!) and the expectations were plentiful.

Maybe the lesson in a young boy’s quick prayer is that God didn’t need him to slow down, God just wanted to hear from him. The food was blessed, the petitions heard (even if they were SAIDATBREAKNECKSPEED), the family together and for a moment coming before a presence bigger than us.

I am thankful that God cuts us all a bigger break than we sometimes cut each other.

Five Minute Friday Belong

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

FMF31 2018 DAY 15: WHEN

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHEN

I am astounded at the selflessness of the people who have descended on Tallahassee and the hard-struck areas west of us (especially Marianna, Blountstown, Bay County and Mexico Beach) to lend a hand following Hurricane Michael.

In addition to the people from out of town, there are in-town people who have gone without sleep, food, showers and time with their families to start to get things back to normal (or some semblance of normal).

Living here, you always know that hurricane damage is a matter of “when” and not “if.” However, you never feel totally prepared (we didn’t anyway).

I was reading an article that gave some background on why Hurricane Michael grew so rapidly (compared to other storms). The article talked about Hurricane Kate (1985), which I was also here for.

So much has changed since then (yet so much has remained the same). Because of social media, we are better able to prepare (theoretically — once Michael had passed, much of our Verizon services (and that of other carriers) was out). Because of lessons learned from Katrina and other disasters, emergency management is handled differently and lessons are applied.

Even with all the progress, at the core of hurricane responsiveness is human beings willing to get out of bed, to risk their personal safety, to take charge of well-meaning but possibly misdirected volunteers.

My friend Ben posted this about Blountstown, a wonderful small North Florida town that was extensively damaged:

Our town has been knocked down, but we will rise as a stronger town.


Blountstown, FL

Ben is right. I am in awe right now of how many people have risen to the challenge after disaster struck.

Ed. Note: Prayers (of course) and good wishes are appreciated for all of these affected areas. If you want to make a donation, two good charities are Episcopal Relief and Development and Florida Urgent Rescue (FUR), which has been helping dogs from rural areas affected by Michael. Other options are listed here.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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

FMF31 2018 DAY 14: ASK

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: ASK

One question never should have been asked when President Trump met with Andrew Brunson, a minister who had been back in the country for an hour (or so — not exact) after being released from a Turkish prison.

The meeting was going exceptionally well, in my opinion, compared to other press events. I was lulled into a false sense of security by the president talking about how it had taken a bipartisan effort to secure Brunson’s release (I’m a big fan of bipartisan efforts).

Until …

President Trump asked Norine Brunson who she had voted for.

Growing up, I was mystified by the fact that my mother would never discuss who she had voted for. Maybe it’s why I have, to an extent, been the opposite kind of parent. I wouldn’t demand my kids vote for any specific candidate, but I would strongly encourage them to vote, and to ask ALL the questions they needed to in order to make the right choice for them.

But (and I know at this point in our national history, this is a pipe dream), the president should just be glad a citizen has been returned to safety.

I love how Brunson, though, did something that was probably equally as unexpected before Trump asked Norine Brunson who she had voted for: he asked if he could pray for Trump.

At first, I thought it may be a sort of cerebral, politically correct, sterile prayer.

***end of five minutes***

But it most certainly was not!

Before I knew it, Brunson was down on his knees, his hand on Trump’s shoulder, asking God to give him wisdom.

Brunson knows a few things about the power of asking. On his and his wife’s Facebook page, there is a picture of this entire Brazilian congregation, which had gathered to pray for his release.


Photo credit: Andrew & Norine Facebook Page

Maybe these Brazilians could tackle the topic of wisdom about when to keep quiet and how to govern for our president next.


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

FMF31 2018 DAY 13: TALK

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: TALK

I have seen numerous aerial views of the damage created by Hurricane Michael in the days since the storm hit. (I don’t have any I feel totally comfortable sharing due to crediting appropriately, etc., but there are several here.) The problem is — it’s really hard to tell what exactly has been damaged. It’s obvious that the area is devastated, but it’s impossible to get down to the granular level — living rooms where families laughed/cried talked together, decks from which seasons of sunsets and sunrises were enjoyed. There’s too much to take in, and not enough all at the same time.

This is a slightly awkward transition to make, but it’s bugging me so here goes.

A while back, I wrote a blog post about gender reveals and why, although I definitely feel “to each her own” on this, they make me uneasy. I stand behind every single word, and heck, a guy was fined $220,000 for accidentally causing a fire with gender-reveal incendiaries!

However, a Facebook “friend” shared the post in a group that was primarily geared toward women who have dealt with IVF issues, and they were NOT PLEASED.

***end of five minutes — oh well!***

I get it. They come at this entire experience of childbearing and pregnancy having walked a searingly difficult road. I tried to be civil, empathic, and courteous as my opinions and my writing were drug through the mud. Eventually, the woman who had shared it to the group unfriended me on Facebook.

Since she hasn’t blocked me (yet), I can still see how her much-wanted pregnancy is progressing. And I wish I could tell her how happy I am for her.

Here’s the thing about choosing to write, especially opinion pieces. We writers often don’t know who is reading our content. We can get a sense from our Google Analytics, but we never completely know. We’re high up in our opinion drone, not fully sure what the effects are on the ground.

I have to write what I believe, although I always try to do so respectfully and with sensitivity to all sides. If we weren’t true to ourselves, OUT LOUD (meaning on the screen or verbally), we really wouldn’t be creating any kind of image at all, aerial or on the ground. I don’t operate that way. I’ve said often I write as much to work things out for myself as I do to inform, entertain, advocate and educate, but it hits home when a “friendship” (such as it was) is lost.

I have a feeling a talk I’m never going to be able to have with that one person would be more effective than the multiple personal messages I sent empathizing and explaining that I was sensitive to her hurt feelings.

Sometimes the aerial view doesn’t cut it, whether it’s evaluating storm damage or navigating our personal relationships.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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

FMF31 2018 Day 12: PRAISE

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PRAISE

I can easily get lost in an internal mental debate about words (well, external too …). The challenge with parsing words and intentions so finely is that it’s easy to lose sight of the need to act, even if it means taking a risk, making a mistake, or failing.

The role of “helping” is central to some reading and talking I’m doing right now, especially in groups that are trying to come to grips with white privilege. It’s more than I can dissect in five minutes.  At its core, the point is whether we sometimes derive some false sense of “being good people” from helping people who are less fortunate (white savior complex comes to mind, and wanting praise even if we don’t consciously realize that’s why we do charitable things).

That said, thank you to Dale in the Publix parking lot today, for the first bump and the opportunity to buy you a dinner that included greens, something that always reminds me of my mom (picking them/washing them/ freezing them/trying to get younger me to like them (I’m very much over disliking them now!))

She was the perfect example of helping without wanting praise, and I’m pretty sure she was somehow part of our conversation.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

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