This is the time to be forward

This is the time to be forward


Being “forward” in the sense of speaking up first, taking a risk, not sitting back to hear other opinions before expressing mine, does not come naturally to me.

Maybe it shouldn’t.

There’s something to be said in this world for the tendency many of us introverts have to process lots of information, take time to formulate our stance, and craft whatever we are going to say or write.

But I feel awash in a world of “forward” people.

I think it’s the “instant” nature of social media that makes this feeling of being awash so potent right now. Maybe the closed-in situation created by the pandemic too.

We sit at our keyboards, watching issues like the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper confrontation and the killing of George Floyd, seeing social media explode with outrage, premature conclusions (sometimes) and lives being changed rapidly (or in Floyd’s case, lives being ended) and we don’t know what to do.

I think the people in our history who ended up making a difference — bigger names such as Malcolm X and Andrew Goodman and less well-known changemakers didn’t do so by not being forward, brash, courageous, brave.

So much of the discourse I’ve read over the last couple of days (and a little bit of the opining I have shared) had to do with what we teach at home. I do believe that creating a less racist world depends (in part) on what we teach at home and how we raise our kids.

I also know hate-filled people have emerged from homes where acceptance and love for one’s fellow humans were taught and demonstrated.

Somehow, we have to teach our children (and ourselves) to be forward in the moments when it matters, to call out racism when it is tempting to stay silent — when the relative makes the racist joke, when they post the meme that stereotypes and degrades.

There are times to be forward, and we’re going to have plenty of them in the near future.

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.) 

This is the time to be forward

A mistake that made things better

A mistake that made things better

These are not normal times, and the Army’s 54th Quartermaster Company does not have a normal assignment. Members of the unit, which does mortuary services, have been serving in New York City, assisting the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) with managing tasks related to casualties of COVID-19.

Last week, I shared a story about the company’s work in the Reserve Officers Association newsletter, which I edit. The story came from the Army Reserve News Articles, and we try to feature stories about the Reserve and the National Guard when at all possible (as opposed to active-duty service members).

One thing I loved about this story was the fact that a health care provider is making therapy dogs available to the company’s members. Their work is grueling, and the animals provide needed support.

That evening, I posted the story to my Facebook and tagged the company. I did that mainly because I often post stories about “dispatch puppies,” dogs adopted by emergency services units to help dispatchers deal with their stress.

The dispatch world has been pretty light on puppy stories lately, so I shared the story about the 54th Quartermaster Company because at least it mentioned therapy dogs.

The next morning, I had a message from the company clarifying that they are an active-service unit, not a Reserve unit. The source article we had summarized was incorrect.

That left me with a quandary. I could theoretically just leave our publication alone, except for making a correction in the archived copy. Our copy desk chief suggested I do a correction also (so that readers of our next issue will know we made the change).

I have a couple of thoughts to share about how all of this happened.

First, I appreciate the conversation I had with the copy desk editor. She said sharing this kind of story demonstrates that we care about our work on a personal level in addition to an editorial level (this is true for me).

Second, the conversation I had with the communications person for the company brought tears to my eyes amid pandemic craziness. After I had apologized for the error and explained what I planned to do to fix it, this was the response:

No, thank you ma’am for highlighting the work that has been accomplished here in NYC! Overall [it’s] a whole-of-government approach that regardless of component or agency we all have a shared understanding about the ultimate goal: Assist a beleaguered city in their time of need!

Member of the 54th Quartermaster Company

That service member saved the day by bringing the error to light. More than that, the unit is doing their part to save the dignity of those who have passed from COVID-19 and to support a city I love.

A mistake that made things better
A memory from a 2012 walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

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.) I also threw out the five-minute rule for this one!

I’m also linking up to Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt “Share a story about someone who ‘saved the day’ for you.”

A mistake that made things better

Mom would tell me to refrain from…

Mom would tell me to refrain from...


On this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of things my mom would have asked me to refrain from. (I realize this graphic probably means for us to write about musical refrains, but I’m doing something else.)

I’ve been grappling with the challenge of being respectful and responsive on social media, both on my personal blog and professionally.

On my personal blog, I wrote something I believe wholeheartedly that many people took exception to. I wake up every morning and check the comments to see what new thought has been shared, holding my breath a little bit as the site comes up. I’ve gotten 28 comments. A reporter who wrote beautifully about the same topic (apologies – paywall) has gotten 1,000+, and the comments on her post are brutal. I don’t have it so bad, but I think on balance my mom would have suggested I refrain from writing about the topic at all.

In addition, a reader of one of the publications I edit made a comment on Twitter that worked its way all the way up to a senior leader at my organization. The leader was even-handed in their response, but I still felt the heavy weight of a reader’s disapproval for days. My wise boss simply reminded me that we put out a good product (true) and that you can’t make everyone happy (also true). My mom probably would tell me to refrain from checking that reader’s Twitter stream so much to see if they say anything else. My mom would probably be right. (The irony, though, is that I can tell this reader and I have such a similar take on the world. Thanks, social media and the odd lens of Twitter for driving two people apart.)

My mom was not one to make big public statements. Yet, I think it was growing up as her daughter that made me a) write to figure things out and b) want to fight just a little bit harder to create equilibrium where things don’t make sense.

She always told me to be pretty (in my attitude — it wasn’t an admonition about appearance). Time will tell if there’s a way to blend that with standing firm.

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.) 

Mom would tell me to refrain from...

Mia Sofia is changing families’ tomorrows

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows


Tomorrow, March 23, 2020, is a very special day. It is Mia’s birthday.

Mia Sofia is the daughter of my friends, Jelina and Erik. Jelina gave birth to Mia last year on March 23, but Mia had died in utero.

I have never seen two parents so determined to keep their child’s spirit alive — in such a gracious way and a way that helps other families too.

Jelina and Erik have worked hard since March 23 of last year to raise funds for Cuddle Cots so other families who need more time with their babies who will not physically survive can have that time.

Here’s what I wrote last year about Mia and the effort to fund more Cuddle Cots.

This year, Erik and Jelina are asking us to do an act of kindness in memory of Mia, and also to wear lavender and lemon yellow, colors that were part of Mia’s decor.

The self-isolation most of us are practicing amidst this pandemic is going to force us to be a bit more creative than usual with the acts of kindness we choose.

I have decided to find the bartenders/servers named “Mia” on the DC Virtual Tip Jar and make a donation of $3.23 to each one, and to let them know it’s in memory of Mia. It won’t alleviate their biggest financial woes, but it’s something.

I hope that “something” illuminates their day the way Mia Sofia brightened our lives without saying a single word.

I know her mother, dad and little sister Emma will bask in the glow created tomorrow by all the people who show love for her.

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

Other things that are happening on March 23 to honor Mia

Aren’t these lemonade bows perfect?

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

They’re made by Little Royal Designs. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of each bow will go toward purchasing a Cuddle Cot for Lakeside Medical Center. I plan to give the one I bought as a gift, but it will find its way into an Instagram post tomorrow before I pass it on.

This is the plan:

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

There are families facing tomorrows they don’t yet know about when they will have to say goodbye way too soon. Thank you, Mia and family, for the difference you are making for those tomorrows.

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.) 

Acceptance costs nothing


Five Minute Friday Less


Yesterday, I participated in a volunteer gathering to do “headstone restoration” at a local cemetery where veterans are buried.

“‘These colors don’t run’ so we are not canceling” is what the coordinator said Friday night on Facebook.

Things are canceling left and right due to Coronavirus, but I decided I needed to show up and fulfill my commitment even though I could have said I needed to create “social distance.”

Here’s an epiphany: “Headstone restoration is not cleaning the headstones with a cleaning solution and elbow great. Oh no – it is placing braces on them, then manipulating them to loosen the ground around them, then lifting them out of their “sockets.”

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the braces.

The intent is to repack the “socket” so the headstones are appropriately aligned with each other and not leaning at nonuniform angles.

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the sockets. The goal was 20″ deep x 15″ long x 8″ wide.

Justin (last name unknown) from the National Cemetery in Tallahassee was there to oversee the process. He’s the foreman at the cemetery and has been overseeing national cemetery work for 12 years.

Five Minute Friday Less
Justin demonstrating how to reseat a headstone.

I was in awe of his knowledge about the process and his attention to detail.

Once he worked with us to get the first stone in the row at the right height and alignment, he didn’t go to the next one (or have us go to the next one). He went to the last one in the row and got it perfect. It was the “keystone,” he said, and he arranged two strings, one at the bottom and one at the top, to run down the entire line of headstones so we would know how to put all the headstones between the first and the last in place.

*end of five minutes*

There was a lesson in that, it seemed. The lesson appeared to be “look down the road to where you want to end up, and draw a line back from that to your starting place. Otherwise, you could end up out of line.

It was detailed and the work itself was quite physical, but our veterans deserve no less.

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 Less

Five Minute Friday: RISK

Five Minute Friday: RISK


By this time next Saturday, I’ll be within an hour or two of giving a speech to a gathering Tallahassee Alumnae Panhellenic.

I am thrilled to have been asked; however, this all seems like a big risk.

I love public speaking. Yet, I haven’t been involved in Toastmasters for a few years, so it’s easy to get into a loop of questioning whether I care enough to keep practicing my craft. (I know we choose the priorities in life that matter most, but while we still had our old house and its lofty mortgage, I never felt like I could let up on my side hustles that were helping keep us afloat financially. Side hustles take time, time that could have been spent continuing my Toastmasters work.)

Anyway, the lovely lady who called to ask me to speak was an enjoyable chatting companion. She also told me that last year’s speaker was Sally Karioth, who is an internationally renowned speaker. I remember my mother-in-law coming home from hearing her speak and saying, “I just had to hug my husband and tell him I loved him after that.”

WELP. That’s quite a takeaway from hearing a speech!

I’ve actually toyed with making my title, “I’m not Sally Karioth, but I have something to say.”

I won’t do that, but I am glad I am taking this risk. Thinking through my topic (which is essentially how you can go beyond giving money to serve your community well) has — at a minimum — ignited my love for a favorite subject.

And I think I have learned a few things over the years that give me great material from which to speak.

People may not leave and tell their significant others how much they love them, but hopefully they’ll be inspired to show their love to a fellow human being, even if it involves the risk of being a little vulnerable.

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: RISK

The 1994-2014 experience

We closed on our previous house on January 31, 2020, spent the next few weeks in a rental, and spent our first night in our new house February 15. That’s all good, but it has meant a lot of moving.

We had gone through a great deal of our belongings more than a year ago when we first put our house up for sale (yes, it took forever to sell, but it went to the perfect family). Thank goodness, because the process has still been intense and decision-laden as we tried to minimize our amount of belongings while not pitching the things that have enough emotional importance to hang around.

Here’s a piece of paper that made the cut, and even made a box that ended up in our new house first (most of the things we didn’t absolutely need are in a pod still).

It’s one of the many thoughtful gifts my coworkers gave me when I left Healthy Kids in 2014 after working there for almost 20 years.

What changed, what stayed the same since 1994-2014?

Thinking about what has changed and what has stayed the same

Here are the things that have changed. Frankly, one of the big motivators for me to write this is to celebrate some of the things I don’t do anymore.

Coffee I don’t drink coffee anymore! I stopped during the Ration Challenge last year and never picked it back up again. This is so much better for my health.

Altoid Abuser During a multi-year phase of my time at Healthy Kids, I always took Altoids with me to meetings to stay awake. It was definitely a crutch. That ended in 2010.

Habitual Gum Chewer I kept this crutch for quite a while after I left Healthy Kids. I eventually stopped that too, for the same reasons I stopped Altoids in 2010.

Runner Not anymore, unfortunately. My exercise-induced tachycardia (which tolerates other kinds of exercise, fortunately, but not running) finally won out. Maybe there will be a medical advance someday that will make it happen again.

This was like being put into a time machine

I don’t know where she went — something about her water breaking This is my favorite story from my time at Healthy Kids. We were an extremely small group back in 1996. We had a student working for us named Juan. My close coworker, Jennifer, who was also a personal friend, was at lunch when I told Juan that I was leaving for the hospital because my water had broken (I would give birth to Tenley later that night). When Jenn came back from lunch, Juan said, “I don’t know exactly — something about her water breaking.” He thought it was a plumbing situation, apparently. Maybe I should have been more explicit in my explanation to a 20-year-old guy.

There was a rodent in the kitchen One of our buildings was an older building with a rodent problem. Y’all, it was BAD. I could probably write a whole blog about the Healthy Kids rodent situation. The final straw (for me) was the day one ran over my foot when I was in the kitchen making coffee (I’m surprised I didn’t give up coffee that day!).

Fingerprint reader Goodness I’m glad the statute of limitations is over on this and we’ve all moved on. Back when biometric identification on office machines was a newer technology, it was (to put it mildly) a frustration to try to get the machine to recognize our fingerprints. The blog and accompanying video I did to demonstrate this was funnier to me than it was to my employer.

Bowels We were sharing our office with the state agency responsible for Medicaid eligibility (because children had to be ineligible for Medicaid to get Healthy Kids at the time). There were some *interesting* interactions between our staff and the agency’s staff. One woman tried to make her point about how everyone should clean their own dishes in the kitchen. She did it by placing a sign on the kitchen door that said, “Clean your own bowels before leaving.” I couldn’t stop laughing.

This is still true

My Friday Read I still participate in Friday Reads on Facebook and Twitter every Friday. I’ve also started incorporating it into the SBLeaders Twitter account, which I help manage. Here’s an example, and I’d love for you to become a follower!

Love my cat There are two cats now, and they have frustrated us to no end throughout the home-selling process, but yes they are family.

Director of Ooperations, You vs Your I still hate typos. This is a good thing, since I now edit for a living.

Blogger, Optimism Light, Perspicacious Still blogging after all those years! The Optimism Light is still around (on Facebook and Twitter). I changed the blog years ago to “Big Green Pen” and moved the perspicacious part to a less prominent spot, but I still aim for perspicacity.

Mom, Tenley, Wayne Kevin My children (and husband) are my biggest priority, still.

Now that I’ve moved on

I didn’t know what was going to come next when I decided to leave Healthy Kids in May 2014. I thought I would find a way to earn a living that lit a different fire within me and helped me be happier.

Since my father-in-law moved in three weeks later and essentially needed supervision (along with trips to the doctor, trips to radiation and more), life took an abrupt turn once he was with us.

The beautiful thing is that I *did* find a job that lights a different fire within me and has helped me be happier. It wasn’t right away, but the sequence of events had to happen the way they did for everything to fall into place, I think.

But reading over this collection of “things about Paula,” I’m grateful for that 20 years. There won’t be another 20 years where I am physically with my coworkers 100% of the time. (I’m a virtual worker now (which I love!) and our world in general is moving to more virtual teams.)

I have the opportunity to make new memories with my current coworkers, and I’m enjoying that so much. I keep reflecting, though, on the different “me” I bring to these new relationships.

One thing’s for sure: It’s a biological impossibility that I will ever have to leave work at lunch because I need to give birth.

I am linking up with Five Minute Friday for the prompt “experience” (even though this took longer than five minutes to put together!).

I am also linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “Share something that made you think this week.”

Moving: What a relief

Moving: What a relief

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “relief.”

I was talking with my neighbor/friend last night about how I feel about leaving our neighborhood after living here 15 years.

I discussed how — several years ago — I would be running in Hawk’s Landing, which is laid out perfectly for running workouts, and thinking, “I could never leave this.” That’s silly of course because I *could* leave.

From the moment we bought here, I knew we had bitten off more than we could chew financially, but that definitely needs to be in the “what’s done is done” category at this point.

All those running mornings (and afternoons … and evenings), though, were really the common thread that had me processing what it would mean to leave. Even then I think I realized I was pre-grieving the fact that we would have to leave eventually.

And now that it’s down to just Wayne and me, the decision has been made. The new family of six moves in Friday.

Despite the grieving, it’s also a relief.

A relief from the debt of being in a house that has always been more than we could afford.

A relief for me, fairly housekeeping incompetent, to stop having to worry about 2500+ square feet. (From the beginning, the thought was that we would be able to eventually afford a housekeeper. That was quaint LOL.)

A relief for Wayne, who has grown tired of the commute (I realize our Tallahassee commutes are *nothing* compared to an Atlanta or NYC situation, but still — I respect his feelings on the topic. I work from home, so it doesn’t matter to me.

It’s a relief, yet it’s also a bittersweet goodbye.

Moving: What a relief

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.) 

Erasing the cost of hiding

Erasing the cost of hiding


“I’m limited.”

These are the first two words of “For Good” from “Wicked,” one of my favorite Broadway shows.

I couldn’t sleep well last night, because late in the evening before I went to bed, I learned via social media that my lifelong friend, Duane, had passed away.

I turned over in bed, queued up “For Good” on Spotify, and played it. The original version played, then someone else’s version. If I could have figured out how to put it on loop until I finally fell asleep, I would have.

This is not the official tribute post I owe this friend. This is the “taking five minutes to start to process things” post. I have so little information at this point.

I’ve shared the story of how our relationship changed me and — ultimately — inspired me to be a vocal ally for LGBTQ+ people many times.

Once I grasped the critical revelation that the change in our relationship was not something happening “to” me, but was a reflection of him being true to himself, I gained a new appreciation for the cost of feeling you have to hide what you know to be true.

As Sam Champion tweeted once, being frank with the people in your life (and, in Sam’s case, the viewing public) means “you just get to live without questions.”

I know how many students Duane helped because his example helped them understand there was not something wrong with them. Life in a Bible Belt small town can make you feel that way.

Duane, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

Erasing the cost of hiding

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.) 

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes 2019

I am participating in the 2019 “31 days of 5-minute free writes” activity (like I did in 2018 and 2017).

Here are the prompts:

I’ll come in and link up each day after writing.

10/1 Why

10/2 Gift

10/3 Problem

10/4 Listen

10/5 Other

10/6 Notice

10/7 Same

10/8 Gather

10/9 Join

10/10 Scared

10/11 Deep

10/12 First

10/13 Reach

10/14 Voice

10/15 Open

10/16 Avoid

10/17 Consistent

10/18 Active

10/19 Strong

10/20 Tell

10/21 Person

10/22 Sense

10/23 Need

10/24 Different

10/25 Wait

10/26 Accept

10/27 Better

10/28 Test

10/29 Practice

10/30 Memory

10/31 Enjoy

(To those of you who subscribe to my blog, thank you first of all! I am sorry this is going to multiply the number of emails you get from me for a month. Feel free to ignore them and meet me on November 1 when I’ll return to my regularly scheduled weekly programming.)