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.)

Five Minute Friday: TESTIMONY

Five Minute Friday Testimony


“I love the commitment to you just being who you are.”

The above quote is something American Idol host Randy Jackson said to contestant Haley Smith after her audition in 2012. She ended up “going to Hollywood.” Although she didn’t make the finals, getting to Hollywood was a big deal.

Haley did in a motorcycle accident recently. I ran across the story about her death (and her American Idol journey) when I went down one of the many rabbit holes I end up descending in my work as an editor for SmartBrief.

Many things about her story (her testimony, as it were) struck me. She was working three jobs at 18, one of them as a vegetarian in a meat-packing plant. I have always (it feels like) worked multiple jobs and had side gigs. I can so relate to the fear of not making it financially being something that propels a person to work, work, work.

Amid all that working, though, she had a spirit that she clearly didn’t waver from. Watch the original of the song she performed (Chaka Khan and Rufus’ singing Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good), then watch Haley do it.



I thought back on the “scripts” I was taught as a young summer missionary for the Southern Baptist Church when I was 18. Although they were well-intentioned, I see things differently now.

It is in being truly myself, and living a life that demonstrates the things I used to try to explain in a rote script, that I best convey a message to the people around me about my values. Unfortunately, I have become sporadic in my church attendance, something I intend to rectify soon, but what hasn’t changed is my gratitude that I can be uniquely me. That’s a pretty divine gift. Randy was “on to something good.”

RIP, Haley.

Five Minute Friday Testimony

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: HOSPITALITY

Five Minute Friday Radical Hospitality


I want to write a comprehensive blog post about the power of a shower (full disclosure: I didn’t think up that phrase. It belongs to an entire organization).

The idea of a blog post about providing places for people to take showers who don’t have their own facilities has been germinating in my head for quite some time. It started when I included an article about mobile restrooms for women in Pune, India, in the International City/County Managers Association newsletter from SmartBrief, which I edit. The concept itself interested me, especially because it helps create restroom equity for women. I also recall the conversation I had with the copy editor about this article.

The copy editor said, “WiFi? Why do the buses need WiFi?”

This copy editor and I knew each other’s worldviews well enough by this point in our working relationship that it made perfect sense that I hadn’t batted an eyelash when reading that refurbished buses that had been turned into mobile toilets also had showers and WiFi whereas he wondered why WiFi mattered.

I said, “… in many developing countries, people rely heavily on smartphones, so perhaps because of that? Or because it’s meant to be a bit of a respite (the cafe, etc. [have I mentioned the buses have cafes?]). I guess life is hard there and it’s an attempt to make it a little less so?”

A friend with knowledge of the city of Pune said, ” WiFi makes sense to me. It’s ubiquitous now. Pune is a major city outside Mumbai. I don’t think class matters. Everyone uses the Internet everywhere….If they want people to spend time there (beyond just using the restroom) WiFi will make people stay longer. Similar to a coffee shop here. No WiFi vs. Free WiFi? Fugghedaboudit. [This perhaps ties in to the fact that the refurbished buses are still trying to determine revenue models.]

How Lava Mae is helping people in the US get showers

Closer to home I learned recently of an organization, Lava Mae, that offers free showers to homeless people in San Francisco. The organization has developed a toolkit to help other communities start their own, similar, projects.

While the project is all kinds of interesting, here’s the phrase that jumped out at me when I read it Friday: Radical Hospitality™.

Lava Mae’s material describes Radical Hospitality as “delivering an unexpected level of care.” In addition, Lava Mae says, “Radical Hospitality starts with how we treat and value ourselves and team members.”

My comprehensive look at mobile toilets and showers around the world as well as why they matter will have to wait. In the meantime, to honor my commitment to Five Minute Friday, here is my five-minute free write on the topic.

Five Minutes on Radical Hospitality

Two of my friends and I volunteer once a month at a local mission, helping prepare and serve dinner then cleaning up afterward.

I read the article about Radical Hospitality Friday, right after volunteering at Grace Mission Thursday night. I thought about the way my two friends model respect and compassion for every person who comes through the line.

I thought about my reflexive reaction when I had parked at the mission and one of the people who eats at the mission started talking to me. He wanted to explain that the headlight of my car would be less cloudy if I used toothpaste to clean it with. I thanked him and moved on, but I’ll admit I had been fighting internally against other, less thankful instincts. Did he mean me harm? Was I going to be able to get into the workspace safely?

It reminded me of the dilemma I always feel dealing with homeless people in New York City (and that I especially felt when I lived there). My strategy was basically to ignore them (and try to make up for it by doing my fair share of volunteer work). It didn’t get any easier to cope with when I would take my young daughter for a visit to the city. “Just don’t look at them.” “Just say no.” I have never been able to reconcile the way I navigated the city with the countless needs these people had.

One of the participants at Grace Mission asked for my arm Thursday night and put this sticker there. Perhaps sometimes the best teachers about Radical Hospitality are those being served.

Five Minute Friday Radical Hospitality

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 Radical Hospitality

To be a kid again

To be a kid again


What wish would you make for a child who has come to mean something significant to you if the two of you were having to take your leave of each other after spending a year together, working closely?

One of my favorite young actresses, Cate Elefante, just finished her time as part of the Les Misérables US Tour. I have followed Cate since I saw her as “Little Lulu” in Waitress (December 2016). She and her family share generously on social media about her experiences. This has been nice, because I love all things Broadway, and it is fascinating to get a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how things work on a national tour.

Cate shared on Instagram the backstage festivities among the cast as she closed out her time. There is a point where Maggie Elizabeth May* is giving Cate a speech (it’s the fourth frame at this link). I saw this brief speech on July 28 when it was first posted, and I have thought about it so often since then.

“Most of these people have dreamed of being in this show since we were your age, but if we had a chance to do it all over again, and had a wish to be granted, we wouldn’t wish for one more show. We would wish to be a kid again. And that’s what you get to do and all of you guys get to go do. You get to go home to your garden, and your family, and your school, and your house, and you get to play the best role of all. We will have you forever in our hearts, Cate, but oh my dear girl. Go be a kid, and promise us to never grow up.”

I so envy people with acting and vocal chops. That’s partially because I love performing, and performing tends to attract audiences more when done by people who are good at it.

Although I envy people in theatre for their talent and their opportunities to perform so often, the other part of that life I’m drawn to is the togetherness and sense of unity. Of course I am sure there are dysfunctional casts/crews, everywhere from the 3rd grade end-of-year performance to the most popular shows on Broadway and the variations in between, but I think they are the exception.

Although I can’t equate my experiences as an extra and volunteer for FSU Film with theater, I suspect there are many commonalities. The sense of unity, the spirit of “let’s get this done,” the almost palpable love of the craft of making art is something I have rarely felt in other environments.

I did work with quite a few child actors in my time at the film school. I saw some truly remarkable talent. I don’t know that any of those kids stayed with it, but I often weighed in my mind what tradeoffs they were experiencing. Absences from school, being held to a strict work ethic, the pressure of being directed, breaks in routine. At what point did the attempt to reach the next level of acting success start to erode the benefits of a “normal” childhood?

I appreciate the adult actress acknowledging the tradeoff Cate and her family had made. The first time I watched the speech, I wondered what her finale was going to be. Would it be “I know you’re going to make it big someday”? “I wouldn’t be surprised to see you win a Tony when you grow up”? “Acting will never let you down”?

No. She reminded her that childhood is a precious gift. A gift that most adults who take to the stage nightly quite possibly would want to experience again.

When each of us adults is faced with life “on my own,” there are those moments when the lightness of being a kid again beckons.

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.) 

*If I have misidentified Maggie Elizabeth May, I apologize and hope someone will clarify. Thanks, prosopagnosia, for these little blogging speedbumps.