Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

OK. Cue the tiny violin because this is truly one of the most “first-world problem” types of things you’ll ever see me write about.

However, if you are a Floridian, you probably get it.

At the end of January, we moved out of the home we had lived in for 15 years. The “cardboard kids” in this picture are now 23 and 20, respectively, and they’re living their own lives in other places.

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

The move was necessary for so many reasons. Short version: This was way too much house (space-wise, money-wise, lawn-wise) once we were down to the two of us.

Although the new house is such a better fit (smaller home, less lawn, lower mortgage payment every month), there’s just this one thing.


We had to switch to a different Publix after 15 years of shopping at the same one.

For starters, let’s look at why so many Floridians are so loyal to Publix. This article is a good place to begin.

When Floridians make the unenviable decision to move away from the Sunshine State, it’s often the loss of Publix that they seem to lament the most—at least if all the Facebook posts are to be believed.

Now that we’ve established that Floridians (many of them, at least) are loyal to Publix, let’s scrape off another layer and talk about allegiance to specific locations, such as the Vineyard Center location (Store #857) that I was at for so long.

I’ve often heard that Publix puts its stores where its demographers say the people are going to be, and I’d bet that’s true for the Vineyard store. This article references that a bit (“Another key element in the company’s strategy is placing new stores in growing or underserved markets …”). Vineyard Center was so empty when it first opened, with a line of associates anxious to check customers out. Not so in January 2020. The place was consistently busy by then.

Here are some memories that will always stick with me about Vineyard Center Publix:

My meltdown

I had one of my worst public meltdowns ever at Publix. Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe since I was there so often, the odds were in favor of Publix being the place where I totally lost it. I was at Publix after work, tired and hungry with kids in tow, annoyed that I was at Publix after work, tired and hungry with kids in tow while Wayne was “decompressing” at the bar after work.

Wayne Kevin, who was in first grade at the time, was looking at the Lunchables. The one he wanted to look at was kind of high up, so I picked him up and propped him on the metal rim of the case. Then he started walking along the rim (I know — in retrospect not a good idea). I was thinking how cute his light-up shoes were and how good his balance was but a fellow shopper decided to give me a lecture about how unsanitary the practice was.


Of course we never think of the good comebacks in the moment. I essentially said the same thing I always say when I can’t think of anything logical … “I’m doing the best I can.” And then I proceeded to cry hysterically right there in the cold cuts aisle. A woman with her own kids jumped in to calm me down. She was a darn angel. She told me about being a single mom, and how we all have these moments. Somehow I managed to grab the chicken we needed for dinner and get out of Publix. (And yes the cashier asked me how my day was going. I blubbered through some nonsensical answer.)

Would I be litigious?

Tenley was probably around 8 or 9 when this happened. We were leaving Publix, and she slipped awkwardly on the floor and fell awkwardly on her wrist as we were leaving (I think there was a small puddle on the floor). Within moments, it was clear she was fine, but a manager had seen it happen and was very solicitous. I realize this makes me sound opportunist, but my immediate answer to her inquiry about Tenley’s wrist was, “I don’t know — there may be a problem,” as in “If I sue Publix about this, I don’t want to have said ‘nah it’s all fine’ right afterward.

What was wrong with me? Did I seriously think I was going to sue Publix and get a monetary settlement over a tiny slip that could have happened to anyone? Fortunately, it all passed over but for some reason I still think about that situation all these years later.

Knowing the Associates

Publix is generally accepted as a good employer, and the high retention rate backs that up. Over all those years, I could count on seeing the same associates consistently, especially my friend Connie. I also saw kids who I had first known as preschoolers grow up to be bagging my groceries and checking them out.

Parking was simple

I’m sure there’s a science to parking lot design, but here’s my layperson’s observation: Parking lots are becoming more compact as developers try to squeeze more money-making space into shopping complexes. Vineyard is still more of a traditional parking lot. No crazy lane arrangements, plenty of space. I can’t say the Southwood Publix parking lot (my new store) is especially bad, but Vineyard was a breeze.

The Cake Book

This section doesn’t apply solely to Vineyard Publix, but it’s such a big memory in general. As a child, Tenley *loved* flipping through the book of decorated cakes at Publix. It didn’t matter what time of year it was … or if it was a whole 364 days until her next birthday … it was just a joy to her to dream about cakes for herself and, sometimes, for her imaginary friends.

She was close to growing out of this by the time we moved to Hawk’s Landing and were shopping at Vineyard Publix, but Publix gave her (and I imagine other children too) some free entertainment (along with the free cookies — which were HUGE with my kids all throughout their childhoods) with those cake books. We also bought plenty of cakes from Publix too. Looking back on it, I sort of regret trying to lure her away so often — I was usually in a hurry … or keeping up with my son … or in some other way not fully present. Still, it’s a happy memory for the most part.

Vineyard Publix sure showed up often in my blog

This is not the first time Vineyard Publix (or Publix in general) has appeared in my blog. Not the first time at all.

A search yields 22 times I’ve referred to Publix in my blog. Granted, some of the posts just mention being at Publix in passing, but still — that’s almost 2% of all my posts!

Somehow, my time at Vineyard Publix spanned my parental breakdown moment described above through the expansion of my writing into topics such as white privilege and microaggressions. (When I started blogging in 2009, I thought I was only going to be writing about running. That didn’t last long!)

When I say microaggressions, I mean the question of whether it’s a microaggression to put the divider down too fast. This piece of fine blog photography came from Vineyard Publix.

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

I knew where everything was

Is there anything better than knowing exactly where your routine items are at the store? I mean … for FIFTEEN YEARS? Here’s the answer: No there isn’t!

Vineyard Publix did a reset shortly before I moved. It was frustrating. People were walking around acting as if the sky had fallen. If you want to see a few eastside Tallahassee residents get discombobulated, put the pinto beans where the chocolate pudding used to be (and don’t switch the signs to match the move right away).

Maybe the reset was a sign that it was time to move on. I was going to have to get to know a new Publix anyway, so what better time?

I could show up as I was

I would usually run to Publix around 5:30 p.m. to grab ingredients for dinner, which Wayne would make when he got home. Most days I was … to put it mildly … barely put together (I work from home). I did throw on a bra and usually a baseball cap so I could slink in and out. Because of the nature of the east side and the Vineyard location, I knew that if I ran into someone, it would generally be an understanding neighbor or someone I could laugh my bedraggled appearance off with.

Now, however, Southwood Publix is a whole new ballgame! These people are from all over, and mostly still dressed for work. I think I’m going to have to step up my appearance strategy in order to avoid embarrassment.

Am I disappointed?

I’m writing this blog in response to the Kat Bouska prompt “Share the last thing that disappointed you.” I am disappointed to have to leave Vineyard Publix.

More than disappointed, though, I’m grateful to the people who always greeted me so professionally, were so kind to my kids, and who truly made shopping a pleasure.

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

Share Four Somethings

Here are four things I loved/read/treasured/looked ahead to in February.

Something Loved

My nieces, Jessica and Elizabeth, threw a shower for their sister, Olivia, on Feb. 8. I love spending time with my family in general. Specifically, I love the fact that I’ve gotten to hold my new great-nephew, Paul (Jessica’s son), both times I’ve seen him in the last few months. I don’t get to hang out with young babies very often, so it’s such a special treat when I do. I didn’t take a picture of him, but this was one of the decorations — his grandfather’s bronzed baby shoes and vintage children’s books. I already love Olivia’s baby and can’t wait to hold him or her too!

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Read

It is so hard to pick just one! Here’s what I have read/am reading in February:

On Audio:

Running Against the Devil” by Rick Wilson

Smacked” by Eilene Zimmerman

How Dare the Sun Rise” by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta

Know My Name” by Chanel Miller

On Paper:

School Choice: A Legacy to Keep” by Virginia Walden Ford

Before I comment further, a note that Abigail Pesta and Virginia Walden Ford were both guests on the New York Times readalong, which I co-produce. Find Abigail’s recording here and Virginia’s here.

Each one of these books is good. It is interesting that the top of the list (chronologically) features a book by an author who spent many years deep in the Republican party who has spot-on (in my opinion) advice for Democrats as the 2020 election approaches.

The bottom of the list (Virginia Walden Ford’s book) challenged many of my assumptions about what Democrats and Republicans would/should believe about school choice. In general, I’m an avid public schools proponent. That hasn’t changed, but Virginia’s story is an excellent example of how extremely complicated politics can get. Many Democratic lawmakers, who I would have assumed would have supported the need for deserving children of color to get help when the school system in D.C. was failing them, were downright hostile.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting delegate to Congress who represented D.C., displayed an animosity that surprised and mystified me. Virginia Walden Ford wrote, “What opponents like Norton feared, I believe, had nothing to do with funding and everything to do with optics. The sight of children and their parents lined up to apply for scholarships would serve as visual reminders to the entire world that families sought to escape the public education system in the District of Columbia.”

And I so admire Virginia’s candor: “Did my parents quit their fight for integration after the KKK burned a cross on their lawn? No, they didn’t. And if that didn’t stop my parents, an angry woman sitting behind a dais wasn’t going to stop me.”

I’ve interacted enough with Virginia by now to know that there isn’t much that stops her. I’m so glad I gave this book a chance; it showed me that very few issues are easily defined, especially when it comes to children’s welfare.

(I also encourage you to watch the movie, “Miss Virginia.” Follow this link for the ways to watch it.)

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Treasured

Because we have moved three times since January 29 (out of our Hawk’s Landing house, into a rental duplex, then into our new house), Wayne and I have had conversations about what we should keep vs. what we should donate/discard more times than I can count.

Here’s something that made the cut and always will.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

When Tenley was in kindergarten (back in 2001), the students had a “holiday village” where they could go and buy gifts for their families. I can still almost see the joy in her eyes when she presented me with this “bluebird of happiness.” It’s actually been packed away since I left Healthy Kids in 2014 and I’m so happy it has resurfaced again! It has a companion (this pink bird I gave my mom in honor of her surviving breast cancer). I treasure them both.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Ahead

I’ll be speaking Saturday to the Alumnae Panhellenic group in Tallahassee, at their scholarship luncheon. I’m equal parts thrilled and apprehensive, as I wrote here. Send good thoughts!

I’m linking up with Heather Gerwing.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Heart-melting talent lights up A Night to Shine

When I volunteered at Night to Shine Tallahassee two years ago, I didn’t really know how things worked. (Night to Shine is an event through the Tim Tebow Foundation to give people with special needs ages 14 and up a “prom night” experience.) I signed up to volunteer wherever I was needed. As a result, I ended up volunteering at the “Parent Prom,” which is an opportunity for the parents of the guests to have their own relaxing dinner.

Serving the Parent Prom was fun, and I know it filled a need, but I knew that the next time I volunteered, I wanted to do so as a “buddy” (a volunteer paired with a guest to help them enjoy all the festivities).

I knew the box to check this time, submitted to the background check, went to the required training, and became a buddy!

Night to Shine Tallahassee 2020
My Buddy badge

When the guests arrive, they are paired up with their buddies and enter the Night to Shine event through a lighted archway, traversing a red carpet, as “paparazzi” cheer them on (and do silent cheers for guests who have autism or other reasons to prefer a more quiet tribute).

My new friend, Stephanie

I was paired with Stephanie, who definitely wanted applause! With her beautiful dress and infectious smile, she definitely deserved the enthusiastic welcome she got.

Night to Shine Tallahassee 2020
(Her beautiful dress is a bit covered up here because she has a cape on during the hair and makeup phase, but trust me it was gorgeous!)

The surprise of the night

The list of activities at Night to Shine is lengthy. We went to hair and makeup, petted a bunny, saw a “zebra” and a llama, enjoyed a meal, and went dancing.

At one point, other attendees told us to re-line up at the red carpet for a “surprise.” (I knew it had to be a big surprise, because by then it had gotten pretty cold outside!)

I had an idea of what the surprise may be, partially because I heard similar rumors the last time I served at NTS. The founder, Tim Tebow, doesn’t live all that far away (Jacksonville). Would *he* be the surprise?

Before I reveal the surprise, let me say this. As a Florida State fan, it’s possible I have been involved in a few snarky conversations over the years involving Tebow because he was the quarterback for our big rival, the University of Florida.

There’s no debating his athletic talent.

But I’ve learned about a different talent of Tim’s. I’ve seen him grant the wish of my sweet young friend, Lauren, a cancer survivor. I heard him speak to the NTS attendees (his speech is broadcast simultaneously to the 721 participating locations) the last time I volunteered. He is using his talents to lift others up and to inspire the 215,000 volunteers who serve the roughly 115,000 guests.

And (drum roll please and also please disregard the fact that I took this video vertically!), he showed up in person to the Tallahassee Night to Shine 2020!

But there was talent all around

I was excited that Tim Tebow showed up, mainly because I know how much it meant to the guests, who were *enthralled*!

It was the less famous talents, though, that really made the night magical to me. The people with logistical talent who put the whole event together. The artists who performed (cheerleaders, baton twirlers, bands), the hair and makeup artists, the animal therapy facilitators, whoever had the creativity to bring the “Greatest Show” theme to life.

A more personal moment toward the end of the night melted my heart. Stephanie wanted to do something else besides dance and participate in the “longest conga line” so although the evening was winding down, we headed to the music therapy activity.

The music therapist knew Stephanie, and was not surprised when her request was “Tears in Heaven.” Stephanie had told me earlier in the evening that her grandmother had taken care of her; I gathered that it was after her grandmother died that she ended up living in her current group home facility. She said the song was for her grandparents.

And God bless this music therapist; she anticipated the request, had been practicing it and somehow in the midst of a loud and fairly hectic room, made a “moment” and played “Tears in Heaven” just for Stephanie. It brought back so many memories of the music therapists who used to come to our house when my father-in-law was with us, and how something deep in his brain was awakened by the music in a way nothing else could.

It was a memorable night, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Here’s a wrapup video shot by someone with a bit more video expertise than I have!

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

I am also linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “The last time my heart melted was because…”

Night to Shine Tallahassee 2020

At loose ends about my hairstylist

Apps make appointment-setting easier. Take StyleSeat, for example. My last two stylists have used StyleSeat, which allows you to schedule hair appointments at any time of the night or day without having to say a word or interact with another human being.

Unfortunately, although there may be an app for discontinuing your relationship with your stylist, that isn’t the way to go, in my opinion.

A brief history of the past 25 years

Regarding my hair history, the past 25 years is very uneventful for 22 of those years. Once I started going to Bonnie, I stayed. I was with her through both of my children being born, and through her being at three different buildings.

Then she moved to Nashville. Sigh.

At loose ends about my hairstylist

I went to one person right after Bonnie moved to Nashville. She was really nice (we are Facebook friends to this day based on one haircut), but from a hair perspective, it just wasn’t a great fit.

The next person I went to, I stayed with. I don’t recall how we got connected exactly, except that my daughter had used her.

We’ve been together roughly 2.5 years. We have had so many good conversations. We had enough people in common that we never ran out of things to discuss. She was with me through the death of my father-in-law and the death of my mom, through the years of freelancing until I got my full-time job. She recently showed extreme patience while trying to cut my hair as I juggled a small work issue that required an immediate response. Yes, I was that obnoxious person moving my head to exactly the wrong angle (for her) as I tried to deal with the work issue (for me).

Yet, I never got to the point that I walked out loving my haircut.

In December, I had an appointment with my usual stylist, but I had to cancel it because a work meeting came up.

By the time I tried to reschedule, she couldn’t fit me in. I desperately needed a haircut before leaving for D.C. to spend a couple of days at my work HQ and attend its holiday party. Going with shaggy hair was not an option.

I posted my dilemma to Facebook, and got several great recommendations. My friend, Mike (check out his pedicab business if you’re local to Tallahassee!), tagged Chop Barbershops as one of the options.

Chop Barbershop wasn’t high on my list as an alternative. However, I had been to one of their three locations last summer when I reviewed “Musicals on the Move.” Chop Barbershop was the location of the “Sweeney Todd” component of the event, so I got a glimpse of their environment and figured out that these people must be pretty open to fun (although “Sweeney Todd” probably deserves other adjectives than “fun”!).

At loose ends about my hairstylist
Photo credit: Erich D. Martin

I decided to check out Chop’s Eastside location, which was closest to my house. I discovered that I could book via their website and still not have to pick up a phone, so I persevered. I figured out who had availability that day. Then I looked at Instagram to explore the work of various stylists.

That’s how I ended up being Sean‘s client.

When I arrived for my appointment, I explained my situation — that I had a business trip coming up and needed a cut, but had been unable to use my regular stylists. I also explained the things I hadn’t been entirely happy with about my cuts in the couple of years I had been with her and showed him a picture of a time when my hair looked great.

People, he got it on the first try! There are a few small things that I want him to modify as we continue to work together, but I walked out of there truly happy with my hair for the first time since Bonnie moved to Music City.

(We also had a great talk, always a plus.)

Breaking up is hard to do

Now that I’ve found someone who does for my hair what I want, I needed to figure out what to do about the person I’ve used the last few years.

I don’t feel right ghosting her. There are several reasons for this. One of them is the fact that I love her story. She got a business degree. She may have even gotten a graduate business degree (I don’t recall). But after all that, she said, “I couldn’t turn away from the fact that hair is my passion.” I get that, and I think there’s a lot to be said for finding your professional groove (trust me — it took me until I was 54 to really get there, which doesn’t mean all the years before that were a waste…).

I chatted with a few people on Twitter about this dilemma.

My ever-resourceful friend Rachel shared this “Ask a Stylist” about how to change hairdressers in the least awkward way possible. It’s a good read, with plenty of thoughtful advice. Ultimately, celebrity stylist Mark Townsend recommended honesty.

And that’s what I’ve decided to do.

I just composed a note to her thanking her for the years we spent together and expressing my appreciation for all we’ve shared. As far as the hair, I just said I’ve decided to “go a new direction.”

I know how it has felt at points throughout my career when someone stopped using me with no notice or explanation. Sometimes, the notice and explanation don’t feel good, but they at least eliminate the mystery of not knowing whether my work was inferior or they just truly decided to do something different.

Even though there may be apps for breaking up with your stylist, this situation calls for a more old-school approach. Hence the handwritten note.

It’s a note that may not technically be necessary in this situation, but it’s the right thing to do to avoid leaving loose ends.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

You can write more than 1,000 blog posts spanning a decade and still be surprised at which posts perform well and which don’t.

I’m sharing my top 12 posts of 2019 here, but two posts I wrote in earlier years, 10 Lessons from Lumosity and 6 Ways Our Marriage Resembles a Tree, still performed best. (They finally knocked out Get Groovy with Hippie Juice: Cocktail Recipes for Spring, which held the top spot for a long time!)

Remembering Mia

I am so thrilled that this post got the most views in 2019. I wish I hadn’t had to write it at all, but I love how so many people who loved Mia and her parents gathered around, in real life and here in the cyberworld, to support this family and help more hospitals get Cuddle Cots.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Ration Challenge 2019: How Eating Less Taught Me More

Not only did participating in the Ration Challenge help me raise $634.14 for Church World Service and its efforts to help refugees, but it also helped me kick the caffeine and artificially-sweetened soda habit. I’m still waiting for flavored sparkling water to still taste like — something — but I’m healthier for the effort.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

3 Commercials That Don’t Make Sense

I guess writing about causes is *really* my favorite, but this type of writing is the most fun to me. I like trying to make sense of the world, and my blog is a main way I do that. If you didn’t watch the “Failing” video before, I highly recommend it. It’s so much better than the nonsensical commercial starring the same actress.

Guest Post: Being Your Own Medical Advocate

I’m so excited that this guest post by Hannah of Feeding Tube Fitness, who I met through a friend, was my fourth most viewed post of the year. Learning to advocate for yourself in a medical setting is challenging, and Hannah gives great advice. She’s also exceptionally fun and motivating on Instagram, so follow her!

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

The Surprise of Early Menopause

I really enjoyed participating in this AARP Disrupt Aging campaign to help dispel myths about menopause. I’m sure one of the reasons it did well is because those of us participating in the campaign supported each other by sharing. It’s one of the reasons I love doing blog campaigns!

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Should Office Plants be Banned?

If we didn’t have cats who like to nibble on (and knock over/vomit up) plants, I could have whatever “office” plants I want since I work from home. As this blog explored, a proposed ban on office plants by the State of Florida branched out into an uproar (of sorts). It was also yet another example of how there is often more to the story with questions like this.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Aging is Not a Hammer

I’m glad I started out the year advocating for people to see aging as a positive thing. I feel young at heart almost every day, and hope I’ll never devalue the importance of the wisdom the years have brought me.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

June News Developments That Made Me Say “WOW”

I’m so excited that this post made the top 12. When I first became an editor at SmartBrief, I wanted a way to share our open positions with people who might be good candidates. The first month, introduced the open positions by talking about my favorite stories that month. I thought I might switch to quarterly at some point, but so far I’ve stayed with monthly and it has been 16 months and I don’t want to change. It’s a good exercise for me every month to think back on what stories meant the most, and I like giving my partners a little extra social media boost by linking to them.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

“Be Pretty” and Other Lessons from Mom

This may not have been the post with the most views, but it was a tribute to my mom, so it deserves number one status as far as I’m concerned! Maybe my mom is hanging out with Mia in Heaven, and I can only imagine how happy it would make her to love on a baby girl.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019
This look on her face captures who she was.

3 Tips for Better iPhone Food Photography

I had so much fun and learned so many great tips for taking better food photos from this evening (and tried to summarize them in the blog). Yet — I still take quick pix of my food so I can get to the enjoyment rather than applying most of what I learned. Anyway, any time I hang out with “the other Paula” is a win.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Safety is the Deepest Gift of All

I enjoyed writing this post and I’m glad it did well. But dang it now I’ll have a “Shallow” earworm all night!

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

3 Fabulous Women to Follow on Twitter

This was my response to the #WomenToFollow project developed by Rose Horowitz. Rose is a true champion of women, and I’m glad this post did well.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

I’m linking up this week with Kat Bouska for the prompt “Share your top 12 blog posts from 2019.” And thank you to Vivid Image for their helpful post How to Find Your Most Popular Content Using Google Analytics.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Please don’t call me Karen

People show disrespect for others in many ways.

In 2019, discord among people has reached new lows.

There were the horrific tragedies such as the 41 US mass killings in which 210 people died. Children are still being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

To shift from the obvious and massive examples to the (possibly) trivial, can we talk about what we call each other?

At the risk of earning an “OK Boomer” from you, can I just ask that you call me (and every other human being) by the name they want?

Please don’t call me “Karen,” to my face or behind my back.

“Karen” has become the go-to for anytime a white woman loses touch with her common sense and perspective and seeks out the manager.

Please don't call me Karen

Here’s Dictionary.com’s take:

Karen is a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman. Especially as featured in memes, Karen is generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, and being a nagging, often divorced mother from Generation X.

There’s an assumption (often deserved, sadly), that a “Karen” action reeks of white privilege.

“Karens” ask for the manager when their food is lukewarm, when their tea is not sweet enough, when their perfect angels (children) are chastised when they are behaving in a way that endangers others, etc. (There are examples at Comic Sands, on Quora and on Reddit.) It’s possible the proportion of “Karens” rushing to get the grocery divider down rapidly is higher than the general population.

Although the woman referenced here and here really is named Karen, the letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun about how Lamar Jackson should have donated to a charity rather than giving his offensive linemen Rolexes, along with its Karen-generating headlines, seems to be part of the Karen-verse. (Note: Among his charitable activities is Jackson’s $25,000 gift to the Blessings in a Backpack program last year.)

Please don't call me Karen

Here’s the thing. “Karen” behavior is egregious (usually — but also in this day and age when customer services has gotten so marginal, we all find ourselves in infuriating situations that are prone to bring out our inner Karens).

But cramming every middle-aged white woman with a bad haircut and a Volvo into the tiny compartment of a joke name only hurts us all.

Please don't call me Karen

Karen Cyphers Breaks it Down

This piece by Karen Cyphers (yes, she really is named Karen) is the one I wish I had written, to be honest. I love the way she delineates the history of this usage of “Karen” and ties in some research that tries to figure out if Karens really do get more aggravated than Dorothys, Janes and Marys.

Sarah Miller Tries to Break it Down

I didn’t love this piece as much (note the paywall, by the way), because of all the stereotypes and assumptions. “Karens are going to Karen. They are unstoppable. All they see are open doors. We should blame the Karens, but maybe we should blame the doors too?”

Names are More than Names

I wouldn’t call a black woman “Nia” (a relatively common name for black women) just because I didn’t have the mental dexterity to try to find out her correct name. If I had an issue with a black woman (or a woman of any ethnicity), I would hopefully have the good sense to try to resolve it using old-fashioned conflict resolution skills (while calling them by the right name).

The big conflicts in our society, I think, often have their seeds in the small choices we make.

If we don’t respect each other enough to call each other the right thing and refrain from stooping to stereotypes and memes, it’s possible we have already lost the battle.

What are printer brownies?

I am a pretty literal thinker.

Last holiday season, a colleague who works remote (vs. my organization’s brick-and-mortar office) and I were talking about the unique parts of being a remote worker. She said, “Even though I’m not in the office, when someone says there are brownies by the printer, I still look.”


That’s how printer brownies were born at my office last year. (I shared them in our Slack channel for remote workers.)

What are printer brownies?

But 2019 calls for something more (plus I wanted to make brownies and Santa is craving brownies with his milk Christmas Eve night). Therefore, I added a task to my list for tonight.

What are printer brownies?

Why does it matter to serve “printer brownies”? It matters because 30% of US workers work remotely full-time (according to Owl Labs). Telecommuting is growing, with FlexJobs reporting a 22% increase in people working remotely between 2017 and 2018. Despite this growth, Owl Labs reported that “38% of remote workers and 15% of remote managers received no training on how to work remotely.”

There are lots more stats to show how much remote work is growing and the uneven nature of how people learn to work remotely. I had never worked remote until I started a several-year period of freelancing in 2014. Then when I got my current job (at a place where I had been freelancing), I was officially a full-time remote worker.

Of all the things I’ve learned about remote work (which are almost exclusively self-taught and not lessons I always learned well the first time), the biggest one is that connection matters whether you sit across from each other in a physical office or you only ever chat digitally with someone thousands of miles away.

That’s why when someone looks for the brownies by the printer, I try to help them feel more connected than disappointed.

What are printer brownies?

I’m linking this post up at Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, ” Write a blog post inspired by the word ‘task.'”


What leaders can do

“… everyone is employed for the things they can do, no one is employed for the things they can’t do.”

I read this quote in Leadership Lessons In The Age Of Technology by Sophia Matveeva, and I felt like a little beacon was shining out from the page, a little beacon generated by all the truth in that statement by Clive Punter of Outfront Media.

In her article, Matveeva asserts that “good leadership remains the domain of humans” amid a world worried about artificial intelligence taking over. For the record, I agree with her.

She also encourages readers to share the leadership lessons they’ve learned in their organizations.

They’re not necessarily from my current organization, but here are three leadership lessons that are on my mind. Although they’re not from my current organization specifically, they are informed by the fact that I started a second career after two decades in an entirely different industry. My current situation is also different because my first career was at a place where I was literally at its inception. In my current career, the organization had existed for 17 years before I arrived, so I don’t know every single development over its evolution (although I made it my business to try to figure out as much of it as possible).

Be a person others can trust

When someone can trust you, whether it be a subordinate, a peer or someone higher on the org chart than you, the benefit is that you gain a deeper understanding of interpersonal dynamics and organizational goings-on than you would otherwise.

Nothing erodes team unity like unauthorized sharing of others’ information. Nothing cements it like knowing personal concerns can be shared in confidence and sensitive organizational developments will stay protected until the time is right to see the light of day.

Don’t rely on digital communications

This is one thing that has really been on my mind in this new career. So much communication is handled through email and Slack. I know that comes with the territory in 2019. However, it’s so easy for intent to get lost in translation or misinterpreted.

I had a coworker in my previous career who was extremely terse in her email responses. (I don’t know where along the line in my career I heard “if an email has grown to 10 in the thread, it’s time to pick up the phone,” but it’s true and even 10 may be too much.) I got to the point with her that I would pick up the phone and address whatever the question was. Why did we take so long to get to the “real talking” point?

My current job is the first full-time job I’ve had that is a hybrid (a physical headquarters office with many of us being remote workers). I started as a freelancer, communicating almost exclusively via Slack and email (with the exception of a few phone calls with my coordinator).

As a full-time employee, I still interact with everyone mostly via Slack and email, but now there are video conferences as well, and the occasional in-person meeting. I have become a big believer in the power of meeting your co-workers in real life when possible, at least briefly. It just makes a difference to have looked someone in the eyes at some point and spent social time together.

I also always let the freelancers working on my newsletters know I am available via phone or Skype if they prefer that to Slack/email. No one has ever taken me up on that, but I hope it gives them some reassurance that it’s an option.

Leave room for the unspoken priorities

I often think back on the time I was given a lateral transfer at my previous organization that led me to report to a friend, and to no longer have any direct reports. I was a different subordinate after I had been a supervisor.

I had a new appreciation for the pressures an organization’s leaders face that may lead them to make inscrutable decisions.

When I learned in July that my current employer had been purchased, that put some developments in the preceding few months in better context. They were developments that didn’t seem obviously necessary or productive at the time, but they contributed to the adjustments my organization needed to make to prepare for an acquisition. I’m not advising people to avoid being inquisitive, but there’s a difference between being inquisitive and being resistant to change that doesn’t make obvious sense.

Be an encourager

Let’s get back to Clive Punter and the idea that “everyone is employed for the things they can do, no one is employed for the things they can’t do.”

I struggle hard with being critical of myself. My mind has been preoccupied over the past week with an error or two I made that I could have avoided had I slowed down, been more careful, approached things more methodically. I didn’t give the things I had done well equal time.

When I read Punter’s quote, I thought of those things I was frustrated about. I reminded myself about the things I can do, that I do especially well. I had a freelancer thank me for the way I keep them in the loop. I coordinated our afternoon publication three out of five days last week on top of traveling to DC. I kept the balls up in the air that had to be there, and made a solid contribution to putting out a great product.

We need to encourage those around us whose inner monologues are heavier on what they haven’t done right and help them celebrate the ways in which they have been assets. This includes encouraging ourselves.

Leaders are trustworthy. They are direct when they need to be, understand the big picture and encourage.

They do the things they were employed to do.

Grateful Challenge 2019

It’s year six of my taking the Grateful Challenge! Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for. (Here are the previous installments: 2018, 2017201620152014.)

Grateful Challenge 2019

This year’s installment:

1.My husband, Wayne

2.My daughter, Tenley

3.My son, Wayne Kevin

4.My dad, Seabie

5.Tenley’s significant other, Stewart

6.Wayne Kevin’s significant other, Patience

7.Wayne Kevin having an affordable, safe place to live in Daytona

8.Tenley having an affordable, safe place to live in Valdosta

9.Wayne’s job

10.Tenley’s graduate school and how goal-directed she is

11.Wayne Kevin’s job

12.MY job — the one I love <3

13.Having a fantastic supervisor

14.Having great co-workers

15.Having a job in editing, so ironic since it took me until midlife to be here (although everything happens for a reason, for sure)

16.Extended family

17.My new nephew, Paul


19.My friend Dan — such a dear friend, seen not often enough

20.Two trips to DC this year

21.A trip to NYC this year ( 🙂 )

Grateful Challenge 2019

22.My SmartBrief partners — the International City/County Management Association (the other six to follow)

23.The Sigma Xi Scientific Honorary Society

24.The National Association of Social Workers

25. The United Nations Foundation


27.The National Emergency Number Association

28.The Reserve Officers Association

29.A new brief I get to work on soon: Business Transformation

30.My previous partner (among others): The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association

31.Everything I’ve learned and gained by blogging for 10 years

32.The online community, which has lifted me up, supported me, irritated me (at times) and been more supportive than the word “online” would make you think

33.Parents who provided financial help over the years

34.My mom’s life

35.Our new realtor

36.The buyer of our house (no, don’t know who they are yet but they have to be out there!)

37.Live theatre

38.Seeing “Come from Away” in New York in January

39.Seeing Sara Bareilles in “Waitress” in New York in January

40.The New York Times Readalong Community

41. BroadwayWorld and review opportunities

42.Randi at the Democrat who has given me such great (tough) feedback about my Democrat reviews and still plans to let me review


44.The Spin Sucks crew (where to begin?)

45.Time with Gini Dietrich in July watching Hugh Jackman *live*

46.Laura Petrolino and how she gets me

47.Having a paid-off car (even though it doesn’t have air conditioning)

48.Not that I’m self-promoting exactly, but I’m proud of each video I made for SmartBrief and enjoyed the process. Here they are:

49.Libraries and social work

50.The 911 SAVES Act

51.Recharge your batteries by subscribing to the ICMA newsletter

52.This blog post I wrote about Hurricane Michael and kids having playgroups that helped them find hope again

53.This blog post about my favorite moments at the ICMA conference

54.Getting to meet Jake Wood of Team Rubicon at the ICMA conference

Grateful Challenge 2019

55.Turning 55 tomorrow!

56.Helping with social media for the Turkey Trot and getting to participate in the Turkey Trot tomorrow — I can’t run it anymore but I’ll be there!

57.A clean bill of health after my colonoscopy

58.The Ration Challenge

59.Getting off of caffeine due to the ration challenge

60.My faith

61.The life of my friend, Duane, who died last Saturday. He taught me so much; he’s gone too soon. I will always love you, Duane.

Grateful Challenge 2019
At “Fiddler on the Roof.” I was the audience; he was the star. 🙂

In keeping with the spirit of the challenge, I stopped at the 10-minute mark. I left all the blank numbers in, because I know are 38 more things for which I can be grateful. Here’s to filling in these blanks …








































10 reasons you are enough, kid

I volunteered recently as a registrar/tabulator at an event designed to help children ages 8 to 10 demonstrate their proficiency in making consumer choices. The kids each had to listen to a scenario for eight minutes (with the help of supplementary material they had been sent in advance), then rank the products based on which one was the best choice given factors including quality and price.

I had registered the kids (teams of four), then as they completed sections of the activity, I added their scores to the scoresheet.

One contestant didn’t mark his answer on the score card that was turned in, even though he had kept note of it on his own documentation, as all the contestants had. That meant an automatic zero for one of four products.

As a side note, I see kids at things like this who I’m pretty sure are on a relatively straightforward trajectory to success. They obey the rules. They are well-spoken. They have listening skills that are developmentally appropriate. They are motivated by the idea of winning a trophy or ribbon, and also by the idea of either leading or contributing to a team.

Back to my “no-answer” contestant. Although I had been instructed by the contest moderator to give him a zero, his group leader had brought him forward and asked to let him record his score (which we did).

What followed was an exchange between him and his group leader that was tough to watch. It would be silly based on five minutes of interacting with a child and watching his interactions with another adult to put him in a box.

However, holding a degree in child development (yes, I’m now an editor so make of that what you will) and having raised two children, one of whom was (understatement) not a “jump through the hoops” kind of youngster, my heart hurt for him.

I don’t want to get into a verbatim replay of the dialogue, but “you’re in trouble” came up and “you shouldn’t have said no.”

Although this little boy’s future is unknown, here are 10 things I wish I could have conveyed to him that day:

You are valued

Your brain may not work the same as other kids, but that doesn’t mean it works in a bad way

Saying “no” is not always the right choice, but there are times in your life when it absolutely will be

Being “in trouble” is about the behavior you chose, not about who you are

I want to know what you thought about the product and which one you thought was best

I’d like to know about your life — what is your favorite thing to do?

I’d like to give you a hug (with consent of course)

I wish you were enjoying yourself

You’re not a loser (in fact, his team did place despite his issues — I’ll spare you the explanation)

You are enough

You are enough” gets said a lot lately. It makes for a good social media shareable image (and hey! there’s a new one for you at the end of this post!). It’s for a good reason, because so many of us struggle (whether we are children or adults) with appreciating our own strengths rather than beating ourselves up for our shortcomings, the real ones and the ones that are probably not as monumental as we let them become in our minds.

Some of these monumental, imagined shortcomings took root before we turned 11.

10 reasons you are enough, kid

I’m linking this post up two places:

Five Minute Friday, which had “unknown” as its prompt this week (and it took me far longer than five minutes to write this, for what it’s worth)

10 reasons you are enough, kid

Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt, “Write a post in just 10 lines.” I kind of fudged those directions to, but it’s OK, because I know I am enough (wink).

10 reasons you are enough, kid