How Golf and Associated Press Style Compare

Even if I had the time, resources and desire to dedicate myself to the game wholeheartedly starting tomorrow, I could never become competent at golf between now and the day I die.

I do, however, have a fighting chance of mastering Associated Press Style, the writing standards created and maintained by the Associated Press. This is a good thing, because correct usage of AP Style is a requirement at my freelance position. There’s a much higher chance of me remembering to hyphenate the word sell-off than there is of me letting my left shoulder turn under my chin while keeping my left arm straight and my hands passive until my club reaches hip height, just the first stage of an effective takeaway in golf.

Why Try To Compare Golf and #APStyle?

I finally decided to pay attention to Quora after approximately two years of getting emails saying “[name of someone] is following you on Quora!” The site has come up several times on Spin Sucks, a blog I read faithfully (and contribute to occasionally).

I kept hesitating to engage on Quora. I have so many social media balls up in the air as it is. Eventually, I decided I either needed to figure out what it was all about or somehow stop the daily emails about being followed there.

If you know me, you can imagine what happened next.

I’m in!

In response to the recent question “What do you love when you read a personal blog?,” I said it’s important to have a personal connection to the topics you blog about and an enthusiasm for them. I said, ” I could write (maybe competently) about golf, for example (with some research) but it’s not a passion of mine so it would just be facts.” (Read the whole answer here.)

In the Spin Sucks Slack group (it’s awesome and free – check it out!), Mike Connell, who had picked up on the Quora thread, said something like “coming up soon, Paula’s blog post about golf.” I am not sure how that ended up merging with my desire to blog about #APStyle, but I rarely shy away from a blogging challenge, so here we are.

Comparing Golf with #APStyle

You may think golf and #APStyle have nothing in common, but I don’t think that’s true.

Both require precision

Golf holes have been 4.25 inches in diameter since 1891. Just ask the professional golfer whose putt lands a millimeter away from the hole and loses a lucrative payout if precision is important.

Similarly, precision matters for a writer or editor adhering to AP Style. I suppose things are a little different these days because pieces that have been published digitally can be revised real-time, as opposed to publishing on paper only, which immortalizes errors forever. But sticking with AP Style keeps publications consistent and hopefully makes it easier for readers to read. Assuming the publication using AP Style wants to generate revenue from paid subscriptions or advertising, it is important that readers make it a habit to come back, as The Lenfest Institute discovered in its analysis of The Seattle Times’ newsletter. Consistency hopefully helps reinforce the habit.

Despite the precision, both have arbitrary aspects

I know golf has a rulebook (for the purposes of this blog, we’ll go with USGA rules). Even as a golf bystander who has never played a single hole and attended only one major tour event, I know (because my husband is a golfer) that even the most black and white rules can be subject to interpretation. Graeme McDowell, for example, won less money in a 2012 championship when he voluntarily took a two-stroke penalty and ended up finishing in 3rd place rather than 2nd because he “didn’t give the branch enough respect” while addressing his ball in a bunker.

Associated Press Style

At the TPC Players Championship at Sawgrass – May 2017

With AP Style, even though there is an official style book (online and hard copy), some decisions are flexible. Individual publications may decide to stray a bit. For abbreviations and acronyms, as an example, the AP Stylebook encourages “avoiding ‘alphabet soup'” and thinking about the context before deciding to use an abbreviation or acronym.

You can’t learn golf in a pinch

As I said at the beginning of this piece, even if I dropped all my other obligations and took golf lessons frequently, had an open-ended membership to a golf club, was gifted with the best equipment, and cared enough to try, I couldn’t become an excellent golfer with the time that’s left in my life (hopefully we’re talking decades here). Golf involves mechanics, muscle memory, discipline, an understanding of the game, endurance, and the ability to strategize. Some of those things (especially muscle memory and good fundamental mechanics) are much easier to develop for a young person.

AP Style, on the other hand, is something even a woman over 50 can grasp. It would certainly have been easier for me to apply AP Style to my current gig if I had accumulated experience using it as a journalist, but it’s not impossible. (The AP Style quizzes are helpful; they are quick to complete and help you become aware of your deficits (and strengths!).

The scenery is different

I have to hand it to golf on the scenery. The gorgeous courses, the ability to commune with nature, the fresh air.

Following AP Style, on the other hand, is somewhat limited to me at my desk typing away. I suppose I don’t run the risk of getting hit in the head with a golf ball or having to fish a ball out of the water, so there’s that!

Visiting the #APStyle Golf Course

I have been thinking a lot about golf hole names since learning that Sergio Garcia named his daughter (Azalea) after a hole at the Augusta National course.

In that spirit, here is a “course” I designed based on the things I’ve learned about AP Style since starting to use it in January 2017, some big and some little. (I do think, though, that an AP Style course would be more along the lines of miniature golf than regular golf — AP Style writers are always trying for a hole in one — we don’t have the luxury of taking several strokes to get to the destination.) I made it a nine-hole. Feel free to create your own nine to fill out 18.

One: Fla. First (State Abbreviations)

AP Style dictates abbreviations for states. Florida, for example, is Fla. In addition, 30 cities can be identified independently, without identifying their state alongside. Writing Explained says, “The norms that influenced the selection [of the 30 cities] were the population of the city, the population of its metropolitan region, the frequency of the city’s appearance in the news, the uniqueness of its name, and experience that has shown the name to be almost synonymous with the state of nation where it is located.” I still don’t get why Milwaukee is there but Orlando isn’t (nothing against Milwaukee), but no one asked me.

Two: Numerically Speaking

With AP Style, the numbers smaller than 10 are spelled out, unless they are ages or percentages.

Three: Article-free Islamic State

This may seem like a weird one to focus on after big things like states and numbers, but I got it wrong recently and am still annoyed with myself. The Islamic militant organization is “Islamic State” rather than “the Islamic State” and it is abbreviated “IS.”

Four: The Walmart Wonder

This is a fairly recent change. For AP Style purposes, the brand ditched its hyphen and changed to “Walmart” this year.

Five: fall for autumn

Seasons are lowercase unless the name of the season is part of a formal event (Summer Olympics, for example).

Six: Dazzling gold rush

I don’t foresee needing this term, but for what it’s worth, “gold rush” is lower case. I suppose a golfer who wins a tournament may encounter his or her own gold rush, right?

Seven: Fly High, Frequent Flyer

Someone who flies often is a frequent flyer, not a frequent flier. AP says “flyer” also applies to handbills distributed to advertise an event, but I have read other opinions on this.

Eight: An Apostrophe’s Place

The AP Stylebook dedicates almost two pages to apostrophes, so I can’t summarize those two pages easily. One important point: It would be easy to trip up on the rule that possessives of proper names ending in S get only an apostrophe (Dickens’ books, for example).

Nine: The Oxford Comma Memorial

This has been the hardest habit for me to break. I was an Oxford Comma fan. My rationale was “I love punctuation, so more is better.” I have to admit, though, that having eliminated the Oxford Comma as required by AP  Style, I am getting used to the cleaner look of an Oxford Comma-free sentence. This is probably how all slippery slopes begin….

The Nineteenth Hole

Many golf courses have a Nineteenth Hole facility, a place where golfers can relax after a tough day on the links.

I’m not sure what the equivalent of the Nineteenth Hole is for someone required to use AP Style. Rebelling by spelling out Mississippi? Throwing in a serial comma? Typing “walkin” closet instead of “walk-in”? For me it means keeping the informal to places like Facebook comments and Twitter.

Ultimately, I remind myself that I am using words professionally (and therefore required to use AP Style if that is the requirement of the employer) to accomplish what words do best: build a bridge between people through information and building community.

Creating links, if you will.


**NOTE: If you are an AP Style pro and I got something wrong, please let me know. I’m still learning.

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

What I Learned at a Farmers Roundtable

“It’s hard to inventory fish when they’re underwater.”

This statement is true. They’re underwater and, ostensibly, swimming around.

The first speaker of 20 at the Farmers Roundtable featuring Rep. Al Lawson, Jr., of Florida and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, both Democrats, was advocating for aquaculture to qualify for crop insurance.

As an aquaculture advocate, she was in the minority: Half of the constituents wanted changes for the peanut industry.

Why I Went to a Farmers Roundtable

Since January 2017, I have had a support role in preparing a weekly newsletter related to crop insurance.* In the 56 issues since the publication began, Rep. Peterson has been mentioned six times (10%) and I am sure he has been referenced in many more linked articles. He is the ranking member on the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.

Farmers Roundtable

I have read and summarized articles about similar roundtables held in other places, at different points in the legislative process (the 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire September 30, so the process has had lots of activity throughout the year, especially when President Trump’s proposed budget was released). When I learned one was happening in my own back yard, with Rep. Peterson being the guest of my Congressman, Rep. Al Lawson Jr., I decided it would be interesting to see the kind of full meeting that leads the type of overview provided in a news article.

Plus, having grown up the granddaughter of a farmer who still plowed his field with a mule, I am a sucker for an agricultural story. It’s in my blood.

What North Florida (and South Georgia) Farmers Spoke About

Peanut-Related Issues

Ten of the 20 speakers expressed concerns about peanut-related issues (many of them also farm cotton). I knew from conversations with a legislative staffer friend that peanut issues are big in Florida, but this experience brought that home.

There is no way I know enough to try to explain the peanut farmers’ issues. I believe they stem from changes made to the 2014 Farm Bill that kept North Florida farmers from being able to establish “base acres,” with the consequence being inability to participate in federal crop programs. This June 2014 article details the potential effects, which seemed to dovetail with much of what I heard at the roundtable.

And I believe the Florida Peanut Federation’s legislative principles echo what I heard at the roundtable. Examples:

“Make it [base] for everyone or take it away” – Murray Tillis

“Help young growers with base updates.” – Virginia Sanchez

Note: If you don’t think detailed discussions of peanut-growth financing matter to you, have you slathered peanut butter on your toast recently?

Extension and Education Issues

Four speakers discussed issues relevant to agricultural education and extension. Tallahassee is home to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, which has offered agricultural programs since 1891.

Extension, as explained by the USDA, “provides non-formal education and learning activities to people throughout the country — to farmers and other residents of rural communities.”

These speakers’ issues concerned making sure agricultural policies sufficiently recognize African-American and other underrepresented farmers. the possibility that the FSA (Farm Service Agency) and NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) will merge, and SNAP Education Funding.

Note: Extension and Agricultural Education matter to all of us. Extension provides free or low-cost programs on nutrition, gardening, budgeting, conservation, and animal life, to name a few (thanks to Washington State University Extension for inspiring my list). As far as agricultural education, I’ll let these students from Lake Gibson Middle School explain in “Aliens Visit an Agriculture Program”:


I thought the majority of the roundtable’s time would be taken with produce-related issues, but only one speaker represented produce. His concerns included new trucking regulations requiring Electronic Logging Devices (many in the agriculture industry believe there should be exemptions, contending the regulations make it more expensive to transport their products (or, in the speaker’s words at the roundtable “are killing us”)).

The speaker also said ICE (immigration regulations) are affecting his ability to import workers and discussed food safety concerns.

The most profound thing the man said?

“I think in 10 years there won’t be any produce grown in the US.”


This was the issue concerning the day’s first speaker. I laughed because I had just been reading an article about the aquaculture industry’s efforts to secure crop insurance coverage for aquaculture earlier in the week.

Other crops/products I have heard about in connection with trying to get crop insurance over the past year: hemp, malting barley (hello, craft brewers), honeybees. I’m sure there have been others.

Aquaculture matters because more than 50% of the world’s seafood is produced by aquaculture.


A speaker address Rep. Lawson, requesting that the Working Forest Caucus be preserved. Rep. Peterson, is co-chair of the caucus, chimed in explaining he is a tree farmer himself.

Forestry matters to all of us for a variety of reasons. One interesting facet of this part of the roundtable was the reminder that it is a balancing act to protect the environment while also reaping the economic benefits of forestry. I don’t have the expertise or room to explain this, but if you are interested in an example of the tension between environmentalists and industry, read about the red-cockaded woodpecker, a bird referenced during the discussion.


A speaker encouraged support for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Rep. Peterson told her “we’re 100% behind you” and “we should probably do more.” He also told an entertaining story about Organic Valley milk. Apparently its shelf life is long enough for someone who can’t remember which of his three homes he left his milk in to usually end up with fresh milk.


I did mention trucking when I discussed the produce farmer above, but another speaker focused solely on trucking. A nursery owner, he was succinct and to the point as the previous speaker had covered most of his points.

Crop Insurance

One of my goals of attending the farmers roundtable was to put the topic of crop insurance in a broader context and understand what it means to people who work in the field (pun intended) regularly. In the United States, crop insurance covers approximately 90% of the insurable acres and 130 crops, according to National Crop Insurance Services. The federal government pays approximately 62% of the cost of premiums, according to NCIS. The roundtable did that for me, culminating with Rep. Peterson’s statement:

We need to get everyone in agriculture under crop insurance to avoid disaster programs.

Alphabet Soup

As with any government enterprise, acronyms ruled the day! I still look certain acronyms up every week to make sure I get them right. Here are the ones I captured (in order of their mention):

NAP: Noninsured Crop Assistance Disaster Program

ELAP: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish

RMA: Risk Management Agency

ARC: Agriculture Risk Coverage

PLC: Price Loss Coverage

CBO: Congressional Budget Office

CAT: Catastrophic Crop Insurance

STAX: Stacked Income Protection Program (this link is older (2014) and provides an overview. The speaker was not a fan, to put it mildly.)

MPP: (Dairy) Margin Protection Program

USDA: United States Department of Agriculture (kind of obvious, I suppose)

NRCS: Natural Resources Conservation Service

FSA: Farm Service Agency

EQUIP: Environmental Quality Incentives Program

CSP: Conservation Stewardship Program

SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program


Behind the Scenes

Rep. Lawson’s District Director, Deborah Fairhurst, facilitated the event. Roundtables and other constituent gatherings like this don’t just spring up overnight; they take copious planning. As I wrote previously, my experience with advocacy has shown me time and again how dedicated most legislative staffers are and how well most of them encourage constituents to share their diverse viewpoints, regardless of their boss’ ideology. Staffers are the glue holding everything together, in my opinion.

Also Yesterday

I had to make a time management choice yesterday between attending the March for Our Lives and going to the roundtable. It was not an easy choice to make. Fortunately, the march was covered thoroughly and there will be other opportunities to make my voice heard on the issues that event raised.

I haven’t formulated my thoughts on this completely, and given the strides the young people have made since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, maybe I don’t have the right or credibility to. BUT ……….. we can’t be single-issue voters. Sending emails, posting to social media, making scripted calls to legislators’ offices solely because I know it matters to have a “tick mark” on their tracking system that my issue generated another call … all of these things seem ant-like in their small impact compared to the gargantuan issues, the bureaucracy, the politics of it all.

But I continue to believe each constituent matters (as long as they vote). I continue to believe our small actions add up to large changes.

As a constituent, I hope to be in the room ten years from now when that farmer who said he doubted the US would still be growing produce in a decade stands up and takes his three minutes at a roundtable to celebrate domestic agricultural success.

*I am speaking only for myself in this post. I don’t represent the organization identified in the newsletter I reference or my freelance employer.

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

William Wade’s Different Royal Path

Finding out you have won enough votes to be the Homecoming Chief or Princess at Florida State University must be a life-changer. As the winner, you have so many events to look forward to: riding in the parade as “royalty,” being presented to the crowd at the Pow Wow event the night before the game, the Homecoming Breakfast, and the crowning at midfield during the Homecoming Game while being presented with your Court.

The One Exception

Seventeen-year-old William Wade ran for Homecoming Princess on a whim in 1980. To qualify, a candidate had to be an FSU junior or senior and have a 3.0 grade point average. He was a junior (he had entered FSU having completed two years of college-level academic work) and he had a perfect GPA.

Much to everyone’s surprise, William, running as “Billie Dahhling,” won.

The outcry following William’s victory and the intense pressure on him to relinquish the title are well-documented. (I ran across this link — I don’t exactly know where it came from but it seems to capture the relevant facts and a few interesting quotes I haven’t read elsewhere. The Tampa Bay Times articles below also detail the chronology.)

His crown was presented to him at the Pow-Wow the night before the Homecoming Game, but he was not part of the halftime festivities at midfield. One of the reasons he was not permitted to participate in the crowning was the death threats that had been received.

I Didn’t Understand or Find It Funny

Sixteen-year-old me, in the middle of my junior year in high school and planning to attend Florida State University, was not amused. I was embarrassed and disdainful that someone would take it upon himself to disrupt a beloved tradition.

(My not about you revelation and the start of my choice to be an ally was a few years away.)

Reconciling the Past

When Phil Barco, the 1975 homecoming Chief who had been director of student activities in 1980, began assembling a reunion of former Chiefs and Princesses in 2015, William Wade was on the guest list. (Phil and William had reconnected a few years prior.)

William Wade wasn’t on the guest list as a question mark, an asterisk in history, or an unknown commodity.

William Wade was on the guest list as Florida State University’s 1980 Homecoming Princess.

Saying Goodbye

William Wade passed away February 26 from complications of colon cancer.

Tributes shared by people with whom William crossed paths, especially friends and former students, are full of grief, deep gratitude, and humor.

One of my favorites came from his friend Ilyce Meckler:

William observed the world around him and saw injustice hidden in plain sight. He deeply understood and felt the pain of those without a voice and set out to challenge society’s conventions through his music. Wearing little armor himself, he forged ahead by composing powerful musical theater while balancing a mirror for us to see the strength that we all have inside ourselves to make change.

Ilyce captures qualities of William I hear echoed repeatedly:

  • He was an astute observer of the world
  • He especially sensed injustice and refused to back down from it
  • He was, for the most part, “without armor”

I read that William’s quest to be Homecoming Princess wasn’t about the “princess” parts — wearing a beautiful gown, being crowned with the ceremonial headdress — but because the whole process seemed so superficial and steeped in gender stereotypes.

Armor-wise, there probably isn’t anything that could have reinforced his psyche and his body once he stood his ground on keeping his title. Once the ACLU got involved and helped broker an agreement the Friday prior to homecoming on Saturday. Once the rocks were hurled at him and the death threats came his way.

A 2018 Birthday Remembrance

My goal of creating a post all about William is to celebrate the difference he made for others.

For the Juilliard students he served as an accompanist.

For the Dance for Parkinsons program he provided music for, earning him the New Yorker of the Week designation in 2014.

For the friends across the years he thrilled with music and friendship.

William Wade

To learn more about William’s journey, read What happened to William Wade? After 35 years, hope for a real homecoming and Epilogue: William Wade, scorned as FSU princess, helped others rise through music, both from the Tampa Bay Times.

I found out from one of the Tampa Bay Times articles that William’s campaign motto had been “A queen with a difference.”

The ridicule I felt in 1980 turned to admiration by 2015.

We may never know the toll 1980’s events took on William. I suspect it was quite a heavy one. In this 1988 article, he says, “I’m not sorry I ran for princess. But I don’t think it changed anything.”

Whatever the afterlife holds for him, I am positive there will be no hurled rocks, no death threats, no hatred.

What a welcome relief that must be.

And I hope William knows that he did, indeed, change things.

Happy birthday, William.

William with Doby Flowers, 1970 Homecoming Queen, and Clara Moffitt Howell McKay Moorman, FSU’s first Homecoming Queen (1948).

I am committing my “Donate a Photo” contribution today to GLAAD in William’s memory. Learn more about how you can direct $1 per donated photo to a cause you love by clicking hereWilliam Wade

This post will be linked to Kat Bouska’s site, for the prompt “write a post using the word ‘found.'”

William Wade


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

Five Minute Friday: TIRED

Today’s prompt: TIRED

I have been getting up exceptionally early the last week or so. I used to start working (freelance, from home, blessedly) at around 6:45. Now I am getting things underway around 5.

It is a recipe for being tired, and I’m having a small challenge convincing my body to get to sleep earlier, but there is a crucial difference at this point in my life: I am so happy to have the opportunity to do this, to add something new to my skill set (and hopefully help the business out too).

It is not an exaggeration to say that during the first year or so that my father-in-law lived with us and we essentially had to have someone at home, I would pray for an opportunity that kept me at home, used my writing skills, and occurred early in the day.

It takes time sometimes to gravitate to the right fit.

I could technically, now that Dad is gone, get a regular 9-5 job. I may have to go that route eventually. But I find myself clicking out of job ads and hoping I can make the current combination work. (And note: I realize I am in a privileged position that Wayne has health insurance. I don’t take that for granted.)

“Tired” is much less draining when your internal motivation has woken up, regardless of the time of day.Five Minute Friday

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.)

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

A Candy Bar in the ICU

Tenley and I had to stop for gas en route to UF Health in the earliest hours of Christmas Day. I had been told by an ICU nurse “if it were my mom I would come,” so we drove as rapidly as we could to Gainesville.

In addition to the gas, I bought a Baby Ruth candy bar.

Managing Hospitalization

When we arrived at the hospital, my mom was on BiPap for her extreme respiratory distress. Over a course of several hours, the medical personnel tried different percentages of oxygen, various sizes of masks, and a spectrum of treatments to try to relieve her breathing.

When nothing they had tried worked, they brought up the topic of intubation.

Doctors had a conversation with my dad and my mom that went something along the lines of “you have said you don’t want extraordinary measures taken to prolong your life. You don’t want chest compressions but you are okay with being intubated?”


Once the decision had been made to intubate, we had to leave the room.

In a daughter-of-the-year move, I didn’t say anything deep or profound. I waved the Baby Ruth bar in her face (the one she couldn’t eat because a) her dentures were out b) her oxygen levels were plummeting to near-fatal levels and c) there was a mask over her mouth) and said “I brought you a Baby Ruth bar. I’ll save it for you!”

(Getting a Baby Ruth bar in the Christmas stocking was a treat my grandfather gave my mom every year when she was young and times were harder than they are now. The tradition has extended to our home — Wayne/Santa puts one in my stocking every year.)

I thought “is my mom’s last memory of me going to be having a Baby Ruth bar waved in her face?”

I ended up eating the Baby Ruth bar myself sometime in the haze of the days that followed.

She was relieved of that breathing tube within a few days, then reintubated for another 24-48 hours. She was moved from Cardiac ICU to Medical ICU, then to a regular room, and then sent to Lake Butler Hospital for rehab. That lasted several weeks. After being home approximately 24 hours, she fell and broke her wrist, landing her back in the hospital (North Florida Regional).

I had a nice visit with her on Sunday, February 11. I left her birthday card on the bedside table, thinking I would not make it back to the hospital before her 88th birthday on February 15. The breathing issues came back with a vengeance on February 13 and a decision was made not to reintubate her. She died that evening. I found the birthday card in a bag containing her belongings after she died.

We don’t know what to do when our loved ones are facing odds that seem at the time to be insurmountable.

Sometimes the choices we make have more to do with what we need in order to try to make sense of the unimaginable rather than what the loved one needs.

My mom loved the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

,Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

It was not a serene moment for any of us when I attempted to explain the Baby Ruth in my hands to a woman whose oxygen level was precipitously low. It was a moment (as were many over the course of her illness) when she exhibited the courage to keep trying to be a part of this world.

One time when I was a teenager and devastated over a relationship loss, she said “it doesn’t matter.” Those three words did come from her deep well of wisdom, but I railed against them for years. Maybe the thing is that I am dogged about change, in the world and in myself. “It doesn’t matter” is absent from my vocabulary probably much more often than it should be for my peace of mind.

I don’t know if she ever registered the Baby Ruth bar. I don’t know if anyone ever read her the birthday card.

It matters that she and I, over a lifetime, tried to find some middle ground between what matters and what doesn’t.

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

Five Minute Friday: REGRET

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: REGRET

There’s a saying (I’m paraphrasing) that “you regret all the shots you didn’t take” — something a sports star said.

There are some shots I don’t regret not taking. I don’t regret making some career choices that kept me closer to home and more available to my children.

I don’t regret letting my daughter dress herself in dots and stripes when she was little rather than being matchy-matchy. She found herself of self and style more easily that way, in my opinion.

It’s a little hard lately in this latest life iteration not to regret being away from writing, proofreading and editing so long. I always had my finger in the pie, but there was a lengthy detour through child health policy.

I have decided for the most part, though, that in addition to the principle that things truly happen for a reason, my career path may have put me a bit behind competitively for some of the types of things I want to do now, but gave me so much that makes me a well-rounded professional:

  • Having to work through the federal government process to get funding for a start-up program
  • Multiple procurement processes for health plans, dental plans, and third party administrators (the TPA procurements taught me so much about technology, at least at a rudimentary level)
  • Becoming a Certified Public Manager
  • Overseeing the dispute process at a program with several hundred thousand enrollees
  • Supervising people

*** end of five minutes***

There is more I got out of those years, more than five minutes can hold. There were difficult bosses (and good ones), boards of directors to satisfy, the perfect timing of having a communications person who knew Twitter well and taught me when Twitter was new.

I got victories and defeats. Did some things well and messed up a few too (especially when it came to being the leader my people needed). Saw every single county in Florida.

I got so many things to write about, and that’s something for which I have no regrets.Five Minute Friday

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.)

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

Five Minute Friday: BEAUTY

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.”

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: BEAUTY

Many things about my mom’s life between December 11, when she was admitted to UF Health, through February 13, when she died at North Florida Regional Hospital, were not beautiful.

  • The indignities of being handled so much by so many people
  • Not being able to take care of bodily functions privately
  • Not being able to breathe
  • Not being able to drink water while on CPap and BiPap (and intubated)
  • The broken wrist she incurred a few days before she died
  • Breathing treatments, IVs, heparin shots, insulin shots, stool softeners, swallow tests, bronchoscopies

The two months unfolded strangely and unpredictably. During about a week and a half of her time in rehab at Lake Butler Hospital, she was doing so well. Walking. Breathing without the aid of oxygen.

Every time I would call, she was say the same thing: “How are ya?” The typewritten words on a screen don’t do justice to the joy she exuded knowing that she was talking to me. Being a mom, even though she was the sick one, I could tell she was happy I was okay (moms never stop worrying about that).

I don’t understand why the two months played out the way they did, but they gave me more time, beautiful time. Over this time she reminded me that she derived joy from being with her family.

I had been oblivious to how much she needed that for quite some time.


Coincidentally, since this week’s word is beauty, this is the verse I chose for my mom’s funeral program:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I am grateful for her gentle and quiet spirit; she was an unfading beauty inside and out.  Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

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

Mom’s Challenge

The first time I saw Michelle Kwan skate in person, it was her first year skating as a senior at the national level. This was at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, in 1994 (yes, there was a quite noteworthy event that occurred at that championship).

She was so young. I don’t mean chronologically only. I mean still a girl in many ways. Bowled over as the stuffed animals rained down onto the ice after her performance. Giddy with the thrill of it all.

(Figure skating side note: her sister, Karen Kwan, also competed at that championship. She skated elegantly.)

By the next year, at the championships in Providence, Rhode Island, Michelle Kwan was a different skater and person. She hadn’t yet turned into the force she would be eventually, a combination of athleticism and artistry that defied being beaten, but she had more notoriety, more fame, more expectations on her shoulders.

Mothers and Challenges

I can only imagine the challenges her mom (and dad) faced, starting with years of expensive skating lessons and all the accompaniments necessary to a competitive figure skating career.

Michelle Kwan discusses her mom’s sacrifices here, talking about how her mom sewed her costumes to save money and how both her immigrant parents worked multiple jobs. “I’d be yelling across the rink like ‘Mom, do you have gloves?’ or even a tissue and she was right there next to the ice,” Kwan said.

Moms often intuit our challenges before we realize the gravity of them (or, conversely, the fact that the challenges we think are going to break us end up not being as drastically life-altering as they feel at the time).

When Mom Faces a Challenge

My mom has faced her own challenge since she was hospitalized on December 11 when her heart rate/rhythm, breathing, and overall health were compromised by a viral infection.

Although her recovery seemed to be on a mostly upward-bound trajectory, everything changed when she had an allergic reaction to one of the anti-arrhythmics she had been administered.

“If it were my mom, I would come,” said an ICU nurse around 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. My daughter drove herself and me to the hospital.

After several extremely tenuous hours, my mom was intubated and the immediate breathing/survival crisis was over.

When I didn’t know what to do over the days that followed, with tense nights in the ICU, another intubation, and the juggling act of medical needs/family member relationship management (not saying I managed any of that — just that it’s a fraught time when you’re trying to exchange accurate information through sleep deprivation and layers of dynamics)/keeping up with obligations to my two freelance positions, I thought about my mom holding my newborn son through the night so I could sleep.

Just holding him. Nothing fancy. No machines, no technology, no words.

Has a Challenge Been Met?

Michelle Kwan knew she had met her challenges when she tied Maribel Vinson for the most US Championships (9), when she won five world championships and when she won Olympic medals in 1998 and 2002.

I pray my mom overcomes her physical issues, which provide related emotional hurdles (she had to be readmitted to a hospital after less than 48 hours had elapsed following her discharge because she fell and broke her wrist).

I pray I can figure out how to give her the sense of reassurance I had when she held my son throughout the night, using solely the power of presence rather than words to calm him.

Editor’s note: My mom passed away on February 13, 2018. Her obituary can be read here

Mothers and ChallengesI am linking this post to Mama’s Losin’ It, for the “write about the word ‘challenge'” prompt.


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

Five Minute Friday: SURRENDER

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.”

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: SURRENDER

From the moment I saw that today’s word was “surrender,” I have had an earworm of I Surrender All. I couldn’t begin to count how often I have sung or played that song over the course of my life, especially during all the Southern Baptist years.

I don’t think God really wants me to surrender right now so much as He wants me to fight. It has taken so much longer than I would have thought to come out of the fog created by being a primary caregiver for three years. Dad died in July and I feel like I am just starting to be able to organize my days and my energy better. Never underestimate the drain on your life and spirit of almost constant stress.

(On the topic of almost constant stress, though, I want to acknowledge that my situation could have been so much worse. We were able to secure respite care so I could do things outside of the home and so he could have supervision the last month or two when it was impossible to do my at-home work uninterrupted because his needs had gotten so much more intense. Some people deal with this much longer than we did, with much less support. It’s not a competition, I know, but it’s important to acknowledge that I recognize their struggles.)

It is tempting to shy away from making hard decisions and taking bigger risks. Fifty-three isn’t that old but there comes a time when some choices are no longer options. However, I suppose the upside of the new gig-oriented economy and all the technological changes in industry means some jobs exist I couldn’t possibly have known about even ten years ago.

Therefore, I am not totally embracing the surrender idea tonight unless it’s to say “no surrender” to the hurdles I am putting in my own way of recovering professionally and (by virtue of that) getting out of debt.

(Full disclosure — this took a bit longer than five minutes. I wasn’t willing to surrender when the timer beeped.)

Also, I ran across this song by Clay Crosse when I was considering adding a video. It’s different from the traditional I Surrender All. I like the line “I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams.” In a way, that is a total contrast to what I wrote, but in a way it isn’t — silent hopes and dreams still have a prayer of succeeding if they are verbalized and written down — if we hold ourselves accountable.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

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

Needing to be Elsewhere

Sometimes, we have an overwhelming desire to be somewhere else or our life circumstances make it impossible to stay where we are. This week, three organizations/people addressed that need in ways that deserved more than a quick social media share. Therefore, I have chosen to highlight them today.

A Randy Pausch Quote

Every issue of SmartBrief ends with a quote. The featured quote  in many of the January 19 issues came from Randy Pausch.

Being elsewhere

What this quote has to do with “being elsewhere”:

The first time my husband heard “The Last Lecture,” he said “you’ve got to listen to this.” That was a good call. I wouldn’t go on to decide to leave the job I had held for well over a decade for seven more years, but Randy Pausch planted the seed. I listened to the lecture online, bought DVDs of it to share with friends, purchased the book.

As a person who has hesitated far too often to ask “why?” “how?” and “why not?” for fear of being told “no,” “that’s stupid,” or “who exactly do you think you are?,” Randy Pausch’s lecture reminded me that being reluctant to ask the hard and adventurous questions only hurts me and leads to someone else getting to go on the thrilling adventure.

(I also realized while re-watching the video today that Randy is wearing a Disney nametag and (I think) an Imagineering shirt. Now that I have seen the Disney experience as the parent of a participant in the Disney College Program, I love that touch.)

Watch it here. It will be an hour well-spent.

(If you don’t have more than an hour to watch the video, there’s a great ten-minute version here, the last one Randy delivered before his death in 2008.)

Princess Pigtails’ Diary

My friend Shannon recently served as a foster parent for the first time. The Tampa Bay Times published Princess Pigtails’ diary: the first 97 days of a foster mom and the little girl in her care on January 19.

Being elsewhere

Photo Credit: Katie Reeves/KT Creative

What this story has to do with “being elsewhere”:

“Princess Pigtails (PP)” was three when placed into Shannon’s care as a foster child, and almost four when she was placed back with her biological grandmother. Because I have been so absent from working out at the fitness student Shannon owns, I never met PP, but I felt like I knew her through the stories Shannon shared on social media (many of which comprise the Tampa Bay piece).

For her own protection, PP needed to “be elsewhere,” at least temporarily. As you’ll see from the story, our state’s laws, system and philosophy about what is best for foster children are imperfect at best. The placement may have been temporary, but PP made a permanent difference on many hearts (and I believe the experience may lead to positive changes for other children in foster care). Thank you, Shannon, for taking the risk to love this child even though it split your heart open when she moved on, and thank you PP for being a gift to so many of us.

Editor’s Note: Click here for a Tallahassee Democrat account of Shannon’s time with Princess Pigtails and foster care in general. 

Steve Schale’s Ode to Shitholes

My friend Steve Schale published Ode to Shitholes on January 13. Following the President’s apparent reference to countries including Africa as being “shitholes,” this is the best rebuttal I have read. Being elsewhere

What this post has to do with “being elsewhere”:

The people who are “elsewhere” (elsewhere from the United States, or from elsewhere and living in the United States but on the verge of being forcibly returned to “elsewhere”) often deal with the life inequities that come with what Steve (and many others) refer to as “the birth draw.”

I am so grateful to have spent time in Guatemala and El Salvador (that’s Guatemala City in the image I shared). It wasn’t long enough (two weeks in total) and it didn’t go deep enough (although I am grateful to have gone, for sure!). Both times, because I was traveling with Unbound, we were treated as royalty (literally …… flower-petal paths, extravagant (for the area) meals, and deference). They were beautiful, educational trips, but we didn’t deserve the deference — if anyone did, it was the people who work so hard to support their families in the face of indescribable difficulties, violence and educational deficits.

What can you do this week to find your own “elsewhere” (if that’s what you need) or to help another person whose “elsewhere” has become untenable? 

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