5 reasons for joy amid the madness

This pandemic, with its undefined end and the constant worries about health, is a constant drain in many ways.

Kat Bouska asked us to share five things that are bringing us joy right now, and that’s a good idea. Here are mine:

Wedding planning with my daughter

Tenley is getting married next May, so we have a lot to do! Even though the to-do list is long and I don’t have the ability to write the blank check I’d like to write, it’s still fun … and positive … and uplifting.

The day we went wedding-dress shopping at The White Magnolia – Jacksonville was so much fun. I enjoyed the time with Tenley and her friends. I enjoyed the experience of watching her evaluate her choices and pick her dress. Even with the dresses she eliminated as options, the craftsmanship on all of them was just so beautiful. I enjoyed the reminder that people still take pride in their work and believe in intricate detail.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

The Hamilcast

I finally got to see “Hamilton” a few months ago when it premiered on Disney+. Of course that only made me want to see it in person even more. And of course there are no live performances to see right now due to the pandemic.

Therefore, I’m doing something that is helping scratch that itch a bit. I started listening to “The Hamilcast: A Hamilton Podcast” when I walk. I started from the very first episode, recorded in January 2016. I’ve worked my way up to September 2016 (episode #35) and have 204 more to go (and that’s if they stopped recording new episodes today).

I love this podcast so much. I feel like I’m watching an infant grow up (I guess maybe it’s at the “elementary-school age” stage right now?) as the hosts evolve and gain more technical skills (along with VERY FAMOUS GUESTS such as Lin-Manuel Miranda himself). Honestly, though, as much as I’m looking forward to that, I’m enjoying all of the guests (most recently, the hosts interviewed Amber Fang, the creator of the Twitter account @hamiltonasdogs. The account doesn’t seem to be active anymore, but it’s all new to me, so I can enjoy the posts from a few years ago, such as this!

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

My job

I still love my job. That’s a life gift I never take for granted.

Speaking of my job, I get to do one of the more fun parts this Thursday, when I’ll be helping to moderate our annual STEM Pathways Summit (yes of course it’s virtual this year — sigh). If you’re a teacher, have a general interest in STEM topics or want to find some ideas to motivate a student in your life, sign up! Signing up will help you access the sessions on-demand afterward if you can’t come on Thursday afternoon.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness


I miss my old fitness life. Most of that is something I can do take action to resolve (except that I can’t return to running) — but I have not made much progress. I have been much more consistent about walking, though, and that small habit change has made a big difference.

Now to add more activity!

Halloween Decorations

I usually walk at night (because that’s when I finally get around to it). This is our first year in our neighborhood, which has quite the reputation for being a trick-or-treat mecca. I’m not sure how the pandemic will affect the number of kids we have, but my neighbors are KILLING IT with the incredible decorations!

So far, we’ve only got one metal pumpkin decoration out in our yard, but I bought lights yesterday, so here’s hoping it’ll be much more ghoulishly festive by October 31.

5 reasons for joy amid the madness

What about you?

I’d love to hear what’s been bringing you joy. Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!

Thoughts about church


I’m not in a great place mentally about church right now.

I realize the practice of going to a church building to worship has been interrupted in many ways by the pandemic, but my lax approach started showing up long before the pandemic.

I got the weekly email from the church I still belong to on Friday, and it talked about “worship in the parking lot.” Since I have been so sporadic about showing up, I am really not sure who I would still know if I presented myself at this parking lot worship experience.

I think I’ve been a little petulant with God about this. I’ve switched churches (and denominations) many times over the decades. I kind of wonder if I got a little attached to the novelty of being the “new person” in a congregation. There’s a flurry of “being welcomed,” the fun of getting to know new people, the relief of leaving any unfinished business behind.

The church that felt most like home closed in 2012. I had already left it for very good reasons (and the reasons weren’t just about me chasing the novelty of being the new person). Yet, returning to attend its closing service was like a door closing in a way.

I know (fully) that the church is not the building. I know it’s the people, and I know I haven’t contributed in any consistent way keeping the fabric of any congregation from growing weak and being shredded in the last few years.

There’s no neat and tidy ending to this post, just the acknowledgement that I miss making that contribution; I miss the moments of contemplation and worship.

I miss a communion that is about more than bread and wine.

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.) 

The thrill of being right

The thrill of being right


I love being right. Who doesn’t, really? Who would choose to be wrong?

In my work, getting to the bottom of what’s right is sort of like one of those nesting dolls.

Not to overstate things, because I’m not an investigative journalist whatsoever (although I admire the heck out of them).

In a typical newsletters, we accumulate eight top stories for the topic (for example, I do a social work newsletter). A team member finds the story and writes a two-sentence summary of the story. It’s my job to confirm that what was written is correct.

The thing is — and I know this will hardly shock anyone — the stories written by journalists are often not right. It’s not necessarily that THEY set out to write something inaccurate, but if they only skim the surface of an issue, or don’t look into both sides, or don’t dig into boring minutes of a city council or county commission meeting (for example), the story our writer is basing their summary on is dubious at best.

It’s in digging through the layers of the truth behind a story that I find pleasure in a job well done. And it frustrates me when someone in a quality control capacity finds something that I missed (they’re just doing their job, I know, but I feel personally responsible for not missing those types of things).

I suspect sometime in my life I’ll look back at my writing from this season of my life and say, “wow you really wrote about mistakes often.”

I suppose awareness is the first step in getting things right.

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.) 

The thrill of being right

Perspective on the gift of breath

Perspective on the gift of breath


I don’t feel as though I have much perspective right now, with the pandemic slowing our world down.

The time my mom spent in an ICU with so many breathing issues in late 2017/early 2018 is something I had compartmentalized in a sort of “medical/quality of life” box in my head. It also gave me a tremendous appreciation for respiratory therapists. I guess I had previously thought of this profession as “easy” in a way — you go to a program, get a certificate, and help people breathe better.

Now I know that it involves a blend of excellent math skills, sharp technical abilities, the energy to be dogged about finding solutions AND incredible people skills (to deal with frightened patients, alarmed family members and medical personnel who often don’t coordinate well with each other).

I know that it’s life and death (because my mom eventually died because she couldn’t breathe (not at the fault of a respiratory therapist, to be clear — I just mean I now see the stark difference between “helping someone breathe easier and helping someone stay alive”)).

I am so fortunate to still have my job (and that Wayne still has his). If anything, I feel guilty that things are so relatively easy. We aren’t being caregivers for a person with dementia right now as so many are. We don’t have little kids at home who we need to homeschool. It’s just us, going through pretty much our normal routines, deciding (me) which beer to have for our afternoon time on the porch (Wayne always has the same thing), watching “Tiger King” (I know — it’s not everyone’s cup of tea!).

But if I get this illness and can’t breathe, I know it’ll be in the hands of a respiratory therapist and the Great Physician to decide if I survive, and that makes me want to turn every day into something that’s memorable and nonroutine.

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.) 

Perspective on the gift of breath

Be a beacon by walking with, not by

On February 29, I gave the keynote speech at the Tallahassee Alumnae Panhellenic organization’s scholarship luncheon. I appreciate the opportunity to speak about service projects, and how to turn them from mandatory (in college) to voluntary (lifelong). I’m grateful for the fellowship shared with the women that day and the opportunity to share these thoughts.

Be a beacon by walking with, not by
Photo credit: Amy Zoldak

I do have a “real name” — as you see on the program — Paula Kiger.

However, over the years, my alter ego, “The Big Green Pen” has sort of taken over. It’s the name of my website and my social media “handle” almost everywhere. There are times I barely remember my legal name.

I got that name during the first phase of my career, when I was an administrator for Florida’s Healthy Kids program, which provided health insurance for uninsured children. When Healthy Kids started in the early 90s, long before social media was a thing, our signature color was green, and we had an abundance of green felt tip pens around.

As I would edit the work of others with the green pen, I earned a nickname behind my back (not to my face) — the big green pen — because apparently I was a tough, some would say ruthless, editor.

Once someone finally told me that was my nickname, I got on the bandwagon and it stuck.

These days, I try to position it as a positive thing, not something that instills fear. I try to encourage people with the hashtag #WriteOptimistically.

All of that editing when I was supposed to be shaping health policy must have been a sign, though.

When I left that job in 2014 after almost 20 years, I thought I was going to go in search of my bliss. It turns out I went in search of depends and a hospital bed, as my father-in-law got ill and moved in with us. For the next three years, I was doing a variety of freelance jobs and taking care of him as his health deteriorated and he went through two bouts of cancer. 

Fortunately, one of those freelance jobs was with SmartBrief, a business-to-business publisher of newsletters. I had prayed for something I could do early in the morning before my father-in-law was moving around, that involved writing and editing, and voila there it was! I started freelancing for SmartBrief in January 2017. My father-in-law passed away in July 2017, and eventually I got hired full-time as their nonprofit sector editor in September 2018.

My job at SmartBrief is to edit newsletters that tell members of organizations what the latest news is in their industry. For example, I do the National Emergency Number Association newsletter, so if you have any questions about dispatching, I have the 4-1-1 on 9-1-1.

One of my newsletters is BoardSource, which has to do with all things nonprofit boards. Every single day, I walk away with an aha of some kind and this newsletter is a big reason why.

One aha, which really shouldn’t surprise me but somehow still does, is the amount of money some people have to contribute toward philanthropies. In the issues I’ve edited in February, 

Those are all such laudable efforts, but they make me ask how I can make a difference, seeing as how I don’t have millions to give. 

I have three examples, one I gathered from SmartBrief and two drawn from my life, to make the case that you don’t have to have millions to make a difference.

Let’s start with my friend Diane Berberian. She’s a visually impaired triathlete whose vision has gotten worse over time because of macular degeneration. She’s also a stage four head, throat and neck cancer survivor. (If you don’t know what a triathlon is, it’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Hard enough to do when you can see exactly where you’re going!)

Diane has accomplished so many things since becoming visually impaired. She was on the USA National Paratriathlon Team in 2013. She represented the US at the Paratriathlon Worlds, where she placed 5th overall. She won the National Championship for Visually Impaired Females at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in Washington, D.C., in October 2014 then traveled to Wilmington, N.C., where she won the Paratriathlete Division of the Beach 2 Battleship Half Ironman. 

I was Diane’s sighted guide once at a 5K at the Tampa Zoo (just a 5K, not a half-marathon or triathlon!). Diane has had other assistance as a runner, some coming from Delta Gamma members. One of their philanthropies is Service for Sight. She benefited from help from DG members when she was running the Boston Marathon. They got her to and from places by assisting with public transportation. They assisted with the athletes’ banquet. Many members who were communications majors worked with Diane to provide interviews about being a visually impaired athlete and how Service for Sight helped. Many Delta Gamma sisters have been her sighted guides in races from the 5K to the half marathon (13.1 miles). Many DGs guide other runners at races in Boston and other areas.

Be a beacon by walking with, not by
With Diane at the Tampa Zoo 5K in 2015

She was helped so much that she wanted to be a bigger part of the organization, so she did something that wasn’t an option for her in the 70s: she pledged as an adult initiate in 2017!

Diane shared with me that she has a wish for other Alumnae Panhellenic women that she has interacted with. While it’s easy to write a check, and important as none of the causes in the world can succeed without cash, she sees a way that generations can work more directly with each other. One woman she knows still helps a visually impaired gentleman even though it has been 15 years since she was in college. Diane says, “I still think I have a lot to learn from this generation and they could learn from me.” She encourages the collegiates to go from service hours being something you have to do to something you want to do.

I’d also like to share a personal story about going from mandatory service hours to service because you care. 

My niece, Jessica, was an ADPi at Valdosta State University around 2010. Prior to her time at ADPi, and long before she had made any decisions about sororities or college life, she stayed in a Ronald McDonald House with my sister-in-law and her siblings. (Our family has a congenital heart arrhythmia known as Long QT. The discovery that several members of the family had this arrhythmia, after my sister-in-law Ann died in her sleep and left behind three very young children, led to a long process of working with different specialists to figure out who else had Long QT, which is for the most part treatable once you know about it.) Jessica and her mom, my sister-in-law Mary, and their family had traveled from Thomasville to Jacksonville for testing, so they needed someplace to stay and RMH of Jacksonville was there for them.

Fast forward to college Jessica and her ADPi life. As those of you who were ADPis know, the philanthropy of ADPi is the Ronald McDonald House. Jessica, as part of her service hours, helped clean the RMH in Macon, which is a bit of a drive from Valdosta but the closest one in Georgia from VSU. 

Jessica is now married and living in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband, Eric. I showed up in Thomasville, her childhood home seven hours away from Huntsville, on October 12 for a baby shower for Jessica, because she was expecting a baby on November 27. I really pleaded with her to make it Nov. 28 so we would share a birthday, but this baby had his own ideas for when he should come. When I arrived for the shower, my sister-in-law said, “have I got a story for you.” It turns out Jessica’s water had broken the night prior and she had given birth to Paul Thomas Viale just a few hours later. Because he was at 32 weeks, he was transported to the NICU at TMH. Jessica and Eric had to figure out where to stay while Paul was cared for at the NICU, and they ended up being at Ronald McDonald House Tallahassee for about 10 days! 

Right after Paul was born, before Jessica had transferred to Tallahassee to join Eric and Paul, my daughter, Tenley (who had also been an ADPi and done service hours at the Ronald McDonald House) and I visited her. The first thing she said was, “wow I guess all those service hours paid off!.”

Of course Ronald McDonald House doesn’t quiz incoming parents to ask if they ever scrubbed a Ronald McDonald House floor before, but having done so still gave Jessica a more direct sense of why those service hours mattered.

The RMH made it possible for Jessica and Eric to be close to the hospital, have essentially unlimited food, have access to a breast pump, and get their laundry done — all for a donation of $10 a day that was waived for families that couldn’t afford it. 

I asked Jessica about some ways that people can give to Ronald McDonald House beyond writing checks. Just as Diane has advice for Alumnae Panhellenic members, so does Jessica. It can be as simple as donating the pop tab off of your soda can. Ronald McDonald House locations need bulk items such as paper towels and toilet paper. (Typically the Ronald McDonald Houses have suggested lists, however during the pandemic this process has changed. The Tallahassee facility, for example, suggests Publix or Costco gift cards right now.)

I want to ask you how you chose your jewelry today, if you have any on. 

Did you choose it because it has sentimental value? Maybe it matches your outfit. Maybe you have the same issue I have sometimes and only one necklace in the drawer was untangled enough to make it out of the house.

This is what I chose to wear today. [Here I demonstrated the item I was wearing around my neck.] It didn’t come from a rack at the store and it won’t ever need polishing, but it does have an important job. It’s special not because of how it looks, but because of what it does.

These beacons are made and distributed by Samaritan, an organization in Seattle that helps homeless people and others in need of assistance. It was started by Jonathan Kumar, who was eating lunch in downtown Seattle one day and saw a man at an intersection. He was a homeless man holding a sign that said he needed medicine for his diabetes. 

No one was helping the man.

Specifically, Kumar says “no one even acknowledged that he existed.”

As Kumar started talking with the gentleman, the man said, “I’ve got the wrong look for this, the wrong skin color, the wrong clothing. Nobody actually believes that I’m homeless.” Jonathan called what the man was experiencing something different than the definition most of us would give: poor. The man, Kumar said, was experiencing “relational poverty.” Dr. Bruce Perry defined relational poverty as “a deep lack of the connectedness with others that we all need to survive and to be well.”

Kumar was still working in the tech field, and his wheels started turning. Could tech help the man and others like him?

Jonathan decided to try to alleviate this relational poverty through an app. He built the Samaritan app, and he also developed bluetooth beacons that people such as the man he had met could wear. The Samaritan organization has the motto “walk with, not by.”

The beacons are distributed by approved clinics and nonprofit counselors.

When a user of the Samaritan app walks by (within 30 yards) someone with one of the beacons, the app notifies them of that person’s story and need. That person can choose then and there to make a donation that will help the individual, and the individual can use the funds at places like grocery stores, barber shops, outdoor supply stores and coffee shops. Nonprofit counselors can also help the people apply the funds to other things like phone bills or bus tickets. When the batteries run low, the people have to go meet with the counselor (once a month). The meeting is as much about the face to face as it is a fresh battery.

One person who had a beacon and ended up with housing through its connections said this is “the first time in seven years people have seen me for who I am, not what I look like or where I’ve come from.”

You can send encouraging messages to individuals — they love that. It’s an addition that brings the human connection back and helps people not feel invisible.

What if there was an app that told you people’s stories and deepened your connection?

Tallahassee is a little different – we’re not much of a pedestrian town. For me, one way that same deepening of connections happened was through Facebook, and got me in touch with Going Places, a local drop-in center for homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth under the age of 22, many of whom have been kicked out of their homes by their parents. I read about Going Places on Facebook and the web, but my understanding of their mission and the heart of the place changed when I spent three hours with them at their Thanksgiving dinner. 

After that Thanksgiving event, I gave a ride to a Going Places participant and her boyfriend. She was 16, pregnant, and working security at night to try to make a way for herself and her baby.

Having spent that time at Going Places, especially with that young woman, changed things for me. Now when I do write a check, it will be for more (if possible) because I understand in a more personal way why their services matter.

Think about whatever your philanthropy was when you were in college — are there stories there you need to return to? If not, is there a way you can connect with someone else’s story and make them feel less invisible? Maybe it’s cleaning a toilet again at Ronald McDonald House. Maybe it’s reading to a visually impaired person or driving them to a doctor’s appointment. Maybe it’s as simple as saying hello the next time you encounter a homeless person when every instinct says to ignore them and walk the other way. 

When you leave our luncheon, find a way to walk with someone in need, not by them. Be their beacon of hope.

Be a beacon by walking with, not by

Five Minute Friday: Now

Five Minute Friday: Now


It’s hard not to get lost in the questions these days.

A trip to the store — is now the time I’m going to breathe in air droplets that contain a deadly virus? Or will I just get the banana I intended to pick up in produce?

A walk in the neighborhood, when I come within five feet of a fellow neighbor who is walking instead of the required six. Is now the time when my life will change?

A food delivery (or pickup) because I believe strongly in supporting our local restaurants that are on life support at best. Is now an acceptable time to take the food I paid for?

All of the questions swirl, juxtaposed with a life that is slower than it was just a month ago. We sit on the porch and have a drink together at the end of the day (we both still have traditional work days, but we’re both working from home — me as usual and Wayne because his office sent him home to work).

I ask, wow did we go through all that effort and finally end up in a house that doesn’t have us in a financial stranglehold, just to end up not being able to enjoy it?

So many moments in my life, I’ve told myself … enjoy this moment NOW (when the kids were little, for example, or when I was sitting in a Broadway theater enjoying the show).

Now is the time to remember the beauty of each moment, and to pray for all of those that don’t have the blessing of drinking it all in.

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

Five Minute Friday: Now

ENJOY (FMF31 2019 Day 31)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: ENJOY

Here’s an unexpected treat I enjoyed recently.

When I accompanied Wayne on his business trip earlier this week, we had two nights of the business trip part where we needed to make dinner decisions.

The first night, we ate seafood by the water. The next night, the plan was to go to Tarpon Springs and eat Greek food.

However, Wayne ended up not feeling very well, so we had to change our dinner plans.

His coworkers had raved about an Italian place down the road, so we agreed to get something from there “to go” that we could split.

What I didn’t know is that walking into Argento’s was going to throw me back about 30 years and more than 1,000 miles away.

The bakery case was full of all the goodness I remembered from Arthur Avenue in the Little Italy section of the Bronx, where I worked at Fordham University 1989-92.

I really wanted one of the more decadent treats (cheesecake, tiramisu, cannoli), but I knew I wouldn’t be hungry enough for that after a pasta dinner. There’s also the small issue of me being on Weight Watchers.

I settled for a modest cookie – sort of a shortbread with chocolate frosting.

I thought I would be disappointed, but every single bit of that cookie was delectable!

I’m sure it didn’t hurt that the way the people at the restaurant conducted themselves and sounded reminded me of the Bronx.

But I ended up not being disappointed that I had chosen a smaller dessert.

I enjoyed its taste as much as I enjoyed reminiscing about Little Italy.

The Greek meal will have to wait for another time, but I had the good fortune to send my taste buds (and my heart) on a little tiny trip to New York that night.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

MEMORY (FMF31 2019 Day 30)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: MEMORY

The last couple of days didn’t go exactly as planned.

We took a short trip, to Orlando Sunday for a concert, then on to Port Richey because Wayne had a business meeting. Since I can work from anywhere (yay virtual work!), we decided I would tag along for a change of pace and to keep him company.

We planned to go to Tarpon Springs for Greek Food last night, but both of us had felt a tiny bit marginal the day prior (Monday on the way to Port Richey). By Tuesday, it was clear Wayne was worse than marginal. He made it through the day’s meetings, but we skipped the Greek food trip and did something a bit more stripped down foodwise.

Today, he had to skip the fun part of the meeting (it sounded fun to me at least — visiting Weeki Wachee). So there we were, him in bed in a hotel room. Me working on my laptop. Not too exotic.

The hotel gave us a 1:00 checkout when we checked in on Monday, but I knew I needed about another hour (at least) to finish my work.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just set up in the lobby and finish my work.

I completed a conference call I needed to be on, then went to tackle my work.

And I could. not. get. connected. to. the. Internet. It wanted me to be staying at Hilton still, so that was out. My hotspot wouldn’t connect. I tried going to a different physical location (near him) No go. I went back to my original spot, starting to freak out slightly due to the deadline nature of our work.

He came to me to return my power cord, which I had left behind, and I snapped (a bit).

I guess it’s a testimony to 27 years of marriage that he took being snapped at in stride. He knows how I feel about my work and how freakishly seriously I take it.

So we didn’t have any OPA! moments on this trip, but I have the memory of patience from my spouse, which is actually probably more important.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

PRACTICE (FMF31 2019 Day 29)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PRACTICE

I remember (distantly) what a great feeling it was to practice something (mainly my flute) over and over and over and over until the piece was so ingrained in me that there was no way I would forget. So that I knew it well enough I could incorporate some personality into it and really enjoy a new level of the music.

I had YouTube on in the background today (long story) and there was some speaker talking about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory. I know people have different opinions about that theory, but it is true that single-minded dedication to something is going to increase the likelihood that you’ll be better at it.

My writing has felt so wooden lately. Yet I know the only way out of being stuck in that less-than-creative place is to keep writing (and to get feedback).

I have 10 minutes left in the challenge after tonight. I am stunned at how fast it has gone by, at how easy it was to slip back into the habit of writing every morning again.

I probably should dedicate that five minutes to doing Spanish on Duolingo after October ends. Getting more fluent in Spanish is my perennial goal, and yet I usually end up writing about it instead of doing something about it.

In Nashville, I had one of those encounters I seem to fall into — where I ended up speaking Spanish to the housecleaning staff. I always wonder if they think I’m a nut when I do that, but I have spoken (“spoken”) long enough that it’s second nature to start speaking Spanish (such as it is) when with other people who are all speaking Spanish.

I probably give them something to chuckle about on the way home with all my mangled conjugations and oddly-off vocabulary choices.

Yet, it makes me so happy to speak Spanish with anyone. I guess someday we’ll all have apps that translate for us and reduce the need for us to be able to speak Spanish ourselves, but I don’t want that shortcut. I want the real deal.

Here’s what that will involve: Necesito practicar.

But first, ten more minutes of five-minute writing prompts (tomorrow night, Thursday night.

(and ha ha apparently I didn’t set the timer so I’m not sure how long this was. :-))

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

BETTER (FMF31 2019 Day 27)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: BETTER

The things people will do to look “better” amaze me.

I was just listening to a report on the BBC World Service about Brazilian butt lifts, and how there are 20,000 of them per year in the US. I didn’t hear the beginning of the story, but I did hear the reporter describing how in some cultures the pressure to be curvaceous in that way is intense. I heard them say how dangerous the procedure is.

I can assure you, wanting a bigger or differently shaped derriere has *never* been a desire of mine!

Sometimes when I see famous people (usually women, but sometimes men) who are film stars and it is clear they have had their faces modified, I am aghast. I get the pressure to stay abreast in an industry that so values beauty, but the surgical treatments so often change something about their essence — their ability to be expressive and the intangible “something” that made them so inviting as a personality in the first place.

“Better” is definitely relative. Plastic surgery wouldn’t be thriving as an industry if a certain perspective on “better” hadn’t exploded so much in our world.

But I have to think these people, in many cases, might have lost touch with the best parts of themselves.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes