What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

July — it’s a month that starts off with a holiday that celebrates freedom, but most of us spent its 31 days hunkered down in our homes waiting for positive progress toward getting rid of COVID-19. Those of you who are essential workers didn’t have that luxury, and I applaud you with the most resounding applause I can muster. Thank you.

My colleagues and I are getting a bit tired of writing the three words “amid the pandemic,” but sometimes that’s the only way to express the backdrop of business and life right now, especially when we have a limited amount of space. Therefore, although it’ll make a few colleagues grit their teeth, here are my favorite stories from the July newsletters I edited for SmartBrief — yes, amid the pandemic.


In the July 9 issue of the BoardSource newsletter, we shared an article in which the CEO of PayPal, Dan Schulman, discussed how PayPal is giving $30 million in grants to Black-owned businesses as a demonstration of support. He explained his philosophy:

“Values can’t just be words on a wall. Otherwise they’re just propaganda. You have to live them, you have to act them out. And you have to demonstrate them visibly.” – Dan Schulman

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I have been fascinated by the fact that the pandemic has led to a change shortage and a general speeding up of our society’s progress toward being a cashless society. In the July 24 issue, one of the summaries included three articles — one about the coin shortage, another about how quickly the world will become cash-free once the pandemic wanes, and one about the various ways grocery chains are responding to the coin shortage — that covered different aspects of this topic. This is the only brief in which I routinely run polls, and here’s what people think about the route to a cashless society:

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

International City/County Management Association

We have a section in the ICMA SmartBrief that recognizes when local government professionals make transitions such as retirement or beginning their service in a new place. It was such a pleasure to be part of sharing the news of Jane Brautigam’s upcoming retirement as the city manager of Boulder, Colo., in the July 28 issue.

Jane is the current president of ICMA, and I was at the association’s conference last year in October when she took office. Going to the conference gave me such an appreciation for the role its president holds, and I recall the positive message she shared as she took over. I’m so glad I had that opportunity to be a part of ICMA’s annual meeting and to get to know some of our readers.

Here’s an interview with Jane as she began her term:

National Association of Social Workers

Recently, I drove my dad to a single-day surgery clinic so he could have a procedure done. The clinic had told me they had a “shady spot in the parking lot” where I could wait for him (because the lobby is closed to visitors). I didn’t mind waiting in the car (especially now that I finally have a car with air conditioning).

However, I had not given too much thought to restroom options, since they had said the procedure would last 45 minutes. Apparently I’m really bad at medical procedure math, because I took them at their “45 minutes” word and didn’t factor waiting time pre-procedure, prep time and recovery time into the plan.

About half an hour after I had dropped him off, the staff asked me to come get his jewelry so they wouldn’t be responsible for it. When I approached the door for the jewelry, I asked if I could use the restroom. Although the answer wouldn’t have been a firm “no” if I had been pushier, the answer was, “well then we would have to take your temperature” and they clearly did not feel inclined to do that. I asked if I had time to drive somewhere to go to the restroom (this seems hilarious in retrospect) and they said “yes.”

I went to get gas, which I needed to do anyway. That place’s restroom was closed.

Then I figured Starbucks would be a safe bet. After navigating the Starbucks parking lot (why are so many of them so awful?), I went into the establishment and saw a “restrooms closed” sign.

Then I ended up at McDonalds. Their bathrooms were open (limit 5 people at a time). This has been the second time during the pandemic that a McDonalds has saved me when I needed a restroom (thanks, McDonalds).

I would have needed to do the whole hunt all over again if the staff hadn’t found my dad “cute” and wanted me to come in to hear the post-procedure instructions. Thankfully, I was able to use the restroom then (it had been a few hours since the McDonalds trek). I did fail the initial temperature test (maybe because I had been sitting in a hot car for a few hours? I didn’t want to run the air conditioner continuously so I had been alternating window open and A/C on), but I finally passed and was able to use their restroom.

How does this relate to SmartBrief you ask? The whole time I was on the restroom odyssey, I was thinking of an article we shared in the July 24 issue about how there are so many fewer public restroom options during the pandemic. For some homeless people, this apparently has led them to either wear adult diapers or use “5-gallon buckets filled with kitty litter.” What has our society come to when this is the only option for some of our fellow humans?

National Emergency Number Association

Let’s just juxtapose two stories that represent July for the Public Safety SmartBrief from NENA. In the July 28 issue, there was a story with the headline “Agencies advise against calling 9-1-1 about masks.” Then in the July 30 issue, we ran “Experts advise calling 9-1-1 in certain mask situations.” Different places, different policies. Ultimately, while there are limited times when it’s appropriate to call 9-1-1 about a mask situation, it’s not OK to do it to tattle on someone who isn’t following the rules. That clogs up phone traffic and may keep someone whose life is in danger from getting help rapidly.

Reserve Officers Association

In the July 6 issue, we discussed the National Guard’s response to COVID-19. The National Guard has been part of our awesome free testing site here in Tallahassee (I got tested there in May). The Defense Department has approved giving two medals that National Guard members can earn for their service. They are the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Armed Forces Service Medal. These are well-deserved honors for such critical work.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary Society

An article we shared on July 13 about a 120,000-year-old necklace that helped researchers understand how string originated was interesting enough. But here’s what got me: One of the study’s co-authors, Ofer Bar-Yosef, died in March. His wife was the study’s primary author and said, “I know he would have been very happy and proud to see this paper out.” I found this very poignant.

UN Wire

In the July 13 issue, a story discussed the Srebrenica genocide and how nine additional victims of the massacre from 25 years ago had been buried recently. So many things about this story were so sad, but as with so many things about UN Wire, it was the human face of the mother profiled in a video embedded in the story — a mother who lost her husband and her sons — that made this story stay with me.

“I can’t bring them back, I can’t forgive [the perpetrators], and I can’t take revenge.” – Ramiza Gurdic

Also in my SmartBrief World:

The Education Writers Association National Seminar

I participated (virtually of course) in the Education Writers Association National Seminar, and I very much appreciate EWA awarding me a scholarship to attend. My colleague, Kanoe Namahoe, also attended. She and I are working on a wrapup post, so I’ll link to that next month.

For now, I’ll share that one of my favorite sessions was the one with Nic Stone, author of “Dear Martin” (among other books). “Dear Martin” was challenged in Georgia earlier this year. Very few things fire me up like a book challenge. Here’s something Nic Stone said that I agree with wholeheartedly:

“Censorship issues always highlight to me the way adults in positions of authority think about children.” – Nic Stone

A post about anti-racist workplaces

I wrote What is it going to take to get unstuck from racist practices at work? based on a Quartz webinar I attended in June. If your workplace has done something that helped you and your colleagues make progress toward being an anti-racist workplace, I’d love to hear.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?
Side note: You know this is an old picture because I haven’t gotten my nails done since the pandemic began. :-/

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

I am excited to welcome my friend Victoria Buker as a guest blogger. Victoria and I have known each other for years as cyberfriends, but we’re planning to finally meet when we do the 140 Over 90 Run next summer in Melbourne, Fla., to raise awareness of and support for people experiencing preeclampsia. Victoria can be very persuasive. It’s because of her that I ended up being a faux “toreador” in Savannah when I ran the Bridge Run seven years ago (most team members were toreadors, and one “lucky” runner got to navigate going over the Savannah bridge three times wearing a HUGE bull head.)

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

Victoria ended up not being able to participate (hence our inability to meet), but she made sure I felt like I had team members and didn’t have to do the event alone. She has turned her ability to persuade to a new cause these days: helping educate people about preeclampsia, something she experienced after her daughter was born (preeclampsia can happen postpartum too). Now she has created the 140 Over 90 Run and I’m among a great team of ambassadors. You can read about Victoria’s post-delivery experience here. For today, I asked her to focus on medical self-advocacy, because learning to advocate for herself saved her life.

Victoria’s ABCs of medical self-advocacy

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

Never in a million years did I think it would take every ounce of strength I had to learn to advocate properly for myself. I was 9 days postpartum and for those nine days after the amazing birth of our spunky daughter, I felt like I was dying.

And I was right.

I was developing severe postpartum preeclampsia, partial HELLP syndrome, and an infection that was trending septic. My body was fighting hard, my blood pressure was rising fast (218/118) and my pulse was dropping. I was almost sent home from the emergency room (common because postpartum preeclampsia is super rare) with Tylenol for my headache.

“Can I please have an OB see me?”, I mustered.

I had just saved my own life.

Through this pain, I found a passion …
… a passion for learning how to advocate better for me and my health.

So let me break down what has worked for me into three easy steps — easy as ABC.

A – Ask Questions

I get it. Doctors and providers don’t sit and linger for a chat during appointments, but I bet they would if they could. So help steer the conversation. For example, if you are going to a follow-up at your internist and are discussing blood pressure and your A1C, researching and bringing questions with you from the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association plus others will help guide your conversation.

In my case, when I was told I would be on blood pressure medicine for the rest of my life, I wanted to research other options. I sourced from medical journals, various medical foundations, documentaries, podcasts, health coaches, referrals to dieticians, etc. I asked my doctor if he was comfortable with giving me a year to correct my body while on medication and seeing how my blood pressure and other biomarkers looked through a more whole-body approach. By giving my plan of action, with the tools I wanted to use coupled with medication, I was given the green light to try.

And let me tell you, I ran across that finish line at a year weaned off medication (at 11.5 months) with all biomarkers back in “normal” ranges. Asking questions, for me, helped me be in control of my health and my journey.

B- Be Proactive

“Be proactive” really is in harmony with “ask questions,” but then there would be no “B” in my ABCs. Thanks to the worldwide web, you have a plethora of resources at your fingertips 24-7. Facebook support groups, social networks, digital libraries, access to medical peer-reviewed journals, etc. Take time to learn and dig deep into the conversation, medical procedure or prescribed treatment, so you feel comfortable with your health journey. Not all bodies are created the same and not all treatments work on all bodies.

To also help with “be proactive, be-be proactive” (any former cheerleaders out there? no … ok … moving on), I keep a highlight reel of my medications, labs, questions, treatments, diagnoses etc in a google document that is easy to share, read, and reach as needed for appointments. For me, this helps streamline everything especially when the mom-brain kicks in.

While being proactive, I found great support in the online preeclampsia and plant-based communities. I was amazed at the research I found that helped me solidify the why behind what was happening to my body and my reasoning for going plant-based(i)h} to help with the blood pressure, kidney, liver and A1C issues I had due to pregnancy/preeclampsia.

C- Communicate & Community

Communicate your needs and find a community, both within your medical providers and beyond. I will actually be having my Integrative Medical Doctor/Health Coach on my podcast to chat about the benefits of a well-rounded medical team and how to coordinate that.

Personally, I have about 10 practitioners on my team and that was super beneficial to me taking charge of my health. Mine range from my Internist to a health coach!

Not one person has all the answers.

Most doctors can say, “eat healthy, and exercise.” But do you know how you will do that? Do you need a dietician on your team or a personal trainer/group fitness instructor or health coach to reach your goals? What about a therapist or yoga instructor?

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

I hope these ABC’s help you when you are faced with more than a check-up.

Happy Healthy Advocating!

I would love to hear if this is helpful! Send me an email at vtbuker@gmail.com or pop onto my Facebook Page, Victoria Buker, Coach and Consultant.

About the 140 Over 90 Run

From Paula: Please let me know if you have any questions about the 140 Over 90 Run. It’s available as a virtual option. And lest you feel any athletic pressure of any kind, that is not what is happening here! I’ll be walking and there is a plan to make sure every participant feels supported (that’s important to me, having finished last my share of times over the years). You can save $5 off your entry fee with the code PAULAMOVES5.

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

If you’re “app-y” and you know it, tell me why

“What apps do you utilize most on your phone?”

When I decided to answer this Mama’s Losin’ It prompt, I cringed a little bit. I don’t love staring my social media usage in the face(book). I was intrigued enough to pursue an answer, though.

And since the Five Minute Friday prompt is “smile,” I’ll share my top five apps (by usage) and what about them makes me smile (if anything).

Thank you to TNW/The NextWeb for How to find your most-used apps on your iPhone. The article gave two methods for figuring out how many apps you use. I apparently didn’t have “screen time” turned on, so I went with the “battery usage” option.

Here are the results:

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Let’s ditch the home/lock screen and address everything 5% or over:


I use the WFSU app for news — first thing in the morning, between editing sessions at work (I don’t like listening to words when I’m editing), and most of the evening if I’m at the computer working. (I used to play CNN for those times, but I had that through DirecTV, which we don’t have anymore, and haven’t figured out how to sign into it again. I have to admit I’m getting a wider variety of topics by listening to public radio than CNN.)

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Yes (The news itself isn’t always optimistic, but some of the writing and reporting is incredible and many of the non-news shows are fabulous.)


The main thing this post is going to do is to back up the fact that I’m a creature of habit. I mainly use iHeartRadio to listen to WQXR while I am editing (before noon). I listen to it for the classical music. I also love hearing the “Know-it-All New Yorker” segment on Mondays, the weather in New York, and all things New York.

I enjoy listening to Stuff You Should Know and sometimes play Coffee Shop Radio at night as I’m reading/going to sleep.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Yes Anything about New York makes me smile. The SYSK guys are funny and smart.


I use Facebook for the same reasons most people use it, I suppose. Besides the personal reasons, I do use it for some really cool projects I’m involved in, such as the #NYTReadalong and, most recently, Little Steven’s Road Show for TeachRock. (As a side note, the work Steven Van Zandt is doing to help teachers engage students through history lessons about popular music and culture — provided free to the teachers — is incredible. Check it out and donate if you can.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Connecting with people I wouldn’t be able to interact with otherwise makes me smile. Being involved in cool causes such as TeachRock makes me smile. Otherwise, Facebook has probably sucked up time I should have been spending in nature or with loved ones face-to-face.


Spotify completes the trifecta of “things I listen to on my phone.” (My daughter got me an Alexa for Christmas a couple of years ago. My husband advocated for this so I could “stop tapping around on my phone.” It is SUCH a sign of how I am that I would rather silently tap on my phone than verbally tell a device what I want, but I digress…)

After listening to WQXR on iHeartRadio in the morning, I switch to Spotify after noon. I listen to either jazz, classical, film scores, ambient music or something else instrumental. I also have my own playlist of editing tunes on Spotify. In addition, as another side note, my friends Chryssy and Heather have a podcast that’s on Spotify. You can listen to the episode where I was the guest here.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? It does in the sense that it helps me get through the day. I’ve also been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat while walking for exercise recently, and that has definitely made me grin.


In September, I will have been on Twitter for TWELVE YEARS. Holy cow. Twitter has changed its interface so it’s hard to see how many tweets a person has sent over their Twitter lifetime. I do know I have sent well over 100,000 tweets.

For reasons I outline in the blog post I linked to above, I have met the BEST people through Twitter. I have developed relationships that led to jobs and, in an indirect way, the job I have now. Some of my Twitter work is professional rather than personal.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Usually. Like all social media, Twitter has its upsides and downsides. On balance, though, it gives me more smiles than grimaces. (I could also use more followers since I’m at a following limit, so feel free to check my profile out. I’m also very proud of my work account, SBLeaders, and would welcome you to follow it too.)


I’m on Instagram as much as I’m on Twitter, so it’s a tie. When I first started on Instagram, I was annoyed that I would see the same exact post on someone’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. That’s still the case, but it has gotten a little less aggravating. I like having to see things through a visual perspective. I dislike the crazy follows from clearly bogus accounts.

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Does it make me smile? Mostly. Instagram has enabled me to see my new niece who was born in March — I can’t visit her yet due to COVID. That alone is reason enough. But in general it does entertain me more than it frustrates me.

What about you?

What apps do you use the most? Do they make you smile or frown?

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

I’m also linking up with Five Minute Friday, for the prompt “smile.”

If you're "app-y" and you know it, tell me why

Love first, teach second: A teacher’s message

I am pleased to welcome my friend, Kristen Hunter, with a guest post today. I loved hearing about her career as a teacher and how she brings energy and originality (and love) to the classroom. She also shares about a few of the items she uses to create a positive learning environment, some of which she still needs before school starts in August.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message

My name is Kristen Hunter, and I have aspired to be a teacher since I was a little girl. In August, I will be starting my third year of teaching next month, at a Title I school in Tallahassee, Fla. I love teaching because of the “lightbulb” moments students have when you see it in their eyes that they understand the material.

I have bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education, as well as certifications in reading and English as a second language. In the spring of 2021, I will graduate with a master’s degree in educational leadership.

Another reason I love teaching is that no two days are the same. When students come into our classroom, they unpack their materials and start their morning work while watching our school’s morning news. I teach reading and math in the morning before lunch. After lunch we have an intervention block, special area, and our science/social studies time. While we stick to a daily routine, the activities change depending on the lesson.

I created an Amazon Wishlist of items that would be beneficial for my students. Some of the items on my list might sound odd, but they have a unique purpose. Some of these items include battery-operated light switches, a baby car mirror, whisper phones, game show buzzers, and a wireless doorbell.

Why a baby car mirror for first-graders in a classroom?

The baby car mirror will be hung above the whiteboard so I can still see what the students are doing even with my back to them.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

What is a whisper phone and how does it help students learn to read?

I like to use whisper phones in my classroom because first graders are still practicing reading fluency. With these whisper phones, the student puts one end on their ear and the other end by their mouth. Students can whisper read to themselves. Some students need to read out loud to better comprehend and become more fluent while reading.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

What’s the buzz?

I like to create engaging review games for my students before assessments or if they are struggling to grasp a concept. One of the games I use often is classroom jeopardy, so having the buzzers will allow me to more accurately tell which ring in first.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

Ring that bell

I have a wireless doorbell in my classroom that I use to gain the attention of my students. When I ring the bell, my students know to stop what they are doing and give me their attention. This is much more effective than raising my voice to get their attention.

Why a battery-operated light switch?

Our only bathrooms are in the hallway — one for boys and one for girls. Therefore, the children have to go out of the classroom to use the restroom. I only allow one boy and one girl to go to the bathroom at a time, so when a student needs to use the restroom they will either turn on the boy or girl switch so I know if there is someone already in the restroom.

Here are a few pictures Kristen shared of her classroom:

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message

Love first, teach second

As an educator, I believe that we are all lifelong learners. I feel that it’s important for my students to understand that I don’t have the answer to every question and that it is okay. When my students ask me a question and I do not know the answer, I am honest and let them know I will find the answer and let them know.

Another lesson that my students continue to teach me is compassion for others. Young children forgive their peers at a much quicker rate than most adults, and they are truly concerned when a friend is sad or hurt. My students love to help, or ask for help, when a friend is hurt. These students do such a wonderful job of consoling their peers and being there for them when they are sad. It is a reminder to slow down and be there for my family, friends, and students.

I am a firm believer in love first, teach second. Students are more likely to learn from a teacher that they have built a relationship with first. At the beginning of the school year, I spend a lot of time getting to know my students and sharing facts about myself with my class. It is important that my students understand that in the classroom we are a family that supports and loves each other. We have morning meetings where we talk about different topics as a class so we can learn about similarities and differences and why that is okay! During some of these morning meetings, we choose to share things we did over the weekend or holiday breaks.

I would like to say thank you to the countless people who have shown their support by donating to my classroom.

A note from Paula

I took the above graphic from Kristen’s Facebook page, because it seems a fitting way to end this post. I appreciate her commitment to first graders. I’ll never be able to repay my children’s teachers, or the teachers who taught me to love language as well as learning in general. The best teachers do more than teach subjects; they help teach “life.” Thank you, Kristen, for being one of those teachers. If you can help Kristen out by purchasing something on her wish list, here’s the link again.

June: Not your ordinary news month

When I wrote my wrap-up of my favorite May stories from SmartBrief, I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference between the pre-May 25 stories and the post-May 25 stories. I even added a story from the June 8 issue (which at the time hadn’t even been published yet) because I found it so reflective how rapidly the nonprofit sector’s focus had shifted after George Floyd’s murder.

Setting the tone

I realize it’s probably an awful habit to check my email before I get out of bed in the morning, but I do. Therefore, the first work-related thing I read on the first day of June was Why are leadership thinkers silent about Floyd and the protests? by SmartBrief senior editor James daSilva. This post made a difference to how I approached the month for a few reasons. To put it most succinctly, “silence is also a message,” one of the key points in the post, is so true. It’s true as it relates to the way governments and businesses choose to respond to challenging times in society, and it’s true for us as individuals.

In addition, I breathed a sigh of relief after reading this post because it was a sign to me about the choices I could make in my editing work as the month progressed and as I contributed to SmartBrief’s leadership Twitter account, which I help manage (please feel free to follow if you don’t already). Finally, it was published at the beginning of a day that finished off with the CEO of Future plc, SmartBrief’s parent organization, saying , “We have never made a political statement at Future and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.”

As an organization we won’t know if we have succeeded in showing that we support that fundamental truth for a long time. But it made a difference that our CEO said something — immediately and without reservation.

Now, having gotten that long prologue out of the way, these were my favorite stories from June.

BoardSource SmartBrief

In our June 3 issue, there was an article about how to empower Black-led organizations to help their communities. Author Jamye Wooten founded an organization that provides microgrants through the Baltimore Black-led Solidarity Fund. Wooten said, “Relationships move at the speed of trust and social movements move at the speed of relationships.” This captures so much about what makes nonprofit efforts work (and last), all in one sentence. 

June: Not your ordinary news month

Business Transformation SmartBrief

The Business Transformation SmartBrief (BTSB) has four focuses: change management, “people, planet and profitability” (which is, to overgeneralize, about environmental, social and governance factors in investing), digital innovation, and any research that applies to those areas. An article we shared in our June 3 issue discussed 10 reasons change management efforts may fail. One of the reasons is the belief that “leaders can force people to change.” In my experience, a leader may be able to make change happen, but doing so comes at a cost to morale, productivity and long-term success.

The post’s author wrote, “A senior manager who tried that approach told me, ‘All I got was malicious compliance.'” The term “malicious compliance” seems about right. And I agree with this reminder: “People need to understand the motivation for change and leaders must ‘win them over’ to succeed.”


I filled in as the editor of SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs for the June 26 issue. The issue included a story about Alexa von Tobel, who founded LearnVest, a company that was designed to help people understand financial planning better. LearnVest was sold to Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for $375 million. Von Tobel discussed how she started the business with only her savings (no capital). “I had so much conviction,” is what she says about her process.

Although von Tobel was discussing a business decision, “I had so much conviction” seems to apply to other aspects of June 2020 and the challenges we all face.

International City/County Management Association

In the June 22 issue of the ICMA newsletter, we included a story about how the St. Paul, Minn., City Council voted to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Prohibition of conversion therapy is an important issue to me. I advocated for such a prohibition here in Tallahassee, Fla. It ultimately passed, but one of the City Commission meetings I attended as the discussions played out will stay on my mind for a long time. People who have been personally affected by conversion therapy were courageous enough to describe their experiences. People who spoke of their opposition to conversion therapy were too cowardly (or perhaps just uneducated) to be compassionate toward people who didn’t fit their idea of the absolutes into which people should be sorted.

I’m happy to see conversion therapy bans being passed in more places. The American Psychiatry Association has opposed the practice since 1998.

National Association of Social Workers

Relando Thompkins-Jones wrote a piece called Representation Matters in Social Work: We Need More Black Therapists. We shared that piece in the June 9 issue. Thompkins, who is Black, discussed how frustrating it was to have a (white) therapist who “hadn’t heard of Amy Cooper, didn’t understand the racial dynamics at play in the story, and was not aware of the death of George FloydBreonna TaylorTony McDade, or others.”

Thompkins-Jones makes the case that there need to be more Black therapists, and suggests a “pathways approach” that provides support such as mentoring, field placements and workshops to help build skills for aspiring Black social workers.

Must practitioners always share the same identities of the people they support? No. Are understanding identities and their connection to power, privilege and oppression in relation to others important? Yes. Do we need more Black therapists? Yes. — Relando Thompkins-Jones

National Emergency Number Association

I have lived in Florida most of my life, so hurricane prep has been a consistent part of our routines. In this article from the June 4 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief (NENA), a county emergency management director was discussing how hurricane preparations will be complicated by the pandemic. After explaining that people seeking to stay in hurricane shelters would “need to bring including masks, snacks, food ready that’s to eat and bed rolls,” Rupert Lacy said, “A shelter is refuge, not comfort.” That is technically true. I’ve never had to stay at a hurricane shelter (yet), but I can’t imagine a time when comfort is more sought after than when you and your family are away from your own home, unsure if it will still be standing when you return.

Reserve Officers Association

The June 1 issue of this newsletter had a story that discussed how the Army Emergency Relief program had expanded benefits for Army National Guard members or Reservists affected by the pandemic. One of those is a zero-interest loan of up to $3,000 to deal with taking care of the remains of family members when it’s impossible to have a funeral right away due to lack of capacity at funeral homes. This is known as “dignified storage.” There’s nothing wrong with the term, but it made me sad that it has to exist.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

There were some excellent pieces of writing about the need for more diversity in science last month. In our June 9 issue, we shared US scientific societies condemn racism in the wake of George Floyd death. Several scientists presented compelling statements. Megan Donahue, an astrophysicist who is also president of the American Astronomical Society, wrote, “Racism persists because many of us have refused to see it.”

In addition, I found Donahue’s candidate statement from the time she ran for the office. The election was in 2017, so this statement dates back at least three years. Part of her statement reads, “I propose to increase AAS-supported outreach to underserved communities. We have hard work to do to meet the challenges ahead, from shrinking science budgets to meeting our own high standards for opportunities for all.”

Donahue’s statement occurred long before the George Floyd murder. It’s not that racism wasn’t present in 2017, but there wasn’t a national conversation of the type we’re having now. I admire Donahue for making diversity and “opportunities for all” a part of her platform.

UN Wire

I’m sorry to end this month’s wrapup on such a negative note, but the June 26 issue of the UN Wire newsletter had a story about the millions of Yemeni children facing starvation due to the pandemic.

And if the picture of the starving newborn atop this story doesn’t move a reader, I don’t know what will.

It’s a heartbreaking image, but one that the things I’ve discussed in all the other stories above — motivation, trust, conviction, acceptance, comfort, dignity, making sure the underserved are accounted for and putting aside our refusal to see racism — can be applied to making the type of change that literally helps people survive.

How to Build an Anti-Racist Company

I participated in a webinar on June 11, How to Build an Anti-Racist Company. (There’s a full replay here for Quartz members or people who take the 7-day trial.) This is a huge topic to fit into one hour, but that hour was an hour well-spent, and it will help me make a more focused contribution at my organization.

I wrote about the webinar here, and would love for you to tweet SBLeaders to share a commitment can you make to making your organization more anti-racist.

June: Not your ordinary news month

Working at Future/SmartBrief

This is a section I share every month. I do want to add that our organization just grew substantially as Future’s purchase of TI Media was finalized.

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

June: Not your ordinary news month
I always work from home, but right now all of our staff members are working from home. For that reason, here’s a nice memory (and a lovely quote) from my visit to our DC office last December.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

When private words become public

When private words become public


I don’t really know what this has to do with compromise, but it’s on my heart so here goes.

There are some types of compromise in this world that are the right thing to do. There are others that are not.

Recently, I read a blog post that had some points I agreed with, but the title, for lack of a better word, painted all people of a certain ethnicity into one particular stereotype.

I hemmed and hawed for a few days about this. I said something about it on Twitter, and someone I respect and admire reminded me that civil discourse matters.

When the individual had posted their blog to one channel, everyone had agreed with the individual’s viewpoint. My decision to take a civil approach was to send a private message.

The response back was snide, dismissive, accusatory and belittling.

I replied back with a civil but brief reply. I thought the situation was over. The individual definitely did not have to agree with me. It was their blog after all!

I revisited their profile a few days later because I was still interested in their work (which is in the diversity field). Lo and behold they had posted my initial message (without identifying me). All they said besides posting my message was “No.”

Here’s the thing. I said what I said. I didn’t plan for it to be made public, but I don’t write things without knowing in the back of my mind they *could* be made public.

I responded to each person (and ALL of the comments were negative toward my message) to the degree possible (except the truly obnoxious ones — there’s no response adequate in that situation). I gave my email address publicly to engage in a dialogue that would hopefully be more constructive than adversarial.

***end of five minutes***

Ultimately, the person who originally posted my message left a lengthy comment and said they were “not going to spend any more emotional labor” on me.

Here’s the thing. If my words are shared in a way that threatens to compromise my integrity, the most human thing I know to do is to account for those words.

Unfortunately, the lesson I learned was that not everyone is willing to do that. And no matter how much life experience you have, that can still be a tough relationship truth to accept.

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.) 

When private words become public

4 ways you can help improve global health

I spent part of this weekend participating in the RESULTS International Conference.

The conference was originally planned for Washington, D.C., but as with so many other plans, the pandemic forced a change of venue. I’m not sure I would have been able to go if travel had been involved, so I saw this as an opportunity to participate I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Today, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, spoke to us about how we can all have a role in shaping the future, especially when it comes to global health. Many of his comments (especially “COVID politics should be quarantined”) pertained to the pandemic, but they also apply to global health more broadly.

4 ways you can help improve global health

Here’s the 4-step action plan he recommends:

Continue advocating for more investment

There are a variety of types of investment that can make a difference for global health. Examples include the World Health Organization itself. President Trump has said he intends to withdraw US funding from the WHO, although it remains to be seen exactly how that will play out. Other organizations that make a difference include The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Fight misinformation

Misinformation is confusing at a minimum and could cost people their lives at the worst extreme. Learn more from this Columbia Journalism Review article, which outlines why misinformation is so dangerous. Learn more about taking an active role in combating misinformation here (I am signed up and looking forward to the next steps).

Support accelerated innovation

The WHO has a research and development blueprint that has been activated to try to speed a reliable remedy for helping people recover from (and keep from being infected with) COVID-19. Learn more here.

Advocate for national unity and global solidarity

The 800+ RESULTS advocates were not all in the same room for Dr. Ghebreyesus’ speech, but in my head (and heart), I feel like every one of us stood up and cheered when he said this, perhaps not literally, but the sentiment was there.

Dr. Ghebreyesus went on to say, referring back to the potential of the US withdrawing funding from WHO, “It’s not the money. It’s the relationship with the US that matters, as it can lead to more money. When the US is generous, it gives hope to others. When others are safe, the US is safe.

4 ways you can help improve global health
My screen capture skills need a little work, but I wanted to catch a memory of this moment.

I appreciate the opportunity to hear Dr. Ghebreyesus speak. The last thing he said was that number four (about the solidarity) should be number one.

I agree, and I’m ready to do my part! If you want to learn more about RESULTS, please visit this link.

I’m linking up with the Kat Bouska prompt to write about “Something someone said recently that made you think.”

4 ways you can help improve global health

How small things can make a difference

How small things can make a difference


I love these women at Gadsden Correctional Facility (GCF). I have been part of a group that has held running and training events with them since 2012 (!).

So much has changed since then. I am no longer able to run, but I go and do the events and either walk or volunteer. There’s always a job to do or a conversation to hold — these people truly don’t care how long it takes me to cover a walked or run distance.

Our group received an update from our staff contact at GCF recently. We had all been worried about COVID-19, especially based on what we were learning from newspaper reports.

There was COVID-19 at the facility, but we learned that the women who are involved in the facility’s programs are back in their regular dorms and participating in their regular routines. (I don’t really know what that means for the facility as a whole — I imagine there is still exposure there, but it sounds like, in general, they have things under control. I hope so.)

Our group asked if we could contribute a banner to hang on the fence by the field where they run so they would know we are thinking of them.

Our leader shared his email about their condition and his response to the idea of a banner. He said, “always remember the smallest things matter to these ladies.”

And those few words — “always remember the smallest things matter to these ladies” — have stuck in my mind ever since I read them.

This is a time in our nation (and world) where we often feel at odds for how to help.

Although there are VERY big things that need to be done to set our world on the right track, it’s important to remember that “the smallest things matter.” That applies whether our prison is one of literal bars and security measures or one built from our own insecurities and inadequacies.

How small things can make a difference

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.) 

How small things can make a difference

Doing what’s right and being human: SmartBrief May 2020

The first Sunday of every month, I share my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month. The timing is a little odd this month, since the first Sunday occurs when a full week has already gone by. Because the first week of June was such a monumental one for our nation, and for the nonprofit sector, I have already accumulated stories I plan to use when I write my June wrapup on July 5.

One of the benefits of doing things the same way every month, though, is having a little time capsule of what transpired. In that spirit, I’m sharing my favorite stories from May (with one exception).

Business Transformation SmartBrief

In the May 8 issue of this newsletter, we shared a story about takeaways leaders can gain from the pandemic. One of the story’s points was how it can be effective for job-hunters and others in need of connection to ask for “warm introductions” from people in your network if you’re job-hunting during a pandemic. The story has to do with a lesson Ryan Smith, Qualtrics CEO, learned during the previous economic crisis. Conclusion: “The lesson here is if you do what’s right, it may pay off 10x down the line.”

BoardSource SmartBrief

It’s almost quaint how the pandemic seemed like our only and biggest problem on May 11. But it certainly was front and center in many of the stories across my eight briefs. I did not know about Sean Penn’s charity, CORE, what it did in Haiti, or the topic this story addressed: how he made sure so many people in California were able to be tested for COVID-19. The organization, at the time of the story, said it planned to expand the drive-through testing beyond California, to make sure rural areas were covered, and to serve the Navajo Nation reservation too.

National Association of Social Workers SmartBrief

In the May 15 issue, we shared a story in which a social worker discussed the challenges of doing their job while wearing personal protective equipment.

“As the hospital eventually required us to wear PPE when meeting with patients, I found myself trying to convey empathy from behind a mask. My job involves talking to people who are in a very delicate state, especially now. Day in and day out, I hoped that these patients were able to feel my empathy through my body language and tone of voice, since they were not able to see my expression behind the mask.”

I related to this social worker’s concerns.

Public Safety SmartBrief (National Emergency Number Association)

I’m not exaggerating when I say “I love dispatchers.” I had an appreciation for them before I started editing this newsletter, but now I think they are absolute heroes. An article in the May 5 issue was part of a trio of pieces that explained the changes dispatchers have experienced due to the pandemic, both regarding the volume of calls and the way they do their work. “We’re not very comfortable sitting at home,” said one. This does not surprise me at all.

Reserve Officers Association SmartBrief

I’ve read multiple “deployment ceremony” stories since I began editing this newsletter in September 2018. This one in the May 6 issue had a pandemic twist: although there were 130 service members being deployed, the ceremony was a “rolling farewell” and the governor, who attended to see them off, said he was “really sorry I can’t shake all your hands.” This was probably a good logistical choice, but I felt for these service members not being able to share the moment together.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary, SmartBrief

I will often go to a scientist’s own website when reading a story for the Sigma Xi newsletter. Ostensibly, it’s to check that I’m spelling their name right or to see if they are on social media (sometimes I share the stories I’m editing via Twitter and/or Instagram). There’s a scientist, Tim Bedding, whose research was featured in our May 18 issue. His research charted the “heartbeats” of 60 pulsating stars.

But that isn’t the main thing that got that story to this point. It was the fact that his website contains a link to pictures of his kids. I love anything that gives the people behind these stories more dimensions than a passing mention in an article can provide.

UN Wire SmartBrief

I learned a new word from the May 11 issue. The word is “renovictions” and it means when a company “purchases apartment blocks, often with tenants already living in them, and then undertakes renovations to communal areas and vacant apartments within the block, regardless of need.” Renovictions. They sound dreadful and unfair.

International City/County Management Association SmartBrief

I’m doing something different with this final share of the post. It’s not a story that ran in May. It’s not a story that has run yet. It’s a story slated for the June 8 issue, which will be published tomorrow.

It’s a story no one could have anticipated when May started, but that, in my opinion, is the story that speaks most eloquently to our time.

In the June 8 issue, readers will see that Washington, D.C. added a street mural reading “Black Lives Matter” that covers two city blocks with massive letters on a road leading to the White House. Ed note: Here’s a link to the story. 7/4/20

Photo credit: Unknown

I’m also proud to work for a place where our CEO said at the beginning of last week, “We have never made a political statement … and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.” I agree with her and it matters to me to be part of a company that feels that way. It’s an important place to start, even though every company, every organization, every city, every town, every institution and every individual who does not have lived experience as a black person has work to do. A great statement is only a starting place, and we each have to take responsibility for being true to that promising start.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. As of this writing, the most recent position listed is this Senior Sales Development Manager position in our New York City office. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

This is an older picture (from my first visit to our Washington, D.C., office in January 2019 — the appearance of this entrance has changed since then). But I still like it, because I was so happy to meet everyone in person. And I imagine it will be a good sign for our world when the doors greet employees again after a long period of working from home.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

I bought a new (to me) car yesterday.

I’m so excited about the new car, partially because I’ve been enduring a car without air conditioning through three long Tallahassee summers. That’s not the only problem with the car, but arriving at events with melted makeup and clothes stuck to my skin had grown old and uncomfortable.

Before celebrating that car, though, the car it’s replacing deserves a proper sendoff.

My 2005 Honda CR-V, which I got in 2008, had 45,768 miles on it at the time and is now 300 miles away from having 200,000.

Our Odyssey died unceremoniously one day in 2008 when I was driving down I-10. Wayne had just gotten approved for financing to get a vehicle of his own, but once our family workhorse had been declared terminal, we ended up needing two vehicles for the financing that was intended to cover one.

We got both of them from our credit union’s buying service. He got a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado. I got the CR-V. I don’t remember much discussion at all about the cosmetics. I did know in advance that it was blue. All that mattered (pretty much) was that it would run.

And run it did.

There are so many memories in that car:

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle
A Monster energy drink sticker can only mean “Wayne Kevin was here” (years ago)

Multiple trips taking kids to school.

A trip the kids and I took to Kennedy Space Center and Cypress Springs.

The kids using it as *their* first car when they began driving.

Me backing into a pole at the Subway on Tennessee Street after taking Tenley to a college visit at FSU.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

One child (won’t single them out) having their first accident in the car.

Me thinking the Idiots Running Club seriously meant we had to use our last names when we got our IRC decals made.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

Many trips taking my father-in-law to doctor’s appointments, to his beloved afternoons at the bar, to radiation treatments. I never figured out how to get this visor to stay in the “up” position once the spring broke, which was frustrating. At the time, there was some kind of “as seen on TV” product that WAS a car visor. He would say, “you ought to get that.” And I would kind of blow it off, but he was actually right. This problem was probably easily fixed, but we were pretty deep into the challenge of dealing with debt at the time, and I just couldn’t muster the energy (or finances) to pursue fixing something that seemed like a relatively minor issue.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

The paint slowly getting so degraded that the paint job looked just as resigned as I did about the car’s appearance.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

I was always relieved that I ended up loving this car, which I didn’t test drive and didn’t have much to do with choosing, so much. I’m pretty sure I treasured this car more than Wayne loved the truck he bought in the same transaction.

I never gave it a name, but maybe “True Blue” would be a fit. It got me through 12 years safely and mostly reliably. The air conditioning pooped out the last few years, but it was always a cool car.

Thank you, True Blue. You served me well.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

I’m linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt “Tell us about the last thing you purchased.”