5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news

How long have you been under a stay-at-home order? Ours officially began in Tallahassee/Leon County on March 25, but Wayne and I cut our outings down before that (I lose track!).

No matter how long you’ve been out of the social circuit, I’m guessing it’s grating on you in one way or another. (Let me also take this moment to thank all of the health care professionals and essential workers who are still on that front lines every day. I admire and appreciate you so very much.)

Social distancing will save lives

For the rest of us, we still must hunker down to flatten the curve. Social distancing doesn’t just protect us; it protects other people from whatever we may be unknowingly carrying. Everyone needs to take responsibility for putting distance between themselves and others while the coronavirus is still spreading.

But I’m bored!

Wayne and I are fortunate. I’m working from home as usual (and a bit busier than ever), and Wayne is still working, albeit at home. Even so, it’s easy for the days and hours to run together without some of our usual out-of-home excursions.


I have known for a long time, as has anyone who even slightly follows the industry, that newspapers are struggling. The struggles were brought home in a deeply local way this week when staff members (and friends) at my hometown paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, were put on rolling furlough. Staff members will be on furlough for five days per month.

I love local newspapers (even though I have been disappointed to see the decline in the quality of the print versions over the past few years — along with the loss of editorial rigor in the digital versions that comes with the territory when turnaround times are so tight).

To that end, five ways your socially distanced life can be improved upon by the newspaper:

Read it by yourself

Let’s start with the most obvious. Reading the newspaper is a great way to pass the time, while also being entertained and informed.

Besides information about coronavirus, today’s Tallahassee Democrat entertained by sharing how a group of local siblings entertained their elderly neighbors with a socially distant concert. It informed by updating readers regarding the status of Killearn Country Club, a course that has been around since 1967 and has experienced significant decline over the past few years.

Read it with others

Here’s an idea. Join an online readalong. Every Sunday morning, hundreds of people “read” the New York Times together through the New York Times Readalong, which is broadcast on Facebook Live, LinkedIn, Periscope and YouTube.

This morning, for example, we had as our guest Prof. Andrew Hacker, who recently wrote “Downfall: The Demise of a President and His Party,” discussed New York Times articles and we also spoke with Dr. Lisa Ganghu, who gave her perspective of dealing with coronavirus in New York City. It’s not just reading the paper, it’s joining a community that loves print and wants it to survive.

Here’s today’s readalong:

NOTE: Although I am partial to the New York Times Readalong because I’m a producer, I’m sure there are lots of other options. For example, here’s a link to authors that are reading children’s books online.

Read a newspaper from somewhere else

I read multiple newspaper stories every week due to my work, and some of my favorites are publications from places I’m not likely to ever have an opportunity to visit. Doing so gives me perspective and helps me understand a new part of the world.

Many international newspapers have free online versions. Here are a few finds that caught my eye:

A BBC photo essay about discarded gloves.

An opinion piece in The National (United Arab Emirates) urging people to document this time in the world’s history, to aid in “future studies of our economic and social development.”

A China Daily piece about how to make Pu’er tea (a fermented tea originating from the Yunnan province).

Write for it

Have you ever read a Letter to the Editor or other opinion submission to a newspaper and thought, “I could do better than that” or “But I want my voice to be heard”? This is your chance.

Channel this extra time and those thoughts bouncing around in your head through your fingers and turn them into something that’s a candidate to be published!

My lovely friend and fellow advocate, Cynthia Changyit Levin, wrote a great primer on how to craft an effective letter to the editor.

Here’s an example of one of my letters to the editor.

You can also write about something you know. Even though our local theater scene is dark (at least for traditional in-person performances), there is likely still fertile ground for writing about theater. There’s history of local theater, thoughts about how theater will get started back up again once we can all go out, interviews with interesting actors, directors and theater fans. Check with your local newspaper to pitch them (if you can find someone who isn’t furloughed).


I can’t say I’ve tried this myself, but give me a few weeks and maybe I will!

(We still get a paper version of the Democrat, thanks to the previous owner of our home, who I suppose hasn’t canceled his subscription. I would try, but one of the things that has suffered from all the downsizings in the newspaper world is, in my opinion, customer service. I figure it’ll be harder to get a human being who understands I need to stop it than to just keep enjoying it until it goes away(?). I also kind of like the feel of the paper paper in my hands and having a reason to go outside every morning, however briefly.

Newspaper rose anyone?

5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news
Credit: Instructables Craft

Newspapers matter

There’s not going to be one strategy that can singlehandedly get us through this time of being #AloneTogether.

I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for making the time pass more quickly.

I hope you’ll consider subscribing and supporting local journalism, which is so critical.

5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news

Whatever you choose to do, please stay safe and stay a minimum of 6 feet — or two arms-length — away from others.

Once we can all meet up again, I look forward to hearing about how the newspaper played a part in keeping your mind active while we’ve been #AloneTogether.

Disclosure: I did this post in conjunction with The Ad Council. I was not compensated, and all opinions are my own.

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

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

At the beginning of March (32 short days ago), I had the heart-filling opportunity to read to students at Ruediger Elementary School during #ReadUnited, a United Way campaign to encourage childhood reading.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

Who knew this picture would seem so anachronistic just a month later? An open school! People sitting within six feet of each other! People breathing the same air! Now, of course, the physical school is closed and everything has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although much of our content at SmartBrief has been taken over by coronavirus stories, we did talk about other things last month. Here are my favorite stories (and none of them are about the pandemic).


Unfortunately, we have had our share of hurricanes here in North Florida. After Hurricane Michael, my friends and I spent a day volunteering at a drop-off center for donations. I was assigned to take the clothing contributions that came in and put them in a holding area. I am as utterly guilty of this as anyone else, but some of the things people brought were clearly of the “this has been in our closet for five years and now is as good a time as any to get rid of it” variety vs. “this is something that could clearly be used by a hurricane victim.”

That’s why this story in the March 2 issue about when physical donations hinder instead of helping rang so true.

Here’s an excerpt:

A man showed up to the Seattle homeless service provider with a large box full of new, waterproof, cold-weather boots, a valuable commodity to survive Seattle’s cold, damp winters. Then, Reynolds took a closer look at the boots. They were all for the left foot.

The article goes on to give specific tips for people who want to donate items instead of money, such as the fact that “socks are almost always in need.”

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

Business Transformation SmartBrief

In the March 30 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we shared Jane Keith’s article about what she learned from guiding her team through an implementation of their own enterprise planning software product. “Ownership is important,” she wrote, as she described why organizational change is most likely to succeed if people feel heard.

I’ve experienced this time and time again over the course of my career. Stories like this will always make my “favorites” list.

International City/County Management Association

One of the things we hope our municipal agencies and elected officials will do is to keep us safe. Accidents happen, of course, but accidents that happen because people shirked their responsibility are different.

This article about the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans in the March 12 issue documents the “shirking responsibility” type of situation. (To be clear, it sounds like some of the details are still shaking out, and everyone is innocent until found guilty, but there were lines in the article (“Kevin Richardson, another New Orleans building inspector, pleaded guilty to accepting $65,000 in bribes in exchange for not reporting building violations and issuing false inspection reports”) for example, that I found infuriating.

I channeled that fury into a post I wrote for the Lead Change Group. The post juxtaposed the blatant disregard for human life exhibited by the New Orleans inspectors with the way a physician, Dr. Anthony Gbollie Charles, approached his responsibilities are the medical professional in charge of Lillian Chason’s case as documented in the book “Breathless.”

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

National Association of Social Workers

Who knew when Social Work Month kicked off on March 1 that so many social workers would have abruptly transitioned to providing services via telephone and the internet by March 31? The end of the month undoubtedly did not hold the celebration they expected (or deserved). At least this piece in the March 20 issue gave them some well-earned recognition. (It was directed to social workers in Iowa, but it applies across the board.)

National Emergency Number Association

The topic of this article from the March 19 issue isn’t new. It covers the trauma dispatchers face from hearing the absolute worst moments of people’s lives, as well as the proposed 911 SAVES Act, which would reclassify first responders from a federal perspective. The reclassification would take them from being “administrative service” (clerical) to “protective service” and provide better benefits, training and recognition.

Reserve Officers Association

My mother-in-law was blind, so I have a sizable soft spot for visually impaired people. That’s why I loved this article in the March 9 issue. It explains the artificial intelligence remote assistance (AIRA) system that helps visually impaired veterans through a combination of glasses fitted with online connectivity and sighted volunteers. As a side note, I discovered another way to help visually impaired people, Be My Eyes, through the BoardSource newsletter.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

In the March 30 issue, we shared a story about how physicists at Harvard had created a more refined image of a black hole than the Event Horizon Telescope had created previously.

I really liked the description scientist Alexandru Lupsasca gave to describe the challenge of this work an explain why computer simulations are necessary. He said this type of imaging is like “sitting in New York and trying to take an up-close picture of a quarter in LA.”

UN Wire

Here’s the thing about UN Wire in March. Out of 13 issues, 12 of them had a coronavirus story as the top story. Not surprising, right? The one noncoronavirus top story was on March 6, about how girls still face threats after 25 years of progress. Seeing as how coronavirus can’t possibly be good for mitigating any of those threats, I guess the whole situation comes full circle, doesn’t it?

A little more coronavirus content

I realize the above subhead is about the least attractive subhead in the world, BUT I am proud of what SmartBrief is doing to help keep people informed about the coronavirus pandemic, in a way that is hopefully unique and useful.

The Special Report on Coronavirus comes out every Tuesday and Friday. You can subscribe here. Also, SmartBrief is donating $1 to the WHO COVID Solidarity Response Fund for every new reader referred.

Even this sort of relates to the coronavirus

Sorry, but it does! However, hopefully it holds some interest beyond pandemic life. I wrote a post about why empathy matters when leaders are guiding their organizations through a crisis such as the current pandemic. I’d love for you to read/share. Here it is.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve earned a coronavirus-free section!

A few weeks ago, I received the business cards issued to my colleagues and me to reflect our logo change since Future bought SmartBrief. The whole experience as orchestrated by Moo was so much fun and so delightful. Had the whole world not essentially gone into hibernation (except for all the incredible essential workers), I would have done a cute social media “unboxing.” Now that seems tone-deaf. People are being furloughed and losing their livelihoods, so it’s not the time. But I do want to share what a great job Moo did here:

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights
1. The outside of the box says “Yay!”
2. The seal says, “Made in Providence with pride”
3. The insider of the box says, “My goodness, you’re gorgeous! (We’re talking to your cards. But ok, you are too.)
4. The finished product is nicely arranged, with a card holder.

I love the attention Moo paid to how they presented their product. I also was happy to get my own business cards; it’s a small milestone I guess, but it was meaningful because I am proud of the work we do and of the effort we have put in over the past month, both to meet our usual standards and obligations and to rise to the occasion of coping with the arrival of the pandemic in the US.

About Future and 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 questions and provide more information about the process.

When there are open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc, they 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.

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.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

A virtual visit with Johnny Depp

Here in Florida, none of us can plan to eat in a restaurant until at least May 8, since the governor closed them because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It won’t replace the experience of dining in, but Paul Hartford, author of “Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server,” has graciously shared an excerpt from his book about his time working in a famous Beverly Hills restaurant (referred to in the book as “The Cricket Room”). It’s available now through Tuesday on Kindle for $0.99.

A virtual visit with Johnny Depp

Excerpt from “Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server”

“What’s your taste, Mr. Depp?” said Vincent the sommelier.

“Well, I normally go for French wines, La Mission, Haut Brion, but even a really well-made Margaux might be okay.”

“Let me suggest two wines that will absolutely knock your socks off. They are both the biggest cult names coming out of Napa right now.”

Oh my fucking God, how inappropriately casual. A sommelier is supposed to be very professional and aloof, not a sports buddy.

“Sure,” said Depp.

As I turned around to go to the kitchen, I saw Vino leaning in and pointing at the menu and I heard Depp saying, “I’ve heard of them but I’ve never really tried them.”

Next thing I knew, Vino was decanting a 1997 Screaming Eagle, a highly regarded Napa Cabernet, rated at 100 points by Robert Parker. Depp asked me to bring glasses to his crew as well.

A bit later, Vino asked Depp if he would like to have him open the 1991 Harlan Estate so he could decant it for a while, and Depp concurred. Unfortunately, Johnny was not too fond of the Screaming Eagle and his exact words were: “It’s not desirable to my palate.” So he only finished one glass and his crew drank the rest.

Later on he admitted to liking the Harlan Estate a lot better, though “It’s still not really what I like in a wine but I do like it a whole lot better than the Eagle. Probably because it has some age on it, you know?” he explained to Vino. The guy seemed to know his wines, probably from living in France.

By then the “Pirate” movies must have grossed around $3 billion worldwide, so hopefully the studios were picking up the tab because the Eagle was priced at almost $7,000 and the Harlan near $4,000 per bottle. That’s a lot of cash to drop on wine you don’t like.

I told Vino later before Depp left, “Hey, man,” eyeing Johnny’s feet, “His socks are still on. WTF?”

A virtual visit with Johnny Depp

About service professionals in the time of coronavirus

Paul’s book was, to me, a fascinating look at the profession of serving as well as the celebrity world.

I suppose not all people who serve in the restaurant industry can tell Beverly Hills stories, but they all have stories, and most of them work extraordinarily hard.

They have all been on my mind amid the closures brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. I asked Paul to comment on this situation, and this is what he said:

Servers are one of the hardest-hit segments of our economy during this social distancing mandate, and virtual tip jars are a fantastic adaptation to help out-of-work servers weather the storm. I also think it’s a great idea to buy gift certificates from your favorite restaurants to be used later (that’s one of the ideas mentioned here). This wouldn’t help servers directly but could keep their places of employment afloat.

I have been giving $5 a day to a randomly selected server via the DC Virtual Tip Jar since I found out about it on March 17 (except for March 23, when I gave $3.23 to each person named Mia on the list in memory of Mia Sofia). I chose this because a) it was the first virtual tip jar I found out about and b) because Washington, D.C., has been so good to me for fun, advocacy and work (my employer is headquartered there). I think the list had about 1200 people on it on 3/17 and now, less than two weeks later, it has 4,820! My $5 a day won’t do much, but hopefully it at least brings a ray of sunshine to these people.

A virtual visit with Johnny Depp

Wrapping it up

Now that we’ve been entertained by mental images of Johnny Depp sipping wine, let’s recap:

If you’re interested in an exceptionally affordable (and good) read, pick up Waiter to the Rich and Shameless on Kindle for $0.99 between now and Tuesday.

If you want to help a suddenly unemployed server out, find a virtual tip jar and drop in a contribution. You can find the DC Virtual Tip Jar here; one for Baton Rouge, La., here; one for Gainesville, Fla., here; one for Portland, Ore., here, one for Tallahassee, Fla., (and other cities) that provides randomized results for you to give to here, and one that benefits RedEye employees in Tallahassee here. Unstoppable Software has created a master list of virtual tip jars it’s aware of here.

If you’d like to buy a gift card from a favorite restaurant that you can use later, it will help the restaurant out and you’ll have something to look forward to when all of this is over! You’re all resource full people, so I trust you can figure out how to buy a gift card from a favorite restaurant. For my Tallahassee friends, check out this “Open for Takeout” map created by our Office of Economic Vitality. It’ll give you a head start.

A virtual visit with Johnny Depp

Stay safe, friends.

Mia Sofia is changing families’ tomorrows

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows


Tomorrow, March 23, 2020, is a very special day. It is Mia’s birthday.

Mia Sofia is the daughter of my friends, Jelina and Erik. Jelina gave birth to Mia last year on March 23, but Mia had died in utero.

I have never seen two parents so determined to keep their child’s spirit alive — in such a gracious way and a way that helps other families too.

Jelina and Erik have worked hard since March 23 of last year to raise funds for Cuddle Cots so other families who need more time with their babies who will not physically survive can have that time.

Here’s what I wrote last year about Mia and the effort to fund more Cuddle Cots.

This year, Erik and Jelina are asking us to do an act of kindness in memory of Mia, and also to wear lavender and lemon yellow, colors that were part of Mia’s decor.

The self-isolation most of us are practicing amidst this pandemic is going to force us to be a bit more creative than usual with the acts of kindness we choose.

I have decided to find the bartenders/servers named “Mia” on the DC Virtual Tip Jar and make a donation of $3.23 to each one, and to let them know it’s in memory of Mia. It won’t alleviate their biggest financial woes, but it’s something.

I hope that “something” illuminates their day the way Mia Sofia brightened our lives without saying a single word.

I know her mother, dad and little sister Emma will bask in the glow created tomorrow by all the people who show love for her.

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

Other things that are happening on March 23 to honor Mia

Aren’t these lemonade bows perfect?

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

They’re made by Little Royal Designs. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of each bow will go toward purchasing a Cuddle Cot for Lakeside Medical Center. I plan to give the one I bought as a gift, but it will find its way into an Instagram post tomorrow before I pass it on.

This is the plan:

Mia Sofia is changing families' tomorrows

There are families facing tomorrows they don’t yet know about when they will have to say goodbye way too soon. Thank you, Mia and family, for the difference you are making for those tomorrows.

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

Acceptance costs nothing


Five Minute Friday Less


Yesterday, I participated in a volunteer gathering to do “headstone restoration” at a local cemetery where veterans are buried.

“‘These colors don’t run’ so we are not canceling” is what the coordinator said Friday night on Facebook.

Things are canceling left and right due to Coronavirus, but I decided I needed to show up and fulfill my commitment even though I could have said I needed to create “social distance.”

Here’s an epiphany: “Headstone restoration is not cleaning the headstones with a cleaning solution and elbow great. Oh no – it is placing braces on them, then manipulating them to loosen the ground around them, then lifting them out of their “sockets.”

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the braces.

The intent is to repack the “socket” so the headstones are appropriately aligned with each other and not leaning at nonuniform angles.

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the sockets. The goal was 20″ deep x 15″ long x 8″ wide.

Justin (last name unknown) from the National Cemetery in Tallahassee was there to oversee the process. He’s the foreman at the cemetery and has been overseeing national cemetery work for 12 years.

Five Minute Friday Less
Justin demonstrating how to reseat a headstone.

I was in awe of his knowledge about the process and his attention to detail.

Once he worked with us to get the first stone in the row at the right height and alignment, he didn’t go to the next one (or have us go to the next one). He went to the last one in the row and got it perfect. It was the “keystone,” he said, and he arranged two strings, one at the bottom and one at the top, to run down the entire line of headstones so we would know how to put all the headstones between the first and the last in place.

*end of five minutes*

There was a lesson in that, it seemed. The lesson appeared to be “look down the road to where you want to end up, and draw a line back from that to your starting place. Otherwise, you could end up out of line.

It was detailed and the work itself was quite physical, but our veterans deserve no less.

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

Five Minute Friday Less

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

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

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

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

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

My meltdown

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

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


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

Would I be litigious?

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

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

Knowing the Associates

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

Parking was simple

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

The Cake Book

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

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

Vineyard Publix sure showed up often in my blog

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

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

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

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

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

I knew where everything was

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

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

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

I could show up as I was

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

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

Am I disappointed?

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

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

Switching to a new Publix? Horrors!

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

February 28 came and went without me noticing, but it was the two-year anniversary of the beginning of my editing career at SmartBrief. (Prior to that, I had been a searcher and writer of stories.) My first brief as an editor was the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association SmartBrief.

Lucky me, I had so much support from the production manager, the editor who showed me the ropes and the brief’s copy editor at the time.

I sort of laugh at the Paula that was so new to the responsibility of editing in February 2018. She was a little intense about it all (shocker, I know!).

I have a renewed respect for my colleagues who have been doing this much longer than I have. Being in work that demands so much sustained concentration for so long every day is a calling that takes discipline. I’m fortunate to be among people who do it so well.

I’m also fortunate that every brief, every day, somehow gives me a moment to think, “Wow. What if that DID happen?” I hope our readers feel the same.

Here are my favorites from February.


In our Feb. 28 issue, we shared the story of Solace Women’s Aid, a UK charity aimed at ending domestic abuse. They are running a Twitter campaign to demonstrate how abuse is often hidden and difficult to recognize. It uses the hashtag #hiddenabuse along with Twitter’s hidden replies feature (something I didn’t know about before) to share examples of why abuse doesn’t always fit the stereotypes — it can look like a typical happy couple.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I learned about the $10 billion Jeff Bezos committed to help alleviate the effects of climate change through the BoardSource newsletter, but we shared a story in the Feb. 24 Business Transformation SmartBrief that took some really interesting angles on how exactly this money might be best used. There are so many competing ideas, from the environmentalists who think Bezos should be “confronting the fossil fuel industry head-on” to the researcher who says he should be “investing in solutions to reduce inequality and pricing carbon fairly.” I feel this whole initiative needs a leader with true backbone to give it direction.

International City/County Management Association

Summit County, Utah, has created a Communication and Public Engagement Department. We discussed it in our Feb. 6 issue. The goal is to reach non-English speakers and promote the county’s offerings and services. We have undoubtedly covered bigger stories, but to the residents of this community, I’m guessing it makes a difference that leadership cared enough to prioritize engagement.

National Association of Social Workers

First of all, it’s National Social Work Month so I’m wishing all my friends and acquaintances (and readers) in social work the best. I appreciate what you do!

A story in our Feb. 4 issue discussed a virtual reality application that helps people understand dementia. I watched the video embedded in the article (even though it’s theoretically optimized to be watched via a VR viewer). Having lived with someone with dementia for around three years, it was gripping. You can try to see the world through their eyes, but it’s so hard. This VR application makes it easier. Hopefully it helps social workers serve those with dementia (and their caregivers) better.

National Emergency Number Association

A contingent of National Emergency Number Association advocates went to Capitol Hill last month for their advocacy day. A number of them met with Rep. Norma Torres, who sponsored the 911 SAVES Act, which proposes reclassifying dispatchers from clerical to “protective service occupations.” I’m probably turning into a broken record about this, but it’s so important to recognize dispatchers for the work they do and to give them sufficient mental health (and other) resources. We covered this in our Feb. 13 issue.

Reserve Officers Association

If you don’t know that I am highly (obsessively, very, overwhelmingly) interested in being an Honor Flight guardian, it’s possible you haven’t been reading my blog for long! I didn’t get selected last year (and — to be fair — the number of veterans qualifying to take Honor Flight is declining as they age and pass away). Yet I still hope…

Therefore, when I read in our Feb. 26 issue that an organization in Chicago is organizing an all-women Honor Flight, I did indeed send them an email and say I would fly to Chicago to participate. (This probably won’t work out — why would they trust a random woman in Tallahassee begging to be a part of it all? How would I make the training that is undoubtedly a couple of weeks before the flight? Etc. Etc. Etc. Yet, if I don’t ask, I’ll never know, right?)

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honorary

After about a year and a half of doing these posts, I’m starting to detect a pattern. My favorite Sigma Xi stories seem to lean toward the ones that include animals doing silly (at least to the naked eye) things.

A story in our Feb. 18 issue discussed grasshoppers that were engineered to detect explosives — the setup involved a little backpack they had to wear. The really downer of the story was this: “The grasshoppers continued to successfully detect explosives up to seven hours after the researchers implanted the electrodes, before they became fatigued and ultimately died.” Talk about sacrificing for science.

UN Wire

It probably won’t surprise you that the UN Wire newsletter has been heavily skewed toward coronavirus stories this past month. There was a story in our Feb. 3 issue that caught my attention in a different way than the coronavirus, though. It was about a practice of ironing young girls’ breasts with hot stones in the hopes of discouraging men and boys from viewing them as sexual targets.” I never cease to be amazed at the injustices young women in our world still experience.

Keeping it Accurate

We editors had an opportunity this month to take a workshop through Merrill Perlman, a former copy desk chief at the New York Times. I took a class from Merrill last year, and it was a huge help to my editing process. I appreciate being given more resources to continue trying to improve my work.

Find the Interesting Stories (and Opportunities) for Yourself

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing similar fantastic stories.

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 questions 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.

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.

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

Share Four Somethings

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

Something Loved

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

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Read

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

On Audio:

Running Against the Devil” by Rick Wilson

Smacked” by Eilene Zimmerman

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

Know My Name” by Chanel Miller

On Paper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Treasured

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

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

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

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

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Something Ahead

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

I’m linking up with Heather Gerwing.

February 2020 Share Four Somethings

Five Minute Friday: RISK

Five Minute Friday: RISK


By this time next Saturday, I’ll be within an hour or two of giving a speech to a gathering Tallahassee Alumnae Panhellenic.

I am thrilled to have been asked; however, this all seems like a big risk.

I love public speaking. Yet, I haven’t been involved in Toastmasters for a few years, so it’s easy to get into a loop of questioning whether I care enough to keep practicing my craft. (I know we choose the priorities in life that matter most, but while we still had our old house and its lofty mortgage, I never felt like I could let up on my side hustles that were helping keep us afloat financially. Side hustles take time, time that could have been spent continuing my Toastmasters work.)

Anyway, the lovely lady who called to ask me to speak was an enjoyable chatting companion. She also told me that last year’s speaker was Sally Karioth, who is an internationally renowned speaker. I remember my mother-in-law coming home from hearing her speak and saying, “I just had to hug my husband and tell him I loved him after that.”

WELP. That’s quite a takeaway from hearing a speech!

I’ve actually toyed with making my title, “I’m not Sally Karioth, but I have something to say.”

I won’t do that, but I am glad I am taking this risk. Thinking through my topic (which is essentially how you can go beyond giving money to serve your community well) has — at a minimum — ignited my love for a favorite subject.

And I think I have learned a few things over the years that give me great material from which to speak.

People may not leave and tell their significant others how much they love them, but hopefully they’ll be inspired to show their love to a fellow human being, even if it involves the risk of being a little vulnerable.

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

Five Minute Friday: RISK