Five Minute Friday: CULTURE

Five Minute Friday Culture

CULTURE

I chose an article, In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning, to share in the International City/County Management SmartBrief yesterday that had all the pieces I love in an piece of writing of its nature.

The article talked about how Ellicott City, Md., has had two 1000-year floods since 2016. It went into detail about the flooding in general, about the environmental factors around Ellicott City that have contributed to a topography that makes flash flooding worse. There were facts and figures (explained in a relatively straightforward way).

Juxtaposed against that (and my favorite part) were the stories of the people. The business owners who rebuilt after the 2016 floods, amid lofty hopes that life in their quaint community would return essentially as it had been before. The teenagers who grew up in the area. The visitors who kept Ellicott City financially sound. The fact that the whole reason the city was situated where it is had to do with its proximity to the water (in the 1700s).

Much of the “people” part of the story focused on Eddie Hermond, a veteran and one of those people who draws other people into their circle and connects people who otherwise wouldn’t have grown to know and care about each other.

Eddie died after the 2018 Memorial Day flood, swept away by the floodwaters as he was trying to help a woman (and her cat) escape danger.

***end of five minutes***

For Memorial Day 2019, Eddie’s friends planned together where they spent last Memorial Day — the day they lost him. Here’s what the writer says about chatting with Eddie’s friends:

As we talk, a server pours a shot of Jameson’s whiskey and sets it high up on a shelf behind the counter. Sara tells me that it’s a shot for Eddie—that was his favorite drink. The whiskey will sit up there behind the bar until it evaporates, and then they’ll fill it back up again.  

I can’t get that imagery out of my head — of the shot of whiskey, sitting silently on a shelf, evaporating so gradually you can’t see it go until it’s all gone. The cultures of the places we love the most … and that edify us the most … be they offices, homes, churches or something else … have some type of watchful spirit in the Eddie mold. Still remembered, still a part of the place that transcends the tangible.

Remembering the “Eddie” figures in our collective lives matters. Here’s to you, Eddie.

Five Minute Friday culture

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.) 

Should Office Plants be Banned?

“They’ll have to pry my African Violets from my cold dead hands.”

Many of us (I count myself in this number) don’t like unexpected changes in our work environments. Sometimes the change is something relatively minor (maybe a piece of decorative art on the wall was changed). Other times, the change is more drastic (people accustomed to having their own offices are moved to a cubicle setup, perhaps).

Where do office plants fit into that picture, and how rigid should management be about the topic?

Office plant bans

The potential for an office plant ban for Florida state employees

Florida DMS warns state workers may lose their office plants, says a recent Tallahassee Democrat article (the quote at the beginning of this post is from the article). To summarize, the agency responsible for managing state employees and properties is considering a “plant policy” for the approximately 800 people working for DMS. The policy is apparently being developed in response to “negative impacts caused by the flowers, house plants and cacti [employees] use to decorate their desks and offices.”

At first, I primarily laughed at this article. I’ve been a Florida state employee. I’m married to a Florida state employee. If there were a range of “things that threaten the State of Florida employee base,” houseplants would not earn themselves a high spot.

As with any question of this nature, though, the answer lies somewhere in between.

Is the “BBC Ban” a legitimate reference point?

The Tallahassee Democrat article says, “The BBC banned plants when it opened new offices in London in 2013.” Well, yes … and no. This “Daily Mail” article from 2013 explains it. First, employees were “urged not to” (versus being “prohibited from”) include plants (deemed as carrying the potential to “form un-collaborative barriers” along with being allergens and inviting insects) in their office decor. Second, the “urging” extended to other items: “kettles, microwaves, fridges, lamps, heaters or fans” and coat-stands (which apparently obscure the line of vision). The kettles, heaters and fans pose the danger of setting off fire alarms. In addition, trash cans were replaced by “recycling hubs.”

I wonder how many of those prohibitions that were laid down in 2013 are still in effect at the BBC in 2019. For the sake of our discussion, though, the point is that it was not a ban exactly. Here’s the last line of the “Daily Mail article. A BBC spokesman said: ‘There’s no official ‘ban’ on plants. We’d just prefer it if people didn’t bring them in.'”

Are there true problems with plants in offices?

Back to the Tallahassee article. These are the issues a DMS spokesperson shared: “House plants can contribute to mold growth, damage desks and windows in offices and encourage pests such as flies and mites when not properly cared for. “

Mold is something to take seriously. The State of Florida is facing a lawsuit over environmental issues (including mold) in the Northwood Center. As I have written about previously, I have a close friend whose life has been turned upside down by her spouse’s mold-related illness.

After I shared the Democrat article on my personal Facebook page, my good friend who had a stem cell transplant due to Multiple Myeloma told me she was prohibited from having plants at home for 100 days after her procedure due to the possibility of mold and germs.

The Wall Street Journal listed fungi spores that can aggravate asthma, odorless gasses known as “volatile organic compounds,” bugs and surplus carbon dioxide in the evenings “when energy from light isn’t available.” (To be fair, the article also covers the benefits of houseplants.

Is hot desking making houseplants a hot issue?

Most of my previous career, I had my own office. I am now a remote worker, so my plants are my own business (I can’t have plants, though, because my cats see them as snacks). My peers who do work at our brick and mortar office are all seated in a common room.

With the growth of cubicle setups and hot desking, the potential for houseplants to present a problem has expanded. The physical spacing is closer, and the boundaries are more difficult to define. Maybe that’s why the BBC saw plants as a potential “desk-grab” weapon.

It bears mentioning that there are other irritants in the office environment. There’s one comment (so far) on the Tallahassee Democrat article, and it mentions “cologne, hairspray, cigarette, pot, and other odors.” That’s true. Apparently, the houseplant issue has taken root and it’s getting its time in the policy-making spotlight.

A State Worker Says …

As I have thought through this article (and issue), it has become increasingly apparent that — as is often the case — one newspaper article can’t possibly accurately fully capture an issue and its nuances.

At dinner a few nights ago, I eagerly brought the topic up to my husband, who is senior enough at a state agency to be part of human resources policy discussions. I thought he would be as shocked and amused as I was.

His response (paraphrasing here)? “Oh that? That got distributed weeks ago. It’s another of those issues where a tiny minority that doesn’t take care of their plants causes a problem that results in a policy solution that also affects the people who aren’t causing a problem.”

Pruning this Issue to the Critical Point

I’m still amused at the article, partially because the writing highlighted the humor inherent in the situation (props to James Call). As I have thought about it and researched some of the nuances, though, I’m laughing a little less and thinking a little more.

Headlines don’t tell the whole story. Plants to pose a legitimate problem in the modern workplace. Awareness of how our individual choices affect our coworkers is not a bad thing, especially now that we are working in closer proximity to each other and expected to demonstrate flexibility regarding where and how we work.

Besides, maybe taking a quick nature break to step outside and get some fresh air the old-fashioned way might be better for our mental and physical health anyway.

What are your thoughts? Keep the kaffir lily or dump the donkey’s tail?

Did I Really Promise to Go Without Coffee?

Five Minute Friday Promise

PROMISE

Have you ever made a hasty promise, thinking “how hard could that be?”

THEN, upon learning what you had gotten yourself into, did you second-guess yourself? Did you wonder how you could get out of it and if doing so would matter to anyone?

Welcome to my life.

If you’re my Facebook friend, you may have seen my May 1 post about joining the Ration Challenge.

I made the decision to join the Ration Challenge in roughly 2.5 minutes MAX.

There’s no financial commitment (although the organizers hope we use the activity to raise much-needed funds for refugees by eating the same rations as a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan for one week during the week of World Refugee Day (June 16-23 — the actual day is June 20) ).

It’s not as though a restricted diet will cause me undue health issues, since the activity only lasts a week (and yes I will plan to weigh in at Weight Watchers at the end of my week of restricted eating!).

I didn’t read the fine print. I didn’t really read the “print.” I know I care about refugees. I know this will give me a fantastic experience to share on social media to help other people care about refugees.

BUT THERE IS NO COFFEE IN THE CHALLENGE! (There is, if you raise a ton of money.)

I can earn teabags by emailing people, so is it OK if I ask your forgiveness in advance for a few fundraising emails? I don’t even know if it’s caffeinated tea, but maybe I can trick my brain into thinking it is.

I honestly did think about withdrawing.

***end of five minutes***

But it’s not like refugees have a choice either.

Although I am among the biggest coffee fans around (even though I’m technically not supposed to have it due to health reasons), I’m a bigger fan of helping refugee children (and refugees in general) survive.

For all the jokes I’ve made in my life about not being able to survive without coffee, it’s time to keep my promise and do something for the people whose survival is truly at stake.

Note: If you’re interested in joining the challenge (I need company!) or contributing, here is the link.

Five Minute Friday Promise

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: PRACTICE

Five Minute Friday Practice

PRACTICE

I read two things within the past week that had passages about eerily similar experiences experienced by girl children of color. Here they are:

4-year-old Kelly

From a post written by Kelly Wickham-Hurst as part of the #31DaysIBPOC (Indigenous, Black and People of Color) Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars.

We walked together the couple of blocks, through the park, and got in line at the ice cream shop. We weren’t there very long when a white woman approached us. A more accurate word would be accosted. She accosted us. The way she walked up to us I assumed daddy knew her. He did not. Almost immediately, she was yelling.

I didn’t grow up in a family of yellers. Naturally, she scared me. I didn’t identify, until years later, that this is what started my panic attacks. Her face was red and she was pointing at him and then at me. Since I was on his shoulders it seemed like her finger was directly in my face.

“Where did you steal that baby from?” she screamed.

3-year-old Anuradha

From Anuradha Bhagwati’s book, “Becoming“:

I was about three when Dad was driving us one day along winding suburban roads. Being economists, Mom and Dad could tell you where everything in the world came from, like cars and refrigerators and crayons. If you were sensible, you drove only Japanese or German cars, because they were better made. This was why we had a Toyota.

I was in the back, strapped behind a seat belt, reading. Mom was in the passenger seat. Dad had stopped driving. Maybe it was a red light. Maybe he was lost. A car sped up from behind us and screeched to a stop alongside us. A man was making big movements with his arms. Dad rolled down his window. The man’s face looked like boiling water. He was yelling at Dad. I didn’t understand what his words meant, but they scared me. I was too young to know much, but I knew that this man felt like he was better than Dad. And this meant we were different.

I looked away from the man’s face, which was red and white at the same time, because he reminded me of monsters in my picture books. Dad didn’t say anything. Something uncomfortable was moving in my belly, like a stomachache when I was sick.

The man suddenly drove away. Dad and Mom were still quiet, then they began whispering in Gujarati. I felt something new rising up inside me. I felt shame. I wanted to be as powerful as the light-skinned monster man, and I did not want to be like Dad.

Humanity in Practice

How does a prompt like “practice” factor into these two little girls’ stories? I would be naive to suggest that these red-faced human beings spewing hatred and ignorance could transform into kind, humane people by taking a class, reading a book, meditating or in some other way trying to better themselves.

I also, in thinking about this prompt and these two people — Kelly who I know through social media and advocacy and Anuradha who I only know through her book — kept going back to what such encounters at such young ages did to and about the actual things they chose to practice.

Did they take up ballet and discover the joy of dance? Or did they instead adapt some deep-down conviction that they were somehow undeserving of the freedom that comes with creativity? Did these types of interactions carve away some essential building block of confidence and change the course of their lives forever?

I also wondered what those of us who have white privilege (and we all do if we are white) can do in 2019 to change things. If you’re reading this, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that you aren’t one of the red-faced people. However, the moments in our lives and the choices with which we are presented every moment give us an opportunity to build up rather than tear down.

***end of five minutes***

I have been grappling for the last few days about personal feedback I received regarding a message I was responsible for approving. After reflecting for several days, I finally (and belatedly) got to the point where I accepted that I had been inaccurate at a minimum and possibly utterly wrong. Here was the inner monologue that took place before I got there:

But I meant well.

But I wrote an entire post on why we should talk about white privilege.

But I don’t use grocery dividers anymore in case it’s perceived as a microaggression.

But I didn’t intend to offend.

But it was just a few words.

But I’m reading “White Fragility” for goodness sakes. I’M TRYING TO GET IT.

Red-faced tirades aren’t the only way damage is done. Quietly abandoning what we know to be true hurts others also.

Five Minute Friday Practice

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.) Also I blew the five-minute limit this week by a bunch. Feel free to go on a red-faced tirade against me about THAT. 🙂

Five Minute Friday: OPPORTUNITY

Five Minute Friday Opportunity

OPPORTUNITY

I did something a bit different for this week’s Five Minute Friday.

I recorded my response, after being inspired by the 4th, 5th and 6th graders competing in the District Tropicana Speaking Contest in Bristol, FL.

Here it is:

See you for this coming Thursday’s installment, when I’ll return to typing things out!

Five Minute Friday OPPORTUNITY

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.)

My Fave April SmartBrief Stories

“Even though the local news business has declined, the appetite for news has not.”

The above quote is something I read on LinkedIn yesterday. It was posted by the International City/County Management Association, as an intro to ICMA’s share of an article by “Governing.” The article discusses how local engagement is declining as community members turn more frequently to national news and media rather than local newspapers.

One of the things I enjoy about editing nonprofit sector newsletters for SmartBrief is the opportunity to give the stories from some of those local newspapers an opportunity to be shared more widely with the reading public.

Although this month’s favorites don’t focus too heavily on local outlets, they are always at the forefront of my mind. I try to use them when I can, because they matter.

Reserve Officers Association

This story in the ROA SmartBrief brought home the way administrative decisions touch individual lives. I remember thinking, “of course someone should advocate for a change.”

Family members who are survivors of active-duty military service members are eligible for scholarship assistance. Children who are survivors of reservists and National Guard members are not. There is proposed legislation to change that.

I hope it works.

National Emergency Number Association

This story is about a law (the “move over” law in Illinois, also known as “Scott’s law). It talks about how — despite a law requiring motorists to leave the lane open next to first responders (and others) working on the road shoulder with their lights deployed — three people died in 2019 and 17 troopers had their cars or bodies struck by motorists evading that law.

A sheriff’s deputy quoted in the story told a motorist he stopped during an operation set up to inform motorists about the law, “We want to come home to our families, too.”

So many stories come back to family, don’t they?

SmartBrief April 2019 Wrapup
Photo Credit: Road Safety at Workhttps://twitter.com/RoadSafeAtWork/status/1022282873536237569

International City/County Management Association

My choice to include this story in the ICMA SmartBrief was born in Lyft as I was leaving the SmartBrief office in Washington, D.C. and heading back to the airport.

Me to Lyft driver: “I like your music.”

Lyft driver to me: “This is the music they tried to get rid of in DC.”

And so a story was born … about how city council members joined residents of the Shaw neighborhood in D.C. in a rally aiming to persuade T-Mobile to allow a small business to resume playing go-go music on external speakers as it had for years, a practice T-Mobile had stopped as it cited complaints of new residents. After the rally, the collection of more than 60,000 petition signatures and a Twitter campaign around the hashtag #DontMuteDC, T-Mobile said the music will resume.

Music tells people’s stories.

National Association of Social Workers

On its surface, this story about how students at a K-8 school created a makerspace for children at a domestic violence shelter sounded like many of the stories we feature in this newsletter. Often, a social worker is involved in facilitating a great idea and helping the participants understand the broader picture and the mental health context.

Here’s what got me:

We don’t have a special vehicle for the program, so we travel separately and the supplies we bring are restricted to the dimensions of my Ford Fiesta. ~ Innovation space coordinator Greg McDonough

People helping people do it with duct tape, gumption and the tenacity to get blood out of turnips sometimes.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

Sigma Xi is currently the first newsletter I edit every day. If I were choosing a version of coffee to represent this brief, it’s like starting every morning with the double espresso information equivalent. Space, animals, physics, chemistry and more.

My April Sigma Xi highlight, though, isn’t a technical scientific fact. The story itself, about a study that examined the microbes around an underground fire in Pennsylvania, is pretty cool.

But did you know ZIP Codes can be revoked? “All but a handful of the town folk had fled when the government revoked Centralia’s postal code in 2002,” says the article.

Now we know. Hang on to your ZIP Codes, folks!

UN Wire

World Immunization Week occurred in April, so cue up this Shot at Life champion’s favorite cause!

The UN Wire newsletter covered immunizations (measles on April 17 , UNICEF’s #VaccinesWork campaign on April 19 along with malaria on April 22 and April 26.)

Capped off with the Quote of the Day on April 26.

April 2019 SmartBrief Stories

BoardSource

Last but not least (as far as newsletter stories go), here is a thought on my favorite BoardSource story for April. For BoardSource, every issue has at least one, and usually several, stories about big money donors.

For example, BB&T and SunTrust Banks are each donating $15 million to the Foundation for the Carolinas to help alleviate homelessness in Charlotte, N.C.

Of course that type of generosity will (hopefully) help solve some of our world’s big problems.

BUT, my favorite story was one I could relate to and even see myself doing. It was about how the tent cards at board members’ places can be used wisely. Although for obvious reasons, the front of the card needs to have the board member’s name on it, Bob Harris notes the other side of the card is “an ideal location for the mission that should frame nearly every discussion.”

I realize this sounds like such a minor thing. What if the back of the card just repeats the board member’s name? What if it’s left blank?

Ultimately, I believe we need reminders of our mission. I believe details matter. Pay attention to the details and you’ve taken a step toward fulfilling the bigger goals.

The “While You Were Working” News Quiz

When I was in the D.C. office in April, I had the torture opportunity to take the “While You Were Working” news quiz. You may know that I am a contributing editor to WYWW, but having my knowledge tested without being able to Google answers was a whole different experience! Here it is; you can check out how I did.

My First Original Post

April was a big month. I published my first blog post under my SmartBrief byline (and a small personal celebration ensued!).

It’s about how animals can help elderly patients heal. Take a look, then pet a pup!

April 2019 SmartBrief Wrapup

About working at SmartBrief

When I attended employee orientation last month, I learned more about the other divisions of our organization. In addition to editorial, there’s advertising, IT, marketing and sales.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here and I invite you to peruse this list of openings if you’re in DC and being a part of our team may make sense for you (or if you know someone in DC who is seeking a great opportunity). As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 5/5/19:

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To Recap

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 on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram and Life at SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

Thanks for reading!

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

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “touch.” I took a bit of a liberty, because I became intrigued by Heather Gerwing’s “Share Four Somethings.” I decided to go with her template, and spend five minutes on each of the four “somethings.”

Something Loved

It’s not directly a “touch” thing (but yet it is). I loved getting to spend time with my co-workers at our Washington, D.C., office. I work remotely almost all of the time, so it’s a rare opportunity to work together in person (and socialize).

Related — I’m not sure if this is a 2019 thing, or if I have changed (read: gotten older) or if our world is just different. One funny thing about being with people you’ve come to know relatively well professionally (and, to a degree, personally) has to do with “courteous greeting etiquette.”

During the visit (and a prior visit), I was reminded of how long it took when I moved from North Florida (i.e., Deep South) to New York City and began working at Fordham University. I didn’t have much experience with the Northeastern “air kiss” and I struggled to figure it out (although I was much better at it by the time I moved back to Florida three years later).

I think what has changed for me (and maybe it is because I know many of these people a little better and have spent so much time online with them) is … it’s a little more clear who is a hugger and who isn’t … and because we have established relationships already, it’s easier to integrate differing personal styles without walking on eggshells.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

Something Said

Something said to me this month that touched me had to do with the fact that a conversation I had with someone helped them feel supported and heard.

I find it easier to respond to someone else’s challenge or need to vent than I do to put together my own effort to make a point or share a perspective. (That doesn’t stop me from trying, of course! Hence this blog.)

I do feel a slight shift in the way I communicate. Honestly, I type all day and there are times when (despite most people in our world seemingly becoming less inclined to pick up the phone) it’s a relief for someone in my circle to make a phone call. I think this again is popping up mostly in work settings.

Between Slack, email, texting, proprietary systems and the variety of other ways we communicate with each other, the keyboards are busy yet our thoughts are sometimes not well-formed enough to deserve (yet) to be committed to cyberspace.

Something Learned

I apologize that this section is a bit cryptic (not the first time in recent blogging history I’ve been more cryptic than transparent).

The “something learned” is that change is constant. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve faced change, but it is occurring in a context that’s exceptionally important to me, where I only know one way to do things.

Now that a change is being made, it would be easy to panic. What if I can’t handle this change? What if it doesn’t feel the same?

Fortunately, someone involved in informing me of the change has much more history with the situation, and explained all the changes that have come before. That helped me have context. Change has happened before. Change has happened again. Change will happen in the future.

This is a bit of a side note, but Josh Spector has a great closed Facebook group for newsletter creators (if you’re a newsletter creator and interested, here’s the link to ask to be invited). In a recent discussion about low open rates, he said:

Your open rate is not a reflection of the content IN your newsletter. It’s a reflection of the strength of your relationship with your audience.

(He also said “…and your subject line” but the relationship part is what I want to focus on.)

No matter how much we rearrange the flow charts and re-engineer the way things are done, some part of change management always comes down to relationships. They’re what make people open newsletters (at least part of what makes people open newsletters) and they’re also what make people feel they have a unified mission and the gumption to give a new way a try.

Something Read

My “something read” that applies to the word “touch” is “Educated” by Tara Westover. I thought the book was phenomenal. I also thought “wow I need a comedy” when I discovered it was one of a line of books I have read relatively recently (the others being “Etched in Sand” by Regina Calcaterra and “Girl Unbroken” by Regina Calcaterra and her sister, Rosie Maloney) that involve serious abuse of a girl by a trusted relative.

In “Educated,” there was an echo of a dynamic found in the other two books (although the circumstances were completely different). Tara repeatedly returned to the situation that had been so physically threatening, even though almost every sign pointed to the outcome (more violence, more injury) being exactly the same as it had before, perhaps even worse. Westover even came close to the prospect of fatality.

Why do people go back? I know there is no easy answer, and I’m glad that, among these three books, many of the people involved found their way out and ended up in safer, more nurturing life situations.

In the case of the Calcaterra and Maloney, the system utterly failed them (as social workers and other helpers failed to see the gravity of the situation and often made it worse).

In the case of Tara Westover’s family, the parents’ choice to isolate a large family so far away from traditional civilization (and education) put these vulnerable children in a bubble from which it was almost impossible to see the non-abusive world a few miles away from them.

To see that touch doesn’t have to hurt.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday (with a twist). 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: NEXT

NEXT

With apologies that this post is a bit cryptic, the topic won’t stay subdued, so here goes.

As I shared on social media earlier this week, my colleague and friend, Katie, shares a daily kindness text. One of the kindness texts this week resonated with me in a way that was deeper than the others (which were also great).

I turned it into a graphic. Many people said they loved it. One brave person said she isn’t sure it’s always possible. I struggled mentally with who my “someone” would be.

I also struggled with what comes next after the forgiving.

In my situation, the scenario isn’t one where the other individual violated me in any way – it wasn’t a robbery or some other thing that would make people say, “Now THAT was a crime!”

It was — to try to put words around it — a result of timing. We didn’t know each other well enough to have established trust, and I had a lot riding on our interactions. My sense of where I fit in was affected by our interactions, and my sense of competence (it always comes down to that for me).

Because those were the two things affected, I realized every time I turned this situation over in my mind that it wasn’t so much that the individual needed to be forgiven. I needed to figure out how to forgive myself (for feeling unsure in general, and for a few attempts to right the ship that came across (perhaps) as too aggressive, not assertive enough or in some other way out of place)).

*** end of five minutes ***

It’s one thing to forgive someone involved in a situation that led to ill will. It’s a more difficult process to set a scene for what comes next that edifies everyone involved.

Five Minute Friday NEXT

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.)

Remembering Mia

When my daughter was in middle school, her dance teachers carried far more weight with her than I — a mere mom — did. Jelina Gonzalez was one of those teachers for my daughter. Now that my own daughter teaches dance and fulfills that role for a new generation of middle schoolers, I see the legacy that evolved from how Jelina and others taught her, not just to dance, but to become a young woman.

Jelina and I have stayed in touch, even though she moved hundreds of miles away. She began teaching (her experience of teaching was an integral part of a Toastmasters speech I gave about the power of a pencil). She got married. She shared her excitement as she became pregnant and planned to be Mia Sofia’s mom, with Erik to be Mia Sofia’s dad.

Mia Sofia died in utero at eight months’ gestation on March 21.

Jelina and Erik are working to raise money for Cuddle Cots so other families in similar situations can spend more time with their babies.  

As you can see in this video, Mia Sofia is loved beyond measure. (Note: The video’s privacy settings may or may not allow you to see it.)

Why a Cuddle Cot

To honor Mia Sofia, Jelina and Erik are raising money for Cuddle Cots. A Cuddle Cot is a specially-designed cooling system that prolongs the time a family can spend with their infant. Learn more about how Cuddle Cots work by visiting this link.

Comments in italics from Erik and Jelina:

Losing a little one is tough. Bereaved families are given the opportunity to spend some time with their baby after they’re born before being transported to the morgue. Unfortunately, this time is fleeting and doesn’t allow the parents to properly bond with their little angel. That time meant everything to our family.

A CuddleCot gives the family time to bond and grieve by keeping the baby cool. We wish we had one during our time of need, but we feel that we can honor our baby girl by donating one to Wellington Regional and help other families.

If you’d like to make a donation, please send your gift via Venmo to
@MiaSofia2019. (Here’s a link, but I think you have to be on the app for it to work.) Erik and Jelina ask that you include your name and email so they can keep you updated.

One image in my head throughout this period has been the sign Erik and Jelina had prepared for Mia’s room.

In that spirit, suggestions for three ways to help this family that is so dear to us.

M … for memories. Erik and Jelina will always have memories, and they created as many as they could in the time they had with Mia. They are trying to get Cuddle Cots for the hospital where Mia was born so other families faced with the death of their infant will have time for more memories.

I … for inform. Inform people about Cuddle Cots and — beyond telling them about a particular product — help them understand why families need this time with their babies.

A … for act. When there is a loss like this, everyone wants to do something to make a difference. In this situation you can act by donating or by simply providing support if a family you know finds themselves in this situation.

Five Minute Friday: LACK


L. wants to time travel.

She talked about it in her speech at the Wakulla County Tropicana Speaking Contest I judged recently.

She lacked comfort with speaking (don’t we all?). She lacked comfort in a noticeable way. Her body language spoke of her unease. Her well-crafted words got a bit lost in the trepidation of it all … the nerves. The judges (sorry…). The audience. The other contestants.

I loved her NASA shirt (of course I did).

I loved her courage, her gumption to get herself to the contest, stand up behind the podium, speak into the microphone about her desire to time travel and meet the scientists she admires so much.

L. got honorable mention out of four contestants, with the others scoring higher and getting 3rd place, 2nd place, 1st place.

I watched her after the contest, as the contestants were assembled for post-contest pictures.

She tried to shrink into the background. She looked so uncomfortable and miserable.

But she stayed.

She stayed … and this happened (please take the time to read this brief Twitter thread from my friend Rachel, who directed the contest).

She also stayed in my head.

***end of five minutes***

As the Twitter thread attests, L. is a beautiful young woman, in the way many sixth-grade girls are. She had no way of seeing that in herself, but she was gorgeous in a way that was all promise and no awkwardness. Beautiful face, pretty hair, total lack of awareness of how pretty she is.

Even though that point is important, the part that struck me was how her demeanor changed when she wasn’t *giving a speech*.

After the speeches, the emcee would chat with each contestant as the judges tallied our scores.

L. lit up, talking about her favorite scientist in a relaxed, articulate, engaging way. She lacked nothing. Whatever the opposite of lack … is what she demonstrated. ABUNDANCE … of intellect. Of promise. Of worth.

That’s why her comment after being told by two adult women that she is pretty and very smart: “People usually tell me I’m trash” is so devastating.

I have a daughter. I’ve been a daughter. I’ve tried to instill confidence in my own daughter and I’ve fought my own battles with trusting my intellect and knowing what I have to contribute to the world is enough.

I believe Rachel when she says, “I’m going to follow up & figure her story out & see if I can help nurture her love of all things science,” because a) I know Rachel has never said “I’m going to follow up” and failed to do so and b) she won’t lack for help.

I’ll be first in line.

*NOTE: L. obviously has a full name and it was a public contest, but it doesn’t seem fair to her to use it. Let her represent a legion of bright sixth-grade girls just like her.

Five Minute Friday OFFER

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.)