What leaders can do

“… everyone is employed for the things they can do, no one is employed for the things they can’t do.”

I read this quote in Leadership Lessons In The Age Of Technology by Sophia Matveeva, and I felt like a little beacon was shining out from the page, a little beacon generated by all the truth in that statement by Clive Punter of Outfront Media.

In her article, Matveeva asserts that “good leadership remains the domain of humans” amid a world worried about artificial intelligence taking over. For the record, I agree with her.

She also encourages readers to share the leadership lessons they’ve learned in their organizations.

They’re not necessarily from my current organization, but here are three leadership lessons that are on my mind. Although they’re not from my current organization specifically, they are informed by the fact that I started a second career after two decades in an entirely different industry. My current situation is also different because my first career was at a place where I was literally at its inception. In my current career, the organization had existed for 17 years before I arrived, so I don’t know every single development over its evolution (although I made it my business to try to figure out as much of it as possible).

Be a person others can trust

When someone can trust you, whether it be a subordinate, a peer or someone higher on the org chart than you, the benefit is that you gain a deeper understanding of interpersonal dynamics and organizational goings-on than you would otherwise.

Nothing erodes team unity like unauthorized sharing of others’ information. Nothing cements it like knowing personal concerns can be shared in confidence and sensitive organizational developments will stay protected until the time is right to see the light of day.

Don’t rely on digital communications

This is one thing that has really been on my mind in this new career. So much communication is handled through email and Slack. I know that comes with the territory in 2019. However, it’s so easy for intent to get lost in translation or misinterpreted.

I had a coworker in my previous career who was extremely terse in her email responses. (I don’t know where along the line in my career I heard “if an email has grown to 10 in the thread, it’s time to pick up the phone,” but it’s true and even 10 may be too much.) I got to the point with her that I would pick up the phone and address whatever the question was. Why did we take so long to get to the “real talking” point?

My current job is the first full-time job I’ve had that is a hybrid (a physical headquarters office with many of us being remote workers). I started as a freelancer, communicating almost exclusively via Slack and email (with the exception of a few phone calls with my coordinator).

As a full-time employee, I still interact with everyone mostly via Slack and email, but now there are video conferences as well, and the occasional in-person meeting. I have become a big believer in the power of meeting your co-workers in real life when possible, at least briefly. It just makes a difference to have looked someone in the eyes at some point and spent social time together.

I also always let the freelancers working on my newsletters know I am available via phone or Skype if they prefer that to Slack/email. No one has ever taken me up on that, but I hope it gives them some reassurance that it’s an option.

Leave room for the unspoken priorities

I often think back on the time I was given a lateral transfer at my previous organization that led me to report to a friend, and to no longer have any direct reports. I was a different subordinate after I had been a supervisor.

I had a new appreciation for the pressures an organization’s leaders face that may lead them to make inscrutable decisions.

When I learned in July that my current employer had been purchased, that put some developments in the preceding few months in better context. They were developments that didn’t seem obviously necessary or productive at the time, but they contributed to the adjustments my organization needed to make to prepare for an acquisition. I’m not advising people to avoid being inquisitive, but there’s a difference between being inquisitive and being resistant to change that doesn’t make obvious sense.

Be an encourager

Let’s get back to Clive Punter and the idea that “everyone is employed for the things they can do, no one is employed for the things they can’t do.”

I struggle hard with being critical of myself. My mind has been preoccupied over the past week with an error or two I made that I could have avoided had I slowed down, been more careful, approached things more methodically. I didn’t give the things I had done well equal time.

When I read Punter’s quote, I thought of those things I was frustrated about. I reminded myself about the things I can do, that I do especially well. I had a freelancer thank me for the way I keep them in the loop. I coordinated our afternoon publication three out of five days last week on top of traveling to DC. I kept the balls up in the air that had to be there, and made a solid contribution to putting out a great product.

We need to encourage those around us whose inner monologues are heavier on what they haven’t done right and help them celebrate the ways in which they have been assets. This includes encouraging ourselves.

Leaders are trustworthy. They are direct when they need to be, understand the big picture and encourage.

They do the things they were employed to do.

My boring colonoscopy

With the exception of a bit of diverticulosis, there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about my Nov. 22 colonoscopy.

That’s why I want to share about my experience with the prep and the procedure itself (that part will be extremely brief (thank you, fentanyl and midazolam!)). One in every 20 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer at some point. I figure that would be totally out of the ordinary in every way — uncomfortable, expensive, frustrating and worrisome not to mention possibly fatal — that if I can reassure you regarding the colonoscopy process, I can help you avoid being among the 1 in 20 (or at least catch it early enough to have a better outcome).

I agreed to have a colonoscopy in alignment with the CDC recommendations that people ages 50-75 be screened for colorectal cancer and continue every 10 years after their first.

The prep

It’s absolutely true what they say – the prep is worse than the procedure. There are dietary restrictions for seven days prior to the procedure, as well as the need to adhere to a clear liquid diet the day before.

Here’s what happens when you give a grammar-lover unclear instructions.

My boring colonoscopy

I have to admit I was prepared to avoid seeds and nuts. I did not know about fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, does this mean no raw fruit and no raw vegetables, or does it mean “no vegetables” at all?

I read some other colonoscopy prep diets, which were all stricter than this one, so I decided it meant no raw vegetables. (I know I could have called to clarify — I guess I decided to live dangerously.)

I must have done OK, because my results said, “The quality of the bowel preparation was excellent.” Hooray.


Seeing red

Another thing about the prep period is that you can’t have anything to drink that has red or purple dye.

I wasn’t thinking about that part (hadn’t read it, I don’t think), when I grabbed the bottle of magnesium citrate required as part of the day-prior preparation. Given a choice of “lemon” (clear), and “cherry” (red), I chose my favorite color and flavor. THEN I really reviewed the instructions. It was less than $2, but it’s the principle of the thing! If anyone needs some cherry-flavored magnesium citrate, it’s yours!

Chugging (and chugging and chugging) a gallon of prep drink

Starting at 6 p.m. the night before your colonoscopy (and two hours after drinking the non-red magnesium citrate), there’s the matter of drinking a gallon of GaviLyte-N. The instructions are to drink an 8-oz glass every 15 minutes — downing 2 quarts the night prior to the procedure and 2 more quarts the next day 6 hours before your exam.

My boring colonoscopy

I have to admit, I was down to the wire to finish this the morning of my procedure. The taste wasn’t unmanageable, but neither was it delightful to stuff my otherwise-empty stomach with two gallons of liquid at 5 a.m. I almost gagged getting the last down in time for the cut-off, but I did!

A friend of mine was given pills instead of gallons of solution for her prep, and I think that is worth exploring in the future.

Calories matter the day prior to the procedure

I did not plan nearly well enough to get enough calories during the “clear liquids” day. I had a full day of editing, which in a perfect world involves keeping your brain fueled well enough to put complete sentences together. I had consumed the Gatorades I had bought by around 1 p.m. I had to forgo the chicken broth I had bought because it turned out not to be fat-free. I went through plenty of other things, all zero-calories, and practically pounced on my husband when he arrived home with the calories I had requested (I couldn’t run out to the store because ^^^^ see above re: the gallon of laxative I had just consumed).

Take my advice: Stock up on caloric drinks and fat-free broths for the day prior to your procedure. Then you’ll be able to continue using subjects and verbs effortlessly.

The day of the procedure

There’s nothing remarkable to say about the day of the procedure. I didn’t take many pictures, mainly because I handed my phone over to my husband before getting onto the bed. I did capture this lovely wardrobe item (and I love the saying “you deserve the best”). The nonslip socks were pretty great too.

My boring colonoscopy

There was a funny moment when I approached the bed. It was set REALLY HIGH. It took a few gymnastics to get onto it. The nurse showed up and asked how I got there. I explained that I just figured it out and she said she could have lowered it. Well … yeah…

I did have a brief conversation with the physician, but after that discussion, the nurse upped the sleepytime meds and the next thing I know I was leaving with my husband. Apparently they explained everything to me four times.

I also had to ask Wayne later that night if I had indeed bought grapes when we went to Publix afterward.

Moral of the story: They’re not kidding when they require you to have a driver. Not at all!

The results

My results were pretty unremarkable. As I mentioned, I have some “diverticulosis in the sigmoid colon” but I don’t need to go back for this procedure for 10 (count ’em 10!) years.

Why it matters

Yes, it was inconvenient to do the food/liquid prep. No, I didn’t enjoy the trips to the bathroom that resulted from the prep. No, I don’t remember anything about the procedure itself.

What I do know is that a friend of Wayne’s and mine did not come out of her experience with such a nondescript story. Her colonoscopy resulted in a diagnosis of colon cancer, so she now has to deal with treatment protocols and uncertainty. Another friend had colon cancer in his early 40s. I imagine we all know about Katie Couric losing her first husband to colon cancer. She even went with Jimmy Kimmel for his first colonoscopy!

I doubt Katie Couric will show up at any of our colonoscopies, but I’ll be happy to send you a paper umbrella for your prep (as seen in the video) because this process should be as fun as possible.

I also want you around.

My boring colonoscopy

I’m linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog. The prompt is, “Tell us about something you’re procrastinating on.” I should have gotten my colonoscopy done five years ago when I was 50 — I wasn’t really procrastinating because of anxiety — I just let other things get in the way. Take it from me — there’s really not that much to say about it (unless you’re a blogger trying to make a point).

7 Giving Tuesday causes and a bonus

At the beginning of every month, I share a post about my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month (here’s October’s, for example).

I do have favorite stories from November, but I’m changing things up today in honor of Giving Tuesday, which is December 3.

I feel so fortunate that my work at SmartBrief is with nonprofit sector newsletters (although everyone who knows me knows I get pretty attached to everything I do, including tolling and agriculture). Especially as Giving Tuesday rolls around, with its opportunity for so many great causes to discuss what they do and the difference a contribution can make, I decided for this month to share a way each of my partners is connecting on Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday


As stated on their website, BoardSource “supports, trains, and educates nonprofit leaders from across the country and throughout the world.” Donations to BoardSource ” support our research and leadership addressing issues of critical importance to the work of the social sector and the communities and people we seek to serve.”

How to donate: Click here.

Learn more via the BoardSource newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

ICMA’s website describes the organization as “the world’s leading association of professional city and county managers and other employees who serve local governments.” I had the pleasure of attending ICMA’s conference this year, so you can get my perspective here and here.

ICMA has a Future of Professional Management Fund that seeks to “advocate and promote the council-manager form and professional local government management.” Read the 2018 Giving Tuesday post about the fund here and donate here.

Learn more about the ICMA newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

National Association of Social Workers

NASW, according to their website, “works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.”

Contributions to NASW are directed to the NASW Foundation, the NASW Legal Defense Fund and/or its Political Action for Candidate Election efforts. All three have links here.

Learn more about the NASW newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

The NENA website lists its role as being “the only professional organization solely focused on 9-1-1 policy, technology, operations, and education issues.”

NENA’s Gold Line Scholarship Fund seeks to help 9-1-1 professionals obtain training. Donate here.

Learn more about the Public Safety SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Reserve Officers Association (ROA)

ROA describes itself on its website as “only exclusive advocate for the Reserve and National Guard – all ranks, all services”

There are multiple ways to contribute to ROA, including general contributions to its work, donations to its ROA STARs foundation, tribute benches and more. All are accessible by clicking here.

Giving Tuesday
ROA Tribute Bench Photo credit: roa.org

Learn more about the ROA newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

Sigma Xi says on its website that its purpose is to “honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering.”

Sigma Xi’s Giving Tuesday initiative is what got me started thinking about doing this post for all my partners. I really love it!

Sigma Xi is directing its Giving Tuesday donations to help provide free one-year subscriptions of its STEM magazine, American Scientist, to 1,300 high schools. Here’s the link to contribute.

Learn more about the Sigma Xi newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Giving Tuesday
American Scientist Magazine

United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation expresses its purpose via its website this way: “We work by building communities and incubating initiatives to support the UN and its priority issues, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

I am sure the UN Foundation will have plenty of Giving Tuesday options, but to take a moment of personal privilege, I will first list Shot at Life. Shot at Life is a grassroots advocacy program under the UN Foundation umbrella that helps children around the world have access to immunizations to protect them from polio, measles, pneumonia, rotavirus and other vaccine-preventable diseases. I’ve been involved with them for years. The World Health Organization notes several key improvements in getting children worldwide vaccinated, but says ” an estimated 19.4 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunization services such as 3 doses of DTP vaccine” in 2018.

Giving Tuesday

Contribute to Shot at life by clicking here. Contribute to the UN Foundation in general by clicking here. Another incredibly meaningful option is giving in memory of the late Jennifer Schlecht, who worked for the UN Foundation, during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

To learn more about the UN Foundation newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Food & Friends

Food & Friends is a cause that SmartBrief has supported for years (I’m not sure how many, but since I started there in 2017). For that reason, I want to give them a shout out because I have come to appreciate their work and I feel a personal investment.

The Food & Friends premise is “anyone can get sick and everyone can help.” Their services include home-delivered meals, groceries-to-go and nutrition counseling.

Contribute to the work of Food & Friends by clicking here.

It’s relevant to talk about Giving Tuesday and provide this boost to these eight great causes because there are programs such as the $7 million Facebook plans to match that are specific to the day. (I also urge you to read up on how quickly those matching funds go … a great case study of the challenges nonprofits face.)

And while we’re here …

I am staying with one of my monthly traditions, which is sharing our open positions.

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.

Here are the advertised open positions at SmartBrief as of 12/1/19:

(There are other opportunities with our parent company, Future plc, that are not specific to SmartBrief and are located in multiple places. Find all openings here.)

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

A 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 at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

Grateful Challenge 2019

It’s year six of my taking the Grateful Challenge! Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for. (Here are the previous installments: 2018, 2017201620152014.)

Grateful Challenge 2019

This year’s installment:

1.My husband, Wayne

2.My daughter, Tenley

3.My son, Wayne Kevin

4.My dad, Seabie

5.Tenley’s significant other, Stewart

6.Wayne Kevin’s significant other, Patience

7.Wayne Kevin having an affordable, safe place to live in Daytona

8.Tenley having an affordable, safe place to live in Valdosta

9.Wayne’s job

10.Tenley’s graduate school and how goal-directed she is

11.Wayne Kevin’s job

12.MY job — the one I love <3

13.Having a fantastic supervisor

14.Having great co-workers

15.Having a job in editing, so ironic since it took me until midlife to be here (although everything happens for a reason, for sure)

16.Extended family

17.My new nephew, Paul


19.My friend Dan — such a dear friend, seen not often enough

20.Two trips to DC this year

21.A trip to NYC this year ( 🙂 )

Grateful Challenge 2019

22.My SmartBrief partners — the International City/County Management Association (the other six to follow)

23.The Sigma Xi Scientific Honorary Society

24.The National Association of Social Workers

25. The United Nations Foundation


27.The National Emergency Number Association

28.The Reserve Officers Association

29.A new brief I get to work on soon: Business Transformation

30.My previous partner (among others): The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association

31.Everything I’ve learned and gained by blogging for 10 years

32.The online community, which has lifted me up, supported me, irritated me (at times) and been more supportive than the word “online” would make you think

33.Parents who provided financial help over the years

34.My mom’s life

35.Our new realtor

36.The buyer of our house (no, don’t know who they are yet but they have to be out there!)

37.Live theatre

38.Seeing “Come from Away” in New York in January

39.Seeing Sara Bareilles in “Waitress” in New York in January

40.The New York Times Readalong Community

41. BroadwayWorld and review opportunities

42.Randi at the Democrat who has given me such great (tough) feedback about my Democrat reviews and still plans to let me review


44.The Spin Sucks crew (where to begin?)

45.Time with Gini Dietrich in July watching Hugh Jackman *live*

46.Laura Petrolino and how she gets me

47.Having a paid-off car (even though it doesn’t have air conditioning)

48.Not that I’m self-promoting exactly, but I’m proud of each video I made for SmartBrief and enjoyed the process. Here they are:

49.Libraries and social work

50.The 911 SAVES Act

51.Recharge your batteries by subscribing to the ICMA newsletter

52.This blog post I wrote about Hurricane Michael and kids having playgroups that helped them find hope again

53.This blog post about my favorite moments at the ICMA conference

54.Getting to meet Jake Wood of Team Rubicon at the ICMA conference

Grateful Challenge 2019

55.Turning 55 tomorrow!

56.Helping with social media for the Turkey Trot and getting to participate in the Turkey Trot tomorrow — I can’t run it anymore but I’ll be there!

57.A clean bill of health after my colonoscopy

58.The Ration Challenge

59.Getting off of caffeine due to the ration challenge

60.My faith

61.The life of my friend, Duane, who died last Saturday. He taught me so much; he’s gone too soon. I will always love you, Duane.

Grateful Challenge 2019
At “Fiddler on the Roof.” I was the audience; he was the star. 🙂

In keeping with the spirit of the challenge, I stopped at the 10-minute mark. I left all the blank numbers in, because I know are 38 more things for which I can be grateful. Here’s to filling in these blanks …








































Erasing the cost of hiding

Erasing the cost of hiding


“I’m limited.”

These are the first two words of “For Good” from “Wicked,” one of my favorite Broadway shows.

I couldn’t sleep well last night, because late in the evening before I went to bed, I learned via social media that my lifelong friend, Duane, had passed away.

I turned over in bed, queued up “For Good” on Spotify, and played it. The original version played, then someone else’s version. If I could have figured out how to put it on loop until I finally fell asleep, I would have.

This is not the official tribute post I owe this friend. This is the “taking five minutes to start to process things” post. I have so little information at this point.

I’ve shared the story of how our relationship changed me and — ultimately — inspired me to be a vocal ally for LGBTQ+ people many times.

Once I grasped the critical revelation that the change in our relationship was not something happening “to” me, but was a reflection of him being true to himself, I gained a new appreciation for the cost of feeling you have to hide what you know to be true.

As Sam Champion tweeted once, being frank with the people in your life (and, in Sam’s case, the viewing public) means “you just get to live without questions.”

I know how many students Duane helped because his example helped them understand there was not something wrong with them. Life in a Bible Belt small town can make you feel that way.

Duane, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

Erasing the cost of hiding

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.) 

10 reasons you are enough, kid

I volunteered recently as a registrar/tabulator at an event designed to help children ages 8 to 10 demonstrate their proficiency in making consumer choices. The kids each had to listen to a scenario for eight minutes (with the help of supplementary material they had been sent in advance), then rank the products based on which one was the best choice given factors including quality and price.

I had registered the kids (teams of four), then as they completed sections of the activity, I added their scores to the scoresheet.

One contestant didn’t mark his answer on the score card that was turned in, even though he had kept note of it on his own documentation, as all the contestants had. That meant an automatic zero for one of four products.

As a side note, I see kids at things like this who I’m pretty sure are on a relatively straightforward trajectory to success. They obey the rules. They are well-spoken. They have listening skills that are developmentally appropriate. They are motivated by the idea of winning a trophy or ribbon, and also by the idea of either leading or contributing to a team.

Back to my “no-answer” contestant. Although I had been instructed by the contest moderator to give him a zero, his group leader had brought him forward and asked to let him record his score (which we did).

What followed was an exchange between him and his group leader that was tough to watch. It would be silly based on five minutes of interacting with a child and watching his interactions with another adult to put him in a box.

However, holding a degree in child development (yes, I’m now an editor so make of that what you will) and having raised two children, one of whom was (understatement) not a “jump through the hoops” kind of youngster, my heart hurt for him.

I don’t want to get into a verbatim replay of the dialogue, but “you’re in trouble” came up and “you shouldn’t have said no.”

Although this little boy’s future is unknown, here are 10 things I wish I could have conveyed to him that day:

You are valued

Your brain may not work the same as other kids, but that doesn’t mean it works in a bad way

Saying “no” is not always the right choice, but there are times in your life when it absolutely will be

Being “in trouble” is about the behavior you chose, not about who you are

I want to know what you thought about the product and which one you thought was best

I’d like to know about your life — what is your favorite thing to do?

I’d like to give you a hug (with consent of course)

I wish you were enjoying yourself

You’re not a loser (in fact, his team did place despite his issues — I’ll spare you the explanation)

You are enough

You are enough” gets said a lot lately. It makes for a good social media shareable image (and hey! there’s a new one for you at the end of this post!). It’s for a good reason, because so many of us struggle (whether we are children or adults) with appreciating our own strengths rather than beating ourselves up for our shortcomings, the real ones and the ones that are probably not as monumental as we let them become in our minds.

Some of these monumental, imagined shortcomings took root before we turned 11.

10 reasons you are enough, kid

I’m linking this post up two places:

Five Minute Friday, which had “unknown” as its prompt this week (and it took me far longer than five minutes to write this, for what it’s worth)

10 reasons you are enough, kid

Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt, “Write a post in just 10 lines.” I kind of fudged those directions to, but it’s OK, because I know I am enough (wink).

10 reasons you are enough, kid

Sister survivors: Moving on after abuse

Two 2018 ESPY winners, one I met in person and another I saw via video, factored heavily in my experience of the International City/County Management Association conference in October.

One was Jake Wood, co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, who gave the opening keynote speech.

Another was Brianne Randall-Gay, who won an ESPY in 2018 alongside her fellow Sister Survivors, the women who spoke out against serial abuser Larry Nassar.

I am positive every one of the hundreds of “sister survivors” would have traded the trophy, the time on the national stage and the acclaim to have lived a childhood free of sexual abuse.

“The Girls”

I first became aware of Abigail Pesta and her book, “The Girls,” when she appeared on the October 6 New York Times Readalong.

During the readalong, Pesta said one of her goals had been to capture the experiences of some of the athletes who may not have been as much on the public stage as gymnasts such as Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

Pesta’s book was thoroughly researched, and the research was perfectly complemented by her human, compassionate treatment (without glossing over extremely graphic details) of the young women she interviewed (along with their families).

If a book could be said to have a mission statement, I think this one’s is: “Help heal the past while protecting people, especially children, from being victims in the future.”

As survivor Natalie Venuto said in a Goodreads comment, “…reading this book triggered a lot of painful memories, but I know that it will help me heal.”

Meridian Township apologizes

I downloaded “The Girls” on Audible immediately after hearing Pesta speak on the readalong. As coincidence would have it, I was reading the passage about Brianne Randall-Gay’s attempt to tell the Meridian Township police about Nassar’s abuse in 2004 right before I heard Township Manager Frank Walsh and Chief of Police Ken Plaga iave a presentation, “A National and Personal Apology,” at the ICMA conference. It was one of the top sessions out of hundreds of options.

Here’s the police report:

Sister Survivors: Moving on after abuse

The police called Brianne’s family in after they completed their investigation, told them Nassar had confirmed his practices were accepted medical standards, and explained they were not pursuing any charges.

In 2018, after it became apparent that Nassar had gone on to abuse hundreds of athletes after Brianne, the Meridian Township in Michigan issued a public apology.

Walsh outlined five main takeaways other local government professionals should learn from this experience. The last one was, “investigate, apologize and foster change.”

Meridian Township has made drastic changes in their investigation protocol since this situation was mishandled. Walsh noted how the police report described in detail where Nassar inserted his finger into Brianne’s vagina, but it also says that he repeatedly massaged her breasts. Walsh discusses the powerpoint Nassar gave to supposedly document the medical nature of the treatment, but it does not refer at all to a breast massage. When a reporter pointed out the breast massage and its total irrelevance to the “treatment,” the reporter asked “How did you miss that?” A valid question, and the township is addressing that by the revisions to training and procedures.

Although the title of the session was “A National Apology,” and the apology was its centerpiece, the “foster change” part is undoubtedly the township’s most lasting legacy (that and whatever healing it allowed Brianne and her fellow survivors to experience).

This is a video made by Brianne that is now used in Michigan for training law enforcement and others. Even if you click out of this blog, please do it after taking the seven minutes to watch this.

A former gym mom’s perspective

The New York Times Readalong community has become a close-knit group over its four years. This was pretty candid on my part, but I am comfortable enough in this group that I knew I could say it with support. One of my first comments as we were talking with Abigail Pesta and I was processing her description of her interactions with the survivors was, “I hope as a gym mom I would have had the strength to put aside my stage mom tendencies and see what was happening to my child.”

I’m not especially proud of it, but I had my own agenda that was a counterpoint to my daughter’s gymnastics goals. (And obviously, her gymnastics life is her story to tell, but it was a significant piece of my parenting, so I’m speaking strictly from my perspective.) I had been a fat, nonathletic kid who was always chosen last in elementary school for PE, and when I realized my child was an excellent athlete with the accompanying discipline and artistry, I was mainly relieved that her childhood wouldn’t be plagued by the self-doubt and ostracism that I had experienced on the sidelines of what appeared to be an athletic world I didn’t fit in.

We (probably more me!) would seek out private lessons anytime we traveled. There was a lengthy period where she didn’t feel well most days and I would give her a motrin and a decongestant — a combination that seemed to help her get through practice. Our expenditures were probably somewhat modest compared to some competitive gymnastics programs (thank you TGC for being so affordable!), but they were significant and included doctor visits to check out little physical twinges, nights spent worrying about a variety of things and the loss of perspective regarding whether she was happy or not.

She won the Level 4 state championship in 2006 and decided to leave the sport in 2007.

In retrospect, gymnastics was good for her (even with my stage mom-ness), and she left at the right time.

Most important, she was at a gym where she did not end up being sexually abused. I can only hope if I had been sitting in a room where a “doctor” was putting his bare fingers in her vagina on the premise that it was “helping” her (Nassar often conducted his abuse with a parent in the room, by strategically placing himself in a way that he disrupted the parent’s line of vision), my good sense would have overridden my ambition and I would have said, unequivocally and persistently, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT.”

Sports culture

I also think you could delete all of the references to gymnastics apparatus, leotards and the US Gymnastics Association from this book and it would stand alone as a testament to a culture that encourages children and their parents to trade a somewhat normal childhood for a regimented one that leads to scholarships and (potentially) money.

We will always be a culture that praises accomplishment, I think, but where does it end? Where do we as parents (and relatives/friends of young people) reinforce the message that “you are enough” whether you are an accomplished young athlete or not?

Communities protect predators

Another thread through Pesta’s book and the speech by Walsh and Plaga was the way people who abuse children often infuse themselves into the community and position themselves as a “good guy.”

Walsh noted that Nassar was running for school board in his community in 2016. Nassar got “over 2,000 votes” even after the initial story about his abuse was released. Walsh also commented about the 35,000 images of child pornography found in Nassar’s dumpster in front of his house when police conducted an investigation. Walsh said many people think it may be the pornography, not the experiences of the hundreds of his victims, that ensured he got jail time.

Nassar befriended these young women (it was grooming, not true friendship), gained the trust of their families, fooled almost everyone.

Preventing future sexual abuse

When I was sexually abused by a trusted adult when I was 13, I was fortunate that my parents believed me. Yet I am still haunted all these years later by the fact that it can’t have been just me that he was taking advantage of.

It’s one of the reasons “The Girls” and the presentation by the Meridian Township officials has resonated so much with me.

What if that officer in 2004 had had better training regarding how to interview a victim of sexual abuse?

What if the guarantee of the nurse who processed Brianne’s rape kit when she worried that she would be perceived as lying “it’ll be OK – they’ll believe you” … had been correct?

What if hundreds of girls could have had their confidence and childhood innocence preserved because Nassar had been stopped in 2004 rather than 2016?

What if? What if? What if?

Here are some tips from Stop It Now! in the event a child in your life says they are being abused:

  • Stay steady
  • Believe what they say
  • Reestablish safety
  • Free them of self-blame
  • Express your rage to appropriate people
  • Get help
Sister Survivors: Moving on after abuse

Brianne gets the last word

In the video I shared from Brianne, she says, “I have a wonderful family, a fulfilling career. I still suffer severe anxiety and nightmares related to the abuse.” She goes on to say “Today, myself and over 200 of my sister survivors stand together, bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse and promote a culture that no longer enables predators but empowers survivors.”

The ESPY was nice and well-deserved, but why did things have to go so far in the first place? Why are anxiety and nightmares still a part of Brianne’s life instead of just enjoying her young family and her adulthood?

Thank you, Brianne and sister survivors, for helping change this narrative. You are more than “the girls.” You are victors in every way.

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and “Working With”

I closed out October by going to my friend Rachel’s house for trick-or-treat. She lives in a neighborhood that is the center of activity for hundreds of ghosts, goblins and a T-Rex or two. Note to self: Don’t go to Rachel’s house next year unless it’s possible to get there before the kids descend. I’m just so relieved I didn’t take out a 3-year-old unicorn.

This month at SmartBrief felt a little like that too. Before I knew it, I was awash in great stories and couldn’t always see the road ahead of me very well for all the great content.

Here are my favorites:


In the October 10 issue, the Nonprofit Whisperer explained the difference between “working with” and “doing for” in nonprofit agencies. This is something I have personally been evolving about, so this perspective was meaningful to me.

National Association of Social Workers

Food insecurity among college students comes up not infrequently in the articles I read for SmartBrief. In the October 10 issue, I learned about the Leftover Textover program at the University of Oregon, a program that sends text announcements to students when there is food left over after campus events. Makes so much sense, but why does this have to be?

Sigma Xi, the Science Honorary Society

Chances are you either played with oobleck as a kid, or made oobleck FOR a kid, or in some other way have encountered the ooey gooey substance. In our October 14 issue, we learned all about the scientific data behind the predictability of oobleck. I was fascinated!

The video embedded in the article was so cool; it reminded me of my son and his curiosity growing up.

UN Wire

Have you ever heard of Varosha? If you have, you’re ahead of me in the geopolitical knowledge realm. We discussed it in the October 11 issue, because the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed its intentions to protect the uninhabited part of the Cypriot city of Famagusta from being resettled. (There are concerns that Turkey will try to change its status.)

I kept reading the articles, and looking at the pictures, and marveling at how a previously 2.3-square-mile, civilized place can go uninhabited for FORTY-FIVE YEARS.

The concern is that Turkey would disrespect the rights of Cypriot people who deserve to go back to their homes. Honestly, this one stumps me a bit but here is a decent explanation. I just suspect if I were there, I would be so tempted to just put a foot on that forbidden sand.

National Emergency Number Association

I was happy to read in the October 8 issue about new California laws that benefit first responders. One creates standards for peer support programs and another provides workers’ compensation for stress-related illnesses.

Reserve Officers Association

Feeding National Guard members is no small task. I learned from our October 2 issue about the Army National Guard Food Service Phillip A. Connelly competition, which seeks to recognize the best cooks in the guard. The food service manager credited a regional win to “an emphasis on basic kitchen skills, hard work by the cooks, and support from the rest of the company.” I loved this article because — although it was about food prep — it was also about excellent team work and the value of supporting each other.

International City/County Management Association

Because of the way the ICMA newsletter is structured, stories in the top section, which is always a leadership story, almost always gets the most clicks.

When story that is not a leadership piece makes it into the “most read” category for a month, I know it struck a chord somehow.

Such was the case in the October 2 issue with a story about officials in Ames, Iowa, who insisted on keeping their rainbow crosswalks that were intended to celebrate inclusion. I learned all about the Federal Highway Administration’s rules about crosswalks, which have been an issue for crosswalk art in other cities such as the keyboard crosswalk in Rochester, N.Y.

I also had the pleasure of attending the ICMA conference in Nashville, Tenn.

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and "Working With"

Before I went to the conference, I prepared this pre-conference report.

The first day of the conference, Jake Wood, CEO and co-founder of Team Rubicon, spoke about conquering chaos. I wrote this post about the takeaways from his speech. And we met!

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and "Working With"
(The shirt and check were gifts from my Disney College Program parents’ group, which is giving proceeds from shirt sales to TR. Lucky me to be their messenger.)

I also shared this brief video encouraging people to subscribe to the brief.

And I wrote this post about the 10 words I heard on the conference’s final day that captured its essence.

About working at SmartBrief

As you can tell, it has been a full month. I feel so fortunate to have met so many of our readers at the conference. It meant so much when someone would say, “Oh I definitely get the newsletter!”

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.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 11/3/19:

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

A 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 at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

(I’m linking up this week with Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt “write about something you’re looking forward to,” because I’m looking forward to what November brings.)

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and "Working With"

ENJOY (FMF31 2019 Day 31)

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

Today’s prompt is: ENJOY

Here’s an unexpected treat I enjoyed recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

MEMORY (FMF31 2019 Day 30)

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

Today’s prompt is: MEMORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes