12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

You can write more than 1,000 blog posts spanning a decade and still be surprised at which posts perform well and which don’t.

I’m sharing my top 12 posts of 2019 here, but two posts I wrote in earlier years, 10 Lessons from Lumosity and 6 Ways Our Marriage Resembles a Tree, still performed best. (They finally knocked out Get Groovy with Hippie Juice: Cocktail Recipes for Spring, which held the top spot for a long time!)

Remembering Mia

I am so thrilled that this post got the most views in 2019. I wish I hadn’t had to write it at all, but I love how so many people who loved Mia and her parents gathered around, in real life and here in the cyberworld, to support this family and help more hospitals get Cuddle Cots.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Ration Challenge 2019: How Eating Less Taught Me More

Not only did participating in the Ration Challenge help me raise $634.14 for Church World Service and its efforts to help refugees, but it also helped me kick the caffeine and artificially-sweetened soda habit. I’m still waiting for flavored sparkling water to still taste like — something — but I’m healthier for the effort.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

3 Commercials That Don’t Make Sense

I guess writing about causes is *really* my favorite, but this type of writing is the most fun to me. I like trying to make sense of the world, and my blog is a main way I do that. If you didn’t watch the “Failing” video before, I highly recommend it. It’s so much better than the nonsensical commercial starring the same actress.

Guest Post: Being Your Own Medical Advocate

I’m so excited that this guest post by Hannah of Feeding Tube Fitness, who I met through a friend, was my fourth most viewed post of the year. Learning to advocate for yourself in a medical setting is challenging, and Hannah gives great advice. She’s also exceptionally fun and motivating on Instagram, so follow her!

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

The Surprise of Early Menopause

I really enjoyed participating in this AARP Disrupt Aging campaign to help dispel myths about menopause. I’m sure one of the reasons it did well is because those of us participating in the campaign supported each other by sharing. It’s one of the reasons I love doing blog campaigns!

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Should Office Plants be Banned?

If we didn’t have cats who like to nibble on (and knock over/vomit up) plants, I could have whatever “office” plants I want since I work from home. As this blog explored, a proposed ban on office plants by the State of Florida branched out into an uproar (of sorts). It was also yet another example of how there is often more to the story with questions like this.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Aging is Not a Hammer

I’m glad I started out the year advocating for people to see aging as a positive thing. I feel young at heart almost every day, and hope I’ll never devalue the importance of the wisdom the years have brought me.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

June News Developments That Made Me Say “WOW”

I’m so excited that this post made the top 12. When I first became an editor at SmartBrief, I wanted a way to share our open positions with people who might be good candidates. The first month, introduced the open positions by talking about my favorite stories that month. I thought I might switch to quarterly at some point, but so far I’ve stayed with monthly and it has been 16 months and I don’t want to change. It’s a good exercise for me every month to think back on what stories meant the most, and I like giving my partners a little extra social media boost by linking to them.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

“Be Pretty” and Other Lessons from Mom

This may not have been the post with the most views, but it was a tribute to my mom, so it deserves number one status as far as I’m concerned! Maybe my mom is hanging out with Mia in Heaven, and I can only imagine how happy it would make her to love on a baby girl.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019
This look on her face captures who she was.

3 Tips for Better iPhone Food Photography

I had so much fun and learned so many great tips for taking better food photos from this evening (and tried to summarize them in the blog). Yet — I still take quick pix of my food so I can get to the enjoyment rather than applying most of what I learned. Anyway, any time I hang out with “the other Paula” is a win.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Safety is the Deepest Gift of All

I enjoyed writing this post and I’m glad it did well. But dang it now I’ll have a “Shallow” earworm all night!

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

3 Fabulous Women to Follow on Twitter

This was my response to the #WomenToFollow project developed by Rose Horowitz. Rose is a true champion of women, and I’m glad this post did well.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

I’m linking up this week with Kat Bouska for the prompt “Share your top 12 blog posts from 2019.” And thank you to Vivid Image for their helpful post How to Find Your Most Popular Content Using Google Analytics.

12 posts that rose to the top in 2019

Golden stories for a new year

Golden stories for a new year

Some months, I sit down to compile my post of my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month, and I’ve populated the draft post with stories already. (This is my preference, because it makes the final writing a bit easier. A story that merited me taking a moment in the middle of a workday to log in to my blog site and add the link RIGHT THAT MOMENT is a golden story). There have been months when I sat down to write my post and had to start from scratch, either because the prior month was just too busy to jot down the fave stories or because nothing had jumped out to me yet. December was pretty good from that standpoint, because most of my favorite stories were already here when I started to write. It was also just a great month in general. Here’s why.

BoardSource

The beauty of working on business to business newsletters in the nonprofit sector is the huge variety of topics I read about every day. In the case of a story in the December 19 BoardSource newsletter about Sioux Falls Thrive, which is working to identify children and families struggling with food scarcity in Sioux Falls, S.D., and coordinate relief efforts with local nonprofits, the standout sentence was the one that contained a huge amount of common sense in 24 words about one of the Food Security Action Team members:

She recalled visiting a mother during her tenure, who didn’t have access to a can opener, but had a stack of canned goods nearby. 

How many times do we give in order to make ourselves feel we are making a difference, yet not take responsibility to look at the bigger picture and make sure our “help” is actually helping?

Golden stories for a new year

For the top 12 stories in the BoardSource newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

Business Transformation SmartBrief

Over the time I have been editing at SmartBrief, I have said goodbye to being responsible for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association SmartBrief, the SmartCities SmartBrief and a newsletter for the American Society for Public Administration. I’m sure as time goes on, there will be more changes, and it’s always a bit of a challenge because I get attached to the subjects and the partners.

The newest entry in my lineup, the Business Transformation SmartBrief, will always have the distinction of being my first brief for which I was the initial editor, and for which I was involved in the team that put the brief together for the very first time. The brief covers many areas of business transformation, including environmental, social and governance investing, digital transformation and research related to these topics. I’m excited to be doing it and hope you’ll consider subscribing.

The story that has stayed in my mind the most during the Business Transformation SmartBrief’s first month is one in the December 16 issue about the Mexican chemical company Orbia, which used to be Mexichem. Many parts of this article interested me, but none more than the company’s “living logo.” The logo “changes yearly to reflect how well the company is doing in meeting a series of sustainability and profit goals.” I’m no logo expert, but I tend to see logos as static. It’ll be interesting to see how this idea goes. For what it’s worth, here’s the 2016/2017/2018 version:

Golden stories for a new year

For the top 12 stories in the Business Transformation newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

International City/County Management Association

I had never heard of the Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Sunrise Ceremony until this year. We discussed the November 28 event held on Alcatraz Island in our December 2 issue. Were these comfortable articles to read about how “Native people were banned from practicing a Sunrise Ceremony” or how “Native Americans call the federal holiday the National Day of Mourning“? They absolutely were not. But city and county managers (and people in general) need to be aware of the perspectives of all within their municipalities, and this piece opened my eyes wide.

The ICMA SmartBrief did not have a “top 12 stories” issue.

National Association of Social Workers

My favorite NASW SmartBrief story of December aligned so well with one of my core beliefs in general: that reading makes us all better at what we do. In this case, social worker Michael Laird discussed how reading literary fiction had deepened his insight into the human condition.

He talks about “The Box Man” by Kobo Abe, a Japanese novel that explores issues of identity. Laird writes:

As social workers, we can think of the box as a metaphor for escaping shame and the sense that one is different and unaccepted by peers, family members, and the community. 

Golden stories for a new year

For the top 12 stories in the NASW newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

National Emergency Number Association

I fully understand that it’s my role to present the story of my partners from their perspective and to retain objectivity, but in the case of the need for passage of the 911 SAVES Act, which would reclassify dispatchers as “protective service occupation” workers (rather than clerical), I am firmly with the dispatchers.

In the December 17 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief, we shared how reclassification had not been included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. However, we had an opportunity in a subsequent issue to describe how 38 of the 55 counties in West Virginia have given first responder status to dispatchers (with an effort to seek a statewide designation underway).

The Public Safety SmartBrief did not have a “top 12 stories” issue.

Reserve Officers Association

Unless you were under a rock in December, you’ll recall that Giving Tuesday took place on December 3. Three military spouses, including the National Guard Military Spouse of the Year, organized a Giving Tuesday campaign that had a slightly different twist from all the Giving Tuesday initiatives focused on raising funds. It sought to reach 1 million acts of kindness. We talked about this in the December 2 ROA SmartBrief.

“I truly believe in the power of kindness and that it can save lives,” said Jessica Manfre.

Me too, Jessica.

For the top 12 stories in the ROA newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

Just imagine being a humble citizen scientist whose passion and hard work lead NASA to credit you in a tweet. I mean … just imagine!

That’s exactly what happened for Shanmuga Subramanian. In the December 4 issue of the Sigma Xi SmartBrief, we shared the story of how Subramanian’s analysis of a NASA image of the Vikram lander’s debris field on the moon led to NASA confirming its crash site.

Golden stories for a new year

I simply love this vindication of doing what you love to do; that by doing so, you sometimes earn proper recognition.

For the top 12 stories in the Sigma Xi newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

United Nations Foundation

Every UN Wire SmartBrief has 14 items. Three days a week, 14 items, and a high proportion of these items address refugee issues. One story about refugees in the December 18 newsletter that covered the Global Refugee Forum featured a woman who left Syria and became a refugee in 2013 when someone shot a gun into her car. She discussed how education and job assistance do help refugees. However, she noted the more difficult shadow of racism and stigma.

“Becoming a refugee doesn’t change who you are,” she said. “I am still the same woman.”

For the top 12 stories in the UN Wire newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

A visit to HQ

Another reason December was “golden” was my opportunity to visit our Washington, D.C., headquarters. This was my first visit since we were purchased by Future plc. I got to see some of the cosmetic changes (more Future red, for example).

Golden stories for a new year

I also got to squeeze in a visit to the National Christmas Tree the night I arrived.

Golden stories for a new year

The most delightful part, though, was spending time with my colleagues. I love remote worker life, but I also truly enjoy my coworkers. I’m so grateful for two days with them.

Employment opportunities at SmartBrief and Future

If you’d like to discover your own “golden stories” as part of SmartBrief (or our parent company, Future plc), this is your section.

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.

This video gives a quick summary of our 2019 at SmartBrief. I have learned so much and dealt with so many interesting people. I’m looking forward to more golden opportunities in 2020.

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.

I’m linking this post up at Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “Write a blog post inspired by GOLD.”

Golden stories for a new year

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

The Simple Gift of Friendship

Simple GiftHolidays 2018 have been characterized by disorganization on my part. The tree just got put up yesterday (December 22). The stockings will (hopefully) get put up tonight. I have precisely two more hours (possibly) into which I need to squeeze the rest of my shopping.

My son’s gift was airfare for the trip he is currently on. My daughter’s requests had to do mostly with practical choices rather than things that will go under the tree. I have been pushing myself to finish some commitments that resulted in late nights at the keyboard instead of leisurely early evenings decorating. (Oh, and the cards just got mailed yesterday too. Some of my usual recipients are going to have to get New Year’s cards instead.)

Therefore, when my sweet friend asked if I could get coffee today, my first inclination was to beg off, citing all of the “not done” items on my list. One of those items? Spending an hour(ish) doing my blog (since I rarely miss a Sunday).

But you know what? The keyboard, the screen, and my opinions will be here 365/24/7 as 2019 rolls around. Time with good friends is fleeting. I spent last Christmas Eve in the ICU wondering if my mom would survive (she ultimately didn’t, and passed away the following February). That experience brought home the importance of prioritizing those who are most important to us.

I’m off to have coffee with Sandy. Blogging can wait.

Simple Gift

I’ll see you next Sunday, when I’m sure I’ll have an opinion to share, reflection to publish or cause to espouse.

Why not pick up the phone and reconnect with that friend or relative you keep putting off?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

This post is based on a Kat Bouska prompt, “Share a quote you love.”

Simple Gift

 

Seeking Space for Hope

Quite a few times after Hurricane Michael came ashore, mostly sparing Tallahassee  and leaving us mainly with the annoyance of darkened homes during lengthy power outages as our neighbors to the west had their houses, businesses, and properties destroyed, I said, “We dodged a bullet.” (Many projected storm paths had Michael making a direct hit on our town).

Little did we know that 23 days later, literal bullets at the hands of a murderer would not spare us as a community, as a shooting at Hot Yoga Tallahassee resulted in the deaths of Nancy Van Vessem and Maura Binkley and the injuries of several others (the gunman also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound).

My Relationship With Hot Yoga Tallahassee

Although I never went to HYT’s first location, I remember several friends raving about it. If I recall correctly, it was on the west side of town, in what was probably a more out-of-the way location.

The clientele and the reputation of the studio grew, and it relocated to Betton Place, a more centrally located, upscale complex. That’s where I first took yoga at HYT and met Brittani, the owner. Although I didn’t go to HYT exclusively, it still played a unique role in my yoga life.

I did glow yoga and sacred music yoga there. I participated in the December Instagram challenge with HYT one year, posting a picture a day for a month. Most recently, I took part in the outdoor community yoga at their newer location off of Bannerman Road.

The entire time, I watched Brittani grow as a business owner. I saw her become a mom and work through the difficult period of her baby’s severe health problems when he was first born. I remember well a time this summer when he was with her at outdoor yoga; he brings her so much joy.

I’ve always thought it must be a difficult balance to strike to own a yoga studio: an activity that is supposed to help all of its participants eradicate worry juxtaposed against the difficulties of running a business. How do you collect unpaid fees from someone who was seeking respite from the stresses of debt? How do you gently and compassionately intercede with the space hog, the yogi wearing the off-putting fragrance, the late arrival who had promised to arrive 10 minutes early to avoid disrupting everyone else?

I admire Brittani for being a business owner, but I love her more for the mother and human she is.

The Door

Hot Yoga Tallahassee offered more types of yoga than “hot,” despite its name. However, it does do hot yoga well. I always found its heating system and temps to be relatively hotter than other places, especially with their previous system.

Although the actual helpfulness of this was probably all in my head, I liked getting the spot closest to the door. I had the idea that an infinitesimal wisp of air could get in between the floor and the door to keep me from passing out. The temperature probably wasn’t any different by the door than at the farthest corner of the studio, but the thought gave me some relief (it would also be easier to leave and take a respite from the heat without disrupting other people if I was already by the door).

The Grief

I am struggling to write about this situation. It is as hard to find words that even come faintly close to being adequate as it was to get air through an imperceptible space between the door and the floor at HYT.

I was talking with a therapist recently about a situation that had formed an emotional knot in my psyche, one that I couldn’t untangle or resolve. Lo and behold, as she walked me through how the knot got there in the first place, it became apparent that the tension keeping the knot so tightly bound wasn’t solely generated from the situation that was presenting itself as the problem, but from the tectonic shift set off when my mom passed away in February.

And for all the grief I feel for this most recent situation, I have had to tell it to “take a number” as if my heart were the DMV and that the various situations needing to be processed were so many expiring license plate decals.

Other People’s Words

Fortunately, as I work through my emotional knot, other people have risen to the challenge with the perfect words.

From Food Glorious Food, a business in the same complex as Hot Yoga Tallahassee:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

From David Harshada Wagner:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Photo credit: David Harshada Wagner

From John C. Thomas IV, father of Maura Binkley’s roommate:

I don’t have any answers, but I know now the firsthand agony of what no one should have to deal with with such numbing frequency.

My heart goes out to Maura’s family and all other victims of this senseless act, and to all those who live silently with pain in the aftermath of this type of violence.

It [mental health issues and gun violence] cannot be marginalized. It must be our biggest priority, for the sake of our children and future generations.

From Gary Taylor, Ph.D., Florida State University English Department Chair. (Maura Binkley was an FSU English major.)

What we can do, as English majors, is write about the particulars of her beautiful promise. What we can do, as Americans, is dedicate ourselves to erasing the ugliness that erased her.

From Nancy Van Vessem’s daughter, Molly Johnson:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

I read that Dr. Van Vessem’s favorite spot was by the door too. I’m guessing she just wanted to be able to leave efficiently to get to work. Maybe, like me, she needed the reassurance that she was close to cooler air if the temperature got too warm.

I don’t know, and can’t fathom, why she and Maura Binkley are gone.

Thank you, Food Glorious Food and David Harshada Wagner, for trying to find the tiniest sliver of hope and a path forward at a time when I’m not there yet.

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Benefits:

There are several GoFundMe accounts set up to benefit Hot Yoga Tallahassee:

From the Director of the Florida Yoga Teachers Association

From Lauren Cordy, a friend of Brittani’s

From Becca Berry

From M&M Monogramming, designed by The Moore Agency:

All proceeds from the sale of this sweatshirt go to Hot Yoga Tallahassee.

From Advanced Metal Art:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Photo Credit: Advanced Metal Art

(As other benefits appear, I’ll add them here.)

I also recommend Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and Sandy Hook Promise to learn more about advocacy for a solution to gun-related problems in our country.

I am linking this post up with the Kat Bouska prompt, “Write a blog post [based on] the word: dark.”

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Don’t Overthink. Improvise.

Communicating better through improv

Credit: Daily Quotes

Do any of you have an “overthinking” problem?

I’m pretty sure “stop overthinking” would be one of the main pieces of advice a life coach would give me.

After all, I created an entire channel devoted to overthinking “for all that stuff spilling out of our heads (and hearts) because we can’t turn our brains off” in one of my Slack groups.

Communicating better through improv

That life coach may encourage me to get some improv training to learn how to shortcircuit the overthinking and ramp up the decisive action.

I did take an improv class recently. This is a post I wrote for Spin Sucks based on my experience.

Before I get to the post, I want to encourage you to check out the upcoming Kimprovise sessions in Tallahassee on July 28 and 31 if you’re local. If you sign up for one of the $15 sessions, I get to come free, so we could abolish (or at least diminish) overthinking TOGETHER! Here’s the link (just mention I referred you).

On with post:

From the World of Improv: Five Ways to Rock Your Speech

Think about the most memorable speech you have ever heard.

If you’re like me, your list of remarkable speeches is short.

But, your list of forgettable speeches goes on and on, like a keynote speaker in a dimly lit hotel ballroom who doesn’t know how to stop even after the rubber chicken has been consumed.

Not All Speeches Occur in Ballrooms

Being able to speak well is a skill that extends beyond formal speeches.

Knowing how to get your point across can make a difference.

It can make a difference in getting an initiative approved in next year’s budget, or convincing your partner to have trout instead of salmon.

And it can make all the difference in nailing down special testing arrangements for your child who has unique sensory needs.

Lessons from Improvisation

We are sometimes limited in the flexibility we have regarding the words we say.

Our time allotment may be too short to allow us to elaborate on points we think might make or break our success.

But no matter what we say, there are intangibles behind our speaking process that can make a difference.

I was sharing some tips with a friend recently about how to keep the essence of her originality while presenting information she needed the listeners to act on.

The power of improv training was one of those tips.

Because I love all you Spin Sucks people, I immediately (and spontaneously—this is improv we’re talking about after all) signed up for an improv class to refresh my memory.

Here are three classic improv principles and how they can help you present more effectively, even if you can’t change a word.

Go With Your Gut

The teacher’s exact instructions were “say the first thing that comes to mind” and “do the first motion that you feel.”

We played the classic improv game, “Zip Zap Zop.”

In the game, the participants are in a circle.

The first participant throws “energy” to a recipient of their choice, saying “ZIP” while clapping.

That participant then throws the action to another recipient, saying “ZAP,” and so on.

We didn’t know each other. We had just walked into the room as strangers 15 minutes prior. It was clumsy and awkward.

Maybe saying “zip, zap, or zop” alone is easy enough, but add to that making eye contact, clapping to indicate your intended recipient, being prepared to catch the energy again, and now you have a recipe for hesitating.

Unless you keep playing.

When you keep on playing, you learn to trust yourself.

Likewise, when you practice speaking, you learn to trust your words and body language, and you are that much closer to getting your message across clearly.

Yes, And…

Sometimes our message is one which we anticipate our audience will disagree.

An exercise we do at Toastmasters is to give a “speech to convince,” and we are encouraged to adopt a position we don’t personally hold.

I gave my speech as though I were a pregnant anti-vaccine woman speaking to a committee of extremely pro-vaccine pediatricians and family practitioners.

(In my real life, I am an advocate for vaccines.)

It was my job in those moments to try to find some common ground.

In improv terms, I was looking for the “yes, and” opportunity instead of a “no, but” brick wall.

In an improv exercise, “yes, and” enables us to learn to help each other.

What not to do:

Paula: I just found out I’m off work tomorrow!

Partner: Too bad you’ll get behind on everything.

What to do:

Paula: I just found out I’m off work tomorrow!

Partner: Yes! And the Greek Food Festival will be taking place.

The second response provides a whole lot more latitude to extend the conversation.

It’s a stretch, I know, with my pregnant mom/pediatricians scenario, to find the “yes, and.”

However, I know that what I gained from “being an anti-vaxxer for 10 minutes” was that at the core of my motives was the love for my child.

It’s easy to blow off someone who feels differently or believes inaccurate things as ignorant or uncaring.

The “yes, and” concept is something that should underpin anything we do as communicators.

For the parent headed hesitantly to a tense IEP meeting, is there something they can bring to the table to help their child’s teacher better understand?

Perhaps by making accommodations for the child’s issue, it will make classroom management easier all around.

This TEDx talk discusses how “yes, and” can be part of your organizational approach.

Mistake? What Mistake?

The third principle of improv taught is “there are no mistakes.”

(However, we did receive a warning that it’s poor form to “pull a gun” in an improv scene because it’s the ultimate power imbalance. And I have to agree.)

Once, at a school board meeting, I had exactly three minutes to give a speech about a matter that was intensely significant to me.

I sat there debating whether to take my “cheat sheet” post-it with me to the lectern. Ultimately, I decided not to.

The school board members wouldn’t know if I didn’t say what I had planned.

I would be much more able to make eye contact and try to reach them non-verbally if I wasn’t fussing with a little slip of paper.

I would also be able to give the speech without my glasses on, which felt like a small liberation.

Mistakes and the fear of making them can be our biggest inhibitors.

They aren’t fun. They can be a bit embarrassing. But the world does, indeed, keep turning no matter what we do.

This time, the improv game we played section involved singing (yay).

The leader started off with a song about stars (let’s say “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”).

From there, another participant had to jump in with another “star” song or something that played off the Twinkle Twinkle lyrics.

(Like, “I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight” by the Kinks playing off “how I wonder what you are.”)

Our class struggled here, too.

This activity required thinking, hard, while frantically reviewing songs in our brains, then having the courage to jump in and sing them.

But we did manage. And our teacher learned that run-of-the-mill, non-musical theatre people *may* not have quite the encyclopedic mental song libraries your typical theatre nerd has.

Your audience can’t read your mind and doesn’t know what you rehearsed five times last night.

Take a deep breath, and remember the motivations that brought you here in the first place.

Your Speech is a Gift

Just like the best conversations, a speech isn’t so much a one-way entity as an exchange, even if one person is behind a lectern and one or 1,000 audience members are facing them, just listening.

When our improv class exchanged imaginary “balls,” some people “golfed,” some shot “marbles,” and others pretended to struggle to heft heavy “medicine balls.”

The balls weren’t physical. They were in our minds. And the recipients immediately transformed them into what they were planning to throw.

Only you have the exact idea of what you plan to share.

Even if in theory it has repeatedly been presented throughout history, your version is uniquely yours.

The recipient is going to turn it into something new and different anyway. So, you might as well leave them recalling what made yours so memorable.

Do you have a presentation coming up, large or small, that has you anxious?

Think about applying these principles, and I’m betting you’ll walk away with a Zip (and maybe even a Zap or Zop) in your step!

Back to the Tallahassee Offer

Communicating better through improv

Our Kimprovise class.

Imagine the freedom that comes with slicing some “overthinking” out of your psyche.

Dip your foot in the world of improv at a Kimprovise session at All Saints Culture Club on Railroad Ave. on July 28 (noon) or 31 (6:30) for just $15 and try it out! Click here to sign up (and please mention I referred you!).

Other great thoughts on improv

I also encourage you to read my friend Molly’s post, Improvise Our Way to Common Ground, about improv and how everyone can benefit. I especially like the way she encourages readers to use improv techniques to achieve better outcomes from difficult conversations and increase collaboration when it seems elusive.

Communicating better through improv

I have linked this post up with the Kat Bouska site for the prompt “What advice would a life coach give you about how to improve your daily life?”

Communicating better through improv

A version of this post was originally published at Spin Sucks as From the World of Improv: Five Ways to Rock Your Speech.

 

Maybe Next Time: WITH

parents with children

The humble word “with” (and its Latin version, “cum”) could be better used in these two ways:

THE SUMMA CUM LAUDE GRADUATE’S CAKE

Did you read about the case of Publix and the summa cum laude (with highest praise/with highest honors) graduate?

His mom ordered a cake from Publix online, and requested that his graduation distinction of “summa cum laude” be inscribed on the cake.

Publix’s online ordering system prohibits “vulgar” terms, so the “cum” was represented as “—” when the mom originally ordered it, and she commented in the comment box that it was not a vulgarity, but should be inscribed as requested.

When she went to pick up the cake, this is what had been made:

parents with children

This image appeared in the Huffington Post and numerous online publications.

The graduate’s parent said her student was “absolutely humiliated.”

Here’s the Washington Post version (the most detailed) and the Huffington Post version (if you can’t get past the WaPo paywall).

Publix and online ordering

In my experience, online ordering at Publix still has wrinkles (as the graduate’s family experienced). I ordered a princess happy birthday cake a few years ago (because trust me you can have a daughter in her late teens for whom a princess cake is still the bomb diggety) and the store eventually called to say they didn’t have that version.

A scramble ensued to find a Publix with princesses (granted, she wasn’t going to have a three-year-old level tantrum if I didn’t provide it but still …. it’s the principle of the thing).

Even long before online ordering was a thing, I ordered a cake in person from Publix, and gave them a picture of the 1-year-old-to-be that was going to be added to the cake via an edible image. What did I get at pickup? “Happy 18th birthday, Mackenzie.”

Screwups can happen IRL and in online commerce.

My take

This is one of those situations in life that is frustrating but is also a) easily fixed and b) deserving of perspective.

(And full disclosure: I have done my share of online griping about things that turned out to be minor (and some that I still consider relatively major). I do try also to recognize the dazzlingly good and positive things that happen too.)

To the kid: For what it’s worth, I can tell you from the perspective of a mom, this doesn’t deserve the “absolutely humiliating” label. Not to discount your feelings, but people and corporations mess up. Some worker at Publix did what they saw on a printed order form to do (granted, they could have asked/clarified). Just enjoy the cake. And congrats on your 4.89 GPA — that’s incredible.

To the mom: I understand your frustration too. I do. I’m really glad to hear you are “laughing about it ” (Huffington Post) but not entirely sure why you are going to “avoid Publix for now.” I know it wasn’t you that picked it up (and I can see my husband not proofreading a cake if I sent him to pick it up) but I have seen Publix fix an error in flat out minutes. I realize you may not have even had “minutes” to go back and get it fixed but I wonder if they don’t deserve just a bit more grace than they’ve been given. I feel like they probably try to teach that at Christian-based home schools like the situation in which your child was educated.

To Publix: Please update your online ordering system (or train your bakery workers to carefully read the comments section of online orders). Or suspend online ordering until wrinkles like this get ironed out. Please: iteram conare (try again). Maybe next time you’ll get it right.

(Note: I don’t know Latin and I’m relying on Google translate so if you’re a Latin expert, feel free to correct me!).

THE KIDS BEING SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS

The New York Times says “more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4” at various stations along the US-Mexico border.

One of many questions about this complex issue: is President Trump’s administration starting to use the threat of separating children from their parents as a deterrent to trying to cross into the US?

Furthermore, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has “reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were” according to the Arizona Republic.

The issue of how/when/why/where we allow people from other countries to cross into ours is bigger and different from the fact that children should remain with their parents.

Here are some articles to read. I am frankly trying to digest it all myself, so at this point the best I can do is say is “read this,” pray if you are a praying person, and act in some tangible way.

From the New York Times (may be behind a paywall): Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border

From PBS Frontline: HHS Official Says Agency Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Unaccompanied Minors

From the Arizona Republic (opinion piece): Montini: The feds lost – yes, lost – 1,475 migrant children 

From Vice: What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like

From Political Charge: #WhereAreTheChildren: How to Help

My Take

I think many of us in our country are awfully selective about how we use hashtags regarding other people’s children. Remember how we all got behind #BringBackOurGirls when Boko Haram abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria but many people in the US took more of a #SendBackTHEIRGirls attitude when so many children from El Salvador arrived in Arizona in 2014?

In this case, termed #WhereAreTheChildren widely on social media, the girls (and boys) are here in the US. Decisions must be made about their long-term whereabouts, but in the meantime they should be #WithTheirParent.

I am so fortunate to have been able to travel to El Salvador (and Guatemala) with Unbound. These week-long trips only scratched the surface of truly understanding the issues faced by people (especially women and children) in Central America. Although this is a HUGE understatement, the desperation many of these people feel to leave their countries is born of life-threatening risk day and day out (not to mention restricted access to education and difficulty earning enough to survive).

As the Vice article I link to above notes, one parent was separated from her children upon arriving in the US then assigned a bond “too high for her to pay—$12,500—deeming her a flight risk for being connected to a gang, when her sole connection was the harm they did her [the woman reported being beaten in front of her children by MS-13 gang members].”

Although I am a citizen unwilling to wait until some hypothetical next time, for the purpose of this discussion, Maybe next time a child won’t be forcibly separated from a parent, lost in an administrative maze and exposed to potential human trafficking. But let’s make “next time” immediate.

NOTE

It’s ironic that today’s post is devoted in part to advocacy. I just revised my LinkedIn profile to delete one of my favorite parts of my profile, the fact that I am an advocate. I decided it may be confusing potential employers. Rest assured I will always be an advocate. ALWAYS.

But I need a full-time job. Therefore, if you have any leads (Tallahassee or remote), I would appreciate you letting me know.  Here’s my LinkedIn profile. I am looking for communications work (writing, editing, proofreading, social media) but also have extensive health policy experience. And I can promise a solid work ethic, professionalism and enthusiasm wherever I end up. I took a necessary detour through the world of caregiving for a few years, performed it willingly and lovingly, but it’s time to help pay for these two college educations for which I am responsible and get back on a full-time professional track again.

I doubt it will happen by next Sunday (although you never know!) but maybe next time (or soon) I post a blog, I’ll be doing it with a fond word or two of farewell to the gig economy as I move on.

BACK TO “WITH” AND “CUM”

The only way I know to wind this up is to offer to bring a cake inscribed #WithTheirParent to a postcard-writing party or other advocacy event (about this issue of the missing kids).

Who’s up for it?

This post was written in response to a Kat Bouska prompt: “Write a blog post the ends with the sentence: Maybe next time!:

parents with children

 

Happy 15th Birthday, LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is turning 15. (The birthday is the subject of this blog, along with some interesting infographics about how the world has changed over the 15 years)

As part of their birthday celebration, LinkedIn is encouraging people to share their career aspirations when they were 15 years old.

LinkedIn

#WhenIWas15

I am actually taking this post in a different direction (surprise!) but I am nothing if not a rule follower, so to answer the question about career aspirations when I was 15, here goes:

I don’t recall specifically what my big career dreams were at 15. I was still heavily involved in music (band), but didn’t plan to major in music. I was probably already leaning toward psychology/mental health, but still had strong political aspirations and a business orientation. Given that the summer I graduated from high school (at 17), I spent the summer knocking on doors trying to save souls, I’m pretty sure I also was still considering being a missionary. Whatever I planned to do, I am sure travel was a must. It always has been.

And most of our pictures are packed away due to our house being for sale, so my “Me at 14” picture will have to do for the pic LinkedIn wants.

LinkedIn

Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About You, Birthday Site

It occurred to me it would be much more fun/interesting to talk about LinkedIn, which has changed so much over the 15 years. Here are 15 somewhat randomly organized observations about the good, the bad, and the mystifying.

1 – LinkedIn is an important part of the social media landscape

When Sree Sreenivasan presented How to Use Social Media in Your Career through the New York Times, he listed LinkedIn first among five social media options, noting it has 500 million members, calling it the “quintessential professional network.”

I tend to think LinkedIn is here to stay, having made it 15 years.

2-  LinkedIn is a useful and varied place to find content

One of my tasks at my freelance position is searching for timely posts about legal practice management issues that also meet specific editorial guidelines. When all my usual go-to options fail, LinkedIn is sometimes helpful.

If you’re not in a position of having to be picky about editorial criteria, I think you could find something about almost anything remotely business-related on LinkedIn.

I tried to think of something relatively obscure to search for on LinkedIn and came up with vinegar. That led me (through a content search) to:

LinkedIn

3 – Having to explain LinkedIn to someone else helped me understand it better

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to be an assistant in a LinkedIn workshop for sales professionals. Isn’t it always the case that you learn more about something by having to explain it to someone else? The experience gave me more confidence with LinkedIn as I helped participants figure out how to set up their accounts and how to get the most out of them. (Big thanks to Becky Robinson for her role in giving me this chance.)

4 – Posting on LinkedIn for a client is a great way to learn more about how to navigate LI

Two of the freelance positions I have held in the past four years have involved posting to LinkedIn on behalf of clients. Doing this has been another way to expand my LinkedIn abilities and give me a different perspective. Holding someone else’s professional image in your hands (at your keyboard?) or that of an organization is a big responsibility.

5 – When LinkedIn introduced live video as an option, that was an asset

I don’t agree with all the changes LinkedIn has made over the years, but this is one I liked. “If a video is available, 60% of visitors will opt to watch it before reading any text,” according to Replay Science. Presenting material through video is more likely to get someone’s attention (that’s what you want, right?). Also, the process of delivering material through video helps you practice your presentation and videography skills, something we all need anyway.

6 – Hashtags, on the other hand…

Call me old school, call me hesitant to change, call me whatever. I’m not a fan of hashtags on LinkedIn. I recently argued, during a conference call with a freelance team I was on, that they shouldn’t be used. Au contraire, they argued. Use them or don’t do our social. Well okay.

The thing is, the organization wanting the hashtags was right, as this post attests. Read more about Hashtags on LinkedIn here.

One reason I don’t like hashtags on LinkedIn is that, when I was posting for a client on Buffer or Hootsuite, I had to do their posting separately because a hashtag would give away the fact that I was bulk posting across several sites at once. It was a check and balance that made me try to add something unique to their LinkedIn posting. I guess I should just be happy for the streamlined workload. Maybe I just like doing things the hard way and am a glutton for punishment. I prefer thinking I care about my clients’ content being the best, most attractive, most compelling it can be.

7 – And GIFS, on the “other” other hand

I just learned that LinkedIn now accepts GIFS within its messages component.

Why, LI, why?

via GIPHY

8 – Writing articles on LinkedIn (along with other activities) can still be awkward and cumbersome

The LinkedIn user interface has improved over the years (hopefully we all get better with age), but it can still feel clunky, non-intuitive and confusing to me. Back in 2015, co-founder Reid Hoffman was quoted in The Next Web as saying:

I think some people find it very confusing. That’s absolutely the case and there’s definitely more work we can do.

Keep working on it, LinkedIn. Please.

9 – Keywords are of paramount importance

Keywords matter now more than ever on LinkedIn (and this, of course, is not unique to LinkedIn). This is one I am better at parroting than implementing, apparently, but I am learning. Former LinkedIn staff member Jeremy Schifeling of Break Into Tech says keywords are critical to making you “findable” when he lists the only four things that matter on LinkedIn.

10 –  I don’t know how long I’ve been on LinkedIn

I would have referenced how long I’ve been on LinkedIn if I could figure out how to do that. See also #7, about the difficult interface. Twitter has its faults, but one of them isn’t the ease of figuring out how long I’ve been there. (The discovery below took me one click.)LinkedIn

11 – Networking metrics are difficult to follow

This is another category that I have trouble figuring out sometimes. There’s a difference between connections and followers. I had to gather number of connections for a former freelance client, and every single month I had to dig through her profile in a byzantine manner to figure it out (it’s harder when someone has more than 500 connections). I got it right for her every month, but it was so frustrating to not have an easy way.

12 – Having a premium account gives you more benefits, but can be expensive

I have not yet personally seen the benefit of paying for a LinkedIn premium account, but it does give users more benefits. One of my clients had premium and I did have a bit of an “ooh-aah this is cool” reaction every time I used it. Here’s one breakdown to help you decide and here’s another.

13 – LinkedIn can be important to personal branding

[Note: I got this one from 5 LinkedIn tips to strengthen your personal brand (and I agree with its premise).]

Any senior leader who is interviewing, partnering, mentoring, and attending or speaking at conferences needs to create the right online impression to match their personal brand and values. – Sandra Long, author of LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide.

14 – I struggle to figure out how much to segregate the personal from the professional

In my mind, LinkedIn is for professional content mainly.

However, I don’t comply with my own beliefs.

I do think the site has become more blurry about personal vs. professional. When I was looking for vinegar-related content (see #2 above), there were several recipes and gorgeous food photographs to scroll past before I found a business article about vinegar. For a moment, I thought I may have inadvertently ended up on Instagram.

I still try to skew content to the professional side even if it is mostly personal. For instance, when I wrote about caregiving, I usually prefaced a link on LinkedIn with “your employees may be experiencing caregiving stress” or something similar.

Ultimately, though, I’m not that much of a “compartmentalization” sort of person (rightly or wrongly). What you see (or read) is what you get, and I bring my whole self to work, in general. In addition, since writing is part of my professional profile, pretty much everything I post is a potential work sample.

15 – LinkedIn is useful for job-hunting

LinkedIn is an effective tool for job hunting. Despite its good and bad points, it is a place to share your expertise, network and pursue opportunities.

Happy Birthday, LinkedIn

In the LinkedIn Turns 15 post, Allen Blue says the platform’s initial tagline was “relationships matter.” Although some of the interface issues make it a bit difficult to pursue those relationships sometimes, the platform does make a difference for those of us who commit time and energy to it.

Keep on making a difference, LinkedIn. And Happy Birthday.

Note: I am linking this post to a Kat Bouska prompt, “write a post inspired by the word time.”

LinkedIn

 

Deciding How Many Kids to Have

A dear friend posted questions to  Facebook today in a “thinking out loud” way about how to make decisions regarding whether to have another baby.

Before I proceed to break down why I made the childbearing choices I did, I respect every family’s choice. I respect the choice not to have children or to have 18 children (or to have no children). But sharing our stories and rationales is helpful, I think, so here’s mine.

How many kids to have

If you know me, or have read my blog, you know I have two children.

How many kids to have

Family ties.
Credit: Mark Bass Photography

I was an only child (for all intents and purposes*). This was the main driver for feeling strongly about having more than one.

In retrospect, I went overboard in feeling sorry for myself about my only child status. My mom lost a baby at term two years before I was born. Now that I have been through two pregnancy losses (at much earlier stages than she lost my brother), I have a tremendous amount of respect for the courage it takes to keep trying.

I know that my children’s personal histories have many more years in which to grow and develop, but my fantasy was that they would be close to one another. I didn’t observe them to be especially close growing up. Maybe that will change as they grow further into adulthood.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been close to a sibling. But I always wanted to know.

I also feel the weight of having been the only egg in my parents’ basket. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to pray for a child, lose a child, finally have a child, just to have a disrespectful, resentful daughter. (I know most teenagers go through a disrespectful, resentful stage but this still weighs on me, especially now that I have been a parent myself.)

Whether to adopt

In the comments my friend received about her decision, there were the “I loved being pregnant” people and the “pregnancy was the worst thing ever people.” I loved being pregnant. Loved it.

That said, I have seen so many positive adoption (and foster parenting) stories among my friends. I know I would have been sad to have not been able to be pregnant, but I like to think I would have been open to adoption.

I have a friend who is an advocate for foster parenting, and I admit I feel a little pull every time she posts about how great the need is for foster parents. I feel guilty for saying this, but we’re not there (ready) as a family/couple right now.

Remaining childless

My friend already has one child, so remaining childless isn’t part of her decision tree. But I feel compelled to address this. I’m not sure why society is so judgmental about people who decide to have children or not. Having a child(ren) is the absolute last thing you should do solely to satisfy a societal expectation.

For me, having kids is all I ever wanted. I have never regretted it. But it’s not for everyone at all.

On the flip side, the current spate of articles about how unbearable other people’s children are makes me wonder how we have abandoned tolerance and patience for the fact that children in public ……. are childish sometimes.

Summary: What I would tell my friend

My decision (regarding having a third) was made for me. I lost two pregnancies at early stages, then as I was trying again, I learned I was in early menopause. Boom! Decision made.

Society puts pressure on you to have a certain kind of family, with a certain number of children, a certain number of years apart. Try to shut off all that noise, confer with your spouse, and make the decision that is right for you.

Even though my children don’t (yet) have the bond I hoped they would have, I am thankful they each have a sibling. Right this very moment I am not overwhelmingly grateful that I am paying for two kids in college simultaneously (they are three years apart), but that’s one small period of time in the scheme of things that add up to a lifetime.

As I got older, after losing the two pregnancies (I was in my last half of my 30s by then), I thought often of all the things that could go wrong with my “old eggs.” My son was being tested for a developmental disorder at the time, so I was acutely aware of the increased chance of something going wrong. It turns out he was fine, by the way.

I kept asking myself, however, the opposing question. What if everything goes right?

I have a hard time in life in general not locking in on all the “what if’s.”

Even as an upper middle class American, I haven’t been able to give my children all things many of their friends had or all the things they wanted. But I did give them all the things they needed. Most importantly, I gave them unconditional love 24/7.

I ask myself every day if I have parented well. Whatever the answer to that is, I know I have parented with love. I am a person of faith, so I tend to believe I got, from a parenting perspective, what I was supposed to have.

Lucky me.

This post was written in response to the Kat Bouska prompt “Write a blog post inspired by the word: break.”

*I have two half brothers. We did not grow up together, but I love them.

7 Personal Finance Lessons from Unexpected Sources

Taxes.

That’s what is happening after this post is done (or at least enough of the process to file an extension).

Therefore, this may be my longest post ever (just kidding).

One of Kat Bouska’s prompts this week is “List 7 things you would recommend to a friend this month.” Because finances and taxes are so heavy on my mind, here are seven interesting things I’ve read, seen or discussed recently ….. and a personal finance tie-in for each.

Goats Stranded on a Bridge

Two goats in Pennsylvania wandered out onto a bridge overpass and got stuck. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation came to their rescue, using a snooper crane to position an employee so he could grab one goat, then coax the other one to safety by tapping (it probably wasn’t exactly a “tap” I guess) on the rim of the overpass.

Photo credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Facebook Page

Tie-in

“They deftly walked along the beam with their very small feet,” the article says. Once they were out there, though, they encountered an obstacle and couldn’t complete the crossing. Sometimes we get ourselves into financial positions that we did not anticipate at first. 

Nugget McFluffyhead

Nugget the lamb is one of three lambs born to a Maine lamb. Nugget’s mom, however, rejected Nugget, whose two siblings were more aggressive and monopolized her two teats. That’s what led Greg Purinton-Brown and his wife Heide to decide to hand raise Nugget.

Personal Finance Lessons

Photo Credit: Toddy Pond Farm Instagram

Tie-in

“A ewe only has two teats, and the other triplets were getting there first,” the article says. As much as we would it to be the case, there’s never enough money or time to do it all; failing to speak up or assert yourself for your share may threaten your survival.

The Penzeys American Heart and Soul Box

Penzey’s Spices is giving away their eight-blend American Heart and Soul Box (a $34.95 value) for free. All customers have to do is pay shipping ($7.95)!

Personal Finance Lessons

Photo Credit: Penzeys.com

Tie-in

Penzey’s put together this box to highlight the soul that cooks of all different origins bring to our nation, calling some of the blends, “testaments to the ever-renewing role immigration continues to play in seasoning the American spirit.” Penzey’s also says one way we can help our nation be more unified is to cook. That’s it, to cook. It turns out cooking at home is good for the budget too. Save money by cooking at home.

Cosmo Loves Thumper

My friend and coach, Kristie, welcomed Thumper the bunny into her home. Cosmo the golden retriever turned out to be the most protective, loving, nurturing BunnyDad (BunnyBrother?) ever.

Personal Finance Lessons

Tie-in

Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance to love someone new, two-legged or four. In personal finance, too, there are times that make taking a chance worthwhile. Volunteering can turn into compensated work. Making the effort to share your work can get your name and brand more recognition. You might also help someone, which feels good in itself. 

Bless the Seeds Before They’re in the Ground

The La Semilla Food Center celebrated its 5-year-anniversary with a seed blessing. The non-profit says on its website that it is “dedicated to fostering a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.”

They also have a cool/humorous sign:

Personal Finance Lessons

Source: La Semilla Instagram

Tie-in

I am taken with the idea of infusing the seeds at the earliest stage possible, before they have turned into a full-grown plant or yielded any fruit. I know this may sound like an exaggeration, but when I do social media for clients, I do see every tweet or other piece of social media posted as a sort of ministry (and I don’t mean that in a necessarily spiritual way). I can’t say this has panned out for me (yet), but be intentional and passionate about every stage of your work and it is more likely to pay off than if it is viewed as “just another job to do.”

Write Down Your Goals

I was the lone voice in the wilderness in support of this statement (on Facebook) this past week among people I value and respect deeply.

Personal Finance Lessons

NOTE: I added the “unknown” (because I don’t know who said it) and “unwanted” (because no one in the thread wanted this quote).

Here’s the thing — and maybe I made a HUGE assumption that because I have clung to the sentiment behind a quote like this (Brian Tracy’s “3% of people have written goals and the other 97% work for them) as one of my main life mantras for so long, then they should (or would) feel as attached as I do. AU CONTRAIRE.

To be clear, my love of the Tracy quote isn’t about wanting to be in charge of legions of people (my time doing that at Healthy Kids left me with lessons learned that will make me a different supervisor in the future). It’s purely about the fact that written goals are more likely to be attained than unwritten ones. Period.

Tie-in

When it comes to your finances, write down your goals. They’re more likely to be achieved that way. 

Get Naked

Oh wait ……… not THAT kind of naked. Naked with your partner about money.

As my husband and I try to resolve some issues we created for ourselves (that were somewhat exacerbated by my working part-time while my father-in-law was with us for three years), I think often of how the path that got us here hinges on our failure to have some basic discussions about finances and values early on.

Why Couples Need to Get Financially Naked recommends these types of questions early in a relationship:

  • What are the three most important money lessons you learned growing up?
  • What are your three biggest money worries?
  • What are your three biggest goals?
  • What are the three most important ways you want to use money to leave a legacy?

Tie-in

Being on the same page as a couple helps alleviate stress (because financial conflict will always be a part of any relationship).

Personal Finance Lessons

Personal Finance Lessons

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2017: A Little Cheering Section for Caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month and Thanksgiving is almost here! That means it is time, for the third year, to create tokens of appreciation for the caregivers at Tallahassee’s Elder Day Stay. (Here’s a look back at Year One and Year Two.)

Caregiver Support

Why does it matter to say “thank you” in this small way to caregivers?

Caregiving is Expensive

The costs of home, community, and facility care of elder family members has increased over the past year. According to Genworth Financial, the national median daily rate of Adult Day Health Care (providing social and support services in a community-based, protective setting) is $70, a 2.94% change since 2016 and a five-year annual growth rate of $2.79%.

Caregiving is Messy

I have grown to hate (or at least to try to tune out) most advertising around the caregiving options for elderly family members. The sweet grandma reading a story to an attentive grandchild, the sentimental music playing in the background as families gaze lovingly upon one another, the clean, seemingly chaos-free homes.

That wasn’t the case for us, and I doubt many caregiving families could relate to a situation that doesn’t involve bodily fluids, mystery smells, and stains of undetermined origin. This post lists several reasons elderly people lose momentum in the hygiene department, including depression, control (definitely a factor for us), and the fact that their senses have dimmed so much that they may not see or smell their deteriorating physical state.

(That’s why I always include hand sanitizer in the appreciation tokens — we should own stock we went through so much of it.)

Caregiving is Important, Minimally Rewarded Work

According to GoodTherapy.org, “Thirty-five percent of caregivers find it difficult to make time for themselves, while 29% have trouble managing stress, and another 29% report difficulty balancing work and family issues.”

One small token of appreciation can’t reverse the challenges created by caregiving, BUT it can remind the people doing this important work that they are not forgotten, and that their needs are recognized.

And since I like keeping it real, let’s throw in one more toilet reference. When I was looking for a great quote with which to end this post, I found (ta-da!) a rising toilet seat. It is not only elevated (we had that) BUT it has little (okay, maybe not so little — they say they handle up to 450 pounds) “lifters” that help the elderly person get up from the toilet without a human caregiver helping them. It’s one “uplifting” item in their world that quite literally DOES lift them up.

Giving these Thanksgiving tokens is a little bit like that — a small lift that lightens one small fragment of a caregiver’s day.

If You Want to Help

I got a late start this year (and I don’t have caregiving to blame!), so I am still finalizing a few details regarding how many caregivers there will be this year, but I’m working from an assumption of “50” and I’ll come in and update as things get refined.

Here’s what I hope to include:

A Sharpie (the participants at adult day stay mark their belongings with Sharpie).

Hand sanitizer (remember the “messy” paragraph above?)

A candy bar (everyone deserves a treat!)

If you’re local and can help, let me know. If you’re not local, and want to contribute, feel free to send donations via Paypal to opuswsk @ aol.com with the notation “Thanksgiving 2017.”

I invite you to help me be part of the “little cheering section” for a deserving group of caregivers.

Caregiver Support

I am linking this post up to Mama’s Losin’ It this week — for the prompt “Write a blog post inspired by the word: messy.” (Also – pro tip – if you’re a cat lover, visit Kat’s post about her foster kittens. So cute!)