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"

Six Lessons From Six Years

When I read “Six Lessons Learned From Six Years of Life,” part of a tribute Aaron Sherinian paid to Rakan Stormer back in October, it moved me in its profound simplicity.

Rakan was born on April 20, 2010, and died in September 2016 from a Wilms Tumor, a rare pediatric cancer that currently has no cure. (Several of the children who have I Run for Michael buddies have Wilms Tumors and their families help inform those of us in the group about this disease.) Rakan’s mom is part of the incredible United Nations Foundation communications team, so I knew of Rakan because of my affiliation with Shot at Life, a UN Foundation program.

These lessons are timeless, compact thought packets to tuck away for those times when you feel like you may be losing your way.

Six Lessons Learned from Six Years of Life

Life is great when you are accompanied by that person you look for first thing in the morning, the person who you know and who knows you best. If that person is your big brother, even better.

Even little people have the power to do hard things.

Embrace your many heritages. They are what make you- and us- who we are.

It feels great to help people, and to be helped by loving friends, family and community. We all need each other.

Great things come in small packages, sometimes with giant, light-up-the-world smiles. Like Minions.

Our work here is unfinished. We are all still writing the pages in Rakan Stormer’s life.

~ Aaron Sherinian

Pediatric Cancer

Write a Page in Rakan’s Book

You don’t have to have known Rakan to help fill the pages of his life that are still to be written. Here are a few ways to help:

Follow his website here.

Make a contribution to support Wilms tumor research at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National in Rakan’s name.

Register to become a marrow donor through this link, which tracks people who got matched in memory of Rakan.

Pediatric Cancer

As Aaron said in his tribute, little people do have the power to do hard things. Whether you are “big” or “little,” let these six lessons from six years empower you to make a difference today.

Photos Courtesy of Zain Habboo, Rakan’s mom.

Fashionista, SpongeBob, or Princess?

What on earth is Paula talking about you may ask!

I am talking about a frivolous “rivalry” for an undeniably serious cause: saving children’s lives all over the world by vaccinating them.

I am happy to be a champion for Shot @ Life, the United Nations Foundation program that educates, connects, and empowers Americans to help protect children in developing countries from vaccine-preventable diseases*.

Around our world, 1 in 5 children do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Shot @ Life is developing and maintaining the momentum to help save a child’s life every 20 seconds.

I am grateful that Walgreens has partnered with Shot @ Life to donate a vaccine to Shot @ Life for every vaccine administered in their stores between now and October 14. The program is called “Get a Shot, Give a ShotTM.” A few features to note:

  • No appointment is necessary (although you can make an appointment here)
  • Most insurance is accepted
  • You receive 500 Balance Rewards points for every immunization

"The Shades"

Now, back to the frivolous part. I am dedicating next Saturday morning to my flu shot and wrapping a lovely Shot @ Life wrapper around the whole thing. I am going to park at Walgreens, get my hour-long scheduled run in (dedicating the miles to Shot @ Life via Charity Miles), slap on my Shot @ Life shades, wipe a little sweat off my brow so I don’t gross out the pharmacy staff, and get my flu shot.

Here’s where you come in. What type of Band-Aid should I use? We have:Fashionista (Cynthia Rowley to be precise):

fashionista bandaids



And SpongeBob (Glow in the Dark!):


Over the week I’ll be vetting the choices on social media. In a somewhat unscientific procedure, I’ll figure out which one is most popular and will happily use it post flu-shot and undoubtedly make some pharmacist wonder how all those years of pharmacy school led to having a picture taken with an almost-50-year old in green sunglasses wielding a glow in the dark (or Rapunzel …. or Cynthia Rowley) BandAid.

I’ll be interested in your thoughts about the BandAid choice but most importantly I would LOVE your participation — either through getting your flu shot at Walgreens (and by doing so getting a child vaccinated through Shot @ Life) — or by simply sharing the important message of Shot @ Life: that $20 (what some of us spend per week in coffee) can immunize a child against pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio!


Fashionista (sequins) won the contest! Here is the “evidence”!

Post Flu Shot post flu shot two

For more information:

Shot @ Life website:

Shot @ Life Facebook:

Shot @ Life Twitter:

Shot @ Life YouTube:

Shot @ Life Pinterest:


*Some verbiage taken from Shot @ Life materials.