Farms and fields and family

This morning we drove out to Sugarloaf Mountain, MD to see our friend David at his bountiful farm and market on Comus Road. What a lovely excursion except that the kids had a loud case of the "gimmes":

I want that 60 lb. pumpkin
I'm hungry, let's get cider
can we?
could we?
when? . . .

Why? I steamed silently. Why must we bring all of the city's materialism with us wherever we go? Don't they get that farms are sacred? Haven't I been pushing that hard enough?

And that's when I had to lighten up. Farms are not sacred to children. They are seen (at least by my children) as liberating spaces, with room for all to be him/herself. The sensory triggers kids encounter on the farm are expressed transparently; the fear, the joy, the boredom.

Gross: There's mud everywhere.
You guys think farms are so great. (eyes rolling)
Watch out for those bees!
I want that $60 pumpkin.
You have too many rules, mom.

We did our browsing, helped David unload a few fresh pumpkins from his tractor, then headed along the country roads to the next stop. That's when I heard my son say, "I want a farm someday." Comforting words, I thought. Then a twinkle rose up to my eye.



14 takeaways from Gel Health 2009

Gel Health, the 1-day conference on Patient Experience, was held in New York City this week. Since this was my first Gel Conference I wasn't sure what to expect. But by mid-morning break I too had joined the tribe of Gel devotees.

I wish I could share the complete experience with you, but it would be impossible to capture the attention of the audience, the sound of laughter (and tears) in the theater, the thrill we felt listening to the steady drumbeat of what's right in health care (in a time when all we hear is what is so wrong). So, while I took pages of notes, the 14 takeaways below are not quotes as much as they are my paraphrasing of speakers' thoughts that made an impact on me:
  1. We need food, housing, [health care], jobs…yes. But we also need roses. Cathy Salit, CEO Performance of a Lifetime
  2. The [health care] system is designed to deliver technology . . . it is designed for the doctor, surgeon, health care worker, but not the patient. Bridget Duffy Former Chief Experience Officer, Cleveland Clinic
  3. It was risky . . . but I went forward. [I learned that] when you’ve played together, you work differently together. Sharon Krumm, Director of Nursing, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
  4. Cooking is a disruptive technology in Health Care . . . [And a related thought:] Is it medical error to offer sodas and high sodium foods in a hospital setting? John LaPluma, ChefMD
  5. We need courageous, “True North” style leaders in the C-Suite of every hospital out there. We also need Patient Advisory Councils. Dan Ford, Patient Advocate
  6. 2/3 of medical errors are not disclosed. And yet, “To err is human, to forgive divine. “ [Patients and providers] must move toward forgiveness. Sigall Bell, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital
  7. The focus is on living [not on dying]. Living is what will get you through. Mark Pochapin, Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health
  8. Dancing is one of the most pleasurable experiences... I wanted to do something different. I did not want to contribute to a person self-identifying with their disease. Olie Westheimer, Founder, Dance for PD, with Mark Morris
  9. Good experience isn’t just about storytelling; it's about performance. Mark Hurst, Founder Gel Conferences
  10. Patient experience must take into account a person’s environment . . . where they come from, their level of health literacy. You don’t know what you don’t know. Javette Orgain, MD, Family Physician, Chairperson, Illinois State Board of Health
  11. Once when one of our clowns was juggling in the ICU, a doctor said, “Clowns don’t belong in the ICU.” To which I replied, “Neither do children.” Michael Christensen, Founder of The Big Apple Circus and Clown Care
  12. This was not something I figured out in an Excel spreadsheet . . . We hire people because they are talented AND because they are willing to be vulnerable. Michael Christensen, Founder of The Big Apple Circus and Clown Care
  13. The more I looked into the eyes of the homeless, the more I saw myself . . . People have layers and layers that need to be peeled back. [The way we practice conventional medicine] is not reality based; it suits a billing structure, or a hospital setting . . . but it doesn’t fit us. Jim Withers, MD, Founder Operation Safety Net
  14. The patient has been saved . . . and now what do you do? . . . We were becoming therapists. Then our son said, “I want you as my Dad not as my therapist.” Ken Trush, Co-Founder of Daniel’s Music
I look forward to staying connected with new friends and to attending Gel Health again next year. Won't you join us? Sign up here for Gel Health 2010.


No despair allowed: Climate change for kids

Today is Blog Action Day for Climate Change. I thought I'd post a few few ideas from a parent's perspective:

We parents are in a tough spot when it comes to telling our kids the story of climate change. Should we tell the whole truth? A partial truth? Should we be abstract or specific with our language? Finally, how outwardly obsessed and directive should we be over climate change at home?

There are many excellent approaches out there. We need them all. Yet, the approach I favor goes like this:

Keep my sense of humor engaged and invite an open, ongoing dialog with the kids. Since I am in the midst of making changes myself, the light touch helps me deal with inconsistencies. Above all, I try to keep an upbeat tone. I believe a "We can do it" tone will build the most eco-intelligence for the next generation. So, there is
no despair allowed when you talk to your kids about climate change. Here are a few ideas to help you put it into practice:
  • Weave climate change and shifting habitats into the discussion of many topics you visit: Places you love, oceans of the world, stars, food, farms, animals, the environment, money, style.
  • Remind yourself that change starts at home, then show the kids "out loud" examples where you don't recycle correctly, where your choices were less than perfect. Often, they catch my "Duhs!" and give me a good ribbing. "Mom, you should do this, not that." I let them teach me.
  • Look at cars in the neighborhood. Who is driving a big rig that eats up gasoline? Who has a cool compact car? "What kind of car would you like to drive?" I'll ask. Yeah, we get sidetracked looking at all the brands, but generally, kids get that a big car is no longer a sign of a person's affluence or success. In fact, it is often a sign of a person's unconsciousness.
  • Look at food packaging. There is now an entire aisle in my supermarket devoted to snack size this and snack size that. It appears that portion control was the driving factor in that product design. So, portion control brought an abundance of packaging to deal with. Is that a step forward? Why not eat an apple instead of those "whistling cheeze dots?"
  • Finally, tell a story that creates a backdrop for the fear and the anxiety you have for the planet. I love to tell stories about changing habitats. I bring the dilemma of scarcity into the hearts and minds of animals my kids love to conjure: the polar bears, exotic birds, penguins, etc. Stories tell us where we've been, where we are now, and where we'd like to go.
Have a go at it. Keep it real and let it evolve into a bigger conversation as the kids mature. We'll need their help designing lives that contribute to environmental health. Why not get them started early?


Visible invisibility on Twitter

French filmmaker Jean Renoir is credited as saying something like, "If you want to portray a man suffering loneliness, shoot a scene of him in a crowd." . . .

Recalling this quote made me think about Twitter and how using it can make a person feel very lonely at times. See, one never can be or have "enough" on Twitter, right? It's endless. And endless things are ... well, lonely.

She has more followers.
He is more clever.
That one is attractive.
His job sounds like a dream.
Those guys RT each other constantly.
She's vague.
He never RTs anyone.
Yay! She noticed what I said.
Why are they asking me to RT?
I would like to Tweet this, but I shouldn't
Everyone is Here or There but me
This is all bull
And more like that . . .

Anyone who has spent time on Twitter can relate to feeling a bit emptied out at times.

Visible Invisible
Contributing to that emptiness is the growing number of "visible invisible" tweets that don't add a thing to the conversation. They aren't quite spam, but come very close. They don't make you laugh, but neither do these Tweets touch your heart. The Twitters that I feel play the "visible invisible" game actually evoke in me the image of a noisy toddler coming into my house. The toddler who pulls out all the toys and settles into playing with none of them. It's an energy drain having a "visible invisible" type around... sucking the wind out of the room.

Build a feed that makes room for change
Tastes, opinions, desires, and opportunities change. There is a lot of room for fresh ideas and honest inquiry in the world. Building a stream that shows your personality is good practice. You will spot your weaknesses, celebrate your strengths. Your feed will be alive.

So, take a look. Does your feed allow you room to evolve your ideas? Or does that visible invisibility you pass on as expertise ultimately hold you back? Think about it.

Put yourself, not some idea of who you are supposed to be, into your tweets. You may build your character as much as your follower list.