Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stanford Medicine X: Spoon Assignment

The assignment:
For a collaborative art project, bring a spoon and on a notecard answer two questions in complete sentences.

What I'm bringing:

Written on the notecard:
Grapefruit Spoon -- serrated edges = what I often feel like during a fibromyalgia flare-up!
1) Poking my nose into everyone else's beeswax uses up way too much of my energy.
2) When I have energy, I like to use it for "meditation in motion" -- cooking, gardening, decor projects.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stanford Medicine X: Sorta Selfie Assignment

The assignment: 
One photo that shows you at work and expresses your passion for change and a brief sentence describing the photo.

What I sent in:

My passion? Communicating about change while hoping for transformation. 
The panda? Follow me on Twitter and it makes total sense.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Author's Life: I'm Declaring the Arrival of Autumn. Right Now.

Earlier this summer, my whimpering and whinging about not quite hunkering down to write my new book was met with sympathetic clucking from some and derisive-yet-loving laugh snorts by others.

Easy to distinguish between the cluckers and laugh-snorters. The laugh-snorters are those who have known me for many years; hardy souls who have observed my writing process throughout the course of writing -- or not writing and bitching about not writing -- previous books.

I thank God for these dearly beloved friends whose FFS response yanks me back to this reality: I have never never ever ever written book stuff during the summer months. Never. Ever. Never ever. These friends remind me that I've always spent the summer gardening (or did, when I had a garden), reading novels, binge watching mindless crap, avoiding sunlight, and praying for cloudy days.

You'd think I'd know this, but apparently it takes a mini-village to calm me the F down, to remind me how summer is my fallow season, that I come to life during the Fall when everything else starts dying. It's true. I perk right up when I see the green-gold of twilight happening earlier; when I hear cicadas chirr at a slower pace. Instead of searching for a cave to crawl into for the winter, I stumble out of the one I've created to escape summer.

There are several official ways to mark the beginning of Autumn. For most (in the USofA) it's Labor Day (September 1) and when the school year begins, even if school hasn't been attended for decades. Purists (of some sort) might insist on waiting for the Autumnal equinox on September 23.

But the air has been cool with crisp edges for many consecutive days. My Thai basil has gone to flower. The plane trees have been shedding bark for weeks. This morning I woke up feeling words forming sentences and paragraphs, which I welcomed as yet another sign that this ghastly season known as summer is finally coming to an end. Also, I suddenly have a hankering for meatloaf and baked potatoes.

So that's it, then. I'm declaring the arrival of Autumn and will stop bitching about not writing. Laugh snorts? Anyone?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stanford Medicine X (Part Deux): Pondering Illness and Self-Disclosure in the Digital Age

[2nd in a mini-series of posts about attending the Stanford Medicine X conference this September.]

As if I weren't already deep into pondering illness and self-disclosure in the digital age for the upcoming panel at Stanford Medicine X, this morning I woke up to a Mashable article reporting that Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson's Disease.

I zoomed in on these two paragraphs within the statement from Williams' wife, Susan Schneider:
"Robin's sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.
It is our hope in the wake of Robin's tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid."
I, for one, will be watching to see if and how the public conversation shifts from being about depression and alcoholism to being one about PD. And what if Robin Williams had gone public with this information? Annoying counterfactual or stimulus for thought? I hope it's the latter.

Thanks to digital technology, that care and support is now available 24/7 to anyone who is not only willing and able to access online communities of support, but willing to disclose what hurts and disturbs at all levels -- body, mind, and spirit.

At this point in the 21st century, people do seem more willing to use online social networking communities to disclose illness, chronic and/or terminal. Have online digital technologies in general, and online communities especially, changed the parameters of self-disclosure? I believe so. For the better? I say "yes" to that as well, although there can be unintended (but not unexpected) consequences of doing so.

This is exactly what Pam Ressler (@PamRessler), Susannah Fox (@SusannahFox), Colleen Young (@Colleen_Young) and I will address on Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 9AM during our panel, "Communicating the Experience of Illness in the Digital Age" at the Stanford Medicine X conference. And yes, we've created a special hashtag for it: #MedXsm

But wait, there's more! We decided to "flip" the panel, a technique grounded in the practice of "Flip Teaching" wherein students are invited to learn before getting into the classroom. It's a technique that generates more productive classroom engagement. It's also a technique gaining traction in the world of healthcare (see: Flip the Clinic, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative).

In practical terms, this means we're offering and inviting resources and conversation before heading out to Stanford. At the foot of this post you'll find links to blog posts from Pam, Susannah, and Colleen, plus one to the Storify that Susannah is curating.

Meanwhile, we want to know what you think about the new world of disclosure -- self or otherwise.

  • How has self-disclosure changed for you in the past five years?
  • What factors have led to those changes?
  • Are you more or less likely to engage with someone who openly discloses personal health information? If you're likely to engage, is it in public or via the back channel?
You're invited to carry on in the comments box. I'm hoping you do.

More Background
  • Pam Ressler's post about the panel: 2014 Medicine X: Communicating the Experience of Illness in the Digital Age, which addresses the abyss of understanding about what it means to live with chronic and/or terminal disease.
  • Susannah Fox's post about the historical context for sharing health and illness online: Communicating the experience of illness in the digital age
  • Colleen Young's post about self-disclosure and online community development: I want my sex life back! TMI? Or gold for online communities and their managers?
  • Storify with content and conversation about the upcoming panel, including highlights from the #hcsmca chat (August 6, 2014).
Attend MedX via livestream by registering for the 2014 Global Access Program.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stanford MedicineX is nigh upon me and maybe you too via the Global Access Program

[First in a mini-series of posts about attending the incomparable Stanford Medicine X conference this September.]

"You should apply for an ePatient scholarship to attend Stanford Medicine X." 

This was the fine, friendly and wise counsel I received many many months ago from someone* I've known for years, thanks to the world of healthcare social media. Uh, okay, I thought, although I choked a bit when I saw the application. It wasn't so much the length of it, but the invitation to disclose personal passions. 

I'm typically fine with doing that relative to healthcare industry issues. After all, I've worked in, for, and around the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries for decades; started writing about complementary medicine for consumer audiences during the late 1980s; have been a long time advocate of patient and caregiver access to useful, actionable medical information. I have no problem semi-humble bragging about working with (and now, for) the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (see this post about Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care). But I have not -- by choice -- been super-public about my (dodgy) personal health and (bizarre) medical adventures. 

All that is about to change because I did indeed receive an ePatient scholarship and will be heading to Palo Alto in a few weeks. In addition to participating as a Medicine X ePatient Delegate,** I'm honored to be on a panel about "Communicating the experience of illness in the digital age." 

More about that panel in the next post. Headline: grateful for this opportunity to talk about how digital has forever changed our cultural understanding, if not expectations, about self-disclosure.

For now, note that you can and may attend #MedX virtually, thanks to a top-quality streaming webcast. The 2014 Global Access Program is free, but you must register for it in advance. Click this link to register for the 2014 Global Access Program.

For more about Medicine X, dedicated to exploring how "emerging technologies will advance the practice of medicine, improve health, and empower patients," click this link.

For a look at the conference schedule, click this link.

*Big reveal: Nick Dawson.
** Don't get to label myself a 2014 ePatient Scholar until I attend and complete all assignments.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Considering the Ants

Yesterday I was all determined to call a pest control operator to deal with the ant situation, a situation I probably caused by putting out ant so-called traps. Shame on me. During my ad agency stint I worked on a pesticide account. 

That's right! Two years of writing about insecticides and termiticides in general, pyrethroids in particular. Two years that included hanging out with National Pest Control Association members. Guess what? They do not want to be called exterminators and I don't blame them. References to extermination of any kind make me want to sew jewelry into my jacket lining, triple wrap my food, and go into hiding. 

About ants...

I've been wiping them up with a damp sponge and rinsing them down the drain for the past couple of days, using the vacuum crevice tool to suck up the army of ants marching along the quarter round molding leading to the cat's dish. Tonight I'm wondering why I should bother. 

Turns out I really don't mind the itty bitty brown ones. Big burly carpenter ants with their tools belts and mandibles can take down a house. These "sugar" ants are harmless. And very industrious. I admire that.

Tonight, as I leaned against the kitchen sink eating watermelon and dripping its juice onto the counter I watched them scurry into action. Very organized. I admire that, too. No surprise that a verse from the Book of Proverbs soon moved from memory to consciousness: "...go to the ant; study its ways and learn."For now that's what I'm going to do.

*Proverbs 6:6, JPS

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Quote du Jour (Faith Department): "Irreverence is prophetic..."

This morning I woke up to an exchange about a HuffPo article between two of my fave Twitterati, @RevDaniel and @Drtysxyministry. Title of the article? "Irreverence Is the New Reverent." How could I not click through?

I did and once again, I must thank the Holy Spirit (and Twitter) for guiding me to exactly what I needed to read because lately I've been flaying myself for my tendency to laugh-snort (often derisively) at what gets trotted out as piety and faith, especially within the institutional church.

Even though I absolutely know that irreverence, especially in the form of humor, is an essential way to deal with church cray, I've been also feeling a wee bit...something. Ashamed? Guilty? Probably just weary.

In any event, this article by Cindy Brandt provided some great reminders about the value of irreverence. Much to read and ponder but here's a quote that zooms in on the essence of her passionate advocacy for irreverence:

The question isn't how we can find faith in irreverence but how we can find faith without it. Without questioning, doubt, and calling out what's real, how can faith be truly genuine? . . . The irreverent help us walk our spiritual journey with firmer footing to explore the boundaries beyond institutional faith. ─  Cindy Brandt