Thursday, December 30, 2010

Here comes a new year!

Along with noise makers and the countdown, New Year’s Eve comes with a desire to look back and give the memories of the past year another look. Every year I wonder how 365 days could go by so fast. At the same time, I naturally begin to make room for the new memories about to arrive. Even the lyrics of the traditional New Year’s Eve song, “Auld Lang Syne,” call for reflection: “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never be brought to mind…” I think old acquaintances contain treasures that are exclusive to long term relationships and provide confidence for the path into a new year.

Before 2010 draws to a close, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to both old and new acquaintances who have supported my call to action through Be the Change. If you prayed, encouraged, trusted or believed in the vision, please know I am extremely grateful. Be the Change has made great strides because of this support. Many lives and relationships have been impacted by patient and family stories, including the one that inspires Be the Change. Our story started long ago with a divine purpose in Michael, the change maker and dream weaver.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” That’s what Michael did - he paved a path and left a trail. In 2011, Be the Change will continue to journey on that path, giving a voice to the patient and family perspective in health care. Be the Change will build upon the foundation of 2010 to establish new partnerships that nurture the human experience thereby improving the medical one.

Michael’s life, a model of courage and unlimited spirit, left a trail for each and every one of us. This new year, make a path, leave a trail and Be the Change.

“For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely you'll buy your pint cup and surely I'll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Happy New Year 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Christmas story

A young man seated among first year medical students at a Be the Change presentation last Friday asked me, “What did it take for your family to stay intact amidst so much medical crisis?” My answer flowed easily since I’m absolutely sure of what it took.

I expressed my gratitude to this student from Mayo Medical School for asking the question. It gave me the opportunity to talk about the real human experience, which for us includes unfailing love consistently received from family and friends. There was the answer; it takes love and lots of it. Love exemplified by selfless service to our family is what sustained us, making us resilient. It continues to supply the strength we need to keep pressing forward.

Although loving service is a free gift, it’s sometimes difficult to receive especially when pride wants some space. Yet, when able to humbly receive you view something greater than yourself. Through grace, love becomes tangible by a blessing chosen specifically for you, answering prayers of the faithful.

Thankfully I say we are loved beginning with the One who loves us most. Love and kindness demonstrated to us in our desperate need by the hands and feet of family and friends, even strangers. It’s our own version of the Christmas story; people making room for us, giving what they had. Similar to what was done for a weary couple in Bethlehem thousands of years ago.

My hope and prayer is that you too receive deep, unconditional love and because you experience it, you are changed. And if ever you are asked what it will take you can reply, without doubt; it is love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011 from Be the Change.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nothing like a snow storm

When my kids were school age, a snow storm always began with the hope that Lakeville schools would close. That would lead to cries of disappointment and frustration as they watched the school alerts go from the letter L to N announcing, New Prague School Closed. Not Lakeville Schools however, never Lakeville according to my children. Even more annoying was that they had to go to school knowing their cousins living in New Prague had the day off, but not them.

Finally home from school backpacks were set aside, replaced with the proper outdoor gear required for playing in the snow. The best was when there was enough snow for the plowing professionals (actually our wonderful neighbors) to pile the snow near our house, making the perfect spot for sliding and snow fort construction.

A picture of Michael that sits on my desk holds a precious memory of him in the snow. The picture was taken a snowy December similar to the one we are having now. My husband was outside clearing snow off the driveway and Michael was with him, as usual. Michael was playing in the snow pile directly in front of the kitchen window, perfect for me to keep an eye on him while I was preparing supper. I remember thinking how odd his bright green wheelchair looked as it sat abandoned next to the snow he was playing in. I hadn’t seen the orange ball of his winter hat pop up and down for a few minutes so I opened the front door and called his name. Out of the snow popped his sweet face all covered with snow. With a big grin he yelled, “Here I am Mom, I’m digging a tunnel.”

In that moment, Michael didn’t have a rare disease. He didn’t need to use his wheelchair. He was just a boy playing in the snow. I stood by the door a few more minutes debating with him about the time he should come in for supper. He was wishing he could stay outside just a little bit longer and I was wishing his life could always be that simple.

Waking up Saturday morning to the blustery snow storm, I thought about the excitement my kids would have had regarding this big storm, especially if it wasn’t on the weekend. This time even Lakeville would have surely cancelled school. I gazed at the picture of Michael in the snow tunnel he dug in December 2003. Memories of the simplicity in that evening came rushing in, as well as, thoughts about the complexity in his young life back then, which seemed to crowd the memory. Painful dialysis had just begun and a kidney transplant loomed on the horizon. Life in a wheelchair, especially during the winter, was added to the list of challenges he faced.

There’s nothing like a snow storm, which comes blowing in without permission changing plans, canceling school events, and altering the busy holiday season. Another perspective provides us with an opportunity to create your own tunnel either in the snow or to your soul. Enclosed by the stillness of a blizzard day, you find solace there. Whatever your tunnel, know it can hold you joyfully captive, even for just a little while, by the simplest of pleasures winter weather has to offer.

Put value in moments rather than months; an excellent way to Be the Change.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What a great Godmother

I can remember back when I was little, how she came to the Christmas parties held for my Mom’s side of the family, with the most beautifully wrapped gifts I ever saw. The paper perfectly matching the giant bow, exquisitely tied with her creative hands. One year she gave me a golden colored jewelry box that I honestly thought was made of real gold. Each time we met she would proudly announce my name in a way that made me feel special. From my view,
she was the one who was special.

I’m referring to my Godmother Maxine. She went to heaven last week following a courageous seven year battle with cancer. Giving every kind of treatment a try, she definitely fought like a true warrior. When her body began to fail, it was her spirit that remained strong. While visiting her a few months ago, I commented about the beautiful perfume bottles in her bathroom and the memories I had as a young girl admiring the bottles she had then. Each one unique and beautifully displayed on a glass tray placed upon her bathroom counter, just waiting for use. Back then, I thought she was like Zsa-Zsa Gabor simply because she had so many elegant perfume bottles. I realize I still might think that, only because I know Aunt Maxine really is a super star.

Many women have influenced my life journey, my Mother, number one. Without a doubt, my Godmother is next on the list. Aunt Maxine was amazing; a great mother as well as a successful business woman. Her classy style, flair for fashion, plus many other talents, have left a permanent mark on me. They consistently demonstrated unlimited possibilities to a young farm girl like me. I’m extremely grateful for a loving relationship with a woman beautiful inside and out.

As my own cancer treatment became a fading memory, hers unfortunately increased. We discussed our human life experiences inside dreadful medical experiences and the need for improvements regarding the quality of health care. Now that Be the Change has moved from kitchen table discussion to action, Aunt Maxine and others like her will be the motivation in pressing forward. Advocating for the patient and family perspective to be fully represented in future health care relationships. Leading us to the day when a human experience will be as radical as the medical one.

From now on, I plan on wearing more fun jewelry and using beautiful perfume bottles in honor of my Godmother. Her spirit remains, helping identify ways to Be the Change.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, what next?

Monday morning my email inbox was filled with “Cyber Monday” advertisements enticing me to check out the great deals. I was reluctant especially since I never even finished looking at the huge stack of “Black Friday” sale ads last Thursday. I felt overwhelmed by each ad claiming to have the lowest prices ever. Really people, the lowest prices ever?

Regardless, Monday morning I just couldn’t resist the ease everyone claims is available by shopping online. I will admit that I did find a few nice things for a great Cyber Monday price but it took me all morning to browse through the multiple sites. I had a couple items in my shopping cart but ended up making zero purchases. I found it difficult to make a purchase without a tangible view. That shopping experience got me behind schedule in my work and a stiff neck. I fail to see the good value in all that, but of course that’s just me!

I am the kind of person that misses hotel keys, buttons marked on/off and pen on paper. I’m not even on Facebook yet. I prefer the kind of friends you invite over for dinner or meet for coffee. I like the convenience of computers and other technologies but only when they work properly. To be completely honest, I still feel as if my cell phone should only be used in the case of emergencies.

My online shopping attempt did give me some time to think while waiting for computer screens to change. What if the same focus and energy was put towards health care improvements? Imagine the endless possibilities for the patient, family and provider initiative with a Black Friday/Cyber Monday marketing budget available for enhancing health care relationships. We could call it Be the Change Everyday. No sales gimmicks, no need to stand in line or even make a minimum purchase. Just dependable advertising, defining simple and specific ways we can Be the Change everyday. Impacting the way health care is received and delivered everyday, making it the best deal ever.

Whether you prefer the convenience of shopping online, ad strategies or even getting up at midnight to be the first in line, have the same zeal for your everyday relationships. Quality personal, professional and health care relationships create a unique value. The investment will surely provide a return unlike any other, even in this economy. This holiday season Be the Change Everyday, even if you don’t see it advertised.