January 15, 2014

“What was accomplished?”

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September 14, 2013

30x30x30: What Not to Do When Your Eyes Are Tired

Filed under: Creative Expression,World Diabetes Day — Tags: , — Lee Ann @ 10:44 am

I spent a decent chunk of time updating the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange website yesterday. I was leaning towards not doing the postcard exchange at all this year because my ability to manage the logistics of it has not kept pace with people’s interest in participating. Also, in both 2011 and 2012, there were a lot of reports of missing/unreceived postcards. I tried to resolve those issues by recruiting people to send back-ups, but last year, there were so many people participating, it was impossible for me to resolve all the problems. As such, people were disappointed, in some cases, even angry, and in some cases, there were hurt, disappointed children on the non-receiving end. Obviously, I want people to have a good experience, and I feel terrible that not everyone did.

When I expressed my reluctance to have another postcard exchange, some of my DOC family and friends who volunteered last year encouraged me to do it, offering really good ideas for ways to address some of the issues we experienced last year. So I’m giving it another go. I already have a few volunteers, and I’m implementing changes that I think will improve the experience for everyone. The changes are meant to reduce the rate of missing postcards, as well as make the process easier on me and the WDDPE team of volunteers. Therefore, the 2013 edition is officially launched and open for registration.

The website is almost completely updated, but my eyeballs were about to fall out of my head last night from staring at the monitor for so long. As such, I was not in the mood to do any artwork, but I decided to do a Zentangle (TM) for the sake of staying on track with 30x30x30. Well, I almost finished it last night, but my eyes just couldn’t take it, and I had to stop. In retrospect, I should have done something that required less detail focus without the black and white contrast. Lesson learned. Anyway, I didn’t get it done and posted last night, so I’m really annoyed with myself because I was so excited that I had made it this far towards completing 30x30x30. I finished the drawing this morning though, and I’ll do another art project later to get back on track.

Day 13 - 30x30x30

Day 13 – 30x30x30

September 8, 2013

30x30x30: Day 8

Filed under: Creative Expression,World Diabetes Day — Tags: , — Lee Ann @ 10:16 pm

I totally cheated today by not staying within, or even close to the 30-minute time frame that is one of the 30′s in 30x30x30. This took me about two hours. I’m happy with it, I had fun making it, and magically, I’ve managed to keep posting for 8 days in a row now, so please just overlook this slight transgression. This would actually make a cool postcard for the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange…. although I haven’t really decided if I’m going to do that again this year. Either way, today, I’m spreading the WDD Blue Circle love.

Day 8 - 30x30x30

Day 8 – 30x30x30

P.S. The people behind Zentangle (TM) kind of scare me because they’ve turned doodling into a trademarked enterprise. As such, I’m taking the CYA approach, and fully disclosing that I used their doodle designs to make this. I don’t want the Zentangle (TM) police arresting me.

June 20, 2012

An Invitation… to Change the Diabetes World

For a long time, the diabetes world has been challenged to agree on a color/symbol. Are we represented by a blue ribbon or a blue circle? Are we represented by a gray or silver ribbon with a red dot or a red drop of blood? Are we represented by red because it’s the color of blood and the ADA? Only a couple of years back, I saw an online poll soliciting suggestions and votes for a color to represent diabetes. There were votes for yellow, some for teal, some for lime green, a few for the rainbow. I shook my head wondering how we were ever going to accomplish what pink has been for breast cancer because, while it has its faults – pink KFC buckets are always a great example of how pink has gone a step too far – the diabetes awareness effort needs to aspire to that level of recognition.

Raising awareness is very much about public relations, and marketing a busted pancreas in November after everyone has been smothered in boobies and drenched in pink during October is not exactly an ideal position to be in. That’s a challenge for us, but it doesn’t change the fact that diabetes needs more love and recognition than it’s historically received, especially because it affects and kills a lot more people.

In an effort to be more widely recognized, over the last year, the DOC has adopted the blue circle, as evidenced by the support of initiatives like Blue Fridays and the Blue Heel Society, but only a year ago, there were still lingering doubts about how the DOC could symbolically represent itself in an easily identifiable way that would raise awareness for diabetes. Last year at the Roche Diabetes Summit, we broke into small groups to discuss issues and strategies relevant to the larger diabetes community, and one of the issues we addressed was how to resolve the color/symbol issue.

I advocated for the blue circle. I’ve been a fan of it since I started participating in World Diabetes Day a few years ago. It’s simple, and it’s different from a ribbon which sets it apart. I like that it represents unity and the community of people affected by diabetes around the world. I like that it has global power because it originates from the International Diabetes Federation. That was only a small part of the Diabetes Summit, but I believed the color/symbol problem was one we could do something about, and I appreciated that Roche structured the time so we could have small group discussions, in person, about this and other issues relevant to the DOC and the larger diabetes community.

The summit ended. I came home. The details of the color/symbol discussion faded, but the overarching idea that we needed to use the blue circle and advocate for its use by the broader community stayed with me. Incubating. Stewing. Percolating. Summer passed. Fall was upon us. Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day were fast approaching. I wanted to do something meaningful with the blue circle that allowed for wide participation. Then the idea came to me, the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange, an idea that emerged from that opportunity to gather around a table with other diabetes advocates to flesh out the color/symbol problem and how to address it in a way that benefited the entire community.

Except for the first year when I was spazzy excited just to meet so many people from the diabetes social media realm, and frankly, shocked that I was even invited, I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned something substantial here about my participation in the Roche Diabetes Summits. There were a lot of hurt feelings in the DOC that first year, and ever since, there seems to be negative energy about these kinds of events in the online space because of the inclusion of a few and exclusion of many. I get that. I feel fortunate to get invited to some things, but I don’t get invited to everything. Logically, I understand that companies and organizations have valid reasons for inviting some, but not others. I also know being excluded doesn’t feel good, especially when you believe you have something unique and valuable to contribute, and ultimately, I think we all have something to contribute because no one’s experience with diabetes is any more or less valid than another person’s. Understanding that people’s feelings get hurt has made me reluctant to share much about the events I attend, so for the most part, I’ve chosen not to blog about it.

Another reason I haven’t blogged about Roche – or Medtronic – is because nearly everyone else who attends writes a synopsis, and anything I could add would be redundant. I don’t want to be redundant, which has a lot to do with why I only blog on occasion. I figure one of the reasons I don’t get invited to some events is because I don’t blog very often, but most days, I don’t have anything to say that is worth clogging your Google Reader. I don’t just want to be a part of the conversation; I want to add something valuable to the conversation. In the spirit of conversing, I certainly like when people read and offer comments, but that’s more of a bonus than the end goal for me.

Despite my sporadic blogging and practically defunct Twitter account (sorry, I got bored and it’s too much effort to keep up), I was invited to Roche again this year. Like the last three years, you likely won’t get a recap from me because I know my peers will do it better justice than I would. Just because I don’t post a report or blog much at all, doesn’t mean I’m a seat warmer with a familiar face, invited simply because I’ve been invited every year. Thankfully, blogging and tweeting aren’t the only ways to measure activism, success, dedication, and investment in diabetes social media. Blogging gave me a good running start, but I needed to stop just talking about what I wanted to do, and actually do it, so I’ve worked to find ways to combine art and diabetes to help people, build community, and raise awareness, including Diabetes Art Day, the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange, as well as multiple offline endeavors like the Diabetes Art Studio I’ll be facilitating at the Children With Diabetes Friends For Life Conference in a couple of weeks.

More and more, I don’t think the “blogger” label applies to me because that’s not my focus. It doesn’t capture what I contribute or describe my role in diabetes advocacy. I enjoy crafting something with language that people want to read, but art is my first love. Art is the universal language, and I think art and other forms of non-verbal creative expression are a grossly untapped resource for the global diabetes community. I’m going to do everything I can to facilitate harnessing the power of art to make a better world for people with diabetes, and attending the Roche Summits helps me do that. When we talk about who brings what to the proverbial table, that is what I bring.

Maybe you’ve been to the Roche Summit, maybe you haven’t, but regardless, if you participated in Diabetes Art Day or the Postcard Exchange, or even if you’ve visited the website or Facebook page of either to see what people have created, you have benefited from the Roche Diabetes Summit because Diabetes Art Day and the Postcard Exchange emerged from it. My hope is that attending the Roche Summit will again lead to collaborative creativity that expresses something about diabetes that can’t be written or said. I have big ideas for my next diabetes art initiative, ideas that require resources I don’t have, ideas that are meant to benefit all of us, and my promise to you is that I’ll use my participation at the Roche Diabetes Summit to promote and develop art initiatives that aren’t just for the short list of attendees, but for everyone.

June 15, 2012

The World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange, Bigger and Better with Your Help

World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange from Diabetes Hands Foundation on Vimeo.

Last October, I created the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange hoping for maybe 100 or 150 participants. There wasn’t anything too fancy about it. People found out thanks to the magic of social media, and emailed their name, address, and details they wanted taken into account when I matched them to a postcard buddy. I entered each participant’s information on a spreadsheet, and manually matched them based on age, type of diabetes, gender, number of years living with diabetes, and relationship to diabetes (self, parent, sibling, spouse, child, friend, aunt, etc.). I flagged emails in my received box so I knew who was entered on the spreadsheet, if I needed to send a follow-up email, if I had emailed their match to them. I’m not very good at planning and organizing, so it was a very dynamic process of refining what I was doing as I went along. As the number of participants increased, I developed a system for responding, sending confirmation emails, sending postcard buddy names and addresses, and following up. In the end, an astonishing 529 people signed up, far beyond my expectations, so it was an absolute miracle that I pulled it off.

Since it was the first year, and far more people joined than I anticipated, it was not without glitches. Not surprisingly, some postcards got lost in the mail, but the bigger problem was people not sending postcards at all. I did my best to rematch people who didn’t receive cards with people who volunteered to make extra cards, but in the weeks after World Diabetes Day when this was proving to be an issue, Jason and I had a long anticipated vacation, I was trying to finish my school work before the semester ended, and we had just gotten a new puppy, so I was completely overwhelmed trying to multitask. I was literally sick to my stomach and losing sleep trying to respond to people who were emailing me to say they still hadn’t received postcards, contact those people who seemingly hadn’t sent postcards, and reach out to anyone who was willing to send extras. There was also understandable disappointment from people who received store-bought postcards in a handmade postcard exchange to which all I could do was apologize because I felt like I should have been clearer that postcards were to be homemade. I wanted everyone to have fun and enjoy it, so I felt personally responsible when that didn’t happen.

I still feel terrible that not everyone was satisfied with their experience, so I’ve been working to make improvements. I hope this will eliminate or at least minimize the things that went wrong last year. There is a dedicated website now, www.wddpe.com, so all the information about joining is in one central, easily navigable location. Instead of having to manually enter everyone’s information onto a spreadsheet from emails, there is an online registration form that automatically puts everything onto a spreadsheet for me. There is an online gallery on the website with public image uploading so everyone who makes or receives a card can post a picture and browse images of others’ postcards.

There are some other improvements I hope to make, but they are contingent on receiving a Seed Grant from Diabetes Hands Foundation. This grant money will go towards stipends for two people to help me communicate with participants. While the manual work of entering data on the spreadsheet is now automated, each person who registers still has to be emailed a registration confirmation, and once everyone is matched to a postcard buddy, the name and address of that person needs to be sent to them. I expect there will be a need to follow up with some people too. I desperately need help with this part of the project, and I would like to be able to compensate the people who help me.

If I receive the grant money, I also plan to promote this project. I’m excited that as of today, 99 people have already registered, as many as I had hoped would join last year, and it’s only June 15th… but we can do better! For as much work as it is on my end, I believe this project has great value to those who join. There is value in the self-expression that goes into making the postcard. There is value in connecting with people. We connect with people in the DOC, but there are so many more people out there, and I want to find a way to reach some of them. Sending mail is old-fashioned, but I think those who received a postcard in the Postcard Exchange in 2011 can attest to the magic of receiving a piece of snail mail, made and mailed by another person in the world who “gets it”. Should I receive the grant money, I will spend some on Facebook advertising. I am already ordering promotional postcards to take the the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference in Orlando in July, and if I receive the grant money, part of it will compensate me for the cost of the postcards.

To win the grant, I need your help though. Please watch the Vimeo video about the project. Please click “Like” (you need a Vimeo account to “Like”, but it’s easy to make an account). Please click “Share” and share the video to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest (you don’t need a Vimeo account to “Share”). Each “Like” and “Share” count as a vote, and if the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange video receives enough votes, I will receive the grant money and be better able to grow and improve the project, connecting more people with diabetes with each other, and making it a better overall experience for participants.

Today is the LAST DAY to vote, so please don’t hesitate! “Like” and “Share” today!

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