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.

May 14, 2012

Getting Creative to “Find a Friend”

The first time I signed up for a blogging event, one that stipulated I blog every day for a month, I succeeded. Since then though, every time I sign up for any sort of blog-everyday-for-however-long event, things unravel quickly. Most recently, and most lamely, I signed up for WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge in April, and completed a total of zero posts. I knew going into it that I wouldn’t be able to blog every day, but I had thought I could at least do a few days. Not impressive, I know, unless you’re impressed by complete hang-my-head-in-shame failure.

Blogging everyday for a month is clearly not for me, but blogging every day for a week is something I think I can manage, and potentially accomplish, so I signed up for the 3rd annual D-Blog Week, which starts today. D-Blog Week is organized by my dear DOC friend, Karen at Bitter-Sweet Diabetes. I love to support my DOC buddies (especially Karen!), and I love how D-Blog Week is a great opportunity to connect and share above and beyond the usual DOC activity.

Today’s prompt is as follows:

It seems the most popular thing about Diabetes Blog Week is that it helps us find blogs we weren’t reading yet and connect with some new blog friends. With that in mind, let’s kick off Diabetes Blog Week by making some new connections. Think about the d-blogs you read that you think we may not know about and introduce us to one that you love!! Let’s all find a new friend today!

Needless to say, one of the reasons I haven’t been completing blogging events is that I don’t blog much anymore. I’ve transitioned the focus of my online diabetes advocacy work to Diabetes Art Day and the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange, partly because I don’t have much to say anymore that I haven’t already said, and partly because I think those are more unique ways I can contribute to the DOC. I like having this space to write an occasional post when I feel inspired though, as I did yesterday, but I can’t do this regularly anymore, and won’t even pretend otherwise. I’m really grateful that some people still like to pop by and read when I do post though because even though I don’t say much here, it’s nice that people are still willing to listen.

Unfortunately, my D-blog reading has become almost as disappointing as my D-blog writing. In my experience, twitter is the best way to discover new blogs, but my tweet action is sporadic. I join #dsma chats when I’m able, but it’s very infrequent that I pop on just to tweet it up. What can I say? Twitter is a lot of work, and when I used it effectively, if you want to call it that, it was a massive time sink. I simply can’t do that anymore which means I’m not “meeting” new DOC’ers like I once did, and I’m not discovering new D-blogs.

I’m not even good at staying on top of the blogs I used to read regularly. My system for blog-reading these days generally relies on people posting links on Facebook. If there’s a link to a blog post in my newsfeed that catches my eye, I’ll go read it. I know it means I miss a lot of great blogs, so it’s far from perfect, but my “Facebook system” works for me better than driving myself nuts trying to read every single diabetes blog. As you can imagine though, my system is not especially conducive to finding new blogs.

So it comes down to this. I don’t have a diabetes blog friend to share with you, at least not one you don’t already know. Maybe I’ll discover some this year as a result of D-Blog Week that I’ll be able to share with you next year. For now, I’m going to go a little rogue, and share some fun art-making blogs with you. I know that’s not the assignment, but perhaps you’ll find some inspiration there, inspiration that you can use to help you with your Diabetes Art Day project or your World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange postcard (it’s never too early to start!). If you ever have the opportunity to do creative projects with kids, maybe you’ll find some ideas to have a fun art-a-palooza. Maybe you’ll get inspired to do something creative just for the sake of your own personal creative growth. Maybe you’ll have a diabetes-themed spark of creativity that you’ll share with me so I don’t feel quite so terrible about taking liberties with the D-Blog Week prompt today.

PaintCutPaste and PaintCutPaste on Facebook:
A super neat website by an art therapist and mom who shares art projects that are fun for kids and adults. From her site:

“my initial goal for this site is to share with parents, caregivers, and teachers various ideas for creative activities to do with kids. as this blog grows, it expands to include ideas to nurture the creative drive that lives within each of us, as well… our kids help us to remember how much fun playing with art can be, and sometimes it’s fun to take your turn with the paintbrush or sewing needles! i hope this site brings you and yours inspiration and plenty of beautiful paint cut paste messes!”

Art Journaling as a Creative Process and Art Journaling as a Creative Process on Facebook:
This site hasn’t been updated in about 6 months, but the posts conveying the benefits and describing techniques of art journaling are timeless. Have a look through the archive, and discover the true magic of this art form. I love this site, and offer it as a resource to the students in my Intro to Art Therapy course, so now I suggest it to you too. As a bonus, most of the techniques are very adaptable to postcard-making… just sayin’…

November 5, 2011

5 Things that Changed My Life

Filed under: Blogging,Friends & Family,Inspiration — Tags: , — Lee Ann @ 10:59 pm

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November 1, 2011

Titles of My Future Book

Filed under: Blogging,Creative Expression,NaBloPoMo — Tags: , , — Lee Ann @ 10:59 pm

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May 13, 2011

10 Things I Hate about Diabetes

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