Listen . . . . AND Keep Listening

In response to marketing research reporting that only 4% of women considered themselves to be “beautiful” (beautiful never being defined from what I can tell) Dove launched a worldwide marketing campaign: DOVE CAMPAIGN FOR REAL BEAUTY.  Dove explained that the campaign is a response after LISTENING to women say they want something more human and authentic around the idea of beauty.  The Campaign intends “to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves.”

On April 14, 2013, Dove released a three minute video — DOVE Real BeautySketches — on all social media outlets.  A police sketch artist draws women describing themselves and then draws a second sketch of the same woman as described by someone else.  The Video went viral.  The YouTube link alone has more than 56 million views.  It is, apparently, the most watched video ad of all time.

I found it touching when it rolled into my email more than a dozen times on April 14th.  Dove clearly touched a nerve with 56 million views.  And I can see how people would look and roll their eyes.  Most of the women in this video looked familiar — they looked like me or people in my life.  There is nothing interesting about this video with respect to age, race, class or culture.  There is nothing captivating about this with respect to body type.

People responded to these limits.  But when you have the most viewed campaign of all time, maybe you think you don’t need to respond anymore.  Or, more importantly, perhaps you decide you do not need to KEEP LISTENING.  The Facebook post generated more than 17,000 comments, most of them raving but many sharing significant and valid criticisms.  Dove actively responded personally to Facebook posts about this video that at first seemed impressive and then appeared disingenuous and canned the more I looked.

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Keep listening is what I gleaned from this ad campaign — even (or especially) when you have wild success.  Because when you keep listening, you may be able to see how to do it better, how to be more inclusive, how to touch a nerve in a different way.  Keep listening and it could get really interesting.

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A Family Portrait: Spirit Animals

I walked into Kerry and Jacob Escobedo’s house and stopped in front of these drawings framed in their dining room.

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“What are these?”  Kerry explained that these are spirit animal portraits drawn by Jake, an artist and executive at Cartoon Network.  Kerry is the Bat.  Jake is the Coyote.   The detail in these ink drawings is unlike anything I have ever seen — losing you in the fine lines and details.  She went on: “your spirit animal is the one animal you feel most connected to in the world — the one you think about first, the one that resonates within you.”  Staring at these drawings, lost in the lines, the idea of our family portrait came to be.

That night at dinner I asked the question: “what is your spirit animal?”  Brian responded without hesitation — A Hawk.

Jack, our oldest, claimed a wolf.

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Keyes picked a “big bunny.”

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And the youngest Hayes, below, declared with total clarity “A wild African Boar!”  Really? I have no idea but he remains beyond certain when you ask him, even now months later.

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I felt less certain — swinging between a gray fox and a big white owl.  And I looked around my house finding the answer in pieces of art collected over the years.

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For Father’s Day, I commissioned Jake for two portraits, mine and Brian’s.  We will begin adding the boys over time.  Framed and hanging together  — An Eames Family portrait.

Brian’s Hawk, below, is the first in the collection.  Jake is working on the others.

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What is your spirit animal?  Will you share?

A Communication Game Changer

The question this week:  How has social media changed the way we communicate?  If you google this question you get over 14.2 million responses in .28 seconds, which says a lot about the answer to this question.  Do I have anything new to add to this discussion?  Maybe one thing.  Social media has opened doors to places normally not accessible and, as a result, good things happen.  Not always, obviously, but often.

A very best example:  Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.  Last December, Piedmont offered the world a live tweet (with pictures no less!) of a living donor kidney transplant.  The intent of the offering was to encourage more healthy adults to become living donors.  Through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and media outlets, the institution told the donor’s story of deciding to give his kidney to a man that he barely knew.  The offer came in a hand-written note.

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On Friday, December 14, 2012 at 7am the surgery took place and the world watched through social media.

We saw the donor and donee visiting before the surgery.

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Physicians on the transplant team responded to questions from people following the feed on Twitter while in the operating room.

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The families of the patients waited together in the waiting room.

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People who received a kidney transplant followed and commented.  A community was created centered around this surgery and the life saving connection between two people that we were invited to witness.

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Pressing questions were answered.

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The waiting surgery team follows the first surgery on Twitter!  This is so touching to me.  Even those on the inside connected through social media.

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Celebrating success.

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This story — this bold and brilliant choice around communication through social media — evidences for me how things have changed.  How we are invited into worlds normally not seen.  And by coming into this world, lives are changed.  My life changed a little.  People make different decisions.  I am not going to a living kidney donor — at least not now.  But I did volunteer to be a bone marrow donor and added myself to the national registry.

You can read a transcript of the living donor tweets or follow the Pinterest board.  It’s breathtaking.

(All pictures from piedmont.org)

A Week’s Collection

I decided this week to collect stories, photos, and links that interested me or made me laugh.  The only requirement (I made up the rules, obviously) is the source had to come from a social media outlet.  What I wanted to notice is the information and pleasure I take in during a week that otherwise would not get to me but for social media.  It’s a lot of good stuff.  Ready for the winners?  Enjoy.

(1) LIVELY is an AMAZING new product that a friend of a friend developed to improve aging in place for older people.  Sensors track activity (eating, medications, and movement patterns) of someone living alone.  The signals are sent to a secure website.  LIVELY then shares the activity report via web or smartphone with the older adult’s chosen family recipients so you know how your loved one is doing.  This one falls into the category of I LOVE SMART PEOPLE.

(2) This is not news, but how sweet is this?  Social Reader posts a photo of President Obama writing a school note for a 5-year-old visiting the white house.  Official White House Photo by Peter Souza.

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(3)  Favorite blog post of the week!  “I don’t want your hugs” — A beautiful thought about honoring our children’s process before jumping in with a parent knows best solution.

(4)  This came to me via YouTube.  I watched it with my 13-year-old son.  He sent it to his teacher who showed it to his class as they begin a year long course of study on Race, Class and Gender.  Made me so uncomfortable and gave me hope.

(5)  Just click on this:  Floyd Holding Things.  We love Floyd and he will make you smile.  Thanks to Mary Beth Holcomb for the collection.

Have a great weekend, people.

“Black Widow Boy” and Questionable Parenting

My middle son Keyes, then 8, walked in the house and announced unceremoniously that a Black Widow spider just bit him on the toe.  Brian and I looked at each other skeptically and inspected his foot.  Nothing.  No mark, welt, bump, redness, or swelling.  Nothing.  And I mean nothing.  Our response?  “Sweetie, if a black widow bit you we would know it.  They are incredibly poisonous.  Maybe you stepped on something that hurt?  Let me put some ice and Bactine on your toe.” 

Meet Keyes.  He is 10.

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We went on with the evening.  You can see where this is headed, right?

Later, Keyes said his thigh hurt.  I asked if he remembered pulling a muscle during the day.  He remembered a fall during PE at school.  I gave him  Motrin and put him in a warm bath.  Before bed he had a big glass of warm chocolate milk while Brian read him a story.  Fifteen minutes later he came to our bed saying his stomach hurt.  I figured he drank the milk too quickly and tucked him back to bed, rubbing his belly and whispering about quieting down and thinking good thoughts.

Brian touched my arm as I drifted to sleep an hour later – “Jes, I can hear him rolling around in his bed.”  I asked him to bring Keyes to me, thinking he may fall asleep next to me.  I also think he must be getting a stomach bug.  Brian brought me a groggy boy.  I tucked him next to me and wrapped my arm around him.

Then I felt it.  His legs were trembling.  I put my hand on his belly and it was rigid – like running your hands over a pile of rocks.  Something was very, very wrong.  I told Keyes I wanted to get him a sip of water and found Brian in the bathroom.  “You have to pick him up and take him to the ER at Children’s.  I don’t know what is happening.”  Within minutes Brian was gone with Keyes.

I pace the bedroom.  And then it hits me.  And then I turn to Google.  And then I freak.  A Black Widow – in her vicious way – bites without leaving any mark at the site.  I read on, heart racing. Following a bite you will experience large muscle group pain (such as in the thigh) then stomach cramping and a rigid belly.  Immediate medical attention is required.  The pain is described as excruciating.

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 9.51.09 AMI call Brian’s cell. “It’s a Black Widow bite!  Keyes was right.  Go to the front of the line and tell them.  Hurry. We’re horrible parents.”  It is now close to 1am.

Brian calls 45 minutes later:  “They rushed him to a treatment room.  They gave him Oxycodone and called poison control.  He’s hurting.”  I call someone to come stay with the other two boys.

Brian sends a text:  “Drugs not working, they just gave him Ativan to see if that helps.”  I wait for the sitter, nauseous.

Another text:  “Cannot get the pain under control.  Just stared morphine drip.  He’s being admitted – probably for a few days.  Poison control just arrived.  COME.”

I get to the hospital at 3am.  Keyes looks tiny in the ER bed.  He groans when I lean in and whisper to him, still shaking and not really conscious.  The poison control doctor explains that the only thing we can do is watch for cardiac distress, get the pain under control and wait for the venom to work its way out.

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We stay for 3 days.  Admitted to the cardiac unit.  The Director of Poison Control visits Keyes twice, bringing groups of residents and fellows with him.  “We haven’t seen a pediatric black widow bite in a few years.”

Keyes begins to wake up and respond after the second day.  They ease off the morphine that made him nonsensical – totally disturbing to witness .  The superb medical staff at Children’s Healthcare called him “Black Widow Boy,” his room a revolving door of physicians and residents who said they wanted to see the kid who “fought the black widow and won.” 

Here is Keyes as we wait to be discharged.  We went to the gift store for a treat.  He chose a stuffed venomous snake after being shocked they didn’t have a Black Widow stuffed animal. Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 8.57.07 AM Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 8.58.02 AMScreen Shot 2013-09-15 at 8.57.42 AM

We went home.  By the fourth day it was as if nothing happened.  And Keyes loves to tell the story about the time a Black Widow bit him and his parents didn’t believe him.  He explains, “They had a low parenting moment.”  We think that is putting it mildly.

(Children’s Healthcare image from pediatrics.emory.edu)

(Black Widow Image from http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2010/07/17/black-widows/)

Bagels and Tumor Paint

Great storytelling leaves you wanting.  Wanting to learn more, know more, and need more.  A great story leaves you with feelings of fullness and yearning in the same breath.  National Public Radio told me a great story this morning:  The story of Jim Olsen, a pediatric oncologist who specializes in brain cancer.

This is Olsen.

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NPR told the story of his work with thousands of children fighting brain cancer and his development of a substance called Tumor Paint that lights up the cancer cells in a child’s brain to make surgery more successful and less damaging.  A breathtaking development.   But the great storytelling comes later in the story as Olson remembers children that died and how those children and their beautiful, brief  lives spurred him hopefully forward.  When asked how he lives with such “emotionally wrenching” experiences he spoke of hope.  Olsen said, “[t]here’s nothing more powerful to drive you forward than to walk into a room with no real hope in your pocket.”  LISTEN to his story.

I heard this story Friday morning in my bathroom, rushing to get dressed, with my 5-year-old son lying on the ground at my feet, distraught and utterly shocked that I dared to run out of bagels.  This is Hayes and he looked nowhere near this adorable while sagging in sadness underfoot.

ImageBreakfast was a full-blown crisis in his little mind – a mind beautifully free from cancer.  My hairdryer also made some horrible sound followed by shooting sparks and black smoke.  The other two boys were downstairs not doing anything that I asked to get the morning moving.  Brian had been out of town for days, and we were all weary of his absence.

And in those five minutes, listening to this story in these surroundings, I cried and laughed and looked down at my feet – at my whining, healthy boy – with hope. Grateful that the Jim Olsens of the world exist and develop something called tumor paint so that families can have morning after morning with kids whose major life crisis is a missing bagel.

What is one of your favorite stories?  Can you share or send a link?  I especially love the ones that make me laugh and cry.

(Olsen photo from Hutchison Cancer Center)

Love everyday with pots

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Brian and I discovered our love of pottery on back roads outside of Athens, Georgia, where we found studio after studio of artists.  This part of the world is home to some of the greatest potters in North America, with many residing and teaching at the University of Georgia, a “Potter’s Paradise.”  A collection that spans almost twenty years, we live with pottery in every part of our life.

A favorite potter and wonderful friend, Michael Simon’s pots bring us daily goodness.

ImageWe begin and end our day with his pots.  Coffee, juice and beer are just better from a vessel made from a human hand.  Water in a favorite cup on a bedside table is cooler and more comforting in the middle of the night.

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Jars, vases, and pitchers lingering on tables and ledges in our house offer eyes a pleasing and peaceful place to rest. 

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Our three sons have all experienced their first taste of food – rice cereal – from bowls Michael made them to commemorate their birth.  This is Jack, now 13, with his first taste. 

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Do you have a favorite potter?  Leave a comment and let me know – I love discovering new people. 

And if pottery is new to you – keep your eyes open.  When you see a mug or plate or vase made from someone else’s hand that pleases you, buy it.  Take it home and see if you agree that the weight and goodness of a mug in your hand makes the coffee taste better.  Want to know more about Michael Simon?  He has a book about his work, Evolution, that is stunning. 

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Kicking and Screaming AND Curious: Professional and Personal Social Media

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Until last week, when I started a social media class as part of my Masters in Social Work, I have intentionally avoided connecting to any social media.  No Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google+ for me.  There is even a word for this. I am, apparently, suffering from Socmephobia

This is not all together true, though, because my husband is on Facebook both personally and professionally (please check out and like his author page), so I see what is happening in that world through him.  This means that I’m one of those who looks and never engages, which is admittedly lame.  I watch, enjoy, talk about, and judge what other people share about themselves but offer nothing in return.  I am not entirely clear where my resistance – and even hostility – about social media comes from.  I retired from a corporate law practice a year ago to begin this MSW program.  I told myself that I avoided social media to protect myself professionally – to avoid the misstep of being seen in a personal light by clients who I knew only professionally.  That is a reason I resist – but there must be more. 

This social media class is forcing me to explore “the more.”  I can embrace the power of professional social media – of successfully engaging in the technology social stratosphere to promote and engage and expand the reach of an effort or organization.  New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, is a great example.  With more than 620,000 followers on Facebook and 1.4 million on Twitter, social media launched Kristof to the forefront of political commentators.

My thoughts about personal social media paused when I came across this article by Jay Baer.  He submits that your personal life and your professional life are one and the same and that getting comfortable with being personal in social media is required to succeed professionally.  He explains, “social media is rooted culturally in showing your real, whole self” and professional success will not occur until you are ready to get out of your personal comfort zone online.  Ready or not, I am way out of my comfort zone.    

(Image from forbes.com