Fantasy Party Planning


Abracadabra

Abracadabra – I magic my own party!

I met some wonderful people this week. On weeks like this my job rocks; the chance to meet some really fantastic people who enrich my thinking and make life fun.

 

On the long journey home I was thinking about what it would be like if I could just put some of them in a room together what magic might happen! It was like one of those personal ‘dead or alive’ dinner party discussions – who would you select? But more importantly what could we achieve?

So, this blog is going to list some people who I would love to put in a room together to party! So how did I select my list? Each person has a set of unique super powers. Every single one of them I would think having coffee with them was a highlight of a day and finally I would just love to see what they would do if they were given a collective challenge.

The list order is alphabetically deliberately; there is no priority order and I know I will have missed some people, forgive me. Lists are written at a moment in time.

Here are where my party initiations are headed:

envelopeDeborah El-Sayed @Debselsayedd – Debs is someone to dream with. When we discuss ideas and make plans our conversations go to the most unexpected places. She’s is fun too and her parties are always the best ones, creative and expansive, in exactly the same way she thinks. She also makes things happen.

Emma Bearman @emmambearman – Emma is wonderful. I have never met anyone like her before. She is like a warrior, someone who gives part of her soul for her work on play in Leeds. Her passion is practically palpable and she would keep the party going with her energy (and play).

Hany Rizk @RizkHany – I went to a UX conference this week and his presentation blew me away. Hany is selected for his ability to make me think differently. I suspect he is also an ace UX designer. By the way he is also a super cool German. I think he brings values too.

Heather Henry @heatherhenry4 – this nurse is a super hero, who has taught me so much about asset based community development but she is also so determined and focussed. I use the story of Salford Dads and pub nursing as ways to describe an alternative way. Heather rocks.

Jenni Middleton @nursingtimesed – all parties need someone who can communicate with insight, wisdom, style and flair and that is what Jenni can do. Unusual for me to chose a journalist but Jenni is a real pro and she also has great style. All parties need someone with style!

Lance Gardner @LanceAACltd – selected for his creativity and his clear focus and insights into doing the right thing, the right way. No half-way measures for Lance, if it’s not done right he doesn’t do it. He’s also a trail blazer. Lance has a non-flashy way of working that I really admire.

Linda Whalley – Linda is a colleague. She is a great thinker and worth having alongside you but she is also one of the wittiest people ever. She has a way of seeing situations and people that is unique, wise and funny.

Lindsey Fallow @betabetic – what a treat Lindsey is to know. I don’t know anyone else quite like her. She is clever, wise, unafraid and has a groundedness about her that makes me feel safe. I don’t know anyone who has so many life challenges who remains so positive and un-beaten. She is just incredible.

Mark Davies @markpricedavies – ah Dr Mark. One of my favorite doctors. Mark is fun to be with but he is also a good person to think with, he will bring new ideas that others haven’t thought of. He also has a fearlessness about his persona, a non-traditionalist.

Mary Dixon-Woods @marydixonwoods – I’ve never met Mary (I would love too) but every party needs a professor and researcher and Mary is the one I admire most. She, too, is someone who is pushing boundaries and looking at things in new ways. I used one of her emergent research approaches in my MSc and my tutor thought I was being a bit alternative – which I consider to be an admirable thing! I will maybe meet her in real life one day.

Maxine Craig @maxine_craig – Maxine understands people like no one else I know. A deep meaningful insight into people and organisations wrapped in a beautiful soul. She is also so restful to spend time with! She will keep the party grounded and well.

Pete Thomond @petethomond – Pete is very special. I love the way he thinks – there are no blocks and barriers in Pete’s mind and his conversations reflect that. I guarantee at the party he would be an ideas generator, someone who asked interesting questions and could see the connections between ideas and concepts.

Rachael Dunscombe @UKpenguin – Rachael is in theory an IT person but when I look and see her that’s not what I see! I see someone who has so much insight into a wide range of things, not for her just pure IT but real breadth and depth! A linker of things…. Someone who I want to meet more in future.

Rob Webster @NHS_robW – Rob for me represents values. He is clear about his and would make certain we were clear about ours. He is also wise; his life and work have made him so.

Roz Davies @roz_davies – Roz is a very beautiful person. I don’t know anyone else who so consistently lives the values they express. She is someone who it’s cool to hang out with to explore values and find deeper meaning. Never under estimate her!

Simon Norris @simon_Norris – Simon is a creative if ever I knew one. His optimism is what strikes me though and his values. You would be surprised about where conversations with Simon go. Another value driven person. I love great UX designers too, they are the ones that bring IT alive for people.

Steve Wheeler @timbuckteeth – I don’t know anyone else like Steve. An academic but he is uber cool and another thinker. He is also a rebel I think. I admire rebels with values. They make me feel braver.

Susan Hamer @dollyblue3 – selected for her determination but also her incisive brain. She knows the right thing to do and does it regardless of what people think. She can be out-spoken but you will need to be at this particular party! She will help you to take an idea apart and work out what to do and bring evidence into play.

Teri Porritt @gbtpo – Teri is unstoppable. She is values driven and has so many facets to her professional persona. Peel away the layers and you will find many beautiful things that she brings to the party. Energy is the most obvious one, but you will also find a photographer inside!

Victoria Betton @victoriabetton – Victoria is another creative soul but one who can do serious business. She takes ideas and just makes them happen, like magic. Another values driven person who takes risks and walks the walk.

So how will this party go? I have no idea! But it won’t be boring that’s for sure! What ideas would we create and solutions could we find? What would we make happen?

I’ve no idea but I know that each one of these people brings gifts to my fantasy party. In writing my list I realised that there are some common themes: values, passion and the ability to think with me, play out through thinking – thought expanders.

I am grateful that all of these people have played some sort of role in my life from making me think differently to making me laugh out loud! Now let’s get on with this party!

Anne

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Post Script: Writing this I kept on thinking of other people I couldn’t miss off (I am sorry if you are one! You will all know who you are I hope) and it was a great exercise in making me feel incredibly lucky.

 

 

 

Ageing, marginal gains and #BigitupforOTs


IMG_7292I suspect that part of the problem about aging is that it’s an insidious process; it’s not like you wake up one day and suddenly you are ‘old’. It’s a gradual process noticeable by a series of small incremental changes; stiffness when you get out of bed on a morning that wasn’t present before, a memory that just isn’t as good at recall as it used to be and a fondness for reminiscence. I also know that for some older member of my family time starts to get stamped by loss; funerals become less unusual and more routine, if you can ever say a funeral is routine. What I mean is they appear more frequently in your diary as you lose family and friends.

For me it is important that I stay as independent as I can. I’m trying to exercise more, eat well and lose some weight. But there is likely to be a time when I need to take more steps to maintain my independence.

Julopi

Gill on her Jalopy

My Mother-in-law, Gill, is one of my role models. At 85 she is still independent and despite increasing problems with her mobility and the occasional fall she is adamant she will do what she can to cope. She has had bi-lateral hip and knee replacements and now her ankles are the problem and she can’t face 3 months in plaster that a fusion would mean.  She also enjoys life most of the time and has a sense of humour.

 

So that’s why I encouraged her to have an Occupational Therapy (OT) Assessment. It seemed to me that OT’s are often brought into care far too late and after this assessment I am convinced I am right.

I asked Gill today what it was she wanted to achieve and she told me she didn’t want to fall and that she wanted to carry on doing things she liked to do at home, such as cooking meals for family and a bit of gardening. She is lucky; she already has help with cleaning but maintaining independence is more than existing, it’s also continuing to do things you enjoy, while staying safe.

 

IMG_7295So, what did the OT assessment show us?

It’s about marginal gains. There were no big shock recommendations just a reasonable list of things that collectively will improve Gill’s living experience; some handrails positioned correctly in the shower, removing all the loose rungs, a ‘perch stool’ in the kitchen, a small walker so she can carry things without risk of falling and some exercise classes in the local pool. She is going to try them all. A list of marginal gains that I hope will help her to reduce her risk of falling and feel safe.

Sadly we had to have a private assessment; this means other people who can’t afford this will miss out.  Keeping people safe and well in their own homes should be a priority. I luckily found Lucy Leonard on Twitter (@lucyOTL) and she was fabulous. Gill loved her and the fact that she did a full assessment. She respected her professionalism and so do I.

So, aim for marginal gains and big it up for OT’s. If you have an elderly relative and can possible involve an OT, like Lucy, I whole heartedly recommend it.

#BigupOTs

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Jazzy, Gill’s companion

Post script blog: ageing well (Moves like Jagger)


Readers of my blog will know that a few days ago I posted about some of my personal reflections relating to ageing well. My reflections came from experiences that were not particularly positive.  This blog is to provide a counter-balance!

Last night I had the great pleasure to go with a group of women to a Michael Jackson tribute ‘thingy’.  We were in a restaurant so had food, some wine and then we sang our hearts out to songs most of us knew, because we were around when they were new.

But in addition to those of us who were gently starting to live our middle age (when does middle age actually start anyway?) I had the pleasure of the company of two wonderful women who provide a great role model for me.  Eileen and Pat are 86 and 85 years old respectively.  They were singing along with the rest of us until past 11 pm and much to my delight got up to dance with me.  And I mean dance!

Eileen in particular really likes to dance and I don’t mean tea dances either – I mean DANCE!  She explained that she had been dancing since she was 14 years old and told me she would go anywhere to dance; town halls, salvation army halls, church halls and she used to love to jive.  I loved dancing with her!  We danced to ‘Moves like Jagger’ and she can!

Eileen and Pat are sisters and whilst both of them have had sadness in their lives and I am sure like all of us have days where they are not so good they kept pace with all of us and I am sure enjoyed themselves.

My impression?  They don’t think they are old.  They see dancing now in the same way that they saw dancing then.  I was chuffed when Pat told me I was ‘quite trendy, wasn’t I?’  High praise indeed.

So, please take a look at these lovely pictures and I wish you the same joy and happiness I saw last night when we all sang together.

 

On getting older: my top tips


HopeA year ago, almost to the day, our 85 year old aunt lost both her two much loved children; a son of 53 and a daughter of 61.  They died within 36 hours of each other.  Aunty J was already a widow.  Her life, in her words, is now without purpose or meaning despite having one very close friend. She says she has aged 10 years in the last year and I don’t disagree.

Since this life changing event Aunty J has been severely depressed but also very lonely.  She seems unable to spend any time on her own at home.  It’s been hard to keep her occupied and have any sense of purpose.  I have become her main carer.

But this blog isn’t really about Aunty J; it’s about the things I have learnt that I think I need to apply to my life.  These are some of the things I have learnt:

  1. Work as long as you can; this doesn’t necessarily mean do what you do now but find something purposeful to do and do it for as long as you can. It could be paid work but equally it could be volunteering.
  2. Keep as wide a circle of friends as possible, don’t rely on one close friendship.
  3. Have lots of hobbies but critically things you do with other people but also things that you can find joy in alone, at home.
  4. Always be flexible and don’t fall into the trap of having a rigid routine where you do the same thing at the same time every day.
  5. Read widely and extensively.
  6. Keep in touch with church (or whatever this means for you) as there are always people there.
  7. Eat well, eat a variety of food and enjoy different things (see also link to 4 above).
  8. Embrace change and try new things in as many aspects of your life as you can.
  9. Always wear clothes that are stylish and represent who you are – ignore fashion if it pleases you.
  10. Grow things and enjoy the cycle of nature.
  11. Move about – keep active – walk every day.
  12. Learn how to use public transport –  don’t get trapped at home by an inability to drive.
  13. Cats make good companions and looking after them gives you purpose.
  14. Hug people – physical human contact is very important

Leeds-Portrait-PhotographyPlease if you have any tips do share by leaving a comment below:

I know not everyone will be able to do these things but nearly everyone will be able to do some.  Aunty J, as you may have guessed, hasn’t, and her life at 85 is less for it but we are making progress in building some sort of new life for her.

In pursuit of Resilience


It may be that in writing this blog I am cursing myself; I have fingers, toes and legs crossed and am holding on to a piece of good solid wood, all for luck and against sod’s law.  I hope nothing happens to derail me because I wrote this down!

I have spoken at events recently about ‘resilience’ and I have been pondering what it means.  If resilience is important for people with long term conditions to have full lives, where they bounce back from inevitable setbacks, how can we help people to build resilience? or do some people just have it and others not?

One of the meanings of resilience is the ability of something to spring back into its original shape, an elasticity that helps things to retain their form. But I think this is unhelpful when thinking about health or indeed most aspects of life; life events, no matter how positive or negative they are, shape us as people and for many of us leave indelible marks. I think the definition that includes the word ‘adjustment’ is more helpful; after things happen to us, it is our ability to adjust and move on that makes us resilient.

Remember Weebles?  Wobbling but not falling down? See also this brilliant blog from @betabetic about Resilience, Weebles and personal stones.

So, am I a resilient character? I think so. Having reflected, I think it is a learnt behaviour. I was a child of a broken home, although I still had a very happy childhood. The broken home part led to me taking up responsibilities probably beyond what you would expect of a 15 year old; I effectively ran the home and ended up moving out into rented accommodation at 17. I didn’t go on to do further study at 16, leaving school to earn money so I could completely support myself. My reflection is that my learnt behaviour, to be independent and self-sufficient, is an attitude that has continued into by Diabetes life. I have had a few curved balls thrown at me and I doubt that I have reached the point where no more can be lobbed, but I hope my resilience and ability to cope continue (keep those fingers crossed for me).

I am also as stoic as they come, even from Yorkshire. Stoicism is also an interesting word as it relates to endurance and acceptance, without complaint or emotion. I am not saying I don’t complain or get emotional, more that I seem to have a deep acceptance of life events. This leads me to a place where I can be more resilient; I adjust and move on.

So, has Diabetes caused me to face events and situations that require me to be able to adjust but keep focussed on positives and move on? Absolutely, my attitude continues to be that there are many worse things I could have, although it’s tricky and can be rubbish. I am alive and have a good life; I consider myself to be lucky.

So how can we help people to become resilient?

canHow we react when things happen for me is key. I once had my driving licence revoked due to my diabetes. It was a mistake and I did regain it but not for many, many weeks. I was also quite heavily pregnant and still working at a hospital 15 miles away from home. My attitude? Public transport is what I need to do and I quickly learnt how to manage and still get to work. The buses were OK and I learnt to read and gaze at the views as we went on the long tortuous journeys (bus routes are rarely direct). I can still get myself around on public transport unlike my 85-year-old aunt who has never been on a service bus and now can’t drive. I feel sure I would have my walking stick and umbrella and be waiting for the free Sainsbury’s bus – I developed a skill! She choses not to learn to use the buses and complains that she can’t get out and about like she could. Choosing public transport over going off sick or leaving work maybe isn’t a big deal but it demonstrates my attitude.

Electing to react in a positive way to an event is for me the crucial factor. I am not saying I don’t gnash my teeth and wail but I soon move on actively seeking a way of managing past the problem. I can be stroppy, though, as I hate people feeling sorry for me so people saying how terrible it is can sometimes get short sharp words (sorry!).

So we can actively encourage people to focus on finding a way forward. For me my resilience is about taking a very active stance – if something around my Diabetes management is causing real difficulties how can I deal with it?

Can I learn more about it? Can I change my behaviour or how do I get to a better place? How can I find a way forward?

Having an effective network of people who can help me solve problems is also important, despite my independence. I like to talk problems through and it helps if its people who understand. This is how the Diabetes Online Community (#DOC) is helpful to me, a small network of people where I have reasonably strong ties – comrades in arms!  I can seek advice and support from these lovely people in addition to my own family and friends.

Creating peer relationships for people with LTCs might help some people, whether this be in person or online.

47463096 - red hair one month old little kitten in the boxI like having things to look forward to and I feel this increases my resilience; setting goals, however small, helps me get past setbacks and put bad things that happen into an appropriate place in my life. I am a reasonably driven person and I always like to have something else in my life that can counter balance my health. Right now, for example, we are planning my husband’s 60th birthday party, we are determined to make it special and memorable and are having great fun doing so! It doesn’t have to be big grand goals that distract you (there are always cats and kittens).

So how can we help people to set goals and take positive action. What one thing each day will help them feel that they are in control?

I recently spoke to a group of Paediatricians who care for children with Diabetes and this made me reflect.  It seems to me that we might want to protect young people and try to shield them from life events that challenge them but I think it is vital that they find out how they will cope and build and strengthen their personal resilience. Wrapping children in cotton wool when they have to face a lifetime of coping seems to me to be wrong.

There are of course other strategies I could use. I am not particularly good at looking after myself. I work too hard, rarely stopping and I’m not very good at relaxing. I think I need to learn these skills as I get older. I have tried mindfulness but I seem to be too busy to fit it in!!  I need to practice more!

I found this information from the American Psychological Association to be very helpful when reflecting on my own resilience.

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This picture was taken around the time I was diagnosed as having T1 Diabetes

 

 

 

The significance and impact of living with fear


Thank you to Anne for again letting me take up space in her blog.

liz-cloughMy name is Liz Clough; you may recall a previous blog from me as a guest in Anne’s site in Aug 2016 called ‘Wondering if we have got it all wrong’ where I blogged about my experiences in the health system when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the cancer world there has been quite a bit of publicity recently about a lady called Sophie Sabbage. Sophie got me reflecting again about my experiences and how cancer affects things.

Cancer permeates every aspect of your life but for me the fear was driven by my NHS care process; from the NHS letters dropping on the mat, to the text reminders. From saving the change from my everyday shopping in a tub for the pay and display carpark at the hospital, to writing a social engagement in my diary and noticing again a forthcoming appointment, scheduled in. From the overwhelming, trembling shakes and immediate urge to throw up in the waiting room, to staring lovingly into my families eyes and seeing the fear reflected back at me. From the doe-eyed look of sympathy and sorrow as results are shared with us, to the absence of any potential hope.

41537383 - white flower growing on crack street, soft focus, blank textSearching for glimmers of hope that are, if you can find them presented as a by-product of the real reason we are here.  I remember being told following the surgery to one breast that they could do the same to the other to re-balance the size. It didn’t have any impact at the time, I was too consumed, reeling from my (and my family’s) shock of the situation but, reflecting much later on my journals, I read into this that they must think I might live long enough to have that done.

Based on my experience and my individualised needs what would have served me better was some element of hope and a future.

Conversely I found hope and a focus on future in abundance across the range of my non NHS support. The significance and impact of living with fear is highly underestimated in our NHS system with little or nothing done to address it.

For me I believe receiving my results by post and then having a follow on Skype consultation in the comfort of my own home (clearly only possible where no physical examination required) would help to address much of the fear associated with attending clinics, sitting waiting in nervous anticipation as the clock ticks endlessly round, often past your allocated time – so much negative energy used up. Energy needs to be preserved for keeping well and enjoying life, for living well with cancer, not drained from us as part of the process.

Sophie Sabbage is so right (for me anyway) about getting sorted on the fear front. For anyone who has not read THE CANCER WHISPERER (either in the capacity of a health worker, patient or carer) I whole heartedly commend this book to you.

Thank you Sophie, I continue to work on it, for my family and I. With love Liz xxx

The Cancer Whisperer: Finding courage, direction and the unlikely gifts of cancer

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#AnneSwims and #Sod53


There is something that happens to you and the way you think when you reach middle age. I think it’s got something to do with your joints and the first few moments after getting out of your bed you feel stiff and its takes just a few minutes to limber up.

Then you start to see people you know dying. It is with a regret that you recognise you too are destined for the end game and that you have passed (and maybe wasted) more time than you have left.

That happened to me this year at 53.

Of course, I have compounding factors to consider; long term conditions that may mean I have a shorter spell here than some others and there is a realisation that this too is a done deal.

So, in the Summer, I decided it was time to act and that if I wanted to emulate Sir Muir Gray in his mission to   #Sod60 and #Sod70, there was no better time to start than now, right now, this minute.

It was with this purpose in mind I started on trying to readjust my life just a little bit. The first thing I did was to start to lose weight and I am now 1 ½ stone lighter but still with a long way to go. The second and possibly more important was to start to exercise.

That’s how the hashtag #Anneswims started. I focussed on swimming or exercising in water twice each week and used Twitter as a virtual diary that I can look back on and see how much progress I have made. Twitter tells me I have made 10 entries into my #AnneSwims diary in the last month and it has been really motivating to add each entry as I have gone along, it’s become a routine, doing a blood glucose test, taking a picture and posting. NB learning for me – I can’t do a count of how many times I have used my hashtag as I didn’t register it, I didn’t know I needed to and Twitter doesn’t keep historic data forever 😦

But 2017 is a new year and time for a new approach to #sod53. So this year I have a new way to keep motivated. I have a new jar to fill with buttons, one each time I exercise. It’s a big jar, there is plenty of space so let’s see how full I can make it. The little tin next to it is full of buttons and was one of my Grandma’s button tins (I have no idea why she had a button tin with Sloane Square on it – I don’t think she ever left Yorkshire!).

So, here’s to a new year, not with changed resolution, with an extension of an existing one – so #Sod53 and to a great active 2017.

I do have some other resolutions for 2017; the first is to work with the very lovely peeps that are Victoria Betton and Roz Davies to somehow find a way to deliver #PDDigital17 and to drive strong clinical leadership more deeply into the culture at NHS Digital. These things will be fun and I am very much looking forward to 2017.

Happy New Year everyone – I hope you achieve your ambitions while staying happy and well.

PS Thanks to Sir Muir Gray for the inspiration and I hope he forgives me for #Sod53

Postscript 3rd Jan:

The first button is in the jar and look at my new button tin thanks to Auntie June

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