August 22, 2016

Responsiveness Matters to All of Us

When your request is the one being ignored, do you feel responsiveness matters?
In this day of electronic devices, it´s easier than ever to ignore a message. It´s easy to believe that no response is efficient and acceptable. If we´re experts in a particular area, it´s easy to ignore what we believe to be ignorant questions.

How does an accumulating attitude of acceptable dismissal affect all of us?

Obviously, this is a large topic so I´ll just have to hold it to a few high points or be dismissed myself. That´s okay. My hope is that we all come away with more awareness and the willingness to examine our feelings and behaviors so that we can then choose the level of responsiveness we hope to contribute to our relationships with our spouses, children, extended family, bosses, coworkers, customers, as well as corporate behemoths, the sick, the distressed, and the suffering we encounter.

The World Health Organization lists responsiveness as one of the 3 areas of focus for its goals for health systems. This makes sense given that:
1)When a healthcare system fails to be responsive to patients, it often results in higher mortality rates.1
2) Patient surveys rate doctors higher when the treating physician is perceived as empathetic. It is hard to be perceived as empathetic if you are not responsive.2
3)Frustration at a lack of response leads to nursing home falls, higher stress levels, and diminished trust – none of which are conducive to healing.

Similarly, frustration at a lack of response has fueled the anger of many African-Americans toward law enforcement. You can view the pain, suffering, and violence that have resulted almost daily on the news.

Eric Holtzclaw noted in an article entitled, ¨The Importance of Responsiveness¨, which appeared in Inc. Magazine, ¨A lack of responsiveness is the most common underlying problem I find at the businesses I work with that are experiencing issues achieving growth.¨ 3 Not only can a lack of responsiveness prevent business growth, it can cause a loss of customers. How many of you have left Comcast, AT&T, or Windstream as soon as you had another option due to a lack of response to your specific problems with their service?

Failing to respond is probably one of the fastest ways to get sued when you get crossways over quality of service, fulfillment of a contract, or payment of a bill. Speaking of, sending a non responsive email is no more effective at preventing a lawsuit than no response at all. It may, in fact, accelerate the process by escalating a feeling of conflict or dismissal.

All of us want to be validated and acknowledged. Babies learn about themselves through the mimicking of their facial expressions by a responsive caregiver. They also learn trust and the concept of having some control over their circumstances when the caregiver responds to their cues.

And according to a post on Psychology Today originally written for the website Science of Relationships, the best life partner is one who is responsive. ¨A responsive partner is someone who makes you feel understood, validated, and cared for.¨ 4,5,6 Sounds right to me. If a partner has that quality, then everything else is going to be easier to negotiate.

From our very beginning, responsiveness shapes our perception of who we are and how we fit in the world. It then affects our health, our safety, our trust level, our career success, and our satisfaction with our partners. Can changing our level of responsiveness make a difference in the world?

Why not? It seems obvious that responsiveness matters to all of us!


5) Reis, H. T., Clark, M. S., & Holmes, J. G. (2004). Perceived partner responsiveness as an organizing construct in the study of intimacy and closeness. In D. J. Mashek & A. P. Aron (Eds.), Handbook of closeness and intimacy (pp. 201-225). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
6) Maisel, N. C., Gable, S. L., & Strachman, A. (2008). Responsive behaviors in good times and bad. Personal Relationships, 15, 317-338.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 16, 2016

Travel Tip #16 – Be Kind

viewWhen you travel, it´s important to be kind to yourself. It´s not a bad idea to be kind to everyone you meet either, but why not start with yourself? I´ve been traveling for the past 6 days. Every moment has been packed full of something.

Yesterday evening I could have jumped in the pool, walked on the beach, or gone out for dinner. It was the first time in days that I had nothing scheduled and all of those sounded appealing. Instead, I ate chicken salad and edamame in my room, put on my pj’s and fell asleep watching the Olympics. I was worn out.

When I travel, I feel like I should pack in as many local sites as I can – after all, I´m there and who knows whether I´ll be back. This is not everyone´s approach I was reminded at dinner Saturday night when a portion of our group described their afternoon as primarily consisting of a nap. While they were sleeping, we had toured the courthouse tower, the art museum, and a dedicated gluten-free bakery.

I have also observed several of our group wincing in pain, wilting from thirst, and too hungry to decide on a restaurant. How can you avoid these traveling pitfalls? Be kind to yourself. How?

palm-Wear comfortable shoes.
-Pack light when laundry facilities are available.
-Pack a day tote in your suitcase to use for snacks, a change of shoes, a jacket, etc.
-Drink plenty of water and always have a bottle with you.
-Time meals and snacks with your home time zone in mind.
-Give yourself time to ease into the day.
-Carry food on day trips and when you fly.
-Wear sunglasses.
-Take naps.
-Be willing to say no when you´re tired.
-Map locations in advance to avoid annoyance when the GPS is slow.
-Take your time and enjoy what you´re doing.

Just a little kindness goes a long way toward enjoying a vacation to the fullest whether you relax or pack in as much as possible.

August 9, 2016

World Breastfeeding Week

SidebabyWorld Breastfeeding Week just drew to a close. What? There’s a World Breastfeeding Week? Well, yes there is. It’s coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and began about 15 years ago.

WABA’s core partners are the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), La Leche League International (LLLI), and Wellstart International.

This year, in addition to encouraging women to breastfeed, WABA focussed on raising awareness of the links between breastfeeding and Sustainable Development Goals along the following themes:
1)Nutrition/food security
2)Health, well0being and survival
3)Environment and climate change
4)Work productivity, empowerment, social protection, and
5)Sustainable partnerships and rule of law

That sounds lofty and idealistic, but in the US, there’s a huge gap between our lofty breastfeeding goals and our actual practice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding babies nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months of life. When moms arrive at the hospital to give birth, the majority say they are planning to follow this guideline. Three months later, 43.3% are exclusively breastfeeding and 29.3% are supplementing with formula. By 6 months according to the CDC, the percentage of exclusively breastfed babies has dropped to 21.9% and 35.4% of nursing mothers have supplemented with formula.*

Rates of Rates of breastfeeding declined in the US between 1911 and 1972 when only 22% of women initiated breastfeeding. While the rates have increased since 1972, they remain low in spite of the known health benefits to both infant and mother. So it seems that our tortured relationship with healthy food in this country literally begins at birth and for many of the same reasons adults cite as impediments to healthy habits – convenience, lack of social support, confusing messages from the medical community, and advertising that reassures us a product is healthy (the closest to breast milk).

When it comes to convenience, I feel like we often think of things in a topsy turvy manner. What could be more convenient than always having milk ready and at the right temperature when a baby gets hungry? It becomes inconvenient when women feel they must go back to work quickly to support their families or believe that they’ll get behind in their careers if they take off a few years to raise children. While this is sometimes the reality, other times it isn’t, but the belief has become so ingrained that we rarely challenge it.

We don’t always run the numbers to see if our jobs really cost more than they bring in, especially if we have more than one child in day care. We appear to forget that added trips to the doctor for either baby or mother who has missed out on the health benefits of breastfeeding take time out of our schedule.

Nor is there much social support for breastfeeding in public places in many communities in the US. You may have seen the recent video of a man telling a breastfeeding mother in Target how disgusting she is. This type of experience has been reported by 25% of breastfeeding moms.

This seems kinda crazy to me considering the number of reality TV stars who run around with half of their boobs showing all the time. Is it the addition of a baby that makes seeing a breast disgusting? I guess that could make sense. Babies are kinda gross sometimes.

Almost 20% of US babies receive supplementary formula within the first two days following birth. That means it’s often being fed while mom and baby are still in the hospital. When you combine this with the formula samples and ads that are often sent home with the mothers, it can appear like a medical endorsement of formula. Studies show that leaving the hospital with formula samples reduces the duration of breastfeeding.

While it’s easy to brush all of this off as insignificant as long as our life expectancy remains the same, the rise in chronic diseases is making our lengthy lives of lower quality. Perhaps someday soon, we’ll recognize that quality can be as valuable as quantity. We’ll see that we don’t have to rush to accumulate, achieve, or hit some arbitrary target to bring value to our lives, our communities, and the world.

In the meantime, I wish you the courage and perseverance to give yourself and your children the best nutritional support available even when it’s not as easy, convenient or well-supported as you believe it should be.

monkey hand

*Based on most recent CDC statistics available (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 1, 2016

You Don’t Need a Competition to Have a Winning Experience in the Kitchen

chicken and riceYou Don’t Need a Competition to Have a Winning Experience in the Kitchen. When it’s time to cook dinner for the family, you don’t have to make the best dish in the least amount of time and plate it perfectly. You don’t have to precisely recreate your grandmother’s beef stroganoff or her cherry pie to deliver a delicious meal. It’s not necessary to have expert knife skills, know how to make perfect icing rosettes, or to have ever even heard of durian fruit to create a satisfying meal.

If you get most of your cooking lessons from television, you may mistakenly believe that speed is critical to the equation or that all dishes must look beautiful on the plate to taste good. It’s easy to see why you’d think that. There’s no shortage of cooking shows in which contestants must make difficult preparations in extremely short periods of time. Chopped, Top Chef, MasterChef, Food Network Star, Iron Chef, and Cupcake Wars are just a few of the many available at the end of the remote.

A little binge watching can be fun, but it can also be intimidating. How many times have you walked past beautiful Swiss chard, fresh baby ginger, soybeans on the branch, or rich purple eggplant at the farmer’s market because you had a sudden glimpse in your head of rushing to try to get them prepped, cooked, and on the plate that led to an immediate fear that you’d never succeed? It’s a bit ironic that the construct of these shows gets us interested in cooking and compels us to watch a complete episode, but may hold us back in our own kitchens.

With cooking, as with anything in life, you don’t know what you can achieve until you get in the game and you never know how good you can be until you’re willing to learn from failure. If you’ve read my series on the Benefits of Cooking, you already know many of the incredible skills that can be learned in the kitchen, but beyond fractions, ratios, chemistry, and process thinking, resilience may be the most valuable lesson of all.

Even a failure in the kitchen may be delicious – an overcooked caramel takes on a bitterness that some people prefer; an accidental charred edge on lasagne or even kale can be the best part of the dish. Even slightly burned rice takes on an interesting dimension of flavor.

So, with no fear of competition, how about we get in the kitchen and give this simple, hearty dish a try? This was one of my go-to recipes as a working, single mom with kids to feed. You don’t have to hurry because this is so easy and cooks so fast, you’ll have dinner ready in less time than it takes to drive to a restaurant, ordering, and getting your food.
Chicken and Rice
Serves 4

2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups quick cooking Royal Rice Blend
1/4 white onion
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders
Ground black pepper
Garlic powder

In medium pot, combine water, rice and onion. Add chicken tenders. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Turn burner to high and allow water to come to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to medium or low and simmer for 15 minutes. You want a low boil in the pan as you simmer. Continue to cook for 2 – 3 minutes if needed to boil away any extra liquid. Turn off heat and allow to sit with cover on for 5 minutes. Remove onion if desired. Serve hot.

The addition of a simple green salad or a fruit salad topped with yogurt turns this into a full, nutritious meal. Of course there are other options as well. While the Chicken and Rice is simmering, there’s time to steam some fresh broccoli, asparagus, or sugar snap peas. If none of those sound like a fit for your family, you can also play with the Chicken and Rice.

Chop a few baby carrots into small pieces and add to the rice before you turn on the heat. The carrots will cook right along with the rice. Don’t like carrots? After 10 – 12 minutes of simmering, add some frozen English peas to the pot and continue to cook as per the recipe. Another option is to give this dish a more spanish flair by adding some precooked black beans, a bit of Rotel® Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, and a sprinkle of cumin and a sprinkle of chili powder. One-third cup of both the beans and Rotel should be adequate, but use more or less depending on your preference.

I cooked this last night and it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. I say that only to illustrate that this is a great throw-together entrée for a busy night. If it takes you 45 minutes or an hour, that’s fine too. Thank goodness you don’t need a competition to have a winning experience in the kitchen!