Agreeing to Disagree

Agreeing to disagree. Reasonable people can disagree. They can disagree on substance or tone or the most efficient way to achieve a goal. But they can’t reasonably disagree without fully understanding the other position.

If you don’t understand a position, you can have an opinion about it but that opinion is uninformed. When you are uninformed or partially informed, you simply can’t know whether you disagree. We know this to the point that have clichés about walking in someone else’s shoes before we judge.

And yet, we have become daily finger-pointing, vilifying, cancel-culturing jerks. Provocative language gains likes, friends, and followers. This encourages bad behavior and makes it tempting to give in to our baser instincts.

It feels good to compare when we receive accolades. It feels terrible to compare when we receive criticism. But chasing accolades for a particular position entrenches us at one level of understanding and prevents growth.

I distinctly remember sitting in a jury room with 11 strangers attempting to determine whether a man assaulted a policeman before stealing his car. On our first vote, I was the lone dissent on a guilty verdict.

During deliberations, I was asked whether or not I watched the show Cops and was told that if I did, I’d understand why the guy was guilty. I was also personally attacked for reading a book during a break. Of course, this criticism was mischaracterized as me reading instead of listening during testimony. These were attempts not just to disagree with me, but to try to shame or push me into a different position. They were both unpleasant and ineffective.

Then there was the jury foreman. He and I were on opposite sides of the argument, but he was thoughtful, respectful, and reasonable. We came at the same set of facts from different points of view and reached different conclusions. I’m sure we were both right on some points. Ultimately, the jury was hung. There simply wasn’t enough proof to put 4 of us beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the situation had been a conference room in which we were discussing policy, the jury foreman and I would have made complimentary team members who broadened understanding and improved the final product. We would still have needed to reach a consensus, but our disagreement would have enriched and improved the process.

And that’s the thing. Disagreement can lead to improvement. But that’s only when we begin by listening to each other. Sometimes, we may discover that we don’t disagree at all. We may just have a different style of communication or use different lingo. Other times, we’ll discover the narrowness of our own point-of-view.

Disagreement can be inspiring. It can introduce new possibilities. It can be respectful and collaborative. But that can only happen when we stop pointing fingers, vilifying, and failing to try to understand another perspective.

I am all for accountability. I understand the desire to respond negatively to ideas that go against our closely held beliefs and values. And I’m not saying that we should agree with everything. But please, for the love of all things good, can we start listening with both our ears and our hearts to each other?

We may need to see the fear behind the bluster or the manipulation behind a benevolent-appearing act. To do this can take time, active listening, and a deeper personal investment than typical posturing allows.

The past two years have made it clear that many systems are broken or on the brink of failure. It will take the input of many voices and many points-of-view to hold things together. And it will take a force of will to look reality in the face and choose to be better.

I believe it’s worth the courage and effort it takes. And I believe in order to improve, we must agree to understand – not just disagree.

I’d Tell You, But Then I’d Have To…

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to…quit talking because you’d have tuned me out anyway! And you thought I’d have to kill you. No, you’re safe. This year, I really want to map out some expectations for the healing process. I feel like that’s a missing piece of the puzzle for many of us.

But that map will not start today. Why? Because life has handed me other priorities. I know you’re familiar. In random waves of difficulty, life can interfere with the best of intentions sapping your energy for anything other than the essential.
The virus I had on Christmas lasted a good 14 days. Two days later, my medically fragile granddaughter came to stay with me while her parents travel out of state. She is sick. Her cough sounds like she has the same virus I had.

In the average baby this would not be of great concern, but this 8-month-old has spent 50 of the past 128 days in CVICU (Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit). The last cold she got put her in the hospital so oxygen dependent that when the oxygen supply accidentally became disconnected, she coded. That’s short for they called a code blue meaning she required immediate resuscitation.

Em has a paralyzed vocal cord and has not even attempted a bottle since August. She hasn’t successfully eaten more than half an ounce from a bottle since she was 6-weeks-old. She isn’t comfortable with swallowing. That means the only way she has figured out to get rid of the drainage down her throat is to throw up.

Again, not that big a deal…except she often starts coughing during a feed and then throws up to clear her throat. (During a feed – that’s how you start to talk when you spend lots of time in a hospital.) We fill her tummy through a button attached to a gastrostomy tube (G-tube). Three times a day, we add medications to her food. If she doesn’t get enough diuretics, her lungs fill with fluid so keeping the meds down is essential.
This is my main priority – keeping meds in her. Second is monitoring her pulse ox. I’ve had to keep her on oxygen the past few days. That means lots of logistical maneuvering and plastic tubing snaking through the kitchen into the living room, dining room, and bedroom. I move the oxygen concentrator in the morning and evening, but I don’t want to have to move it all day long.

Now, you’re probably either thinking, “bless your heart, I can’t even imagine” or “yeah, that sounds awful, but you’ll get through it and everything will be better”. Either way, I’m sure you’re ready to tune out unless I get to the point.

pumpWait…I haven’t even told you how long it takes to measure out 1.6, 1.875, and 5.625 mls of 9 different medications. I haven’t explained that her thyroid medication comes in 2 different pills. Depending on the day, I have to choose a 25mcg pill or cut a 75mcg pill in half, crush the pill, add water, place the resulting mixture in a slip tip (yes, that’s really what it’s called) syringe and inject it into the button. I haven’t mentioned any of the almost daily issues with equipment – a tube that slips off the feeding syringe and soaks me during a feed; the feed pump we use at night reading NO FLOW OUT even though there’s no obstruction and I can prime out liquid; an auxiliary port on a tube that gets caught, comes open and dumps meds and milk in the crib; the pulse ox sensor that has too much ambient light to work, etc. I haven’t told you that Em has panic attacks during which she starts gulping air. That means she needs constant burping through the burp tube, but she also needs to be held close to calm down. Those can’t be done by one person at the same time. Oh, and Em can’t sit up on her own yet. She has Down Syndrome and has spent so much time in the hospital she is way behind. Because she weighs 17 lbs, that adds another level of difficulty. Yeah, I know blah, blah, blah.

But that is the point. To feel like you understand what my days really look like, I need to tell you even more details. When I do, 98% of people stop listening. I can visibly see it happen. Some people want me to buck up. Others just don’t want to think about it. Others wish I’d say something interesting for a change. Many stop me by saying something they mean to be comforting, but often reflects that they haven’t absorbed what I said.

I am lucky. For me, the relentlessness of caring for a child who can go from okay to critical in 24 hours is a temporary situation. For my son and daughter-in-law, it is every day on top of jobs and caring for a two-year-old. When Em’s in the hospital, one of them has to stay there with her.

Not only do they have the stress of the routine, they have to make some really tough decisions. Em has pulmonary hypertension. There are 12 cardiologists who consult on her case and they fall into two different camps on treatment. Half of them would have her living in the hospital right now. How do you decide whether to bring her home or keep her hospitalized when the experts can’t reach a consensus?

And to all of you who want to say, you’ll get through this and everything will be okay – yes, we’ll get through it and it will be okay, but we do not know whether her health will improve. It may not. Getting our minds around the fact that this may be our new normal is more than any of us have been able to do. It just feels too sad. And that’s when it’s not feeling too overwhelming.

When you’re up from 2am to 3am with the average baby it’s tiring, but you’re buoyed by memories of holding your baby close or hearing her laugh. When you’re up from 2am to 3am with a medically fragile baby who is sick, you worry that you didn’t spend enough time holding her because you were too busy performing the tasks that keep her alive. That is a lonely, emotionally exhausting 2am.

I think we all just want to know we’re not alone with this. We want to feel a sense of support and connectedness in this situation life has dealt us. There’s simply no way to feel that if we don’t feel seen and understood. I don’t say that just for me or my family. We are just an example. It applies to all of us. It is the real gift we want from each other.

As humans, we may be geared to need connection, but somehow at this moment in time we seem to be lacking the will to stay tuned in when things are hard to hear. That means those who most need support are least likely to get it. I don’t know if that’s why we have so many people who feel the need to escape through drug and alcohol use, but I think it may be related.

Speaking from your heart is a vulnerable experience. Listening with your heart sometimes feels even more so. When you really see people, it changes your perception and not just of others, but of yourself. Keeping your heart open requires strong boundaries and oceans of courage. This is the real work of a full life. And many of us miss out.

Em and I saw a beautiful example of connection this week. I flipped on the Ellen show during a feed. Dax Shephard was on and it was his birthday. During a segment called, “Ask Dr. Dax,” his wife Kristen Bell asked from the audience what he would recommend giving someone special like a spouse for their birthday. He answered, “I would say please, please, please give that person love and support for 11 years, give them two beautiful baby girls…and you’re good.” Kristen’s eyes filled with tears, as did his. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Not everyone has a spouse, partner, parent, or child with whom such a connection is available. Today, you may have the privilege of being the only person who can offer active listening to someone you encounter. You may be the one person who can hold the space for someone to heal. It may not be instinctive or easy. It may interrupt your busy life. You may not feel appreciated in the moment. In spite of this, should you choose to listen, you give a valuable gift when you find the courage to stay tuned in.

If you have made it this far, thank you for listening.–procedures/gastrostomy-tubes.aspx

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.”

Stop, Look, and Listen

Stop, look, and listen. You can reduce your calorie intake, lower your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease TODAY! Before we go any further getting to know our food, let’s take a moment to explore a simple change that can make a huge difference.

Whew. It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into the new year! How are you fairing with your plans to be healthier?

If you’ve been following this blog all month, you’ll recall that we’ve been learning about food so that we have the knowledge we need to slowly, but surely, build a lifestyle to support the changes we want to make. Building a framework to support change can take time. Seeing the results of changes can take time. As we’ve seen, learning about food can take time. But there are things you can do that will make you healthier right this minute!

That’s right. You can reduce your calorie intake, lower your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease TODAY! How?
Stop, Look, and Listen.

Drinking soda with high fructose corn syrup
Drinking soda with real sugar
Drinking diet soda
Giving soda to your children

The American Heart Association recommends children drink soda once a week or less. According to the Washington Post, two-thirds of children drink soda daily.

Soft drinks provide 0 nutrition. ZERO. For the 100 calories in an 8 ounce Dr. Pepper, you get more than a days worth of added sugar. It doesn’t matter if the sugar comes from cane sugar, beet sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, it is still added sugar and your body does not require it.

Yes, you’ll get a temporary boost from the sugar and caffeine in the drink, but if you do not combine it with protein or long lasting carbs, you will soon feel fatigued because of a swift drop in blood sugar. One way to combat that is to drink another soda. That can result in a cycle that’s hard to
break. And on some level it can be addicting.

My mother had such an addiction to Dr. Pepper for about 20 years. I found a handwritten health history in which she documented that she drank 12 Dr. Peppers per day. Each was a 20 oz bottle out of the vending machine at our business. Even if she only consumed half of each bottle, that’s 1500 calories per day.

While it was no secret that she subsisted on Dr. Pepper, saltine crackers, and the occasional piece of cherry pie, I don’t think any of us realized how many of her calories came from sugar. It was the bulk of them. You wouldn’t have guessed this. She was never overweight. In fact, she was quite thin. She was also fatigued and depressed. She ultimately died from kidney disease.

Diet soda removes the sugar and calories, but a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that diet soft drinks may also contribute to diabetes and be associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

Drinking sweet tea

If you’ve grown accustomed to sweet tea, this may sound difficult. My grandmother had a good system for breaking the habit. She would only allow us to have a glass of sweet tea after we finished a glass of unsweet tea. It didn’t take long to lose our preference for the sweet version.

Drinking flavored coffee drinks daily

Whether it comes from a barista, dispensing machine, or bottle, a caramel cappuccino is filled with sugar. If your daily morning coffee comes topped with syrup and whipped cream, there’s no question. It is filled with sugar.

Serving lemonade, punch, or drink mixes with meals

Lemonade, punch, and drink mixes are all sweetened with something. Of course it’s okay to have a
lemonade stand sometimes or serve punch at a party. The problem arises when it’s served frequently.

Giving the kids store bought juice or juice boxes

Juice is better than soda because it contains some vitamins, and nutrients. The box may say it’s 100% juice, but some brands have added sugar hidden in the fruit concentrate. Fresh squeezed juice or water are better options.

At the label before you buy

It’s not just soft drinks that deliver a large dose of sugar. Sports drinks and flavored water may do so as well. If you see the words: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or sucrose syrup — they mean sugar. If you see the words Sucralose and acesulfame potassium — they mean artificial sweetener.

Getting in the habit of reading labels will help you make healthier choices. You may discover that simply changing brands will make a big difference in the amount of fat, sugar, and calories you are consuming.

To your body

Foods affect people differently. If I eat pancakes with syrup for breakfast, you’ll find me in the bathroom throwing up about 10 minutes later. This has been true my entire life. Even if they’re gluten-free, I can’t tolerate sugary carbs in the morning. This may not be true for you.

So, I’m not saying that you should never ever have a soda, or sweet tea, or a delicious coffee drink. I’m saying that if you begin to think of those things as treats to be consumed on rare occasions rather than as regular everyday fare, you’ll automatically make a huge step toward a healthier diet.

It really is that easy! And it can happen today.

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.”