Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walkabout for Creativity

Coming to Seattle, I was astonished by how many people preferred to "visit" on foot. No chatting in cafes over coffee and apple pie, but strolls (a paper coffee cup in hand) or brisk walks through one of the Emerald City's approximately 200 parks. More often than not, we would forego window shopping and trot up and down boulevards with views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula, or downtown with the Cascades and Mount Rainier as backdrop.

People watching from side-walk terraces had been a favorite pastime, but these active visits were right up my alley. My walks elsewhere had been solitary, now I was getting to know people as well as Seattle's seven hills, finding my way around Queen Anne, Phinney Ridge, and West-Seattle the way only walkers and cyclists do.

Talk about cyclists, being Dutch my main form of transportation back home had been a bike,  yet in Seattle I couldn't get used to pedestrians passing me while I was struggling up hill on my bike. So I took to walking up and down the hills instead. Within a few months my Achilles tendon acted up, the verdict, no more walking uphill. A year after our arrival I called on my doctor complaining about sharp pains in my heels. He told me I had worn out my foot pads, taught me how to tape my foot, prescribed anti-inflamatory meds and told me not to walk downhill anymore because the shifting of weight on my feet caused to much friction. The solution? Take the longer route, zig-zag up or down hill, or taking the bus to level ground. Walk I would.

As a young stage designer I told a reporter friend who had invited me for an outing on his boat that I couldn't go, because I had to come up with a design concept for a play.
"Don't deprive yourself of outings, going for a walk, a bike ride, or an afternoon on the water. Your brain continues working on the project in the background, subconsciously you're solving any problem by not focusing on it, but doing something relaxing, or exercising."

That afternoon I chose to believe him, and I'm still thankful I did, for I learned an important lesson. Back in my studio after boating and dinner with strangers along the shore of the IJ, an idea popped up I had not thought of before. So, the outcome of a Stanford Study that walking improves creativity doesn't come as a surprise to me. But the same could be said for road and boat trips, or building costumes for that matter. Anything that transports you away from your familiar, whether for real or metaphorically, will trigger the little grey cells to do there work uncensored.

As for my feet, it took getting rid of high heels, years of physical therapy and exercise before the plantar fasciitis healed, but today's bouncy shoe soles make it possible to adhere to my credo:

When in doubt, go for a walkabout. 

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Quest for Love of Self - Getting Rid of Toxic Shame

Some might say I had a difficult childhood older parents, one with double PTSD (WWI + WWII) the other suffering from chronic psychosis, both suffering from losses.

Yet, I count myself fortunate that my parents loved me and showed me their love, however age inappropriate my father's sharing of wise lessons may have been at the time, and however confusing my mother's actions and though patterns.

In 1974, at eighteen, I came to America as the spouse of Albert Alberts, a nine-year-older Post-Doctoral Fellow, with a position at D.J. Cram's lab. Wanting to find out what my possibilities were to enter UCLA as a student, I made an appointment with a counselor at the career center.

At the end of the session the counselor deducted I had a rough, and unconventional start, but "your parents showed you their love, and that's a good basis."

People deprived of unconditional love may carry the shame of unworthiness for the rest of their lives.

And here I feel the need to cry: No, no, no, don't let that be so!

Something can be done to mend and heal that early pain
It won't be a walk through the park, although a walk through the park may be healing during that difficult and worthwhile quest for love of self.

Take 3 minutes to read Ross Rosenberg's enlightening post 
"Unearthing & Ridding Yourself of Toxic Shame", and then take action, find yourself a good therapist, and embark on that quest.

Yes! You are worth the trouble, you deserve to rid yourself of shame that has nothing to do with you!

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Adman, Writer John "Jack" Davis Made Words Count

My mom and I used to play a game "Ik zie, ik zie, wat jij niet ziet" or "I see what you don't see". 
Note that the verb is "don't" not "can't". In other words, it's not about what you can't see, but what you miss seeing. 
The clever ad for the (blue) Skoda (in the picture) makes use of the same principle. 

Admen and women sell products, and sometimes they sell more than that; the best among them sell ideas that are LIFE-CHANGING and sometimes a gift of life, or at least enhanced quality of life. 

The following letter from Mary Welborn, the widow of Gary's stepdad, our dear friend John "Jack" Davis, about her late husband and colleague runs that idea home. 

Please let me, Mary Welborn, share with you a moment to reflect on the passing of my husband, John (Jack) Freeman Davis.

There are few people born with the power to string together just the right words that set into motion the energy to overcome problems. John was one of those rare guys.

Words helped create the demand for a Magnet School Program that was so successful that temporary buildings had to be moved onsite to accomodate the massive student overflow coming into the inner city from the suburbs.
Those words, written by John Davis.
In my opinion, his finest hour was when he created the words that saved countless numbers of children's lives. There is much work to be done.

The words, "Nobody's going to shoot Southwest Airlines out of the sky for a lousy $13" set into motion the power to overcome Braniff crushing Southwest Airlines.
The words, "The best education money can't buy" set into motion the power to overcome complex issues in the '80's' with student bussing in Houston.
There are many more examples where John's writing saved companies from going out of business by creating increased demand for countless products and services.
Words yelled in fear, panic and anger in the echoing lobby of M.D. Anderson's Medical Center: "I don't know who to see or what I have to do, but I'm not leaving this damn place 'till my Granddaughter, John Henry Freeman's Great Granddaughter, gets the medicine she needs! He built this damn place and surely I can get the medicine that she has to have!"

Those words by John Davis set into motion the rushed FDA approval of a drug that continues to save countless number of children's lives. A deadly fungal infection on the liver of Childhood Leukemia patients was killing them while they sat waiting for this medicine to be approved.

John, you are one of the good guys with the rare power of persuasion. Mostly, you taught us that words matter. Resting in peace is not your style, may your spirit continue to kick-ass and take names! We won't have to miss you. Now, you are everywhere.
If anyone feels compelled to make a donation in memory of John (Jack) Freeman Davis, M.D. Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital Pediatric Center would be happy to accept donations. You can even make them online.
Thank you, God bless us all with the same power of persuasion. 
Amen to that Mary. I've got nothing to add to that. 
Although, if you came this far, you deserve to take the Nokia observation test. 

Note that Jack's grandfather John H. Freeman, the one mentioned in Mary's letter, appears in the second paragraph of this linked article. And note that it was Jordan Howell's sister Michelle who was in need of the medicine. 

If there's any message in this post, it's that we don't need to be in advertising to make our words count. 

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Treading on Thin Ice with Pumps - Free after Ralph Waldo Emerson

Symbols are all around us. We live among them, and we know when we are touching a sensitive spot. We know we're not supposed to burn flags, we know we can hurt people's feelings. At a time when nerves are exposed, do we really literally want to tread on sacred icons? 
That's what I see in the picture above, of Zoulikha Bouabdellah's installation "Silence": treading on something sacred, or something that refers to a sacred act with shoes. They may be dainty pumps, and never worn, the message is clear. 
Feet JvP photo The Seattle Times
I recall having a conversation with distinguished Tibet scholar Robert Thurman (aka father of Uma) when he visited the Seattle Central Public Library (designed by "our" Rem Koolhaas). We were looking at the floor designed by conceptual artist Ann Hamilton outside the Microsoft Auditorium. 
I recited my architectural tour guide bit: "7200 square feet of computer routed maple wood, showing 556 sentences in 11 languages."
"Not Tibetan," Thurman said, "You're not supposed to stand on words."
"No, indeed, but even if that language was represented, Ann Hamilton made sure patrons couldn't inadvertently commit blasphemy," I said. "None of the sentences contain words we're not supposed to put our feet on."
Thurman smiled at me and shook his head, "Tibetans consider all writing sacred, no standing on words."

A friend remarks on Facebook:
If there is no bridge of assimilation between the profane and sacred world, every religion is doomed to ashes. Or barren ground of ritual.
To which I answered: My friends and I take our shoes off when we enter someone's home. And, I would like to add here, we wouldn't walk on thin ice with stilettos, too easy to hurt ourselves, and others in the action of saving our ass.

But to get back to the installation in France, perhaps I read it all wrong, perhaps there's a feminist message about women not praying with the men?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Relax - It's Retrospection Time || Mercury Retrograde

image by
Prepare with the listed themes of Mercury Retrograde in mind, and:

- Be extra careful not to put both feet in your (or someone else's) mouth.
- Write down appointments with pen or pencil on paper.
- Double check not to spread myself to thin, can't be in two places at the same time.
- Stick to works in progress -->> Finish projects.

re-apply, re-birth, receive, redo, re-evaluate, re-fill, regain, re-hab, reinvent, rejuvenate, rekindle, relight, remember, rename, reopen, repossess, restore, retrieve, reuse, rev-it-up, rewind, re-xamine, re-yell, rez assured all will be fine
Before Mercury in Retrograde hits:
- See above +
- Write everything down now, make lists.
- Practise bouncing back, go to the gym, work on your abs.
- Don't just put the DVDs, CDs and thumb drives on your desk,  back up your files.
- Prep the coffee maker, lay out your clothes, pack your bag the night before. 
- Make sure your guests are entertaining if not entertainers, order pizza + ice-cream. 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Meditating on Blue San Juan de Fuca

In need of calming down in these emotionally taxing times, 
I imagine the beach, the water, the waves licking my toes, 
the way my feet sink deeper into the cool sand, 
watching the ripple of the tide coming in, going out, 
the way the water connects us all, one body, one time.

This work by Judith van Praag writing as well as photograph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Confidentiality Disclaimer at End of Email

This morning I received an email addressed to me about about a patient's intake.  Since I have been corresponding with the sender I opened the email. The salutation was directed at the person who received a Cc, in other words a copy of the email directed at me. Clearly the message was not for me, but it could be that the sender had made a mistake, intending to copy me on the message she turned around addressee 1 and 2.

How does that happen, I wondered and checked similarities in name. There were none, unless you consider my name has a P, and so does the copied addressee. Yet, in fact, my name was spelled Vanpraag, so the P was not exposed the way it is in Van Praag.

So I read the email and scrolled down to see more. The original sender doesn't use a disclaimer, but the addressee does.The first is a supplier of medical, and physical aids equipment, the second a representative of a hospital's rehabilitation center. The latter's sign-off includes a disclaimer, that the material in the email is confidential and only meant for the recipient. Unfortunate wording since I am the recipient, even though not the intended one.

My curiosity was triggered, naturally I'll reply to all, and do what's further requested in the disclaimer, "to let the sender know and destroy the email and attachments".
Oh, yes, the attached PDF contained all personal information about the patient whose name I won't disclose. To be honest I did scan the documents to see if there was mention of a patient whom I do represent, but that was not the case.

I have no intention to use the received data. With an overload of information that comes my way on a daily basis the name of the person in the care of the two correspondents has already been deleted from my memory bank. Still, I'm concerned. Making a booboo is easily done. And what if. What if the message really is seen by people who shouldn't?

Is it a good idea to send confidential material by email? The author of the blog Clinical Lawyer discusses the value of a disclaimer, and what it really means for patient and caregiver (or any other supplier of services to a client or patient).

So if most email isn’t secure, and confidential information shouldn’t be sent via email, why bother including a warning that confidential information sent to the wrong address should be destroyed? Isn’t it pointless? Well, sort of. But there are some good reasons why people choose to do so:
One possibility is that people are actually sending confidential information via unsecured email. Bad idea (see above).
Another possibility is that they don’t intend to send confidential information via email, but in the event that they make a mistake and do transmit confidential information they want to make sure that they have some sort of instruction in case the message strays. Again, it’s just not a good idea to send confidential information via email at any time.
I highly recommend reading the whole blog post, it's enlightening.
As for the emails —yes, a thread was sent growing and growing without either sender or recipient noticing my name as the main addressee— I will reply to all addressed and send them a link of the Clinical Lawyer blog.

Conclusion: f snail mail is too slow to for your liking, use a courier service, or FAX confidential material. Do make sure beforehand that the FAX machine is not located next to the water fountain or in the common room.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License