Archive for February, 2015

The Plan: A New Resource For Family Caregivers

February 6, 2015

Daily Inspirations brand

Jim Miller’s newest series of positive messages grows out of the many books he has written and DVDs he has created, as well as the blogs he regularly writes. It also grows out of his concern for the needs of family caregivers in our world today.

There are 65,000,000 such caregivers in the United States alone. Many of these people must juggle work, family, and their own personal responsibilities while caring for a loved one many hours a week. Stress can become a significant issue, as well as depression.

What could be more useful to such people than a morning boost, or a morning inspiration, addressed specifically to family caregivers?

“Daily Inspirations for Caregivers” will be made up of four different kinds of formats. Twice a week the subscriber will receive a short encouraging video. An equal number of times there will be a thoughtful writing offering information, validation, and support, always ending on a hopeful note. There will be as many PhotoThoughts, combining meaningful quotations with striking photography. And once a week there will be an affirming audio, in Jim’s own voice, especially for those caregivers who may feel isolated and alone.

Each Inspiration will be designed to reach out to the whole person—heart and mind and soul. Each will grow out of Jim’s work through the years as a professional and also out of his personal experiences in being a family caregiver himself.

Jim spent a significant number of hours in the first half of 2014 creating about half of the Inspirations required. Then he put the project on hold while he devoted attention to the business of Willowgreen.

Now, in early 2015, Jim is prepared to return to completing “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers.” But he wants to be sure that there is a real need for this resource, and that it’s worth the financial investment involved.

So he’s turning this planned new venture into a Kickstarter project. Kickstarter ( is a crowdfunding Web site in which individuals, organizations, and businesses can pledge various amounts of money to help bring creative ideas to reality, in return for certain rewards.

You can learn all about “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers” on the Kickstarter site by typing in the name of this project. You can see what the need is, what the budget calls for, what the timeline looks like, and what rewards are offered. You’ll also see samples of the types of Inspirations Jim has already created.

You’re invited to be a part of bringing this exciting new offering to life. Family caregivers will be supported in the vital work they do, day in and day out, often year after year.

You can pledge your support on the Kickstarter Web site up until March 6. Your contribution will be accepted only if 100% of the proposed budget is underwritten; otherwise your credit card will not be charged.

November 1, 2015 is the proposed release date for “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers,” should the budget be underwritten with pledges.

The Empathy Exams: A Micro-Review

February 6, 2015

empathy-examsIn that first essay of her recent book, The Empathy Exams: Essays, Leslie Jamison describes her work as a medical actor, helping to train medical students how to diagnose maladies while also relating to their “patients” in empathetic ways. Who knew there was such a career? Jamison tells the story of what these actors do, and how they do it, very engagingly.

What impressed me most, however, was the manner in which she analyzed the subject of empathy, especially from the perspective of one who is paid to watch for it, and to respond to it, in others. She writes:

“Empathy comes from the Greek empatheia—em (into) and pathos (feeling)—a penetration, a kind of travel. It suggests you enter another person’s pain as you’d enter another country, through immigration and customs, border crossing by way of query: What grows where you are? What are the laws? What animals graze there?”

She weaves in her own personal story as a woman who required heart surgery after just having had an abortion. She tells of experiencing a certain empathy from her surgeon as she faced the procedure, but she also experienced something else from him: assurance.

“Empathy is a kind of care but it is not the only kind of care, and it’s not always enough. I want to think that’s what Dr. G was thinking. I needed to look at him and see the opposite of my fear, not it’s echo.”

Not it’s echo—a telling realization, no?

For those of us who strive to be empathetic, and even make a living doing it, Jamison’s words are worth remembering. There will be times when empathy will not be enough. Then what else will be useful? What else will we be prepared to offer?

Jamison reports on a study that found a high correlation between four personality traits in people who are naturally empathetic: sensitivity, nonconformity, even-temperedness, and social self-confidence. She writes that the last characteristic, which she initially found surprising, “gives a person the courage to enter the interpersonal world and practice empathetic skills,” quoting from that 1983 study. There is a sense, therefore, in which empathy, as much as an act of sensitivity, is an act of boldness.

The author notes that empathy is not something that simply happens to us. “It’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves.” We do this for a reason, and for ourselves as well as for the other person. As she eloquently puts it, “I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better selves.”

In the end Jamison wants the world to know about the vital power of empathy, and also to make clear that it takes real effort to do this important work. And it’s worth every exertion. That’s true for everyone, not just physicians.

A New Web Site Unlike Any Other

February 6, 2015

new website

Yes, our old Web site was like a great friend, dependable and enjoyable.

But the truth was that it didn’t work very well with smartphones, and only passably with tablets. And truth was that some of the technology it employed was old school.

So finally we took a deep breath, realizing the work that lay ahead, and promised ourselves that we would build a new Web site from the ground up (if you can reliably refer to “ground” out in virtual space).

Katherine Misegades, our graphic artist and Web specialist for many years, did the new design. Janet Newell of Island River Digital in Grosse Ile, Michigan brought in all the latest digital ideas and software solutions. And by the end of 2014, we had a new advanced Web site in place, one we’re very pleased to share with you.

We can now display our Willowgreen style of photography with greater flair. We can show you more samples of our videos, including many videos in their entirety. You can sort through all our books and DVDs both by topic and by format with just a mouse click or a stylus poke or a good old finger tap.

Like all the better Web sites today, ours is now “responsive”—it adapts itself automatically to whatever instrument you’re using, whether it’s a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.

Do take our new Web site for a spin: We think you’ll enjoy the experience.