Reinventing the Wheel

Reinventing the wheel is not something that is typically recommended. When one as an idea, this is why research is such an important step, does it already exist? Once I had this idea that what was really needed was a stroller attachment that would transfer the energy from the spinning wheels into a way to charge my phone. At the time I was a mom with a baby and I walked a lot, I often would realize that I forgot to charge my phone and was irritated by having to carry the cord around (a couple miles sometimes) and then ask at the coffee shop/kids gym/friends house to plug my phone in. I was convinced this would be a world changing thing for moms. I went to the internet and started searching, and WOW you should see what I found, there was this origami stroller that absolutely blew my mind.

With other parenting ideas I found what I “thought of” often in the On Step Ahead catalog. I didn’t get discouraged, I am instead empowered that I’m coming up with ideas that have great market validation since they already exist and have customers! So I allow myself to keep daydreaming about ways to make the world a better place and simply appreciated that the Onsie extenders existed, the appropriately sized baby bottles for babies that are used to breastfeeding and more. I also signed up for any affiliate program related to these items and tried to be a part of letting people know these great things existed.

Sometimes, it happens though that something doesn’t exist. It was 2009 after I gave birth to my second baby and was having a hard time both financially and also finding support that I realized as a mom who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), there wasn’t a place for me to connect with other moms. At the time there were a good number of forums for people diagnosed with MS but there wasn’t anything “just” for the moms. I found a few groups that were labeled as “Parents” that contained an awkward mix of people who were:

*Parents with children diagnosed with MS
*Married to/previously married to someone diagnosed with MS
*Parents who were diagnosed with MS (moms &/or dads)

As a mom, I was not comfortable posting questions about things like breastfeeding, what medications were ok to talk, and details about childbirth. This is because the people in these rooms all had their own unique perspective on the topic that skewed their response. I saw moms not getting support when they asked reasonable questions and also sometimes even attacked for considering having children. As a mom with MS I also knew that through my pregnancies, one of which happened in NYC and the other in WA state, all of my doctors gave completely different advice as far as how to deal with everything, and this includes neurologists, ob/gyn, and even midwives.

I wanted to know what other moms did and how they made their decisions. I believed that moms, especially moms dealing with a serious diagnosis needed support, and I created the site on a Ning platform with the domain MomsWithMS.com in 7/2009. That was just over 5 years ago, and there is still a few moms trickling in each week because they were looking for women who could relate to what they are going through.

So still working on other ideas at the same time and grateful that after so many years I am seeing more sites/support groups dedicated to this previously neglected demographic. I’m still investigating my other ideas as they come up and I hope that you are too, there seems to be no limit to ideas! I am grateful that I experienced the success of this ever growing community and was able to help some people realize they are not alone. Also grateful to have had an idea really seem to stick.

Posted in Idea, Multiple Sclerosis | Leave a comment

Medical Analytics Fantasy

I Dream of Applying the Growing Web Analytics to Medicine Someday
(Originally published on Aug 17, 2010 by Kristin Bennett on Associated Content/Yahoo)

Brain ScanAfter reading through the current issue of WIRED I have been fantasizing about what could be if we were able to collect and analyze data the way that Flickr, Google, and now Hunch has, for use in researching medicine.
Where is this coming from?

Some context from which I am writing this article is I am 29 years old, a mother of two, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and have experience working on the development of SaaS (Software as a Service) Application Development.

If I were writing this article a few months ago I would be explaining to you that multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the many autoimmune conditions affecting one in five people. Recently though there has been a wealth of controversy about what is really happening since Zamboni has joined the scene. Also there has been some discoveries about how there can now be tests taken to indicate what kind of treatment a person will or will not respond to. That last sentence is humorous to me in it’s use of whether a patient will or will not “respond”, it is funny because what these medicines are aiming for is to not induce any kind of response, if anything they abort any attack that may be occurring internally based on the definition of MS a few months ago.

Because of these recent developments I think there are a lot of websites that at this point seriously need to be updated.

I mentioned it has been nine years since I was diagnosed with MS, my medical journey really startedtwo years before that point when I was 18 years old in my first semester at Parsons School of Design(now called Parsons The New School of Design) being told I had a stroke. At that point my situation was a quandry, I was a gym rat, walked miles each day when trekking from my apartment in Brooklyn to school each day and ate a healthy diet with much more Kashi and less pizza than a typical college diet.
It was at this point, when I was 18 that I learned an important lesson, which is that doctors are human and they absolutely do not have all the answers, even the ones like House that think they do (of course maybe he has access to the kind of database I’m dreaming of and has all the random correlations programmed into his brain).

What This Fantasy Consists Of
My fantasy is that everyone has the results of quizzes, medical treatments, skincare products they use, foods they eat, things they are allergic to and much more all collected from different sources most likely and ideally some kind of journal of symptoms they have ever experienced that is all cross referenced, compared, and potentially giving some sort of preliminary diagnosis for the person to bring to their specialty focused doctor who can provide treatment. Likewise people would be able to see what kinds of treatment others in similar situations pursued and how happy or successful this treatment was for them.

All Methods Of Treatment
As I touched on, this database would include information from all different kinds of medicine, from ancient herbal chinese medicine, chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic, and of course all kinds of western medicine. There would be no limit at all to the kinds of treatments being compared when all this data comes together.

All Sources of Cause
One of the most frustrating moments that I had when I was learning about treating MS and why there were such amazing discoveries made regarding diet (Swank) so many years ago yet the experts I had interacted with, mostly neurologists, refused to even admit that diet could possibly be affecting the course of my MS! Eventually I learned, eight years post diagnosis, that the reason they couldn’t acknowledge these things was because of the scientific method they were using to guide them which required the use of “double blind placebo study” which is impossible with food!
Learning this also led to my thinking about everything else we expose ourselves to, recently the FDA being sued for not regulating antibacterial products that are hurting people, parabens in almost every drugstore product being recognized as estrogen in our body…who knows what that will or has led to but hasn’t been proven because it is dependent on the full history of product usage in a persons life and quantity of parabens and other ingredients within the products they use. I have to wonder honestly how many of the germophobe doctors who have the antibacterial lotions in their office are actually passing these things into the blood stream of their staff and patients via the skin on their hands.
How many little boys need to be born with genital birth defects before we start researching what the ingredients in our products do to our bodies? How many stylists babies were born with these defects before they discovered it was the hairspray?

Currently there is some research that is focused on things like ingredients in the products we use, the scary part is that it is being done in studies focused first on disease and then on product, for example one disease that has gotten a lot of attention is breast cancer, and we can see the effects parabens have relating to that problem, but if I want to know how it relates to MS, there is no data!

If we could pool the data that all the cancer, heart, brain, and skin disease research projects what would we learn? I can give you one example…I just googled “environmental causes of heart disease” to find some relevant links to what I’m writing here and I found a link that mentions the higher risk of stroke in areas of high pollution. This makes me wonder if moving from the west coast to a polluted NYC was a factor in my stroke? What else would I learn if I could just find the right terms to search for?

Beyond Physical Products and Food
In the same issue of WIRED I read about a man named Robert Sapolsky who is has studied stress and effects of it, particularly related to hierarchy. I also have heard a man named Gabor Mate speaking of how addiction and child abuse are related. What if we could also take this kind of psychological and personal history information taken from places like facebook and other sites that ask these kinds of questions and study the effects of things like being adopted, sent to brat camp, being abused or even just coming from a military family had in areas outside of those currently being studied?
More Examples of How This Could Help

When I had a breech baby, or a muscle spasm, I didn’t know who to call, and after pursuing many different experts for help I discovered alternative medicine. If the resource in my dreams existed I could type ‘breech baby’ into a google like search box and have access to actual numbers that had true meaning related to collected data about ways that other people dealt with this and how well it worked for them. When I called my primary care doctor, all they told me was to take a tylenol and wait, but in the case of the muscle spasm, I simply didn’t have the time as was due to have a baby!

I can’t imagine the breakthroughs that would emerge if we could merge databases of things like personal care ingredients, marketing information from popular magazines advertising for such products taking in who uses what, other online quizzes from medical websites where people go to research their symptoms all being cross checked with the latest medical research and findings?

I hope that you found this article interesting and that you are one of the lucky 4 in 5 people who hasn’t been diagnosed with one of the mysterious autoimmune conditions affecting so many of us. I hope that your family isn’t affected either, but if you or your friends, family, co-workers are affected, I am sure that you can see the potential in this idea. More than anything I hope that someone who is in it to help the world uses what I have written here and makes something of it, of course I’d love to do it myself or be involved as well but more than anything I hope someone makes it happen as soon as possible so that less people suffer from these mysterious ailments and can find the appropriate treatment or even better avoid anything that will likely cause a condition before it happens.

I have not mentioned things like the logging of supplements, food, cosmetics and much more but I see all of this as being included as well.

Sources:
www.wired.com/magazine/2010/07/ff_caterina_fake/all/1
www.flickr.com
www.google.com
www.hunch.com
www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/health/04brod.html?_r=1
www.patsfund.org
www.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/health/29vein.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Zamboni

http://www.healthandage.com/multiple-sclerosis-blood-test-may-predict-treatment-response-23892

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5532868/having_a_stroke_as_a_college_freshman.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2272109/diagnosed_with_a_stroke_at_18_moving.html

http://www.parsons.edu

http://www.swankmsdiet.org/

http://www.nrdc.org/media/2010/100727.asp

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7741998.stm

http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/chemicals-glossary/parabens.html

http://www.straight.com/article-132920/we-re-wired-for-addiction

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/07/ff_stress_cure/

http://www.cafety.org

    This was recently rescued from the WayBackMachine and I plan to go back asap to collect all the links in the original article as well. Please comment if this topic is of interest to you and also donate to the Way Back Machine because they deserve it!!
Posted in Health, Idea, Kristin, Multiple Sclerosis, Musings, Technology | Leave a comment

I Shook My Head “No.” at Him

That’s right, today, in Seattle (Greenwood to be exact) when I walked by that man, the one asking for money as he casually zipped up his pants and asked me for money, I shook my head “NO.” as I walked past him to the coffee shop.

Ew. I realized that on some level, this is related to the drama of the 10m walking video and what makes some men feel they have the right to what, urinate and then ask me for money? I was carrying my 3yo son at the same time and I in my head prayed that my son would never dream of doing anything like that.

For those that don’t know, Greenwood is a neighborhood in Seattle that is akin to Smith street in Brooklyn, it is a cute little area but it isn’t THE area for shopping. I counted and from one angle there were 5 storefronts for lease so I’m not sure it is getting any better, but the coffee shop that I was walking to at the time of this incident today is technically a non-profit, or they seem to be according to their signage.

But anyway, back to that 10m video edited way down, I have some serious feedback on it. Speaking as a relatively young woman who was definitely a young woman when I lived in Brooklyn/NYC from 1999-2006 I can DEFINITELY confirm that is the experience of walking down the streets in NYC. I got VERY well trained in kindly acknowledging guys ‘just enough’ so that they felt that I appreciated their compliments, and didn’t ESCALATE.

Escalate…what do I mean by escalate…well, there was that one guy. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I was living in a brownstone in Brooklyn and at some point I needed to pee (surprising right?) and so I went to walk to the corner store. The store I was walking to was approximately a block from my house, one half a block south and one half a block east. On this particular day, I was speaking to my mother on the phone as I walked to the store to handle my business. I walked the first 1/2 block, and turned, then a guy was trying to talk to me. I shook my head no (I didn’t say anything as I was on the phone) and then…despite my big pregnant belly and me being on the phone…he started yelling at me. He started yelling at me and saying horrible things about how I was basically “racist” because I wasn’t talking to him, a bitch, etc. etc.

Now let me remind you. I was PREGNANT, obviously so at this point and I needed to PEE. I did end up basically yelling back, and telling him this much, terrifying my mother (who I was speaking to) and lucky for him (or me?) a neighbor eventually called him over to talk. I assume on some level that the neighbor was confirming that I was a resident of the neighborhood or something, but it de-escalated at that point.

I was able to get my toilet paper and go home.

Another time, I was on the subway, I was on the subway a lot during my time in NY because in 1999 I had a stroke and for at least a year I was going back to NYU Medical center to get my Protimes tested. This particular time it was crowded though, so imagine a subway filled with folks. People sit right next to each other on the subway, and there are people standing in front of you when it happens. In this instance, the guy who sat next to me felt the need to, I don’t know, measure the space between us or something? He stuck his hand, between my thigh and his, and basically tried to ‘creep’ it towards you know where, between my legs. That was another awkward incident.

Then there was that time in the club…I think it was closing. I was young, pretty sure I was 18 but yes in a club, and with a date, and the crowd was so thick that it basically ‘allowed’ a gentleman who was walking ‘by’ me to reach his creepy little hand UP my skirt enough to fiddle with my underwear. This was in a crowded enough place that I could NOT tell who this was, nor even really say anything because the noise was so loud.

I share all this so that people know that these ‘situations’ where we women feel uncomfortable…DO escalate. If that neighbor hadn’t stepped in, if I didn’t have a date at that club, and so forth, I’m sure I could be telling a much more horrific story.

I can not even estimate the number of times I was told to smile (and probably did so as not to escalate), the number of times someone “complimented” me and I said “thank you” (so as not to escalate) or the number of times someone begged for just a minute to talk and I claimed I had some really important place to go (so as not to escalate).

I actually do have worse stories but I’m not going to go into those right now.

MEN if you are offended by these videos, then speak up when another dude pulls this crap, and when it stops you MIGHT have half a leg to stand on when you say it isn’t a problem.

As a woman I don’t feel safe to wear what I might wear if I felt safe. I think about who I will be with, if a man will be with me to ‘protect’ me, and if I’ll have a safe way to get home before I consider anything other than jeans.

Seeing the guy non-nonchalantly pulling his zipper up in front if me today after peeing on a storefront on a main street only confirmed that I should still be careful. I was glad I wasn’t “too sexy” today.

Posted in Musings | Leave a comment

Shopping Lesson

Alright, so I have recently started using Simpleology and therefore have this nice long list of things to get done that I’ve gone over a few times and weeded out the unnecessary tasks from. After I did that while going through today’s training session I saw that I had quite a few errands to run, I needed some random things that included some wastebaskets for both my office and the downstairs bathroom.

Since I needed more than just that, I went to Tarjay (that’s how I say it, sorry) and grabbed two wastebaskets that were $9.99 on the shelf and about $30 of other stuff including cleaning supplies, a movie, snacks, pencil eraser, toothbrushes etc. When I was checking out, I cleverly said that I did not need a bag, because I could put all the stuff into the waste basket, I felt very proud of myself :-).

When I got to my car I looked at the receipt to see how much damage was done…it seemed a little high at right around $60 so I looked more closely…and look at what I saw!!:

TarjayReciept

I was shocked. They charged me $14.99 instead of $9.99 which for some might not be a huge deal, but I could use an extra $10! I went home with my stuff, thinking about if it was worth fighting/returning…once I got home and emptied out these trash bins..:

TarjayWastebasket

I realized I had another option! So I went to Goodwill, with the wastebaskets in my car, thinking that I could see if they had anything better!

So I went in, and as my bathroom counter (I love spiders!), I also found a curtain that looks to be the perfect size for our table at the craft fair too, and I threw in a sewing kit for Kenzie because she lost her last one, you can see it all here!:

GoodwillGoodies

Now even better, look at the prices…:

GoodwillReciept

So I just came home from going back to that first store and returning the wastebaskets that I bought for $30, because shoot, this stuff was way better anyway!! I’m so glad that I noticed I was overcharged…

SHOPPING TIP: If you need anything that you can stand to get used, then go to Goodwill or other second hand store first!!

Posted in Kristin, Life, Money | Leave a comment

Crafty with Grounding Flair

I bet you didn’t know I am crafty! I think that I had nearly forgotten this fact about myself when my daughter asked to be a part of a craft fair. I did that, with the intention of us splitting a table to sell our wares and then prompty realized I had better make some stuff! I decided that I would focus on creating some….

GroundingFlair

What Grounding Flair means to me, is basically some ‘flair’ ala Office Space, that instead of driving you (or others) crazy provides a GROUNDING energy. The way that the majority of my items do this is by utilizing natural materials, there is a lot of hemp string, stones, stone beads, wood beads, ceramic beads and lots of calm energy that goes into making these flair items that can be attached to a key chain, a zipper, belt buckle, purse, or anything else that you would like to put it on. I do this by using a tiny layered hoop that is basically like a keychain in that it can be put onto either a larger (standard) keychain or a number of other findings.

I love to make custom flairs too that have things like the first initials of children:
KidsInitialsKeychainDay1Kr

Initials of best friends or significant others:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Special stones or rocks that have meaning to the recipient (example here is the raw amethyst in the middle of the flair piece:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Next weekend I’m going to be at the Center for Spiritual Living Craft Fair and will be offering these items along with the beautiful band creations of my daughter, you can see how her “bees” and bracelets are displayed in this picture:
DisplayDay1Ke

Posted in For Sale, Grateful | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment