Monday, November 23, 2015


I'm making a declaration to the world.

I.  Will Not.  Be Complaining.  About The Cold This Year.  Or Ever Again.  From this point forward.

(grand pause)

Yep.  I said it.  

I was introduced last year to the concept of Hygge.  (Which I have included an article for your perusal below.)  Basically, its a Danish thing where the people purposely engage in creating a cozy and grateful attitude in the cold dark hours of winter.  Cuz, you know, Denmark has a lot of cold dark hours of winter.   I'm reminded of this picture:

Yea, so that Magical Wonderland of Lights FalalalalalalaLAAAAAA!....That's Hygge.  Attention Superman:  the christmas lights will be remaining up this year until it reaches 65-degrees outside.  Candles.  Twinkly Lights.  Fireplace.  All the Hygge, all the time.  Happy Winter Heather Time.

This weekend I went to a free Yoga Basics class at my yoga studio, just to see what it was about.  It was a new thing they started.  The session's focus was on Yin Yoga taught by my FAVORITE TEACHER, Sally.  I love her because she not only leads us through the poses but tells us little nuggets of wisdom from leading Yoga practitioners and facts about how this pose benefits this particular organ, etc. etc.  Well, since this yoga class was created for beginners to get an introduction to yoga and able to ask questions, she spoke more about the Yin Practice and its purpose, and I am now YIN YOGA NERD.

So, Yin is characterized by loooooooong poses, held for 3 - 5 minutes, and the purpose is to increase mindfulness of the sensations in your body.  Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant (but not painful), the goal is to notice but not react.  Stay in place for the duration of the hold and be apart of the experience.  Breathe gratitude into that feeling.  It is challenging for the mind, and the controversy is some yoga teachers believe that beginners should never start in a Yin class, because it seems easy physically, but isn't.  You take yourself to your edge, respectfully, and without judgement of what you're feeling.  And stay there.  And breathe.

Well, here is my transfer to Hygge.   The cold.  Is UNPLEASANT.  Walking from my car to whatever indoor place I'm supposed to be....UGH.....BLEH.....YUCK...........  Welp... I'm not going to complain anymore.  I'm going to breathe gratitude into the cold (because I survived to see another winter season), stay in place for the duration of the hold, allow myself to reach my edge, respectfully and without judgement.  And breathe.  Its unpleasant and that's ok.   And an excuse to be cozy and happy and have twinkly lights and candles and read a book with my slippers and two blankets and a dog or two at my feet and enjoy warm beverages with my friends, family, or just by myself.


*mic drop*

Hygge: A heart-warming lesson from Denmark

  • 2 October 2015
  • From the section Magazine

Two pairs of feet in socks in front of a roaring fireImage copyrightThinkstock

In today's Magazine

A UK college has started teaching students the Danish concept of hygge - said to make homes nicer and people happier. But what exactly is it and is it exportable?
Sitting by the fire on a cold night, wearing a woolly jumper, while drinking mulled wine and stroking a dog - probably surrounded by candles. That's definitely "hygge".
Eating home-made cinnamon pastries. Watching TV under a duvet. Tea served in a china set. Family get-togethers at Christmas. They're all hygge too.
The Danish word, pronounced "hoo-ga", is usually translated into English as "cosiness". But it's much more than that, say its aficionados - an entire attitude to life that helps Denmark to vie with Switzerland and Iceland to be the world's happiest country.

Mother with two young children by Christmas treeImage copyrightThinkstock

Morley College, in central London, is teaching students how to achieve hygge as part of its Danish language course. "We have long, cold winters in Denmark," says lecturer Susanne Nilsson. "That influences things. Hygge doesn't have to be a winter-only thing, but the weather isn't that good for much of the year." 
With up to 17 hours of darkness per day in the depths of winter, and average temperatures hovering around 0C, people spend more time indoors as a result, says Nilsson, meaning there's greater focus on home entertaining.
"Hygge could be families and friends getting together for a meal, with the lighting dimmed, or it could be time spent on your own reading a good book," she says. "It works best when there's not too large an empty space around the person or people." The idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life's worries.
The recent growth in Scandinavian-themed restaurants, cafes and bars in the UK is helping to export hygge, she adds, with their intimate settings, lack of uniformity in decor and concentration on comforting food. Most customers won't have heard of the term, but they might get a sense of it.
In the US, the wallpaper and fabric firm Hygge West explicitly aims to channel the concept through its cheery designs, as does a Los Angeles bakery, called Hygge, which sells traditional Danish pastries and treats.

Candles in a saunaImage copyrightThinkstock

"The rest of the world seems to be slowly waking up to what Danes have been wise to for generations - that having a relaxed, cosy time with friends and family, often with coffee, cake or beer, can be good for the soul," says Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country. "Hygge seems to me to be about being kind to yourself - indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything. All very useful come January when in the UK everyone's on diets or manically exercising or abstaining from alcohol. 
"There isn't so much enforced deprivation in Denmark. Instead you're kinder to yourselves and so each other. Danes don't binge then purge - there's not much yo-yo dieting in Denmark. No wonder they're happier than we are in the UK."
The adjectival form of hygge is "hyggeligt", a word offered as a compliment to a host after a pleasant evening at their home.
"Hygge isn't just a middle-class thing. Absolutely everyone's at it from my dustbin man to the mayor," says Russell. "Hygge is so crucial to living Danishly that the other day on the motorway, I saw a camper van driving along with lit candles in the windows. This is probably illegal but Vikings don't tend to be too hung up on health and safety.

Window in the snowImage copyrightALAMY

"My most hygge experience to date was probably watching the sun set from a hot tub in a blizzard in January, beer in hand. But it needn't be anything quite so dramatic. I generally light a candle at my home office desk while I'm working."
There's increased discussion of hygge in the UK. "I think I first saw the word in Trine Hahnemann's book Scandinavian Christmas, and it immediately made sense to me," says Kayleigh Tanner, author of the Hello Hygge blog. "It's a pretty hard thing to describe because it's so abstract, but I think it resonates with a lot of people.

Origin of 'Hygge'

  • Term comes from a Norwegian word meaning "wellbeing"
  • First appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has since evolved into the cultural idea known in Denmark today

"It's interesting that the word doesn't really translate into other languages. Hygge isn't restricted to Denmark, so why is it so hard to describe without borrowing a Danish word?"
It sounds a bit like the English word "hug", for which the Oxford English Dictionary lists no origins. The 19th/early 20th Century philologist Walter William Skeat thought it might be of Scandinavian origin. Notionally the effect of hygge and a hug is similar - comforting and secure. An obsolete meaning of hug is "to cherish oneself; to keep or make oneself snug", according to the OED.
"Sometimes you see or do things that you would call 'hyggeligt' in the UK but you wouldn't use that word to describe them because people wouldn't know what you're talking about," says Nilsson.
Some older Danes feel that hygge isn't what it used to be, as the stress on socialising has lessened. It's now generally considered hyggeligt to watch TV alone or watching a DVD set, perhaps while eating crisps.
Hygge was never meant to be translated - it was meant to be felt
ToveMaren Stakkestad
Other countries and cultures have similar expressions. In German there's Gemutlichkeit, a sense of wellbeing based on good food, company and perhaps a drink. But Danes insist hygge is unique.
The blogger Anna Lea West, has offered "cosiness of the soul" as an English definition. "Hygge was never meant to be translated. It was meant to be felt," translator ToveMaren Stakkestad has written. Maybe the only way to understand this slippery cultural idea is to visit Denmark, rather than read about it.
"It's an idea so rooted in the Danish sense of togetherness, and perhaps even in Denmark's social democracy, that a Brit might struggle to grasp its historic and social significance," says Patrick Kingsley, author of the travel book How To Be Danish. 
"But that said, in essence hygge is about a group of slightly gloomy friends huddling under the duvet on a cold winter's night. And there is little more British than that."

Medical treatments in the bag

I saw my oncologist earlier this week, just to check in on how I'm coping with the Tamoxifen (great! aside from hot flashes, no issues!).  I don't see her again for another six months!  omg.  SIX MONTHS!

I see my radiation doctor next week, checking in on my skin after radiation treatments have finished (great! some slight discoloration of the skin, but essentially back to normal!).

I see my surgeon next month, checking in on the healing of my incisions (great! aside from being slightly itchy sometimes, no issues!)

I saw a physical therapist this morning, to receive information regarding Lymphadema.

Lymphedema is a potential side effect of breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy that can appear in some people during the months or even years after treatment ends.
Lymph is a thin, clear fluid that circulates throughout the body to remove wastes, bacteria, and other substances from tissues. Edema is the buildup of excess fluid. So lymphedema occurs when too much lymph collects in any area of the body. If lymphedema develops in people who’ve been treated for breast cancer, it usually occurs in the arm and hand, but sometimes it affects the breast, underarm, chest, trunk, and/or back.
Why does lymphedema happen? As part of their surgery, many people with breast cancer have at least two or three lymph nodes removed from under the arm (sentinel lymph node biopsy), and sometimes many more nodes (axillary lymph node dissection). If the cancer has spread, it has most likely moved into to those underarm lymph nodes first because they drain lymph from the breast. Many people also need radiation therapy to the chest area and/or underarm. Surgery and radiation can cut off or damage some of the nodes and vessels through which lymph moves. Over time, the flow of lymph can overwhelm the remaining pathways, resulting in a backup of fluid into the body’s tissues.
I'm not experiencing any issues, but its recommended to go get the education, and measured for a prevention sleeve.  That way, when I fly in an airplane or do any excessive activity with my right arm, I can put on the sleeve to prevent any issues.  Or if I do have issues in the future, they have the knowledge and everything on file to proceed forward in treating it.  She told me I am her favorite kind of patient.  Easy.  Little issues.  And as a result of going through this tremendous upheaval in my life, open to following all the directions, getting the education, and making the changes needed to proceed forward.  yep, that's me.  The good student.  haha....

And because I had a MRI recently (Aug. before surgery), my oncologist said I don't need any tests anytime soon.  I will do a bi-lateral mammogram in January or February to get baseline data about all the breast changes as a result of surgery, radiation, etc.   And then, I think she told me I will just need to get annual mammograms to both sides every July or so.

Basically just monitoring from here on out!

I got this in the bag, people!

Its a surreal time for me right now.   My Thanksgiving holiday break started today, and there was a short time when I wasn't sure (in the dark times of initial testing, and waiting on answers) that I didn't know if I would make it to see the next thanksgiving holiday.  My previous self would normally enter this time somewhat grumpy and disgruntled by the cold weather, and long dark nights.  But this year, I've decided to change that.  The coming of cold weather and long dark nights means that I survived!

This brings me to my next topic:  Hygge.

More to come. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I had a 45 minute phone conversation with a student's parent last thing before I left for the weekend on Friday, which reduced me to tears and temporarily shattered my inner piece.  She confided in me news about her health that will be devastating to her family, and in turn affect her son in my classroom.    I promptly went out to buy an elephant bracelet, to send home with her son to give to her.  Its a duplicate of the elephant bracelet that I bought myself on the day of my biopsy - a symbol of good luck, strength, serenity, and wisdom (hence the creation of this blog).

For the majority of my weekend, I've been carrying this grief, for a person I hardly know, heavily on my back, and fully acknowledging that I have to let it go.

Then I remembered the turtle charm that a friend brought me from his travels, and the symbolism behind it.  I don't remember the exact words he told me, but I looked it up.

I finally found a place for my turtle to live, attaching it to a bracelet representing life's journey:  Live the life you love.  Love the life you live.  I think its fitting, and plan to wear it often.  The elephant will always be my thing, but the turtle can be an extra guardian as I charge forth into the newly improved life that has been built around me.  I am learning new lessons everyday, as a result of my experience the past 9 months -> February 5th, forever being the day that changed my life.  (Feb. 5th is also my half birthday!)

Turtles are a popular symbol in mythology because of their longevity and one’s hope and wish for a long life. With their protective shells and charming demeanor, they are often found to be symbols of tranquility. Many cultures depict the turtle as carrying the world on its back or supporting the heavens.

I'm carrying the weight of this woman's news on my back right now, but I need to let my turtle shell protect me.

Turtles and Elephants have a lot in common, both being a symbol of strength and tranquility.

I hope that the elephant bracelet will mean something to her, and help give her strength as she marches forth.

So, between her news, still reeling from the death of my friend last week, all the horrible crazy things happening in the world right now (#Beirut #Paris #Refugees #Mizzou, all of which I can't even begin to comment on), and unexpectedly getting together with old, and wonderful friends from out of town, I've been an emotional roller coaster:  grief, joy, and nostalgia.  Life is Lifey.  I didn't anticipate this weekend to be so full.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Role of the Teacher

I have found myself saying the words "Stop complaining at me like I'm your mother" lately in one of my classes.  The comment, said twice, was met with mixed reviews.   First, silence, confusion, and then snickering laughter.  Not sure what any of those reactions meant exactly, but it got me thinking about the role of the teacher and how its often confused by students and adults alike. 

I've heard comments recently observing the amount of respect given to teachers.  And I'm not referring particularly to the general public view of a teacher's job, which is constantly being scrutinized in the media, although I do think its related.  I'm referring to the student-to-teacher interaction.  And also, the teacher-to-student interaction.   Teachers often describe their roles in students lives, and with pride, as being a person of multiple roles, myself included.  However, I'm beginning to question the helpfulness to this approach.  Teachers are already overwhelmed with responsibility, so why are we welcoming the responsibility of ALL THE THINGS in this world along with it.

Let's be honest.  A teacher is not a parent.  A teacher is not a brother, sister, or family member.   A teacher is not a friend.  A teacher is not a counselor.  A teacher is not a medical provider.  A teacher is not a police officer.  A teacher is not an entertainer.  A teacher is not a babysitter.

What is a teacher?  A Learning Facilitator. 

I gave a concert this evening.  There is a class I struggle with ALOT.  I didn't know what to expect from them this evening.  But, by golly, every single last one of them SHOWED UP, PERFORMED WELL, and HANDLED THEMSELVES WITH DIGNITY AND STAGE PRESENCE.  I did not have confidence in either of these things.  Because in my classroom, it is a different story.  Its a particularly immature group of students, and the most challenging group in my career.  And out of all the classes in 9 years of teaching and in two communities, they are the only ones that I had 100% attendance at the concert.  I'm baffled by them.  They are also the group of students that 3 hours earlier I started their final class period/dress rehearsal for the concert by sending 2 students to the office for inciting to fight one another.  I, also, instead of spending my planning period preparing concert details, I was frantically pulling a seat-work assignment out of my butt to fulfill my requirements of the one-and-only attainable daily agenda for them:  keep them busy.  There is very little teaching going on in that class.  Their level of immaturity and lack of respect for peers and adults has, often times, deemed them as Unteachable and Uncoachable.  Reminds me of the quote:  "Uncoachable students turn into unemployable adults" and this reminder upsets me greatly because I'm not fulfilling my role, as the teacher.

But, anyway, the purpose of my writing today was not to complain about my teaching deficiencies.  It was to describe that moment when I realized:  They are HERE, all of them.  They are performing beautiful music.  They are presenting themselves with dignity and maturity.  They.  Are.  Capable.

So the problem is:  the classroom.   I heard another teacher comment recently on how they notice that students don't respect teachers in comparison to other situations.  I won't specify what kind of situation: different school, different city, different country, it doesn't matter.  And I don't think the issue is "respect".  I think respect is a word that is often misunderstood.  Its more - is the teacher being treated AS A TEACHER?

To the student - A teacher is not a parent.  A teacher is not a brother, sister, or family member.   A teacher is not a friend.  A teacher is not a counselor.  A teacher is not a medical provider.  A teacher is not a police officer.  A teacher is not an entertainer.  A teacher is not a babysitter.

What is a teacher?  A Learning Facilitator.

A teacher is in a child's daily life in large and repeated doses for a short amount of time.  Teachers care about their students in a way different than their parents, friends, siblings, counselors, medical providers, police officers, entertainers, and babysitters.  I'm a teacher and I care so much my bones hurt.  Because if they are uncoachable when they leave my classroom, they are considered, at that time, unemployable.


And, oh my goodness, the loving care of a Middle School teacher is a force you can never imagine unless you have actually been one.  Middle School is a time of transition.  A time when they were previously cared for as a child to now being cared for as a young adult.  And every single darn last one of those stinkers reaches that transition from child to young adulthood at a different time.

I'm reminded again of my favorite teacher motivating video of all time, from Taylor Mali, and I think he summarizes the intended role of the teacher perfectly.  I've posted this before, and I am posting it again.  ENJOY!

Friday, November 6, 2015

42 days

In other news....

Losing Touch

I received a heart-breaking phone call this afternoon.  A friend of mine from my 42nd Street days (10 years ago.  wow.) died unexpectedly earlier this week.   We had lost touch in the last 5 years or so, but he was, for a short time, one of my CLOSEST friends and still one of my favorite people EVER.  I am crushed by this news.

Confession time:  I avoid talking on the phone, sometimes like the plague.  Even with my best friends or family members, I will ignore your phone call because #introverting.   Superman is the only phone call that I will always pick up, no matter what.   Dumb, right?  But its the reality of who I am.

Even as a child, I was horrendously scared of talking on the phone.  I have half-remembered memories of my grandfather calling the house, and he would prank me into thinking he was someone else!  Love that guy.  But I think he scarred me from the telephone for life...

Recently, I've spoken to people about how silly it is that I haven't SPOKEN face-to-face or voice-to-voice with them for years, but The Facebook, or The Twitter, or The Instagram, or ___________(fill in the blank with the electronic social media outlet) has given me the illusion that we are in touch.  I know what cute outfit their kid wore today, or that they did a fun run over the weekend, but I haven't spoken to them in....oh.....7 years.  Why is this ok??!?????!

It almost makes me want to log off of Facebook forever.  (almost... )  Go back to the old days to handwriting letters, stamping it, and waiting in anticipation for a return letter.  Running out to the mailbox, hoping!  I miss that feeling!  Being ACTUALLY IN TOUCH.  The illusion continues... you think you don't have time for this or that.  Yet, we spend hours and hours looking at Facebook with that time "we don't have".

Facebook.  I hate you but I love you.

The list filled with the names of my favorite people on this earth... how many of them have I actually conversed with in the last year?  How many of them called me at one time, left me a message just wanting to chat, and I didn't call them back?   The list is super long at the moment, with people sending me well-wishes and gifts, in response to my cancer diagnosis, and then again due to my surviving cancer.  Confession #2:  I never wrote thank you notes for our wedding gifts.  Its not a lack of thankfulness.  Its because of that illusion that I "don't have time".  No time to connect.  No time to be in touch.  No time to sleep.  No time to drink enough water.  No time to do yoga.  No time to take my dogs on a walk.  No time to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF and ENJOY LIFE.  Acceptance.  Gratitude.  Healing.   As anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I have been trying to change many things, and I'm adding this, the effort of keeping in touch, to my agenda.

So my friend dies, unexpectedly, and what would I give to pick up the phone RIGHT *%&$i^#*  NOW, even when I'm #introverting (because:  weekend), and call him just to say hello??

Absolutely.  Crushed.

So, if you receive a phone call from me, or more likely an email, text, Facebook private message, stamped handwritten letter in the mail just to say "Hi, here's what's going on in my life.  How are you doing?" ....or a thank you card for the wedding gift you gave me 3.5 years ago, this is why.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Blue Snow Day

So, thanks to the Royals EPIC WORLD SERIES WIN, I have the day off from work today.

Nope, you will not find me anywhere near that parade...!
But thanks for giving me the time to do it if I wanted to.

Instead, I am eating delicious t.Loft breakfast, updating my blog, going to 10:00 Hot Hatha yoga (I didn't like it the first time I tried it, so I'm giving it another chance...), watching the parade On The Couch, and somewhere in there watching the 9th - 12th inning that I missed when I put myself to bed.  haha.   That is the end of my plans so far.

I'm enjoying the chance to process all the Royals craziness, and then re-center and get back to real life.  Man!  I was obsessed.  Such fun!  I know I said this last year, I didn't think I was a baseball fan, but I guess I am!  Perhaps influenced by having such a fun home team to watch.

In other news, my Superman and Superfamily threw me a surprise party recently to celebrate the end of my cancer treatments.   I have to say, I was TRULY surprised.  I mean, I KNOW MY HUSBAND.  I knew somethiiiiiiing was up, but I had no idea it was happening.  (although, I did find it weird when he was vacuuming the house just two days after I JUST vacuumed the house. haha...)  I'm so grateful to everyone that came, and was happy to see all of them.

I do feel like life has returned to "normal" for the most part.  However, its a new and improved normal.   I swear to you that the teacher across the hall was sent to me through divine intervention.  She keeps me laughing all day, and encourages me to be active.  She and some of the other ladies at school have been walking and doing Zumba at the end of the work day and I join them whenever possible.  This has helped me stick to #workyourproperdutyday, as well.  Gotta be done by 3:30, so I can go Zumba!

I also bought a fitness tracker!  Its a Jawbone Up2, and I.  LOVE.  IT.

I was tossing between it and the features of the Garmin Vivo fit.  (I never did consider doing a fitbit.) The Garmin had a lot of features that I liked.  The Up2 lacks a console on the band, which I initially really wanted.  I sat on the floor of Best Buy for about an hour just looking at them and thinking.  The Best Buy employees finally realized they should just step over me and keep walking because there were no questions I had for them.  Just needed to think and decide! haha.  But then, noticing the Prop 65 carcinogens warning on the Garmin box is what settled the deal.
California's Proposition 65, also called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, was enacted in 1986. It is intended to help Californians make informed decisions about protecting themselves from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

Its a precautionary warning and probably NOT a big deal.  However, I just spent considerable time and effort getting rid of cancer, so I'm not going to knowingly invite it back into my life!!!  No sir!!  The Up2 it is, and I couldn't be happier with it.  Its been doing its job.  Getting me off the couch and more active.  :)  Its super fun and satisfying to look in the app and see how much I've slept, how many steps I've taken today, enter in my yoga sessions and other workouts, and entering the food I eat.  It counts the calories and tells me the nutrient make-ups on them. (I'm not concerned with calories, but I LOVE that it tells me the nutrient information.)  It has a "smart coach" that tells me different tips on healthy choices and challenges me to do better.  Its perfect.  And the band is super cute, and I picked my favorite color.  It doesn't look like a fitness tracker.  It looks like a trendy bracelet.  Which was not what I originally wanted, but it turns out I love it.

Well, that's all for today.  No deep thoughts or revelations.  Just catching up, now that my Royals Fever has almost passed.  There's some great lessons to be learned from this season and last season (#resiliency), but I'll ponder on those a different day!  A day that wasn't an unexpected gift of a day off! :D  Much better than an actual snow day.  Its 70+ degrees outside!!!!