How Do You Answer?

I have read Lean In and have blogged about it previously. At BlogHer13 I heard Sheryl Sandberg speak and got to meet her and take a quick photo. I also have read the updated book for college grads. And, I’m a lapsed member of the Lean In movement and circles (Education). At this year’s BlogHer14 in San Jose, California, I attended the Lean In circle workshop.

I am looking at the great cards that Dr. Carole Robin did with Lean In. I saw the question, smiled and immediately pictured a few things: my loveys and coffee. I was chagrined that I saw his face, and my two daughters’ faces, then pictured coffee. The question is not as simple as it looks. What brings out the best in you?

My immediate answer was personal. My family and my home brings out my best. When I think of extending that circle some, I can answer that question with my family of origin, my good friends, colleagues, the warm sun on my skin, my students, a great meal, and a strong Dark and Stormy. There are different nuances to the question and answer that you might give.

When I am teaching, a great class can bring out my best. I try to give my A game to my students, but a strong group of students who like the material can make a big difference with the class. Likewise, when I sit on a committee and other are committed to the agenda and the execution of the final product, the committee work moves more smoothly.

My Loveys bring out my best. My friends bring out my best. My work brings out my best.


5 Facts About Me

1.  I am committed to lifelong learning. I regularly read books outside of my area of education and training to learn and grow.

2. Related to number one, I am reading an array of books, magazines, and articles. I never leave the house or my office without something to read.

3. I have an irrational fear of zombies. My family and friends tease me about this. This fear does not stop me from reading zombie lit and watch terrible zombie movies. <This also didn’t stop me from buying a shirt about zombies liking us for our brains.>

4. My family centers me. Sitting around the dinner table or talking with them takes me to my happy place. As my kids get bigger I find that our conversations about life offer insight into the people they are becoming.

5. I will never get tired of working with students. The other day I shared an enthusiastic high five with a student, when I verified that he was ready to declare his major. This was his moment and we shared it.


2013 The Year of Reflection

I’m reading lots of top ten posts about 2013 and thinking about the last year. The last year was consumed with having to find balance. This was not having some idealistic want for balance, but rather out of necessity. What have I learned in these last 12 months? Well, I’m going to share my top ten thoughts from 2013.

1. Stay Healthy–this includes exercise, sleep, and eating right

2. Say no strategically

3. Work smarter–this meant rethinking my productivity

4. Make time for family and friends

5. Say yes strategically

6. Read, relax, and run

7. Be firm

8. Honesty is important

9. Unwind

10. Happiness is more important than just about everything

The list is in no particular order. I will say this there is nothing like a health emergency to force you to rethink everything. I am forever grateful to the family and friends who were supportive during the last year, as we coped. I am looking forward to 2014. I am sure it will hold lots and I look forward to tackling it with my family by me.


My Lifetime Listens to Yours. Muriel Ruckeyser

I have a book of quotes that serves as writing prompts and this is prompt two. There is space to write on the page, but I sent the first prompt to a friend in another department. And, have torn out the second prompt. Now, the title of this post comes from part of poem and the lengthy poem says lots. But, what does this excerpt say or how does it speak to you. I am thinking like a Political Scientist or Social Scientist at the moment and how I learn from reading and listening. If I think from a mentor’s point of view, I know that my reading and listening includes what is not said or spoken. People have “tells” for when they lie or feel uncomfortable and these nuances of movement are important to support and understand. What is your tell? I have different tells, but one is to stop and think and take a drink of water. During this short moment, I am thinking of my response–formulating what I want to say next.

We listen with more than our ears. But, do we learn from what we hear and see? I am in the midst of heavy marking and looked forward to this writing prompt and I come back to learning from others. I have also had several hours of office hours and meetings and tried my best to listen intently these past few work days. I firmly believe in life-long learning and this prompt reminds me of the importance of mindfulness. When I think of mindfulness, I always picture Dr. Juliann Allison, as she practices mindfulness in all that she does. This week I am trying to actively practice mindfulness. The Ruckeyser quote was the perfect reminder, as I try to balance out meetings, honors presentations, grading, and planning a conference. And, that is only part of the to do list. I’m breathing in and out and trying to listen.

Parenting, Community Building, and Email

I never thought I’d post about something as mundane as trying to get birthday invites to my elementary aged daughter’s friends. Previously she was enrolled at a private school and not only did we have an online family directory, but we also had class representatives who collated a parents’ email, address, and phone list. This made birthday or play date invites extremely easy. This also allowed for socializing among the families–yes, for community building and did so in a way that many of us appreciated. We could email and connect or choose to call and coordinate.

I have booked my daughter’s birthday party and given that she’s two months into a new public school I thought that I should find out what the protocol is for birthday invites. Actually, I walked into the office assuming that I would get the contact information for the classroom parents or an email for the class representative. Well, I could not even get the teacher’s email. Nope. This violates privacy laws in the province, allegedly. No information about the child can be disseminated via email. Whether or not this is true is not my bone of contention. The fact that in 2013 I could not get the work email for my child’s teacher was absolutely ridiculous. I was politely told that my daughter can distribute the invites at lunch or recess. This is a great exercise for kids to see who is invited and not invited. Big sigh. The e-vites allows for no paper waste.

The staff suggested that I speak with the teacher to see what she prefers. So, off we trundled down the hall. I spoke with the teacher and she would not give her email. She asked if I could just come in. I explained that I am always near a device, so that email is convenient. I received another polite smile and was told that she’s happy to meet with me prior to school. I’ll have to be happy with that. Apparently, she does not check her email often–and that’s fine. But, I’m still shocked. I inquired about the birthday invites and was again informed that my daughter will need to hand them out during recess or lunch.

I might sound like one of those self-entitled parents who demands that the system works her way, but I’m not sure if that is the case here. My concern is three-fold: ease of communication, access to information (emails) to set up play dates or arrange a pick up swap, and understanding that it’s 2013 and technology is pervasive. So, slap my rear and call me Betsy, because I was shocked with my findings today. Seriously, I have to go old school and have my kiddo pass out invites. This also means that I have to meet the other parents so that we can actually become part of this new community. I have some “let’s arrange a play date” note cards that I can finally use. The good news is that I’m going to be more outgoing at drop off and pick up to meet other parents. I’ll roll with it.

My second to last concern is that the kiddo is not inviting the entire class, so the chances are that some kid will have her or his feelings hurt. We have a set limit for the party and we are inviting a mix of kids from the old school and new school. Thankfully, I can use an e-vite for the kids from the old school. Regarding the hurt feelings, well that’s part of growing up–I know. I will have a chat with the kiddo about how to do this as discreetly as possible. And, my last concern, I’m still troubled by the fact that the nuclear codes were not made available to me as a parent– I don’t have the teacher’s email address. An email address is something so basic in my world as an educator. But, then again, maybe the teacher is drawing boundaries and really prefers only face to face interaction. At this point in time, I’m expressing my surprise via the blog post, but I’m not about to write the school board. This is not official complaint worthy. Thoughts?

Adding–of course–I googled the teacher. Her email was not found and she is off the grid. Boundaries, time management or teaching philosophy…

playdate image

Who Was I Kidding?

My last post was one after a family crisis and I really thought that I was back in the saddle. Ha! I am still catching up and feel like the proverbial hamster doing her run. Things are getting better, but I am behind. Behind with my research, emails, and other work-related things. But, I will say this, after these last two months, I am so happy for my good health and that of all my family members.

What did I learn during these last two months? Well, I learned that I had two types of friends: those who really wanted to help during my family crisis and those who only wanted to know what was happening. You can guess which ones I now prefer. I also found out who I could count on and it hit me the other day that many of the most dependable, selfless people I know right now are people who I first “met” on Twitter. These people have become some of my closest friends in real life and I have to give a deep thank you to Twitter for connecting us. I also know that others are colleagues from work, who have become close friends. And,I consider myself lucky in this respect.

It also became apparent to me that some students lack any semblance of compassion and were absolutely heartless in their expectations and demands–even though they knew that I had a family member in the hospital for two weeks. I was frustrated and saddened to have met with such harsh expectations and comments. But, I have to remember that some students really do not care about anything else but their assignments and their lives. I learned a good lesson with this–that some students do not want their professors to be human. And, well, I might have an invisible S for Superwoman on my chest, but this term that pesky Kryptonite brought me down to Earth. Hopefully next term I can do the usual 4-10 day grading turn around, but it didn’t happen this November or December!

I am back in the saddle, but not cinched in or seated properly! That’s life, right?

My Breast Thermography Scan

I am revisiting this post, as once again it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I happily participate in the Race for the Cure and last week I had my hair cut as part of the fundraising Cut-a-thon at On the Fringe. Remember, it’s important to take care of your girls year round! This post is slated on the second to last day of the month because I want to remind you that you need to think about breast health all of the time.

I am blogging about breast health! To this end, this post is about my Breast Thermography scan at Valentus Clinic in Victoria, BC. In the spirit of disclosure, I did not pay for the scan, but was contacted to get a scan to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month and to blog about my experience. And as it so happens, I can also compare the Thermography scan to the mammogram that I had two days prior. Note to others—try to space out the mammogram and Thermography scan about a week apart so that your breast are no longer sore from the pancake, I mean mammogram procedure.

I was asked to not wear any perfume, lotion or deodorant, so I went in for the scan first thing in the morning. If you have long hair, bring an elastic band for your hair. They will have a clip for your hair, though. You will need to disrobe from the waist up and different scans will be taken of your breasts from the front and side profiles. What I liked best about the scan was the ongoing conversation about breast health. I did not feel rushed and asked questions about this scan and breast health.

During my scan the technician, Dr. Joylin Starling was great. She explained everything that she was doing. She also made sure to scan my low back more as she saw lots of “hot” spots there. (I am recovering from a car accident and it was very interesting to see the scan that included my shoulders and low back). The Thermography scan is not invasive or painful. I had to sit still and move according to Dr. Starling’s directions. Frankly, being inquisitive I was interested in the scan and what the different colors mean—more vascular work going on under the skin. The scans are then sent to the US for evaluation. Then, I return for a follow up from the scan.

The next portion of the exam is a digital and ultrasound exam by the technician. During this exam, Dr. Starling was again thoughtfully answering my questions. I was amazed that she was able to assess which breast gave me more “trouble” when nursing my kids. She felt scar tissue in one breast and it was the one that I could recall massaging in the shower and using cabbage to help ease pain after my breast milk came in when I was nursing my babygirl, who is now 13!

Likewise, I was shocked to know that I had scar tissue from the underwire in my bras. She showed me where it was and after touching these areas and other spots around my breasts, I realized that the feel of the tissue was different. I need to make an appointment at one of the suggested bra shops in town for some bras without underwire.

I left the examination feeling lucky. I felt lucky that I had a thorough exam and I read through the folder of information that they provided me with after the exam. I was contacted about a week later for the follow up. I gave a sigh of relief when I heard and read that my breasts were fine. Breast cancer does not run in my family, but like most women the thought of breast cancer is a punch to the stomach.

I have to say that the Thermography scan, digital examination and ultrasound is less painful than a mammogram. For those of you who have not had a mammogram, the technician gets friendly with you and places your breast in a vise and takes photos. OK, that is not wholly accurate, but it sure feels like it. The important thing to note with the mammogram is that you want to have it done when your breasts are the least tender and that will vary from woman to woman, but most experience more tenderness right before their periods.

Now, extended health care might cover the cost of the scan, but you will need to look into it. Mammograms are covered under the province of BC if you meet certain age or health requirements. Regardless of what you opt to do, please make sure that you check your breasts. This includes under the arms, too. And, for younger women, you should also check your breasts. Young women in their teens and twenties have occasionally been diagnosed with Cancer. Cancer does not discriminate.

For more information about Valentus Clinic:
Oak Bay Professional Building
#103 – 1625 Oak Bay Avenue
Victoria, BC, V8R 1B1
Tel: 250-590-5090 Email:

Now, in the year since the exam, I have replaced some of my underwire bras, but not all. It’s hard–some of the underwire free bras are–shall I say–not as pretty. Yes, I’m shallow here, when I really should be thinking about breast health. Blushing. The major take away is make sure that you examine your breast monthly–include the underarm area, too. Be healthy!