Dance, lymph node, dance!

Cody from the wonderful Lu an Ed shop, pointed out that my lymph node looks like it’s dancing.


Take him home and he’ll teach you his secret moves. Dance, my little lymph node! Dance!

Buckwheat hulls? In my organs?

I’ve made some green/eco-friendly and reusable heat packs. Keeping with the Survival Organs theme, you can get them as a brain or a uterus!


But why buckwheat?

1. Buckwheat hulls conduct heat. Meaning you can plop one of my filled organs into the microwave for 30 seconds and it heats up. Or you can leave it in the freezer and it’s a cold compress.

2. I only use organic hulls. Much better for the environment and better for you. If the cotton organ ever breaks down, you can put the old hulls in your compost pile.


3. Less disposable. Remember those blue-ice cold packs the nurse at school gave out? While the chemical reaction was super cool, after one use you had to throw them away. That’s money in the garbage, if you ask me.

You can get your own brain or uterus over at Survival Organs.

Ninja Tip: Outsource as Much as You Can

Friend of the blog, Kim Werker, wrote up a great blog post “Taking the DIY Out of Business”. This made me sit up and take note:

As businesspeople, we cannot  be successful without help. We just can’t. None of us is ace at all the tasks we need to accomplish to run our businesses. None of us, so stop planning the angry email you’re composing to me in your mind in which you’ll tell me you’re a skilled accountant, graphic designer, publicist, marketer, product designer, manufacturer, writer, editor and salesperson. If you think that, you’re full of shit.

She has a great point that in our lives, there are somethings we are just not good at. It made me think back to chemotherapy and how I nearly sent myself to the hospital from exhaustion. I simply couldn’t go to my volunteer job in New York City, come home to clean the house, make dinner and find a full-time job while squeezing in oncology appointments and dealing with medication side effects.

I tried that and you know what happened? I collapsed in the middle of the street trying to get back home from the bus stop. Thankfully, I was still on the sidewalk and two passersby helped me back up. I managed to walk the three blocks back to my apartment but I was down for the count for the rest of the day. The dishes stayed in the sink, dinner was not made and I took a five hour nap.

I learned a very valuable lesson: I can’t do it all and I can’t do it alone. We had a family meeting and my sister who lived next door, offered to clean my apartment for me. The SGT and I would have dinner at my mom’s place downstairs. And we made peace that we would probably be eating a lot of pizza and crappy hospital food for the foreseeable future.


I outsourced the things I just simply couldn’t do. And when my friends asked, ‘What can I do for you?’ I gave them ideas. Like, “I would love some company. Can you come over so my mom can go home for a bit?” Or “Paul needs some food. Can you drop off some Wendy’s and surprise him? I’ll pay you back.” People were delighted to have something to do to help out. They encouraged me to ‘outsource’ difficult chores to them.

So if you’re managing illness or going through grief, reach out to the folks who have asked if they can help. Let them know where and how they can help you. Go on and outsource those chores you simply can no longer do. You’ll return the favor some day and the bonds of community and friendship will strengthen between you.

What to Say & What Not to Say to a Sick Friend Updated!

I have been blessed with a wonderful gift from Matt and Darice of! And even better for you, I’m passing it on here and to my newsletter subscribers.

My two most popular posts, What to Say to a Sick Friend and What Not to Say have been given a graphic design make over.

If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get the high resolution PDF files for each graphic FOR FREE. Print it out, slap it on a post card or email it to a friend. Just my way of paying it forward.

Why #nomakeupselfie Makes Me Barf

A new trend is sweeping social media. People are taking make-up less selfies and posting them online in the name of cancer awareness. There’s even a Facebook page collecting donations. For awareness.  Because this is the 21st century and did you know there are people out there who aren’t aware that cancer is like totes a thing?

I know! /sarcasm

I find the trend to be at best silly (you look fine with make up on or not!) and at worst self serving.

What does taking a photo actually do for people who have cancer? How does putting up  yet another photo on Facebook contribute to cancer research? What the hell does “awareness” mean?

This is what really bugs me about the trend: it’s another example of slacktivism. Do you want to help people in need? The best way isn’t spending money on a Livestrong bracelet or taking an unflattering picture. It’s donating your time, your money and your skills to organizations that actually help.

Do you want to help out on a local level? Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, go read to pediatric cancer patients or donate money to the local no kill shelter.

Want to make a meaningful impact on someone’s life? Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Make dinner for that person you sort of know whose going through a rough time. Put aside “feeling weird” and do something generous. Hell, buy the guy behind you in line a coffee.

When I was going through chemo, I knew people who would proudly show off their pink-washed items or smugly tell me that Lance Armstrong is their hero. I never knew how to respond since these were people who were often ‘too busy’ to really ask me how I was doing. Or see me more than once. They were the friends who faded away. But thanks for putting money into the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s already deep pockets.

If you want to change the world, put down your cellphone and roll up your sleeves. A selfie isn’t going to find better and cheaper treatment options for cancer.

On sucking hard and improving

In last Friday’s newsletter, I sent out a link to a lecture I found via Lifehacker. Reddit founder, Alexis Ohanian talks about the first step to being awesome at something is to suck really hard. What a great concept!

Too bad a cartoon dog said it first.

Quote attribution aside, it’s still a great sentiment and goes hand in hand with Bob Ross’s philosophy that “talent is just applied interest.”

On Sunday, I was talking to a group of 13-year-old girls and I mentioned that a problem adults have is doing something new and out of their comfort zone. Ask a child of three to get up and dance in front of strangers and they’ll happily do it as long as the tunes are pumping. I pointed out that they’re approaching the age where they’ve developed a sense of feeling embarrassed. They’re now learning to avoid new things in order to avoid feeling embarrassed about sucking.  But if they can embrace the suck and keep working hard, that is the key to success and happiness.

What are some things that got you past the urge to give up on a new skill?

PS If you want super cool links and things to think about, go sign up for my newsletter. It’s free and gets sent out every other Friday. Plus you’ll get a super cool gift! So go sign up. PPS. Does the idea of sucking really hard at something you wanna do sound scary? I can help make it more do-able!

Ninja Tip: 5 Quick Things to Get Out of a Funk

Of course, I don’t mean awesome funk like Parliament/Funkadelic, who are also from New Jersey, but the bad funk. Those days where you just can’t get comfortable in your skin, you’re in such a terrible mood. Here are my five tips for de-funk-ifying.

1. Write out a list of 10 things that give you energy. Not just physical energy but spiritual/emotional energy. What gets you excited? It can be as mundane as the smell of a paperback book or using a new pen for the first time. Go write out 10 more, and then more. I try to aim for 100 things (I’m still working on my list) and I keep it handy. When I feel down, I pull it out and I go and do one of the things on my list. I keep going down the list until I feel better.

2. Get up and go somewhere else. Another room in the house, sit at a different table or get up and go for a quick walk. When you’re down, it seems so much easier to just stay where you are physically and metaphorically. Sometimes by changing our physical position, we can change our emotional positions. (See what I did there??)

photo credit: Soul Portrait via photopin cc

photo credit: Soul Portrait via photopin cc

3. Force yourself to smile and put your arms up like you just won something. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk goes over the science behind this. Personally, I’ve done it and it really does help once I get over feeling silly. I may or may not end up singing “We are the Champions” at the end.

4. Listen to uplifting music. It doesn’t have to be deep or meaningful music. I just put on songs that I know all the words to that have a fast beat. Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” is a great one to listen to. I’ve got a Spotify playlist full of my favorites, you can listen to it here. Music not your thing? I browse websites like Cute Overload or clips from my favorite stand up comedians.

5. Hit reset on the day. And sometimes, I just need to give myself a good talking to and make the decision to just be less grumpy and bitchy. When I’m in a funk, it’s hard not to view everything through a negative lens. I call a ‘do over’ and do my best to muddle through with more patience and kindness. And I remember that tomorrow is a new day with a new slate.

What do you do to get yourself out of a bad funk? Who are your favorite funk groups?

Ninja Tip: Talent is a Pursued Interest

Yesterday, Anna from Mochimochi Land wrote up a thoughtful post about being a beginner at a new craft. Sometimes, when we’ve mastered one skill (like knitting or sewing) it’s very difficult for adults to take a risk and try something new.

For the last two years, I’ve been trying to get better at drawing. It’s been a hard road and I’ve slacked on doodling and posting it on Instagram. The difficulty comes in getting rid of the voice (elementary school art teacher!) that says I have no talent.

Then this .gif popped up.


Which has shifted my thinking. While there’s a huge debate over Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory, there is a grain of truth to it. People who are masters at their thing got there by putting in the time and sweat equity into it. My knitting skills improved because I kept knitting. My drawing skills will improve if I keep on drawing.

Sometimes the answer is so simple and obvious that it’s hard to picture!

Do you feel like there’s an answer to your problem staring at you but you can’t see it? My inner sensei training is tailored made for this!

Ninja Tip: Don’t Clog Your Brain With What Ifs?

Monday night I was watching my favorite animated spies turned wanna be coke dealers on FX’s Archer. I’ve jokingly posted before about the show (and no, I’m not seriously thinking about getting a back tattoo) and my love for it. My love for the writing was cemented when Sterling Archer was diagnosed with breast cancer. They handled it in a sensitive and empowering way, but that’s a blog post for another day.

courtesy of

courtesy of

Monday night’s hilarious episode pulled me up short with a great pearl of wisdom from Archer. His coworkers, Cyril and Ray, were yelling at him for not thinking a problem through or taking anything seriously. He retorts with this gem:


I realized that I am constantly clogging my brain with a bunch of hypothetical “what if?” bullshit! The reason why Archer is able to perform under immense pressure is because he doesn’t let the unknown paralyze him with fear.

My super power is being able to quickly pinpoint how and where everything can go horribly horribly wrong. Very rarely, this ability is helpful. Mostly, it keeps me from doing anything because I can’t help but wonder “what if.”

So I’m making a commitment to not go down that path of “What if?” Instead, what if I threw caution to the wind and did something without obsessing over the consequences. I’ve been able to do this a few times (like rock climbing!) and none of the scenarios my brain has shown me ever happened. What did happen is that I enjoyed myself immensely and I made some very good friends.

Perhaps this will be a better super power!

Top 10 Tips for Stopping a Headache

It is a stormy and sleeting day here in the Twin Cities. Which, for me, means a migraine or a persistently throbbing headache are on my horizon. If I’m lucky, it’ll be a dull headache that I can push through. Pre-chemo, I had a history of migraines, especially in college thanks to birth control. (My BC pills triggered my migraines which meant I wasn’t having sex. And if I wasn’t having sex, I had a zero chance of pregnancy. In a roundabout way, they worked?)


I’ve got chronic migraines now so I’ve become an expert by fire on stopping or lessening the intensity of headaches. Here are 10 things that work for me.

  1. Know your triggers and (if possible) avoid them. I’m still trying to figure out what mine are but the most likely culprit is the weather and my hormonal cycles. I can’t avoid them but, by keeping a diary, I know when I’m due for one.
  2. Take your pain medication as soon as it starts. The more time they have to work, the sooner you’ll feel better.
  3. Take a shower! I’m not sure why this works for me, but it does. It gives me a slight feeling of relief and relaxes me.
  4. Use peppermint oil. I either smell it like smelling salts or I dilute it and rub it on my temples and my upper lip. It helps to break up the pain a bit.
  5. No peppermint oil on hand? Try Vick’s Vaporub. In my family, Vaporub was a miracle cure in a jar. The strong smell of menthol helps when peppermint oil doesn’t.
  6. Use a cold compress. I’ve got a few up for sale, in the shape of brains, of course! brain compress
  7. Wrap the belt of a robe around your head. This one creeps out my husband but it’s a tip I got from my dad. He’d wrap a piece of fabric around his head. The pressure from the belt feels so nicely.
  8. Use accupressure points. Here’s a post on how to find them and what to do. I’ll be honest, this has never worked for me.
  9. Try out accupuncture. Like number 8, this was a waste of time and money for me. It might work for you.
  10. Go to sleep. The most tried and true solution for me: SLEEP. When I’m in the middle of pain, it’s hard to get sleep but after some time it does come and I feel better when I wake up.

What are some tricks that work for you? My compress friendly brains are filled with organic buckwheat hulls which hold both cold and heat. They can live in your freezer or you can microwave them and they become a hot pad!