Let’s Get Cozy


My husband and I love to watch House Hunter’s International on HGTV. Last week we saw an episode that took place in Denmark, where a couple was looking for an apartment to rent. They visited one that was really small. By the couple’s expressions, I could tell what they were thinking: This is not going to work.

The realtor showing them the property smiled and said the apartment was nice and updated, it was just “hygge.” The couple had no idea what he was talking about. Neither did my husband and I.

The realtor explained that hygge (pronounced HOO-ga), is a Danish word meaning cozy. Oooh. A nice way of saying tiny, cramped, not much space.

Not at all.

Hyggehouse.com defines the word as: acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, but it is always cozy, charming or special.

Sounds amazing. I want and need more of that — mindfulness. Peaceful, simple, joyous living. Living in the present.

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With the cooler weather and the holidays coming up, I’m looking forward to sitting by the fireplace and snuggling with a super soft blanket, warm fuzzy socks, and a cup of hot cocoa. I might read, watch a Christmas movie or stare at a crackling fire. Sounds cozy. I mean… hygge.

Hygge is a centuries-old tradition in Denmark. There’s something to be said about this lifestyle. The World Happiness Report shows that Denmark is routinely ranked as one of the world’s happiest countries.

Here are some ideas on how to create hygge in your home:

  • Light candles or a fire. Relax from the warmth and glow. Light candles around the home and at the dinner table.
  • Create a cozy nook (a hyggecrog). A cozy spot to settle and read. Comfy seating, warm lighting, a soft rug.
  • Cook and bake. Think homemade sweets, comfort foods, and hot drinks. Simple, from scratch soups, stews, breads, cinnamon rolls, pastries, coffee and tea.
  • Embrace simple rituals. Make tea and drink from a china teacup. Savor it, be still. Take time to be thankful.
  • Write in a journal. Jot down what you’re thankful for and the things that make you happy.
  • Take a bubble bath. Enjoy the serenity. Listen to the bubbles softly burst. Breathe in the soft, pretty scent surrounding you.
  • Do a craft. Work on a puzzle, coloring book, knit, play a board game.
  • Share time together. Not a fancy dinner party, but a simple get together at a charming restaurant or someone’s home. Laughter and good conversation, creating special memories.

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I’m grateful I came across the word hygge, but more importantly, it’s meaning. During this busy holiday season, I’ll remind myself to take deep breaths and enjoy the simple pleasures of this time of year.

Keep it simple, familiar, and comforting. Spend time with those we love. It’s the small things that can bring the most joy in our lives.


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Gain Control

I’ve been thinking about panic attacks lately — not because I’m having them. But because both of my daughters have been dealing with anxiety, so it’s been on my mind.

Mackenzie and Talee are in their twenties. Along with inheriting imbalanced serotonin (from me), they also have the millennial stressors of working, living on their own, and being financially independent.

Talee called me the other night and we got into a conversation about possible triggers for panic and what to do when we feel it coming on. I hadn’t thought about this for awhile, and it felt good to revisit it. To be mindful of what might cause my anxiety, and actions I can take to stop it.

It’s amazing to feel empowered. To know that I’m in control of my panic, instead of it controlling me.


I used to have panic attacks every time I went to the grocery store, the mall, and when I drove. Here’s a list of some triggers that Talee and I talked about:

  • Bright fluorescent lights, like in offices or grocery stores
  • Big box stores that don’t have windows or an easy exit
  • Being hungry; can cause lightheadedness and dizziness, which can make you feel like you’re having a panic attack
  • Driving in traffic, especially stuck in the middle lane
  • Shopping at an inside mall
  • Working out in a crowded gym
  • Waiting in a long line or being in the middle of a long drive-thru line
  • Drinking coffee or soda; caffeine can make you jittery and anxious
  • Sitting in the middle of a movie theater, in the middle of a row
  • Getting a shot or seeing blood
  • Seeing or hearing someone throw up
  • Major life changes: a new school, graduation, a new job, moving into your first apartment, getting married, having a baby, getting a divorce, illness, an ill family member, and financial struggles

Talee and I discussed what to do if we feel panicky. We find it’s best to distract ourselves, instead of focusing on the panic attack. Here are some of our distraction ideas:

  • Concentrate on your breathing; slow inhales, slow exhales. Breathe deep, not shallow
  • Chew gum
  • Talk to someone
  • Be mindful of the present; look at your surroundings and remind yourself that you’re safe
  • Focus on an object and notice every detail about it
  • Sing
  • Say the alphabet or count to 100
  • Look at your phone; see what your friends are up to on Instagram and Snapchat, check emails and texts
  • Wear a rubber-band around your wrist and snap it to bring yourself to the present
  • Twirl a ring or bracelet
  • Keep a small object in your purse, like a tiny stuffed animal or squish ball, to touch and squeeze
  • Go outside

It’s hard to think rationally or logically during a panic attack. Actually, it’s impossible. That’s why it’s important to feel prepared, and accept and acknowledge our panic. We feel more in control because we’re aware of what may trigger our anxiety. We’re empowered because if we do have a panic attack, we know what works best to stop it.

Knowledge is key. Knowledge is power.

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Kindness Has No Borders

Our gardener is one of the kindest and hardest working men I know. Every Friday morning, he arrives in his old pickup truck with rakes, shovels, and tools piled in the back. Sometimes he has a helper but usually not. His tattered jeans, long-sleeved plaid shirt with a missing a button or two, and his worn-out work boots, reflect a man who isn’t interested in outward appearances. He’s content with his simple life and takes pride in working hard to make a living.

Our family calls him Papa. He reminds us of my dad, who we call Papa, except that our gardener happens to be Hispanic. Gardener Papa’s gentle voice, big smile that exposes some missing teeth, hearty laugh, and round belly make him seem jolly. His dark, loose curls bounce as he walks back and forth pushing the lawnmower. I don’t know how old he is, but I’d guess late 60s.

We originally hired his son, who I’ll call Ricky. But it’s a family business, and we are one of Papa’s accounts.

Papa doesn’t speak much English, and we don’t speak much Spanish, so communicating is a challenge. But we all make an attempt and don’t mind when the other doesn’t understand. Papa loves to talk, and my husband Alex and I enjoy our somewhat stilted conversations with him. He tells us about his family and mentions what a beautiful day it is, no matter if it’s 100 degrees or if it’s cold and drizzly.

Alex always gives Papa a drink, either water or Coke. We smile because Papa never opens it right then. He stuffs it in his pocket to save for later.

Even though we don’t perfectly understand each other, we try. And there’s something universal that we always have for each other — a smile.

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Last Friday Papa didn’t show up. We weren’t worried because sometimes he comes on Saturday. I texted Ricky to ask him about extra work we wanted done. Ricky didn’t reply for a few days.

Papa had a stroke.

Today Ricky came by to mow our grass and let us know what happened.

Papa was working the day he had his stroke. He was cutting, mowing, and trimming when his face felt numb. He called his wife and she told him he had to go to the hospital. Papa fought that, saying he was fine and could finish his full day of work.

Ricky tried to reach his dad on his cell but, as usual, he didn’t pick up. Papa had a habit of not answering his phone, so just a few weeks ago, Ricky installed a GPS in his dad’s truck without him knowing. Thank God. Ricky was able to figure out where his dad was, and rushed to help.

Papa was taken to the hospital, where he stayed for four days. He’s now at home, recuperating.

Ricky told me something that melted my heart.

He talked about how hard it is to deal with customers because of cultural differences, especially for his dad. He said some people have been rude and impatient with Papa’s limited English skills.

And then he said this:

“My dad loves working at your house, you’re one of his favorite customers. He likes to talk with you and Alex and he appreciates the time you spend with him. He says both of you always seem happy.  You guys smile a lot and are nice to each other and my dad thinks it’s great and says it’s like you’re teenagers.”

Really? I had no idea that’s how he saw us, and it made me feel so good. With the language barrier, we never really knew how much Papa understood or what he thought about us.

Sometimes we don’t realize how we affect others with our words and actions. Kindness doesn’t take a huge effort. It can show up in small ways — a smile, a conversation, or exhibiting patience and tolerance.

Ricky said his dad can’t wait to get back to work. I pray Papa has a speedy recovery and we can talk and laugh with him again.

I’m glad to know we’ve made a positive impact on his life.

It goes both ways.

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Inspiration from a Second-Grade Classroom

Instead of

Earlier this week my daughter Mackenzie sent an email to our family, with the subject line “Inspiration.”  It was Monday, and I needed some inspiration so I couldn’t wait to see what she had to say.

Inside her email was a link to an article from Adweek. The reporter of the story had gone to Back to School Night for his second-grader and the teacher discussed what the students would be learning this year. She handed the parents a chart similar to the one above.

What a great guideline for life — not just for second grade.

The ones that apply to me right now are: I give up, This is too hard, I can’t do this, and Plan A didn’t work.

Okay. I need to be a big girl, with a positive attitude, and move forward. I’ll use a different strategy, know that it’ll take some time, and I’m heading toward Plan B.

Simple motivation, but it’s so true. A good example that we’re never too young, or too old, to learn a life lesson.

Lessons Learned in Life | Be a child again.

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Millennial Motivation

Yesterday a friend and I went for our weekly walk, and got on the conversation of mental health. It turned to the subject of Millennials and mental health.

I told her about my volunteer work with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). I’m a presenter for their in-school program, Ending the Silence, which raises awareness about mental illness to middle and high school students.

My friend shared how her son (I’ll call him Garrett), a junior in college, suffers from anxiety and depression. He’s received treatment and is doing well. Garrett and his mom had been talking about technology, and how social media is a constant presence and a huge pressure in the lives of young adults.

Garrett was in a class last semester, in which the professor was adamant about having the students put their cell phones away.  They asked him why.

The professor said the best way to describe why they shouldn’t have their phones on in class is by showing them a video.

Garrett said it was one of the most powerful videos he’s seen.

It’s by motivational speaker Simon Sinek. He discusses four areas that explain some of the thoughts and actions of Millennials: Parenting, Technology, Impatience, and Environment.

Simon explains how important it is to put the phones and tech devices away. If our heads are buried in our phones, we’re going to miss the little things. The small conversations that help form relationships and friendships.

Engage with people, not phones.

Can we please

One of my favorite parts of the video is when Simon brings up the art of learning patience. It’s easy to be impatient in a world where everything is instantaneous, we get used to instant gratification. It’s all right there, at the click of a button. From buying items on Amazon, to streaming a movie or binge-watching on Netflix, or even finding a date with an app.

BUT… there are things in life that take time, and a ton of nurturing. Things that aren’t going to happen in a month, or even a year.

They require patience.

  • deep relationships
  • strong friendships
  • love
  • self-confidence
  • self-fulfillment
  • success
  • trust
  • mastering skill sets
  • experiencing joy in life

Before today, I hadn’t seen any of Simon’s videos or TED Talks. Now I’m a fan. Garrett was right. This is one powerful video that shouldn’t be missed.

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Speak out. Open the conversation. Raise awareness. End the stigma.

As a mental health advocate, these are phrases I’m passionate about promoting.

The stigma surrounding mental illness remains strong. But it’s beginning to lessen, as more people talk about their challenges with a mental health condition.

Today, October 10, 2017, is the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day. The World Federation for Mental Health founded the day in 1992.

The theme for this year is Mental Health in the Workplace.

Our jobs require us to execute-2

When I heard what this year’s theme is, I immediately thought of the interaction between an employee and her employer that went viral earlier this year:


Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.

The response from Ben Congleton, CEO Olark:

Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.

Mr. Congleton also said, “It is incredibly hard to be honest about mental health in the typical workplace. It is so easy to tell your teammates you are ‘not feeling well.’ Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your coworkers about mental health issues.”

He’s right. It’s really hard to be open and honest when struggling with a mental health condition. But I believe it’s starting to get a little easier.

My daughter Mackenzie is 25 years old. She’s had issues with anxiety this past year. And she hasn’t felt alone. She told me, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe how many of my friends and people at work talk about having anxiety and depression. They take medication and go to therapy. It isn’t taboo to talk about it anymore.”

Thank goodness.

The World Federation for Mental Health makes these suggestions to improve the conversation about mental health at work:

Commit your team to do your best at being proactive in promoting:

  • Appreciation of employees and workers
  • Creating a supportive environment
  • Identification of early signs of burnout
  • Creating an organizational culture which reflects value systems and beliefs
  • Stress management
  • Building awareness and reducing stigma
  • Mental health wellness and providing support for employees who need it

Use #WorldMentalHealthDay to spread awareness.

The conversation about mental health is open. Let’s keep talking about it!

Mental health

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Lean on Me

We aren't meant to do this alone...

It’s been a hard week. I can’t wrap my head around the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I’m  thinking of my old college friend who was killed. My heart breaks for her family.

Today I was listening to The Highway (a country music station) on SiriusXM and was moved by what they said. The whole crew of The Highway was in Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest Festival. They told their stories of that horrific night, how they hid under buses and ran for their lives. They were separated and it was hours before they knew they’d all survived.

A similar thread runs through each of their experiences. Kindness. A sense of community. Family. Strength. Love.

I’ll help you.

You’re not alone.

Come with me.

We can do this.

Hold on. Please hold on.

We’re in this world together. We hold each other up, we fight for each other.

No matter what you’re going through, there’s no shame in asking for help. There will be a time when someone else needs to lean on you for strength and encouragement.

We cannot get through this life alone. We aren’t meant to.

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