Finding a Holiday Mindset to use all year long

Maureen Leif, President, Grays Peak Strategies

This holiday season feels a little different for me. I have been reminded of how fragile life is and how this season isn’t joyous and happy for everyone. My beautiful young cousin contacted me on January 7th last year. I was in a ski lodge drinking a hot cocoa. She had news and not good news. She was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. From the beginning of her diagnosis, she was positive, determined, and a warrior. She was given a couple of months to live if she did nothing, but true to her nature, she fought. She fought hard. She passed away the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was really unbelievable to me how someone with such a dire prognosis could stay so positive and treat every day as a gift. If Chelle could treat every day as if she was the luckiest even though it was full of fear, awful side effects, Dr. appointments and big decisions, surely, I could apply some lessons learned for myself and honor her.

 We do not need such impactful situations in our own lives to remind us of how tomorrow is not guaranteed, deep down we know this and yet we let the daily stresses and frustrations control our day and impact our interactions with others. There are so many stresses this time of the year, even from good things, such as presents to buy, cookies to make, parties to go to and guests to receive. This holiday season for me is about going beyond the good stress and to be reflective. I am trying to mend fences that need mending. I am trying to be mindful, more patient, grateful, and to be a kind and loving person. I have friends who have lost children, my cousin’s two kids are missing their mom, and there are a lot of others we all know in the same boat.

As we design and contemplate the vision board for Grays Peak Strategies for 2019, I am challenging myself to not just incorporate empathy into my holiday mindset, but all year long. I commit to thinking about the human services and court personnel we collaborate with in a more empathic way. Likewise, I commit to being mindful of the families that we ultimately serve. Here’s a little checklist for home and the office:

  • Try to see the situation from another person’s point of view

  • Active listen, not just to the facts but to the emotions

  • Ask the other person you’re talking to what they would do

  • Develop a curiosity about the people you work with and encounter

  • Validate other’s feelings

  • Examine your own feelings

 I wish you all a heartfelt happy and meaningful season celebrating whatever you celebrate, even life. Remember the “grumpy” co-worker or person behind the counter might be carrying some heavy things this season and maybe they need extra love. This shift, even a small one, can honor Emily, Amy, Kiley, Jonathan, Mary Ann and those that you have in your heart as well. As my cousin Chelle would say in a cheerful voice, “yeppers deppers”. Not sure what it meant but try it, it works.


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Inflammatory Breast Cancer, it is aggressive and often misdiagnosed. Symptoms include swelling and redness. The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple, or bruised. In addition, the skin may have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange. These symptoms are caused by the buildup of fluid (lymph) in the skin of the breast. This fluid buildup occurs because cancer cells have blocked lymph vessels in the skin, preventing the normal flow of lymph through the tissue. Sometimes the breast may contain a solid tumor that can be felt during a physical exam, but more often a tumor cannot be felt.

Other symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include a rapid increase in breast size; sensations of heaviness, burning, or tenderness in the breast; or a nipple that is inverted (facing inward). Swollen lymph nodes may also be present under the arm, near the collarbone, or both.

It is important to note that these symptoms may also be signs of other diseases or conditions, such as an infection, injury, or another type of breast cancer that is locally advanced. For this reason, women with inflammatory breast cancer often have a delayed diagnosis of their disease. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/ibc-fact-sheet#q2