Pay Attention.

So here it is, the last day of September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Before everything turns pink tomorrow (and I do mean everything – I saw pink tortillas the other day), I feel the need to make my annual soapbox speech.


Did that work?

Okay, let me be a little more specific.

ovarian cancer signs and symptoms

Here’s more.

ovarian cancer infographic

I have an entirely different perspective on this than I did a year ago, when I wasn’t paying attention, conveniently ignoring “persistent pressure or pain in the pelvic region” I had waxed poetic about for years. Little did I know that my annual screening (which I didn’t get around to until it was nearly three months overdue) would show a cyst in my ovary and an elevation in my CA-125 level, results that led to a laparoscopic surgery the following day and, eventually, a complete hysterectomy.

The good news is, as you know, I didn’t have cancer, but it scared the living daylights out of me.

The other good news is that for the 200,000 women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, they are making progress.

ovarian cancer research progress

So here are the takeaways.

Know your risk.


If you are at an increased risk, take precautionary methods and have an ultrasound and a CA-125 screening each year, and do what you can to decrease the risk.


For more information, check out the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

And for heaven’s sake, pay attention.

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Please Stop Smoking From the Pumpkin Spice Flavored Crack Pipe

You guys. It’s FALL. Like, officially, according to the calendar, not just according to white girls who loves scarves, boots, and OHMAHGAH PUMPKINSPAHHHHCCCEE!

Or so I've heard.

Or so I’ve heard.

Little known fact about me: FALL is my favorite season. I love the weather, I love the boots, and scarves, and dangit if ORANGE isn’t my favorite color, I don’t know what is!! I freaking love ORANGE. I even like Pumpkins. I mean, they’re adorable fruits you can eat or decorate. Except I don’t actually like to eat them. But their seeds? I do love to eat some  baked-up pumpkin seeds. What I don’t like? PUMPKIN SPICE. Pumpkin spice is the orange-colored, clove-scented, RUINATION OF FALL! I know you are all gasping in one accord and your heads are collectively SPINNING with rage on your scarf-clad necks, but please take a breath and maybe a huff of your pumpkin-scented Yankee candle and hear me out. I will explain. Once upon a time a few falls ago, I made the mistake of innocently posting on Facebook how much I hated “Pumpkin Spice” and had therefore never been a fan of pumpkin pie or that disgrace that’s come to coffee, the PSL. I say “mistake” because this resulted in an immediate torrent of pumpkin spice-related pictures, memes, comments, and tags on my Facebook timeline. This pumpkin torment has been going on for at least three years, I’d say.  It’s KIND OF annoying. BUT!! But…today I’m here to say, the joke is on the jokers. By tormenting me with all things pumpkin spice on my timeline, you’ve given enough ammo to prove that this country has lost it’s damn mind over all things pumpkin spice to a REEDONKULOUS degree. Allow me to demonstrate:

frosted mini wheats

Ummmm….no. fall frolic YOUR CAT NOW HATES YOU EVEN MORE THAN IT ALREADY DID! Why would your force it to defecate in pumpkin spice-flavored litter? pumpkin spice chips Way to go, Nestle, I just THREW UP IN MY MOUTH. I pity the kids that bite into a cookie made with these and think they are chocolate chip. Have fun paying for the years of therapy caused by THAT violation of trust, parents. Things in the United State of Pumpkin Spice have gotten SO very out of hand that my friend and loyal reader Allison, grocery shopping in sunny California, was compelled to make a lovely photo collage of the pumpkin parade at her local grocery. This is just the stuff on the END CAPS! God knows what other horrors are lurking in the aisles…

pumpkin spice collage

Seriously…Oreos? Milanos? Hostess cakes? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO THESE DELICACIES??? It’s like junk food treason.

That’s right America, you have gone so COO-COO for Pumpkin Spice, I think that stuff must be laced with crack, or more likely, a mind-controlling drug invented by the purveyors of Pumpkin Spice, the Pumpkin Spice Kingpins if you will, to make you crave MOAR AND MOAR AND MOAR PUMPKIN SPICE. I know this is a joke, but I have no doubt that if it were real, people would actually be lining up at the corner drugstore to purchase this so they could squirt pumpkin spice up their hoo-has. (This is another gem from my FB timeline that a “friend” shared with me.)

pS enema

And, in case you’re period just isn’t unpleasant enough ALREADY, have a pumpkin spice tampax! The warm scents of cinnamon and pumpkin will ALMOST make you forget your constant state of hormone-induced homicidal rage.

PS tampons

This is FUNNY BECAUSE THIS IS HOW CRAZY YOU PEOPLE ARE! You guys. Put down your Pumpkin Spice Latte, pick up a Salted Caramel Mocha, (because we ALL KNOW that CARAMEL is the REAL FLAVOR OF FALL), and umm…get a life. (And if you can’t control yourselves, please hide in secret with your pumpkin spice Oreos and do not sully my timeline with that blasphemy! )

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I can breathe but I have to drink coffee through a straw so I’m not sure it’s worth it.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged about anything the ol’ braces. With having my insides removed and everything, that’s gotten lost in the fray.

But – good news – I am getting my braces off in exactly 20 days! Can you believe that? It seems like only yesterday my doctor told me my tongue was too big for my mouth.

The past year and a half has been, ahem, an interesting journey. First I had to wear this hideous retainer-like contraption for several months, then I became a metal mouth, but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

And you know what? This is totally crazy, but I can actually breathe better.

I mean, I had no idea I couldn’t breathe well before, seeing as how I have always had my tongue. But now that my mouth is big enough to fit that monstrosity, I understand how the human respiratory system is supposed to work. I don’t get out of breath at all the way I used to, and due to the aforementioned inside-removal, my cardiovascular activity level has been fairly limited since May… so it’s not that I’m in better shape. It’s that my airway is no longer blocked. I know how weird that must sound, because it feels weird. Every time I climb up stairs, I am surprised by how not winded I am.


So now that I am at the end of my braces journey (with the exception of the tooth-positioner and retainer I’ll have to wear at night for, like, ever), guess who is starting hers?


Yep. Kate is at the beginning of the same treatment plan I’ve undergone. She is currently wearing the retainer-like contraption, and let me tell you, she is whining way less than I did handling it like a champ. And just a few days after my braces are removed, she’ll get hers on. I was really hoping we could be twins for a while, but no such luck. She was really hoping for that too, trust me.

The orthodontist is loving us, though. I hope he enjoys the luxurious European vacation he can take courtesy of the Berry family. Seriously, my grandparents paid less for their first house than we have paid this dude in the past 18 months. Which brings me back to the title of this post… and now that I think about it, I’m not so sure not being able to breathe was a bad thing!

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Fit (Bit) to Be Tied

A few weeks ago, my husband sent me a link via instant messenger and said “pick one”. I clicked the link. It was to FitBit’s website.

Against my better judgment, I PICKED ONE. And now I am irreversibly OBSESSED with the dang thing! This is a huge problem for an exercise-hating lazybones like moi.

(Also, should I be offended that my husband practically forced me to get a FitBit? Discuss.)

At the time my darling dear forced a FitBit upon me, we had just come back from vacation and I was bemoaning the fact that over the past year since I got a job, I had really let myself go and had gained like 11 pounds. So, after vacation I gave up sugar (the HORROR) and started doing my favorite Pilates again. I vowed this was the year I was going to do the opposite of “let myself go”. I was going to take time to take care of myself even though I have a job and am incredibly pressed for time.

And I have. It’s shocking! I like, exercise every day. I have only had one Mountain Dew since July 27th. I have lost 13 pounds. And I give the FitBit MAD CREDIT.


This is me out walking. On a really HOT day. ON PURPOSE. What the fish, man!?!?!

I am very ashamed that it took a tiny electronic device in my pocket to truly motivate me to take care of myself, but OH WELL. It is what it is! And it is an obsession! I check the app on my phone to keep up with my steps like 8700 times a day. And I exercise and drink enough water PURELY to see that my goals turn green by the end of the day.


Seriously WHO AM I?

The only thing I don’t like about my FitBit is the CHALLENGES my friends keep inviting me too. Since I have a job that requires I sit on my @$$ several hours a day, I can NEVER win the challenges. So, I am a big loser. But, the competition is still good for me. I do as much as I can! I walk around my house for no reason just to get extra steps in.

Basically, I am an insane person.

But I am feeling pretty good! So we will go with it for now. :)

Are you FitBit obsessed? Friend me!


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Five Podcasts I Can’t Live Without

PodCasts I Can't Live Without

In the past few months, I’ve been listening to podcasts on my commute and I am hooked! I have no doubt I am the last person on Earth to become aware of the wonders of podcasts, but just in case anyone out there is still listening to the radio, I thought I’d take a minute to share some of my favorites.

On any given weekday, I can be found listening to…

The Sporkful. They had me at the tagline – “It’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters.” (Foodie, if you recall, is on my list of words that should be abolished from the English language.)

Summary: The Sporkful isn’t for foodies, it’s for eaters. Each week Dan and his guests explore the huge, fun world of food and eating that’s beyond the realm of recipes, chefs, and restaurants. Episodes range from a parody of the hit podcast Serial in which Dan investigates a series of office fridge food thefts to a feature on Asian-Americans in the food world who are defying stereotypes to a debate over the definition of a sandwich to a comedian’s struggle with his autistic son’s eating issues. The Sporkful began as a dream so delicious and vivid that when Dan woke, his pillow was covered in drool. But it’s not just one man’s vision. It’s a gathering place for Eaters from across the globe. So take part and together we will all learn to eat more better!

Episodes I recommend: Jim Gaffigan Lies To His Kids About Food, The REAL Sausage King of Chicago (Live in Chicago Pt. 1)

logest shortest time
The Longest Shortest Time
This is the best parenting podcast I’ve come across. It’s not about parenting tips, really, but it’s stories of people who are in the trenches of parenting. The name pretty much sums up how I feel about this stage of my life, too.

Summary: Hillary Frank created the Longest Shortest Time as a bedside companion for parents who want to hear in the middle of the night (or day—what’s the difference, really?) that they are not alone. And that as never-ending as any parenting stages seem, they don’t last forever.

Episodes I recommend: The Accidental Gay Parents, Sixty-Five Women and a Baby.

death sex and money
Death, Sex & Money As you might have ascertained by reading the title, this podcast gets real. I’m continually impressed by the host, Anna Sale, who never seems to hesitate to ask the hard questions, but she does so in such a compassionate and interested way. Some of the episodes carry the “explicit” warning, just FYI.

Summary: A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Host Anna Sale talks to celebrities and regular people about relationships, money, family, work and making it all count while we’re here.

Episodes I recommend: In Sickness and in Mental Health, Confessions of a Nashville Power Couple. And pretty much all the rest of them, too.

this american life
This American Life They brought us Serial, what more do you want? But there is so much more. I pretty much think this should be required listening for everyone who is alive.

Summary: There’s a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always.

Episodes I recommend: Too Soon? Okay so I must jump in here with a “WTF” moment of the day. This episode mentions OJ Simpson. But before delving into that part of the story, they had to start with a brief recap of OJ’s fame, the white Bronco and the trial. Because there are people listening to NPR who are not old enough to remember OJ’s trial. Let that sink in for a moment. I’ll wait. And I’ll also tell you that what follows that brief description is even more WTF-ier than that. So go listen. And after that, try this one – The Problem We All Live With.

WDW Prep School Now, y’all know that I love me some Disney, and that I am super type-A in my trip planning. But let me tell you – there are 101 podcasts about Disney World, and this is the only one I like. I can’t take the others! The host, Shannon Albert, is always well-prepared and each episode is short, succinct and full of helpful information. It is not a bunch of people sitting around and talking about what they read about Disney on the interwebz this week. Skip the others; listen to this one. (And the same goes for her website as well.)

Summary: If you’re planning a trip to Disney World and want to know all of the tips and tricks to making it a great trip, you’re in the right place. If you want to go to Disney World and have no idea where to start, you’re also in the right place.

Episodes I recommend: My best Disney World planning advice, How to do Disney World with very little planning (although I don’t know why anyone would do that.)

There you have it! My favorite podcasts. What have you been listening to?

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A Beautiful Risk

Two weeks ago, two different families that were “friends of friends” lost children on the same weekend. One a newborn baby who inexplicably never breathed, and one a teen in a freak accident. Since then, I have not been able to stop thinking about this post I wrote back in October 2007 (!!!) about my baby Sophie, for the old online magazine TopBlogMag. I finally searched for it so I could re-publish it here for you guys, because it adequately expresses my thoughts on what I’ve been feeling for these two families, and on the great way we expose our mom hearts when we have kids.


She’s sleeping soundly, and I pause to observe a rare moment of calm in my wild child, my crazy girl, my daring daughter. Her long, fine hair covers her thick eyelashes and rest on her plump, peaceful cheeks. She is, to me, simply amazing. But I am, of course, her mother.

Eleven months ago, I exhibited the opposite of the serenity she now sleepily displays. I was pregnant with her, and on the cusp of giving birth, rotund, uncomfortable, and scared. I was anxious, apprehensive, and fretful about my baby girl. My fears frustrated and confounded me. I already had a son, and he was healthy and strong. I had done this before, what was wrong with me? I just wanted her out, and as my pregnancy progressed I became more and more convinced she would be safer outside the womb than in.

A few days before my due date, after a doctor’s appointment where once again, everything looked fine, I sat down to try and analyze my fear, to seek to know the enemy that was taking the joy out of this pregnancy. What I came to realize after some careful, quiet thought, was this: because I already had one child, I knew what I had to lose if something went wrong with this pregnancy. I knew what it was like to hold my own child in my arms, to nurse it at my breast, to feel its breath on my cheek, to marvel at its first smile and revel in its first laugh. This baby already had my heart. Giving her life meant risking her life, and I already knew I couldn’t live without her.

A few days later, right on time, my risk, my beautiful risk paid off. My daughter came into my world healthy and strong, just like her brother. The last eleven months she has brought me joy upon joy, and looking at her now I don’t regret the risk for a minute. Still, knowing what I have to lose, I don’t think myself brave enough to take it on again.

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My Nephew Has More Championships Than Your Nephew

FanAunt Drew

Not to brag or anything.

Because I have nothing to do with his genius (clearly!!), but my nephew Drew just one-upped himself, or two-upped himself, and won not one (like last year) but three national championship titles at the Rubik’s Cube 2015 US Nationals last week! He not only won the National Champion title in his specialty, the Pyraminx (the pyramid-shaped one, which you will see below) he also won the top spot for a crazy puzzle called the Skewb, and the BIG one – the 3×3
“regular” Rubik’s Cube! He literally won that one by .01 of a second. It is like the OLYMPICS up in here!

And that’s not ALL! He holds the world record on Pyraminx for an average solve time of 2.56 seconds (that’s an average of 3 solves, dropping the high and low times of 5 solves). But at Nationals, he also set a new North American record for the single-solve of the Pyraminx in 1.68 seconds. Yeah. You’re gonna need to watch this about 1o times to grasp it!

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?? I love the crowd’s reaction on this. These people are USED to this kind of thing and they were still blown away!

Oh, and here’s a Skewb solve, in case you were wondering what that is.

Drew says over and over when people are amazed at his skills, that he practices about 2 hours a day. Also, he started this when he was nine, and he’s almost 16. So, he’s been working on these mad skillz for almost 7 years!

Needless to say, the family is quite proud of this kid! I am super-proud of ALL my nieces and nephews. I am totes biased but I think we have an exceptional family! My brothers and sisters-in-law have set the bar pretty high for kid raising. No pressure…

Way to go Drew! You kinda rule, and I really enjoy being your #FanAunt.

Everyone, do Drew a favor and go like his Facebook page, Drew Brads, Speedcuber! Since I contributed nothing to his genius, I DO like to contribute to getting his name out there. :) You can also subscribe and share his YouTube Channel, XTownCuber.

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What I Read on My Summer Vacation

What I Readon My SummerVacation

So “vacation” might not be the appropriate word for my summer, but during my surgery recovery I read a lot of books. At one point I had read something like 10 books in 12 days. It was glorious! You know, except for the gaping hole in my abdomen.


I’m always looking for book recommendations and I know many of you are too, so I wanted to share some that I’ve enjoyed in the past few months. Here we go, in no particular order:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
I loved, loved, loved this book. I did not want it to end. I’ve read about a zillion books on the second world war, but not many set in France, so I learned a lot, but beyond that, I was captivated by the story. Highly recommend!

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
I enjoyed this book, even though it was pretty sad. It made me consider the things our kids may never tell us, and what consequences that may have.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers. This book… it surprised me. I did not see that coming. I’ll leave it at that!

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…
Again with the WWII novels! This one is set in England, which is another facet of the war I had not read much about. Evacuating children? Hard to even comprehend. Susan Meissner is new to me, but I will seek out her other books as well.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.
I will admit, the size of this book nearly scared me off. (Can you see me cringing with embarrassment right now?) It was an investment of time, to be sure, but it was well worth it. It offers a fascinating glimpse into life as an immigrant in America.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.
I had had this on my “to read” list for quite a while but had not gotten around to reading it. A good friend dropped it off at my house a few days into my recovery, and I am so glad she did! This is another one that I didn’t want to end. I loved it!

The Family Man by Elinor Lipman
A hysterical phone call from Henry Archer’s ex-wife and a familiar face in a photograph upend his well-ordered life and bring him back into contact with the child he adored, a short-term stepdaughter from a misbegotten marriage long ago.
I ran across Elinor Lipman’s name on a list of well-written, smart “chick lit,” and now I want to read everything she ever wrote. This book was a funny, easy read, and I found myself quite invested in the characters. It’s a compelling story.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.
Jenny brought this book to me when I was in the hospital, and even though I had to read each page about three times because I kept falling asleep (yay for pain meds!), I loved it. I had never given much thought to just how amazing their accomplishments were until I read this book; it is astonishing. And to think it all happened in our backyard! Crazy. Most importantly, David McCullough answers the age old question of exactly which state gets to claim “First in Flight.” Spoiler alert: It’s not North Carolina.

That’s a wrap for today! Tell me, though – what book should be next on my list?

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Take Summer Out With a Bang With LivingSocial #Giveaway

living social

I am super-excited to bring you a sponsored giveaway from LivingSocial! All opinions are my own.

You guys KNOW I love a deal, so when LivingSocial debuted a few years ago, I was on it like white on rice. If there is an event or activity my family wants to do nearby, I always hit LivingSocial first to make sure there’s not an awesome deal. We’ve done some really fun family activities on the cheap with LivingSocial including our favorite local waterpark, bowling, and mini-golf! Bobby and I have also had some frugal date nights by purchasing LivingSocial vouchers for some local restaurants. And – beyond local, I’ve gotten some great deals on gifts at LivingSocial, too! I even got my Costco Membership for an awesome price there!


Another fun way I use LivingSocial is by checking out their local deals when we go on vacation! I’ve added some bang to our vacation budget by finding LivingSocial vouchers for family fun activities and eateries in the town we’re vacationing in! Bonus!

If you haven’t tried LivingSocial yet, you are REALLY missing out! So,  I am going to give you some incentive. To celebrate the end of summer and making the most of what’s left of fun in the sun, I’m giving away $50 in Deal Bucks to LivingSocial!! Whoop whoop! It’s easy to enter: simply leave a comment below telling me the BEST deal you’ve ever gotten on LivingSocial. If you’ve never tried it, go to your local LivingSocial page and tell me which deal you most want to purchase.

One winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, August 6 at 6pm EST. GOOD LUCK!! Don’t forget to share this giveaway – and the LivingSocial love – with all your friends!

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And then yoga made me cry.

Just when I think I’m starting to get a handle on this whole menopause thing, something ridiculous happens to prove me wrong.

Yesterday I went to my first post-surgery yoga class. Up until now, I’ve been making a point to stay active, making sure I’m hitting my goal on my activity tracker each day, but I hadn’t really done anything except walk and play catch with Baseball Sammy. I thought I would ease my way back into it with yoga – something I love and had been fairly accustomed to at one point.

But as soon as I hit the mat, I could tell things weren’t the same. Nothing hurt per se, but everything was just different. As strange as it sounds, I couldn’t inhale the way I used to. I couldn’t get my lower abdomen to expand enough to take a deep yoga breath.

That’s when I started crying.

Even though evidence from the past two months points to the contrary, I am not a crier! That is Jenny’s role in our relationship, and as you know we try maintain our status as polar opposites.

But I sure was one yesterday. I think it was a combination of the realization that my body has actually been through a pretty significant alteration recently and processing some of the emotion I hadn’t really brought to the surface until I was in the quiet, intentional space that is yoga class.

It was so frustrating to me that my body wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. I eventually sorted out, though, how lucky I am that my situation is temporary. I have no reason to believe that it won’t improve with time and practice, and plenty of people don’t have that light at the end of the tunnel.

If nothing else, this entire surgery/recovery experience has been a lesson in compassion and gratefulness that I desperately needed, and that’s something I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of as regular life resumes.

In the meantime, I am just glad people keep their eyes closed in yoga class, so only the teacher will think I’m crazy!

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