#Throwback Thursday: It’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (Shhhh, No One Speak About It)

Originally published 5/19/13       Dedicated to my mom.

A bright spotlight shines on breast cancer. Pink saturates everything. Marathons are held to find a cure. Mammograms are encouraged to detect it.

Ovarian cancer lurks in the shadows hoping no one will notice it. And no one does. It’s free to go undetected and slowly kill thousands of women each year.

You can’t catch it. There is no test for it even though most women think a pap covers it.

No one knows that the signs mimic those of IBS. People usually jump to conclude it’s just digestive problems. Bloating, change in bowel habits, indigestion, nausea, abdominal fullness, fluid in the abdomen, or lump in the abdomen.

Most people don’t know that having breast cancer increases your chances of getting ovarian cancer. And vice versa.

Almost no one realizes that it’s the deadliest gynecological cancer there is.

Women are unaware that the CA125 blood test is the closest thing we have to a screening for ovarian cancer. And it’s not even reliable.

Little headway is being made. The five year survival rate for ovarian cancer has not changed significantly over the past 40 years. That means there are almost never survivors. Only loved ones you have to watch wither away over 1,2,3,4 or 5 years.

In 2008 the American Cancer Society awarded $572.6 million for breast cancer research. Ovarian cancer, $6.2 million.

I’m not trying to pit one disease against the other. Or to say one is more important. But damn. Where are our mammograms? Where are our pink ribbons? Where is our race for the cure? No one seems to notice this silent killer. And so it just goes on killing.

The Unnecessarily Defiant Dentist (& His Shitty Apology)

It’s such a pain finding a new dentist, isn’t it? But I really liked this one. My brother-in-law recommended him and I was pleasantly surprised by the office’s organization, professionalism and friendliness.

On my last visit, in anticipation of Hannah going for her first exam there the following month, I asked if they could look at the calcifications on her front teeth and tell me if anything could be done or not. I specifically told the hygienist that I didn’t want it mentioned in front of Hannah because she had been self conscious about them in the past. I didn’t want that box of worms reopened until I knew there was a simple—an affordable—solution. The hygienist and I both communicated this to the check out woman who said she understood. We even made notes in the system together and she reassured me that they would not bring it up to Hannah.
The day of Hannah’s appointment, I noted that a different dentist was on duty this time. I wasn’t even aware there was more than one dentist at this practice. Oh well, I’m sure he’s just as good, I thought and went back to watching Hulu. About an hour later, just-as-good-dentist came out to brief me on the state of Hannah’s pearly whites.
“So I spoke to her about her teeth calcifications and told her there’s a paste to get rid of them…” he started. I didn’t hear much after that because I was too busy having a conversation with myself in my head about how that could have happened.
“I thought I asked for the calcifications to be discussed with me in private and not in front of her. Weren’t there notes in the system?” I asked.
“Yeah I know, but it wasn’t a big deal, she was fine with it,” he replied.
“But that’s not the point. I asked you guys NOT to talk about it with her and you did anyway,” I kept going.
He just stared at me for like a million seconds without saying a word. I could imagine the thought bubble above his head though. And it had lots of expletives. As did mine. I remained silent, refusing to speak first.
“Well, I’m sorry,” he finally said with a definitely not sorry tone, and then further canceled it out with “But she didn’t seem upset by it.” Hmmm, he’s a stubborn one.
Yeah, I get it doc. I’m an overreactive borderline hysterical mom and you’re just a cool know-it-all dentist. I left the office without saying anything else about it because I wanted to give myself a chance to calm down.
I fumed all the way home and started to question why I was so mad. People make mistakes. Hannah WAS fine with it. I COULD afford the paste. No harm was really done.
Oh. It was his shitty apology.
If, from the beginning, he had just said “Oh I’m sorry! That was totally my fault. I should have ….blah blah whatever” instead of digging his heels in defiantly, I could have been more understanding. Annoyed, but not enraged.
I don’t like it when people pretend to apologize, but don’t really apologize.
Top 3 least sincere apologies:
1. They say sorry, but with a tone (which they pretend is a figment of your imagination).
2.They say they’re “sorry you feel that way” i.e. You’re not supposed to be upset.
3. They say soooorrrryyyy! i.e. sorry you’re an oversensitive loser.
They might as well just say what they mean: Sorry, not sorry.
Have you ever given or been on the receiving end of an sham apology? Tell me about it in the comments below! (Doesn’t it look like that tooth is giving the middle finger in the photo above? Made me laugh to myself)
Photo by Tom Hilton

You Take The Good, You Take The Bad, You Take Them Both & There You Have…The Facts Of Life

As I get older, I am more able to appreciate people’s strengths and be more forgiving of their weaknesses (as perceived by me, obviously). The black and white perspective of my youth has shades of gray and the judgement that comes with being newer to the world has faded. Life is full of nuances and a feast of all different people. Not everybody can be every thing.

My dad isn’t super plugged into my life, but anytime I need help he is there. He is patient, helpful and scary smart. I choose to appreciate those things about him now instead of harping on the things he lacks. He is there when I need help and can figure out ANYTHING.

When my mom died, I unrealistically wanted my sister to take her place. But she couldn’t because she’s not my mom. Instead I grew to appreciate her thoughtfulness, generosity and pragmatism. She is there in a bunch of other ways when it counts.

We have a friend of the family who is a terrible communicator and can be very difficult to deal with. But he is also generous, assisted us in caring for my mom when she was ill and is always willing to jump in and help.

Expecting people to be exactly what you want them to be seems immature to me now. I think lovingly accepting peoples’ limitations helps us accept our own, too. What do you think?

#Throwback Thursday: Once Upon A Time, We Went To See Oprah

Originally published 10/28/14….I love remembering this trip…

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I had always wanted to attend an Oprah show taping. So this summer when I saw tickets to her “Live Your Best Life Weekend” go on sale, I had to snag some. Sure they were expensive. Sure it was a 6 hour drive to Atlanta. Sure we’d miss work and school. But hey. It’s Oprah. I booked the adventure.

After we arrived and checked into our fancy Oprah weekend hotel, Hannah and I headed over to O-Town. O-Town was a little neighborhood of tents and booths filled with all things Oprah. Everything from her OWN network to O Magazine to activities promoting all of the Oprah teachings was showcased. We saw a very long line to register for a Wells Fargo VIP package to the show. It was super hot and we were sweating up a storm.

Hannah said, “Let’s register”. I replied, “It’s toooooo hot and the line is toooooo long and the chances of us winning are one in a million.” We declined to enter.

That night Oprah spoke of trials and tribulations she’s experienced in her life. It was so exciting to watch Hannah as Oprah spoke about intention, gratitude, surrender and the golden rule because I could see it all clicking with her. She was the only kid I saw in the entire stadium.

The next morning we dined on fancy Oprah weekend french toast room service and headed off for day two. In a stadium that seats 18,000 people, our seats weren’t the worst and they weren’t the best, but they were ours and we were excited. Suddenly a woman’s voice over the loud speaker.

“And the winner of the Wells Fargo VIP package is Jennifer ***** and guest!”

Huh? A light shined on us and people around us were shouting “Congratulations!” as one of Oprah’s producers whisked us away. We walked the long walk down to the floor and were stopped in front of two seats that said “RESERVED”. They were reserved for us! Necklaces with “VIP” on them were put around our necks. We kept looking at eachother in disbelief. It was like we had won the lottery.

When Oprah came out on stage, we could just about touch her. I could not believe that we had won this contest (we’d somehow entered unbeknownst to me) and were sitting in front of someone I had watched on my TV screen for over 20 years.

When we broke for lunch, the loud speaker lady came on again instructing those with VIP Saturday tags to stay put. Oprah’s producer appeared again and asked us how we were enjoying the seats. I took that opportunity to ask him what we were waiting on. He pointed us in the direction of a small group of people who were heading upstairs and told us to follow. By the time we caught up with them, the group of people were standing at the elevators waiting for the next one to arrive.

Everyone was quiet as I asked the lady next to us, “Where we were going?”

She replied, “To meet Oprah!”

“Get out!” I exclaimed not fully believing her.

The elevator transported us upstairs and behind a velvet curtain was a beautiful world of yummy buffet food, free drinks and beautiful centerpieces on white linen table cloths. After we ate and took many pictures of ourselves, it was time to get pictures with Oprah.

As our turn came up, one of the producers asked me if we were the mom and daughter who won the VIP package. I said yes as she relayed the info to Oprah. Hannah walked up to her first and said, “Thank you for inspiring me” to which Oprah replied, “Awwwww thank you for inspiring me” and gave her a big hug. They let us each have a photo alone and then one with the three of us. I couldn’t even think of a single thing to say.

As we walked around the stadium, it was like we were famous. Everywhere we went people were congratulating us. On the way to the car, a lady yelled across the parking lot, “Are you the mom and daughter who won the VIP tickets?” Yep, that’s us. And life is amazing.

Which Glasses Will It Be Today?

I’m always amazed at how different life can look from one day to the next, without anything ever actually changing. One day I have on dark glasses and everything about life feels super unmanageable. The next day, rose colored glasses are back on and life is no sweat. Nothing drastic occurred between yesterday and today…it’s just the glasses I picked up.

I would consider the dark days depression except it’s usually just a day here and there. Nothing consistent, just consistently sporadic. Though, admittedly, almost always tied to the level of my headache pain that day. Add extra stresses to that and life becomes a desert, barren and absent of hope and light.

Friday was a terrible headache day and I had to work on wedding items for my boss. No, it’s not my job. Not at all. I’m a corporate graphic designer being held hostage as a wedding designer. <sarcasm> Because yeah it’s perfectly normal to have a company designer also design your wedding on the clock along with all their other work. It’s not at all necessary for you to pay them for a freelance job. </sarcasm>

I actually entered Publisher’s Clearing House when I got home. 42 years old and I have never been desperate enough to turn to PCH. I am hoping there’s a bunch of balloons, confetti and an oversized check in my near future.

But yesterday was a good day because Hannah went with me to run errands. It made the chores seem much less chore-like with her there to talk and joke with. 

We passed a truck with this bumper sticker:takebackamerica.png

“Take back America,” Hannah read out loud. “Who has America? Did someone steal America?”

I reply as the voice of the bumper sticker driver, “These dang foreigners!……Oh wait, that’s us.”

And we laughed. Ya know, since we’re all foreigners.

Do you ever feel like you’re wearing different glasses from one day to the next? Here’s to rose colored glasses this week!

#Throwback Thursday:You Don’t Know My Life! (And Other Things About Being Judgmental)

Originally published 10/13/2013

A few days ago, Hannah and I were watching Glee. It was the episode where they killed off Finn and paid tribute to Cory Monteith, the actor who played him. Hannah is a big fan of the show and was aware that he had died from a drug overdose over the summer. She told me how a few people had commented that he was a drug addict and it’s his own fault. She felt bad that they were saying that and told me that it wasn’t his fault he was addicted to drugs. This was a great opportunity for a conversation.

I told her that people make their own choices and it certainly was his choice to take drugs. However, sometimes as human beings, we should take a look at the root cause of behavior. Usually people take drugs to escape some kind of pain. I have compassion for people who feel the need to turn to drugs to numb whatever feelings they can’t seem to face.

I also notice people, in general, seem to have a really low tolerance for people with drug problems. They get super judgy, super fast. Yet drugs are not the only way people numb their pain. Many times, the people who feel they are better than drug addicts are the same people who escape life’s darkness and discomforts in “acceptable” ways. Maybe they gamble, shop, eat, work too much, drink too much, watch too much television or stay on the internet all the time. Some of these things have obvious consequences, some less obvious. But the motivation is always the same. Escape.

I’m not suggesting they should not be held accountable for their actions or that we should take responsibility for them. Maybe we could judge a little less and empathize a little more. “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

We Are Family, I Got All My Sisters With Me (Plus My Ex, His Wife & Their Kids)

Hannah’s stepmom and I have always had a pretty good relationship. I’d have her little girl over to bake cookies, she’d cut my hair. I’d do crafty projects for her, she’d cook for me. Hannah’s dad could have chosen anyone, but he ended up choosing a good person who treats Hannah really well.

That being said, stepmom has a habit of letting things fester until she can’t hold it in any longer and then releases her frustrations in a super passive aggressive way. I then have to realize this and try to talk to her frankly about the problem. This works pretty well. Except this last time.

Hannah was struggling toward the end of this school year with several things and I asked if we could adjust her schedule with her dad and stepmom. Dad was fine with it, but stepmom got very upset. The change was small and temporary, so I just kinda figured she’d get over it. But she didn’t. And she texted me about it. A lot. Real long scathing texts. The kind that make you want to go to the person’s house and ask “Are you alright?”

So I called her hoping we could turn things around and get back to normal. But things didn’t really improve and, in fact, became even more infuriating. We hung up in a so-so place and later that evening she texted me letting me know she wasn’t going to answer my texts going forward, only phone calls. Obviously, I didn’t reply. Since that would be texting.

I was really hurt because I had always made a big effort to be appreciative and to make things comfortable and mutually supportive between our blended family members. Some of that hurt turned into anger as I thought of ways I could avoid dealing with her.

Weeks go by with no communication between the two of us. Spite had forced me to begin coordinating plans through her dad, the not-as-effective communicator. By the Fourth of July, I decided I would offer an olive branch when I picked up Hannah. So I made a cupcake run and headed on over.

On my way, I reasoned that stepmom’s bad reaction weeks earlier was probably just her feeling insecure about Hannah’s time with them. Maybe she took my schedule change to mean that Hannah didn’t want to be at their house. So once I arrived, we all exchanged pleasantries and chit chatted as if nothing had happened.

I deemed the mission successful until stepmom text me the next day. It was a nice text about picking Hannah up and taking her this place and that place. Normal. But I couldn’t bring myself to respond. I remembered her message of forbidden texting and a mixture of hurt and stubbornness washed over me as I turned into Scarlett O’Hara:

As God is my witness, I will never text you again!

But the cupcakes were nice, right? Baby steps.


#ThrowbackThursday: My Daughter Doesn’t Take Piano Lessons (And Other Things I’m Failing At)

Originally published 6/21/2013

“Mommy can I take piano lessons?”

I consider this request. I would like her to take piano lessons, but we have no piano. It seems unreasonable that I should go buy one. She suggests a keyboard. Even still. We’ve done dance, gymnastics, acting lessons, soccer and girl scouts. We participate in swimming and drama. Can’t I just let myself off the hook, piano-wise?

The other day, I was folding laundry when a commercial for paper towels came on. The mother just smiles as her daughter “helps” her by sloshing a ridiculously full bowl of soup across the kitchen to the dining room table. Mommy, head in the clouds, smiles as she notes that her daughter likes to help. Mommy is unfazed as she reaches for a paper towel.

I instantly hate the overly patient Bounty mommy, certain that there are real Bounty mommies everywhere and I am definitely not one. I would have shut down the whole soup carrying thing before she even took a step. I bet Bounty mommy even cooked the soup with her daughter. Meh.

I feel like the Queen of Hurry Up, You Have To and How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You. It’s a kingdom where my minions are Disappointment, Guilt, Remorse and Regret. I know I am not alone in this kingdom. It just feels like it.

I yell sometimes. My headaches rob me of a lot of patience. Sometimes, I don’t feel like listening to her stories. I cook a real dinner 2-3 times a week. I am on my phone too much. I should make her put her iPad away more. No, your bathing suit isn’t clean for camp. We should be taking walks. I need to sign us up for some yoga classes. Yes yes, that would be fun and not at all challenging to fit into our packed schedule. Why aren’t we eating nice summer dinners on the patio more. We watch too much TV. I don’t like getting up in the evening to tuck her in. That is lame.

The other day, out of the blue…….

Hannah: I’m proud of the life you made. Even though things didn’t go as you planned, you picked yourself up and built a nice life. You don’t live off of anyone. You did it yourself.

Me: If there was someone to live off of, I would.

Hannah: I’m trying to have a moment here.

And those are the moments when I know I’m doing more good than harm. I smile to myself.

When Your Summer Plans Fall Apart, Do What Dory Would Do

After a lot (A LOT) of back and forth about which summer theater camp session Hannah would attend, she decided on session A which runs the first half of the summer. The theater circles Hannah runs in at her middle school usually attend session B, but Hannah was determined to branch out and meet some new people as she found her current people not quite satisfactory.

Hannah told me, “They keep saying ‘But Hannah, you won’t know anyone at session A’ and I’m like ‘Well sometimes we can meet new people! We don’t have to stay in the same manipulative and abusive co-dependent groups!'” She didn’t really say that, but told me that was what she was thinking. She had grown tired of the immaturity, games and friends-one-day-but-not-the-next thing that had become a regular occurrence in her group. She was ready to brave a whole new world. Like Jasmine on a magic carpet ride.


Fast forward to her crying every day after camp because groups and cliques were already formed and no one was interested in letting her invade them. I tried every approach to get her to stick it out, try harder, have faith, stand her ground. I was encouraging, empathetic, forceful and even nonchalant as I “let her decide” (i.e. decide to go back). Nothing was working! I found this upsetting for three reasons:

  1. I don’t want her to be comfortable with quitting. I try to teach her to honor her commitments. I didn’t feel like 3 days was ample trying time.
  2. The camp was paid for and I was told by a rather smug camp counselor that refunds are not a thing.
  3. I work full time and did not like the idea of Hannah aimless and home alone every day.

We had countless discussions about it over the course of 3 days which was exhausting. I kept expecting her to give in and try a little longer. That’s what would usually happen in these scenarios. But she wouldn’t. I could tell she was upset about quitting, but that it was even more upsetting to her to think about going back.

Finally, I had to just grow toward the sun and let it go. I had to just believe her.

I had to trust in her…and our relationship …and know that she just really really really didn’t want to go, whether I fully understood why or not. There was no point in my trying to get her up every morning, force her to get dressed, drive to camp—crying all the way—where I’d have to pry her crumpled sobbing body from the car and feel crummy all day at work thinking about it. Bleh.

The next night we went to see Finding Dory (aka my new favorite movie). After the movie, I told Hannah we were done discussing camp and we were not going to let camp ruin our lives. Hannah agreed and said, “We’re going to do what Dory would do.”


Yes! Regroup, reassess and figure it out! There’s always a way. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

So far, we have lined up one camp-replacing adventure for her already. Hannah is going with my sister and her 3 boys on a week long trip up north. God bless my sister. And Godspeed.


How We Are Dealing With Gun Violence: The Definition Of Insanity

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”

What we are doing is not working. Common sense dictates that something different needs to be done.

We keep getting wrapped up in the whole “you can’t take our guns!” vs “but guns are bad!” thing, ignoring the fact that plenty of nations have their guns (so relax), but not the mass violence. Why? Their country is not magical. Their population is human just like ours. Why can’t we look at what other nations are doing and just do that? We don’t need to keep right fighting.

Australia had a normal reaction to a mass shooting that occurred in 1996. And that reaction was to be really alarmed and to do what it took to make sure it never happened again. And it hasn’t. It’s just that simple and I’m not understanding why we make it hard.

Just do something! Do something else! Do something until this ends!

Hannah texted me:

Hannah-gun-text copy

Speechless and sad. I think this shift in violence goes beyond gun control. It’s deeply rooted and I’m not sure how we get to it.

Photo credit: quoteaddicts.com