May Challenge – The Final Post (X, Y, Z)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Want to talk about cutting it close on getting all my letters in. Call it cheating, call it what have you, but I’m getting my May Challenge done IN May. So here I am, banging out a long and final post for the challenge. Hold tight, it’s been an exciting ride!

X is for Xray

In Canada with Caroline after breaking my arm
Call me lame by choosing xray, but give me a break – I’m not creative enough to pick another word or topic. When I think of xray I think of all the times I’ve broken fingers and wrists – most vividly the time I broke my arm up in Canada playing soccer, sat in an emergency room for nearly five hours in pain because the Canadian health system allows everyone to go for free and in the end getting a plaster cast because apparently they don't have fiberglass there. So as I sat there in agony, Mrs. Brown sat with me patiently as Canadians were waiting for splinters to be taken out of feet and blisters to be popped. COME ON MAN!!! Stupid Canada. I made do the rest of the trip, however being 12 years old and having to be bathed my your best friend's mom is a bit mortifying. Wanna see some cool xray photos? Here is 28 Awesome and Crazy X-Rays.

Y is for Youth

Just heard my boss today tell her 5-year-old son over the phone “Life is just a party for you it’s it?!”

Honestly as soon as I heard her say that I thought to myself, “you know what – life IS a party in your youth.”

My youth was great and I would go back in a heartbeat. As the summer heat has been pounding our skin over the last 4 days it brings me back to the memories of spending everyday of every summer at Memom and Poppop’s house in Worcester. Each morning myself, my sister, and my cousins (Jackie and Tyler) would pile into my mom’s Ford Explorer and off we would go for a week worth of running, swimming, playing, eating and more playing.

Missy and I with Nick and Jay Donis
Our days started off with Eggo waffles at our house where Tyler would eat nearly a box himself. We would then get to Memom’s around 8 a.m., just in time to watch 6ABC followed by morning talk show classics like Sally Jessy Raphael and the Ricki Lake Show.

By 10 a.m. we were ready to get our day going as the Piccirilli/Smith clan would meet up with the Barr/Donis clan for a day of festivities. The Donis’ are our cousins living two doors down from Memom and the Barrs were the Brady Bunch (3 girls and 3 boys) who lived directly next door. Our ages ranged dramatically between us all, but that didn’t matter…we all stood together.

We played in the woods, we played in the pool, we had our own town with a grocery store, gas station and business district. Being bored never came about and being too hot outside only brought the fun inside.

I have a few classic memories I will never forget from my youth.

1. Memom and Poppop’s above ground pool always had too much chlorine in it. To the point that if you opened your eyes under water, your retina would be fried.  We couldn’t splash and we couldn’t be too loud (WTF?! But that was their rules) but we still made the best of it. Now for the memories – one day while Missy, Jackie and I were in our pool, the Barrs were in their baller underground pool next to us. Jackie decided to be a smart guy and got out, standing on the deck. Shaking her tush and acting like a weirdo, Missy and I look up to see completely through Jackie’s swim suit ---the chlorine stripped its pink coloring to clear. SEE THROUGH – lady parts and all. Let’s just say the Barr boys got a really good show that day.

Poppop and I :)
2. Another story pool related is the time when all of us kids (12 in total) thought it would be a great idea to make a whirlpool in the Barr’s above ground pool. After we had that thing going and going SUPER fast, each kid swung around, grabbing the ladder to exit. One by one, Missy – Jackie- Kevin – Kathleen- etc., they all got out. Me being the littlest I was out last because I couldn’t hold on from the force. Finally I got out of the pool, took one step off the latter and right then –BOOM. The entire pool collapsed and was thrown like a rag doll. Galloons of water exploded out flooding the yards. Good thing I got out just in time.

Z  is for Zero

I’m going to be honest – I had zero expectations for my May A-Z Challenge other than to just finish it on time. But after reflecting on the last 30 days, I will have to say this Challenge has been a great success.

Over the last month, I have had the most hits EVER on my blog, with huge reactions from several of my posts and nearly all of my guest bloggers had record numbers on reads.

I would like to give a big thank you to all of the readers – seeing reactions, receiving comments and private messages on Facebook makes me feel as though my writing is still important and that people care. I know this blog is for ME but it is also for each and every one of you. To open your eyes to new experiences, to encourage you all to try new things and to view situations in other individuals eyes.

Secondly, thank you to all of my guest bloggers. There is no way I would have been able to do this without you all. I love each and every one of you and you’re always welcome to post in the future on Take Your Pic.

Until the next challenge!!!


GUEST BLOG POST: W is for Wife

Friday, May 31, 2013

My mother is fantastic. Since I was born my mom has been my backbone, my support system and my best friend. Through some of my toughest times in life she has always been the one to lean on, giving me advice and helping me when I’m in need (whether it was my fault or not.) To this day, I don’t think I can give enough thank yous, foot rubs, kisses or hugs for her to really realize how truly thankful I am for her and everything she has given me (her caring nature, her humor and most importantly adorable looks haha). I love you, Marmee, more than you know. Xox

I have been a wife for almost 34 years, a role I welcomed with open arms at the age of 20.  To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect or what was expected of me.  My role models went from one end of the spectrum to the other.  My mother was a housewife for over 40 years before going back to work; however, she went back to work when I was in elementary school so I only remember her as a working wife.  Her marriage was tumultuous.  She was a hot-tempered red head know-it-all and my father was a mean drunk.  This combination always made life “interesting”.  Then there was Carol Brady, a stay-at-home wife with 6 perfect kids and a live-in maid.  See what I mean?  Normal existed somewhere.

My parents at their Junior Prom at Methacton
I’m pretty sure at my wedding I promised to obey.  I never thought to look at the vows ahead of time and I never would have asked to change them if I had.  I, like my mom, am also a red-headed know-it-all (although the hair color does not come naturally, the temper does).  Me obey??? Not so much but you say what it expected of you at the time.  You hopefully marry the love of your life.  I moved in with my new husband and desperately wanted the Brady thing.  I’m still waiting.  I married a mechanic who wears work clothes and comes home filthy dirty.  No suits or briefcases at our house.  There has never been a cleaning lady and 95% of the time dinner is literally on me.  But that’s okay.

In the 60’s, a wife was responsible for the house, dinner, laundry and the kids. Most women then only worked out of necessity.   In the 80’s, some wives stayed at home and some worked, not out of necessity but because they wanted to.  I was always a wife who wanted to work.  I liked the satisfaction of doing a job well and being acknowledged for it.  I complain on a regular basis that I do everything (mostly because I do), but I wouldn’t go back and change anything.  As a teenager, I cooked dinner for my father and brother because my mom worked nights.  I also grocery shopped as soon as I was able to drive and was expected to help clean the house.  I was a little bit resentful of this, especially when I felt like a wife and my friends were going to the mall or a Friday night football game.  So I was happy to become a wife at a young age.  I’d rather be taking care of my own house.  I was probably at an advantage over most people due to my extensive training!

Here are a few valuable lessons I’ve learned as a wife:
1. Your husband can talk trash about his family all he wants.  You may agree and have actually been waiting for this opportunity to add a few flaws he’s inadvertently missed.  DON’T DO IT.  His family may have burned down an orphanage, but as soon as you say something, you are a bitch and your family is worse than his.  It’s best to just listen and then trash talk about them to your friends behind his back.  This saves a lot of grief and heartache.  Take note this also works in reverse.  He better not say anything about your family either.  You know what I mean?

2. Never assume your husband knows what you want.  I’m not talking birthday and anniversary gifts, I’m talking about taking out the trash or helping clean up after dinner.  You can’t be pissed off because he’s playing video games while you’re doing everything (see above).  You have to be specific with your requests.  While this often gets construed as nagging, you got to do what you got to do.  However, be prepared for the nagging thing to come up in a future marriage counseling session.

3. The tone you set at the beginning of your marriage often last for the next 34 long, long years.  If you expect him to share all the responsibilities, start that way from the beginning.  I have friends who make their husbands breakfast and lunch before they leave for work and they are happy to do it.  I also have friends whose husband will pack them lunch.  Our house is like Switzerland.  I don’t pack him lunch and he’s never packed mine.  There is no right or wrong here.

Circa 1982-83ish??
4. At some point in your marriage, you will have to Shout out the skid marks in his underwear.  It’s a fact of life.  This is another one of those things you may not want to point out to him until he’s in the right frame of mind.  At our house, this could be dinner table discussion but we are twisted in the head and proud of it.

5. Lastly, try to be kind.  A kind word or gesture goes a long way.  Fight fair and remember anything you say can and will be used against you in future years.  Your husband may forgot to take out the trash or what time it is when they having “one more drink” with friends and he’s already an hour late, but a nasty comment from you will be remembered for a lifetime.

GUEST BLOG POST: V is for Veganish

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Welcome Jennifer Lawson to Take Your Pic. Jen and I were coworkers at The Reporter together where she is still currently their education reporter. Cubical neighbors, Jen and I had a blast everyday - making jokes and laughing our faces off, while busting our butts to produce amazing content for our readers. Jen has been in the journalism business for many years (From Las Vergas, Atlantic City and now back in her hometown) and she does such an amazing job each and every day. Her talent is clearly visible and her drive to bring out the better in everyone is contagious. Miss you Jen, keep kicking butt over there and congrats on being a new homeowner!! 


If I had to put a label on my way of eating, it would be veganish.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 16 years, and about a month ago I cut back my dairy consumption by about 80 percent.

The result is that I feel cleaner, lighter, less gunked up, healthier and more positive about the role I play in the world. I’ve also lost a few pounds, which is always nice, especially as summer approaches.
Here's my fruit for the week. 

You might be wondering why I’m not more absolute. Why didn’t I eliminate all dairy from my diet?

The reason is that I’m human. I’ve gone 100% vegan twice before, and the last time was a year ago when I decided to eat vegan for 30 days. I put so much pressure on myself and it really stressed me out. I was miserable. And, of course, when I caved, I felt like a failure.

About a month ago I decided to do it again, but this time, I didn’t want to have strict rules. I would not eat any dairy, but in situations where avoiding dairy would be difficult, I would eat it. I see it more as a decision-by-decision way of living rather than a sweeping choice to absolutely cut out all dairy.

My boyfriend and I go food shopping at Trader Joe’s every Sunday morning. He is vegetarian (or almost vegetarian, since he eats seafood) which is one of the reasons why I’m more relaxed about my diet. He helps me pick out vegan stuff and reads labels with me, but when he orders chickpea fries that come with aioli (a type of mayonnaise, containing egg) on them at our favorite bar, I’m going to have some. I think it’s important to be sensitive to those around you, and I don’t want to cause a commotion because a menu might not have many vegan options.But given the choice at the grocery store to buy real cheese or vegan cheese, I’ll buy the vegan cheese.

The main question people have when they find out about my veganish diet is, “What do you eat?” The answer is I eat whatever I want. I don’t want to eat meat, and I don’t want to eat dairy, so I don’t (or try not to).

This vegan, yogurt-like treat is so good.
During a typical work day, I’ll have an apple on my way to work. I’ll have 20 ounces of black coffee. I’ll have a snack pack of Trader Joe’s hummus and pita chips, a few oranges or bananas, soy yogurt and raw almonds.

Dinner could be marinated tofu with kale and butternut squash, or vegan pizza (I make it with pita bread, vegan cheese, grape tomatoes and basil), or a vegan burger made by Dr. Praeder or Morningstar Farms, or brown rice pasta with marinara sauce.

Sometimes we have salad with dinner, which could consist of arugula or baby spinach, tomatoes, carrots, beets and avocado with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

My biggest indulgence is hummus and pita chips. I have three containers of different types of hummus in my refrigerator right now. It’s delicious and addictive and it’s pretty healthy as far as snacks go.

Another common question is, “Where do you get your protein?”

Protein deficiency is not an issue in first world countries. Think about it. Protein is in much of what we eat. If a vegan eats a varied diet and consumes enough calories, he or she will get a sufficient amount of protein.

Most Americans get too much protein, which is more of a problem. Eating an excessive amount of animal protein has been linked to pancreatic, prostate and endometrial cancers, not to mention obesity and heart disease.

You might be wondering about cravings. Do vegans have cravings for pizza? Greek yogurt? Ice cream?

To be honest, I will always crave pizza. I might even give in and have a slice on occasion. But cravings aren’t the best indicator that your body is in need of something. People who are addicted to cigarettes crave cigarettes, and that doesn’t make smoking okay.

This pasta is made from ground brown rice instead of wheat.
Quinoa is also a healthy alternative to regular pasta products.
Also, since I’ve learned about the dairy industry and how it’s actually worse than the meat industry, it makes me not really want to be part of a creature’s suffering, so the desire evaporates and turns to disgust.

This leads me to another question that people ask, “Why are you a vegetarian/vegan?”

It started in 1993 or 1994 when I saw the movie “Alive” on TV. It was about a rugby or soccer team that got stranded in the mountains in the middle of winter after their plane crashed and they resorted to cannibalism.

I know this was just a movie, but the meat that the characters ate looked like steak, but it was human flesh. A light bulb clicked on: The meat we eat are actually carcasses, corpses, dead things. I wouldn’t eat a dead person, so why is it okay to eat a dead cow? Jeez, I wouldn’t even want to touch a dead body, but we happily put dead bodies in our mouths.

Over the course of the next three or four years, I eliminated all meat from my diet as I got more and more grossed out by each thing. Red meat was first, then pork, then poultry, then fish.

I adopted my first cat the same year that I went completely vegetarian and that added a more personal element to my decision. I see all animals as equal. I often wonder why we put animals into categories – dogs and cats are part of the family, but pigs and chickens and cows are food. Why?

Is it because pets are cute? Is it because they’re smarter? Pigs are thought to be among the most intelligent animals with the IQ of a two-year-old human child.

I would not eat my friends or family. I would not eat my cats or my dog. I would not eat a farm animal. Under our skin, it’s all steak. We all bleed red.

Peanut butter is another staple of my diet.
 For me, it’s an ethical consideration. I don’t want to support the suffering of animals. There’s no reason for it, when there are lots of other delicious things to eat.

This leads to another question people ask, “Does it bother you if I eat meat in front of you?”

The answer is of course not. Everyone has the freedom to make their own decisions, and diet is something that is highly personal. It makes my heart sink when I hear about vegetarians or vegans getting preachy, because it’s nobody’s business.

So, veganish. This isn’t a fad diet that’s unsustainable in the long term, and it’s not a 30-day challenge.

This is how I want to be, by making the best decisions that I can on a moment-to-moment basis.

When I eat crap, I feel and look like crap. I want to have the healthiest and happiest life possible, and being nice to myself and being mindful of what I eat is a good step toward achieving that.

We only get one body – might as well take good care of it.

May Challenge: U is for Unbearable

Thursday, May 30, 2013

This heat is unbearable. I am hot all day at work because for some reason the air isn't on full blast. I'm hot at home because this week we are of course getting central air put into our house (three days too late).

Im sweating at night because we have no AC and the fan isn't cutting it. The only time I remotely cool off is in the car with the AC. Sweat City -- I give up! :(

May Challenge: T is for Ten Tips to Start a Blog

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

After a rager of a three day weekend with three parties, way too much alcohol and not enough sleep -- I took a look at my blogging calendar and realized, CRAP, I have 4 days to blog about 6 letters. I clearly should have thought ahead and had post ready and scheduled, but that would mean I'm ahead of the game and don't bust out a post in no time (my mom was always impressed with my procrastination and how I could pull a great paper outta my ass in no time. It's a god given gift.) So here I am. It may be a lot of posts in a few days, but I'm hoping to make them interesting.

So here I am with the letter T and I'd like to give 10 tips to those of you who MAY consider starting up a blog.

10 Tips to Start a Blog 

1. FIGURING OUT A TOPIC: This is without a doubt going to be the toughest task. It is important to think to yourself:

  • is the topic engaging?
  • will you be able to blog about this topic week-in and week-out?
  • in five years from now will this still be an interest of yours, or is it just a fad?
Take Your Pic is the first blog of mine where I have really gone somewhere with it and that is after having several other blogs: Pic's Pounding Pavement which followed my marathon journey, Pic's Top Picks which I started at The Reporter and really enjoyed writing, and Pic's Precious Pastries which lastest a measly three posts. [Mark my words though, one day I WILL own a bakery with my sister and that will be it's name] What I think makes this blog so great is that I let myself blog about everything and anything -- sports, movies, music, love, heartache, memories, you name it. It's not limiting me to one of my hobbies or interests which is what will kill you with a blog. You need to make it a topic that has flexibility -- write about fitness and health including food, workouts, tips, success and troubles or write about your family that is forever growing everyday. Sit on it, sleep on it and then go with your gut, that is what I did here. 

2.  CHOOSE A PLATFORM: There are plenty of sources to create a blog that give you step-by-step instructions to set up:
3. PERSONALIZE IT: Make your blog your own. Give it an awesome name and tag line --use free backgrounds, objects and tools to be added onto your blog in its sidebar and background. Use the freebees and jazz it up; get creative with your photos and use Picaso which allows you to create some fun effects. Don't know how to do something once you find what you like? No worries,  YouTube it -- I’m 99% positive it will be on there to assist you with easy instructions. God I love YouTube.

4. YOU HAVE TO BE HONEST/WILLING TO OPEN UP: If I learned one thing from this blog, it is to not hold back. Be you, share your stories, DON'T HOLD BACK! Think someone doesn't want to read your post or will be offended? Who cares, they can always hit that big X in the top right corner to stop reading. Share your thoughts because I'm sure someone else can relate.

5. ENGAGE WITH THOSE WHO COMMENT: Getting comments is the best!! (It doesn't happen for me often so I get super excited when I read them.) Be sure to write back to the readers which shows you appreciate them taking the time to read your post. It'll pay off in the end.

6. USE LABELS: On Blogger,  you can label your post with keywords that are included in the blog. (ie.: running, races, Philadelphia, divorce) Your labels will come up in SEO searches getting your blog out there when people search on engines like Google, Bing, Ask, etc. 

7. USE SOCIAL MEDIA: Be sure to share your posts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Doesn't hurt to give yourself a little publicity on your posts when you're trying to get your name out there. #whateverittakesforhits #sorryimnotsorry

8. DON'T USE JUST WORDS: Use photos, video and music. It's great to engage all of the senses, plus sometimes words alone can't express your thoughts.

9. WRITE OUT IDEAS: Our lives are crazy and sometimes you forget what you were thinking about two minutes ago. I have a planner I carry with me everywhere and inside that planner I have printed out monthly calendars. When I'm brainstorming about blog ideas/something comes to my mind, I write them in the calendar, spacing out posts and when I would like to ideally write them. This is the best way to not forget about that awesome idea you know will be a hit.

10. HAVE FUN WITH IT. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have many hits or not that many people reading your posts -- do this for you. All of us want to become Carrie Bradshaw, but the chance of it happening is slim to none. Be your own Carrie -- your friends will start believing it. 

GUEST BLOG POST: S is for Sewing

Friday, May 24, 2013

Meet the wonderful Lindsay (Hill) Smith! I met Lindsay in high school and since we have been in touch with each other via Facebook or taking our pups to the park together. Since day one, Lindsay has always been a creative individual – designing, sewing and drawing everything you can image. Lindsay was blessed to make her hobby into a career as she is now a shop owner in Skippack. Be sure to stop by Stitchwell Fabric next time you are in the Village – take a class or buy some supplies, you don’t want to miss out!

Sewing. You may have taken it in middle school, your mom or grand mom may be able to do it, and you might be wondering, why should I sew something when I can just buy it? It may seem like a stodgy old hobby, it may seem antiquated and out-dated, but I promise it isn’t. Sewing is back, and it is back in a big way. I think we are over the excitement and awe of mass-production and we are getting back to our roots of finding satisfaction in making something with our own hands. And I think we are realizing that our Grandma’s were super cool for making our mom’s clothes, and maybe feminism made sewing not as cool, but I really think it is making a come back. Girls, and some guys, are really seeing the value in hand-made, and they are doing it in a bigger, better, more modern way. Sewing, with all it’s forms, can be an instantly gratifying art form that is both beautiful and useful!

But who I am to say what sewing is and what sewing isn’t? All I can really tell you is what sewing is to me. My name is Lindsay Smith, I have been sewing for the better part of 15 years, and sewing has always been a fantastic creative expression for me. I have always been drawn to fabric. The beautiful colors, textures and the possibility of what could be made with it, there was just so much potential. I started with just a needle, thread, and some scrap fabric. Moved on to my Grand mom's ancient machine, teaching myself all the basics, inspired along the way by project runway and watching New York Fashion Week on E!. I would never consider myself an expert at sewing, just a lover of the the craft.

About a year ago, with love and support of my husband and family, I opened up my dream shop, a little fabric store in Skippack, PA. It is filled with all the fine fabrics I could ever dream of! The shop is meant to be a place of inspiration and busting at the seams (pun intended) with all the tools you would ever need to sew. We specialize in quality quilting fabric.

And you just heard the word ‘quilting’ and you are probably about to leave this great blog. Hang on just a minute, these aren’t your Grandma’s quilts. We specialize in Modern Quilting. Which embraces both modern fabrics and modern techniques to make amazing, contemporary quilts. And really, some of them are works of art. Modern quilting can be described as but is not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. There is also a movement called, “modern traditionalism” where quilters are taking traditional designs and making them their new with modern fabrics.

This movement is super fun-loving and not super serious. I mean, how serious can you be with a Ron Swanson Quilt? Love it. But all Rons aside, these quilters have an amazing sense of color and design knowledge. And the best part about these quilts, most of them at least, is that they are not fussy with exact measurements and perfect seams, they are one of a kind, works of art. I think that is what draws me to them the most, mine won’t ever look the same as yours, and that is not only ok, it’s the point!

Along with quilting, modern garment sewing has come a long way as well. While, it isn’t the affordable option anymore, sewing your own cloths can be incredibly gratifying and produce a better fit than store bought clothing. It does take a little wider range of skills, but there are plenty of patterns that are a great for a beginner. And the world of young, fresh pattern designers is constantly growing. Downloadable patterns are the newest addition to this craft and a great way to jump into the modern sewing pool!

I hope this has opened your eyes to a new sewing world. I would love to talk to you more about sewing or quilting come check out our store, maybe learn a new skill, and fall in love with sewing!

Lindsay Smith
Stitchwell Fabric

GUEST BLOG POST - May Challenge: R is for Races

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We make friends throughout our entire life – some in grade school, others not until college, some even POST college, which is exactly where I met Jess. Jess and I met like any normal friends do – via social networking hahaha But no seriously, we met each other through Twitter; I was working at The Reporter and she works at Visit Bucks County. We interacted, coming up with story ideas and before we knew it, we planned a business breakfast meeting. (God, sounds like a date, weird…anyway..) After the meeting we were like holy crap, we’re the same age, we have lots in common, lets go for drinks!! And the rest is history :) We drink together and we run together – I am so thankful I met Jess. She is a bit of a blogging inspiration for me and she has launched into a GREAT website. I am so proud of you and I hope I one day can get a following like you do. Cant wait until we run a race again together!!

May Challenge: R is for Races
Whether you’re a seasoned runner with plenty of race medals to prove it or a newbie just hitting the pavement for the first time, there are plenty of fun and challenging races in the Philadelphia region this summer for runners of all experience levels.

In the past two years, I went from a couch potato to a runner, completing nearly 25 races (12 in 2012!) since 2011. There’s nothing better than the sweet feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line whether you’ve just run 3 or 13 miles.

Ready to start racing? Here are some of my top race picks for both new and seasoned runners:

For the new runner:

Tex Mex Connection 5K (North Wales, June 26) Ole! Love margaritas as much as I do? When you complete the Tex Mex 5K in North Wales, enjoy a party under the stars, complete with food and drink from The Tex Mex Connection.

The Color Run (Philadelphia, July 15): While this race is unfortunately currently sold out (a few charity spots remain) there’s nothing more fun than watching a sea of runners decked out in all white at the starting line complete the race coated in colorful powder. This race is seriously lighthearted- many people choose to walk, skip or prance their way through the 3-mile course.

The Electric Run (Philadelphia, July 20) Described as a “dazzling night-time 5K run/walk” this race, coming to Philadelphia for the first time this summer, begins at 8:45 p.m. and encourages runners to get their glow on with neon attire and accessories.

For the seasoned runner:

June Fete 5K (Abington, June 2): Ready to tackle some serious rolling hills? This 5K, which benefits Abington Hospital, challenges runners with a tough, hilly course through beautiful Abington neighborhoods. The race kicks off at Penn State Abington, with plenty of parking for all racers.

ODDysey Half Marathon (Philadelphia, June 9): Bored by normal half marathons? The ODDysey throws runners a curveball with twists and turns along the 13.1 mile journey through Philadelphia. With optional challenges throughout the course, a costume contest and a Beer Garden (!) at the finish line, this race is pure fun from start to finish.

Back On My Feet Pajama Loop (Philadelphia, July 21): Roll out of bed and head to Philadelphia for this challenging 8.4 mile loop around the Schuylkill River running path. Pajamas are not only allowed; they are encouraged! Oh, and this race is part of the Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 Challenge, which includes FIVE unique races in 24 hours.

What is your favorite race in the Philadelphia region? Share in the comments below!

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional and freelance writer in the Philadelphia area. She blogs at about getting gutsy--forcing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to live a life that makes you truly happy. Subscribe to her FREE Get Gutsy newsletter for more ideas, tips and inspiration.

May Challenge: N, O & P - Nuts Online (Dating) Quest

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This post I am combining N, O and P -- while you think that may be cheating, this post without a doubt will make you laugh while reading it. While reading this, please just invision my facial expressions and tone in my voice....

Nuts Online (Dating) Quest
I will openly admit I tired the online dating scene. Stats say that 40 million people participate/try online dating and I figured why not mark myself as one of those stats. I tried online dating for a short period of time when I lived in Baltimore in 2010 (I went back to the Charm City when I took a coaching job at Loyola.)

So here I was -- back in one of my favorite cities with some of my favorite people. However I was missing one thing, a boyfriend. So I gained some courage and decided to join OkCupid -- mainly because I was being cheap and didn't want to pay for Match or eHarmony.

I sign up, make my profile, post pictures of myself I thought I looked cute in. Chatted with a few people and tried to set up a few dates. I went on a couple first dates that only lasted as ONE date(thanks for the dinner boys!) but there was one date in particular that made online dating quickly come to an end.

So like most online sites, I got a message from  a guy trying to make conversation. Like each person on dating websites, immediately after reading his message I checked his profile, examining for the basics -- do you drink, do you smoke, do you have kids, what do you do and an important note, how tall are you. You of course have so be somewhat physically attracted to the person to give them a shot -- this guy seemed normal, good looking, 5'10 height, great! Sure! So we scheduled sushi.

Tuesday night comes and he texts me that he is outside. I jump in his SUV and help him park by Matsuri, my favorite sushi place in Baltimore. We park and off we go to dinner. I get out on my side of the car and look over to his -- he jumps out and all of a sudden I can no longer see him. HOLY SHIT, where did he go?! 

His door closes -- still I see no head, and suddenly I see him appear from around the front hood of the car. Holy fu$#, this dude is PUSHING 5-feet tall...I am on a date with a midget!!!! (Please note - I have nothing against little people/individuals who are vertically challenge; I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea here. This just really caught me off guard.) 

His profile said he was 5'10" and here I am, standing in 4inch heels (making me about that height), and I am looking down on this guy as he shakes my hand. While looks should not matter and what matters is on the inside, I could not get over the shock. So we hurry inside to sushi and sitting down I felt much more comfortable looking eye to eye.

So he cracks some jokes about his height and honestly was VERY confident in himself with an issue I feel many people would be bothered by. He never mentioned his profile info and while I was tempted, I kept my mouth shut. After hearing him out I gave the dude props -- but little did I know this date was going from weird to straight creepy.

As we're making conversation we start talking about family ... what they do, who they are, etc. etc. Then comes the shocker. Literally 30 mins into the date he starts talking about how his mother would love me and we need to fix a time to meet. UMMMM hello bro, we JUST met. We then talk about family traditions and what we do -- I told him about how as a family we go and cut our Christmas tree down together every year. He goes "Oh my gosh, this year will be so fun, I can join you all up in Pennsylvania." WHAT THE F--- IS THIS SERIOUSLY HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?! He has to be joking.

In a little under two hours I had myself a stage 5 clinger.... we were already dating, meeting families, planning holidays and living happily ever after in his mind. If the height thing didn't already lose you with me buddy, it was this crazy talk you usually hear dudes saying about chicks. Dear sweet lord, CHECK PLEASE.

Check comes, thank the lord, I can walk home. But wait for it.
"Hey do you wanna go take a walk around the Harbor for a little bit?"
uhh no I need to get back to my house soon.
"Come on, just for a few minutes."

So our awkward walk around the Harbor happened with conversation about how his mother is going to love me and he cant wait to text her tonight after he leaves. Yada yada yada. FINALLY, I tell him I need to get home right now. I actually did have to get home because I was playing in an indoor soccer league that night. I tell him I need to get moving and get ready so I didn't miss the game.

"Oh you have a game where is it?"
It's by the airport, kinda out of the way.
"OMG, no way, I live right by there. Ill come watch"

Dear sweet Jesus, THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE. I tell him no, there is no need for that, thank you though.... yeah, the kid FOLLOWS me to my game. I get out of the car, he says "Told you i'd like to watch."

Sitting there the entire game he cheered like a school girl and I've never been so embarrassed in my life. This day could NOT come to an end any sooner.

The next day he texts me and I tell him I think it would be best to just be friends. About 30 seconds later I get a call from him -- he is crying.

Are you crying because of me?!
"No, not you -- I... I... I just have had a really bad day here at work and I need someone to talk to seriously don't want to hang out again."

After that phone call I never had conversation with this guy again and I immediately deleted my online profile.

Although my online dating scene only lasted a few months, I count my lucky stars everyday now that Taylor has come into my life. Good luck to anyone on the online dating quest -- be careful and be safe. Dont find yourself a stage 5 clinger. 

GUEST BLOG POST: P is for Paleo

Monday, May 20, 2013

Everyone, meet Ashley. A wife, homeowner, dog owner and volunteer – Ashley always finds a way to keep active in her busy lifestyle. One of the biggest things I admire about Ashley is her dedication to everything she does. When Ashley says she’s going to do something, she keeps her word. Her will power and commitment  is something I wish I could one day possess, especially in regards to eating habits. Ash, you look amazing and all of your hard work is paying off. I’m so proud of you!  

What is Paleo? 
“Paleo” is short for Paleolithic, but the name is actually less important than the power of the overall approach. Whatever name you choose, the “Paleo” way of eating is simple: Mimic our ancestors, who suffered from fewer chronic diseases than modern populations. This doesn’t mean that you’ll recreate a caveman’s food landscape, of course. Our food supply and our environment are different from our ancestors, so we must adapt as new information comes to light.
The Simple Breakdown is :

Why Paleo?! 
To be honest, I was heading to Jamaica in March and wanted a quick & easy way to shed a couple pounds before the premature bikini season started. I reached out via Facebook to see if anyone knew anything about  ‘Paleo’ and if they could give me any tips. I got some great information from one of my old softball friends who had been living the‘Paleo’ lifestyle for quite some time. She gave me great websites/tips that I will share below (Thanks Laura!) . I presented this 30 day Paleo challenge to my hubs - the 100% Italian man that he is ,was clearly skeptical but he so nicely obliged!

The first week was pretty much torture.. it was my body’s way of detoxing. I had no idea that my body was so heavily dependent on sugars and processed foods. I missed Pizza.. and beer..but after the initial detox feelings wore off.. I felt absolutely amazing. My mind was clearer, I was sleeping better and I had more energy for workouts. The first week came to a close and I had lost 5 pounds… in ONE WEEK! Hell Yeah! In that week, my personal self-absorbed goals had been met but I figured ya know what I committed to a month I might as well see it through.

I would truly recommend this method for everyone – give yourself 30 days to follow the ‘Paleo’ life style and see how your body feels. It will truly shock how much of a transformation you can go through. Of course there were some ‘cheat’ meals, more like some ‘cheat alcohol’ for me, but I always stuck with the gluten free rule. I even tried gluten free pizza… don’t do it to yourself! After those 30 days were through, I had lost 10 pounds and my hubs lost almost 20! We decided that we were going to make ‘Paleo’ our lifestyle not just a fad diet. It is an easy lifestyle to follow; sure sometimes you can’t resist a soft pretzel or cheesesteak, but my body always reminds me after I eat something that isn’t ‘Paleo’ why I don’t on a regular basis anymore.

My biggest tip is: figure out what works best for you. If you can tolerate creamer in your coffee, lucky you, go for it! ‘Paleo’ is about finding your bodies balance and listening to how you feel after you eat something.  Below I have listed some of my favorite recipes, blogs and personal tips.

I love baking in general and I love a good baked good for breakfast. Zach (my hubs) eats eggs with a side of breakfast meat every morning. I’d rather sleep then cook breakfast every morning so I usually grab a baked good for the road. Sometimes I will pair it with a couple slices of bacon – I mean bacon is considered Caveman Candy!
Banana Bread (
Bacon Sweet Potato Hash (
Banana Vanilla Bean Pancakes with Mixed Berry Compote – These are incredible & taste just like ‘real’ pancakes (

When Zach isn’t super hungry at dinner – we usually have leftovers which get us through lunch! We both also frequently eat salad, WOMP, I know how boring! BUT if you go crazy on veggie or protein toppings – they can be quite yummy. When you begin ‘Paleo’, I suggest you stick with olive oil & balsamic as your dressing… I won’t lie to you though I cheat with a creamy salad dressing sometimes!
Chicken Sausage
Burgers minus the bun can be easily heated up and quite satisfying for lunch – especially if you add some Caveman Candy (bacon).
Balsamic Pulled Pork * Sub Honey for Brown Sugar. This is great to make on a Sunday and have throughout the week. (

I have tried WAY too many ‘Paleo’ dinner recipes to post – but blogs & Pinterest are your friend! You can also look into making some of your favorite non- Paleo dishes into Paleo by making easy substitutions!
Blackberry Glazed Pork Chop ( PaleOMG Cookbook ) with Roasted Cauliflower
Asian Glazed Salmon (
Taco Tuesdays – Make your own seasoning – Get Creative! –Substitute the shells for lettuce wraps. Skip the sour cream and use guacamole!

Sweets & Treats 
Paleo Nut Butter Cups  ( )
Paleo Cookie Dough Bars – These are beyond amazing!! Make a double batch and your own almond flour! (
Hard Boiled Eggs are great on the go snacks!
I have made homemade trail mix by buying raw nuts (NO Peanuts) seasoning them with olive oil, rosemary, salt, then roasting them in the oven until they brown! Super Easy & Super Yum!
Veggies & Fruit are all fair game and really easy to have with you throughout the day in case you get hungry or have a craving.

Favorite Tips & Blogs
Olive Oil Myth - Olive oil isn't very heat stable (the fats break down very easily at low temperatures and can become rancid and cause inflammation in the body) I just use olive oil as a salad dressing. I never heat olive oil since it breaks down at such a low temperature. I use either coconut oil, butter, or bacon fat when I am cooking with heat.
Robb Wolf – He is the ‘Paleo God’ – Check out his book for everything you could ever need to know about Paleo. He has a great website as well (
Practical Paleo – She has a great website/ recipes (
Every Day Paleo – Great recipes (
FAVORITE Blog – PaleOMG – She is absolutely hilarious.. she has a potty mouth and comes up with amazing recipes. I just downloaded her first book on my iPad. Everything has been beyond delicious from her! (
You don’t have to be Paleo 100% of time every day of your life – you will go crazy – If you cut out the big things like sugar, gluten, legumes and grains, you will see and feel instant results!

GUEST BLOG POST -- May Challenge: M is for Marriage

Friday, May 17, 2013

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason, and Donavan entering my life is proof of that. Donavan and I became friends in middle school and since then have shared countless laughs, cries and memories. From family vacations to a crazy senior week, Donavan has always been one of my rocks. With her living in Virginia and myself in Pa., staying in touch of course is difficult with us both having our own busy lives. But when it comes to Donavan, when we speak, we pick right back up as if time never passed. The smile on her face every time she sees me (followed by a huge hug) makes my heart melt to know I am blessed with such a beautiful, caring and generous best friend. Luckily for me, I am now honored to have another new friend, her husband Kyle, who is a great addition to the "crew." Don and Ky -- wishing you both a lifetime of happiness. I cant wait to experience what you both have!! Xo OH P.S. -- Donavan is a blogger herself. Check out her blog which all started from Kyle training for a marathon and what now has become a constant part of Donavan's life. 

As of today, I've been married for exactly 23 months. That's 700 days, or 16,800 hours ... I'll stop there but it's a TON of minutes (I obviously did the math). I realize that doesn't make me an expert on the subject, especially when I think of my parents and in-laws who have been married 35 years, but I've learned more about marriage in the last 700 days than I ever thought I would.

Let me start by saying I have an AMAZING husband. Many of you don't know me, but I'm not the easiest person to live with. I'm strong-willed, talkative, cranky when I'm hungry, stubborn, loyal to a fault, opinionated and I snore when I'm congested (which is often). My husband is some of those things too, but he's also patient, kind, considerate, thoughtful, analytical and damn sexy. I am pretty sure he got the short end of this stick and I am so lucky that he fell in love with me.

But, that doesn't mean that my 16,800 hours have all been sunshine and butterflies. Granted, most days have been really good. Kyle and I rarely have big arguments and have been fortunate to not face a tremendous amount of adversity in our relationship. However, we're two 20-somethings who are trying to learn how to make a life together while trying not to forget to pay our mortgage, overcook our dinner or want to kill each other. There are many days that marriage is HARD, but luckily for us, there are more days where marriage is fun, exciting and a little challenging (we're both competitive, so that's a good thing).

There are 3 big lessons that I've learned about marriage in the almost 2 years that I've been fortunate to call myself a wife.

1) Communication is key. I'm pretty sure this is the one piece of marital advice I've heard the most, but it is SO true. Even when you think you're so close that you can read each others' minds, you can't. I can't tell you how many tiffs Kyle and I have gotten in simply because we left out a detail or didn't confirm something with the other person. It's incredibly important to say what you are thinking and how you're feeling.

2) Take time for your relationship. This is hard, especially when you have a wide circle of social friends. But, if they are true friends, they will understand if you miss a girls' night out or a happy hour to spend time with your partner. I've have FOMO (fear of missing out) in a bad way on many occasions, but the joy I get from a quiet night with my husband is worth it. Life is so busy that it's easy to forget that you married someone because you love to spend time with them. Do it more often.

3) Do things you might not want to do when the other person wants to do them. That was wordy, but what I'm trying to say is that, when your wife wants to go to a concert but you would rather watch a movie, sometimes you need to go to the concert. The times that Kyle's thoughtfulness (arguably my favorite of his many wonderful characteristics) impresses me the most are when he does something that he knows I really want to do, even though it's not something he wants to do. It's important to make your partner feel like his or her needs and wants are important as yours, and it's usually pretty easy to take a few hours of time to do something for the other person.

I'd love to hear some of your marriage lessons, so please leave them in the comments. I can't wait to continue to learn along the way as I celebrate many more days, months and hours with my husband.

May Challenge: L is for Loser

Friday, May 17, 2013

You missed the game winning shot. You got rejected by your crush. You came in second place. You're wearing odd clothing. The list goes on and on, and for many of these you're either called a loser or feel like a loser.

Which do you think is worse -- being called a loser? Or believing that you are a loser?

To me it's feeling like a loser. For five years I was in a really dark place. I was a nobody.. worthless.. helpless.. no good. To many who knew me, you may have not even noticed because I continued to put on my happy go-lucky face and crack my jokes to make people smile. But deep within me I was in the most miserable state possible -- I viewed myself as the biggest loser possible.

How it all started...

My entire life I was known as a soccer player. It's what I was, what I did, how I became who I was. A characteristic I am proud of saying I have is my leadership qualities, something I learned and mastered throughout my playing career -- stepping up to the plate to lead a group of 21 girls each and every game, motivating them each day, being their biggest cheerleader, but biggest critic when we needed a wake up call.

I traveled across the world playing soccer -- from Canada to Italy, to playing in tournaments in over 20 states across the country.  I made my way up the ranks in competitive levels from peewee, travel, select, premier league, the state team, the regional team and making the national team pool when I was 15. I was a high school standout getting recruited by a Division 1 college with scholarship. I was on top of the world.

High School Hero to College Zero...

The phrase "high school hero to college zero" could not be more perfect for my life on many levels: 1. although I was not necessarily a hero, I was a high school stud when it came to athletics. 2. I quickly became a zero in college 3. I happened to actually wear number 0 in college...ironic huh?

I wasn't expecting college soccer to be easy -- I knew I wasn't going to walk in there and kick everyone's ass. These girls were faster...bigger...stronger...I was a punk ass freshman just trying to be liked yet alone playing time. I'm a true believer that everything happens for a reason and I happened to get lucky my freshman year. Our starting keeper who was a senior got hurt during warm up towards the beginning of the season. With the most scared shitless look on his face my coach told me "Pic, grab your gloves, you're starting." After weeks and weeks of preseason and practice it was finally my chance. I've always been a game player, not a practice player -- being on the field in the action is my element, I'm always up for rising to the occasion and that's exactly what I did that game. We got the win against American. Two games later I was still starting and before we played the Gators at the University of Florida in Gainesville my coach said to me during warm up, "The spot is yours to keep if you want it." Of course I did -- and I continued to throughout the whole season,
appearing in 16 games and starting 15;  finishing with a goals against average of 0.55, allowing just eight goals. Ranked 13th in Division I in goals against average and was second in the MAAC in goals against average and shutouts per game, posting seven shutouts. (To this day I still question why my coach - who clearly had no confidence in me for some reason even though I thought I proved I could do the job - didnt nominate me for the All Rookie Team that year. I would love to know what I could have done better....)

Where being a loser sunk in...

It was my sophomore year when Amanda Piccirilli no longer was herself. Long story short after what I thought was a great first year under my belt, I took a swift kick to the face when my keeper coach told me I was not starting our first game of my sophomore season. Being that I'm not afraid to confront anyone I asked my coach why. His answer, " just don't seem ready." That was the start of Amanda believing that she was a loser which tumbled and grew for the next two years. To this day I wish he could have LET me loose my spot -- if i wasn't playing to the best ability and she was playing better, ok, yes, great -- give it away. She deserves a chance just like I did my freshman year. But to just hand it over without even giving me a chance is bullshit. It's not hard to read people's faces and seeing when they don't believe in you -- that is worse than the lies that come out of people's mouths. And that is exactly what I got. My sophomore year I played in five games and my junior year played in a measly three games (starting only one of them.)

The loser within me was growing day by day and the pure embarrassment was humiliating. My roommates were on top of the world, starters for our stellar team, living up their college career with accolades  The tears my mom had to hear on the phone each and everyday were unbearable and I'm so thankful she was someone to cry to. (Thank you so much mom for listening to me every single day!! I love you.)  For those three years I was only given the chance to play in goal when we were up by at least three goals (ya know, a big enough cushion for when us benchers were "capable" of playing and if we fucked up the team could still come back), when there was about 10 minutes left in the game and they felt bad for us, or when we played Iona and St. Peter's which everyone viewed as 'yay, the whole team gets to play this game."

One of my favorite memories (forget what year) was when we were playing at University of Richmond and there was about 7 minutes left in the game and I got a "Hey Pic, go warm up. I'm going to put you in." My response was "You only have enough confidence to put me in with 7 minutes left? Fuck you." Lets just say, I didn't move and I didn't warm up -- I didn't need pitty playing time. My pride means more to me than stats.

The straw that broke the camels back was the day when the entire team was in the locker room post game after we gave a team a pretty good ass whopping and none of the subs went in that day. Brynn, a fellow captain asked our coach why we didn't go in and questioned his reasoning for not putting in the subs. She point plank asked him infront of the whole team, "So you're saying with that big of a lead these girls aren't good enough to play?" His response, "Yes that is correct, they're ineffective, each one of them." Well, thanks coach!!! Knife in chest, with a turn.

Day by day, blow by blow, I was gone. Mentally, physically, emotionally -- I wanted out, but the thought of leaving those 20 girls was unthinkable. They were my family and my life.

The one thing I was good at...

With each story there is two sides -- could I have trained harder in the off season and won my spot back? Yeah, possibly, but there is only so much you can do when your confidence is gone and you're beaten down to nothing. So the one thing I was good at no longer mattered anymore and it ultimately affected me mentally. I felt like a loser; that everything I worked towards my whole life was nothing anymore. I know I shouldn't have let myself get like this but I just kept thinking to myself "If the one thing I was good at is no longer there, then what do I have and what else could be good within me?!" I let my soccer career ruin me internally, no longer feeling attractive, worth anything or having much of a purpose. What made me me was gone -- what now?!

Five years later...

Five years later I am happy to say I did find myself again-- the happy-go-lucky person that I was is STILL there. She just happened to be beaten and crushed.  But every single day I am still working on myself and learning to love myself for the good in me. During those five years I had countless friends tell me who wonderful, pretty, smart and funny I was. I didn't believe them and said thanks when deep down I thought they were full of shit. But now, I know they were right. I am an intelligent woman who has a fabulous career and who has done much with her life over the last 26 years. This experience has made me into a strong woman, making me realize I can overcome any obstacle thrown my way. "Be happy. Be positive."

My advice for others...

1. I will truly make an effort for when I have children that they need to realize that soccer, baseball, theater, music, etc. can not make them who they are. They will most likely not become pro or famous...They need to find the pure greatness inside themselves so that if something like this were to happen to them they don't crumble. But if they do, I'll be there to pick up the pieces.
2. When people put you down, dont let them win. I could have quit soccer and transfered (which I almost did to Temple after getting accepted) but that would mean they won. They got the best of me and made my decisions for me. But no, I kept strong, was a captain for two years despite not playing hardly at all and later became a college coach for a season.
3. Treat others like you would like to be treated -- having the chance to coach that one season allowed me to connect with the current girls who were sub players and facing the same difficult situation I went through just a few years prior. Step back and stand in their shoes. They need your support just as much as you need them.

May Challenge: K is for Kids Say the Darnest Things/J is for Joy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I've been getting caught up in life and sadly tonight I need to double up my letters. I'm going to be starting out of order with K first, followed by J. 

K is for Kids Say the Darnest Things
I asked my friends with kids to submit funny/mean/ruthless things their children have said. Thanks for everyone who submitted!!!

Quote of the night from Jack: "When I grow up, I want to start a band and call it "The Buttcracks."

My 3 year old has been on a role lately. He was bra shopping with me - "do your boobs fit nicely in that one?" Came home from preschool & I told him to do something & he responded with "ok toots!" We are going to Disney in August...My 6 year old says "in 3 years" my 5 year old says "in 3 days" I say, "so sorry it is 3 months."

My 6 year old asked this the other week: "The law is 16 to drive. What is the law for a cell phone?" I said there are no government laws on cell phones but mommy & daddy's rule is at least 14. "But I need one now"...why? "To talk to grandma and grandpa."

Okay so when my Jaeden was about three, he said "mommy your legs are fat." I said "Jaeden that wasn't nice, you need to apologize." He says "I'm sorry mommy that your legs are fat."

Me: You have to make breakfast for Mom on Mother's Day.
Max; Why?
Me: It's a Mother's Day rule.
Max: Are you going to Massachusetts to make breakfast for your Mom?
Me: Uh, no.
Max: You have to, it's a Mother's Day rule.

Max wrote a Mother's Day card for his Mom.
Things my Mom doesn't like to do: Cleaning.

My 3 year old is struggling with the concept of the Easter bunny. Some classic questions tonight...
How does he bring treats if he doesn't have hands?
How does he get in the house? Can't we just leave the baskets outside? We really don't want him in the house right?
What if the cats eat him?
Does he look for his shadow before he hides the eggs?
Why is there a guy that dresses like a bunny at the mall? He doesn't talk.

Missy: Oh i'm sorry officer!
Max: I'm not a police officer, I'm a cop!

J is for Joy
According to Webster dictionary...Joy is:

a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
2: a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3: a source or cause of delight

I'm not going to go into this post too much because it is a huge separate post in itself, but I am happy to say for the first time in a very long time, my joy is through the roof. I made a pact of making 2013 my year and so far I am successful. I can feel myself glowing inside and out --- I'm loving every single second of it.

I will admit,  lately I've been surrounded by a lot of negative energy and I'm trying to block it out to not let it affect me. More than anything, I hope those people can look on the bright side of things (something I had trouble doing) and counter off my energy. Look deep within yourself, see the problem, stop blaming others and start living your life the way you should!! Life is too short to be miserable, find the joy in other people --it truly is contagious.

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