Hugs, Heartbreak, and Hope

There’s been an undercurrent of sadness over these past few weeks.  I haven’t felt much like writing because I just felt too sad.  A dear friend died of stage IV liver cancer, suddenly.  Tina was a hug that let go too soon.

I couldn’t write about anything else.  I felt like if I wrote about her, I’d be taking something from her.  Her story wasn’t mine to tell.  On the other hand, if I wrote about something else, it felt disingenuous. So I just…stopped…writing.  What do you say when tragedy happens?  What can you say to mend hearts?

Over the past few weeks, there have been catastrophic hurricanes and subsequent displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods. Not to mention the people I know who are suffering from broken hearts of a different sort, their marriages unraveling and the happy lives they thought they’d have, upended.  And then the Las Vegas shooting.  This isn’t an exhaustive list of the sadness, just a few examples.  When you’re a sensitive soul, these things get to you.  It’s hard to shut it out and ignore the pain.  It’s equally as hard to sit with it, in it, and dwell on it when there’s very little you can do to fix it.  So what do we do?  How do we respond when there’s all sorts of pain, a constant barrage of grief, at our doorstep?

You start coping by watching endless episodes of BBC and listening to books on Audible.  (Yes, this is what I did.)

In an episode of Call the Midwife, a young woman’s boyfriend died suddenly in an accident.  As she’s lamenting with a nun, the nun says, “God isn’t in the event.  He is in the response to the event.  In the love that is shown and the care that is given.”

A Jewish grandmother in this episode survived the Holocaust had suffered for 12 years without leaving her home, her way of coping and insulating herself from the world.  Her twenty-something daughter was giving birth in the home, as many births happened in those times.  Shortly after the birth, the grandmother mustered the courage to leave her home and visit the midwife who had helped with the birth of her granddaughter.  The midwife, who’d just lost her boyfriend, broke into tears. The grandmother encouraged her with these wise words, “You will feel better than this.  Maybe not yet, but you will.”  The midwife questioned reluctantly in an uncertain voice, “Will I?”  Again, the grandmother replied with certainty, “Yes. You just keep living, until you are alive again.”  Remember, she had survived the Holocaust.  She spoke hope to the young woman.  Her hope came from the trajectory of her pain.

Whoa.  This hit me hard.  I’ve definitely had times in my life, where grief hit me like a ton of bricks.  In these times of so much chaos and uncertainty, we have to keep living. We may not feel alive, but we keep living until we are alive.   Responding to these events in the best way we know how; showing love to our friends, family, and strangers.  I’m reminded of the chorus of a song by Mark Heard and the line goes, “Love is not the only thing, it’s the best thing.  Love is never everything, it’s the best thing.”

Listening to books on Audible has been another way I’ve coped these past few weeks. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown has been uplifting and challenging during this time of sadness. It seems apropos that there would be a chapter on collective grief and sadness.

In reference to a major historical tragedy, when Christa McAuliffe died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, Brene writes of all the people that pulled over along the highway in her hometown, “We were all part of this procession of grief.”

After the Shady Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, moms in Houston communed and mourned.  “We just sat together with nothing but the sound of occasional weeping cutting through the silence.  Leaning into our shared pain and fear comforted us.”

“Not enough of us know how to sit in pain with others.”

“Funerals matter.  Showing up to them matters.”

“Death, loss, and grief are the great equalizers.”

“An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness. It is a ministry of presence.  These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness.”

So, this idea of collective grief and collective pain rang true for me this week.  Seeing so much death in a venue where people felt safe, at a concert, was just evil.

My ending thoughts are that we need to show up, sit in the pain, and be present in the grief of others.  We may not have words, but the “ministry of presence” is powerful.  Show up.  Give hugs.  Give hope.

Until the next Friday I get around to posting… Love you loves.


Gastric bypass update:

I’ve  been snacking too much. (Uh, can you say, stress eating?)  But I’ve maintained my weight.  Gluten free pretzels covered in chocolate may not be the best choice for me. I can’t stop eating them!

She Takes a Lickin’

Yes, I think I can say without exaggeration, that this past week contained events that challenged me.

Let’s go back in time a little.

When I was a youngin’ living in Arkansas, I had this twice a year for at least 3 years: Poison Ivy from Hell.  (Bad idea to look at images of people with poison ivy on their faces. Damn internet, I’m having flashbacks and now I’m itchier than I was 2 minutes ago. Don’t do it! I’m warning you!)

The crazy thing about poison ivy is once contracted, your bloodstream can move it all over your body.  (Yes, this happened when I was a child.)  I was a walking poison ivy rash for at least a week on 6 different occasions throughout 1st-3rd grade.  The rash can last from 10 days to 3 weeks.  It’s a terrible itchy rashy hell.  When I was in elementary school, pre-internet, we thought we had to just wait it out.  I didn’t go to the doctor. Instead, I was doused at regular intervals with Calamine lotion, a pink Pepto Bismol-like looking substance that my mom spread all over my body.  (Oh, the horrors.  I’m having PTS just writing this.) There was only one time when my mom took me to the doctor for the itching, so this must have been when I was going on over a week or two of symptoms. I was given a steroid shot.

Poison Ivy.  THIS is why I’m afraid of hiking.  I need to educate myself on what these plants look like so I can spot them and stay away.   Did you know that the oil from these plants, an amount of oil as small as a grain of salt, carries so much potency, it can cause the rash to form?

The plant oil lingers (sometimes for years) on virtually any surface until it’s washed off with water or rubbing alcohol.

There are more things you don’t know about poison ivy here.

Sometimes blowing wind, especially soon after a brushfire, can contain enough chemical to cause a rash in very sensitive people.

I was one of those “very sensitive people”.  Yay!  (Thanks interwebs, now I’m going to stay inside for the rest of my life.)

Okay, Joy, we get it, you had poison ivy really bad as a kid.  (Boo hoo.) There is a method to my madness.  I tell you this because I continue to have sensitive skin.  I wore this ‘awesome’ strapless bra yesterday and the lining contained some sort of acidic plastic.  After runnin’ a couple of assemblies in a cafeteria with no air conditioning.  (There were fans there to circulate the 95 degree heat.)  When I got home later in the day and chucked my bra across the room, I started itching and itching and itching.  (I’m still itching in that spot now 24 hours later. Oh, goodie!)  The heat combined with the plastic lining (or other material) caused this awful rash.  By the way, in running my first assemblies in front of over 300 kids, I discovered, “Hey, what am I afraid of? I know more than they do.”

I can now check my Most Embarrassing Moment of the 2017 School Year off my To Do list.  Picture this, there I am truckin’ down the sidewalk, it’s 105ish degrees and I’m already drenched in sweat from walking back and forth in the full sun.  There is a massive line of cars waiting on the side street in full view of my ‘moment’.  I was in front of the school marquee and when I stepped down onto this tiny lip of a curb where the sidewalk slopes, I lost my balance. (I remember thinking, NOOOOOOO, JOOOOOY, DON’T FAAAAAAAL!)  I fell.  Knee, hands, elbow hit hard and then I landed on my right side in a fetal position.  That’s where I wanted to stay for a second and regroup, but I needed to get up and have less than 100 more people see my fall. I got up and a friend (Shout out to Heather!) said, “Are you okay?!”  I got up and continued with what needed to happen to get those cars movin’! I thought I was going to be fine.  I could still walk, so I cruised down to check the origin of the stopped traffic.  The bus had parked caddy cornered to wait for a student to catch up, meanwhile, all the parking lot got backed up.  Then as I was walking back in waving cars on by, I looked down at my knee and it had grown, like Tom or Jerry this cartoon (Is Jerry the cat or Tom?)   Just below my knee cap, the tissue instantly swelled like a cartoon sequence. It was unreal.


Here’s the 2nd kneecap.  Lovely.


So what did I learn this week?

Ice and rest really do help with swelling.

I am not invincible.

I hope this fall isn’t a metaphor for the kind of year I’m going to have.  Falling is a part of life. As I see it, there are two choices:  1) lay there and wallow 2) get up and keep moving.  I will choose option 2.

She (that’s me) takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

Gastric Bypass Update:

It was hard to keep up with exercise in this horrid heat and the bum knee didn’t help.  I’m trying not to stress about lack of exercise my normal routine during weeks like this.  I’m going to keep on tickin’.

Reasons to Celebrate

Oh, my gosh!  We had our first consultation with the HERO program & Zero Energy in August of 2015.  After two years and a shitload of money, the solar panels are finally approved!  We get to flip that switch and let the sweet SoCal sun work its magic on our electric bill.  Wouldn’t it be great if the sun could solve all our problems?  All the money we save in electricity each month will likely be spent paying for something else, probably a car payment.

Oh, my gosh! Yeah, Steve’s car was stolen a couple of weeks ago, August 16th to be exact.  (I guess it’s not really a reason to celebrate.) But since we’re celebrating the sun, I’m going to look on the bright side.  Ba-dum-dum.  There is a bright side to Steve getting his car stolen. (Yeah, Joy, what’s that?).  We’ve had to learn, once again to roll with it.  (Maybe we’re slow learners.)  Fortunately, someone awesome, let us borrow a truck that just happens to have a cab for transporting our kids.  So whilst we await the news of whether or not the car is found, we have another loaned vehicle to manage our Back-to-School schedules without the struggle of scheduling with one car.  (See? There is a bright side.)


Oh my gosh! I celebrate 20 years of teaching this August. My new role at a K-5 reading intervention teacher is exciting and challenging.  It was the first year I didn’t read a story to “my” class on the first day of school.  That’s one of the things I’m going to miss about having my own classroom.  I’m going to make opportunities to read to kids though. There’s something about watching kids’ faces when they hear an exciting story that makes them laugh or wonder…that is the stuff of life.  The anticipation of what’s next?  That’s what makes a good story.  Speaking of exciting stories…


Oh my gosh! 22 years, today.  How can it be?  Steve and I have been married for 22 years.  Some of our oft used phrases are, “It’s always somethin’!”  “Through thick & thin.” “We’ve gots to roll with it.” (Grammatical error intended.) “We’ve got this.”  “That’s life.”  “Life ain’t easy, but at least we’ve got each other.”  “What? Chicken butt!” When we said “I do,” we couldn’t predict what was ahead.  We’ve had our share of hardships over the years: back surgeries, butt surgeries, kidney stones, C-sections, work changes, disappointments, and loss.  We’ve also had our share of joys and shared a ton of laughter.  Birthing two and loving on a 3rd child have brought us so much joy and fulfillment (and yes, if I’m honest, a whole lotta sleepless nights), but all these years have one thing in common, resilience.  THAT is a reason to celebrate.  I’m so grateful I get to share life with a man who loves me, for me, mess that I am.  Happy 22nd-year hun.  I don’t want to imagine life without you.  That photo up there was us when we were babies, on our honeymoon. (This was the one time I sat on his lap.  I’m not a lap sitter, but it’s a super cute photo, right?  I bought that moo moo at a thrift store in Kauai.  I might be able to fit in that again if I still had it.) 

These are reasons to celebrate.

Until another Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

Oh, my gosh!  I’ve lost…wait for it…wait for it…


100 pounds!  What?!  Yup. 100.  I weigh about once a week, not obsessively, and I was so surprised this week to see that my weight is below 150.  Do the math and add a hundred in the hundred’s place.  Yes, I have lost what amounts to ten, ten-pound bags of potatoes. I’ve lost the weight of a junior high girl.  I’ve lost the weight of 3 containers of kitty litter (those suckers are heavy).  I’ve lost the weight of about 12 gallons of milk.  Incredible.  Unbelievable.  Also, doable.  download

Just a Drop in the Bucket

Drops in buckets.  This week has been full of drops.  Lack of drops and celebrating drops. Drops, whether you realize it or not, DO, impact your quality of life, good and bad.

Last Friday Steve had a lovely ablation.  I won’t go into details, but it involved the part of the body that you sit on. Yeah, and then Part 2 involved the part of the body that expels what we all refer to as #1.  Needless to say, when both #1 and #2 are compromised, life basically stops in its tracks (or there is a lot of painful moaning).  I’m grateful to say, we made it through the weekend and both organs that control #1 and #2 are functioning properly again.  Thank God. Let’s refer back to drops.  Drops are important.  Drops do impact you for the good or the bad.

My ablation had a much different recovery trajectory. (Thank God!)  In the video link, this patient received treatment from the same device, Minerva, that I received mine.  My gynecologist, Samuel Kassar, used this on me, for the first time with another gynecologist, nurses, and the Minerva representative present.(Yes, I was the guinea pig, I feel so sad for guinea pigs, why would people do experiments on guinea pigs? They’re so cute.) I was a teaching tool and was grateful to be completely anesthetized during the procedure.  When he told me there were going to be other people watching the procedure, I said, “Well, I’m glad I won’t be awake for that.”  He said, “Fair enough.”   (Can I get an amen from all the ladies in the room?) If you have heavy menstrual cycles that are teetering out of control and inhibiting your quality of life (for me this was extremely heavy days that made it so I needed to rush to the bathroom, which was a challenge when I only have a bathroom break during recess time.  I can’t just leave my class full of students alone. Duh. So I’d have to bleed out and hope I have a change of clothes or a sweater to cover myself the rest of the day.)  The anemia was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The exhaustion of not being able to retain my iron levels, made me seek a solution.  Birth control pills and an IUD involved side effects and foreign objects in my body that I wasn’t willing to introduce.  A hysterectomy was too extreme and involved other hormonal side effects.  The D&C ablation seemed like the best option for me at this point in my life.  This particular dropping has significantly impacted me & I’m grateful the drops in the bucket will be basically nil from now on.

In the middle of drafting this post, I found out that our 13-year-old water heater could not be repaired without ongoing problems.  So, we were advised to get a new one.  What’s another $1000, when you’ve spent almost $90,000 over the past couple months?  Just a drop in the bucket, yo.  Drop in the bucket.

The thing is, I could be really angry about this whole hellish-home-investigation-solar- panel-construction chapter, and believe me, I’ve had my moments.  However, when I look at the bigger picture, the fact that I live in one of the richest and most financially stable places in the world, it’s hard to complain.  We may not have as much equity in our home as we had hoped at this point in time, but our house is going to value at over $530,000. (WHAT? Yeah, that’s SoCal.  Location. Location. Location.) Really, considering we bought our house in 1999, for $159,000, I think it’s a pretty darn good increase in value over 18 years.  Also, considering we had NO IDEA what we were doing when we bought this our first and only house, it has turned out to be a good investment.  Although we have been tormented by some stupid-ass decisions, i.e. not getting proper permits back in 2005.  (Live and learn from us people.  GET PERMITS! It will come back to bite you later.  It will. Or maybe it won’t.  Or maybe it will.)

Hopefully, we’ll look back at this time of our lives and say it was just a drop in the bucket. It feels a little like the chunks of rusted parts in the picture below.  These rusted parts separated from the inside of the water heater.  But now, we’ve got a new and improved water heater.  Hopefully, this is a foreshadowing of good to come.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

I’m not supposed to lift or exercise for 2 weeks after the ablation.  This freaks me out a little because I’m a bit rigid with my routine.  I don’t think I’ll fully abide by the doc’s advice.  (SHHHH!) Really, I’ll stay away from the heavy lifting (hard considering I need to clean up my classroom, “Uh kids, want to help in my classroom?”) and walk as much as I can this week to work up to my daily quota of steps.

Yellow Cards, Crashing, & Reasons to Celebrate

The best part of a good story is the unexpected, the anticipation, except when involves your final inspection of your house after 2 years of drama.  I kinda wanted the final inspection to go smoothly, without a hitch. Not exactly.

Steve: “Where are the yellow cards?”  He (our contractor) was looking for these cards that we haven’t SEEN, EVER.  The inspector was set to arrive in 15 minutes and we were supposed to magically make these yellow cards appear.

Me:  Over the phone with Steve, “What yellow cards? I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I haven’t seen ANY yellow cards.” At work and helpless to look through papers, Steve was going to have to look for it.   (Apparently, there are these UBER (not the car-driving service) important cards that need to be initialed and/ or signed at every inspection point.  Since Steve and I have not been home at any of the inspection visits, we’ve never seen these yellow cards or know they existed.)  

To our horror, relief, shakes-of-the-head, and what the hells??, the yellow cards were found in a dusty box of papers that had other construction-related plans and items in it. Steve thought it might be important, and kept it. (Brilliant man.) F to the Y, we have literally purged like a couple dumpsters worth of junk and gone through over 50 boxes. Fortunately, the yellow cards were in a dirty box that didn’t end up at the dump.  This post would be turning out extremely differently, and it gives me a lump in my throat just thinking about the yellow cards getting thrown out.  Can you imagine?  The infamous yellow cards.  The cards that hold a bit of ink in all the right places.  The cards that make it so we can move on from this grueling chapter of our lives.  The cards that make it so we are legal.  We have legalized our bedroom.  We are legit because of these yellow cards.  (By the way, they’re not cards, when I think cards, I think smaller.  For the record, these are 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of cardstock, not cards.  But whatever.  Semantics.  Words do help clarify, and the word ‘cards’ was throwin’ me off.)  Here they are:

So when I got home, crashing happened.  I was so tired, like all of the emotions flooded me from this extensive valley we’ve been in.  That photo, below, is me, sleeping off the final inspection hangover.  I’m lovely & sexy, right?  Pillow over head, mouth agape, dead-to-the-world with my cat atop to comfort me (or himself). (We call him Flubbs, because he basically conforms to whatever surface he’s on.  He flubbs his body down constantly, always right in the middle of a walkway.  He decided that I needed to be flubbed during my nap.)  


Just after my nap, Jules came over to congratulate us on the final inspection news!  How sweet, right?  Friends. It’s really been so amazing having the support of our friends and family through this mess.  I guess that’s really what life’s about right?  Thanks, Jules, for recognizing this milestone.  And thanks to all of you who have prayed, listened, and loved us through this.  I feel like I can breathe a little more deeply today.

Until next Friday. Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

Summer— having an off kilter schedule can be harder for me.  I hate to say it, but I thrive on routine.  I do better when I’m busy, because I’m a boredom eater.  I eat to fill space and time.  If I’m busy, I don’t think about eating as much, so having too much time off can be bad for me, in the eating department.  I’m also a grazer.  I don’t like to sit down and eat.  I eat on the go while I’m moving.  Apparently, this is bad, because it’s not intentional.  You’re supposed to sit and think only of what you’re eating and enjoy the textures and tastes of your food.  That’s what my nutritionist Lori said.

Yeah, I don’t do that.  I’ve tried.  I feel kinda creepy. So, I basically still inhale my food, just less of it.  Confession.  There you go.

And word to the wise.  If you are a snacker, don’t buy the Boom Chicka Pop Kettle Corn.  It’s so good you will not be able to stop eating it.  Only buy it for parties, if you must.  It’s just, wrong, in a purple bag. And oh, so right.

Vaping Dude, New Rooms, A Famous Unicorn & The Disaster

Yesterday, staring at the crashing waves, I was reminded of the power of the ocean, and the power of romance.  Vaping Dude, stood, feet planted in the sand directly in front of MY view of the waves at Crystal Cove.  Yes, I could have moved, but if you saw how much crap we’d just lugged a mile, you’d know why I wasn’t going to move.  Vaping Dude and his lover stood embracing for maybe ten LONG-ass minutes, not just smooching, but sucking-face, as I like to call it.  It was like bedroom-sucking-face, the kind of kissing that really needs to be in the bedroom and not on a beach at 3:30 in the afternoon with children present.  I mean, Lawd have MERcy! This was an appropriate time to yell, “Get a room, people!” if there ever was a time.  (I couldn’t stop staring.  It was like a makeout train wreck.) After the love making session and subsequent falls from the crashing waves, they sat down on the beach adjacent to me, upwind. Yeah, you guessed it, I was downwind from the strawberry-scented vaping puffs (Silas guessed cotton candy-scented)  that glided past every few seconds because after that kind of love making, you gotta have a smoke.  One of the other women nearby and downwind of Vaping Dude, decided to move her stuff to another more suitable location and would periodically shoot daggers at him with her eyes as he continued to puff regularly and laugh with his love, completely obvious to the rest of the people on the beach.  But you already guessed the obliviousness.  The point of this?  Basically, just don’t.  Don’t vape and kiss on the beach, like that.  Don’t. That’s my bit of advice for you this week.  There you go.  Happy to help.

Now, on to the haps this summer.  We’re officially on the 10th week after construction began.  We have gotten all our junk put away that was stored in the POD since April. We’re feeling settled again like our home is a home again.  Here’s the progress, in my own words:


Famous last words:

“Now, we just have to pay for it.”

On another note, summer school has been so great.  I love deciding what I am teaching for enrichment. I bought a ton of clay (I get reimbursed! Yay!) and have just let my students be creative. (What, creativity? That’s a thing at school?) I’m using an app called Lego Movie Maker which has been really easy for them to navigate.  I have about 70 students rotating through a 4 hour day.  They are loving learning about stop motion animation and I am loving just teaching ONE subject every day.  It’s amazing. Maybe I should teach middle or high school?  Nope.  (Those kids are older, and they have attitudes and boyfriends who they might KISS on the beach.  Ew.)

I have no idea why this Unicorn is famous, but it’s awesome.


The Disaster:

I mean, if you got eaten by a giant snake, it would be a DISaStER!

This is just two of the 25 stop motions creations this week. Pretty great, right?

Now you know why I’m tired.

I napped two hours today, just so I could write my blog tonight.

I hope you read it.

Until next Friday. Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

I just keep on walkin’.  I try for 5 days a week, 10,000 steps.  Most weeks I make that goal.

I’ve been eatin’ like crap and buying WAY too much fast food because I don’t want to cook for the family.  It’s too hot, yo. I’ve got to make a menu cook at home this week because it’s too expensive to feed a family of 5 (+2 friends), every day.  We’re the “Hang Out” house.  That’s good and expensive. 🙂 Rice and beans for the rest of the month!  Not.  I can dream.  They just want to keep eating, darn it.  What’s wrong with them?