Expectations on Vacations

Disclaimer:  writing this post from my phone has been a bit challenging in the formatting department.
Expectations, we all have them whether we realize it or not. Sometimes we don’t realize what they are until they are unmet.

Check engine lights that remain in the ‘off’ position, wifi passwords that work, air conditioning that cools the whole house, because we never claimed to be camping, we’re Glamping folks.  These expectations failed us on this trip.

Exhibit A: Porta-potty at the most beautiful location, Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.  Oodles and oodles of tourists using these Porta-potties.  Joy enters the one on the far left and tries not to entertain the idea of rolling down the cliff while on the potty. Porta-potty directions:  1) Prepare yourself, it will smell. 2) Try not to look in the hole, (like a pink elephant in the room) it’s so hard not to look. 3) Carefully place purse, hat, and sun jacket on the hook on the door. 4) Do not touch the toilet seat. 5) Porta-potty creators made an awesome bar that you can hold onto as you squat as not to touch the surface of the toilet seat (thank you for that).  6) Reach for the toilet paper and carefully balance as you take care of business.  (This where all my expectations went unmet. As I reached for the toilet paper, yes, you guessed it, there was none. So what’s a girl to do? Beyoncé booty shake. It’s not like I could shout out to my potty neighbor and say, “Hey, can you spare a few sheets of toilet paper there?”  Nope, I was all alone.) That potty at Emerald Bay was just…ew.

Exhibit B:  Bracelet in this picture gone missing.   After three hours of lake time paddle boarding and sunning and a wonderful trip to a local vegan, milk allergen free, gluten free frozen yogurt shop (now if only the yogurt were free) we decided to do what normal tourists do, go to the gift shop and drop bank after the $35 yogurt spree. As we’re in the gift shop and almost all the children had chosen their Lego sweet tarts, initialed pocket knives, and t-shirts, my Middle is still looking for the perfect Lake Tahoe bracelet.  I’m carrying all the loot and ready to pay while the rest of the extended family is waiting outside.  Then red-headed Middle, in sheer panic, realizes that her most prized Pug bracelet from Clair’s, has gone missing.  Frantic search ensues, with three unhelpful sales clerks who clearly know we’re searching, but don’t attempt to help, extended family coming in to help with the search party, and hysterically crying Middle.  We didn’t find Exhibit B.  Turns out later, she explained that the reason she was so sad is because she had been wearing the bracelet for over a year, in hopes that she’d take it off only when she got a real dog.  **Gush** Unmet expectations. She left part of her heart in Lake Tahoe.

At one of the many professional development trainings I’ve been to over the years, it was suggested that we provide students with a theme to connect all subjects. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with change. So the theme I’ve always chosen has been…Change.  Change happens constantly and is often why our expectations are turned upside-down and backward.  One of these statements can be applied to most situations and life events:

Change can be positive or negative.
Change is inevitable.
Change is necessary for growth.

Exhibit C: Tween-teen attitudes.   Glamping with 5 teen/tweens has been a piece of cake, a dried out frosting-less piece of cake.  The boys have said LOL, not laugh-out-loud, they say, Lol, like its a word, in response to everything. It’s been at least 558 times at the time of this post and the trip ain’t over yet.  Because apparently everything is laugh-out-loud funny. And the farting.  Oh the farting. So many boys equals so much fart talk, and the girls can’t help but join in. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em  that’s always been my motto.  There’s more.  The moodiness.  Ugh.  The complaining.  Day two of our Lake Tahoe adventure was supposed to end in a memorable paddle boarding experience.  It ended up being a wind advisory day when paddle board rentals were not allowed.  Indecisiveness about Plan B, and intense brooding from Middle and Little, and the lovely boy attitudes that came with being cold and sandy.  How do I find the love amidst the intense anger I feel?  It doesn’t help that I got an annoying chest cold and coughing up a lung an hour.  Expectations are connected to change.  Expectations can be positive or negative.  Expectations are inevitable.  Expectations are often necessary for growth.

In the book, Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist expresses change this way, “This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good.”

I’m trying to embrace the bittersweet.  I hope you all can too.

Until next Friday…love you loves.

______________________________________________Gastric bypass update:

I’ve been missing eating in volume this vacation.  It’s a time when indulging is expected. More change.  I know it sounds strange, but there is some grief attached to not being able to eat like I used to. I think I was really good at stuffing my feelings, literally.










Chewy and the Elvis Sandwich


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I didn’t see the beauty in Chewy or The Elvises, but I thought it would be funny and memorable to take pictures with these street characters.  I refrained from taking a picture with the American Speedo Cowboy, aka Eye Candy. (Mostly because, I just didn’t want to remember that. Where in the world were you, Joy?—You guessed it, not Venice, Vegas.)  The beauty was in my expressions in these pictures. Pure Joy.

It’s easy for this introvert to get overwhelmed in Vegas.  The senses are constantly bombarded every second you are awake and moving.  Visual and auditory assaults come from every angle.  How do you find the beauty in the Sin City?  There is more than meets the eye.

If you can only see God when you look up, then faith will never meet you in your daily life.  You can’t walk around looking up all the time.  …This is where real faith begins: seeing God down…around…in…out…through…beyond…before…after…between…and in the middle of …everything (16).  -From Finding God by John Fischer

Flaws, what our eyes see can captivate us or disgust us.  You’ve seen those mirrors that magnify your pores 5-20x the size, right?  I hate those mirrors.  Who the hell is going to be looking at my pores like that, but me?  It’s not reality. Why do I need to torture myself in that way.  You’ve also seen your skin under blacklight rays, right?  Oh my, I look totally polka dotted and freakish-alien-like-creature, from all the sun-damaging freckles and moles.  Again, this isn’t reality.  This isn’t how we see each other normally. (Thank God.)  We’re all guilty of not looking at each other when we talk, and we’re certainly not x-ray visioning the pores on our friends’ faces and walking around with black lights. Are we? (If you are, shame on you.)

But, we do this to ourselves all the time. We give ourselves the Evil Eye.  It’s easy to zoom in on our physical and emotional flaws.  We know our flaws intimately: our stretch marks, cellulite, gapped tooth (I’ll speak for myself), dry and freckled wrinkly skin, awkward social interactions, fears, personal failures, unmet expectations and dreams.  (About giving yourself Stink Eye.  Stop it, friends.  If you wouldn’t do this to your loved ones, don’t do it to yourself.)

On our drive back to the hotel, without blinking an eye, The Brooklyn Cabbie, who was once on David Letterman, started in on the peanut jokes. He spoke quietly as to grab our attention.  Perfect punchlines.  (I can belly laugh with the best of them, but remembering jokes is a disability for me.  I just can’t do it. Anyone else struggle with this?) He made us laugh.  That was beauty.  (Side note: I love roaring laughter, the kind where you snort and happy tears fall and you start squawking like a chicken—Oh, everyone doesn’t do this? It’s just my mom, sisters and me?  Not kidding about the squawking like a chicken.  It can’t be fabricated, but when it happens, I can’t stop and I love it at the same time.)  Brooklyn Cabbie wanted us to hurry and look up a video of the time he’d been on Letterman.  (From the video and his current hair color it looked like it had been 20 years earlier.)  Here he is, the 2nd cabbie in the video.

The eyes are the pathway to the soul. -Herman Melville.

The eyes are the window to your soul. -William Shakespeare

Here’s a link to an article about how your eyes really are the window to your soul. Fascinating.  If there’s one thing I’ve always loved about myself, it’s my eyes. Smiling green Irish eyes.  (I’m working on complimenting myself. It’s hard and takes practice.)

Many of the people’s eyes in Vegas seem to say, “I’m fragile, don’t break me.”  I choose to see beauty in the brokenness, otherwise I won’t see it.  There’s brokenness everywhere. Look out of the corner of your eyes.  Be all eyes. Live with your eyes wide open.

What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.  As we know, there’s certainly a lot to grieve over in the world of late.

An oldie, but goodie that reminds me of summer:

Until next Friday…Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

School’s out.  I’m down another couple pounds, 57 total.  Weight loss has slowed.  Surgery was March 23, so I’m just about 3 months post surgery.  It seems like longer.  A lot has happened in 3 months.  57 pounds ain’t so bad, eh?

I’m able to eat normally for the most part.  I can eat just about anything.  I’ve even had nuts and popcorn.  My portions have to be very small, just a few ounces, which is still satisfying.  I had my first open-faced sandwich on gluten free bread this week.  Yum.

I need to hop on that exercise wagon now that I have a bit more time.  I hope I can make it a habit.  Old habits die hard.  Consistency is my biggest hurdle.







Take and Give

Fair warning: if you’re grieving the loss of someone, you may or may not want to read this post.

I was 18 when I got the call.  This is the kind of call everyone thinks won’t happen to them. I was working at the Marriott in my valet parking booth when my mom on the other end, my-ever-the-unimposing-mama, says, “Joy, your dad has been taken to the hospital.  There’s really nothing you can do, so you don’t need to come home.”

Obviously, I couldn’t work after a phone call like that.  My boss told me to leave and go to him.  These were the days before cell phones and texting, so communication was a lot more challenging.  I raced home in my tan Chevy Nova and no one was home.  I felt so small and frightened in that moment. I had no idea where they had taken my dad and lacked the where-with-all to think in that moment.

Time stops in these kinds of situations.  Time becomes irrelevant.  I can still remember the feeling of moving 360 in the house and feeling totally and utterly lost.  Shortly after, my cousin, Kirk, ran into the house.  I embraced him the strongest hold I’ve ever given someone.  I needed support like a newly planted tree braving the strong winds.  I don’t know what possessed him to come to my house at that particular moment, but it was exactly what I needed.  Losing all sense of rational thought, I said, “I don’t want him to die!”  The fear was raw and real.  Kirk held me up and said, “Let’s go to the hospital.”


Family members in and out of the hospital.

Friends came.

Many prayers happened.



Shock.  Hours later, “Beth, he’s brain-dead.  You’re going to have to make a decision about when to take him off life support.”

It was December 11, 1990.  Michael, my brother, was 15, Debbie was 10, and Shauna was 3. My mom was widowed at 44.

Standing in the bathroom staring at myself in the hospital mirror, as I held an energy drink in my hands, I clenched it and cried into the mirror and practically screamed.  I blamed his death on his eating habits and lack of self-care.

I revisited the last words he’d said to me, “Joy, I’ll go down to the junk yard and get another window to replace that one.”  He was going to replace my window…

2015-11-24_13-40-47.jpgHe was going to replace my window…

He was going to replace my window…

That little pop out triangle window was missing on the front driver’s side of my Nova.

Since then, I’ve had many dreams where I try to find him. I have dreams where he’s a divorced dad estranged from the family and I’m trying to get acquainted again.  (This didn’t happen in real life.) I guess this was my way, in my dreams, of hoping that he’s still alive, somewhere, anywhere.

My dad was 50 years old. 50, that’s it!

Uncontrolled high blood pressure, stress, and lack of medication contributed to the brain aneurysm that fateful day.

One of my main motivators, to have gastric bypass at the age of 43, was that mirror motivational speech I’d had with myself in the bathroom at the hospital 26 years ago. Blaming my dad’s early death on his self-care, motivated me, as I’m 7 years away from 50, to make a life change.

During those 26 years, I’ve learned many things about taking care of myself.  It isn’t as easy as I naively believed back during my hospital mirror motivational speech.  Self-care at 18 was a lot different, than self-care at 43.  When I as 18 I didn’t have anyone else to look after.  It was just me.  So I could take a much different perspective and felt more free to judge my dad for his lack of self-care.

Because of his struggles with weight and life choices, I feel I was given a gift.  At this point in history, 2016, gastric bypass has been an option for me.  Not so for my dad in 1990, with lack of affordable healthcare and lack of resources in the underpaid jobs he worked supporting our family.

I sang Roll Away the Stone, at the funeral.  My dad loved it when I sang that song.  I have no idea how I made it through it, on that awful day.  Numbness. Necessity.  Tribute.  Here it is:

Lyric to the 2nd verse:

I wonder will it take a miracle, or if I only need a little time.  You see my life is like an open book, that you’re going to have to read between the lines. Cause there’s a wall built around me.  It’s keepin’ out strangers and love that might find me.  I really wanna change the way I am inside, but Lord, I’ve tried and it’s more than I can do, so won’t you…Roll Away the Stone.

When you experience loss at a young age, you are forced to ask questions like, “What’s important?  What do I do now? How do I help my mom and siblings? What’s next?”

When you lose something, you want to find it.  When you lose a person, it’s no different. All those chances, those times I wished I could ask him questions, were lost.  He had been taken.  The opposite of take is give.  My way of loving my dad’s memory is through giving. I’ve never thought of it this way before, but as I write, I’m beginning to see the connection and it brings me to tears.

Why do I give?  To help me focus less on myself, and more on (heh, moron) those around me.  Life is short. I learned this at the ripe old age of 18.  There’s no time, like the present, to let the people around you know that you care.  You might not get another chance.  I give gifts that I know people will adore because we all want to be noticed.  We want someone to really see us.  Giving is a way that I see people. Growing up I didn’t have much.  So giving is a way I can reach back to my roots and remember what it was like to be without.  I give to show friends, family, and students and they are important to me.

Let all pause to look at the people around us and see them.  You don’t have to give things, it can just be FaceTime, like, real Face Time, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart.

My dad didn’t have much in terms of what the world tends to value—worldly possessions, status, power, but he had a heart as vast as the ocean. I knew he loved me. He was going to fix my window for goodness sakes.  When I’m driving my Chevy Nova in heaven, my window will be fixed.  Thanks Dad.  I miss you.  Happy Father’s Day 2016.  (I know I’m a week early.  It’s to remind you all that Father’s Day is a-comin’.) 

Until next Friday…Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass update:

Many people are starting to notice that I’ve lost a lot of weight, no matter where I go.  It’s a little uncomfortable for me, but I’m learning to accept well-intentioned compliments.

I attended the support group in Arcadia again this week.  It’s so encouraging to see other people who are in various stages of the gastric bypass journey.  We ask questions and encourage each other.

One of my major fears: Gaining the weight back.

Eventually, I will feel hunger again.  Other members of the group who are years down the road experience hunger similar to how they felt pre-surgery.  This scares me.  I’m going to try to enjoy the feeling of not being hungry for a change.


Losers Always Welcome

Imagine. You’re on a stage with millions of people watching. There’s a giant flat screen TV near your head to the left. You’re nervous. You’re wearing a workout bra and tight workout shorts that reveal every curve. There’s a spotlight shining on you.  You step on the scale and the screen scrolls through numbers until it finally reveals your weight.  This is what contestants on The Biggest Loser have been subjected to for 17 seasons.  (You now know my feelings about this show.)

Here’s how I picture the NBC Table Talk that happened at the origin of The Biggest Loser. Writers, producers and directors were present.  Someone says, “Obesity is a HUGE problem in the United States.  Let’s capitalize on people’s obsession with weight loss and make a reality show. We’ll hire two hard bodied trainers and they’ll compete to see which of their groups of obese contestants can lose the most weight.  Then we’ll have an overall winner and pay them for their efforts.  The audience will be hooked.  We’ll make millions.”  They did make millions.  But at what cost?

In reality, all these people are in this manufactured environment without their daily triggers at home that make them want to eat poorly. They have exercise drill sergeants and nutritionists and assistants telling them what to do 24/7.  How is this show like real life?  Over the past 17 seasons I’ve only tuned in a couple of times, because,  I’d get disgusted and turn it off…I’d think, “Huh, what happens when they leave The Biggest Loser?”  Well, it turns out after 17 seasons, and extensive research, we do know what happened when they left The Biggest Loser.  (Oh, people were wounded emotionally and physically from being on the show? Uh, yeah. No shit, Sherlock.  I could see that writing on the wall.)

Kevin D. Hall’s research indicates that, “The intense diet and exercise intervention during The Biggest Loser competition were not sustainable.”  For further reading on a researcher who analyzed the data on many of The Biggest Loser contestants, read his scholarly article.

So let’s talk about the real losers.  People who exploit fear about being fat are the real losers.  (There, I said it.  Stop it people.  It’s become trendy to berate people for being overweight and this is.not.okay. Not okay.)  The blame game doesn’t work.  Shaming only makes it worse. Our basic human needs are not being met when we’re berated for not being enough because of our weight.  Two of our human needs are love and belonging. Here’s how love and belonging are defined in Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection:

Love: We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is some that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people with it exists within each one of them–we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.  Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.

Belonging:  Belonging is the innate human desire to be a part of something larger than us.  Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it.  Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are are worthy of love and belonging now.  Right this minute.  As is.

As is.  Thanks Brene.  I needed to hear that again.  I am worthy of love, right now at my current weight, just as I was at 251 pounds.  And I believe the same for you and all the contestants on The Biggest Loser.  One of the main problems with the premise of the show, is that it focused almost exclusively on the external means of losing weight, but didn’t seem to educate it’s contestants on how to live post-The Biggest Loser.  The rug was pulled out from under them once they were off the show.  Left to their own devices with lack of support, old habits die hard, and once home, many contestants fell back into their previous eating patterns.

In ‘real life’, people cannot maintain eating 800 calories a day and working out for 4 hours or more. Most people have to work to live. (Can I get an amen, yo?)  Real life situations take priority, like family events, work,  enjoying life and dealing with the drudgery that must be done…laundry.

This is why I opted for bariatric surgery (gastric bypass).  The research is clear on keeping weight off.  It’s REALLY hard to keep it off by dieting and exercise alone:

Most people who have tried to lose weight know how hard it is to keep the weight off, but many blame themselves when the pounds come back. But what obesity research has consistently shown is that dieters are at the mercy of their own bodies, which muster hormones and an altered metabolic rate to pull them back to their old weights, whether that is hundreds of pounds more or that extra 10 or 15 that many people are trying to keep off.

The text above is by Gina Kolata, New York Times correspondent’s recent article about the results. Here’s her video.


There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation with a ‘weight loss life event’.  I’ll admit it. As I did more and more of my own research about weight loss, I realized it would be highly unlikely for me to lose weight and keep it off over my lifetime without surgical intervention.  My BMI and history of yo-yo dieting had made it so that my body wanted to maintain its set point. Diabetes complexities were knockin’ at my door.  I had to do something, before time passed and I became heavier and more unhealthy.  So I’m letting you in on my reality show. 🙂

Like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, (remember that movie?)  I think of this show whenever I think of reality shows.

Truman: [to an unseen Christof] Who are you?  Christof: [voice-over] I am The Creator – of a television show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions.  Truman: Then who am I? Christof: You’re the star.  Truman: Was nothing real?  Christof: You were real. That’s what made you so good to watch.

The people on The Biggest Loser are real; that’s what made them so good to watch. However, once they were home, the reality of life set in.  Weight loss drugs, out of whack metabolisms, first hand accounts of contestants and their weight gain post show, all these were the outcomes of a show that glamorized the weight loss experience without taking into account the cost long term.

So I’ll leave you with a few more quotes from The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Get this book.  It’s good.

Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart…ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.  In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.”

To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, “I’m all in.”

I’ve got the courage to tell my story.  “I’m all in” with you friends. All in.

Until next Friday…Love you loves.


Gastric Bypass update:

I FINALLY made it below at 2 in the hundreds place.  (This is how I think of digits as a 3rd grade teacher.)  It feels good to wear smaller sizes and go through my closet and get rid of things.  I love shopping at thrift stores, so it’s been fun to enjoy shopping for clothes again.  I’m down 3 sizes.

Carrying less weight has made a significant difference in my energy level.  I’m able to walk a lot more easily carrying less weight.  My knees and back are happier.  Walking up stairs is so much easier with 54 less pounds.