IMG_3086“Change your hair, change your life.”  This has been my motto since my college years.  Back in the day, I couldn’t afford to go and pay the $12 to get my hair cut so I cut it myself.  Yup.  Mirror and scissors, the masterful tools of little girls who played Barber Shop on their brothers back in the day.  Thanks for being my first client, Michael Nichols.  (Shout out to my bruh!  Love you!) (He probably won’t read this until I tell him I’ve named him in my post.)  The only ‘traditional’ color hair I haven’t had is platinum blonde.  I always think I’ll look too washed out with my freckled skin.  (Don’t be surprised if that comes in 2017.) Yes, I have gone black (not the best color for me), that’s when I had a pixie cut and worked at Cappuccino Charlie’s in La Verne whilst going to school to get my teaching credential.

Today I got my hair cut again, and on a whim, I decided to cut a little more.  Correction, I asked Mareese to cut a little more.  (Before you know it, I might be super short-haired again and platinum, the way this is year is going.) I love my hair stylist Mareese.  She listens to me and is a master chemist when it comes to mixing color.  In probably 1997, after those bad self-haircuts, I decided to go to Regis in the mall and pay real money for color and cut because I was getting a real paycheck.  I’ve been with Mareese for over 20 years.  I’ve followed her to salon after salon.  Because she’s good.  She listens.  She’s a badass.  Her hair has been asymmetrical since before it was cool, long and bright red on one side, cut short and blonde on the other side.  And she has Asian hair, the kind of hair that is hard to color just right.  You might be afraid of her if you went to her for the first time thinking, (Uh, she’s a little too punk-rock for me) but she’ll do whatever YOU want and need.  That’s the prerequisite of a great stylist.  One that knows their craft and listens to their clients.  (Mareese isn’t giving me kickbacks for this advertisement.  Right, Mareese? Love you.)

See this surgery thing, you know, the gastric bypass I had back in March 2016, well, part of the package was a prescription of Ursodial, a medication to prevent gall stone attacks.  I’ve been faithfully taking it because the idea of having to go back to the hospital for gall bladder surgery removal would really cramp my style right about now.  One of the major side effects of this medication is hair loss.  I know those of you who have seen me lately, might think, “Uh, Joy, you have enough hair for two people, losin’ a little ain’t gonna hurt.”  Yeah, you’re right.  That’s just what I did today.  I let Mareese work her magic.  I always tell her she’s got a special talent with ‘the hairs’.  She knows what they need.   I trust her with my hairs.  She knows how wild and unruly it can be and she now sees how much I’ve lost over the past few months.  (Everyone, take a moment of silence for all of Joy’s hairs that have fallen, of late, and clogged all the drains in her house. Maybe you should take a moment of silence for the drains and the carpets that have had to become home to the unwelcomed hairs. Ew.)  


Long hair phase in my epic blue thrift store dress with Holly, Sarah, and Allyson.  Sarah’s was from the thrift store too.  (Remember the ‘seam incident’ from dancin’ too hard in that dress Sarah?) Good times.
Anny and me in my black pixie phase
Aimee and me in our short hair chic phase
Merry and me in our hippy phase.  She gave me Pink Lightning. (Long story.)

Shout out to Aimee, Merry, Anny, Allyson, Sarah and Holly. I love y’alls.  I had crazy head tilts in almost all these photos.  Waasssup with that?

So the theme of this post is…change.

Change happens.

Change can be good or bad.

I was thinking back this week to this tree in my front yard on Turner Street in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Today, I wanted to go back and climb that tree all the way to the top and perch myself up there for awhile to escape for a bit from the chaos of this school year’s chaotic beginning (see my last post if you’re curious as to what I’m talking about.)  To quote my most recent favorite quote from a Walking Dead character, “When you care about people, hurt is kind of part of the package.” Change and the accompanying hurt have been a theme these past few weeks.

That tree had a protruding branch that was almost at a 90 degree angle, wide enough to bear hug comfortably.  It was perfectly at my 9-year-old arm height.  I’d hug the branch, run up the side of the tree trunk, swing my leg over and mount that branch like I was sitting on a horse.  Then I’d climb the branches as high as I could and escape for a little while and free myself from all my third grade worries.  We moved from that house and consequently, that tree, at the end of third grade, one of many changes throughout my childhood.  Change happens. Change can be good or bad.

So, in light of the recent beginning of school year bliss at an elementary, middle and high school, the past few weeks have been full of school supply purchases. (Thank you Avery, Elmers, Crayola, Post-it, & Bic for allowing me to break the bank buying school supplies over the past few weeks. You are too kind.  We didn’t need to eat this month.)  Really? An agenda with corresponding quality note space area is $30? Really?  Consequently, the conversation that ensued post-purchase, went like this, “Son, you lose that agenda, you’re buyin’ yourself a new one!  That was $30!” It really wasn’t a conversation, it was more like a commandment.

(Thank you Staples for jackin’ up the prices in August and making us feel like we’re getting a good deal by offering a few items for a penny.  I’m watchin’ you.   I’m watchin’ you.  Not sure what I can do about it.  But, I’m watchin’ you.  Next year, could you sell agendas for a penny? Pretty please? I’ve got about 8 more years of buyin’ those suckers.)  So, did I tell you that I shopped for school supplies for all three kids and my classroom students?  I think I spent at least 3 hours walking the supply aisles looking for just the right Crayola Twistable 24 pack, three prong folders of varying colors, art supplies (blending sticks, What ARE those?), 2 inch folders, 1 inch folders, erasers, red, blue, green, and black pens, highlighters of specific colors, reams of paper, kleenex and this ain’t the end of the list. Ugh.  I actually spent over an hour one night shopping for 2 of the kids’ supplies and realized when I got home that I hadn’t looked at the 3rd child’s supply list.  I had to go back, so the third child wouldn’t feel like the third wheel.  The items I couldn’t find that night, I proceeded to purchase on Amazon.  Thank you Amazon, for having my back (because I have have to navigate that school supply aisle one.more.time, I might run out of the store in hysterics and lie in the parking lot in a fetal position.)  Change happens.  Change can be good or bad.  Sometimes change makes you crave a dark hole and a long winter’s nap.

Back to my hair.  Cutting it is a way of controlling something.  I feel the need to control something right now, and my hair is the lucky (or unlucky) culprit.  Change happens.  Change can be good or bad.  You can decide if you like it.  Just don’t tell me if you don’t.

Until next week.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

I’ve been walking as much as I can these past few weeks to relieve the stress I feel at work and with all the beginning of school year responsibilities.

I’m down 74 pounds.  It’s hard to believe.

I eat normal foods, just less. During my hair appointment today Mareese brought over some Peruvian food from Mr. Pollo on Azusa.  Great food. The parsley-garlic-chutney-salsa-esqe topping was delicious atop the rice and chicken breast. Yum. I made you hungry, huh?  The great part is, I actually really enjoy the food I do eat.  It’s not about the quantity anymore.  I can appreciate the quality.




It’s Hard Not to Look Back-When Your World is Rocked

You know that feeling, when you wake up after a terrible dream, and feel so relieved when you realize it was just. a. dream.  Today when I woke up, it wasn’t just a bad dream.   It’s real.  This week has been a really tough week, professionally.  (Steve and the kids are all okay. We all had our first day of school and all was well.  The kids were happy but stressed about pleasing their teachers.)  There was a whole other under layer in the events of this week that brought me to my knees and made me question the reality we live in as educators. The field of education can chew you up and spit you out.   The words that come to mind are– blindsided, anxiety-ridden, depressed, hopeless, & helpless.   I can’t speak any more specifically to this event. (I did ask for consent to post this.)  However, sometimes living our lives in education is a lot like the rock cycle, you are pressed and pressed and eventually you become sedimentary rock.  Rocks can be a metaphor for strength, but the process of being pressed is excruciating.

In 1996, when I worked at Charter Oak Hospital (now Aurora Behavioral Health) I was in the psychiatric unit as a psych aide with severe emotionally disturbed children.  A nine-year-old boy, bit me hard.  It was his way of exerting some control in his out-of-control world.  This was all because I’d asked him to give his passive mother back her sunglasses as she was leaving the psych unit on her daily visit. He refused, and when I verbally challenged him to give her back the sunglasses, he bit me with all the force a nine-year-old mouth can give.  (I still have the scar as a reminder.)  Shocked, I promptly forgot all the training I’d received on how to handle human bites (obviously this is a frequent occurrence, if there’s a training on it) and proceeded to pull my wrist away in my best attempt to escape from the bite.  I had to call a ‘Strong Arm’ alert (because I was alone on the unit) and all the psych aides from other units converged and put this young boy in a straight jacket as was protocol.  ‘Pulling away from the bite’ was not what I’d been taught.  When someone bites you, your instinct is to pull away. Instead, pushing in to the bite is the best way to release the hold.

Situations that we aren’t prepared for, often make us want to pull away.  This bite incident has become a lifelong metaphor for struggle and hardship. I often want to pull away and isolate.  This recent professional incident has made me angry, frustrated, helpless and withdrawn.   In my heart,  I do know there’s only one solution: compassion.  This is my way of pushing into the bite, having compassion.

We can choose to blame and hypothesize about another’s pain, but until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, we cannot and should not speak as experts.  What we should do is listen, remain calm, and love deeply.

Where do I get these wild ideas?  Turns out, it goes back to scripture.  Back to the biblical text I grew up reading. The teachings of Jesus are not common.  They are not easily understood.  When your world is rocked you have to revisit your compass and try to understand why.  The set north of my compass is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I think my world has been rocked, but the world of another has been rocked even more. What do I do with this?  How do I help?  We’re all going to experience hardship. We’re all going to experience a low point in life.  What do we do with that?  How do we help someone in crisis?  I don’t attempt to know the answers to these questions, so I just feel my way through it.  I know God has given me a special sense of the pain of others because I’ve felt pain deeply.  Deeply. The upside to this deep pain, is consequently a deep love.  So as I sit here writing, tears flow. Tears flow for the pain of another.  It’s okay to cry, grieve, and feel the loss.   This is where the love flows in.  You have to feel the pain.

When your world is rocked to the core by separation, divorce, loss, injustice, and misunderstanding what do you do?   I do know that no love is as random as God’s love…

Have a listen to Wilco’s, I Can’t Stand It…  This song makes me want to scream along.  I believe my prayers will be answered, unlike Jeff Tweedy’s mantra here.

Obviously, this wasn’t a funny post, as was my post last week.  I did tell 2016-17 to Bring It!  It certainly did… like a raging tornado on a hot summer day.

This is my life.  I’ve lived with Joy for a long time and she ain’t always joyful, but she hangs in.  I’m going to keep hanging in with you through the heartache, tears, and joy.

Innocence Mission’s God is Love has been a source of comfort to me today, as music has been throughout my life.  I hope it comforts you too.

Rain or shine
This street of mine is golden
Rain or shine
This street of mine is golden

With the gold of hickory leaves
I can walk under these clouds
Rain or shine
This street of mine is golden

God is love
And love will never fail me
God is love
And love will never fail me

If I’m driving there today
And I really am this afraid
God is love
And love will never fail me

Some birds I know are moving on this weekend
Some birds I know are moving on this weekend
And I’m under the sky, I am on the ground, with my coat
Some birds I know are moving on this weekend

God is love
And love will never fail me
God is love
And love will never fail me

And some days I will decide
To let everything else go by
God is love
And love will never fail me
Love will never fail me

The picture attached to this post is me, at age 4 or so.  I’m hopeful today, just like the the face of little gap-toothed four-year-old Joy is in this photo.  I am looking back a bit and reflecting this week, but I’m still hopeful.

Until next week.  Love you loves.


Gastric Bypass Update:

I’ve made it to 70 pounds of weight, lost.  That doesn’t feel all that important in light of this week’s events.

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.










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.


Bullies, Boyfriends & Besties Part 3 of 3

Here’s the link to Part 1 and Part 2.images.jpg

A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently, allows you to grow. (I couldn’t have said it better myself, William Shakespeare.)

My earliest memory of a friend was my dog named, Happy, a gorgeous American Eskimo raised by my Aunt Nancy (thanks Aunt Nancy for giving her to me.)  I just remember being so proud to have a dog of my own to play with.  When I was with Happy, I was happy.  She was my friend.

Between 1st and 3rd grade, I had a love-hate relationship with the Two Stacys.  (Someone please tell me the proper plural form of Stacy in this context.  It looks wrong as Stacys, but I think it’s right.)  The Two Stacys lived on Turner street, one across the street and one next door. One of my memories of going to the next-door-Stacy was walking in on her parents doing the wild thing.  Yes, good times.

Sidebar: Speaking of the wild thing, my Middle was about 2, and in I was pushing her in the stroller, after school hours, on a balmy summer Sunday evening.  My 5-year-old, Boy, was standing right next to me walking along in the stroller, as we walked to my classroom.  Remember, this is California and just about anything is outdoors—malls, taco trucks, farmer’s markets, schools- mine isn’t an enclosed building, all the classrooms are entered straight from the outdoors.  We don’t have to be protected from the elements here.  There were parts of this scenario that I wish had been protected from the elements, if you catch my drift.  Anyway, as I’m strollin’ to the classroom with the kids, this little yappy ‘guard dog’ comes out of nowhere and starts barkin’ and scarin’ the hell out of me and the littles.  As I’m yelling at the dog to step back, I look over into the shady grassy patch just behind the school office and there, in broad daylight in front of God and everybody was a fully naked 40-50 something bald man having his way with a woman about the same age.  I’m yelling “Call off your dog!”  My kids starting to panic because I’m yelling and the dog looks like he might like to nip at us.  “Call off your dog!”  <<crickets>>  No words.  Shock.  We were all in a place we’d rather not be.  All of us, including yappy Mc-Yipperton.  I kept moving as fast as I could like a bat-outta-hell to my classroom, as I grabbed Boy and pushed that stroller one-handed to my classroom.  As we got there, I asked Boy, “What did you see?” worried that this awkward rendezvous was his first introduction to the birds and the bees.  He said, “Mama, why didn’t they stop their dog?  They just sat there and didn’t say ANYTHING!”  (Yes, son, they just ‘sat’ there.)  He hadn’t seen the naked man because the Mc-Yipperton was so distracting.  Whew.

So, back to besties.  The Two Stacys helped me learn that I couldn’t own my friends. Friendship isn’t ownership.  I experienced jealousy early in my friendships, because three girls together isn’t always a good number. There’s always a 3rd wheel, Joy.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of having a best friend.  I’ll tell you why: it seems exclusive.  I like having friends.  I’ve had so many friends at different seasons of my life. When I’m with you, you’re my best friend.  Sure, there are people that we connect with more than others based on our experiences and personalities.  My friends have been my lifeline to laughter. Sharing the good the bad and the ugly has been so life-giving and extraordinary.

“To have friends, you have to be a friend.” This is what my mom always used to say.  I didn’t really know what that meant early on, but I’ve gradually figured it out. What does being a friend mean?  Most of the time, to me, being a friend means simply, listening and responding when necessary.  Life is hard and we need someone to process the chaos with.  Someone who’s not going to judge us for our faults.  Someone who can tell us the truth in love.  Someone who is going to stick around.  This is sacred.  “I’m looking for what I call my move-the-body friends. I’m looking for the folks who are going to show up and wade through the deep with me.” (Brene Brown, another of my besties).  I’ll wade in the deep with you friends, and when we all feel like we’re drowning with our heads below the surface, we’ll raise our hands above the surface and give each other a collective thumbs up.  I’m giving you that thumbs up right now across the deep end, it’s the end of the school year friends!  We’re almost there.

Dedicated to: The Two Stacys, Nell, The Three Amys, Anny, Merry, Sarah, Sylvia, Aimee, Peggy, Shana, Christy, Kim, Lynnette, Lisa, Tina, Cassie, Heather, Melissa, Hillary, Debbie & Terri— my ‘move-the-body’ friends.

Until next Friday…Love you loves.


Phase 5, continued:

I’ve fallen off the protein wagon.  I’ve not been eating enough. (These are words that haven’t come out of my mouth since I was 17.)  

I went for my 2 month visit this week.  Dr. Lamar said my incision sites look, once again, “perfect” and advised me to come back in 4 months, at my 6 month post-surgery date.

I’m feeling good & I’m down 45 pounds.   I’ve only been exercising about once a week, which is not what I’m supposed to do. Give me a break, it’s the end of the school year, and I’ve got a blog to write. 🙂



Bullies, Boyfriends & Besties Part 2 of 3

Here’s the link to Part 1.

Middle says, “Why can’t there be another word besides, boyfriend?  I know a boy and he’s a friend but when you say boyfriend, it’s weird. Why can’t there be another way to say it?” She has a point. I hope my Middle doesn’t get concerned with wanting a boyfriend any time soon.  Junior high is next year. Ugh.

As my children approach the awkward years of middle school and high school, I kinda start to freak.  Not kinda, really freak.  There were many growing pains for me in those years.  I try not to project my experience onto them, but some days, when they come home venting to me about how they feel, I can’t help but be taken back immediately to the 7th grade at Whitehouse Middle School in Texas, awkwardly walking the halls, watching all the cool girls in their tight jeans with beautifully rounded bottoms get stares from the cool boys as they walked down the aisle to their desks.  Back in the day, pinching someone’s ass at school was very common.  When the asses were pinched, it was like a gold star of approval.  The girls would giggle and they boys thought it was okay, after all they were complimenting her by pinching her, right?  I didn’t have an ass worth pinching.  (I know this seems totally distorted talking about it this way, but when you’re a low self-esteem middle schooler, you’ll take attention from the opposite sex any way you can get it. Now when I think of someone pinching mine or my girls’ butts, I want to punch them in the neck.)

Fast forward to 9th grade just after we moved to San Diego, California, I was 14 and I ‘got’ my first boyfriend.  Oh my, pure bliss.  I could actually say that someone liked ME. He was Italian and magnetic with a melting smile and HE LIKED ME!  He was 16 going on 17.  He was independent, and had is own Toyota truck.  We’d drive up to his house in that truck many many times.  I spent two and a half years with that boy.  He’d roll down the windows, take off his shirt, and smoke a cigarette on his way home.  (Taking off the shirt was his way of preventing his shirt from smelling like cigarettes so his mom wouldn’t know. She HAD to know.)  Maybe he had other reasons for taking the shirt off.

We were going to get married. Oh yes.  He loved me.  Oh yes, those were my uber moody years.  Looking back, I was absolutely dreadfully miserable and jealous most of the time.  I had succumbed to living in a way that wasn’t authentic or what I knew I wanted to be, because I wanted to be accepted by my boyfriend.  Breaking up was unacceptable in my head, because, how would I ever get a boyfriend again?  I allowed him to change me.  (Boyfriend: Curly hair, no, I want your hair to be straight.)  My mom swears that my hair was straight and my eyes were blue until I hit puberty, and then I turned into a wild curly haired green-eyed girl.  This hair was never gonna be straight unless a flat iron was close by. (Boyfriend: Your outfit, no. I’ll take you shopping and you can get these Reebok hi tops and an outfit that I choose.)  Oh brother, the 43-year-old me just wants to go back and give some advice to the 14-year-old me.  (Joy, you don’t have to settle.  This isn’t the only boy that will EVER like you.  Stop living in extremes. Life isn’t all about having a boyfriend.)  And yet it was, for me, at that age.

 I gave in to his advances very early. Remember, I’d wanted a boyfriend for so long and saying ‘no’ would mean, maybe I wouldn’t be able to keep him.  So I gave in. I said yes and yes and yes and yes again, until I was 17. The more I said yes to him, the more I said no to food.  It was my way of maintaining some control in the chaos.

There was so much dishonesty and arguing in our relationship.  One of our arguments was about the difference between a job and a career.  Whoever he was going to marry wasn’t going to need a career.  That argument didn’t go well.  Basically I argued about wanting to have an education beyond high school.  (Go me!)  I gradually realized that we weren’t compatible.  That was my first experience with being vulnerable and having my heart really broken by a boy.  By the end of our relationship, I had moved on to Coronado High School for my senior year.  I was empowered to start over.  We finally broke up during that year in Coronado.  I was so tired of the lying and deceit.  He had taken up real estate in my head and heart for too long.

A few days later, I proudly strolled into the GAP shortly after we broke up.  I fell in love with a sleeveless tropical drop-waisted red dress with floral patterns on it.  I bought that dress because I knew he’d hate it.  (Take this boyfriend.  Look at me now, boyfriend.  I don’t need a YOU to be happy.)  I wore that dress like a gold star.  I wish I still had it.

I came out of that relationship, at 17, wounded, lost and jaded.  Trust had been majorly violated, and I thought all boys were just like that boyfriend.

Let’s pause between boyfriends and watch this video:

Honey, why you don’t have boyfriend?


I’d thrown all caution to the wind after my first heartbreak, and decided that I wanted to do the heartbreaking for a change.  So I excessively partied that senior year of high school and my fake junior college year. Alcohol and drugs were my comforts and numbing tools.  Navy boys, guys I met in Tijuana, guys that I worked with at the Marriott, I said yes and yes and yes to whoever, with no commitment, no love, just acts, plain and simple.  I knew this wasn’t the way intimacy was intended to be, loveless and heartless, but my heart was frozen for a time.  Frozen.

In my college years, there were some boyfriends, dates, and crushes too.  By then, I realized that saying yes and yes and yes wasn’t working, so I said ‘no’ regularly and it felt good.  I began to set more limits and boundaries.  There was a boy in college that I thought I’d marry and didn’t.  It’s clear in hindsight, that we weren’t compatible.  However, that relationship launched a series of counseling episodes that helped me deal with the lack of closure in that relationship and something that the therapist referred to as ‘codependency’.  (I thought, “What the heck is codependency?”) He gave me a book called Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.  That book totally changed how I viewed my relationships to the opposite sex up until that point.

I had to deal, cope, and wrestle with why I was choosing men that were no good for me.  You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach?  You wake up and wish that it was just all a bad dream.  Loneliness, grief, sadness and despair were my bedfellows after breakups. Ben Harper captures that feeling in this song.

I had to evaluate the type of man I’d typically chosen.  I had to choose someone that actually loved me, ‘for reals’.

I did.  He’d been standing right next to me all along.  We’d worked in Communiversity together, shared the same friends, taken the same classes, worked in the cafeteria together.  He’d wisely befriended my roommates, spent time with me any way he could, and listened to me for a couple of years.

Working the graveyard shifts in campus safety was exhausting.  I was burnt out and tired. I went to bed around 9am and prayed, “God, help me find a man who loves me, for me.” This is what all we want, right?  We want someone that’s going to love us, scars, wounds, joys, triumphs, and all.  Someone who sees us, truly, and sticks around.  Someone we can share life with and continue to share life with many years later.

What I prayed for was shortly revealed to me, “Joy, that dream guy you’re looking for, he’s right there.”  It’s literally like I’d had blinders on until that point.  He was hanging with me all along, just waiting.

A few weeks later, we drove in my Big Green Mama (see here) to San Dimas Canyon Park and had ‘the talk’.  I didn’t want to beat around the bush.  So I basically told him I was ready.  I was ready to be committed.  I didn’t use the word- boyfriend. I used the word commitment.

That man became my husband.  I’m so glad that I finally said yes to the right man.

He likes ME.


Phase 5

This phase has been tough. I can eat 2 oz of protein at every meal and the rest for the next two weeks.  I’ve been trying to keep down chicken and I’ve not been successful.  I eat it and then STUCK.  I think it must be too dry.  I’m raising the white flag of surrender to chicken.  (You win, chicken, for now, but I’m comin’ back to try you out again later.)

40 pounds down.  New shoes and a new hair cut this week. It might be time for a new dress.

I’m feeling pretty good. I’m not going to let the chicken get me down. 🙂

Until next Friday…Love you loves.

The Only Prince I Ever Met

Prince Royal King, an elderly man in his 80s, stood inspecting the selection of cheeses in the dairy section at Stater Brothers.  Somehow I started talking to him about, what else? cars– and my need for one. In those years, I was desperate for a car and didn’t have much money.  I was in college. He said, “Well, why don’t you come home with me.   I’ve got a car for you.  I’ve been fixing up cars for years.”   We got in his 1970s made-to-last vehicle and drove to his house in Azusa.  He smoked Marlboro menthols and he offered me one.  I obliged.  We pulled up to his house.  He put away the groceries.  (I don’t think I was naive, just good gut instincts about people.  Prince was no serial killer.)  We chilled in his living room and he told me how having the name Prince Royal King got him out of jail in his younger years because the judge said, “I can’t put a man in jail with that name.” (Maybe I should have been more afraid after the ‘jail’ comment.)

After we chatted for a bit, he showed me his garage and proudly displayed all the tools he had.  Clearly he’d been collecting tools for over 50 years.  This was his tool museum.

As he courted me for a bit longer, he eventually meandered over to this amazing light green 2-door 1973 Gran Torino.  (Does anyone remember me driving this car back in the day?)  I bought it from Prince for $1000.  He let this sweet little college student pay payments.

York’s convertible photo

I loved that car.  I called her the Big Green Mama.  I hot glued these awesome dangly dingle balls, like you’d see on a sombrero, all around the interior of the car. I don’t know what possessed me to do this, it was just the accessory she needed to be even cooler and more herself.  big green mama and mefresh inkbig green mama sarah

sarah and me
Flower children of the ’90s

I am like the Big Green Mama.  I’ve always had this need to be different, this car was just about as different as they come.   The exception was a dear friend from Germany, who’d come over to study business at APU, York Von Fischer.  He had this amazing red 1970s convertible, a tank and a half.  American made. A car he couldn’t easily get in Germany. My Facebook profile picture was taken in that convertible.  Windblown curly wild hair flying all over as York captured the perfect photo.  I loved his accent.  I was captivated by his love of learning and excitement for all things American.  He was fully alive.

Prince introduced me to the Big Green Mama and I loved the time I spent with her.  I felt alive and proud and unique every time I closed the door.

In our desires to be non-conformists, we generally conform to something whether we want to admit it or not.  Need of connection is something I’ve longed for, and yet, striving to be myself was something I’ve pursued doggedly since I was very young. There’s always been this inner battle to conform and yet, maintain a sense of independence and separation from ‘group think.’   I didn’t want to be the same as anybody.

I wanted to be me, and make people like it.  There were many awkward moments, years, and decades, but I’m satisfied with how this has made me into who I am now.  I wouldn’t trade those awkward moments, if I had to give them up to become who I am.

In my endeavor to not conform to the the typical female response to ‘bad’ food, <<<insert Jan voice here>>>, Jan’s voice here. (say this in a Marsha-Marsha-Marsha voice, yes, Marsha from the Brady Bunch.)  “I’m-going-to-eat-a-salad-with dressing-on-the-side & I’m-going-to-pass-on-the-cake.”  I couldn’t stand the whiney inner voice anymore.  I decided, ah hell, eat the cake and salad is better WITH fat.  Let’s throw caution to the wind and EAT WHAT WE WANT!  (The ‘we’ is me and my appetite, I think.  Kinda creepy, yes?)

Well, this didn’t work so well, because I kept gaining weight.  The more I gained, the more I’d say, “Whatevs! Life’s too short to worry about every bite I put in my mouth.”

I still fight, in my head, with these same ideas of not wanting to be the next Weight Watchers poster child or The Biggest Loser Loser.  I want to have Happy Hour like the rest of the happy peeps, but at what cost?  I really had to have a heart-to-heart with myself about why I stopped caring.  What does it mean to really feel alive and love it?  I forgot.  Losing myself, I’ll argue, was a good thing.  I’m finding myself again. I’m feeling and loving more fully again.  Watch out friends, here comes Joy, fully alive Joy.  Convertible ridin’,  Big Green Mama, Joy.  Meet-a-man-named-Prince and ride home with him, Joy.  Spontaneous, Joy.

I’ve forgotten who that Joy is, but it’s gradually coming back to me.

————————————————————————–Phase 4

Phase 4 started this week.  Refried beans, mashed potatoes, eggs, cottage cheese & baby food (yes, this is a suggestion on the list.)

On Wednesday, I was thrilled to have eggs again.  I scrambled some eggs in the morning before work and started to eat, like I normally would.  Eat. Chew. Swallow. Repeat. Eat. Chew. Swallow. Repeat.   (We all do this effortlessly.)  After about 5 minutes I stopped and started feeling a tremendous amount of pressure in my chest.

This was my first experience “Getting Stuck” as they call it.  This isn’t the kind of stuck that you get when you run out of gas, or the kind of stuck when you are caught in a traffic jam.  This is the kind of stuck that sits at the small opening to your new itty bitty egg-sized stomach.  I waited. Repeat. I waited. Repeat. I waited. Repeat.  I said, “Oh no, I don’t want to throw up, I hate throwing up.” I waited. Repeat.

I stood over the toilet and proceeded to blow chunks of the 4 oz of eggs I’d just swallowed. Those eggs had an early departure to Egg Heaven.  I’m hoping to erase that memory and eat eggs again soon.

So far the rest of Phase 4 foods have been tolerable and more exciting.  I’ve been going out to eat and getting soups at restaurants, mostly.  I’ve also had sugar free frozen yogurt twice this week and that has been delightful and I’m down 32 pounds.

Until next Friday…  Love you loves.