Monday, June 27, 2011

This is my life now, and I love it.

We had a BBQ for M this Saturday. Some people didn't show up, but the ones that mattered did. Friends and family came from faraway to help us celebrate the new addition to Team Paxton. M was a little withdrawn. He gets nervous around strangers. (Stranger Danger as he would tell me). So he would take off on his own and ride his RipStick around the park until he felt like coming back. He did start to loosen up towards the end. My friends and family are amazing so they didn't push him too much. He bonded with my BFF Terri as he tried to teach her to ride the RipStick. Until she biffed it. Which, actually made them closer I think. He's getting closer to my sisters. Bit by bit. It takes time. He has reason to be apprehensive. It's OK. We have the rest of our lives.

 He's such an amazing young man. He has so much good in him. He is witty and charming when he wants to be. And around us he is totally relaxed and we get to see a side of him no one else does. It makes me feel good to know that he can feel safe with us. Safe to be himself. I do sometimes catch him in an unguarded moment, like if he accidentally breaks something, or makes a mistake. I see his defenses go up, the worry pass over his features. He waits for the backlash, maybe for me to blow up? I understand that wariness. I remember it well even after all these years. So in those moments I laugh it off, help him fix it/clean it up whatever it is and I rub his back or head and say, "Bummer dude. No biggie". And I see the relief on his face, in his body language. Hopefully someday he will understand that this is his safe place. He never has to worry about our reactions. Whatever he does we will deal with it. Hopefully calmly and with patience and love.

We were talking the other day about something or another. Some sort of paperwork we have to do or rule we have to follow and he said, "just until after the adoption right?" It made me happy that he still wants us to adopt him. Yes, I sometimes worry he will change his mind. He's old enough to do that. I worry he may decide we aren't good enough for him. 4 more months. I count them down with bated breath. Will he still agree to adopt us? Will the courts judge in our favor. I can't wait until he is all mine. We get lengthy court documents that mention his family stating they think he shouldn't be adopted. I read it over and over. What if the courts agree? I couldn't take losing him. I love him too much already. I see the love he has for Sara. It's the little things he thinks we don't notice. The way he plays slug bug with her, then when he hits her too hard he rubs her arm gently. Or when he's lying on the couch and she sits at the end and he rubs his toes on her. Not even realizing he's doing it, but craving that physical contact. She's his mom. She's the one he's embarrassed to be seen with at school, just like a real mom, cuz like he told her,  "don't feel bad some boys just don't like to be seen with their moms". He made them matching friendship bracelets. "These are mom and son wristbands", he said. And he hasn't taken his off.

Sara was so nervous that they wouldn't bond. She didn't need to worry. He loves her, anyone can see it. And she is a great mom. She does the shopping, always getting him his favorite things, she does his laundry, we take turns straightening his room up behind him. She takes him swimming or to play basketball. When he has a hard day she talks to him and always seems to know the right thing to say. I feel like that's my weak point. I don't know what to say sometimes. When he tells me he's mad at his previous foster mom I want to reply, "yeah she's a bitch!" But I don't so I kinda stumble around trying to be politically correct. I hope I get it figured out soon. I don't want to be the weak link. He loves to tease me about how old I am. "Ancient!" he tells me. "Like 1000 BC". He thinks it's hilarious. I'm like oh thanks, next time I need to feel bad I'll just remember you said that. "You want me to write it down?", he laughs. Yeah, he's a smart ass. I think he get's that from me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boyo Boy Being a Parent is Hard

It's not like I didn't know. I prepared as much as humanly possible. We took about 40 hours of classes for preparation. We are taking another series of classes right now. It's a good refresher to the initial classes we took.

We learn all about behaviors and how to decode them. And boy does our boyo exhibit some behaviors. We tease that each day we aren't sure which son is coming home from school; withdrawn, moody, hyper, aggressive, funny, sensitive son. We get them all. Each day we prepare ourselves. Each day we deal with it. Some days we are firm, some days we use humor, every day we use love and acceptance and understanding. Doesn't matter which boy we get each day, we love him anyway, because at the end of the night when we put him to bed as a family and we get hugs and I love you's, even as timid as they are, we know that we are a family. And family is forever. And we go to bed happy that we have a son to love.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A son and Iron Man jammies, best day of my life!

I haven't been keeping up with my blog. I'm like that though, I lose interest or get distracted, or lazy, whatever. But here I am. A lot has happened since I last wrote. A LOT!

Biggest news, I became a PARENT. Yup, that's right, a parent. And I have to say, it's been exactly 2 weeks since we brought our boyo home and I love him with every fiber of my being. I look at him and I marvel at how perfect he is. When he smiles I get the proudest feeling. Because he didn't used to do that. Smile.

I can't get into particulars, we are bound by confidentiality laws until our adoption goes through, but I can say, he wasn't very happy where he was. And now, he's a normal, though sensitive, 12 year old. He plays video games as often as he can get away with, and with me as a parent he gets away with it a lot, because I dig video games too. So I'm either playing with him or watching him and offering suggestions to help him. I read the screen while he slaughters zombies. He's too busy blasting away to read.

It's amazing how it happened, we got a phone call from our social worker asking us if we were willing to take a 12 year old boy as an emergency foster removal and keep him for about a week until they could find a foster home to put him in. We aren't foster parents. We are adoptive parents who are part of the fost/adopt program, which means we are adopting a child from the California foster care system. But in an emergency situation we can take in a child from another family that uses our adoption agency under respite. Respite would typically be used in situations where the adoptive family had to leave suddenly, say for a funeral, and couldn't take the child. Then you would take that kid for a few days or up to a week, until they came back. This situation was different, but we were still willing to help out. So we went to pick up this 12 year old and we were both nervous, we didn't know anything about being temporary parents and we didn't know anything about 12 year olds. Most of the kids in our lives are under 8.

So we go get him, long story short, he's awesome! Two days later we contacted our social worker and asked what we had to do to keep him. She had to contact his two social workers from the county and his lawyer, give them our homestudy and wait for them to approve us as adoptive parents. We held our breath, we prayed, we hoped and we got accepted! One week ago we signed permanent placement papers! It was the single best day of my entire life. I got a son and Iron Man jammies all in the same day. Score!

So now we wait the mandatory 6 months, then we can petition the court for adoption. We can't wait. We are so excited. We love getting to know this boy. This amazing, sweet, sensitive, funny, kind boy with the most amazing smile and the cutest dimples. We love hanging out with him. We have serious talks about what it all means, what it means to be a part of our family, what it means to have two moms, what it means that family is forever and we will be here for him, and for his children. I talk about when he's 16 and what kind of car we are going to get him, I talk to him about what he's gonna do when he grows up and how he's gonna come home from college every holiday, I tease him that he's going to live in my basement until he's 40 because I don't ever want him to leave. He reminded me we don't have a basement. I told him I would start digging. I want him to understand that this is his permanent home now and that we are all a family.

I think he gets it, but just in case he starts to doubt it, I will keep reminding him. Last night as I hugged him goodnight and told him I love him, he replied back, "I love you too". Second best day of my entire life. Gosh I dig this kid. And I just can't wait to see where we all end up. I'm sure that the teenage years are gonna be fun, hard, crazy, frustrating and all that. I know it's not always so easy, he's a human being with feelings that will come out in all kinds of ways, some of which may not be pleasant. It's OK. Bring it on. I'm a parent now. I can handle it. Well, with a lot of help from my amazing wife, I'm pretty sure I can handle it. Cuz we've got this parenting thing down.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The booger that chased me

On a three day get-away to Utah this weekend. Sara took my total cheapness to heart (completely ignoring the pinkie oath swear we had made to each other to not EVER stay in a hotel/motel that was less than $50 per night).

We took off like a herd of turtles and pulled into the Bates motel in St. George at 11:30 Friday night. I turned to her and said, "really?! How much did you pay?"

"$30 a night". I just groaned. I walked in the office and was immediately assaulted with a smell. Not to be bratty or anything but the smell was, I told Sara later, not American. Most people would say foreign or exotic, I'm not that verbose at midnight.

My nostrils constricted and I concentrated on breathing shallowly while filling out the old fashioned registration form. No fancy computers up in this joint. Tho' to be fair the 16 year old son came out and offered up the wifi password.

We got to our room (two steps away from the office) quickly and jumped in our jammies and went to bed. An hour later I feel Sara trying to meld herself with my DNA. Or maybe climb up under my skin in an attempt to find warmth. I'm not sure. All I know is that girl was attached to my back like a howler monkey all night. Which was fine. I was busy concentrating on sleeping on a slab of concrete.

Woke up the next morning to the gentle pounding on the door from housekeeping. Sara got in the shower first. After that I jumped in. Oh joy Luke warm water. I soaped up all my girly bits, yelled for Sara to open the shampoo for me while warily eyeing something on the shower curtain I was convinced was a booger. I tried to convince myself it belonged to my girl. That still didn't make it less horrifying. Here's the deal, I'm wide. Like my shoulders could be front linebackers for the Steelers. So trying to maneuver a small shower and avoid what may or may not be a glistening booger=not fun.

Meanwhile Sara gets the cap off the shampoo, hands it to me. I dump it in my hand and lather up. Immediately I yell out , "what's up with this shampoo, I smell like a Christmas ham!". Clove flavored shampoo?

I step out of the shower, look at Sara and say, "I don't know what's happening".

She's too busy laughing to answer. So far this is an interesting trip.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How are you feeling?

My cousin texted me one day and asked, "how are you feeling?". I pondered for a minute and replied back, "mentally, physically or emotionally?" because really with me you just never know.

I'm a walking, talking mood disorder. Sure, I'm on heavy medication to stabilize that, but there is no cure, I still swing back and forth, just not as high and low, as often, mostly like a gentle swing porch swinging kinda way. But some days, oh those days, when I am up and down and up and down, it's hard. It's hard to live it and it's hard to live with it. I often think about my friends and family that have chosen to stick by me through all these times. How time after time they have displayed patience, annoyance, understanding and love. I can't even begin to express how much that means to me.

I know I'm not the easiest person in the world to live with, and yet, my wife hangs in there, year after year. She nags me to take my pills, calls me out when I make up lame excuses as to why I didn't tell her I was out, picks up my prescriptions, monitors my intake so I don't end up like a celebrity tragedy minus the news coverage. She's just always there for me, even when I try to push her away. During my darkest times, I push and push and push, but every morning when I wake up there she is. I honestly would have left my crazy ass years ago. I feel guilty that she didn't and now she's stuck with me. I feel like a failure. I promised her a better future, now the future is here and it's worse. She should have left. But she didn't.

Physically I'm a mess. I'm trying to make that better. I've lost a lot of weight. About 75 pounds. I had to stop losing to try to let my skin catch up. Too much too fast is not a good thing. I'm working on building up the muscle underneath. I kinda slacked off, I keep injuring my hip. I so want to be a runner, but apparently my body just can't take the beating. So I'm going to shelve that goal, for now. Maybe later after I've toned up a bit.

I have arthritis, it sucks. It started in my early 20's which really just isn't fair and I let it control my life and used it as an excuse for way too many years. I took my health back last year. It's mine now and I have no more excuses. If I stay fat it's because I'm lazy, not because I have to. I know that now. I'm never going back. I may stay where I'm at now, but I'm never, ever going back.

Emotionally, it's about the same as the mentally. It fluctuates based on the mental status, but also just because I am really emotional to begin with. Like seriously I cry all the time. I cry at dog food commercials, I get teared up talking about my loved ones. I'm just sensitive. My grandma used to tell me, "you wear your heart on your sleeve", "you would give anyone the shirt off your back" and "you need to learn to toughen up or people are just going to hurt you". Yeah, I never could do it. So yah, I let people hurt me. I care too much, give too much, love too much, talk too much, hurt too much, laugh too much. Everything I do is just too much.

I'm guessing my cousin is sorry she asked.

Sticks and Stones...

I was thinking this morning about how as a society we are leaning so much towards the extremes. Hence the term extremist I suppose. But the politically correctness of it all gets confusing. I mean I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to call my black friends black. I don't like to say African American because what if they are from Jamaica? It's the same way with my Hispanic friends. Is it Hispanic or Latina/Latino? Unless you are specifically from Mexico you aren't Mexican. But then some Mexican's don't like to be called Hispanic because they are proud to be Mexican. See it's all very confusing.

Some people might say, "why even use labels?". Well that's fine to a point but if I'm at a party and I point at 4 girls standing by the wall and say, "That's my friend J, the graphic design one", are you gonna be able to pick her out? But if I say, "that's my friend J, the cute black girl". You might be more inclined to know which one I'm talking about. I suppose I could just say they one in the paisley shirt, but why do I have to censor my descriptions. I wouldn't be offended if you called me the white girl. The pasty one. The one white as Wonder Bread. The short chubby girl. The lesbian. The dyke with the cool hair. Whatever. You see I don't mind labels. Words can hurt but only if you let them. Dyke used to be a derogatory term, and to some it still is. But I believe that if you take ownership of the word it loses it's ability to wound. I own the word dyke. By taking it and making it mine I take the hurt out of it. Gays did that with the word gay. It used to be shameful, fag too. But by taking ownership of the words, they no longer have that impact, and now we call ourselves those things.

I was walking down the street with my girlfriend, holding hands, and some guys walked by and said, "dyke!". I just laughed and said, "why yes, I am". Because, seriously folks if that is the worst thing you can think of to call me, I'll take it. Of all the things you could call someone (liar, bigot, racist, murderer, psychopath, abuser, etc.), if the absolute worst thing you can say about me is that I'm a dyke. Well by all means I will take it. It must mean I am doing something right.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"WHY do you know that?"

Driving with Sara the other day and she says, "those cars are stupid looking".

"Huh?, what?", looking up from my iPhone and glancing around. Then I spot it. "Oh the Nissan Cube?"

"Yah, they are just dumb. They look stupid. Except maybe the back window. That part is kind of cool how it wraps around. They look like they should be in a cartoon."

"Oh, yeah like Roger Rabbit."

"Or like that guy that does Cranium and Cadoo, you know it would fit in there..."


"...but then it would have to be the colors that match those colors, that would be cool..."


"...if it was in those colors."

"Pink, and blue and yellow."

"But not blue like Ally's new car. It would have to be that same blue like he uses."

"Baseman. Like a grayer blue, bright but not too bright."


"What, what?"

"What do you keep saying?"


"You keep saying it, what are you saying?"



"That's his name."

"Who's name?"

"The guy that designed the packaging for Cranium. His name is Gary Baseman."

"WHY do you know that?"

"Because he's a famous illustrator"

"But how do you KNOW that? WHO knows that?"

"I said he was famous. He's done a lot of magazine covers too."

"But why would you know that? No one just knows those things."

"I do."

"You're weird."

Monday, February 21, 2011

You don't LOOK Mormon

I am Gay. I know, not much of a shocker there, huh? I mean I work really hard to look this gay. The hair, the clothes. Not just any 41 year old woman can pull off a Justin Bieber haircut.

I am Mormon. Ok that one may be a shocker. I mean I don't look Mormon. I think it's kind of amusing. When I say I am from Utah, the most usual response is "how did you stand it with all those Mormons?".

It seems funny to me that people automatically think the two are mutually exclusive. You are gay so you can't possibly be Mormon, let alone have friends and family who are, right? Um, no. Wrong. I am gay, my brother is Mormon (or LDS for those of you not cool enough to say Mormon), my nieces and nephews are Mormon and yes, believe it or not some of my best friends are Mormon. Wow. Who woulda' thunk it? Love and acceptance from people who are fundamentally opposed to my lifestyle? Yep. What can I say, I have awesome people around me who love me just because they know I am a great person. No really I am. I'm one of those people that opens doors for old people, says thank you always and until my wife broke me of the habit (after explaining to me "this isn't Utah") I would pull over and offer my help to anyone on the side of the road.

"But how can you be Mormon, isn't your church against gay people?". Well, ya. It does get a little sticky there. You see being Mormon to me stopped being about my standing in the church and more about just my belief system a long time ago.

When I first came out about 15 years ago or so I had a really hard time. I was attending church regularly and was planning on going through the temple. I really love my church. It was actually during a meeting with my bishop where he explained that in order for me to go through the temple I had to be completely and utterly honest — with myself and with God. After much soul searching and anguish I decided that if I was to be honest with myself then I had to admit that I was gay.

Believe me I didn't want to be. I spent years denying it. I squashed it down, I denied it to myself, my family and my friends as over and over again they would ask me, assure me they would be OK with it. I would say no every time. I was so far in denial. I just wanted to be married in the temple and pop out 3 or 4 kids and live a nice quiet life. If I had done that it would have been Hell. Because I would have denied who I am as a person. I would have lost myself and never found the true happiness that comes from loving someone completely — mind, body and soul.

So technically I can now be excommunicated for admitting I am gay. Not that I was hiding it, I just stopped going to church so it never came up, as far as I know I am still on church record. Doesn't matter to me. Doesn't mean I won't still tell people I'm Mormon. I still believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yes, I believe in Joseph Smith. I'm totally down with there being a prophet in modern times. I think it's cool. I think Teancum was the first Rambo. I think garments are awesome and I'm bummed I never get to wear them. I'm totally going to practice family home evening with my kids. So regardless of what people say or believe, in my heart I am Mormon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Don't let go of that balloon!

Spent last weekend in Santa Maria with my sisters and brother-in-law David (who is soooo full of awesome it's just an honor to be in his company). I did an engagement photo shoot with my cousin Stacey, who is gorgeous by the way, so it was almost too easy to make them look great.

We left early Saturday morning for the trip. I got up about 6:00. Knowing Sara the way I do I know better than to wake her that early, so I put my headphones on, played some Train while I woke up. I was feeling kind of weird, kinda tired, but excited to go on our trip.

Finally got Sara up and her grumpy butt out of the house by 9:00, which by the way, is a miracle. We decided to stop at my sister Audrey's house in Santa Barbara to meet her new boyfriend Mike. By the time we got there I was tired and feeling wierder.

"I shoulda got some coffee", I said to Sara.

"Told ya", she replied a little too smugly.

Whatever. We get inside and I meet Mike. He seems like a really nice guy. I was excited to see my sis. I always get excited to see my little sisters. I love them. What can I say?

After visiting for a while we take off to head up to my sister Bev's house in Santa Maria. As we are leaving Sara says to me, "Can I tell you something without you getting mad?"

"Probably not, so just don't tell me."

"Why can't you just take it in the manner I mean it, not as a put down?"

"Because I can't, so unless it's life threatening, don't tell me".

"Well I'm going to tell you anyways", she declares, "you keep interrupting people. You interrupted Audrey like 5 times, and Mike too. He probably thinks you're rude".

"I did?"


"Oh, I'm feeling kind of manic today", I grumbled, then proceeded to pout for at least 40 more miles. Cuz, yeah I don't like to be told when I do something wrong. I really don't take criticism well. And I do try really hard not to interrupt people when they are talking, but sometimes I just get carried away. Like that day.

So we finally make it to Bev's house and 5 minutes later Audrey walks in, she must drive REALLY fast because I know I was doing over 70 and left at least 15 minutes before her! We all decide to go hang out at a winery to do some wine tasting. My sisters like the wine, I like the pretty girls that go wine tasting and Sara likes hanging out with David and his complete and utter awesomeness. We hop in the car and head out. We are chatting away as we drive to the vineyard. We get out of the car and as we are walking in Sara grabs my hand and says to me, "babe what is wrong with you today?"

I'm like, "what?"

"You're all over the place, up, down, up. You're like a balloon that someone blew up and then let it go."

She was right. That was exactly how I was. I just couldn't even out. My moods were all over the place. I was waffling between manic and comatose. I was like the poster child for a bi-polar episode. But machine gun style. I was a living, breathing, walking roller coaster of moods. "The doctor changed my meds around, I think my body doesn't know what to do?"

We went in to the winery and I made my way outside to sit with David and and my dog-nephew Carson. The girls got their wine and we all sat and enjoyed the weather. I worked on staying calm and trying to get myself under control. I knew I had a photo shoot in a couple hours and I was worried that I was going to blow it. What if I was too scattered to do my job correctly? Lucky for me I had three amazing assistants (and David) who helped by holding light reflectors, suggesting poses, catching awkward looks or angles and generally just kept me grounded.Bev even scooped dog poo out of the way with a rock. That's going above and beyond! The photo shoot went off perfectly. The couple looked amazing and didn't think twice about following our suggestions or guidance.

Afterwords we went to dinner and had pizza and beer. I got a tiny bit tipsy, so I cut myself off quickly. I learned the hard way that psych meds and alcohol don't mix. We hung out, spent way too much time trying to figure out how to get the Wii to work so we could preview the pics I had shot that day, until I realized, duh, I shoot in RAW, we couldn't see them anyway. Oops. Then we watched some MMA action, me and David yelling at the TV like a couple nuts. But it was fun. It's always fun with my family.

Sunday I woke up and I knew that it was over. At least for now. I was stabilized. Completely and utterly wore out — bruised and swollen knees, aching legs and dog tired aside, at least for the time being I was just feeling normal. Well as close to normal as I ever get.

  This is my brother-in-law David. He is just full of the awesome.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where the Hell is Iowa?

Texting with my cousin the other night and I tell her, "Move out here I need a cohort in crime."

She replied back that it was too expensive and she is really liking her new place in Georgia. She moved there recently from West Virginia and so far likes it a lot. Of course I had to agree with her. California is really an expensive place to live. The cost of living is ridiculous. I told her we would like to move someday after we have kids.

"Where to, Utah?", she asked.

"Probably", I replied. "Or wherever I get a job. Or decide to go. Maybe Oregon?"

"Too rainy", she declared.

"Oh yeah, West Virginia?"

"NOOOOOOO", she texted vehemently.

"Oh yah, my kids would have accents then huh?"

"That would be the least of your worries", she groused. Her recent life in West Virginia still fresh in her mind.

"How far away would I be from you?"

"8-10 hour drive"

"Oh, well I can fly to Georgia faster than that, so never mind. How about Iowa?" I asked innocently.

"Who the HELL moves to IOWA!??!!??", she hollered. (yes, I'm sure that's what it was. I know because I speak text fluently).

"Missy!", I replied indignantly and kinda proud that I knew someone who moved to Iowa.

"Wait, WHERE is Iowa?", she asked.

"Uh, somewhere in the middle? I hear it's pretty", I answer vaguely while I rack my brain trying to pull up a mental map and figure out where Iowa is.

I really just can't place it. Not surprised considering I flunked Geography in high school. Yes, Pat Kent flunked me. Big ole F. Thanks Pat. It's now officially YOUR fault I have no idea where Iowa is.

Ok, yes, I know, it really isn't Pat's fault. She did her best. I was a little hard to handle. Uh, hello, ADD girl right here. So I'm sure I deserved the flunking. The push-ups in front of class, standing on my tiptoes for two hours and getting locked in a closet with my desk, we may need to speak about Pat. Was that really necessary? What? It was? OK. Fine. You win.

Now fast forward to later that same evening when I am recounting this text with Sara and she's laughing at me and my cousin's antics. Then she looks all adorable and says, "babe, I don't know where it is either". Now we are cracking up. So we start trying to decide where it could be.

"Next to Minnesota?", she ponders.

"No, that's too high up. I think it's like farm country so that's like in the middle. But not totally cuz then it would be like, Kansas. It's not Kansas. It's Iowa."

"Oh, well isn't it above Utah?"

"No, dork that's IDAHO"

"Oh, next to Idaho?"

"I'm pretty sure that is Wyoming and Montana. One's on top of the other", confused about which is which. I did mention my mad skills in geography, right?

Finally, we gave up. Too lazy to open the laptop and look we decided to just ask Missy where the hell Iowa is, anyway.

Then today I was telling Loretta at work about it and she said, "where is Iowa?" and it hit me. NO ONE KNOWS WHERE IOWA IS!

Like seriously. It's a secret, hidden state that you've only heard of but never seen. Like a leprechaun or unicorn.

The mysterious and magical Iowa enchants and beckons you, while somehow staying mystical and hidden. It may in fact be an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. It could!

There may be an Iowanian version of Sherri sitting there right now living an idyllic Iowa life: watching the sun go down over a perfect Iowa landscape as her kids play in the front yard, Sara making lemonade and chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen. Iowa Sherri strums her guitar, perfectly and completely in tune I must add, the whole time smiling in the knowledge that her secret is safe. After all, no one knows where Iowa is.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Adoption sucks my will to live

Pretty sure I brought this up before, but just in case you aren't following along: we are in the process of adopting kids from the California foster system. It's called Fost/Adopt. We are using a private adoption agency instead of going directly through the county. We chose this route specifically because that means we get to choose kids from all of California, not just those in Riverside county where we live. It's taken us a year to get to this point which is where our homestudy is done and we are now waiting to be matched with kids.

The waiting is the hardest thing. Well almost as hard as when you find a kid you are interested in and you start to get excited thinking, these might be the ones. You tell yourself not to get your hopes up, but you do anyway, you just can't help it. Then you find out they were matched with another family. Yours just wasn't good enough. So you start wondering why? Why are we not good enough? Is it because the Social Workers think I'm not going to be a good enough mother? 'cause I think I am. I think I'm gonna be an excellent mother. I love kids. I mean seriously LOVE them. I would rather chill with kids and watch cartoons than hang with adults and make adult conversation most times. Kids are simpler, and they love me. No joke. Sara gets frustrated, "kids LOVE Sherri and I'm the one that does crafts with them and plays games. It's just because she's like a giant cartoon character". Well, she kind of has a point there. But seriously kids love me. And cats. Which is creepy because I hate cats and they will seek me out and rub all over me. Cats are creepy. Most kids aren't. Unless they are eating boogers. That creeps me out. I always tell them to put it back. That usually confuses them. No, I'm serious, put it BACK!

Ok, so wanna know my secret to making kids like me without even trying? I listen to them. That's it. I listen. Kids always have something to say. They want to be heard. So I try to get down on their level and just let them talk to me. And I look them straight in the eye and listen. Seems so simple. But if you watch other adults around kids they usually are so busy with their own lives they barely hear the constant chatter coming from the kids so I listen. When Jordyn tells me about what she did in school, I listen attentively and ask questions, Jerzi explains the wrong that was committed against her by her cousin Gavin I listen and sympathize. Mr.Jett explains his boo boo and it upsets him deeply, so I get a Sponge Bob band-aid and tuck him up next to me on the couch and we snuggle and watch Bob and Patrick do crazy underwater things in that pineapple under the sea.

Olivia likes to drape herself across my lap like i'm her personal lazy boy recliner, long legs dangling back and forth she looks earnestly in my eyes and tells me all about how they are working on the bar exercises in gymnastics and it's hard. Emily comes up and tries to tell me a very complicated story, involving lots of pausing and thinking as she get's her thoughts in order and perhaps chages directions a couple times, but she gets it out and I listen all the way through, then repeat back what she said and with a firm nod of her head and a little jutting out of her hip, she smiles triumphantly and runs off. Macks takes my hand and looks up at me with the most endearing big brown eyes ever and asks me a question. I answer earnestly and she smiles, holds my hand for a few more minutes than runs off to join her sisters in chaos, umm I mean fun. Marissa is my shining light, she's a little beacon of smiles. She smiles at me. She never stops smiling at me. Just sits and smiles at me and calls me Sara. Which I don't mind. I think it's cute. She has my favorite smile. She can call me anything she wants.

Mags is serious, very, very serious and oh my God she reminds me of myself at that age. Intelligent and needing challenge, unfocused at times, other times with laser focus. She talks to me very seriously. We talk about books and reading. She tells me about some books she has read and I ask her if she has read this one or that one. She explains the plot and the characters in details. She talks to me about her gymnastics and shows me her report card. She craves acknowledgment as she looks for me through the window after every fall from the bar and I smile at her encouragingly and give her thumbs up. She tells me later, "I kept falling off". I told her "so, you got right back up and tried again, that was awesome!" Then there is little Kai. Who could not love this little boy and his adorable laugh when his Nana grabs him and tickles him. He chuckles from his soul and lights up the room.

Tessa isn't sure what to think about me, our relationship is very new. But she's coming around, Caleb tells me he loves me in sign language because he just can't say the words yet, but I tell him I love him too and shower him with kisses while he squirms in his Missy's arms. I'm lucky to have had such great kids in my life. I miss them severely when I can't see them, which is just another heartbreak I get to endure. I wonder if I will ever get to have my own kids to love, every day. My own that can't be taken away from me. I want forever kids. Not just ones on loan that get taken back after you have fallen completely and utterly in love with them. That's why we didn't do foster care. Couldn't stand the idea of losing the kids after getting attached to them. Totally get that. It sucks. But so does this adoption thing. The waiting and the unknowing suck. If we make it through and get our family I may feel differently, but right now. I'm not a fan of the system. 28,000 children in the foster care system in LA county alone. 700 of which are up for adoption. And here we wait. Yeah, it sucks.

Just me and my Psychiatrist

"So how have you been?", she asked.
"Any issues?"
"Any lows?
"No more than normal. A few, but manageable"
"Right now"
"Any thoughts of hurting yourself?"
"Nope, not recently"
"How about highs?"
"Yeah a few"
"What were those like?"
"ummm, just, you know, UP, but nothing like manic, or illegal", I shrugged my shoulders and laughed.
"Well, that's good", she smiled.

And that is how a session with my Doctor generally goes now. Then she asked what I've been up to, I told her I was training for a 5k and I may not survive it. We discussed the reasons, and I told her I decided to get my body and my mind in shape finally. She smiled and seemed genuinely happy with my answers. She asked for my advice on how I ate, what did I avoid. She's really nice. My last doctor never looked up from the prescription pad, just asked a few questions about side effects and answered a lengthy call. Then handed me my prescriptions for a 3 month supply and I was out the door.

I always found it kind of ironic that a Doctor will diagnose you with PTSD, Bi-polar presenting (which is a oblique way of saying your Bi-polar but your lows are so low that your baseline would be a normal person's low and your high's would be a normal person's baseline, I can't even get Bi-polar right apparently), severe clinical depression, then send you out the door with enough drugs to commit a very effective and painless suicide. Interesting. Not that I've thought about it. Much. Just saying. Some things are dumb.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


My cousin Jennifer is on a weight loss journey. I have become her sensei in this journey. She texts me what she is planning to eat and I approve or deny it. I offer suggestions. I chastise her when she chooses french fries over a side salad. I encourage her when she doesn't. I try to walk a fine line between encouraging and hard-ass. I think I channel Jillian Michaels a bit too much.

She is really struggling with the food thing.

She said to me "I'm starving".

I told her "no, you're not".

"1200 calories isn't enough food", she complained.

"It's plenty of food", I responded, getting a little frustrated. "If you make the right choices".

Later that night I was talking to Sara about it, telling her how hard it was for my cousin. "Was it that hard for me?, I asked. "I don't remember it being that hard".

"Well of course not, babe, you don't care about food"

"I don't?"

"No, if you didn't have to eat, you wouldn't", she responded. "It would be cereal for dinner every night".

That's true. Food is fuel. It's something I put in my body to make it stop being hungry. Don't get me wrong, I do like to go out every so often and have a nice meal. And by nice meal I don't mean a fancy shmancy expensive meal, I'm wayyyy to cheap for that.

I love Bonzai burritos from Wahoo's. I enjoy the Turkey Burger at BJ's. I like pizza and beer with my sisters. But yeah, if it's just a once a month or once every couple of months thing, I'm fine with that. I like to go out just for the social interaction. The food is secondary. I just don't care that much.

Eating is a comfort thing. When I am depressed I want to eat comfort food. Which for me is anything my grandma used to make. It reminds me of her and makes me happy that she taught me to cook. I only make grandma's meatloaf. If you don't like ketchup on your meatloaf, too bad. That's the way grandma made it and that's the way I make it. I do use turkey burger now, and I'm likely to add veggies to it, to make it more filling and less fattening. I also bought (I mean Santa brought me) a special meatloaf pan where the grease drains out the bottom. Eating can still be a comfort and healthy at the same time.

Like pasta? Healthy it up, use turkey burger or no meat at all, add veggies to the sauce, I use spinach, mushrooms and zucchini in mine, that way you get filled up on the veggies and tend to eat less of the pasta. Try the low carb pastas. If you can stand them. I can't. So I eat regular pasta, just not a lot of it.

I have a rule. It's number one on the list. It's Jennifer's do or die by the hand of Sherri rule. NEVER, EVER let fried food past your lips. EVER. This doesn't mean you will never eat a french fry again. Just not right now. Not while you are on this weight loss journey. You want it to work? Put down the fried food and run away!

Rule number two: If it's fat, it will turn to fat. So put down the mayo, the ranch dressing. Say no to butter and thick sauces more than likely made with butter. I have a thing with cheese. I don't eat it. Why? Think of it on nachos. When it's all melty and gooey and GREASY. What do you think that grease is doing? Going straight to your ass, taking up residence in your thighs and mocking you with it's gooeyness. Screw you cheese, I don't need you. And if I do eat it, I'll take a string cheese in my lunch. It's made from skim milk, it's fun to peel it and gives you something to do to trick your mind into thinking you are eating a lot.

Rule three: Sugar is bad. Bad, bad, bad. I avoid refined sugars, like the kind found in donuts and cookies and pie, and, and, and, yeah all that good stuff. Natural sugars can be bad too and are found in really good things. But come on, you just can't avoid ALL of it. I tried. I truly did. But dammit if I don't get at least one glass of milk a day people will die! 

Rule four: Carbs are evil. Plain old evil. Like straight out of the devil's ass bad. They suck. But they taste so freaking good. Keep them to a minimum. That's all I can say because I just can't NOT eat carbs. I eat pita with hummus almost daily. I use sandwich thins for my veggie burgers. I try not to eat toast. Try. I love me some carbs. But I don't sit down and demolish a whole loaf of french bread with butter the way I used to. So, see progress?

I could go on and on and on. I'm kind of obsessive about what I do and don't eat. I've loosened up a little lately, but that doesn't mean Jennifer can. Oh no, she better put that candy bar down. I'm watching you Jen!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Culture of Foster Care Shared Through Art

Explore and Share the Culture of Foster Care through the Community Art Project by the Foster Care Alumni of America

People in and from the foster care system are sharing their observations, insights and lessons on postcards. Amazing and powerful, check it out here:

Monday, January 24, 2011

The further adventures of Missy and Sherri

Friday my friends Missy and Ally decided to come to our house for a spur of the moment slumber party. Missy packed up the twins and headed out. Friday traffic on the 91 is a beast, but she got there. Ally had to finish work so she started out a couple hours later. She called to tell Missy where she was and as she was talking to her the car died. In rush hour traffic, no one would let her over of course, this being California and all, the land of selfish and idiotic drivers. Finally she was able to move it over. I grabbed my keys and took off to meet her (Missy stayed with the kids and put in a call to AAA, while Sara made us all dinner).

So eventually I get to where the tow truck had towed her off the side of the road in the McDonald's parking lot. I filled it up with water and we limped it almost to my house and it died again. So we parked it and headed home. We decided to just put it out of our minds and continue our fun-filled slumber party. We ate, we talked, we played games. I made the most awesome Gluten-free peanut butter cookies EVER. No kidding, those things were actually good. We just enjoyed each other. Saturday came around and we just couldn't part. So the over-nighter became a weekend getaway for a family who really just needed to be around people who cared about them.

Because they hadn't planned on staying an extra day Missy didn't have enough medication so we decided to head over to the OC and pick them up while the girls headed to the park with the kids, planning to meet up for pizza in an hour and a half. Yeah, SURE.....

Well first there was of course a big ole traffic jam, this being California and all, the land of selfish and idiotic drivers, oh wait I think we covered that part. So anyway after about 2 or more hours in THAT we made it past the jam and cruised on, chatting the whole time. Eventually Missy looked up and realized she didn't recognize where we were. "Are you on the 405?", she asked. Um, no was I supposed to be? Ooops. Ended up in Costa Mesa. No problem I lived in Newport Beach so I knew right where we were, flipped around and headed back up the 55 to the 405. We finally made it to their pad, gathered up our supplies and took off for the IE.

Fast forward to about 35 minutes later when I notice nothing looks familiar. Yep, you guessed it, I missed the freeway interchange again. This time we really had NO idea where I took us. So we just kept going while Missy frantically tapped on her iPhone hoping Google maps could locate us. "Get off the next exit and turn around or we are going to end up in San Diego", she declared. Ooops, guess the 5 South isn't where I was supposed to be. But I did get to see me some Aliso Viejo. In the dark. For one exit. Then we headed back frantically searching to see if between the two of us we had enough cash to take the toll road and cut across the mountain. We did. So crisis averted. We did eventually make it back home. 4 or 5 hours later. But we just laughed about it and enjoyed the time we spent together getting to know each other. I gotta say I've always thought my friend Jocelyn lived an interesting life full of adventure, but Missy is running a close 2nd. She's really lived. I don't really envy that, I'm not a wanderer. I'm too small-town. But I respect her tremendously. Like my sister Audrey, I live vicariously through their world travels and life-experiences. 

So Sunday rolls around, we all had good intentions of getting up and going to church, but Ally isn't feeling good, the kids are tired. Well, we kind of all are. Me and Missy go grocery shopping and pick up breakfast for the gang. We all chill and watch TV with the kids and visit. Then me and Miss head out to take care of the car situation. Once that is done we pull up to the house and Ally is rollerskating in the driveway, the sidewalk are all sporting sidewalk chalk artwork that Sara and the kids worked on. Looks like they all had fun.

Ally asks me to take her for a ride on my motorcycle. So of course I oblige. Anyone surprised that I kinda got lost? But no harm, no foul an hour or so later we pull back in. The kids are in a huge cardboard box in the garage they made into their very own house. And everyone is chill and happy. Time for lunch, some Scooby Doo, then movies for the kids and football for Sherri. Everyone kinda heads off around the house to do their own thing, laptops and iPhones come out and we just BE. Eventually, it's time to pack up and say goodbye to our friends, who for the weekend became a part of our family. And Le Chateau Paxton becomes very quiet. Too quiet. We missed our friends and the life we had created though the weekend. So Missy, Ally and kids. Please come back and do that again sometime. And this time I think someone else should drive.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I can see clearly now. Sorta.

Ever have one of those moments of complete clarity? You know the kind where your vision is so crystal clear and suddenly everything makes sense? Yeah, this isn't one of those moments.

Instead it's like I've been in a fog for the last couple years. Unable to find my way out, a little lost. I've just kind of coasted along with no purpose or direction. After a combination of bad luck and bad decisions I found myself having to start over and the task just seemed too hard, too impossible. Personal crisis after personal crisis just kept piling up on me until I thought I couldn't possibly take one more thing. I was like Eeyore, morose and pitiful. Always seeing things from the why me? side. I thought I wanted to be more Tigger-like. Bouncy and exuberant, but now I know what I truly want to be is Piglet. Yes, brave little Piglet.

"It is hard to be brave," said Piglet, sniffing slightly, "when you're only a very small animal." Yet Piglet -- with his keen eye for every pitfall -- is asked to be brave again and again. When it comes to problems or facing any Major Danger, one can always count on Piglet. Which brings us to the wisdom of the Taoist masters as revealed in the The Te of Piglet: The Virtue of the Small
I was diagnosed this year with a mental health disorder (or two but who's counting?). I've spent my whole life scared of that day. Scared that I would become my mom. My schizophrenic, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. I was scared to lose my mental capacity, which in my mind equaled my intelligence, something I've always been so proud of. I took it kind of hard, but at the same time I was relieved. I finally had an answer to what was wrong with me and Thank God it wasn't schizophrenia, my worst fear. I've spent this year dealing with my illness with a combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy. I'm a big fan of both. I think we have a handle on this, the fog may not have cleared totally but you know when you are driving in it and it starts getting thinner and thinner until you can see the road ahead, with just little wisps here and there obscuring your view? That's where I am now.

So now, I've decided that I'm tired of just getting swept along by bad luck, bad decisions, bad friends. I'm standing back up on my own two feet and taking my life back. This is MY year. I may decide to share, if you think you are up to it.

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast? said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.

This is how I am going to live my life this year. As if everyday is going to bring something exciting. As if a great discovery is just around the next bend. I am Piglet. Hear me squeek!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Where are you?

Where are you right now? Are you appreciating the fact that you are there? Or, like me do you usually have your face buried in facebook, or wikipedia or some other entertainment on your "smart phone"?

I'm resolving to take more time to look around once in a while and truly experience the places I am. To see the different people around me and enjoy the diversity of the cultures I am surrounded with in Southern California.

I want to be a part of this world, not just walk aimlessly through it with my head down, oblivious to the fact that life is being lived right now, in front of me in the interaction between a mother and her daughter. In the old couple across the room, who are so comfortable with each other that as he rises and reaches out his hand to her, she reaches out with hers without looking, knowing his will be there to meet hers. The couple having the spat in the corner, her with arms crossed over her chest in defiance as he glares angrily at her and the man, standing of by himself alone, dressed in a business suit, with his eyes glued to the screen of his Blackberry, not noticing where he IS.

The sounds of cars, the smell of cut grass that always reminds me of my grandpa, the feel of the wind gently caressing your cheek as it passes by. Do you really want to miss that? I don't. So where ARE you right now?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where's Superwoman?

So yesterday I'm getting ready for church and I put on my Superman underwear and I'm dancing around striking Superman poses. Hands on hips, feet planted firmly, looking off into the distance. My wife is watching me and laughing. She's all "what else does he do besides stand there?" So I proceed to show off my Up, Up and Away skills. She had the nerve to say to me "Superman is lame. He doesn't have real powers" WHAT?? Superman is NOT lame. "Well what can he do?", she asks. Um HELLO, he's faster than a speeding bullet and he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. "What else?" He melts things with his EYES! Like bzzzzzzztttt. Yes I was making the sound effects. She looked unimpressed.

"What about Superwoman?" There is no Superwoman. "Why not?" because there is Supergirl. And Wonder Woman. "Oh yeah, Wonder Woman. What's her deal?" She's like an Amazon princess from a hidden island and she came to America to help us do something. Uh, in the government. "What does she do?", she asks, clearly amused at my geekiness and righteous indignation. She had bracelets, that bounce bullets, I tell her as I proceed to demonstrate reflecting said bullets off my wrists. Oh! and the lasso of truth! Ok, by now she is really laughing. "Oh and the invisible plane, right?" I kinda flinch, 'cuz yah, that's kinda silly in the TV show how the plane is all invisible but she's sitting there flying along. Yah I say, there is that. "Ok, go get ready for church my cute little geek", she says and I go up, up and away to finish getting ready.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pink? Really?

This picture makes me sad. At first when I look at it I think "Awe, look how stinking cute I was. Wow I woulda made cute babies."  But then the more I looked at it, and looked at it and looked at it, I started to get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I kept returning to it. I recognize my great grandparent Jenkins' backyard off the Avenue in Ventura. I have good memories of that place. I remember the avocado tree and the sound the avocados would make as they fell off the tree, hitting and rolling from the roof. My Grandpa Jenkins would tell me to go get it and I would scurry off to find my prize. Then Grandpa would cut it in half, put salt and pepper on it, sit me down at the kitchen table and hand me a spoon. "Eat it up", he'd say. And we would share that avocado together. It was our thing.

So it's not the location in the picture that bothers me, it's not the fact that my little top doesn't cover much of anything so why even bother? It's not the pudgy fat rolls or the fact that I was wearing pink. PINK!! or that I never knew I was a blond. No, what I think made me so uncomfortable looking at this picture is that happy little face and those bright, sparkly fun-filled eyes. You see, I don't have many pictures of me as a kid, and very few from my earliest years, but what I do know is that if you look back at all my pictures, my eyes were never that alive, never that happy, never that carefree and definitely never so innocent again.

When a lie isn't really a lie

I had a group meeting today with parents who have or are in the process of adopting children from the foster care system.

The theme of the day was lying and what to do about it. As I listened to these parents talk about the frustration of dealing with children who lie so often I came to realize that none of them seemed to fully understand why these children lie so much. "to push your buttons, test their boundaries, push you away" these were all reasoning's by the parents. And not for the first time I looked around at them all and thought, "you just don't get it. None of you know what it feels like to be this kid" But I do. I was that kid.

When an abused child lies it's not a conscious decision, an act of defiance as an adoptive parent may believe. When a damaged child lies, it's instinctual, automatic, a way of protecting themselves. Because in the truth often lies the punishment: a child will lie to ward off retribution.

You can't expect a child who has been hurt in the past to come into an adoptive home and lose all instincts. And lying is an instinct. When an adult tells a lie it's a calculated decision - because we have learned that lying is wrong and therefore has consequences. A child doesn't have the mental capacity to reason that through and so an instinctual response is to lie. To protect themselves the only way they know how; by avoiding punishment. In a hurt child's mind they think "if they get mad I get hurt, if I admit I did something wrong they will hurt me" so the lies come out.

What adoptive parents often don't understand is that an automatic split second lie isn't a mark of a good liar. It's the mark of pure instinct. Deception takes thought, reasoning, time. If you ask your child, "did you do this?" and you get a split second lie, "no". That's not a child trying to be deceitful or "pushing your boundaries". That's survival instinct. And it can be something so basic as "did you brush your teeth?" Instantly they may say yes. But it's so fast as to be just an automatic response. More often than not they may be as surprised they lied as you are. So if you ask them "why did you lie?" and the answer is "I don't know". That's not just a way to make you angrier or to be obstinate. They really may just not know.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gosh I'm proud of my underwear

So apparently facebook  allows websites to show users who "like" their business page. I already knew this because I have that function on my own website for Sherri Paxton Photography. I didn't really give it much thought until my cousin texted me saying the Cool Running website had my facebook picture on the front page. And that she was "LMAO". Huh? That's weird, I told her, but why is she cracking up? Then it dawned on me. And I thought "OH HELL NO!" so I texted her back "Is it my profile pic with my underwear?" I'm guessing she was still laughing her ass off when she replied back "yes". Crap! I immediately logged on fb and changed my profile pic with a quickness. But I wonder how many people got to see me holding up my new boi shorts so proudly. And I was mortified.

It's one thing for my friends and family to see me make a fool of myself. As a matter of fact I think they kind of expect it of me. But for the rest of the world and random strangers to witness it? No, that's just embarassing. But then I started thinking, well I am proud to be totally transparent and honest. I mean that's kinda why I have this blog, right? So yah, I wear boy's Spiderman undies and I am proud of it. Plus they are totally cool, 'cuz HELLO, Marvel Comics!

I did mention I'm a big dork, right?

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds

Last week my brother-in-law was nice enough to take my garbage cans out to the curb in the rain for me. I noticed he parked one in front of the mailbox. I figured the mailman would be a little pissed. Oh well.

The next day, sure enough, I get home and there is a notice in my mail box saying he wouldn't deliver the mail because the garbage can was blocking it. Ok, whatever, I figured I would get it the next day, after all, who's that excited to get bills?

The next day rolls around and I come home to find no mail. Apparently we didn't get any the day before. I just started laughing on the spot. So the mail man got out of his little car to put a note in my mailbox telling me he wouldn't put mail in my mail box and we didn't have any mail to begin with! Guess he showed me!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's my obsession

I have a seriously obsessive personality. When I find something that interests me I don't just casually go about it. Oh no. I delve completely into it. I immerse myself in the knowledge of it, I research, I read everything I can get my hands on. For instance, most of my friends will remember my Marvin the Martian phase. It lasted a very long time. I have the tattoo to prove it. Then there was the Sheryl Crow phase, obsessing about people can in fact be dangerous. There are stalking laws for a reason, people. The VW phase where I went as far as buying a VW bus that broke down days later and I paid storage fees for 2 years before finally giving it away.

Don't mention the Jeep fiasco to my wife. The guitar phase (never did learn to play), the entrepreneur phase (found out I'm really bad at sales), the classic motorcycle phase (I can tell you about every model of Honda built between 1965 and 1975), the woodworking phase, the body repair phase (I pulled all the trim off my beat up Chevy truck, then decided it was too hot to work outside), the marketing phase, which actually led me to a career and my current job as a Marketing Director, the photography phase, still in that one and started Sherri Paxton Photography. Some work out, some fizzle out quickly and I'm on to the next thing. I blame my ADD.

So really, when I decided a year ago that I was going to lose weight and get in shape, it's no surprise that my wife was a little skeptical about how long it was going to last. I was fat. I'd been fat most of my life. I've tried every diet ever made. I'd made the same resolution year after year. This would be my year to lose weight! And every year the lure of donuts and chicken fried steak would bring me back to unhealthy eating habits and more and more weight gain. Then it was excuses. I have degenerative joint disease (which is a fancy term for arthritis). It started in my 20's. So obviously I can't exercise, it hurts. My knees are bad, I can barely walk up a flight of stairs, how can I possibly exercise? My back is full of arthritis. I'm too fat to do anything.

But finally at 40 I decided enough is enough. I got really sick, not sure what is was. Some stomach flu? A bizarre parasite I picked up from eating too many donuts? Who knows. What I do know is that I could barely keep toast down for almost 3 weeks. When it was finally over I had lost 18 pounds and realized, hey I can eat a lot less and survive. And lose weight.  So I decided right then and there to stop making excuses. I started changing the way I ate. I became obsessive about what I put in my mouth - maybe a little too obsessive. I did mention I have that problem right? I started losing weight. And guess what? After the first 20 pounds, my knees stopped hurting so much. So I started walking every day. And I kept losing. I kept researching. I learned what works for my body, what doesn't and I kept losing more and more. I didn't do it the right way, if I knew then what I know now I would have started building muscle sooner. I didn't know that if you lose too quickly, it's a bad thing.

Eventually I worked my way up to lifting weights and walking on the treadmill. I lost 78 pounds in 9 months. I've got about 50 more to go. To most people 78 seems like a lot. But I still feel like I'm 100 lbs overweight. I look in the mirror and I still see a fat person. Granted, I AM still a fat person, but I don't see the weight I've lost. I see the weight I still need to lose.

I had a secret goal when I started. I only told two people. I didn't want to disappoint everyone if I couldn't do it. I wanted to compete in the Warrior Dash with my sisters and brother-in-law. Eventually I mentioned it to them. They were so encouraging but in the back of my head I just didn't think I could do it. Again, I didn't want to disappoint them if I failed. Guess what they gave me for Christmas? They registered me in the Warrior Dash. OH. MY. GAWD.

So now, here I am at the beginning of the new year, I have three months to get ready to do something I probably couldn't even have done in high school. At first I panicked. I texted my cousin, "I can't do this, I'm not ready!" She said to me, "You have more determination than anyone I know". I asked her, "who are we talking about?". It couldn't be me. She said, "It's the 'new you' ".

The new me. Hmmmm. The NEW me. Yeah, maybe I CAN do this. So it's become my new obsession. I started a program called Couch 2 5k that will supposedly help me to be able to run a 5k without stopping or walking in 90 days. That seems so far away from where I am now. But then I think, well you didn't know anything about lifestyle photography a year ago either and now people pay you to take their pictures. So maybe, like my therapist reassures me, sometimes an obsessive personality isn't a bad thing.