About Joy

I am a writer, photog, mother of 3, wife to the love of my life and a seeker of Christ. I talk about this journey as a recovering narcissistic, self loathing, hypocrite. The goal is to start a conversation through either words or moments captured through the lens. Most importantly, it has to be authentic. Otherwise, what's the point?

Little Brown Girl In The Sun

I’ve never spoken about this.
I started to…many times.
The pain of the “what-if’s” was paralyzing, preventing my fingers from typing the words.

Every year when I see the social media posts with the red X’s I think,
“This is the year to talk about this. It’s time. Just sit down and write!”
And once again the fear of the potential tragedy and grief overwhelm me, leaving me unable to form the words.

A few days ago, the hashtag #savethechildren popped up in my feed. As I scrolled through the posts, there I was, back in the same headspace I’ve been for the last 4 years.

“Tell the story.
Her story.
Harper Rain…and Tuda…
That awful day…
Can I even remember the details correctly?
It’s too hard.
I can’t.
. . . . .
Someone needs this.
Someone needs to know they’re not alone.
Shine a light in the darkness.
Bring awareness.
Grieve openly with those who are personally affected.
Share the story.”

It took a few days, but here I am, fingertips to keys, words on paper.
Breaking my years-long silence with this story of how a beautiful, playful, unremarkable day could have ended in life-altering tragedy.

I was taking pictures of Harper as I’ve done since the day she was born.
My sister drove up, we had a wonderful day shooting.

JCP 2016-3740

She planned to stop at a large retail store on her way out of town, for a quick shopping trip.

The crowds were thicker than usual causing my sister to hold on to Harper a little tighter. As they were headed towards the exit, a well-dressed man moving swiftly through the crowd, grabbed Harper’s arm, pulling her from my sister’s grasp. Within seconds, Tuda was watching the stranger carry Harper towards the elevators leading to the parking deck.

She began screaming and running towards the man as Harper looked back at her, over the shoulder of the stranger.

Just before advancing through the open doors of the elevator, the man tripped, dropping Harper to the ground. An onlooker swept her up as the perpetrator slid through the now closing doors of the elevator. He was gone.

All of this happened in less than 60 seconds.

Out of breath, my sister approached the good Samaritan now holding her daughter, he quickly placed Harper in her mama’s arms.

Relief, adrenaline, horror, outrage, unconditional love, all swirled together in her mind and heart. “Thank you, God!”

The police arrived quickly to take statements and file a report.

The officer informed Tuda of a ring of human traffickers working the area in Atlanta. He had no doubt the man was headed for the elevator leading down to a running vehicle waiting to make a quick exit from the garage and onto the freeway.
“If he had made it to the car with her, the chances of you ever seeing your daughter again would have been slim to none,” he told her.

By this time the onlookers had mostly dispersed. The man who stuck his foot out tripping the predator, and scooping up our Harper, was nowhere to be found.

My sister, too shaken up to drive the 2-1/2 hours home, booked a hotel room. I arrived shortly after her call, alerting me to what had just taken place.

We watched Harper run around the room, playing in beams of light from the setting sun shining through the window…oblivious to the life-altering danger she was in a short time ago.


Jul 2, 2016 - 1 of 1 (3)My sister and I said very little.

We sat in gratitude, with tears running down our cheeks and the sun’s warmth on our faces.

“Do you believe in angels?” You ask.
“Why, yes…without a doubt, I believe in angels.”

Below is a poem I wrote after leaving the hotel room that night while thanking God for sparing us from the living hell of what could have been.

“Little brown girl in the sun,
Little girl of only one,
Reaching higher for the light,
Don’t you know you burn so bright
Dancing in their golden hue
Don’t you know it’s all for you
Beams of love, protection, & grace
Swirl around and kiss your face
The Angels knew you at first sight
Precious one, adorned in light.”

– Joy Cannis
July 2, 2016
For Harper Rain

Ntl Human Trafficking Hotline

For more information on human trafficking visit one or all of these organizations.

A21

Free The Slaves 

Do Something

Hope For Justice

When You Wanna Quit…Everything

Ever have a day where you wanted to run away with only the clothes on your back?

It just feels like too much.
Too much noise.
Too much stuff.
Too much maintenance.
Too much drama.
Too much responsibility.
It’s tooooooooo dang much!
(Notice no one ever says, “Too much money.”)

Mystery Leak

I said to a plumber the other day, who came to fix the mystery leak in our ceiling, (refer to picture), as he was breaking down the cost to explore the issue, “It suuuuuuuucks being an adult today.”

He looked at me and 1/2 chuckled as to say, “I have no idea how to respond? We just met and I think you might be crazy.”

He looked back at Chris who was now looking at me grinning, as I continued,
“No, for real. Do you feel it? The suckage of adulthood right now, in this moment, cause I sure do!”

The Green Bucket

I then made my dramatic exit, walked up the stairs and pretended there wasn’t a large green bucket in the foyer catching dripping water and the occasional piece of soaked sheetrock falling from the ceiling.

I’m ignoring the fact that the water is off in the house so I cannot wash my hands and I’m a tad OCD about germ control. And HELLO we all know the best way to prevent illness is through proper handwashing!

Anywho… by this point, I’m sitting on the fluffy bathroom floor mat. Feet against one wall, back against the other. The fan is on (sound control people) and the door is locked (no interruptions). Eyes closed. (I distract easily)

Have you ever looked around and blamed your circumstances?
Your husband? Your children? That extra pudge around my middle from the holiday indulgences?

I get it!
I’m right there with you!

And when I’m in these moments (that, I’m not gonna lie, sometimes stretch into days), I want to remember what I’ve experienced to be true every day of my life… (it’s important when you’re freaking out to speak truth to your destructive thoughts)

  • Feelings are temporary. Making permanent decisions based on temporary emotions always produces a negative outcome.
  • Mama’s need a lot more grace than we give ourselves.
  • Sometimes all the demands we feel the world placing on us are coming more from us than anyone/where else. (Ouch, right? The truth hurts)
  • Don’t underestimate the power of saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Especially with children. They are so much more forgiving than we give them credit for.
  • Maybe you just need to reconnect with your partner. (wink, wink)
  • It’s okay to stop mid-sentence and admit to being overly dramatic. It has been my experience that my husband never makes me feel bad about pausing to laugh at the energy I’m bringing to any given situation.

When I calm down enough to admit that I’m being ridiculous, I’m able to think through what running away would actually look like… my coffee habit alone is enough to deter me.

So whadda ya say?
This year, today, right now, can we I practice gratitude?
Better yet, am I willing to be grateful even when the ceiling’s falling in (literally)?

Good news on the mystery leak that stumped a Plumber, a Roofer, and a General Contractor.
After being manly and cutting away a bigger part of the ceiling, Chris found the source of the problem. (Isn’t that just like him?!)
View the video to see what happened.

As you may have expected, his hotness skyrocketed after defusing my bomb of emotions and worry and a leaky copper pipe in the ceiling that professionals couldn’t figure out. Turns out, Chris is consistently defusing potential explosions of all sorts every day.

The next time I wanna run away, I’ll come here instead. I have a whole new appreciation for my husband. Thanks, Y’all!

It feels good to be back. I’ve missed this space.
Here’s to more time writing in 2019!

What Defines You?


You have the ugliest feet I’ve ever seen!” he slurred.

I remember where we were
The dirt stain from one end to the other of his well-worn white t-shirt
The way his breath stank of cheap booze from 4 ft. away
His skinny arm around the beautiful girl he was with
The grin that spread across his face, exposing the toothpick pinned between his upper and lower teeth
I cannot, however, remember his name.

We all kind of laughed quietly and awkwardly.
For the next 3 years, anytime I was in public, I wore closed-toe shoes.
He had confirmed what I suspected all along. My ugly.

A guy.
I’d only just met.
When I was 18 years old.
At a concert.
Who I haven’t seen since.

That’s messed up.
But so very normal for a girl like me with a mind and emotions like mine.
I wish someone had told me that.

It’s regretful to think of all the time I’ve wasted replaying scenarios of happenings decades ago and because I was not already defined in my own mind and heart, I grabbed hold of them and said, “You will define me.”

Fast forward 20 somethin’ years later…When it was time to unshackle myself from these definitions.
It has been an incredibly painful process…the tearing away of that which was never meant to be part of me at all, but by doing so has, by fire, refined me.
Not without tears and wounds, and, at times, gnashing of teeth.
Not without a notable amount of doubt.
But nonetheless, improved.

Why must we strive so hard to hold on to that which keeps us paralyzed?
It is only when seeing the space once bloodied and torn, peeled away for the first time, I can appreciate the beauty of the scar that remains.

I do not find it coincidental that the season of life when I’m learning the most is in my 40’s… when I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my own skin…but something is always breaking down, requiring repair.
We’re not talkin’ about a few split-ends or a smudged manicure, we’re talking degenerative disc disease and bone spurs, torn ligaments requiring an air-cast one would wear when walking on the moon. (okay, I made that last part up about the moon, but still…) I ended up flat on my back for 3 days after pulling a muscle while bending over to pick up a receipt.

Simultaneously, as this body is going into “just out of warranty” mode, my spirit has never been so free.
Is that strange? Or is it as each decade has been?
Looking back makes more sense than I ever thought it could.

I actually don’t think I would have wanted to be 40 in my 20’s. While I could have prevented some astronomical errors in judgment, I also wouldn’t have experienced the pain that led me here, to this moment of spiritual freedom. Of that, I am certain.

Shame is a powerful thing, friend.
It has weighted down my spirit for many years making me more accessible to the chains of the lies that bind and deplete.
It’s easy for me to look back now and think, “Why didn’t I do this SO much sooner?!
As I feel a quiet voice in my spirit speak, “Because the lesson wouldn’t have been the same.”

Everything is timing Y’all.
Or as it’s said, “Timing Is Everything.”

If you’re reading this and you’re in…
… your 20‘s, you’ll just have to trust me. You’ve been skimming this anyway so maybe set a digital reminder to come back and read it in a few years.
… your 30‘s, you’re nodding your head a bit realizing that more is being revealed. Even now, in the midst of uncertainty. You may have grinned and laughed a little at the thought of being bedridden from bending over. Careful. I probably laughed too.
… your 40‘s, you may have read half way down and already related to my beginning… Even said an “Mmm-Hmm.” “Yeah, Girl!” “Me too!” “I feel you!” Or maybe you’re thanking God for those of us who were good enough examples of what rebellion looked like to keep you on the straight and narrow.
… your 50‘s+, my guess is that you’re thinking, “Darling, just wait!”
And I’ll be honest, I’m going to take that as something to be both excited and terrified by.

My Brand of Crazy

“I want to be a mouthpiece for hope not a megaphone for fear.”
– Joy Cannis Original

Now more than ever, we need someone to lift our face from the ground, back to what’s in front of us and up to the heavens, reminding us who we are and that there is greater purpose just beyond our edges of self-preservation. Recognizing and utilizing that which has been inside us all along. (Yet what we’ve been looking for everywhere but where it is.)

Stop waiting for hope to find you and be the hope right where you are. I am learning that the only way to become unstuck is to put one foot in front of the other until I’ve repositioned myself to excel and grow.

The last 18 months have been some of the most difficult in my journey.
My children have struggled beyond my ability to step in and rescue.
I weened off of a two-year opioid prescription.
I ran back into the arms of my eating disorder.
I cried on my doctor’s exam table.
I shared my testimony with thousands of women.
I entered into a season of intensive outpatient therapy.
I broke apart…shattered…into tiny pieces that I wasn’t sure could ever be repaired
until the Master Creator picked them up, one by one, sanctified each jagged edge and put me back together in a new way than I’ve ever been before.
And the Holy Spirit is present with me in a way I never thought possible.

Have you heard the saying, “Feelings are constantly changing so don’t rush to act on a certain/current feeling”? I have experienced a multitude of feelings in this season. I would go from sheer elation to utter hopelessness within the course of 24 hours. Sometimes more than once. Most days I felt like I was on the brink of insanity. I’m so grateful I didn’t act on any one particular feeling.

I think back to a time, 22 years ago, when the head of psychiatry at the treatment center where I had taken up temporary residency wrote, “This girl is narcissistic and beyond human aid!” on my treatment plan. I cut out of rehab 1 day shy of the required 30 and was therefore considered to have left “against doctor’s orders” and didn’t receive any of the personal items I had come in with. Nope. Just the clothes on my back. That was my m.o. You say I’m ________________ and I’ll prove it.

I stayed mad at that shrink for a long time. I replayed his words while picturing the scribbled notes in blue ink. I used it as an excuse to stay drunk.

Now, today, in this moment, I can tell you that doctor was right. His definition of me was spot on. I wasbeyond human aid.” Which allows no room for doubt…

Only God.
Only God could heal what was fractured.
Only God could restore me to sanity.
Only God could allow me to be broken, once again in such a way that He alone could pick up each piece, breathe life back into it, and put me back together.

Although I have had a tribe of badass physicians, friends, prayer warriors and family surround me with their incredible courage, love, and support, God changed this girl’s heart. From the inside out. He gets all the credit.

I don’t know what “feeling” you’re sitting in today?
For what it’s worth, I’m living proof that yesterday’s feeling turns into today’s relief.
Whatever it is,
However hopeless or wonderful it “feels”,
It’s going to change.
So if it’s incredible, enjoy every moment
and if it’s seemingly unbearable,
Hold on.
Hold on.
Relief is coming.
Maybe not the way you are expecting or what you’re used to, but it’s there and it will be yours.

Stepping Back Into The Ring

IMG_1408_ppQuite some time has passed since we met here, in this space.
Enough time to have my hair bleached blonde, travel thousands of miles and remove any doubt that writing is part of who I am. I need it for my sanity as my lungs need air to breathe.

I have been writing.
Sporadically.
Going longer periods between has caused inner turmoil for which there is no other cure than meeting you here, more frequently, and being my fully authentic self.

Something happened last Spring. Something that would change the trajectory of my future.
I decided it was time to wean off some prescribed medication that I had been taking every day for 2 years for degenerative disc disease & chronic pain in L4, L5 & S1 of my spine.

Each one of our children was going through battles of their own which many times presented as a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

I fell back into my eating disorder. Hard.
I was all in.

We were being pressed from every side… and I wasn’t handling it well.

We will dive into the most difficult year in the life of our family, through stories from the depths of my memory. Which means there is mentionable room for error. I thought I was being authentic before, but Darlins’ as the song says, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

I should probably let you know that some subjects call for a 4-letter word (or two). I don’t mean to offend. I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. “Progress not perfection“, is my mantra.

This is a safe space to be vulnerable. I want to lead by example and to pretend I don’t say the “s” word, even when writing is lying, and we don’t want to build our relationship on a lie.

So here’s the deal…I won’t preach religion. I don’t think that’s what Jesus did, so I won’t.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on everything, although I do consider myself a master of my personal adventures. I believe I am a spiritual being having an earthly experience, not the other way around. (I’m 99.99% sure Oprah said that on Super Soul Sunday. I’m borrowing it now.)

What I will do is keep it real.

I will speak truth…my truth to the best of my ability and I will pray for each of you, every day, on this journey.

If you aren’t sure about God…believe that there is no God…are a bible beater…a seeker…a Jesus freak…a veteran Christian or anything in between, my hope is that something here will resonate in your gut and move you to positive action.

Thank you for taking the time out of this incredibly busy life to listen to my compilation of thoughts. I hope that you will visit often, leave encouraged and know that no matter what, you are not alone.

Remember this truth, God does not change and He is never surprised by anything. He created you with great purpose and there’s nothing you or anyone else can ever do to ruin that.

Love & Gratitude,
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#ProdigalDaughter #Ransomed #Redeemed #Restored #Renewed #Refined #POTSC

I Have An Eating Disorder…What Should I Do?

I have the privilege of sharing my story with women from all walks of life. To watch someone’s eyes change as they hear and embrace hope… well… there’s nothing else like it.
So when Emily invited me to be a part of her series, “Questions Everyone Is Asking But No One Wants To Answer” I gladly accepted. Em is the Founder of BecomingMe.tv and is making it her life’s mission to help women find their voice through the power of sharing their story. And friends, this is only the beginning.
My prayer is that something in this video will resonate with you and move you to positive action. May ours eyes be opened to the truth of what we are… a masterpiece in the making. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please get help. It is serious and in many cases, a matter of life and death. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

Related Posts;
3 things the Girl in your life needs to know
What Matters Now?
I’m a hypocrite
It’s time to step off the Scale
Ransomed
Wrestling demons
One Word: Enough
Anyone…anyone 
Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides
Just like that, a Mother is born

(Guest Post) 3 Lessons I Learned from a Catheter

This post is my father, John Riley‘s, words. If you’ve heard him speak you will be able to hear him within these writings. I hope he will continue talking about the lessons he’s learning through his personal journey into grief that began in the Fall of 2015 after the sudden death of his brother, Buddy. As long as he keeps telling stories, I’ll keep typing. 

Our hope is that these raw renderings will provide some much-needed relief and hope to those who are new to pain and loss. The ones among us who suffer silently while wishing for the person who understands to share their experience so they can say, “Really? Me too!”

I would encourage you to listen to the newly added audio with dad reading the post. Hearing a story read by its author gives it the ability to come alive. It will also give you a glimpse into why he is such a gifted communicator.

CatheterWhen someone in a white lab coat with the letters M.D. on the end of their name that’s stitched on the pocket, starts talking about you and a catheter in the same sentence, it’s sobering.

Once you get to thinkin’ about the reality of the proposed solution for what you hope is a temporary problem, it can really getcha down.

So… you have conversations… with said catheter and you get real honest.
It may sound something like this, “You and I are not going to be friends but, we’ll put up with each other as long as we have to and then we’re through!”

For me, it was only a month.
For many, it can be the rest of their lives.

Now y’all, that’s serious.

I don’t mean this to be too light hearted. It’s just that, trying to learn from it was better than cryin’ and cussin’ and carryin’ on… I suppose.

So, here are three things I learned from my catheter.
Excuse me, THE catheter.
I never wanted to own the thing.

1.- Pain can have benefits… if you let it.

Well, shoot! It’s hard to say what the benefits are because I can’t really think of many, but mainly you appreciate times of no pain.

After two weeks when I was told by my doctor (who is absolutely fantastic), “Sorry, we have to wait another week and another test.” I was upset. I had to process it.
It was only then that I could be thankful for this thing, discomfort and all, making it possible for me to heal inside.

So, I was extremely grateful that I was improving and that the greater percentage of my body was pretty healthy.

I also found gratitude for whoever invented the catheter. (That sounds weirder than I thought it would.) But seriously, I got really thankful for all the lives this person saved, including mine. Without this dang catheter, I would have already exploded five times over! Now, that’s enough to make even me grateful.

2.- Compassion has been defined as entering into the sorrows of another person and thereby showing mercy. I think that’s the way it goes?

How could I possibly enter into someone’s sorrow when I had never had the same sorrow?

I have been through the deaths of… well… everybody in my family older than I am, but this was my first time with a catheter. Now I can really feel for someone who has to have this great invention for a day, or for life.

Also, it teaches me that even though I don’t know personally what someone else is going through, I can know that it’s hard… even though I’ve not experienced the same thing. I thought I understood what it meant to be empathetic, but I’m not sure I ever truly have… before this. I hope that I will never again be unconcerned about another person’s problem.

3.- Make adjustments

By this, I don’t just mean which leg to put the bag on… but everything… well almost everything, you’ve done for many years.

Here are just a few that I have learned… fast… ’cause I didn’t have a choice.

Sleeping – don’t move around much. Get accustomed to sleeping on your back and your side. It’s not bad… except for sometimes… when it is.

Shower – unplug, clean, replug, dry… always makes ya feel better.

Dress – got me a whole new set of underwear, relaxed and unrestricted.
I didn’t realize boxers could be so comfortable! Wear ’em all the time now.

I have some that look like shorts, but the other day at my little community bank I go to, my friend the loan officer told me he could tell they were underwear. Oh well…

Loose pants are my friend. Especially sweat pants. But on days when the temperature in Alabama is 85 degrees, it looks kinda weird. So… I just stayed at home a lot.

Walking – was sometimes pretty easy, annnnd sometimes not.
Most of the time it felt like I was walkin’ with my legs spread like I just got off a horse. Nobody seemed to really notice except for one friend who did say to me, “Why are you walkin’ so funny?!”
“It’s a long story!” I thought to myself. I have lots of conversations in my own head these days. Know what I mean?

Exercise – wasn’t on the agenda. Every day made me look forward to the time I could really start back exercising and made me feel a deep concern for those who never can.

So, the catheter has taught me to be open to learning new ways of doing things. As I get real close to being 70 years of age, it makes me realize I want to keep growing.

Considering these three things, I hadn’t really thought of it, but maybe the catheter was my friend? However, I’m not gonna have it framed and hang it on the wall. (Can you imagine?! Yuck!)

What are you going through that people can’t necessarily see, but is making a huge impact in your everyday? Has it taught you a kind of gratitude that you never knew you wanted to learn?