Happy New Year and Stuff!

It's New Year's Eve.

This is the time when we make all of the promises, to ourselves and to others, about how much better we're going to be, because right now we are not good enough.

I mean, that's basically what a New Year's Resolution is, right?

How can I be better than who I am right now.

I was thinking about going into the New Year and how much my life has changed over the last year and the thing is...

I'm good.

I don't have any resolutions. For the first time in a really, really, REALLY long time, my soul feels light. My heart feels open. My mind feels peaceful.

And this is why:

I needed help and I finally asked for it.

I left facebook and turned off all of the noise of one thousand people's opinions about absolutely everything. I quit shoving my opinions about absolutely everything at one thousand people who probably never really cared.

I realized that I care far too much about what other people think and that I should definitely stop doing that. Because the things I worry about constantly are not things that most people care about, anyway. 

I stopped feeling obligated to make sure everyone else was ok and started making sure that I was ok.

I love people. So much.

I got a bunch of plants!

I mean...I just overcame the last hurdle to this peace something like two days ago, so by no means do I have this locked in.  The thing is - I have been anxious and sad and overworked and stressed and trying too hard and traumatized and freaked out and depressed and holding it in for most of my life. Who am I if I'm not that girl?

And as an artist, how do I transition from all of that pain to this...peace? And will anyone care?  How do I keep connected without all of this darkness?

I got scared, you guys. I've been embracing my love of color and make-up and music and laughter and joy and solitude and I had this moment where I one is ever going to take me seriously again.  I'm this weird mash-up of "bring me all of the joy and let me love you  and everything is amazing but also, please stay away from me because I get anxious and depressed and I don't like to be around people."

And then I said "fuck it."  I don't care.  I can't constantly try to keep shifting everything around so that everyone else is comfortable.  I can't hang out with people all of the time and pretend that I totally love social events when in reality I fucking hate them. I can't pretend I don't like rainbows and make -up and mythical creatures and bright red lipstick and crazy hair and cake with sprinkles just because some random person might not take me seriously. I can't not feel what I feel or not be all fucked up and weird because I just am fucked up and weird.

I've been so tired. But now I'm rested. Now I'm here. I think I'm ready to be me. Finally.

I'm excited to enter 2017 exactly like this.

Happy New Year. Whatever it brings you, I hope it includes peace and joy and happiness, a couple of mythical creatures and at least one slice of cake with sprinkles. You deserve it. And if you're a fucked up weirdo, I hope you embrace it. And also, I'd probably like to be your friend. From a distance. Because you're people.

The choices we make to stay healthy

Someone recently got really, REALLY angry with me. As part of their anger they told me how absolutely fucked up I am, how I'm crazy, how I have so many problems with so many people and I am surely seeing a doctor and medicated because of all of my crazy.

This person actually doesn't know me that well.

But they've read my blog.

I worry sometimes about what I write on here. That showing the world my struggles and insecurities and flaws could completely blow up in my face. That it could be used against me and that perhaps the safest course of action is to just post some recipes and talk about dogs and going to the gym.

I'm not really that great at taking the safest course of action. Ships are safe in harbor but that's not what ships are for and all...

And besides, the "me too" is too important. If I pretend that nothing is wrong, then that encourages other people to pretend that nothing is wrong, which encourages shame, which encourages "fear of people finding out what's 'wrong' with me," which depression and anxiety actually feed off of and then nothing is wrong with anyone but everyone is actually miserable.

It's totally unhealthy.

So here's what's 'wrong' with me right now: I am, once again, really uncomfortable around people. I've just been waking up more and more lately and thinking...I can't. A little depression, as well.

I'm ok in small doses. Work is fine. I can still go to the gym. I can function. But things that feel a little more social And I've pinned it down to "not enough." Which I've traced back to social media.

I don't think it's any secret that I want to save everybody, all of the time. And that that sort of thinking has taken me to some really unhealthy places.

The thing about an election season is, it makes you pay more attention to the world. At least that's what it did for me. And the world is hurting. And if you are the type of person who veers towards thinking you can save everybody, all of the time, then more exposure to a hurting world can take you to some really dark places. Some deep sadness. Some hardcore feelings of inadequacy. Of not being enough. It can lead you to ignore the hurting and struggles in your own life, because there is always someone who is suffering more.

Because you have friends who care about refugees, about Aleppo, about Standing Rock, about foster kids, about kittens, about dogs, about the homeless, about the mentally ill, about veterans, about child trafficking, about addiction, about Planned Parenthood, about marching on Washington, about climate change, about the ACLU, about the NAACP, about poverty, about immigration, about hunger and why aren't you doing something about all of that? All of it. And more. Why?

That's what it feels like. Like...LOUD. And that I am not doing enough. And I start to abandon what's needed in my own life because I am so consumed with the struggles of others and it is a spiral is being on the plane and running around frantically trying to save everyone while neglecting to put my own oxygen mask on and in the end, saving no one...not even myself.

So the choice that I'm making now to stay healthy and to do real good is to withdraw from all of that noise. To acknowledge that the world is hurting, but that I cannot save the world. I'm one person and I have limited resources, both financially and mentally. I have chosen something that I feel will be the best use of my resources, and that is what I'm committing to. And in order to keep myself focused, I need to shut out the rest of the noise for a little while.

It doesn't mean I don't care. It doesn't mean I don't love. It's just... I can't do anything if I'm not healthy, and I can't be healthy if I can't focus. We can care about people, but we are not the saviors of the universe. We are not Superman.

So I'm taking a 90 day...thing. I don't know what it is, exactly. A cleanse? A sabbatical? It's kind of like Eat, Pray, Love except I can't actually afford to do that sort of thing so I'm just going to take this journey in my house and in my mind.

A while ago I posted something on facebook about the desire to read real books more and to stop scrolling. And then there was this election and I was the queen of the scrollers. Facebook was my home. And so I've realized that I can't just taper down my time on facebook. It has to be eliminated. At least for a little while (My personal page. The Hey Lola page is still active).

That's the first thing. The next thing, which I've been working on for the last two weeks, is to reduce the amount of stuff I have. Too much stuff is also noise. I'm reducing the noise.

And after that...I don't know. We'll see where the road takes us. But as always, I'm proud to acknowledge what's wrong, to say "this part of my life is kind of fucked up right now and I feel inadequate and sad" and to then take steps to get my brain to a healthier place.  There's nothing wrong with that.

There's nothing wrong with being human. There's nothing wrong with seeking help. There's nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and there's nothing wrong with talking about your struggles. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Marriage. Election. Divorce.

Once upon a time, I married the wrong guy. At the time, I did not know he was the wrong guy. He probably didn't know I was the wrong girl. We got married and we thought it was right.

We got married and we moved to LA and we had a cute little apartment and life was good. For about a month. And then, it quickly became apparent that this wasn't right.

Multiple things happened, and they were all very bad. But each time, we each thought, "we can make this work. We can make him/her understand me." And we would plow ahead...

And then more bad things would happen. Ultimately, we were not the same. We could not make the other see things the way we saw them, because we didn't think or see anything the same. We each carried our own moral compass, and each compass pointed us in vastly different directions. And each of us was quite sure that the other was crazy.

Our marriage died quickly...but also...somehow...painfully slow. I can still vividly recall each dying gasp for air and the last few weeks where I pounded on its chest and tried to breathe life back into it and I was SO SURE that I could fix this.

I can fix this. I'm smart. I'm caring. I work really, really hard. I can fix this.

Holding the shards of our marriage in our hands and ten different kinds of glue and thinking, "I just need the right combination. I just need to hold it together a little longer so that it has time to set. I can fix this. It will be ok."

And our marriage therapist's office...

I looked at her...and I knew. I broke down and sobbed and she asked me what was different what had changed what was I feeling and I said...

"I can't fix this. And I don't know what to do."

I feel that way today. About this country. About this home that I love. About the people I love. About myself. We each carry our own moral compass, and each compass points us in vastly different directions. And each of us is quite sure that the other is crazy and cruel and heartless and selfish.

I can't fix this. And I don't know what to do.

Politics...sort of.


I'm probably a lot calmer and optimistic than a lot of my liberal friends right now.  And several of them are very confused by that. And I get it. But my recent experiences have given me a really unique view into how people think and how, ultimately, while they might care about you, they will not sacrifice their self interests to serve what many of us consider the greater good.  They just won't. And that's a hard lesson to learn, but I believe it's a fact.

And here's why:

A few years ago, I owned a pretty popular bar.  People often commented on how inclusive we were and how they felt safe in the space that we had created. Some of our customers suggested we get involved in the neighborhood, so we created a community association and planted a garden and cleaned up trash and eventually started raising money and turned it into a 501c3.

Life was good.

Shortly after we opened, a couple of other businesses opened in our neighborhood. They said that they supported the work that we were doing. They did not show up to our community association meetings or garden plantings or clean-ups (save for 1 of the businesses, a few times out of the 5 years that we held them), but they verbally supported our work. Once, one of them donated something that they had no use for, that ended up being useful to us. So life was still good.

And then politics.

One of the newer businesses wanted to put new signs up and down our street and they wanted to choose everything about the signs. Some other people, myself included, wanted the signs to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood and include long standing businesses AS WELL AS newer businesses in the decision making process.

It got ugly. And local politicians got involved. And ultimately, the newer business just wore us down until we finally threw up our hands and said, "whatever."  And they put up their signs.

Throughout this process, one of the newer businesses said some really terrible things about me. That I was a thief. That I turned a bunch of local businesses into governing organizations to try and get them shut down. That I was a giant piece of shit. That I gave myself more credit than I deserved because really, I didn't do that much.

It was emotionally devastating. So, of course, I was emotional about it. So then I was just this emotional, hysterical woman who needed to calm down and relax and let things go. People distanced themselves from me because, as it turns out, you're not much fun to be around when people are trying to destroy your life.

Then, another newer neighboring business who we were friends with, jumped on the bandwagon and told most of our mutual customers that I was a piece of shit who had turned them into governing organizations to try and get them shut down. Like the other things that had been said, this was 100% not true. And this one hurt worse than anything else that had happened. I had actually volunteered at this business and tried to help them on the road to success. I literally got on my hands and knees and scrubbed their floors. It was a blatant lie that I had turned them in and they offered no proof, but the rumor persisted and the business owners wouldn't even talk to me about it.

Now - some of my "friends" stuck by me through this. To my knowledge, only a couple of them were willing to defend me publicly, due to not wanting to get involved in the "drama." But as time passed, many of them forgot or just didn't seem to care that two neighboring businesses had engaged in activity designed to put us out of business.

And ultimately, our business suffered. And so did my health. And we closed our business.

This is the edited version of events. In truth, it lasted nearly two years, was devastating on an unimaginable level, led to me nearly killing myself and took a whole lot of hard work to recover from.

So you would expect that your friends would not support businesses that engaged in such terrible behavior. That they would take a stand on your behalf.

But, the thing  If it doesn't affect them negatively and those businesses are the place to be on First Fridays and First Sundays, then that is where they will be. And you will constantly see pictures of them in these places on your facebook timeline. And they will invite you to events at the very businesses who were directly responsible for some of the worst years of your life. And you will drive up and down the same street every day and see those new signs and remember how the people who put them up said that this community didn't matter. And the next day, you will see members of the community who don't matter embracing the very business who said that they don't matter.

No one cares. And there are no repercussions.

This is true. This is how people think. This is how they act. They may care about you, but they will always take care of themselves first. If taking care of themselves first might hurt you, they're still going to take care of themselves first.  If someone does really terrible things to someone that they care about, but overall the person "isn't that bad," then they are probably still going to support that person.

And in this election, that's what 1/2 of America did. They took care of themselves and those closest to them first. They discounted the terrible things because of the good things they saw. And I don't like it, but I now understand that that's how people think. So really...this isn't as shocking to me. I learned my lesson in the hardest way possible.

And there are those who would say, "well, this isn't the same thing. Don't make excuses for people. You weren't in danger. No one was beating you up or spitting in your face or threatening to kill you."

And that's true. That's not what my experience looked like. What my experience looked like was an artist organization bullying me online and calling radio stations to tell them I had no right to be on the air. Paying visits to neighboring businesses and telling them to stay away from me. People calling me a thief and a liar. Losing business so fast that we could barely afford to eat and pay our bills. Multiple doctors appointments to deal with the depression and anxiety and confusion. Missed work days. Weight loss. And finally, sleeping with a scalpel next to my bed every night just in case I finally got the courage to just kill myself.

The thing is, I'm actually better for what happened to me. It taught me to look at life differently. It taught me to stop putting my faith in politicians. It taught me to keep most people at a distance but to hold my tribe close. It taught me that no matter how deep your pain, if people can't empathize with you, they will more than likely believe you are over-reacting. It taught me that people will lie about you and that people will believe it, even without a shred of evidence to back up the lie. We live in an age where people get their facts from memes. Of course the lie is easier to believe.  Who wants to do the work to search beyond the image you're presented with?

I HATE that it happened, but I finally saw how people really are and figured out the person that I want and need to be. It strengthened my belief in personal integrity - that if you stand for something, you stand for it all of the way. So I love people better these days. And I'm a little more in tune with how they think. I'm not naive. I'm very careful with my heart and my hope and... I just see CLEARER.

Look - I wish that people I knew would have stood up for me and boycotted the businesses that hurt me, I really do.  Or tried to talk to them about what was happening or defended me. But I also didn't encourage them to. When they offered, I told them to make their own decisions. I tried to play it strong and neutral. I guess I was playing politics, too. And most of them chose to continue supporting those businesses and not get involved in any way. That's where the crowd goes, that's the routine, that's where their friends are, it's in their best interest to keep going and not make waves. No matter how much they love me and no matter how much it hurts, they're going to take care of themselves first.

That's the nature of people. I'm still friends with a lot of these people. I don't hate them. I don't think they're awful people. I don't think that they actually wanted me to kill myself. They just served their own interests over mine.

I don't like it...but I get it. And I get that that's what happened with most people this election. So I'm trying to practice empathy and understand people who I completely disagree with, rather than demonize them. Without a doubt, some of them are really terrible people. But some of them....they just did exactly what people did to me - they took care of their interests first. And if I can still call those people friends, then I can certainly practice empathy with conservatives. I can hear them out and share stories of the marginalized so that perhaps we can get to a point where we care for the interests of each other as well as ourselves.  I don't know how we get there, but I'm willing to do the work to try.

(photo via Peoria Journal Star)

When you just can't.

We can do hard things, right?

Secrets make us sick.

We don't live in denial.

We own our mistakes.

We seek help when we need it.

We use healthy coping mechanisms.

We talk about it.

We allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

We speak the truth.

We face the truth.

Oh my God.

I don't know what else to say. I don't know what I can say. Everything that I have fought so hard for this past year...everything that I believe to be true...everything that helps me cope...

I just can't. And it's not by choice. Although it is. But it's not like the choice I have is actually a choice at all.

This is all clear as mud, right?

Right now, I'm doing a hard thing. And it's kind of a secret (but secrets make us sick). And I'm limited in seeking help (but seek help when you need it). Writing helps me cope but I can't talk about it (we talk about it and we use healthy coping mechanisms). I can't be honest (we speak the truth we don't live in denial we face the truth).

I can't be fully me. It itches. I want to crawl out of my skin. I want to not be vague but I can only be vague. I'm exhausted. I'm keeping up with all of the necessities but there's not room for much more.

I chose this. I would choose it again. In a heartbeat, I would choose it again.  But I'm tired. And I'm uncomfortable. And if I seem weird and withdrawn and exhausted and not as present, it's because that is all true. And if you're wondering why...I wish I could tell you. But now is not the time.

I'm fighting for something. And the light at the end of the tunnel is so bright and so beautiful and so amazing and wondrous, that I'm going to keep going. The tunnel is dark and scary and dangerous and it smells bad and there's weird things in here that freak me out and if I could skip the tunnel altogether and just get to that light, I would, but that's not how life works. So through the tunnel we go, always keeping our eyes on that beautiful light.

We CAN do hard things, you guys. We just have to keep our eyes on that light. We just have to stay focused. We will reach the end and it will be worth it. Just stay focused.



Migraines. And depression. And broken feet. And anxiety.

Basically, being really sick but not appearing to be really sick and then feeling guilty for feeling sick but not looking sick and then feeling judged even if no one is judging but sometimes people actually are and...ugh.

A few years ago I had surgery to correct my left foot. The surgery required breaking my foot in half, cutting some tendons and then sewing it all back together again. Kind of a big deal for a foot. Shortly after my surgery, I went to the grocery store, put my crutches in the cart and tried to tough it out with a kind of hop-hop-push dance. After 20 minutes, I was exhausted. So the next time I went to the grocery store, I went with a friend and I used the little electric riding cart that they so graciously provide. I thought it was kind of funny, so I laughed a lot. And people stared. Like...HARD stares. As though maybe I didn't deserve to use the electric riding cart. After all, it wasn't really obvious that my foot was broken. And besides, if my foot was broken so badly that I couldn't use it, what was I so happy about? It got so bad that I just started responding to the hard stares with, "my foot is broken. I know you can't tell, but my foot is actually broken. ha. hee. hee." awkward silence. ride away. feel shame. repeat.

This week, I have had 3 migraines. Unlike a broken foot, I cannot show you an x-ray of my migraines. Or a lump where they put in some screws and a plate. You can't touch a lumpy spot on my head to feel where the migraine is. The only way that you might be able to tell that I have a migraine is by me not being where I'm supposed to be because I can't move, or, if I can move and you see me, I'm kind of squinting and swaying and maybe I look really pale.

Or green. I might look green.

My doctors had me keep a food/weather/exercise/everything under the sun diary for about 30 days so we could try to pinpoint the triggers for my migraines. We couldn't really figure it out. I mean, we figured out that I have 3 partial triggers, which means I have 3 things that will trigger a migraine but only if some other factor is in play and nobody is quite sure what those other factors are. So... some mystery factor paired with weather, hormones or alcohol will trigger a migraine. But if the mystery factor is absent, then those three things probably won't trigger anything. Maybe. We're not completely sure.

So here's where depression and anxiety come in. First, if I get a migraine and I had plans, I feel guilty. I feel like I should suck it up. Just hop-hop-push through my day. But I can't really stand-up and move around with a migraine, so that's not super realistic. Luckily, I have a prescription for something that kills the migraine. And it does. In about 3-4 hours. Then I just feel beat up for a couple more hours and then I'm good to go. So 6 hours lost. Which is actually better than the 24-48 hours lost before I was prescribed medication, but still - plans for the day are pretty much toast. So I feel guilty. Which leads to depression. Which leads to me really just wanting to give up on the day. And then anxiety kicks in. Probably no one believes me. I probably just come across as flaky or irresponsible or not dependable or a liar. Who gets sick this much, anyway? You're always sick. Everybody gets headaches. You don't see everyone else staying in bed all day. LAZY. WEAK. WORTHLESS.

With a migraine that has alcohol as one of the triggers, it's even worse. My family has a super hardcore history of addiction so I'm really careful about alcohol and drugs (even my migraine prescription is non-narcotic) but I'm also really weird and sensitive about anyone's perception of my relationship with alcohol and drugs.

For instance, I worked a really long shift yesterday and afterwards, I was craving a cheap, domestic beer. So I went home and I drank two.

Because I'm hyper aware of my relationship with drugs and alcohol AND because alcohol can potentially trigger a migraine, I know that those 2 beers added up to a grand total of 3 alcoholic beverages in two months. And unfortunately, those two beers also worked with whatever mystery factor there was to trigger a massive migraine this morning. But migraines feel a lot like hangovers. And alcohol was a trigger for this migraine. Three times in one week. Plans canceled three times this week. Maybe I should suck it up. Maybe I'm weak. I shouldn't have had the alcohol. I'm irresponsible. Ow. People are going to think I have a problem. Do I have a problem? Wait. Am I sure I just had 2 beers last night? Yes. Of course. That's stupid. But definitely don't tell anyone about the beer. They might think you're an alcoholic. This really hurts. They might think you're lying. Migraines sound like hangovers. People might think you're making excuses. This hurts so bad. Alcoholics lie. You sound like an alcoholic. Also, why did you even drink those beers? It feels like a bomb keeps going off in my head. You know you get migraines. This is your fault. Also, completely irresponsible. I think I might puke. You might actually be an alcoholic. Wait. No. Maybe. No. Maybe?

And so on and so on. Migraine, anxiety, shame, confusion, depression. And it's all hidden away in my brain where no one can see it, which means, for a lot of people, I'm not sick. Especially if they see me on a migraine free day. And I'm happy. Sick people can't be happy. It's some weird rule that someone made up somewhere along the way (ask me how often people tell me that I don't look like I have depression - it's the smiling that throws them off. People with depression can't smile ever. Against the rules).

My point is...I'm on the tail end of my 2-beer-triggered migraine and I've just run this gamut of emotions for the umpteenth time and I'm cranky and I'm exhausted and I'm so over it. And I have a lot of friends who each suffer with their own "invisible illness" nightmare. And we are a judgmental society and we the people decide if you actually look or act sick enough to deserve our compassion. If your foot isn't in a cast AND you're laughing, your foot isn't broken. Those are the rules.

Except those rules suck and they're grossly unfair to the millions of people around the world who struggle with illnesses and disabilities and injuries that you can't see. Illness and disability and injuries that are very real and very painful and very debilitating even if you can't see them.

You know this picture/meme that randomly comes across your facebook timeline or instagram feed?

Truth. So much truth. Sometimes I forget. And then life hands me a migraine to remind me that every person I've ever met is struggling with something I can't see. And I'm reminded to practice compassion and empathy and to just be kind.


I'm a mom! Sort of! Kind of? Not really? Also, I have no idea what's going on...

About 3 months ago, James and I briefly talked about having my niece come and live with us.

James and I talk about once or twice a year about our decision to not have kids. Just checking in, making sure we're both on the same page, making sure neither of us has changed our minds. Every time, the answer is the same for both of us.

No way.

So when the idea of having a 17 year old come live with us came up, naturally we both kind of freaked out and shoved the idea under the bed. In a box. And buried it under old cds and mismatched socks. Because no way.

And then about 2 months ago, we pulled that box out from under the bed and really started to talk about my niece again. And how we weren't prepared. And that didn't this count kinda sorta as "having kids?" And wasn't that a "No way?" And check out this 27 page list of all of the things that could go wrong! And what if, instead of being a positive impact on her life, we just fucked it up completely? And what if she really is a "bad kid" and we just don't see it? WHAT IF WE DON'T FEED HER PROPERLY AND SHE BURNS OUR HOUSE DOWN????

Basically, as lifelong non-parent types, everything we knew about raising kids came from a combination of horror movies and Gremlins. So obviously, since we were armed with all of that wisdom, a month later, she came to live with us.

For the 2 weeks prior, I read absolutely everything I could about raising a teenager. OH! And because we're crazy, we went the home school route as well. So throw in extra research about home schooling. And a room! We had to give her a room! So there was cleaning and moving and painting and consolidating. James and I stayed up late every night throwing what-ifs back and forth and coming up with responses. What if this happens? What are the consequences? What are the rewards? What are our expectations? What are hers?

I met with my niece and had a really honest discussion about what it was that she wanted and needed and expected and afterwards, went home and made up a household contract for all of us.  We all met, we went over our contract, and about a week later, we had a teenager.

Like...for real. We have a teenager.

Apparently teenagers hug inanimate objects. I guess. I'm not sure.

We're about 3 weeks in and people keep asking me how it's going ...and the truth is, it's going really well. We take it day by day and so far, we all feel pretty good.

And of course, people wonder how we got here. and why did this happen? And that's a tough thing to answer. I would love to say that every time I answer that question, I answer it honestly and beautifully and respectfully and just...well. I answer it well. But I don't. Because the thing is, my family is dysfunctional. And I've never tried to hide that my own relationship with my family is strained and awkward and weird and sad and angry and confused. So when I'm asked exactly how it is that my niece came to live with us, I go through this huge internal struggle of trying to answer with grace and beauty and dignity and love and honesty while feeling awkward and weird and angry and sad and confused.

Because there's also the really big thing that I'm trying so hard to adhere to (and I fail more often than I'd like to admit) - it is not my place to tell other people's stories. And it is not my place to pass judgement. And I am less than perfect and have made an infinite number of mistakes in my life AND in the way that I have handled and loved other people. So the question of how it is that my niece came to live with us seems so simple, but in reality just sets off a tornado of epic proportions inside my heart and in my soul.

Of course, there are those who would say it's no one's business. And that's true. BUT....(but, but, but)...I live my life publicly. And I live healing and recovering and loving VERY publicly. And with my niece's permission, I've shared a small piece of her life here with us, on my social media pages. And with her permission, I want to share why it is that she came to live with us:

My niece came to live with us because somewhere along the way, her soul got trampled on. And her heart got smashed. The world wrapped up absolute garbage, tied it up in a pretty bow and told her that that was love. And the world told her that she was bad. And unworthy. And after hearing that long enough, she began to believe that it was true. That she was bad, and unworthy and that garbage was love. And she began to act according to what the world was telling her. And then the world was like, "see? I told you so."

And when my niece and I started to get close, I realized what was going on. Because I had been there. I had believed that story of being bad and worthless and that garbage was love for more than half of my life. And I had also acted accordingly.

But I also survived it and found all of the beauty and worthiness and love on the other side. And I thought that maybe James and I could help her find her way out of all of this ugliness and towards some light. And that's why she came to live with us.

So, I don't really know how we are at "parenting." But so far, I think we're pretty good at being loving and forgiving and enthusiastic and optimistic and challenging and encouraging and just doing the best job that we can of showing her that everything that the world told her was true was just flat out wrong.

She is worthy.
She is loved.
She is smart.
She is courageous.
She is capable.
She is good.
She is so much more than enough.

And she can have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after midnight. Because she's not a gremlin. But only on the weekends. Because bedtime. And school. And you can't have peanut butter and jelly everyday. Right? No? Yes? Maybe?

What to Say?

I've always felt like my very favorite paintings showed up when my heart hurt the most. As though working through all of that pain was somehow translated into something beautiful on the canvas.

I kind of feel the same way about my writing.  When everything is confusing and hurting and difficult and painful and ugly, I write and write and write. I learn. I discover. I hurt. I write.

But...when everything feels pretty muse just...disappears. As though she can only survive by feeding off of my pain, and my happiness causes her to shrivel up and die.

I thought about that today, because I'm having what I can only call a "bad mental health week." I'm anxious. Moody. Depressed. Freaking out. (And navigating it pretty well, I might add - yay for healthy coping mechanisms!). But today I thought, "But now I have something to write about because I am less than happy!"

And I was weirdly happy about being less than happy because I missed writing.

What. The. Fuck.

I think that because I have really opened up, in a really public manner, about the things that I struggle with - depression, anxiety, gossip, feelings of inadequacy, not fitting in, not feeling worthy, the mess that is life - and really connected with people through these discussions, that I'm afraid of losing that connection by writing about things that are NOT a struggle. Writing about happiness. About being strong. And healthy.

I think that I'm kind of afraid that if I write about being healthy and strong and happy, that I might alienate the people who felt connected and safe with me when we talk about the really hard stuff. That they might feel left behind. Or less than enough because their healing journey isn't taking the same route or pace that mine is. That I might lose them.

That I might lose you.

And that scares me, because this blog, and this journey, and the connections that I have made with people in the last year are so important to me.

You are so inspiring to me and such an important part of my life. Falling apart really kind of saved me, because it connected me to people in a way that I have never been connected before. And that has been really, really amazing.

I'm so glad that I feel good. I DO feel healthy, and I DO feel happy and I DO feel strong. And I want the same for every single person that I meet. I want that for you. But I don't want you to feel as though you're not healthy enough or strong enough or happy enough if your journey doesn't match mine. If your healing process takes a different path. If you want to crawl into bed on the day that I want to talk about running. It's ok. You're still enough. I promise.

So, I guess I'm just hoping that we can make a deal.

I want to write. And I want to write about life as it happens. Right now, it's pretty good. I don't want to ignore that. I want to celebrate that.

I also want to respect you.  I know that I have a lot of readers that came here because sometimes shit gets really bad and it helps to talk to someone that is going through the same thing. I haven't forgotten what that's like. And I know it could easily happen again.

You're still safe here. I respect your journey and where you are. But I believe things can get better. I believe that we have incredible strength and stamina and at the end of the day we can handle whatever life throws at us, and throw it right back. But you at your pace, me at mine.

I'll keep sharing my journey because I want you to know that healing is possible and that from the deepest despair, the most amazing life can emerge. I fight for this life every day and it is truly beautiful. If you're fighting, I'm on your side. But if you're a little too tired to fight today...I'm still on your side.

Because we keep going, right? You at your pace, me at mine. We keep moving forward, in the best way that we can, and we remember and embrace and celebrate the fact that we really do deserve to be happy.

And if my muse isn't ok with that, honestly...she can suck it.

Because there's nothing wrong with happy.

Love and Betrayal and Love in Peoria

I live in Peoria. I love Peoria.

I hate Peoria.

I live in Peoria. I love Peoria. I hate Peoria.

And back and forth, forever and ever, amen.

I'm going to talk about a bunch of old news but please stay with me...I really do have a point.

A few years ago, I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who loved this city more than me. I believed in this city. I believed in its people. I believed in the power of neighbors helping each other and of businesses working together for the greater good. I believed. I believed so hard.

And then the bottom fell out.  And a lot of people know that the bottom fell out of my life. A lot of that was due to the fact that I have anxiety and depression and I suffered an extremely devastating bout with both of those.

But there were triggers and those triggers were so unexpected and so far removed from what I thought about how the world works that for months on end it just felt like people were running up and sucker punching me.

Multiple people who are members of a local (and well known) organization were hit with complaints from the city liquor commission and health department. The rumor started that I turned them all in. My business lost customers.

A neighboring business got hit with a complaint from the liquor commission about live music. They told many of our shared customers that I had turned them in. My business lost more customers.

Multiple people who are members of a local (and well known) organization were hit with complaints from the city zoning department.The rumor started that I turned them all in. My business lost even more customers.

In each of these incidents, I tried to address the rumors.  Regarding the initial complaints from the health and liquor departments, I proposed a solution that would keep everyone compliant. I stated that I had turned no one in. I asked the city council a few questions.  One city council person e-mailed me back and asked why I was "bothering with all of this again." Members of the organization e-mailed each other back and forth about how horrible I was. How I couldn't stand competition. How of COURSE I was a liar.

I asked my neighbors why on earth they thought that I would ever turn them in - it's not my style and I don't believe that's how communities are built.  I was told that "I was always going to be the first suspect and besides, there were just too many coincidences." Those people never spoke to me again and most of their regular customers actually boycotted my business based on the rumors.

When the business neighbor who had actually started the rumor that got all of the rumors started apologized to me for starting the rumor, I thanked them and asked them to please let people know that they had started the rumor, because it was impacting my life in a really negative way. The response was radio silence. To this day, I still get asked why I did this thing that I never did.

Around this same time, the person who started the rumor worked with the city to start an organization that was designed to sort of...unite people, I guess? And the public loved it. And I met with this person about a project and this person told me that they were not willing to work with neighbor a, b, c, d, e,f, g, etc. etc. on this project.  And then they would publicly continue the narrative that they were there to unite people. And then continually be unwilling to work with those same people.
And while all of this was happening, my health got worse. My business suffered. I was disillusioned. Confused. The rumors kept coming. People asked me about them all of the time.

And then the person who started the rumor that started all of the rumors that were pretty much killing me and my business used their new "unite people" organization to promote local businesses. Including mine.

SO - an organization that behind the scenes nearly put me out of business publicly promoted me. An organization that refused to work with most of its neighbors publicly sang all of their praises. And the city ate it up. And the people loved it.  And many of my "friends" told me to ignore it and quit starting "drama", all the while frantically posting on facebook about standing up for yourself and others and justice and whatever it is that you're willing to fight for online but not in real life. And the hypocrisy just ate at me. And I got really depressed. And paranoid about what the next rumor would be. And who had heard what. And would our customers ever come back? And why on earth were so many people willing to believe so many terrible things about me that went against everything that I had ever been? And why did people keep dismissing my experience? What was wrong with me?

Everything was spiraling and many "friends" started to distance themselves from me.

I got bitter. I got disillusioned. I had a nervous breakdown. And the person that loved Peoria with all of her heart...fucking HATED Peoria.

But it's been a while and life is better and I'm healthier and happier and I'm starting to fall in love with my city why on earth am I bringing this all up?

Because you guys...I was so naive. I had all of the hope and love and trust and faith and love in the world and I got the shit beaten out of me. And the recovery has been long and hard and also beautiful, but it fucking hurt really, really bad. And I absolutely spent a very long time talking myself out of slitting my wrists. I don't want all of this current happiness to somehow hide the ugliness that happened.

So today, as I start to fall in love with Peoria again, I do it with caution.  And as I start to work with other people who really love Peoria, I love what they love right alongside them...with a word of warning.

Some people aren't into my warnings. The idea for some people is, if you love Peoria, you mustn't speak poorly about any part of it. We must all support each other, no matter what, and no one and nothing is bad. Blinders.

*sigh*...I get it. I remember those days.  I remember loving Peoria so hard that you couldn't convince me that anything about it was terrible.

But you guys...that's not real life. You can't love with blinders on. I was living in a fantasy. And when the bubble burst, I nearly took my own life. No one who loves their city and contributes to their city with all of their heart should ever have to go through what I went through.

(My therapist actually told me that she could start a support group for people who went through something similar to what I went through and that her waiting room would be overflowing. Real life. This shit happens a lot.)

So let's be real.  Peoria is home to some of the best people I've ever met in my life. When all of the "friends" fell away, the real friends showed up to do the heavy lifting. There are some organizations here that are kicking ass in so many beautiful ways, that it is awe inspiring just to watch them work.  There are businesses who live and breathe #CommunityOverCompetition and who would bend over backwards to help fellow businesses succeed. There are some breathtaking views. Fantastic restaurants. Cool things to see and do and amazing opportunities. Communities and people who share the same values and desire to lift each other up. I love this side of Peoria.

Peoria is also home to people who are faking it. Who will use social media to tell the world how supportive they are and then quietly tear you down behind closed doors.  Businesses who believe success means making sure that their neighbor goes out of business. Who believe competition is to be feared and therefore destroyed. Politicians who say the right things to the right people to make sure that they get their vote, while telling you the exact opposite of what you literally just heard them say in front of a room full of people. People who won't think twice about ruining someone's life. People who literally just don't give a shit about other people...unless it makes them look good online and in the news.

That's real. That's not just Peoria. That's every city. And anyone who gives any city their whole heart should know that.  These ugly political games don't just play out on the national stage...they play out right here at home, too. Right in our backyard.

I really am falling back in love with my city...but my eyes are wide open this time. And honestly...isn't that the only way to fall in love? All in...but with your eyes open.


We don't shame people.

I have to repeat this to myself on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

Before I am allowed to react to anything, remember...we don't shame people.

This has been a month of learning about who I am and learning about who other people are.

Almost 4 weeks ago, I joined the gym. I joined the gym because I hated my body. I called it my "depression" body. I spent a year barely getting out of bed. I drank a lot of stout beers. My recovery process involved sitting in one place, for a very long time, painting. So...depression body.

I knew I was starting to get really uncomfortable in my own skin, but I kept on thinking that it was going to magically get better.

Probably because I believe in unicorns, I think bodies can just "magically" get fit and healthy.

Turns out, that's not a thing that happens. Bogus. So I joined the gym.

Going to the gym is hard. I feel gross. Out of shape. Unattractive. I'm awkward around people. I try to have conversations with new people who don't know that I'm awkward and anxious and trying to fake my way through it...and I usually say something that causes them to stop and stare oddly at me for a minute before getting away from me as fast as they can.

There are people who will tell you that they don't see these interactions with me and other people, but trust me when I say that EVERY interaction with people I'm not close to feels this way.

Anxiety is SO much fun. Especially at the gym.

But shame is what we were talking about, right?

So there's an elderly woman who is in the gym locker room around the same time I am a couple of times a week. I don't know if it's me, I don't know if there are some issues with her, I don't really know what's going on except...every time she sees me she calls me a "fucking bitch" under her breath.

I'm not even kidding.

The first time she did it, other people heard and we all just kind of stopped and stared, with no one really understanding what or why or who it was directed at. The woman just said it and walked out of the dressing room.

But after a few weeks, it seems like this is directed at me. The other day I was walking behind her, at her pace. She must have sensed me behind her, so she turned around and then she moved aside as if to let me I thanked her and I passed by. And as I passed by, I heard her mutter "fucking bitch."

You guys...I have anxiety. I think that everyone hates me. I'm nearly sure of it, all of the time. So this keeps happening and I'm freaking out. Like ...what? What did I do?  And I wanted to ask other women in the dressing room what was wrong with this woman. And I wanted to go to the front desk and describe her and ask if anyone has complained about her. I wanted everyone to know that I am just fine and NOT a fucking bitch and why is this woman so terrible every single time she sees me?

But here's the thing. We don't shame people. Whatever is going on with this woman, it isn't about me. And due to the oddness of the situation and the woman's advanced age, I would guess that it has more to do with some brain wires getting crossed for her. And that sucks.

I can bring everyone's attention to the exchanges between this woman and I, and potentially cause a big scene and make other people look at this woman as though she is crazy and somehow "less than." I could definitely do that.

Or I can remember that we don't shame people. And this is more than likely a complicated issue that has nothing to do with me. I can remember that I know who I am. That this woman and I have SO much in common. My brain tells me that I'm horrible. Her brain tells her that I'm a fucking bitch. Both of our brains are wrong. And neither one of us deserves to be shamed for it.

Who knows...maybe eventually I'll work up the courage to talk to her and we'll become super best friends! Right? Maybe?

Lessons, you guys.  Every week life is teaching me some hard ...and interesting...lessons.

Art Stories

When I first started experimenting with college classes, I took an art 110 class - basic drawing.  And that class taught me A LOT about light and about paying attention. And then I was done taking art classes.  So everything after that point has been self taught. And by self taught, I mean, I google everything about technique and materials and I pay really close attention to what other artists are doing. I learn from everyone who has come before me and from every artist who has the courage to put their stuff out into the world.

I love other artists.  And as a beginning muralist (it's really only been a couple of years), right now I'm paying REALLY close attention to the work of other muralists. I don't know what I'm doing (as usual), so what better way to learn than watching others who are amazing?

Anyway, the point of this whole blog post is to tell you that because I'm always looking for really cool art, I'm going to start sharing it with you every week. And this week I'm sharing 3 artists from Peoria, Illinois! I chose these three artists because, although they each have their own style, they all have pieces that are just a tiny bit (or a lot of bit) surreal. They're all strangely beautiful works.

First, Nikole Cooney. 

Nikole has an exhibit that's currently in the third floor gallery at the Contemporary Art Center. Lucky for you, it's there until June 24, 2016, so you have time to see it.  And you should go see it.  It's incredible. I feel horrible that I'm going to share this with you via my terrible cell phone pictures, but really, that should just be more encouragement for you to go see it yourself.

This piece is immediately to your left when you walk in.  As soon as I saw it, I had one of those "holy shit, this isn't like anything else in Peoria" moments. I mean - it's really just beautiful.  It's this surreal fantasy come to life.  And the detail is amazing.  I was especially struck by the barnacles that encrust the bottom of the boat...and then, when you look up at the balloon, you see a tiny little piece of honeycomb with a bee coming out of it. At first, I couldn't figure out why it was there...until I looked to my right and saw this piece...

I wish I had a better picture of this. The girl is not only covered in nature, with sticks and flowers in her hair, but she is nature. Her body is becoming a beehive, with her chest and back made partially out of honeycomb, honey dripping from her fingers, and bees everywhere. The walls are becoming home to the bees as well...except for the ones who traveled across the way to the hot air balloon.

This is a detail of a nine foot sculpture that includes a main figure, as well as a sort of "forest" surrounding her. The entire sculpture is breathtaking, but the detail on this piece was what struck me. Her hands are carefully woven (not shown) and her dress holds these little ...secrets? It's hard to see, but this cave like area within her dress actually holds a nest, with eggs inside of it, and moss all around.

Hummingbirds dangle from disembodied hands, while wolves jump at them in this piece entitled "Remember Your Wings." One of the strings that once held a hummingbird is broken,as though someone grabbed it and pulled it off. But if you look up, you see that the hummingbird has broken loose, with part of it's string still attached, and is feeding on the flowers.

This one made me cry.

There are a few more pieces on display, each one just as beautiful and amazing as the ones I shared here. Please go see this exhibit - you have until July 24th!
(If you want to know more about Nikole and her process, she was interviewed by the Journal Star in this article.)

Next - Alec DeJesus.  

Alec has shown a few places around town and I've been fortunate enough to work with him on two mural projects and see how his work comes to life.  I'm also lucky enough to own one of his pieces. It's one of those that, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was supposed to be with me:

I think this piece is about 4 feet tall and it hangs right above our staircase landing. I can't tell you exactly what it is about his work that speaks to me, but I love it. It's just the right combination of bizarre and totally normal. In addition, the way that he creates people is really amazing. They have so much depth and character in their expressions.  Despite being oddly shaped and looking like they come from some other universe, they're figures that you can relate to. Alec creates people who I would consider "my people." The odd and beautiful weirdos.

Alec has an upcoming exhibit in November at the Ear in the Envelope. I promise I'll post about it as it comes nearer!

Finally - Lowell Levene Sims

Lowell and I actually had the opportunity to sit down and talk about some of his work the other day. Lowell has been painting for a while, but it wasn't until recently that I started feeling a connection to it (which we agreed is normal with art - sometimes you connect to it, sometimes you don't). His last two exhibits have changed a lot from the work that came before, and his latest pieces seem to have more emotional depth. Lowell agrees that his work has changed and says that he likes what he's creating these days and feels more connected to it himself. Some of it is inspired by his sleeping moments, filled with odd and apocalyptic dreams, that he brings to life on canvas when he wakes. I'm also lucky enough to own one of Lowell's pieces - it hangs in my living room:

This is another piece that, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was supposed to come home with me. Unfortunately, at the time I saw it I was totally broke.  But fortunately, Lowell was willing to do an art trade, and so we traded pieces. Everybody wins!

Here are some pieces from Lowell's current exhibition at The Art Garage:

Lowell's work will be at The Art Garage through the month of June.

Stay tuned - next week we're going to talk about murals - murals from around the world and a brand new mural that I'm going to be working on in a really well known spot in Peoria!

It seems like you're doing well!

I hear this on a regular basis.

"It sounds like great things are happening for you!"
"It looks like Hey Lola is doing really well!"
"It seems like things are going really well for you!"

Which, in comparison to last year...and lots of years, actually, things are going pretty well. But I'm always a bit taken aback when people comment about how great things seem like they're going for me because...what? No. I mean...I'm building. And I'm moving forward. But I'm struggling.  And right now I'm attempting to climb a super steep mountain and the going is sooooooooo slooooooooow. And I'm regularly frustrated and feeling defeated.

I've been investing in facebook advertising for my shop, so I know that that's one of the things that makes it seem like everything is going so well - because people keep seeing my stuff in their face all of the time.  If only that always translated to sales, right? A lot of times, it doesn't. And it's really hard not to get mired down in mental loserville (You know - that awesome place in your head where you convince yourself that you're the worst thing that ever happened, ever) when you paid to get your stuff in front of a whole lot of people and NO ONE is interested.  That happens.  It happens a lot, actually. In every type of business, especially those that are just starting out.

When we owned our bar, sometimes we would sit there from open until close and no one would come in. We had to get ok with that. We had to keep going and not let ourselves get mired down in mental loserville.

Because the thing is - a slow start doesn't mean you're a loser. I mean - you started something, right? Lots of people don't even have the courage to do that.

Where was I?

OH! So, I found myself doing that exact same thing to someone the other day - "It looks like things are going really well for you!" and then I stopped.  I don't want to do that.  Social media isn't a true indicator of how anyone is doing. Yesterday, I was irrationally angry and I couldn't figure out why and I wanted to post mean and nasty and controversial things and I really wanted to pick fights...but I didn't. I put on my best social media face, and that's what I showed the world. I think I probably even posted some inspiring quote or something. Mostly because I knew it wasn't healthy for anyone for me to spread my anger around and infect the people around me with it.

But what I showed the world yesterday wasn't what I was truly feeling (even though I'm usually pretty open about what I'm truly feeling). And most people show us the best version of themselves online.  And when we see them and we say, "It looks like things are going really well for you!" we don't really give them the opportunity to do anything but keep presenting that best version...which may not be true.

So I've stopped saying that and now I just start with, "Hi. How are you doing?"

I want to give anyone the opportunity to be transparent with me. Honest. No faking. No "best" version. Just who you are, messed up bits and all. 

PS - Things aren't going really well for me...but I'm moving forward. Every single day is better than the day before, and I'm continuously grateful just to be able to say "I'm better than I was yesterday."

This whole "loving your body" thing...

I bought a swimsuit today and it was exactly as much fun as you might imagine.

Unless buying a swimsuit actually IS fun for you, in which case, scratch that.

You know how sometimes women post pictures of themselves in swimsuits and people are like "woo hoo! Sexy! Blah blah blah  hot mama!" Or whatever it is that they say.  And then other women post pictures of themselves in swimsuits and people are like, "oh're so BRAVE."

That's what was going through my head the whole time I was trying on swimsuits. I knew I wanted to blog about this experience and this whole body thing I'm going through but when I thought about posting a picture of myself in a swimsuit, I just knew I was going to be the "brave" girl.

Which...I mean...NO.

I'm pretty good at facing a lot of my fears and insecurities, but not that one. I have absolutely zero desire to be the brave girl in the swimsuit picture. And besides, I'm pretty sure I'd totally freak out on the first person who called me brave for wearing a swimsuit.

I mentioned on facebook the other day that I had joined a gym because I hate my body. And that feels weird because first - we're *supposed* to love our bodies and second - aren't I the one always saying that we're enough?

And so....I don't really HATE my body. And my body IS enough. It does what it's supposed to do and carries me from the beginning to the end of each day without incident. It does throw migraines my way fairly often and that's less than fun.  There are some stomach issues. And my feet and my uterus need some surgical assistance, but other than that, the body is good. It works. It does its job.

It IS enough.

But here's the thing...

It could be better.  

I know this. Once upon a time I was a stripper.  And as a stripper, I regularly climbed two story high poles, flipped my entire body upside down and crawled back down that pole, face first, like a cat. Which, as you can imagine, requires an incredible amount of strength and balance. I had all sorts of muscle tone. I was strong.

And then, the other day I made a time lapse video of a painting I was working on. I was wearing a tank top and all you could see was my back and when I watched the video I was all, "oh my god. WHEN DID I GET MY GRANDMOTHERS ARMS??????" (Yeah. I deleted that video. So fast. )

I know what this body is capable of. I'm pretty sure that if James and I got in a car accident and the car was on fire, that I could lift him up and drag him to safety. I'm sure I could do that.

But I also know that I tried to lift 10 pounds of weight for an hour in an exercise class today and failed spectacularly. Because what my body has done in the past, what it could do in a life or death situation and what it does on a regular basis now are vastly different.

So I'm doing some work to make it better.  Not necessarily to make it what it was...just what I know it could be. What I would like it to be.

And then...

And then I went to try on swimsuits and you know how that goes (do you?).  The dressing room lights at Target are completely unforgiving and if you thought you had some parts that you weren't happy about before, are more than aware of them when you're standing under the bright lights of the Target dressing room in an ill fitting swimsuit.

Ill fitting because my clothing size fluctuates all over the place. I grab a few swimsuits in all of the sizes and NONE of them fit.

So...I know my body is enough but it could be better and I'm working on making it better but dear God in heaven, how on earth am I ever going to be comfortable with my size if I NEVER know what size I am? I literally never take the right size into the dressing room because, depending on who makes the clothes, I am a size 2.

A size 4.
A size 6.
A medium.
A petite small.
A plus size.
Or an 8.

Just a couple of things from my closet. In all of the sizes.

Pretty much any time I go into a dressing room to try anything on, it's just defeating. It's terrible. There have been times where I am wearing size 6 jeans and I take a pair of size 6 jeans into the dressing room and I can't get them over my leg. Or, I try on a different pair of size 6 jeans and I'm swimming in them. The only answer is to literally take every single size of whatever it is that I want to try on and do some lucky guessing.

Anyway, I had a point but I went off on that clothing size tangent...

I guess my point is, it's ok to love your body and to think that your body is enough, but also to know that it could be better and to try to make it better. I mean - it's yours. Whatever works for you, right?

And also, when you go to try stuff on and nothing fits, there's a good chance that has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with the Random Size Generator that I'm quite sure all clothing companies use.

OH!!! And also again, if you're one of those people who are trying to make your body better and you're sweating and flailing and uncoordinated and squishy and weak...

ME TOO!!!! And we've totally got this!!! We will flail and trip and sweat our way into a better version of ourselves, no matter how silly we look. I believe in me, therefore, I believe in you.

This isn't a swimsuit picture.
This picture is after day two at the gym, when I almost passed out and I almost puked and I'm not even kidding. 
I am not the cool looking chick at the gym. 
I'm the hot mess.
I'm fine with that.
I'm going to keep going back.