Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters

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Dare Me to Jump and I Will (What I Didn’t Know About the Risk)

My last post asked the question: Who risks again?

What I didn’t know about risks is this:

When something is right, it won’t feel much like a risk at all. 

Less than two weeks ago I was seriously wondering if I’d ever jump into anything. I doubted the possibility; was terrified of the inevitable end result. I do brave things all the time, in the most common way. I’m pretty open to meeting new people, I go places alone, I tell people when I have a problem with them, I tell them when I genuinely care.

Though through all of this, I had a big problem with the word love. Wouldn’t really risk it, wouldn’t really give it much credit. It’s just a word and one that hadn’t served me all too well (outside of my family.)

It’s funny what a person can learn about the word Love in just a few moments of life.

A friend of mine recently painted this for me:


I met Meggie back in March. She was oh, the third person I met when I moved to Wisconsin. I’m pretty sure I showed Meggie the photograph of my twin and me around that time. We had some “getting to know you” nights and shared pictures and memories. Many months later, she does this… recreates my most cherished image. She and I affectionately (and with a bit of a laugh) say, “I love you, man,” to each other. This stems from what my dad and I say to one another. “I love you, man.” This to me shows a sense of respect, a sense of humor, and a sense of friendship that runs deep. I would say my relationship with my dad is filled with respect, humor and friendship. He and I understand each other in ways that no one else would really get.

You could say the same for this gal Meggie, who I’ve known for only a matter of months. She has seen me at my worst, at my best, and I will most likely know her forever. She still wanted to keep me around after all that, so lucky me :) The point is, I would call that Love. She took time and created a masterpiece of something I probably only mentioned once. It’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me.

Yeah, love for sure.

And that’s just the tip of the ice burg. I’m telling you, incredible things have been a’happenin. Unreal things.

Moments of standing out in the cold, never even wanting shelter from the wind. Seeing eagles soar together against the darkening sky. Geese flying out of formation. The big dipper rising right in front of me. Being with someone I know so well, the words are hardly necessary. Knowing that there’s a shift in the wind, in the life I was living, and accepting those changes with a full heart. Allowing myself to cry, to be loved, to learn. 

A friend I met by chance, who gives advice, who wanted me to stay (when all I wanted to do was run), and who never gave up on me. She is one of the strongest people I know. She gave me “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss and tears ran down my cheeks as I read it. She knows my darkest places and still tells me I’m a light. 

Not having seen them in months, but still getting a “how are you?!” and an “I miss you” and an update on life. Friends from back home truly shine from far away. 

And most recently, feeling appreciated and accepted and seen. Being wanted, with absolutely no condition, no hesitation and no restrictions. Fully free, fully willing, filled up with the words of so many small moments that can’t be weighed or measured, for their size can’t be held. Every smile and gesture, all the wondering and waiting in the past (a past that is precious and in its own right just as important) and feeling for the very first time, 26 years into life, that maybe…. no, not maybe, but definitely… things do happen for a reason. At least some things. Everything that’s brought me here. And the risk has diminished. There is no risk. There is only hope and that big word…. 

Don’t all of these moments sound like love? I was blind to that, I suppose. I don’t think I’ll lose it again.

There’s a song I love by Tom Waits called Never Let Go. It’s the end of each verse that gets me:

“I’ll lose everything, but I won’t let go of your hand….

You can send me to hell, but I’ll never let go of your hand…

Dare me to jump and I will, I’ll fall from your grace, but I’ll never let go of your hand.”

That’s part of the True Love. I know it. It’s why I prefer these songs over just plain old flowery love songs. Every old couple who has spent eighty years together will tell you that they hated that other person at one point. They were hated, too. They fell from grace, surely. They lost it all… whether it be trust, hope, money, a life…..

But they jumped. Dove in, if you will.

At the end of the day, they made it, they didn’t give up. I think I’ve figured out what that kind of Love looks like. It doesn’t let go of a hand. Which is beautiful, because it means a hand was held in the first place.

So cheers to Love, whatever that looks like to you,

a hike in Colorado, beautiful

a hike in Colorado, beautiful

Love, Lou

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Who Risks Again?

Who risks again?

I was the ultimate risk taker. Just ask my parents.

I saw a kid pop a wheelie on his bike. I tried it with everything I could muster up and flew off my bike and wound up with a huge gash across my stomach. I rode my bike even harder.

I wanted to skip THREE monkey bars instead of my regular two, and I fell to the ground with the wind knocked out of me. I still remember seeing the teacher on duty and being unable to make a sound. I can bet you I tried it again and succeeded.

I was left out of many an-elementary-school-girl-club and what do you know? I treasure many women, and I wasn’t afraid of making friends later in life.

Who risks again?

This might be the best question I ever asked myself and that ever stared back at me from the page of a book. It’s been resounding in my head and hasn’t let up. I read these words YESTERDAY, and already, I feel as though this is the question I’ve been asking myself all along.

What did I lose, looking back on the Melinda of years gone by?

Who risks again… and again… and again?

Because really… for those of us who have had a truly rough go of it (after seemingly having “It All”)… who among us will risk feeling that loss again?

Who has lost a child and dares to bring another into the world? 

Who has opened a business and watched it fail and attempts to open up yet another?

Who has loved with their whole heart and lost all of that time and energy and finds another to bestow the same amount of love? 

Who has had their entire existence derailed and looks to putting together the steps of their new life? 

I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned: There are those who do risk again. There are those who don’t (yet?).

I admire the ones who DO. 

I tend to resonate well with the ones who don’t. It’s not that I’m wallowing in the past and not living my life each day the best I know how. I am. But man, I feel like I can sniff out the jaded and the scarred and the wounded from ten miles away. We see each other across a room and nod, perhaps nothing more.

It’s something with the way we look, perhaps? Maybe there’s some animalistic instinct we have, a certain wrinkle that forms in just the right spot on our brows, subconsciously telling us who is of the same kind? Maybe it’s the way we carry ourselves, in some way defensive. It’s subtle. I know it must be. Or maybe it’s the language we use. We avoid certain words. We say, “I really like that jacket,” because we know the dangers of saying the word Love. I don’t love your jacket. I don’t even love any one person right now, so how can I love that?!

Maybe I’m making this all up in my head and I don’t have a special connection with anyone, except the one I imagine!

And don’t get me wrong. I admire the ones I resonate with just as much as the ones who are living with an unending, unafraid RISK of passion all over again. It takes a certain amount of courage to even get out of bed in the morning. It takes more to show up. It takes even more to smile, then laugh, and then admit to yourself that, “Hey, life actually isn’t so bad.” It’s admirable to admit defeat and then pull yourself up by your fraying bootstraps. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, and I like it.

I’ve risked a lot in the last year. I risked leaving the city I knew. I risked missing my friends and family. I risked being more alone than ever. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. It was enjoyable, even. But am I truly risking It All? As in, something to dive into head first…. the way I did when naivety was part of the thrill?

“We’ve learned to be as faithless, stand behind bullet proof glass

Exchanging our affections through a drawer…

You should count your change before you’re even out the door” -B.E.

What I’m getting at here is what I’ve said before:

What happened to that seven year old? Where is she? The Melinda who was swinging on the monkey bars would say to me, “So? You get back up, you do it alllllll over again. No one could hear me yell, but turns out I didn’t need help! I got up all by myself. And LOOK AT ME GO!”

Buck up, in other words. I know that’s what she’d say.

Yet it is scary to risk again. Broken bones are actually much easier to heal than hearts.

“Yeah, well, I cried a lot in mom’s arms when those girls wouldn’t let me in their club. That hurt my heart. But I stayed quiet, watched the world around me, and wound up with better friends than I ever imagined. And LOOK AT ME GO!!”

Seven Year Old Melinda strikes again.

I’ve recently risked a little. The move, the non-extraordinary things that turns out- people do every single day. They don’t even feel the need to blog about it (ha). But I will not risk saying words that make me 100% vulnerable. Not really. I go so far, only to reel back. It’s safe right now. I can’t imagine getting out of this sort of limbo that life seems to be right now. I feel in between “my old life” and “my new life” even though I KNOW that life is what it is: it’s happening right now. This is the new life. There is no magical moment.

Oh, how I wish there was, though.

“Oh, time has a way of throwing it all in your face

The past she is haunted, the future is laced

Heartbreak, you know, drives a big black car,

I swear I was in the backseat just minding my own” -G.A.I.

The past may be haunted with memory monsters. Things didn’t turn out how I imagined. I don’t really believe in True Love with the capitals. But I want to. I guess the journey in the big black car doesn’t have to be passive. Maybe it’s because I was in the backseat minding my own business that things turned out the way they did. Maybe I need to fight someone to get into the front seat. Be demanding? Nah. Be firm? Absolutely. (Absoloodle!) The future might be laced. And life can’t compete with memories. Though I’d really appreciate someone who appreciated me despite their haunted past. In that case, I know that someone else deserves the same from me.

“Hope was a letter I never could send

Love was a country I couldn’t defend” – G.A.I.

Welp, truly, I have sent letters. Some more important than others. Now starts the defense of Love.

My goal is to shatter bullet proof glass. Seven year old Melinda says, “You can do it!” And she probably high fives me with the biggest smile on her face.

Cheers to all that, to those who are risking everything and those who maybe aren’t there yet.


rockin the Paula Abdul shirt

rockin the Paula Abdul shirt


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I Was In There All Along

I was digging through some old files on my flash drive today. I opened a folder called “BLOG” that I hadn’t opened since 2012.

The file was called “BLOG EIGHT REGRETS,” so you know, I had to open it. Because jeez, what was I regretting way back in 2012? I thought all that stuff was later. Hmmmmm…

As I read, here is what I learned:

I haven’t really changed as much as I thought. How did I get tricked into thinking that my current state of uneasiness around certain topics and my beliefs that shatter inspirational quotes everywhere was a new thing? Looks like I was more me than I ever realized, even back before I had to work through some tough times to discover who I was. I was in there all along.

This is a very comforting thought, when all is said and done.

And here it is, a blog post I wrote, but never posted, back on July 23, 2012. (I’m publishing just how I left it… the “draft” version, if you will)



Not Everything is Meant to Be

However much I would just love to spout out some cheesy quote about everything being meant to be… I simply can’t do it. I don’t think everything happens for a reason. In fact, I think a whole lot of sh*t just happens, and maybe there wasn’t a reason for it. I think we make our own reasoning, and therefore make the best of the situation.

“Everything happens for a reason” INSTEAD SHOULD BE “I can make any situation positive if I try hard enough.”


And let me tell you something else, something that may rock your world. It will undo every [pinterest] quote you ever heard.

“Have no regrets, because at one point that choice was exactly what you wanted” INSTEAD SHOULD BE “If you regret something, that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Move past it. Become a better person. You may always regret that action, but you can control what happens after. And maybe you were just having a stupid, bad day.”

I recently wrote a character who believes this:

Excerpt from manuscript I Stumbled Upon You

[after being asked by a girl if he can forget the ‘crazy’ she was being the night before when she was drunk. She wants a re-do, so to speak]

“Do you think you could grand me that wish?” She asked.

“Which is…”

“To block out last night? Just forget Mia-the-randy and know me as Jane, the girl who you woke up to this morning?”

“I can do that.” Sure. I’ve always thought that we all get a certain amount of nights in our life that shouldn’t count. Nights that should be taken off the record book for good, and sometimes we can even get away with it. Others who were there will fail to mention it, we block it out with everything we can muster up, and boom, it’s gone. Lost somewhere in the realm of never-have-been or never-will-be again. Someone’s flat out lying to your ass if they say they don’t have a moment they need swept under the rug and erased from existence. Most people have more than one. I have one night like that. Just one. And I can’t shake it. Therefore I’ll do all I can to give Jane something I won’t get. People deserve that chance. I know this.

Do you agree with Ezra, the main character of this story?

Please share any thoughts. :)


There you have it. Thoughts from a 22 year old Melinda. It might not be the most inspiring piece of writing, but at least it showed me something on this day, more than three years later. It’s like I left something for myself. I had no idea my life would take the turns it did. But I guess I knew that I’d still be thinking, “This isn’t really meant to be. But I’m sure going to make it okay.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have regrets. But I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t want to create a new adventure for myself, despite all that.

Cheers to our past selves. Cheers to who we are.

“Life can’t compete with memories; they never have to change.” C.O.

I'm feelin' 22

I’m feelin’ 22… this was taken that same week!

Love, Lou


“I Won’t Let Anyone Down”

“I know it’s gonna be alright

When I turn out my lights.”

-Justin Townes Earle

This is a lyric that resonates strongly with me right now. Winter is coming, some days leave me lonely, but really, the solitude is something I can enjoy right now.

Sometimes my favorite, most tolerable part of the day is when I turn out my light, crawl into bed, and quiet my mind. I never enjoyed these sacred moments of silence before.

Tonight I called my sister, Meredith, and she was with her friend. Usually, when I call her at night, she is with a friend of hers. I’m put on speakerphone and allowed to laugh and feel that I’m there, at least somewhat. When the call ends I’m alone again. I listen to my (mostly very sad) music and drink a glass of wine and eventually close my eyes and drift off to sleep. Before, I rarely had nights like these. A year ago, I was in the midst of a chapter of life that was social. I never had a night in. I went to shows downtown. I lived downtown! My best friend lived two blocks away. My life became loud and fun and confusing and boisterous. “You NEVER KNOW what could happen in the next 24 hours!” was what Gina and I would say to each other, each night, sitting on her porch drinking whiskey. I knew that chapter would end. Here I am – in a very small town, and I like it just as much.

This is surprising.

I wrote a blog a while ago about how “ramble” is my favorite word. I would consider myself a rambler. The catch is this: I’m not a rambler in the sense that I’m traveling right now. I’m not doing anything very exciting. But my mind never stops (except in those moments when the lights go out) and I realize that I’m a rambler in the most lonesome sense. In my own mind and in my own beliefs of love and companionship. There have been glimpses of True Love, glimpses of What Could Be, but at the end of the day, nothing is promised. I recently talked to someone who was going through a heartbreak. He told me he was sad because he imagined kids with the woman who broke up with him. He imagined their life together. I said, “I’m probably not the one to talk to. I think maybe, you shouldn’t hope or imagine a family with someone until that woman is literally giving birth to said baby and you know for sure it is yours.”

I clap my hand over my mouth when those words come out! I do! But I also don’t regret saying it. Call me a realist; call me a pessimist. I would say that I’m still hopeful, but only for each moment as it comes. I’m quite content believing in the day that is here and the moments that present themselves. There isn’t much use in dreaming of something that just might not happen.

Another lyric that resonates with me at the utmost level as of late… written and sung by that same sister (Meredith):

“If I remain a lonesome woman, I won’t let anyone down

and I can fine tune that broken, hollow, lonesome sound”

-Wildewood, One Against Three

There are days when I repeat this over and over in my head until it becomes a mantra. I can be a lonesome woman. That truly is the only way to not let anyone down. I can focus when I’m at work. I can meet up with my friends at any time. I can live 100% authentically.

But this isn’t to say that anyone living with Their Person isn’t doing so authentically. Absolutely not. I believe in that sort of life, too. But again with the chapters. There are seasons of loneliness and seasons of companionship.

All I know at this very moment in time is that I’m probably not letting anyone down. My family seems proud of me; I’m making it on my own, after all! My friends here are great. I can see how they are meant to be in my life. I don’t owe anyone anything right now. All my debts are paid, all my problems are trivial. I could get used to it.

However: we are human, and solitude isn’t forever. I know I could also get used to letting someone down. It also means raising them up and supporting them and trusting them and challenging them to be better. I want someone to do that for me, too.

I shared this photo on instagram and Facebook. The magic here is that I literally did walk by this mirror, look at myself, and think, “Wow, is this how I look all the time?” I looked more serious than I picture myself to be. My eyes looked tired. I’m not withering away like I once was, but I’m definitely worn out. I’m in a cold, cold place and winter IS coming. I moved here on purpose. It was a challenge. And I’m pretty sure the Midwest only truly accepts a person after the first winter. I’ll be damned if I don’t succeed.


So here’s to the dark nights ahead… the lonely moments that are yet to come… and the friends who will help me through it all. Here’s to knowing that solitude, in this chapter, means freedom from answering to anyone. (except maybe my parents ;) )


Here’s to some good moments of finding ourselves,


Love, Lou

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Nothing Is Okay

“Why do beautiful songs make you sad?’

‘Because they aren’t true.’


‘Nothing is beautiful and true.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

It took me a while to sit down and write again.

My last blog about skeletons was purely me: I told a truth. Talked about something I find lovely. Talked about a time I struggled through. Wrote about getting through that time. It felt real.

Though I didn’t know what to write about next. Sometimes when I write positive, lighthearted blogs, I wind up with this lingering feeling of what could be called fake. (I even had a good friend point out to me that perhaps, sometimes, I’m hiding behind my blog…. maybe I’m never telling the whole truth.)

It is called The Grey Matters, after all. It isn’t called Hey Lou Writes: Rainbows and Butterflies.

Because sometimes life is hard. And I would hate it if something I wrote made a person ashamed of their still sad feelings. “Melinda snapped out of it, why can’t I?” That’d be horrifying for me. I can only hope I never made anyone feel that way.

I realized this… I’m writing this… because I thought about all of the inspirational books and quotes out there. Everyone wants to give advice; everyone has a way out of darkness. It is a rare find that says, “Even if you have a great life, there will still be sorrows in your soul that simply won’t go away. There will be days when nothing is okay. And that is the only part that is okay.”

I’ll admit… diving headfirst into sadness is something I do well. It’s the music I listen to. It’s the books I read. It’s my overall view of the world at the moment. Don’t get me wrong. I see the beauty. I see the laughter and smiles, the old couples still holding hands… the babies and the bonfires and the clinking glasses of beer. I even see the joy in my life.

“Songs are as sad as the listener.”

Extremely Loud

I have amazing, earth shattering friends and family members. 

I’ve laughed many times in the last 24 hours. 

I really, really like my job. 

I have been wanting to write a blog about the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for a long time. I read it years ago. It struck me as the most tragic love story ever written. Truly; and I know this is a big claim.

I was going to name the post: The Best Demise of a Relationship- Ever

It’s just so goddammmmmm sad. It depicts those nuances of something ending perfectly… in that, well, there’s rarely something that happens. (The most ridiculous question we’re all guilty of asking is this: “What happened?”) It’s a bunch of somethings turning into nothing.

“…we required more rules, on our second anniversary we marked off the entire guest room as a Nothing Place, it seemed like a good idea at the time, sometimes a small patch at the foot of the bed or a rectangle in the living room isn’t enough privacy, the side of the door that faced the guest room was Nothing, the side that faced the hallway was Something, the knob that connected them was neither Something nor Nothing. The walls of the hallway were Nothing, even pictures need to disappear, especially pictures, but the hallway itself was Something, the bathtub was Nothing, the bathwater was Something, the hair on our bodies was Nothing, of course, but once it collected around the drain it was Something, we were trying to make our lives easier, trying, with all of our rules, to make life effortless.”

“But a friction began to arise between Nothing and Something, in the morning the Nothing vase cast a Something shadow, like the memory of someone you’ve lost.”

Extremely Loud

Right? If that sort of writing doesn’t do something to you… well, you might not actually be human.

And I understand that this isn’t solely about relationships. Hell, this week I backed my car into a trailer and ho! boy! did that put me in a funk. It’s stupid. It’s material. But it was really early, it upset me, and I still haven’t gotten over it 100%. Please tell me I’m not alone. It’s not that I don’t know that there are worse things. I have a roof over my head and I ate plenty of food today. I talked with people I care about. I took a long walk around this small town I really have found myself growing fond of.

I just can’t always say that those things take away a heaviness in my heart- the Nothing that sometimes creeps in. I feel it for myself. I also feel it for others. I probably take on too much, perhaps imagining a sorrow that they aren’t even experiencing.

So not to sound too optimistic (because I’m writing a blog that isn’t fluffy tonight! I’m sticking to my guns!)…..but I came to the realization today that Nothing is Okay. (This is not ONLY because “okay” is the second worst answer in the world, with “Fine” coming in at #1) Feeling a nothingness-sort-of-sadness for a few days, with almost no good reason, is totally acceptable. 

“I’m sorry for my inability to let unimportant things go, for my inability to hold onto the important things.”

Extremely Loud 

That’s basically all I wanted to say here tonight.

Oh, and a big thanks to friends who’ve heard me ramble about this topic all month. You know who you are. And you’re the ones who make it good, who make the smiles return. All I ask is you don’t give up on me as the days grow darker and colder.

Much, much love,

nothing is okay


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Maybe I’ll Turn Into A Skeleton (& Bodies are Absurd)

The first song I ever wrote started with these lyrics:

“Maybe I’ll turn into a skeleton

My guilt can fall out through my bones

Skip my heart, nothing to catch it on the way down”

That was around the time I became obsessed with skeletons.

my cheap mood ring. I think this color means I'm feeling like a pillar of strength via lioness love (but the diagram didn't say that?!)

my cheap mood ring. I think this color means I’m feeling like a pillar of strength via lioness love (but the diagram didn’t say that?!)

You know those tricks people have in nervous social settings, like picturing everyone being naked? Well, my own trick is to picture everyone walking around just as their skeleton.


We all have a skeleton underneath this skin. No matter your skin color, your weight, or your ailments, those bones are there and I feel as though the world would have a lot less problems if we were given the chance to live out life without the messy stuff around the structure of our bodies.

Maybe guilt would even disappear through us… memories too… if the heart wasn’t in the way, pumping all that (now unnecessary) blood.

When I wrote that song, I was going through a period of time where the thought of being only made of bone was appealing. No more tears. No more blemishes. No more pain. No more self-doubt. No more nerve endings, reminding me of the comfort I didn’t have. I could hardly eat and I was losing weight- surely I’d reach skeleton status in due time. 

And though this is a very bleak snapshot of time for me, there is beauty in this, too.

my fridge, featuring: skeletons doing yoga, a skeleton bus, a skull, a beer label, etc.

my fridge, featuring: skeletons doing yoga, a skeleton bus, a skull, a beer label, etc.

Someone very important to me recently said something along the lines of, “Without suffering we wouldn’t grow.”

Someone else also reminded me of the absurdity of life.

And lately I’ve been enamored with the thought: Bodies are so damn absurd. (And maybe suffering is, in fact, the most beautiful and poignant way to become who we are supposed to be.)

They are!!! We’re souls, and we were given a body. We didn’t choose our hair, our eye color, our teeth, our skin quality, our birth marks, our gender. As life goes on we can alter some of these, and some painful things might happen to our bodies. We might acquire attributes we never wanted. We might lose part of our bodies. We might even feel as though the body we were given is a burden; not beautiful at all.

In my own life, I learned that all of these things are okay, and that my body is beautiful. I learned it only because of the time when I wanted nothing to do with any part of myself that wasn’t just a skeleton.

And I can tell you one thing: boy am I glad I didn’t actually disappear. Now, instead of the withering away aspect, I look at the image of a skeleton in a way that gives hope. After all, in the most basic of ways, the last thing we’ll ever be is a skeleton. It’s the most sturdy part of our body. (science experts, even if this isn’t accurate, throw me a poetic bone here!) When I went into my most recent interview for work, I stood up straight and thought of myself as a skeleton… brave and somewhat unbreakable. My twin sister and I have adopted the skeleton theme in our relationship, based on a magnet I used to have with two skeletons holding hands that said, “Till death do us part is for quitters.” In marriage, maybe not. But in true love, absolutely.

and then Meredith did this for halloween.....

and then Meredith did this for halloween…..

and she kept those gloves, like a badass

and she kept those gloves, like a badass

AND TURNS OUT!!!! I’m so happy that I have skin, nerve endings, and even a heart. Somewhere along the line, after the suffering, I remembered my ability to feel and love. I don’t want to lose that. But I do want to remember how I got to this place… and the image of the skeleton is what symbolizes that path.

There’s hope for us yet. There’s the thought that maybe we’ll be held, maybe we’ll be cherished, maybe the f**cked up and absurd things that have happened to our bodies and self-image are okay- part of the journey- and maybe we can hold and cherish someone else. Surprises happen all the time.

this is the background of my phone

this is the background of my phone

And one more thought: I’m sure bodies are bit more fun to cuddle with than skeletons.

Though I’ll always think they’re lovely.


my favorite earrings

my favorite earrings

Lou (the bag o’ bones)

p.s. and here’s a very fitting song: my favorite Dr. Dog ditty.

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A Green Summer

Russell is a dear friend of mine from back home… the desert in New Mexico.

He has captured the landscape of my memories in way that helps me be away from it- every sentence rings true, every word is poignant and representative of where I’m from. Funny enough, what happened to the desert this summer is reminiscent of what’s happened in life.

Good things keep happening – and it’s getting easier to read the warning signs.

A Green Summer

by Russell Pyle

Living in the desert has its obvious challenges, not least of all is the constant search for water.

All living things residing in desert climes face this similar fate; for a creature can exist for quite

some time without food, but water is the stuff of life. It would seem that nothing can survive long

without it. The desert, that ever changing and surprising landscape, holds so many secrets of

survival that nothing is ever as it seems.

New Mexico, like much of the great southwest, depends on monsoon rains during July and

August to buoy yearly rainfall totals. Rainfall throughout the rest of the year is lackluster at best,

and there have been many late spring months where residents of Albuquerque and beyond

have felt the emotional toll that a dry fall and winter can have on a body and mind. Not only do

the rains hold the key for physical life to continue and flourish, they provide a vital service to the

mind and spirit; invigorating, revitalizing.

So it is with great anticipation that the desert awaits its drink. The months of April and May,

casually letting loose the clouds on much of the rest of the country, deny the southwest their

respite from up to 6 months with less than an inch of precipitation. June comes in with a deeply

draining sense of hopelessness, until the last weeks, when a cold breeze begins applying itself

to the west. Then, sometime in early July, late in the afternoon, big bellied clouds roll in off the

volcanoes in the west, catching against the Jemez, Sandia, and Manzano mountains, and piling

up in great towers of darkened cotton. All at once they drop their payload, often for 45 minutes

at a time, then breaking away allowing the sun one last glimpse of the earth before clocking out

from it’s shift. Not to worry, the great cumulus clouds will return tomorrow, and they are

efficiently punctual.

The desert that greets the sun the morning following the first monsoon rains is not the same as

the one from the day before. Small green ground cover begins to appear in what was only one

day ago a great brown ocean, the cholla and prickly pear cacti start showing the faint traces of

flower, and blue gramma and buffalo grasses begin the short journey towards shedding their

seeds and perpetuating their survival. As the days pass with their daily downpours late in the

afternoon, the burnt landscape begins its seasonal transformation. And the desert knows

exactly what it needs: summer rainfall late in the day or overnight is far more beneficial than the

late morning or afternoon. During the peak heat times of the day the rain can evaporate so

quickly that it won’t make a difference if it makes it to the ground, and often won’t make it to the

ground at all. Rain late in the day and at night allows for the rain to hit the desert floor and soak

in, nurturing the soil for as long as it can.

Watching the walls of water spread out in the distance is a captivating experience. As the

thunderheads migrate eastward, great sheets of rain paint the horizon below the clouds different

shades of slate, gray, and charcoal, based upon the intensity of the downpour. These screens

stretch for miles and miles, blanketing the distance but inching ever closer towards the

volcanoes on the edge of Albuquerque where I bear witness to their unfurling. The volcanoes

are the best place in Albuquerque to watch a storm: they provide a complete panorama of the

city edged against the great Sandia Mountains to the east as well as the vast expanse of

nowhere reaching North, South, and West. The city in the valley below sparkles in the twilight as

lights turn on to greet the coming night. Why are you people in your homes? Why are you not

outside to catch some of the life that will soon be spilling out of the skies?

Water hitting hot, dry ground has always produced one of the most aromatherapeutic smells in

the natural, or unnatural world. As a child I remember the smell of the first rain drops hitting the

dark macadam of the city streets where I grew up. A sweet, slightly metallic odor rises as the

water mixes with the oils on the blacktop. The heat causing the cold drops to create small

geysers of steam that dissipate about a foot off the ground, releasing the familiar, long-awaited

smell before soaking the earth and morphing into something a little more sickly-sweet, losing the

metallic layers in the process. I never thought there was a better smell until I experienced the

rain hitting dry dust instead of the tar of industry – sage, rosemary, and desert willow instead

of grass and the old mulch of far-fallen leaves from the previous autumn. Equally earthy, but

much more natural, pure, cleansing. The ground of my youth was polluted by an overabundance

of smells that overwhelmed the olfactory system. In contrast, the desert smells mix menthol and

camphor, clearing the nasal passages and calming frazzled nerves quickly. The air is thick with

a dusty scent in accompaniment as the parched sand and dirt fly into the air with each new

strike of the raindrops.

While this process repeats itself for two weeks every summer, every ten years or so an anomaly

may arise like the cumulonimbus clouds towering the horizon. During this type of year the

monsoons stay not for two weeks, but stretch from the end of June till the middle of August,

enveloping most of the summer in a perpetual forecast of moisture. The year I arrived in the

southwest, 2006, was one such year. This year, 2015, has been another. In fact, the rains began

in the beginning of May and have not quit. Rain has not shown its face every day, but more days

than not have been marked by puddled gutters and wonderfully smelling desert plant life. When

looking west towards the volcanoes a great green country greets the eye, beckoning. Driving

through the region, north through Colorado and west through northern Arizona, the same site is

present. Ten-year water numbers are vastly improving due to the amount of water falling from

the sky. Rivers rise above their banks throughout the area and the Rio Grande, running mere

blocks from my home, and is high and muddy on a consistent basis; a tell-tale sign of extreme

runoff. The desert has changed before my eyes: once a barren, desolate patch, promising a

harsh and unforgiving existence is now a healing factor, stitching the wounds of my year and

applying a needed salve.


The desert is analogous to life in many ways. St. John had his long dark night of the soul, but I

feel like what he was describing is better termed as a long walk through the desert. Periods of

extreme drought followed by an outpouring of growth and beauty. Creatures that have adapted

to the harsh life offered by the desert have one constant instinct: get water, stay alive. Again,

this is analogous to what humans need throughout their lives. There must be a constant search

for that which gives life, that which sustains. When I am parched from these things I dry up and

become emotionally dormant, unable to grow and show the world the beauty that is my true

identity. On the converse, when I find and drink the water of life I flourish and bloom, my

winsome nature becoming apparent not only to the world around me, but also to myself.

Finding the well can be difficult, and from time to time the water dries up, leaving me to search

for a new drought. Fortunate for me there are dowsers as a guide: exercise, connecting with

nature, exploring spirituality. Unfortunate for me, there are also springs that promise to quench

thirst, and seem to do exactly that at first, only to reveal themselves to be a poison. Or they are

actually feeding the side of me that takes away life.

Consider the Cherokee legend of the two wolves: A grandfather explains to his grandchild that

he has two wolves fighting within him. One wolf is malice, anger, shame, and pain. The other is

love, compassion, peace, and contentment. The child asks, “Which will win?” The grandfather

replies, “The one I feed.”

I see that there is water that will feed my beauty, and there is water that will feed my pain. There

aren’t always clear signs hanging from those wells that hold poison, but I have always felt that

there are signs on the wells that give life. So I continue to search through the desert, drinking

greedily when I come to the latter.


A western hike through the volcanoes this week shows the signs of the dry season to come:

gold-brown patches have appeared amongst the green, and the walls of water that once

dominated the sky are no longer. It will be a while before desperation creeps back over these

lands, but it is inevitable. Like the amazing Rose of Jericho, the desert will crawl into its dusty

brown turmoil, looking dead until the next season of monsoons hit, allowing it to bloom for only

another moment.

the site I couldn't believe, taken from the plane

the site I couldn’t believe, taken from the plane


Thanks Russell, for your words.

It’s pretty amazing that your arrival to Albuquerque brought the rain… while my departure did the same, ten years later.

Cheers to the change and growth- and to finding our healing water, always.


Lou (who has the desert in her veins)

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9 Acceptable Love Songs (A Rare Find)

Happy Monday!

Let me just say right off the bat today: I’m not really into love songs. The whole notion is rather foreign right now, but that’s okay.

I thought I’d go ahead and share nine songs that have meant something to me… but that skip all the gooshy drama. They aren’t full of ridiculous promises or praise. They even bring up some interesting dilemmas or doubts.

These songs have found their way to me in different forms. Some were shared with me by others, some I stumbled upon on my own. Thanks to anyone who’s showed me music. It means the world to me. And an extra thanks if it was a gem of a love song.

Here they are. Enjoy! And let me know if you use any of these on your next mixed tape for that special someone. ;)

1. Deer Tick- These Old Shoes

“It was a no-go for this hobo.”

2. John Prine and Iris DeMent- In Spite of Ourselves

“Swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs.”

3. Mason Jennings- Butterfly

“I still have my doubts about you.”

4. Gregory Alan Isakov- She Always Takes It Black

“You’ll love her when it all goes dark, you’ll love her even after that.”

5. Angel Olsen- Hi-Five

“Are you lonely, too? Hi-five.”

6. Shovels and Rope- Boxcar

“Let your pretty mama go up in smoke.”

7. Tom Waits- Long Way Home 

“Watch your back, keep your eyes shut tight.”

8. Over the Rhine- All of it was Music 

“We swung an ax to bruise it.”

9. Dr. Dog- Do the Trick

“I could lay each and every brick.”

Love (song),



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“Challie” – An Ode to Home


By Melinda Wilder

The man who pronounced his name Challie

And bought bread from me-age 18- was there

I saw him in the grocery store

The girl who dated my friend sophomore year

Can’t remember what school she went to

I saw her in the airport

That guy who made my friend cry on a date

And wears ridiculous hats

I saw him at the brewery

Now I head back to a place

Where no one is a memory

(Only of the short term)

Nothing takes me back

But Charlie was the sweetest old man I ever knew



Lou, who sat at the very back of the airplane, and wrote this poem on her journey back (from) home

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RAMBLE (& I Love the Way You Walk Away)

this is up at my sister's house... I filled in the word, she drew the picture. oh, and notice my mom in the top left corner.

this is up at my sister’s house… I filled in the word, she drew the picture. oh, and notice my mom in the top left corner.

It’s the most romantic word I can think of.

RAMBLE: to walk or go from one place to another place without a specific goal, purpose, or direction; to go from one subject to another without any clear purpose or direction

I’m a rambler.


I ramble. Both in life and on this blog. Sometimes I feel that my purpose and direction is hazy (the grey matters) and there are days I wonder what in the world I’m doing. What are all these words adding up to? Where are my steps taking me?

Burnin’ this bridge cause I need the light

For to see my way in the coming night

(Blitzen Trapper, Love the Way You Walk Away)

Then I remember my favorite word and smile because it doesn’t really matter. Having no real direction or purpose at this point in time is working out. I can’t explain why, but it is. I’m happier than ever. Not in that annoying and sort of manic, “I’m so happy, but I have a crazy sadness hidden behind my eyes,” type of happy…. but a calm and content level of enjoyment with my life right now.

Right now I’m in New Mexico. I’m sitting in the house where I grew up. I’m on my dad’s laptop. I’ve taken about one hundred photos of the sky and mountains. I’ve seen all the people I’ve missed. And I’m realizing… right now, I’m not supposed to be living here.

I even said out loud, “I’m going back home [to Wisconsin] on Wednesday.” Which was a surprise, given my little rant on home the other day. It took being back in my hometown to realize that I’m getting used to my new surroundings. I find comfort in what I’ve had around me every day the last five months. And to tell you the truth, I miss my friends in the Midwest. I didn’t realize I had a routine going on. I didn’t realize I could almost always count on seeing such-and-such person at least once every week or so. I love this part of my life. The new is just as important as the “old”… something I didn’t think was possible or realistic.

I took a hike in the foothills during my time here and I thought of one song the whole time:

This song reminds me of one person in particular. Yet, it doesn’t make me cry anymore.

A brand new coat of paint

on this brokedown palace couldn’t compensate

for the things I never really said to make you stay

cause I love the way you walk away

(Blitzen Trapper, Love the Way You Walk Away)

Instead of feeling unwanted with an idea like this, I now feel whole. I feel that watching someone walk away can be downright perfect. I tried for the new coat of paint on my home… aka… sprucing up my old life to make it something that would keep me. No matter what I did, the words to “make me stay” weren’t said. I now realize that the biggest mistake wasn’t the lack of effort there… the biggest mistake was the way I let it weaken my sense of self worth.

And it turns out, walking away was the best thing I ever did for myself.

The best friendships I’ve formed recently have been with those who have walked away from a certain aspect of their life. Everything was turned upside down. It’s these people who I feel connected with and also very free from. We’ve learned and even EARNED a level of solitude that should be respected.

When I listened to the Biltzen Trapper song on my hike, it made me smile, because now the lyrics mean something so different. I think, “Yes, I love the way you walk away, because you don’t need me and I don’t need you. Yet, the moments we do share are unlike any other. And guess what? When I think of you or spend time with you, it’s because I value who you are as an individual. I also know you value me as an individual.”

“All I heard was the stars as they spoke to me

an ancient tongue, speaking loud and true

telling me all the ways that I’m losing you.”

(Blitzen Trapper)

All I’m saying is, I don’t know where I’m going. I’m rambling.

This blog is all over the place… rambling. I even ramble on and on in conversation. Sometimes I hear myself and think, “Just be quiet, Melinda.”

Also, all I’m saying is this:

I appreciate the other ramblers I know. I appreciate when people walk away from me and into their own lives. I appreciate when these people let me do the same thing. I also now appreciate those who let me go, no matter how it was done. Those scars fade. My burning bridge really did help me see where I was going.

Here’s to the journey… the wonderers… the ramblers.



Lou (who just might walk away, but will always come back)

p.s. in true Melinda fashion… here’s a good and depressing song that I absolutely LOVE. Enjoy.