Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters

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I Love Sad Songs (Even When I’m Not Sad)

(Hey Lou is taking a break from its 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series)

Once when I worked in a small production space with only two other people, it was my day to choose the music. We mostly listened to “neutral” music we could all enjoy, but every once in a while we gave each other the chance to pour our hearts out via the songs on our playlists.

By the end of the first hour, one of my coworkers looked up at me and said, “Um… are you okay?” It was a sincere question and I remember laughing it off at the time.

“Of course I’m okay! Why?”

“It’s just this music!! I’m depressed already,” they said. Both coworkers agreed. What was with the melancholy music?

I hadn’t fully realized my shift into the style of music I truly enjoy: SAD.

Now, it’s finally snowing outside and the time of year is upon us which requires – in order to survive – a positive outlook on life, a possible vitamin D supplement, and not allowing the dark and shivering cold winter to bring about random moments of existential crisis.

THEREFORE: I am going to first share why I love sad music, and then share with you my top eleven favorite sad songs. (Because God forbid your loved ones to be stuck listening to Taylor Swift’s Back to December and Cher Lloyd’s I Want U Back when you’re feeling low. No, they deserve much better.)

We’ve ALL felt it. That pain, the kind that feels like it will never cease to exist. The kind that you let yourself wallow in… possibly forever (you think)… and the lower you sink, the less you sleep, the more fretful your daydreams become and the less you tell yourself that maybe you do have a good future in store. And then maybe one day you see a glimmer of hope. And then the next day you realize that you only have yourself to blame for your current pain. And then, weeks later, you realize that you only have yourself to blame for STILL being in your current situation. That will either help you rise up, or slump you down lower.

You might hear a “life is great” themed song on the radio and come way too close to destroying your entire dashboard. The melancholy music will have the opposite effect — you might cry, but you will come to find a sort of peace there, a safe place to be, and you will hear the raw beauty behind all of the lyrics.

But eventually, with time, once all of the extreme highs and low are settled, you can start to simply BE. You can exist again, in a world that now looks different to you. You’ve now experienced PAIN, you are in the club, a member for life. You experience joy differently and you experience a sort of “unbreakable” power that stems from the fact that you’ve survived! You survived all that pain and suffering!

Then you find yourself still listening to all that same music — the music that saw you through the dark days. You’ll remember that it’s beautiful. You’ll start to hear more hopeful songs and you’ll think, “That’s nice, but does that speak to my soul?” Sometimes it will. Occasionally, I mean rarely, do I hear a cheery song and smile along with it. It feels good when that happens, but usually those songs sound so cheesy and fake to me. It’s probably a cliché perspective, but I have experienced in my own life true art and beauty coming out of nooks  and corners inside of people that they didn’t know they had until the thing that hurt them. Whether it be a divorce, a death, a loss of some other kind, a medical scare, or any other circumstance… it will change you. And I can bet that you’ll appreciate the songs I’m about to share with you. They’re lovely. They’re a little badass. They range from the most depressing in the world to just a little bit sad. Each one was my anthem at a certain time in life. Now they make up just one small chapter of my life’s story.


The 11 Best Sad Songs

1.  Lay Low – Shovels & Rope

“Well I probably should be/drug out to sea/where I can’t hurt no one/and no one can hurt me”

2. Wasted Time/Everything is Okay – The Everybodyfields

The Everybodyfields wrote this entire album, “Nothing is Okay,” while they were filing for divorce. It’s a divorce album — which makes it that much more real.

“I’m all alone and need a friend/I’m so grateful/and you’re so tired of me”

3. Cory Branan – Survivor Blues

“Say it makes you stronger/first you gotta survive”

4.  Jeffrey Foucault – Twice I Left Her

“Somewhere my plan unraveled/I was winding my way back home”

5. Gregory Alan Isakov – If I Go, I’m Goin’

“And the photographs/know I’m a liar/they just laugh/as I burn down”

6. Tift Merritt – Drifted Apart

“I watched you go/don’t pretend you don’t know”

7. Conor Oberst – Night At Lake Unknown

“When I lost myself/I lost you by extension…… most anything can be forgiven/with what is left we’ll have to live”

8. Justin Townes Earle – Yuma

“Lookin’ back I’d say/it wasn’t so much the girl”

9. Damien Rice & Melanie Laurent – Everything You’re Not Supposed To Be

“You walk away from me/for the first time sure”

10. Jason Isbell – Songs That She Sang in the Shower

“And in the car/headed home/she asked if I had considered the prospect of living alone”

11. Jill Andrews & Josh Oliver – Ain’t No Ash Will Burn

“And you say this life is not your lot/but I can’t be something that I’m not”

Nowadays, when I listen to these songs, they have shown up randomly off my playlist. They are the background music to utter joy… to the life I have now. I spend fun nights at home with my family. I spend quiet nights at home with my husband. I enjoy this time, I love this time. But without these songs, he wouldn’t know me as well as he does. Without what they once meant to me, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today — and I’m glad to say I’m thankful for ALL of it. God led me where I was supposed to belong, with all of the sad songs to get me here. Can’t wait to see where I’m headed now!

Love, Lou


(who got another round of wedding photos this week! fuuuun! and who wore black nail polish at her wedding…because I will always have a dark side ;) …)



The Sisters We Find

#7 What did I love to do when I was a child?

I’m on question seven of my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

It SORT of seems like the easiest question yet. But it has made me think, remember, and pause more than any of the others. Childhood is such a precious time. I have a new perspective on it these days and a new relationship with my childhood self. I sort of have her back, but I’m really missing something.

Because mostly, what I loved to do as a child, was anything with my twin sister. She was my rock, my playmate, my best friend and the only person I wasn’t ever afraid of.

twin, memory, smiling

we even shared onesies :)

writing, memory, fishing, dad, vivid

Now, I love what these two photos represent. I think it’s something that most siblings (at least these days) can’t really relate to. When you’re a twin, you see things differently. Meaning: there is no record of right or wrong kept. There is no scoreboard and we pretty much only supported each other. We rarely, if ever, grew jealous or spiteful. In the first picture, we’re obviously having a hilarious time, and we obviously had to possess some skills in teamwork to even make that whole ordeal happen. In the second photograph, I have to laugh, because I’m just holding the bag of worms and Meredith is holding the big catch of the day. But I’m still holding her hand, still happy for her, and I doubt if I ever wondered, “When will I get to hold the fish?”

It’s not that we didn’t or don’t have our faults. We were regular little girls who made mistakes and had arguments, but when it comes down to it, the spirit of sisterhood was real and represented in the relationship she and I held as twins.



I have two older sisters as well. LUCKY ME!!!!! I love my sisters.


If only the whole world could be so supportive and able to let others “hold the fish.” If only all women who are ALL part of the sisterhood on this planet treated each other like they mattered, no matter what. What if we CHEERED for others when they were successful? What if we were willing to stand back in those moments, humble and content? I so long for such a world. Yet I know first hand that some women don’t live this way.

However, I’ve also learned that as an adult, I have more relationships that fall under the “twin-like” category than I could have possibly imagined. Of course, the sisters who are related to me by blood can never be replaced. Even from far away, we help each other, share our secrets, group text (hooray for technology!) and love one another. But the sisters who I’ve met recently in life and are related to me through interests, faith, kindness, and laughter have a new place in my heart. We also help each other, share our secrets, group text and love one another. We pray together and for one another. We weep together and for one another.

Now, this relates to the question asked in the beginning: What did I love to do when I was a child?

The big answer is… spend time with my sisters.

This topic hits close to home because a) I’m no longer living near my sisters and b) I have a whole new set of “sisters” who are so good to me, who mean so much to me, that I have literally been brought to tears because of the love I have in my heart for them.

I hope each woman on the planet has been able to experience this. I used to say, I don’t know HOW people got through life without a twin. Now I really think, How do people go through life without a wealth of friendship… especially one rooted in faith.

I just got the amazing experience of taking a road trip to Montana with four other women in order to visit our loved friend who moved away. I think anyone would be wary of spending 12+ hours in a van with a bunch of women… but it was fun, inspiring, filled with laughter and stories and I honestly didn’t notice how long we were in the car.




I felt the true type of companionship that has the comfort of family, knowing I could say anything without the threat of being judged or laughed at. It was one of the safest “safe zones” I’ve been a part of.



We explored Yellowstone (my first time ever there!)

yellowstonecarmen-melindaThe HIGH that goes along with an experience like this is quite amazing. It’s hard to get down from, to tell you the truth. The fact that these trips can’t last forever make it way too easy to wish that they would, in fact, last forever. I found myself wishing that the hours spent drinking coffee, looking at the mountains, chatting for hours with five girlfriends, and never feeling a moment that wasn’t cozy, would just keep lasting and lasting. When we danced in the old mountain bar, I didn’t want to leave the dancefloor. When we stood in church, all in one pew together, tears streamed down my face as I thanked God for the friends I have. I experienced a flood of memories, including EVERYONE who’s made me feel welcome in the Midwest and all of the crazy “God moments” that have led me to exactly where I stand today.


It was difficult to get home and miss our dear friend we went to go see. Yet, I felt a new sense of calm and comfort in my life, knowing that the “safe zone” I felt would last forever. When you have that, you can actually step outside of it way more often.

My mom said this in regards to romantic relationships, but I think it’s true with friends too: You can leave the kitchen because you’re no longer starving. Meaning: you’re not desperate for love or attention, you have the comfort and stability you need… now go out there and face the world, knowing you’re full no matter what.

How thankful I am for the women in my life. And not just the ones pictured here (I’m just super excited, still, about the road trip we took!!). There are so many others, and I can only HOPE that I have helped them even half as much as they’ve helped me.

So there’s my answer to question 7 in my series. May all women feel loved. May we all treat each other with respect. May we forgive each other and ourselves, may we live lives rooted in TRUTH and encourage one another to do so. May God continue to bless us on our own rocky paths as we stumbled hand in hand, somehow reaching one another, even when we feel miles apart.

I LOVE YOU LADIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Love, Lou



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A Brutal Truth (Life Lessons From My Mom)

When I was in middle school I remember crying because of mean girls. They were so mean… starting at a young age. I feel for any girl who’s been left out of a club, who isn’t included in a game, who finds herself bossed around because she feels, from the depths of her soul, that silence maybe is the answer to all of this aggression. I can still remember that pain, and this helps me relate to my step kids and their very real feelings (more on that in a bit here).

So, there I was, crying. My mom was comforting me as she always did.

And let me tell you something about my mom. She ALWAYS TELLS THE TRUTH. It’s something I love and something that, at least a few times, I wished she wasn’t so good at. Like the time I put the wrong liquid in my contact case and when I put my contacts in my eyes, it felt like my eyes were being chemically burned. They turned red, I took out my contacts, and showed up to church (she worked at the church and was there already) with my sisters, in tears, wearing my glasses and when I found her I asked desperately, “Mom!! Am I going to go blind??!”

What she said was this: “Well, I really don’t know sweetie.” 

I was devastated. I wanted her say this: “Of course not. No way. You’re totally fine!”

But she didn’t know what I’d used, she didn’t know what was going to happen, and she wasn’t about to lie to me just to comfort me. And luckily, the burning went away and my eyes were totally okay.

So anyway, back to the comforting moment. My heart was hurting and I was calming down after needing to get those tears out and I asked my mom, “When you grow up, do mean girls stop being mean?!” 

Here was another golden opportunity for her to reassure me that life would be rainbows and butterflies and that these trials were only for those three horrible years some people refer to as middle school.

What she said was this: “No, honey. Sometimes the mean girls just get worse. But there’s some good news here. The nice people usually get nicer. AND you won’t be stuck in the hallway with them. You’ll have a lot more freedom in that way, and so, those mean girls won’t be as present in your life.”

Oh man, I was just crushed. I thought adults were supposed to have their act together. I thought they cut the shit and started being good people… brains develop ALL the way… they’ve been through their own trials… and the women… surely by now, every woman is a feminist and just wants to support all women, all the time…. right?


Welp, turns out my mom told me the very brutal truth again. (thanks mom!)

Which brings me to #6 in my 20 Things Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

6. What can I let go of?

And I’ll start my answer to this question by telling another little story, and this time, I’m the grown up.

It’s kind of cool, because now that I have three step kids, I get to solve problems, give advice, learn from them all the time, and just have some unique issues in general that always lead to a good conversation. I love it.

So kids, their emotions are 100% real. I know this, but I think sometimes a reminder is good, too. For instance:

Somewhat recently one of the kids was very upset because another kid was reporting information about them that that the accused knew was false.  This happened right at the dinner table. The accused got very loud and very upset, saying something along the lines of, “That is NOT true! He/She is LYING! I did NOT do that!” (Obviously, I don’t want to give away who was doing what ;) )  I chose to take the moment to teach a lesson. I said very calmly, “Okay then. So, you know you didn’t do it, right?” And he/she nodded. “Well, that’s all that matters.” Then I pointed at my own heart. “As long as you know the truth in here, what he/she is saying about you doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t let it upset you. Does that make sense? You’re your own unique person and you know your truth.” The lesson was well taken, but I’ve given the same schpeal a few times now.

HO, HO, HO. The joke’s on me, though. And recently I had to sit down and remind myself of the very advice I had given my step kids.

My mom was right — those mean girls are way less present in my life. Almost 99% of the time, my life is just plain awesome in that regard. I have amazing friends who support me, listen to me, laugh with me and smile with me. Things have gotten much better since middle school. Thank God. However, she was also right when she said that the mean girls would only get worse. There are some people out there with cold hearts, who can’t really look inside and like what they see… who maybe don’t know their own truth.

And I had to let go of things that I let get under my skin. I had to sit down at the table and give myself the same pep talk. “Melinda, you know your own heart. You know that your silence is stronger than negative words. You know your actions have been pure, strong, and that God is always with you. You know this. Don’t let the one single voice saying the exact opposite of everyone else ring in your head. You know your truth.”

It was a good reminder of just how real those kids’ emotions are. When they feel they are being wrongly accused, they feel the injustice and they have the instinct to right it.

As an adult, not only are people possibly even more hurtful, but ALSO!!!!!!! the instinct to defend yourself, right the wrong and shout it out to the world is still there, but we can’t do it. We have to sit on our hands and bite our tongues and take calming breaths and remember that actions can only be done — they can never be undone.

I had to let go of negativity and resentment. And then I had to call one of my best girlfriends (after calling my mom, of course) and laugh about the whole entire ridiculous situation and remember that the “hallway” is a lot bigger, and though we can’t rid our lives of evil or hurt, we can continue knowing our hearts.

At the end of the day, I have dignity, and that’s much better than a loud word.

However, the next time this happens at dinner, I might be a little less quick to preach and a little more ready to hear the hurt.



Lou (who is learning more about her heart with each and every trying moment)


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Love Yourself, Love Lou

Here I am, almost one month later, finally writing again. Folks, it’s been an amazing time.


October rang in as one of my new favorite months. Fall seems to be lasting forever and not only did I get to go “home” with my family to New Mexico, I got to return home with them and continue to live my amazing, blessed life with my husband and community.

And I’m more ready than ever to answer #5 in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

5. Do I love myself exactly as I am right now?

The short answer is YES. The long answer is why, how, and the road to getting here. But it’s not toooo long, I promise.

First, I thought upon answering this question: Wow, I really have come along way when it comes to the idea of love. On my first date, when I entered back into “the dating world” after my divorce, I pretty much told the guy, “Don’t ever say you love me. That word means nothing. I’m not looking for love. So, let’s just agree to never go there. Okay great. Thanks for the awesome time tonight!”

When I met my husband, he and I had a somewhat similar and bleak outlook on the word and idea, too. Together, believing we didn’t have to worry about loving each other because it didn’t exist, we formed what I would call the greatest friendship of my life…. later to realize that our love had nothing to do with rose-colored-glasses or honeymoon-phases or falling-deeply-in-love-with-my-soulmate-at-first-sight.

That was the kind of superficial “love” we were both wary of. And we were nowhere near “dating” or thinking we’d end up together when Israel told me he realized he loved me. He loved me in a way that I could and already did reciprocate… a love of truly knowing the worst in someone, the scars inside of them, and not even knowing if there’s hope for the future. Broken, honest love, and a love that took time to grow.

Eventually my heart grew (kind of like the Grinch) and wrapped around not only my husband, but his three kids as well. And to this day, I don’t think the words “I love you” mean very much without some major actions to back it up.


I once said, “I’d rather NEVER hear those words again, as long as someone showed me they loved me.” Now, I’m basking in the absolute unreal blessing of getting both, but my ideals remain.

Now, this DOES relate to feminism and the love I have for myself. Here’s how:

It took seeing myself in the worst way possible, opening up to myself and being honest with who I was, accepting that there was darkness in my heart, and realizing that I might never experience an illusion of a “honeymoon phase” ever again…… IN ORDER FOR ME TO LOVE MYSELF. 

In order to survive, I had to remember that God loves me, too. I had to remember that if I don’t love myself as I am right now, then I won’t ever love myself. Because I’ll never be any closer to perfect. How can I expect others to respect me or LOVE me if I don’t first have that for myself? The only “person” we can expect to love us otherwise is God.

Now, does this mean that I look in the mirror every morning and take a real good look and say, “I love you, self.” No way.

It means that I do my best to treat myself well. I expect myself to be better and better. I don’t let myself off the hook and blame downfalls on others. I treat others the way I want to be treated and I forgive myself when I fall short. I respect my body and try to see value in all human life.

I could say the exact same thing about the way I try to love my husband, or the way he loves me. We make each other better by being honest, urging one another further in life and love as we challenge, listen, respect and okay, occasionally get angry with one another. I know that when he takes time to wash my car, or makes my favorite breakfast before I get out of bed, or plays with the kids outside, or absentmindedly holds my hand, or drives off early in the  morning to get to work… that he might as well be SHOUTING: I LOVE YOU!!!!

And so, this love for myself grew when I was by myself, but it truly matured and grew in a much richer environment once I was committed to someone in life and learned from him. Because wow, does my husband know how to love.

I read once about those couples who, rather than trying to “get back at each other” all the time, “tried to outdo each other in kindness” all the time. I tell ya, that is hard, too. I feel I am constantly falling short. If I were to compare on a chart the list of things Israel has done for me and the things I have done for him… let’s just say, he’s winning. But luckily, another way I see love given to me is that the comparison list is out the window. And the things I do try to do are appreciated and I know I can always get better ;)

So there you have it. I hope that no matter where life has taken you up to this point, that you can truly say you love yourself. Remember, this isn’t the unrealistic love that the world has taught us. It’s a real love full of scraps and bruises and the kind that doesn’t give up. It’s the kind that perhaps makes your heart slow down rather than speed up.

Oh, AND SPEAKING OF LOVE. Have I mentioned I love the desert? I finally had the opportunity to travel there with my family… and I’m pretty sure they love it, too. It was fun to see my home state through the eyes of a child.

We all love: Traveling on an airplane (for the first time!) You can really see the joy in all our faces here. But hey, this was just the shuttle. albq3


We all love being on top of a giant mountain. albq1


We all love balloons.



AND MOST OF ALL….. our family kind of digs sunsets. You could say we love them.



Lou (who is really good at loving imperfectly)

(and traveling with three kids, turns out)





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You Don’t Have A Soul (Part 2)

Alright. So, more than a year ago I wrote this blog on body image. It was largely about a discovery I had to make largely on my own, along with the support of other women. I couldn’t face my body image issues 100% alone, and I think that’s an unfair pressure to put on ourselves. We need other people. It isn’t an unhealthy dependency issue: it’s human. We need to love ourselves, trust that others care for us, and also to remember that God made us the way we are for a reason. Even though I think bodies are just plain absurd, we live in them the whole time we’re walking the earth.

Which leads me to answer Question 4 in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself Series

4. Am I In My Body?

When I lost all confidence in my body, my sexuality and my ability to look in the mirror without disgust and despair, I often had the terrifying sensation that I was floating above my body. I felt completely disconnected. I looked down at my legs and thought, “How can these huge things be mine?” I looked in the mirror and thought, “Who wants to see this weird face?” And I absolutely thought, “Am I desirable at all?

And as much as I tried to advertise this choice as a brave and strong thing to do (which in a small way, it was), I also buzzed all of my hair off. I didn’t want it. I wanted to hide, yet I wanted to scream right in the middle of every single room I stood in. “Am I beautiful NOW?!!” Having no hair was like a strange mixture of both of those desires.

I remember driving often in the middle of the night, feeling as though I was hovering over my existence. Surely, this couldn’t be my body. I almost didn’t feel anymore. I often alluded to and wrote about feeling like a skeleton — no nerve endings, no sensations, just a hollow mess. This was my worst moment and I’m sharing it because I own it… I learned from it… and I’m no longer there.

If this sounds anything like you, I want you to know that this too shall pass. It might take:

-a girlfriend listening to you cry

-visiting your parents and asking them to remind you where you came from

-getting a divorce or breaking up

-reconciling with your significant other

-praying every day…..

but I can assure you that what won’t help this to pass is to battle it all alone and retreat to  your closet.

I had so many helping me, and one of the biggest challenges I faced was to LET THEM. I had to put aside my pride (even when we feel we have no pride…) and face the reality that I wasn’t going to get better unless I had love and compassion. I’m so blessed to have had it. God didn’t give up on me, and neither did my family. This showed me that I didn’t have to give up on myself, either.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Everyone is capable of feeling this low. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with what we physically look like — but it has everything to do with the state of our souls. Which is good, because that means everyone is capable of rising up again.

C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul, and you have a body.”

I love love love this. We have bodies to get us where we need to go. We have nerve endings connected to every inch of our skin so that we know when we’re in danger. We also have the amazing ability to feel the loving touch of another. I think for a good two years, I relied on hugs to get me through the day.

Not everyone’s #1 love language is touch. Mine is, but touch might be lower on your own personal list. However, it’s this love language that directly relates to being in our bodies, so I’m going to focus on that.

It’s ironic, because now that I’m in the most loving relationship of my entire life, with more fulfilling touch that I ever thought possible, I know that it took some serious alone time to get here.

I could’t skip that step. I was alone in the sense of not having a significant other, not alone in the sense of community and support. In fact, when I first met my husband, I had a whole schpeal about how strong I was alone and how much I liked doing my own thing and not needing desperately for someone to hold me.

I could finally fall asleep easily, eat with total and full enjoyment, and look in the mirror and think, “Thank you God for this body.”

When it came time to trust another human being with my body, I was ready. I was ready to leave the kitchen because I was no longer starving. (something my mom once said to me:) )   I wasn’t desperately wondering who would love me or if I’d ever be desirable to another human being.

I can proudly say that yes, I am in my body. I feel like I belong here. I look down and I think, “These legs have taken me far.” Sometimes, jokingly, I also say, “Gosh, thanks for the big strong calves, dad.” When I’m PMSing and feel bloated, I touch my stomach and my hips and my thighs and I realize that I love being a woman, and that curves are more than okay. This process is happening because my body is meant to build another human being. I mean, woah. When I’m alone with myself, I take a good look and I get to know myself. But I don’t obsess in front of the mirror. That never did me a second of good.

Romance to me is my husband seeing me fully and knowing I don’t need to hide a single thing. It helps that I have someone who tells me I’m beautiful and does everything from holding my hand to rubbing my back when I’m on my period. (But I survived before I had this!!)

And feminism to me is spreading the word that all bodies are different and okay. The false expectations that little girls have today breaks my heart. There are fake bodies everywhere and it needs to be discussed. The way I choose to combat this in a female-positive way is to explain to my step daughters that the next few years hold a lot of changes for them, but that they’re completely unique and won’t look like anyone else. I use my own family as an example… four daughters, all with completely different shapes and sizes. All beautiful.


and sometimes it’s heading to a yoga class you’ll giggle your way through!!! ;) <3

So my answer is YES, I am in my body. I am in here for good, with all of the flaws and all of the weirdness. And now I’m united through marriage with someone else, too, so I feel that my soul and body have expanded. Two become one is real, and it’s even possible while maintaining your own identity.

Because: two halves don’t equal a whole. Two wholes come together to create an equal partnership that can stand the test of time.

I would never have been able to trust and deal with the difficulties of my own current situation if I hadn’t first healed up and become whole… soul and body united for good.

And there you have it: my journey to being in my body, the one that God gave me and the one that I need to live with and love for the rest of my days.

Are you in your body? If not, please don’t ever give up. If you are, share your story and love others as much as you possibly can.

And for the love of God, let’s stop comparing ourselves to others. Another great quote I’ll end with is this: Comparison is the killer to all happiness. 

Cheers to bodies and to the healing, love and kindness we can give ourselves every day. Cheers to the next generation and all the little girls who need role models who toss out the fashion magazines and roll out of bed radiating beauty, because they know that beauty has nothing to do with hair or makeup or boob size or the perfect outfit.



Lou (who wants to wear this shirt every single day)











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No Excuses, No Pity: Just Forgiveness

As we can tell from any Facebook or Instagram feed, the world is really into empowering women these days. A fact I love, and I fact I want to keep moving forward with as I answer the 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself.


I read through the questions and realized that I’d be even stronger, even more aware of my own self and my heart, after answering the questions honestly and slowly. I encourage any one stumbling upon this blog post (male or female!) to ask yourself these questions, too. Your answers will of course be completely different, but my hope is that by sharing my own thoughts you will explore yours, too.

Question 4: Who Do You Need to Forgive?

This is a day I’ve been avoiding. I’ve spoken with a few friends about this topic. In these conversations I mused:

“How am I going to write this without giving in to the all-too-Midwestern style of passive aggressiveness?”

“I’m really, really having a hard time forgiving. Just currently.”

“But the person I need to forgive was really, extremely awful. So…”

I KNOW I’m not alone with these excuses or thoughts behind my lack of forgiveness. I just have a hunch.

Then I started going the other direction.

“Maybe instead of feeling anger and hatred toward anyone I need to forgive I can feel sorry for them instead. That makes me feel a little bit better.”

“Maybe a good conversation would help. I need to do that first. I need [x person] to know just exactly how they made me feel. Maybe I can start compiling a list of all the specific words that hurt the most. Show my vulnerability, eh?”

“You know, I need more time, is all.”

NO!!! Wrong. I was so wrong. And changing anger into pity isn’t exactly the right thing to do, either. Because you know what? That still makes it about them. It’s wasted energy. In the same vein, needing to express myself in order to forgive is a form of selfishness. And forgiveness, I’m pretty sure, is a matter concerning God and ourselves.

I realized I could, eventually, forgive. This is nothing — not compared to what I’ve already accomplished. I remember a day when I finally forgave someone, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. You want to know who I forgave?


I was angry at myself and ashamed. I punished myself for a few years. I thought I was damaged goods and I picked up a few bad habits that I thought would serve as justifiable punishment. I then went through a period where I blamed everyone else. It made me feel just a bit better to at least have someone to point a finger at to explain why I had done what I’d done. It feels better to not feel so guilty. But then it feels even worse and the guilt doubles… knowing you’ve placed blame far from where it belongs. It’s sad to look back on those times, but it also gives me a sense of wonderment I wouldn’t otherwise have concerning where I’ve landed. I remember the day I forgave myself. I remember crying and thanking God and feeling free from some pretty awful things I’d done. I stopped punishing myself.

During that time and after, I had awakenings… moments of beauty that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I learned who I was– down to a core I didn’t know went so deep.


All of that is to say:

Forgiving ourselves is always hardest, right? I think so at least. Even if there are some unsettled feelings in my soul right now, I know for a fact that I will overcome those feelings and eventually forgive. It won’t take nearly as much time as it took when it came to looking at my own mistakes. I have forgiven so many people and I’ve been forgiven by many as well.

I cannot forget that I’ve been forgiven not only by tons of people… many of whom I probably am not even aware of … but also by God.

“Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a powerful one for me. It takes me back to my Lutheran Church upbringing. It makes me feel safe — right inside those words.

How can I forget all the forgiveness and love I’ve been shown? How?

Because I’m human, I guess. But I can also rise above this, humble myself, and learn yet again how to forgive… even without all of the stipulations. I can give myself time, sure. I can remember the seasons.

Mostly, I can pray for God to help me with this.

Who do you need to forgive? Have you already conquered it? Is that person still yourself, like it used to be for so many of us?

Know that whatever stage you’re in, you’re not alone in it.


Love, Lou (who maybe needs forgiveness for ending this post with yet another selfie)



Comfortable, Vulnerable and {Never} Embarrassed

About a year ago I went to the Minnestota state fair with my {then} friend {now husband.} It was fun enough, and I got to experience some of the charm… including tons of beer, tons of garlic fries, and even eating the inside of a fried Snickers bar. We ended our night watching the Avett Brothers perform from outside the stadium. We could hear the music and just barely see a screen from the side of the stage. Israel ran up the staircase outside the place in order to find the best spot for the free-from-the-outside show. I could have stood there forever, listening to music and feeling a little rush when our elbows touched.

But this story is really about what happened the next day.

I was all the way in St. Paul house sitting, and around 3 AM I woke up, in horror, realizing that something hadn’t gone well. I was puking my guts out, and to this day, I blame the garlic fries and the remnants of gluten I probably ate when I sloppily ingested the inside of that fried Snickers.

What’s a gal to do? Having lived a long life of stomach problems, I could have just toughed it out alone. But I have also learned that it’s better to have someone there. So I texted my friend, told him I was sick as a dog, and he almost immediately told me he was coming.

Folks, that’s when you know you have a true friend.

He drove all the way back to the Twin Cities that morning, with gluten free crackers and bottles of ginger ale. We both laugh when we remember that moment. I opened the door: hair a mess, obviously been throwing up, teeth unbrushed, disheveled pajamas and a smile, because I wasn’t alone anymore.

It’s a powerful thing to realize that you can be with someone without having to put on a single front. We didn’t talk much. I think he apologized profusely, feeling a little guilty that I ate crap food and wound up sick.

Here’s what we did: I laid on the bed with my butt sticking up in the air, arms folded over my stomach, and Israel laid on the other side of the bed, occasionally rubbing my back. We faced each other (me, completely gross, eyes crusty, face greenish pale) and talked, we took turns playing songs, listening to them in silence, and I knew he was someone special.

I knew that we were both experiencing a certain kind of love, but I wasn’t sure how to name it.

My dad’s always preaching about the four different Greek loves. My favorite is Agape: the all encompassing, unconditional love that God gives us. Eros is your romantic love, between you and another person. There’s Philia, the brotherly love we feel for friends and for our hometowns. Storge is mostly the family love we can’t help but feel for our blood relatives (or step kids!). There’s a lot more to each one, and probably a good amount of debate considering what they mean, but this is what I’ve always taken away from the information given.

I love (not sure which kind) that the Greeks figured out that we really do need to define these different types. When I say “I just love you” to one of my best girlfriends, it is different from when I say “I love you” to my husband. When I thank God for the love He gives me and try to convey that I am trying to love Him with all I have, that’s a whole different deal as well. I’ve been pondering this as I thought of what I’d write today.

The second question in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series is this:

2. How do you want to be loved?

I’m very happy to report that lately, I’ve learned a lot more about this answer. I used to think that love between two people meant that you didn’t argue much and laughter was the #1 thing happening between you.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Years later, and I’m a total work in progress, taking in all that love really is and I have a partner who shows me love in ways I didn’t actually know existed.

Fast forward another year, and we are no longer just friends, and he doesn’t have to drive forty minutes to see me in my time of need. Very recently, I was sick again, and I had to laugh because it was the same old scenario… no glamour, no trying, to pretense.

It was again with the messy everything on my person, and this time I laid down on the bed with a box of tissues, a cup of tea from my husband, and we talked about life while he stretched on the floor and worked out a tweak in his back.

To any spectator, it does not look like a scene filled with romance. But to me, I realized, it is exactly how I want to be loved. I want to be loved at my very worst… whether it’s the bad week I’m having and so I am the most cranky to the one who deserves it least, or I smell really bad because I’m sick and just haven’t gotten in the shower yet, or I’m crying because of those ridiculous reasons that make us cry…. and it’s a miracle, because I actually feel the most love from my husband when I’m in these exact moments. It’s not when I’ve dressed up and put on mascara for the date night we finally had a chance to have together. It’s not when I put on a fake smile and tell him that my day was awesome, even when it wasn’t. (though there is still love present in those moments, too)


I want to be loved in the most real way possible, which is imperfect, messy, and full of vulnerability. It’s the moments that we were taught are the most embarrassing, but are actually the most gracious. It’s the times we are comfortable being uncomfortably real with one another.

The best part is: I feel my heart open up and love better the more I see that imperfection in him, too.

I am forever grateful for the love I receive daily from family, friends, and my husband. I’m so thankful to be living a life where I don’t feel the need to make sure all signs of the drool that’s dried on my face is gone before he sees me in the morning. Nope, it’s usually there. And it doesn’t even stop him from giving me a kiss! Miracles, folks. Miracles.

Cheers to the moments we are vulnerable.

And the moments when we clean up and go out into the world are definitely worth a cheers, too.

Oh, and here’s to comfortable LOVE, the kind that is no longer embarrassing. Because that is 100% up to us.



Lou (who wants oregano oil to be the answer to all sickness, and has learned through humbling moments that sometimes nyquil does in fact help. Israel, you were right.)




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What I Want (Spiritual Gifts Included)

I came across a list on my Pinterest page of 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself.

Therefore, my next twenty blog posts will be the answers to these questions. This isn’t because I think my answers are so important, but I do love the questions. I think my answers just might resonate with someone else, or make you answer them in your own, unique way.

Question One: What Do I Really Want In This Moment?

Well, in this very moment, I want to feel peace that isn’t necessarily there. It’s been one of those days, and I actually feel like writing is the only thing that will bring me to a place where I can sleep in a few hours.

But in the larger moment, that is this point in my life, I want to be able to use what I’ve experienced to help others. That’s why I write. When I look back on my very first blog, I see that I wasn’t sure where I was going with Hey Lou Writes. It was my 23rd birthday and I thought I was going to be a fictional writer primarily, yet years later, here I am, none of my fictional stories have been published, and I’m mostly writing about my life. My personal life. 

No life has been easy. I cannot think of a single person who hasn’t had a trial or good cry. Some people help others by sharing their stories with the youth group they help out with. Some people have babies and use their own story in order to propel their child’s life forward in a positive way. Some people are pastors and shout their stories out in the pulpit, sometimes even embarrassing their kids in the process (I loved it, dad.) My twin uses her life to write songs. I feel lucky enough to know the personal, detailed story behind almost every single one of her lyrics.

These are all spiritual gifts. God didn’t bless me with the amazing ability to teach, even though I have a degree for it. God didn’t (yet?) bless me with my own children, but he gave me three to help raise. And God didn’t bless me with the the perfect words… but for some reason I feel the urge from my heart all the way to my fingertips to write, write, write, and never stop writing. In fact, the only time I feel truly depressed or stuck is when the thought of no longer sharing my story crosses my mind.

When I faced cruelty in school (someday I’ll share all about why I shaved my armpits for the first time), mean girls (who still exist in the adult world) and relationships that made me question my own love for myself (body image, anyone?), there was a time when I had no idea how to rise above it and see the good. I couldn’t even be the one to speak up in a group of more than three people… unless it was at my family dinner table.

I’ve found that my story can be shared only through my spiritual gift, one that I am just recently realizing. Writing. And the way I have seen this pay off isn’t through money or fame or anything tangible, but through the few people (mostly women) who have contacted me to let me know that my story resonated with them. That something I once wrote helped them through a rough day. That something I’ve been through… they’ve been through it, too.

All I really want is for people to know that their life story is unique, but also connected to others. You are unique, but you aren’t alone. I searched and searched for the right blog post about divorce when I was going through one. I practically begged my google search box to show me how to be a good step parent. But you know what? These things didn’t exist — at least not for me. I had to create them by sharing my own journey and by sometimes embarrassingly telling the world (aka the few people who read this!) that everything was messed up. And then joyfully telling them that hey, things are looking up.

So that’s my answer. I want to help people, not because I think they need my help, but because I hope beyond hope that my trials can be for a reason. One thing I considered, was maybe that was a selfish hope. I don’t want all of the tears and pain I’ve felt to be in vain. I also know that if my story can make at least one person feel less alone, than perhaps my mission is complete. I’ve had this happen a few times, and it filled me with such peace and joy and calm, that I realized I could probably never stop. So… maybe the new goal is one person every so often. ;) 

That’s what I REALLY WANT! Your goals are your own. Your wants and wishes are your own, too. And we are all motivated by hope (even if you don’t think you have any).

May your spiritual gifts lead to somewhere… especially if you don’t yet know where that is.

makaria knows

Love, Lou (who can only help others because others have shown her the way)

27 seconds well used is a lifetime.


The Awkward Prayer (and proof that it works)

On Prayer…and a Few More Wedding Pics :) 


I’ve talked about prayer in a few blogs lately. I can’t quite say it enough: Prayer has changed everything for me. It has worked. Plain as day, no “maybes” or “coincidences.”

Even when the answer to my prayers was NO.


Here I am, hands clenched to my husband-of-about-twenty-seconds, smiling my way through our first prayer together. I have to admit, that although 90% of my prayers before this moment in time were NOT given to God with a smile, they all lead here.

In fact, most prayers that brought me up to this point in time weren’t even my own. Here, I’d like to point out, that if a person feels completely unequipped to pray for herself, she is ALLOWED to call upon the Prayer Warriors in her life and ask for help.

Now, I’m Lutheran. A PK, raised by PKs… I have been surrounded by prayers my entire life. Lots of really long, “Oh my gosh, Grandpa is praying… wish I wasn’t so hungry” style prayers, and then also lots of silly prayers from church camp. I knew at a young age that my conversations with God could look like almost anything. I could:

Stay silent

Get on my knees and fold my hands

Speak out loud

Give up an idea, rather than full words


Whisper one thing, like “Thanks”

Drive my car

Lay in bed

Eat a burrito

Bottom line: you can pray any time, any place, and under any circumstances! 

So why, knowing this, was I totally terrified and afraid? Well, I had a little grudge. Ever had one of those? My grudge went like this:

I tried reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Love is patient, love is kind….) with my ex-husband every single night for months. I also tried praying. In the end, those efforts didn’t work and we still wound up divorced. 

(insert W.T.F. prayer here)

So obviously prayer does nothing, my life is ruined, and I shouldn’t waste my time believing in love or patience or anything, really.

I showed up to my new home in the Midwest, a little prayer-shy and very uncomfortable with voicing anything out loud that had to do with God. I still prayed one-worded prayers occasionally, though. And I always asked my parents to pray for me, even knowing they already were.


parents and in-laws…. we’re surrounded by love

My weapons were being tough, not needing anything or anyone, and writing. When I look back at these blogs, specifically, I remember what real pain feels like.

Parenthetical (Contradictions)

December is Darkest, In June There’s The Light

The Old Chicken Lady

The Matchstick Burning

It wasn’t until I met some true Prayer Warriors that things really began to change. One friend in particular pushed me past my limits. Ellie, I love you for this. She not only said she would pray for me, but she grabbed my hands, closed her eyes, and said a prayer out loud, right in front of me. with just the two of us there to hear it…..


We also go to concerts together ;)

The first time this happened, I felt awkward. I looked around the room a little… I felt moved, but way too embarrassed to let myself cry or really feel what was happening. I was amazed by the eloquence of her words. I thought, “Welp, this is exactly why I don’t do this. Now I see that my prayers are pretty lame. Hers are like poetry.”

But you know what happened? She kept offering to pray. I could never say no. And eventually, one day, I asked her to pray out loud for me. Instead of feeling inadequate and ashamed of my own fumbly words, I realized I could ask her to help me. I am so blessed to have people in my life who will pray whenever I ask. It’s like having a 911 emergency rescue squad available at all times. I’ve asked for prayers over text, in emails, in person.

I ASK FOR THEM ALL THE TIME. I even sent out an S.O.S. style message to my mom and dad one time, saying “I need allllll the people who do that group prayer thing every week at church to be prayer warriors right now. We really need help over here….”

And they did. And the miracles overflowed.

Lately, I’ve been asking God to instill forgiveness in my heart and patience in my soul. I have love (after not believing in it), which I’m so thankful for. It’s a downright miracle that I not only believe in marriage, but that I found someone who I know I will love forever, and who loves me too. Now, I don’t think God loves divorce… but I do believe that “What Satan uses for evil, God’s power can use for good” [what my sister-in-law Kendra sent me!]. I can see now why my requests so long ago “didn’t work.” It had to do with so much more than just me. Actually, four other human beings were involved. I had a future I was completely unaware of, and a man going through his own hardships at exactly the same time, waiting for me. I felt a stirring in my soul to go to the Midwest… and that was God. Three amazing step kids in my life, one strong and caring husband = yeah, Okay God, I get it. You were RIGHT.

IMG_2956_Fotor (1)



my absolute favorite photos…. the type you cannot control & laughter abounds

I have so many blessings, it’s hard to look around each day and not feel overwhelmingly grateful. Those things way deep down, however, are the subjects of my prayer life. Even today, I talked to my mom on the phone and said, “I still really need prayers for some lingering anger I have inside. I want to forgive completely. I know I need to.”

IMG_2922_Fotor (1)

my dad. a warrior in so many ways.

I’ll end this here: I might not be the best at this, but  I want to let anyone who reads this know…. I will pray for you. I might already be, but if we haven’t met or I’ve only known you in your best stage of life, it’s quite possible that I don’t know what you need. You can ask me right here. Email me, call me, leave a comment. I’ll pray for you <3

I’ll try to be your Ellie ;) but don’t expect the beautiful poetic words to come as easily!



Lou (who realizes how completely blessed she is and THANKS GOD in prayer every day for this life)





When My Heart Slowed Down

Last Friday, July 29th, I was blessed enough to be surrounded by (most of) my loved ones, (most of) my best friends, and I felt the Holy Spirit practically carry me through the entire beautiful experience with a grace I can’t explain.

wedding noses

I had more than a few reasons to be on edge that day, yet I wasn’t. The officiator was (seemingly) indisposed, Israel’s ring was a pinch too small, the day was flying by… I even left my phone — the source of our first dance song — in my car. At some point during the day, after laying on my bed for five minutes, breathing deeply and praying, I got right back up and decided none of that mattered. What mattered was who I was marrying, what it meant, and that our loved ones were with us. Israel smiled, hugged me, and told me that he couldn’t care less about the extra stuff (though we are both very grateful for ALL of the extra stuff!), but that all he cared about was the fact that he was going to spend the rest of his life with me. On her wedding day, that’s just about all a gal needs to hear.

Miracles were happening all around. The friend officiating our wedding got there in time, Israel’s ring slipped on during the ceremony, and my car was even unlocked, so that my phone could be retrieved for our first dance… which actually worked out perfectly: it gave Israel a moment to say a few words to our guests. We had our guests standing around us, a symbolic gesture stating that these are the people we’d have had in our wedding party… these are the people who stood by us all along and we know will continue to do so. Plus, as Israel pointed out, it’s hard to choose anyone else when there are three amazing and beautiful kids there to be our wedding party ;)

I remember taking snapshots in my head all day long. And from the moment I walked down the aisle with my dad, up until falling asleep that night, the caption for those snapshots was this:

This is literally, absolutely, exactly what I wanted. This is perfect. This is my dream wedding, complete with a man I love and trust with every fiber of my being. 

The adrenaline rushes that so often accompany me during a stressful day were non existent. And rather than my heart beating faster when I saw Israel that day, my heart slowed down. There was that calm… that undefinable joy, that feeling in my very soul that all was exactly as it should be. I hugged my new family with love bursting out of my easy-going heart. I smiled at my parents and sister and said with my eyes, “Thank you for supporting me in everything.” I had already lucked out in life with a great family — but I truly won the jackpot with the family I just gained. The “in-loves.”

wedding inlaws

I’ve learned that love can survive anything and that God shows up every day. Even in these first few days of marriage, I’ve felt that same sense of calm, that same depth in my heart that everything will be okay. I’m sure the ultimate bliss I’m feeling now will temper down with real life and all that, but the marriage did something (you know, the whole point of marriage, ha) to solidify those feelings.

However, when you start with the messy wilderness Israel and I experienced since the day we first met, there never is and never will be a “honeymoon phase.” Life hit us pretty hard and quick, so there are no rose colored glasses to be found. We are raw, we are real, we are pure, we are dark in all the right places and illuminated by grace and love.

wedding dance

Plus, when you don’t go on an actual honeymoon, there are perks. Like hanging with all your girlfriends two nights later and feeling like a kid with them, laughing in the moonlight. It is such a blessing to have the life I do, with all the ups and downs. I try to take people as they are… flaws and all. And I remember every day that God loves me… which means he loves everyone else, too. I’m thankful He’s been with me, slowing down my heart, and allowing me to feel peace.

I’m excited for the new chapter. I’m thankful for the life I have been given.

I’m also thankful for any reader here… especially those of you who have been reading my blog for four years (yeah!!!! Yesterday was Hey Lou’s 4th birthday!). You’ve been with me through a lot. Some of my posts were all darkness. Some of them contained a hint of light. Some of them were sheepish grins, trying to fool even myself. Today the blog is still messy, still imperfect, but altogether honest, filled with hope and telling a new story.

Thanks for taking the ride with me.


wedding fav

Lou (who has decided that this is her very favorite picture — ever.)