About Eugene ...

I haven't written about Eugene much lately because...well, because it's difficult to write about Eugene and make sure that I'm respecting him and that I'm not exploiting him in any way.

Here's the thing - Eugene wants me to write about him. He tells people that he's on the internet and that I'm "writing a book about him."

I'm not writing a book about Eugene.

But because Eugene and I are friends, I get to see the world...not necessarily as he sees it, but I get to travel some of the road with him. And it continues to change me every single day. I consider myself fairly open minded and aware of how the world really works and I know that things are ugly and life isn't fair...


...but it's different when you walk alongside someone and you experience it with them. There are lots of "holy shit." moments. Like - you know...but you really don't know.

I feel the need to write about Eugene because he is SUCH a cool guy and he is so unfairly judged all of the time. I want you to know him the way that I know him. I want you to know how lucky I am to have him in my life.

So I'll try to honor his desire for me to keep writing about him, my own desire to share our friendship with you, and the need to respect Eugene and his privacy.



A lot has happened over the past month, and I can't share it all with you. But yesterday, these things happened:

Eugene emptied a public garbage can and someone told him that they were going to call the police because they thought he was stealing it.

I empty that can all of the time. No one says a word.

Eugene swept a sidewalk and someone someone told him that they were going to call the police because "I'm scared of you."

I sweep the sidewalk every day. No one says a word.

If the police actually do get called, there is a very real possibility that Eugene will get arrested because the police are used to arresting Eugene and Eugene's history and illness make him uncomfortable when the police are called, and he gets upset, which can be read as combative.

It's an ugly cycle that he's caught in.

So here is what scares me about Eugene: The judgement of other people.

Eugene isn't scary. He just isn't. He doesn't scare me in the slightest bit. I'm alone with him in my bar all of the time when he cleans. He's in my car about twice a week. Sometimes alone. With my purse. He knows where I live. We go to lunch. We walk together.  He doesn't scare me. He actually goes out of his way to try and help and protect me. He goes out of his way to take care of other people.

But other people judge Eugene based on the way he looks, smells, talks, walks, the color of his skin, all that is Eugene. And they're scared because Eugene is different. So they judge him and he is once again caught in this ugly cycle.

A friend and I were talking the other day about volunteering and how a lot of people don't volunteer for little things because they want to be a part of something big, instead of these little "mundane" day to day things. Shortly after that conversation,  I read an article about how when people give to charity often times they'd rather contribute to buying the new van for the charity then the rolls of toilet paper.

You guys...the little things are so much bigger than we realize. 4 months ago Eugene and I became friends and I went to court with him for the first time. Not because I'm any sort of expert on anything at all, but because I thought he might need a friend, and I think I can at least do that.

My friend Dannette heard about it, so she came too. And then we kept going to court with Eugene and we ran into my friend Jimena. Jimena is an interpreter within the court system, so she's a lot more familiar with it than Dannette and I are. So she helped us navigate things that were extremely confusing, and because of her, we made a lot more progress than we would have made on our own. A few people helped out financially so that Eugene could have some things that make life easier for him. People that I know in the social work field read about Eugene and let us know what other options were available. And once some more people in the community knew that Eugene had a support system, they began to treat him a bit differently. They stopped calling the police all of the time. They stopped calling him "that crazy homeless guy." And today, Eugene is in a much better situation than he was a few months ago. Not because any of us did any great big thing...but because a few people did a bunch of really small things that collectively have had a big impact.

Little things matter.

And here's the other thing. The best thing. At least for me.  The other day Eugene told me that I was his best friend. And...I was like, well shit. Because I think Eugene is one of my best friends. I have a lot of really cool people in my life, but there is no one that teaches me how to be a better person than the way Eugene teaches me.

I have learned that I am judgmental in ways that I never believed...and I am learning to put my judgement aside.

I am learning how to truly see people.

I am learning what it means to love with my whole heart.

I am learning how to let go of controlling everything and accept kindness and love and help from others, because I don't know everything and I can't do everything.

I am learning that life is beautiful and mysterious and that everything that I was so sure of is not necessarily the truth and ...

It's the little things, you guys. All of these little things...they add up to so much. And I have been blessed that they have added up to friendships with some of the most amazing people I will ever meet.


Patreon Update


A little over a month ago, I mentioned that I had signed up for something called "Patreon," which is a site that allows people to sponsor artists through small monthly donations. I'm so grateful for the people that have chosen to sponsor me so far! I wanted to let you all know what your first month of sponsorship contributed to.

Recently the Peoria bus system eliminated the transfer option from a bus ticket, which, if you're not able to purchase a daily or monthly ticket, can make traveling through the city much more expensive, difficult and in some cases, impossible. My friend Eugene (I've written about him a few times) doesn't have a lot of the advantages that many people have, and the city bus is his only reliable transportation. Your support of me through Patreon makes it possible for Eugene to have a monthly bus pass!

I'm currently dealing with pre-cancerous skin things, some of which are potentially skin cancer. I also struggle with depression. And my vitamin D is really low...which contributes to depression. Vitamin D comes from the sun, which I have to stay out of, because skin cancer. Such a mess. Anyway, your support of me through Patreon allowed me to purchase some mega doses of vitamin D so I can actually get out of bed and paint and walk with Eugene as he navigates some of the hurdles in his life.

And finally, I was able to purchase 6 canvases, some paint, some new brushes, some water bottles, and a palette.





Right now I'm working on a ridiculous portrait of one of my ridiculous dogs, which I hope to have finished in time for our local Humane Society fundraiser on February 23rd (You should come, because they save all of the animals all of the time, and also, dogs...)

I'm also having my first art show of 2016 on April 1st (First Friday) at Ear in the Envelope, so I'm working on new pieces for that, as well.




I'm able to do this because you guys support me in so many ways. I am forever grateful and absolutely love you for everything you do!

I'm Self Caring As Hard As I Can

A few years ago I was diagnosed with endometriosis. If you're not famiiar with it...you're really lucky. The best way that I can describe it is that the lining of your uterus decides that it also wants to live outside of your uterus, and proceeds to attach itself to all of your organs, and chokes the living crap out of them every month.

I drew this picture a long time ago:


It wasn't supposed to be my uterus, but now I think it is...just screaming in agony and shoving against every surrounding thing as hard as it can, digging in with its nails, and never shutting up because misery loves company. If uterus is miserable, so is everybody else.

Anyway, I had surgery for it, they scraped it all out, and everything was fine...until it wasn't, because endometriosis likes to come back. 

This past week I also had a biopsy for this gnarly thing on my chest, and I'm waiting to see if it's skin cancer. In the meantime, I'm not supposed to hang out in the sun anymore. Ever.

Basically.

So right now...today in particular...I am struggling with anxiety, depression and endometriosis. It is exhausting. And painful. And debilitating. And it makes you hate yourself. Especially when you remember that 2 years ago, you had all of the energy in the world and were doing great things and laughing and dancing and happy and...

Today you realized just how fat your elbows have gotten (fat elbows?????) and your uterus has taken the rest of your body hostage and you're tired all of the time and vitamin D is where you get your energy and you get that from the sun which is no longer your friend and getting out of bed and typing this blog post is your biggest - and only - accomplishment for the day.

What's my point?

My point is, today I also had a UPS delivery of three things. A megadose of vitamin D to take weekly, a liquid form of vitamin D to take daily, and a vitamin designed specifically for women whose bodies are taken hostage every month by their stupid uterus. Because I'm trying. Because I don't want to be a sad lump under the covers. I don't want my elbows to get fatter because I can't get out of bed and I don't like to leave the house.

I'm not endorsing any of these. I have no idea if they'll make a difference. I'll let you know how I feel in a month.


I want to get better. So I'm switching my vitamins. I'm eating better. I'm reducing caffeine. I'm talking about my health. I'm reading about it. I'm still seeing my therapist. I'm forcing myself to do at least one thing a day. And I'm backing out of things that I simply don't have the energy for and I am NOT beating myself up about it. 

The thing is - I simply don't know from day to day where my energy levels will be. I can't predict them. Sometimes I've made plans and I wake up and I have just enough energy to do the basics. And I cancel plans. And it's ok. Because if I can't take care of myself, how on earth can I do anything else well?

So actually, none of that was my point. My point is this:

Take care of yourself. And don't apologize for it. 

That's the lesson I'm learning this week.



On "Letting Them Win"

Today, one of my friends mentioned that my deciding to close my bar and leave this neighborhood was "letting them win."

In one way, it is. I have neighbors that hate me, who actively worked to destroy my reputation and my business, and who clearly would be so happy if I would just go away. And because I am now going away, in that respect, they "won."

I believe that I have been a champion for this community for a very long time, and that things that were not being addressed before we moved here, started to be addressed once we did. I believe that my actions helped the community look better, helped to reduce drug traffic and helped to bring people together. At the risk of sounding too proud, I believe that I'm a good person. And I believe that my presence in this community was positive and made it stronger. And I believe my leaving is not a win for this community, but rather, a loss.


But I also KNOW that my leaving this community is a win for myself, because people here have made life so very difficult for the past year. There comes a point where you have to decide if "winning" is worth being miserable every day. Or working yourself to exhaustion. Or constantly having to defend yourself against rumors. Or feeling hurt and betrayed and fed up and angry all of the time. And this is a battle that's just not worth it to me. It doesn't feel like winning. It feels like losing every single day. And the only way to "win" would be to compromise my values and I don't want to "win" like that.




So, yes. I am very happily "letting my neighbors win." And I feel lighter than I've felt in months.

If blogging is supposed to be about passing on wisdom and advice...then I don't really know why you're here, because obviously I'm a hot mess.





 Just kidding.

Sort of.

Anyway, the lesson that I have learned is this: If the only way to "win" is to compromise yourself and become darkness rather than light, then leave the battle. Retreat. Let them "win."

If "winning" means staying in a situation that makes you miserable all of the time, leave the battle. Retreat. Let them "win."

There comes a point where you have to believe that you are worth more than this, and that there are people in the world who will appreciate you, who have a bright light inside of them, who spread love and not hatred, and who will value you as you value them.

If you retreat from a situation, you might lose the battle.

But if you are finally and truly happy... you win the war.



this awesomeness via http://pettyartist.deviantart.com/




Meal Planning for Complete Idiots

... Or for people who aren't really sure what they're doing in a kitchen, but are absolutely willing to destroy it in the quest for better meals.

So, last year when my whole life turned upside down, we found ourselves in a pretty gross financial situation. (I know I keep bringing this up, but rumors really do destroy lives. For real. I'm so serious. Just don't do it.)

Anyway, because our finances were super tight, James would go to the grocery store and buy a couple cases of Ramen noodles, 10 packages of hot dogs and a bunch of buns. I would buy cans of soup. And that's what we would eat.

If we didn't have time to run to the store, we'd end up on McDonalds for 3 days in a row, before we went back to the hot dogs and Ramen noodles and soup. So, not only were we super unhealthy, we were spending a lot of money on McDonalds. Which is so dumb. And probably will give you scurvy.

One time, on a good week, I went grocery shopping. James promptly cooked everything in the house and presented it for dinner. I mean...like 10 pound plates of food. And so we were immediately back on the scurvy diet.

Anyway, in my battle against my own brain and my very real desire to be healthy in all ways possible, I know I have to eat better. I know James has to eat better. So I've been cooking. And I've been telling people I've been cooking and that I've been planning my meals and they ask me about it and I keep meaning to share recipes but then I stay in bed all day...because depression. But today is a good day, so here's a bunch of stuff about how we currently plan our meals.

First - salad. James will eat everything if I don't portion it, and he'll eat everything terrible if I don't force vegetables on him. So I made a household rule that you have to eat a salad with every meal.




"You Don't Need Scurvy" Salad





1 can black beans   -  60 cents
1 can kidney beans  - 60 cents
1 can garbanzo beans  -  $1.00
1 can sweet corn  -  50 cents
Fresh broccoli -   $2.49
Fresh cauliflower  - $3.99
Carrot shreds  - $1.49, use 1/3, so 50 cents
Quinoa   -   $5.69 for a bag, use 1/3, so 1.90
Mixed greens  -   $4.99 for 2.79 lbs
Cherry tomatoes -   $3.99
Lime vinaigrette dressing  -  $2.49 

Open up your beans and corn and put all that in a strainer and rinse everything really well with cold water. Cook quinoa according to the directions - it's basically the same as cooking rice. You'll have to strain the water out of the quinoa and if you use a regular strainer, you're going to be screwed, so invest in one of those mesh ones. Mine was $4.50 but I'm nearly positive a dollar store has them. Cut your broccoli and cauliflower into bite sized pieces.

These ingredients will make ten salads. I use the medium sized Gladware containers - you can get 10 of them for $6.00 and they're microwaveable and re-usable.

Line all of those up and assembly line your salad. Mixed greens first, then everything else. It's really important that you use cherry tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes or tomato slices. Sliced tomatoes will get tomato juices all over your salad and after a day or so, it's all going to be nasty. OH! Same thing with cucumbers. Cut cucumbers get gross after a couple of days if you set them in a Gladware container with salad. At least they did with me.

Anyway, each salad costs approximately $2.31 and if you bought one of these at a restaurant, it's going to cost you anywhere from $8-$12. Also, these salads are huge. It's a meal all by itself.

I buy everything at Kroger, I have a Kroger card, and I live in the midwest, so midwest prices. I also buy generic brands and things that are on sale, so pricing fluctuates a little bit.

After I get done with salads, I make a bunch of microwaveable stuff, but just writing this post wore me out, so I'll write about this stuff next time:












As usual, you guys are the best. And I'm not just saying that. Life is such a mess and so hard but you're my people and I hope you're hanging in there and doing well and taking care of yourself, as best as you possibly can. You deserve to be happy and at peace.

OH!!! I'm down to one cup of coffee a day and I've mostly switched to chamomile tea. I'm pretty positive it helps with my anxiety - so eat salads and drink tea so you can have more peace and more happiness!