Love Note #10: Family and Home

For a myriad of reasons, I have been thinking a lot about family lately. To be honest, it is something I have thought a lot about my whole life. As many, if not all, of you know, I was adopted. I was only three months old, so being adopted was and has always been normal. Naturally, I was surprised when I started to learn that being adopted isn't seen as normal to everyone else. Sometimes, it has made people downright uncomfortable. But being adopted is the only reality I have known and I can't imagine my life any differently. In fact, I don't want to. When I was little, we would celebrate my adoption day, August 5. It was like having another birthday but without all the presents. When I realized that not everyone was adopted (which was totally late to the game – I think I was 6 or 7), I felt bad for all the kids who only got to celebrate birthdays. Suckers. As you can see, I was more than content with my reality, my adopted life.

As well adjusted as I was to the idea of being adopted, many confusing questions, of course, bubbled up from time to time. It started with questions from everyone else. Where does your hair color come from? Little me would stare blankly and think God (I was raised religious and thinking back on this thought makes me chuckle). Just as I would give my answer, my mom would chime in: her uncle has red hair. Not untrue, but I obviously didn't get it from him. Why lie? I wondered. Now that I am older, I understand - not everyone needs or wants to know your business. Of course, as I get older I stop caring about what people want and answer their questions directly in hopes they think twice about asking questions they don't actually want to hear the answer to. I digress...

As I grew older and became more aware of myself so did the differences between me and my family, at least in my mind. My hair was red, my eyes were brown, my skin got darker instead of red in the sun. I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what it would be like to have blonde hair and blue eyes like my mom. I also started to notice that other families had members that looked the same and I wondered what that would be like to. I dreamed about having a twin. I felt like maybe I was missing out on something. I was a resilient little kid though and instead of focusing on the differences, I focused on the similarities. My mom was artistic like me and we would paint, draw and do so many other art projects together. We both had a sweet tooth and loved putting in the work for the reward of freshly baked cookies. I have the most vivid memories of standing next to my mom on a stool to reach the counter to mix in flour, sugar, eggs and more to make cookie dough. We'd laugh as we'd sneak scoops of dough to eat – the “broken pieces.” With my Dad, I played games. I loved games, I still do. On Sunday mornings, we'd eat pancakes and I'd help my Dad with the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Later in the day we might play a game of die-hard scrabble or cribbage. In between, I'd ask my Dad how different things worked and somehow he always had an answer. In the summer, we'd watch baseball over sandwiches and pickles. And my older brother, well, I just wanted to be him. I think I was in denial about being a girl for awhile. No pink. No dresses. If my brother didn't have to than I shouldn't either. Or conversely, if my brother was doing it, I should be able to as well. At a very early age, I realized there were inherent differences between us because of our genders but that wasn't going to stop me from trying to be the same.

As I got older and into my teen years, it became harder to ignore the differences. Thoughts of this family living in Colombia crept into my mind – would they get me? I was sure the family who knew me best didn't understand me at all. And just as I was going through the growing pains of figuring out who I was, my family fell apart. My foundation was shattered. It took time and a lot of growing pains later to figure out how to split myself in two. To share my time with both parents when they no longer shared their time with each other. To this day, I still worry I am not measuring up but I know my parents would (and will) assure me that I am. Soon after my parents split, I too went away for college. I wanted to get as far away as possible but only got as far as a ten hour drive away. Far but not too far. Distance, in this instance, really did make the heart grow fonder. Slowly, I crept back up the east coast from Washington DC to New York until I found myself back home in Boston. It was then I started to travel internationally, learning more about myself in every new city and culture. I was and forever will be grateful for my family who gave me wings so that I could fly.

While I think leaving home and traveling has always been my very personal journey to understand myself better and piece together my identity, I also always knew I couldn't do it on my own. So through all my travels and moves, I have found remarkable people who I am lucky to call friends. I have the privilege of saying that I have traveled around the country and the world and have created an even bigger network of family than I ever imagined. And finally, that brings me to why I have decided to write all this on this love note – my blog about my time in Milwaukee.

For some reason, all signs pointed for me to be here in Milwaukee. One of my best friends, who I met as my college roommate, moved here first. I started to visit and see this quaint city through her and her future-husband's eyes. A few years later, I headed to graduate school in Los Angeles and quickly met a professor who, coincidentally, was also from Milwaukee. As our relationship grew, the work she was doing in Milwaukee piqued my interest and I was even more eager to visit (and get bonus time with my best friend). Through all these visits, my heart was telling me that at some point, I would find myself in Milwaukee. Sure enough, in 2016, the opportunity presented itself.

At the time, I was restless, I had moved back to Boston yet again, and despite being close to my family and so many of my amazing friends, nothing felt exactly right. I wasn't finding work that motivated or inspired me. I was comfortable but I wasn't being challenged. I was starting to coast and simultaneously losing my way. A wake up call came in the form of an actual phone call when I received the invitation to work on a project in Milwaukee. It was the first time I ever had an offer to write for a living. I hopped in my car and couldn't get here fast enough. While I only took enough of my things to get me through the summer, a part of me knew I wasn't looking back. I was excited for this creative opportunity but I was even more excited to live in the same city as one of my best friends – we hadn't lived in the same city in nearly 10 years! Without a doubt, I knew our relationship was going to grow and we would become even closer. And while many obstacles presented themselves this past year, our friendship really has blossomed into something incredible. It has been so beautiful and rewarding. And while this older friendship continued to develop, I started to meet new people as well. Living in Boston, my friend-network is pretty large (this always feels like bragging but I swear it is not). So over the last year, it was hard to have so few friends here. It was a real lesson, however, in quality over quantity. I am so happy to say that the friendships I have developed in Milwaukee are truly remarkable. In such a short time, I was able to create a family here in Milwaukee. And in turn, Milwaukee has become another home.

I think most of us grow up thinking that we can only call one place home or one group of people family. What I have learned, more than ever in the last year, even more so in the last week, is that this is wildly untrue. If we open our minds and then our hearts, anyone can be family and any place can be home.

xoxo

Just some of the wonderful people that make up my crazy Milwaukee family. <3

Just some of the wonderful people that make up my crazy Milwaukee family. <3

Love Note #9: Rewind and Unwind

Wow! What a difference a month can make! May was absolutely insane. I was basically working non-stop to help my students get their art projects done, wrapping up my elementary school art classes and completing my own piece to ship to North Adams, MA. I probably got an average of 4-5 hours of sleep a night and my stress level was through the roof. And now... I'm living a stress free summer in Milwaukee kind of life! And it's magical. 

Now that all the stress has melted away, I can finally feel all the good feels that months of hard work produced. First, it was incredible to see five different groups of teens, with five different artists and site/community partners come together to create five meaningful works of art.

The first project was done in conjunction with a really cool initiative called Block Build MKE where volunteers are going block by block to revitalize and rebuild homes. This particular Block Build was happening in the South Side of Milwaukee and 30 homes were being worked on. Our students from the very first time I worked with them were extremely interested in making art with and for the community to celebrate the different cultures that make up Milwaukee and the South Side neighborhood specifically. So, that's exactly what we did! Lead by the incredibly talented artist, Jenie Gao, we used a steamroller (yeah, that's right a STEAMROLLER) and made triangular woodblock prints that fit together to make one giant print. 

When we arrived on site for this printmaking project, we foolishly thought and hoped the rain would hold off until the afternoon despite the overcast skies. Of course, it started pouring as soon as we set everything up. We rushed to put everything in a generous neighbor's garage and headed to lunch. Our first complete print was ruined, we were soaked, cold and unsure if we should just pack everything up and call it a day. That was when Jenie and I looked at each other and realized we were sitting under a huge tent and were completely dry. Once lunch wrapped up, we got a few volunteers to stack tables and make space for our materials - including the steamroller! I was most impressed by my students who did not complain once. In fact, I'm pretty sure I complained more about being cold than they did. They were such good sports and ended up having a great time engaging with their neighbors all day while making prints! Each teen got a chance to drive the steamroller and they must have made thirty t-shirts using smaller woodblocks and printing by hand. All and all, it was quite an awesome day! 

Next up was an awesome sign-painting and sculpture project with the teens at Our Next Generation lead by one of my Milwaukee faves, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt. This was an extremely ambitious project and was basically two projects in one. We were given the task by the owner of Amaranth Bakery & Cafe, Dave Boucher, to beautify the wooden structure on his property that provides shelter to Farmer's Market vendors. The students wanted to put an inspiring quote and after a lot of conversations, we finally decided on, "Change the World Bite by Bite." During one of our design days, one student came up with an idea to make a sculpture that spelled out "LIFE" with the letter "i" made out of a tree. Mikal spent a lot of time figuring out how we could get both projects done and while it was down to the hour (literally we were hanging the sign on the structure an hour before the ribbon cutting ceremony) it all got done! And while I'm totally biased, I have to say that both the sign and sculpture have totally transformed this space. So - go get a coffee and a delicious treat from Amaranth and then take a selfie with the LIFE sculpture - post it on Instagram and hashtag it #LIFEMKE - I'm pretty sure this is going to be an iconic Milwaukee landmark. Just saying...

And then it was on to complete a project with MIkal's brother, another fantastic artist, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, and the teens from COA Holton Teen Center. This group took on a pretty heavy topic as they wanted to create something to bring awareness to gun violence. Under Anwar's patient and incredible leadership, we created 125 flower sculptures out of old records and placed them in a vacant lot. The number represents the number of documented homicides due to gun violence in Milwaukee in 2016. Installing this temporary sculpture garden was a labor of love and I absolutely loved how it came out. 

Another sculpture to find in Milwaukee is the beautiful, larger-than-life, interactive puppet in Alice's Garden created by Gabrielle Tesfaye and the students at NeuLife Community. Each limb represents a different element: fire, wind, water and earth. In the belly, a short history of the underground railroad can be found. This, in my opinion, was the most important piece of this puppet. Johnson's Park, which Alice's Garden is a part of, is the site where the first "passenger" of the underground railroad arrived in Milwaukee in 1842. At just 16 years old, Caroline Quarlls' arrival inspired Abolitionists to organize to assist and protect even more fugitive slaves. The puppet is stunning and I think that the garden could use even more!

And finally, the last project was at Escuela Verde where the students, under the direction of George Jones, created a vending machine that dispensed uplifting and positive items like small pieces of art, seeds, and words of encouragement. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the finished product yet because I had to miss the celebration and revealing of the vending machine. I have no doubt it turned out awesome and I believe it may be traveling to a Night Market near you! ;) 

And the ONLY reason I missed the last project come together is because I didn't want to miss out on seeing my own work in an actual gallery! As I started this whole note, while I was busy helping all my students complete these great projects, I was making my own. The only other time my work has been in a traditional art gallery is in college so this was pretty exciting stuff! I was asked to be part of a group show called Babel's Bricks at MCLA Gallery 51 curated by a dear friend, Corwin Levi. When Corwin asked if I wanted to be in a building block themed show, I jumped at the opportunity. And Immediately, I knew I wanted to break things. You know, the exact opposite of building... ha! It has just been an incredibly tough year - the political nonsense, one of my best friends dealing with cancer, artistic rejection after artistic rejection, not feeling adequately valued (or paid) for work I was putting my entire heart and soul into... and the list goes on and on. It was time to let some aggression out. So I did just that with the help of my artistic partner in crime, Tracee Johnson. We smashed a bunch of plates out on Venice Blvd, in LA and filmed it. I came back to Milwaukee to create a 20 minute plate smashing complitation video and prep 100s of  broken shards to send to North Adams. And at the gallery, with instructions printed on a clipboard, I invited visitors to turn my aggression into art. And I have to say, I am completely in love with how this piece, Break·ing point turned out. 

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And just like that, it's JULY and it's time to relax and unwind. I'm intentionally taking it pretty easy this summer and hoping that I can keep my stress level close to ZERO percent. One, because I need a break after six crazy, amazing, inspiring, stressful, sleepless months! And two, Milwaukee summers - well, there's nothing like it! 

Til' next time... xoxo

Love Note #8: Approaching Year One, Facing What's Next?

As I wrote in my last post, things here in Milwaukee are really ramping up. There are a lot more events happening, opportunities to apply to and socializing to be had. Simultaneously, however, the end of my "money-making" teaching contracts are quickly approaching. While I'm trying to be present and focused to end these contracts and projects well, I'm also starting to the feel the pressure of trying to find "what's next" and prepping myself for this time of transition. 

This is the part of being an artist/freelancer that is quite frankly, really fucking hard. I trade in financial stability for flexibility. So sure, while people are always enamored and jealous of my travels - I need those vacations for all the time I spend freaking out that I will be jobless, penniless and hungry. At the end of the day, however, for me I'd much rather dictate my own schedule than be locked into a certain location 40+ hours a week and being told I can't take another vacation because I've used up all my PTO. Of course, freedom is never really free... but it sure felt like it when I was sitting in a pool on a beach in Mexico drinking Rose Champagne. Right now, however, I'd give anything to be on a beach instead of letting the panic set in as my last contracted days of work and last paycheck date gets closer and closer.

I've also had quite the few rejections as of late. Another aspect of an artist that isn't glamorous at all and consistently has me wondering: why did I choose this line of work and lifestyle? I'm always one to stay positive and most days I truly believe when one door closes another one will open. Sometimes, however, I wonder what it means when several doors slam in your face...

Perseverance is hard when you're consistently told no, no thank you and/or please apply again next year. And trust me, I often feel like giving up and doing anything else. You see, when I'm rejected from something it's hard not to take it personal because my work IS personal. My work is an extension of myself so when I hear "no" I have to somehow convince myself that my work, my story is still important and still worth making and sharing.   

Another issue I've been facing here in Milwaukee is explaining and advocating for the work I do. I joke I'm an artist that doesn't make anything but I probably should stop making that joke because I recently got a follow up email from a residency I applied to asking, 'How likely will it be for you to either create artwork or hire another artist to produce the artwork?' I don't apply for medical residencies because the likelihood of me practicing medicine is 0% but I do apply to writing and artist residencies because I want to write and make art! So this follow-up question really had me offended and in shock. 

So here is my PSA about art: NOT ALL ARTISTS PAINT. AND FURTHERMORE, NOT ALL ARTISTS WHO WORK IN THE COMMUNITY, MAKE MURALS.

I am an artist who tells stories through all different mediums - often that is writing, performance and video. That being said, I've also used a lot of 2D and 3D elements in my work! If I'm not an artist who makes artwork than I legit have no idea what to call myself. I think people get tripped up because I don't have that "go to medium." My work is often very investigative and journalistic in approach. I like to dive deep on my subject and then figure out how best to express what I've discovered. I'm a social practice artist and it's a term that people are really late in adopting even though it's been around for years and years and years and years. To make things more confusing, I'm not only an artist. I am also an educator and most recently a radio personality (haha but seriously check out my show We Heard We're Funny!). I truly think people need to try harder to keep up with the fact that people, particularly artists, can be, and I go ahead and say it, SHOULD BE dynamic.

It's hard to quiet everyone else's thoughts, questions and perceptions of your work negatively buzzing in your ear. But I was just reminded of the Andy Warhol quote I posted above. At the end of the day, I make art because I genuinely believe it's part of the reason I'm living and breathing. And even though there have been countless people who don't understand, appreciate or like my work, there have been plenty who do. And I create solely for the purpose that my creation can spark change at whatever level that may be.

Luckily, it doesn't take much to remind me why I continue to do what I do. As my high school students start to present, unveil and celebrate their art projects one by one, I am so excited by how their hard work is manifesting. Once they are all complete, I will write a love note dedicated solely to these amazing experiences and to show off all my students' work! 

It has been quite the journey these last six months and while I cant exactly say what is going to happen the second half of this year/beginning of my second year in Milwaukee, I am hopeful that it will continue to be rewarding, exciting and most importantly, fun.

'Til next time... xoxo

Love Note #7: From Winter to Spring

It’s officially Spring and the weather is showing some signs that it agrees. On Saturday, the sun came out after being on vacation for days and it was, get this, FIFTY degrees. I walked to my new favorite Saturday activity, an African Dance (with LIVE drumming) class at Danceworks. Afterward, I walked to Pleasant Kafe and enjoyed a lovely phone conversation at an outdoor table. And then I devoured an entire bowl of lobster mac and cheese. A lovely spring day indeed.

I’ve always like the season of Spring, at least when I’ve lived in cities where winter always seems to linger a little too long. For one, we’re always more grateful for sunny, warm days. Like Saturday, so many people were out and about and it really wasn’t that warm. By the time April rolls around, people are ready to come out of their houses. There’s a new energy and I think I feel it here more than I ever did on the east coast. This winter was actually pretty mild for Milwaukee but still things slowed way, way down in a way I just don't think Boston or NYC can. When I first got here in the summer, it was a  non-stop whirlwind of fun activities and then all of a sudden winter hit and at times it felt like things had completely stopped. Luckily, like I stated in my last love note, I started working a lot more so my days were busy and the weeks went by pretty fast. Yet social activities seemed few and far between. Which, to be honest, was actually pretty hard for me. The friends I’ve made in Milwaukee are fantastic but I just don’t have multiple groups of friends yet. So when people retreated inward this winter, it seemed I had no option but to follow suit. For a lot of reasons, it was nice to slow down and have more time for myself but I also thrive being social so I found myself a bit more homesick not just for my friends back home but all friends who live all over.

Love means never having to say anything because you are both on your cell phones... 

Love means never having to say anything because you are both on your cell phones... 

With all this extra time alone and the extra income from all my new jobs, I spent time scheming on how to see all the people I love and buying plane tickets. In March, I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with one of my NYC besties, AJ. It was originally supposed to be a group trip but due to too many factors - it was just us two. We joked it was our honeymoon. And I mean, honestly, if I never get married and hence never have a honeymoon, I think I can just count this trip. When we were out in public everyone thought we were an adorable married couple. Which is only hilarious because the staple of our friendship is bickering nonsensically. Plus, it’s not like we’re holding hands and kissing each other. Not sure how we gave the married vibe off. Granted, we were in the “gay-borhood” of Puerto Vallarta so I guess the gay community thinks straight couples only fight and don’t touch each other…? Thoughts to ponder. 

Knowing that Mexico would be a blast and that I’d immediately come home and have the post-vacation blues, I made sure my next trip was lined up soon after. And while I’ve only been back from Mexico for three weeks, at the end of this week, I head out to Santa Fe for four days and then straight to LA for five! I’ve only been to Santa Fe once and it was a quick stop made the first time I drove cross country. I’m excited to go this time around and visit one of my favorite people, Jenn, and see the life she’s made for herself in New Mexico. Jenn moved to Santa Fe literally the same time I moved to Milwaukee. I remember having a long conversation while I was in Detroit and she was on the road driving a huge ass truck. Even though we weren’t moving to the same place, it was nice to have somebody completely understand the excitement and anxiousness of another move. Now we’ve both been in our respective cities for 10 months and it will be really cool to see how she’s settled into hers.

Trips to Los Angeles have become a yearly trip since I moved away nearly three years ago. It’s crazy that I’ve been away from this place as long as I lived there. I don’t really miss my life there all that much but I do miss the people, particularly my favorite partner in crime, art and friendship, Tracee. It’s also just exciting to go back to LA and do things that I used to do when I lived there. It validates that LA was home and in a sense, always will be.

In May, I’ll be staying put but I’m hoping I might be able to convince some guests to come for my birthday (less than a month away now!). If that doesn’t work out it’s okay because I already convinced two awesome guests to come visit in May! My mom is coming for the first time for Mother’s Day weekend and then my former house-wife/roomie, Amanda, from Boston comes to town at the end of the month! In June, I head back to Boston for ten days for a family wedding. I was also invited to be a part of a group art show in western Massachusetts, so I’ll get to check that out as well. This Boston trip is coming up in only a couple of months but I can’t believe the last time I was home was in December. Somehow it felt like I got to go home more when I lived in LA - a 6 hour plane ride than I do here - only a 2.5 hour plane ride. There’s something about Milwaukee that makes me feel a little more rooted than I ever felt anywhere else. Maybe this makes my need to go home a little less strong...

Plotting escapes and looking forward to warmer times took up a lot of my time this winter. But that's not to say I didn’t do anything fun in Milwaukee this winter. There were a lot of cool things still happening! In January, there was FemFest, an amazing festival of music and art celebrating women/femmes. It was incredible to see so many talented people perform and share their work over 4 days. I was lucky to co-host a femTALK with my roommate Monica called What’s so Bad About the F word? to talk about the issues with the word feminism itself but also the movement. We had a great conversation and a pretty wonderful turnout.

In February, I had a couple friends visit and I got to see the Milwaukee through tourist eyes plus indulge at my favorite local joints: Cafe Corazon, Wolf Peach, Comet Cafe, Lakefront Brewery, Blu Bar and Lounge, Pleasant Kafe. I took advantage of being able to see plays for free at The Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Watched a lot of Netflix. And did yoga at a fairly new brewery called Third Space.

And finally, like I said at the start of this note, I found a new way to move and sweat that makes me feel really good. After the whole Cylebar debacle, I decided I needed to shake up my fitness routine. One of the reasons why I stay so active as an adult is that I danced my entire childhood. And with a dance studio that offers adult dance classes only a 15 minute walk/5 minute drive away, I thought it made the most sense to go back to my roots. I opted to try out classes I'd never taken before. I took a couple amazing hip hop classes and then African dance. I had no idea what to expect but it was super fun and when the instructor told me to keep coming, which I’m sure he says to everyone, I decided I would - I had to! The best thing about it is the group of people who show up are at all different skill levels, ages, genders and races but most importantly, everyone is nonjudgmental. It’s all about having fun and connecting with our bodies through movement. And live drumming to boot!

I guess it’s not fair to say that it’s completely dead here in Milwaukee in the winter but rather it takes on a different, slower energy. I do feel rested and I’m ready for whatever Spring has in store!

xoxo

Love Note #6: I'm Back!

You probably thought I was never writing a love note again. For a second there, I thought I might not either. My last post was emotional and personal so I was hoping to wait until I had more fun things to write about. Yet, we are in post-apocalyptic Trump era now and things continue to be emotional and personal. And I'm done being apologetic for having any emotion that is not just happy or positive. Besides, this my blog and if it can't be an outlet for my celebrations and my frustrations then what is the point?!

Of course, if anyone ever takes any issue with the things I write – I welcome open and honest dialogue. Living in Milwaukee, I have come to the not-so-surprising realization that I can be abrasive and aggressive. A great memory is when I was telling my boss-friend-collaborator over the summer that I thought I was being passive aggressive and he said, “I think that's just aggressive-aggressive.” So, I've learned to just embrace that's who I am. I'm not going to censor myself but I'm keeping myself accountable. I obviously don't want to be so honest or blunt that I'm completely horrible to the person on the receiving end of my aggressive-aggression. After eight months of living in Milwaukee, I've attributed this side of my personality to being a true East Coaster. For the most part where I come from, we tell it like it is and aren't very apologetic if your feelings are hurt in the process. Even still, I think our society, even on the East Coast, is getting further and further from being able to communicate directly with one another especially when it involves tough, complicated feelings. It's just easier to go third party about it. So, let's be better, y'all. Let's try harder. Let's talk, off the internet, even if it's hard. 

So what have I been up to since November?

After my project wrapped up on the Beerline Trail, I hit the ground running trying to find similar creative and rewarding work. There's quite a few arts education nonprofits here so I figured that would be a great place to start. By December, I got a job co-teaching art to 3rd - 5th graders at a Milwaukee Public School. In January, I started working with an organization called Artists Working in Education (AWE). Through AWE, I have been working with teens across Milwaukee to help them through the process of creating public art projects in their neighborhoods. The work so far, has been so incredible for so many reasons but I think learning the city through my student's eyes has been the most fascinating part of the process. It has been almost two years since I last taught and I forgot just how much I love it. The jobs are challenging but in the best sense of the word. I'm learning, I'm growing. That being said, these jobs are proving that I have a lot of the tools I need to succeed which is a pretty awesome feeling to have. Throughout my 20s, I was sort of flailing and when problems came up at work I was either not confident to know I had solutions or I actually didn't have solutions because I was too inexperienced to have them. I finally feel confident about my ability and experience and I feel like I've been given opportunities to let that all shine. And it feels pretty damn good.

And these new jobs (plus working at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and doing some freelance video editing) have really taken up most of my time. That and trying not to have full-blown panic attacks after reading the news every single day. This shit is exhausting, is it not? Thank goodness, for Saturday Night Live and comedic relief.

Speaking of comedic relief, I've been working myself up since I turned 31, to give stand up comedy a shot. During grad school, I had one professor who I'm pretty sure was telling me to quit the whole artist thing and take my show on the road, literally. Since then, many people have asked if I do stand up or would ever try it. While I love people giving me compliments and telling me I'm hilarious, I've always known stand up is a lot harder than it looks. Anytime you're a single person on stage and all eyes are on you – not easy! Add in that you're sole job is to make the audience laugh, well, that's terrifying because what if they don't?! I've been to the comedy show where the audience is not feeling the comedian and you can cut that awkward air with a knife. Anyway, my friend Mikal has also been encouraged by friends to try stand up. So we've been brainstorming ways to make the whole single person on stage thing a little less daunting. Our first idea was to do a comedy radio show or podcast. So we, along with Mikal's hilarious sister, went on my favorite local radio show, All the Things and did a demo of what we might do if we had our own radio show/podcast. It was a ton of fun! So take a listen and let me know what you think!

And while I love the radio/podcast format, I've really wanted to something live – a show! My comedy heroes right now are Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams – their show, 2 Dope Queens, is an inspiration. So my thought is why couldn't we do something like that? Mikal could be the Jessica to my Phoebe! It's still all in idea-phase but recently, I went to a Sex-Ed for Adults event where they had an open-mic style storytelling event to share dating stories. I was excited about going and was open to the idea of sharing a story but didn't really have anything prepared. There wasn't a ton of people signed up when I first arrived and since I know two of the lovely ladies who organize Sex-Ed for Adults, I was encouraged to sign on up. After listening to only a few stories, it was my turn! And I told a dating story gone very wrong when a guy who I barely knew came to visit me and overstayed his welcome. It was a story I had retold to many friends, always getting lots of laughs. So I got up on stage and improv-ed my way through. And when the people in the bar started laughing exactly when I wanted them to, I realized I have to do this more! It was such an adrenaline rush and a much needed validating boost of confidence that I can be funny on stage! So stay tuned – I'm hoping that more comedic adventures will take place in the near future.

This much needed boost of validation also came after an experience that left me feeling pretty invalidated. For those who know me, I'm a bit of a fitness junkie. Last year on my birthday, I decided I wanted to take all my friend to a spin class. That seemed like an amazing way to celebrate to me (and it was!). For the last year or so, yoga and spin studios have been really important places in my life. When I moved to Milwaukee, I was shocked to find out there wasn't one single studio that dedicated itself to spin. Although, there was one studio who offered spin classes, in addition to TRX and Crew. I tried it out and while I didn't love the spin classes, I stuck with it. I started to work the front desk to get classes for free and auditioned to become a spin instructor. I figured if I didn't love the classes, I could create classes I did love. Yet, being such a newbie to teaching, I really needed a focused training that I just wasn't getting. Working there also started to become a drag. I loved working front desk at The Handle Bar in Boston but something at this new studio in Milwaukee wasn't clicking for me. It started to become a place I dreaded going. At the end of the year, my plate became overly full and I was extremely stressed. I knew that something had to go and the only thing that made sense was to give up working and training at this studio. In the meantime, another woman opening up a spin-only studio called CycleBar in Mequon reached out to me. The auditions were in January which would give me time to see if I could give time and energy to new spin studio/instructor training program. After visiting Handle Bar in Boston over the holidays and taking some of my favorite instructors' classes I decided to go ahead and audition for CycleBar - and I got in! It all felt way more organized and I was encouraged by just the little feedback I got during my 8-10 minute audition. 

After rearranging my schedule and going to a happy hour to celebrate the opening of the new studio, I thought I was embarking on a 4 day training program and a new side-career as a spin instructor. And I was really excited to learn and work hard. On the first day, however, a bomb was dropped that while we might have made a 4 day commitment, they weren't making that same one back. We were told that cuts might be made before the 4 days were over. This wasn't what I signed up for and I can't say if I would have signed up for it if I knew this was just an extended audition but I would have had to consider it a lot more seriously. Long story short, I was cut. I've written a more in-depth essay about my experience that I won't go into here but I do hope to publish somewhere soon. Let's just say the lack of transparency about cuts being made was one of the many red flags that didn't sit well with me. CycleBar isn't a company I would have felt good about working for despite their attempt to have a philanthropic side. When a company sends an unprofessional, dare-I-say misogynist, white male to work with a slightly diverse, mostly female group, you're philanthropy and attempts at creating community are lost on me. I'm super sick of this big corporate trend of "giving" as if the general population will see this lame band-aid and forget that there is a deep, dark wound of institutionalized racism and sexism their company was built and continues to thrive on. CycleBar isn't the only fitness studio or company doing something like this but they are certainly not trying to create a new model that dismantles stereotypes and attempts to foster a true place of inclusivity. And maybe you're asking yourself, but what gym or fitness studio is, Katie? Yes, this shouldn't have been surprising but I believe something I love a lot can be better! And that's when I discovered Tammeca Rochester and Harlem Cycle. I haven't met her or been there (yet) but she's my new fitness hero! And until a studio like that opens up in Milwaukee, I'll be retiring my spin shoes for a little while and find other, better ways to work out that doesn't compromise my morals and values. 

That's all I've got for you now and while I can't promise when my next love note will be written, please know that it will be! 

xoxo