My First Quarter-Century.

Something to put in perspective (one of those aha moments that make me thrilled) I have this ridiculous fear of ending up like my mother. That one day I will open my eyes and be standing in Farner, TN, with barely any electricity and a wall fortress of cars in my yard, and an abusive husband who smacks me around all the time.

 My mother was 25 when I was born, and in that same 25th year, she married my dad. She was 25, had three children, one divorce, two marriages, one of which she was 15 during and one of which she got married in a jail (thanks Dad, classy) and went from living in a nice area of Germany to this disgusting, dilapidated, Silent-Hill-esque shed-like house with no running water and a junkyard in the back with a husband who was literally incarcerated the day they were married. She went from being a waitress to being on welfare, selling drugs, and trading food stamps for pills, as her profession.

 I'm 25, have zero children, have worked as a teacher, baker, and Santa's helper, and now an international au-pair, I live in a great house with an amazing family and have my beloved, wonderful network of people in Tennessee, Utah, and Sweden. Really, the similarities aren't stacking up quite the way I imagined they were, and I may be coming to the realization that at least for the first quarter century...I'm doing okay, and I'm headed in a different direction than I thought I would be.


Post Valentine's Gushing.

I was all excited for Valentine's Day and it's passed (and then some) and I haven't said a word about it!! Well, I've had pressing things on my mind--don't I always?--but also things have been REALLY busy, and Valentine's weekend was completely a madhouse.  It really felt like a holiday; all the kids were home, the boyfriend was over, the parents were off work.....so yes, it was fun, but completely exhausting.

Friday night Henri came over, met the family, and we exchanged gifts.   Then he and I went to eat at a restaurant which we incidentally couldn't find and then had to go eat at a different restaurant.  One whole bottle of wine later we sat at a bar and people-watched until about midnight, then we called it a night and came back home.  Saturday, we--the entire family, a total of NINE people!!!! went on a long walk through the snowy Swedish forest, to Gamla Link√∂ping, where the residents dress up "old fashioned" on the weekends and the adorable red cottages are home to a bunch of neat little shops.  We ate pizza (I had a calzone, I hate European pizza) and then Henri and I waved goodbye to everyone and headed over to the main part of town to do some touristing.  We explored the Link√∂ping Cathedral, attempted to visit another church but got lost, lol, and then headed back home again.

The cathedral was so breathtaking--construction began in the 1300's.  The 1300's!!! Ridiculous.  Any American structure from that time period is like, a pile of ash and rotten wood.  Or a memory that only the Natives can remember via storytelling and interpretive dance.  Seeing Henri interact with my family made me really happy as well.  Do you have any idea what it's like to feel normal after so long? To have parents and siblings around you, eager to meet the guy you spend your free time with? How strange it is that I finally feel normal in a place so entirely foreign and new and unfamiliar and weird.  I might never understand why things are like that.

Also guys, can you please just give Henri a hand for being the best boyfriend ever.  I know that's uncharacteristically mushy of me...but I LOVE Valentine's...and he knew it...and he got me the BEST presents ever.  A beautiful red rose, my favorite perfume, a heart necklace (I squealed when I saw it) Swedish chocolate, and best of all, the book "On Writing" by Stephen King, which is a book I have been dying to get for a year or so now.   Best most adorable wonderful boyfriend ever, amirite?


12 Months of Self Love: Defining Success.

I may be a few days behind, but since we're no no real schedule here, I bring you activity two for my 12 Months of Self-Love project.  And if you're interested in a really great, I suggest checking out this article on self esteem vs. self compassion.  

And now onto the activity!

I admit I feel a little lost, still, on where to begin as far as the whole self-love (shall I call it self-compassion?) begins.  Whenever I find myself thinking negatively about myself I go, 'Hey now, simmer down' most of the time, and that has helped greatly, but I still feel pretty useless and lazy and stupid most of the time.  That I'm not serving any purpose, that I'm not helping anybody or anything and that my goals, while now not so far out of possibility that I consider offing myself daily.....are still pretty far out there.  Then I thought about how most of us relate in some degree, our personal worth to our personal success.  Somewhere on the self-help sites I bookmarked, there was a little survey on how you define success.  Because until you define it, it's very difficult to know where you stand and why you should or shouldn't be happy, or should or shouldn't work on certain areas of your life.  I couldn't find the survey, naturally, when I went looking, but fear not--I adapted my own Patricia-version of the questions here.

So, where do I stand? Let's find out shall we...

1. How do you define success within your family?
"family" is a tough word for a foster kid but I will try to answer this anyway.  As far as my biological family, I just want peace and quiet, as much as I can possibly get.  This means staying away from my family and their provocation, not putting myself in a place to have conflict, etc.  If I were to go a step further I would say success would be making peace with all the negativity: with my past, with Doris's death, with the things I can't change that torment me.  Is that possible? I don't know, and I don't even know for sure if I would let go if I could.  It's safe to say that "peace and quiet" equals success then.

2. How do you define success in your personal life--in other words, success with friends, coworkers, and other interpersonal relationships?
I have a handful of people in person, and a larger network of people online (that's introvertedness at work you all) who I hold dearly close and to me, I'm successful if they know that I love them and care about them even if I'm not always present or right there.  I like going out and having drinks, or exploring with friends, but socializing is not a very important part of relationships for me.  I can be alone quite a lot, but I need to balance that with having deep relationships or I get depressed.  So; deep connections that I nurture and still have room to be my hermity self in are successful relationships.

2.  How do you define success in an intrapersonal (within yourself) relationship?
This is difficult, because I know a lot of strange things about myself.  I know that I have a really dark side, but I also have always wanted to be that 'inner queen' immortalized by every poet and historian across the world.  Important characteristics for me to have are intelligence, creativity, humor, compassion, solitude, bravery, and helpfulness.   But that's not all there is to me, there's a part of me that's like a crazy wildfire destroying everything in its path.  Somebody who is cut-throat and vicious and independent to the point of lifelong loneliness....a strange, weird, totally lost side.  I've never quite figured out how I am supposed to make these two work together.  They clash, and I get angsty about it....so I really don't  know the answer to this question and I guess that means I might not be on the best track to being happy and successful within myself.   

3.  How do you define business and career success? What is your dream job/profession?
Well, my DREAM job is being a novelist.  As far as business success, anywhere that I feel useful, I can be a leader, and enjoy at least some aspects of the job other than the paycheck, is a success.  In the past I've done mundane jobs with something greater in mind and I don't mind starting at the bottom to work your way up.  I've also been a teacher, a job with a lot of flowers and balloons and pats on the back...so I know how good that feels, as well.  Ideally, if I become a Swedish citizen I'd like to be an English teacher, but if I move back to America I am going to continue working towards Firefighting.  I know, they're different...but not to me.  See above about my two different sides.  So really the success is just something stable, supportive, where I'm happy---or, realizing my epic dream of being famous.

4. Why is this your dream job? What do you love about it and what feelings does it bring you when you envision yourself succeeding?
It's always been my dream to write...I've written since I could form ridiculous little sentences in grade school.  Cliche, I know.  But I also have a story to tell, and more than that...I have hundreds of stories to tell.  I love everything about writing.  The struggles, the triumphs, learning about the characters, being in the shower and getting the best scene idea ever, sitting and drinking coffee and staring at the screen determinedly... the way writers talk about writing and the things we don't say about writing. All of it just means the world to me and I feel at peace when I write more than any other time in my life, even sleeping.  And NOT writing puts me at real unease.  Depression begets...well...NOT doing your hobbies, and while depressed I haven't written as much and it's made my self-esteem just plummet.  When I think of success I literally can't imagine.  I can't imagine that feeling of opening a letter from a publisher, of getting an agent....none of it.  Seeing my book in print.  I think when it happens I will just faint repeatedly until it sets in.

5. What is the greatest threat to your current successes in life? Business or personal.  How secure do you feel about being successful? 
As stupid as it sounds....me.  I'm the biggest threat.  I've shoved my family and their antagonism out of my life, I've proven that I have the balls to move across an ocean.  I got out of several bad relationships and situations over the recent years I've considered myself an adult, and there are no real limitations on what I can achieve other than the ones I put there myself.  Unfortunately, there's a huge risk for failure in a lot of what I do (art, writing, relationships) so my low self-esteem stems from me saying "hey don't do that because you'll be let down."  I guess I am more afraid of failure than even I realize.  That defense mechanism is so ingrained in my head that it's the biggest threat to me not finishing a single novel, to me ruining friendships....everything.  Right now I don't feel very secure about being successful, but the good part is that this move, and this decision to confront my issues, have already helped me climb a few steps back up into the light of reaching for your dreams.  And the first few steps are the hardest....so I'm hoping things continue to improve.

What about you? How do you define success? Any tips on how I can improve? Feel free to grab these questions and answer them (don't forget to link me so I can check out your answers!) 


Passing Time in Winter.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am so done with winter.  I tried to be optimistic about it since I generally like snow and winter, and I get to power through Valentine's Day with presents and a date and a new dress and all of that...but I'm so done.  When the sun sets at 3 to 4 pm and the rest of the day is gray and barely light anyway, you tend to go a little crazy.  For a minute, you see the flakes falling outside and you think "ooh I live in a beautiful snowglobe" and then in half an hour you feel like slamming your head against the snowglobe until either it, or your skull, cracks into a million pieces.

How to pass the time?  Lately it's been preparing for Valentine's Day, sledding, and continuing to learn Swedish.  Since I'm so generous, I'm going to share all of that with you as well.  Have some photos and learn a few words! (The phonetics are supposed to be pronounced as they would be read in English, if that makes sense.)  Enjoy and Happy Valentine's Day!

p.s.....I totally got to do an interview over at the awesome Felicia's blog, Fel's Got Swag.  Go listen to me yap about art.  You might learn something. lol.  



All Your Red Hair Questions Answered

This post was updated on June 24, 2015.

I may not be sure about a lot of things in life, but one thing I AM sure about is that I love having red hair.  I've had every color under the sun and I always come back to red.  I would say I average one compliment per day at work, and hearing an employee tell me that they love my hair is something really special, every single time it happens.  I've also noticed that it's a great conversation piece for some of my patients and anything I can do to get their mind off their pain or illness and have some beauty talk is a bonus in my book.

One thing I do notice is that a lot of girls who talk to me about red hair have some self-deprecating or otherwise negative beliefs about it--the two I hear all the time are "I could never pull it off" or "It's so hard to maintain."

Both of those are ridiculous statements!  Firstly, you can 'pull off' whatever you want!  You just have to do it.  I know there are "rules" about warm and cool tones and this and that, and if you care about those things, (I don't) then spend some time consulting with someone who knows their color wheel about what shade of red is right for you.

And red hair is no more difficult to maintain than any other color--I say this with confidence, having been a blond, brunette, pink haired, purple haired, and so on.  There is some maintenance involved of course, and if you're the kind of person who barely likes to set foot in a shower, you might not enjoy the procedures.  I love taking care of my hair because I feel pampered, it's just one of those things I do for myself, and I've learned to look forward to it.  

I will say, I am not a professional stylist and all my training has been trial and error.  Anything that works for me might not work for you and vice versa.  So don't blame me if your hair crisps or turns green.  You were warned.

Now with that disclaimer out of the way: onto all about red hair!!

1. How did you get it so red?/Lightening Questions
Very carefully, haha.  Don't just go out grabbing that 40 volume peroxide and bleaching the shit out of your hair.  A good color to have it before dying is medium-blond, but I've even started with medium brown hair and gotten bright red. If you do need to bleach, use the lowest volume peroxide (I never go above 20) in order to preserve your hair's ability to hold color. When you put peroxide in the hair, the cuticles open up like fish gills.  No color will latch on when they're in this state.  To minimize wasting your time and really ruining your hair, don't leave bleach on long, use the lowest volume of peroxide possible, and let your hair relax for a few days after bleaching before you put the color in.  To get blood red (or any red really) hair you don't need to go overboard and have platinum blond.  A few days of weird muddy brassy "blond" is so worth it when your color lasts longer and looks more even all over.  

Speaking of evenness.  Buy a cheap protein filler.  This does exactly what it sounds like it does.  It smooths the hair strand--even application, uniform color, strengthened hair.  Talk to your stylist or Sally's worker to find out which one you should use--but if you're going red, I recommend the neutral or the red (though beware, it is RED!!!).  So many people color their hair without protein fillers, it makes me cringe.  Just do it guys.  Extra step=beautiful hair.  I usually mix in protein filler with my color, but if it's looking extra splotchy or I'm adding streaks/highlights, I put some in a spray bottle and just coat all of my hair.  

2.  What brands do you recommend?
If you want the reddest of red fire truck red blazing on fire blinding artificial red: Use this brand. 
It's not a traditional dye; that is, it's not something you mix with any peroxide or solution.  It's a hair stain, and goes right on the hair without mixing anything beforehand.  If you're looking to cosplay Ariel or Poison Ivy, this is your best bet.

I personally use the Ion Color Brilliance brand, in the semi and demi permanent shades of red.

Henna is another option that works beautifully, but be warned, it's an entirely different process than the traditional hair dye Western women are used to.  I love Henna.  This is the brand I use.

3.  What is your procedure/maintenance?  
Typically, I buy semi-permanent red hair color for a few reasons...most importantly it is less harsh on the hair.  Box/peroxide dye every three weeks is excessive and will ruin any ability your hair has to hold onto color.  The semi also smells great, with no ammonia, and it's SO easy to put on.  No mixing.

Every four months or so I might do a demi-permanent of the same brand (demi-permanents typically use a 10 volume peroxide and last a little longer) if I feel that my red is getting too dark and I need to lighten it.  I also infrequently buy bleach powder and run just a bit through some strands for highlights, but if you're not experienced at this, have a professional do it.

I try not to use too much heat on my hair.  I let it air dry and if it's looking particularly frazzled I'll put just a few tiny drops of argan oil in it.  Every three months or so, I'll do a deep-penetrating heated coconut oil treatment.  I also trim my hair via the search and destroy method.  

4. How often do you have to dye it?
I put on the semi-permanent about once every three or four weeks, and the demi-permanent maybe every four months.  

5. Doesn't it fade quickly?
Not really, no.  The key is not over-peroxiding your hair, because then it loses the ability to keep the color past a few washes.  So, if your hair is damaged, look into semi-permanent hair color, or stains, and invest in a good hair repair regime.  Focus on repairing the damage and not damaging any further.  You'll never get the color you want if your hair itself is unhealthy, broken, and brittle.
  I also only shower maybe once every 3 days.  

PS Yes I do take hot showers!!! People assume I wash my hair in cold water to keep it so vibrant. My cold shower days are over, I don't live in the forest anymore.  But again, it all comes back to the health of the hair in general.  My color can last with a few hot shampoos because the hairs themselves are for the most part, pretty healthy.  

6. How do you keep your hair strong? 

See above.  Don't use peroxide-based dyes if your hair is weak.  Consider a hot oil treatment every so often.  The most beneficial thing I've done for my hair, however, is henna.  You can read more on this through google, but essentially, henna is like steroids for your hair.  It has keratin and other great proteins that really help the thickness of the individual strands and strengthens them.  If it wasn't for henna I'd probably have melted hair by now.  Henna does make your hair dry, as any protein will; just follow your henna up with a hot oil treatment or a good, penetrating conditioner.

Another note on safety: Don't just use any henna.  Henna dye is not regulated by most food and drug corporations around the globe, and since it typically ships from India, anybody can slap the word 'henna' on some ground up powder and call it a day.  If you've read of black henna and skin burns...you'll know it's nothing to mess around with.  You want pure ground up henna, nothing more.  It's probably safest to order it online.  Again, I use hennahut.com.  Another option is going to your local Indian Food Store and asking for henna powder for henna tattoos--it's the same dye.  

7.  How do I use henna to dye my hair?

In a nutshell: you put the powder in a plastic bowl.  No metal.  Get a jar of lemon juice, and mix with the powder until the consistency is like yogurt.  Again, stir with a wooden or plastic spoon.  No metal.  Cover the henna, put it in a dark place, and let it sit anywhere from a few hours to overnight.  Then you put it on your hair the same way you would hair dye, and cover it with a processing cap.  You can leave henna on as long as you like!!! I sometimes get lazy and go two or three hours.  There's no consequence except beautiful hair.  You rinse it out the same way you would hair dye.

Some people don't like the smell of henna; I LOVE it.  It smells like sweet grass.  You can smell it as you're mixing it, so if you don't like what your nose knows, then don't put it on your hair.  The smell doesn't really linger, it goes away just as soon as the henna is washed out. 

8. Does your hair color stain?

For the bright red hair color I used to have  Yes. But I've never had it permanently stain anything except bathroom porcelain.  So keep away from the sink!! Clothes, however, as well as skin and bedding etc....they've always washed out for me.  You might end up with a few pink spots on your favorite dress though.  It's your call how much/how often/how intense your red hair is.  


On Friendship.

I never understood the value of a true friend until now.  
It's a bond that transcends everything; family, love.  
The things we spend time worrying and stressing about.
Money, possessions, and the like. 

A friend has no need to be anything for you.  They have no need to be there.
They are there because they want to be, because they care.
With no other motives in mind and no personal gain, they are just there.
They help us up, they push us forward, because they see something in us.
Something we don't always see in ourselves.

Or actually, they see many things in us.
And we see many things in them.
So much potential, and so much to give to the world.
There's no codependence, no real need for expectations or boundaries.
Friends know these things, and they respect them.

I've known lots of different kinds of love and loss, everyone has.
But now I see through everything to the core of our human relationships.
And every family member, every lover, husband, wife.  Every revered relation.
Friendship is what binds us and holds us together through the best and worst of times.

And sometimes it's perceived like it's dirty, or not good enough.
Only a friend, nothing more.  That can hurt.  It makes people feel inferior.
It used to make me feel that way, but I understand better now.
Just what an amazing privilege it is to have a friend.  

I'm not talking about a fair weather friend.  A true friend.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." 

I am happy for the people I've met, the things I've learned.
I am even happy for the bad relationships, because I learned a lot and grew into a better person.
I know I have a lot of love to give to someone special one day.
But nothing in the world is as important to me as a friend.

and go find a few friends and tell them you love them. or hug them. or make them a cake. 


Love is In The Air/I Am Happy

Ten days til Valentine's Day!!! I am SO excited you guys.  I've been making a very special secret Valentine for Henri, as well as cooking up ideas for Valentine's with my au-pair family.  Can I just call them my Swedish family? They pretty much are.  Anyway, Henri will be spending Valentine's weekend with us and I am so excited and happy and nervous for the weekend.  I have a fancy red dress which I will take lots of photos of....we are going to have dinner one night out on the town, and then I am going to cook for everyone the next night! What's a good "American" dinner?  (Paleo if possible) I was thinking bleu cheese burgers, with some loaded baked paleo-potatoes.  Swedes have never heard of loaded baked potatoes, but throw me your ideas if you have them! I always ate more like a European than an American anyway, so I am not well-versed in what is American (other than Elvis sandwiches which isn't a very impressive Valentine's Family Dinner.)

I wanna show you a little Valentine's project I made, but before that, here's a photodump! I know I should be sharing these photos more often but blogging is just so sporadic when you are still settling into a schedule. Anyway, have a look:

1. Sexy new red lips and yes, it's still fucking snowing 
2. My wonderful super-Swedish mittens!
3. Me and one of the amazingly wonderful kiddos I work with
4. Doing hair and makeup like a baus
5. Well that's not very nice....(It means something like...fuck you, fucking lady...or lady fucker...idk???)
6.  I don't know what they were going for here but....

Here is the little project I made which was eaten by the rabbit about two days after I made it.  Fear not, it took all of twenty minutes to make and so tomorrow I am going to redo it and add a little glitter!  Grab some scrapbooking paper, washi tape, string, and tree branches and you're all ready to go.