Lilla Gumman: Our Summer Home.

I call it a summer home because to me, it is home.  It's not just a house (or more specifically three houses and some forest land) it's a real home.  It feels like home when you're there, and that's something I've never completely felt in my life.  Even Utah, which I proudly call home, with all of its beauty, never made me feel included in the way that Lilla Gumman does.  It's quiet, serene, beautiful, friendly.  Your worries are reduced to what type of jam to put on your scones, and whether you want to walk on the cliffside or forest-side of the water.

I love the feeling of home.


A Bit on My Past.

Hello readers.  I know I haven't been posting so much lately, but I feel excused seeing as how my new country kicked me out, re-accepted me and told me to get the hell back all in a matter of weeks. (And for those of you not following me on Facebook yes, they approved my application! So I am flying BACK to Sweden this Saturday.)

When I was thinking of topics to discuss/entries to write on the 2013 Self Love theme, I knew this one would eventually come up, and I think I'm finally ready to talk about it.  This is no easy feat, because try as I might to forget it exists, my past still causes me a lot of pain.  I had to take photos of these old photos to post for this entry and even looking at them long enough to copy made my hands shaky and I had to pause.  Sometimes I loathe being so heavy-handed in a space where I want to be inspiring and artistic, but heavy is also a huge part of who I am.  And I hope that publicly broadcasting how awesome my past made me helps me to love myself.

I have never had an opportunity to be normal
This, I think, is the coolest thing about me.  I wasn't normal even in kindergarten.  Children who live in abused homes tend to act differently or 'stick out' in just about every social situation that exists.  I can't say I was always happy about this, and I got bullied a lot for being different, but I never adapted to be what I now call 'normies' or Muggles. (heh heh.)  Things were always special for me.  I never had a bed to sleep in, I never went to church.  Any facade of normalcy was always wrenched away from me, usually with a slap in the face or someone destroying my toys/artwork/happiness.   The good thing about this is that it was easier for me to accept my uniqueness as I got older.  The whole 'trying to fit in' thing never happened.  I know I get anxious at holiday time, but at least I've never had a "normal" Thanksgiving or a "normal" Christmas to compare my adventures to.  All in all I don't think that the best people in the world are anywhere near normal, so maybe one day I will be one of the greats as well.

I am brave and independent 
Sometimes I wonder how much of the abuse my father dished on me was with the intention of helping me learn.  It was like a part of him wanted to be tough on me so that I would fight back.  I don't know if he even realizes this, or if it's in my head...it's just a feeling I get sometimes.   I don't know if Dad intended for me to be brave enough to leave home and tell him to kiss my ass....but it happened.  And now, every single time I travel alone, every time I do something awesome and risky and fulfilling, I can remember the times I was brave because I was forced to be.  

I can go on adventures that most people can't 
I think a mixture of the aforementioned bravery as well as some almost desperate thirst to prove myself   has led me to some pretty far corners of the world, and also allowed me to get a job across the country.  Whenever someone tells me I am brave or awesome for au pairing, I think to myself that I would never be so adventurous if I hadn't grown up so sheltered, and demanded to myself to travel when I got older.

I know that blood isn't everything
A favorite life lesson of mine that I find myself repeating to friends when they need comforting about how their own family sucks.  Blood does have its own individual ties, I'm not arguing that.  There are things you can feel about biological family that are entirely unique.  But they're not everything and they don't have to be.  The wonderful thing about this life is that there are plenty of people out there worth loving, who love the same way, and they aren't family.  I wish more youth in foster care would learn this earlier, because there's a lot of heartbreak we experience in thinking that our family will never be repaired.  Family is what you make it, and I have an amazing blood-free family!

I know what it means to live in poverty
I grew up with no electricity.  No running water in winter.  A house so small and tiny it could be more correctly defined as a shed.  Food stamps, welfare, going hungry a lot of the time.  A lot of animals to take care of.  Hunting and gardening as a means of food.  Used clothes, no worldly possessions.  No bedroom, no BED to sleep on.  I was kind of like those kids you see in the sad commercials.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not.  I lived with lice and worms for years.  I'm not embarrassed by any of this because I was just a kid, I had no control over my living circumstances.  All this means is that I never, ever, ever take anything for granted.  I get disgusted at the waste of modern society, and I never forget where it is I come from.  Even small things like having enough money to buy groceries, are gratifying.  A hot shower never goes unnoticed.  And I still cry a lot because I have a bed.

I know how badly abuse and anger affect children
You can't give me an insult I wasn't called as a child.  Emotional abuse was the worst, but the physical and mental was there as well.  It was constant, it was debilitating, and it no doubt was a control mechanism and a way for my parents to vent their own insecurities.  No parent or mentor is perfect, but I have learned the hard way the damage unchecked anger or words can deal.  I truly believe that my past has made me a better mentor and teacher, and maybe one of these days, it will help make me a great parent.  

I was never allowed to express myself.  Now I can.
I have kind of a reputation, see.  Whether for good or bad, people who encounter me know me as a force.  Abrasive, sometimes a little too much, but just as compassionate as I am cynical.  My ways of expressing myself--writing, art, playing music, even having friends--was completely suppressed when I was growing up.  I wasn't allowed to do anything but schoolwork, and even a "C" in math got all of my reading books burned in a fire when I was eleven.  As soon as I was able, I bought paint, paper, and pencils, and started making art.  A few years later when I realized no one was going to hurt me for it, I started writing again.  Now I'm a lighthouse of creativity and I am thankful every single day for the opportunity to have the freedom of creation.

Again, I have no idea what parts of my parents' brains were working for me, and against me, when I was growing up. Certainly being dragged around the house by my hair by my mother could've served no real learning purpose for me other than what pain was, but the point is, they taught me important lessons for life.  Some of them I actually think are better lessons than kids in "normal" or "happy" households learn.  Not that I condone being a crazy redneck in order to have your kid grow up to be awesome.  I also know that my past is not one hundred percent possible for making me who I am.  I've made my own choices.  Some of them have been terrible.  Some have been worthwhile.  I am me, with or without my past.  And even though thinking about it brings me a lot of pain, I think I hang onto it because I do know how well it's shaped me.  I am afraid of forgetting where I come from, even though I would probably be happier if I did.


Back Across the Atlantic + Why I love the desert.

Despite my frustrations over the Migration Board in Sweden, I was really lucky to have the opportunity to come home and see America again.  I know this, and I know it's extra nice considering that I was homesick and missed my cats.  I guess that's a rare glimpse into my private positivity, but it was still a grueling journey full of creepy stalkers in London, airplane sickness, a long custom line, being depressed when Henri left, and now feeling all kinds of out of sorts from being back home.  I figured I would share a few of the more photogenic moments of the trip.

1. Henri helped me carry my stuff from my host home to his apartment in Stockholm.  He wore this, which I thought was adorable and hilarious.  He's like a Russian American hybrid super patriot.
2. A thrift store painting I saw on my last day in the city...I WANT THIS SO BAD.
3. We watched the sun set from the airport.  In a few months, the sun will be up super late.
4. Henri on my laptop, reading the news like the old man that he secretly is.  I absolutely love his adorable face.

And then eight billion miles later, seeing the Rockies:

And then flying into Salt Lake City five minutes later, coasting down over the Great Salt Lake.

I know it may not seem like much to people.  People look at places with greenery and trees and gorgeous glorious architecture and their breath gets taken away.  They see photos of my European adventures and get excited for the culture.  I talk about the desert and people get uninterested, or they get that look on their face like they want to go take a shower.  I get it, maybe that salty lake up there isn't your idea of paradise. 

But the truth is, it's mine.  I used to be the same way; I'd see pictures of the desert or watch Westerns with my dad when I was a kid, and think "well, damn, that looks depressing and terrible."  Only when you're physically in the desert can you appreciate just how much life thrives there.  And it doesn't thrive there because it was meant to, but in spite of itself, because life is stubborn and will find a root and dig in anywhere it can, and adapt to the harshest of conditions, including a place where the rain literally has salt in it.   I like to think that I'm like the desert, living and thriving in spite of the meager handful of a welcome into the world I was given for my first 18 years.  

The desert is also big.  It's huge, enormous.  It will swallow you up whole.  And the feeling of humility you get in the desert is one of my favorite experiences.  Even flying for hours over an entire ocean doesn't really give you the same humbling emotions, the same smallness, as you get from standing in the desert.

One other reason why I love the desert....well, Salt Lake City really, is because it signifies freedom for me.  I had nothing when I came here.  I had no hopes of achieving anything, and was just a clueless 18 year old bony kid who had just left college on a whim.  I never thought I would write again.  I never thought I would paint again.  I was just sick and tired of what life in Tennessee meant for me and I wanted something new.  Utah was not part of the grand escape plan, it was just the opportunity that arose and I took it.  I never expected to love this place.  But Salt Lake City welcomed me with open arms back in 2006 and no matter what I've felt or needed or wanted, there has been someone or something here to support me. 

When Brigham Young and his dysentery-ridden Mormon crew stepped into the Wasatch Foothills and the President of the Latter-Day Saints declared "This is the Place" I like to imagine two things: one that he was doubled over with stomach cramps due to some horrible pioneer disease (dysentery is funny) and that he felt some sort of divine peace wash over him because he knew that he was coming to a place where he would be free from persecution.  Despite the fact that a Mormon leader and I have very different ideas of what we would do in our free time, the thirst for freedom and betterment of our lives is something we could probably relate to.  

The point I'm trying to make is that when I flew into Salt Lake City, unsure and scared, I felt a kind of peacefulness that said, "don't worry now, everything will be alright."  That was seven years ago, and I've flown back to Salt Lake more times than I can count, from various places.  The feeling always occurs.  And now, even coming back from my beloved Sweden, even leaving my awesome host family and my kids and my boyfriend 6 billion miles away on another planet, I still felt like I was heading in a direction that would be good for me.  Because I will always have a home in Salt Lake City, and that's one of the things I'm most grateful for in my amazing life.  


Ultimate Blog Party 2013!

I participated in this event last year and though I didn't put much effort into it (being a new blogger I was kind of paranoid) I still made some really awesome bloggy friends and I am looking forward to doing the same this year!

So, here's why you want to internet-stalk me:

--I am full of colorful language (cursing) wit, dry humor, black humor, cynicism, and all sorts of other fun things.   I try to write most entries with lots of humor.

--No posting of recipes, DIY's, or anything crafty, so you don't have to feel pressured -and out-domesticated.  An octopus could out-domesticate me.  However I do post my artwork and that's always nice to look at (hopefully.)

--I can be very contemplative and philosophize on my blog.  I'm open and raw and abrasive, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what you like to read.

--My life is interesting and cool.  I just moved to Sweden in 2012 and things have been awesome ever since.

And that's about it really.  You can read more on my about me page, or if you're feeling super nosy, check out my foster care entries.  You will also see a lot of talk about depression, mental illness, and such things.  I don't like the taboo nature of mental illness and so I strive to be open about my feelings on it and the perceptions society has on it (and why they are wrong.)  There's also a healthy sprinkling of griping, and enjoying nature, and photography, and more griping because I am kind of a bitch.

Welcome, and if you like what you see and think we may have similar interests/styles/desires to stalk, please do leave me a comment and I will go check you out!

Ultimate Blog Party 2013