5.14.2014

Jobs I Was Born to Do.

I kind of stole this idea from Becca. Her entry made me die laughing and ponder..what was I born to do?


You probably remember that I was Batman, and Sweden didn't care.



There's only another super hero job I can see myself doing, and I already have the red hair and the desire to be around steely man butts all day long.



But as we all know from my last entry, I'm more of a villain. And there's no classier villain than a southern-accented villain.



Then again speaking of steely man butt and having red hair, I could totally be the Fifth Element.



Another villainous job I could totally do? I'd definitely be Mrs. Putin.  I'd use my tender womanly charm to coax him into being slightly less awful, but I do like awful KGB criminal Putin.  The man is an enigmatic weirdo.  Mostly I'd just use the position to have him teach me martial arts, to help him save polar bears, and to become a trained assassin.



Also he could show me how to ride bears.


If real life wasn't so boring, my job would be a little more obvious. 



But my number one absolute dream job?  What else? Till Lindemann's lurking shadow. 



5.08.2014

An Awesome Reunion.

((First of all--exciting news! I "fixed" my blogging crisis by starting a small, informal health blog.  If you're into that sort of thing go ahead and follow!  I'm really excited about it and not sure why I didn't think of it sooner.))

One of the reasons my blogging is slacking off is because a few weeks ago (has it already been a few weeks? What's a week? Who knows) I had two awesome friends come visit me!!! They are from my home "town" area, and I went to school with both of them.  Sadly only a few years, since I got put in foster care and moved away from home.  The fantastic thing is that despite having an almost ten-year gap in steady contact and only knowing each other in our teens, we are excellent friends and talking, hanging out, dicking around, etc come completely natural to us!  We have the same senses of humor, which is so refreshing for someone like me who feels completely out of whack with boring, sensitive society.



Heather and Chris are one of the coolest couples I know, not only because they've actually stayed together for years (a feat in itself!) and love animals maybe as much as me, but because they really get me.  (We've all had our lives threatened by my dad, for example.)  They know exactly how awful that place we come from is, and they appreciate that the fact that any of us turned out as passable for normal is a miracle from Thor.  We had a ton of laughs over the people and places we grew up with.

I took them to Antelope Island, Temple Square, the Convention Center, Highland High's big H rock, Emigration Canyon, Hogle Zoo, aaaaaaand DUNDUNDUN.... In n Out Burger! (the best place on earth.)  I also had dinner with them at the Blue Lemon.  I wanted to cram so much more in but there was just no time!!! I felt a little empty inside when they left just a week later.  FRIENDS Y U LEAVE ME ALWAYS?

Another thing that made me feel good, besides just being around good people I could relax with, was that they really enjoyed Salt Lake!  I'm always dying to show off this city to friends and loved ones and it's a rare thing that anyone takes me up on the offer.  Utah has so much to give, it's where most of my heart lies.  (The rest is on a cold, icy rock called Sweden with an adorable brunette man) Having fun while touristing this magnificent place is probably the best pasttime I could think of.

COME BACK GUYS. LIKE NOW


4.25.2014

Laying My Fears Out There.

This post isn't talking about being scared in general, but an actual fear that I currently have.  I'm not afraid of most things, fear is not a very driving force in my life but for the past few weeks I've been discussing this with friends, going over it in my head, and I've processed it to the point where it's okay to write it all down. 



I'm terrified of seeing my dad, and even my sisters again.  There are several reasons why.  It all goes back to the family "communication" style.  For whatever reason people in my family, including myself, start out with screams and profanities when we're angry and end up on a murderous rampage that sometimes leaves burned bars, or rifles pointed at old ladies.

I've grown out of that way of being, but when I'm stressed I can "Worley" it out like the best of them.  I figure I will be extremely stressed during this visit, and I don't want to either light my own fuse, light someone else's, or just step on toes, because for the Worleys, there's no light and airy ending.  It's pretty gruesome.  Hence why I have coping problems ten years after leaving my home.


But that's not even my main fear.  I have a very "go fuck yourself" attitude about how the general public views me.  I get judged for being an atheist.  I get judged for my Southern accent.  I get judged for not being a feminist, for disliking "best friend" parenting, for saying fuck a lot on my personal blog.  That doesn't bother me...I like who I am and most of the bad stuff people would think about me is rarely true. 

Over the years I've gotten the distinct impression (and have even heard such) from both my sisters as well as my parents, that I'm a "snob."  That I'm a "city slicker."  That I think I'm better than them, that I see them as hicks or hillbillies.  My mom had a major problem with this since her family was a kind of old world old money family and very conservative, rich, and 'mannered.'  My parents worked hard to show us and teach us how to be like them; they were both proud of their rough and hard-edged lifestyle.  Skin of the teeth, dirty fingernails, blood on the knuckles. 

I feel that when I go home I will be scrutinized and judged over every little thing.  The last time I was home I did stick out like a sore thumb, like a 'dumb city person.'  The reason I'm worried about this is I guess because unlike all the other bullshit people in the modern world think about people like me, my family may be right in their judgement of me.  I don't like cutting and hauling wood.  I never wanted to be a farmer or a hunter.  I dreamed of a life where I could cozy up next to a cat and read a book for hours without worrying about if the weather will allow me to plant crops, or who to trade meat with for dinner, or which bills to not pay and what odd manual labor job would supplement me. 

I'm kind of the pansy of my family I guess.  In addition to not being "country", I'm also not one for violence or shouting or being around volatile people.  I had a fight with my sister in 2011 and it took me months to recover from the trauma of it.  Total pansy, right? But I've accepted this is how I am.  I just don't know if my family accepts it.  They don't know me very well....at least, they don't know the person I've become over the years. 

Advise has been very two-sided.  Either I hear, "all family fights like that! It's normal! You'll be fine!" or I hear, "Don't be around those toxic people."  Well isn't there some in-between? 

I refuse to believe family fights like that, and I refuse to believe it's normal, and even if it is I cannot be around that stress.  I just can't handle fighting every few months over what someone said at whose wedding.  I see friends go through that a lot and I feel for them.  I just can't do it. 

But I can't just abandon my family either.  I love them.  My mother dying has only one slight redeeming light around it--it's brought us all the will to be closer together, like we haven't been before.  I can't just not try.  So I've been riding the fence on this one a lot.  I just don't understand what I'm supposed to do.  No one has any answers, either.  Not all problems are so black and white.

I just know I'm going to visit my family, and it might be amazing and it might be a catastrophe, but I'm a goddamn tryer and I'm going to try.   





3.23.2014

I Have Unpopular Opinions, Version 2.

Link to Version 1

I did my unpopular opinions blog back last year and to my great surprise, it was well-received!! So I of course have more controversial things to talk about.  If you're going to read about me on my Internet space you might as well get to hear the juicy gossip right?

If any of my opinions offend you, well, you shouldn't get offended.   I don't say anything aimed at anyone--I'm not vague--so this is just my feelings on particular groups, ideals, lifestyles, and so on.  Also, if you ever want to be candid and post your unpopular opinions LINK ME.  So much better to read than boring blogger fluff.




On Weddings:  If you call me a jaded and bitter old hag on this, I won't blame you.  I'd agree.  At one time in my life I planned a wedding.  And then my beloved aunt died, I suffered severe trauma, and the relationship turned into a violent shitstorm and no wedding happened.  So, just a disclaimer. ANYWAY.  Even before I had that background to be prejudice in, I balked at the idea that some people spend 20,000 TO GET MARRIED.  Know what else is fucking unnecessary? A 10,000 wedding.  Know what else? A 5,000 wedding.  Or even a 1,000 dollar wedding.  A THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?!?!!??!! WHAT???? To me, there are more important things to celebrate.  Why not have a party that huge for when you finally graduate college? Or for when you buy your first house?  Those things are more important than marriage...to me.  And the more I roll over the idea of walking down an aisle in a white dress, while people watch, and give a speech to the person I love in front of others, just really creeps me out.  It seems medieval.  I'm just saying.  You can like weddings.  But there are more important days in your life, I promise.  Don't waste the amount of a car or two years' college tuition for a single day that everyone's going to be groaning about having to attend.  I just find it strange and unimportant and overhyped.


On HAES:  For those of you who don't frequent Tumblr, HAES (Health at Every Size) and "Thin Privilege" are arguments fat activists have about being fat and healthy, and about how thin people have life easier.  Okay, first of all, you cannot weigh 600 pounds and be healthy.  That's a dangerous thing to teach people.  "But I'm 250 and healthy!"  1) Probably not, and 2) Even if you are, health at every size means health at EVERY size.  And no.  Just no.  I applaud those who love imperfect bodies.  I applaud those who care enough to be healthy.  But HAES is a cop-out and obesity is a disease and an epidemic.  Point blank.    They promote distrustment of doctors and while I personally make my own medical decisions as well, changing doctors because a doctor tells me to drop a few pounds if I weigh 400, is again, a dangerous thing to teach. 

And on the concept of thin privilege: I won't lie, thin people probably do have it easier.  I understand that.  I also understand thin does not equal healthy.  What's stupid is the complaining and shit, such as being up in arms about fat people having to pay more for airfare and demanding bigger seats on airplanes.  If you flip that around, you would have a thin person arguing and saying "I should pay LESS since I'm smaller, and I want a smaller seat because my bony butt deserves it!" No.

On Porn: With Tumblr feminism in full swing, porn has been getting a lot of shit on both sides.  It has defenders and naysayers.  I have a bit of a mixed opinion on this so hopefully I manage to offend everybody.  No but seriously.  Here's the bottom line.  Well, there are a few bottom lines.  Here they are.

1.)  Weird kinks are pretty normal.
2.)  People have been watching other people have sex for thousands of years.  Literally.
3.)  I believe that two or more consenting adults can participate in whatever they want.  



That's the thing---a lot of radfems say porn, particularly the violent type, is shameful to women and blahblahgender roles.  I don't think that ANYONE should do something they don't like, I don't think ANYONE should feel bad during their job.  But if a woman or man wants to be involved in it, that is their choice.  Consenting.  Adults.  Bottom line.  I can't tell someone not to get a crocodile tattoo on their face, thus I also cannot tell them to not record themselves in leather ropes gettin' a spankin.'  I refuse to police others like that. 

ON THE OTHER HAND.  I feel that porn can be unhealthy for a few reasons.  For one, it sets certain expectations about sex.  Real sex is nothing like porn, and it bothers me so much that young people think it's supposed to be that way.  No wonder everyone has self esteem problems.  I am also not a sex psychologist or anything, but I feel that it's possible people who watch frequent/weirder/more violent porn might really not do so well with regular sex.  I don't know what the actual scientific verdict on it is, but I reserve the right to say: I don't like the idea of it, and what it does.  I also don't like how sex workers are treated and looked at, though that's society's problem and not the workers.

I don't know, guys.  Sex is a weird thing.  I wish people would realize how weird and awkward it is and not make it out to be the thing they need to conquer, be the best at, have the most of..and so on.



On Video Games/Tech Ruling Our Lives.  Want to make me instantly dislike you?  Say something condescending about your boyfriend/brother/husband being a gamer and how immature it is. 

The fact is, yes, in the beginnings, games were made for kids.  This is 2014.  We have some amazing technology, and games exist that are more immersive than any book could ever be.  They take the best parts of storytelling--visuals, good characters, amazing plots--and they introduce something a book can't.  The magic of choice.  YOU get to decide.  Games are as worthy a pastime as reading, writing, crocheting, or watching shitty tv shows. 



When people, mostly women in my experience, talk shit on how silly it is for people to cry when video game previews are unveiled, for people to spend 30 hours a week sitting in front of a screen--no, fuck you.  You are absolutely wrong.  I'm not saying you have to like video games, but it's time to respect them as a creative art form and stop demeaning the men and women who choose to adore them.

Along with this rant goes the rant about how people say we need to unplug.  I went a year without video games in Sweden, only played a few times here and there at Henri's house, and it didn't change my life or anything substantial.  I don't think there's anything wrong with humans being connected to a constant source of inspiration and knowledge.  I think it does a lot of good for us.  I personally make plenty of time to get outside and get a breath of air, and yes, I do it while carrying my cellphone in case there's something I want to take a photo of, or someone I want to contact, or a song I want to listen to.   You can be a technophobe if you'd like, but I personally believe in technology and all it offers our current generation. 

AND THAT'S ALL OK BYE

3.21.2014

About Alex, By Henri.

Hi everybody.  Today I have to share something completely sweet with you.  A part of Self Love was getting others' descriptions of myself to see if they matched up with the unhealthy assumptions I had about myself (spoiler, they didn't.)  As such, Madi wrote this fantastic and beautiful entry detailing what I was like to her.  I will cherish it forever. 

I asked Henri to write a little something too.  He's no blogger, and on a normal day probably speaks twenty words (unless you get him talking about money or the Russians in WWII) so this is special you guys.  He wrote this darling paragraph about me.  It's in Swedish, but I will translate for you.   I can't tell you how wonderful it is to know that someone I think so highly of, thinks so highly of me.  It's important.  Anyway, here is what he wrote.



Alex är en av de mest varma och färgstarka personer jag träffat i mitt liv. Hon är konstnärlig, kreativ och dessutom väldigt produktiv i sitt skrivande och målande. Just produktiviteten är något jag själv tappat på senare år när det kommer till det konstnärliga och det är en av anledningarna till att det är så uppfriskande att ha henne vid min sida här i livet. Omtänksamheten är också något som jag uppskattar enormt mycket, jag känner mig aldrig ensam eller att jag kommer i andra hand - hon sätter andra människor före sig själv.

Det är inte alla människor som vågar sätta sig själv på ett flygplan och resa långt bort till ett främmande land och arbeta hos människor de aldrig träffat förr, visst flyttar människor till andra länder men oftast på grund av att någonting tvingar dem till det, i Alex’ fall rörde det sig istället om nyfikenhet och ett sökande efter äventyr. 


Med tanke på att hon tillbringat hela sin uppväxt i fattigdom och utsatthet är det beundransvärt att hon lyckats ta sig dit hon är idag, hon är ett maskrosbarn och långt ifrån alla hade klarat att gå igenom det hon gått igenom utan att ”på köpet” hamna snett i livet. 


Jag känner mig djupt tacksam och glad över att vi funnit varandra och jag betraktar henne (utöver det att hon är min flickvän) som min livskamrat och en människa jag vill bli gammal tillsammans med.







(as close as possible) translation:

Alex is one of the most warm and colorful people I've ever met. She is artistic, creative, and also very prolific in her writing and painting. Productivity is something I myself lost in recent years when it comes to the arts and it's one of the reasons that it is so refreshing to have her by my side in life. Her thoughtfulness is also something I appreciate enormously, I never feel alone or that I come second - she puts other people before herself .

It's not just anyone who would dare to get on a plane and travel far away to a foreign country and work with people they have never met before.  Sure, some people move to other countries, but many times it's a decision they are forced to do. In Alex's case, it's because of curiosity and thirst for adventure.

Given that she spent all her childhood in poverty and vulnerability , it is admirable that she managed to get to where she is today, she is a dandelion child (ISN'T THAT ADORABLE??) and most people would not have survived what she went through without taking the wrong path in life. 

I feel deeply grateful and happy that we found each other and I consider her more than just my girlfriend, as my soulmate and the one that I want to grow old with. 

3.18.2014

My Top Advice for Foster Parents.

I decided a post like this was long overdue.  If you're feeling inclined + have a Kindle, pick up my e-book on foster care to get an even more intimate picture of foster care and helpful/harmful things you can do in a foster youth's life.  As a disclaimer: this is my OPINION.  I'm sure many of you have taken parenting/adoptive classes which say the opposite advice.  Don't do anything stupid.  And if you don't like these opinions, that's fine too.  I speak on behalf of those who have been in my shoes, not for foster parents or caseworkers.

To those of you not fosters--pass this info on if you know anyone who is interested, or even a current foster parent.  The voices of alumni are usually quiet, and softspoken.  But as you all know I'm neither of those things, SO.



1.  Don't try to fix them.  Just don't.  Let me repeat this.  YOU CANNOT FIX THEM.  You never will.  No matter what anyone's past is, it is up to that person and that person alone to wade through the bullshit they've been dealt and make something prosperous out of it.  I don't care about your parental instinct.  You won't fix them.  Be there for them.  BE. THERE. FOR. THEM.  Be their mentor, their advocate, be their friend.  The only way people take charge of their lives after trauma is if they know they have supportive, loving people around them to help.  Do not try to fix them. 

2.  Encourage therapy.   Get the stigma of mental health problems out of the entire household.  Teach them that therapy is a positive tool and everyone should utilize it, but ESPECIALLY those who have been wronged by their caretakers.  If they whine and protest, fine.   Tell them to talk to their therapist about it.  I've found great success personally with cognitive behavioral therapy, but see what works.  Again, it's all about being their advocate.  Do it for them.

3.  DON'T. TALK. SHIT. ABOUT. BIOPARENTS.  I don't care if a kid's parents tried to murder them with a hammer.  I don't care.  Don't even think about running your mouth and DEFINITELY don't do it with or in front of the kids.  If a youth says something like "My parents suck."  Say, "Yeah...they kinda do.  I'm sorry."  If a youth says, "My parents hate me."  Say, "They're foolish not to see the wonderful parts of you."  If a youth says, "I miss my parents.  I love my parents."  You say, "Of course you do. They're your parents."  Don't give them false hope for reconciliation. Don't tell them their parents will ruin their lives.  Keep your thoughts to yourself or your monthly parental support meeting.  Youths do not need to hear the bullshit.  AGAIN, YOU ARE SUPPORTING THE YOUTH. YOU ARE NOT STARTING THE PITCHFORK MOB AGAINST THEIR PARENTS.

4.  Let them have breathing room.  A foster youth is not a fucking criminal.  Let them have extracurricular activities, as much as you can or are allowed.  Caseworker says no to  joining the track team? Push that shit.  Advocate.  Painting, learning foreign languages, and playing softball never destroyed anyone's life.  Nurture the child's creativity.  Let them know how important hobbies are.  

5.  Set very clear rules and expectations.  By clear rules I mean literally, a set of rules posted on the wall that they can see every day.  Communicate your likes, dislikes, expectations, and all of that.  Foster parents for some reason are the worst at doing this and that doesn't make sense to me.  I was always getting in trouble for breaking rules that I didn't know existed.  I was overstepping boundaries that to me, weren't even enforced until it was too late.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a set of rules on the wall.  A lot of kids will even be relieved to see something so thoughtful and so clear.  Assuming of course your rules are not stupid.

6.  Get comfortable with the idea of talking about shit.   These youth have little if any proper adult figures in their life.  I remember explicitly having to walk through how to insert a tampon with my foster sisters and foster mom and though I was red in the face and stuttering, I was relieved that I'd finally learned something no one ever taught me.  Once they realized I didn't know how to do it, they jumped to help me, and explain it to me.  It's a memory that sticks out not only because it's embarrassing, but because it's both sad that I'd never been shown something so basic about women's health, and because it's heartwarming that they came together to teach me.  It is not only important it is IMPERATIVE that you talk about sex, about sexual health, about safe sex, about acne, about infections and UTIs and hygiene and farts and ALL THAT STUFF because 1) foster children often don't come from homes where health is a priority and 2) they NEED guidance....pregnancy/sex/rape/stds/bodily functions are something we ALL need to know about.   Promote an open forum in your house.  Let it be a learning place. 

7.  Realize that you're not God's gift to children.   This mentality among foster/adoptive parents makes me kind of want to push the 'reset' button on humanity.  And though other people--church members, your pastor, your coworkers, etc, might commend you on doing the work of the Lord, guess who will never appreciate it? The foster youth.  If they ever do realize you helped them, I guarantee it will be years into the future after they've found themselves and see your positive influence.  So many foster parents get insulted when they're not liked by foster youth.  Get over it.  During foster care, we see every adult as a potential enemy.  Especially if they're giving us rules and all that stuff you'll be doing.  The minute you get over yourself and your "duty to the world" and just start being an advocate, you become a little more genuine.  And most fosters are intuitive.  We can see from a mile away people who actually want to help versus those who are in it for the money/gratitude/pats on the back.   And don't even start with "there's no money....."   Maybe it's not a lot, but we know you get a paycheck for us.   To a kid, that kind of hurts.  I don't care how you use it.  You try being "sold" to someone who gets money for you.  It's yet another reason you cannot expect foster kids to be eternally grateful for your charitable heart.



And there you have it!! I wish someone would have told my foster parents a few of these things.  Maybe I would have had fewer placements.  I hope this advice helps someone out there. 


3.16.2014

Remembering My Mom.

I fought for awhile while making this, trying to decide if it's something I wanted to share.  I gave in basically because well, writing helps, and I don't know.  I feel like my mom wouldn't have minded, so why should I? I made it.  Though, I made it for us.  As such I don't care if anyone even reads this.  I know what these things mean, and I'm sure if she saw this...she'd know too.


I cried a lot while painting this.  Every single item on it has one or more vivid, distinct memories of her.  And they were good memories too.  Evidence that not only did we have our happy times, but she's also influenced my life and personality in positive ways that I couldn't admit to until it was far too late.

I used to have inward freakouts because her birthday was coming up and I would feel obligated to call her and say hello.  For the first time this year, she won't be here to call.  It's still shocking, and it hurts, and I hate it.  I wrote on Facebook but I'll say again here; this is the very first time in my life I wish that I wasn't an atheist.  I would give anything to talk to her, or just even know that she is listening.

Anyway, her painting...and its explanation.



Images: 

1.  The Gemstone: My mom, along with being a pretty witchy/superstitious person, was enamored with jewels and gemstones.  Aquamarine is hers, and I faintly remember she had an emerald-cut ring she wore sometimes.  Since it's her birthday picture after all, it made sense.  She passed on her love for rocks to me.  I'm still an absolute rock/gem/jewelry nerd.

2.  Charlie Chaplin:  I know he seems like a strange face to see for something made for my mom, but I always think of my mom when I see him.  She introduced me to silent movies, and he was our mutual favorite.  My mom has a huge love of all things Victorian and antique.  Charlie Chaplin stands for a lot of things that my mom (and now I) agree with and appreciate: life is funny, life is sad, there's beauty in simple things, and money means very little.  I did my mom's Halloween makeup when she dressed up as him one year, and then in later years I dressed up as him as well.  We didn't bond over much, but I see him as our mother-daughter mascot. 

3.  The Brick Wall:  My mother introduced me to Pink Floyd and it was one of the most common things we ever talked about, actually.  She told me of the ridiculously fantastic concerts she went to, her favorite being the Wall, and subsequently gave me the Wall songbook with all the chords/music/lyrics.  What surprises me and makes me feel a weird mix of happy/sad is that she and I interpreted all the songs the same way.  Pink Floyd has some dark music, I don't have to tell you.   My mom never put out the dark, contemplative, brooding persona that I always have, but...apparently it was there. She would always explain things to me that I didn't understand (my favorite being a lyric that used the word 'defecate'.) 

4.  The Blue Heart:  My mother's first and only tattoo, gotten when she was fourteen, and from what she told me, drunk.  She went through a phase where she wanted it covered, and had me draw a lot of other things on top of it.  I doodled on her shoulder for weeks.

5.  The Castle:  This castle is Burg Berwartstein, which is a German castle in close vicinity to where Mom lived.  Above all else, even her Pink Floyd concert stories, I was an addict for her German stories.  Life in Germany, the German language, German food.  She used to make me German dishes whenever I asked.  She let me hold her beer stein with an engraving of this castle on it, and I know pretty much the inner layout, just from her stories about visiting it.  Including the caverns under it where young people used to go to party.  And the secret cave leading to France.

My mother was a huge influence on my desire to travel.  I knew just from the wistful way she spoke of Europe that it was where I needed to go.  Not just for hereditary reasons.  I knew I didn't belong in Farner.  She never discouraged that notion, either.  And I can say a lot of things about my mom, but she was brave as all hell, hopping around from continent to continent and state to state with two young children at such a young age. 

The castle also symbolizes the more eccentric traits we shared; our love of fairy tales, lore, witchcraft, creepy stuff.  We're probably descendants of the creepiest witches to ever exist.

6.  MacMurphy.  The guy in the straitjacket is an important piece...my mom never let me read the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, despite reading it herself whenever she had a chance.  Over and over.  Finally, when I was about thirteen, she relented, and I ate that book up.  To this day it's one of my favorites.  Seriously, read it.  At first I was shocked she hadn't let me read it before, because I mean, I'd already seen all that the adult world had to offer thanks to lots of soap operas and late-night TV, but I think she didn't want me to read it for the psychological effect, not the sex and death scenes.  It's yet another example of something darker, more sinister, that we bonded over.  Most people don't know that philosophical, contemplative side of my Mom.  It was probably my favorite part.

7.  The Piano.  Obviously, she taught me to play.  My mother does not come from a poor, buck-toothed hillbilly background.  Her family was quite well-off.  She got piano lessons, for years as far as I know.  She resented me for picking up piano fast, and for having long skinny fingers (hers were pretty short and stubby, which I teased her for.)  But I remember not learning fast enough for my own liking and getting pissed about it.  She just smiled and kept playing, kept me interested.

One night, my dad was in Kentucky and my sister hadn't been born yet, so it was just me and mom.  She decided to learn a new song and I got to sit and watch her feel out the chords by ear, writing down notes as she went, singing the same verse over and over to get it right.  I had such an amazing night, just watching my mom enjoy working out something for herself.  It's one of few times I saw her and wanted to be like her.  She had a talent, she was improving it, she was doing something beautiful.  I wish we could have had more of those nights.  


Flowers

1.  The Wisteria (the grape looking purple things) My mom absolutely adored these.  We found some growing in our forest and she was tickled.  I really liked them as well as a kid (and still do.)

2.  The Tea Rose (the pink flower)  Probably my favorite smell on earth, and one of my mom's.  My dad's mother had a few bushes of these, and my dad picked a rose for my mom a lot of mornings when I was a child.  He also picked a rose and brought it to the hospital for her when she gave birth to me, and to Ariel as well.  So naturally when I see them I think of our family. 

3.  The Rose of Sharon (the purple flower) My mom loved these and had five or six of them planted around our yard.  The thing about my mom is that she was an avid gardener (and one of the best.)  Rose of Sharon was her go-to 'flowering tree'.  I remember being scared to go around them in spring because bumblebees adore them.

4.  Lilies of the Valley (small white flowers at the bottom)  Another flower we found in our forest and she was excited.  Apparently in that area it's pretty rare and indeed, I've never even seen it again.  Like all the others except the purple one, this flower smells heavenly.

5.  Tiger Lily (orange/yellow/fuchsia flower)  This was basically a weed to me, growing up.  It didn't smell and it wasn't one of the colors I particularly liked.  I thought it looked kind of out of place and jungle-y.  But my mom loved it enough to plant it everywhere.  She loved lilies of all colors. 

3.12.2014

A Letter To Younger Me.

Is this self love year or something? I feel like a lot of posts have been about...well, me.  And then I'm like, no Alex, that's what people who actually like themselves do.  Invest in/talk about/nurture/etc themselves.  So here's just more proof that last year was a success themewise.  I love loving myself.

I saw this challenge over on Night Owl Venting (which is a perfect name by the way) and they have a few options, so don't worry if writing a letter to your younger self isn't your thing.  Go check it out!!  Also, I opted to write to ten year old Alex, because well...I was young then.  I guess I didn't overthink it.




Dear Little Alex,

 This letter is a sad thing to write, because I know you've already been through more than a ten year old should handle, and because I have to tell you that the roughest patches are still ahead.  As I write this though, I'm almost to thirty and I can say with confidence, despite everything, you will have a beautiful, enviable adulthood.  You will see and do amazing things and you'll actually be amazing things.  So if for nothing else, hang in there because you know the future is worth it.  I know you already know that.

You'll get a lot of advice over the years and most of it is pretty okay--or at least written with good intentions.  However, I want to highlight some of the important ones, ones that will resonate with you when you hear them.  

1.)  Be yourself and never give up.  Being yourself is going to be tough enough, without the complicated things you'll do like questioning your faith and beliefs, and whether or not you should live with Mom and Dad, because they are unhealthy to be around.  It would be a lot easier to give in, to do what others want and expect, and to take things laying down.  But you are a Worley.  You are the best at being a Worley.  Hold onto you, at all costs.  The spoiler alert is that you will do this and though it'll piss a fair amount of people off, you will look back on your life and be glad you did it.

2.)  Question everydamnthing.  I know you already do.  And living where you are, you're not in much capacity to question things.  It's typically frowned upon in that area.  Do that shit anyway.  A lot of your future happiness depends on you scouring things for their truth.  Stick with science.  I know you love it--hell yeah!  

3.)  Read. Write. Paint.  People keep telling you that these things aren't worthwhile.  Dad has already ripped up your awesome story.  You know what, Dad is an asshole shithead.  Do not ever let his ridiculous, babyish actions determine whether or not you pursue a hobby.  For god's sake, write.  Believe in yourself.  Through the years, tons of other people will.  And they will love your work, all of it.  So, stick with it.   

That's all the advice I have, but I wanted to tell you something very important about your family.  You have a big, wide open family full of strangers.  You may feel obligated to get to know them, to seek their approval.  Don't.  Extended family can be a little pointless.  As far as Mom and Dad go, try your best to be on good terms with them.  They won't always want that, but try.  Always try.  Don't let them ruin you, don't let them spoil your happiness, but reach out to them during your adventures.  Don't bother fighting or arguing.  It's up to you to find the balance of which you communicate with your family and sometimes you will be disappointed, or heartbroken.  Just know, it's not your fault.  All you can do is try. 

You're ten, which means Ariel is five, so you're probably just jealous of all the attention she's getting right now.  That's fine.  You two will be partners in crime for awhile longer, and cherish those moments.  Being a big sister is one of the defining parts of your personality.  In the future, you'll have about a million fights, but she is the one person who understands what you grew up with.  Nobody else on earth will ever understand that.  So, she's special.  And she loves you a ton, even if she doesn't show it sometimes.  Try to avoid punching her, if you can help it. 

Last but not least, I have good news.  Your one true love is tall, dark, and handsome, with big puppy dog brown eyes and he takes care of your pet crab while you're gone.  He's patient and kind and will teach you all about the kind of person you want to be in your adult life.  But don't worry about that now....focus on surviving, and then thriving, and you'll be okay. 

Life is a lonely place, and you'll feel lonely a lot (most of the time actually) but you always have yourself.  You have me.  And I love you.

2.14.2014

A little inspiration for your Valentine's Day.

It takes a lot to inspire me.  I don't mean that in a snobby way, I just mean that some rich Mormon lady telling me about how hard her trial on the TV show "Survivor" was doesn't make my eyes well up with tears (this was seriously a motivational speech at a blogger conference I went to.  No.)  I mean, it takes a lot to pull me out of my deep emotional sour moods.  It takes something really special.

And today was full of sour moods.   I might recap them in another post, but for now I want to keep this space one of inspiration for the loveliest holiday of the year.   I found this Reddit AMA with a Holocaust survivor and after reading some of the things she said, I found myself crying for a good hour.  I urge you to read everything if you have time, but for my Valentine's post I wanted to share a few of the more important things Ms. Eva wrote.  She was a twin who spent time in Auschwitz being experimented on, along with her sister.  She was permanently separated from her other family members before the experiments (meaning, she never saw them again afterward.)

She really, truly understands what it means to survive.  Not survive reality tv style, but 'live only for the next piece of bread' survival.  She says things that I believe resonate in the hearts of survivors in all walks of life.  And she is sweet and caring and all these amazing things while still having her sense of humor about her.  Here are some excerpts: 


"The supervisor brought me a piece of bread every night and put it on my bed. I am sure if she were discovered, she would have been killed. That barrack was not supposed to have any food. Looking back, I can see there were a lot more people who were looking the other way and helping us survive than I first knew. Even when we boiled potatoes secretly, they must have smelled the potatoes and did not report us. So they pretended they didn't smell it. Let me be clear - the regime was evil beyond description, and many of them - not all, but many - were passionately carrying out the orders. Some remained human beings even in a place like Auschwitz. Even a Nazi doctor such as Hans Munch manipulated the system in some ways to save 30 inmates. I don't know how many examples like this there were. Obviously not enough. But there were enough to make me hopeful that human beings can remain human even among such conditions. Being me, I'll always focus on the good rather than the bad."




"I believe that we live life to the best of our ability, and the Holocaust, while it is an unbelievably tragic human event... I don't think that people should go around feeling sad and bewildered for the rest of their lives. When I tell my story, I don't want it to be used for entertainment, but if I can tell my own story and also tell some jokes and make people laugh, they will be better able to learn than if it is continuous tragedy. I don't want to make it so sad that people will turn away and not be able to learn from it." 



 "[There was] no struggle to forgive. From the moment I realized I had that power over my life, that was an extremely exciting discovery, because most victims do not know they have any power over their lives from the time they become victims. The difference between forgiving and not forgiving (and most survivors remain angry, sad, disconnected from the world at times because they can't cope) they pass on these feelings to their children, who also become angry. I call anger a seed for war. Forgiveness is a seed for peace.

"What I am concerned about, rather than the perpetrators, are the victims. I do not want them to be victims for the rest of their lives. If we focused half as much energy on helping the victims rather than what we should do with the perpetrators, the world would be better off, because victims have a tendency to pass on their pain and anger.   It becomes an endless, vicious cycle. People who forgive are at peace with themselves and peace with the world. That is the hope that I have - that most victims will be able to accomplish that, or at least we teach them that it is an option available to them. I cannot do forgiveness for anyone but myself, so everyone has that choice, and that choice is very important to have. 

And one last thing I'd like to share; she cited Rudyard Kipling's "If" as her favorite poem.  I was really impressed after reading it, so here are the first two stanzas. 


If you can keep your head when all about you  
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise...



If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

1.28.2014

I Bet You Didn't Know I'm A Photoshop Wizard.

That's right.  I share some really great photos on my Facebook all the time, but I realize I never get around to sharing them here.  I figured since I'm at a lack of good content these days, I'll enlighten you on my one-of-many-talents that I misuse by photoshopping myself with Till Lindemann or Mr. Spock.


Here's my most recent.  I'm predicting that Leo will win an Oscar and so for the first time I will be watching the Oscars this year.  (I normally don't give two shits...but I adore Leo as you can see by our hilarious SNL skit here...)



This was my dad and my nephew at Christmas.  I love the tattooed arms the most.

My personal favorites.



Nothing to see here, just intergalactic love. 




Bonus nerd points if you know who I'm pretending to be in this edit. 
Also lol 90's choker.

You might remember this picture from when I was Batman.


And lastly, photos from my alter-ego.  She's a self-proclaimed witch/vampire/poet who is several centuries old and her lover is Tim Curry's Darkness from the 1980's movie Legend. 



1.23.2014

The Miracle of Life. Or, I'm Just Molting.

They say that death gives people a new appreciation for life.  I beg to argue, since the only thing I've done since my mother died has been sit on the couch, cry a lot, and...well that's about it.  But something did happen today that touched me in a way I forgot I could feel, and who was responsible?  A crab.  



This is my crab.  He has a very long name, but he goes by Nebby.  He was a Valentine's Day present from my au pair family.  We've been close, we've been partners, for a year now.  He lives in Henri's apartment but he's still mine.  He's a sweet little rainbow crab who has the nicest most adorable crabby face I've ever seen.  I know a crab is an unconventional pet, but I really am a crustacean fanatic.  I think they're miraculous little things and they just capture my heart. 

Anyway, I've always had this theory that the comparing of human life change to a butterfly metamorphosis is bullshit.  We don't wrap up in a cocoon as a fuzzy worm and then triumphantly emerge as a beautiful delicate winged thing.  And then die after a week.  No, we're more like crabs.  What happens with crabs is, they grow too big for their hard shell, and so it breaks.  And what do they do? For sustenance, they eat their old selves.  And become strong again.  And repeat this process dozens of times, as long as they live.  

At least I identify with the second analogy more.  You sometimes grow too big for the person you have been living as, but you take that hard-earned, well-loved part of you with you, you ingest it and it stays while you continue to be bigger and better.  If you do life correctly, you too can have several of your own skin-sheddings.  Your own molts.  

I think I'm molting right now.  I don't know who I am, but I know it's not the person I was before my mother died.  I am something different, and I don't think it's something bad.  The only reason I feel this way (not from the 3 hour crying spells on the couch) is because I never knew I cared so much.  I guess I often want to believe I don't care.  I spent a lot of time building up a shell, no pun intended, from the harsh things my parents threw at me.  I was so proud of that shell and so proud of not caring and not being crippled and of saying fuck you, to their abuse and living my life, that I never dreamed that I do care, and that I miss and love my mother.  

Molting is a delicate process.  For humans and crabs.  At least it is for crabs.  They are soft after they pull off the exoskeleton and any jostling or stress can kill them.  They're best left in the dark for a few days while they eat the exo and get strong again.  Is that what I'm doing?  Am I eating the exoskeleton?  It sure tastes bad.  Like salty tears and nosebleeds.  I digress.  The point of this story.

I had a nightmare yesterday afternoon where my crab was hurt.  He was flailing around in his tank.  I bolted upright, still hearing strange tapping-on-glass noises, and frantically tried to see what the noise was.  As it turns out it was a bunch of birds fighting at the window and the knocking on the glass confused me.  My crab usually knocks on his tank when he's bored.  Then I realized he's been pretty quiet, and I crept over to his tank.  I could see one of his legs sticking out from his cave, but when I tapped on the glass to get his attention, I saw something that moved me to tears, and for the first time, it wasn't something sad that reminded me of death.

What I thought was his leg was his exoskeleton.  He's molted.  His third successful molt in the year we've spent together.  He was sitting beside his skeleton and pushed it out gently toward me, I think to probably confuse me into taking it if I were a predator.  The suit of armor that housed my crab was just a hull, and it flopped through the water uselessly while he sat, snug and safe, soft and alive, in his cave.  

I'm not sure why knowing that my little buddy is alive, is doing that miraculous thing he does every so often, made me feel so fantastic that I sat there and cried with joy.  I think part of it is because I love him so much.  I love that little spidery creature more than words.  I identify with how he feels right now, scared and unenergetic and only halfway through a difficult task that could easily kill him if he let it.  And I think I cried because I saw something growing, something changing and moving forward, and I haven't seen that in the world in the past three weeks.  

Here's to another successful molt.  

1.21.2014

The Hardest Thing So Far.

I posted about this on my Facebook already, but I feel it deserves a blog post.  Mostly because I can't stop crying uncontrollably and I don't think I've written it all out there yet.  

I was talking with a friend two nights ago.  I mentioned Syd Barrett and she had no clue who that was.  Naturally that wasn't okay.  I am like the informal ambassador of the Pink Floyd Church.  I proceeded to tell her the sad story of the tortured mind, I told her about Gilmour and Rogers, I went on the whole background.  Pink Floyd to me is a necessity in my life, and something I could talk about for ages.  And just as my eyes glazed over and I (arguably having the most fun conversing with someone as I've had in awhile) she asked in a very impressed and flattering, almost admiring way, "...how the hell do you know all of this stuff?"



Cue the flood of memories that came back.  It's been like that--while standing at the oven I will suddenly see my mother standing at ours, while watching a movie I can suddenly hear her commentary crystal clear from ten or fifteen years ago, while listening to music I can see her playing piano and singing like she did at least twice a week for her band.  But this time was special and different, because it was my mother teaching me about Pink Floyd that all came surging back to me, an entire brickyard full of memories.

She adored the band.  She thought they were the coolest band ever with their sound effects and artsy if raunchy lyrics.  She'd seen them in concert.  When I was almost a little too young, she let me watch The Wall and I was instantly hooked, so she filled my head with the stories of how the concerts were and she explained some of the album's meaning to me.  We even had a few of the same favorite songs from it.  She had a songbook of the entire Wall and she gave it to me to use while learning piano.  Most of the early songs I learned were from that songbook, which I carried around until the edges fell apart and it was a collection of mismatched pages while the exact memory of every song was ingrained into my little pianist's brain.  She even had to talk me out of playing and singing "Comfortably Numb" at a talent show, citing the fact that I was the only 10 year old mature enough to get a song about drugs and depression, while my classmates and their families would be sitting there listening in entranced horror.

I've never thanked her for having that impact on my life.  Pink Floyd has gotten me through god knows how many long nights of sadness, has been the first band I turn to after a breakup or when things get rough; I've fallen asleep to the Wall for over a decade now.  I never let her know just how appreciative I was that she taught me about one of the arguably most fascinating rock groups of all time.  There are so many things about who I am that I never realized, are influenced by her.  We had so much time to hate, so much time to judge each other and snap at each other and ignore each other and have passive-aggressive phone calls, and not once did I ever tell her that I was thankful for Pink Floyd or anything.  She probably would've said something rude or brushed off the compliment anyway, but the point stands.  I didn't try.



And that wasn't the hardest thing so far.  I can at least be glad that I have these positive links to my mother and know that she passed something down to me, even if our relationship was horrible.  I haven't mentioned it on this blog, but I sent her a Christmas card from Sweden.  It was half a joke--my parents throw away anything with my name on it--but half sincere, because I just...I don't know.  I feel better when I do things like that.  I didn't expect any word from them, of course, how could they? I was in Sweden.

Ariel told me, after my mom's death, she went to their house and my card was hanging up on the doorway like all the others they'd gotten.  I lost it at this.  For one, what if they had wanted to contact me?  No way to do it.  They don't have email.  I've been in another country for a year.  What if my mom had wanted to talk to me?  

And the other thing is...I'm 26.  She was 52.  We should have had many more years together.  I don't know that we could have worked our problems out.  If we did, it would have always been uncomfortable.  But imagine how things could have been when I turned 40.  Imagine if I got to live to be forty years old and still have a mom who is alive.  I've been warned against thinking this but fuck that, I can't stop thinking about it.  My aunt Doris, my mom's sister, had congestive heart failure and several heart attacks and insane diabetes, and she still lived to be almost 65 years old.  A whole decade more than my mom.  

That's the hardest thing.  Knowing that she put up my card, that I was on her mind at Christmas time when she was thinking of all her other kids, and while I was hanging up the ornaments and being so festive and telling Henri excitedly about all my favorite traditions and crediting her, rightfully, of being the one to inspire such Yule cheer in me.  

1.20.2014

Poverty or Happiness? Privilege or Abuse? Growing up in rural Tennessee.

I am still suffering and not feeling like writing....I have a billion thoughts in my head and this has been the only one that I feel confident enough to articulate on.  As I said before, since my mom passed I've been thinking of her positive qualities, and the nice things she did for me as a kid.  Things I never dwelled on before.  And as if making up for it, having horrible nightmares with her, every single night.  It's not pleasant.

Anyway, onto the topic.  My thoughts have always been that I was abused, that I grew up poor, when I tell people the dirty and filthy and sad and cold conditions that I lived in I always get jaws dropped or "so sad" shakes of the head.  But there is more to the story than that.  I think I've gone into it somewhat on the blog before.  Lately what's been bothering me is...was living the way I lived really abuse?  Or do I just associate with such because I was being physically/emotionally abused by my parents at the time?


When I was young, I knew I was poor.  I knew it because my parents told me every day.  I knew it because they constantly stressed about money.  I knew it because my clothes and shoes didn't look like the other kid's at school.  I knew it because I was treated differently.  And I knew it because every time I visited a family member or friend from school who had their own room, their own bed, a working light switch, a working faucet, a working toilet....I was jealous.  And sad.

And yet, my parents were happy to be poor.   My dad came from poverty and I always knew just how much he hated rich people.  (His version of rich=a normal person's version of 'middle class'.)  My mom, however, came from a well-off family who traveled and had beautiful homes and generally took care of themselves.  She was always a black sheep in that crowd though, and idealized country life.  She thought she was Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.  And my dad saw himself as Jeremiah Johnson.  Happy, smart, simple wilderness people.  They saw the charm in that.  As a kid being made fun of and having to do back-breaking work and not have anywhere decent to lay my head at night, I always resented it.

And then when I became an adult, I noticed a lot of people idealizing.  I lived in a really nice area of Salt Lake right in the middle of the green movement.  "Free range meat."  "Home grown vegetables."  "Fresh jam."  I was like, are you fucking kidding me?

We got our water exclusively from a private spring.
Bear, boar, and deer were frequently on the menu.
We had a huge family garden where we grew it all: potatoes, corn, peppers, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, pumpkins: you name it, we grew it.
We pickled our own foods and made homemade jellies and jams.

The list goes on and on.  Things that I hated more than life itself were suddenly sought after by these granola types.  Dolly Parton made jokes about bathing out of a pan--the way I took baths and hated it for my younger years.  These things all annoyed me.  What was wrong with people? Didn't they see that what they thought they wanted was a life people should aspire to move on from? I'm not saying that everyone should eat McDonalds and be wasteful and have a jacuzzi.  I'm saying that gardening, farming, pinching pennies, going to the Food Bank for things like rice and oatmeal, are not an easy life.

I guess lately I've been questioning what the real problem was.  My parents raised me to feel very rich; we were special and lucky, they said.  We lived by other rules.  Society didn't have anything to take away from us (unless it wanted some decent firewood or foxberry jelly) and we were free, freer than all those people who worked 9 to 5 and heated their food in a microwave.  I didn't exactly buy into that--I would've given anything to have a bed--but I did realize that while I hated walking half a damn mile back and forth just to gather water, for a lot of people clean water isn't even an option in their lives.  I knew, even though during the blizzard of '93 that my milk froze in my cereal bowl before I could eat it, frozen milk and cereal would be heaven for some children around the world.  Even when I was literally surrounded by poverty my nagging thought was 'it could be worse.'



You can't blame me for wanting to better my life.  It wasn't just an issue of poverty.  I mean, that was bad, but I was being abused at home by two parents.  I had no joy in that cold house, no sense of belonging.  I was only happy with my nose in a book, or when I was out playing with animals, arguably the only friends I had until my little sister got a little older, and then became my partner in crime.  And my parents weren't just poor.  I firmly believe there's no shame in being poor, but they were lazy and dirty.  Part of this probably has to do with the drugs, but I still say both Mom and Dad had a plethora of undiagnosed mental illnesses.  Food would rot, animals would die under our house.  There was a literally radioactive swamp in our backyard where my dad dumped someone's plutonium years before.  When my Aunt Doris came over to help clean one time, she moved the stove and found a dead rat (and probably died a little that day of fright, lol.)  I had to routinely throw out eggs (FREE RANGE CORN FED CHICKENS! ORGANIC AS FUCK!) because Mom and Dad would let them sit and pile up and a swarm of maggots would rise up.

So, it wasn't just poverty.  It was also an Ed-Gein/Leatherface esque tendency to hoard, to not clean, to not fix, to not...do anything, to the things that needed to be done.  I see that now, but as a kid my life was all grouped into this one cell of miserable hardworking existence.  And so I ask myself now, did I hate being poor?  Am I materialistic?  Am I a country-phobe?  I think I turned into that when I left Tennessee.  I wanted nothing to do with trees and cabins and everything to do with big lights and rude cityfolk.  I turned into one of those myself.

At my heart, I would like to think I retain the good parts of growing up in poverty, in the country.  I know every animal track and call, I know how to start a fire and how to cut wood and where to pitch a tent and what weather to plant in.  I don't practice any of those things and if I had to start a fire for example, I would probably be overcome with anxiety just for having to step back into that character.  That poor girl with the bad clothes and big teeth.  But I'm not ashamed of it.

It's been hard to decipher exactly how I feel about Tennessee and separating the negative feelings I have toward my upbringing into categories: was it from the hitting? the names they called me? being forced to sleep outside?  going to school with dirty nails and hair because we didn't have running water? I still don't know how I feel.  I don't want to live in the country.  I don't want to be one of those fucking intolerable pseudo-granolas who think it's funny to spend a week in a cabin with no electricity just for the fuck of it and eat "authentic Southern cooking."

So did I grow up in privilege? For all that I've said, I now tend to think yes.  I feel bad for people who have never tasted delicious, (ORGANIC! WILD CAUGHT!) bear meat.  I roll my eyes at people who whine about being on a hiking trail and all the bugs.  I laugh at the farmers' market gawkers who are just so fucking amazed that you can plant hybrid tomatoes.   And I don't know what I would do if I couldn't swing an axe as well as I can.

I guess I will continue to question my past and my upbringing as I've been doing in the long dark winter days since my mom died.  I hope that every discovery I make brings me the same kind of peace as realizing I am lucky to have endured all that horse shit, brings me now.  I may even make another trip to the Appalachians and this time, I might even let myself enjoy it.

1.08.2014

Henri Does My Makeup.

This has been a long time coming!! Things have been so hard, with dealing with my mom, traveling to and fro the Arctic, and Henri having the flu.  Seriously I've been worried he's going to die on me too.  He is still sick, but feeling better, and a few days ago he felt well enough to do my makeup for me.

Bonus!  If you watch long enough you get to hear him speak Swedish ;)