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. 


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.  


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.  


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.


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 ;)