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.