6.27.2016

July 500 Squats Challenge

I don't always talk about weight loss here on the blog.  It's a very personal thing for me and I have learned with my own experiences that hearing others be all peppy and motivated isn't really helpful when you have tried and failed to lose weight.  And for the sake of it, I'll change that to "getting healthy" because weight loss isn't always healthy and there's so much more than a physical number on the scale.

As an update on my own progress--well, essentially I'm at a plateau after losing ~50 pounds.  This is due to my scoliosis and general poor back/neck.  I got really into weight lifting, but since I have such balance issues and poor form I kept injuring myself.  I would go for a few weeks, hurt, stop, start again, repeat.  It's so frustrating to want more for yourself and feel like your own body is working against you and going "haha no fatty, go have a poptart."

Yet, I haven't gained anything back, which is a huge deal.  I think about all of the weight I would have gained if I hadn't changed my eating habits and stopped depending on food and the thought is honestly sometimes overwhelming.  Just me maintaining for a year now is incredible when you consider that in 2013-2014 I was packing on a good 15-20 pounds every four or five months.  Still, plateaus suck, not being recommitted to counting calories sucks, and what sucks the most has been waiting on physical therapy so that I can actually work out the way I want to.  I wanted to do something in the meantime.


Chase and I are going to do a squats challenge for the month of July.  Squats are not only one of the best exercises in the world, they're also easy to do and I'm hoping won't affect my back negatively--they never have, it was mostly the upper body that I had issues with.  This will give me something to accomplish while I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for insurance and thus physical therapy.  You can always do something, and I'm just lucky enough that Chase is willing to do this with me.  Being a Marine, he's a little uhhhh ....stronger? than me, (haha) but I'm not intimidated to have him as a partner, it's what I want--someone who knows their shit and can handle the tough days.

So I just quickly mocked together the calendar--it's not pretty, it's functional, and that's the point.  Those cute pinterest graphics are only helpful if they're used, and not pinned in your "health" folder.  Chase helped me with coming up with the numbers (guess who suggested rest days? this lazy bitch haha) and to be honest, 100 starting out is not beginner friendly.  But both of us have been down the road of intense glute work so it's a number we can do.  Just looking at 450 though, is already killing my legs, haha.

And I wanted to leave with a bit of motivation.  These changes don't happen because you get "the right" diet or "the right" workout or "the right" calorie counter or app.  They happen because you make the change.  And that is quite frankly wonderful!




6.23.2016

Currently in June

The drive up to Silver Lake

Sometimes I feel like it's just been forever since I've sat down and wrote about life.  Those are always the entries that I enjoy reading from others, as well as the ones of my own I enjoy going back to look over.  I will attempt to collect my very scatter-brained thoughts. 

New Job
Work is really the biggest thing I have neglected to talk about.  I'll give a bit of an overview.  Essentially I worked for over a year at a company that had a lot of great, and a LOT of terrible.  The good was good but the bad was absolutely insane.  I learned a ton about myself, about being a good EMT, and about how to be more professional at work, which has always been something I've struggled with--I think it's a foster care thing.  The most important thing I learned was that if I'm not doing something I feel is relevant and important I am absolutely miserable.  

I applied for a job back in February or March and was completely blown away when I got an interview.  The company is right on the Great Salt Lake and it's very dangerous, smelly, sweaty plant work.  The position was EMT Security and though I have plenty of experience, I just figured this testosterone-heavy, middle-of-nowhere place with only male officers, wouldn't want a young female with an accent.  Maybe I don't give myself enough credit, but either way I was ecstatic when I got a call back with a firm "maybe" and then maybe a week or so later, a job offer.  

The job wouldn't begin until the end of May, however, and this offer was given to me in April.  So cue a month of me waiting in agony, writhing around at the prospect of actually being somewhere I enjoyed.  I thought of all the things that could go wrong and I even talked about my horrendous drug test experience in a video awhile back.  During this time period instead of killing myself with worry, I decided to look at the fact that these guys, all with 20+ years in safety, the company, and hiring management, picked me.  Even if I failed utterly, they had faith in me and it really meant the world to me.


Me and scenery on the way home from work, and my old boss stacking praise on my new boss's comment

So how's the job? Well, it's everything I ever dreamed of.  It's crazy actually, how great it is and how wonderful the people are.  My supervisor is a very deadpan and direct guy who has never once made me feel like a dumb new person.  The managers have all stopped by to talk to me and most importantly, everything feels so genuine.  I remember specifically sitting down in the hiring manager's office on my first day, after the loooooooooooong fight of actually starting the job.  He asked me how everything was, and he wasn't talking about just work.  I said something to the effect of "Well, I'm just thrilled that my professional life is taking off.  It's all a mess, and my personal life still is, but now I've got this" and his reply was "When one comes, the other usually follows, so hang in there."

Strangely enough this ended up being eerily prophetic, and not just a heartfelt and nice comment.  My personal life has picked up and I've been oddly social (not like me at all.)  I seriously haven't felt this young and outgoing in...well...ever.  I went to a Dutch Oven cookout at work, I got accepted into a pinup contest (that got rained out, oh well!) I took Chase to Black Rock, I got a floating desk for my bedroom and decked it all out into a gorgeous vanity, I of course went and visited Silver Lake for the spring.  And this weekend is already planned out--showing Chase Fallout 4, having a slumber party at the house, going to Lagoon Saturday for our company day....I'm so excited for doing stuff on my days off.  Is that what normal people do? Is this life without a blocked wall of mental illness? Or is it just a summer thing?



Creative 
To be honest, this is the area of my life that has been suffering.  I haven't written a (meaningful) blog post in forever, I haven't painted, I haven't written.  I can't seem to focus on any of it and when I do have time off, I'm spending it with people instead of at my desk painting.  This makes me sad because I don't feel like myself if I'm not creating.  However I keep telling myself everything ebbs and flows, and hopefully soon I will find my balance.  I have after all, been mostly focused on learning the job and its rhythms.

I've also been thinking about where to go with writing about foster care.  It's been almost three years since I published my e-book, and that was mostly meant to be a quick pocket guide or something prospective foster parents could read in a class.  Now I'm considering something more, but I'm not sure exactly what.  When I released that ebook, I remember it being during a different period for blogging.  The net has changed since then, and as far as blogging goes, not for the better.  I'm not a fan of the shilling posts, of the ads for detergent, or the expressionless posts that are so obviously sponsored.  Also not a fan of Top Ten's or shock value posts--genuine blog writing is on a long downswing so I should be looking elsewhere for an audience.  And that--marketing--is not my forte.  But it's part of how you get people to read what you have to say, so I'll take any advice on that front.

Summer Plans
Derik, my oldest, best, and dearest friend, has a birthday coming up in July and I've finally got the funds and schedule to take him to Las Vegas.  It's something I know he's wanted for ages, but in part due to me running all over the globe and doing god knows what, I wasn't in a position to take him.  Luckily I've done a New Vegas tour before, with Henri, so I know all the places that were awesome and all of the 'meh' spots.  A few winners:  Gordon Ramsay's BurGR, that adorable polar bear Coca Cola guy, Hoover Dam, and going on top of the Stratosphere.  We're also going to do a few things I didn't get a chance to do the first round, like going to the Mob museum and riding the monorail.

It feels really fantastic to be able to take my friend out of his hometown and show him a little bit more of the Mojave.  Not only because we are Fallout fanatics and he will love seeing the real-life counterparts of the game, but also because, goddammit it's LAS VEGAS!! That's the trip of a lifetime for anyone.  It's quite the city.  I would consider living there if I didn't love Salt Lake so much (although to be honest I would only consider it as a temporary spot, for a few years, ain't gonna retire in Vegas, no thanks) but I know Derik will enjoy it and so my excitement to drag him around and make him look at stuff is growing day by day.

Flemeth
I know I harp on a lot about my cat on this blog (he even has his own entry) but I just have to plug him here for a minute and say again what a blessing he has been.  He's older and bigger and far less dependent on me now than he was back in my crumbled mental health crisis, but he still comes when I call, he still purrs and nuzzles me and we still have a very real bond.  Like me not being able to go pee without seeing him stick his paw under the door bond.  Haha.  I know a lot of people have a lot of good to say about how much their kid helps their mental health, or their spouse, but for me? Cat.  I don't have to spill to him about my hard day, I don't have to talk to him about bills or how anxiety feels like crushing yourself with a bookshelf a la Suzanne on OITNB, I just pet his furry little head and all is good for a little while.

6.20.2016

Maskrosbarn

When Henri first told me the word maskrosbarn he automatically translated it into English, thus calling me during our conversation, a “dandelion child.” I had never heard the term but assumed it was along the same lines as the English term “flower child” and giggled at it. I also thought it was a very flamboyant thing to come from someone like Henri--he’s as direct as a straight line on a level. I can’t remember how, but the word got brought up again with Nairi some time later, but this time it was “maskrosbarn.”



At the time my Swedish was poor enough that I only understood “barn” (children) but Nairi explained the term--it mean “Someone like you, Alex” who had no roots but still grew, like the flower. Incidentally the dandelion is also the symbol for the Green Party in Sweden (Miljöpartiet de gröna) and Carl explained that it was their symbol for the same reason. A dandelion can grow with very little needs, and can thrive in places like sidewalk cracks and concrete lots. I suddenly recalled Henri’s praise and realized he wasn’t just calling me a flower child. When someone uses the term maskrosbarn they are acknowledging the person had little support or chance to succeed in life, but that he or she did.

In America, I grew up first in poverty and then in the foster care system. Both realms of my childhood are ignored by our society, almost completely. If people got as up in arms about barefoot, terrified, hungry, dirty, worm and lice-ridden children as they did contraception or political correctness, kids like me would actually have a chance. But no one does. I lived this life and I live in our society so I can tell you how pathetic the awareness, let alone, the intervention is. I can’t really speak of the awareness or support of those families in Sweden, because in my experience, anyone in that country who knows about my past is simply horrified and baffled and can’t even relate in a way that makes me feel like some kind of alien or monster. Sweden is a very wealthy and even spoiled place, and I didn’t ever see the foster care system or any kind of forgotten-about-society like the one I grew up in. Americans by contrast are mostly aware of these parts of society. We live and exist much closer to poverty than our big Viking cousins.

And yet the first-world Swedes were the ones who had the word. They actually had a word for people like me, a good word. It wasn’t “meth baby” or “foster kid” (ew) or “at-risk youth” or “juvenile delinquent” or “hillbilly.” It was a beautiful term that by its definition praised the resilience and honored the struggle of a child without the bare minimum needs to survive and much less thrive. I can’t explain how it has haunted me my entire adulthood to be called a plethora of things and to hear over and over “you overcame the odds” in a blank, echo-y manner. It’s not that I doubt people are impressed or encouraged by my success story as it were, but when you hear this your whole life, being called “at-risk” or “damaged” and hearing “you know most people with a story like that are on drugs or on the street” and that's what you get--when suddenly you hear yourself being called a “dandelion child”...the difference is pretty stark.  It meant the world to me.  It still does.  It was like being acknowledged truly for the first time.


I go over and over in my head whether I’m grateful for my experiences, or if I wish they’d never happened. It’s not an easy question to answer. The one thing I have realized is that who I am, that child deprived of a healthy growing environment, will always be a large piece of me. And that part of me hurts, and will always hurt. Van Gogh said to his brother before he died, “The sadness will last forever.” Once I accepted this and stopped fighting it, I really did feel more peace. I have a few friends who have come from similar situations as me, and even though some of us have never met in person, they share the same sentiments. It seems that part of the recipe for success for maskrosbarn is recognizing stark, unhappy and displeasurable truth. Others do it with grace; something I hope to imitate.

Living in pain sounds like a death sentence sometimes. Sometimes it is and I just get lucky enough to pull through it. But the other quote I like to draw from, if as grim, is a bit more optimistic. (And it’s from a video game, of course.)



I can’t change the fact that I was born a dandelion, and not a rose or a peony or some other big and vibrant flower. But dandelions are resilient, grow without care, they are free as the wind and even though they’re considered to be a nuisance and a weed, they actually are helpful and medicinal, and even help other plants and flowers by bringing in bees and butterflies. At the end of the day I don’t mind being a maskrosbarn; I am independent and strong and can help. I just wish more of society could see people like me that way. In the meantime, I'll settle for seeing myself that way and allowing it to help me be a better person and help others.


6.17.2016

Adventures in Salt Lake County

I know it's not what people usually hear from outsiders around here, but it's true: Salt Lake City and the surrounding cities have so much rich history.  I will never be able to feel as much "at home" anywhere in the world as I do here, and I swear I know more than the locals! When hanging out with Utah friends I'll go on some rant about this trading post or that mountain or this hanging or what have you and they are all virtually clueless.

With the tons of rain we've been getting (thanks Utah! I'm a big fan) I wanted to go out on a drive before I started my new job and snap some shoots in the Bingham canyon/Magna/west nothingness area.  I had a temporary job working out there and though it's not conventionally beautiful, I love the area.  It has an Americana vibe that you just don't get in the middle of the city, and perhaps moreso why I love it; it reminds me of Tennessee.  I don't even know why, but I suspect it's the curvy, twisting two lane roads which are not common in SLC, and the sleepy small town vibe of the whole area.


After we left that area, I wasn't done wandering so I just pointed to roads and Derik drove on them.  This ended up being hilarious, because we ended up in what I assume to be a meth-cooking Raider from Mad Max campground...it was literally just a pile of nothing and more nothing, just a wall of junk and a bunch of "STAY OUT" signs.  We met a few men on bicycles who were obviously dealing drugs, but they waved and were friendly, so I'm not sure who is the grouch telling everybody to leave the drug den.

It was all good until we reached a road that said "ASBESTOS DUMPING SITE KEEP OUT" and I took that one seriously.  Haha.

6.15.2016

Dark Corner Productions Photoshoot

Several weeks ago I got to participate in my first bona-fide photoshoot!  Marcus, who runs Dark Corner Productions and Horror Junkies of Utah approached me with the idea and I was 100% sold.  It's no secret I've got a Gothic streak in me a mile wide, just ask anyone from high school (haha.)  Marcus specializes in anything dark and spooky, and he was looking to do a series based on women from the badass American Horror Story series.  If you watched the first season, you know the hot redheaded maid who seduces the boss and cleans up his "messes"? Yeaaaah.  She's the best. So I told Marcus yes so fast my head spun.

 
Actually the way I met Marcus was pretty funny--it was during my first car show last year.  It was around Halloween time and had a bit of a creepy/dressup theme, and that creep was walking around as Michael Myers, mask and knife and all.  Wimpy confession time, I reeeeeeeeally don't like masks. Facepaint is fine, horror/SFX makeup is fine, or just a regular old scary face is fine, but I get really unnerved at masks.  So of course Marcus did a great job of terrifying me whenever he walked by.  I wonder if he meets other people similarly?  First time we met I was wincing away in horror, second time we met I was in fishnet and cleaning up fake blood from his bathtub.  Haha.

Anyway, I don't have any sage wisdom for you about photoshoots since this was my first one.  I learned that holy cow, these things are hard work!  Not that I disbelieved (I've seen America's Next Top Model as much as the next girl) but I was sore afterward, especially in my core area, from holding poses.

If you want to see more photos from the shoot (I've left Marcus's watermark on them here) and more of his awesome work--this is a recent favorite of mine-- head over to his DeviantArt page.

Thank you Marcus for the opportunity and I'm sure I'll see you again soon! Hopefully without the mask....



6.14.2016

Speaking Out // Foster Care (Again)

I totally missed National Foster Care Month, but to be honest, when I realized it was May and that I should do that "speaking up" thing, I got disgusted and purposely shut down in a snobby little protest.  If it were about any other thing in my life, I would have questioned my emotions and tried to reason with myself against them, but I'm at the point where I don't question my own decisions in regard to my past.  I know what's best for me, and sometimes keeping that tanker truck full of worms tightly closed is what's best for me.  

I focused on the present instead, and it worked out great.

But it has still been on my mind.  People tell me to "tell my story."  "Sharing helps."  This is nothing but a personal blog, but I still do want to make a difference. I might revise or even make a second "Truth About Foster Care" book, or see what other options I have for spreading the word, but until then it's going here.  Because I need a place to put it, and who knows? Maybe someone will benefit from it. 

So I'm going to start another series like the last one, where I go over different aspects of foster care and my experiences.  I get a little passionate and heated when I discuss this so if that's not your bag, you've been warned, haha.  Here are the topics I want to discuss: 

--My Advice to Foster Youth
--More Advice for Foster Parents
--The Truth About Adoption
--Exiting Foster Care at 18
--The System is Broken

If you have any questions, now is the time to start emailing them to me! I am happy to answer anything, nothing is too personal.  If you have any input on these topics and would like to have your voice on my blog I'm welcome for that as well.  So email away!  

Also, I promise for June I will post about other stuff so it's not just a wall of misery and angst, but the truth is this subject is so, so important to me and nothing compels me to write more than a topic I can't keep quiet about--that is what writing is for.  I have always struggled to make this place something authentic and not a shill for Clorox wipes or ten pages of clickbait.  It's a hard balance though, because I want this place to reflect the good and the bad.  As usual, I'll struggle to maintain the balance and just keep writing. It's what I do. 

6.07.2016

Ohne Dich // Silver Lake

Nothing to see here, just another Silver Lake jaunt! I really need to find a new place, tourists and skiiers and humanity in general have ruined this area.  If I wanted to go take photos and chit-chat about the camera specs of a camera I know nothing about compared to other cameras (this one was a gift and my first camera) then I would, you know, take a photography class, not go to the mountains.

So when I get a chance, I am going to check out some hopefully less-busy places.  In the meantime, here's what I got.  These photos remind me of the Rammstein song "Ohne Dich" (Without You) both for the scenery, which is a bit like the music video, and also because of the general lonely and forlorn mountain landscape.


Ich werde in die Tannen gehen
Dahin wo ich sie zuletzt gesehen
Doch der Abend wirft ein Tuch aufs Land
und auf die Wege hinterm Waldesrand
Und der Wald er steht so schwarz und leer
Weh mir, oh weh Und die Vögel singen nicht mehr

I'm going to go into the fir trees
There where I last saw her
But the evening is throwing a cloth upon the land
and upon the ways behind the edge of the forest
And the forest it is so black and empty
Woe is me, oh woe And the birds sing no more


Auf den Ästen in den Gräben
ist es nun still und ohne Leben
Und das Atmen fällt mir ach so schwer
Weh mir, oh weh
Und die Vögel singen nicht mehr

Ohne dich kann ich nicht sein
Ohne dich
Mit dir bin ich auch allein
Ohne dich


On the branches in the ditches
it's now silent and without life
And breathing becomes oh so hard for me
Woe is me, oh woe
And the birds sing no more

Without you I cannot be
Without you
With you I am alone too
Without you


6.05.2016

June Goals

haha, this picture is so ridiculous, and makes me so happy.  It was actually taken in March or April--we had just gotten new couches a few hours before and moved this trusty old guy outside. I was going out to visit a friend, and thought it was a great place to pose before I left.  Really speaks to my white trash/Southern roots, not to mention making fun of those hipster shoots where the models try to look all ghetto or tough but are wearing expensive and prissy clothes.  Okay now I'm way over-analyzing this picture...point is, it pleases me.

A Look Back At May

Let's see how May went.  I did do a few things which aren't on this list, so I'll tell you about those first.  I got my garden planted!! The peppers have a fungus and probably won't make it, but for a first time everything seems to be going pretty well.  I'm shaky at best when it comes to keeping plants alive, and nothing makes me miss my mother more than remembering how she could get anything to grow, anytime, without google or wikipedia or gardening forums.  I'm open for your tips, garden people!


Flemith continues to grow and so does my love for him! 

I had a barbeque and it went fantastic, especially considering how obsessive I get over details and if the dip is the right taste and who is having fun.  I had forgotten I knew as many people as I did.  So many friends, old and new--one of them is Dale, a coworker I've known since I was a little baby, 19 years old.  Dale is an amazing person, he's kind, and smart, and a great dad, and a hard worker.  I remember thinking of him as a snobby Mormon when we worked together, (because he used to look at me judgmentally and eat bananas when I asked questions haha), but as it went when I was younger, my PTSD was really masking my ability to see him for a genuinely fantastic person.  Now we're both older and wiser, and he brought flowers to my get-together, so when he had a HUGE party at his house later in May, I brought him an orchid.  I'm so thankful to have people like him in my life--people who may not have been there for years and years, or watched each other grow up, but in our own way we have watched each other grow up, and there's an understanding that we will stay close.  Foster alumni really treasure stable friendships in a way that seems to fill a few 'family' holes in the Swiss cheese of our heart.

I apparently was in a socializing mood, because afterward I went to three parties--Dale's house party, and two kid's birthday partie, one for Derik's niece, the other for his girlfriend's son.  Even if I felt 1000000000% uncomfortable, the people didn't notice and seemed to enjoy my company.  I even led a game of Werewolf.  Right after these parties, we had a Mother's Day party for Derik's mom, complete with Navajo tacos.  Mmmm.  Like the others, it went well.  At this point I could probably even put together a wedding.  Why the hell would I want to though, is my question.

So that was May--new job, new faces, new get-togethers, a fresh mindset.  10/10.  Would recommend.  Here's the goals in review: 

  • Go to a damned pilates class. -- FAIL LOL I ...I have no excuse. I'm fat. 
  • Make Jay's graduation gift.  -- SUCCESS!! They were delicious. It was nice to see him at my old job.  Jay was a fantastic supervisor and one of the reasons my sanity lasted as long as it did.
  • Start a new portrait series -- SUCCESS!! I started it and got 1/4 done.  Better than nothing??
  • Have a BBQ. -- SUCCESS!! Such a huge success I'm still recovering from the socializing. Yikes. 
  • Flemith's shots -- FAIL  JUNE FOR SURE.  I'm sorry baby! 
  • Enroll in CME's or (hopefully) start the new job I've been hoping for --SUCCESS!!  I have started my amazing job and they are going to help me with recertifying. 
  • Periscope more -- FAIL Total fail.  I did one on Swedish dillsauce.  
  • Attend one car show or photoshoot -- SUCCESS!!  Post coming soon on my photoshoot ;D 
Wow, actually May went pretty well.  In retrospect yes, it was way better than April.  There was some intense drama involved, maybe I'll write about it because I think those are the juicy stories people enjoy, but it was not so fun while going through it so I shied away.  Anyway, good month overall, and most importantly I have started and LOVE my new job.  Let's see where we want go to for June, which is usually a good month for me.  Summer baby and whatnot.

Happening in June

  • Do a good job, and learn the in's and out's of my job.  I have had fantastic training--this job isn't like most places that just throw you in the icy water and yell swim.  I appreciate them working to give me a good foundation, but like I told my boss the other day.... I have been given the mechanics of how to juggle, but I'm at the point where I have to do the juggling and will probably drop a few balls.  I want to do well so my main focus for this month is giving myself a month to learn it all and get a routine that works for me. 
  • Go to a goddamn pilates class. What can I say, I hate people and being around them while we breathe and move together.  Weirds me out.  I still want to try. 
  • Plan Derik's birthday Vegas trip + book motel.  If I can get the motel taken care of this month it will make next month way easier on the wallet.  I'm so excited!
  • Finish my 4/4 portrait series.  I will unveil the subjects once they're all done!
  • Flemith's vaccines I'm a terrible mother.  Just group me in with the anti-vax crowd.  Just kidding, please don't.  He's an indoor cat, so at least he's protected. 
  • Work on CME's for the month and get at least 40 hours.  
  • Lay off the fucking sugar.  It's just gotten out of control, slowly.  I have been doing better lately, but with summer around the corner, (less appetite=more reason to eat veggies to stay healthy) it's high time I got serious again.  
  • Write more stories.  Things have just been in a spot where I can barely draw, much less write.  I only need a slight mental break to paint, but I need a lot of space and security before I'm comfortable writing stories.  With the new job going well and everything else coming together, I have to get back to my favorite hobby.
  • One Car Show  I was so busy in May that I didn't make it to any car shows :(  June, please make it work! 
Linking up with My So Called Chaos and #monthlygold