Alas, we near the end of the tour, but this is the best part!

So, Fallout: New Vegas does take place on the Strip quite a bit, but the enchantment of the game are the other areas, the places where you have to wander through to get to the Strip.  It's pretty amazing, and I've said this before--to fall in love with a digital place, to make it a second home in your imagination, and then go to these places that actually exist and see things that made you feel so special...places you have already forged friendships and made enemies and gotten shot and killed monsters and places full of lore and history that hasn't even been written.  It's even better than really truly coming home, because the home you make in the game is so protected--it's whatever you want it to be, no matter what.

We went backwards from the game though--first to Boulder City, then Hoover Dam, then Searchlight, through Joshua Tree Highway and dipping into Nipton, then up to Primm and Jean and finally our last destination, Goodsprings.  If you're not familiar with the game, your character's story begins in Goodsprings, where you get shot in the head and buried in the town's cemetery.  You're dug up by a friendly robot and begin to navigate the western terrain in the small, sleepy town.  The game finishes with an epic battle on the lip of Hoover Dam.  


8 Minute Memoir - Mary Lennox

I remember when I read the Secret Garden for the first time.  I was in elementary school and it was part of the Accelerated Reader program.  I in particular remember how rotten Mary seemed to everyone in the book.  The kids made fun of her and poor Martha, the serving girl at Misselthwaite Manor, had to deal with her bitchy little temper.  But even while reading that book and wishing more than anything in the world that I was Mary Lennox and would be shipped off to England to live in a big cold dark castle before Harry Potter was even a thing, I didn't see Mary as a mean kid, or a bad one.

The Mary Lennox vibe was consistently given off by those of us in foster care as well.  We were always labeled as troublemakers or sour or what have you.  I was actually accused of scaring my foster parents so badly that they wrote the judge a letter saying they feared for their life.  Luckily the judge rolled his eyes and ignored their pleas for salvation, but the heavy cloud that followed me around still gave off the impression that I was bad or to be watched.  For what, I have no idea.  Killing foster parents in their sleep apparently.  I was always assumed to be far worse tempered than I actually was.  Just like Mary.


Post-Birthday Thoughts and Goals

Well, I celebrated my last-ever birthday this past week.  No, you don't need to call the white coats (on second thought, do anyway) but I turned 29 and my beloved aunt told me when I was small that she had been 29 for a few decades.  Doris was right about most things so I will trust her on this.  Plus, my boss, Toby, vehemently denied having any happiness after turning 30 and said it was "depressing as hell" and he's pretty smart too.  So this was it.  The Grand Finale.  It's been fun, life.

The so called grand finale was spent at work over the weekend.  It was quiet.  I was visited at work by my favorite coworker and it just made my day.  Everyone at work wished me a happy birthday (and told me congratulations on the saving of my cat.)  I opened some presents from Derik and Niki and Henri, and slept afterward.  I got a cake and everything.  I loved on Flemeth, the world's best birthday present, and was happy.  Everyone kept asking if I had plans and I just shrugged.  Truthfully sometimes it's nice to just sit back and revel in how nice things are.  Especially when you're an introvert and the past week was filled with me desperately trying to save my animal.  And since I had such a busy June and July--this was the perfect sendoff for my 28th year.

I can't believe I'm 29.  I still remember saying "I'm 22" like it was just a few months ago.  I remember turning 25 in Sweden and riding roller coasters with the Schlyters--definitely one of my favorite birthdays to date.  I have no complaints about working on the day (though I whined to Toby for a week beforehand just to make him feel bad.  It didn't work, I'm pretty sure he's part Vulcan.) and I hope that inner peace stays with me for a bit before the holidays show up and ruin my mental state and give me my natural sour disposition.


I usually take birthday time to reflect on my goals for the year and set new ones--it's actually how I count years, instead of going by the new year.  So most resolution-making comes August 21.  This year I had already made quite a few positive......epiphanies? I don't know what to call them, fundamental life truths? Anyway, they were there and I was happy about it, but I always need something to be working on, no matter how good things feel. I found my answer in therapy (haha, no seriously, go to therapy, it's great.)

It's hard to sum up but I have the need to share and express my past.  With others.  I thought I had done that already, but everything keeps brimming up and I need to talk about it more or work on it more.  I've already mentioned here that I'm going to be posting more foster care stuff, but I decided after therapy to make a tangible effort to share however I can, whether that's here, another book, artwork, or whatever it is I need to do to calm that part of me.

I always struggle with creating because I feel that I'm not good enough and that no one cares.  This is especially true with painting because I paint what's "comfortable."  I hardly make art that is outside my comfort zone and I don't paint often.  I'm afraid of seeing something I'm ashamed of, which is silly, because it was all shameful when I was young, haha.  But it is what it is.  I recommitted to making art, and specifically, complex art that showcases events or emotions from my past, (in other words, relevant art and not flowers and pictures of Till Lindemann but let's be honest those will happen also) and lo and behold, just when I found my will to create, Derik turned around and bought me a graphics tablet.

I literally choked up when I saw it.  I remember when I got into deviantart quite a few years ago and wanted one SO BADLY.  I gave up on it when again, I saw others' digital art, and my traditional art and thought, I'll never make anything like that.  I think in those times, when the self-doubt isn't just a tape recorder playing sounds that we mindlessly listen to, when it's more than that and it's an inner crippling fear and shame, what helps more than anything is to have someone else believe in us and show or tell us, "You are capable."  It helps if the person actually knows you, and Derik knows me better than anyone.  I cried, because opening that tablet was him saying that he believes in my art and creativity.

I do have another goal for the year; go to school, but we'll talk about that some other time.  For now, shitty tablet drawings of Till Lindemann and my cats!


Pre-Birthday Thoughts

This will probably be the last thing I write before I turn 29 and I'm not really sure what to say.  The past week has been a crazy meltdown whirlwind because my kitten was diagnosed with a congenital hernia and I've been preoccupied with saving his life.  There have been two main trains of thought circulating around the days leading to my birthday, and I wanted to share both.

The first one actually has nothing to do with my birthday and everything to do with my cat and the help I received to take care of him.  Every time I feel alone people will step in and remind me that I'm not, until some next crisis happens and I again get warped into that foster care state of mind where no one cares and I'm facing something impossible without support, without a family.  And that's the thing: never in my adult life have I felt more alone than when faced with losing my cat, and a 3,000 vet bill.  It all came together.  People helped.  Some were people who have been in my life for years and known me since before foster care, and others are new friends made from my job.  Now I have to face the wonderful reality that I have my cat safe and healthy at home, and people cared about me enough to help.  It definitely changes things for me.  I feel like I can actually say "I have people who care" and believe it.  This may seem pretty mundane but to the Mowgli raised-by-wolves that I am, it puts me in an entirely different place.  I'm happy for it.

The second train of thought is actually relevant to my birthday.  Maybe like a lot of people, I start really self-examining around that time of year and wondering what I've done right and wrong.  I feel satisfied with who I was at 28, even though like usual I believe myself to be completely clueless and stumbling through life blindfolded with a heavy dose of narcotics in my system.  I have diligently been on the search for "normal" and had a bunch of very normal people scoff at me for this and say things like "what's normal?" or "good luck, I've never found it" or the even worse, "don't be normal, normal is boring."  And I loved most of these people but those idiotic comments, said in their normal homes with normal wives and normal children and normal parents and normal drama, made me so mad I wanted to clap their stupid normal head between my abnormal hands and yell at them "I AM NOT LIKE YOU!" This isn't really me wanting to be a special snowflake, it's the opposite.  And ultimately more frustrating.

But now, during my heavy self-reflection time and attempting to come to terms with not ever achieving normal, I was reminded of the scene in Kill Bill where Bill compares Beatrix to Superman.

"Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent?

He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race. Sorta like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plimpton. You would've worn the costume of Arlene Plimpton. But you were born Beatrix Kiddo. And every morning when you woke up, you'd still be Beatrix Kiddo. Moving to El Paso, working in a used record store, goin' to the movies with Tommy, clipping coupons. That's you, trying to disguise yourself as a worker bee. That's you tryin' to blend in with the hive. But you're not a worker bee. You're a renegade killer bee. And no matter how much beer you drank or barbecue you ate or how fat your ass got, nothing in the world would ever change that."

I am not (and Bill wasn't) comparing myself to a superhero of course...actually, he was calling Beatrix a killer.  I am not a killer or a superhero, but I am something else.  My own version of an alien wrapped in clothes dropped off at the Kents and trying to fit into society and trying as hard as possible to look inconspicuous.  But like Bill said, nothing in the world would ever change that.  I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned I need to look at myself as special.

Anyway, that's enough introspection.  Here's what I've done at 28 years of age.

-barely survived til my birthday
-then had a mental breakdown and ran to a motel for a week and hid from humanity
-got a lot of flowers
-moved apartments into a space where I can breathe, got my very own bed
-met Flemith who is my love
-celebrated nine years of being in Utah
-went to my first car show and entered my first pinup contest
-got to be vastly disappointed with Fallout 4
-worked for Santa for the third year
-performed CPR on a victim for the first time
-got a promotion to sergeant
-got in a pretty bad car accident in which the Stratus saved my life
-bought Luis Sera, my very first car
-gained Swedish residency and visited Sweden for a short trip
-was gifted my first DSLR and took it everywhere in the world
-grew my own very first garden
-qualified with a weapon for work
-got rid of some toxic people
-met some amazing people
-went on my first bike ride to Wendover
-started my AWESOME job which I love dearly and which has helped my mental health so much
-went to Las Vegas
-had a mega breakdown with Flemeth's diagnosis and subsequent new zest for life when he came through surgery

And here we arrive at 29.  Like I said in an earlier Instagram post, yeah, thanks for all the lessons 28 but I'd be just as content to have a fun year with no lessons this time.  How's that?

ps. here is my first official present--aren't they gorgeous?



Part one of the New Vegas tour ended with me having a meltdown/panic attack because the room randomly gave up my booked room and wouldn't do anything about it (including refund the money they had taken out.)  
I have to give a nod to myself here because a few short years ago I would have just knocked the manager's smug little teeth out or at least gone on a verbal tirade that would've gotten me arrested.  Instead I held it together and walked out of the hotel like a dignified (pissy) adult. 

Now I have to give a huge nod to Derik.  It was almost 11pm his very first night in Vegas, and it was 115 degrees, and he had been driving for hours.  He didn't even skip a beat, just started calling hotels and getting rates.  Everything was booked.  I gave up a few motels in and just cried in the car.  But he found one, and it was only a few blocks away--still on the strip, but in that weird awkward purgatory that isn't Fremont and isn't the Strip, so it's like where all the locals go.  The room was definitely a downgrade, and 100 dollars more, but we didn't complain.  I did my habitual check-all-mattresses and they were spotless.  The AC worked.  That motel saved our butts.  Thanks, Gateway Inn.  And thanks, Derik.  I'm sorry that your birthday was almost a disaster.
After booking our motel we went and ate at a diner on this purgatory side of the Strip, called Vickies Diner--BEST ham and cheese sandwich in the world.  We were so pooped, we sat and ate in total silence, surrounded by drunk locals, ten different wedding chapels, and the dangerous and creepy noises of the non-Strip.  And of course, the inside of the diner was run down, but clean, just like the room--and painted hot, Elvis-Cadillac pink.  It was perfect.

The next morning was all for VEGAS!  Unfortunately, Derik was sick for most of it.  Still, we touristed.  We rode the Deuce and saw the Strip, we had martinis at Planet Hollywood, we ate lunch at Gordon Ramsay's BurgR, we went to the Mob Museum.  If you're in Vegas and wondering what to do I highly recommend this place.  The history and exhibits were top notch.  My personal favorite will always be the atomic museum, but that's just because of the Fallout nerd in me--well, that, and the fact that the atom is AWESOME!

The one thing Derik requested for his birthday was "that feast where you eat with your hands and watch swordfighting."  When he said those exact words I was like "uhhhh" but then he explained what he'd seen on some travel show--the Tournament of Kings.  And his description was spot-on accurate.  Eating a personal feast with your greasy hams while cheering and jeering at a bunch of long haired men who ride around on horses and fight and do magic and stuff.

That show was pretty pricey.  Worth it though? oh yes.  We sat in Russia, yelled like heathens, screamed ourselves hoarse, and got to see some pretty cool pyrotechnics.  No Rammstein level or anything, but they were fun and the show was legit.  I felt like they took great care of the animals, the horses were well trained and groomed.  The show and story itself were fun and it felt like a nicely sized timeline over dinner.  Food was fantastic, no complaints.  The thing is I usually eat everything with my fingers, I call it one of my autistic quirks, but even I had never eaten a whole head of steamed broccoli with my hand.  Gnawing on it looked hilarious I'm sure, but I was too busy having a good time to do anything but laugh and keep gnawing.   

There's so much I'm forgetting here--like the black lady who walked across the street in front of our bus and the commentary that ensued from the other passengers ("she think she invincible") ("shit...she haulin' groceries" in reference to her size XXXXX breasts) ("dem's some titties" also in reference to breasts.)  I got a fifty percent off tulle skirt at Tatyana and Derik promptly left it on the bus.  There's just a good chunk of typical Vegas drama I'm forgetting from that day but suffice it to say we were exhausted, but MORE than ready for Nipton and Goodsprings.  But that's tomorrow folks!


Fallout: New Vegas 2016 Tour - Part One!

Wow, it's been two weeks and I'm just now getting to posting about vacation.  That's unacceptable.  But I haven't slowed down since leaving on this trip and life is just barely calming the hell down, so let's get started!


Derik and I are huge fans of the video game, Fallout: New Vegas.  We both consider it an exceptional work of art and have our own lore and inside jokes and know just about every easter egg or trivia question based on the game that you could ever ask.  I actually made this trip in 2014 with Henri (that post was eaten when I moved back from my other blog) so I was a seasoned adventurer on the Road to Vegas.  I had a few special things in mind for when we got there--but let's just start at the beginning: getting there.

US SR 93
Salt Lake City very famously leads to Vegas through the simplicity of I-15, (or as it's known in the game, "The Long 15".)  However, possessed by some strange hatred of the interstate, I chose back in 2014 to take Nevada State Route 93, the old highway.  I think that I'm a backroads kind of girl--what better way to experience Americana and follow the footsteps of those first travelers before interstates became the norm in the late 50's?  The last time I drove it, I didn't even enter Nevada until 7pm, oops, so most of the drive was in darkness.  This time I had the pleasure of seeing everything, from the sleepy town of Ely to the gorgeous, eerily quiet Humboldt National Forest, in the hot Mojave sun.  I have to stop here and say again just how gorgeous and strange I find the Great Basin and Mojave deserts.  I've lived in so many different landscapes but this one will always be my favorite.  It's just a huge, vast wasteland. So alien, so strange.  I feel right at home in it and out of place all at once.

Sights Along The Way
So, like I said, the first time I made this trip I saw what little scenery I could spy via moonlight.  This time I had a chance to really enjoy the surroundings.  I wasn't disappointed.  Creepy rest stops and old forgotten diners and hotels and rv camps that look straight up full of murderers and murdees.  Some of them even had very inviting open gaping doors.  I was dying to stop at every single one and take nine thousand Instagram-perfect hashtagabandonedporn photos, but Derik pulled the "we're going to get murdered" card each time.  He's so unadventurous.  We took a handgun with us on the trip and I just remember that my rebuttal to everything, the entire trip was, "but we have a gun!"

Still, no dice, (haha get it that's a gambling pun) and I had to see most things by car, other than of course the one public bathroom we DID stop at--somehow deemed safe by Mr. Navajo Boring Face, had THE SIGN ON THE DOOR WARNING TO WATCH OUT FOR RATTLESNAKES.  I didn't think I'd ever pee in there.  And I honestly might not ever pee in peace, in any public/camping grounds restroom, ever again.

A Different Road Warrior?
At some point we turn off onto another state route and I, being passenger for a time by then, was daydreaming when Derik slams on the brakes and pulls me out of la-la land.  His exact words?  "WAS THAT A FUCKING DILDO ON THE ROAD?"  I laughed, thinking he was joking, but he literally brought my little Fiesta to a halt (from 50mph or so) and threw it in reverse.  Then a sight I'll never forget: Derik, head out the window, looking in the side rearview mirror, laughing hysterically and periodically going "IT IS! OH MY GOD IT IS!"

Yours truly was the real scientific investigator here, though, naturally.  And no I am not posting more hilarious and up close photos on the blog, of the dildo.  They are totally on my Instagram though.  What's a trip to Vegas without a road dildo?

Check In

Part one ends with us arriving, blissfully tired, excited and and looking forward to a cold motel bedroom, in New Las Vegas.  It was a breezy 115 degrees Fahrenheit at approximately 1030pm, and we headed toward the Strip.  I had, months before, booked the Super 8 on the Strip--which was where I stayed for the last New Vegas tour.  Imagine my surprise when I go to check in and they tell me, flippantly, that there are no rooms left.  I was like, "Okay, that's great for you and I'm happy 4 u and imma let u finish...but I have a reservation."  I pull out my phone and show the obviously booked receipt.  Desk girl is confused.  Manager guy is even less impressed.  He informs me that my reservation was through a third party company (booking.com) and that it wouldn't be honored because "they overbook us all the time."

"So you're telling me that you have no room for me despite me having a reservation."
"You have to call the third party company."
"But you guys" specifically SUPER 8 MOTEL "have already taken the money from my account."
"Call third party company."  Not even joking, his English was that fucking lazy.

Join me next time for the underwhelming cliffhanger ending to this miserable wrench in the gear!


August Monthly Goals

It's August! And do you know what that means? IT MEANS IT'S MY BIRTH MONTH! Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about July, and August.

All I can say about July is that it was fun and exhausting and I'm glad it's over.  It was the biggest "plans" month of them all, and I was busy mostly with Derik's birthday and our Vegas trip.  Planning, budgeting, etc--and I just realized how insane I must be, because apparently I decided Vegas wasn't enough travel for one month and organized an overnight Wendover trip as well as a day out on Utah Lake.  Might I remind you that I worked during this time, midnight to noon? Yep, crazy.

But it was all good and fun.  It felt nice to do something great on this scale for Derik.  And I even managed to squeeze in a dolled-up Ruth's Diner visit and a short bike ride to the summit at East Canyon.  By the way, that road is terrifying on a bike and no me gusta.  BUT WE DID SEE A FEMALE ELK ON THE ROAD!

So the big news this month is that I turn 29.  I have joked a few times that this is the last time I'm allowed to actually have a birthday, since we all know women don't age after 29.  I guess I should be having some kind of crisis about it, but I've honestly not given it a lot of thought.  Every year I'm just shocked to be alive, really, and grateful for whatever food or gifts or well wishes I receive.  I've told Derik vaya con Dios, do whatever you like.  I might put up a wishlist here, but the truth is when anyone asks what I want, the answer is "flowers and anything Rammstein."  Just your typical girl.


Finish my 500 Squats Challenge.  We'll say I finished a good 60%.  The most I could get was 300 in one night, and then I went to Vegas and my legs almost fell off from walking around and I failed.  But who does squats on vacation?
Flemith's goddamn vaccinesSUCCESS - the appointment is set! Don't judge me.
No seriously, lay off the sugar.  SUCCESS- I've been doing a bit better.  I feel better as well.
Paint one portrait. - FAIL  :( I haven't even had time to sit down at my desk in the last month.
Get back on track financially.FAIL  I won't even take credit for failing.  I'll be posting about what happened in Vegas (it's always something) but basically, not my fault.  I did get the bills paid including my stupid ass tax bill thanks to my former company that didn't pay damn state taxes the whole damn year.  Dammit.  So I am not doing too terrible I guess.


Have a good birthday.  I don't really have any way to control this one other than my attitude, so we'll see how it goes, haha.
Actually paint.  I don't know what's wrong with me--is it summertime? Where's my creativity?
Complete re-certification goals.  My recert is due in September...eeeek.
Blog about Vegas.  It will be broken into several parts but I'd still like to document the trip.
Go to physical therapy.  It's bad.  And my insurance just kicked in.  I want to start healing.