2017 In Review

You know, I'm probably one of a choir of voices saying that 2017 has been a total wreck.  I don't even know why (oh wait yes I do, I spent the WHOLE YEAR PREGNANT and got flooded out of my freaking house) but I think a lot of the feeling of gloom and doom has been the media and the Back To the Future II Alternate Reality it's painting.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of humanity and never have been, but the media is the only thing more toxic than humans, and they have been feeding on emotions like maggots on a carcass.  2017 was rough, is my point.

So, imagine my surprise when I wanted to put this post together and realized, hey...we did a LOT of cool things this year!  All I remembered was feeling nauseated and tired and swollen and homeless, but I powered through a lot of adventures, including a few things that were massive bucket list items.  Some things I never thought I would even get to do, like introduce my son to my dad.

I'll be following up this post with a list of things I want to do for 2018, as well as the story I haven't told, about our trip to Hiawatha.  But for now, here is the chronological list of crap that happened this year!!!

2017 In Review

-Let's start with January 4.  Till Lindemann's birthday!!! Also, the day I felt a sneaking suspicion I was pregnant.  I took two tests back to back (haha) and yep. positive.  I had planned on waiting to tell Allyn until his birthday, but I just suck at keeping secrets.  I told him maybe a week later.

January: We drove down to Moab to celebrate Allyn's birthday.  It was pretty abandoned in the off-season, but still gorgeous.  We had dinner at the amazing Sunset Grill, which has uranium and uranium products on display (below, left) and explored the cult location Home of Truth. (Above)
Valentine's Day we went to Wendover, Nevada and bought Rusty Shackleford, that beautiful Beetle you see above.  This was my present to Allyn.  The photo on the above left is the Bonneville Salt Flats, taken during that trip. 

Also in February, we toured some of Tooele County's ghost towns; Mercur, Ophir, Eureka.  We explored the Tintic Reduction Mill (below photos) and drove on the original Pony Express road for several miles.  Honestly this day was one of the best days I've ever spent with someone, just exploring and talking and being together.

The winter stayed late this year, but in March/April we announced our pregnancy and had a gender reveal party.  I'll never forget seeing my little Zordon for the first time on ultrasound at eleven weeks; he was literally flipping full cartwheels and when Allyn and I saw him we both burst out laughing.  Then he made us go to the fetal fotos place four times before the techs could see his sex.  I was convinced after the repeated "here's a lapful of umbilical cord" that I was having a girl, but as it turns out my first suspicions of having a boy were accurate!

 Also in May we ventured home for a few reasons--firstly to attend a friend's birthday party, and secondly, no lie, to attempt to visit Ghost Town (below left top and bottom). And we succeeded on both fronts!  We had an amazing visit with family and Allyn got to see, for the first time, where I come from.

We wandered Farner and I had my first burnout, (don't judge me) and we explored my abandoned elementary school as well as another nearby abandoned school.  (black and white below photos) Other treats were Machine Falls (below right) and of course the Great Smoky Mountains.

As spring turned into summer things got tougher, but we still had a great time.  In June, Allyn and I went camping in Carbon County for Father's Day.  We also attended a car show and I was in a pinup contest in Helper, I didn't win BUT I won a prize for pinup knowledge which to me is even cooler.  I don't just like the clothes and hair, I know my shit when it comes to that time period (and a bunch of others, lol.)

In July we had a great time at Magna's "Halloween in July" event.  However, I'm convinced that these summer outside events need to move inside because I just can't take the desert heat.  Seven months pregnant and tottering around dressed as one of Immortan Joe's wives was way too close to actual apocalypse.  I did Allyn's warboy makeup though, and that was awesome.  So many people loved it!!  We also caught the tail-end of the Bonneville Salt Flats race days, which was fun and also miserable for a big pregnant fatty.  I swear, every summer memory I have is tainted with being so immobile and hot.  HOT.  Pregnancy in summer is the wooooooooooorst! 

We also became temporarily homeless in July.  There was a totally random Salt Lake flood and it destroyed our apartment.  The landlady's insurance company forced us to evacuate and through the kindness of a stranger on Reddit we had a basement to stay in for a few weeks while I burned up all of our saved funds looking for a place.  So many kind people turned up out of the woodwork to help.  It was the roughest time I've gone through because during this bout of purgatory my Dad had another, worse, motorcycle accident.  The fear of not knowing if he was alive or his status compounded with not knowing where my son's first home would be was devastating.  I'm sure it contributed to my complications in late pregnancy.

So basically fuck late July and early August.

Somehow in all of this chaos we still managed to make it to Zermatt Resort for my birthday (carousel photo) which was on the day of the solar eclipse.  We had intentions of getting into the old Mountain Spaa resort there, but it was pretty clearly guarded on all sides by houses and even though the sun was shaded that day, it was still full daylight.  The photo below was taken around 11:30 am when the sky was darkest; it's the photo from the abandoned resort.

In September our son was born and we became bona-fide parents.  I don't really know what to say about all that, I don't have a big long tirade about motherhood being what I was born to do, lol.  I also don't have the cliche things to say about my son being my world and life was meaningless until this day etc etc.  He is a tiny person who was brought into my world.  And I love him deeply.  I still get flashes of transcendence cat when we make eye contact sometimes.

Die Antwoord came to Saltair a day after my birthday and it was something Allyn and I had been planning to go to all year, no joke.  Our original plan had something to do with dressing up super Zef, but I was so fat and preggo-summer miserable and I think Allyn was so tired of dealing with me by then (haha) that we just wore comfy clothes and had a great time.  Funny story--we followed the tour bus out and saw Ninja and Yo-Landi and watched as the bus took the wrong turn and stayed in the wrong lane like five times on the way back to the city.  You could smell the weed.  It was pretty hilarious.

Anyway, Allyn made an official proposal during one of our songs and it was the sweetest.  It was perfect in every way.  We married on the anniversary of our first kiss.  We married in front of the old Saltair location.  I never thought I'd be the marrying type, and I certainly am not pro-marriage, but honestly I didn't even question it with him.  It just felt natural.

September and October were mostly just sprinkled with my rage and hate and post-partum issues, BUT THAT IS ANOTHER STORY FOR ANOTHER DAY! We did make it to Oktoberfest, although I had to have my dirndl altered because my post-baby body was uh, NOT the same size.  It still isn't.  Why can't we just telepathically create children or something?  Biology is so inefficient. But, for Oktoberfest I bought Allyn legit lederhosen and boy, was he a hit!  Everybody wanted photos.  Such a handsome lumberjack.

I was suffering pretty badly in those first few months and got the jump on some sporadic, last-minute tickets to Tennessee. We took the baby to see his Tennessee family and I got some much-needed bonding time with my dad and sisters.  My dad got to meet Ender, and Allyn finally socialized after having his first bout of Tennessee moonshine.

That pretty much brings us current!  It's December now, and all I've been doing is working and watching Riverdale and Penny Dreadful (more like Penny Dreadful Ending, amirite?) Riverdale is so bad/good, but it fills a spot that the Vampire Diaries previously filled--trashy, stupid teen drama soap opera.  The 16 year old girl in me needs it.  Plus, Archie Andrews? Hot redhead? Yes.

I'll write more about the upcoming year as well as our Hiawatha incident, but I really just wanted to look back on this year in all its weird and intense glory and drama and soak it in for the eventful learning experience that it has been. 


On Feeding My Kid

I don't want this space to just reflect my experience as a mom--I am NOT nor will I ever be, a mommy blogger.   But I do feel like it's important to be candid and honest about my experiences because that is what has helped me all through my life.  Both from reading others' experiences and from the catharsis of "letting it out" in writing.  Once an experience is on this blog it's a little less heavy in my mind.  

For those reasons, I'm going to talk today about my personal experience with breastfeeding, and the mystery/lack of medical support/bullshit I was told--and as usual, my feeeeeelings about it.  If anyone reading is curious (and particularly if they want to breastfeed) I highly, highly recommend doing some research on lip ties and tongue ties.  I literally thought "being tongue-tied" was a colloquial way of describing tripping over one's words, until I met Allyn, who had a tongue tie his entire childhood and adult life, until surgery.  I knew it was something to look out for, which is something most new moms don't even hear about.

I always didn't care one way or the other about breastfeeding. When everyone asked my answer was "I'll try" because I'm pretty "meh" about all things motherhood and always have been.  I didn't want to hear the tips and tricks and advice and invasive conversations, because there's nothing I can't stand more than mom advice after asking me a question.  It's like they're opening an avenue to lecture me.  Not interested.  Inwardly, I always just assumed in my head that yes, I would breastfeed, and there wasn't a question of it. After all, "my mom did it with 4 of us" as you hear so often.....

What makes me angry is that there was no attempt to help me at all. My pediatrician didn't notice his tongue tie.  I was the one who brought it up, and she clipped it but left him with a lip tie. The lactation consultant never appeared at all in my hospital room, even when I asked for her.  She huffed her way in hurriedly as we were packing up and dismissively said she could give me a breast pump "it isn't that good" when I asked for one.  When I asked for advice, on the way out the door, about lip and tongue ties she stated her own daughter was in her 40's and had just found out she currently had both.  Like...how does that help me?   Does your 40 year old daughter breastfeed???

But this conversation was on my way out the door in a wheelchair.  Is that an appropriate time to show a new mother with zero support how to breastfeed???  During the course of my postpartum stay I was a bit preoccupied, recovering from a c section after 40 hours of labor.  I looked/felt so dead that the nurses just let me sleep and fed my baby formula constantly, despite me asking them to wake me up if it was time, to attempt to breastfeed. (I was really out of it and couldn't lift my arms for awhile either, sooo thanks, shitty anesthesiologist) But I told two separate administrators, plus a nurse, that I hadn't had an appointment with a consultant yet.  My point is that I was charged for aftercare in which the CNAs helping me stand up to go pee were basically all the "support" I got.  (No offense to them, shoutout to my CNAs, they were AMAZING)

My experience was that I came out of this horrific, traumatic birth and then sat in a tiny, stuffy room where a nurse told me flatly "yep that's breastfeeding, it just hurts" after the baby latched on and bruised me beyond belief. All the months of reading every book, every SINGLE book DRILLING into my head that my baby won't be as handsome or as intelligent without breastmilk, that he won't love me as much or thrive as much, and with breastmilk he won't ever get sick or have asthma or ear infections and life will be easy, and he won't die of SIDS...do you love your baby? BETTER BREASTFEED THEM!!!!....DO YOU WANT YOUR BABY TO DIE OF SIDS? NO? BREASTFEED! ....all to end up with a baby who couldn't latch because of a tongue tie and a lip tie, and me sitting there, frustrated and in tears, with severe PPD unable to fight against it.  Pumping didn't work either, the pump I got was cheaply made and had several issues and in between taking care of a newborn and recovering I just didn't have the energy to prioritize a goddamn breast pump.

I went to the baby's one month checkup and was, at the time, still doing a combo of breast feeding and supplementing with formula, but he still couldn't latch properly because of the tie and was swallowing air. 30 minutes of starved feeding ended with frustrated screams until we popped the formula bottle in his mouth, then he was fine. Every. Single. Feed.  Do you know how demoralizing it is to watch your kid fight and fight for a good milk flow, screech unhappily at you, and then sigh in relief at a powder mix?  Such empowerment much womanhood.  Just what I needed.

I told the pediatrician I wanted his lip tie taken care of and she shamed me so hard, saying it was invasive, unnecessary, "he might end up with a gap later on but that's no problem" (okay?)  "a lot of kids break their own lip ties from minor trauma like falling" (like I should just push him around every opportunity to assist...?) "dentists are the only ones who correct lip ties" (false) "and there are two dentists in the Salt Lake Valley that I know of who do it so at this point you have to wonder if it's a money grab" this woman had a personal soap box against lip ties.  I said directly to her, "I can't breastfeed" and she replied, "okay."

 That was it .....I just didn't argue. She didn't even look in his mouth.

My PPD was so bad that my roommates, the most beautiful and wonderful angels in this world, took charge and among other things got me a new pediatrician and dragged me and the baby to his two month appointment. I informed the new doctor of the lip tie with what I can only describe as hopelessness; he examined my son's mouth right then and said it was a severe, rare type, and called in a senior pediatric doctor.  That doctor then asked if another doctor could come observe the procedure.  Not only were they willing to help and do it on the spot, they were treating this seriously and using it as a learning experience to help others in the future. Thirty seconds and two drops of blood and it was over, his whole mouth had changed shape.  The doctor mentioned that he would research how best to document the procedure so that it wouldn't cost as much.  Just a money grab, right?

Unfortunately, it was too late for me.  Ender was done trying,  He didn't want anything to do with breastfeeding, and I was so over it and angry that the last thing on my mind was pumping in the middle of this rage and depression.  I felt so defeated.  And I still do.  I appreciate the "Fed is best" movements and I appreciate everyone's sentiments that I'm not a failure, but I don't mind saying that I still feel like one.  I feel like if I wanted I could pump and try to get my supply up again and at least give him bottles.  Truthfully my PPD is anything but resolved so just getting through the day is the most I can do and I feel like I've failed my baby.

I found the below video and it was the ONLY THING that gave me a bit of hope.  Women in their 'mama tribe' and feelgood-doula movements treat breastmilk like it's the solution to every ailment on earth--I was even told to use breastmilk on my bruised nipple (???) but the prospect of feeding Ender bread-soaked in water is so harrowing that I can't help but be amazed at formula's existence.  I know I'm not 'poisoning' my baby (as some websites and forums truly, truly perpetuate) and I know that I love him just as much as someone who breastfeeds, but that doesn't stop the inadequacy or feelings that I gave up and need to do more.  It's so hard to come to peace with literally anything about my birth and postpartum experience, and I doubt I will for some time.

Here's the video that helped:


About Settling Down

I hate to be that stereotypical person, you know, "my life iz sooooOOoo CRAZY lulz" but...haha, it kind of is.

I bought this mug at Ross once.  It has a flamingo on it.  It's this mug, actually. I LOVE flamingos (sidenote, not because I'm into pinup stuff, I actually have loved them because I'm a Benny Siegel fan) but when I noticed this big huge coffee mug, I couldn't get past the big "welcome" banner.  Welcome? Like, you're welcome because this cup is full of coffee?  Welcome to your morning? And I almost didn't get the mug because I was put off by the weird Engrish-reminiscent banner.  But then I thought of this:

And I thought, "oh man, this mug is talking about my life." So I bought it.  And every time I get me a cup o Johan in that mug, I welcome myself to the fuckin' show. 


I've talked years ago on this blog about how I was veering toward a career in earth science or geology.  At the time I was a new EMT and though I love the field, I wasn't sure if I had a future in it.  The truth about EMS is that it doesn't pay, and if I were thinking of committing further--paramedic or firefighter, say--you pretty much have to mow down competition and/or travel extensively to find a position.  I've met many a man in my career field who's so hell bent on getting a spot with a fire station he'd set you on fire.  There are people with a passion for it.  I have many passions.  I don't want to stand in the way of someone who wants and deserves a career as a fire chief.  I am very ambitious, but it just didn't feel right.  So I stalled, waiting.  

However, in my work as an EMT, especially now, where I work around chemicals and dangerous substances, I talk to and network with a lot of people who have been in this field a long time.  I also have the opportunity to do work that I feel is important and meaningful, while thinking about the long term of this field, and getting feedback on my questions and ideals.  These people have made careers at it and they come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of the people I work with are chemists.  Some have hazmat or wildland firefighting experience.  It's a whole world of chemistry, explosions, reactions, burns, concoctions, ...good stuff.  Fun stuff.  I have been mulling over my options as I learn. 

I never thought I'd say it, but my son is another factor in what I plan on doing for the rest of my life.  Honestly, I could be content forever with a fulfilling and mediocre-paying career, I truly could.  If I'm a good EMT, why not be satisfied?  But that changed this year.  Wanting the best for his future blah blah blah--I won't get redundant, every smug parent ever says the same crap, but it really does make a difference in where I see myself going and work I want to do.  I need something sustainable, and something that will ensure he doesn't end up in Farner eating food bank rations (not that I don't have pride in where I come from.  I just want him to have better.)

Whenever I talked about living in Salt Lake to county dwellers, the response is "oh I couldn't live in the city."  "I hate the city."  "The city drives me nuts."  My reply was always the same "I'll move when I'm older."  I wasn't disagreeing with them, but made sense as a young adult to stay somewhere close to networking.  You can find events and meet people.  There's always some shitty concert or bar or party or gallery or festival to get dressed up for.  The shopping is better, the restaurants are better, the extra-curriculars are better.  Being a young adult is about learning what the world has to offer and I learned.

Turns out the "when I'm older" has come, though.  Living in the city is chipping away at my sanity every day.  I don't care about shopping and festivals.  I am not interested in meeting people; I've met all I want to meet.  Driving bumper to bumper and cursing at red lights is pretty much my idea of hell.  I always had this dream of being in a comfortable house in a small community--maybe not as isolated as where I grew up, which is pretty much the jungle--I didn't imagine the handsome lumberjack husband but I'm so glad he's here.  I imagined having foster kids (never imagined my own, but I'm SO glad he's here) and cats (check) spending some place I like working in a home I love managing.  No more farmer's markets, just my own garden.  No more downtown restaurants, just learning my own recipes.  A place where I can pick and choose important events and travel farther to them instead of screaming at the Maverick Center every time there's some dumbass country music artist blocking traffic all night long.  I've outgrown the city and want to go back to my roots.

Every time I envision raising Ender in the city I get massive anxiety.  I was thrown from a backwoods Appalachian school into a city when I was fifteen and it was an obscene culture shock.  I'm not saying it's better or worse.  I feel that school and its effectiveness is based on parental input as well as the teachers, and rural versus urban isn't really an issue in a city the size of Salt Lake.  Allyn was born and raised in Salt Lake and he is the smartest and kindest human I've ever met, so I know it's possible to be a city slicker and turn out okay, but there are parts of my childhood that I want my son to know and not wonder about.  Things like lightning bugs and snakes and the occasional bear in your backyard.  Exploring in the woods with no restrictions, just imagination.  Riding horses and raising animals, survival skills.  The quietness of reading books for hours while it rains.  Being so bored you make up your own games and force your parents to play along.  Grabbing a toy and going outside and letting time pass until the sun is completely gone.  Even in my poverty and knowing, then and now, all of the things I didn't have, those days seemed so completely full to me.  That may be why I go back and try to recapture the magic of places like Cherokee and Ghost Town.

Combining the Two
So, with all of these heavy topics at hand, what am I to do?  I've decided that I'm not yet ready to fully settle down and that's no surprise.  I'm only 30 and there are many more states and maybe countries that I want to live in.  Utah will always be the place I return to, but luckily for me it will be there whenever I am ready.  I am drawn to places, unsurprisingly, with beautiful forests and landscapes.  Before I was ever in foster care, my parents and aunt Doris both pitched the idea to me to become a game warden or work in forestry.

Living and working here has taught me that I really am at my best, and happiest, when my work interacts with nature.  Not just in the way that a park ranger might interact with nature, but the actual science of things; biology, especially chemistry, ecology, geology.  That I have dilly-dallied around and still after years feel strongly about these topics means something to me.  I've moved so much that I'm comfortable with the idea of moving for work, moving my family.  Ender already had his first flight to Tennessee and back.  I used to be a wild woman fluttering around wherever on my Crocodile-Dundee-esque "walkabouts" but I have no problem doing that with my boys either.

I don't know what kind of forestry jobs exist for environmental science graduates, but I know that the career field is open and varied.  I honestly would love the experience; anything from a game warden to a wildland firefighter to a ranger to instructor and on down the line.  The time has finally come to finish my education and I'm doing it without having a set, black and white career in mind.  But I feel great about it.


Life Lately // October Goals

When did liking fall and spooky stuff become the norm? When I was in school you were a total weirdo if you thought about your costume anytime before October 15.  Rude.

It's been awhile since I just sat down and wrote about how things are going, and those are posts I avoid writing because who cares?  You're supposed to write interesting stories and stuff, but back when cool people used to blog for fun and not for money, "what's up with me" posts were always my favorite.

Ender is one month old today.  Everybody's telling me to slow down but I'm loving his strength and watching him grow.  I was not made to take care of tiny babies, and I long for the days he'll be able to communicate with me past a screeching wail.  That being said, oh I love him so much.  It hurts me when he cries.  I am a slave to his tiny impatient little will.  He's a wonderful baby.

We went to Oktoberfest.  I had a great time until the end (naturally) but I took some great pictures of Allyn.  It's sorry and pathetic how much more often I need to get to the mountains, and also to take photos, but I did order a new lens as a late birthday present to myself, and I got some great pictures.  But this one is my faaaaaaaave <3

I got married!  So...to make a long story short, Allyn and I went to Die Antwoord at Saltair a day after my birthday when I was suuuuuuuuper pregnant.  After the song "I Fink U Freeky" (a song of ours) and during the song "I Don't Care" (one of my favorite love songs of theirs) Allyn officially asked me to marry him.  Oh, it was the most beautiful moment, I can't express enough how special it was.

We'd already talked about my hatred of people social anxiety and the likelihood that an actual wedding would cause me more misery than a few hours in a pretty white dress was worth...I just think weddings are so ridiculous.  Thousands of dollars because you are getting married?  A commitment of two people to each other--whyyyyyy does that require such a stiff affair? I mean if you're the partying type the party aspect of it makes sense, especially if you're an extrovert (which neither of us are) but the thousands of dollars in venue and flowers and photography and having matching seats and this big just ridiculous display of tradition do not.  I always thought things like college graduation or buying a home made way more sense to throw a formal party over, but whatever, I was the weirdo who liked Halloween in school....

So we went to, where else? Saltair.  I picked the date--it was the anniversary of our first kiss.  I also picked the venue because it means so much to me and I've taught Allyn all about it.  For those who don't know (the reverend marrying us, for example) the original Saltair building(s) which were destroyed by fire several times, are now just pillars and debris and a long, straight road into nothingness.  The majesty of the resort is gone but everyone who knows me, knows that it haunts me and draws me in regardless.

Where Saltair stood, versus the same road today.  Credit/Read More

The wedding ceremony was perfect.  We had two witnesses, people whom we love and cherish, and most importantly, our son was there.  The service and the vows were so special to me, and luckily I have a printed copy of everything that was said, so that I can always remember it.  I also have a video of it, which I've shamelessly watched and cried to several times. We stood on that old road that played host to thousands of visitors from all over the country, toward the empty lake that to me holds more magic and mystery than anyplace I've ever been.  Every time I look down that road I imagine the silhouette of the resort and thousands of twinkling lights and the roar of conversation, the rail car screeching to a stop to pickup and transport the swimmers.  Now I have a memory there that is real and doesn't involve my imagination.  A piece of me and us is and will always be at the old road, to mix in with all the remembrances and thoughts of everyone else who had special moments there.

I know it's extremely random and weird, especially factoring in my disdain for weddings, but ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to get married barefoot.  My mom is probably the person who put that ridiculous notion into my head since she was all about that bra-burning 70's free spirit crap.  When she married my dad she wore a flower crown with her feathered bangs, ha! Anyway, it somehow got into my head that I needed to be married outside (outside is far superior to anything man-made) and barefoot.

And lo, it happened! I kicked off my sneakers onsite and the entire affair I was barefoot.  Not only was it great to fulfill that strange, absurd lifelong expectation, but I felt a bit closer to my mom, and that's always nice.

I also cried, and Allyn almost cried.

So now, in addition to Ender's Birthday, my sister's Birthday, my wedding anniversary, and my Utah anniversary--all in September!!!-- I get to look forward to all that October has to offer.  I wanted to make a little fall to-do list.  Honestly these days just putting clothes on is the end of my routine, not the beginning, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to make a big-ass list and be optimistic about it.

October Goals
-Deep clean the baby's room and our bedroom
-Go back to physical therapy
-Go back to therapy therapy (haha)
-Go with Allyn to therapy
-Take care of insurance records etc due to marriage and having a baby
-Start calorie counting again
-work on getting milk supply up for when I return to work
-Get Rusty moved into the garage/clean out the garage
-Make a dump run with the garbage leftover from moving
-DIY lighted curtains for our bedroom closet
-Hang up shelves in the bedroom and finish hanging pictures
-See the symphony (they're playing Beethoven's 5th!!!)

Spooky goals
-carve pumpkins
-make my costume of course!
-finish decorating the house and get the decorations out of the garage
-bake a cemetery cake with the kids
-go to a haunted house with Allyn
-do my skull makeup on Allyn
-attend Fear Con or the Halloween Expo (not sure which yet!)
-Go to Wheeler Farm and do the haunted corn maze + pumpkin patch
-Go to Red Butte Gardens
-Drive up to Silver Lake, maybe hike up a bit if the weather permits
-bake Halloween treats for the guys at work
-Go to the Halloween Hoot at Tracy Aviary
-Enter the Halloween contest at the Gallivan Plaza Monster Block Party

Oh yeah I'm sure allll of that will get done.  To be fair, the spooky goals are more like "here's what's happening and what I want to go, let's pick a few" so as long as I get out of the house I'm good.

Life is busy, but it's a good busy.


Ender's Birth Story

Oh man, I'm a mom!

To preface this birth story (which I am writing out of total need for catharsis and no entertainment whatsoever) I'll start with the end of my pregnancy.  I'll also state that I have always had an extreme fear of pregnancy and childbirth.  I was fully anticipating a traumatic experience but it really blew away even my expectations. Ha!  Also, a final disclaimer: this is not a fun or entertaining read and unless you're just that interested, I'd skip over it.  I wanted a written experience for my own benefit and that's about it.  You've been warned of the tedious horror of this birth story! Onward! 

On my 30th birthday, which was the solar eclipse, I felt a total lack of fetal movement.  It was worrying, obviously--he'd always been a fairly active baby.  Allyn and I went to the doctor, who appeased me by performing an ultrasound.  He confirmed the decreased movements (as well as some other stuff--fluid in his kidney, low amniotic fluid, a few complications) and ordered weekly NSTs until an induction was scheduled.  They kept an eye on the kid, who had just literally decided he wasn't going to move anymore.  My health got poorer, with increased glucose and even worse anemia.  I was so done that I didn't even mind the fact that I was getting induced.  Going into labor naturally wasn't important; I just wanted to get this over with, I was so miserable and worried about his health.

So we check in, September 4 at 2030.  I had told my OB as well as the nurse on staff that I have intense PTSD and any internal exam or invasive procedure was going to set me off--even things like the IV and catheters, they're HUGE triggers--but right away my hopes for being understood and respected were dashed when it became obvious that my nurse was a total novice.  She was more nervous than I was and I was the one about to have a baby.  She blew out a vein in my arm immediately and I started crying.

She informed me that she'd have to perform a cervical check and I warned her again that I wasn't going to handle it well.  She then proceeded to ignore my screams and panicked lack of breath and jam her fingers up in there nice and good while being panicky and terrified of my reaction.  I did learn, post-sobbing, that I was already 2 centimeters dilated.  She started cervodil and I asked for the charge nurse to step in for any future cervical checks.  I have nothing against novice medical personnel but I'm done being a guinea pig for them, it's like cooking your first meal for Gordon Ramsay....just a really, really bad idea to put a severely traumatized person in the hands of people who aren't used to seeing patients with those experiences. 

Hours go by and I held off with any pain medication or intervention because I hate catheters.  The rest of my labor for the next however long was an uneventful blur with increasing pain and discomfort and trying without success to sleep.  I don't even know how an entire day passed, but I do know that I finally, finally asked for pain medication and got fentanyl.  I've never had it before and WHEEEE! I felt better than great, for a very short amount of time.  Once I'd maxed out my fentanyl I endured the pain a bit longer before tapping out and asking for the epidural.  (I should add that in between, I had another panic attack during a cervical check and my doctor suggested I take a xanex.  I suggested I take ten. They gave me one.) 

Now what follows as far as the epidural goes...is my personal experience.  I'm not shitting on my hospital and I don't enjoy talking shit about doctors.  I have huge respect for what they do.  But I also calls em like I sees em and my experience with this doctor was probably one of the worst things I've endured and has made me 10000000000x less likely to ever consider birth or pain meds or doctors or needles or intervention or whatever.  In fact it made me sympathize with my dad ripping all his cords out and trying to leave.  

By the time he came in I was in 10/10 pain and lying on my side half-dissociated.  I had bought a birthing gown that was prettier than ye olde hospital gown and had holes in all the right places: the belly for monitoring, the back for the epidural, and the boobs for skin to skin and breastfeeding.  It was still pretty modest, but since I'd just had a panic attack at a recent cervical check I was splayed out with probably my ass showing.  I don't care, I'm not modest anyway, and a hospital is no place for modesty.  

However, the doctor enters the room, I'm on my side moaning with my eyes closed, and I remember his voice, a disdainful "Can we do something about covering her up? I'm just not going to be comfortable with her or this..." you get the idea.  He continued to complain about whatever body part he saw until one of the nurses rushed over to hide my obnoxious, in the way body.  Had I been more conscious I would've had words with this man--sorry for nudity in the hospital?  And why not address "her" as a human being? I mean, a simple "hey lady let's cover dat ass!" would have sufficed. 

I couldn't really talk but I was laying there whimpering and trying to form sentences asking what would happen.  I've seen epidurals in videos, but my brain fog assured I didn't really remember what the procedure entailed.  I tried to ask.  I remember feeling him picking me up and sliding me around very unceremoniously and it terrified me.  I hate that I have that reaction when he was just doing his job, but he was very rough and strong, and being a ragdoll flung around was not pleasant nor good for abating trauma. 

Nobody really replied to my dazed questions, and without a warning he jammed in the first needle.  You know, the spine is a pretty bad place to jab somebody without a warning.  I can give him the benefit of the doubt there, maybe he thought going without warning was the better idea for the traumatized wimpy girl who couldn't even handle a cervical check like an adult...I don't know. What I do know is that I screamed, and sobbed, and while he was working he just kept saying "DON'T SOB DON'T SOB STOP SOBBING" which was exactly as effective as you'd think.  I felt totally betrayed and disrespected and ignored, all I wanted was to do what Dad did and rip everything out, tell them to eat it, and run to Farner.  In fact I strongly considered it, and probably would have done it had I not been pregnant.

I was so traumatized by this point that I was begging for Derik.  He came and calmed me down the best that he could.  I don't even remember his visit, just crying like a baby and wanting to hear his voice.  Everything was making everything else worse.  The awkwardness of the medical staff (is there seriously zero training on abuse survivors and invasive procedures?) the horrible epidural placement experience, the defeatedness of being confined to the bed thanks to the catheter and all of the other shame I was experiencing at already not getting the birth you're promised in those woodsy twee mommy blogs....it was just snowballing. Poor Allyn didn't have a chance.  I kept wishing he would leave and go home and pet Flemith so I could just endure this without looking so weak and pathetic, but I was also scared to be alone.  So he was in the shittiest position (after me of course...) 

Unsurprisingly the epidural failed.  My feet got numb and I was dying of pain in my pelvis.  I was told to sit up and push the button to get the medicine to flow to my pelvic area.  It didn't help.  In fact (is this even a thing?) the areas that he numbed actually hurt.  It felt like Novocaine wearing off a pulled tooth and every nerve was tingling with stabbing pains. From this point on I was in even more of a dissociative fog due to pain.

The OB on duty showed up to break the amniotic sac and all I remember from that was hearing, after the burst of fluid, the word 'meconium.'  I started to panic as everyone stupidly assured me "oh, it's norrrmal, it's noooothing.  You probably read some bad stuff about it but it's normal and we'll just flush out the fluid with some IV fluid..." there are not enough unimpressed, eye-rolly gifs in the world to express my disdain...I hate being treated like a total fucking idiot by medical professionals.  I got an internal fetal monitor, (yes, placing that hurt, as did everything else in this entire scenario) but despite the pain and now fear for my baby, it was "time to push"!  

Out of the shit show so far, I actually enjoyed pushing.  It felt like I was making a difference.  I was being coached and guided to do something instead of sitting there getting stabbed and poked and fingered and prodded.  I did really good at pushing.  It hurt, and it began to hurt more as the baby moved--the nurse remarked at one point while feeling around up in there that I was going to tear "really badly" because of how tight I was...great!  Thanks! I didn't care, it was a finish line--!

--until it wasn't.  I pushed. and pushed. and pushed. I could feel fluid coming out and every time I pushed, I could feel the little fetal monitor cord move out, and then immediately go back in.  The kid's head was stuck.  I pushed anyway, sure that when the time came I could deal with the pain (since the only thing numb was still my feet and calves, and the doctor kept coming back to give me more doses, which wound their way up my back and into my shoulder area) but it just didn't happen.  My strength started to go.

I was surprised to learn later that I'd been pushing for hours.  My OB had warned me before we started that a first time mom might have a long time pushing, ie "one or two hours."  Um okay, because I've been here since Monday night and it's now Wednesday morning, two hours isn't even long.  As it turns out I pushed close to three hours.  I could feel my baby in my pelvis and I knew he was stuck.  Finally I just gave up.  I told the nurses it wasn't happening and I'm sure they hear that with everyone's birth so they did their best to cheerlead me on.  Nope.  Not happening.  "You've got to push! You can do it! He's almost here!" 

I think at this point I crashed.  I told the doctor I was done and just wanted the baby out.  He looked at me for a minute, probably reflecting on how happy he was to be a man, and then nodded in agreement.  I heard rabble of preparing me for a c section and everyone ran off.  A nurse cheerfully told Allyn to bring the camera because he would want photos once the baby was out.  I stopped him and told him what I truly truly believed; that I wasn't going to make it and was going to die shortly.

It's such a strange and terrible feeling to believe you're going to die and say goodbye to someone you love.  I don't even particularly enjoy living, but I've always preferred the idea of dying on my own terms and dying after a miserable non-birth while Allyn had to watch me writhe in pain, unable to provide any comfort, was not how I wanted to go.  I just remember having the thought that he was going to take photos of me before I died, and I didn't want him to be traumatized.  I thought about what my son would be like and how he would be told about me, and how hard it would be for Allyn to bring up a kid himself.  These are horrible, horrible thoughts to have and no woman should have to endure that fear and terror--I'm not blaming any one person for it, but just the system in general.  It failed me here, during this experience.

Anyway, everything after that was literally a dream.  I felt them undress me and move the bed.  They were trying to reassure me that I wouldn't fall off when they changed me from the bed to the crucifix (that's probably not its name but that's what I'm calling it) and at that point falling was the least of my worries.  I've moved a billion patients, most of them bigger than me and I have no fear of backboards or gurneys or whatever, but I couldn't vocalize this--that again they were pandering and reassuring me where they didn't need to, and neglecting me where I needed reassurance--oh well, I was going to die soon.

My body was screaming in pain, I could almost sense some kind of panic coming from my son, and I couldn't decide if I wanted Allyn there or wanted him to be away (someone asked and I eventually ended up yelling for him when I was sure I was dying and my last moments were upon me, haha) the doctor put something in my IV and I started screaming that I could feel it going up my arm.  Everyone was frantically reassuring me that I wouldn't feel anything to which I countered I FEEL EVERYTHING!!! I felt their hands on my body, I felt the pain of the epidural medicine prickling me, I felt whatever the hell going into my arm.
"You can ....feel that?"
"YES I DO!!"
"How strongly can you feel it?"

-awkward medical procedure silence-

I begged to be knocked out and the doctor halfheartedly attempted to tell me that something could happen to the baby--yeah okay but the meconium is a non-issue, right?--and in some kind of demonic voice I uttered I DON'T CARE PUT ME OUT.  If I verbalized that I just wanted to die, I don't remember it, but the truth is that I would've loved the respite.

Aaaaand cue the voice of the damned anesthesiologist very near my head.  I heard him say "I don't think she's going to stand it" (why the fuck does he talk about me in third person!?!??!) as he pushed MORE meds into my epidural and I felt the coldness trickle upwards (as it had nowhere downwards to go by that point, and I was supine) one of the last things I felt was that shitty medicine numb/tingle/sting EVERYTHING from my back up to my shoulders, into my arms, and finally my neck.  Allyn said I fell asleep but the truth is, I passed out--either from exhaustion or pain, or both, who knows.

I woke up to a flurry of doctors and nurses and Allyn holding a bundle of something.  I was so out of it I couldn't talk but I just stared.  I couldn't see the baby's face and barely remembered who I was, let alone that I'd "had" a baby.  He and someone else asked if I wanted to hold him and due to the body-wide epidural, I couldn't even lift my arms.  I legit tried--nope.  I shook my head and fell back asleep. At this time and many times since, it has "felt" like someone just took a baby off a shelf and handed it to me.  I got no experience of birthing, I got zero skin to skin or breastfeeding.  There was just suddenly a baby.  It's a strange and surreal feeling, and a little depressing when you compare it to the "magical miracle of birth" and realize you puked jello all over that horrible anesthesiologist and that was your final contribution before passing out.

I woke up again and it was quieter, and to the left of me was a clear hospital bassinet.  There was a baby in it...again, nothing ever made me feel like this was "my" baby.  Just "the" or "a" baby.  I looked at the baby and the baby looked at me.  Even though we were pretty far apart, a foot or two, he immediately looked at my face.  He was as immobile as I was and we just faced each other and stared.  Everybody always told me how "in love" I would be and how I would just know my baby immediately.  I would say that what I felt was far more profound than love.  Love is pretty ephemeral and mortal in the gist of things.  I felt like the transcendence cat.  I felt like I was looking at something more than a person, or a tiny human, I was looking at a piece of the universe, and a piece of my universe, and I was the universe, and we were both terrified and we had both died and we were both alive and we were total strangers, but we were closer than any two humans could ever be.  Also, he had my eyes.

I've looked at him a lot since and he's looked back and every so often I get a glimmer of that feeling again.  I don't know what to call it, but I'll never get tired of it.  



Marie Ogden and the Home of Truth

I love cults.

Okay, well, I love learning about them.  I get obsessed with reading, investigating, and watching footage of the Jonestown saga in the same way most Mormon mommies watch The Bachelor or pick out scrapbooking sheets.  I can't help it and I think a lot of people feel the same way; there's just some kind of draw to watching the questionable, ludicrous and dark things people do and believe, as well as how cult leaders engage and persecute their sheep.

I won't go into cult psychology or what I find most fascinating--that would be a whole separate post, but I did want to share a jaunt that Allyn and I made to a cult location earlier this year.  When I say earlier this year, I am ashamed to admit I mean January.  I have been meaning to blog about this f o r e v e r but it's August and here we are.  Forgive me and know that there will be an even better Utah-cult related post coming up, but the upcoming one will feature an active cult!

But first....

We went to Moab for Allyn's birthday and a hobby of ours, exploring abandoned places, intersected with the location of the Home of Truth.  I've mentioned it on the blog before, but I'll give a proper recap in case anyone's interested.  You can also read more in-depth info here and here.

And yes--Moab is beautiful any time of year and we had a WONDERFUL time!

*happy sigh*
Aaaaanyway, the cult.

Marie Ogden

Remember the name, it's important!  Marie had zero to do with Utah until she moved there as an adult.  She was a rich widow who turned to the occult after her husband died.  She traveled around talking about how the world was doomed until she got--via divine intervention I suppose--the idea to make a commune that would survive the last great calamities of the world.  Marie and her few followers bought a barren, harsh piece of land in San Juan County and settled there.

Creepily, the setup was comprised of concentric circle areas called "portals", and buildings were built on these imaginary boundaries.  There was an Inner Portal, Middle Portal, and Outer Portal.  Like any reputable cult leader Marie required all potential followers to hand over their worldly possessions and anything of monetary value and accept her doctrine.  There was no water, no electricity, and no dependence on the outside world, which Marie believed (a bit ahead of her time really) would be destroyed by nuclear war.

Wouldn't you hand over your checkbook right away? 

Impressively, the cult grew from the original handful to around 100 members at its 'peak' years of 34-35.  They did normal cult stuff like farming, starving, not having cars (except Marie) not ever entering civilization (except Marie, who went shopping almost daily in nearby Monticello), not eating meat, not drinking or using tobacco, and preparing for that apocalypse.


Whoops, Dead Body 

While the cult was doing its thing, the Mormon settlers of the area mostly ignored what was happening.  I read in a lot of places that Mormons are "tolerant" of cults, but I think it's far more likely that the Mormon plane of thought is "finally, someone who looks weirder than us!"  It's like the relief of being picked second-to-last in dodgeball.  Either way, no1curr about Marie and her weird shenanigans, so Marie got bold and decided she'd take her "God speaks to me through a typewriter" stuff to the local news, because she wanted to convert more people.

Mormons ignored this for the most part as well.  She bought the entire newspaper and though I don't have any articles, I'm sure you could guess the topics--fire, brimstone, God's anger, death, salvation, come over here and eat no meat with us et cetera.  It was shrugged off and no one paid attention until one of the cult members, a miss Edith Peshak, who had only joined in hopes of curing her cancer--passed away and Marie wrote brazenly about keeping the body preserved and feeding it, preparing it for "restoration."  She couldn't stop her from dying, but by God she was going to bring her back to life!!!  Exciting. Apparently the corpse was fed milk and eggs daily--how, I'm not sure, but it was also rubbed with salt and Marie oversaw the process by which her minions desecrated the corpse.  I mean, "prepared' it.  

This was the beginning of the end for the Home of Truth.  The cops showed up due to complaints over what citizens were reading in the local paper; they saw the body (remarked that it was well preserved) decided there was nothing wrong with keeping an embalmed body around other than the general weirdness, and left the compound.  Legal or not, this was too weird even for the Mormons, and their apathy turned to disgruntled side eyes.  Shortly thereafter the cult members followed suit. After all they had to live around this insane woman.  They became disillusioned and abandoned the Home of Truth (minus a few diehards.)  In the end Marie's cult was an epic failure, the body was lost forever, and the creator and divine interpreter Marie Ogden lived out her senior years giving piano lessons to the children of San Juan County.  Bet that was awkward. 

Our Trip 

So we trespassed to get to this place, but other than a few startled/confused cows and what I presume was the rancher driving by (I am 99% sure he knew we were there and didn't mind) it was a quiet, spooky January day.  I remember thinking at the time how weird it was that I was hiking through the desert while pregnant, because I didn't feel pregnant--OH HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED--and how eerie the entire place seemed.  It was so quiet.  Nothing like a desert Ghost Town to be absolutely motionless and suspended in time.

The buildings were in a really sorry state, as was the land: there's an unfinished cobblestone chapel, remnants of a windmill and water cisterns, and a vague circular layout.  We didn't find any treasures MINUS THE ONE other than a couch, some female shoes (WERE THEY MARIE'S?!?!?! I MUST KNOW) and a few other pieces of trash.  For some reason, a few of the houses are literally filled with manure--who buys a tract of land with a cult headquarters on it and then shovels the relics full of shit? Ranchers, I guess.  Supposedly there's a cemetery out there but we didn't find it.  We did find something cooler.  Read on! 

Okay, so ALL credit for this creepy find goes to Allyn.  I'd filled him in on the history of the ranch before going, as you do.  He was shining his light up in a once-attic---this one, to be particular...and he noticed a familiar name....

The crate reads:


Isn't that CRAZY?!?!?! I tried googling the name Letitia Whitley with no result.  But we all know she was a cult member, hence the 'c/o'.  Actually SEEING that someone had sent belongings or who knows what, to someone in this strange Depression-era faction of nuclear fearmongers, made the whole thing more real and exciting for us.

I'm assuming I could get some records from Letitia if I were to go to the Family History museum, but I haven't been.  Something to look into though.  How cool is that?


The Flood of 2017

Wait, let's back up.

Before the flood, I begged demanded for vacation time, because I was so, so woefully unprepared for baby.  I had a few things here and there and when I cancelled my baby shower (SUCH a good idea, in hindsight, lol) several friends showed up with gifts anyway which was amazing and wonderful.  It wasn't just setting up for his "space" but it was also a mental preparation--I wanted to have a breather.  As someone who plans on working up until delivery time and will come to work shortly thereafter I just wanted time to myself before human motherhood.

I got the time off and booked a one night trip to Zermatt resort in Midway, spared no expense, rented Allyn and I off-road vehicles and massages and a nice suite...it was going to be incredible.  Half babymoon, half early birthday...

The last day I worked (my usual overnight shift) I was giddy with the prospect of getting everything done.  Allyn called the guard shack early in the morning to ask if the house was flooded.  News reports were popping up of a flood in Salt Lake City of all places and he was listening to the areas affected on the radio.  Our neighborhood was one of the worse spots.  I called Derik, who was at home sleeping, and he very confusedly said everything was fine.

Well, that was before he got out of bed...

The next few days are a blur. 

We left work early to assess the damage.  I didn't take any interior pictures, mostly because I was angry and frustrated and disgusted and repulsed, but also because....why? I don't need to document the devastation of my house.  The carpets were soaked, the walls were bulging, and a smell was arising.  

We turned off the air conditioner and turned on fans in an attempt to clean the mess.  It was hilarious; thirty seconds over a square yard and the reservoir for the water vacuum was full of black, muddy sludge.  Over and over.  Allyn and Derik labored all night and day while I suffered in the heat and felt like an asshole because I literally can't move furniture or push a vacuum or anything.  I kept walking through the house and finding soaked random items, things like the first baby book I bought, or my moccasin shoes, or the bottom of a pack of diapers, or the base of a piece of art I bought for Allyn before we realized I was pregnant, that has our son's namesake on the print.  Everything was sopping and warped and ruined and I was disgusted, hot, fat, and pregnant.

After the first miserable night, during, which we suffered "swamp sleep" on reeking, wet furnished areas and I was reminded again of why I left the south, Allyn and I were driving somewhere and I commented that I felt like something bad was going to happen.  I felt like the landlady was going to tell us we had to leave. 

At some point after that, (see? it's all a blur) she stopped by with a somber look on her face; we had to vacate.  The place was uninhabitable.  And by all accounts it truly was, and was worsening the longer we sat there.  After she broke the news to us I had a good cry with Flemith stuck to my face, and then I bawled on the phone while I cancelled our reservation.  We had nowhere to go.  Nowhere. I was supposed to be putting up my baby's decorations and taking time off for a booked massage in the mountains, not frantically searching for a place to live.  That night, the final night we had before "evacuation" I had a huge mental breakdown and cried for hours and slept in my car because it was cooler than inside the house, and way less Resident Evil 7 mold-monstery.  

The Red Cross offered a motel, and other unhelpful things like clothes and blankets (not dissing the Red Cross...I just had no need of blankets....)  I had no desire to sit in a motel with three cats.  But just when I thought that might be our only choice, (and while the men loaded up every single belonging we had into the detached garage, which had not flooded) I was contacted by someone who offered her basement to us.  We worked out a deal that was cheaper than a motel, with two bedrooms, an actual bathroom, and access to the kitchen.  

As fast as we'd packed up our stuff, we hauled the necessities -- clothes, food, and beds, basically--across town to her basement.  Now here's the moment where I have to talk about how amazing humans can be.  I know we paid her, but this girl could have gotten a great, lucrative deal for a monthly rental.  Instead she took us in after a disaster and worked with us and our budget.  She was kind and friendly and offered empathy (I'm so rotund and sweaty I garner pity pretty easily these days, house or no house) for our situation.  One of my friends who is religious called this helper an angel, and I can't argue with that definition.  She literally saved us from far, far worse options.  

The rest of my "vacation" was spent being angry, frustrated, worried, and getting taken advantage of by rental predators. I tried very hard to avoid rental scams, and THEY ARE EVERYWHERE--WHY!?!?  I loved hearing how bad my credit was over and over again, and I especially loved the old Mormon man who snapped that I "must've done something wrong to get booted, go try the homeless shelter".  Jesus is so proud of you.

We were on our way to dinner and I told Derik to drive carefully; I sensed that something bad would happen.  It seems explainable as pent-up dread, but I believed we were going to wreck the car.  Two mornings after, I got word that my dad wrecked his bike again (the night I had the bad feeling) and was in ICU.  I vacillated between being livid at my idiotic younger sister for not telling me about this, being terrified and depressed that I might not lose just my home, but also my parent, and just being exhausted from pregnancy and the shit life decided to take.  Everyone asked me if I was flying home, but that seemed impossible, mentally.  I couldn't leave my people here, struggling to find a house.  There was no way.  

So we pushed on.  I had to dispute application fees from a scammy rental company.  I had to fill out applications and waddle my huge egg self over to Chase Bank for a money order to be told "you need an account..." YOU'RE A BANK! A BANK.  I HAND YOU CASH YOU HAND ME MONEY ORDER.  WHAT PART OF THAT NEEDS AN ACCOUNT? GROCERY STORES DO MONEY ORDERS.  I scrambled to fill out hand-written applications before the post office closed, fought back against a rental "agent" who claimed I didn't sound "serious" because my accent "isn't from around here."  Waited for updates on Dad and got hung up on by the nurses.  During this time the things that kept me going were the people around me, my poor, terrified animals, and the kid who routinely makes me feel like I have three separate pelvises that are all coming apart like the Titanic. 

In The Addams Family there's a scene after the Addams get kicked out of their mansion; they're all laying jumbled together in a crummy motel, the only one awake is Morticia.  She's sitting up in bed with Gomez dozing in her lap, and she looks around at her uprooted family with an incredibly sad look but then does that fantastic diva-esque eyes-narrowing that Anjelica Huston has mastered, and then she marches off in the middle of the night, on foot, to confront Fester.  That's a long vague bad description of a very poignant scene but I completely felt that way every time I was blanketed in sadness or felt like giving up.  

After hearing about how I'm a hoodlum or how I'm arbitrarily denied with no explanation, I finally found an apartment, and a renter, with whom I really clicked.  Landlord/tenant relationships are important, and when my mention of bad credit came up her response was "credit scores don't define a person."  It was the first time I'd felt treated like a human in a week.  She offered to hold the apartment for a deposit, and I had to make the quick decision to accept without any of my family there (everyone else was working--I was on "vacation", remember?) I figured the lease was a year so if they hated my choice, they could hate me for a year.

That was earlier this week; Friday the 4th of August we moved in.  We are still up to our chins in unpacked boxes and I'm even more pregnant and even more maladapted to heat.  I now have a scramble of budget to fix, addresses to update, projects to plan for the apartment, and continued paperwork for things like utility bills.  Getting a place meant that we have time and ability to sit and figure those things out but by no means do I feel settled; I had to dig through boxes just to find my work shoes yesterday.

I know everyone has their quirks and worries.  Mine is always about stability.  I don't talk about it, but when I take a shower, I'm always thinking of when I used to hunker in a tin bucket with lukewarm water or when I had to slide down a slope to a spring to carry water home during the winter.  Whenever somebody does something wasteful like toss a tissue into the toilet and flush I think about the bucket we had as a "toilet" when I was small, that needed to be carry-emptied every so often, and was used by five kids and two adults, in the kids' bedroom.  I still pause and marvel at doorknobs instead of big rectangular pieces of wood nailed into the wall.  I see huge aisles of food and think about our little modest garden harvests and trading zucchini for deer meat or whatever the barter was.  Whenever it rained in Salt Lake previously, I compared it to the immense storms of the Southeast that drowned wild animals and always knocked down one or five of the trees around us.  Cozying up under blankets in a bed when I slept on the floor and outside for years, or even feeling heat opposed to stoking the fire and being terrified of operating the wood heater at ten years old, I think of those and more, all the time.  

A lot of people will scold those of us with this mentality, that we don't "allow" ourselves to be happy and enjoy the moment.  You're goddamned right I don't.  I always worry.  I always think what if.  I know what it feels like to be on the unimaginable side of poverty, to a place that's almost unreachable unless you know where to go (hint: Farner, Tennessee.)  I know how quickly times and places change and how one day you can come home from school and be swept to a city hundreds of miles away with no warning, no belongings.

What this flood taught me is that I'm right to think this way.  It absolutely validated every worry or thought I've ever had.  I would not have been prepared if I hadn't thought of the possibility--close to every day--that something might happen to my house.  I'm not saying I'm a psychic, but that old "prepare for the worst" saying is pretty much how my brain operates everything.  It has for years and I expect it probably always will.

I did not anticipate the good though.  I am still in awe of how kind these strangers were, and how well my friends carried me through all of this, even though I am not the only person in the world who is hurting right now.  I got so many kind offers, both of support and assistance, and despite my bitching and complaining the people who were stuck in the basement with me didn't utter a peep of negative thoughts, and wouldn't let me carry or move anything (trust me, I tried to anyway--I physically can't, anymore.)

All moms ever do is one-up each other on their miserable experiences so now I guess I get to join the club and say OH YEAH? WELL WE WERE HOMELESS WHEN I WAS 34 WEEKS.........

Just kidding.

One of the nicest things about the new place has been putting my baby stuff into the empty room ready for him.  I didn't think I would even look forward to it as the old house didn't have much in the way of space--I'm not big on nurseries and could care less about a theme.  But it feels like we will have somewhere comfortable, both he and I, while we adjust to the horror that is new human life, and I am so grateful for that opportunity.

Will I chill out and actually get comfortable and let my guard down? Nope, I'll be thinking every day about how anything horrible could happen.  But I am a multitasker thought-wise, and my fears are always paralleled with gratitude for what I have, because I know it can be taken away when you least expect it.


Creative Burnout and Recovery

This post won't be "4 helpful tips to avoid..." or "Learn how I overcame.....!" because I don't play no clickbait.  I just wanted to chat for a bit (ok, rant for a bit) about some creative burnout, what's been on my mind, and I guess my creative headspace recently and currently.

After coming home from Sweden I really got into doing pinup.  It was something I'd always been "into" since my great and eternal love for Fallout, although my atomic age obsession starts in a way nerdier spot, with my love for chemistry, radiation, and ultimately nuclear power--but the point is, I started getting into the subculture and for a long time, found another outlet artistically.  I also really enjoyed it because after losing 60 pounds I felt great in front of a camera, took good photos, had a nice figure--who doesn't want to show off their sexy new bod amirite? Haha.

I've been to so many car shows and contests since.  I relished the opportunities to get out of an EMT uniform and go put on my petticoats.  I even started doing decent winged liners and victory rolls. (Okay, subpar, not totally decent, but they passed inspection) and for someone who considers a ponytail an updo, this is practically magic.  I met a few nice people, got into the cars and car culture in a way I hadn't before, felt 'glam' in a way I hadn't before, and as with all artistic endeavors one pursues out of love, got inspired to up my game.

It's really weird though, usually when I get inspired to up my game, I'm eager to do better.  And in endeavors like painting, it's frustrating because I feel like I plateau and can't do better.  It's really hard to shake up a hobby you've been into since you could read.  So with painting, writing, piano, photography--I try really hard, push myself, get inspired, taper off....rinse and repeat.  It's like a very long race.  However in 2017 everything stalled.  My camera lens broke.  My body changed proportions and I no longer felt good in a circle skirt (I feel more like a circus tent.)  I haven't felt like writing in forever--not sure why, it just hasn't been there.  Nothing groundbreaking happened on the painting front.  Just a bunch of Till Lindemann doodles because I am trash.

But pinup was especially dragging me down and bumming me out.  What used to be fun just wasn't fun anymore.  I used to hungrily follow other models photoshoots and be just amazed and wowed and charmed and inspired.  Those feelings turned to "Meh."  Same with my own photos--in fact I didn't even want photos taken anymore.  (See the circus tent comment.)  Car show days were sour days.  If I have to hear one more person tell me how inspiring Bettie Page was--she had schizophrenia guys, it's not a story of empowerment and girl power, it's a story of a debilitating illness marked by years of suffering with no relief!!!!--I just felt like I was stalling in a place I didn't enjoy and wasn't connecting with the scene.

I tried for months to ignore this and smile my way through it like I suppose a good pinup does.  All the while the rest of my creativity plodded along.  I painted here and there.  I made Allyn some shoes for Father's Day, and doodled a bit.  I've written here on the blog, albeit not routinely.  I've spent time in nature: usually the best way in the world to recharge my batteries.  But this time it seems like I'm dragging my feet.  The energy loss as I moved into the third trimester really caught up with me.


And all around me, almost suffocatingly, is the pinup world that I loved and felt gave me nothing at all.  Like I say, I tend to get inspired by that suffocation, that's what artists do.  You just have to get it out of your system, but this time it had the opposite effect.  It wasn't just the attitude of some of the people involved, either.  Actually, my very last car show was a fantastic experience.  I went to Helper, Utah and won an awesome piece of art and participated in an insanely fun contest with awesome girls--it was a dream--and I was still burned out at the end of it.  Modeling before had been so fun, but that day I barely allowed any photos.

I have no idea how much of this is due to pregnancy, and moving to a new phase in life and taking on a new role.  Probably a lot.  But I just can't ignore all of the issues in the pinup community.  I suddenly decided that I didn't want to, and went on a cleanout.  I wiped and unfollowed and put at the back of my closet (and mind) all of the photoshoots and models and dresses and victory rolls and red lips.  I was so scared that this made me a failure, until I actually did it and breathed THE BIGGEST SIGH of relief.  Sometimes you don't even know how bad the thorn in your side is hurting until it's gone.

There was a time where this would've puzzled me and I would have spent too much time trying to analyze and breakdown where I went wrong in the creative process and trying to problem solve how to bring back the spark and the joy and chasing after that outlet, but happily that time in my life is over.  I don't even care.  If something is not working for me, it's not working for me and I can't force it.  I can't force an uninspiring hobby any more than I can force a dull or poisonous relationship.  So I'm just not going to.

I washed my hands of the burnout and figured I'd just be that boring lady adding things to her Target baby registry in the meantime, waiting for inspiration to come back.  It has, in a big and unexpected way.  Allyn and I first became friends while he helped me figure out my Valkyrie costume last year; it seems with him around there's always some creative thing that we can do together, even with me hugely pregnant and fat and both of us sleep deprived.

Today (Saturday, July 15) there's a Halloween-themed event in Magna, Utah, and Allyn and I have gathered the equipment to dress up and go.  We are both Halloween/costume fanatics (duh) and we both have a background in special effects makeup--he's way more enthusiastic than me--but his enthusiasm and knowledge rubs off on me in the right inspirational way.  It's almost like we feed off each other's creativity and I can't tell you how special it is to have a partner like that.

I think it's a relief to remind myself that pinup isn't my identity.  I'm not one of those girls who lives and breathes 40's and 50's.  Not that there's anything wrong with that--there absolutely is not.  But I'm just an artist, and a costumer, and a cosplayer, and a makeup artist, and a painter, and a writer, and a bunch of stuff.  If something isn't working for me I can move on to the next thing that works.  It's refreshing, and removes that negative suffocation I was feeling.

I don't believe in that "The Universe" stuff, but I will admit it was pretty reaffirming to see that shortly after I said "eff this" to trying to grin and bear it and keep up with a scene that was doing me no joy, I got a few requests to make custom painted shoes (Allyn is a good model) and there was this email:

So, until next time!