Making it a home. (Photowall review)

When I moved to my new apartment, it gave me the opportunity to take an audit of all of my things. To downsize. This was especially true since I was moving into a much smaller apartment — about half the size, really.

Getting the layout of the rooms, honestly wasn’t as big of a challenge as I thought it might. It took a little tweaking, but things fell into place and just… suddenly it felt like home. A big part of that, was the small personal touches. Getting things up on the walls.

I don’t know about you — but I’m not really a huge fan of bare walls. I think it’s something I picked up from my grandma. I find it a little funny because I do love Scandinavian style, which is often more minimalistic. But there’s a way of having things up and not have them feel so cluttered. Selecting statement pieces to highlight and differentiate areas.

When Photowall reached out to me, I was beyond excited. I had one wall I couldn’t sort out. One wall that was just … not complete. I had photos, I had large art pieces… but none of them were right. I didn’t want to do another collage wall opposite of a collage wall… and my large art pieces were all vertical in orientation, which… just wasn’t right.

Photowall is a Swedish company that specializes in beautiful wallpapers and murals — but also in canvases and posters. Everything is printed to order, which means yes, you can have custom prints! This isn’t just for the canvases or framed prints — that’s wallpapers and murals, too. Talk about a game changer.

Honestly, if I wasn’t renting, I would have 100% done an amazing print wallpaper on that whole wall. Some big bold statement wall… Florals or botanicals, maybe some kind of print in a vivid color… or a natural scene… something in watercolors… Photowall has it all.

As much as I love all of those… again, renting, so not an option.

I’ve had canvas prints before. I do love them. But… it didn’t feel like the right piece for this. So, instead I went for a poster with a smoked ash wooden hanger. When it arrived, I was worried it was too large… but that was just the extra packaging. Making sure everything arrived to me safely. The hanger came with the tools to get it put up, including a nice nail.

Seeing it on the wall… it was perfect. It was 100% what this wall needed, what this home needed. Over the thousands and thousands of prints they have… this one… this one was perfectly me.

You get the option of with or without a border, to move the piece within the frame. It’s more than just picking the size you need. And when I said there are thousands of prints — there are thousands of prints.

If you’re ready to lose hours going through all that they have to offer, please be my guest! And, as an added bonus, for the next 30 days, Photowall is offering my readers a 25% discount on all orders using code: adorkableme2021. I cannot recommend them enough and hope that I get a place where I can finally get their wallpapers. (Instagramable walls, yes please!)

Check them out! Let me know what your favorite prints or murals are!

I received a free product and discount code from them in return for sharing their company with you. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Ghost of Sisterhood

When I grew up, I was sort of my older brother’s shadow. My first word was “Tim.” Even if you don’t believe in signs, it was kind of a sign. I looked up to my big brother. I took his hand-me-downs and dressed like him. Not for long, but for a couple years when I struggled with female fashion that seemed to mandate that girls should wear short shorts and tight, form-fitting shirts. And skirts. It took a long time before I was ok with skirts and dresses and makeup.

But with my brother, I rode bikes on dirt trails, played video games, and… well, my interest in sports was pretty casual. We had a pretty good sibling relationship, my brother and I. We still do. We’re not best friends or anything. But he’s my brother and we enjoy hanging out when we can.

When it comes to my relationship with my sisters? My four sisters… We’re not that close.

I’m eleven years older than my oldest younger sister, and 19 years older than the youngest. When my first sister was born, my dad and stepmom lived in another state. The running joke in our family was that my dad and stepmom either moved or had a kid every other year… They moved a lot for my dad’s work. There were only a few years when they lived close enough by that we could visit every other weekend — and only two of my sisters had been born then.

Between the moving, and not being too close to their mother — and honestly, I was pretty upset with my dad, and jealous that my sisters were getting all these things my brother and I never did. He built them a giant swing set. He was home to spend time with them. He took them on trips. He tried to include my brother and I when we were younger, but once Tim got married the first time, had a kid… and I was in college, then graduated, then off to Chicago…

And then my sisters’ mother died of breast cancer. My youngest sister was only 3 years old. Still in diapers because her mom’s illness took priority. My stepmom miscarried twice after her diagnosis. Had she given birth before she passed, my dad would have pulled me from college to help raise my siblings. It’s something as the “dutiful daughter” that I would have offered. Instead, my oldest little sister felt the need to step into the role of “caretaker” even though she was still a child herself.

That sister… she’s head strong. Stubborn at times. But she sees her goals and goes for it. She’s always been a leader. We butted heads a lot. She didn’t like me for a long time, didn’t trust me. I went in her room when she was 13 and took her makeup and gave it to our dad. Because he wasn’t going to do it. Because he wasn’t comfortable with how she was “growing up” too quickly and the attention she was getting over her new body, and because he wasn’t going to say anything. Even though he told me he wasn’t comfortable with her makeup or the short shorts she wouldn’t give up… he wouldn’t tell her. So we didn’t really talk for years… We still aren’t close. Her son doesn’t know my name.

My next sister? She turns 22 today. She’s wondering if the magic is gone. I only know this because she wrote that online. Our 18 year old sister just had a baby. And our 16 year old sister is splitting her time between her best friend’s farm and England — were our dad and our new stepmom have been living for a year while my dad’s doing some contract work.

My sisters are all close with each other. They braid each other’s hair and told each other secrets. They did sister things. I never got the sister things. Not with them. Not even with friends, I guess. It’s hard, but I try to just remember there’s the age differences and all the years not spending time with each other. We honestly only see each other at holidays.

When we found out about my sister’s pregnancy, I’ll admit that one of my thoughts was sadness that she didn’t feel she could have contacted me sooner. I feel that with all of my sisters. I’m the eldest sister… they should feel comfortable to contact me for and about whatever. But they didn’t grow up with me. In many ways, they don’t really know me. And that makes me sad.

I am trying though. When I went to England, my youngest sister and I got to spend some good days talking about a lot of things. I try to let them know I’m here. And if I’m being completely honest, I could do more. I could call more, text more. But like them, life happens… and we keep going like this.

Let’s not make a hindsight/2020 joke, and just get on with the decade review

I wasn’t going to do a review of the last decade… I thought, it’s in the past, it’s done, it’s over. But then Stephany did one. And then Kate. And suddenly I’m a joiner.

So why not? Let’s look back at the last decade. Let’s see the journey from Chicago to Indiana. From floating from jobs to full-time student.

2010: Living in Chicago — I think the garden apartment in Lakeview. I was working at the toy store, promoted to Assistant Manager after only a month or so of being there. Spent my days suggesting toys to rich moms, wrapping gifts, cleaning the train table, and building window displays. I left there at the end of the year after being poached by an HVAC company to do marketing. The HVAC company went out of business 2 months later. Unrelated.

I dated someone from my college. That lasted maybe a month and half. He broke up with me the day before his birthday — after I had spent near $300 on gifts. I was able to get some of that back… I should have kept the bourbon for myself, though. He said things were moving too fast. Probably wasn’t more than a year or two later he was married and expecting a kid soon after. For the best, I guess. Months later I started dating a bartender who was 13 years older than myself. He took good care of me during a hard time.

I ended up moving in with my then best-friend. We had gone on an absurd number of cupcake adventures together. She sent me an amazing care package after the college guy and I broke up. We thought it would be perfect! … It lasted til NYE. And ended our friendship.

This is the year I was hospitalized for Endometriosis. My childhood dog died, and then the next day I was admitted to the hospital. I was in and out of the ER for debilitating pain for the rest of the year. My periods started coming 18 days apart. An ER attending accused me of abusing drugs when all I wanted was birth control to stop the cycles from happening at all.

2011: I started this year leaving Chicago, and moving into my dad’s basement. I was unemployed and unsure where I was going. I was 26 and leaving at home again. Having chores. Sharing a bathroom with 5 other girls.

After some crowd-funding, which included some minor ugly crying on local news, I moved back to Chicago and started portfolio school to attempt a career in graphic design. I never finished the program, but by the end of the year I was working for the school as an administrative coordinator.

Between school and later work… I traveled a lot with Mucca Pazza. West Coast tour and exploring the desert. Even played Indy where a super tiny niece got to visit and check out the band — and see her favorite aunt. Other big events was the 20SB Summit, which ended up being essentially the last big blogger-meetup for our group. (Well, minus BiSC, I think, but I never went on those.)

Oh, and the Bartender and I had broken up. But he still came around and helped out when I needed it. Like when a giant spider few out of my AC and hit me in the neck.

2012: Still working for the design school. I became the director at some point. Took an office in the back. I probably wasn’t qualified to essentially “run” a school, but that’s what I was doing.

My social life became less design school cohort, and back to mostly Mucca and the occasional local blogging friend, like Paige. Ended up attending my first big nerdy con — Wizard’s World. I spent most of my time off at the beach, which is conveniently just at the end of the block from where I live. And yes, Chicago has beaches.

Obama was re-elected and the Wii U launched. I waited 3+ hours in freezing rain for one of those things.

2013: The year of my first endo surgery. Spent my 29th birthday recovering.

I was let go from my job at the design school. They said it was from downsizing and whatnot… Honestly, it seemed more-so because of my surgery and that I asked for a week off to travel with Mucca. I wasn’t happy in the position, but wasn’t ready to leave yet. It left me questioning my direction in life.

Left the “beachside” apartment for one a little more than a block away. The cats did not enjoy that walk through the neighborhood in their carriers. I still spent a lot of my time off at the beach. Some of that was walking 2-5 miles a day as part of a Wii Fit Challenge with Nintendo. Shortly after that, I completed my first 5k! I walked the whole thing and completed it in 49:04.

Ended up traveling for more than a week with Mucca… We went all over the country. California. Residency at MassMoCA. Jazz Fest in Montreal. It was a whirlwind of travel and memories. Honestly kind of surprised I traveled so much, and walked so much, after my surgery.

The second biggest thing was, thanks to a partnership with The Field Museum for a blog post here… I realized what I wanted to do: I wanted to work in a museum. Hell. I wanted to work in that museum. It was just a matter of figuring out how.

At the end of the year, we welcomed in my brother’s twins to the family. And oh yeah, around August I decided to go blonde just for the heck of it.

2014: This was the year of temp jobs. I worked an elite summer school program at Northwestern, for a crazy high-end light fixture show rooms, a few ad firms, and even for a psychiatrist. It was during the summer position that my knee popped loudly and painfully. I couldn’t put weight on it for over a month. An MRI showed that the cartilage behind my kneecap was wearing away.

This is also the year my grandpa died. He had been slowly getting weaker for years, but finally his kidney gave out completely and he was ready to go. Funerals on this side of the family turn into big family reunions. As much as I love seeing all of my cousins, it’s always bittersweet.

Mikey and Allie come to Chicago for their honeymoon, and I’m fortunate enough that they grab me for an evening of dinner and drinks at a brewery where Mucca had been doing Sit Down residencies. I spent my 30th birthday having brunch with some good friends, and walking around a lagoon.

I got accepted to two Anthropology/Archaeology programs. First at Montana State — but then I learned it would cost no less than $2k for a uhaul alone. So I looked closer to home, and applied to the big state school near my family I said I’d never go to.

I also probably had my most popular tweet ever: an email I received, personally, from Nintendo regarding some Amiibo news.

2015: January 1, I loaded my cats, the last of my belongings that hadn’t been loaded up in the trailer previously, and drove us to our new apartment in Indiana — after working a NYE show with Mucca, and getting maybe 2 hours of sleep on a small travel mat. Officially a Hoosier again.

I started classes, though none really in my concentration because the generic advisor they gave me didn’t tell me I could just ask to get into my anthropology courses. I did make a friend in my mythology course — which was a nice welcome back. So was the 4.0 my first semester. I take 2 summer courses online, then a full term of anthropology classes in the fall (with a 3.75 for the term).

I rushed into getting a car — my first since I moved to Chicago. It died twice on the way getting it home from the dealer. I should have returned it immediately, but I was desperate for my own vehicle. It’s only a few months before my brother has to haul it away to attempt to repair it completely.

One of my sisters gets married (next to a swamp, in mosquito season). My other grandfather passed away. And my mom’s cat also passed away.

In smaller news, the gaming community I started (as an Animal Crossing: New Leaf group) continues to grow, and we make our own merch.

2016: My advisor (the one actually in my concentration), tells me I’m wasting my time doing a second bachelor’s degree and that I should just go for my Master’s. So I take 2 graduate level courses that spring, participate in our departmental symposium, a graduate level internship with our archeological team at a fort that summer, and then officially begin grad school that fall.

The year starts, though, with a Macklemore concert with my (now) SIL. Thanks to it being on campus, it was only $10 per ticket. Which is just… impressive.

I get summer roommates — two undergrads, one from my program — to help cover living costs. Definitely an adjustment, but it’s nice to split rent 3 ways. The cats appreciate the new aquatic roommate.

Sold the Lancer and got myself a convertible, thanks to my (now) SIL’s father. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun. And I got to spend the summer with my top down!

Most of the year, I spent working at the library in cataloging and metadata. I loved when I got to explore the stacks, even though it often meant pulling books to be removed from the system and then thrown away. The joy went really well, until the fall semester started and one of my classmates harassed me, blocked me into my office (which we happened to share), and proceeded to try to follow my friend and I out of the building — even after we tried shutting down the conversation multiple times. I started having panic attacks every time I came to campus. The campus put a “no contact order” in place, but refused to remove him from my classes — even though the harassment was gender related, they didn’t consider it sexual harassment.

My father finally moves my grandmother up to his house to care for her — after finding her trying to trim her fingernails with a steak knife and lotion. My brother and his family move into our grandparent’s home. We begin going through all of my grandparents’ belongings, trying to divvy up what we can, save things, and learn to let go of others.

I almost ruined Thanksgiving by losing my cool with my mom post-election. I remember asking her to turn the car around — not even 2 blocks from my home — closing the door on to my apartment, falling to my knees with the most primal, gut-wrenching scream.

2017: This was a hard year.

My endometriosis was getting worse. So bad, that I missed half of the first month of the semester. One of my professor pulls me aside and tells me I’m not going to pass. It was very hard news to hear, but she was right. I needed to put my health first, and take a break from school. So I withdrew for the semester, contacted a new OBGYN, and scheduled my hysterectomy.

My surgery went well. We had to have a GI specialist involved because of the dense adhesions between my uterus and my colon. It was during the surgery we discovered my uterus was also densely adhered to the bladder. It was being pulled on both sides. Recovery sucks. You’re stuck in bead, constantly. Everything hurts. You can’t poop for a few days even just because any straining could result in popping a suture. After a few weeks, after I was finally allowed out of bed. I stood up from the couch and felt a wave of wet warmth. I rushed to the bathroom… there was a lot of blood. And I kept bleeding. In the ER we discovered I had indeed popped a stick open, and there were “waterfalls of blood” according to my doctor and golf ball sized clots. I was rushed into emergency surgery and sent home after a day or so in observation.

I was slightly too optimistic about my recovery — when they say it can take at least a year until you’re back to somewhat normal, they mean it — and decided to visit Philly for Fall Break. It was a chance to see Brooke, Mikey, and Kevin. As well as just have a vacation. It was a good trip, but a lot of walking.

A Canadian friend sent me their spare PC, which was an adventure to setup. Mostly do to operator error. Not long after I started streaming, I made Affiliate on Twitch.

I had a breakdown at the end of the year. My world fell apart. I was broken. I did not want to exist any more. I stopped eating for 2 weeks — I had to force food down. I was vomiting every morning. I lost 15lbs. I went to counseling straight away, as well as went to a psychiatrist and begun taking antidepressants. I focused on finishing the semester and just surviving one day at a time.

2018: This year was busier than I expected.

I presented at a regional Anthropological conference (though I can’t find my pictures). We had an early morning slot, but my talk was decently attended given the hour of the morning. I actually had a line of people waiting to talk to me afterward. Definite academic ego boost.

We traded in my convertible as a downpayment for my mom’s new Jeep. I got her Civic. Which I promptly totaled 2 weeks later. A few months later, I talk myself into my Nissan.

I started dog-sitting for a colleague’s large dogs. We spend most of the time with at least one of the dogs actually sitting on me. Another colleague and I find a dog in our apartment complex — the wait for someone from the shelter to come get him gets a little long, so we bring him to the bar with us for grad student drinks.

I get my first two betta fish. Not at the same time. Siggy 1 died within a week from not eating. Siggy 2 however turns out to be much healthier.

I start making and selling necklaces and malas. I do pretty ok at the farmer’s market.

I tried to have purple hair. It didn’t last. Even after having it professionally done.

One of the summer roommates moves in full time. It mostly goes ok. There’s a 12 year age difference which I found more apparent than she did. We go hiking, hit the movies, try not to be too passive aggressive about things around the house.

Fall Semester I begin my graduate assistantship with the History Department. I manage their social media, do their graphic design, and assist with all of the events.

Ended the year with Stratejoy’s Holiday Council, hoping to map out a new year… try for some accountability with my self care.

2019: This year was a challenge in a different way than the others…

It was my final semester of graduate classes. And my last semester of my graduate assistantship. This mean planning all of the end-of-the-year events: the conference and award ceremony.

I finally got my third tattoo. The Ten of Swords from the Ostara Tarot Deck. The artist was more than happy to give me permission. It’s a reminder every day that healing takes time, and that I survived. You could say this is my semicolon tattoo.

In June, I flew off to England to visit my dad and stepmom, who had been living there for a handful of months. A three-week trip to the Borough of Windsor. It wasn’t going to be the adventurous trek around Europe like I had original planned, but I was grateful for the trip. My folks surprised me with a trip to Helsinki for my 35th birthday. My mom’s family is from Finland, so it’s been a dream of mine to go eventually. They made that happen. So I got to see Windsor, Stonehenge, Oxford, and London during my time in England — and explore Helsinki for a few days. I got to see what is considered to be Finland’s national painting at the National Museum. It was much, much larger than I expected. It also happens to be painted by my great, great uncle. In England… I visited at least 5 museums (including Stonehenge). The Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean alone… those hold so much significance in museology… So say the least, it was an amazing trip.

Only a few days into my trip… I accepted a job with StreamerSquare. Over the past months I’ve taken over the general operations of the business, and am honestly truly happy. It’s a little frustrating that some of my family doesn’t really understand streaming, and thus don’t see my job as a real job. But I have to remind myself I’m doing this for me, not them.

My bond with my Twitch communities strengthened a lot this last year. Especially with being able to attend TwitchCon in San Diego. My best friend (who I also only met this year) and I planned the majority of our housing and the brunch we held for our streamers. I got to meet all of Team Catalyst, which included one of my bosses, and McLaffyTaffy — whom I would later mod for, and he also joined Catalyst. I only had a one-day pass to the convention, so Saturday after brunch, I spent the day on the beach, and the night drinking heavily. Sunday, thankfully sober without a hangover, I went to the zoo with a couple friends.

I wouldn’t have been able to attend TC without the support of my friends and community. My airfare and most of my lodging costs were completely covered by them. The generosity kept coming, as I was made a StreamGifts partner. They cats received two really nice towers, some micey toys, and a massive jar of catnip. I received a large box of snacks. I also had a couple pizzas gifted to me. And groceries. And more than one month’s bills.

I dyed my hair blue as part of a St. Jude charity fundraiser incentive for Fhaelin (I was modding for her at the time). I ruined a lot of towel and a few pillowcases in 3 countries. Wes, my best friend, dyed his beard rainbow. I maybe had a part in that decision.

Holidays were low-key that year. My dad and stepmom only came home for Thanksgiving, which was prompted by my 18 year old sister’s son being born. So now 3 of my 5 siblings have kids.

The roommate moved out after my trip… Siggy 2 died 5 days into my trip. These events were unrelated. Alexi now entertains the cats from the tank.

Quite a bit happen… though, I guess in some ways…

I was kind of aimless, just going through job from job in Chicago. I miss the city. I miss the adventures. I don’t miss the cost of living, though. I found something I not only enjoyed, but was passionate about. These last 6 months, yes, I do feel somewhat aimless again without the guidance of classes and being constantly surrounded by professors. But I can dig in deep, get this done.

As for the next 10 years? Graduation. Hopefully a teaching or museum job. Since I’m not initially going to go for my PhD, if I’m going to teach, I’d hope I can find one that I can balance with my current position. More TwitchCons. Maybe return to England. Hopefully return to Finland. Fostering or adopting (or as I sometimes say, “renting” or “buying”) a kid or two. And if all goes well, I’ll be out of this state in the next year.

There were some hard times. But I survived. I made it through. And I plan to keep making it through for the foreseeable future.