Friday, November 5, 2010

Open House

So things are a little hamster-centric around here lately.

Deal with it.

Ha ha kidding. But seriously... I do have a tinge of hamstermania at the moment. Getting to know my new hamster Angelina has been a trip, and has brought back memories.

When I was a kid I wanted nothing. more. than. a. HAMSTER! It was all I dreamed about.

And then, one birthday, I got one.

Here is a pic of me, all pretty in pink for my b-day shenanigans. I remember being extra excited that day as I was allowed to put on some blush for the first time ever. Yeah it was a little on the Baby Jane side. That's ok. I rocked it.

And so what! I had A HAMSTER!!

A sweet, soft, adorable hamster all my own. I would love it, and it would love me, and we would have lovely tea parties and it would travel around in my pocket and I would just snuggle it and cuddle it and pet it's fluffy little furs forever and ever.

Oh, it was all going to be glorious.

But alas, this hamster fairytale was not to be.

From what I recall, this man-eating hamster tried to devour a chunk out of my finger pretty much the very first time I touched it, savagely ripping into my flesh with it's razor-sharp hamster fangs and drawing blood. I cried and cried.

And thus my prior opinion of hamsters can be summed up in this classic little ditty here.

I never had a hamster again.

Until now!

As you guys know I was recently persuaded to adopt a very cute and wee little dwarf hamster, and have been getting to know her. Though I do still feel a little bit of (skin-crawling, paralyzing) fear when she gets near my (soft, bite-able) fingers, things have been going ok so far.

And in our most recent chapter of this new hamster journey, may I present to you... Angelina's new bachelorette pad.

Ta da:

And what a pad it is... everything a lil hamster could want in a pimped out hammie house, and it's all hers.

The elevated wheel not only spins, but spins around a track so that she can get that much-needed exercise. Did you know that hamsters run up to 5 miles per day? True.

(she also got a new exercise ball)

It's also got a groovy spiral slide. And a nice upstairs 'dining room' that I can easily access to hand feed/spoil her with treats and snacks. And seeds. And stuff.

Whilst hoping that she does not viciously sink her killer teeth into my fingers.

Ok now this is where hamsters have always gotten me- the facial expressions.


Here, she was tearing up some soft new bedding to go inside of her little purple sleepy-den. Nothin is cuter than a hamster with it's cheeks stuffed full, d'aww.

Also, note that ridiculously cute teeny broom. No, she does not use it for cleaning her cage (as if!) And no, she is not an itty bitty witch and does not use it for transportation (ok, Ken? :P) It's for chewin'. And/or chawin'.

Hope that you enjoy your new house, Angelina!

All photographs copyright Heather Shade

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Angelina's pasta dinner

"Hmmm.... what is this here?"

*nose wiggle*

"Sniffsniff.... nibble........ hey... this pasta stuff is pretty deelish!"

Angelina loves pasta!

"Om nom nom nom nom nom nom....."

All photographs copyright Heather Shade

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Angelina, you dirty little hamster

Allow me to introduce you all to the newest member of our family.

Meet Angelina...

Angelina is a Winter White hamster.

Also known as a Djungarian hamster, Dzungarian dwarf hamster, Siberian hamster, or Sapphire Winter White Russian dwarf hamster... whew, that a lotta names for something so little!

As for her name-name... Angelina... well.... I am a big Jersey Shore fan.

There! I said it! And I am not ashamed!

OK, maybe a little ashamed.

Moving on.

So I was at Petsmart getting some supplies for my aquarium when a very evil, evil employee told me that they had a very cute hamster up for adoption. For free. And that said cute hamster needed a good home.

I tried to counter my inner squealing 10 year old by reminding myself that I had nowhere to put a hamster. And then I remembered that I had an empty aquarium. Dammit!

Then he brought her out, and showed her to me...

And ZOMG, she was too cute to resist.

I mean, seriously? Look at her.

So I ended up with a new hammonster.

I like how she looks like she is going 'nyah nyah nyah'... all sinister, like Snidely Whiplash, in this shot.

Since I can't afford to get her a proper habitat til next month, she has a ghetto little home right now... an old aquarium held closed with a bungee cord, with dollar store bowls modified into a wee 'house', and some toilet paper tubes. Heh heh. She seems to be ok with it.

When I can afford to, I am going to hook her up with a great little bachelorette pad.

Angelina hadn't been handled much by humans, so I started out with a glove. Because hamsters ARE SCARY!

"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!!"

Heh heh.

But she has been ok with it so far. She's still a bit scared & nervous, and she has harmlessly nibbled me a few times, more of a curious-exploration-type nibble. She has allowed me to hand feed her, and to pick her up bare-handed...

...aaaannnnd of course, she has also pooped on me half a dozen times (thanks, hammie!)

Fortunately, hamster poops are teeny, smaller than a grain of rice, and thus not too gross.

I have become way too familiar with hamster poops this week.

Though I never anticipated that I would become a hamster-owner, here we are. I love watching her and I think she is adorable. Those sweet, beady black eyes! That stripedy fluff!

Those itsy-bitsy little pink hamster 'hands' wringing each other!

I die.

We are happy to welcome Miss Angelina to our crazy, motley familia. And we all look forward to getting to know her better, and to getting closer to her.

Some of us more than others...

No, kitty, NO!!

All photographs copyright Heather Shade

Monday, May 31, 2010

cloud 10

I love clouds. The End.

But not really. I love clouds forever & ever.

Here are some of my current faves.

Halp! Tha trailer park iz bein' being attacked by gigantical floating cotton candies w stern facial expressions! Halp! Halppp!

It's raining, it's pouring. The old man is snoring.

And who was this old man, exactly? And how sad is it that he fell out of bed? And bumped his head? And didn't wake up in the morning?

Now that's just not right. Somebody call CSI.

Racing the storm. Almost home!

But dang, that dark storm-cloud is honing in right over my place.


One does not simply walk into Mordor!!

Oh wait, that's El Paso...

Same difference.

I sort of want to paraphrase that Pocahontas song about all the colors of the wind and all that good stuff right about now. But I'll spare you.

See how nice I am.

"I see you. I am watching you. I am the grinning jack-o-lantern storm face and I am watching yooou allll.. *cacklecackle*!"

Purdy desert view from an El Paso gal's back porch. Swoon.

BREAKING NEWS: random mushroom cloud spotted over Luby's... story at 10...

Hal! Ley loo yah!



Haaaaal... ley loo yah,

Hal... ley... yooooo... yahhhh... *coughcough snortcough*

I'm driving in my car, I turn on the radio...
I'm pulling you close, you just say no...
You say you don't like it, but baby I know you're a liar...
'Cause when we kiss.... mmm... fire...

Oh, El Paso sunsets. You are such a flirt.

Monday, March 1, 2010

down with the sickness

Once again, I cannot go outside.

I have a chiropractor's appointment, and I need to get some shopping done. I really have things I need to take care of today. But instead I am sitting here with the door locked tight because it's happening once again.

First I start to shake, a tiny tremble that starts from deep inside... down in the stomach... it slowly builds, spreads through my limbs until they are trembling as well. My throat tightens up and it gets hard to breathe. The tears come, burning my eyelids. Nausea boils in my stomach. I try to control my breathing so I don't hyperventilate. My whole body seems to crunch in on itself, my spine aching, I double over. I hug myself in mute protection from my terrors.

I don't want to go outside.

Outside holds every danger and every terror imaginable. My mind races with it. Will someone hurt me? Will I hurt myself? What if I get stranded, sick, injured out there? What will happen to me? The dread mounts and mounts into flat-out panic.

This is the point where most people tell me I am over-reacting. Sure, bad things might happen out there, but hey! Someone would surely help you out! Really, there is nothing to be afraid of! Your fears are unfounded!

Except that they're not. I think back to the awful day, years ago, in New Jersey... when I had no car, no friends, no help... and my beloved cat Tiger went into diabetic shock... I hustled him into a carrier and started running down the street, trying to get him to a vet before I lost him. In a strange city, a strange state, a strange neighborhood, I had blocks and blocks to run but I kept going. The carrier was heavy, my lungs were giving out, and I started to go into the panic. Things got blurry. The world tilted. Still, I kept running on. A big crack in the sidewalk blindsided me and I tripped, slamming onto the ground... my pants ripped, knees shred... my head spinning, can't breathe. The carrier lying sideways on the ground next to me. I'm try to get up but I can't, I am paralyzed, it is all that I can do to breathe because my chest and throat are locked up.

This is the part where the good Samaritan is supposed to come along, right? Only, they didn't. As I lay broken, bleeding, and struggling for breath on a cracked sidewalk, a thousand cars whizzed by me 6 feet away on the street. Some even slowed down to gawk at me. I was mouthing wordlessly, breathlessly, for help. Not one single car stopped. Not one single pedestrian came to help. They just flowed around me, looking down at me before moving along. I must have laid there for about 10 minutes before I could get up and continue on. I knew then that I could have died right there on that street, and none of those people would have helped me, or even cared.

And I have had this experience countless in my life. Like the time when my truck broke down at a busy local intersection... smoke billowing out from under the hood... and dozens of cars passing me by, honking at me, and even angrily screaming at me for blocking traffic, throwing me the finger. Or the time when a guy got violently drunk one night and started choking me and pushing me down onto the hood of a car, right on the street, and I called out for help while countless people just walked by and did nothing. I have never been 'saved' or even helped. I have been taught the lesson by life, over and over, that if anything bad happens to me out there, I am completely on my own.

Those are the big scary things. Then there are the small agonies.

The agonies of random strangers out in the grocery store, at the bars, on the street who make fun of my physical scars.... pointing and laughing right in my face. The agonies of intimacy and betrayal, like the many, many, many 'friends' I have had who cheated with my boyfriends, turned on me, lied to me, or just abandoned me completely. The agonies of the bully squad here in El Paso, that group of 'popular' people who hang out at certain bars and events and who- even though we are far from high school days- still spread completely made-up rumors about me, make fun of me, and still send me messages threatening to beat me up if they see me anywhere.

And what about the other things... the intense fear I have that anyone I see out there, outside, in the random crowds, could be anyone... serial killer, maniac, someone out to do serious harm...? This is where they tell me, 'Oh you can't think that way, you're just being paranoid... do you know how rare the chance that you will randomly run into a maniacal killer are??" *scoff* Except... I have run into killers. I had a friend murdered by a serial killer when I was 13. My own sister was murdered in her own home by a guy she randomly met. I was once targeted by an alleged killer who was found by the FBI to have photos of me that he downloaded from the internet hanging in his torture trailer. And I have also been assaulted by strangers on the street, and in my own home.

In none of these instances have I ever had another human being come to my aid. I have been in situations where I literally screamed for help and nobody cared. Life has taught me, over and over by experience, that everything outside of my highly-controlled safety zone is, at best, ripe for dealing out the pain, and at worst, potentially life-threatening. And this was a lesson learned at a very young age. I will never forget the years of physical and mental abuse we endured at the hands of a violent, drunk stepfather, and how not one person in the family ever stepped in to help us... even though we children were crying for help.

In my years of cognitive behavioral therapy, my therapists encouraged me to get out of the house and to do the things that I feared. The point being that when I see that my fears are unfounded, they will start to fade away. Instead, every time I pushed myself to do just that, yet another terrible thing would happen to me to reinforce the opposite theory- that I was right to be afraid. It got to the point where even my therapists saw that this was only making things worse and they were helpless to change it.

So now I live on medication. The pills give me my breath back when I can't breathe, but they don't erase the horrors of the memories in my mind. The pills lower my blood pressure, but they don't stop the nightmares. The pills calm my panic attacks, but they do not make me feel safe.

Is it surprising that I have been living all these years with debilitating extreme social anxiety, clinical depression, panic attacks, and PTSD? My life experience pretty much guaranteed it.

And now I get to dwell with it for the rest of my life.


I appreciate you guys reading this, and please do not take it as a total negative... I just needed to vent. Despite my disabilities I am always striving for a happy life and I won't ever stop doing that. Sometimes though, you just need to get stuff off of your chest. So thanks for listening.

Anyone else out there who is going through these issues, I promise that you are not alone. Hang in there...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Boarded-up room at abandoned Regency Motel, Howell NJ

One of the many eerie houses (now demolished) of Demon's Alley, West Milford NJ

Inside of vacant (now demolished) 'Sapphire Woods', Jackson NJ

2nd floor locker room of abandoned Lambertville High School, Lambertville NJ

Outside of Lambertville High School, Lambertville NJ

Weird sign (w no fire escape, etc in sight) in downtown Nashville TN

Looking down at the 100 ft+ drop from atop the abandoned Paulinskill Viaduct, Knowlton NJ

Odd message on metal thingy alongside spooky Whipporwill Valley Road, Middletown NJ

Old sign found along the snowy back roads, Idaho Falls ID

Abandoned in Pleasureland, Oakland NJ

All photos copyright Heather Shade

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Suicide in the Sea of Trees

Taking a short break from posting photos to share another mysterious & spooky story... welcome, to Aokigahara Forest...

Aokigahara Forest lies in the shadow of Mount Fuji, in Japan. This dense, dark, beautiful forest is known as the Sea Of Trees... a rustic woods wild with volcanic rock and twisted vines.

It is also a place where countless suicidal souls have perished... you see, Aokigahara Forest is also the world's most popular suicide site after the Golden Gate Bridge.

Strangely, hundreds of people have died in Aokigahara Forest since the 1950's. Most are attributed to suicide, and most of the suicides are by hanging. The popularity of Aokigahara as a suicide spot began to soar even higher 33 years ago, after the publication of a novel called Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees), in which two doomed lovers take their own lives in the shadowy forest.

Some get lost forever in it's depths... compasses do not work here, and the overhanging canopy of trees is disorienting, it is very easy to lose ones way. Many of those that explore the forest for the sake of thrills or nature have been known to come across decaying remains, sometimes still dangling from their nooses. Photos taken at the site are chilling, showing grisly tableaus of bodies hanging from trees or lying on the ground, some still decaying, some nothing more than bones, all surrounded by scattered personal effects left behind (some of those photos can be see here, but they are GRAPHIC and contain images of dead bodies- you have been warned!!)

Suicide has become epidemic in Japan, but the especially-high rate of suicide in Aokigahara has prompted officials to post signs throughout the forest, with messages such as, "Think calmly once again about them, your siblings and your children", "Don't agonise over problems yourself - please seek counselling" and "Your life is a precious gift from your parents"

Despite these measures, the ever-climbing toll of bodies in the forest prompted an annual body search which began in '71; once a year, hundreds of police, journalists, and volunteer firefighters comb through the trees in search of the dead. In 2002 alone, 78 bodies were found (overtaking the previous record of 73 bodies in '98)

So many bodies come out of Aokigahara that the three villages bordering it are posed with a heavy financial burden. By law, they are required to dispose of the countless unidentified dead in their jurisdiction, and they also face a challenging lack of storage space for all of the unclaimed bodies that come out of the forest.

Police patrols have been set up around the forest to try and stop these suicidal souls as they enter Aokigahara, but tragically, some always slip through...

In the controversial bestseller, 'The Complete Manual of Suicide', author Wataru Tsurumui declares the Sea Of Trees as "The perfect place to die."

Some of the suicides in
Aokigahara have been found carrying copies of the book.

Below, footage from research for a Swedish documentary about Aokigahara forest, and you can really see how deep and dark this strange forest is.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Tree reflected in rain puddle, Jackson NJ

Sun reflected in waters at the edge of White Rock Lake, Dallas TX

Reflections at Lake Matawan, NJ

The haunted Lodge reflected in it's fish pond, Cloudcroft NM

Self portrait, El Paso TX

Heron in White Rock Lake, Dallas TX

Abandoned Peterson's restaurant, Lakewood NJ

Myself reflected among all the esoteric curio in Dave's Pawn Shop, El Paso TX

Trees reflect in window of abandoned house, NJ

Outside of abandoned Jamesway, Lakewood NJ

All photos copyright Heather Shade

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow... (A. C. Benson)

All photos copyright Heather Shade