The Word Exchange

April 11, 2014

I recently finished, after some long stressful days, The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon.

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The stressful days weren’t caused by the book, I should add. So. This book. I alternately loved, hated, was exhilarated by, and was irritated by this book. I’ve noticed a lot of the reviews of this book have ranged from 1-5 stars, so it’s not just me. What I can say is that I think this book is challenging to read, but I also believe that is part of what makes it awesome. Because the story is about losing language, when characters start to sound like Jabberwocky (which YES is hard to read, on purpose, people), then it adds to the experience of the story. It is just like it would be if you were living in a world where electronics and a weird word flu had taken over.

So. The book is about the future when we are even more addicted to our electronic devices than we are now (shocking), and a virus seems to be attacking people’s abilities to speak and corporate moneygrubbers are out to control language and there are good people and bad people and people who don’t know what they are. At times, the story was difficult, especially when some of the characters who were troubled by both their wavering ethics AND the word flu were trying to tell their part of the story, but it was such a relief when Doug or Anana would report that it made up for most of that. I’ve said before, this is NOT an easy book to read. Then again, neither are many of the classics, and I don’t think we should only be giving good reviews to books that are easy on the eyes and don’t challenge us. This was definitely worth the read, although it took me a bit longer than normal…I did enjoy it in the end (there were, yes, moments when I did NOT enjoy it). So. Read it.


That Never Happens in My Real Life…

April 10, 2014

Yesterday, I went on a road trip to Aliso Viejo in Orange County (California) to finally see the California Fibers exhibit at Soka University, where I have had two pieces since January.

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It’s a beautiful campus, at least what little I saw of it.

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It was obviously Spring Break, because otherwise, I’m fairly sure these pools must be filled with students, right?

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There’s no way they’d stay out of there.

Julie was my companion (and driver, which was awfully nice of her)…

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It was a gorgeous Spring day in California, although a little on the warm side…

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I’ll be posting about the exhibit (again) on the California Fibers blog, as soon as I find some free time to do that…today is kinda overbooked. Again. I know.

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Julie and I spent quite a bit of time discussing this global map, especially how it wasn’t the way we were used to seeing maps laid out, with Japan at its center (Soka’s founder is Japanese and the sister school is also in Japan).

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Relative sizes of countries and locations of islands and the equator were part of the discussion.

Then we headed outside again to check out the fountain…

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Especially because it appeared to have dead bugs all over it…

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That may be a commentary on university costs right there (a definite discussion point in my household at the moment). I hadn’t been able to come see this exhibit for so long because it’s only open Monday-Friday, which is kind of annoying. I mean, I guess I understand in that it’s on a university campus, and their staff isn’t around on the weekends, but…hell, I would have had to take a day off work to see it otherwise. I’m not sure how many non-retired people who aren’t students at the university have been able to see the exhibit, which is too bad, because the space is really beautiful. It’s up through May 8…if you’re in town, you should check it out.

It was a nice trip, and I got home early enough to get some stuff done…although some of that was following the kids around. Girlchild is cat-sitting (or checking-in-on-cats really), and Maus decided he didn’t so much LIKE being in the garage, but definitely liked being TALL.

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There was some worry and some kitty squawking and a ladder was involved, but we found out later that he does this all the time. No worries.

I sat outside while girlchild did all her feeding and cleaning and trash stuff and kitty-petting, because I had an ebook that was due back today and had holds on it (not sure how the renewal policy works on that) and I wanted to finish the book…it was Parasite by Mira Grant…

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It’s a story set in the future, 2027, where we have developed intestinal parasites that help keep humans healthy, but as always, in the future, our meddling with science will cause issues. This is the first of a 3-part series called Parasitology, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I really liked this book…it was scientifically intriguing (although the reason I gave it a 4 out of 5 on GoodReads is because some of the science wasn’t explained well enough, and that bugged me). There’s some obvious stuff going on and some political/corporate intrigue and a bunch of crazy people acting in the name of science or money or both. And dogs. Dogs are good in this story. All good stories should have dogs in them.

Interestingly, Mira Grant is the pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, whose Rosemary and Rue I read last year. I thought this was much better of a story, more solid and grab-at-you than the October Daye series (although I would probably read more of those as well). McGuire as Grant has also written the Newsflesh trilogy, which is now on my to-read list.

Then I finally made it home and managed to get to work on the last few hundred pieces on the newest quilt…I finished tracing around 11 PM (I fixed dinner and did other stuff in there, really)…and here it all is, laid out…

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It’s probably 7 yards…I try to cut about 1-yard pieces, although I don’t actually measure them, because that would be way more anal than I am (I know, I seem that anal, but I’m not). It took a total of 21 hours and 36 minutes to trace all of them, which is interesting because like I’ve said before, usually I can do 100 in an hour, so this one must have been more complicated. There are 1776 pieces officially (although I know there are probably 10-15 more due to mistakes in numbering). The quilt itself, well, the image anyway, is 34″ wide x 73″ high (so add about 10 inches to each of those measurements for a finished size).

In comparison, the quilt I did for Celebrating Silver is about 40×70″ and has 1227 pieces. So. Yeah. And it took only 95 hours to complete. I’m sure I can cut that time! (Are you kidding me? Tracing Celebrating only took a little over 11 hours. I am fucking nuts.)

Anyway. I’m going to start cutting those out today, knock on wood. I have a busy art day planned, with a new life-drawing class I’m trying out as a plan for the summer, lunch with friends I’ve never met in person (ah, the wonders of the internet), and then a stitching meeting afterwards (that’s where I’ll be cutting stuff…it’s not appropriate to cut out Wonder Under at the other two places, you know?).

I wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep when I finished, but I also wasn’t ready to cut the WU out, so I debated cleaning (I debate that a lot…mostly I do it for about 10-20 minutes and then I figure there must be something better to do). Then I remembered that I only had a little cutting left on the Mammogram fabrics, so I pulled that out…

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and managed to finish. It took a total of about 7 hours to cut this one out…interesting, because it only has about 360 pieces in it. But many of them are big and complicated pieces, difficult to cut out. So now it’s ready to iron down as well. I will probably save that for after Spring Break, because it’s not a difficult task…it doesn’t require a huge amount of brain power. I really want to get to the fabric-choosing phase of the big quilt over break, which is looking more and more impossible as the days disappear behind me. Oh well. It will all get done. And I need to draw! I have two I need to draw in the next few weeks. I’m not worried. They’re smaller than this one, but inevitably, I will make sure they have 12 trillion pieces in them.

Yup. I’m a little crazy that way. But you knew that already. But I finished two tasks! In one day! It must be Spring Break. That never happens in my real life.

 

 


Saga Review

April 7, 2014

I recently read Saga Volumes 1 and 2 (Volume 3 just came out), loaned to me by the boychild, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples. He had it lying around and I grabbed it because it isn’t often that you see a breastfeeding momma on the front cover of ANY book, let alone a graphic novel…

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And one with wings, no less (the mom, not the novel). Anyway, Saga is described as a combo of Star Wars (with which the author is slightly obsessed) and Game of Thrones. I didn’t compare it to either while reading it, but love the crazy alien world and fighting for family interspersed with some seriously funny goofiness…

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Marko really wants to uphold a nonviolent lifestyle, even when it comes to cutting the umbilical cord of his first child, especially now that he’s a daddio. This becomes increasingly difficult when you live in a universe that is being torn apart by war. Vaughan says he first envisioned the series in math class as a kid, and becoming a parent just solidified the story arcs.

After finishing Volume 1, I chased the boychild down for Volume 2…

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And then demanded all future volumes. DAMMIT. There is only one and it just came out. Ah, a mother-son obsession I can get behind. This is a great story…it drives me crazy to have to wait for the collected volumes to come out, of course, but I will survive. We did have a discussion about how it was incredibly inappropriate (sexual innuendo, naked parts, etc.), and how it was good that he was a legal adult (ha!), so I didn’t have to worry about his poor addled brain dealing with all that. There is one monster-like creature with enormous testicles that is disturbing no matter what your age.

That said, Volume 3 will be here shortly (I hope). If he’s lucky, I’ll let him read it after I’m done.


Reviewing The People Inside

April 7, 2014

I recently read Ray Fawkes’ The People Inside, a graphic novel telling the stories of 24 different relationships at the same time…

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Each relationship gets one box on a 2-page spread, and all 24 stories take place at the same time. They range from the perfect, happy couple who lives into old age to one dying in an accident, through straight and gay relationships, and normal versus kinda out there. I really liked this, enough that it was difficult to put it down when I had to leave. It was compelling…you wanted to know what would happen in each story, and the emotional range on each page was sometimes painful…from extreme happiness and joy to devastating loss or depression, from just one box to the next. When characters die, their box is black. There’s a definite sense of time passing, of relationships developing and falling apart. Fawkes style is simple and graphic, which supports the complexity of the stories he tells, piling up on each other, page by page.

I had not read his previous One Soul, which is a similar style of graphic novel. The page below is from One Soul.

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Just to give you an idea of what his style looks like. I was unable to find any pages from this book online.

I definitely recommend this book, and it’s one that I will read again…which is a rare thing for me…but this one is definitely worth a second read-through.

 


Diverging from the Fairy Tales

March 30, 2014

I’m finding that certain parts of my artmaking process are more meditative, more peaceful-making than others. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with how much brain power the task takes up…the more, the better. Drawing, tracing Wonder Under, and choosing fabrics use up big chunks of brain real estate, so they work really well to dispel wandering depressive thoughts. Cutting pieces out? Not so much. I’ve spent my artmaking time all week cutting pieces out, and it hasn’t really helped much…a little, but not much. Tonight, though, I started tracing the big drawing on Wonder Under, and there it was…a peaceful (semi-, as much as it ever is) brain. Sigh. Wow. It’s such a better place…because before that, not so much peace.

I did OK this morning and into the middle of the afternoon with an awesome yet physically challenging hike (more on that in another post), but my blood sugar was being cranky today…it was too high after hiking, for no apparent reason, and in trying to control it, I don’t know what happened, but it crashed worse than it has even in the last month or so…and it’s a real mood changer. I know the symptoms, but I often get the symptoms when my blood sugar is normal, so coming back from the grocery store, I was fairly sure it had dropped again…and yes, I had eaten…and yes, it was bloody low by the time I got home, like bad. Not call 911 bad, but certainly minor-freak-out bad.

Dammit. It freaked me out (it always does, especially when I’m on my own, even knowing there’s help a phone call away). I drank my milk and finished unloading groceries (because that’s what you do when your blood sugar is crashing, right? No. That’s what you do when you’re trying to keep your mind off the crash…and no, it’s not really effective because you still feel like shit). And after 15 minutes, it was OK again. But I have no freakin’ idea what is regulating it right now. It’s all over the freakin’ map. It makes no logical sense if you look at what and when I eat and when I exercise. My doctor’s running some tests in a week and a half, and we can look at meds, but her initial answer was to make sure my diet was appropriate, which was more than a little annoying, because I haven’t changed a damn thing about my diet, and the blood sugar is totally off. Now that I’m totally watching everything and counting everything and keeping track multiple times a day, it’s even worse. And it’s inconsistent about it too. So that’s something out of whack.

So it’s probably a good thing I traced some stuff…

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I actually didn’t get very far, because these pieces were really complicated to trace, lots of funny complicated shapes. But at least I got a start on it. I was supposed to grade papers today, and I napped instead. And read my book. And meditated.

I cannot bring myself to care about the grading.

My car, she is old. She is 12 years old this year…and she rolled into 190,000+ miles without my noticing at first.

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Sigh. And the check engine light went off, but I think that’s because the bulb died. I don’t know how much longer she will keep driving. Problem.

I took this picture at our school assembly on Friday…

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We had these BMX bike guys come out and do stunts…

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One of the better assemblies we have had…only a little proselytizing about no drugs and staying in school.

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It’s not that I disagree with those things for my students; it’s just that I don’t think it works to get them to repeat it back during an assembly like this. They don’t hear it. It doesn’t sink in. But the bike-riders were cool.

I finished reading Wally Lamb’s We Are Water

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I love his writing, and this book was no exception. The only issue was that the story was fairly predictable. I knew where it was going, I just didn’t know how he would get there, and it’s in how he writes and reveals the details that his stories are so great to read. The book is about a woman whose life is full of some fairly dank and nasty secrets, and how they affect her family over time. She also happens to be an artist, which might have made it more interesting to me as well. I wonder how my being an artist has affected the kids and the rest of my life. Is it part of the problem? Who knows. It’s told through multiple perspectives, which mesh very well. It’s interesting that they are only family perspectives…one woman marrying into the family shows up in everyone’s story but has no story of her own.

We have a week of school left until Spring Break. It’s possible I might have to take the boychild to New York to look at a college…or not. Hard to say. Girlchild is still recovering well; in fact, she’s at a camp this weekend for Key Club. So I think she’s doing fine…which is a relief after last week at this time. It’s amazing how fast the young bounce back.

Maybe that is the core problem with my depression…my brain doesn’t have the resilience it used to have. I hate to think of the brain slowing down like the body obviously has…on the one hand, I’m hiking all over and doing crazy things like boulder scrambling and rope climbing, but I also feel it the next day (and the next day), and it’s clear to me when my body is done, is tired. It doesn’t bounce back quickly. But I don’t know about my brain…it is just as creative as ever, if not more so, but it will not drop this depression…it will not move past it and get on with it, even though intellectually I’ve gone through it all and I realize what the deal is, but I just can’t get on. The core part of feeling is so mired in this bad place where I’m not worth anything and I can’t be happy…and that part feels so horrible that I get lost in it. It’s like those swampy horrible monster-filled places in the stories we read, where the heroine has to tromp through to the other side, usually to a dark and nasty castle where something important is hidden or being kept, and the heroine has to rescue it and get it out, away from whatever evil ruler or magic being that is in the castle, and of course, they always succeed, right? Except I’m still in the swamp and I’m lost. So I guess that’s where my story diverges from the fairy tales.

I’m not the princess, not worth saving. I’m not even the scruffy servant who has some secret magical power. Or I’m not a good enough heroine, or whatever’s in the castle isn’t motivating enough? Or I didn’t bring my sidekick or my group of intensely supportive friends or my weapon of magic or whatever. Do fairy tales only work on the young? Hard to say. At least I have over 1600 pieces of Wonder Under to trace in the next few weeks to try to keep that old brain occupied. Maybe it will figure out it’s own fairy-tale ending in that time period.


That Stupid Voice

March 27, 2014

I have a houseful of giant stress monkeys. This one…

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this one is trying to make up all her schoolwork from the week she missed due to surgery, but she comes home and is (logically) exhausted and falls asleep and then freaks out because she can’t get everything done and there isn’t a good liberal arts college (she says) in Boston. I let boychild deal with that one, walking her through a bunch of websites where she can look shit up like lists of good colleges.

Boychild is freaking out (in his own quiet repressed way, because if he gets loud and emotional, the world is ending, guys) because almost all of the colleges he applied to are notifying today and tomorrow. I tried to tell him that he should be less stressed because he got into one of his backup schools, but since he really really wants to go to the OTHER schools, my comments fell on deaf (or slightly irritated and know-it-all) ears.

Both were yelling this morning because I was in the laundry room, home of pet food and litter-tray hell, which is what I was dealing with, demanding little furry beasts, because girlchild can’t tie her shoes (she can’t bend down yet to reach them), so boychild was doing it FOR her, which was highly amusing. He doesn’t tie them “normally” because when he was little, he pretty much refused to do anything the way it was taught…he had to find his OWN way to do it, like writing certain letters and numbers. He would say, “But I don’t LIKE it that way,” and that would be the end of all arguments, because it was his world and in his world, everything was done his way.

I pity any woman who ever decides she really likes him and wants to like hang out with him for any extended period of time. Either that, or maybe he’ll mellow a bit with old age.

I had book club last night (oh thank god, people of a like mind who READ) and we discussed Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones…

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Yeah, it’s a kid’s book, but we liked it…except the last few chapters are moving a bit fast…the pacing seems off. There are two more books in the series and some of us may read them; some may not. Honestly, I’ve got so many books on my to-read list at the moment, that I probably won’t get around to them. I’m not sure I cared that much…I mean, the story was entertaining and nice and well-written (mostly), but it wasn’t something that I was dying to finish, like some books. I should be dying to finish the book I have out from the library right now, because it was due three days ago and I can’t renew it and the fees are adding up. I am a very bad person for that, I’m sure. Sometimes I think it would be cheaper to just buy the book…but then I’d have to find a place to PUT it, and that is a bigger issue here.

A sign of how stressed the boychild is was that he texted me at book club about some financial aid thing he thought I hadn’t done for one of the colleges, and when I got home and looked, it was obvious that he had been trolling not only all the college websites for dates and notification times, but he’d been on their Twitter feeds checking out admissions stuff (one of them actually sends out PAPER LETTERS for notification, the horror! And so when you’re on the Left Coast, it takes a lot longer to get notification than on that other coast). Poor kid. I hope it’s a good day for him. I don’t really care where he goes, as long as he goes. Oh wait, that sounded wrong. You know what I mean. He needs to go to college. And he will.

I made dinner for them last night, put the casserole in the oven. Neither of them ate it though. Girlchild was groggy from sleep (she actually ate some later, after I got home) and boychild was on a food strike (he says he doesn’t like this dish…oh well, he can make a quesadilla then). So I guess I have leftovers for the next three days. Score!

I’ve spent all morning racing from one pet-related mess to another. The dog, though sweet most of the time, is some sort of crazy trash/underwear-eater in the morning, and I have to constantly check on her to see what she’s trying to eat next and stop her. One of the cats had broken into a bag of cat food, so there was food all over the place. Because I’m starving them? No. The old Psychobitch (aka Babygirl) has been very good lately, but was on a yowly rampage this morning. Someone puked somewhere. I heard it, but I haven’t located it yet. That’s OK, because my morning stomach doesn’t handle puke well…I do much better in the afternoon.

Anyway, I fell asleep cutting these out last night.

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Seriously, I jerked my head awake at one point and I was holding a piece of fabric, half-cut-out, in one hand and scissors, open, in the other. Who knows how long I sat like that, but I decided it was time to go to sleep, even though I wasn’t done with that piece or exercise or meditation or blogpost. Sometimes the body just needs to sleep, apparently (only 4 hours the night before might have been the issue).

I realized (again) yesterday that I spend most of my work day saying really entertaining things (although I am often irritated when I say them)…such as:

No, you don’t poop babies out.

That’s not what a penis looks like. You have one. You should look at it some day.

Yes, that is a penis. Congratulations for noticing that the picture of a dog you are looking at does have a penis.

That is not a penis; it’s a foot. 

Put the ruler down.

If you are not drawing a straight line with that ruler, I will take it away from you.

If you pee on the seat, you will clean it up (here is where I clarify that I teach 7th grade, not kindergartners).

No, I do not know how squid reproduce.

I don’t know why humans don’t lay eggs.

No, humans and dogs cannot have babies together.

(We are obviously reaching the end of the year, when I will eventually be teaching human reproduction and I can clear up some of this confusion for them, PLUS have them draw a penis correctly, thus traumatizing AND educating them all in one go.)

We have been dealing with epidemics of stomach flu and pink eye (not usually together) at school, so there’s been lots of handwashing and deskwashing and sending kids to the nurse and/or pointing out the nearest trashcan. Luckily, most of the vomiting seems to be going on in other classrooms, so all I see is the empty desk where the kid should be.

I guess the plus of my own kids stressing out all over the place is that I can’t really concentrate on my own mopey self, although there was a bit of that last night since book club was in my old stomping grounds, a part of town I can’t really afford to hang out in any more (which does suck, because no movies). I managed to get my head out of THAT gutter though and move on. At least last night, I did. This morning, it’s a bit more difficult to turn off that stupid voice. It’s stalking me.

Expect more artmaking tonight. It’s about the only thing that shuts it up.


Blue Sky

March 26, 2014

No, I’m all still tied up in knots inside my head, still lost in some depressoid space that doesn’t seem to want to release me from its clutches. I just get tired of announcing, Oh Hey! I’m still depressed! I still cry! Everything still sucks! It gets old. I want to shed that skin…it’s Spring, I want to run free among the wildflowers like a child. Or something. I don’t know how to shed years of sad though. They just cling to you like a small snot-nosed child.

I went over to the ex’s to find my scrapbook pages (don’t even ask…just know that it involved the girlchild)…and I sat there listening to all the stuff I needed to deal with while the three of them ate dinner, directed by girlchild, cooked by my ex. Then I came home and cooked my pitiful dinner by myself.

Oh shit. So this is my life? That wasn’t good. I went to the gym, though, and I’m reading a really good book (although it’s one that brings me to the brink of tears almost every time I open it)…so I try to think of the good, to think of the positive, and I still drive away from his house with the damn scrapbook pages that I needed for some quilt thing, and I’m crying. Not a little, but a lot. This is a life? It’s an incredibly painful one.

Boychild got his financial award statement from University of California. I don’t know whether to be pleased or offended. They gave him a good chunk of money (assuming he goes there, which he probably won’t), but they gave it to him because I am “significantly low income.” Their words. I’m a teacher. A public-school teacher. With a Master’s degree…who’s been teaching for over 12 years. And I’m “significantly low income.” Should I be offended? Or relieved? I wonder how many years post-divorce before I stop living paycheck to paycheck. Not this year, for sure. I guess I am relieved. Saddened, but relieved. Now let the private schools feel the same way.

I’ve been reading what people in my past have been saying. What does it mean when people who were significant in your life make no sense to you? Is that a good thing? And yet people LIKE it on Facebook. I can’t parse the words.

I still don’t know who I am.

Art rejections. Sigh. Discouraged by them. Numerous. Doesn’t help the mood. Seriously, there’s no point in entering shows right now. I can just expect a rejection. It’s been a few months of that. And I keep making stuff, hoping that it’s not a permanent thing, that the stuff I’m making will get in somewhere. REJECT. We don’t want your art. It sucks.

The girlchild and I joke that every time I leave school, this song is on the radio…

And every time, it makes me cry. I wish I were young again and everything felt possible. OR…I am moving to Iceland soon (it could happen).

Bear trap on ankle. I remember writing this. I feel like depression is a bear trap on my ankle. It grabs it as I’m running away, trying to get away, strips the flesh down to the bone, breaks the bone, hurts like a bitch, doesn’t let go, no way to get it off.

In meditation, there is the concept of blue sky. Blue sky is always there, if you put your head up above the clouds, the blue sky is always there, even when you can’t see it. Mr. Meditation says that contentness is like that…it is always there, like the blue sky. What stops us from experiencing it? He tells me to notice the resistance and let go of it. Then there’s nothing but blue sky. Mr. Meditation has been smoking the wacky weed again. Seriously. He also wants me to put this happy pinpoint of light and warmth that spreads from the center of the chest outwards. It doesn’t work on me at all. The black vultures chomp at the pinpoint and snuff it out. I can put it on OTHER people though. I’m supposed to pick a person I respect…I have plenty of those. A person I care about. Right now? There are two. I gave birth to both of them. I can’t think beyond them. Then this week, I am supposed to pick someone outside those two realms, someone I know but don’t really care about. That’s harder. What’s interesting is that I can inflict the happiness, the warmth, the exploding pinpoint of light on ALL of them…all of them except myself.

So yeah. Meditation = crying at the moment. Hate that place.

Realized that the disruption in my life that was the surgery was messing with mood. Girlchild went back to school today and is doing much better. She was very tired when she got home, napped for like 2 hours, but she was AT school. This is a plus.

But I have been neglecting my art mind, and that is what might be causing all this emotional dippage. Or something. Fuck knows.

So I am up late again tonight. I’ve been good about going to sleep earlier, but the casualty is making art. And then I think, what’s the fucking point of making the art if you aren’t going to get into the shows with the new stuff? Fuck. I can’t think that way. I just HAVE to make the art. There’s no choice about that.

I’m reading this right now…

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along with other things. It’s appropriate. I feel unlovable.

Underneath it is a birthday card from my ex, quoting Pablo Picasso (was never called an asshole)…

And the happy book from my mom. Not getting to the happy.

So tonight. I cut out fabric pieces. Because I needed to.

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And it won’t make me happy. But. I don’t know what will.

Did I show you the scissors that were found in my driveway?

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We don’t know where they came from. Is it a donation? Or some sort of religious icon left there? No one knows. People are now driving past my driveway and throwing scissors at it. Seriously. These aren’t mine.

Plus there’s Midnight. She sits behind me as I cut out fabric.

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Someone should sit there.


The Frangipani Hotel

March 15, 2014

I recently read The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith.

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It’s a collection of short stories about Vietnam and its myths and legends. It’s obviously colored by the influence of the Vietnam War; many of the stories are ghost stories of fantastical creatures who have followed Vietnamese characters and haunt them in a variety of ways. Kupersmith’s grandmother’s folk tales are the basis for many of these stories.

This is Kupersmith’s first book, and it is very well-written. As always, though, with short stories, there are some that are amazing and some that are not as amazing; these lean towards almost all amazing, which is nice. I did think the collection was very good and hope to see a longer book out of her in the future. Her ability to turn the story around, to make you wonder what just happened, and her characters’ abilities to deal with the crazy and the scary were definitely worth a second read. Most of the characters lead fairly normal, boring lives until they mix with the supernatural. The connections to Vietnamese culture and the shadow of the Vietnam War are also intriguing. The book is due to release April 1.


The Truth about Alice

March 10, 2014

I recently read The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu…

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The release date is June 3. Mathieu is an English teacher and this is her first novel. The Truth about Alice is YA fiction, a story about a girl who has more rumors flying around her than one of the Kardashians (OK, maybe not THAT bad). She apparently slept with two guys in one night, and then it’s her fault that one of the most popular guys on campus is dead. There’s a bathroom stall dedicated to making her look even worse, and through all this, Alice continues to come to school and attempt to function normally.

The story is told from a variety of perspectives: Alice herself, a former friend of hers, a couple of popular kids on campus, and the token geek boy. Each perspective lends some insight into what actually happened, but also into the minds of teenagers (always a scary place to be) and how they negotiate relationships, conflict, and their own inner issues.

Alice herself is not perfect, by far, but it’s a telling view into how rumors can affect someone. I did like the book and the writing; my only complaint is that the story is fairly obvious. There’s no real new insight…of course, I work with teenagers and am an adult who has apparently survived high school, and since this is geared towards the demographic of teenagers, it’s possible they may not realize what they’re doing and this might help them deal with issues at school or with other teens. So I would say it would be a good choice for teens. There is another version of the cover, but I like this one because of the reference to the bathroom stall wall.


Hamlet Murdered Me…

March 5, 2014

I was thinking about artistic influences over the last three or four days…I remember being influenced by the psychedelic rock posters of the 60s and 70s (Mouse and Kelley for starters, some Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, ), but that was probably in college. I also remember being fascinated with Robert Rauschenberg, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Mary Cassatt (not quite the same as the others), and Frida Kahlo…but I think that was all more college, except for Cassatt. I remember searching for female artists…and being given Cassatt and O’Keeffe, and not a whole lot else. I also credit Dr. Suess and Richard Scarry. Seriously. I do.

And years of life-drawing classes…those were definitely a big part of my being able to draw what I draw. But what is it about my brain that makes it obsess over making art and drawing and putting together pieces that can be shown, and the brain of one of my artist friends who is content with decorating her house? We both have art degrees, but I couldn’t give a lesser shit about that stuff; the art holds me together like glue. Everything else leaves, but the art stays with me. It’s always there, sometimes lurking under the surface. It always pays attention, it never acts  up, it doesn’t leave me in the lurch, doesn’t hang me out to dry, doesn’t have a midlife crisis and make me wish I lived on another planet, where humans have brains in their heads. It doesn’t make me wish I could go to sleep and wake up somewhere where everything made sense again.

It’s just mine, the art is. All fucking mine. I try to explain where my brain goes when I create. I don’t even feel like myself at the moment unless I am creating. Seriously, ironing fabric makes me feel more like Kathy than any other thing I do all day, every day. And even that is just a shadow of whomever I used to be.

I tried to do grades this evening, but either my computer or the interface between my system and the county’s grading program are just not happy with each other…I had this problem last time…it takes forever to update. I’ll have to finish at school tomorrow. There are only so many hours in the day. But grading and inputting numbers is just plain old depressing, even when you see that one kid, that one you’ve been working on for like 3 months, her grade finally pops up…she’s finally made up like 30% of her grade and she will be passing this trimester. Cry a little, happy tears, and then realize you have another 5 who are completely blowing everything off and up.

Confessions of a middle-school teacher: it’s hard to care about every kid all the time. Sometimes you have to cut your losses on some and focus your attention and energy on the kid you know will actually change their behaviors with your attention. Some kids, they’re never going to change anything…you’ve given them a 12-week window and they’re still not getting there. So I stop caring about that kid? Do I stop harassing him every day for work? Do I stop getting on his case? Of course not…I’m just not expecting much out of him.

Anyway. I graded until I started to cry. That’s sad, really, but at least I stopped there. Then I started ironing fabrics again…

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Honestly, I didn’t get far. I’m tired and my head hurts and I’m in that depresso mode that doesn’t work well. It gets frustrated easily. I finished all the fleshy bits…but then I needed to make decisions about hair color, and my brain, well, it just full on creaked to a halt. Fuck. Dammit. Obviously I need to sleep on it (the problem, not my brain). I feel like I’m constantly trying to modify my mood with breathing and rethinking and exercise and reading and drawing…like I can’t just exist here on the planet…I have to work my butt off in order to exist. It’s kind of exhausting. And even more depressing.

On the way to work yesterday, I was thinking about the morning mood, which is often particularly shitty, and I thought, “Goddammit, I forgot my sketchbook. I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I don’t want to deal with grading or students or whining about a test tomorrow. I just want to take a nap and then finish my book.” Good mood to start the week.

I did finish my book, Going Bovine by Libby Bray,

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About a teenager who gets mad cow disease and tries to fight it in a variety of amusing ways. It’s a good story. That said, I need to stop reading sad stuff when I’m going to be at the gym. Most of the book wasn’t sad, by the way. I will definitely read some more of her stuff.

Boychild sent me these…

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He was doing an Ophelia project that required help from his sister…

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It’s amazing how creative they can be. Downed eucalyptus branches from the storm, old dead roses from Christmas that I still haven’t thrown out (they made it outside), and a sign about Hamlet that is now strangely in my bathroom. I don’t think the dog was supposed to be part of it. I think he got rid of the sign for the final…it was too fucking obvious.

Speaking of not being part of it, Babygirl insists on sitting on the back of my neck tonight.

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I’m getting a nasty crick, but she’s in a mood.

I understand that…I’m in a mood. I really did want all the fabric ironed tonight and it’s not. Fuck. Oh well. Progress is slow, but at least it’s progress. That’s the closest I get to hope these days. Oh good, you did 39 more minutes on this project. That’s 39 minutes closer to the next project. Maybe that’s the one that will make a difference, that will kick your brain out of quicksand and into happy mode, into satisfaction, into something approximating Kathy-normal, not to say real normal, but where I don’t feel completely WRONG. Because that’s how it feels now, like my skin doesn’t fit, like the eyeballs are in the wrong place, like everything feels wrong, fits wrong, sounds wrong. It’s just fucking wrong.

I go find my sketchbook and put it back in my work bag. Maybe it will save me.


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