Holed Up in My Head

April 20, 2014

When I don’t write, why? Why am I not writing? I’m holed up in my head (hold up? That’s what I wrote the first time). I’ve obviously set a schedule for myself to help process my brain so it doesn’t fuck with me as much as it wants to, but when I’m really depressed, when I feel like I won’t be able to write anything but WAHHH, then I don’t write. I’m tired of feeling WAHHH, tired of thinking WAHHH, don’t want to be like that, but it doesn’t just stop because you want it to. Wow, the world would be a different place entirely if we could stop the bad stuff just by wanting it.

I think that’s where most of the world misunderstands depression the most. I do want it to stop. The counselor and I often talk about my attitude toward things making them more stressful or depressing, but then she admits that yes, your life is really stressful and suggests I distract myself more from the depressing things. So then I do that, I go on a hike, I go to a cocktail party, I go to an art exhibit, I read a book (or 10), I go to the gym, and the real problem is at the END of all that, then the depressing things, which have been hiding out in the corners of my brain, they come rushing out, ten times bigger and louder and scarier, like they were multiplying back in the shadows, and then I am alone, by myself, staring at them, and the WAHHH is bigger and longer. Plus last night, I was tired (hike plus jet lag, because yes, I’m still jet-lagged), so WAHHH plus tired is a nasty-ass duo that does nothing but fuck with your head.

So I went to bed, to sleep…which was fine until 3 AM when my brain couldn’t handle that state any more (I can’t tell you how welcome the blankness of sleep is sometimes, although the dream I had where I was on a Quilting Arts episode with my ex-boyfriend’s mom and she was trying to do this crafty thing and I was supposed to be helping her and I just couldn’t do anything right, wow, Freud, have a field day with that, eh?…well, that wasn’t really the blankness of sleep, was it?)…so at 3, I was wide awake. So that’s not so good. It was a rough night, so I’m still in WAHHH mode. Seriously. Sigh.

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I drew this one in Ithaca while watching a movie…I think…

So I wake up in analytical mode, how can I force the WAHHH back into hiding (the WAHHH is some version of the depression, the one that just makes me cry all the time and feel like my guts have been ripped out of my abdomen), how can I make things feel less raw, less painful? My brain is throwing things out there, things it thinks will work, but also reminding me that school starts back up tomorrow and grades are due and today is Easter (not a huge deal in our household), and my yard and house are a fucking disaster area, and if I were NORMAL, I would clean house and pick up things and sweep and trim and go buy some flowers for the front entry planters and all that might make me feel better, which isn’t WRONG, but I don’t think it works as well as making art. The Have-To and Should brigades are rearing their ugly heads and slamming in on all sides, and some part of me just doesn’t really care about all that. What’s the point of cleaning house? Of putting away the piles of books in my room? Of uncovering the table yet again? What is the point? It doesn’t really make me feel better. It’s pointless.

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I drew this on the plane home, upgraded to first class because they messed up our flights, while watching Ender’s Game, which I picked because it was least likely to make me cry. It made me cry. Just so you know. By the way, the movie kind of confused me for about the first 10 minutes, because it seemed to leave out a huge chunk of the story, enough that I wasn’t sure what was really going on (and I actually READ the book), but then the rest of the movie was fine. Strange. It didn’t really go into the deeper emotions of the kids either.

I wanted to be further along in the quilt, but that is always the case. I accept that I am always expecting more of myself than my self is apparently capable of providing.

So it’s morning now, and I still shouldn’t be writing, because the WAHHH didn’t go away overnight…around three in the morning, it turned into some force of nature that woke me up and slapped me around, and yes, I’m still tired and physically tired and mentally tired…did I mention tired?

I’m just going to save this as a draft and hope that the afternoon/evening brain is a more focused place, a less drowning-in-the-shit existence.

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Street art on the back wall of the Weber building, where I was going to an art closing reception…

So it’s night now. And I’m still tired. I’m maybe ready to start school tomorrow? Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter if I’m ready; I have to do it. So much of my life is that way. I just roll. I didn’t manage to make art today, which is too bad, but I did clean up the office/studio enough so that I can start picking fabrics tomorrow night, if I can find the energy. I just have to put some fabrics away from the last fabric-choosing event, and then I can start. It will take a long time; I know that. Plus grades are due soon, so I did spend time today doing that. It never puts me in a good mood to grade, I have to say.

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The other side of the mural.

WAHHH is still there. I exercised, but now am too tired to meditate. I know I will just fall asleep, so I’m going to finish this and then head for bed…yes, early! Apparently last night’s interrupted 8+ hours was not enough. Meds are still off, I think. Sigh. A body in balance…something I dream of.

I’ve finished a bunch of books this week…Delirium by Lauren Oliver…


read on the first flight, from San Diego to Minneapolis…recommended by the girlchild. A solid YA dystopian novel where love is some horrible disease with a cure…her writing and world are interesting enough to keep you reading, even when you think you know what will happen next. I’ll definitely read the rest, as soon as I can get through some of the library holds that have recently shown up…all at the same time. This is the second Oliver book I’ve read. Plus the girlchild has the rest of them on her Kindle, so I just have to carve out the time to read them.

Then I started one that I read about on another teacher’s website…I was a little leery of it at first, when I started reading it, but quickly fell under its spell…The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker…



This has fantasy and reality and intrigue and politics. It is LOOONG, and sometimes the story drags a bit, but the tale of how a jinni is trapped and a golem comes to life and both survive in 1899 New York City, combining folk stories of the Jewish and Arabic culture, is really fascinating. I enjoyed this book, although it did get noticeably long. I read it on three flights and in two airports and at two separate gyms. Impressed? Anyway. Definitely an interesting story.

The last one was kind of a last-minute choice of something I could get from the library (this is before all the library holds showed up), because I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything to read on the plane…Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn…


This is sort of a murder mystery, but then again, maybe not, but then again, yes. The story of a married couple is told through the eyes of each partner as the wife disappears and the husband is investigated for her murder. This story does not go the way you think it will, which adds to the suspense. It was hard to put down, even though it was a little crazy at times.

Anyway, I have permission from my counselor to distract myself with books and art and exercise…she prefers that to any bad habits I might bring on instead to hide the depression. So although I am holed up in my head, rarely coming out for air, I’m not overdosing or gambling, so that’s OK then. Maybe the WAHHH will get bored with all the other stories I’m filling my head with, and it will wander off into the sunset to harass some other poor old depressed person. It’s good that at least a couple of the things I like to do will let me close the depression door and hide out for a while. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the door completely closed and locked, but…well, there’s nothing I can do about that except continuing to do what I do. Probably more sleep wouldn’t hurt.




Where Am I, Part 2

April 16, 2014

I know where I should be in about 4 hours; unfortunately, Delta has once again messed up my flight plans, so I am stuck in a hotel in Syracuse, New York, ready to fly out at some ungodly hour in the morning. Last time this happened, I was headed to Quilt National in Ohio, and I missed the opening. I was really unhappy and stressed when that happened. I had to get a sub for my class and I was just messed up by the whole experience.

This time? Eh. It might help that it’s Spring Break, or it might be the influence of meditation or the distance depression gives me. I don’t really care. We got to the hotel and I went down to the gym and exercised for an hour. I drew for a while…


This is actually a really confusing drawing…there’s a metal tube and someone is zooming through it. It got a little crowded in the end. Too many overlaps. Might do it again on a larger piece of paper. It was (strangely) inspired by the first part of Angels and Demons (the movie, not the book), which was vaguely entertaining me after dinner in the hotel room.

Things the boychild has learned from this delay that his mom already knew: hairdryers are useful for drying damp shoes and clothing, although my Uggs are still wet from Tuesday (it’s OK, I brought my flipflops…oh, and hiking boots); you should always carry extra pairs of underwear and socks, and a shirt if you can; hotel staff have bandaids and it’s OK to ask for one; and most importantly, the line your mom picks will always be the longest one, so get in a different one (seriously, I’ve always had this issue).

Our flight leaves early, so I need to go to bed soon, although I have a hard time getting myself to sleep, even though I’m not on West or East coast time. I have no idea what time zone I’m existing in at the moment. Kathy Zone.

Six hours later! Yup, I’m awake and in an airport. We don’t have seats, but we’re checked in…somehow, we get in to San Diego before lunchtime (probably because it’s early enough that I would just be going to bed if I were home). One of my students wants to know her grade…sweetie, you turned everything in late! Plus I can’t input grades from here. Work raises its ugly head. No! I have 4 more days! Holy crap, where did Spring Break go? Apparently it wandered off…with my brain. Need to put a leash on that thing.

I’m missing life drawing this morning. That sucks. I will have to persuade Calli (the Golden Retriever) to do some poses for me (asleep, asleep on her back, asleep in a ball…you get the gist).

So wish me luck…hopefully the next post will be from the comfort of my own home, where the cats have been ignored by the girlchild for days.

Where Am I?

April 15, 2014

Such a philosophical question. I am significantly damp, somewhat peckish, with blood sugar definitely dropping. I forgot an umbrella, I left all my snack food in the motel (brain not functioning), and I’ve been up since 3:30 AM Pacific time.

Where am I? Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University, where the boychild will probably be spending the next 4 years of his life.

It’s a little mind-boggling and even sad to be here. I’m excited to send him here, to have him be moving on to being a college student…but with all the upheaval of the last year, it’s also really hard to be here.

Plus it’s pouring rain and getting colder, with snow expected this afternoon. In 5 minutes, I have to put all my wet outerwear back on and venture out to meet him at some info session, but right now, I am (shockingly) sitting in a nice comfy chair and drinking tea, texting the girlchild (who is not even up yet) about what color shirt she wants.

A few hours later…we did the info session and food and shopping for family, but by then it was hailing and windy and significantly chilly. On the one hand, worst day ever to visit this week, but he now has a better idea of what clothing he’ll need to live here. And he still likes it! Me, I’m happy to be living in Southern California. I spent a year living in Britain and constantly feeling damp and having my glasses fog up.

In San Diego, everything is green, that lime leafy green, right now. In a month or so, it will start to turn brown. Here in New York, everything is brown and dead-looking right now, with the exception of a few trees setting out buds. Spring isn’t quite here.

I’ve been reading a lot. It’s hard to stitch on the plane if you don’t know the people around you. They want to talk, or it just takes up too much room. It’s easier to read with headphones on so you don’t have to engage. Same with drawing…I did draw on the plane, but only when I got to sit with the boychild. Drawing is even more personal. I really don’t want to discuss it with strangers. But, yes, then I post it on the web…seemingly an incongruent act…but you are all out in the ether, not sitting next to me for four hours. No one can disapprove of reading, right? It’s an educated thing to do. We want our kids to do more of it…it helps us deal with the world, increases vocabulary, makes you more empathetic, protects against Alzheimer’s…hell, it’s unhealthy NOT to read.

I actually believe many of those things apply to drawing as well…it’s just harder to draw for many people…although no one doubts their drawing ability when they’re young. We haven’t mastered reading and we draw like little crayon ninjas, taking over the visual world with our interpretations. I have students who don’t like to read, who fight it, won’t look for key words, won’t practice. Sometimes it’s a language issue, sometimes it’s parents not making an effort to read TO their kids, to read IN FRONT of their kids (something besides Facebook status posts, folks…because that’s not reading unless you click through and read news stories and blogposts…and even then, your commitment was for a thousand words instead of pages).

I never had to make my kids read. But they saw both parents reading all the time and we read to them every day.

I wonder, though, what happens with the drawing? I wonder what kind of world this would be if we made drawing or visual expression (dance?) or even music as important and crucial, at home and at school, as we do reading? What kind of world would it be then?


Certainly I would be able to draw on the plane then.

Where My Brain Goes…

April 9, 2014

Almost 5 hours of tracing Wonder Under today and I still have 200 pieces to go. Out of 1776, that’s not bad. There’s actually more than that, because I have some pieces that are a’s and b’s of the original number. I forgot to number a nose, for instance. I’m getting close, though. That’s good. I’m 19 hours in. It gets to be kind of a slog…I have to force myself to not distract myself with blogs or books or whatever else I’d rather be doing (even cleaning house raised its ugly head, until I beat it into submission).

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I could use the same light-table photo every day and it wouldn’t matter. There is a much bigger pile of Wonder Under sitting on the couch now…6 or 7 yards of the stuff filled up with tiny traced pieces…which then need to be cut out. I made it through all of my saved SVU episodes…it’s easy to trace to SVU because it’s not a difficult plot and they’re all kind of similar after a while, so I don’t really have to watch too hard.

I wanted to be done today, but I have to get up tomorrow because Julie and I are going on a road trip. Julie is good at those. Another two hours though…I’d be done. If I had just started earlier (OK, so it’s not like I did nothing all day…I had errands and the gym and a kid to take to school and I don’t even know what else…I just know I deleted a bunch of stuff off the Spring Break to-do list, and then added twice as many more tasks, because I’m a freakin’ idiot like that).

I had cats helping me all day. Babygirl came in and was lying on the floor for a while. She never does that…and then Midnight, this is her territory in the house, so she was around…

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Couch World is HER world. But Kitten has also been coming in, and she rarely ventures out of my room, so that’s new…

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It’s nice to see her out and about, venturing throughout the house. Babygirl, when she goes to sleep in the early evening, pretty much stays there all night. She doesn’t do a whole lot of rampaging at night any more…it’s mostly in the morning. So Kitten feels safe enough to come out, apparently. That’s cool.

Anyway, I’m feeling kind of brain dead because I haven’t talked to any human beings since 5 PM and I’ve been mostly tracing that entire time, with breaks for dinner and some other stuff, like airline mileage programs and emails and hell, there’s a bunch of computer stuff I haven’t even touched and I really should, and then there’s grading, and I’ve totally blown that off for the last two days. Dammit. Oh well. This is what happens. I get art on my brain and everything else flees before it. This is why I will be a hoarder. This is why my house is not clean. This is why the yard is a disaster. Did Picasso have to do yardwork? Did Matisse need to sweep up the damn leaves? And if they NEEDED to do those things, did they just blow them off, or did someone else do them, or did they use those tasks as breaks from the artmaking? I just don’t know. I want to know if Dali did the laundry. I want to know if Mary Cassatt did the grocery shopping or if Frida Kahlo needed to go buy batteries for the damn smoke alarm. Did Hockney have cats? Who bought the cat food? Did da Vinci go through the pile of mail and recycle the stuff he didn’t need? Who handled Mapplethorpe’s receipts for taxes? Who emptied Georgia O’Keeffe’s fucking litter trays?

I really really want all that stuff to go away. OR. I want someone to help me slog through it all. The to-do list is taking over my brain. I feel guilty when I ignore it and I feel horrible when I let it take time away from making art. There is no happy medium for that. It all just fucking sucks. Girlchild bawled me out yesterday for a pile of papers that I need to deal with that was way too close to the stove and was dangerous. I KNOW. I know. I just have to prioritize, and that stuff…it’s not a fucking priority. I need a secretary. An assistant. Kids that put their dishes in the damn dishwasher.

I barely feel human. I am just the body at the end of the mechanical pencil. I just trace and then I trace some more. My brain literally goes mostly blank when I’m tracing. Part of my brain is paying attention to the TV and the rest is just watching the lines and counting the pieces and deciding what piece goes on top and what piece needs additional space drawn on for the overlap. It’s kind of cool that it’s that all-encompassing, the tracing task. Or not. Maybe it’s disturbing.

I don’t know how I feel about it. The brain is blank. I should be done tomorrow…will start cutting it out then. Probably will take another 20 or so hours…maybe a little less. I usually take less time to cut than to trace. Then ironing…probably not going to get to that before the boy and I leave for New York. Oh well. Life goes on.

All the SVU episodes are gone though. What shall I watch next? Something that doesn’t set off emotional land mines. Ha! There is no such thing.

How do I explain where my brain goes? I don’t. I explain nothing.

My Brain Is Offline

April 8, 2014

Note all the book reviews? What do I do when I can’t think straight? When my brain has wandered off? I read. I hunker down on the couch or in bed with a nice cup of tea and a blankie and a cat or two and sometimes a dog if it’s my day to have her, and I read. I read and read and read, like an addict. Sometimes I think what’s wrong with the world and with people is that they don’t read enough. I have a quote about that somewhere. I’ll find it later…wait, here it is…

By accident, the bound codex taught us sustained focus, abstract thinking, logic. Our natural tendency is to be distracted–to scan the horizon constantly for predators and prospects. Books made us turn that attention inward, to build higher and higher castles within the quiet kingdoms of our minds. Through that process of reflection and deep thinking, we evolved. There was no going back–only ever forward.     –Alena Graedon, The Word Exchange

It’s from one of the books I just finished (but haven’t reviewed yet). I like the idea of reflection happening while I read other people’s stories. I think it’s problematic right now to focus too much on my own story. Too much of it is up in the air. I’ve got nothing to hold onto…except Wonder Under, apparently.

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Yards and yards of Wonder Under. I traced a bit today…and yesterday…and the day before too. I’m about 1100 pieces in, 14 hours so far. Only 650 pieces to go? There were a bunch of other things that went on as well, like a local SAQA meeting, which was interesting. And cleaning my classroom. And a dance performance, which I’ll write about eventually. And the girlchild’s back checkup, which went really well.

But the tracing, I seem to only be able to do it at night. Not sure why. Really do have way too many errands and stupid crap to deal with at the moment. This is not a well-focused holiday, like some have been. It’s sorta chaotic. Oh well. It is what it is.

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It’s like my brain is offline. Maybe it just NEEDS to be offline for a while. Reading, sleeping, exercising. Forgetting half of the dinner ingredients yesterday at the store, going out today for the rest and STILL forgetting one of them. I just can’t keep track of stuff. Too much. My brain is having a mini-revolution. I wish it the best of luck. May it fly a new flag, conquer new lands, maybe even put someone else in charge. Surely I suck at it. Someone else SHOULD take over. Even meditation…shit, it’s just difficult at the moment. I can’t get to the spreading happy bubble of light that’s supposed to start at my center and radiate out. I just get lost in trying to force that. I broke another glass. I dropped it. It just broke. I don’t even know how I dropped it. I almost threw a mug the other day. Got angry at it. What it represented. Just wanted it shattered, like me. Then put it back in the cupboard. Enough with the violence. It doesn’t solve anything.

So the doc pulled one of my diabetes meds. I emailed her a few days ago with all of last week’s crap and she decided one of the meds might be the issue. They took about 10 gallons of blood this morning…the appointment is Friday. I’ve seen some of the results already. Nothing really shocking, although some stuff has changed. The diabetes, it’s like the happy. People tell you that if you do x, y, and z, then the diabetes will go away (then you will be happy). Liars. That’s not how it always works. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, the diabetes is still there, maybe worse. Same with the happy. Just because you follow all the rules, do all the steps, there’s no guarantee that happy will stop by and knock on your door. It’s harder during vacation, because I don’t have all the noise and bustle and distraction of the kids at school. There are too many quiet lonely hours. And I have a ton of stuff to do, so going out and doing stuff isn’t really the solution. Hanging out with more people doesn’t solve my problems. The work I do, the stuff in my head, the stuff that becomes art, it’s such a huge part of me and so few people are around for that…on purpose, mind you. I don’t create well with people around. I’m an independent worker. I don’t want help or company or critiques. I just want to make my art, but at the end of the day, the art isn’t enough to make me happy. There’s some happy mix that works, and I lost that. I had it. I thought I had it. I didn’t have it. Obviously. Because it’s not here.

Vacations are a slap-in-the-face reminder of all that. So I just get through. Hoping to finish the tracing tomorrow and start cutting this stuff out. Not exactly on track, but since my mind left me, I’m not really sure where the track is any more.

It Is Where I Am…

April 5, 2014

So it’s officially Spring Break for me (not my kids). It came this year without the huge sense of relief and fanfare that I usually ride into break. I don’t really know why. I know the depression has allowed me (forced me really) to distance myself from my job in some ways. Not from the kids…I am more connected to them this year than I think I ever have been. That’s not to say the year hasn’t been difficult. You can’t possibly be dealing with this incredibly demanding job AND a major depression and grief and not have difficulty. But maybe I can keep my job mostly where it belongs now. Maybe.

That’s the problem with teaching. It’s too damn easy to let it BE your life, especially if you don’t have anything else. Balance has always been difficult for me.

So what did I do on my first evening of break? I cooked dinner. I exercised. I meditated. I graded papers! I know. But it needs to get done, and I’d rather get a chunk of it done now, early in break, so I don’t have to think about it the rest of the time. So a little a day until I get there.

And then I started tracing stuff…I actually started really late at night (AGAIN) and didn’t want to stop (AGAIN), so I finally had to force myself to go to sleep because I knew that there was a bunch of stuff I had to do today…I’m kind of overbooked. Whoops. No brain downtime? Probably a good thing.

Anyway, I traced for a few hours…

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I’m still trying to fill in little pieces into all the weird spaces between the wiggly pieces from the bottom. I hate wasting Wonder Under…I don’t know why. It’s not particularly expensive.

Here’s an example of tracing like pieces together…I had fish on one side of the drawing and fish on the other, so I traced all the same fish parts together: fins, eyeballs, side fins, tail fins…because they will all be the same fabrics, so why cut them out in Wonder Under and then LOSE all the tiny pieces…cut them out as a lump, iron them down to fabric as a lump, and then cut them out once.

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I do not even know why my brain comes up with this stuff. This is part of my artistic process, this incredibly controlled, logical, pattern-fitting piece of the process. Compared to the fabric-picking stage, which is wildly out there and in my head coloring crazily, even when I’m asleep, waking me up with the next color scheme, this is incredibly calm and soothing…like putting a puzzle together. Fabric-choosing is a much more demanding, emotional task.

Anyway, I finished tracing the bottom person and I was trying to find where I had traced next. I try to be logical and move across the drawing in sections, numbering all the same parts together, but I spent about 10 minutes looking for piece 513 and just couldn’t figure it out (because I hadn’t been TOTALLY logical). But as I was doing that, I noticed that I had forgotten to number those damn octopus tentacles…I mean it was bad enough that I missed the bottom figure’s face…her body is in the 400s and her head is in the thousands somewhere, because I missed it while numbering.

Anyway, those damn tentacles added 102 pieces; now I’m at 1764 total…

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Originally I was going to embroider the smaller circles in the suckers, but I decided I wanted them to be fabric in the end. They seemed too big (ah ha ha!) for embroidery. I was going to have this satin-stitch or some sort of textural thing going on by the side of the quilt that wasn’t going to be repeated anywhere else in it, and it just seemed like a problem.

Anyway. That is not the first time an octopus has showed up in one of my quilts, by the way. So I’m about a third of the way through the tracing. Not where I wanted to be, but it is where I am. So there we are.

So I have to be super-focused today to get everything done and get to all the places I’m supposed to be. I’m hoping at the end of it to feel peaceful and inspired and maybe even content or pleased. I have to manage my days to try to manage the emotional crap too. I emailed my doctor about the weird blood-sugar incidents, because they really are illogical and supremely worrying. That may be part of my need today to be with other people as much as possible…if something goes wrong on a day I don’t have the kids around, at least someone might be around to call 911. The counselor wants me to get one of those medic-alert bracelets. SIGH. Anyway. It’s Spring Break. Cleaning, organizing, artmaking, maybe sleeping? Hiking? Who knows. Oh yeah, and a crazy short trip to visit the school where my son will probably spend the next 4 years of his life. Bet there will be some tears over that. Mine, not his.

Moving on.

More Is Better

April 4, 2014

Hey. So I’m feeling much better tonight. I think the biggest issue with the hypoglycemia is that it comes fast and I feel like crap with it, and it takes a long time for that to go away. The effects of last night’s episode continued well into the morning. I don’t think I started feeling OK again until after lunch. And I ate normally. So. But I ate normally the day before too. It’s the unpredictable nature of the crashes that is difficult. I worry about being alone and having it crash fast and not having someone around to help me. Anyway. The doc and I will have a conversation. We’ll figure it out. Hopefully.

Meanwhile, today was our team’s field trip to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Museum in Balboa Park. We saw one of the IMAX movies on the human body (probably it doesn’t help that IMAX makes me want to puke…but it was good), then we watched 140 or so students try to destroy all the exhibits inside the museum, and then let them out into the sunny gorgeous day to run around and eat and act like goofballs. It was a really well-managed field trip, thanks to one of the team teachers, and I didn’t feel anywhere near as crazy about it as I have in the past. And there’s only one day of school left until Spring Break, when I will have a little bit of freedom. I do have about 700 errands to run and another 30,000 things on my to-do list, but hopefully art will be part of it. After last night, I’m kind of trying to relax my desire to get a lot done. I think I will get done whatever I can, and I will have to be happy with that. Or at least content. Happy is still not part of my vocabulary.

So I practiced that tonight after getting home from my stitching meeting (which is really just hanging out with good people and sometimes we stitch and sometimes we don’t and we try to support each other with our wacky lives and existences…which is all you can do sometimes…is support). I ate some food…I’ve been paranoid about food today. Shockingly.

Then I traced for about an hour…

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It’s still going really slowly. I’m in the middle of the lowest body on the piece…

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She’s got some weirdly overlapping pieces, which means I really have to think while I’m tracing about what goes on top and what goes on the bottom, since I draw the overlaps into the pieces. I’ve finished her legs and belly, and am just starting on the arms. I was getting tired, so I tried to find a decent place to stop…I’m in the 370s, over 6 hours in.

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This piece really is a bit crazy. See all those empty spaces? I try to fill them in as I’m tracing smaller pieces. I try to do a decent job of fitting pieces in so I’m not wasting too much Wonder Under. I also try to trace pieces that I know will be the same fabric together so I save on cutting time…I only have to cut them out as fabric, not as Wonder Under as well. That really helps if the pieces are super small too…I often don’t cut them out until I’m ironing everything together…like I already know I won’t cut out the fish eyeballs until the very last ironing minute…which will be in June, at the rate I’m going.

The yawning, though. I had to stop. I had to make myself stop.

I got some done on the girlchild’s Xmas stocking at the stitching meeting…

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this piece is really slow. But it’s meditative. I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to actually meditate for real lately. I think I need to go back to doing it earlier rather than later at night…if I’m tired, I can’t handle it. I get the feeling he’d really like me to meditate in the morning, but I find that difficult. I’m not even really awake in the morning. I feel like you should be awake to be mindful. I’m a night owl. That’s why we call it meditative PRACTICE though…you’re supposed to actually practice it. Plus practicing makes you better at things.

Anyway. At least I’ll get some more artmaking time in the next few weeks. Nothing major, nothing lifechanging. Just more. More is better. Hopefully more is better will apply to hours of sleep as well.

Sleep? Art.

April 2, 2014

To sleep? Or to art? That is the question, the perennial question. I don’t seem to be able to balance those two out appropriately…probably because I try to do other things like cook healthy meals, exercise, meditate. All those things. Really, I think my job is getting in the way of having a fulfilling life. In fact, while I’m writing this, I’m trying to come up with something to occupy the smart, quick workers in my classes who will be done with their assignment about 20 minutes into class while my less-motivated kids flail and whine and complain that I am actually expecting a product that requires brain power. I got this. I can do this.

Can I do this? I decided yesterday that I really wanted to try to get this whole damn drawing traced before Spring Break officially started, which is Friday at 3:30. I then slapped myself around some, because that would mean I can’t go to work for the next three days (tempting, certainly), which isn’t an option (my team would kill me if I wasn’t there for the field trip), so then I thought that maybe I could do it by Monday, but then I need to cut all those pieces out (THAT’S why I’ve been saving all those episodes of InsertCrappyTVShowNameHere) and try picking fabrics, and now it looks like I will be in upstate New York for at least three days or more during Spring Break and it’s looking pretty grim in terms of getting the ironing done.

Oh well. I still cleared my evening (meaning I ignored all the grading I brought home and anything else like yardwork or cleaning or whatever) because hell, I barely saw my kids yesterday (but I did run errands) and I basically didn’t talk to anyone at all after about 5:30 PM, and this is what it’s going to be like when they go to college. Every day. Depressing.

I lied. My brother and SIL called me (yes, I am that pitiful that they call me and check up on me, mostly because they bought this talking Mr. T thing at Archie McPhee that said things like “quit your jibber jabber” and “pity the fool” and they just can’t NOT share that with me) and talked to me about snow and Ivy League schools and my brother’s and my grades in high school and college (apparently I had better grades than him in high school because I applied myself better…a lot of good THAT did me, right?).

Anyway. More pictures of my favorite fusible, Wonder Under. I’ve been using Wonder Under to make quilts since um since (holy crap, I had to go look up my list of quilts to figure out when I started doing that) since January 2001, my first fused quilt (besides the one where I learned how to do it in the first place) was When Laundry Attacks

laundry 1 (Small)

clearly a feminist portrayal of the burden of motherhood. Seriously old-school Kathy. Love her hair though…best use of Australian aboriginal fabrics ever.

laundry face (Small)

This is the picture I use for all my avatar thingies, whatever they’re called, when I have to put my photo somewhere and I can get away with not using a REAL photo of me. But look how few pieces there are in that face! Holy crap, I’ve gotten complicated. She doesn’t even have EARS! I just realized that. Weird.

Anyway, so Wonder Under and I have been best buddies for a good long time, weathering the years of paper that released without warning all the time to the years of paper that refused to release. I think they’ve finally gotten the recipe back to normal. I buy it by the bolt.

So I’m up to three yards for this quilt (it will go much higher than that)…

Apr 2 14 002 small

I’m in the water section now, so lots of pointy wavy bits. Then tonight, assuming I trace tonight, I think I will finally be tracing one of the three humans in this quilt. Well, one is barely human. Presumably he was human at some point.

I traced for almost 3 hours last night…with my tea and everything spread out over the couches…

Apr 2 14 001 small

What were YOU doing last night? Probably something way more useful or productive or sociable. Not me! I am none of those things. OK, maybe I could argue productive in terms of producing art, but sometimes I wonder to what purpose. Not last night, though. The purpose? Distracting me from my actual existence, ironically by tracing a quilt that is about my angst about my actual existence. I know. But it makes me feel better. And at least they will have a lot to write about when they write my biography.

Tracing Motivation…

April 1, 2014

So why can’t I wear pajamas to school today? Oh yeah, it’s not pajama day. It might be wear-your-sports-jersey day, but that’s not usually a day I celebrate, like I didn’t wear my SDSU gear last week (um, because I didn’t go there for one thing, but also because not so into the big sports events). If it’s crazy hair day or hat day, though, I’m there. I always forget (until someone reminds me) how bad the week before Spring Break is in middle school…especially when it’s so late in the year like this year. Why we tie a break to a religious holiday, I will never understand. It makes a lot more sense to figure out how many weeks there are in the second half of the year, look at when testing is supposed to happen, and put the break in a place where it will support the students (and honestly, the teachers) most. Then again, and I hate to say this, I suspect my students would do better without all those long breaks where they forget to behave like a student, where they go through their backpacks and throw out everything, where they completely forget whatever topic we were learning about before. Get rid of Spring Break! Wait. Don’t do that. I need that break.

So yesterday? Wow. Ouch. Supreme frustration. I was doing deep breathing exercises most of the day. I thought about bringing my book today so that when that period that everyone has that refuses to do any work because they’re too focused on anything BUT work, when they start going off like they did yesterday, I can just settle down in my chair and read a few chapters until they get back on task. And I’m not teaching something easy at the moment…it’s mitosis…cell division. It seems easy, but it boggles their minds that something like this is happening ALL the time in their bodies. Even though it boggles them, though, they’re not willing to think about it, consider the details, let alone show me they get it with that fun thing we call an assessment.

So I came home supremely frustrated…and down because nothing I did worked. When the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, there is often nothing a teacher can do on days like that. I can change it up, engage with a video, tell goofy stories, have high expectations (I hate that one…), I could probably throw cupcakes into the air…oh no, wait, THAT they would get their attention. Food. Rewards. Money would probably work. So that’s what I carried home from work. After 14 after-school errands. Tired. Blood sugar off again. And there were two things I wanted to work on before I had to make dinner, but the girlchild needed my computer (and both the things I wanted to work on, you guessed it, on my computer). So I tried that dinner-making thing.

Wow. It really wasn’t my day. I had some weird ingredient and the instructions to open the container were in Spanish, so that was OK. I could figure that out, although it was the strangest thing I had opened and the instructions didn’t really work, but then the ingredient wasn’t in a form I expected. In fact, it was mostly unusable. I’m sure I was doing it wrong, but I had another similar option in the freezer that I knew would work, so I used that instead. Then two ingredients were just not in the cupboard. Strange. These are staples, things I always have, unless someone used them all up and didn’t tell me. Yup. She denied it though. Anyway, for a variety of reasons, dinner took forever to make and was kind of a lot of work for what it was. Tasted good, but I can’t handle that many minutes on a school night. We ate late.

So after meditation and exercise (at which point, my blood sugar was careening towards the other crazy extreme, making absolutely no sense biologically), I was really tired. In fact, I think I fell asleep in meditation. I don’t remember all the parts I was supposed to do. But I was still carrying around that crazy irritation, that bugged feeling from working a job that is often thankless and more often completely crazy and sometimes seemingly pointless (please, lord, do not let any child ask me today why they need to learn about mitosis, because I’m not sure I can give a coherent answer that doesn’t harken back to my mom’s constant “Because I said so.”).

That’s not a good thing. I can’t carry that to sleep. I’ll wake up with it still draped around my shoulders, still dragging me down. It will feed off the core depression and make it hard for me to even walk across the classroom, let alone find a way to encourage them to learn this weird process that helps explain all the crap that happens in genetics. Plus I can’t be in that mood space. It’s just too hard.

So I stood up, drank some water, looked at the clock, tried to balance my sleep needs and my artistic needs in my mind, and started tracing…

Apr 1 14 001 small

Yup. It’s crazy that I’m doing that at midnight. Totally and completely nuts. But I’m glad I did, because it let me fall asleep and I didn’t wake up in an awful place. It’s not a great place I’m in, because (1) I am tired and (2) I still have to teach mitosis today (trust me, I did totally consider blowing it off and showing baby animals videos), plus there’s a staff meeting about using Google docs (holey moley, shoot me now), but if I play music really loud during my prep (oh wait, I think I have to be making field trip group lists during prep…another hellish task). Dammit.

Deep breaths.

Hey, here’s some fish I traced!

Apr 1 14 002 small

You don’t want to know how small those fishy eyeballs are. I know. I really do try to keep my brain out of the muck. Some days it’s really hard, though.

I’ve done about 3 hours of tracing…and I’ve traced about 206 pieces…so it’s going really slowly. That could be because I’m doing it really late at night and I’m tired, or it could be really complicated pieces. Or both. Usually I figure 100 pieces/hour, so it would be about 17 hours to trace this whole thing. At the rate I’m going on this one, it will probably be closer to 23 hours. I really need to rethink the artmaking plan for Spring Break. It’s going to be less purposeful than I had hoped. My fault. I was not focused enough (here is where half the people who read my blog, the ones who read it for the art-related stuff, start gagging and sending me messages that I am the most focused art person they know and they wish they could do as much work as I do and I should just shut the fuck up and rejoice that I am making as much as I am…it’s all relative, though, isn’t it?).

I’m hard on myself. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t get any art made. I don’t always understand why making the art is so necessary to my existence, but it is, and as long as I can keep that in the front of my mind, I know that I can get out of bed and shower and get dressed and go to work at a job that is the most difficult (and yet sometimes the most rewarding) job I’ve ever had. And for now, that’s what I need to do. So I need that focus. I need to have the goals in place and they need to be something I’m working towards every day. Without that, I don’t know how I would do anything else.

Now I need to get out of the pajamas.

Zooming In…

March 31, 2014

It’s interesting to wake up the morning after the hike and try to figure out what the hell you did the day before to cause the specific, different muscle pain that you have today. For instance, why does my right quad hurt so much more than the left? Maybe because that’s the leg I used to pull myself up onto rocks when we were scrambling up the canyon toward the waterfalls?

Then there’s Poison Oak Paranoia: every slightly itchy feeling since Saturday, I’m checking for the rash. I’m convinced it will show up (and it can take up to 5 days to show up, which is scary). At some point, I’ll get around to posting about that hike, but I have to resize the photos and I was in two long meetings yesterday, so I ran out of time.

My women’s art group is doing a show with Mexican female artists in September/October about the border, more of a conceptual collaborative piece than everyone contributing a single piece of art, so it requires meetings and brainstorming and working with people who work very differently than I do. I realize my experience of the border by being a teacher of students who regularly cross it is very different than others. I’m not entirely sure what I feel about it except that it seems to break up families and make it more difficult for certain groups of people, especially those who really don’t need more trouble in their lives. I read a book a few years ago about four Hispanic girls and the Dream Act and how this arbitrary line that we draw affected their lives. Anyway, you will probably see more about this project in the future, but know that right now, I am envisioning floating 3D fabric houses in the air above our real-live fence. And how that will go together. I think it’s good to force the art brain to work out of its comfort zone, out of what it’s used to doing.

Girlchild survived her weekend camp and came back invigorated and excited (she is so much more of an extrovert than I am). She had to tell everyone who her role model was as one of their team-building/introduction exercises, and she told me she chose me, and I said, “because you want to be a depressed, crazy old woman in your future?” and she said, no, because she wanted to be strong like me. Sigh. And I don’t feel strong at all most days. It’s like dragging myself along through the mud most days, but I guess she’s right. I just wish I didn’t HAVE to be so strong. It would be OK to have less to deal with and get through and to not have to feel like I’m always surviving things. I’d be OK with that. I guess I should tell her, some day, when it doesn’t make me burst into tears, that a huge part of my strength comes from having her and her brother around, that if they hadn’t been here this year, if they’d been off at college or even if they’d been around but not supportive (which believe it or not, they have been), then I don’t know where I’d be right now…maybe still in bed and under the covers. Maybe worse. Sigh.

I graded a little, but I didn’t let it take over my day. Then I traced some more…

Mar 30 14 001 small

Honestly, this seems to be taking forever and I don’t know why. Complicated pieces? Tired brain? Hard to say. Lots of little skeleton pieces…hey, I must be tracing dirt again! Dirt, then water. Skeletons, then bodies. Then birds, always the birds…and cats. Actually, I think this one has a dog instead of a cat. I don’t remember drawing a cat. The drawing is so big and took so long to do that I don’t remember, and when I’m tracing it, it’s upside down on the light table, so I can’t see all of it. I literally only see the little section that I’m tracing.

Kinda how I’m living life at the moment…just the little section I can handle each day. The night before I usually think about the little section I will handle the following day, but I try not to think further ahead than that unless I have to. It’s too hard. It feels too empty.

Brain. You really need to rewire yourself. Being smart and reflective and all inside-looking and crap? It ain’t helping you at the moment. Look out. See the whole drawing, not just the piece you’re on.

Nope. That’s what gets me in trouble right now. Trying to see the whole picture. I zoom out, the brain freaks out, and I zoom back in, quickly erasing whatever set it off. I don’t know whether that’s the healthiest thing to do or not…it’s just what I’m doing to survive right now.


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