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?

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


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.

 

 


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…

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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.


Recovering at Home

March 21, 2014

So I finally got the girlchild home tonight around 7 PM. It took some persuasion, but I was fairly sure she would recover faster at home away from the easy stuff at the hospital, so although she was scared to walk away from 24-hour care and access to better pain meds, we went home. Home, of course, in a divorce is a difficult concept. I did leave her at her dad’s, because he actually has a hospital bed in her room with the adjustable top and bottom (remnants of the marriage…I have one here in my garage as well, gifts from my grandmother to fill out our guest room, back when we had such a thing and she was getting rid of furniture she no longer needed). Plus I need to go back to work tomorrow and he is taking the day off to take care of her, so it makes more sense to not move her more than we have to at the moment.

Here’s where we spent the last 50-some hours…

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in the Acute Care Pavilion of Children’s Hospital, the big glass building in the background. I wish I could say I wandered around and took lots of pictures of all the art that was there, but mostly I stayed in the room with her, barely able to concentrate on anything longer than a blogpost. There was some possibility after this morning that I would have to spend a third night, so midday, I went home and showered and packed another bag for tonight, thus guaranteeing that I wouldn’t have to spend the night, right? Oh well…it was better to plan for it than not, like the night before. I think I’ve been home a total of 4.5 hours in the last 50.

She finally allowed one token photo of her in the room, about an hour before she was discharged…

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The painting behind her? I cannot say. I can tell you that we were on the air or sky floor, so all the paintings and art were related to the sky.

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Like this one of pigs flying…

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There were lots of whimsical things going on here. It was interesting, though, to walk into the family waiting room next to her room (she was sleeping and I was on the phone with work people about the chaos I missed but still need to know about), and to look at the giant photographs in the room and realize you know the artist, that she’s in one of your art groups. Wacky.

There were a lot of mosaics, which I’ve always loved, especially the irregularly shaped ones like this spiraling ocean of life that wandered through one of the outdoor gardens…

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The ex and I actually sat outside near this mosaic for most of her surgery. It was better than being inside. I’ve spent the last 3 days inside, I think. And this tile (and others like it) were in the main bathrooms scattered throughout…

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The animals were happy and calm…meant to make us feel the same way (except for the terrified puppies in hot-air balloons, of course).

Anyway, I left the meds and instructions with dad, and he can be in charge for the next 24 hours…we’ll see where we’re at after that. She can walk for short distances, but it hurts. She has to wear a brace while “ambulating” (doctor’s words) for the next three months. No soccer for three months. She has a ton of schoolwork to get done, and we need to get her back to school ASAP so she doesn’t miss too much.

I’m feeling a little distant from everything. I got very little done for all that time. Couldn’t stitch or read anything long at all. I finally managed to input grades today when I knew she was coming home. There’s something about that waiting state that doesn’t allow anything decisive to happen. I’ve accepted that as lost time. Moving on now.

I came home and did some dishes and ate and exercised and meditated (the first time I’ve done the last two since Monday night), so that was a relief. Now I’m going to sleep in my own bed with enough pillows and no one coming in every 2-4 hours to check vitals or give meds. What a relief. I’m hoping to get my art/creative brain back tomorrow, or at least be able to number the newest drawing or cut out pieces…pretty brainless stuff, but still on the artmaking spectrum.

She’s home. It’s good.


So Much Wasted…

February 26, 2014

I don’t feel human when I’m numb. I woke up this morning and the numbness, it was dragging me down into a pit. That’s not good.

I go to school. I do work. I go to the chiropractor and she says oh my what’s going on with your neck and puts warming pads on me and leaves me to relax and instead I cry. That is what I do now. That is who I am now. She gives me some exercises, explains what’s happening (to my back…she doesn’t notice the crying). Asks what’s going on. Tries to suss out why it’s worse than it ever has been. Hmn. Can’t say. I come home and think about being productive. I think about what I’m doing to my back?

I can go two ways with that productive thing: (1) do some work, grading of some type or (2) start picking fabrics for a quilt.

I do neither. I have a library book due Saturday. I’m almost done with it. I sit down and read. I talk to parentals for a bit about sprinklers, but mostly I read. I didn’t actually have much time between getting home from the chiropractor and having to leave again…so it was hard to force myself to be productive.

Then it’s book club night! I liked the book a lot, and I like getting out of the house to hang out with other geeky women and talk about books and movies and whether the guy that plays Sherlock is hotter than the tenth Dr. Who. Or whatever. These are my people. I ended up talking to someone I’d talked to before briefly…turns out her current life has some similarities to mine. It was a good conversation. Plus I have more books to read. This is how geeky our group is…those of us who liked the book now vow to read everything he’s written and we get all excited about how many books he’s written. Yup. I will never be able to read all the books that I want to read. Then there’s discussion of whether the British show of this is better than the American version, and if it’s a European show, we know there will be no happy ending. Americans like happy endings. The Europeans are much more realistic. I am more Euro than US of A in character. Always have been.

I come home and exercise while talking briefly to the kids, then spend an hour plus on the phone with brother and SIL talking college and retirement and money. It’s too late to start anything artistic. I’m honestly too tired to do anything else tonight. Maybe tomorrow. There’s no rush.

I still haven’t finished the book. Too many distractions and interruptions. They’re not bad interruptions though…they’re just life. And life interruptions like that are better than wallowing in the depression pit. That pit smells bad. I don’t like hanging out there. It makes me feel bad.

Except I know I still feel empty and numb…and I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything today…and I feel like I will never feel better. And I haven’t meditated yet, so I will try to do that after I finish writing this, but will probably fall asleep doing it.

I drew at school during prep. I did a bunch of grading and I got that nasty awful feeling in the pit of my belly that tells me I should work on my mindset, so I turned the music on and started to draw. There wasn’t much time left in my prep period, so I didn’t draw for long, but it seemed to get me through the day.

I wish for so many things to be different. I didn’t want things to be like this. There are some things I can change, but so much of it is out of my control…so much is just up in the air. So much is because of my brain, which refuses to behave. Why start now? Depression takes hold, digs in. I feel like I will need to cut fingers off, sever tentacles, slice up some connecting phalanges in order to disconnect from that part of my brain, the part that is deep in hopelessness…deep in crying.

So much brain power and energy wasted on this state of mind.

So much wasted.


The Getting Up and Pretending

January 28, 2014

I’m not sure where my head is still…I forgot even more stuff today, left one ingredient out of dinner (the kids noticed, but survived), couldn’t find photos that I had already removed from the relevant email and resized, left my brain in a dusty corner somewhere. I feel so freakin’ inefficient and lame because I can’t seem to focus properly…only half my brain is engaged in life. The other half is somewhere else. Hopefully it’s in Tahiti or the Caribbean, having a grand old time, instead of what I imagine from all the TV shows, where we hope it’s on vacation but it’s really locked up in a damp cell with duct tape (students, that’s d-u-c-t, not quack like a duck) over its mouth, bloody nose from getting hit too hard, double vision.

Yes, the imagination runs in overdrive on a regular basis. I tried to remember stuff. I shipped my  journal and bought boxes for the quilt, which needs to get there next week some time. I should have packed it up tonight, but I didn’t have the mental energy…which is too bad, because I think the other four nights this week will be much worse than tonight. Oh well. I need to iron it and dehair it as well. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow night (cough cough, after tutorial, soccer game, and gym). Whatever. The show doesn’t open until May. It will get where it needs to go on time. Ish. I focus so hard on deadlines sometimes that I think it makes me a little insane. Juggling like crazy right now.

I graded papers tonight because I am now way behind. I rarely grade at home these days…it’s just not a priority. I try to do it at school, but sitting in the classroom during prep is depressing. So I avoid it. I have enough depressoid going on…I don’t need to make more. On the other hand, I do need to catch up. So I’m trying to balance those things out.

I exercised and meditated like a good girl…exercise is just an excuse to be able to read really, and that is never bad. And meditation…it centers me, makes me be more conscious of my inner state, which is often not good, but I’m much better at controlling it this year. My students I think are benefiting from my conscious understanding of when I am losing it, and taking control of that. Breathe. Think. Don’t react. Wish I’d known about it sooner…I think it would have made my life different and better years ago.

Then I came in to try to figure out the fabrics for the Ivy Memorial quilt, which has nothing to do with any art show or entry or deadline at all. I didn’t think there were that many pieces in it, but that is because I am a space cadet and forgot all the detailed tiny bits I put into it because I am freakin’ insane. It has 312 pieces in it, which is a lot when you consider its size…which is about 19″ high x 38″ wide…wow, that’s a lot bigger than I thought it was…and that’s without a border.

 

I laid out the first 100 pieces, which are all freezer paper, cut with a border if they’re meant to be wool, so I can cut out the wool on the line, or cut on the line if they’re meant to be cotton, because I will turn the edges under to applique them. Only a tiny bit confusing…

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Most of it is supposed to be wool, with a few cotton accents around, and I planned it to be mostly bright colors. Last year or the year before, I was searching for a run of flesh tones for the main figure, but I never really worked out the rest of it. I have a decent stash of greens and a few browns etc., but none of the brights I was envisaging for the flowers. I have red. That’s about it.

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I did manage to iron the hills and river behind the main figure…I had enough greens for that…this is what I’ve used so far for the hillside…

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And the river is done. But before I decide about the rest of them, I need to find the stash of leftover pieces from the two Sue Spargo quilts…there were brightly colored pieces in there that were big enough for flowers, which is mostly what I need them for. I think they’re hiding out in the living room in one of the boxes from my last cleanup. I never throw those offcuts away, those funny-shaped pieces left over from cutting out birds or flowers. Yes, I think that makes me a hoarder in some ways, but I think if I just keep watching a Hoarders episode every month or so, I will be motivated enough to keep the packrat tendencies down to a minimum. Besides, in this situation, I think it’s exactly what I need…little pieces of bright colors. I may track those down tomorrow night.

After I pack the box. Yeah, I know. I don’t think I’ll be doing either of those things tomorrow night, but who knows.

I could just do another drawing of a sad woman with a weapon…because that’s not disturbing at all. I try to explain that I get all my supremely sad and angry and disturbing thoughts out in my drawings, so I don’t need to follow through with them. Expressions of anger, sadness, grief, depression, even suicide. I don’t need to DO any of that, don’t want to…but do need to acknowledge the thoughts that ramble through the brain. It would be stupid not to address those thoughts, the ones that inhabit your brain in the early hours of morning and want to color your dreams. Naw. Bugger off. I saw you, I said I saw you, now go away.

It’s funny…I have this tiny little wool stash, only about 20 different colors and some small pieces of some others…so it makes it really hard for me to pick what I want. I like having a huge palette from which to choose. This is the biggest section of stash…crazy quilt fabrics on the left side, browns, yellows, whites, purples, blues, and grays on the right side (actually it’s taking over the left side too…I recently consolidated the CQ stash over as far as it would go). And below the shelves you can see is a drawer of green and one of black.

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Then to the left of that are the blues (3 drawers) and greens (3 drawers), with a drawer of grays and one of browns…

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There’s other stuff stacked on top, pieces large enough for backings and backgrounds, plus a hefty Kaffe Fassett collection and all the William Morris-type fabrics ever printed…there’s a bizarre combination for you.

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Behind me is one drawer of brown, one of orange, and one of red (spilling out all over)…I have another black drawer back there somewhere too.

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Then under the sewing machine desk are two drawers of brown, two of pink/flesh, and then a ton of flesh colors that won’t fit in there. The top pink drawer is broken…the plastic is so old and one of the fatter cats kept sleeping on it until she broke it. I keep meaning to try to replace it. I’ve been really good over the last two years about not buying backing fabric, about using up what I have.

Since I will never be able to afford to move out of this house, I’m thinking when the kids move that I will just knock down all the walls and make a huge studio. I’m sure that won’t hurt the resale value.

So yeah. I did some art stuff, not a lot. I worked. I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel completely buried by sadness…just heavy with it. Always so heavy. I work so hard at pushing that away, at getting up and out of it. I wish it would just go. But I think I would need to walk out the door and get on a plane to some foreign country and start completely over for that to really work…plus they’d need to wipe my brain (tempting, oh so tempting). But then who would make my art? So I stick with my dorky kids who argue with me like teenagers do, and the goofy dog who lay on my lap while I was grading, and the three cats who vie for my attention. Every day I feel like I’m just going through the motions of a living person, trying to act like a real live human so no one notices that I am actually an alien from another planet, infiltrating their world, trying to fit in. At least there is art and there are animals and snotty teenagers and books and sometimes even decent movies or television (although tonight was not a good night for that). Without those things, I don’t know that it would be worth it…the getting up and pretending. I do miss, horribly, going to the movies regularly. Sigh. Oh well. Life sucks and then you die (I said that in high school with no understanding of what it meant…now that I better understand what it means, I deeply hope it’s not true).

“‘That’s the thing about pain,’ Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. ‘It demands to be felt.’” John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

 

 


I Need Better Shoes…

January 26, 2014

If I’m going to hang out at art openings, I will need better shoes. I may need a personality transplant as well, one that smiles and chats at the appropriate times. I also need to be much less judgmental, both of the art and the art wannabes; the fake is strong here.

That said, I did force myself to be among the living…

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and had a reasonably intelligent conversation with, of all people, another middle-school teacher who volunteers for the group that was raising money at this function. The group is 1:1 Movement, which is working on educating kids about sustainability and conservation. One of the things they do is give a plastic recyclable bag to each kid in a classroom and ask them to collect everything they would normally throw away for a whole week, and then they come back and look at what’s in the bag. The woman I talked to started saying all these things my students say about losing stuff, papers they got the day before, the pencil they brought to school…I hear you sister. They will come out to our school and talk to the kids…gonna see whether I can pull this off.

It wasn’t what I expected when I went…but I wasn’t really paying attention properly. They invited local artists to paint the recyclable bags they give the kids…

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And then they auctioned them off to the highest bidder…

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The money went to buy more bags for kids.

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I don’t have any money to spare at the moment. So I bid on nothing. I did start to walk out (way too many people that I didn’t know), and then stopped. I bought a jar of wine (drinks came in jars, which meant I spilt), and then went and sat down in sort of the center of things, OK, not the center, but there were still lots of people around me…

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And I did actually talk to about three whole people, one about my shitty camera (he had the same one and the same problem with the stupid lens covering…piece of shit!), one about the project itself (she was obviously an extrovert), and one about tamales. I know. I’m not an expert, but I did know where they were (observant tendencies).

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Mostly I just sat and listened to other people do artspeak and anti-artspeak and wow, I’m old here, aren’t I? And I don’t have a lot of tolerance for people. Sigh. So I people-watched and checked out shoes and clothes and who was walking around with whom and what they looked at and didn’t look at. But I stayed for at least 45 minutes. And I’m glad I had the conversation with the other teacher, because I will look into bringing them on my campus. I think it would do my students good to think more about what they waste…it frustrates me no end. Breaking pencils so they can throw lead at other students, picking up 5 pieces of white paper instead of 1 because they think they’re entitled to do so (I buy my own paper about half the year), losing assignments they picked up the day before, never having a pencil or lead.

Anyway. I did it. I went. It was OK.

I went to Road to California in the morning and afternoon with Julie and my mom…I will have to find time to write that post. It’s long and complicated.

The morning looked like this…

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Actually, it was much prettier than that, but the camera is not being my friend.

I stitched in the car on the way up and back. I always expect to get so much done, but even with about 3 hours in the car, I only finished two of the blocks and got a bit into the third…and the first of the two I finished was really almost done.

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I have done a lot of Pekinese stitch in the last few days. The bottom two are done (I could embellish them a lot more, but would never finish at that rate). The top right one will get finished in the car tomorrow (yet another drive for art-related activities).

And then when I got home, I needed to decide how to spend my evening. I needed to find something that would help my mood, rather than make it worse. I’ve had a bunch of drawings wandering my head for weeks, so I sat down and drew…

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It’s not done. Yes, it’s a bit disturbing. It will get more so, once I add another page to the left. Such is my brain.

OK, tired, exhausted. Really. That is the second time I’ve drawn a gun. It is the third time I’ve drawn tsunami waves. It’s not done.


Ironing the Crone

December 1, 2013

I originally named this post “I Just Want to Sit on Your Ironing Board, Bitch: Stories of a Petulant Cat,” but it seemed like a really long title and I didn’t have a photo that went with it. Just know that a certain cranky old-lady kitty had to be forcefully (claws in the cover) removed from the ironing board about 7 times today. She’s a stubborn bitch. I don’t like cat hair on my ironing board…plus she tends to knock fabrics down onto the floor…

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She doesn’t like my telling her what to do.

When I’m not actually ironing, I move the board out of the center of the room…but she still jumps from the back of the office chair to the board (which often ends in the board hitting the floor, because it’s not very stable). You can see all the fabrics I’ve used so far piled up on the right side, some more in the middle. I leave the drawing up where I can see it, so I know what I’m ironing. I’ve had to draw about 10 pieces that I apparently missed before. Whoops…some were double numbers, but some I just plain old missed completely. They weren’t even numbered.

So I have 11 hours into the ironing at this point. I managed three hours today…mostly I got the flesh part of the Crone done…

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I used almost all of the lightest flesh color…there is very little left of it…

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just little tiny bits in between the other pieces. I still have about 40 or 50 pieces in the Crone that I haven’t done…the heart, lungs, bits and pieces that aren’t flesh or hair, because I finished all of those. So I’m through piece 1122, but I haven’t done all of them. You can see some of them below…

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And now I have a bunch more to cut out…which is what I’ll probably be doing a lot of this month.

I managed to finally get my head out of the emotional mud today, at least once I picked the kids up. The morning was a mess, but when I started ironing, I was able to distract the mopey part of my brain with X-Files and a complicated part of the drawing…it really does require a bunch of concentration to try to figure out what color each piece is supposed to be. Sometimes I write notes on the pattern, like what number in the color range a piece is (1-6 on this one), in case I forget. I like to iron an entire body in one go, so I don’t forget where I was…so I have to figure good places to stop and start. So it took three hours today JUST to pick out and iron all the Crone flesh pieces…she’s about 400 pieces, so that’s reasonable. I’ll get the lungs, heart, etc. done tomorrow hopefully…it’s almost done. I have to do an owl and a cat (like you do) and some thorny bits…maybe another 2 hours? Hard to say.

Unfortunately, I also have to go back to school tomorrow. I’m mostly caught up on grading, but the next three weeks will be challenging. I’m going to try to be really efficient so I don’t have a ton of stuff to deal with over break…knock on wood. We’ll see how that goes. I always make plans and get screwed up by real life.

Meditation has moved into a new series, focusing on the mind (like they don’t ALL focus on the mind?)…

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Mr. Meditation changed his clothes for this series…there isn’t a video every day…it’s usually every 5th day before the actual meditation. But he wore the same gray sweater for the last 40 days, which was the Discovery Series, and now we have a blue shirt for the Mind Series (another 40 days). I thought maybe you’d like to have a picture to go with my descriptions of what he tells me. No, his name isn’t really Mr. Meditation…I don’t remember what it is. It doesn’t really matter. Mostly I just listen to myself breathe and sometimes he tries to talk me through some process of reflection or being in the moment with my feelings or letting my brain go do what it wants (usually a mistake at this stage of my life).

I was feeling actually fairly settled when I started meditation tonight. I had spent those three hours ironing, although I made dinner and hung out with the kids in the middle of it…I even drew a little. So I’d done everything I could to help my brain settle a bit, but then he starts talking about training the mind to appreciate and reflect (I do OK with that…the reflection at least. I’m working on the appreciation)…and he asked one simple question and I started crying. Not just a little trickle of tiny tears, but a full-on waterfall. Damn brain. I know why. And it’s interesting, because we’re back to the thinking vs the feeling, and I am very good at allowing my brain to have the feelings and work through them. Sometimes my thinking brain gets angry about WHY I’m feeling, why I haven’t been able to get OVER it, and why I can’t just ignore stupid anniversaries that aren’t anniversaries any more, but I think I just have to accept that part right now. And it sounds like Mr. Meditation will be making me work on that for the next 40 days.

Two of my pieces will be at the SOKA University Art Gallery in Aliso Viejo (Southern Orange County, California) from January 13-May 8, 2014, as part of a California Fibers exhibit. I will unfortunately miss the opening; it’s on Thursday, January 23, I think (that’s a school night…not driving that far), but I will probably go up at some point to see the exhibit. It will be a good variety of fiber work from this group. It was juried by Kevin Wallace, director of the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai, California. That’s good news, getting work into shows. I will keep working on that.


Distractions

November 30, 2013

Have you noticed that I haven’t been posting about emotions and grief and all that crap? I preloaded two benign posts (I put all the pictures in before we left Tuesday) so I could write two posts up in the mountains without having to think too hard. I  figured I would have issues up there, and I did. The emotional stuff…it’s heavier now with the holidays. I was so relieved, even happy last year at this time about an issue that I thought was finally solved, that I could finally feel comfortable about the holidays and how we dealt with them, and I guess this year is proof that I knew nothing. That nothing is permanent or works out…and yes, I know that’s negative thinking, but the holidays sort of bring that out, you know? You have expectations, and this year, I had none…and I got that. Nothing. I got nothing that I really wanted, because who the hell knows what I want? I’m just moving through the days, doing the stuff people expect me to do, but not happy about any of it. Living in the moment? Really just trying not to think at all. That’s one issue I have with this concept of living in the moment…if you don’t look forward at all, you can’t change what’s happening. If you don’t look back, you can’t change where you are. In the actual moment, I don’t do anything but live THAT moment. And that doesn’t change anything for me. I need change. I need reflection.

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We go to Lake Arrowhead every year for Thanksgiving. This year was no different.

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We left Tuesday. The plus is that the girlchild wanted to drive and she’s fairly competent, so I sewed birds until we hit the mountain…

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Calli slept in the back seat with the boychild…

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She’s a very good car dog…

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As long as you don’t mind her sleeping on you. She did have an extended back seat…we put the ice chest behind the seat and covered it with towels so she COULD sleep that way, but it’s more fun to be ON someone.

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Traffic wasn’t bad. The weather was nice.

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And I cried on and off. Music set me off. Plus the holiday itself. And stupid memories. Hard to shut those off. Just stitching, my brain has too much time to wander off into sentimental crap that won’t help it. It does it anyway.

I don’t feel good enough. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t the right thing. I know that’s not about me, but it doesn’t make it hurt less or feel better. It really just feels like shit. I wasn’t worth working for…and that’s happened twice now. Please don’t say “you’re better off…” because that just ignores the pain I’m in right now. It may be true…I certainly got there in my head post-divorce and still believe it, but it doesn’t make any of it feel any better while you’re living it. All those things we say and write…they are so meaningless, and sometimes downright cruel. Just say “I’m sorry.” That’s all you have to say. You can’t fix it, so don’t even try. There really isn’t anything you can say that will make it better. You can show me some lame comic off of Reddit or a stupid Vine video of BatDad…that might help…once.

On Tuesday night, the kids and I went to see Catching Fire

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It was good, although I almost ended up in the boychild’s lap during the baboon scene. He is very tolerant. I wrote this down during the movie, a quote from President Snow’s daughter: “Some day I want to love someone that much.” Snow answers, “And so you shall.” Even the movies conspire against me. I had a conversation with the boychild…something along the lines of, “you’ve watched your mom cry for 5+ months now…keep that in mind as you are dealing with women or anyone else in the future…don’t run away…make sure you communicate and be responsible for your actions…don’t you dare do something like this to someone else. It’s not OK.” He says he knows. In the moment? Who knows what he will do or think or feel. He is very kind to me, though. Then again, I’m mom.

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This was Tuesday night’s sky. It helped, briefly. Nature helps. Beauty helps. Briefly.

I felt bad about writing about depression and grief on Thanksgiving, so I just didn’t write. I mean, I wrote here, but I didn’t post any of it. I was there with my family and friends and I should have been thankful for food and time off and people who love me, but I’m not. I’m in that mind space where I’m just surviving…I’m trying to tell that whiny voice in my head to shut up. I’m not reading blogs, because I can’t handle other peoples’ happy or thankful at the moment. I’m staying off Facebook…same deal. I have nothing good to say…all I can say is wow…this still sucks. Thus is depression, and it has its claws in me. I will get away, but not today. Today I will do what I need to do to get through, and I will try not to think about last year, because how can you now be thankful when you have less and what you have hurts all the time? And that is depression. It’s not something where I can just get up and make a decision to be OK. I have to work through it.

My dad gave me an article about the difference between being lonely and alone: I still feel lonely in a room surrounded by others. I’m not ready to go out and party. I’m still hurting and sad. It’s a sign of how deeply I was committed to what I had, how deeply I was hurt. Respect it. Let me find my own way, in my own time. I’m alone because that’s all I can handle. I’m lonely because I haven’t figured out how to fix that yet.

We came home today; I drove down the mountain. We had Pandora playing most of the trip off the girlchild’s phone, and tried a variety of ways to rig the speakers…this was NOT the best choice…

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Boychild finally typed up his essays for the University of California college app (due tomorrow)…in the back seat of the car…

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Calli had her head on the keyboard for part of it. He has now officially applied to two colleges…only eight to go (seriously). I’m feeling a little less stressed, or a little more stressed, depending on what part of his going to college I think about…paying for it or sending him off or having finally started the process or I don’t know. His actually getting in? Scary stuff. Paying for all of it while trying to budget for Christmas is a whole ‘nother issue.

We switched drivers at the bottom of the mountain (I get carsick easily, plus didn’t want to white-knuckle the trip down in the rain)…

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Calli was awake for that (briefly).

Then I went back to sewing, in the rain this time…this is where the speakers ended up…

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More crying on the way home. Girlchild notices…doesn’t say a word. I cried on the way up because she had been yelling at me, typical teenaged stuff, but I just couldn’t handle it. On the way back, I don’t even know what set me off…songs…the trip…my brain. She said sorry on the way up. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry.

I didn’t manage meditation up there at all…too tired by the end of the day. I think we saw three Avengers movies in the last 5 days, plus lots of people and food (more about that later). I really should have meditated, but would have just fallen asleep in the middle of it. I kept having dreams and nightmares…mostly dreams that turned into nightmares…makes sleep a bad place to be. The house was on fire, I kept going back for stuff, someone was helping me. Kids were little; I grabbed electronics and chargers. I couldn’t get to my sketchbooks, clothing, or meds. Calli was the last thing I grabbed. The house gets sprayed by something, but it’s not helicopters, it’s people flying through the air with their arms outstretched, spitting water from their mouths. It’s not enough. I woke up terrified. That was the nightmare. I couldn’t remember the dream by the time I had typed that out.

I meditated tonight, a relief really (remember that), but with a cat on my lap, squawking at me and kneading my thighs with her claws, while the dog cried at me with her ball, wanting me to throw it, headbutting me until I petted her. While breathing. While counting my breaths. While noting my emotions. While crying. Meditation with interruptions is still better than no meditation at all.

Mr. Meditation says I need to allow my emotions the space they need to exist. I think I do that. I don’t run away from them. They are part of human existence. We can’t control when they come and go. We can’t get away from them or control them. There needs to be a willingness to listen within. Listen to my own emotions and watch them and exist with them. If more people did that, I think there would be a lot less pain in the world. Fear of one’s own emotions seems to cause an awful lot of stupid behavior.

Despite all the bad mental stuff over the last three or four days, I found myself today being grateful for the art. I’ll write tomorrow about what I’ve gotten done, but better than that…I currently have 9 pieces out for shows, either in shows right now or traveling to a show that will open soon. I have 4 pieces guaranteed for shows in the next few months, another one that I will finish in the next few months that has a guaranteed traveling exhibition starting next winter, and another one I haven’t even started that will be in a show next January. There is no shortage of work in my head that wants to be made…one was crying out to be drawn during meditation today and I ignored it…at least for now. The art brain is there, it’s active, it’s holding my head out of the water. The art brain doesn’t mind being alone…it’s the non-art brain that gets lonely. The two don’t exist apart from each other, unfortunately though, so I have to help one to help the other…at the moment, the art brain is ruling the roost…it hears the other part, but it knows that the art will get me through…so it keeps making and dragging that part of the brain along with it. They don’t often get along, the two pieces of my brain, but they do know to take care of each other…give art brain ample time to create, but let the rest of my brain have a life outside of art, and they will both be happy. Right now I will settle for one part being hard at work and somewhat distracted by that. For now.


Muddling

November 24, 2013

I just want my mind to give up and let me have a rest from its constant noise. I get that for about 20 minutes in meditation…well, some days I do and some I don’t. I’m getting better at it…not silencing it, per se, but being able to step back from it. It’s the same thing that saves most teachers: the ability to block out all that excess noise and focus on one kid’s voice, eyes, face. Or the voice in our heads…telling us to keep it together, despite the chaos. It works that way now sometimes…I can step back from the sad and the grief. They’re still there, I still feel them in my chest, my gut, but I can stand back, arms crossed on my chest…and watch. It doesn’t make it hurt less. It doesn’t make me feel less sad. But it gives me some distance, I guess.

My life needs to adjust: the purpose needs to be to Live and not just to get through or survive…because that’s what it is now. I wake up in the morning and think about how I will survive the day. I don’t think about how to Live it, most days. When I can, I add a hike or artmaking. That’s closer to Live. I’m not happy about what the Live looks like, but that’s what it is. I can’t control what other people think or do…I can’t even control my own mind half the time. During meditation tonight, I hugged it, my mind. I just freakin’ hugged it from behind, because it wouldn’t turn and face me. Girlchild accused my radio station of playing sad songs all day, and I guess it was true, because I cried on the way to pick her up and on the way to and from quilt class. And to school. And to the doctor. The rest of the time, she was in the car with me. Distraction. My mind was in a bad place, wandering around in the cold and the dark. Someone should have put on some better music for it.

I started this in the morning. I typed: “Just electronically checked in at the doctors office. Cute perky little things ask if I want to try the kiosk. Yes. If if means I don’t have to talk to anyone and say have a good Thanksgiving to people I don’t know but recognize because I’m here all too often. That superficial social stuff. Becoming a hermit. Must be the holidays. Plus I’m a tech person? I guess.” Is the world becoming more antisocial with kiosks? Maybe. I do prefer the self-serve at Home Depot and the grocery store. I’m tired of making small talk. “How are you?” “I’m fine.” “No, I’m not. I’m having a really bad life at the moment. I’m not going to kill myself, which is what people keep asking, but I’m just not having any fun. Or even anything anywhere near fun. Why do you ask? Are you looking at my purchases differently now?” Yeah. So. Kiosk it is. Then no one needs to know that I bought artichoke hearts AND coriander seeds.

After doctor appointments, there was someone I would always call, because the appointments make me feel unsettled, shaky, unsure of my own body. I just needed to check in with someone who apparently cared about me. I can’t burden the kids with my health issues. There are so few health successes. Even today. Doc was all excited about the weight loss, but then wanted to know how. So I told her. She was…I don’t know how to describe how she was. She’s been my doctor for a million years…since the girlchild was born. She was worried about me. She asked if I was getting help, did I want more help, did I want more meds, did I want to hurt myself. She tried to tell me that single women were happier (is that true?). She even hugged me at the end, and that’s why I cried on the way home. I made it out the hallway and past the waiting room and the perky little things and the kiosks and through the parking lot and into the car. And there was no one I felt I could call. I’m sure that’s not true, that there were people I could have called, but my brain was all tied up in whom I would have called.

My numbers aren’t bad. Some are better, but I didn’t get rid of any meds…I got more. Fucking meds. Fucking body. It feels like a conspiracy. How are you supposed to reduce stress if bad shit keeps happening? I don’t know. Mr. Meditation will tell me, maybe.

So a rough day. Discussed holidays with the girlchild. She says to have no expectations. I say it’s not even expectations, because I don’t expect anything. It’s that I had something and now I don’t, and the holidays are a big slap in the face reminder of that. Plus no routine and too much thinking time and it just reminds me and I don’t want any more reminders. And it’s all about survival and not Live.

So I did a lot of fabric stuff today, despite a million hours of grocery shopping and errands and driving (or riding, because girlchild is driving me). I did the fabric stuff to try to counteract the brain muddling through its holiday crap. I wanted to get through ironing half the pieces down, but the errands took longer than I thought…

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I did get through about piece 535, though…

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So not bad. And I have the flesh run of 7 fabrics now, so it will be easier when I get to the other bodies…

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Babygirl was not helping by sleeping on the flesh fabrics…

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I’ve done the Mother and the bird above her head…tomorrow, I’ll start on the Maiden maybe…if I have time. I’ve got 5 hours and 40 minutes into the fabric choosing, with probably 7 plus hours to go. I also cut pieces out at our rescheduled quilt class…

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Got about two hours into that. And then came home and ironed some more…

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Probably worked later than I should have, but I’m wide awake and scared to go to bed when I’m this awake.

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My brain really doesn’t need more opportunities to get all worked up at the moment. Someone needs to whack it over the head with an iron frying pan to gently persuade it to sleep. Seriously. It’s significantly late and I am wide-fucking-awake.

Just tell it to stop. My kids try to distract me with stories and videos and movies that we all watch together. Discussions of who is hotter, Thor from the Avengers or Gale from The Hunger Games (the boychild just scoffs at these conversations). Talk of what movies we’ll see later this week…there’s some guy named BatDad. There’s a geeky video of Miley Cyrus infiltrating Key Club. I would probably be OK without all that stuff, but I know they are trying to engage me in life, in Live instead of survive. So I go along with it. It’s OK in the moment. It’s the standing in line or waiting in the car moments where I start to muddle through the muck again.

I thought y’all should see my recipe card for the Nida family holiday Swiss green beans (no French-fried onions were sacrificed for this dish)…

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It is well-used, and every year, my SIL calls to get the recipe again because she’s lost hers.

Thankful I can always find it. Thankful for kids who care. Thankful for a doctor who pays attention and remembers enough details of my life to ask the right questions. Thankful for the art…for as long as I can remember, it has been saving me. I hope it never leaves, because everything else probably will.


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