Not in My Nature…

September 1, 2014

Oh Holey Batpuddle. OK, so the plus is that I have had a breakthrough on the painful drawing of death (it’s not really a drawing of death. It’s a drawing that was trying to kill me. It failed. Fuck you, drawing. I will prevail. I am way more stubborn than you are…Yes, I am arguing with a drawing that is coming out of my head and is composed of paper and pen). I got it to the right size (even this was an issue on Friday and Saturday nights) and then penciled in the legs…

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I wanted to make sure the proportions were right. I already have issues with the length of the arms, but have decided I don’t fucking care. Once I had them in pencil, which yes, required some erasing and redrawing (apparently I think people have HUGE feet), I inked in most of the bottom.

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I kept thinking I should add more stuff on the bottom bits, but I do need this to actually GET MADE. It’s not anywhere near done, of course…the tibias and fibulas are missing. Extra credit points if you know what those are. Of course, then crazy brain popped in and suggested drawing phalanges and the other foot bones, so I slapped myself around a bit and moved on. I’ll work on it again tonight, although I’ve been exhausted all weekend, despite TRYING to get more sleep, so I don’t know how well that will go. Yes, I wanted to be done with the drawing by tonight. No, I won’t be. Oh well. Moving on.

I also worked on one binding last night…

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I have two more to put on, one ideally by Thursday night, but it’s the smaller one. I think I have another week or so for the larger one.

In the morning, I had an idea for adding something to my floating house…

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Last-minute decisions. A human figure that hangs down on the inside.

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I will never be able to sell this for the time and materials I put into it, which is kinda sad.

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Oh well. The cats will be quite happy when I bring it home and hang it so they can reach it.

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I spent most of the day dealing with stage 1 of the Art Produce install…

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Which was supposed to be hanging all the houses. We spent the first hour locked out (ah, the wonders of miscommunication) and tying fishing wire to the houses for hanging.

We had a wide variety of types of houses. Most people did more than one…

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I decided to do one big one…

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Linda Litteral’s houses are beautiful…

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Hand-drawn on tracing paper glued to wooden bases.

We got the fence parts in place…

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Installed some hanging apparati above…

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And I spent about 2 hours going up and down a 10-foot ladder, tying fishing wire to the supports above. I was a little tired afterwards.

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One of the other artists was going back today to install a bunch more, and we’ll all be there this afternoon to install birds.

Here they are attaching the fence to the wall…

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Art Produce is a gallery in North Park (San Diego) that has applied for nonprofit status. The exhibit we’re installing is called Fence/Barda, and is in coalition with a group of Mexican women artists who we have barely met. There is an American side of the gallery and a Mexican side.

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But mostly the houses went in today…the inside of mine from below.

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I was down there for 3 hours yesterday and it will be another 4 today. We got the fence location put in place and then moved it out of the way so we could start hanging houses. Then put it back with a ladder on each side for installation purposes.

I finished the two birds for this exhibit. If you come to the show (the opening is 6-9 on Saturday, September 13), the birds are all selling for $100. This meant I had to spend less time on mine than I had with the original versions. First of all, the birds are all 8×10″, so that was smaller than my originals. Then I didn’t bind them…I just satin-stitched the edges. I also didn’t put a sleeve or a label on them…I just wrote the info on the back of the quilt and sewed on two little rings that can hang on nails.

This is Bird 11, Dove 2:

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And this is Bird 13, Diving Bird 2 (although this one is less divey than the original):

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They will be in the show through October; if they don’t sell there, I’ll put them up here when the show closes.

I’m also possibly hanging a quilt that I never finished from way back. I’m taking it in today and asking if they want it…it has two houses on it and it’s a significant departure from the work I do now, but we have some blank wall space on the American side and I think it might fit. I just need to put about 2-3 hours into finishing the quilting and putting a binding and sleeve on it. I was going to do that last night, but decided that I wasn’t going to put time and energy into it if they didn’t want it. So I’ll take it today and see what they say, and if they want it, I’ll finish it by next weekend, when the Mexican contingent installs…I can just go over and hang it on the wall in about 5 minutes flat.

Anyway. So I made lots of progress yesterday. I’m exhausted today and still have 12 things on the to-do list, not the least of which is getting ready for school tomorrow. Yikes! And the girlchild is in a mood (finally school stress starts to weigh on her). I miss the boychild. We had a brief text conversation yesterday about the lameness of Mexican food at Cornell (a shocker). We would FedEx him burritos, but suspect they won’t make it.

My mood’s been halfway between too busy to even notice how I feel (there are pros and cons to that) to sinking well below into the depths of yucky shit. Fun stuff. I’m hoping artistic progress will keep pulling it back out. A girl can hope. Whenever you think the depression might be gone or reduced, it comes back to remind you that no, no it’s not. HERE I AM. Whatever. Fuck you. Now I need to jump on the rest of my to-do list for the day. While many people are lazing around, planning their Labor Day barbecue, I’m trying to decide what I’m taking to an installation potluck (I’m not making anything…there’s just no way) and how to fit 10 more hours into the day. Such is my life. I keep making more work for myself. Trying to draw the lines…I won’t do this or that, I will keep a balance. Ha. It’s not in my nature.

Figuring out How to Make the Feels

August 28, 2014

It’s highly possible the girlchild and I are related. I often come home from work and my brain is fried. I have no ability to get anything done. I sit and read, whether blogs or book, and I can’t move off the couch or the chair. Inertia. I’m tired. My job can be exhausting. Tonight, I come home and read, because I have 5 books that were on library hold and all came in at the same time and will all be due in 3 weeks. I love this STRESS to get the reading done. I start with the 800-page book. It’s long. Read it first. 

When girlchild gets home, she’s upset. There’s drama, there’s sad, there’s hormones, there’s just a whole lot of stress and worry and shit. She’s worried about her future, her college choices, her soccer team, what she will wear the first day of school (in contrast, I have no idea what I’m wearing to school tomorrow). I’m working really hard at ignoring the big future things, about not worrying about her leaving, but I’m sure she knows I worry about it. That said, I want her to go. I want her to go and have a college experience without living at home, to be far away and functional all by herself. To know we love her and will jump on the first plane if necessary, but meanwhile, she needs to handle her own laundry. 

And we’re a year away from her leaving. It’s just amplified by the boychild being gone. She misses him already (it’ll be a week in about 5 hours). I do too, but not like she does. It’s different between brother and sister. I don’t remember missing my brother, but I was the one at college, and college is noisy and messy and busy and inhabits your entire brain. 

So instead of all the things I thought I would do tonight, I hung out with the girlchild. We cobbled together some lame-ass meal after seriously considering Menchies for frozen yogurt (it’s almost a healthy dinner). It wasn’t the greatest, but it was food. It reminds me that we should have better plans once her school starts, because there are some nights when neither of us want to cook. Before, the boychild’s presence would kind of force the issue, unless I was totally dead, and that was usually Friday, and then I would just order pizza. Now, with just the two of us, she’ll tell me she’s not hungry, and so I’ll just forage. I think we need to spend one Sunday a month cooking and freezing meals for those nights, or we’re going to be in serious trouble. If we’re smart, we’ll start this Sunday. I don’t know if we’re smart (I already know I’m working on an installation on Sunday).

Anyway. The plus is her moods seem less volcanic. The minus is they are swimming in salt water. Luckily, my brain is still holding me well above the water line…mostly. I can’t say I feel normal, because I feel…I don’t know how to explain it…distant. Distracted. Emotions are mostly held far away. I don’t know what that means. It just is at the moment. It just is. I honestly am not feeling most of the time, or the feels are so far away, they don’t really affect me. Strange.

I spent about 4 hours with her, talking, hanging out, reading, because she needed it…and then she went to bed and I started quilting the last bird, the second owl…

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Background and owl color. I trimmed all 3 bird quilts that will be bound…maybe tomorrow night I will get the bindings on. I also need to make some decisions about the floating house and how to hang the other two bird quilts, and then DRAW DRAW DRAW. No more fucking excuses. I really could have sat in the living room with the girlchild and comforted her as I did anyway, and I could have been drawing. Except my brain said no. I’m not sure why. There’s some mental space I need to be in, and I can’t be there at the moment. Unfortunate. I expect to be done by the end of the long weekend. I do. 

Expectations? Modify. Every day. Deep breaths. Modify again. 

Girlchild does not want to leave her pets behind when she goes to college. She was feeling mopey today and subjected Calli to full body hug…

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Calli put up with it for about 20 minutes. That’s all the doggy love she’s got, apparently. Although that’s a little closer than I get to the dog on a regular basis.

It’s a rough week. Lots of adjustments at school. Parent meetings are already starting. Trying to keep on top of things, to use my staff (girlchild and student aide) appropriately. To put art in every day. To take care of myself. To take care of my mind. To be myself. 

The path to happy? I don’t know. I follow this path and get distracted and end up on another path, one that doubles back or ends at a cliff, and I pick my way back, or I just end up bushwhacking across the hillside, stickers in my socks, scratches on my calves. I don’t really think, this one thing, it’s what will make me happy. All those things are now troubled choices. I think what made me happy before? I won’t trust it for a good long while. Thanks for that. That’s not my construct. It’s what others do…they damage the normal neural pathways and we have to route around. You think, “This SHOULD make me happy, but due to all the heinous shit I associate with it, it no longer works.” How else will we get there? Sometimes that’s the hardest part, is figuring out how to make the feels. One step. One day. One.


Because It Has to Be…

August 14, 2014

So I hiked last night. I think it will be very difficult for me to pull these hikes off during the school year, though…the mid-week after-work hikes? I didn’t get home until 9:30 and then cooked dinner and laid around like a sloth for a while, which is what you do after a 5- to 6-mile hike at the end of a long day, and then I did some more stuff on the floating house, but it really sucks hours out of your day. Three hours just gone. And I’m gonna need those hours. Sigh.

We did Iron Mountain again…

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It’s a nice hike. Not too hard. Harder coming down in the dark. We led a Swedish team of kids down (actually, although I was in front, I led no one…Gail had to tell me where to turn, because I suck at that).

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It was beautiful at the top. We ate snacks and talked and watched the sun drop below the marine layer and the colors reflecting off the mountains and clouds to the east.

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Every time I get to the top of a peak in San Diego County, I look out and see this beautiful undulating, rocky landscape that is home. Maybe I need to put mountains on my floating house (shit. I don’t think I have the right colored organza for that). The surrounding landscape is home too. Living in the UK for a year, it never felt like home. It was too green and verdant, and although it was undulating (I was in Wales), it wasn’t very high or rocky. It was hills with sheep cavorting across them. It didn’t take long to climb to the top of anything. You were never very far from sea level.

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And I tried to figure out last night, Why Hiking? What is it about putting the pack on, pulling 720 foxtails out of your boots from Saturday’s hike (seriously, I am not kidding), slathering deoderant on so you don’t smell too bad, stomping up a steep slope in the late-afternoon August heat, into the cool shade of the back side of the mountain, shading your eyes from the low-slung sun as you come around the corner facing west, summitting the peak, taking your pack off so the sweat drenching the back of your shirt can dry before heading down, thinking the downhill might never end, slipping a bit because you’re hiking in the dark, blinded by the lights behind you that splash your giant silhouette across the trail in front of you. And you don’t have dinner waiting, you barely ate all afternoon, you had a handful of peanuts and two grapes and five carrots at the top. And you come home covered in dust and needing to shower, sweaty to the core despite the cool night breeze for the last half of the hike. Why do this? What does it bring? There is this sense of accomplishment, of survival sometimes on the longer/harder hikes, this mental rush from the adrenaline, the serotonin release, and it makes you turn up the music LOUD on the drive home and you feel all I Am Strong for a while, and then the rush slips away and you are sad. Because there is no dinner waiting; there is only silence. And yeah, you did it. Good. You will strengthen this body and make sure it lasts as long as possible. This is one reason why you hike. And you hike so you actually TALK to people in the evenings or Saturday mornings, because otherwise the silence overwhelms you. But that feeling doesn’t last. It’s not sustainable. And that is the depression talking. It always has a cord around your neck, pulling you towards the hole, and when you are tired from the hike and you haven’t eaten yet and the thought of cooking something is already exhausting, then that cord can pull you back down really easily.

I came home and meditated while dinner was cooking. Jake, the German Shepherd, was not very respectful of my meditation time and kept plopping toys into my lap (I had left him alone all day). Tired won for a while. I worked on the house after professional development yesterday, before the hike…

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I started the veins on the other side of the house…I run the stitching line first and then trim…

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And then I put a second layer on top. Because if you’re using organza, you should overlap it.

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And I’m not sure I like it at the moment. I liked it last night, but today I’m not so sure. I have some other stuff that needs to go on it. But I may just leave it hanging there for a bit to get used to it. Maybe. And I have another idea for something I want to do, but I’m supposed to be simplifying my life, right? So it doesn’t overwhelm me right as school starts?

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It looks so different in artificial light…

I just don’t think that’s in my nature. Simplifying. I mean, maybe on some level, because last year, I worked really hard to streamline stuff so I wouldn’t have to bring so much work home, and I think that worked, but…reducing the amount of time I’m in the art mode? Or the number of things I work on? That doesn’t seem healthy. I know I cause more stress to myself by taking on artistic projects, but these are also the things that keep me functioning. They keep me from falling into that hole and staying there. Even though I’m barely out of the hole, hanging on by my fingernails, slipping back down on a regular basis, at least I’m mostly out. And that’s the art. The hiking might help a little, but it’s the art that sustains me.

Anyway. Back to school again today and tomorrow. In the old days, I would have fought it more, stayed away longer, but in the old days, I had more that was at home that sustained me and kept me recharged. I don’t have any real rechargers any more. I don’t feel like summer has given me the break I need to start a new year of teaching, but I think it will be OK. It will be different, and I don’t know what that different will look like, and I’m sad about some parts of it and excited about others, but I also know at the end of every day, I can come home and draw or sew or cut up pieces of organza and hang them from a coathanger in some crazy-ass desire to express what home is. And for now, that is enough. Because it has to be.

Building an Ephemeral House…

August 13, 2014

Exhaustion kicked my butt yesterday. Something about spending all day in a workshop about culturally responsive classrooms when you already know how to do that and what it looks like. Isn’t my masters degree in cross-cultural hoohaw? Yup, there’s some official title there, but I can’t remember it. I feel like there was a lot of eye-rolling and No Duh moments. Plus I was doing it on 4 hours of sleep. Troubled sleep. Almost killed the alarm clock with my sword, I did.

I did manage a kamikaze run through Walmart (no one goes there this time of year without fear in their hearts) and swore at their self-checkout machine, which kept telling me there were UFOs in the bagging area (no, you idiot…those are the bags I’m filling. They are meant to be there.), and then came home and attempted art.

I’m really not sure how I feel about it. I’m obviously messing around and there’s some feeling/picture/UFO? in my head that’s guiding all this…

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I’m stitching vein lines on the sides…from certain lighting angles, the red looks really freaky…

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And then it almost fades away. So then I’m cutting around the stitching lines.

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I have a pile of bits and pieces…

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Using wire and fabric and thread…wire cutters, needle-nosed pliers, scissors, pins. A little different than my normal stash of materials. Organza. Fucking loosey-goosey stuff. Anyway. It doesn’t require much thought because I’m just fucking around with this idea of home, what is home, what does home look like and feel like, is home a good thing, is home a solid thing (well, obviously not to me, eh?). The show is about the border fence, about these fences we put up to keep people in or out (hell, you should see my fence at the moment. I’m trying very hard to let the sides down occasionally to let people in, but it’s really hard, because even that makes things hurt more. I’m really tired of the hurting, I have to tell you. It’s just so never-ending. I’m staying away from the word relentless. It’s a bad word. It’s a hurtful word. It’s a word I will have to carry around in my heart forever now, I think. Long story. I know.). ANYWAY. Houses floating over the border, the fence. Birds. I’m not sure the bird group has explained the significance of the birds to me! I guess I don’t have to understand the whole exhibit to understand the little piece I’m doing.

I went out to dinner last night with mom because everyone else is in Arrowhead, and came back needing to exercise off the million calories, but Babygirl was hogging the bike.

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Yes, I have an exercise bike in my living room. It gets used almost every day by me or the girlchild. And now, apparently, the elderly cat. Jake’s here, my ex’s rambunctious German Shepherd, so I think she didn’t feel safe on the floor…like this is out of his reach? Midnight was smart and moved to the top of the light table. Jake is NOT smart and has had his nose bopped by everyone but Midnight. She disturbs him by wrapping herself around his legs and ignoring his attempts to nose her to death. She is not scared of dogs. The other two are…well, not of Calli, because she doesn’t even notice them. But Jake is a cat chaser, or at least he would be, if they would run and stop bopping him on the nose. Then he looks at me, all confused. “Aren’t I supposed to chase cats?”

Anyway, more professional development to suck my brain out today. We are in Positive Behavior Interventions today…which my mother commented on, “Why would you want to intervene if they’re behaving positively?” thus proving that teacher PD is a waste of time (most of the time…I’ve had a few, all science-related, that were not). OK the real name is Positive Behavior Supports…and I’m the smartass who wants to know WTF to do with the kids who don’t respond to these supports. I have so little faith these days. The afternoon session was about behavior with technology in the classroom, which actually was helpful.

More about this Robin Williams’ thing that came up on the way to school, after I’d read a few more articles about his death (not on purpose…it just happened): The thing about really cool people killing themselves is that you know for sure that you will never be as cool or amazing as Robin Williams and he couldn’t keep himself going. So when you’re having a hard time getting out of bed or off the couch, something like his suicide can really rock you; it can trigger even more feelings of depression and uselessness and lame-i-tude (it is TOO a word). I came home after yesterday’s class and read The Bloggess’ post from January about depression and it just made me cry…and then laugh…and then cry. And turkey butlers! There is a community out there that supports you when this shit is in your head, when you’re down in that hole. Use it. Cry if you need to. Take a damn nap. Eat a piece of cheesecake. Or don’t eat it. Exercise (I did kick the cat off the bike). Draw. Watch shitty TV…or really good TV. Just don’t do what he did.

With that in mind, I’m gonna stitch those veins for a while as I watch bad television, while getting ready for a night hike…sunset at the top of the mountain and then back down in the dark. And I’ll think about the bit of news I got today that threw me back in the hole, although not very deep, because I realized it wasn’t a really bad horrible thing like someone dying of cancer, but a smaller sad thing that was disappointing, yes, and a downer, yes, but not the end of the world. I’m just so much more likely to cry when I’m sad these days, so it seems like a bigger thing than it is. It’s OK to be sad when there is a loss or an unhappy change. Then take a deep breath and move on.

If I tell myself that, it becomes easier to actually feel that way.

You’d Think…

August 12, 2014

Sometimes it’s good to let the brain wander down new streets for a while…to let it consider other ways of thinking, of making, of creating. I have one art group I’m a member of where I am often doing this meandering down avenues I wouldn’t normally frequent. Which is why tonight found me wiring two coathangers together and handstitching organza on top…

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No really. I’m building a floating house of sorts and this is the picture in my head.

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Or at least, this is part of the picture in my head. There’s more. Again, though, the quickie painters kick my butt. The people in my group who just spend an hour or so on a painting? I’m so jealous. Everything I do is so time-consuming. I’m over an hour in and nowhere near done. I have some time on this one though, a couple of weeks. This is for a show about the border between the US and Mexico, and we’re working with a group of female Mexican artists. My house is ephemeral. Maybe. We’ll see what it really looks like in the end. This is just the base layer. I’m handstitching it to the wire and coathangers and then there will be more layers and more handstitching and those worry dolls I ordered. Maybe some writing as well. We’ll see. I’m just glad I finally got started, so some of the image can get out of my head and into reality. The head was getting crowded. Too many ideas in there.

I also traced the five birds I need to do next…

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Three are commissions and the other two are for the same exhibit as the house. They will be for sale at the exhibit or afterwards. Girlchild picked the additional two…some of that was based on size, since they need to fit into a particular shape.

Midnight was very helpful.

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Not. She is known for taking bites out of drawings that are on the light table. She was also watching bad television. And reminding me that I still need to hang the TV and sort out the technology storage and put shelves up for the books. And then hang art. Because I’m not stressed out enough at the moment about getting things done.

Have I told you that I have no idea what day it is? I really don’t.

The reason I finally got going on the birds and the house was because I managed to trim the big quilt yesterday…

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It’s not as straight as I’d like…the image, that is. The rectangle is in fact rectangular and not a parallelogram. Although I did consider a different shape. But in the end, I figured it was fine…

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Although I would have liked the head to the left a bit…oh well. When you look at the whole thing, it’s not a problem. I see it, but most people won’t. Of course, now I’ve told you about it, so when you see the official photographs, you’ll be all judgmental, just like me.

When I bought the binding fabric, I saw some great reds for heart colors…

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I actually had an idea for a quilt of a huge heart. Because I don’t have 17 quilts ahead of that one. I entered another show today and did some research for the next batch of shows, what can be in and what can’t kind-of-thing, whether it’s subject matter or size or date completed that causes the issue. I actually said out loud that if I didn’t get into one of the two big shows I’m entering, then that’s it, I’m done. No more quilts.

Yeah right. I know. Not gonna happen. But it is discouraging to have rejection after rejection for months on end, especially when you know the stuff you’re making is bang, in your face, detailed and amazing. You wonder where it belongs. You wonder if you will ever find a place where your life’s work belongs. It doesn’t have to be in a tribe of likes or anything…just to belong. I realize it has to fit into the shows I enter. Maybe that is the core problem, the fitting-in.

I got the binding sewn on last night, super late.


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I used a lighter background fabric for once, so you can see the outlining.

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I got everything pinned down and started stitching it down last night. Had a hard time going to sleep. Brain was racing around like a crazy car…

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So I stitched for a while. There aren’t enough waking hours in the day to get everything done. I’d rather be awake and making art than sleeping. That’s probably not healthy, but it is where I’m at at the moment. At at.

This, by the way, made me inordinately sad.


To realize how much pain he must have been in. He was so great in Mrs. Doubtfire, and also in Dead Poet’s Society…in everything. At some point, I guess, it no longer matters that you haven’t read all the books or seen all the movies. I joke about not killing myself because my Netflix queue is too long or I don’t know if Arya will survive George R. R. Martin. I can’t possibly die not knowing that. I am not the suicidal type, at core, so that helps, but have experienced the depths seriously enough to feel an electric shock when I hear of someone who seemed like he had it all together and thought this was a solution. Look at that face. I’m very sad. My whole household was sad. Well, except for the cats, and that’s because they are just clueless assholes.

(I just had to get up and go look for Babygirl, because I realized I hadn’t seen her in a while…she’s an old lady and sleeps a lot. I found her in the dining area, deeply asleep on the floor.)

By the way, the girlchild’s friend who gave her the Frozen soundtrack? I hate you. You bitch. But it was amusing to walk past her bedroom as she was packing for their trip to Arrowhead and hear the music blasting and seeing the boychild (who spent 2+ hours with me today negotiating shipping boxes to New York, ordering textbooks from multiple sites, trying to figure out his mailing address, and trying to open a bank account, and finally walked out and handed me his phone, saying he wasn’t going to watch it for a phone call) sitting on her floor untangling all of her bracelets and necklaces, and when I asked him why, he said the knots offended him. He leaves in 10 days. Sad. I think he might miss us. I know we will miss him. Greatly. He tells me he won’t answer his phone if he doesn’t recognize the number. I suggested he might have to get over that in the next few weeks. Damn. Sending your oldest off to college, knowing they will only barely come back, that this is the line between childhood and adulthood, that now it’s his life and not his life as my child. That is just so difficult. More so knowing that he provides me with a level of sanity that I otherwise don’t have. I’m rewriting my life as I sit here. I don’t know what it will look like any more than he knows what his looks like.

I finally managed to break through the writer’s block that was stifling me the last 10 days on the science fiction novel I am apparently writing. Yes, it still surprises me that I am doing this, but I am definitely doing it, and already have a core outline for book 2, which is not related…or is it? Hard to say. I was stymied by the science at one point and kept thinking myself into this hole of wanting GOOD science, but not having a strong enough background to write it well. So I wrote a paragraph that was extremely vague and then, because I’m using Google Docs, wrote a comment telling myself to add a bunch of good science here, once I have a chance to chase down a source of said information (I think I need to pick someone’s brain, a plant geneticist or something like that), and even wrote “blah blah blah” at the end of one sentence, and then actually typed, “Add good science here.” And then? Then I could jumpstart the story again (although now I need a gun consultant, dammit), and it wrote another 1000 words all by itself without my even trying very hard. I think that’s the goal. Get the core story out and then go back and fix all the shit I don’t really know yet. Like people’s names…although the three core players in this section all have names. I still have a main character named Dr. Blank, though. Not good.

Anyway. Unfortunately, the rest of my week is full of school stuff, mostly professional development. I’m taking the iPad so I can work on the book if it’s boring (it usually is), and hopefully I’ll get the binding on that big quilt done this week so I can call the photographer, plus get the birds in gear and make a bloody floating house. The kids are gone for a few days to Arrowhead with their dad and grandpa. I get to house Jake, the amazingly large and overly friendly German Shepherd who belongs to my ex but really loves me more…plus clean up vast amounts of cat puke and negotiate a houseful of silence…which honestly might be a joy after three days of teacher talk. I shoved a hike in there too, because why the fuck not? And the weekend is full of soccer, or maybe it’s full of drawing boobies on the soccer field (the breasticle kind instead of the blue-footed kind). Whatever. Three to five soccer games in two days in the OC? There are many things wrong with that picture, but in the end? It doesn’t really matter. I will do this or that and make this or that and get into this or that show and whatever. School starts in a week and I am not ready, but then again, when am I ever? It’s a job and I do it relatively well, despite the mental crap I carry around.

I had to apologize to the kids about 14 times tonight. I tried a new meal (we do a lot of that over the summer, because there is more time than during the school year), and the recipe said 20 minutes prep time and 40 minutes cook time. What a joke! I think it took me 90 minutes to prep, and no, I wasn’t being particularly lame…there was just a lot of cutting and chopping. Girlchild says some recipes don’t count that as prep time (fuckwads!), so who knows. She is willing to look for shortcuts for me. So we didn’t have dinner until 9 PM, and I said, well, at least you’ll look back at these years and laugh, because your mom was so lame at the basics, like cooking and cleaning (because I was entering an art show!), but the thing that sucks is that the recipe was really GOOD (both kids went back for seconds), so I will probably have to make it again. At least I have leftovers for the next two days of lunch, right? Unless some kid bogarts it for breakfast. Seriously. I started cooking at 6:15. I’m not totally lame…just mostly lame.

OK, I really should have gone to bed two hours ago, but the brain is not complying. Fucked up, for sure, because that’s two nights running with very little sleep. You’d think I would have figured that one out by now.

Out of the Pit, into the Cave

May 21, 2014

Depression is an interesting beast. It’s so prevalent in our world, has been for years, just read some Romantic poetry or wallow in Russian literature for a while, and you’ll realize how not-alone you are in this feeling that never seems to go away. I’ve seen it described as a rain cloud that follows you around, the big black dog, a pit, a hole, a cave. We come up with these personifications, these illustrations, to try to make it something we can look at, distance ourselves from, maybe even fix. My meditation guy wants me to look at my whole brain that way. Like I’m a private detective, leaning up against that lamppost in the dark, lighting the cigarette and watching the brain (hey…shouldn’t smoke!). Watch what the brain does, make notes in a little book, process it, spit out a report at the end. This is what happened, this is where it went, dry and dissected, no emotions.

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I wish my depression was the big black dog. I know how to deal with dogs. It started out as a pit, a hole. It’s been that before. Prior to my divorce, back in 2000 or so, it was a giant hole, and once I had dragged myself out of it, with no help from my husband at the time, he tossed me back in. But I got out…probably because I had spent a couple of years trying to deal with my brain and what it was doing, and I had enough tools to build a ladder out of there fairly quickly. I had some control over the situation.

Not so this time. This time I didn’t even see the pit before I got tossed in. I thought it was way behind me, filled in, totally safe ground to walk on, and I blithely continued on, carrying my little beachball of work stress and hormonal disruptions…which yes, caused a minor depression, but it was completely treatable. I just didn’t know I needed to deal with it. I think it would have eventually worked itself out with the right supports (which I wasn’t getting). But then a giant maw of a deep dark hole opened up and I just tumbled all the way down. And I can look back now and see how deep I went, how bad it was (sometimes still is).

They tell you that once you’ve experienced one depressive event that you are more prone to them later on. Great. Appreciate it. Didn’t ask for this. Mine are event-based. This isn’t just random shit being shot out of a cannon, like some people’s depression, which I can see would be much harder to deal with, because you can’t pinpoint the cause. It just is. It’s that brain chemistry out of whack. No, this is because of what other people have done, and in each case, it is out of my control. I am just the one dealing with the aftermath. It seems unfair, but I know that life is not set out to be fair…there is no arbitrator of fairness and karma setting out punishments and rewards. You may believe otherwise…feel free…but I don’t.

So once I’m in the pit, the deep hole, I have to find my way out. Sometimes it’s medications, which didn’t work this time, it’s always counseling, it’s always a time of deep reflection and artmaking for me, which makes me somewhat lucky, in that I can actually create while down in the pit. I know plenty who can’t, who are hogtied by the depression to a point of not being able to even pick up a pencil. I guess I’m glad that when my brain goes into that hole, she takes her sketchbook and her pens with her. I guess that is a learned defense against the depression.

And it really is me, the private dick, still leaning up against the lamppost, checking my watch, adjusting my hat against the misty rain, waiting for the brain to show herself again, logging her activity.

I guess the plus is that she’s moved out of the hole. Well, she moved into a cave recently, I guess…I don’t know why the visualization changed, but it did. It seems easier…she can just walk in and out of the cave, no need to build a ladder or scramble up the sides of a muddy pit. She hunches over, my brain, and she brings a bowl out into the light, gathers some leaves or berries (I’ve been eating a lot of berries lately), she blinks, squints up at the sky, sees me and drops her chin, acknowledging my presence, and then shuffles back into the cave. Brings tears to my eyes. There she is. She was out. She tried. She’s going back in for a while, because it was too much.

Some day I’ll talk about the current quilt and its title. Because it is the hardest part of this depression. I know what was in my head as I drew it, and…it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever had to deal with in my own head. Yes, only one. Sad but true.

I’d better find a way to do something restorative tonight, beyond exercise and meditation. Because…ouch. Bad place.

Earth Stories: Drawing It Big

May 14, 2014

The Earth Stories exhibit opened at Michigan State University Museum in Lansing, MI, on May 11, and continues through November 26. The opening reception is May 16 from 4-6 PM. It then travels to the University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art and Design, Warrensburg, Missouri, January 19 – February 28, 2015. This means I will finally be allowed to post the pictures of this quilt as of the 16th…I thought I’d spend a few posts reviewing how these two pieces came to be.

I was accepted into the exhibit in October of 2012. I wasn’t even going to enter. I got into this huge discussion with the family, intellectuals all (although I qualify as an emotional intellectual…nowadays only barely rational apparently) about what could actually SAVE the Earth. The original plan for the exhibit was to pick a group or person who had made a significant contribution to saving the Earth, to keeping our planet livable, whole, sustainable even. I kept coming back to science in general, but the thought of doing a quilt of people in labcoats with microscopes and water-testing devices seemed kinda lame.

Then I watched this video:

It was Monique’s fault. She posted it. And it clicked a switch in my brain. A huge one.

Understand that I teach life science. I teach biology to 12-year-olds. I teach human reproduction. What do we need to do to save the world? We need to stop overpopulating it. We need to make sure that the available resources are distributed fairly, but also that we don’t overwhelm them with too many people (it may be too late for that, honestly). So when I saw that there were groups that were trying to help women who actually WANTED to control the number and timing of their births, the size of their families, to keep them within the constraints of what they could afford, of what they could handle, THAT was the group I was going to put the strength of my convictions behind.

That was the International Planned Parenthood Federation. They provide voluntary birth control to women in countries where it’s not allowed or where they have financial or religious difficulty in getting the medications they need to make sure they can take care of their families. They can decide how long to wait between births, which is healthier for both mother and child, but she can also decide when to stop having children. Imagine, giving women a choice? Plus helping to conserve our natural resources? All good.

Once I was accepted into the exhibit, which is an interesting story in itself, I sort of looked at how much time I had during the school year and how much time it would take to make a 72″-square quilt, and I planned my time. My goal was to have it drawn before Spring Break, traced onto Wonder Under during Spring Break, ironed to fabric before Summer Break, and then get the whole nasty beast done over the summer.

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men, and overwhelmed single moms who don’t even know what kind of shit might hit their fans.

I did OK with the first part, actually…OK, well, not really. I had about 4 or 5 mis-starts to the drawing…in fact, I think I started drawing in February (Spring Break being April). I already knew what position I wanted the main figure in, but I couldn’t quite visualize parts, so I asked the girlchild (who was running a nasty fever at the time that turned into the nasty flu that messed up her system for a while) to pose…

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She was thrilled. As I’m sure you can see. Yes, my carpet is that beat up.

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She didn’t have the right look on her face. She’s supposed to be Earth Mother. I decided not to make her old…mothers aren’t usually super old. They’re frazzled. Plus she had live trees on her, and it’s not supposed to be alive.

A few days later, I tried again.

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Serious issues with the thighs. And the mountains are lame. Plus that left hand? Both hands…way too small.

I don’t usually fuss this much over drawings, but that was the thing with this one. I needed it to say the right thing and I don’t usually care so much that the viewer is getting the message. I figure they will get SOME message and that’s all that matters. On this one, the message mattered.

So I tried again…

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Much better belly/thigh area (and the pregnancy finally shows up…notice it wasn’t there before). Her face, though…too spacey. Like she’s contemplating what color nail polish might go with those shoes.

I gave up for a while…a month actually. Then I realized Spring Break was bounding towards me, so I started again…

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Ugh. Too small, arms suck. Whatever!

A few days later, though…BOOM!

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There she is. There’s the start. Much bigger and the right look on her face…but I filled an entire page just with this part of her torso. I copied the bottom part and taped it to another page and then drew the bottom half…then enlarged those and taped them together.

I finally had the beginnings of this thing.

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Now realize that light table is 3 feet by 4 feet, so it gives you a good idea of how big this thing gets. I started in a 14×17″ sketchbook. I think I enlarged the drawing 200-300%. Then I drew the rest of it to size (which is always a crazy tiny-piece mistake for me, and yet I do it every time).

I spent about 20 hours drawing this thing. I’d draw for a while and then step back and look at it (or stand on the piano bench and look at it, because it was the only way I could see the whole thing).

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Most drawings take me a couple of hours, maybe four or five for a super-complicated one like what I’m working on now.

I had TV shows running on the laptop (the computer in the back is too slow and sound is an issue) to keep my brain occupied. Here’s me drawing the thought cloud that shows a happy world with plenty of food…


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This is back at the beginning, right after I had taped all the extra paper around the enlarged figure to make it 72″ square.

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It was a huge endeavor. I’ve never spent so long DRAWING a quilt, but it really did need to be forcibly pulled out of me…it took a good chunk of Spring Break to get it done. This was before all the shit hit the fan at work, so my brain was mostly OK for this type of task. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that now. It was really difficult. Maybe the art brain would prefer that level of involvement in a drawing to all the other crap I throw at it.

Next post? Numbering and tracing pieces…



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