Holed Up in My Head

April 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The other side of the mural.

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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




Where Am I, Part 2

April 16, 2014

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Am I?

April 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Those Damn Monkeys

March 23, 2014

I finished numbering the giant-ass drawing. I had guessed about 1200 pieces, based on the Celebrating Silver piece, which is about the same size, but apparently, I was more of a crazy-ass on this drawing…first of all, I forgot to number this happy little face when I numbered the rest of her body, so she’s in the 400s and the 1200s…

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That won’t be confusing at all. One of you needs to remind me that I did that when I start ironing pieces to fabric, because otherwise I will just be massively confused.

OK, I will be confused anyway. I think that’s why Julie sent me some spare brains…

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They are very nice and brightly colored. I am sure they will be much more effective than the probably gray-and-blah brain I am using now. Plus now I have two extras.

I’m really working on significant exhaustion at the moment, which is unfortunate, because I spent many hours this afternoon working on school stuff, because when life is chaotic and you have way too much going on, it makes sense to create an entirely new lesson plan for the week that requires additional work, significant amounts of it. I am some kind of workaholic freak. But I wanted to do art stuff.

So back to the numbering. I managed to find a bunch of pieces I had missed the first time around, but I think I officially hit 1662 pieces (with at least three more numbered something-a, something-b, and something-c). That would be significantly more than the 1200 I had originally guessed. Oh well. Life goes on. At least I know I’ll have plenty to be working on over Spring Break. Can’t have down time, you know. Might accidentally get happy or something.

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See that? I number everything and then I write down the total and I date everything, document the shit out of these projects. That’s the left brain trying to control the right brain. Except those concepts are faulty…at least that’s what science is saying today. Who knows what it will say next week.

Next up? 10 yards of Wonder Under probably.

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Speaking of happy (was I?), girlchild finally had an almost-pain-free day, after 4 days of nonstop pain. She was so much calmer…and she ate food…and she got up and walked around and did some math homework. Hallelujah. I was starting to sorta freak out over when she might go back to school. And we timed the meds better for tonight; we’re going to try to push everything to 4:30 (yes, that’s AM) and see if she’s OK with that. Last night, they skipped one medication at 2:30 and she was awake at 3 or 4 in a lot of pain…so we’ll see how that goes. Ideally, she’ll be at school on Tuesday, moving like molasses and probably late to every class, potentially falling asleep during 3rd period because of her meds, but at least they will be able to count her snoring body as attending class. OK, that’s not ideal, but if she can stay awake for the math lectures, I think she’ll be OK. Luckily, there’s no way any teacher will look at her and question her absences…she’s obviously disabled. Plus the big black brace she has to wear all the time might signal an injury. Deep breaths.

This is the face of menopause.

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Seriously. There’s so many things wrong at the moment. Stupid blood sugar. Hormones. Sleep. Aargh.

Anyway, I can start tracing Wonder Under now, or I can cut out the fabric for the two quilts sitting on the hearth waiting for me. Or I can draw. Or something. But tonight my brain is demanding sleep. I guess that’s good. It’s a change. Change can be good. Sleep can be too. It’s too bad that I usually get this tired, then go to bed, and then can’t fall asleep. How is that survival of the fittest?

Note to self: do NOT, repeat, do NOT read lists of things you can do to be happy, especially the stupid one that says that “everything will be all right because everything always is.” Wow. OK. You crazy. When will I learn to stay away from shit like that? No one knows, but probably, when I figure it out? I’ll be happy again. And then I’ll just laugh it off (no I won’t) and move on. No, I’ll probably remember how awful it felt to read those stupid lists when you were doing almost everything on them and it wasn’t working and it made you feel like even more of a failure than you already did. Because in our culture, depression is a failure. Suffering from a biological imbalance in your brain that was caused either chemically or by some shitty thing or things that happened to you that then turned into some chemical cascade, that’s a failure. You did it wrong. You suck. And that attitude doesn’t really help with depression, now does it. Ah, the vicious cycle. Even when you’re fully cognizant of what your brain is doing, you can’t make it stop doing it.

Jellybeans: why do black and white even exist? Even purple and pink are questionable. And why all the fake jellybean versions? Jelly bellies are fine; the rest are crap. Classic jellybean flavor though? Very addictive.

Yes, I’m stress-eating; why do you ask? Best thing to do when you feel stressed is to remove all food from the house that might cause you to stress eat, leaving you with carrots, brussels sprouts, and the like. I can totally stress eat sprouts and they will not hurt me. Seriously. I just bought more today. Oh my god! I’m getting dietary fiber! I’m fighting cancer! Although, after last week, this week will have to be a piece of cake. Someone should tell my twitchy eyeball that. So it can stop twitching. That would be nice.

I was lucky this weekend to have two friends who wanted me to eat. One took me out to dinner and sent me home with a ton of tasty leftovers. The other one appeared at the house with large containers of food. Score! I don’t have to cook for a few more nights this week. That’s a good thing. Plus it leaves food in the house for the girlchild, who has not been eating well and then gets dizzy and wonders why. Hmn. I know why. Food as fuel. Diabetic mantra.

Anyway, it was kindness that was appreciated.

Read it. It’s a screenshot from my work computer…

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I never did see those damn monkeys. Sleep. I hear it helps with twitchy eyelids.


It’s Not Pretty

March 18, 2014

My head’s in a weird place tonight. Girlchild’s surgery is tomorrow. I’m off work for at least three days. Work is absolute chaos with Chromebooks arriving and testing starting, but the plan is still up in the air and nothing is working right…and I’m not even there to mess around and try to figure it out. I don’t know if I’m testing or when if I am or how or what. I play my entire life by ear. I know I will be staying in the hospital overnight tomorrow. I have grading, stitching, a few books…I will preload some photos for the blogpost on the hike I did Sunday. I need to deal with food too. It was an incredibly stressful day. The kids were not focusing. They channel the nervous chaos that the teachers are projecting, because we are up in the air, no plan. So that didn’t help. I drove off, thought I had left all my plans and everything set up right. Went to the post office to pick something up and realized I had left my computer and hadn’t hooked up the guest teacher computer (mine won’t work for her). Dammit. Drove back to school. Had the wrong dongle (huhuhuh…dongle…). Another teacher had one I could borrow. Set THAT up. Went and copied the two sections I fucked up on Saturday night…they worked this time…

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The whole thing is about 34″ wide x 73′ high. Not a small beast. What to do next? I have two quilts to cut out (hey, I could take one to the hospital…). So I started numbering the big drawing…there’s three weeks until Spring Break. That’s enough time to trace this sucker…maybe. Have a plan, Kathryn. When you have a plan, you function better. Not normal. There’s nothing normal about my staying up until 2 AM some mornings on a work night tracing Wonder Under or ironing fabrics. It’s not a BAD thing…it’s just not normal.

Meditation right now is all about putting happiness on other people, on trying to see what other people look like when they’re happy. You’re supposed to pick someone you respect and then someone you deeply care about. I had a hard time with these at first. I would try people out in each position and see if they fit. I’ve jumped around on the people I respect. I picked women who are strong but who need support, who have talked to me about needing support. I don’t know if I really provide it, but I imagined them filling with happy warmth, like Mr. Meditation told me to. It’s finally getting easier (like 18 days into it). The other? I picked the girlchild. She needs it most at the moment. She needs to feel the happy. The boychild seems more stable, more OK with his existence. Although he’s hiding what he really thinks and feels, because that’s what he does. Hopefully he won’t do that when it’s important. I hope I’ve gotten him to think that through…to avoid what happened to his mom. God knows I’ve talked to him about it. Who knows what sinks in.

My right eyelid is twitching like a bitch. Oh yeah. There’s some stress. Damn surgery + school. I take deep meditative breaths all freakin’ day long. The only time it stopped today was when I was putting the damn drawing together and numbering it…so I started numbering.

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It’s not rocket science. There’s some thought of the order of pieces…because I lay them out in the 100s…trying to think about how I will iron pieces is kind of important…not REALLY important though. 

I made it through the 500s somewhere about a 1/3 of the way up the drawing. You can see the thicker black lines where I had to transfer something I had drawn on an overlapping piece between two pages.

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I’m not sure what I will do about the octopus tentacles. Those sucker pieces are freakishly tiny. They may need to be embroidery instead.

I added some stuff on the sand after I taped everything together…

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It was looking too empty down there. I’m guessing there will be about 1600 pieces. It’s not a small beast.

It’s not going to fix anything, making this quilt. It doesn’t stop me from hurting. It doesn’t bring world peace to warring nations. It won’t provide anyone with clean water. It seems kind of pointless when I look at it that way…like what is everyone else doing with their Monday evening? Did they finish all the dishes in the sink (I didn’t)? Did they straighten up the living room (I didn’t…you can see some of the messy floor in one of the pictures above)? Did they write part of the Great American Novel (is this my novel? This blog?)? Do you know that on these hikes I rarely meet people who talk about books they’ve read (I will start asking this, I think) or people who show any interest in art or people who seem to do anything but hike. And go to work. Don’t get me wrong…I love to stomp around in nature on hikes, but it’s not the biggest part of who I am. It’s not all there is. It’s a tiny piece.

I don’t know where my people are. Well, some of them are on the Interwebs. I hear from them occasionally. Pretty often.

Girlchild has spondylolysis, by the way. Hardest word in the world to spell. Genetic abnormality in the vertebrae. She has two fractures that kinda look like this…


Tomorrow, they will put two small pins in across the fractures, then put bone grafts in from her ileum, plus some growth factor to promote healing. She wears a brace for 3 months and then should be able to go back to everything she was doing before…no fusion. It’s kinda scary. But she’s been in pain for almost 3 years now and they won’t heal, so it’s time to fix them. Here’s hoping she has a pain-free senior year. Here’s hoping I don’t have a panic attack in the waiting room.

Boychild is watching for college admissions. Some of the UC schools have notified, but not the two he applied to, so we wait. These are his backup schools, so he needs to get in to at least one of them.

There is a lot of wine in my house right now. I’m sure you can see why. I wonder if the hospital has a workout room? That made me laugh. Of course they don’t have one.

Sigh. Big deep fucking sigh. I’m surviving. It’s not pretty.

The Rabbit Hole of Grief

March 16, 2014

I posted yet another picture today of my feet on a soccer field…where they often reside. I was grading papers. It’s girlchild’s last tournament before her back surgery, so some thoughts were going through my head. I noticed an old friend had commented on my Instagram account that I should hashtag my feet photos as #kathynidasfeet, since I keep taking these photos…and I was curious if I really HAD taken all that many Instagram photos of my feet…so I went searching through my account…which was a path into the rabbit hole of grief.

It seems that I will never escape this mess, as photos are everywhere that remind me of things that make me inexorably sad, so sad I fall deeper into a hole. I feel like I’ve got a grip on the edge of it at the moment, scrabbling at the muddy and slippery edge, ripping off fingernails as I try to hold on, gripping the sides of the wall with my knees, trying not to fall back down, to roll back into the gunk that fills the bottom edges of my brain. I hear the grief, like black dogs, vicious ones, Dobermans, not kind black labs…scratching at the sides of the hole, leaping up so close to clamp their jaws on the air by my calves that I can feel the rush of hot dog breath on my legs, smell their rotten dog food air. I’m trying to get out. I am.

So seeing photos of a former life, dead dogs, people who might as well be dead, a whole dead life that no longer exists and never will, a life I never asked to be removed from, never expected to lose…it’s difficult. It pushes me down, holds a pillow over my face, tries to suffocate me.

I can’t say that I’m all that successful at fighting it. My counselor says that I have a life. That I have a hold on things. That I have it under control. That I can control my stress reactions. And sometimes I can. Sometimes I take a deep meditative breath and I move on, I push the bad away, I breathe through the scary and come out the other side calm, ready, poised. Well, as poised as I ever am. Yeah. That’s not so much poised as Girl Scout readiness for disaster.

But it still doesn’t feel OK. Very little does. Last night, for an hour, a conversation with the boychild about poetry and literature, authors and types of poems (I have been categorized by my preferences, and I’m OK with that). At the end, he borrows a huge pile of my poetry books, including one volume of lesbian poetry that gets me a funny look. Then again, he’s used to my feminist rants, and this doesn’t fall far from that. I’ve told him that being a woman is different from being a man. We even talk about his childhood, what he remembers. I’m tired, lying on the couch in the dark post-exercise, deciding about sleep. I’ve been tired all week. I have stuff I need to do. Stuff I want to do. But this is more important. He will remember this feeling, if not this particular conversation. It will be part of what he remembers about his mom…much better than remembering her crying for the last 8 months. That can’t be a good memory. Will he describe me as the artist? The crazy sarcastic creature who draws all night? Or as a depressoid? I’m hoping that is just one short chapter (it doesn’t feel short at the moment) of a longer, fuller life. I don’t know. It probably doesn’t matter…but as we get to the end of his being the kid at home, with college notifications happening in just two short weeks…I spend a lot of time wondering what my life will be like without these two around all the time. It was so hard when I divorced to lose them at all…it was the worst part of the divorce. I had been their primary caregiver every day for a very long time, and all of a sudden, they would go off with their dad and have a life without me and I would be alone. There’s a lot of that now. There will be more in my future.

A lot of this angst is trying to look into my own future and feel hope or excitement or a chance at happy. I can’t get there. I can deal with one day, sometimes a week. That’s it. Hiking really is only a delaying tactic, a way to psych my brain out from looking at the future. I can’t think about all that crap on a hike…I can just think about the step ahead of me. It’s an immense escape. I guess it’s a healthy one, but who knows.

I keep getting lost in the rabbit hole. I keep getting stuck in some room. I draw those rabbit holes, you know. They’re in my quilts. I just realized it. Are they hiding places? Or are they traps of some sort? Are they somewhere to go when you can’t handle anything? Somewhere to hide what you want no one to find? Or do I fall into them and find myself unable to back my ass out?

No telling.

I was in Temecula all day at the girlchild’s tournament. I have photos, but don’t feel like dealing with them now. Then I came home and got ready for tomorrow’s hike, and went to FedEx to copy that 3-page drawing…I seem to spend many a Saturday night with the other losers in FedEx copying stuff. Tonight it was an older couple copying receipts…he was wearing suspenders and glaring at me (and my naked drawings) from under thick gray caterpillars of eyebrows.

I came home and exercised and meditated (cried through the whole damn thing)…and then started to tape the thing together…

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There are two pages that just aren’t fitting together right…I think it’s because I didn’t push the sketchbook down hard on the copier. That seems to help everything line up better. So I’m probably going to have to go back and copy those two pages, or at least one of them.

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I got about 2/3 of it put together before I realized I was tired and I have to get up early for a hike tomorrow.

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I’ll finish the rest later. It’s not crucial. Nothing is. It’s going to be about 35″ wide x 80″ high. I enlarged it only 200% because otherwise it would be really massive. It’s already big. And complicated.

I have almost dropped out of tomorrow’s hike about 10 times. I’m worried about my blood sugar, so I decided to be much better about packing a variety of food, including sugar, just in case. I had another low blood sugar incident today. I’m trying to figure out what’s causing them so I can prevent them. I didn’t have an issue last weekend on the hike, so I will think positively about tomorrow. Plus it’s a hike I really want to experience…mostly for the location.

As for that damn rabbit hole…there weren’t a lot of foot pictures on Instagram, so I guess now I know she reads my blog probably…that’s where all the foot pictures are. It’s silly that my trying to assess the number of foot pictures caused me to fall backwards, to slip downwards. What a stupid trigger. In reality, I was already slipping, been slipping all week. I’ve been quiet on here, inwardly processing some level of worry and panic about balancing school and the girlchild’s surgery and subsequent needs. Being the mom means you have to hold it together and I seem to suck at that lately. Or do I? I don’t even know. I do often feel like it would just take one more thing, one more task that needed completion, one more responsibility loaded onto my shoulders, and it would all come tumbling down.

Except that’s just life. Life says, “Do this.” “Deal with that.” And you do. And then you move on. I’m trying to really adopt that attitude. Counselor says I have to. To survive. The blood sugar thing? It’s not the universe trying to take me down. It’s just a combination of medications being off and probably menopause creeping in and doing its thing. I can do my left-brain control thing and collect data and control it the best I can with that information, and prepare for its vagaries when it’s uncontrollable. Trying to plan for school over the next few weeks with the surgery and not knowing when I’ll be back at school and with testing starting? Fuck it. Does it really matter? I can wing it this week. I will deal with next week when I have to. The world will not end if we don’t finish DNA before Spring Break. Seriously. It doesn’t all have to make sense. I can give them a packet and it won’t even matter.

So yeah. I’m trying. I’m trying to let things go. I’m trying to let the crying happen when it needs to, because obviously it needs to. I’m trying to put the art front and center and not worry about the rejections, because they don’t really matter. I’m trying to stay out of that damn hole.

Drawing and Fire

March 13, 2014

Calling on all powers of patience, of calm. Remembered to meditate tonight. It does help. My weekend just blew up. Sigh. Oh well. Such is being a parent. I will deal. The next two weeks are kind of a mess anyway. Why not drag the weekend down into the morass? Meditation helps me deal with all the crazy uncertainties, all the things for which I cannot plan. I’ve never been good at the not-planning part. I like to know where I’m staying, when I’ll be eating (which is so much more of an issue now apparently), what the plan is. There is so much uncertainty in my life that I am always looking for the certain, for the dependable, for the things I can count on. I tracked my blood sugar all day. Interesting how drastically different it is from a year ago. I’m not happy about that. That’s something I don’t want to deal with right now and I have to deal with it. So I will. Growl.

So I could have ironed the bird tonight and been done with that quilt. But I was watching interesting television (The Amerikans or however they spell it…) and felt like drawing anyway. I just wanted the thing done. So I did it…here’s the top section, which I started drawing on December 10, continued on the 14th, and finished tonight…

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The middle section was started on February 17, and then continued on the 20th and the 25th…that’s a pretty big gap between the top section (which is interesting in itself), but remember I finished some major quilts in that time period.

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Then I started drawing the bottom on February 19, continued on the 28th, and finished (?…still not sure that part is finished) on March 11. I’m not copying it yet, so I can add to it if I want to. You wanted to know how the drawing goes, right? Assume an hour or two each night, so that’s 9 nights, somewhere probably around 15 hours. Wow. I used to be able to crank out a drawing in 2 hours, maybe 4. Of course, those were one-page drawings.

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I seem incapable of one-page drawings at the moment. This sucker’s got a lot going on in there. What’s it about? Menopause. Loss. Pain. Grief. Anger. Genetics. Aging. Me.

Fun stuff.

I drew during the union meeting too (AND took copious notes. Because I am amazing like that)…

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I am really trying to take deep breaths and go with the flow. Every day there is something else that someone needs from me, something else I need to manage. I’ve decided the classified staff at the high school are idiots. There are issues at my school with testing. A giant cart with 38 Chromebooks showed up in my classroom today. There was no room for it where it needed to be; suffice it to say that I had to make room for it. Higher-ups don’t consult staff. I think it will be OK though. I’m looking forward to being able to use technology whenever I want, and not just when a cart is available. I will have to migrate everything I do onto Google Drive though. That might be my summer project. Better yet, maybe I pay the boychild (with my nonexistent funds) to do that. Funny that. AP exams are coming up…between the two kids, they are taking 7 of them…at $89 apiece. I emailed about a fee waiver. Seriously, is there not a bulk discount? You can only be smart if you are rich enough to take the tests apparently. By the time we get the scores, boychild will already have acceptances and rejections and will have picked a school. What’s the point again?

An old friend of mine bought a quilt from me back in I think 1995 or 1996, somewhere around there. This was before I was doing art quilts really…I had taken a class in that watercolor technique, where you used squares and tried to move the shading from dark to light. I actually have two or three finished quilts lying around here like that, and this was one where I did that in the background, but then appliqued this bridge on top; if you drive north on I-15 from here, you see this bridge over the freeway north of Escondido…and then I did all these silk-ribbon-embroidery flowers in the border and at the bottom. I had a studio space downtown, and was working downtown at the time. It was very convenient, before kids. I would leave work and go screenprint at the studio afterwards. I loved that space. I probably couldn’t afford the rent now…it’s all near the new ballpark and probably horrendously expensive. But back then it was cheap and kind of unsafe at night, but it was all artists, and we would do Open Studios during ArtWalk, back when ArtWalk wasn’t just crappy stalls for blocks in Little Italy. And my friend, who was another editor at Harcourt, where I worked, loved this quilt and put it on a payment plan (you don’t even want to know how little I sold it for), and she bought it. And then I left Harcourt and had kids and we lost touch, but I’m pretty easy to find, apparently. She emailed me two years ago to tell me that she had been living somewhere back when the wildfires of 2007 were blasting through San Diego County and the quilt was in the fires…

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Seriously. It survived, but only barely. I don’t even have digital photos of this quilt, it’s so old. I plan to document it sometime soon, when I can chase her down (and a decent camera…working on that…)…but it was actually in the San Diego Quilt Show in 1995…

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This is before I had kids…I think I was pregnant with the boychild that year. I was. I was so sick, I was off work from early June until late August or September. Ahh…pregnancy. Ugh.

Anyway, she wants to know how to preserve it…and my understanding of burning is that it leaves the fabric so acidic that there is really nothing you can do long term…but even in terms of storing it? I personally would frame it under plexi or glass and let it continue to deteriorate until gone…but anything else? I’m not sure what to tell her.

Interesting to finally see it. I’ll have to poke around for photos of it pre-fire. They would be actual PHOTOGRAPHS. I know. Weird, huh? I didn’t have a digital camera back then.

So yeah. That took about 10 seconds. I have a shoebox in the bookshelf in my office that says “Stitching/Art photos.” Guess what I found? Really CRAPPY photos of the original…


And a closeup of the hand-applique of the hills (which look surprisingly like breasts to me now)…

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And the embroidery…

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And there is one of my very early “art” quilts. See? There is a process…I did evolve. This was April 1995 (that’s what the photos say), almost 20 years ago…the month I got pregnant with my now-18-year-old. Kinda looks a little different from what I do now, eh? I was such a different person then. It’s not all bad. I think I’m much more of a fiber artist now than I was then. Then I was a screenprinter for the art, and the quilting was more of a hobby…just trying stuff out and messing around with fabric and fiber techniques. I took lots of classes with famous teachers and dipped my feet into a lot of techniques (Hollis Chatelaine, Ellen Anne Eddy, Laura Wasilowski)…it took me a while to find my voice, my place, in fabric. I was lucky in that I had already found it in drawing and screenprinting. It took Joan Colvin and Wasilowski to help me figure out how to do it in fabric…that was probably around 1995 or so. Maybe soon after.

Anyway. It’s an interesting story of a Nida quilt. Next step? See it (and its owner, more importantly) in real life.

Mood Management

March 12, 2014

Managing my moods is becoming a full-time job. There’s food, there’s situations, there’s stress, there’s exercise. I’m now carrying my blood sugar tester thingie (it needs a name, like Ralph…or Daisy) with me everywhere I go. My meds get tested again in another three weeks…I’m suspecting my diabetes meds are off. I’ll email the doc before testing so she knows what to look for. I’m a little paranoid about hiking this weekend…in fact, I’m not sure I will do this hike, because it’s supposed to be really warm, but I really WANT to do it. So. I can pack carbs and sugar and…dammit…sigh. It’s not like I didn’t hike last weekend with no blood sugar problems. In fact, I’ve hiked ALL the weekends with no problems. I’m just paranoid now. The last thing I want is to be in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people I barely know and have a major problem like last night. That would be bad. I remember one hike post-divorce with two guys I knew fairly well and my blood sugar dropped (it was also hot), and they dealt remarkably well, but I had all the right stuff in my pack and was coherent enough to tell them what was going on. And I’d warned them beforehand. It really has been a long time since I’ve had issues.

The moods are tied to blood sugar, but also to hormones and then the emotional sine wave that I seem to live on…I had the wave graphed earlier today (in my head, of course), with a listing of what made it zoom up and down and hold steady at numbness. Trying to control the seemingly uncontrollable (blood sugar and mood swings) tosses the curve downwards. Yet another art rejection (too many of those lately) sends it downwards even further. Analyzing my own life? Hell, should just stay away from that most days. It’s down down down, all the way down. Girlchild tells me I am in a bad/sad mood on the days I have detention. She’s right. I should just give up. Is detention creating world peace? No the fuck it’s not. Then why do it?

But I didn’t give up. I got my hairs cut. They needed it. They are getting fussy in their old age. And then I made it to the gym and that was good. I read. I cooked and ate dinner. I forgot to do a bunch of stuff (sigh. I always forget a bunch of stuff…I am the Queen of Winging It). But then I was ready.

So I drew.

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And I can’t even describe the peace in my head, my heart, that drawing gives me. It’s like a wave of calm washing over. It’s therapeutic. It’s stupid that I don’t do it more often (I run out of time, no more hours in the day). I haven’t meditated in a few days (more time/energy issues). I completely forgot tonight, but it’s OK, because I drew. And that is Kathy Meditation. It was so worth it. So the bottom is mostly done. I think. And the middle section is done. So now I need to go back to the top, to the first page, the one I started in December…and I need to finish it. I don’t know if this is next in line to get done. I haven’t decided. Maybe. It could be. It’s kind of a crazy beast. The ones I love don’t get into shows. At the moment, nothing gets into shows. Artistic angst. Why am I making all this art if it never gets out to be seen? You make the art because you have to. It keeps you sane. The getting out and being seen? That’s the least of your worries. Just keep making it.

You’re so lucky. You get to hear all the conversations I have in my head.

Meanwhile, I remembered that I hadn’t finished ironing the Mammogram fabrics, so I headed into the office/studio/national disaster area and pulled everything out, reminded myself of what I was doing whenever I last worked on it (March 7), and started picking blood vessels and heart parts…

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so often a part of my quilts, the heart. My heart, the one that’s destroyed, eh? So yeah. This drawing was done before all that. Broken hearts. Shattered. Cracked. This one is still whole. I wonder what that feels like. Maybe some day I will know.

I keep thinking I will be better. I am better. But I’m not BETTER. If you know what I mean. I’m someone else. That someone may never be truly better. She may just be OK. My hair person asked (sort of) if I was done with love, like how some (old) people say they have experienced great love and they feel OK with that after their great love dies and they don’t need to go through it again. But I don’t want to be alone for another 30 years. I still don’t feel like I’ve done it right…that sounds awful. But it’s not right if they can’t stick around, if they can’t make it through the hard stuff, if they can’t be supportive, if they can’t stand next to you as an equal. So no. I’m not done. I haven’t given up, but I don’t have a lot of hope. I’m not OK with any of it. I think I need a dog. Dogs are nice. Except then they die of cancer at age 6, and it takes you two years to get over that too. Maybe I just need to sit alone in my house for a long while. Quietly. In a corner. A dust-free corner. Then everything will start to make sense again. Or not. Because maybe there is no sense to be made.

I still cry every day. In case you were wondering. I don’t know when that stops. Maybe never. I was never a crier like this. This is hard. I would cry when really bad shit happened. I cried at sad bits in movies. I cried when I saw babies born (usually in movies or on TV…when I teach human reproduction, I cry every time the baby is born on the movie I show my students). I cried during PMS if something was really funky in my head or in real life. It wasn’t a daily occurrence. It was rare.

Now? Not so much in the rareness. I’m always on the verge. So if you’re wondering when you’re talking to me if you hear tears in the background, you do.

I ironed a lot…

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And I was pretty sure I was done…until I started to fold up all the fabric…

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And realized I hadn’t ironed the bird. That damn fucking bird.

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I didn’t have the energy to do the bird. I couldn’t even imagine the bird, let alone decide on her colors (orange. black. maybe some turquoise.), so she will have to be done tomorrow. Thirteen whole pieces. I know. I should have just done it. But sometimes the brain just rebels and yells NO NO NO over and over again and you don’t really want to push it too hard, because it is your brain and it kinda controls all the important stuff, and you kinda need it to keep doing that. So maybe tomorrow.

Now that’s two quilts I have that are ready to be cut out (or nearly there). Maybe my goal for Spring Break will be to trace this one I’ve been drawing and then draw the one I need to have done by November, with the assumption that I will work on it over the summer.

Or not. I do know that the mood is better. Drawing AND ironing: the cure for a fucked-up mind. I don’t know what the permanent cure is. Maybe there isn’t one.


Hamlet Murdered Me…

March 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Boychild sent me these…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing: Brain

March 1, 2014

Description: gray, white, pink, lots of surface area, bad attitude. Last seen: wandering the streets cluelessly, not following instructions.

I have another post I started writing this morning, but it requires brain power and I am missing significant portions of my brain tonight. They have just wandered off for a nap or a vacation or something…they muttered as they went by, so I’m not really sure what their issue is. I just know that there’s some resentment and anger, and I can’t really deal with their drama right now, so I’m just going to let them have some time to themselves and hope we can converse in a civil manner tomorrow.

I am such a tolerant brain owner.

Seriously, though, the numbness continues, but my counselor says that she has heard a real laugh out of me the last two weeks instead of just my nervous laugh (I have spent the last 7 hours trying to imagine what my nervous laugh sounds like…I cannot produce it on command and apparently have no control over my laughing). I guess that’s good. We talked about stress and how my reaction to stressful events and non-stressful events are somewhat flipped, backwards even, and I need to figure that out and switch them. But acknowledge that numbness is some version of healthy, of my brain trying to protect me or give me a rest from constant hypervigilance. It doesn’t help with the crying though. I am numb but then I cry. At the drop of a freakin’ hat. It’s so hard to be at social events sometimes because the stupidest stuff will upset me and I have to work really hard not to tear up. Not acceptable behavior…unless you’re at a funeral. Or a wedding. Neither of which do I attend with any frequency.

I drew during prep yesterday. It’s not very exciting and it’s certainly not done.

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But it’s pen on paper. Blurry? Camera sucks. But drawing. Drawing good.

Girlchild had her last playoff game tonight, because they lost 0-1…

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It was dark, so I’m not sure why I started taking pictures…except that she was on the field and that was kind of amazing for her coach.

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And yes, it was on-and-off pouring rain. Fun stuff. She went up to head the ball and headed the other player at the same time, right above the eye…it’s all swollen and purple now. She’ll probably have a black eye. Good times.

I like to set goals for the weekends. It keeps me (sometimes) from wallowing too deeply in depressive thoughts about what I used to do on weekends and how they feel now, which is mostly like shit. I need to go to the gym and I have a hike planned, even though there’s some rain wandering around the county. It should be OK. I have a ton of grading to get done before Thursday, when the gradebook opens. I want to get a good chunk of it done this weekend, because the week is awfully full already. I want to get the big long tall drawing done…there’s not that much left to do. I want to start ironing Wonder Under onto fabrics for the Mammogram quilt. That means I need to figure out a setup to keep Babygirl off the ironing board for a few days (barbed wire? fencing around the ironing board?).

Not much. There’s a bunch of errands sprinkled in there as well, plus installing external hard drives and moving stuff around to hopefully help the computer run better. Plus some yardwork. Did I tell you two big branches came down in the storm? They missed the house luckily…last time, one spiked the roof into the bathroom ceiling. Still haven’t fixed the inside part…the outside is fixed.

Maybe I’ll even take a nap. Could happen. It would help if those pieces of the brain would come back. I kinda need their assistance.


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