Time off

December 21, 2014

Time off for teachers: with so many constantly watching us and thinking we have so much free time (ha!), loads of vacation (I work every vacation, no extra pay), too much pay (I have a Masters degree…seriously? Not too much pay), it’s hard to explain to them why I need three weeks off right now. NEED. The fact that I’ve been working 60-70+ hours a week (with no overtime pay, and certainly not a paycheck worthy of professional standards in corporate world for those who don’t get paid for all those extra hours), mostly creating curriculum from scratch, figuring out Google Sites by myself, determining that my in-class wifi wasn’t working, and troubleshooting a hundred different tech problems a day…maybe an hour on some days. AND keeping track of 140 students, letting no one fall through the cracks. Much. Because that’s kind of impossible, actually.

Plus I make art in a pretty serious way on the side (can we really call what I do “on the side”?), and I’m a mom, and sometimes I cook dinner from scratch. House isn’t clean though. Christmas tree is half-decorated, and my Christmas shopping is in some serious trouble. FUCK.

So. Yeah. I need these three weeks, not only to get the shopping done and clean house, or to finish the quilt that’s supposed to be done in a week and a half (I started stitching down on Friday, hoping to get done today…AFTER hiking 12 miles), but to give my brain the necessary downtime to Do It Again. Because that’s what we do, as teachers. We work our butts off and then we take a few weeks off (when we usually spend a significant amount of time planning for the next bout of teaching, plus grading like crazy people), and then we go at it with the same intensity, sometimes even harder, because what we were doing before wasn’t quite working, and we do that until the next break. Repeat. Until retirement or job change or death.

I want to draw tonight. I want to be in my art brain and let it wander about freely, because I have barely been able to do that lately.

That said, I have probably 20 hours of grading to do over break. Seriously. Ouch.

I’m not starting today. This morning, I am going on a hike with my regular hiking group and the boychild, who came home Friday night (no photos…he doesn’t like ‘em). I’m looking forward to more hikes and hanging out with kids and girlchild being done with college apps so maybe she’ll be less cranky and all kinds of other good stuff like baking. And vacuuming. And maybe even starting a new quilt. Yeah. I know. Got some stuff to finish first, but then I will be starting something new, and I don’t even know what it is yet. That’s exciting.

Meanwhile, I’m spending a lot of time doing this (two tournaments in a row)…

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But they made it to the finals on Monday, so that’s good. And I finished a bird. A miracle.

One Step Closer

December 19, 2014

So even though I didn’t get home until 8 PM last night, and then I made a breakfast casserole for today’s holiday party at school and cookies for people who deserve way more than that for how they support me, I was determined to finish ironing last night. By my standards, it wasn’t late when I started, around 10 or so. I start that late all the time, and honestly, there wasn’t that much left to do. So I ironed…

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She looks creepy with no eyes.

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This quilt really isn’t huge or complicated compared to most of mine. It’s funny that 768 pieces is what I consider uncomplicated. Yeah. I know. So I have 11 days to finish this and get it photographed, and if I’m really nice (and smart), I’ll email my photographer now and let him know that…although I think I could get away with an informal photo on this one, at least to start.

I got another art rejection the other day. I’d forgotten it was coming, but it wasn’t a surprise. They took 38 out of over 700 entries. I need to enter more shows soon. Although I have more work to do for shows as it is. It will be a busy Winter Break getting started on all that. And starting to think about the big quilt for summer, whatever it might be. There are some calls for entry that are intriguing, but I haven’t had the mental space to figure them out in terms of my own work yet.

Anyway, I had gotten to that point above, and it was late, but not really late, and I didn’t know how long ironing it down to the background would take…sometimes it’s a total bitch, especially with all those tree branches and leaves. When they come loose from the ironing sheet, they get all tangled up and make me swear a lot. But I wanted it done. Because I knew if it were done, I might stitch down tonight. Maybe. Although boychild flies in tonight.

So I went for it. Because this is where my head is. In the art. It’s what it wants to do.

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I had a significantly stressful and shitty day at work. Technology (and kids) kicked my butt. I was cranky as hell, going out to dinner with friends made it worse (they were talking about school), and then the girlchild was an absolute brat in between (separation from mom imminent), so I had no mental strength left. And finishing this would make it better…would make me less likely to go to bed feeling like a complete and total failure.

Yeah. We all feel like that some days, right?

So I did it.

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Yeah. I like it. With black outlines in the quilting, this is gonna rock.

Sigh. Deep breaths. Because I’m at the point in my art where the last three quilts have just felt so good to get to this point, where I can actually SEE them. I can finally take what’s in my head and really just bang out a good piece of art. Just like that (100 hours later). And that is awesome. I am so grateful for that. Finishing that ironing last night makes it easier to get through today.

Yeah. Sorry. Still makes me all emotional. Not that you can see that part. Someone remind me of that all day when kids are running rampant.

Part of yesterday’s mental exhaustion was leaving school right when the bell rang to get to the girlchild’s soccer game…

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They tied. Not that any of that matters. I took two wrong turns to get there because my brain was offline.

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She’s always angry at me these days. I know it’s normal. It’s just hard to get that every day and not have someone standing behind you, holding you up and telling you it’s OK. It will be OK.

Sigh. Look at the quilt again, Kathryn. It will be OK. One step closer to done. Sometimes you just have to do it all yourself.

So Close

December 18, 2014

So. Dog. Sigh. Boychild says he wishes he saw him one last time (he comes home tomorrow). I petted him a long time the last time I saw him, the day before. So. That’s all you can do. We’ve lost so many animals over the years, because we take them in and they don’t live long, and some people don’t like that part of it so much that they won’t have any, and I figure they had a pretty good time of it while they were with us. Ivy only lived 6 years, and no, I haven’t replaced her. Considering doing that when the second kid goes off to college. We’ll see.

Today is the day all my students have to have their major project turned in. I did it all online (almost), so I should have almost no paper turned in. That part is seriously awesome. No need to come in over break and grade a bunch of lame posters and one good one. Granted, I haven’t finished grading their science journals, because I’ve been having to hold so many hands in class (“Google it!”), and I still don’t have a great solution to the video issue (not even technology!), but every year is a learning experience. Every Fucking Year. No seriously…one of the things I love about teaching is that I’m never bored. I often joke about getting a job that I don’t have to bring home with me (and won’t wake me up at 2 AM with technology-related nightmares, like the last three weeks), but I would probably be bored all day.

Anyway. There’s two more days. I think I can survive that. Two days, two soccer games, one dinner out, one plane arrival, some 100 pieces, not even, that need ironing.

Seriously, if I hadn’t been tired last night (and as it is, I went to bed WAY too late), I would have just kept going. I wanted to just keep going. My brain couldn’t handle it. Some parts require more brain power to iron together than others, and this part was one of them.

I started late, though, because I came home from the gym and the girlchild had some holiday dessert item all over the kitchen, so I had to wait dinner prep until she was almost done, and then she took over, but we didn’t eat until almost 9.

Then someone really really wanted attention last night.

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Actually, two things: I think she wanted my tea (she likes tea) and the iron was warm. So yeah. Mostly about her.

So I ironed…started around 10:20 PM. Yup. I work late. Kind of a workaholic, if you haven’t noticed.

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And I got through the legs, abdomen, right arm is done except for a vein/artery thing and a tattoo, left arm needs fingers…then the lung/heart combo in the middle is where I got tired. But that and the face is all that’s left. Seriously, it’s not even 100 pieces…

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That’s all there is. It would have been another 45 minutes I think. But I also knew that I couldn’t get it ironed down to the background last night, so I would be ironing tonight ANYWAY, so I thought it would be OK. Although I have a soccer game, a holiday dinner, and then I have to make stuff for tomorrow’s holiday breakfast. So I will be starting late again. The tired will catch up soon.

Eight hours into the ironing. Toldja the second half wouldn’t take as long. Well, it will probably be another 2 hours with the background stuff. It’s a little fussy and takes time, although this one is all one piece, basically. Not like the last one, where the tree drove me bonkers. OK. Wait. There’s another tree with things hanging off of it. Damn. Those suckers are a pain to get laid down right. Who keeps drawing those fuckers? Someone who doesn’t like me?

It is true that I never think of how hard it will be to MAKE when I’m drawing it. Never crosses my tiny little mind.

Oh well. I don’t have to think about that for another 13 or 14 hours. Actually, I really really want to avoid all the project-turning-in drama at school and stay home and iron. But I won’t. Because I’m responsible like that. And a little crazy. Plus I want all those damn journals graded before break. So close.

An Ode to Jake

December 17, 2014

Some of you may remember the big German Shepherd who occasionally graces these pages, especially his escapades of a few years ago. Jake was my ex-husband’s dog, never mine, but he loved me in a very special way. I was either his mistress or his best girl on the side, because every time I’d show up at my ex’s house, this giant-ass, 115-pound beast would jump up and try to put his paws on my shoulders (and often succeed). He almost broke my wrist once with his enthusiasm for seeing me, as I was holding his collar at the time (not sure why; never did that again), and it’s only recently been that he didn’t greet me with crazy behavior.

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For a while, Jake was climbing or digging under fences and escaping my ex’s yard after 6 years of not caring, and he would come over here. I’d get calls from my neighbor that Jake was back, or he’d be sitting on my front doorstep. So for a while, he stayed here during the day, but we quickly learned that the destination was not the game; it seemed to be the escape he was after. He would climb a 6-foot fence like a monkey and take off towards places unknown, and then someone would call and say they had him because he was running around on a busy street. He never got hit, but after that, he had to stay inside during the day. The kids would go let him out after school, but it wasn’t ideal for a big dog like that.

In the last month, Jake’s been sick. They thought it was a doggie cold. He went off his food. I got no enthusiastic greetings. I would walk in and he would lean his big body up against me and whine, and I would pet him, and that would be it. Some tests had been done, mostly inconclusive, and he was signed up for an expensive procedure today to hopefully help with diagnosis and treatment, because there was obviously something seriously wrong.

When my daughter got home to her dad’s house last night, Jake was dead. We don’t know why. His dad (ever Scottish at heart) jokes that he heard how much the ultrasound was going to cost and he died to save him the money, but whatever the cause, it was kind of a shock.

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He wasn’t very old, maybe 8 or 9, and physically OK until recently? And he was a good dog. It seems somehow different, easier, when they age in front of you and you spend time dealing with the elderly aspects of pet ownership, even though that’s a pain in the ass. It’s a relief when they die from old age. You know they had a good long life. On the other hand, I don’t think he suffered for long. He wasn’t sick for months on end like some of our pets have been.

Doesn’t really matter. Just know I will miss the big dummy. He was a freak in many ways, but a sweet freak.

So yeah.

Did I iron last night? I did. I wasn’t going to, but I guess I needed to clear my mind. I only worked for an hour or so…I did all the things hanging in the tree…

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Maybe 100 pieces down. I also laid out all the 500s, so the next step is the body in the middle…and then I’m done. I’m not sure I can do it all tonight, but I’m going to try. (OK. That was crazy talk, just so you know.) There’s about 260 pieces left, so maybe 3 hours, but I know I won’t start until late because I’m going to the gym and I’m in charge of dinner. And I really need to get my butt out of here this morning too for a parent meeting. It’s OK. My lunch is made. My tea is boiling. The progress report is printed. I can go.

Sigh. Miss the big dog.

Halfway Through

December 16, 2014

So I’m about halfway through. And that’s OK. I’ve got Wednesday…maybe some time on Thursday. That’s enough. Four soccer games this week, though…and the boychild comes home in four days. That’s freaky. We’ve survived the first four months of college. Me without his calming influence; him in a brand-new, demanding environment. I wonder if it will feel relaxing being here, or just more stress? At least there is good Mexican food here.

Halfway through the ironing, by the way. I don’t think I’m halfway through anything else, except maybe my life, if I’m lucky. I have 5 hours and a bit of ironing done and I’m in the low 400s on the pieces. Now that said, I think that pile of bodies was the worst of it. Everything else is pretty straightforward, so you’d think I could get it done in less than 5 hours. About 350 pieces to go…a little less than half.

We’ll see.

So first of all, when I got the pile ironed together, I realized there were a couple of spaces that needed the dark fabric behind them…

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There’s two right there. No biggie. This is easypants. So two pieces traced…

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And then ironed underneath.

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I like that my iron is Anti-Calc. I also did not enjoy Calculus, but mostly because of my teacher. He was kind of a jerk. Assumed math was more important than language. And yeah, I teach science, but writing? Words? Communicating? Pretty damn fucking important. But here’s an interesting question, from last week’s warmup for my kids: words or pictures? If there were someone you liked and you could ONLY communicate via words OR pictures, which would you choose? Yeah. I prefer drawing to express myself really, but words would make more sense to me in communication with others. I love that someone I was texting this week corrected himself, his SYNTAX. Wow. In a text. Can’t beat that.

And then I had these two random pieces left over. Here’s one.

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No freakin’ clue where it belongs. Or the other. Just set them aside. Obviously not crucial.

Moving on. Ironed the damn cat.

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I don’t usually draw the cats as the two black cats in the house. Not sure why. I usually draw calicoes. I think personality-wise, I am a calico. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about! Yeah. OK. They’re feisty. And troubled. Black cats…they can go either way…we obviously have the Queen here…

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And she’s a total bitch. I am going to get in so much trouble with the boychild for not combing her belly for the last four months, but she claws the fuck out of me as it is when I comb the rest of her, so he can handle that shit.

The other black one is just mellow. Mostly. So I don’t fuck with her. Much. I can’t really tell you why the calicos end up being in the quilts most of the time: Juniper, Limbo, Kitten. Even Cinnamon, if you go back enough years.

So there’s DNA hand again. Like we can control any of it…

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The background on this quilt is a deep dark blue, so this hand is gonna pop right off of it.

And then there are the flying hearts.

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These have popped up in the last few months. I think of them as hope for my future. Like I have a heart and love and all that gooby stuff, but they’re just loose, flying around, waiting to land/be captured, I’m not sure which. So this is like the third or fourth drawing where they’ve appeared. Never been in a drawing before this Fall, I think. Weird, huh? I used to always have Christmas lights in my drawings. None of those today.

I did pull that drawing from yesterday out again, but it didn’t speak to me tonight. Weird how that works. Sometimes it’s so adamant that I hear it, that I draw it; it just fucking takes over and commandeers the pen, grabbing my brain and making it listen. And then…then it’s silent, like I pissed it off too many times. It won’t listen. It lies in bed with a pillow over its head.

So fuck the drawing.

I was going to stop and go to bed, but it (the ironing) kept dragging at me, so I started the tree…

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The stuff on the tree is next, and then the human figure in the middle of all that.

It’s exciting. I like when the image starts to appear…when it starts to BE a quilt for real. When the shit in my head gets out there and kicks some real-life ass.

Speaking of kicking ass…blurry pictures due to late night, fading light…

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Girlchild made an absolutely awesome twisty header goal…

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And then her coach, being a rancid idiot, barely played her for the rest of the game. But when he did put her ass back on the field in the last 7 minutes, she continued to kick ass. Thus proving that assholes are out there and we all have to deal with them.


So here’s what you need to know about me this week. It is survival this week for teachers. We are about to explode on a daily basis, because we are in a classroom with kids who cannot stop thinking about Christmas. I’d like to say they were thinking about other things, but in my school, it’s all about the presents…not the present. So even though I’m trying to get them through a major project, by the end of third period, I’m about to throw things. And I significantly appreciate those who bring me back down to Earth, who ground me with their sanity, their competence, their caring, their profanity, their beauty, their hugs, their Google Docs. I will be saying Thank You about a million times this week. Maybe even out loud. Maybe I will just hug it out. I think I actually told my co-teacher that I loved her for managing the tail end of a meeting so I could go to my kid’s soccer game.

Working on a creative endeavor, a quilt that means a great deal to me, to my existence, to my core, this week makes it all that much more…well…HUGE. So that’s good. And the rest? Well, fuck it. Hug someone. Then move on.


What Is It Good for?

December 15, 2014

So this was my theme song today:

Although it took me all day to get there. To the ironing of War, that is…which may now have a title related to that song, but I’m not positive, so I’m not committing yet. You know, cuz I’m the not-committing type. Ha! Yeah. I know. Those who know me know that’s bullshit.

So I had a hard week getting to work on this quilt, and there were two soccer games yesterday that ate up many hours, but I got a ton of grading done (yay!) and I managed to pull the birds out and be working on them as well, because there’s nothing like freezing to death on narrow cold metal bleacher benches and doing bullion knots with ice-cold hands.

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Because that’s how I roll. Seriously, you should try it. And yes, it absolutely is taking me more than two years to finish these fucking birds, but I’m OK with that, because it’s nice to sew on them at soccer games. I do enjoy it. It’s so easy sewing through wool. I have a bunch done already…

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OK, they all need eyeballs, but otherwise they’re done…

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But there’s probably another 15 that aren’t done. Maybe this season they’ll get there? Who knows. I’m not that bothered. Wait. So I’m only halfway done? Shit. Whatever. There are four soccer games this week. Surely I can get something done in four games, right?

But more importantly, I finally tackled the pile of men again. HOLY CRAP. What was I thinking when I numbered these? I totally should have numbered from the bottom-most piece to the top, but I did the exact opposite…

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Which meant I ironed from the top, then pulled up, and tried to fit shit underneath.

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The whole fucking time. Which is just fucking crazy. Nuts. At some point, I had the whole pile done, although I need a couple of dark pieces in this one…

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I can do that tomorrow…

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Seriously though. Wow. That’s a pile of naked men lying on flames. No socio-political commentary there, eh? Anger issues? Naw. It will look much better with outlining…once I get to the quilting.

I am so far off schedule right now though. I was going to be done with the ironing tonight, wasn’t I? And I’m only 3 1/2 hours in, and only 280 pieces are ironed of 700+. Granted, I think I just did the hardest bit, but hell. I’ve got soccer games and holiday parties and sheesh. Monday night and Wednesday night I think are my only freebies this week. Maybe Friday? Hard to say? Oh shit, the boychild comes home Friday night. Wow. He’s been gone for almost four months. I miss his cranky ass. I wonder what he will think of this one.

Anyway. So this is very much a survival week, a Fuck Me week. A week where teachers pray for videos and certain kids to be absent (you know who you are) and lots of holiday parties and eating and not enough hours at the gym. But I think I can survive it. And I think I can get this sucker ironed down and then stitched down relatively quickly. Hopefully. Because I’m running out of time. Sleep? Fuck sleep. I suck at it anyway. Why spend more time at something at which you suck, right?


I drew tonight. I was at the gym this morning and texting a friend and the main image just popped into my head and would not fucking leave. So I sat down tonight and spent about two hours working with it…

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It is nowhere near done. But it’s growing…

Girlchild had a bunch of friends show up here tonight and one came early and accidentally one of my drawings was on the light table and caught her eye (and probably slammed it to the ground and kicked it to bits), and you could see her stammer in her head for a minute and then recover, because yeah, I guess I’m the weird mom. Whatever. Can you imagine being 17 and trying to parse me? I would have been fascinated, but I think most of them just wonder. Plus I use swear words around them. I figure they have enough good influences. I should be the one that throws them out of the norm and makes them think there might be something else, that there might be creativity and art and crazy shit. There’s a lot of things I’m not good at, but creativity is something I embrace wholeheartedly, even at 2 in the morning when I should be asleep.

I’m excited about the drawing and the quilt. They’re good. I love when what comes out of my head is good. It makes the teeth-grinding better. It makes the late nights better. It makes the inability to sleep better. This is the being of an artist. It’s just all there in my head and I pluck it out and make it and it is good.

What is it good for? You wouldn’t ask if you had it. It’s so fucking obvious.

Ironing the Pile

December 13, 2014

Finally Fucking Ironing! Sorry. It felt so good. Why do I forget EVERY TIME that it feels good to start putting the damn thing TOGETHER. Seeing the image in color finally going together. It always seems like such a torturous thing…ugh…after working all day long, standing, I’m tired, especially on a Friday night, to consider STANDING and ironing for hours.

And then I start.

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And then I cannot stop. First we sort…and I should have sorted the next 100 last night, but when I finally decided I was tired, I was REALLY tired. And sorting is boring. So I don’t like to do it. Which is why I try to do it at the end of a session, so it makes it easier for me to start the next session. Because I didn’t do it LAST night, now that’s the first thing I have to do today. Ugh.

Anyway, I ironed a bunch of dirt and rocks…

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Pretty easy stuff…then moved on to flames.

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Yes, I am still watching Next Generation…plus Orphan Black on the Tivo. Good show that. Not sure why my quilts are so often on fire. I think of the depths of the earth as being at the base…which in reality, I think the flames should be on the bottom, then rocks, then dirt. I’ve done that before, I think. I don’t know why I didn’t do that here. Except the PILE is on fire. And I’m OK with that. This is a quilt about the war against the female, isn’t it? Then let’s set that pile of men on fucking fire.

Um. If the boychild is reading this (and he probably isn’t), I still love you. I just have some issues. Big smile. Mom wave. HI!

Just so you know, I’m writing all of this with an intermittent cat claw in my butt. She wants her chair back and is quite demonstrative about it.

Then I started on the pile.

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This damn pile. Fun to draw. A pain to trace. A bigger pain to pick fabrics. Ironing? Holy crap. I’m just going slowly and trying to make sense of it all. That’s two different bodies…but I’m missing some of the pieces on both of them (one of them is headless anyway). I misnumbered one of the fingers, so it’s in the 200s instead of the 0s pile. I think the leg is in another box, and there’s a continued leg for the first body, plus two of the parts on the first body were in the wrong box, the 600s, because they were 60-something, but with letters, because I forgot about them, and they looked like 600s when I was sorting. Yeah. Crazy stuff. So it’s really hard to get motivated to iron more pile together because it’s a rancid pain in the ass. EXCEPT. It will look fucking awesome when it’s done.

So my plan for the weekend (you mean besides soccer etc and grading and putting ornaments on the tree before the cat eats all the needles?)…is to get this thing mostly ironed. I’m behind. I think I’m OK, but only because I have Winter Break coming (WINTER IS COMING), but I also know I’ve got some stuff that’s distracting me from working straight through like I have been, like the boychild coming home and other stuff, so I have to just manage my time better than I did this week. Although this week had some good stuff that distracted me, so I can’t complain.

Anyway. I’m ironing the penis pile. You can think about that.


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