Exorcising Demons

June 6, 2014

It’s interesting how angry I am at this piece. At all of them maybe. Certainly at the Earth Stories piece…I don’t ever want to see it again. I may get over that. I’m angry at myself for letting my emotional existence affect my enjoyment of making art. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense. There’s no point in being angry at myself for something I don’t really have any control over…despite all the happy shit on Pinterest that says it’s my decision to be this way. Fuck you Pinterest. Seriously. Who asked you?

Yeah right. Anyway. I’ve avoided this sucker all week…too tired to stand after work. Seriously that tired. Somehow today, when I taught just like always, then went to finish up the refi after work (this might be how I survive the summer), then came home and went directly to the gym, came home again and cooked and did dishes…plus graded papers. On a day like that, you’d expect me to just collapse on the couch, never to rise again.

Fuck that shit. I’m not going to be that person. It may kill me to keep making art when it feels so sucky to do so, but hell, it can’t be worse than sitting around and doing nothing. So I ironed…and I wasn’t sure about it at all until I saw the photograph.

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Oh yes. That’s nice. That’s going to kick some butt when the fingers are all stitched down and outlined. I am liking that hand. It’s a pain in the butt to iron, of course, because the overlaps aren’t logical and nice, but I’m getting there. This is about two hours in (with the torso already ironed below). Not a lot of pieces…just a pain in the ass. Nothing new in Kathy Art world. Welcome to my ability to punish myself with my own artwork.

I also cut pieces out…

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a little of both worlds tonight. I’m 16 hours into this, and probably still have at least two to three more to go. This is the biggie that will eat up a large portion of the summer. Plus the next one, which doesn’t exist. Then there are at least 3 drawings done in the last year that want to be new quilts. Plus I need to do some smaller ones for shows that don’t like boobies. Assholes.

Who needs a personal life. I’ll just keep making art and hiding in my room, coming out for work and the occasional something or other. Fuck the world. I wrote that all over my notebook in high school. FTW. Not sure my attitude’s changed much in 30 years. I guess I’m more likely to say it out loud now.

I’ve spent all week explaining to my female students that Nature isn’t fair, that there isn’t an equivalent to their 40 years of periods and giving birth for the boys…although I personally think that giving birth and nursing babies is one of the most fucking awesome things I’ve ever done (not wanting to do it again, though, and pregnancy was hell for me, like want-to-die hell). But it would be nice to not have the rest of it. They’re pissed, my girl students. They don’t think it’s fair. They want payback. I don’t blame them.

I was ironing and the cord was hanging down in front of Babygirl. Apparently she thought she needed to play with it (smart animal) and got her claws stuck in it while I was ironing…

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Sigh. She is not particularly bright. So she’s semi-yowling and trying to rip her claws through an electrical cord, and I’m trying to free her from the nasty beast, and she’s trying to kill me in the process, because that’s how her tiny little brain works. I do feel sorry for her. We take in the losers and the mutants here.

The mood is still bleak. Then I look back at that ironed breast up there and smile, slightly, to myself. That’s good. Keep doing that. The smiles might stick if you do it enough. You don’t have to like them once they’re done. The Earth Stories quilt? It can travel for years. I don’t particularly want the memories of making it under duress back in my house. The quilt itself is fine…it’s all the emotional shit that’s sewed INTO it that can go fuck itself. So yeah. When you make art to exorcise your demons, it’s better if they stay gone, out, far away. Don’t let those assholes come back home.

Trying to Find the Way Out.

June 5, 2014

The boychild trying to amuse me in the morning (because he didn’t take the recycling out again): Shows me his super-expensive (required by the course) graphing calculator, which you can program to do certain functions, pushes a series of buttons and tells me to hit enter: his calculator then tells me it sees dead people. Sigh. Grin. This because last night Calli (the Golden Retriever) seemed to either be scared of her shadow in the entryway or telling me there were ghosts outside the door. Not sure which. Put her to bed so I wouldn’t have to think about it. Then thought about the fact that my protector, the dog, is hiding behind ME. Hmn.

I’m trying to control parts of my life so that the uncontrolled parts don’t feel so vast and empty. In trying to explain yesterday to one class why kids cut themselves (yes, teaching sex ed covers a wide range of topics, including suicide and depression and cutting), I tried to talk about the need for control, and how in some people, it gets messed up. That their need for control is so strong and their own lives are so out of control, that what they choose to control seems crazy to the rest of us (anorexia, bulimia as well). I left school and went and controlled some stuff (refi’d my mortgage). Then went home, where the chaos reigns, and tried to deal. I can control the errands. After that, it’s questionable.

My knee is having major problems. This is not good. I’m not hiking until it stops. I may need to deal with a doctor on this one. It sucks. I hate that the body gets in the way of treating the mind, because hiking and walking treats my mind, the depression, and I’m not going to be able to do that for a while. Not sure how long. Hate this.

Girlchild had her followup back appointment, post-surgery. She’s cleared to start soccer practice and running in two weeks. She was hoping to be cleared yesterday, so she ended up being depressed about that. Mad because I had scheduled it then and not when she would be allowed to play. I don’t think that’s how we planned it, but whatever. So it was a weird day, because I only taught half the day, but I had to get up early and deal with freeway traffic and crap.

Back to that place where it feels like the sky is pressing down on your shoulders, blocking your ability to breathe. It feels like a heavy blanket…ironic, because it is a beautifully sunny day out there, it’ll be in the mid-80s. It’s spring going into summer in Southern California…where depression feels completely out of place, because nature just laughs at you. Not only am I going to fuck your KNEE up, but I’m going to make it a beautiful day! So fuck you. Wow. I see how it is.

I try to pull myself out of these. I was dancing in 6th period to 70s funk (some of the kids know some of it). I graded a bunch of journals when I got back early from the doctor’s appointment. I can’t send my sub home early, so I might as well use that time. My goal was to not have to work last night. Turns out I didn’t have the energy anyway.

I did manage some cutting, about an hour (it’s always about an hour…).

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It’s getting there. The pile in the middle, the to-be-cut pile, is getting noticeably smaller. There’s a lot of big fleshy pieces in there now, which are easier for me to cut (and deal with mentally). For some reason, the small tiny bitchy pieces just depress me. I pick up a piece with a ton of tiny pieces on it and I just feel overwhelmed. But when I pick up a huge piece that probably has just as much complicated cutting going on, it seems more doable. Makes no sense. I haven’t managed to go back to ironing the other one together either. I’m just too tired these days. Ironic. I’m sleeping more. The other side of depression? Sleep instead of wakefulness? Or something else? I’m always having to second-guess what my body is doing. And the brain. What does THIS mean? What did I do to cause this? Blood sugar, sleep, weight issues. All so uncontrollable. Maybe I will have to clean something to make it better in my head.

I enjoy some parts of journal grading. It really is a relief to grade a perfect journal…

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and then some of them are so creative…

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Guess which one was done by a girl and which one was done by a boy. I wish that weren’t so obvious, but it often is. Not always.

I think my mood is connected to something disappointing that happened at school, disappointing because of the kids involved and because I had just talked to them about the three results of bullying in middle and high school: 1. the kid just deals with it and moves on. 2. the kid attempts to or succeeds in killing him or herself. 3. the kid stockpiles guns and comes back to school and kills you for being an asshole. (I don’t use those exact words, but…) And then it doesn’t seem to matter what teachers say, because they still do that shit and consequences still happen. So I already know I have to go to school today and be visibly and verbally disappointed in behaviors that are totally normal in our society (our brains really are fucked-up messes) for reasons of control. Because if you feel like less of a person, then you turn around and make someone else feel worse.

It’s OK, guys. My brain is doing it FOR you. You don’t have to do a thing. I can bully myself.

I will find a way out of this shit. I swear. I don’t want to live in here. I want to live somewhere else. Like out there. Where the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I can hear them; I just can’t find the way out there. Seriously, that was last night’s dream, running around school hallways, trying to find the way out, trying to find my kids (my students). I don’t know what that’s about.

An article about the Quilt National exhibit in San Jose is here.

An article about the Earth Stories exhibit in Michigan is here.

My work is in both, but you can only see mine in the second article.

I’m Never Where I Want to Be…*

June 1, 2014

I spent over 8 hours yesterday grading. The night before, I spent about 5 hours. Today, I’ve already spent 3 hours dealing with school stuff, although not all of it grading. It’s time to pay the piper? It’s not pretty, that’s for sure. I’ve still got at least another 6 hours just in science journals probably, and I think I’m officially about to kill someone. This isn’t healthy. I am trying to get it all out of the way so I can get some art brain on this week, because I’m still wallowing in deep sad shit from hell in my brain; in fact, the responsible part of my brain just stood up from her chair, where she is quite sensibly knitting a scarf (I don’t knit) in scrubs (I don’t own scrubs), and she pulled the curtain around the bed where the rest of my brain is connected to tubes and looks quite beat up, and she told me that now is not a good time. Come back later.

Well. OK then. I need to draw. Or something. There’s no fucking time! Groceries and errands and organizing shit and someone needs to take the tux back (boychild) and I’m supposed to go to a work thing tonight and probably I should bring a gift but I don’t have a clue what and then I’m supposed to go over and pick some stuff up from my parents.

Let’s talk realistically about how much can get done in one day (not much).

Last night, black cat (hard to see) lying upside down on the couch near the pile of crap I was grading…

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See that pile of notebooks? That’s one class. One of my smaller classes. I have five classes. It was a long night. And then when I finally went to bed, I couldn’t fall asleep.

I did try to settle my brain before bed. I cut stuff out for a little less than an hour…

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Left pile gets higher. Middle pile gets smaller. See the uterus? And I think heart parts are on top of it. Yes, I keep all the trimmings until the end. I am well known for dropping real pieces into that box by accident. Didn’t I say something about being done this week? What a joke. I’m over 14 hours.

I took breaks during the day…I did go to the gym, where I finished this…


So I’ve read both Hyperion books now (yes, I know there are more)…and I really liked them. When I didn’t hate them. When I wasn’t slogging through vocabulary and world-building that was heavy and torturous. Yup. I know. It doesn’t sound like a recommendation but it is. Just because something is challenging to read doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. These are worth it. This is a book club selection for me, and strangely, the book club organizer has set up the next meeting by saying it’s going to be about why we shouldn’t have read these. Interesting.

Then I got the boychild ready for prom and followed him somewhere to take pictures…

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He went with a group of kids (this is a small portion of the group)…

And I planted some stuff that was going to die if I didn’t plant it soon. So I took breaks. But it still sucked. I’d like to say I got a lot done (and I did), but there’s still so much to do and I am just behind all the time.

I had plans for today and they all got fucked up. Sigh.

I’m trying so hard not to feel like this all the time. I have all these inner conversations that just suck, and during the last 2 minutes of meditation, when he says to let my brain go and do what it wants, it literally SCREAMS at me, at the top of its brainy little lungs, just full on screaming. That can’t be good.

So last night, as an additional break between grading, I read this…


Short. Really good. Made me cry. I guess the Wall Street Journal might make me cry right now too, but this was good. Sigh. Took me 11 days to read The Fall of Hyperion and less than 12 hours to read this one. Take what you want from that.

Boychild is mad that I’m posting that picture. He’s mad that I won’t take his tux back for him. He’s mad that I exist at the moment, although I did all the grocery shopping for him. So. Whatever. Teenagers. Sheesh. Oh yeah, and he’s only had 2.5 hours of sleep and he’s NOT cranky (my ass).

I’m cranky and I had 7 hours…really shitty hours, but mostly sleeping. Maybe.

OK. Tonight. Sigh. More art, less work. After I go to a work-related party. Yeah. I know. But these are the good people. Maybe I will leave with the brain in a better place, cuz it ain’t there now.

*Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill (Sion’s fault)


May 22, 2014

I have that weird weather throb in my head again. It’s been there for two days now, as the weather flip flops around from hot to cold. It means monster headaches. It means taking all the Motrin I had in my purse yesterday and gulping it all down and actually calendaring Get More Motrin on my phone so I wouldn’t forget to restock my purse stash before school today, because today we are doing microscopes and heads might roll. Seriously.

Yeah. So I’m having issues balancing blood sugar again and now I know it is at least partially (if not completely) hormonal, which sucks, because I can’t control that. So I’m having to remember to pack extra food that isn’t high in calories but will keep me from passing out at inopportune times, like when I’m teaching or driving. I’m hoping when I get out the other side of menopause that it all calms back down to the semi-normal level of blood-sugar-tending that I had to do before all this, because this is just annoying. I get so paranoid about food. You have to be obsessive about it. I envy people who just eat whenever they like, whatever they like, and don’t have to think about what it will do inside you, or worry that I’m having to go to 2 meetings after school and I need to prepare for that like I’m going camping or something. Like there will be NO Food Available (and certainly there’s the issue of you can bring food but we won’t let you eat it in here, which has been an issue in the past…I just argue medical necessity).

I don’t feel very organized at the moment, either at home or at school. Both places have too much going on and I’m getting overwhelmed. Deep breaths. Make lists. Calendar shit. Pick your battles.

So I should have graded tests last night, and I didn’t. I always have to look at the overwhelmed feelings and try to figure out what’s going to be best for me tonight. Is more grading going to make the difference? Or does it need to be exercise and meditation and artmaking? The latter is winning most nights, at least some combination of those. It’s been difficult lately to find time for all three, especially since I’ve been working really hard on getting more sleep…even an extra half hour or so a night I think will make a difference. It seems like every two or three nights, my brain pitches a fit and doesn’t want to sleep. I don’t even go to bed until my brain has capitulated, decided that the idea of sleep is not a heinous thing. I don’t want to lie awake, letting it wander. That’s when I end up back in the pit.

This morning, I woke up with the alarm, screaming in my head, “Stop it, Fuck off, Go away!” Um. OK. And adrenaline surging. Not a good way to wake up. I have no idea what was going on in my head. I was watching The Americans while I cut out pieces last night. I’m reading The Fall of Hyperion. Neither seemed relevant to the dreaming. I wanted to draw last night…maybe I should have (ran out of hours, minutes, seconds).

I only cut stuff out for 47 minutes. See, when you’re thinking about how much I get done, realize that most nights, I get an hour in. That’s it. I don’t spend a ton of time a day (wish I could). Less than an hour last night…which is why it still looks like this…

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There is still a lot to cut out. I’m 9 hours into the cutting. I had estimated 12. I think I’m wrong. Who knows…but certainly I spent a good chunk of that time cutting pieces out that looked like this…

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Yup, that’s full on crazy. Those are the outer parts of the octopus suckers. Technical term. Holy crap. I think they really are just called suckers. If you’re in the mood for sorta irreverent sciencey talk about octopus suckers, yet highly educational irreverence, go here. I’m not really sure how I ended up with the science leaning. Coming out of college, I was pure literature and art. There’s some really cool vocabulary in that article though, like ‘infundibulum.’ Yesterday, I taught my students ‘endoplasmic reticulum’ and told them to pull THAT out at dinner time. Earlier this year, I taught them ‘vex’ and ‘irk.’ They’re still using those words. I love that I have taught 160 middle-schoolers to say “You VEX me,” instead of all those other lame words they use.

Which reminds me, someone told me this weekend that my use of the word “DUUUDE” guaranteed my California residency (I was not actually born in California…born in an Alaskan military hospital to two California parents though).

Anyway. Another hour of cutting stuff out and I might have had some mental balance, but I had to consider the sleep component as well.

Midnight was a worthy couch companion…

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She misses her mommy at night and harasses me instead.

If I’m at the computer, I get Babygirl (stupidest name EVER)…

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who insists on sitting ON the mouse, or IN FRONT of the screen, or trying to drink my tea or eat my oatmeal. And then she gets all pissed off if you don’t pet her at the same time. Try resizing photos when she’s sitting there. It’s impossible.

I wanted to clear out a couple of posts-in-progress last night on hikes and Earth Stories, but girlchild needed my computer to write an essay (the computer she uses is apparently barely functional at the moment, which is unfortunate, because I’m not able to get a NEW one…she can use her brother’s when he gets his graduation laptop, whenever that happens). Then she asked for my advice, which is like asking someone to tell you if your butt is big, when you ask a writing mom with a Comparative Literature degree about your intro paragraph and she actually tries to help you, but you’re an emotional 16-year-old and holy god, why did I even open my mouth, because there were tears and it was not pretty. I should have just told her that her butt looked big. It would have been less traumatic. For both of us.

Remind me never to talk again. Seriously. I’m done with it.

Little Pieces

May 8, 2014

I’m 18 hours and 23 minutes into ironing fabric for this quilt…this quilt that does not yet have an exhibit to call home, and is probably destined to be like a couple of the other quilts I’ve made, where no one wants them in a show. Oh well. I like them to be in shows, but honestly, that’s not why I make them.

I’ve made it into the 1400s, but not very far, about 20 pieces in. So I’ve got about another 350 pieces to go. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’m in the fussy little piece section now…

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See all those little pieces? There’s like two tiny pieces ironed onto one little piece of THIS gray and two tiny pieces ironed onto one little piece of THAT gray. It’s a little piece bonanza. So it takes more time. Or maybe it’s just that this thing takes X time and X seems to be a larger number than normal. It’s still not taking as long as the Earth Stories piece. But it seems like no matter how much ironing I do each night, I still have about 4 more hours to do…I find that strange. Like time is stretching out and the fabric is breeding or the Wonder Under is undergoing mitosis.

Or I’m thinking too hard.

At least there will be no shortage of things to work on this summer (besides my sanity, a clean house, and a better yard). I have a lot of stuff in progress and a whole new quilt I have to make by November that only barely exists in a sketch in my brain.

I’m not worried. My summer is pretty empty. Well, except for soccer and working and all the other shit that will rain down upon me that I don’t even know about yet.

You know, like it does. All the little things. That’s what’s overwhelming me at the moment is all the little detailed crap that I’m supposed to be handling and getting done every day, and which is really NOT getting done because I keep doing healthy things like meditating and exercising and making dinner and then I do other things like making art, because if I didn’t do that, I don’t know who I would be. I’ve really thrown the balance up in the air this year, and I don’t know how successful it’s been. I think I need some distance from it to decide.

Here’s what it looked like last night when I was picking fabrics for the face-in-a-cloud section, which is only like 8″ square…

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Each fabric had no more than 4 pieces on it…and some only had one. I’m running out of room on the ironing board.

See the face in a cloud in the top right? That’s what I was ironing.

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I also ironed the headphones and cords…basically all I have left is the wolf, the iPhone, the snake, the bird, the dog, and the giant skull eyeball. It doesn’t seem like much when you realize how much I HAVE done, but it requires some mental attention. I quit last night right before the wolf, because I was too tired to think WOLF. I had done over an hour of ironing, which seems to be the right amount for working every night at the moment. In my old life, I would work on it every other night, but for longer usually. I actually didn’t usually get ironing of big projects done during the school year at all. So I guess that’s changed.

Everything’s changed.

I was going to write all this last night, but WordPress was having issues, so I went to bed (a little early!) instead. I should try to do that more often, but then I’d get even less done. It would be nice if I could get some sense of life fulfillment from my job…and you’d think as a teacher, I would, but it’s so much hard work and paper pushing that it’s hard to see the good stuff until you’re 6 months past it.

I realized how much irritation I was carrying yesterday at work, but then I remembered that we don’t have much of the school year left, and this is normal. The kids want to be on vacation already. There’s all these end-of-year pressures of awards, grades, cleaning up, preparing for next year…I have a boss who sends messages demanding meetings at certain times without ever thinking that we might already have things on our calendar. I seriously get emails that say “See me during Period 2.” or “Meet here at 3:45.” and you’re thinking, wow. Dude. I already have a parent meeting during Period 2, thanks for asking, and at 3:45, I’m doing this presentation thing. And there’s often no information telling you the purpose of the meeting, so then you’re left wondering if this is a bitchslap event or just a check-in. A decent boss emails you and says, hey, we need to talk about X, here are the times I have available. I realize you’re busy doing your job; when would be convenient for you?

I guess that is too much to hope for. I just take a deep breath these days, do a little weird dance in the hallways to make the kids laugh, or randomly yell “Dress Code!” into the hallway (that’s actually really fun to do…I’m not even dress coding anyone, but they’re so paranoid it will be THEM that they all jump). OK, yes, it’s time for vacation. Someone on last week’s hike (which is still in a picture file and not in a blog post) said they were surprised I wasn’t in a tower surrounded by a bunch of guns. Well, isn’t THAT a nice image to put alongside my teacher image.

Now you know why I exercise so much and make so much art. Otherwise I’d go even more nuts than I already am. I’m leaving the guns alone though. I do better with pen and paper. And honestly? The kids aren’t the problem…they may drive me bonkers on a regular basis with their shenanigans and laziness and moody crap and drama, but it’s the adults that cause the real trauma. I know the kids aren’t old enough to control their shit. I wish the adults remembered that they are.

It’s Not the End of the World…

April 27, 2014

I have this way of dealing with life at the moment. I just divide it up into these blocks. There are the blocks that are mindless, things I have to do and can almost do in my sleep (strangely, school is one of these blocks). There are the blocks that are sleep; they’re short. There’s the blocks that are art…I try to fit one in a day. There’s exercise and meditation and a hike a week. There’s the grocery store. I divide each day up again. The block that gets me up and out the door for school. The block that deals with the time right after school. Blocks that aren’t already filled or designated, I make sure there’s a plan for those, because it’s the fucking down time that messes with me. There are some blocks I used to have that I don’t have any more. They’re the hardest to fill…and they need to be filled. It’s kind of ironic, because it’s not like I have time to add groups of new friends or activities, but I almost have to in order to make sure there’s no down time for the brain to sink lower. I need to keep it occupied.

That said, those of you who are parents (or just empathetic to parents) know that you can plan all you like, but life is gonna bitchslap you some days. Tuesday the girlchild had some things that looked like bug bites. She showed them to me, they were itchy, there were like three of them. Wednesday, there were more, but they were moving around and we talked about washing her sheets this weekend (except Tuesday night, she wasn’t at my house), still thinking bug bites. Thursday, they were somewhat worse, and I decided they were hives. We talked about stress (she is still making up work from her surgery AND AP tests start next week…good enough reasons to BE stressed, but she said she wasn’t). We talked about food and soap and lotion and all that good stuff. Nothing new. Apparently Thursday night (again at her dad’s) was bad, but eventually they went away and she went to sleep. When I texted her during the day on Friday and suggested the doctor, she said no way, it was fine, she was better. I got home Friday, she was not home yet, she slammed in the door about 15 minutes later yelling for me, lifted her shirt, and holy shit. Hives everywhere. Solid. Yeouch. I called the nurse, who asked 17 questions, then sent us to Urgent Care. Meanwhile, the kids have been watching way too much House (and I’ve already seen them all), so we were diagnosing her. (Lupus…no, not really). We took her in…you know it’s bad when the staff at Urgent Care gasp when they see it. Anyway, a couple of tests later and we still know nothing, but she has Benadryl in her and they’re prescribing an epi-pen. Sure enough, she was asleep (love Benadryl) by the time she got home, pretty much, and the hives were gone by midnight. Hopefully, whatever freakish thing that caused it is gone, out of her system. Impressive bumpiness, though.

So that was not a block of time that I had planned. It never is, when you’re a parent. I do think that most parents (the ones who pay attention) are much better at dealing with life because of shit like that. You have your afternoon/evening planned, and hives just fucks it all to hell and back. Seriously. It happens all the time, so often, that you always have a contingency plan. It’s how I survive. The back of my brain is always trying to budget time here or there to deal with bumps in the road like that. Like What Will You Do if the House Floods with Human Waste? And you already have a plan for that…and the zombie apocalypse…and random visitors.

So I dealt. Ordered dinner instead of cooking it. Did a little grading, but not a lot. Blew off the exercise in favor of meditation. Made it to bed at a reasonable hour because I knew I had a hike…a hike that might get moved due to weather issues. No problem. I can adapt. I just roll with it. I’m not always happy with the adjustment, but in the end, and I don’t know again if this is the depression or the meditative practices talking, I just need to go with the flow. It’s not the end of the world. There will be another day for ironing fabric. One day of missing exercise will not end my life. So we joked with the doctor about how she needed to send her staff over to check BOTH houses for mold and drugs, and girlchild was probably lying about sex or drugs, because they always do, and when would they start random medication? Yeah. We do watch too much House.

So no art last night. I did hike this morning…interesting story. I’m now three hikes behind on the blog! Aack! It’s OK, one is a repeat…the morning hike did not turn out to be strenuous enough to count for exercise, so I dragged the boychild and the two dogs (girlchild and ex are in Lancaster for National Cup, which no, she is not playing in…just supporting her team) out on a long, bitchy hike…

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Because I’m nice like that. Jake on the left, Calli on the right. This is Mt. McGinty, take 2. I think I can do it by myself now. Maybe. More on that hike later. Whenever later is (did I mention grades are due on Tuesday and I’m not done with them? Whatever. They’ll get done. It’s not the end of the world.). The dogs were extremely tired by then and were apparently huddling together for support.

Then we came home and I managed the depressoid hour of grocery shopping (Saturday night just sucks bigtime. The only plus is that it’s quiet and there are no lines). Drove to Sonic for dinner, because there was no way I was cooking. Plus I am feeling down and out and overwhelmed by shit that I can’t control, so I have not been eating great the last few days. But I got time with the boychild, and he’s moving away to college in a few months, and he won’t call, text, or email when he’s gone, so I’m kinda saving these moments up with just him for later. For when he’s gone. Makes me sad to think of it, but he’s an adult now and this is what he needs to do. I’ll be OK. I’m not a child. I can handle him leaving. I’m just sad about it. It’s OK for me to be sad about things. It better be OK, because I feel it a lot. It’s OK to not be happy when things don’t feel happy. It’s not abnormal. It’s not broken.

OK, I AM broken, but not because I am sad. I am sad because I am broken. Or I am sad AND I am broken. Hard to say.

Then I graded for a while, trying to get all the loose ends tied up, or at least enough of them to make a difference. Or something. I still need to input everything, but I’ll deal with that. It’s not the end of the world.

I feel like I already survived the end of the world. Like three or four times. Godzilla wasn’t there. No one was. Just me.

So then I started ironing, awfully late. Later than I had originally planned for today, but today’s plans came apart at the seams at about 5:20 this morning, or maybe even last night, and so I just two-stepped it and dealt. I’m good at that.

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I’m through the 400s…into the 500s. I could have started ironing the 500s, but didn’t feel like starting it. Depressing subject matter. Couldn’t look at it. Need some distance from it. Maybe tomorrow night. I just ironed all the leftover bits from the body…the heart and the nipples and the eyeballs and the hair and the eye she’s holding onto, or is she trying to catch it? Who knows.

Tomorrow is gym and a meeting and chaos and grading and exercise and meditation and maybe ironing. Hopefully ironing. A little bit of progress a day makes it better…

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It does. This is the pile of fabrics used so far…I’m not even a third of the way through, so there will be lots more.

There is a lot on my plate at the moment. I’m trying to divide it up into doable chunks, things I can handle. There are a couple of things I can’t deal with at all. So I’m not. It’s not the most mature way of living my life, but it’s what I can do at the moment. Really, there should be times in your life when everything is smooth sailing and then times when you are challenged to even get through the next 10 minutes, but that challenge…that’s probably what makes you who you are. Not how you deal when it’s easy…but how you deal when there’s too much and you have no help and stupidity reigns around you. That’s when it’s important. And if you’re a selfish asshole when that’s going on, then you suck. I’d like to believe karma will kick your ass, but I have no evidence of that.

So yeah. I’m ironing. I’m making art. What more do you need to know.

Stupid Fucking Titles

April 24, 2014

One of the things that’s been out of whack the last two days was my blood sugar. I kinda blamed it on going back to school, but it turns out it’s all hormones. My body went all girl-ballistic today after 2.5 months of nothing. I’d be OK with that, with having an explanation for the random-ass flurries of crying in parking lots and into my pillow…at least I have a good reason now…but today was not a good day for hemorrhaging. Luckily, I wore my black (OK, I have lots of black…this is not a new thing), because right about the time I was thinking, yeah, this method of staunching the flow is not necessarily working, the whole school went into lockdown. Some (as my boss put it) “bad guy” was being chased around the neighborhood by police, and there was some possible danger to our students, so we covered windows, locked doors, shoved kids under desks. Kids were convinced it was a drill. Hell, I knew better. It’s testing. No way in hell would my boss do a drill of any sort during testing. So we waited a bit, with a few freaking out and a couple showing me their true colors (please get your head out of the window before you become a target), and then they told us we could “continue to teach” with lights on etc.

Teach. During a lockdown. With middle-school kids who were supposed to be released to lunch 10 minutes ago. Are you smoking crack? I put in a movie, turned the lights down, realized I needed to deal with blood flow, and asked my co-teacher to watch my class; I think she thought it was a blood sugar issue. They released us about 30 minutes later and adjusted schedules, and I dealt with blood again. Hmn. This is not working. I still have three classes to get through. I’m in trouble wardrobe-wise. I love being a perimenopausal woman. Really, I do. It’s a challenge to not go out and kill people some days, because the sleep issues, the erratic bleeding, the hormones, the mood swings, fucking hair falling out…there is no fucking way to be a normal person when all that is going on without some serious help (mind-altering drugs, alcohol, I don’t know what else). Deep breaths. My workplace has a nurse’s office. Nurse offices have additional supplies…I brought in the heavy artillery and made it through the rest of the day, medicating myself for the cramps from hell. This is why we female teachers have very little patience with a 12-year-old who says she has cramps. Sweetie, I just lost a tenth of my blood supply and I’m still standing…what’s your problem again?

Anyway. The quilt I’m working on is so fucking relevant at the moment.

Before all that happened, during my prep, I made the mistake in my delicate frame of (weepy) mind to preview some videos about Huntington’s Disease for next week’s homework. Yeah. Watching videos of people you know will die a nasty death. Watching videos of people trying to decide whether or not to get tested. Hell, I should have just watched videos of babies been born and promptly dying in their parents’ arms or young cancer patients falling in love. Crying ensued. I’m a freakshow at the moment, a disaster area of salty proportions. Watch me lose it!

Like I said, at least now I know why. But I got home and was supposed to go to the gym, but between blood flow and cramps and general crappy feelingness, gave up the ghost on that. Sat around and read for a while, then watched those two episodes of House where Amber dies (OH MY GOD, because that’s not weepy at all) with the girlchild. It made her cry too, though, so I felt a little bit more normal. A tad.

It’s OK. I have the bike at home. Eventually the meds kicked in and I could sit on the bike for a while, plus I meditated and ate and did a little grading. I read.

Then it was ironing time, my special time with fabric, when my brain wanders off to its Not-Quite-Happy-Place (we still haven’t found happy…it’s a fucking lost cause), where my scissors and iron cheerfully dance in the summer surf. Or something.

It might be past my bedtime. Or I’m lightheaded from blood loss (certainly a possibility).

I knew I had to iron the lower body figure tonight, and those are generally a bit more time- and energy-consuming, trying to figure out what shade of flesh-colored fabric each part needs to be…I started with a run of 7, but that strangely turned into 9.

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I’m not sure how. OK, I think it had something to do with not having enough of the first two fabrics, but wanting to start with something lighter than the third fabric, but not finding exactly what I wanted, so I kinda used the first two interchangeably. I can tell you the last one is something I hand-dyed myself. I call the formula FleshMud. OK, not really, but I have no idea how I got the colors in there (it’s not as black/gray in real life).

So I ironed down a bunch of pieces.

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While Director Skinner observed. He’s a nice guy. He was very encouraging.

This is the chick I was ironing down…

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This was in the early days of the drawing. She ended up being way more complicated than that…just like in real life! Wow. So philosophical tonight.

She started at piece 316 and went through 469, but then I had forgotten to number the face, so that was piece 1211-1247…or 1248. So 153 plus 36 (ugh, math in my head…) equals 189 pieces. Ahright. I’m up to about 6 hours in this thing. The ironing part, that is. I really need to do grades this weekend too, though, so I don’t know how much I’ll get done over the weekend. Hike. Meeting. Boychild in the house due to soccer tournament. Not a lot of free time.

But I am getting it done. There is progress. I can get my head around progress. It makes it somewhat better…it being LIFE, the practice of living. I actually find it very difficult to STOP ironing and go to bed. I just want to keep going and going until I’m done…like 1776 pieces done.

Anyway, with any luck, tomorrow will have less blood flow, no lockdowns, grading success (really unlikely), exercise, meditation, and fabric fondling. Hopefully there will be less screaming obscenities in my head as well, because I’m not finding that helpful. The section of meditation I’m doing now is about releasing bad feelings towards other people by imagining them happy. You start with yourself (this is very difficult for me, imagining my own self happy…I usually fail in the time frame they have allotted for that), then someone you see as a role model or someone important to you in some way (I have about 3 people I slot into this section), then the second person is someone you’re very close to (my kids alternate in here, based on which one seems to need it most, like today it was girlchild and her hives), then the third person is someone who don’t know very well (there are lots of these at work and on hikes), and the last person is supposed to be someone with whom you regularly have a negative reaction or negative feelings. There are two people that are obvious picks for this, but I am supposed to imagine them with happiness suffusing throughout them, and I just don’t think they deserve it. Mr. Meditation realizes that and tries to persuade me that my anger/frustration toward those people is hurting me, not them (fuck you, Mr. M…do you think I don’t KNOW that?), but I just can’t let them be happy in my mind. They don’t fucking deserve it. Anger strong. So there’s all this conflict in my head over meditation at the moment, which, shockingly, makes it hard to meditate.

Insert crying there too. Fuck me.

Seriously Mr. M…I can imagine them dying in volcanic explosions, as firebombing victims, in horrible plane crashes, from nasty cancer that makes them vomit profusely. And you want me to imagine them happy? I can only be ironic about that and imagine them in situations that would make NORMAL people happy (like weddings or traveling to foreign countries to lie on the beach and party), knowing damn well they would be miserable. Then I smile. In a sort of evil manner. Really, I shouldn’t be allowed out.

So yeah, not so healthy.

Back to the fabric. There’s a meditation that doesn’t inspire anger.

Yeah, I also gave up on a good title tonight. They all sucked.

Fish and Seaweed

April 24, 2014

I tried to post last night, but WordPress was being cranky. I finally gave up trying. As the week drags on, my brain is more and more challenged. Tiredness kicks in harder, kids are more frustrating. They’re testing right now, the first version of Common Core, but they don’t count this year, so it’s kind of a strange place we’re in. Usually testing is a really big deal, like you don’t teach anything that might challenge their brains, so they have all their brain power for the tests (honestly, there isn’t a lot leftover for anyone after 2 hours of staring at multiple-choice questions). You don’t give homework. Usually it’s also about 3 weeks later in the year and NOT right after break (a challenge in itself). None of it applies, this year, though, so I’m trying to teach genetics when they’re spending two periods a day testing. Not necessarily the best choice. Hopefully it will schedule better next year. Hopefully they’ll be done soon.

Luckily, last night’s ironing was pretty simple. Of course, I didn’t DO very much ironing either. I was too tired. I ironed fish and seaweed…

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That’s it. Can you see the seaweed? Exciting. I also ironed some blood. There is blood in this quilt, ironic, since it’s about menopause, when the blood is supposed to stop. But that’s not the only blood out there, of course. (A vision of Dexter pops into mind, probably a disturbing thing)


I stopped watching Dexter eventually. It got old. I stopped watching a lot of things in the last year. I’ve been watching X Files while picking fabrics. They all start to melt together, but basically I’ve got weird images and events and aliens on my mind. And I read a lot of fantasy/sci fi as well, so that doesn’t help. The kids are both watching all the episodes of House, so if I’m in the living room in the evening, that’s what’s on. When I was a kid, you couldn’t serial-watch all these shows like you can now. You had to wait each week (or all summer) for the next episode, and if you missed it, you missed it. We didn’t even have a VCR. We couldn’t tape anything.

I don’t know if this is better or not, being able to access so much right when you want it, but I’m sure it changes how we deal with the world. A relative made a comment about “this generation” (speaking of her own kids, who are about 7 years younger than me), that when the going gets tough, this generation bails (she spelled “bails” wrong though, resulting in hilarity in MY household, where jokes about baling cotton and hay ensued. You can’t be a bad speller here…you will not survive). Huh. I don’t think I’ve bailed. I’ve been bailed upon, but haven’t bailed myself. I don’t know what that means, and technically, her kids are a generation younger than mine. My students don’t have persistence, many of them, true, but they are in middle school. It takes time and energy to develop persistence. I do know adults my age who bail. It seems like an easy childhood makes it more difficult for some people to deal with hardship. Then again, I think some people just know how to step up and some don’t. How much of that is the generation, how much is parenting, how much is the world we live in now, the environment? I’m sure someone is writing self-help books about that.

I was reading an article about how the Brits assumed there would be all this psychological trauma during the Blitz in London, with all the bombs dropping, and the people in charge set up all these psych centers to help people deal with the psychological damage, but in the end, most Brits just went on with their days, going to bomb shelters at night, going back home in the morning. Suicide rates went down. It actually helped them feel better about themselves if they continuously survived the bombings. There was some sense of achievement, however illogical that seems. Obviously, those that died…well, they died. But their psychological health wasn’t an issue any more. Those that survived seemed to rally in a way that the government really hadn’t expected. The psych centers closed because they weren’t needed. Interesting, that.

Anyway. Yes, it’s possible I think too much. Or read too much (naw, impossible).

I didn’t iron for long. I was tired. I mentioned that. Tired. Still tired this morning.

More fabrics in the pile now…added orange (fish), green (seaweed), and red (blood).

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I would have ironed more, but the next thing is one of the large figures or the guy in the boat and that requires way more brain power, time, and energy than I had last night. I try to iron all of each section before I move on, so it would have been another hour and a hundred or more pieces, and that wasn’t an option. I did grade, exercise, and meditate…all good. See, I do better with a routine. Or do I?

Part of the problem was the night before. I went to bed and had crying issues. Not sure why. Couldn’t sleep, brain goes into overdrive, unhappy. Finally slept, woke up, that mood is still there. Cried going to work, couldn’t get it to stop even in the damn parking lot. Don’t know why. I hate that. Used to be I could pin that to hormonal stuff, time of the month, and it would be really short-lived, but who knows at the moment? Body doesn’t know if it’s coming or going, thyroid meds finally kicking in? I hate not being able to figure out where a specific emotion is coming from. That’s the stuff that makes you feel crazy, out of control. If you hear something sad or feel something bad, crying makes sense, sometimes is even a relief. But just randomly? That’s just crazy talking. It’s been a salty year. So done with it. Someone says something or I hear a song or see a stupid ad for a stupid movie and I’m almost bawling (that happened last night with the girlchild in the room…I got up and walked out…don’t remember what movie…just know I won’t be going to see it).

I had to go buy some AP study guides for the girlchild, which meant venturing into an actual bookstore (because she left it until the last minute). This is just as dangerous as going into a fabric store at the moment (can’t just buy ONE), so I rewarded myself (and the boychild) by buying Saga Vol. 3 (Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples), which came out recently…

saga vol 3

It was good. More weird alien stuff and creatures making moral decisions plus things haunting you and making you crazy. And wings and horns. Nothing bad about that. That’s the kind of crazy I can handle.

Fabric Meditation

April 22, 2014

I have to prepare myself mentally for picking fabric. It’s a big part of the process. I don’t color my drawings beforehand…I stare at the drawing and let it color itself in my head. I often have no idea of what it will look like until it’s ironed together. I trust my instincts, my years of practice, to put it together right, the best way. I do better when I pick fabrics in big chunks of time, hours at a time, like during Winter, Spring, or Summer breaks. It’s easier to keep all the fabrics and colors in my head if there aren’t big gaps in time between ironing sessions.

So I had planned to iron this sucker down to fabric over Spring Break. With that many pieces, almost 1800, it’s going to take over 20 hours of ironing. But it didn’t work out that way, so realistically, even with weekends (this weekend might as well burrow into a hole and die, because it’s buried already), it’s going to take me 2-3 weeks to iron all these down with school every day. Damn job. Gets in the way of my art career.

But man oh man, is it meditative. It lets me access that part of my brain that is pure art, pure alpha wave, deep and dark in my brain, where none of that stupid sad depressoid shit can venture. It kicks depression’s ass. It tells it to fuck off and find some other sucker. It is one serious bad ass.

Too bad I can’t do THAT full-time. OK, it probably wouldn’t work full-time. But it’s an interesting thought…that this state and the drawing state and the tracing state…these are places where my brain can escape all that stupid shit and just be at peace. Someone wrote to me today about that’s when I have control…when I’m in that space mentally. I can control the artistic process and nobody else can fuck with it. They can’t stop it, they can’t change it, they can’t make me do it their way or listen to their stupid lame rules. It’s mine. So no wonder I find it peaceful…calming.

One thing about Spring Break is I got very bad about meditation, the stuff on my app (Headspace) where the guy talks me through it. It’s hard to do on a plane or in a hotel room with the boychild. I just didn’t do it regularly, and I think that was part of the problem. I drew more, which does also help (another form of meditation), but I needed to focus on that process daily. So I’m back to that. Trying to be good about it.

I cleaned out most of my studio last night (by “clean out”, I mean straighten up and Swiffer…the room is still a disaster area and probably will be until both kids go to college and I have time and space to deep-clean…OR…I will succumb to hoarding tendencies and live in the glory of dust-bunny hell). Tonight I put away all the fabrics from the last quilt that were lying around, and then hung up the drawing for the current quilt…

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It’s LONG. Actually, when I started ironing parts, they were down at the bottom and I got tired of leaning over to see them, so I pinned the bottom part up to about eye level.

First I sorted the first 100 pieces into piles by 10s…

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It’s a very controlled process…I try to number them logically so picking fabrics can also be done logically.

I ended up thinking I needed 10 dirt fabrics in a run for the bottom section…

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Yes, that’s Dana Scully…X Files, Season 3. It’s easy to watch because I’ve seen them all before and I don’t have to pay particularly close attention, but it doesn’t fuck with my emotions either. That’s a plus, because some of the other stuff I’ve been watching lately just makes me cry, and I really don’t need more of that.

I actually changed some of these browns around in the end, because some of the pieces were quite long and the fabric wasn’t big enough (stupid fat quarters) to iron the one piece down…plus I think I needed 11 in the end. That number 4 fabric (from the right)? It didn’t work. It’s gone. I added two more in its place, one lighter, one darker.

For instance, this one needed to switch fabrics for one that had a full width.

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I usually buy 1/2 yards because it gives me the width I need, but not so much fabric that I will be using it up until the end of time (I have some from the early days when I used to buy yardage where I will probably NEVER run out). I like to have more variety in my stash…so I don’t buy huge pieces unless they are background or binding. Sometimes I have to buy yards if the quilt is really wide…usually that’s for the base pieces, the dirt and water. I like my quilts to be grounded…to have a base to stand on visually. In the dirt or the sand and in the water, they need to stand somewhere…so you will notice more solid sections at the bottoms of my quilts (and drawings). It’s not that I think about it while I’m doing it…it just happens. I don’t want you to think that I’m this artist who thinks every move, every line out. I don’t. It just happens.

This is not magic. I’ve been practicing art for years. Think about sports…how many years until you’re really good at it? You may have some raw, natural talent, but you still have to practice, to hone your art. I’ve been making quilts since I was 23; that’s 24 years. Holy god, I’m old.

I ended up having to pull about 10 pieces from the 100-199 bin, because they were in the dirt section and I wanted to do that all at once.

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I finished all the dirt pieces…about 70 or so. The skeleton (there’s always a skeleton these days…I don’t know what that means) is the other 50 or so pieces in the 0-100 section…and they’ll be pretty easy. I usually only use 2-3 fabrics for the skelly…I don’t cut them all out separately in Wonder Under…I group them together so that all the same color of bone are lumped together and only need to be cut out once. Saves time. Plus it’s easier to iron down one big piece with a lot of little pieces drawn on it. Takes less time.

So hopefully tomorrow I’ll finish up the skeleton and move on to water or seaweed or fish. I have a meeting on Sunday, and it will be good to have stuff to cut out at that meeting. I have another quilt I need to start working on, at least get it drawn and traced before summer, so I can’t be lazy right now. I know, I never really seem like I’m being lazy, but I did sit there and read for quite a bit tonight. I also graded, though, so I don’t feel bad. I try to explain to my students how to balance the stuff you don’t feel like doing (homework, they are big whiners) with the stuff you love to do (for them, video games or Facebook or mall). I tell them I do an hour (or so) of grading BEFORE I let myself do the stuff I like to do, like draw or whatever. My job isn’t my life. I walked in this morning about 30 minutes before school started…and I hadn’t been at school since the Sunday the first weekend of break, when I went in to straighten up for the cleaning team. My room was a mess this morning, so I had the kids help me put it in order. I had a lab planned for today, and I had lists of what needed to happen…I dealt with some of it on that Sunday two weeks ago and the rest during prep today. I’m learning to be more efficient. I’m learning to spend less time and energy on the job. I still am there for my students, I hear them, I help them, I tutor them, I work for them…I stopped a saber-toothed tiger today with my rolled tongue (genetics joke)…but I come home and try to live for myself. I have to have a life outside of the job. I have to have an existence that isn’t just work and the shit that follows it.

So I’m ironing now. The process of coloring that picture in my head and choosing the fabrics that match those colors…it’s supremely meditative. It’s peaceful. It fights the demons away, tells them to fuck off and find another place to reside. At least for a bit.

More tomorrow.


It Is Where I Am…

April 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I traced for a few hours…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on.


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