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.


More Is Better

April 4, 2014

Hey. So I’m feeling much better tonight. I think the biggest issue with the hypoglycemia is that it comes fast and I feel like crap with it, and it takes a long time for that to go away. The effects of last night’s episode continued well into the morning. I don’t think I started feeling OK again until after lunch. And I ate normally. So. But I ate normally the day before too. It’s the unpredictable nature of the crashes that is difficult. I worry about being alone and having it crash fast and not having someone around to help me. Anyway. The doc and I will have a conversation. We’ll figure it out. Hopefully.

Meanwhile, today was our team’s field trip to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Museum in Balboa Park. We saw one of the IMAX movies on the human body (probably it doesn’t help that IMAX makes me want to puke…but it was good), then we watched 140 or so students try to destroy all the exhibits inside the museum, and then let them out into the sunny gorgeous day to run around and eat and act like goofballs. It was a really well-managed field trip, thanks to one of the team teachers, and I didn’t feel anywhere near as crazy about it as I have in the past. And there’s only one day of school left until Spring Break, when I will have a little bit of freedom. I do have about 700 errands to run and another 30,000 things on my to-do list, but hopefully art will be part of it. After last night, I’m kind of trying to relax my desire to get a lot done. I think I will get done whatever I can, and I will have to be happy with that. Or at least content. Happy is still not part of my vocabulary.

So I practiced that tonight after getting home from my stitching meeting (which is really just hanging out with good people and sometimes we stitch and sometimes we don’t and we try to support each other with our wacky lives and existences…which is all you can do sometimes…is support). I ate some food…I’ve been paranoid about food today. Shockingly.

Then I traced for about an hour…

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It’s still going really slowly. I’m in the middle of the lowest body on the piece…

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She’s got some weirdly overlapping pieces, which means I really have to think while I’m tracing about what goes on top and what goes on the bottom, since I draw the overlaps into the pieces. I’ve finished her legs and belly, and am just starting on the arms. I was getting tired, so I tried to find a decent place to stop…I’m in the 370s, over 6 hours in.

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This piece really is a bit crazy. See all those empty spaces? I try to fill them in as I’m tracing smaller pieces. I try to do a decent job of fitting pieces in so I’m not wasting too much Wonder Under. I also try to trace pieces that I know will be the same fabric together so I save on cutting time…I only have to cut them out as fabric, not as Wonder Under as well. That really helps if the pieces are super small too…I often don’t cut them out until I’m ironing everything together…like I already know I won’t cut out the fish eyeballs until the very last ironing minute…which will be in June, at the rate I’m going.

The yawning, though. I had to stop. I had to make myself stop.

I got some done on the girlchild’s Xmas stocking at the stitching meeting…

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this piece is really slow. But it’s meditative. I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to actually meditate for real lately. I think I need to go back to doing it earlier rather than later at night…if I’m tired, I can’t handle it. I get the feeling he’d really like me to meditate in the morning, but I find that difficult. I’m not even really awake in the morning. I feel like you should be awake to be mindful. I’m a night owl. That’s why we call it meditative PRACTICE though…you’re supposed to actually practice it. Plus practicing makes you better at things.

Anyway. At least I’ll get some more artmaking time in the next few weeks. Nothing major, nothing lifechanging. Just more. More is better. Hopefully more is better will apply to hours of sleep as well.


Sleep? Art.

April 2, 2014

To sleep? Or to art? That is the question, the perennial question. I don’t seem to be able to balance those two out appropriately…probably because I try to do other things like cook healthy meals, exercise, meditate. All those things. Really, I think my job is getting in the way of having a fulfilling life. In fact, while I’m writing this, I’m trying to come up with something to occupy the smart, quick workers in my classes who will be done with their assignment about 20 minutes into class while my less-motivated kids flail and whine and complain that I am actually expecting a product that requires brain power. I got this. I can do this.

Can I do this? I decided yesterday that I really wanted to try to get this whole damn drawing traced before Spring Break officially started, which is Friday at 3:30. I then slapped myself around some, because that would mean I can’t go to work for the next three days (tempting, certainly), which isn’t an option (my team would kill me if I wasn’t there for the field trip), so then I thought that maybe I could do it by Monday, but then I need to cut all those pieces out (THAT’S why I’ve been saving all those episodes of InsertCrappyTVShowNameHere) and try picking fabrics, and now it looks like I will be in upstate New York for at least three days or more during Spring Break and it’s looking pretty grim in terms of getting the ironing done.

Oh well. I still cleared my evening (meaning I ignored all the grading I brought home and anything else like yardwork or cleaning or whatever) because hell, I barely saw my kids yesterday (but I did run errands) and I basically didn’t talk to anyone at all after about 5:30 PM, and this is what it’s going to be like when they go to college. Every day. Depressing.

I lied. My brother and SIL called me (yes, I am that pitiful that they call me and check up on me, mostly because they bought this talking Mr. T thing at Archie McPhee that said things like “quit your jibber jabber” and “pity the fool” and they just can’t NOT share that with me) and talked to me about snow and Ivy League schools and my brother’s and my grades in high school and college (apparently I had better grades than him in high school because I applied myself better…a lot of good THAT did me, right?).

Anyway. More pictures of my favorite fusible, Wonder Under. I’ve been using Wonder Under to make quilts since um since (holy crap, I had to go look up my list of quilts to figure out when I started doing that) since January 2001, my first fused quilt (besides the one where I learned how to do it in the first place) was When Laundry Attacks

laundry 1 (Small)

clearly a feminist portrayal of the burden of motherhood. Seriously old-school Kathy. Love her hair though…best use of Australian aboriginal fabrics ever.

laundry face (Small)

This is the picture I use for all my avatar thingies, whatever they’re called, when I have to put my photo somewhere and I can get away with not using a REAL photo of me. But look how few pieces there are in that face! Holy crap, I’ve gotten complicated. She doesn’t even have EARS! I just realized that. Weird.

Anyway, so Wonder Under and I have been best buddies for a good long time, weathering the years of paper that released without warning all the time to the years of paper that refused to release. I think they’ve finally gotten the recipe back to normal. I buy it by the bolt.

So I’m up to three yards for this quilt (it will go much higher than that)…

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I’m in the water section now, so lots of pointy wavy bits. Then tonight, assuming I trace tonight, I think I will finally be tracing one of the three humans in this quilt. Well, one is barely human. Presumably he was human at some point.

I traced for almost 3 hours last night…with my tea and everything spread out over the couches…

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What were YOU doing last night? Probably something way more useful or productive or sociable. Not me! I am none of those things. OK, maybe I could argue productive in terms of producing art, but sometimes I wonder to what purpose. Not last night, though. The purpose? Distracting me from my actual existence, ironically by tracing a quilt that is about my angst about my actual existence. I know. But it makes me feel better. And at least they will have a lot to write about when they write my biography.


Tracing Motivation…

April 1, 2014

So why can’t I wear pajamas to school today? Oh yeah, it’s not pajama day. It might be wear-your-sports-jersey day, but that’s not usually a day I celebrate, like I didn’t wear my SDSU gear last week (um, because I didn’t go there for one thing, but also because not so into the big sports events). If it’s crazy hair day or hat day, though, I’m there. I always forget (until someone reminds me) how bad the week before Spring Break is in middle school…especially when it’s so late in the year like this year. Why we tie a break to a religious holiday, I will never understand. It makes a lot more sense to figure out how many weeks there are in the second half of the year, look at when testing is supposed to happen, and put the break in a place where it will support the students (and honestly, the teachers) most. Then again, and I hate to say this, I suspect my students would do better without all those long breaks where they forget to behave like a student, where they go through their backpacks and throw out everything, where they completely forget whatever topic we were learning about before. Get rid of Spring Break! Wait. Don’t do that. I need that break.

So yesterday? Wow. Ouch. Supreme frustration. I was doing deep breathing exercises most of the day. I thought about bringing my book today so that when that period that everyone has that refuses to do any work because they’re too focused on anything BUT work, when they start going off like they did yesterday, I can just settle down in my chair and read a few chapters until they get back on task. And I’m not teaching something easy at the moment…it’s mitosis…cell division. It seems easy, but it boggles their minds that something like this is happening ALL the time in their bodies. Even though it boggles them, though, they’re not willing to think about it, consider the details, let alone show me they get it with that fun thing we call an assessment.

So I came home supremely frustrated…and down because nothing I did worked. When the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, there is often nothing a teacher can do on days like that. I can change it up, engage with a video, tell goofy stories, have high expectations (I hate that one…), I could probably throw cupcakes into the air…oh no, wait, THAT they would get their attention. Food. Rewards. Money would probably work. So that’s what I carried home from work. After 14 after-school errands. Tired. Blood sugar off again. And there were two things I wanted to work on before I had to make dinner, but the girlchild needed my computer (and both the things I wanted to work on, you guessed it, on my computer). So I tried that dinner-making thing.

Wow. It really wasn’t my day. I had some weird ingredient and the instructions to open the container were in Spanish, so that was OK. I could figure that out, although it was the strangest thing I had opened and the instructions didn’t really work, but then the ingredient wasn’t in a form I expected. In fact, it was mostly unusable. I’m sure I was doing it wrong, but I had another similar option in the freezer that I knew would work, so I used that instead. Then two ingredients were just not in the cupboard. Strange. These are staples, things I always have, unless someone used them all up and didn’t tell me. Yup. She denied it though. Anyway, for a variety of reasons, dinner took forever to make and was kind of a lot of work for what it was. Tasted good, but I can’t handle that many minutes on a school night. We ate late.

So after meditation and exercise (at which point, my blood sugar was careening towards the other crazy extreme, making absolutely no sense biologically), I was really tired. In fact, I think I fell asleep in meditation. I don’t remember all the parts I was supposed to do. But I was still carrying around that crazy irritation, that bugged feeling from working a job that is often thankless and more often completely crazy and sometimes seemingly pointless (please, lord, do not let any child ask me today why they need to learn about mitosis, because I’m not sure I can give a coherent answer that doesn’t harken back to my mom’s constant “Because I said so.”).

That’s not a good thing. I can’t carry that to sleep. I’ll wake up with it still draped around my shoulders, still dragging me down. It will feed off the core depression and make it hard for me to even walk across the classroom, let alone find a way to encourage them to learn this weird process that helps explain all the crap that happens in genetics. Plus I can’t be in that mood space. It’s just too hard.

So I stood up, drank some water, looked at the clock, tried to balance my sleep needs and my artistic needs in my mind, and started tracing…

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Yup. It’s crazy that I’m doing that at midnight. Totally and completely nuts. But I’m glad I did, because it let me fall asleep and I didn’t wake up in an awful place. It’s not a great place I’m in, because (1) I am tired and (2) I still have to teach mitosis today (trust me, I did totally consider blowing it off and showing baby animals videos), plus there’s a staff meeting about using Google docs (holey moley, shoot me now), but if I play music really loud during my prep (oh wait, I think I have to be making field trip group lists during prep…another hellish task). Dammit.

Deep breaths.

Hey, here’s some fish I traced!

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You don’t want to know how small those fishy eyeballs are. I know. I really do try to keep my brain out of the muck. Some days it’s really hard, though.

I’ve done about 3 hours of tracing…and I’ve traced about 206 pieces…so it’s going really slowly. That could be because I’m doing it really late at night and I’m tired, or it could be really complicated pieces. Or both. Usually I figure 100 pieces/hour, so it would be about 17 hours to trace this whole thing. At the rate I’m going on this one, it will probably be closer to 23 hours. I really need to rethink the artmaking plan for Spring Break. It’s going to be less purposeful than I had hoped. My fault. I was not focused enough (here is where half the people who read my blog, the ones who read it for the art-related stuff, start gagging and sending me messages that I am the most focused art person they know and they wish they could do as much work as I do and I should just shut the fuck up and rejoice that I am making as much as I am…it’s all relative, though, isn’t it?).

I’m hard on myself. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t get any art made. I don’t always understand why making the art is so necessary to my existence, but it is, and as long as I can keep that in the front of my mind, I know that I can get out of bed and shower and get dressed and go to work at a job that is the most difficult (and yet sometimes the most rewarding) job I’ve ever had. And for now, that’s what I need to do. So I need that focus. I need to have the goals in place and they need to be something I’m working towards every day. Without that, I don’t know how I would do anything else.

Now I need to get out of the pajamas.


Diverging from the Fairy Tales

March 30, 2014

I’m finding that certain parts of my artmaking process are more meditative, more peaceful-making than others. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with how much brain power the task takes up…the more, the better. Drawing, tracing Wonder Under, and choosing fabrics use up big chunks of brain real estate, so they work really well to dispel wandering depressive thoughts. Cutting pieces out? Not so much. I’ve spent my artmaking time all week cutting pieces out, and it hasn’t really helped much…a little, but not much. Tonight, though, I started tracing the big drawing on Wonder Under, and there it was…a peaceful (semi-, as much as it ever is) brain. Sigh. Wow. It’s such a better place…because before that, not so much peace.

I did OK this morning and into the middle of the afternoon with an awesome yet physically challenging hike (more on that in another post), but my blood sugar was being cranky today…it was too high after hiking, for no apparent reason, and in trying to control it, I don’t know what happened, but it crashed worse than it has even in the last month or so…and it’s a real mood changer. I know the symptoms, but I often get the symptoms when my blood sugar is normal, so coming back from the grocery store, I was fairly sure it had dropped again…and yes, I had eaten…and yes, it was bloody low by the time I got home, like bad. Not call 911 bad, but certainly minor-freak-out bad.

Dammit. It freaked me out (it always does, especially when I’m on my own, even knowing there’s help a phone call away). I drank my milk and finished unloading groceries (because that’s what you do when your blood sugar is crashing, right? No. That’s what you do when you’re trying to keep your mind off the crash…and no, it’s not really effective because you still feel like shit). And after 15 minutes, it was OK again. But I have no freakin’ idea what is regulating it right now. It’s all over the freakin’ map. It makes no logical sense if you look at what and when I eat and when I exercise. My doctor’s running some tests in a week and a half, and we can look at meds, but her initial answer was to make sure my diet was appropriate, which was more than a little annoying, because I haven’t changed a damn thing about my diet, and the blood sugar is totally off. Now that I’m totally watching everything and counting everything and keeping track multiple times a day, it’s even worse. And it’s inconsistent about it too. So that’s something out of whack.

So it’s probably a good thing I traced some stuff…

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I actually didn’t get very far, because these pieces were really complicated to trace, lots of funny complicated shapes. But at least I got a start on it. I was supposed to grade papers today, and I napped instead. And read my book. And meditated.

I cannot bring myself to care about the grading.

My car, she is old. She is 12 years old this year…and she rolled into 190,000+ miles without my noticing at first.

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Sigh. And the check engine light went off, but I think that’s because the bulb died. I don’t know how much longer she will keep driving. Problem.

I took this picture at our school assembly on Friday…

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We had these BMX bike guys come out and do stunts…

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One of the better assemblies we have had…only a little proselytizing about no drugs and staying in school.

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It’s not that I disagree with those things for my students; it’s just that I don’t think it works to get them to repeat it back during an assembly like this. They don’t hear it. It doesn’t sink in. But the bike-riders were cool.

I finished reading Wally Lamb’s We Are Water

we are water

I love his writing, and this book was no exception. The only issue was that the story was fairly predictable. I knew where it was going, I just didn’t know how he would get there, and it’s in how he writes and reveals the details that his stories are so great to read. The book is about a woman whose life is full of some fairly dank and nasty secrets, and how they affect her family over time. She also happens to be an artist, which might have made it more interesting to me as well. I wonder how my being an artist has affected the kids and the rest of my life. Is it part of the problem? Who knows. It’s told through multiple perspectives, which mesh very well. It’s interesting that they are only family perspectives…one woman marrying into the family shows up in everyone’s story but has no story of her own.

We have a week of school left until Spring Break. It’s possible I might have to take the boychild to New York to look at a college…or not. Hard to say. Girlchild is still recovering well; in fact, she’s at a camp this weekend for Key Club. So I think she’s doing fine…which is a relief after last week at this time. It’s amazing how fast the young bounce back.

Maybe that is the core problem with my depression…my brain doesn’t have the resilience it used to have. I hate to think of the brain slowing down like the body obviously has…on the one hand, I’m hiking all over and doing crazy things like boulder scrambling and rope climbing, but I also feel it the next day (and the next day), and it’s clear to me when my body is done, is tired. It doesn’t bounce back quickly. But I don’t know about my brain…it is just as creative as ever, if not more so, but it will not drop this depression…it will not move past it and get on with it, even though intellectually I’ve gone through it all and I realize what the deal is, but I just can’t get on. The core part of feeling is so mired in this bad place where I’m not worth anything and I can’t be happy…and that part feels so horrible that I get lost in it. It’s like those swampy horrible monster-filled places in the stories we read, where the heroine has to tromp through to the other side, usually to a dark and nasty castle where something important is hidden or being kept, and the heroine has to rescue it and get it out, away from whatever evil ruler or magic being that is in the castle, and of course, they always succeed, right? Except I’m still in the swamp and I’m lost. So I guess that’s where my story diverges from the fairy tales.

I’m not the princess, not worth saving. I’m not even the scruffy servant who has some secret magical power. Or I’m not a good enough heroine, or whatever’s in the castle isn’t motivating enough? Or I didn’t bring my sidekick or my group of intensely supportive friends or my weapon of magic or whatever. Do fairy tales only work on the young? Hard to say. At least I have over 1600 pieces of Wonder Under to trace in the next few weeks to try to keep that old brain occupied. Maybe it will figure out it’s own fairy-tale ending in that time period.


It Will Have to Do…

March 28, 2014

I had a plan for the artmaking this month. Spring Break is coming up. Usually, by now, I’d be counting the days and ranting and raving about how I need to be on vacation. This year, Spring Break is late even. But I don’t know how many days it is. I’m not even keeping track. It’s not that this year is easier than any other year; it’s really not. We took on some things this year that made it more difficult, trying to keep on top of kids and their work, really pushing for passing grades, TRIED to take on computers in the classroom, but that disappeared last week (long stupid story). Plus my brain makes it difficult for me to focus a lot on school this year. I’ve figured out how to push it over there in the corner and ignore its existence a lot better. I think. Maybe. Either meditation or depression has helped me to balance my work life better. I’m hoping it’s the former more than the latter. I don’t want to have to be depressed to put work in its rightful place…just enough attention to do it well, but not at workaholic level.

So I wanted to have all the Wonder Under traced on that new big drawing by now (insert hysterical laughter here, because that’s probably 20 hours of tracing), and to be cutting out Wonder Under, so I could do all the fabric ironing over break, but in reality, that’s not going to happen. I haven’t even started tracing. I’ve had other stuff to deal with. And it’s not that important that I finish it “on time,” because there is no “on time” for this one. There’s no deadline for anything I’m working on, which is alternately a relief and really depressing. Last year had three major pieces that had to be made by a deadline for a specific show, and I guess that was a good thing in some ways, providing me with a focus that I couldn’t wander away from. Right now? I don’t have that. So on the one hand, I can make what I want without some wacky theme hanging over me, but on the other hand, who knows if it will get in anywhere? I have about 4 pieces from the last two years that are getting in NOWHERE. Sigh.

It’s OK. I know intellectually that is a temporary thing, that there is no explaining the whims of jurors, any more than you can explain what colleges the boychild got into and didn’t get into (still waiting to hear on two more, but I think he did OK). It just is what it is; you take a deep breath, and you move on. You pick up the next thing and start working on it.

So I did…

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Still doing this, but I didn’t fall asleep while doing it tonight. I guess that’s good. I’m 4 hours in and still have most of the fleshy pieces to cut out. But it’s getting there. Worst case scenario, I’ll get this one ironed down and start on the stitching over break. I’m going to schedule some hikes in there too, plus I have an art exhibit to go see up in the OC, and I’m going to do some life-drawing classes during the school days. I can pretend to be retired…practice for a million years from now when I might be able to afford to retire (ha!).

I managed to make it to the gym, eat dinner, meditate, read my book, AND do the art stuff. Of course, that’s because the house is empty and I have no one to talk to except furry beasts, and I’m blowing off work. So. There’s that. I don’t know that it’s the healthiest existence. It’s certainly lonely.

I also had to do a journal entry thing for the Celebrating Silver exhibit. I had found the scrapbook paper at my ex’s house Tuesday night. I wrote up the pages yesterday and got it all put together tonight.

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It’s not super-exciting, but it will do. And since it has to arrive by April 1, it will have to do.

Over Spring Break, I also need to draw my gender equality thing (the only real deadline I have this year), and then there’s an exhibit my women’s art group is working on about the border between the US and Mexico; we’re meeting about that this weekend. I think I will have very little weekend free outside of the hike and the art meetings. There’s more next weekend. I guess I know how to keep myself busy. Now if I could only figure out the happiness part. I guess that comes with time.

And art. And nature. It’s kinda like sleep when you’re female and my age…if you really want it, it’s elusive. It comes when you least expect it, when you’re holding scissors in your hand.


That Stupid Voice

March 27, 2014

I have a houseful of giant stress monkeys. This one…

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this one is trying to make up all her schoolwork from the week she missed due to surgery, but she comes home and is (logically) exhausted and falls asleep and then freaks out because she can’t get everything done and there isn’t a good liberal arts college (she says) in Boston. I let boychild deal with that one, walking her through a bunch of websites where she can look shit up like lists of good colleges.

Boychild is freaking out (in his own quiet repressed way, because if he gets loud and emotional, the world is ending, guys) because almost all of the colleges he applied to are notifying today and tomorrow. I tried to tell him that he should be less stressed because he got into one of his backup schools, but since he really really wants to go to the OTHER schools, my comments fell on deaf (or slightly irritated and know-it-all) ears.

Both were yelling this morning because I was in the laundry room, home of pet food and litter-tray hell, which is what I was dealing with, demanding little furry beasts, because girlchild can’t tie her shoes (she can’t bend down yet to reach them), so boychild was doing it FOR her, which was highly amusing. He doesn’t tie them “normally” because when he was little, he pretty much refused to do anything the way it was taught…he had to find his OWN way to do it, like writing certain letters and numbers. He would say, “But I don’t LIKE it that way,” and that would be the end of all arguments, because it was his world and in his world, everything was done his way.

I pity any woman who ever decides she really likes him and wants to like hang out with him for any extended period of time. Either that, or maybe he’ll mellow a bit with old age.

I had book club last night (oh thank god, people of a like mind who READ) and we discussed Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones…

howls-moving-castle

Yeah, it’s a kid’s book, but we liked it…except the last few chapters are moving a bit fast…the pacing seems off. There are two more books in the series and some of us may read them; some may not. Honestly, I’ve got so many books on my to-read list at the moment, that I probably won’t get around to them. I’m not sure I cared that much…I mean, the story was entertaining and nice and well-written (mostly), but it wasn’t something that I was dying to finish, like some books. I should be dying to finish the book I have out from the library right now, because it was due three days ago and I can’t renew it and the fees are adding up. I am a very bad person for that, I’m sure. Sometimes I think it would be cheaper to just buy the book…but then I’d have to find a place to PUT it, and that is a bigger issue here.

A sign of how stressed the boychild is was that he texted me at book club about some financial aid thing he thought I hadn’t done for one of the colleges, and when I got home and looked, it was obvious that he had been trolling not only all the college websites for dates and notification times, but he’d been on their Twitter feeds checking out admissions stuff (one of them actually sends out PAPER LETTERS for notification, the horror! And so when you’re on the Left Coast, it takes a lot longer to get notification than on that other coast). Poor kid. I hope it’s a good day for him. I don’t really care where he goes, as long as he goes. Oh wait, that sounded wrong. You know what I mean. He needs to go to college. And he will.

I made dinner for them last night, put the casserole in the oven. Neither of them ate it though. Girlchild was groggy from sleep (she actually ate some later, after I got home) and boychild was on a food strike (he says he doesn’t like this dish…oh well, he can make a quesadilla then). So I guess I have leftovers for the next three days. Score!

I’ve spent all morning racing from one pet-related mess to another. The dog, though sweet most of the time, is some sort of crazy trash/underwear-eater in the morning, and I have to constantly check on her to see what she’s trying to eat next and stop her. One of the cats had broken into a bag of cat food, so there was food all over the place. Because I’m starving them? No. The old Psychobitch (aka Babygirl) has been very good lately, but was on a yowly rampage this morning. Someone puked somewhere. I heard it, but I haven’t located it yet. That’s OK, because my morning stomach doesn’t handle puke well…I do much better in the afternoon.

Anyway, I fell asleep cutting these out last night.

Mar 27 14 003 small

Seriously, I jerked my head awake at one point and I was holding a piece of fabric, half-cut-out, in one hand and scissors, open, in the other. Who knows how long I sat like that, but I decided it was time to go to sleep, even though I wasn’t done with that piece or exercise or meditation or blogpost. Sometimes the body just needs to sleep, apparently (only 4 hours the night before might have been the issue).

I realized (again) yesterday that I spend most of my work day saying really entertaining things (although I am often irritated when I say them)…such as:

No, you don’t poop babies out.

That’s not what a penis looks like. You have one. You should look at it some day.

Yes, that is a penis. Congratulations for noticing that the picture of a dog you are looking at does have a penis.

That is not a penis; it’s a foot. 

Put the ruler down.

If you are not drawing a straight line with that ruler, I will take it away from you.

If you pee on the seat, you will clean it up (here is where I clarify that I teach 7th grade, not kindergartners).

No, I do not know how squid reproduce.

I don’t know why humans don’t lay eggs.

No, humans and dogs cannot have babies together.

(We are obviously reaching the end of the year, when I will eventually be teaching human reproduction and I can clear up some of this confusion for them, PLUS have them draw a penis correctly, thus traumatizing AND educating them all in one go.)

We have been dealing with epidemics of stomach flu and pink eye (not usually together) at school, so there’s been lots of handwashing and deskwashing and sending kids to the nurse and/or pointing out the nearest trashcan. Luckily, most of the vomiting seems to be going on in other classrooms, so all I see is the empty desk where the kid should be.

I guess the plus of my own kids stressing out all over the place is that I can’t really concentrate on my own mopey self, although there was a bit of that last night since book club was in my old stomping grounds, a part of town I can’t really afford to hang out in any more (which does suck, because no movies). I managed to get my head out of THAT gutter though and move on. At least last night, I did. This morning, it’s a bit more difficult to turn off that stupid voice. It’s stalking me.

Expect more artmaking tonight. It’s about the only thing that shuts it up.


Unacceptable…

February 28, 2014

I got an invitation to apply to a juried art competition for American women artists, art that “exemplifies the utmost in excellence in terms of composition, technique, mastery of medium and quality of design.” Then they listed “acceptable” and “not accepted” media. Um. So first of all, those aren’t antonyms really. It should be “accepted” and “not accepted” OR “acceptable” and “unacceptable.” Yes, I’m pedantic about language…but here’s the thing…acceptable means something very different here than accepted…also because what I do, fiber art, is not in the “acceptable” range. Painting is (of course), as is sculpture and drawing. Textile and fiber art are listed in the “not accepted” (unacceptable?) range.

But fiber art is almost exclusively a female art. Now they knocked photography out too, so they are obviously clinically deranged, but whatever. Also not accepted are “craft, jewelry…any work containing computer-generated elements, prints”…so basically all the art forms I have used over the years are unacceptable. My subject matter is on the fringe, and so is my medium.

I’m reading a book about art called Making Art: Form and Meaning, by Terry Barrett, and he talks about choosing your medium to fit your message. I don’t know how much I chose fabric, or whether it chose me. I don’t know when I made the decision to fully move away from screenprinting to quilt art. I know I was never a great painter…or sculptor…or photographer. I could draw though. I did all of it in school and quite a bit of it afterwards…but pen on paper and then translating that into fabric has been my preferred artistic form of communication for an awfully long time, like since 1991? OK, I probably got serious about fabric only in about 1996 or so.

Anyway, the picture I spent a lot of time staring at in that book, like for the last three days, was Frida Kahlo’s What the Water Gave Me

kahlo_water

an amazing painting. I think I have a bathtub drawing coming…it has to be better than George W’s version…

bush_bathtub

Yup. Our former president apparently has nothing in the water. Totally. Anyway, I think of the bathtub as this introspective place, and I think Kahlo expresses that well…that time in your head when you are floating in warm water, and you can see your toes, but all the trials and tribulations of the day are floating there in front of you (please note again the emptiness of Bush’s bathtub…a metaphor for the empty mind?). Anyway. It’s an image that has stuck with me, and then because of the title, this song has been in my head for days as well…

Sigh. The weird connections of art and emotions. And yes, Florence admits to looking at Kahlo’s painting when she wrote the song…she spoke of the ocean being “nature’s great overwhelmer.” I think kids are the great overwhelmer personally, but I don’t think Florence has had any of those yet.

The next email that came through? “Create instant happiness by injecting color into your house.” Really? Oh…so THAT’S how it works. Damn. These people have obviously never seen my house…lack of color is not the issue…and if only it were so simple to just paint a few walls and add some colorful cushions and BAM! You’re fucking happy. I mean, the wall facing my kitchen is bright red. I don’t think it’s an issue.

So I had a day. And sometimes I just pick up science journals in between classes and make the kids line up outside so I have a whole 48 seconds of silence…of breathing calmly…of preparing my head for the next onslaught. I play music. I sing to myself. Apparently today I was in Roast Mode. I don’t roast on purpose. I just state the obvious. Apparently that’s roasting. We are nearing the end of the light unit (the unit on light…not the unit that is light in content…in fact, trying to explain the difference between reflection and refraction to 7th-grade brains more interested in candy and farting…yes…farting…is remarkably difficult and not light at all). It doesn’t actually get better or easier, but talking about DNA and genetics is a bit more engaging than light…even with 400 optical illusions to show them. I think I just need a change of topic…because if one more kid tells me that the CAUSE of rainbows is ROY G. BIV? That might be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.

I got an email from the girlchild’s English teacher today (fun stuff, let me tell you), and it was RIFE with typos and grammatical errors. I refrained from marking it up and sending it back with a grade on it. Really. I did REFRAIN.

Teaching is not easy. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done…not as hard as being a single/divorced parent…but close. You are parent, disciplinarian, hard-ass, therapist, content-expert, maid, actor, feeder of the mind (sometimes of the body as well)…and somehow you have to find sanity in all that. Sometimes that is very hard to do. I’m better at it now. I’m better at it while depressed. I don’t know what that means.

So it’s important that I find some balance…this school year more than any other has been about that balance…especially with the depression throwing me completely OFF balance, destroying motivation, fucking with my mood, messing with my ability to deal with the simplest things. I’ve dropped so many balls this year. I thought I would be in a better place by now, but I’m stuck in a sad swamp. I made myself exercise tonight, then finished a book…and treated myself with Mexican food. I don’t hardly ever eat out any more, but after the gym, my blood sugar was crashing, and the thought of having to come home and cook something that I really didn’t want to eat was SO depressing that I stopped at the local good Mexican food place. It was worth it. Calories? Yup. But I don’t think you can live like a monk all the time and not have the joy of guacamole in a burrito.

Then I came home and meditated and drew…I drew very very slowly, because (1) I’m really tired and (2) I’m not sure what’s coming next…I have to let my brain work it through. I know I want a wolf in there somewhere, but haven’t figured out how to fit it in…I thought originally that she (the chick at the bottom) was under water…

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But maybe she’s not…maybe all that is behind her and she’s sitting on the ground. I don’t know.

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It’s not like I’m portraying reality here. I’m pretty sure Kahlo didn’t worry about shit like that. And my stuff certainly has surrealistic tendencies. I can decide that’s the bottom of the ocean and wolves live down there…SEA WOLVES. Or not. Maybe there’s an aquarium behind her. Yeah. That’s it. She’s at the fucking aquarium. NAKED. Insert hysterical laughter here. I think I need to go hang out with some artists for a while…not sure where I will find them. It’s really alienating to never have other artists to talk to in person. I love book club, but I think I need art club. Then again, so many artists drive me bonkers with artspeak and pretentiousness. Sigh.

Oh who cares. I’m just drawing. Insight into the artist’s mind. Wish I could have read Frida’s blog. We could have gone out for a glass of wine and complained about how big of an ass Diego was. Could have been good.


So Much Wasted…

February 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much wasted.


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