I’m Trying Hard to Take It Back*

Yesterday was a no art day. I went to book club. I was tired. I think I might be getting sick, which would probably mess up the weekend’s plans. I’m holding out hope at this point. We’ll see. I did grade a little bit yesterday, but mostly I read a bunch of stuff online about our stupid president and his belief that arming teachers is the best way to solve the school shooting issue.

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If someone told me I had to carry a gun to do my job, I’d quit. If someone told me that someone else on campus was carrying a gun, a teacher or a coach, to apparently protect us, I’d quit. I wouldn’t trust the idiot who thought that was a good idea. The idiots who believe more guns solve the gun control issue can come teach. They can come work the monstrous hours we work, deal with the crazy behaviors and rules and testing we deal with, they can do the parent meetings and the staff meetings and the professional development and the reading of this book in your free time so we can not discuss it later and the grading and accountability and all that shit. They can look at their paycheck and see how they feel about being highly educated and highly disrespected by their own society. They can stress over the weekend and late into the night about lesson plans, kids with suicidal tendencies, and principals with crazy agendas. They can do all that.

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Oh wait. They can’t. Or they won’t. There are so many things wrong with this solution, I can’t stop banging my head on my desk over it. It’s bad enough that I have to consider my life over those of my students (because we would protect them). I did not choose that as part of my job. I did not join the military, the police force, or even the fire department. I do not fight in wars, I do not train in artillery, I do not shoot at targets. I chose to teach kids to think and grow. I chose to do something positive in society. I did not choose to carry a gun. I will not choose to carry a gun.

Sigh. So today is my last day with my current counselor…I started seeing her in 2013 because something really shitty and awful and devastating happened and it was beyond me. She has calmly and rationally pulled me down off whatever sky-high branch I flew to and helped me remold the pieces of my brain that broke back then so that they are mostly functioning. They’re not perfect…they never will be…they won’t even be that cool Japanese Kintsugi, where they mend broken pots with gold. They are stitched together with my drawings and my quilts and held with a few hands in place. The joining places do feel fragile at times, even now, but I think I’m OK. She tried to graduate me out of counseling a year ago, and I wasn’t ready. It feels like if I stop going that some massive horrible thing will happen again and I will fall to pieces again. I’m really paranoid about that. And when I tell her that, she nods her head and walks me through my achievements of the last 4 1/2 years and I say OK, I get it, I hear you, I’m not ready.

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Someday this will be a quilt. I’m not ready for that yet.

But I guess I’m ready to stop going to counseling. Because I know if more shit hits the fan (and it inevitably will…it’s just a matter of how and when, because that’s what it was last time…a how and when and out of the blue with no warning is not apparently a good thing for me), I will maybe freak out and maybe not and if I do, I know where to go. I know how to get there. I did it last time. I realized my head was broken and I went to get it fixed. I didn’t think it was fixable at the time, but it turns out I mend. I’m not the same person any more. But I am still me. I’m better at some things now and worse at others. I can’t see colors in the dark very well any more. I’ve got some major baggage that I don’t seem to be able to shed. I guess it’s enough to know it’s there and to manage it when it tumbles down on top of me.

So tonight? Tonight I will say goodbye to my counselor and hope I never need to see her again (strange relationship that)…and I will come home and hopefully sort some fabrics and start ironing them together, and this thing that’s pretending to be the beginnings of a cold will give up and move on, and the president and all his gun-toting cronies will disappear in some sort of a meteor crater that also sucks up all the automatic weapons and other stupid shit but doesn’t hurt any innocent people or children. Wait. That one is probably pretty unrealistic.

*Fun. We Are Young

Pen on Paper…

I’ve had this idea in my head for days and finally last night after school and the gym and dinner and then grading stuff, where my mood slid from acceptable into dark and grim (actually, that might have been after completing the FAFSA), I drew. Finally. But I don’t like it. And that’s OK. I mean, it has its moments and it was something to do with the pen last night so hopefully I can get my head where it needs to be for the drawing of the next quilt.

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I have this book I’ve owned since before I was divorced (so officially a million years ago) of mastectomy nudes. I can’t even remember where I got it or why, but the scar has been in my head. It’s visible maybe. So many scars aren’t. The drawing isn’t done, but I’m not sure I will finish it, because the next one is niggling at me and that’s the one I need right now. Plus another one is tickling at my amygdala. Man, that’s a hard word to spell. Maybe I should just draw every night this week. Don’t worry about fabric right now, although damn, there was a quilt top that was squealing at me last night, like a teenaged girl who just got asked out for the first time.

I think my moods are full-on hormone-related, because my body is confused as heck about what it should be doing and they hit like a random summer storm…no warning, just BAAM. And you’re out. And down. And wow. Seriously? I did not deserve that.

In response, I made a Starbucks fake of their blueberry oat bars and they are so damn good that I had to freeze 3/4’s of them so I wouldn’t eat them all in a week. Seriously. These things are good. Now I just need to rework them so the calories aren’t so heinous. It’s fine if you just eat one. I want it to be fine if I eat two.

More pinups below…then I have a parent meeting. Ugh. I didn’t sleep well. I couldn’t fall asleep. Stupid brain.

By Marea Korea

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Jacki Geary

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Lauren Grant…

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Chelsea Wilde

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I can’t explain why I pick the ones I do. But there they are. There’s more…but I have to go do my job.

Zentangle the Dryer

So apparently I’m shopping for a new dryer this weekend. This is when I wish I had installed the drying tree closer to the washing machine, instead of down by the garage. If I wash my clothes before I go to my parents for dinner tomorrow night, maybe they’ll let me dry them? Who knows. It was over 10 years old. I guess that’s the going lifespan. The fridge will be next. It’s the same age as the dryer. It actually does need a new seal. I should’ve asked the guy about that. Dammit. Multitasking.

Dear house. Please don’t. I can’t handle any more.

So I graded for a million hours with the cats last night. And then I came in here and quilted with the cats. They follow me wherever I go, especially at night. Kitten loves when I quilt, because she can nestle in between my butt and the back of the chair (only slightly uncomfortable for me, you know) and she stays nice and warm.

I quilted Cat 6, the crazy one…

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She’s actually pretty complicated for such a small quilt…so it took an hour to do that.

Then I did the simpler of the two hearts in hands.

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It only took about 30 minutes. The last two will take somewhere in between those two I guess.

I’m going to finish writing this and go buy cat food and a dryer and see if the next big drawing has been enlarged. I can’t think about all the money stuff and broken appliances any more. I can’t even think about grades, and I NEED to think about those. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to try to schedule payments for college and property taxes and credit card bills and then have this kind of stuff slam into you.

Kitten has it right. She just found a warm bath of sunny stuff and is lying in it, perfectly happy. I need to find my warm sunny equivalent. Like now.

We had a pumpkin carving contest at school…the kids voted on them yesterday. I carved it the afternoon before, after school, in 30 minutes. It’s a rebus.

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Except when I showed my ex, he thought the DNA was celtic spoons. I heart celtic spoons.

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I mean I do, they’re very cool and all, but no. That’s not what I carved. So maybe the kids won’t get it.

OK. Off to chores and headaches and hopefully solving some problems so next week can be less of a hump through the days. I know some of my reaction to all this is because I’m overwhelmed, and some is because of perimenopausal hormones. And some is just because once you’ve been seriously depressed for a long period of time, when it feels like things are very difficult, then the brain just slips back into those bad behaviors. In the old days, I’d go fabric shopping on a day like today, but I know what my bills look like this month and I can’t afford it. Maybe I’ll zentangle the dryer when it shows up. Sharpie should hold for a while on it, right? Maybe not. I have plenty of Sharpies though.

Losing Myself in Art…

I did this DNA extraction lab with my students yesterday and it barely worked. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I assumed it was me, that I was fucking it up somehow, water too cold or hot, chemicals in wrong order, something. It wasn’t until the end of the day and an email to the people who supplied the kits that we tracked the problem down…a new supplier of wheat germ that didn’t break up easily, so the DNA wasn’t being released in those nice long snotty clumps…it was just little tiny blobs. Frustrating to say the least, but my co-teacher has the benefit of my experience now (and maybe the supplier will make some notes for future users). Someone asked why I didn’t test the lab out the day before, but we’ve done this lab for quite a few years, albeit usually with a lot of help, and it’s always worked. I had no reason to doubt it. And honestly, here’s the kicker, I didn’t fucking have time to test it the night before. My prep is usually trashed by stupid stuff, I stay late some days but often have meetings or appointments (chiropractor on Monday). I could get up earlier and go in or spend hours on the weekends, but then I get crankier and crankier, because my body really doesn’t fall asleep before 12:30 and that’s on a good night, and I would like to stay away from school on the weekends. Last night I stayed and made sure I mostly knew how to do today’s lab, because I couldn’t remember how to use the micropipettes, but I didn’t go through the whole electrophoresis process. And I don’t have a prep before I teach any more, so I won’t have a chance probably to do that today either. Maybe I can.

Meanwhile, the dryer stopped working. It had to dry all those towels from the water heater experience, and it just died? I’m not sure what the issue is. Checked the circuit breaker, found the book on it, doesn’t seem to be something I can fix. But it’s 10 1/2 years old. Average life span of a dryer is 10-13 years. Life has gotten a bit frustrating in the last week and I’m not handling it well. I think I was already at my stress limit and this stuff is just over the top. I’m also trying to clean up post water heater, go through stuff, throw some out, recycle some, clean up and organize the rest. It’s overwhelming as well. I made it through one pile of damp papers last night. Amusing what some of it was. Don’t know why I couldn’t find time before to toss it. It’s gone now. But some of it was important. Now that it’s dried out, I can find its home.

I know why I couldn’t toss stuff before. I make art. In the moments when the rest of the world is cleaning house and straightening up and organizing and tossing stuff, I sit down at my sewing machine and make. And there’s no one else here to pick up the slack, to straighten that pile up or deal with this issue or that mess, so it just becomes a task I can’t handle. I’d like to say I’m going to spend some time this weekend…or even tonight…dealing with this, and maybe I will, but grades are also due in about a week and a half. And they were totally sidelined by all this water damage etc.

Whatever. Do what you can. Keep making. Because I paid the second kid’s college payment last night, and I still need $8100. More than half of it by March 1. I know where $1500 of it is coming from…and there’s another $100 I know will come in. $6500. Yikes. Dear colleges…

So that was last night. It only made sense to sit down at the machine and lose myself in some quilting…here’s the cat that resembles a fox…

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Two things: first, I didn’t quilt in the gap in the middle because I forgot. I did go back and do it later when I realized…and I realized because the second cat is the same cat, so it reminded me. Second, I was aiming for a cat we used to have, Rusty. He came to us because a friend’s daughter brought him home from the store…a woman out front had free kittens. And then their landlord said no. He was a coyote dinner at some point, because my ex was determined that cats should be able to roam free. Rusty was the first one we lost. When Kiwi went, I closed the doors and put my foot down. Rusty was probably orangier than that, but hey, it’s art.

Then I decided I wanted a really brightly colored cat, so I used the same drawing…the color under the machine is apparently really hard for the camera to handle…

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And I sewed this one last night as well.

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It’s cute…kind of a counterpoint to the quiet cats I finished earlier.

So there’s one cat left, the really weird one with the eyeballs. Then there’s two hearts in hands and the owl. Those are all more complicated, so they’ll take longer. The second one, Cat 7, has taken about 2 1/2 hours so far to make. Still need to trim, bind, put a sleeve on, and maybe give her some whiskers. We’ll see how long that takes. These two are almost the smallest…Cat 1 is smaller.

So even just writing about sewing the cats and the thought process makes my brain in a better place. It pulls up out of the muck and handles life. So I guess that’s why I do that art stuff more than the cleaning stuff. Like I didn’t already know that. The way my brain works, it needs the art stuff to balance everything else out.

Medium-Sized Clusterfuck

It feels giant. Like a huge fuck up. But it’s really not. It feels that way because I’m overwhelmed…and overwhelmed is a place I don’t like to be. My counselor says I must like it, because I spend a lot of time there, but I haven’t been able to figure out how NOT to be there. She doesn’t have a map to get out of it.

So it wasn’t a small clusterfuck. I pinbasted 9 quilts and then finally got into my studio last night to do the last one and hopefully start quilting. I even sat down at the machine, all set up for quilting, and then put the owl quiltlet under the machine, and stopped. Fuck. Seriously? Where the hell is my brain? I don’t even know. I have to say that I always have some issues this time of year because it’s the anniversary of my marriage falling apart…after 13 years, I still can’t erase that date from my mind. Which is one of the things about my brain that I don’t appreciate. Can’t remember what I did last week, but 13 years ago is fresh, like it just happened. I could do without that. My anniversaries are all nasty ones.

Anyway, so I hadn’t stitched any of the pieces down. I iron, then I stitch down, then I pinbaste. Somehow my brain decided that completely skipping that middle step would be OK. And yes, I briefly considered a variety of options, including going to bed, having another glass of wine, sewing them down while sandwiched, or quilting without sewing them down. I also went through the pros and cons of each option, and then unpinned the owl. I stitched him down, ironed him again, and repinned him.

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There. Done. So was that so hard? Nope. I can handle that. I’m more pissed at myself for spacing out. The fix isn’t bad, not too time-consuming. It was only another 5 minutes. Not the end of the world, right? But frustrating at 10 PM. Frustrated with my own brain.

Then again, I had a weird day. I didn’t teach yesterday. A local youth services group came in to talk about suicide and depression to my kids, so I sat off to the side and graded papers and tried to keep track of the kids who needed reminders of good behavior. And by the end of the day, I was reacting to all the talk and videos and listening to the kids. I could tell. I actually don’t remember this day from last year at all. It’s a total blank. This is like the second trigger event for me this year at school. I guess it makes me relate to my students. One of my weird ones was having an issue with the video. I could see her curling up into herself so I made a face at her. She giggled. Then the instructor (who was getting tired, I could tell…even teachers get crankier as the day goes on) got all snarly about her giggling and lectured us on feeling uncomfortable and not laughing (for whatever reason, because if you’re uncomfortable enough to laugh, that lecture just made you more so), so I gave her the giant scared eyeballs and she started to giggle again (I am evil), but muffled her mouth under her hand. I got that kid. She’s working for me now. Not a lot, but a little. Better than the I-Don’t-Care attitude I got for the first month.

I know I appreciate all the people who checked in with me repeatedly, sometimes annoyingly so, while I was going through my depression. Because it was bad. And it’s still there, the remnants of it. It never really goes away. It makes me question everything I think or do some days. Some of the mood this week is trying to visualize a future, a place where I have everything in balance, semi-under control (because I don’t think my life will ever be beautifully under control). I know some of the things I want, but getting there seems pretty impossible most days. I know I’m working my butt off at the moment, and I need that to loosen up a bit. So fucking up the quilting process, something I’ve done for years, doesn’t help me feel like I have a handle on things. I mean, I know everyone’s needs are mostly being met, but I need to get my head up and over this pile of crap, both the work stuff and the mood stuff.

Anyway, because I like to make it hard on myself, today I’m giving my students a hard, really hard assignment…for like the next three or four days. So that should be fun. For none of us. You will hear my frustration probably starting tomorrow. But whatever. Sometimes things are hard, and you do your best, and if you happen to succeed at the hard stuff, the reward will feel that much better. Maybe I should start with that today. For them and for me…

A Pile of Quilts

Plodding along some days. Yesterday, my to-do list overwhelmed me. I went to my new chiropractor, who is large and muscular and male, which was kind of a new experience. That said, I can move my neck again. That’s a plus. Then I came home and walked the dog, about a mile of it essentially in the dark. I’m not going to be happy with Daylight Savings, am I. And then the to-do list reached up and slapped me in the face. In fact, the girlchild called and added things to the to-do list, and there are other things on there for her that I haven’t even touched. Because they’re annoying and time-consuming and I don’t want to deal (flight home etc.). But work was screaming at me, plus a bunch of stuff that has to be mailed or shipped, but wrapped first, plus I need change, and it’s all so complicated, so I quit and sat on the couch, completely overwhelmed. I hate that feeling. And I know the best way to deal with it is to make a list or two and prioritize and calendar tasks, and I did some of that, and then I came in here to deal with art quilts, because the rest of it was just too much.

If I can’t get my brain around it, then it isn’t happening.

I sandwiched and pinbasted 9 quilts last night. Granted, they were all small, but I did pretty good. Here’s the stack of them…

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I found two large pieces of fabric that were relatively useful for backing…this Monet waterlily fabric you can see in the top left…

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And this brightly colored town fabric that I’ve had for a million years. There’s stuff hidden in the back of some of these fabric drawers that might never see the light of day…and some of it isn’t really relevant to the kinds of quilts I make now, so they work well for this.

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I am almost out of large pieces that will work for backgrounds on small quilts though.

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And then I have a ton of leftover batting I use for this. In fact, I had some leftover pieces that are about 6″ wide, and I have a hard time tossing those even…smaller than I will ever work. Yeah, I know I can piece them…I did that on the 17-foot woman…but I prefer not to for something that hangs on the wall. Anyway. There’s one left, the owl. Long and skinny. It was after midnight by then and I was tired. I’m tired now too.

Interestingly, there will be a group of people teaching in my class today, so I can get some grading done. That’s a good thing I think. I won’t feel as bad about blowing off school this afternoon, when I have a thousand things scheduled on my calendar. That whole thing where having the kids gone would open up my schedule? Yeah right. I don’t know what happened with that…the extra work I took on, I guess. Need more of that. Gonna have to bid again. In my spare time. To do more work. In my spare time.

In other news, the kids experienced snow flurries this weekend at college. Boychild has all the appropriate clothing; girlchild panicked. She now has a winter jacket on the way (temperature yesterday morning was 20 degrees), and spent all day in fleece. Socks were on her agenda as well. Amusing, because it hasn’t even really snowed yet. Guess that one will move back here, no problem. The other one gets cabin fever with a long winter too…he likes to hike like his momma…so maybe he will come back too. I just want them to be on the West Coast in the long run. Back East is so far away.

Anyway, the mood from Sunday continues. It’s just getting pushed out by stress. Or amplified by stress. It’s there anyway. Working on it. Regular exercise planned all week. Regular artmaking planned all week…I’ll have to start quilting these in the next day or so. That will send me back to the chiropractor (already scheduled for next week…told you it was bad).  Don’t even talk to me about money. I might explode.

Should have meditated last night…but I didn’t have time. Yes, that’s ironic.

I Hope I Put It in My Phone

I’m never really sure what throws my brain in a hole. It’s stuff that happens all the time, but then my reactions are different for some reason. Like a switch flips up or down and that’s it. There’s the hole. I’m in it. I often blame hormones. But who knows if that’s really it. I had a really successful weekend. I got a lot done. I went to an opening where I won an award. I don’t know what the deal is. Hopefully it won’t last long. Usually being around middle-school kids all day has a tendency to banish the blues. And calling it “the blues” is kinda lame too. It’s just a bad place my brain goes, a place it’s been before, and apparently a place I’ll never forget how to fall into.

With that, here’s what I got done on Saturday. Kitten was the model for this one…

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She’s cute. Another quiet one.

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Then the second owl…this is pulled from one of the bathtub drawings…in fact, it might be the one I’m going to make next into a quilt.

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I haven’t decided for sure yet. I tried him on multiple blues, but this one worked best.

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I finished all of that before going to the Interpretations opening at Visions…where I won the Director’s Award. Which is cool. Never won an award there before…me with my giant boob. The show is open until um…January 3. Long time.

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Several people asked if it was me in the story…and yeah. I dealt with about a year of excessive mammogramming and ultrasounds and twisty pokey stuff, and then they proclaimed it a normal dark spot. I did actually see it on one of the scans. It’s been there for over 7 years now and hasn’t changed. It’s the alien in my boob. Much like the aliens in my uterus. Who might all be gone now. Who knows.

So that was Saturday. Sunday was filled with errands and getting ready for school, sending emails and fixing the website and trying to organize the week and get caught up on grading (I will never be caught up).

Then I came in to iron. It was late, but I’d been fighting that mood for hours and there’s no way to make it go away, but making art helps it feel less awful. So I ironed the last of the cats. Yeah, this is the weird one.

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I drew it during a staff meeting…or a union meeting. Can’t remember which. The woman next to me kept watching me and it was annoying me, so that’s where the eyeballs came from. Anyway…I’m not really expecting this one to sell (although someone bought the eyeball bird last year, and it was a weird one). I like it anyway.

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The next step, hopefully tonight, is to start sandwiching all of them, getting them ready for quilting. Progress…slow but sure.

So I was getting ready to go to sleep last night and looked up at my bedroom ceiling…

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Yeah, so I had to get a stepstool and a tupperware and some cardboard and then he kept running, but eventually I caught him and set him free in the front yard. My biggest freakout with this is How do they get in? Because there was the baby lizard on my pillow a few weeks ago. I feel like there’s a lizard family living in my bedroom. But Kitten lives in my bedroom. You think she’d be aware of these things.

There’s also this…

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I needed a fried egg in a circle. I was actually fascinated by the patterns of the oil in the tin foil. I once painted a whole 3×4′ painting of tin foil. It’s in the garage somewhere. Ah, the things you do in college. There’s also a 4-foot green penis. And another one of a tin can. That one’s cool. It would make a great quilt. I did it as a screenprint too. I was talking to one of the artists at the Interpretations exhibit about all the stuff I want to try and how I don’t have time, and she just straight up said I needed to retire. Then I would be able to do those things.

Oh. OK. I’ll get on that (excuse me while I roll around on the floor laughing, because I won’t be able to afford to retire until I’m dead).

Meanwhile, I make art in the middle of the night. I draw in my head while I’m in the car. I compose quilts while sitting in meetings. I color them in while I’m grading papers. I get ideas while I’m teaching (I got one the other day and yelled it out, and my students were amused. I don’t remember what it was now. I hope I put it in my phone. I usually do.).

OK. With that, I need to go earn a living.