Black Head…

What was my goal for sewing this weekend again? I know it was get the torso to some point…which I did. I feel like I didn’t get as far as I wanted though…the head wanted to be black…

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There’s a reason for that. Interesting thing about severe depression. It actually changes your brain. Like physically. And then when bad shit happens, even when you just have a bad day, the brain spirals much quicker than it would before the depression. When I was sewing the head, my own head was in a bit of a spiral. It’s mostly out again, but it’s hard to kick that black head.

I sewed the head down over a neck piece that was already there. Then I started filling in the upper chest, which was kind of a pain because I couldn’t just string piece like I did on the arms. So I messed with it and made it work.

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The dark is for under the breasts…it has to go down first so I can sew the breasts down on top of that.

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That’s where I quit on Saturday…wanted to be further, but that didn’t happen.

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Sunday, I really hoped to have more time, but that’s life. The plus is that my school website is up and running, all my school stuff for the week is done (well, mostly), and I prepped food for the week as well, hopefully to forestall the lame foodness of last week, when I didn’t really prepare. We’ll see how that works.

So Sunday night, late, I started in on the breasts again…

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And got both done…plus a plan for the torso above the hole.

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This is not the easiest thing in the world to photograph. But there’s the rest, the torso and legs, which still need to be done.

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No. It’s not a small amount. The plus is that it finally colored itself in my head, and I think I have a plan for finishing the whole thing, although it may not matter, because if I run out of time, I’m cutting the finishing out.

I’m still not feeling OK about this getting done in time. I do have to teach and sleep and eat. Maybe I will feel better by Friday. I hope I feel better by Friday.

This piece is for a show called Response


I don’t really know what to say about the response part, because that kind of disappeared for me at some point. But whatever. I’m still responding to them, even though their response was to run away! OK, not really. Sometimes a response is to hide or gather in a circle for protective reasons or to pull the blanket over one’s head. The opening is September 12 from 6-10 PM at Space4Art in downtown San Diego. I’ll be there for the early part at least. Not sure how long I’ll last.

There’s always at least one animal in here with me, often Kitten. Sometimes all three are in here. Right now it’s Calli. Last night it was Kitten.

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I did take time out on Sunday to see the traveling bit of the SAQA trunk show that is in Southern California.

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It was a nice break, got me out of my head for a bit.

Then I came home and prepped 12 breakfasts (bacon, egg, and zucchini muffins)…

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Yes, they taste as good as they look. Plus 2 dinners and 4 lunches. Five lunches would have been better, but it didn’t work out that way. No, I don’t mind eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch for days. Dinner though? I need variety. So I tried to build that in there. We’ll see if I have the energy to actually cook it by the end of the week.

Wish I had more positivity with which to start the week. I think it’s just Head Down until I get enough done that I can breathe.

Found My Happy Scissors…

I’m plugging along on the art stuff. Summer is so strange. I don’t have to deal with the stress of students and lesson plans, but the home stress increases because everyone is home all the time or they don’t want to be home and they’re going to complain about having to pay for gas or whatever. And yeah, I made you come back and wash all your dishes. I’m that mean.

Giant ass sigh. I actually got shit yesterday for making art instead of driving someone somewhere. Someone who has a license and doesn’t need me to go to that place. And I wanted to say, you know, your mom actually made some money last year and this year off her art, and she used that to buy food last summer. Did you eat that food? Plus art. Sheesh. It’s the part that keeps me alive sometimes. It’s the part that keeps me going when I don’t get enough from elsewhere. It is the only thing I really truly know I have, the only thing I know I can trust to be there. I no longer listen to that voice from that early professor who had lost it, the ability to come up with new ideas. About how it would someday be gone and I should plan for that. I am older now than he was then. And I have enough drawings in my sketchbooks to make quilts until I’m 172, so I think I’m good. Fuck you for putting that worry in my head. Or thank you, because I’ve fought to make sure it would never happen. Hard to say which.

I know the girlchild knows how important it is. Notionally. And when she gets older, she will understand more. I know she knows it was more important for me to be sorting pieces than to drive her to have her TB test checked. I was there at the physical. I am at as many places as I can be. My job…that’s what she should really be mad at…because it’s sucked up more time than my art ever has. And I’m blowing my job off to fly her to college, even though I know we will probably argue the whole time and I will go back to my hotel room in tears…it’s OK. I know it will be OK.

But right now, today, this week. Not so much.

So I make art. And apple crisp. And tea. And I try to shut down the part of my brain that gets sad.

I finished cutting yesterday…because I found the good scissors…and I labeled them so I could find them easier next time…

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And because I couldn’t be in the living room because it was already occupied, I came into my office…

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I think the cutting took about 5 1/2 hours. Everything on this quilt is taking about 5 1/2 hours.

I’ve been having to manage the animals though. Because Kitten, that’s where I lay out my pieces, so you can’t sit there.

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No really. Even though Katy is staring up at you…

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saying to herself, Oh My God, what IS that? Is it tasty? Does it want to play? Katy, the answer to all your questions is No. No, she does not want to be your friend. Kitten. I need that space.

Then I got Calli, and Kitten moved down onto the chair (see the tail?)…

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So I could actually start ironing. And when Calli left, Katy took her spot, so I was always walking over a dog.

I started ironing in the afternoon…

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And then onto the legs, after a 45-minute-long conversation on what the girlchild should be allowed to do and who was responsible for what. Because honestly, I’m a little tired of being responsible for everything. More than a little tired.

So the legs were not easy to iron. Fussy little shading pieces that overlap in a very specific way…

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Plus I had numbered by body, not by logical ironing order. Or maybe I thought it was logical at the time, but it obviously wasn’t. Because it never is.

So I pulled the 200s before the 100s, ironed the bottom of the front leg (front body’s leg), then the top of the back person’s leg, then the top of the front person’s leg, then the top leg, which belongs to the back person. Oh yeah. Follow that?

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I almost quit then, even though it was only 10 or so. But then I realized the remaining leg was a piece of cake compared to what I’d just done, so I whipped it out. Four legs…

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Very pale without their outline stitching of course. I could have stopped then, but sleep has been difficult lately, falling asleep, so I figured I was better off continuing the work…

Then a patterned head. This is back into the 100s…

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Which are almost done. So I think I have about 275 pieces done, close to half. I need to do the whole torso and the hands (the hands are fussy bitches, and there are four of them.). That will take a while. Unfortunately, my quilt class today is taking up the afternoon, and this isn’t really a portable section of the quilt, so it will have to wait until tonight and tomorrow.

I’ve got a brace on my right foot. Rolled my ankle back in April…now I have another list of exercises. Luckily, my podiatrist is a hiker, and besides telling me to spend about $300 on new shoes, he doesn’t want me to stop exercising and hiking, which is awesome, because at one point, I was looking at the shelves of boot casts in the doctor’s office and saying Oh Fuck, Not Again to myself. So I’m relieved. And pleased.

Now I just need to get my butt out of the studio long enough to do those things. It’s hard, because there is so much art to be made. Meanwhile, I have been bidding on editing jobs, but it hasn’t turned into real work yet. Hopefully soon. Meanwhile. It’s not so bad to be making art. Really.

Rainbows and Pirates and Rain, Oh My!

First of all, although this image was amazing enough for me to show it to the teens I was feeding…


The photos that had me in and out of tears all night were all those couple photos posted by my friends, same sex and different. It’s funny. I have absolutely no desire to be married, but hearing about their plans and their joy was wonderful. All my love to them…may they do it better than I did. I’m glad they now have a choice. Sometimes the world does stuff that makes sense.

Yesterday, I was determined to get shit done. No really. Drove to Home Depot and bought wood for the living room book shelves, so I can get the books off the floor and art on the walls and finish that shit from last year’s remodel. Now I just need boychild to drive them over to dad’s and cut them and then sand and stain and find some way to hang them, because I didn’t like anything in Home Depot. Or it was too expensive. I just want it fucking done.

I had an extra teenager for a Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-watching festival for quite a few hours, but I did not let that run me out of my living room, because I needed the light table. I asked permission to stay and it was granted. Mostly because I admitted that Johnny Depp was hot. Well. He is.

I had a request for a commission of the breast in a quilt I made last year, but it needed to be redrawn, so I made a run to Fed Ex to copy some stuff after I went to Home Depot. Then I redrew it, moving the top hand and getting rid of some of the chaos behind it. Then I traced it onto Wonder Under.

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I had some cats I had drawn to make as smaller quilts…but they are all curled up. I vetoed a couple others that were similar.

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The one on the bottom left will be more complicated (and expensive) than the other two.

Then I had the simpler version of the heart/hands I did for FFAC, a standing cat, and another owl from one of the bathtub drawings.

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So I think I will start with those and see how they do. Oh here. I found the new breast drawing…

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For those who don’t know where this came from, I had a series of mammograms regarding a shadow in one breast, so I had to go in multiple times over a yearlong period. It was kind of scary at one point when they called me at school to tell me about a followup appointment when my doctor hadn’t had time to check in with me, but it’s all good now. I just have dense breasts. So they make weird shadows. And whatever is in there, it’s been the same size and shape for a good long time, so we’re back to squishing once a year and watching it. Hallelujah. Alien boob.

Anyway, I also finished cutting out the Wonder Under for the next piece I’m working on and for the breast piece. And then I sorted the WU for the larger quilt…

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It only has about 560 pieces in it, and it’s not particularly large, so hopefully it will go quickly. By that time, I’d had enough of Depp and pirates, so I had moved into my office, where the iron and the fabric live. Plus then I got to watch more Star Trek and stop listening to squealing girls. Who are adults really…one is 18 and the other will be 18 in August. They asked permission to marry (jokingly) and I said no…they’re too young. I don’t care about the rest.

Then I got on the floor at about 11:30 last night (Pirates still going on!) and found the fleshtones I wanted to use for the two overlapping figures.

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Along with some brighter pinks for lips and nipples. I wanted to start picking fabrics last night, but once I got the first 100 pieces of Wonder Under laid out, it was 12:30. So I stopped. But I got a lot done yesterday, so I felt OK. Now I’m writing this and on hold with my car insurance company, which doesn’t realize I’m firing it. Whatever. All these things I need to do before I leave today for Los Angeles. Looking forward to the opening. But also a bit apprehensive. That part of town has some significant memories for me and I’m nervous to be going up there. Stupid that a place can do that to us, but our brain remembers things like landmarks and smells and certain phrases, and those things can set us off…and my brain has been a mess the last two days.

I finished reading this…

funny story

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini…it was good…about a high-school kid fighting depression. It was a bit simplistic in how he solves the issue, but I liked his explanation of tentacles and anchors. Based on Vizzini’s real-life experience on a psych floor in a hospital.

OK. One insurance company fired. Waiting on a callback from the other one. Then off to the Big City.

Omigod. Is that rain? It’s rain people. Rain. The world is a wonderful place.

Less Yelling

Already there are angry voices, upraised tempers, red flags flying. I’ve had a single sip of caffeinated savings (saving my brain from?) and I’m trying to deal with it’s my fault and why don’t I and anger anger anger. Why the anger? I don’t know. Because I had an eye doctor appointment instead of time to shop for heels and a dress. Sunday it will be anger because I have to finish grades (my job) and can’t go shopping. I’ve said this to myself so many times in the last 5 years…am I just doing it all wrong? Like there’s an easier path and I didn’t take it because I just didn’t know what were the right actions and the right words? Like I got the wrong life manual when they were handing that shit out, and I took the Tread on the Hot Coals manual for ninja warriors (do they do that?) instead of the suburban mom manual? OK, I’m not a suburban mom, it’s true, but I have a lot of the right ingredients for that. Soccer mom. Conventional job (that kicks my ass at the moment). I have a house and a Subaru and a dog and some cats (OK, I have half a dog…it goes back and forth between two houses). But somewhere in all of that, I couldn’t follow instructions. I couldn’t just do that, and some people do, but I couldn’t.

Is it the artist that screws everything up? Is it the divorce that makes it harder to manage the kids and the financial crap (well, yeah, duh)? Is it my fabric hoarder tendencies? My workaholic bent? What the fuck?

I slept in. There are four days left of school. I’m still tired. I stayed up late grading things (ALL the things actually) and packing up two quilts going up to an LA show opening in two weeks. Girlchild came in and vented. I let her. I listened. That’s all anyone needs when venting is happening…listening. Acknowledging that they’ve been heard. Then it’s out and dispersing and the mind is clear. I get that. So I vent here, quite a lot. You might have noticed.

I love my daughter, but she is hell on wheels sometimes. I’m sure my mom would say I deserved that, as I wasn’t easy either, but as an adult, I realized some of the things about my relationship with my mom that I wanted to try to avoid with the girlchild, so there were things I said I would not do, and for the most part, I have succeeded in that…and yet, I still have this opinionated spitfire (shocking, I know) who wants to kick authority in the nuts. And I GET that. I still have that in me. But I’m not the enemy.

So I’m sitting here crying because I am completely overwhelmed and scared about the future, especially financially, and I’m getting yelled at for not being psychic about food needs in the house and why no one will put dishes in the dishwasher but me. I’m about to go nuclear, I guess.

Deep breaths. Grades are close to done. I have to input everything, so I canceled my book club on Sunday (not done reading it anyway…hard read). I will go to the eye doctor (probably should have scheduled it later in the month), deliver the quilts, go out to lunch with the kids’ uncle from the UK, and then deal with some scary stuff that will hopefully stop being as scary. Then plan for the last four days of school, which are survival incarnate. And hopefully get some peace of mind in all of it.

The quilt sat last night, ignored, wrapped up and over the machine so no cat could besmirch it with their hairy bottom.

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I would have liked to have quilted, but the other things were louder and more…not important…but desperate in terms of timing.

Two quilts ready for delivery.

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I think I can hang in there this week. I don’t really have a choice, so the thinking part is moot. And that moody beast…hell, she’s going to college in just 10 weeks. I’m sure her stress levels are through the roof, so we will have to come to some uneasy truce about how to survive the summer in the same house. And then there will be less yelling here.

Quilting Peace

I got lost in the quilting place last night for about 2 1/2 hours, making up for the lameness of the night before. It’s not a bad place to hang out, as long as you keep an eye on the clock and remember you have to go to work the next day. At some point, I looked up and thought, “Holy crap, it’s after 11 PM. When did that happen?” That’s not entirely a bad thing. Thursday nights the kids aren’t here, so I don’t have their constant noise and verbal reminders to stop and look around or even get up. The cats hang out in here with me, and my bladder makes me stand up occasionally, but mostly I’m attached to the machine and only changing position when I need to replace an empty bobbin. It’s very meditative and calming. I should probably always plan to be quilting around the last two weeks of the school year to get that benefit.

It probably helps that I had counseling last night too…where we admitted that I might be in counseling for the rest of my life. Nice. Oh well. I also read a couple articles linking artistic creativity to mental illness, though the link is still a skinny thread and not a damning rope. What came first, the illness or the art? Or are they so intricately linked as to be unseparable? (Why does WordPress not like the spelling of unseparable? It’s a word, you asshole. I mean, there’s plenty of times when I use nonexistent words on here, but this isn’t one of those times. Don’t you love that WordPress annoys me? Yeah, it’s the end of the year.)

So this is where I am, making a shitload of art, trying to balance work with that, hoping to figure out the rest of my life at some point DURING the rest of my life. I did miss a bunch of counseling appointments recently, her fault and mine, so maybe that was part of the balance issue. We admitted that my life currently feels CALAMITOUS. Great word by the way. Actually, by yesterday, I had accepted calamitous and moved on to some internal acceptance that I was living day-to-day until after June 18. That’s not that far away. Don’t notice all the calendar items piling up on June 19. I’m cleaning up my entire life on that day. Ha! Like that’s possible.

So I quilted. I mentioned that. I had made it about 2/3 of the way around the bathtub on Tuesday night, so I kept going around, stitching around things when I ran into them, like this wire soapdish…

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I keep drawing some version of these, which is funny, because we don’t own one. Our bathtub sucks, honestly. I dream of a nice big deep bathtub with a wire soapdish. Strange, I know.

Once I got all the way around, I started on the smaller figure…

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I got her completely outlined…

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And started doing other body parts and the water down the one side of the tub, picking up some of the hair and face until I realized it was well after midnight.

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Whoops. Do need to work today. And this weekend is not clean and easy. And grades are due Tuesday. I think. Maybe Monday? I should probably figure that shit out.

I have 5 1/2 hours into the quilting. I’m still outlining. I’ve been sewing pretty slowly, I guess. I am more than halfway done with the outlining, and because of the image taking up most of the background, there’s not much quilting outside of the outlining. I am going to use white thread in the bathtub area to deal with the shadowed areas, but otherwise I’m leaving the big areas alone. I am outlining the shapes in the water, but it’s pretty subtle I think.

A friend’s mom died yesterday, finally done with feeding tubes and all the other detritus of two strokes. She was my second mom in middle and high school, good friends with my family, so when my mom and I weren’t seeing eye to eye (which was often), I could hide there and Sandi would just let me be, because she had four daughters and knew what that dynamic looks like, which is why I don’t get jealous over my daughter hanging with her friend’s mom. It’s a safe place and away from DNA-related drama. I got a bunch of Sandi’s fabrics a few weeks back when they cleaned out her sewing area in the mountains, where we had Thanksgiving dinners, comingling our families for years. Some of those fabrics are in this quilt, and it seems right that I am working on it this week, as I keep losing control of the tears for a woman who accepted my crazy without question, while remaining friends with my mom. She was a good person. Hope she’s OK with my appropriating her stash.

Yeah. She is. Peace out, Sandi.

I Just Can’t Seem to Manage It

I don’t know where my head is this morning. Turbulence. Headache already, and it’s not even 8 AM. I haven’t even left for school. Haven’t finished the first cup of tea either, so maybe that’s part of it. My to-do list is too long. My stress levels are too high. I need more help than I’m getting, but my stress levels increase when I have to start arguing for that. I’m close to crawling into bed and pulling that pillow over my head that drowns out the damn early morning birds and maybe staying there until July.

I think I wrote the same thing last year. Which is sad. Or…normal. Hard to say. Maybe my normal isn’t that healthy.

I posted this comic on FB…


I love Purje’s work…she seems to really get what it’s like to be an artist. And I’m not sure I do the center row well. I try to, but I feel like a mutant sometimes. I do shower regularly. I sleep less than a third of the day (I sleep a quarter of the day). Right now, last night, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and not be me for a while, maybe experience someone else’s life and see what that was like for a week or two. Give me some perspective, because I’m not sure I have any, and I’m living day by day at the moment, terrified that someone’s going to come ask me for more money than I have. Oh wait. They already have.

Any time I think I don’t need my counselor any more, life bitchslaps me back into realizing maybe I will never NOT have a counselor.

Suffice it to say that I did not curl up into that ball last night. I cried a lot; there are tears in almost every quilt I’ve made in the last two years. They open the floodgates, tap into emotion. They are my brain in fabric.

I pinbasted instead.

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Because when you’re in a horrendously sad and depressive mood, crawling around on a tile floor closing a million safety pins seems like a good idea. I should probably apologize to my neighbors now for the music. Whoops. But hey, that makes up for that crazy pirate party you throw every year.

And then I started quilting, because that’s the next step, and even when I’m flailing and cursing and flopping around in a depressive place, my brain knows how to do this process…and it just does it. Because not doing it is worse. I see people who don’t do it at all, who succumb to inertia and express their unhappiness with that and don’t change it, and yes, depression kicks your ass on that, and maybe I was lucky because the process memory was in my brain before the depression, so it is just dragging me through, whether I like it or not (strange metaphor for parenting there).

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And in quilting, there is that meditative space where your brain can inhabit the needle and the hands moving the fabric, prethinking only enough to realize where to push the needle next, to guide the fabric through. The rest of the brain settles down into a curled-up ball and tries not to think about life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, because honestly, it can’t handle all those questions and not-answers at the moment. It just feels broken and damaged and irreparable.

And maybe that’s what I am. Broken. Damaged. Irreparable. If that is the case, then I will have to live with that.

So I quilt.

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And I find tiny bits of joy in outlining a cat’s face.

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Or in these tennis shoes. They pop with the lines done. That’s what I wanted to see.

It’s not exactly how I want to live my life, but it’s where I’m at right this moment…looking at this one day and deciding what has to be done (which will only stick for a short period of time until someone else adds to my list). The sad part of the brain obviously cried most of the night, because my eyes feel it, my head feels it, and I just don’t want to feel any of it. And that’s not an option. You can’t turn the feeling part off. You can slough some of it off onto paper or the screen, send it out into the world where a bunch of people read it. But you can’t make it stop.

So yeah. Today I’m not funny. I don’t have pithy remarks about parenting teens. I don’t have answers. I don’t even have the energy to get out of this chair and go to work, which is lame, because I don’t have a physical excuse. My body functions. I don’t have a disease that physically inhibits me. I have no excuse.

I just can’t seem to manage it.

It’s Just Better That Way

At certain stages in the creative process, I just flail. It’s like I can’t concentrate, like my brain can’t connect to the piece. I don’t care about it yet. I’m just doing because I know I’m supposed to be doing, and if I’m tired or cranky or otherwise in a moody place (welcome to my world), then I can’t barely force myself to make anything.

Last night was one of those nights. The Should Do’s marched by in a relentless line, and I graded papers, because I have a shitload of journals that got handed in yesterday and the rest of the pile will get handed in today, and that means I will be grading until they bury me in the ground, which might be tomorrow. No matter what, I have no recess, no rest, no time off. I need to grade my ass off. And I did grade some…and when I was done, I exercised, because that is good for me and I miss it, and even though my foot is killing me by the end of the day, I still need to be physically active in a cardiovascular way. Damn doctors making me wait for the referral to the next level though. This is no sprained ankle. It’s not even my damn ankle, you fucking idiots.

Deep breaths. Art brain showed up after all that and suggested drawing or cutting things out (pretty easy to do), but I was beyond tired at that point. I sat and finished watching the show I was mired in, and then went to bed. Woke up depressed because hey! I didn’t make art. DUH. Stupid brain. You should know better. And today is an uber-long school day, thanks to my service to my school as a union rep (hate those meetings…but I can grade or draw during them)…so by the time I get home, I will be exhausted again. It’s never-fucking-ending at this time of year.

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(excerpt from Y The Last Man: Vol 1…a somewhat amusing yet sometimes kneejerk treatise on what the world would be like with no men. Apparently some women would be assholes still…but I’m amused by the y chromosome comment, because some of my smart kids were thinking that through as well when we were learning genetics.)

Note to self: Let art brain win tonight. It’s just better that way.