Taking Care of Myself…

I would love to report numerous small quilts bound and ready for hand-stitching, since I know Mad Max: Fury Road arrives from Netflix today, but no such luck. I went to a big contemporary art show last night, just a quick runaround to look at mostly big brightly colored crap with some bits and pieces of nice. A group I’m in has a booth there. I could have been in it, but I don’t work particularly small and there were 11 artists there, so not much space…and even then, very expensive.

Then I came home and graded. I had one period of a very nasty assignment. Well, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable assignment, but apparently their brains left the building and they forgot that living things are made of cells and things inside cells must by definition be smaller than cells or they won’t fit. So I spent the last 24 hours bleeding red pen all over these papers, hoping they would get it. Might be a waste of time. It’s been a rough week for our team. Not a lot of work completion. Frustration with trying to get kids to turn in makeup work. Wondering why the parents are so checked out. Dear Politicians: You can’t have any accountability for teachers until you get parents to buy in and be a part of the team. There’s no way I can make a kid give a shit when the parents don’t. Occasionally I’ll get one that rises above it, and I hope more of that happens in high school and college as their brains mature, but 12-year-olds? Not happening. Stop threatening me with accountability if you’ve never been a teacher. You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. This is not a job where if I work harder, magic happens and kids produce. Some kids are just checked out. I can work my butt off trying to get them to check in, but sometimes it just won’t work.

So my goal this weekend is not to look at school stuff for as many minutes as possible. I have two art openings tomorrow and some relaxation time scheduled for tonight. I need to do some cleanup in here too, try to move more stuff from the boychild’s room. If I can get the bookshelf restocked with whatever was on it, then I can move the larger furniture/storage pieces out of there. The chaos is bugging me.

I also want to get more of the small quilts done and maybe start tracing Wonder Under on Bathtub 5. Here was the original drawing back in April…

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You can see the owl in the top right is like the one I just finished. I added stuff below and in the top right. I also had to add some lines to break up the edge of the bathtub, so I wouldn’t have to find a piece of fabric big enough to go all the way around the bottom, like I did last time. Big white and off-white pieces of fabric for bathtubs…the last one had more bathtub showing. This one doesn’t have much. Not as much water showing either. But these two huge rugs on the side. Gotta wonder what I was thinking.

That’s the key though. When I draw, I’m not thinking about the production or how much of a pain it will be. I’m just drawing.

This is one of those days when I want to pretend that I am not a teacher at all, that I don’t have a frustrating week of microscopes ahead of me (actually, my co-teacher gave me an idea about how to manage the frustration and I’m totally going to use it, because otherwise, some kids will take 5 days to look at a newsprint e under the scope. And that’s just wrong.). I’m going to act like the end of the trimester doesn’t even exist. I’m going to turn off the teacher part and let the artist part just ramble. If I can.

That’s the other part that drives me nuts…when people complain that teachers don’t care about kids and that’s why we won’t (insert crazy-ass comment here about spending more hours than we already do unpaid or something about how THEIR husband doesn’t get paid overtime, which is nuts, because I don’t even get paid what their husband does and I work monster hours at this job). I care way too much about my kids. Even the assholes. And yes, there are assholes. And I tell myself repeatedly that a 12-year-old does not become an asshole without parental (or guardian) involvement or environmental shit, that they are still redeemable, that the parents aren’t doing their jobs. I care even about the assholes. And I spend hours calling home and putting together makeup work and getting in their faces or encouraging them or whatever it takes to get them to stop sitting there and actually DO something. I don’t care? My ass. Fuck you. My job is not a corporate job. I’ve had one of those. I know what that looks like. This job sucks it out of you. And if you let them, they will take even more time. I had about 20 student emails last night, panicked. I had a parent yesterday blaming me for her son’s computer not working, demanding that I fix it, or excuse her son from the assignment they left until the last minute. I just walked away from all of it. I answered one email. I ignored the rest. Most of them didn’t need anything anyway.

Yeah. Today. Going to gym. Straightening things. Putting stuff away. Playing with fabric. Hanging out. Not school. I have to be able to go back on Monday and be in a better mood about it. I just have to. I have to take care of myself…


Remember. Remember that school only started about two weeks ago. That you feel this exhausted every year for the first few weeks. That it kicks your butt. This might be why I write a blog…simply so I can go back to early September every single year and read, “I’m tired. I’m so tired.” And then I don’t feel so bad about it. It’s normal. For a teacher.

On top of that, I think I’ve developed an allergy to chapstick after all these years. Or something. I feel like I could sleep for the entire weekend. But I can’t.

So I have completed many tasks in the last 24 hours…sending photos for a show I’ll be in come January, trying to get new house insurance because the Auto Club doesn’t like me, paying this bill and that bill, making a label for and packing up a quilt that needs to ship today!, trying to find a cord online so I don’t have to buy it in a store, stupid shit. Grading papers at a stitching meeting because I need to get them done (I didn’t get them done yet). By the time I got home from the stitching meeting, I was exhausted again. Shocking really that doing a lab all day made me tired…OH MY, we all have one period, sometimes two, where Listening to Instructions just doesn’t happen…but the best was when a kid asked “How do you measure length?” 1. The same way you did yesterday. 2. Weren’t you listening yesterday? 3. What did you do yesterday? 4. I repeated instructions today. Were you listening? I think I got a tad frustrated with that class.

Our team has had to be hard on these kids. It makes us feel bad sometimes, but there are certain behaviors I won’t deal with and now is the time to crush them. They’re really elementary kids at heart…and this is 7th grade. So while I’m standing up front giving instructions, some tiny beast will be wandering up to me and standing right in front of me and wanting to ask a question. Um. What are you doing? Go sit down. I swear, I wonder sometimes what goes on in other classes. I suspect they are just like us and kids are just like dogs…they want to be in your space. They want your attention. They hate to wait. They do believe they are the most important person in the world and no one else exists. This behavior training is exhausting as well. Sit down. Raise your hand. Ask the people at your table. Look at the board/screen for instructions. What part of it do you not understand. Don’t say “I don’t get it.” I will just walk away. “Don’t get WHAT?!” Meditation. Yup. During passing periods. Already meeting about kids who are unable to read or write in 7th grade. Meanwhile, count your extra books, put your books in piles by period for the state government check on whether we have textbooks (which we can’t check out to kids because the state hasn’t checked up on us yet), then we give you two new kids and you have to find them books, and how many headphones do you have? Tell me by Friday. Tell me the number of extra books by Thursday AM, but 10 minutes later you need two of them.

Sorry. Ranting. I have no one to talk to most of the time. That’s kinda sinking in as well. When I’m buried in work/art, it’s easier not to think about it, but last night, it was not easy to not think about it. My brain says, “Hey walk down the hall and check on a kid, just say hi.” “There is no kid.” “What? No kid? When will they be back?” “Almost 4 months. Shut up.” So that’s going well. I’m sure it will get easier. But not before it gets harder.

After a day like that, even though I had an enjoyable coupla hours with Julie, I was not ready and willing to sew, but I knew I had to. I wanted the legs done last night…and that didn’t happen. I got the second leg done down to the first…

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I really am so close to done on this part of the sewing…

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That’s it. That’s all there is. Here’s the purples already laid out for that last leggy bit (that was at 11:45 PM)…

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For tonight’s sewing excursion.

Then I’ve gone through what happens next about 100 times in my head and I’m not sure exactly what will happen, but I’m not pinbasting anything. I do still want to add some stuff on top, and I don’t think it would take much time, but I’ve basically told myself it has to happen tonight. AND I have to trim it to size tonight, which won’t be easy either. All that after an exhausting week. Then tomorrow…spray baste to batting, cut a backing, sew it on, flip the fucker, iron it, maybe stitch it a bit. Have to remember to insert tabs so I can hang it up. Install is Monday. House is still a mess. Brain is a mess. Woo hoo! Incredibly behind on grading. Haven’t put any grades in the computer at all. Could be a shocker for the kids…

Anyway. Wish me luck. I’m really wanting to be done with this one and back on the other one. Although I really really have to finish the commissioned boob first. It won’t take long. I’m hoping to get it done by the end of the weekend. I’m hoping to get some sleep too though, so we’ll see how all that goes.

Wading in Wonder Under

I have 12 hours and 12 minutes into the tracing. I’m at piece 1138, which is the hair of the larger figure. All I have left to do of her is the hair and all the crazy stuff hiding in her hair. Then I can move on to the smaller figure.

Turns out there’s actually 1852 pieces (not 1825…not dyslexic) and I missed some, as always, so there are actually MORE than that. Whatever.

I washed the batting yesterday, left it in the bathtub. The kids said something this morning about not being able to take showers. Turns out I totally forgot it was in there. They thought about telling me, decided I must be doing it on purpose (Ha! My momhood is complete! Even my crazy makes sense to them!). When I explained to them this morning that this was Menopause Brain, similar to Pregnancy Brain but possibly permanent, girlchild yelled down the hallway, “Don’t blame your stupidity on your hormones!”

And there we are. The wonder that is my household.

Seriously, I traced for about 5 1/2 hours yesterday in the long run, AND made a new dinner recipe, AND left the batting in the bathtub overnight. Which reminds me…need to go drain that fucker.

Kitten harassed me all 5+ hours by sitting ON the drawing and ON the Wonder Under…

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Calli was almost underfoot, but not quite…(see how big the drawing is…)

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And then Kitten stared at me balefully from the couch, where she slept because Mommy wouldn’t let her on the light table.

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Meanest mommy ever. But I got a lot done…

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Sometimes I want to just quit, but it’s easier to stop at the end of some section, and I crazily started the bird with 100 pieces in it at about midnight…so you know how that went.

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Up too late, yet again. Thing is, I had to be up early this morning, because I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything after 9 AM. I can’t understand the logic of telling a diabetic NOT to eat, and then having her drive all over San Diego County for an MRI and a totally different place for the doctor. Hopefully I’ll have time to eat in between. I will totally be drinking an entire bottle of water, because I’m already dehydrated, and I drank two full bottles of water last night and this morning. Let’s hope they don’t need to take any blood, because they won’t get into my veins.

It’s OK…the uterus is just full of things that are benign but annoying and causing problems. I gave it permission to STOP being annoying, you know, like you give dying people permission to just Let Go? But my uterus is more stubborn than that. It’s convinced releasing eggs is what it should be doing right now, whether I like it or not. Hence stupid doctors’ appointments and procedures and tests and annoyances.

Anyway. So there will be lots of driving and dehydration and doctor’s waiting rooms today. Not fun. I’m going to trace some more before I go, though, and then pray for caffeine. I am more than halfway through the tracing…which is interesting, because we are officially halfway through summer break too, I think…although I personally start thinking of school officially on August 1, and this summer has been filled with school batting at my brain consistently, via email and text and signing up for classes, because everything is changing again. This will be the fourth website I’ve had to do for school, wait, no, I did a Google Sites one too, so that’s five. I’m not sure what was wrong with the last one, but now we get to learn a new one. Whatever. I’m sure it will be the most awesomest EVER, but if Google Classroom let us do a few more things, then I wouldn’t NEED another one. Wait. Google Classroom is number 5, so this is 6. Bloody hell. If I didn’t have to keep redoing things every time someone changed their minds about what was the coolest (and the cheapest), I might get more of my summer.

Rant over. Tracing will begin.

Considering Women in Society

The last few quilts I’ve made…OK, let’s be fucking truthful here…the last 50 quilts I’ve made have been about women in society. OK, maybe two or three of them weren’t, but mostly? Yeah. That’s where I land. I write what I know. I draw what I know. I create what I know. And what I know is that I’m a strong woman and that strong women get by in society, but it isn’t always pretty, especially if you’re the reflective type, the kind who is always analyzing this or that or how or why or wondering what the fuck THAT was all about. Talk about my clothes, mention my boobs, please look at my face, write me off because I’m old and female, oh wait…then there’s the whole medication thing and health thing and assuming you must this or that because you’re a GURL.

Sigh. It rubs me the wrong way; always has. You should go read this article…it’s about nerdy males and entitlement. Now don’t get me wrong…I love me a nerdy guy, even gave birth to one, so you know I don’t have an issue with the nerd, the geek, or even the dork. They are my people. Except, honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you are a buff, white, football player in Texas (can you say stereotype?) or a pale pasty white nerd with glasses in Silicon Valley, you have to admit that you have more privilege than a woman does. And if you can’t? Then you are a problem. I don’t care how fucking smart you are, how many feminist blogs you read, how you’re able to quote Gloria Steinem verbatim (whatever THAT might look like)…you don’t get it. You are part of the problem. If at any time in your life as an adult (I’ll give nerdy teens a break…give them time to read up some more) you have told a woman that her uterus is not under attack by the government, the Republicans, or her health insurance company, while your Viagra prescription is refilled with no hassle, you are part of the problem. If you don’t understand why we walk the streets at night with our keys between our fingers, swinging our eyes side to side, you are part of the problem. If you don’t get that so many comics and video games are just fucking over my daughter and her friends with their giant-ass boobies and killing the hos, you are part of the problem. Don’t whine at me about being friend-zoned, don’t fucking tell me it’s not about the boobs, don’t tell me I’m imagining the shit I’ve heard, seen, felt, and smelled since I was born. You Are Part of the Problem. Listen to me. If I’m saying it, it happens. You’re telling me over and over that I’m imagining it? You are the problem. You are the rapist, you are the harasser, you are a continuation of the problem. Get the fuck out of my world. And my daughter’s world. You don’t belong here. I’m sure there’s an island somewhere that you can live. Just get the fuck away from me.

Yeah. That’s angry. I hate the entitled telling me it’s not a problem when it is.

So when my art group brought up this exhibit idea of Women at War, I didn’t think of women toting guns into war zones, or of women living in war zones trying to protect their children (although that did pop into my head next, because of the population I teach). I went straight to the war I’ve lived my entire life. The one that begrudges me birth control, but won’t support babies that come out once I follow their rules. The one that makes it OK for a boss to talk about my body and my reproductive status (sure, that’s supposed to be illegal, but let’s be real…most women have experienced some level of sexual harassment at work no matter what). The one that makes it OK to attack me if I dress in a certain way, but also gives me shit for NOT dressing that way.

That’s where I drew from…the idea had been in my head for over a year, since I think that’s how long it had been since the show theme first was floated in our group. It had one venue, but that didn’t fly, and then we found another venue and the dates were solidified, and the image burst into my head. It had to be quick…I only had 6 weeks…and that’s how long it took, one day short of six weeks. I started November 18 with the drawing and finished Monday December 29th. As I wrote before, it’s named after the song War by Edwin Starr: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”.

This is Absolutely Nothing, 35.5″ wide x 50″ high…

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I haven’t priced it yet. I don’t even know if it got into the show yet. It doesn’t really matter if it did, because it needed to be made. It was yelling at me…

Nida_6 copy

Yes. That’s a pile of naked men. And she’s standing on them. There’s ink on it too.

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And it was good. She said.

And maybe the next quilt won’t be so angry. I don’t actually have a problem with some anger showing up in my quilts or extreme sadness or even happiness or annoyance or joy or whatever. This is not just anger though…it’s honest frustration that it’s not any better than it was when I was a kid, except that we talk about it more and then a bunch of entitled white boys whine about how they had it hard in middle school and why do girls want to read comics anyway, and they’re really not good at science. DUDE. We all had it hard at one point or another in middle or high school, or in college, or at some point in time. Write that shit off. Now take a deep breath and walk out into the real world and let me know about the women you know, the ones you really know: your mom, sister, daughter, wife, aunt, cousin, best friend, whomever. Listen to them and let me know if you really get it, if you can have empathy for their existence even if you’ve never given birth, never had a menstrual cycle that kicked your ass, never felt so nauseous during a work event that you wanted to crawl into bed, never had a man touch you when you didn’t ask for it and didn’t want it, never had a man or group of men comment on how you look, how you dress, or what they might do to you. Never felt someone looking at you and felt afraid. Because that’s what it’s like, and it’s not like that every day, and if you’re lucky, it’s rarely like that. But if you’re female, it will be like that. Because you were born with two X chromosomes and that’s it. That’s the shit I want to kick out of the ring.

Anyway. Deep breaths. Time for a meditative moment. Read a book, drink some tea, look at the men around me who aren’t like that (and some of them are, whether they want to be or not). Rejoice in the few.

I had about a three-day period of braindead, holy-fucktitude, can’t possibly make another big quilt EVER AGAIN…and then tonight…this afternoon…I want to make another. Please may I make another? OK. Seriously. I’m fucking nuts. I have so much grading to do. I have so much other stuff to do. I’m down to a little over a week of break left and then THREE LONG MONTHS until the next one (OK, there are three 3-day weekends in there). But…I have two birds to do ASAP, and I’m going to do my damnedest to get them mostly done in the next few days, and then I have the cancer donation quilt, and then I need to look at the upcoming deadlines for April and June and I think next fall and see what needs to happen, but I think I can make another big quilt before Spring Break. Can’t I? Sure I can. Because I am woman. Hear me roar.

Official Title #3764

Can’t title things today. Brain offline. So my view last night of the world was this…

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Yes, Glee…don’t judge. It’s light, it’s easy, and they sing. And their entire life experience is so far removed from mine that it doesn’t bother me. Everything else that was on Tivo felt really heavy and dark or light and fluffy and I decided I couldn’t handle it. And much as I’d been loving Star Trek lately, that means watching on the computer and fighting the tiny mean black cat for the chair, and my body was having an issue with being female yesterday (actually, it continues today…another symptom of the thyroid giving up the ghost), so I was in some pretty extreme pain and trying to sew. On the couch was better than in a chair that is only vaguely comfortable on a good day. It was fun. Really. And by fun, I mean, I got through it. Working on that needle-poke callus on my right middle finger now.

I spent all day yesterday (many hours) at an educational tech conference. It was long, but there was one very good workshop I went to and I think I saw the light! Or I have a bunch of new ideas about how to do something online that I have previously done on paper. But I only have three weeks to implement it, and that might not be enough. And I’m not really sure what I’m doing. See, that’s what you want in a teacher…someone who is willing to change it up by the seat of her pants. I want the kids to learn not only the content, but to stretch beyond it and be able to use it elsewhere (some of us have been teaching common core the entire time we’ve been teaching), AND I want them to be tech-proficient (beyond Facebook and video games) AND I’m willing to put my butt out there and hope it all works. So much of the admin and the petty bullshit we deal with as teachers is what chases creative teachers off. I’ve seen too many of them leave because of the shitty pay and the job uncertainty and the harassment by parents and admin (and kids sometimes, honestly). Those of us that tough it out, we are some level of crazy, yes. Luckily, I got the email address of the presenter, so if I have major issues, I know where he works (not far from here).

So that sucked up a huge part of my weekend, and today I’m at the Salk Institute (I always pronounce it SOCK…and then point to mine) to get trained on their DNA kits so I can check them out and do cool experiments with my kids. So it’s a weekend of school stuff that I didn’t get paid for, which again, underlines the crazy. This is what teachers do. If you are one of those people coming after my pay or my pension or my “vacation time” (I don’t get paid for the summer, people), then realize this is what we do. We lose an entire weekend to stuff that benefits OUR STUDENTS. And we do it for free. Because it benefits our students. I am doing what’s best for the kids. It would be nice if the politicians would do the same.

And this morning, I’m trying to persuade my body that it can go to the gym, despite its current tendency toward hemorrhaging (wow, a word I really can’t spell without help). Because I know I will feel better, but ouch. Ouch. And OUCH. Plus how do I staunch the flow long enough to actually be there? These are the fun questions perimenopause brings to you: How much black clothing do I own? How many menstrual devices can I use at once to avoid a wardrobe issue? How can I get better pain meds so I can actually stand up? Seriously, when the alarm went off this morning, I was curled up in a tiny pained ball yelling (probably a good thing the kids aren’t here) until that wave stopped. I think childbirth was easier…at least it seemed like there was a purpose to it.

If that’s all TMI, then you probably shouldn’t be reading my blog anyway.

So yeah, I’m almost done with this quilt, which feels a little weird. I really like the quilt though, so that’s good. And I’m ready, I think, to draw the next one this week, so I can spend all of Thanksgiving week cleaning house (whoo!) and starting that one plus a few smaller ones I promised to make (three. I promised three. Please slap me around a bit, because I am crazy).

I did write a little of the novel at the conference yesterday, and then I came home after dinner with friends (a slightly contentious dinner, interestingly), and I wrote some more. Today (in the story) is when the big bad shit starts to hit the fan. More people are going to die…not because it’s fun to kill people off (although it will be fun to kill ONE person off…yes, I have revenge fantasies at times), but because the deaths are going to highlight how dangerous it is for our heroine and why the Government Must Be Stopped. I’m really not a raging anti-government person, makes me sound like a cultist, but in this story, they aren’t nice or good. They’re bad people. They started out OK, but you know, lost humanity, lost perspective, blah blah blah.

I honestly don’t know if the story will be finished by the end of the month. I’m fairly certain I’ll hit 50,000 words, though. My stats from the NaNoWriMo website…


I was over 28,000 words yesterday. I’ve had a couple of lighter days, but then kicked ass on days afterwards, so the story never stops flowing from my brain. It’s more that I get too tired to write. As I’m writing, I wander off into random shit and then find myself sitting there with my eyes closed and my fingers on the keyboard. Friday night was a little like that. I should have written before I did the binding, and I kept MEANING to do that and then not doing it, and so when I wrote, it was midnight. And I woke up with a start at some point (and honestly, at that point, I gave up, short for that night, but I had a cushion from earlier in the week), and when I read it the next morning, it was a whole different kind of writing. It wasn’t Bad, but it was Different. I left it. At this point, I’m just trying to get the story out. I’ll go back and revise later. I know it needs a ton of work, if just for basic editing and continuity. Did I tell you that Book 2 (not a sequel to this one) is poking at my brain too?

Anyway. I’m a few steps closer to getting my butt out the door to the gym. Need to eat and finish the tea and then gird my loins in black and cotton absorbent things. I know exercise will help, so I am going to do it, even though I’m tired and have lots of stuff to do before I go to the science thing. Sometimes you have to do what’s right for your body or brain, even if it’s not easy. Motto of my life, I guess. I personally don’t think there’s a guarantee for easy, and I’m not even sure easy is the best thing. If we never stretch or challenge ourselves by dealing with the hard, then I think we are never as strong or amazing a human being as we could have been. That said, I could do with some easy for a while. Bring it.

How Art Doesn’t Happen

First, make sure the artist is getting sick. And she’s been fighting it for a week, so a week of sore throats and feeling sorta off, and then she thinks she’s better, and all of a sudden, in like 10 minutes, once the kids get out of the classroom, BOOM. That’s it. The virus kicks her ass and takes her down. Really. It was that fast.

So then, our faithful artist comes home (after a long meeting) and sprawls on the couch with tea and a bunch of seating charts, because she needs to adjust seating, and it takes an hour, because she’s trying to think it through, and fuzzy head. Thinking bad. Meds. Must take meds. Drink more tea. Because her evening is not over. Oh no, it has just begun. A fundraiser for soccer at some dive grill in Lakeside.

OK. I can do this. I need to eat and this way I don’t have to cook. Girlchild comes home from soccer and they go…and it’s loud screaming chaos, a million people and some crazy ass woman screaming throughout the room, yelling out raffle prizes (we don’t want any thanks). Order food. Think I’m OK. Eat. Help girlchild with the Democratic Party platform (she is the Democratic candidate for her history class this year…her brother was the Dem campaign manager last year, which pretty much sums up their personalities right there…BUT, he did help her via text with her platform). Head for home, feeling tired, but not uberly (not a word) sick.

Come home, help more with platform, can’t remember what GITMO stands for (whatever…I know lots of things about the world, but I also know how to Google when I can’t remember shit), but I feel somewhat perturbed that I know more about ebola than I do about Hong Kong…although if you know me, that makes sense.

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Your photo today courtesy of girlchild’s Homecoming crew…at least they have fun…and there was no art, so no pictures of art. Because I didn’t do any.

Sitting on the couch, sprawled really, trying to find the motivation to get UP and iron. Really. You can do it. Standing up. Fuck no. Too tired. Too sick. Slam. OK. Think it through. I did think. I thought I could push myself through, but I remembered that it was only Monday, and that I have a whole week of school to get through, and what I really need is to get better, especially since my school day today will start at 8 and go to 6 PM. So yeah. I went to bed. At like 10:30. Seriously. That’s how you know I’m sick. And I slept for about an hour. Before the food poisoning from the dive grill fundraiser decided I should be up again. So I guess at least I’m glad my body is efficient. I was only vomiting for about 45 minutes and then I was done. And I went back to sleep (good thing I went to bed early, eh?).

Giant sigh.

I’m OK this morning. Well, the cold is still here. I still have no voice. My nose alternately runs and stops air from entering my body. But otherwise I’m fine. Cranky, but fine. Just yelled at a cat for sitting on the back of the chair. Yelled at the dog for eating underwear (that’s legit, folks…she eats a ton of that…not mine, but the girlchild’s, because she leaves it everywhere). I’ll probably yell at some kids today because they’re gonna be sitting there, staring at the words, wondering how to READ without actually READING. Because that’s an issue. It tries my patience. And yet I still assign the occasional reading assignment (OK, more than occasional). Like I’m trying to torture them. The LAST reading thing I gave them was about zombies and was a comic book, so you’d think they would have appreciated that. Naw, the same kids who won’t be reading today weren’t reading then. Parents…please please please, make ’em read. It’s OK. Today is also phone call day. Have the kids call and ask parents to remind them to sign their failed assignments, so I know the parents know…although it seems like some of them must not care. Your child brings home a progress report with 5 Fs on it? And you don’t do anything? Don’t contact teachers? Don’t wait on me…I got 140 of them…feel free to contact me, because I have a list, and I can only get through one or two parent meetings a week, and I already have three for this week.

Yes, we have a list of kids we need to assist, of parents we need to contact, and yesterday, we full on admitted that we can’t do all of them right now…so we prioritized. Which ones could we help the most, which ones needed the most assistance, which ones were MORE LIKELY to actually benefit from our assistance. So your kid with his 5 Fs? He didn’t get very high on the list, because he doesn’t seem to give a shit, but mostly because of you…because we haven’t heard a word from you, we haven’t seen you at back-to-school night, last year’s teachers didn’t beg us to push for testing or meetings, no one cared about your kid…and we CARE, but we only have so many hours in the day. We’re buried this year, trying to implement blended learning and one-on-one computers on a daily basis…and we need you to get on the phone or email and stand up for your kid. Do some of the work. We can’t do all of it. You brought this child into the world…why don’t you care enough to follow up when he’s failing? Yes, I know there are many answers to that, and many of them are endemic to my school population, but we also have great parents who are on top of things and paying attention and doing their job.

Yeah. That’s what I’m taking to school with me today. And hopefully, by 6, when I get out of the school board meeting where I have to show up dressed in red so the school board realizes we’re pissed off that they won’t cover our health insurance increases and they won’t give us a reasonable wage out of the huge chunk of money they got from the state, hopefully when I’m done with all that, I’ll be well enough to make some art.

But first I need to cough up a lung.

Shit. And Fuck. Deep Breaths…

I woke up this morning hoping that last night’s mood had wandered off in the still-sweltering heat or better, that a predator had jumped it from behind and torn it limb from limb. Even that it was lost in the streets somewhere, no GPS, unable to relocate me, find my brain, continue to wear on me. I don’t even know where it came from…it snuck up on me, as I persuaded myself that this art rejection was not crucial, that technology isn’t out to get me, that I can in fact finish all the things I’m supposed to finish and be allowed to make art and maybe even exercise and meditate and eat. Maybe.

But no. ‘Tis not to be.

The first assumption is hormones, those beastly chemicals that rule my world. Look at the calendar. Do some calculations. Fuck me. I don’t do calculations. I look at an app and it does it for me. What it can’t do is predict all the other factors: stress, lack of sleep, who’s demanding things of me, what stupid shit I will have to take on because of other stupid people, teenagers, did I mention stress? And I’m wondering about the effect of our new minimum days at school. On Monday, we push the kids through shorter periods, which confuses my brain and blood sugar, so we can have an hour of collaboration. Which we did, but my food schedule gets off and that doesn’t help. And I was frustrated by technology limitations, and went down to my room to complete a task I was told would take 15-20 minutes, and after half an hour, was so frustrated I was on the verge of tears. I am not stupid. I know how to use help menus. I know how to read. But it wasn’t working.

Hey, any time something at school (insert work here?) gets so bad that you are tearing up? Leave. Go home. Change what you’re doing. So I did, but got a call as I was leaving that the girlchild’s dog had disappeared (damn pool guy’s dad who doesn’t close the gate behind him). It’s OK. She’s dumb, but smart enough to run to the other house, where my ex found her. Sigh. And this morning? I just caught her chewing on the girlchild’s senior photos. Which cost a million bucks. Luckily, I got them before she did major damage. Sigh. So she’s lying on the floor behind me and she knows I’m pissed off at her.

I had this dream last night that girlchild was picking out Christmas presents for family members and she had them all piled up in the store, and I kept telling her to check the prices, but then I had to leave to be somewhere, and she was going to check out at the register, and when she handed the receipt to me later, every item on it was over $100 and one was $515 and one was $212 (where is my brain coming up with these prices?) and I almost had a heart attack with the total. You don’t need to check Freud for that one. Just the most recent bursar bill from Cornell.

No pictures today. Do you want to see another pile of trimmed Wonder Under? I don’t. I managed 40 minutes of cutting last night. I think my plan of being on fabric by Wednesday is fucking delusional. And I’m supposed to be doing a million other things too. Filling out forms, shipping quilts, grading papers, reading the three books that are due back at the library (how I cause myself stress over that, I don’t know.), picking a day for my formal observation at school. I hate this shit. Hate all of it. Just want to come home and have it be a different life for once. Pack up all my stuff and move to some island with a bunch of pygmy goats and pigs and one horse who isn’t too big and boisterous. Then I can pretend I’m in one of those novels where I am totally isolated and NOT surrounded by people, and there is someone who delivers supplies every two weeks or so and it turns into one of those gothic romances I used to read when I was in 6th grade or so, where there’s no sex, just heaving bosoms and breathy statements of love and support and the horse comes in and whinnies in a supportive manner.

Sigh. Even that would irritate me today, I think. Fuck the guy yesterday who told me I could do that computer thing in 20 minutes flat. Fuck him for making me feel stupid. Better…fuck ME for making me feel stupid. It’s OK. I know who can help. I have a plan.

So when I get like this, I know I have to take action to keep it from becoming worse, from taking me over. I need to be efficient today, despite the over-100-degree temperatures. I need to not let anything get to me, even though I have to go to school and teach 150 7th graders how to do technology, AGAIN. Even though I have to commit to an observation date with a screwed up calendar. I will go to the gym, the air-conditioned gym, with my book (that was due last Saturday) and I will make my body behave, even if my brain can’t. I will meditate, because although it makes me cry (still, yes…even when I don’t talk about it, it still happens), it also helps with these moments, the ones where the stress and unhappiness inside me are ballooning out, trying to tear out of my chest. And I will pack up that damn quilt so I can ship it tomorrow, and I will fill out whatever damn forms I need to fill out and I will cut out Wonder Under for at least an hour.

And yes, at this rate, I may not finish cutting out Wonder Under until the weekend. And then I will work Saturday night and Sunday morning to make sure I have a good start on the fabric part. Because ideally, the fabric is chosen and trimmed by September 30. (choke) OK. That’s my goal. You can’t always realistically reach your goals. At the moment, I don’t seem to be able to achieve any of them. All right. Dear universe, dear brain…I’m not happy with either of you, and in true Kathy fashion, I will be fighting your shit. You can make me scream, yell, cry, fall down and kick my feet against your crap, but I will still fight it.

Meditating that shit right now.

The Place You Go…

I’m sitting here (Sunday night) waiting for the laundry to finish so I can put the girlchild’s soccer stuff in the dryer for tomorrow morning. I’m actually kind of wide awake…must have been that 26-minute nap I took this afternoon when I realized I couldn’t keep my eyes open. That’s the problem with hike days…they do kick my ass and I get very little else done, which is why I can’t do them every weekend. I can’t lose a day every weekend.

This is a 3-day weekend, though, so I still have tomorrow (Monday, yes I started this on Sunday night) to play catch up. I had a rough day yesterday. I actually cried on the hike…usually I don’t, but strangely, being in a group that large was isolating for someone like me. I’m not an extrovert at all. I need space, both mental and physical. I felt like some alien creature. It was so loud and raucous and overwhelming…I had to strike out on my own and physically super-challenge my body so my mind wouldn’t freak out. I have an event coming up with a lot more people than that…and I’m worried about my ability to deal. It’s strange…I spend all day with tons of people, but I don’t feel so out of place with my students…they are safe. I can handle interactions with them. Interactions with large groups of strangers? Fuck that. I’d rather stay home. I will be that crazy cat lady who never leaves the house if I’m not careful. The hike was redeemed slightly by the last 30 minutes spent talking to one other person. I can handle interactions like that, but you have to have something in common or at least something you can talk about.

It was a relief to come home after the hike and space out for hours, grade some papers, hang with my kids, cut out some Wonder Under. I appreciate the physical exertion and being out in nature, but hanging out in groups isn’t making me happy. Then again, nothing much is making me happy.

So in the middle of this post, the rant came through and became its own post, and then I went to the gym to try to leave some of my irritation and anger there instead of carrying it around. I’m debating calling the doctor (hemorrhage!), I need to find eye doctor paperwork for the kids, I haven’t prepped for tomorrow, I need to go to school to check for lab supplies, but I can’t get out of my driveway, because they are in fact digging holes in my front yard so my toilets might work properly someday. I’m wondering if I will ever stop grinding my teeth, if my eyelid will ever stop twitching, if I will ever sleep properly again.

The part I was having issues with was people making assumptions about other people based on how they behave or look or are labeled. I’m constantly amazed by how different people are than what they project…my leach-field guy looks like a redneck, talks like a redneck, and then starts talking to me about the Lord of the Rings trilogy and how many times he’s read it and whether Smaug is the coolest dragon around or what. The guy is 64 and you’d never think to look at him that he could have slogged through that series (god knows I haven’t been able to after multiple tries). You cannot make assumptions about people. You have to talk to them and listen to them and turn on the part of your brain that pays attention to someone besides your arrogant self, and only then can you make any decisions about people, and you still have to leave open the possibility that you are completely wrong. Maybe I know that from teaching middle school for so many years. Maybe I’m just that kind of tolerant person. I don’t know. I just know that it’s not OK to hurt other people. And sometimes people think your emotions are hurting them, but it is really their response to your emotions that’s the issue. I had the girlchild full on screaming at me this morning and I realized that she was having the same issue…her emotional reaction to what I had said was hers and hers alone. I was not the cause of the screaming. She was. Granted she’s a teenager and doesn’t modulate her responses well…she’s not Asperger’s, but teens often have this idea that they are the only people on the planet (shocking!) and it can manifest in similar ways. “My way is the only way.” Boychild and I often have discussions about her inability to realize there are other people in the world who might not have the same priorities as she does. In this case, I let her stomp off and slam a door, and then she came back and it was eventually all OK. I wonder what it will be like when they are both gone and I no longer have to tiptoe around those kinds of emotional outbursts. I wonder if her roommates will survive! I wonder if having the girlchild as his sister has helped the boychild navigate emotions any better…god knows they are full on in his face on a regular basis. His sister screams. His mom cries.

Wondering about my own sanity. Wondering after reading someone else’s blog if there is actually always a way out of depression, or if it just becomes something you live with for the rest of your life. After this weekend, I don’t see a way out, I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t feel like it will ever change. It does not help that my hormones are going ballistic. I could really live without that additional mess in my head…hence the thought to call the doctor…more because of the physical symptoms than the mental…the physical symptoms set off all the alarms on the stupid online symptom checkers. But I already know what they will say, what they will want to do. They’ll use the words ‘abnormal’ and ‘dysfunctional’…ironic because those can apply to my physical symptoms and my mental symptoms. OK, not fully dysfunctional, because I do manage to function fairly normally…I’m just patently aware of how nonfunctional my functioning is.

Anyway. I find the solution to all this angst, short-term as it might be, is that silly thing called art. My brain wandered about a bit, trying to figure out what it felt like doing, until that urge to draw came a banging at the brain door…so I pulled this one out from before, in December sometime (was it really that long ago?)…

Dec 14 13 161 small

I had copied it and taped it to another page, so I found that and started drawing downwards…

Feb 17 14 005 small

Shades of the Celebrating Silver quilt…I still need to put yet another page on the bottom…

Feb 17 14 006 small

because she needs more room. She wants the rest of her body. She told me. She demanded it. I listened. And I need to figure out what else is happening here…maybe more of those crazy birds. Who knows. Draw, Kathy. It gives you some peace. Draw the assholes out. Draw the arrogant jerks out. Draw the emotional reactions and put them on paper. Make someone see what’s in your head. Make someone feel what’s in your head. Make.

I made it to my quilt guild tonight, for the first time in 12 months, I think. Mary Pal was speaking and she and I had seen each other Saturday night at the Coast to Coast opening. I think we might be sisters from another mother…we are in the same shows, feeling some of the same artistic angst. I hope for her sake that she is not feeling the rest of my angst. It was nice to hear her talk, to feel her deep hug again, to feel a connection to a fellow artist who plumbs the depths of her artistic self to make work in the middle of the night, by the skin of her teeth, in the early morning light. To feel a connection that deep to someone you barely know…simply because of the place you go when you work.

Art can be amazing that way.

Insert Rant Here

Sometimes I read things, almost by accident, that make me really upset/angry. I’m mulling over one of those incidents right now, where someone claimed that Asperger’s-designated people were “more evolved.” I’m not Asperger’s. I do test fairly close to that range, but think it is more a function of being an introverted antisocial artist-type. I do however have many years of experience living with, loving, and raising Asperger’s-designated humans. I’m a pretty empathetic and intelligent person…I’m actually really good at figuring out how other people are feeling most of the time, although I’m not always right on the money…I do know when things are not right (sort of the anti-Aspie in that realm). In dealing with Aspies for the last 25 years, I have realized over the years that it often takes them a long time to process feelings and emotions, and I have learned with the boychild that “long time” could be weeks or months, sometimes maybe years, if ever. I do know, however, that the inability to process those feelings has a real-life consequence sometimes of hurting the people around you, those who love you, because Aspies often cannot handle what is going on right now, right then, and by the time they can handle it, they might react quickly in a way that damages those around them. I’ve tried with the boychild to keep him aware of what he is doing and how he is doing it and more importantly how it makes others FEEL, but know that he will have to find his own way in that as an adult. I’ve had to suppress some of my own emotions in dealing with the boychild, realizing that his issues are not directed at me and it is my job as his mom to help him find a less-hurtful way to express himself once he realizes what he’s feeling. I know he loves me. I also know he will probably never tell me that in those words. I’m OK with that. I can see he cares in how he acts and what he says. It will make it more difficult for him in future love relationships, but he will have to deal with that.

That said, I didn’t raise the others I’ve had relationships with, and their parents were not aware, and so they have both caused me significant damage…because I am apparently not “more evolved.” I refuse to believe that an inability to deal with emotions and the people who may cause one to have those emotions is fucking EVOLVED. I am fully a supporter of there being a continuum of “normal” range of the human brain and that Asperger’s is merely one end of the spectrum, with a huge variety of types of function all across the spectrum…but it is never a good excuse to hurt other people because you cannot handle your own emotional angst. That is not evolved. That is immature, if that’s how you present (and not all do). I heard the words “emotionally incompetent” to describe it once, and I have issue even with that, because it implies that you just need to take a class or read a book, and for some Asperger’s, that might be enough, to try to be aware of one’s shortcomings, just like I have to be aware of my own issues and shortcomings, to teach oneself the appropriate responses even when you don’t feel them until later, even though I am apparently “normal”-brained…for some, I think “incompetent” is not even a good description, because I am not sure that competence will ever come for some. I hope my son figures it out. I hope he locks away in his brain the pain he’s seen his mom go through because of this apparently MORE EVOLVED state. He says he gets it. And I have friends on this end of the spectrum that are, at least to me, some of the most emotionally aware people I know, so I know it’s possible…but I think it takes a lot of self-reflection to get there…and to be honest, the ones I know who are aware are all female, not male. That may be the difference right there; it’s hard to say. Most of my experience is with male Asperger’s.

I tell myself I have done my best to raise my son to try to be aware when he is hurting people (he is much better than he used to be), and to never ever run away from difficult emotions…that it is OK to say you are having problems dealing with this and you will come back to it, but you have to open your eyes and SEE what you are doing to other people when you behave that way…that it is NOT OK. Get out of your head. Look around you. You cannot hide. It is not MORE EVOLVED. A world without emotions or a world where emotions are so locked up inside you that you deny you have them, that is not a more evolved world. That is a world without music and art and dance and color, and I don’t believe that is a world I want to live in. That is a world where people hurt other people because they can’t deal with their own stuff. That is not OK. It’s not the world I want to live in.

The More Evolved comment is shades of sci fi where the alien species believes humans are lesser beings who do not deserve to live because we have not evolved to higher functions of logic and precision of thought. Hell, humans are nutcases…we’re giant fuckups in the world, no doubt about that, but as our higher functions have evolved beyond many of the living species on earth, so have emotions. Earthworms aren’t showing emotions…nor are they solving the issues of clean water at the moment or designing a new spacecraft. I can’t help but think the two things are connected, and that ability to show emotions and even occasionally control them without having them eat you up inside or slam into the people around you (I live with teenagers…I see the spectrum) doesn’t seem to be a completely negative influence on the world…unless you want a world that never confronts you (see comments above about art, music, etc.).

This is not a rant against the Asperger’s-designated person…it is probably a rant against One Specific Person, who in typical Aspie fashion refuses to talk about it. Because it’s too hard. Because not talking about it makes it better. Because he claims incompetence. Because running away fixes it. (It doesn’t, by the way. My less-evolved brain knows that and knows it very very well and has spent the last 7+ months trying to deal with it.)

Speaking to you from the other planet…no it doesn’t make it better. It means you damaged another person in your apparent evolution away from us lesser beings. Congratulations. You don’t win.

This is the article I was reading, which is not at fault at all for my rant…it is actually an interesting list of things to look for, which as a teacher who identified (while getting yelled at by her admin and school psych and told she didn’t know what she was talking about) a female student correctly as Asperger’s. I put it here because I think it’s useful to read if you think you might be on that end of the range or be dealing with someone who might be Aspie, because females do present differently, just as they do with ADD, another lesson I learned the hard way. I actually don’t like the term Aspie at all…but it is strange to me to use the doctor’s name to describe the syndrome…seems we need another designation…especially now that it’s not in the DSM any more, which is a whole ‘nother issue.

Sorry for the rant. Sometimes there’s only one way for the anger to go in a healthy way and that’s out (because I’m less evolved and realize my emotions and deal with them instead of letting them destroy other people). Plus maybe you have something to say about it too. I’m willing to listen…I’ve got my non-Aspie ears open and ready to hear. I know that term encompasses a wide range of experiences and behaviors, just as the term “normal” does (whatever the fuck normal means).

Burning the House Down, and Other Signs of Mental Frailty

So I almost burned the house down tonight. I don’t even know how. I mean, I do know how, in that one of the stove burners was pushed on (probably when I pushed something out of the way), and I left stuff on the stove, because I’m being lazy and stupid and only half my brain is working, and now I have one less sweater and the entire printed powerpoint from today’s professional development class burst into flames when I picked it up off the stovetop (it was embers) and the charger for my phone is toast (literally) and some other things that may or may not matter because I can’t actually tell what they were, now that they’re melted to the stovetop. I mean, none of it matters, because I got home from my frazzled trip to the mall, where I almost killed someone in the parking lot because my brain is offline, and then I saved the house from burning down. All that after weeping mightily on the drive back, because I almost hit that guy, and then I went to Barnes & Noble because I thought they might have a book that would help me figure my brain out, because nothing seems to be working, but I did not see Kathy’s Brain Explained in the Self Help section or the Science section or the Fantasy section, so then I walked the length of the mall, because I was still too shaky to get back in the car after almost hitting that guy (I really just went to Walmart to buy stuff for school, because I didn’t want to sit at home for another 4 hours moping and feeling like tense crap), and on the way home, I cried. I told you that already.

So the house is still here, but I scared the crap out of myself, because the last thing I need right now is something like that. That would throw me right over the edge into Crazyland. Unless I’m already there.

And now I have a rancid headache as well, from burning plastic fumes. All windows are open and the stove fan has been on for an hour. The whole house reeks of Trying to Burn Me Down, Were You? and the kids come home tomorrow. And I cracked the lid on the only casserole dish I haven’t broken.

I replaced the charger right away. Will have to wait on the sweater. Don’t know about the casserole dish. Don’t use the lid that often. Don’t know if I care.

I am incredibly lucky that it didn’t burn more/faster or that I came home when I did. Did I mention I scared myself? Yeah. Please fix me. This is fucked up. I can’t be this person.

In positive news, I finished quilting the beast. I think I did a total hack job on the last bits because I couldn’t stand it any more, but only I will notice. I also stopped EARLY, even though I wasn’t done, so I could go buy binding fabric so I could possibly bind it tonight. Then I came back and finished quilting. That was before I almost burnt the house down. I am still shaking, so I will not be using a rotary cutter or a sewing machine with a fast-moving up-and-down sharp bit tonight; I will have to do that tomorrow.

I don’t have any pictures. I could have taken pictures of burnt stuff, but I don’t want to freak you out. Or me. Any more than I already am.

I spent almost all day at school in professional development, realizing I am woefully unprepared for the beginning of the year, not because I don’t know what I’m doing, but because depressed people shouldn’t be teaching middle-school kids. I can only hope that I will be able to fake the right amount of enthusiasm, energy, and care until those aspects of my personality return naturally. Like when people are asking me “How are you?” and “How was your summer?”, I should not worry about telling the truth. I should fucking make shit up. GREAT! I had an AWESOME summer! I’m GREAT! Yeah. Maybe something a bit more toned down.

I’m going to go draw my house burning down now. Or something nicer. I don’t know.