Listen to the Body

May 28, 2016

Ah the challenges of the end of the school year, and your college-aged kids coming home, and a puppy in the house, and all the things that need to be done. The puppy now has been neutered…although it was problematic. Poor guy had one undescended testicle…I wonder if that’s why he hadn’t been neutered yet…they were waiting or they realized it was more expensive to do? It’s done now. But he’s not a happy camper…

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He does have plenty of people around to love him and help him maneuver with the cone, although all he really wants to do is lick his butt, and he’ll have to wait 2 weeks for that joy. He mostly slept last night…a very different puppy to the one we normally have.

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We all went out to dinner at the Indian place…oh my golly, I forget how good that place is. I don’t go at all when the kids are gone, unfortunately (I should order takeaway)…and I usually get multiple meals out of one dinner. Yummy.

Then we came home and rallied around puppy for a while, until the kids went off to bed or room and I started tracing Wonder Under on the newest quilt…which currently is called Earth Mother 2016…I’m assuming I’ll come up with a better name eventually.

I didn’t get far in the numbers, because the whole bottom section is a giant half Earth and the pieces are pretty large.

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So I traced the entire Earth part and got partway around the edge of it until I thought it was pretty late…and I knew I had multiple places to be this morning, so I needed to sleep. I didn’t have the mental energy to do a lot else last night, even though I brought home a huge pile of grading for the three-day weekend. One of the things that sucks about being a teacher is that every single three-day weekend is during school and you end up grading through at least one of the days. Sundays are already trashed by lesson planning etc on a regular weekend, so it’s nice to have one extra day, because it means I will try to treat at least one day of the weekend as a real day off…no grading, no errands, no cleaning. Just relaxing and reading and hiking and hanging out. If that works.

But I do hope to get more tracing done on this over the weekend…around the grading and the artist drop-offs and pick-ups and artist talk and all the other stuff. And right this second? I need a nap. Sad but true. Massive headache plus tired. Not a good mix. Might be worth setting the timer for 20 minutes and putting a pillow over my head. Just a quickie. Listen to the body…it’s telling you something.

Over the Hump

May 26, 2016

The household is full. All kids have returned home. Boychild is even skinnier again. Says the new jeans from last summer (winter?) are falling off again. He goes to college and loses weight. Bizarre.

They were all in bed before me, though. The girlchild didn’t sleep well the night before and the boy, well it was 2 AM his time.

Me? I was in the mood to deal with the damn drawing. First I filled in the hole with passionflowers…

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They popped into my head because I was searching for vines and I remembered these at a friend’s house. I used to have one bush here but it died. In the drawing, I wrapped all around the last bit of the space. Total drawing time was about 13 hours. It took 33 minutes to fill in that last space, done yesterday afternoon instead of doing any grading. Or cleaning. It was a long day of frog dissections followed by a doctor’s appointment. I was tired. I needed to draw…

Girlchild on the couch, Midnight on my drawing. It’s OK…I’m not drawing where she’s sitting.

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But they are lying where I need to be standing.

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I tried to photograph the whole drawing, but it was dark by then…

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Wow, that’s a crappy picture. Sigh. I’m still not sure about the big empty space on the right, but I’m thinking about it as I number the piece. I may add something before I finish.

Yes, I started numbering. Because I wasn’t tired yet. Well, that’s not true. I was tired. I just wasn’t willing to stop yet…

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I didn’t number the whole thing though. I got to about the middle of the torso and piece 536. My rough guess is between 1500 and 2000 pieces. We’ll see how wrong I am…maybe I will finish tonight.

I’m glad I finally made it over the hump with this one and finished the drawing. It was kinda kicking my butt. I just got stuck and couldn’t get it done. I think it was more about all the other things I was trying to get done and worrying over, and then I’d get to the drawing and I was too tired to suss out how to finish it. I have two more drawings I need to get started on…both for November due dates, so it seems like plenty of time, but not for two. I could easily do this one and one more big one before November, but I’m not sure about a third. We’ll see.

But first, I have to go to that place that gives me a paycheck (give? I work my ass off for that). The last unit finishes today, and then we start human reproduction after the long weekend. That unit is kind of easy, although hard on the voice. At least I have their attention. This is one of the units I get to keep for next year…although it will be harder to teach it without all the body systems and genetics stuff before it that we usually teach. We’ll have to think about that.


May 24, 2016

I’m listening to this right now…

That word misfit. “All I had to do was be a voice to the story.” Telling the story can save your life. Funny that word misfit. I used the word “alienated” when I was living in Britain, because I so obviously didn’t belong, but honestly, there are times now, here in my own country, when I feel the same. Anyway. The art. It saves me.

Puppy was a barking beast Sunday night, so yesterday was full of my tired and student crazy. Some days you just wonder what’s going on in their heads. Classroom management is a moving target. Behaviors are awesome, and then they degrade into looney tunes.

So I was exhausted enough to nap briefly on the couch when I got home, with girlchild on the other couch, a cat on my chest, a dog perched on my hip. Then I managed to get my butt off the couch and take the big dog for a fast walk…she and I booked it around the 3 miles. Girlchild is still recovering from her existence, so I left puppy with her. Funny that one of the things I was looking forward to when I got home was the girlchild cooking, but I cooked last night. And then spent another hour trying to get the boychild’s room done…he comes home tomorrow. No, it’s still not done, but it will be. I’m close.

So what to do after that? Between projects…your brain just sort of flails a bit. Does a lot of “I don’t wanna” and “Don’t make me…” until I make it. I need this drawing to be done so I can go on to the next stage. An hour later…

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I added a homeless woman, a series of cocoons and butterflies of unknown origin, and poppies. The right side is probably done. I think I might have something on the left wrap around the column in the middle, but I haven’t figured that out yet. There’s a space above the butterfly that bugs me.

And once that’s done, I’ll spend an hour (at least) numbering it. That’s probably not happening tonight. But maybe. Today is the start of frog dissections, so it’s two long hard exhausting days. I’ll be glad when it’s over. I love showing the kids the parts and how they all fit together, but the managing of all the stuff and getting through the whole lab with enough time left over for clean up makes it a difficult day.

But the good news is that I’m close to getting the next project started…although I’m half debating doing another smaller one. No. NO. You are going to do the big hard heavy one and then you will feel better about getting the next one on the list done, and maybe you’ll have time for a small one in between. Seriously, this project is daunting. It feels huge. Except it probably isn’t any more huge than the big one I did last year. So whatever. Just do it.

I Especially Need…

May 23, 2016

I had plans for art yesterday, but in the end, my job and life got in the way. I let myself be OK with that because part of life was picking up the girlchild from the airport and another part was taking a long walk with small beastie…he can do three miles, in case you were wondering…he wasn’t exactly sure he could do it about 2/3’s of the way through it, but he did it. Although it had zero effect on his rampant hyperness.

I have to say, although he’s cute and all (everyone says it), he can be a handful. This morning, he finally was calm enough to come near Kitten without hissing and growling occurring. But even then, they are at an uneasy standoff.

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Hopefully with some more people in the house, this will get easier, because I’m pretty low on sleep right now with Mr. Barkypants getting his fluff in a huff every time a bird chirps or an animal wanders past my house (it’s a fairly frequent occurrence). And for me to say I’m low on sleep is something…since I don’t get much in the first place.

Girlchild is asleep down the hall, although apparently she’s driving me to work because we’re down to one car. She’s been out of school for a week and a half, but flew to my brother’s house so she could see her cousins, who alternately charmed her and annoyed the crap out of her (as all good cousins do). Tree climbing was one of the things she did…here she is upside down in a photo she liked, but I edited for her, on the fly, on the phone (yes, I know you can do better, but compared to what it used to look like, I thought this was pretty good).


Looks fun. I should try it some day.

So although I’m (as the girlchild says) a little salty that no art was made, there were good reasons for it. Although I graded and cooked dinner from scratch, so the first? Eh. It rules my life while I’m in school. The second? Good job.

It’s hard to explain to people what being a teacher is like on a regular basis while we’re in school when they just see your long “vacations” (we work through many of them or go to professional development, and summer is unpaid, so that’s not a vacation). Understand that there isn’t a single day when I don’t work…and I don’t get paid for those hours, any more than I get paid for the hours I do almost every single day after I get home from work. And even though I thought I was doing a bang-up job this year saving enough money to get through the summer, one big car issue just kicked my ass on that, much as it did last year…my cushion is now gone. Or it will be as soon as I pay that credit card bill. I do this every year, try to survive the summer. I don’t go on vacations anywhere. During the school year, we can’t take off for more than a few days without causing a ruckus. Every year, I have to rethink my plan for food and peeing during the day, as they move my prep period almost every single year. I’ve had 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 8th, and this next year, it will be 4th with lunch following directly. Which sucks for a diabetic. It means I’ll have to remember to eat during class, and I can already tell you, I don’t remember that shit.

Anyway. As I get closer to my time off for the summer, for the time I need to recharge from a very difficult year, a year where the kids took months longer than usual to finally figure out the consequences of not turning work in (and some still haven’t figured that out), my brain is getting excited…not just for the mostly uninterrupted artmaking time, but also for being able to pee when I need to, for being able to have lunch out (things teachers can’t do), for being able to run errands during the week because the stores are still open, for not feeling physically and mentally drained by a particularly hard day…or week even. For getting my Sundays back! No lesson planning, no parent email, no updating the website(s) we use for school. No dragging grading with me to my parents’ house for dinner.

I’ve done other jobs. I know the difference. I deserve my unpaid leave in summer. Without it, you would have very few people returning to a mostly thankless job each Fall. Of course, we do it for the kids…not the money…not the time off. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need a break. I especially need a break.

Eighteen days and counting.

I Should Be Able to Pull That Off

May 11, 2016

Again with the sleep! Oh well…it’s often my own fault. I did choose to go to bed late. Well, the art brain decided it for me, didn’t it? Don’t have much control over her some days. At least I slept well for the few hours I slept. Today is going to be a long day, though, and not having enough sleep is not usually a good thing in those cases. Lots of tea…should help.

I’m still grading every night…trying to get caught up. Actually finished one of the major projects last night, so I’m feeling pretty good about that. But there are still 7 things on my to-grade list. That’s not so good. Oh well. I do what I can.

I wanted to be done with the ironing last night. I’ve spent a little over 5 hours so far.

I was talking about this yesterday…ironing the stuff on top separately so I could see where the pieces went…

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Then transferring that as a whole to the main section. It works pretty well, although the flesh color here is light enough that I can see OK through it…not great, just OK.

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This is where I should’ve stopped if I’d really wanted a decent night’s sleep…I think that was just before midnight.

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But so close! I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go to bed with just that arm undone. So I kept going…

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Even though the last section was cactus with a million spikes…

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Yeah. I like it. And it’s not even on the dark background yet. Or stitched or quilted or anything. The outlining quilting will totally change her.

See now I’m at a point where it’s hard NOT to work on her every day. That’s a good thing. Although I already know I’m busy every night this week and Saturday I have a 4-hour training, so the odds of my getting anything significant done on her before Sunday is pretty low. Which sucks.

If I were smart (which sometimes I am), I’d get a binding on the other quilt I recently finished so I could hand sew it at one of the meetings I’m at. I took a quilt that needed finishing to a staff meeting once. Just to sew the binding on. I had a male principal (7 out of the 8 have been male) and he was livid, sure I wasn’t paying attention. I wonder how people in the education business don’t understand how people’s brains work. I pay better attention in afternoon meetings when I have handwork, because (1) it keeps me awake and (2) it entertains the part of my brain that is completely bored and wanting to act out. I had the same issue in my summer high-school government class, and he flipped out too because I was knitting. So I don’t sew things in school any more, even though I want to. I have a union meeting today and I often draw or grade while the meeting goes on. I still take notes and pay attention, but honestly, I’d be paying more attention if I were sewing.

No, I’m not teaching my students to sew. I think in their case, at least at their level, it wouldn’t help the attention span at all. Plus needles and scissors. I can’t even let them have rulers on a regular basis. Being more online has helped a bit with ruler dumbassery in the classroom…we just don’t use them as much. But I don’t stop the doodlers. I was a doodler. I still am.

Hopefully tonight I’ll get her ironed onto a background at least. That will be progress, and it’s not a huge step, so even though I’m probably not getting dinner until 9, and I’m about to fall back asleep now, I should be able to pull that off.


It’s Not an Empty Room…

May 7, 2016

Sleep, glorious sleep. Occasionally you get a night where your head hits the pillow and stays there, no flopping about, no weird noises in the middle of the night, blessedly snoozing through until a normal waking time, no alarm waking you out of a weird-ass dream that drops you into a waking world, unsure of reality. I got that last night. And part of it was the rain that came Thursday night and washed away that damn mockingbird. It wasn’t out last night either, so maybe it’s moved to warmer, dryer climes. I’m cool wit dat.

I’m posting late because I had two quilts to deliver this morning for a show that opens next weekend, Feminism Now, at Gallery D in Barrio Logan. I also picked up my copy of the catalog…they are only $20, cat-approved, and full of feminist art from the US and Sweden, which is where this show will travel in 2017.

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Midnight thinks it smells nice. You’ll have to show up to the opening to see the two pieces. I made the second one as a response to the first one, only 4 1/2 years later. And my life 4 1/2 years later is much different. New relationships, kids gone to college, making even more art than back then. I honestly think the art is my healing web, what connects all the broken pieces of me back together. I get lots of questions about how it feels to have both kids gone and then how does it feel to have both of them coming back…good, but temporary. I know it’s only 3 months, not even that for the girlchild, and this might be the last summer I see both of them. OR…like many of my friends, they’ll move back and never leave. But I doubt that. I actually had a conversation with my counselor about renting a room out to someone…what that might look like, and is it something I could even handle (as I’m sitting here in my office, getting ready to finally clean some floors a good month after they started needing it, and blasting music. Plus the house smells like bacon. And my parents’ dog peed in the hallway. That carpet just needs to go. That’s the second dog of theirs that’s peed there, and then there was Babygirl, who considered the space outside my door her pissed-off litter tray, because I wouldn’t let her in there at night.). But OTHERWISE, it sounds like an idea. I don’t know if it’s a good idea, but at some point, it might be necessary.

I didn’t make art yesterday. I came home from gaming and finished this…


Great book. Hysterically funny and yet right there on top of mental illness and other crap that fucks with you. Sending it to the girlchild. She’ll giggle on the plane to her cousins.

“You don’t have to go to some special private school to be an artist. Just look at the intricate beauty of cobwebs. Spiders make them with their butts.” Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy (she says her dad said it though…)

Honestly, all I want to do today is sit on the couch and read. But I have to work my butt off…not to make cobwebs unfortunately. I’m behind in grading again. I’m not sure how, but it has hit a level that makes me start to panic. I keep a list of assignments in a task manager, because it helps me organize and remember to grade the online crap, but also because I really enjoy checking it off and watching it disappear when I finish it. Weird, I know. But whatever. I have another book I started reading this morning. I just want to curl up with it dammit.

Sigh. And then while I was driving to deliver those quilts…

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(here’s my packing up…dehairing and cutting dowels etc.) I realized what needed to go in the space of the torso in the large drawing I’m doing…and it’s not a cute animal or a nice plant. San Diego has an increasing homeless issue here, and the problem is not just the growing number of people who are living on the streets in tents (if they’re slightly luckier) or boxes or not even that, but also our responses to them, as a local agency fills a space under a bridge where homeless folks used to shelter with sharp pointy rocks so they can’t, or a government agency does sweeps to clear areas of homeless encampments, so they have to go somewhere, people. We can’t ignore it and push it out and try to make it invisible. We need to feed them and house them and employ them and clothe them and medicate them (when possible). We need to CARE for them.

And I don’t know how best to do that, because I don’t have thousands of dollars or resources or anything but a sense that we suck. Because we often do. Anyway, that’s what’s getting drawn in there, somehow. Haven’t quite figured out the how and specifically what. I just know what it should be. A homeless woman framed in an Earth Mother who does provide shelter…safe and clean and dry and warm. And then I go back to having extra space here, but knowing I can’t afford to feed and clothe, let alone care for any more people than I already am. But maybe that will change. Who knows. I’m just thinking, not doing yet. Realistically, what would that look like? I don’t come home from work with extra energy for taking care of more people. Yeah.

So I’m gonna go work for a while, and then maybe I’ll read. Because I should be allowed to do that for a bit…and not just work for hours each day, right? Or maybe I should just fill one of those rooms with foster puppies and kittens. Then go lie in there for an hour a day, letting them romp all over me. That would be good. Anyway, it’s not an empty room yet. So thinking…and drawing…

An Everyday Habit

May 5, 2016

‘Twas a long day, full of testing children and 78 trips to the bathroom, none of them mine. Full of kids who went to bed at 2 AM and wondered why they were tired. Kids that were done after an hour and had to entertain themselves silently for two more. Teachers who hadn’t eaten or peed for longer than normal. Then once we let the kids go, we had to settle down to a large chunk of time to collaborate…despite our brains being equally fuzzy from long hours of trying to keep kids focused AND quiet. It mostly worked. That was Day 1. Day 2 is today.

I had stuff to do after school, plus got stuck in traffic. Stupid drivers during rush hour, cutting people off, not signaling, being assholes. It’s not good for me to be in that. I finally made it home around 6, tired, cranky, with a pile of work to do. So I did it. And then realized it was late. This is where living alone sucks…you’re too tired to cook, money is tight so you aren’t going out, but you need to eat. Leftovers are gone because you ate them for lunch. So I cooked. But it was late. Really I should have worked some more, but I was tired of it. I get like that. This job has so many hours of my life. I feel like after 9, that should be mine. We work to earn money to survive, yes, but at some point, it should also be so that we can spend time doing the things we love…hiking, art, reading. I want more of that this week.

So I didn’t keep working. I didn’t start grading the next assignment. I didn’t read yet another Teacher Appreciation Week email and wonder…hell…who is appreciating my being a teacher right now? Probably not the kid I harassed into sitting up and not falling asleep on the desk yesterday (thanks, parents, for letting him stay up late). It’s OK. I don’t teach for that. Our parents don’t send flowers or notes. They don’t cover our doors with big grateful signs. They don’t do anything, honestly. It’s enough that they are surviving.

I finished cutting out all the pieces for the new quilt last night…

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It’s not a huge quilt. The pile of trimmed scraps looks bigger than the pile of trimmed pieces. I spent 3 relaxing hours doing this last night. I needed that. I stayed up a bit too late to do it, but at that point, I just wanted it to be done. That’s a motivator in itself, that desire to move on to the next step, to not leave a few pieces sitting in the box until tomorrow. To FINISH. I feel like I need to achieve something tangible each day, something that will take me to bed and murmur sweet nothings of achievement. Then the next morning, when I sit down to write this post, I can feel like I did something worthwhile…for me, anyway. I’m sure some people would say I should spend more time cleaning (and certainly, if boychild could see his room right now, I’d probably be in a bit of trouble…but I have 20 days until he gets home) or maintaining the house or yard, and sure, I could. But I wouldn’t be happy that night, curled up in bed, and the next morning, I’d have that empty feeling I get in my chest when I don’t make any art.

This really is an everyday habit.

Here’s today’s Artwalk artist: Victoria Alexander Marquez, also mostly a paper artist. Her work is delicate and beautiful, especially the larger landscape pieces.


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