I’m Trying Hard to Take It Back*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Fun. We Are Young

Pen on Paper…

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

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

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

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

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

By Marea Korea

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Jacki Geary

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Lauren Grant…

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Chelsea Wilde

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

Slow…

I’m definitely plodding along…not getting a shitload of anything done, not ever getting to the end of any project, whether grading or quilting, not finishing anything. Not accomplishing much. Except I did. Everything’s just slow. I’m slow. My brain is slow. My mood is dank. All I really wanted to do last night was draw, but I didn’t know what I wanted to draw. Just wanted to lose myself in it. No such luck. Too many things I want done and I’m not getting any of them done. Not motivated. Tired. Moody as hell.

I did iron. I thought I might finish. I might have finished if it had been any other night where I felt motivated and awake and competent. But in the end, the last few pieces (OK, there are probably 50 pieces left) just kicked my butt. I’m 9 1/2 hours in and there’s probably 30 minutes left. I really could have done that last night. Well, last night I didn’t think I could, so there we are.

Here’s everything that’s been ironed so far…

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But I’m looking at that dark piece on top and thinking it might not show up on the background…I’ll have to figure that out. Maybe. Maybe not right this second. But when I’m ironing it together, you better bet I’ll be thinking…shit…I wish I’d dealt with that already.

Here’s everything I’ve used so far…lots of bits and pieces really, since the flesh is the main part of the quilt.

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I should finish it tonight, but that depends on so many factors. I can’t predict the mood or how the other shit I need to do will fall out. Last night I had some technology stuff to do and the computer was just a bitch. So was my iPad and my school computer kept crashing apps, so it was altogether a frustrating day in the world of computers. Although I suspect that the latter are because they need to be replaced. My iPad mini is a first generation and it regularly tells me it is full and I delete stuff but now it’s getting cranky and slow too. I don’t know what to do about that. There’s no money to replace that. The school computer is older and was old when they bought them, honestly…I don’t know how much more time it has, or even if its problems are its age or the age of all the infrastructure around it and on it…fairly sure we need to update some of the apps we use beyond regular releases…like you know, pay some money out…things schools don’t do.

I did two things for myself yesterday, trying to improve my mood. The first was go to the gym. I liked that. Should do more of it. The second was go fabric shopping…notionally, I needed that pink there for the binding of the baby quilt (which I did not sew on last night because I did not feel like it, but will hopefully come home and do tonight because I am a good girl)…and I bought two possible backgrounds for the quilt I’m working on now…

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But there’s something relaxing about walking through the fabrics, letting your eye wander, and waiting for something new to catch your eye.

And I realized I don’t know what I’ll be working on next. I need more work for shows, because I don’t have enough for all the shows I want to enter at the moment. Too many things are traveling for too long. I’m regretting one of them…because it could be in better shows than the ones I agreed to as replacement to the ones where the shipment didn’t get there. And another sold, which is not a bad problem to have, but it was only in one show before it sold and it was one of the big time-consuming pieces from last year, so that’s made me short quilts as well. I saw a drawing I did last year for a smaller quilt and think I might do that before committing to the next big one, but then again, Spring Break is coming and that’s a good time to make a big quilt. So we’ll see. I haven’t even drawn the next big one…I have the idea, but it’s nowhere near being on paper. And with the current mood, it’s hard to know if I’ll be able to draw it. Right now, I think it would be sad and angry drawings, which isn’t a bad thing…it’s just not what I saw for that quilt.

Sigh. This mood sucks. I’m doing the shit I’m supposed to do to kick it. So kick, asshole.

Zentangle the Dryer

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

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

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

I quilted Cat 6, the crazy one…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losing Myself in Art…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And I sewed this one last night as well.

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

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

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

Medium-Sized Clusterfuck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.