Earth Stories: Tracing the Pieces

Once I have the drawing done, I number all the pieces, so I can put them back where I found them. I use a red pen because it’s easier to see with all the black lines around.

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Plus remember that I will be reading those numbers upside down, because I trace on a light table with the drawing upside down, so they are all reversed.

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Then when I lay them out and iron them onto fabric, the fusible web will be on the back of the pieces.

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It seems obvious to say all that, but I’ve done it wrong before…I traced one whole connecting piece for the Sightlines exhibit backwards…so I can remake those fish/blood vessel quilts backwards now. I have one whole quilt that I traced backwards, and yes, there are words in it. It made sense to me to not fix them at the time.

This section of the quilt with the little people in it is about 8″ square and has about 250 pieces in it. That’s what happens when I draw pieces to size. They get insanely small.

When the numbers are circled, it’s to remind me that where the number is, is NOT where the piece is…or that the piece continues under another piece, in which case, I usually add an arrow pointing in the direction it continues. These also were just too damn small to fit written numbers into, so I had to write outside the shape. It took almost 3 hours just to number all the pieces.

This quilt has over 2000 pieces. And some of them are freakishly tiny.


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I do trace the overlaps (well, underlaps really), so hopefully there are no gaps between pieces. That means I have to keep track of what’s on top and what goes underneath. And I suspect those are bone pieces above, because they are all the same color and I think the skelly in the uterus is in that picture…those are probably finger or toe bones.

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It’s kind of amazing what my brain is capable of doing sometimes. It took 24 hours and 7 days to trace all the Wonder Under…kind of crazy, if you think about it. What did YOU do over Spring Break? Yeah. That’s the conversation that only happens with people who know me fairly well. The rest would think I’m crazy.

Here’s all the Wonder Under laid out on the floor.


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Each piece is about a yard, maybe a little more. Then I started cutting all the pieces out…


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I was really efficient with that task…it only took 12 hours. I cut them out with a little margin around, so after I iron it to fabric, there will be a clean edge when I trim those pieces. The box on the right is the trash…I hang on to that until I make sure there’s no real pieces in there. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and throw the wrong piece in the wrong bin.

Then it took me an hour and a half to sort all the pieces into 21 bins, one for each 100 pieces. Strangely, I don’t have a picture of that…I usually do.

Anyway, next, I’ll talk about the long process of picking fabrics.

Earth Stories: Drawing It Big

The Earth Stories exhibit opened at Michigan State University Museum in Lansing, MI, on May 11, and continues through November 26. The opening reception is May 16 from 4-6 PM. It then travels to the University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art and Design, Warrensburg, Missouri, January 19 – February 28, 2015. This means I will finally be allowed to post the pictures of this quilt as of the 16th…I thought I’d spend a few posts reviewing how these two pieces came to be.

I was accepted into the exhibit in October of 2012. I wasn’t even going to enter. I got into this huge discussion with the family, intellectuals all (although I qualify as an emotional intellectual…nowadays only barely rational apparently) about what could actually SAVE the Earth. The original plan for the exhibit was to pick a group or person who had made a significant contribution to saving the Earth, to keeping our planet livable, whole, sustainable even. I kept coming back to science in general, but the thought of doing a quilt of people in labcoats with microscopes and water-testing devices seemed kinda lame.

Then I watched this video:

It was Monique’s fault. She posted it. And it clicked a switch in my brain. A huge one.

Understand that I teach life science. I teach biology to 12-year-olds. I teach human reproduction. What do we need to do to save the world? We need to stop overpopulating it. We need to make sure that the available resources are distributed fairly, but also that we don’t overwhelm them with too many people (it may be too late for that, honestly). So when I saw that there were groups that were trying to help women who actually WANTED to control the number and timing of their births, the size of their families, to keep them within the constraints of what they could afford, of what they could handle, THAT was the group I was going to put the strength of my convictions behind.

That was the International Planned Parenthood Federation. They provide voluntary birth control to women in countries where it’s not allowed or where they have financial or religious difficulty in getting the medications they need to make sure they can take care of their families. They can decide how long to wait between births, which is healthier for both mother and child, but she can also decide when to stop having children. Imagine, giving women a choice? Plus helping to conserve our natural resources? All good.

Once I was accepted into the exhibit, which is an interesting story in itself, I sort of looked at how much time I had during the school year and how much time it would take to make a 72″-square quilt, and I planned my time. My goal was to have it drawn before Spring Break, traced onto Wonder Under during Spring Break, ironed to fabric before Summer Break, and then get the whole nasty beast done over the summer.

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men, and overwhelmed single moms who don’t even know what kind of shit might hit their fans.

I did OK with the first part, actually…OK, well, not really. I had about 4 or 5 mis-starts to the drawing…in fact, I think I started drawing in February (Spring Break being April). I already knew what position I wanted the main figure in, but I couldn’t quite visualize parts, so I asked the girlchild (who was running a nasty fever at the time that turned into the nasty flu that messed up her system for a while) to pose…

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She was thrilled. As I’m sure you can see. Yes, my carpet is that beat up.

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She didn’t have the right look on her face. She’s supposed to be Earth Mother. I decided not to make her old…mothers aren’t usually super old. They’re frazzled. Plus she had live trees on her, and it’s not supposed to be alive.

A few days later, I tried again.

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Serious issues with the thighs. And the mountains are lame. Plus that left hand? Both hands…way too small.

I don’t usually fuss this much over drawings, but that was the thing with this one. I needed it to say the right thing and I don’t usually care so much that the viewer is getting the message. I figure they will get SOME message and that’s all that matters. On this one, the message mattered.

So I tried again…

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Much better belly/thigh area (and the pregnancy finally shows up…notice it wasn’t there before). Her face, though…too spacey. Like she’s contemplating what color nail polish might go with those shoes.

I gave up for a while…a month actually. Then I realized Spring Break was bounding towards me, so I started again…

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Ugh. Too small, arms suck. Whatever!

A few days later, though…BOOM!

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There she is. There’s the start. Much bigger and the right look on her face…but I filled an entire page just with this part of her torso. I copied the bottom part and taped it to another page and then drew the bottom half…then enlarged those and taped them together.

I finally had the beginnings of this thing.

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Now realize that light table is 3 feet by 4 feet, so it gives you a good idea of how big this thing gets. I started in a 14×17″ sketchbook. I think I enlarged the drawing 200-300%. Then I drew the rest of it to size (which is always a crazy tiny-piece mistake for me, and yet I do it every time).

I spent about 20 hours drawing this thing. I’d draw for a while and then step back and look at it (or stand on the piano bench and look at it, because it was the only way I could see the whole thing).

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Most drawings take me a couple of hours, maybe four or five for a super-complicated one like what I’m working on now.

I had TV shows running on the laptop (the computer in the back is too slow and sound is an issue) to keep my brain occupied. Here’s me drawing the thought cloud that shows a happy world with plenty of food…


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This is back at the beginning, right after I had taped all the extra paper around the enlarged figure to make it 72″ square.

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It was a huge endeavor. I’ve never spent so long DRAWING a quilt, but it really did need to be forcibly pulled out of me…it took a good chunk of Spring Break to get it done. This was before all the shit hit the fan at work, so my brain was mostly OK for this type of task. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that now. It was really difficult. Maybe the art brain would prefer that level of involvement in a drawing to all the other crap I throw at it.

Next post? Numbering and tracing pieces…


Art Exhibit Updates

A bunch of shows I’m in have closed or are closing. That’s always kind of depressing, especially if you haven’t been getting into any shows lately, but I’m trying not to think about that part…instead, let’s think about the upcoming openings…

Quilt National 2013 updated its traveling schedule, adding Oceanside, California (unfortunately, not the part that MY quilt is in) and Dunedin, Florida:

5/6/14 – 7/20/14: San Jose, CA–[Collection A & B] 
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles 
San Jose, California

7/26/14 – 11/30/14; Oceanside, CA—Collection C]
Oceanside Museum of Art
Oceanside, CA

8/14/14 – 9/28/14: Moorhead, MN–[Collection B]
Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County
Moorhead, Minnesota

5/22/15 – 8/16/15; Dunedin, FL–[Collection A]
Dunedin Fire Art Center
Dunedin, FL

But you can see my quilt, Spread Out on the Pavement, in San Jose starting May 6 through the end of July.

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Earth Stories will be opening on May 11 at the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing, MI. The opening reception is May 16 from 4-6 PM, and there are a bunch of talks related to the exhibit. I would have loved to have been able to go to some of these, but it is way too far and way too expensive, so I will have to hope someone I know goes and reports back. It does mean, though, that I can start to write about making the work for this exhibit and finally be able to show it online after the opening. It’s hard to NOT do that as I make my work.

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My Earth Stories quilts, Wise Choice and Planting Choice, will be in Michigan through November 26, and then will go to the University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art and Design in Warrensburg, Missouri, from January 19 – February 28, 2015.

Meanwhile, I suspect you can’t get IN to shows if you don’t ENTER shows and FINISH work, so that’s my goal for the next few weeks…find some new shows and get the work out there…

The Weekend Saga

I feel like my weekend was a saga…

1. a long story of heroic achievement, esp. a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic.
Synonyms: epic, chronicle, legend, folk tale, romance, history, narrative, adventure, myth, fairy story

OK. Minus the Old Norse/Icelandic. And maybe the heroics. Maybe my whole LIFE is a saga. I’d be OK with it just being a life for a while.

I had plans. Lots of them. Most of them disappeared. Well, they didn’t disappear forever…just for a little bit maybe. I got zero art done. I mean ZEEE-ROH. I managed to finish grades Friday night, except for one kid. That was good. I planned that and executed it and nothing got in the way. I got up really early Saturday morning and headed out for a hike south of here (more on that later) after waking the girlchild for the SAT. She apparently had to call her dad from the testing location because she forgot to actually BRING all the paperwork I handed her the night before and then handed her again on Saturday morning, because she’d left it somewhere again. So that was amusing. Yes, he got there in time with the paperwork. Yes, she has a 50% success rate in remembering paperwork. Luckily, they didn’t grade her on that.

I went on the hike. It was supposed to be 9 miles, which it was…but most of them were significantly canted upwards or downwards, with very little in between. Before my parental units left for Australia (which is where they are now), I remembered to borrow my dad’s hiking poles for this trek, because they were mostly required, and then…well…I forgot them on Saturday (my forgetfulness is actually out of character…hers? Not so much). So. I hiked the damn thing pole-free and only landed on my ass once (a miracle…I was sure I would face plant about 20 times). So I’m a tad sore today. Tomorrow it will be worse.

Coming home after hikes is usually a downer…my blood sugar is low, I’m tired from the hike, and my mood is usually not great. I was feeling mopey and down and blah, and then I got this in the mail…well, this is half my pages, because I can’t show you the whole quilt yet…

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The catalog for Earth Stories, which will open in Michigan in May (and I’m not allowed to show my whole quilt until then, even though one is on the cover, so pretend you didn’t see it)…

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(I’m only showing you my half with the words and the detail anyway…not the one with the whole quilt on it)…and then I was still mopey, because aargh…I’m not even sure I like this quilt…so I went on to read the juror’s statement, because she had emailed me for a larger-resolution picture of my quilt a while back, so she could see it all close up…and then sent me a very complimentary email about it…and what she wrote for the catalog made me cry…

Kathy Nida’s Wise Choice is a tour de force. The intuitive genius of Nida’s piece is quite arresting in its commentary on women and presents a vital and poignant message. Her captivating work bravely addresses one of the most important issues on our planet–population control. Earth Mother and family stand firmly rooted and intertwined with the earth. The piece represents all Earth Stories is about.                        –Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi

OK. I did something right this year. It’s OK. It will be OK. Because that’s what I meant to say, and she got it. So yeah, it will make some people mad and they might freak out, and someone already said something about my piece maybe not being in all the shows (it has nudity in it too, so that’s been an issue in the past)…but I did it. What was in my head will be hanging on the wall. Deep breaths.

I had vast art plans for last night, but ended up grading papers and then falling asleep early (body finally rebels against burning a million calories and not enough sleep). I was OK with that. I was going to get up, go to the gym, get all this art stuff done, post about the hike and a book I needed to review, get my lesson planning done! It was going to be an awesome day! Really!

Yeah. Well it was also my birthday. I’m not sure I really spend a lot of time worrying about my birthday any more, except I do feel like I should be able to do something I like doing, something I WANT to do on my birthday. I planned for it. I did . I had it all worked out.

And then the computer died. I was in the middle of getting photos transferred and emails answered for school, and I was finally installing the stupid external hard drives to deal with the memory problem, and I pulled the computer out from under the desk, and it shut off. And it wouldn’t go back on. And yeah. So I don’t know about you, but my entire fucking life is on the computer, including my job and my art and everything. And it’s my birthday. And the universe hates me. And I’m cursed. And karma.

So once I talked myself out of all of that, which is difficult when you’re in my world at the moment…depression is not your friend when it comes to persuading yourself that the universe is not out to get you…then I started googling things (with the iPad)…and watching YouTube videos. And first I figured out that it wasn’t the electrical outlet and it wasn’t the surge protector and it wasn’t the cord…and then I thought the CPU fan might have an issue because it was making noise a while back and I hadn’t cleaned it because that was somewhat frightening (software? I do well with…hardware? yikes.), but then it might be the power supply. So I drove out and bought compressed air and a power supply, and then I came back and cleaned the fan and the inside of the computer, but it still wouldn’t restart, so I knew it wasn’t that, and then I installed a new power supply, which was way easier than I thought it would be, except when I went to try to turn it on, it still wouldn’t turn on.

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Fuck. FUCK. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. 

Yeah. So. I put it in the car and drove to Fry’s (our local geek supply house) and waited in line behind a woman with a dog (yes, in a computer/electronics store) and another woman with a tattoo on the back of her arm, on her triceps (is one arm just a tricep?) of a bottle of Jameson Whiskey and two shot glasses that had quite a nice example of both reflection and refraction on them (almost took a picture for my students, but decided it was inappropriate…and YES, I was going to ASK her before I took it), and then this nice young Indian man who talked faster than I do (damn, that’s fast) asked me what was wrong, and NO, I didn’t launch into my life story (although I considered it very briefly), and I told him what I had done, and when I said I had changed the power supply and cleaned the CPU fan, he looked at me and breathed out “That’s sexy” (no, seriously, he did), and I briefly considered laughing out loud at him, but because I am a middle-school teacher and have incredible powers of control, I managed to keep a straight face, and he told me EVERYTHING WOULD BE OK (gee, where the hell have I heard THAT before, lying ass…oh wait, that wasn’t you), and then he opened the sucker up and found THE ONE connection that I didn’t fully seat (BASTARD! the connection, not the nice man), and then we tested it and he wanted to know why my keyboard thing didn’t work with my computer thing, and I explained that I hadn’t set that up and it didn’t really matter and it was OK and I didn’t need him to fix that, and we confirmed that it worked and then he said something while his head was under the counter (I don’t know why), and I said, should I shut it down, and he said, “Wow, are you psychic? Because yes, I was thinking that, but it wasn’t what I said, and are you a Pisces?” And I rallied (because he was still talking faster than normal people), and said, “Why yes, I am a Pisces.” And he said, “No way, really?” “Way. Today is my birthday” And then he said “Happy Birthday!” and told me his mom was psychic AND a Pisces, but she was also bipolar (WHOA! Oversharing), and I said, “What are you trying to say?” and he tried to back himself out of calling me bipolar, at which point I just started laughing because I truly was messing with him. So we closed the machine up and I hugged it to my chest and said, “How much?” And he said “On the house.” At which point I told him I loved him and left with a big smile on my face, because even though it took me 3 hours and 2 trips to Penis World (oops, sorry) I mean Computers R Us, I managed to fix my computer. With only a little help (from boychild, who wielded compressed gas with gay abandon; from some kid who found me the right power supply; from YouTube videos and PC Magazine articles online; and from a goofy Indian man…from India, people…), I overcame all that shittiness and am currently USING MY COMPUTER. THAT I FIXED. SO THERE UNIVERSE. FUCK YOU.

Sigh. Deep breaths. And I eventually got some stuff done like laundry and groceries and breaking the glass loaf pan (not on purpose) and cleaning the kitchen floor (to deal with the glass), and then went out to dinner with my ex and the kids to Crazee Burger, which I always wanted to try, and girlchild had Wild Boar and I had Antelope (and yes, I googled sustainability of antelope meat before I ate), and boychild riffed on about meat we eat, because he says meat is just a vehicle for other food items, and doesn’t understand why I would want to eat antelope, although I drew the line at kangaroo…they’re just too damn cute to eat. And I explained what being on the top of the food chain meant and he quoted liberal media (hey, I am an omnivore). And I opened presents and had cheesecake and survived another day.

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Interior shot…would I eat here again? Yeah probably. It wasn’t the most amazing burger in the world, but it was interesting, and the inside is kinda fun…including Mona…

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and her doobie. On the bar menu…

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I never did get his number…and now I am a prime number. And tomorrow is another day and maybe I’ll get to do something artistic.

Making Up a Journal…

Here’s the post I hope the curator never reads. It’s Monday, January 6 (yes, I started this that long ago…welcome to my life at the moment), and I am supposed to have done a journal for the Earth Stories quilt I finished back in August/September. It’s been a rough 6 months and said journal does not exist.

I started back in early January with trying to use Google Docs, because I figured I could load the photos into a document and then write the words around it while I was sitting at a soccer game. I wanted to use the iPad, but wasn’t sure if the app I wanted to use would be able to save locally without wifi; the phone was my backup plan (and yes, I do often at least start and occasionally write an entire post on my phone). However, Google Docs sucks because it won’t take photos of any size out if the camera…they have to be resized. That’s a lot of work. I did originally resize them for the blog, but I usually delete those when I archive photos into files…so now I’m doing double work…not so smart.

Why didn’t I start a journal when I started the quilt? Because that’s not how I work. I do have a sketchbook (or seven). I don’t journal each quilt’s progress there…I do have a typed private art journal that I write in every Friday (or at least once a week) and there’s obviously my blog, which documents everything except when the dog poops (which it would document if I could find a pattern to it), but I don’t really focus on each quilt in a logical way…it’s more, here’s the quilt I’m making and here’s all the other shit that’s going on, which is why when they said they wanted a journal for the Earth Stories quilt back in like February 2013, I was like…I can do that. I’ll just copy pages from my blog. And then life (shit…tsunami wave of shit) happened. And that’s probably more than EVER needs to go into the journal of making that quilt. Besides, it would be 400 pages long and no one would read it while standing in the exhibit and wondering what made Kathy Nida do what she did, or even how she did it, because I’m not sure anyone cares about why either. Or maybe they do. Who knows.

So I ignored the need for the journal for a goddamned good long time. I emailed the curator and made sure I didn’t have to deal with it right away. And then I let it percolate (ahem…actually, I completely ignored it because I couldn’t handle it).

I bought the journal (a portfolio, relatively cheap from Michael’s) around January 2, and I thought I was finally ready to deal with this. Of course, it meant going through old photos, cleaning out photo files to find what I needed, and that was one of the issues before. I can’t even look at some of my old photo files right now. They’re filed by date and I then go through and cut and paste them into their relevant folder, whether it’s pictures of the animals or the kids’ soccer games, or it’s a particular quilt. It’s nice to have all the quilt pictures in one place, but this quilt spans about February or March of this year until September or so, and I don’t know if I can deal with the documentation.

I HAVE to deal with them. Shit. There’s only photos from November in the quilt file. Fuck. That means they’re all uncategorized, only in by date. That means I have to go through 8-9 months’ worth of photo files, during some of the most painful parts of my life. Wow. So. Should I take a Xanax now or later? Or should I just shoot myself? It might be quicker and less painful.

Probably better to do it in small batches (the photos…not the Xanax). I managed to get them all sorted in a few days. Then I resized all of them into one folder, so if I fucked up and deleted everything, they would be easy to find. Then I started with that damn Google Docs. I fussed with that file for about two days and finally said fuck it and imported it into Word. It wouldn’t move photos the way I wanted them to move, it wouldn’t size things easily. I couldn’t get the text to wrap right.

So you’d think years of Word expertise would make this an easy job. You’d be wrong. Something that happened in the code from Google Docs came in and warped the intelligence of anything I could have done in Word. I would move and reformat a photo just to have it completely disappear when I started typing text. The page below moved all those photos all by itself…the file doesn’t look like this, but when it prints out, this is what it does.

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I don’t have a great color printer at the moment. It’s about 20 years old, maybe older, and it just sucks. So I took the file to FedEx to print it out there. It’s possible that there was something hinky that happened in that interface that randomly moved photos and words, but I wasn’t about to try to fix something I couldn’t find without carefully reading code (running out of time here), so I resorted to old-school. Yes. I reprinted the pages on my black and white printer here at home, cut out the color pictures from the other copies, and cut out the words from my printouts…



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And started scrapbooking. Whatever. It’s all in these little plastic pages. No one will know…or care.

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Example above. It worked fine. I didn’t write a lot because I didn’t think people would want to read a lot. I included a cover page of my inspiration for the piece and my resume in the back. I finally mailed it off earlier this week. You can see below the stupid shit that printer was doing…

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“I to see”? Whatever. So it’s done. I don’t know if anyone will ever look at it, let alone read it, but there it is. When the exhibit opens, I’ll do some posts here about the quilt too, so don’t feel bad if you don’t make it to the opening.

The next journaling experience? For Celebrating Silver, they want one or two 12×12″ pages of the process or story or hell, I don’t know what. I don’t own 12×12 pages. I will have to make some paper between now and then apparently. I think I have until mid-April on that one, so obviously I should ignore the need for that to get done until…um…about April 14. I’m sure some people’s journals are really interesting and give great insight into the artistic process. I don’t think that’s the case with mine. I don’t know if I want to spend more time writing about the inspiration before I make a quilt, making the drawing, and then making the piece. I do write about it here, but I think a journal with nothing in it but a big fat QR code is probably not what they want.

Anyway. I suck at journaling the way they want. Here’s my journal. Right here. You’re reading it.

This Sad Dark Room

Strange question today. Counselor asked if she had met me a year ago, would she be counseling the same person? No. You wouldn’t. She asked about stress, if the school and kid stresses would have been the same? Well, the college and financial aid stress is new and heinous, but otherwise, yes, they would be the same…at least similar. Would I have the same attitudes? Was I crying all the time? No. Hardly ever. PMS occasionally. Not like this. This is horrible. Endless. Awful.

I think I confuse her. She says that I don’t let things control me, that I change the things that are bothering me or I at least act against them or on them or something. I don’t just sit there and let it control me. So why? Why am I letting this grief control me?

This is where I go back to that magical step…I don’t think ‘let’ is the appropriate word. I don’t seem to be able to get the upper hand on this. I argue with myself all the time about it…tell myself that reality was different than what I thought and I need to get over it, to move on, and I just can’t seem to drag that stupid-ass part of my brain up and out. It’s just mired, lost, sinking…depressed.

Counseling was a giant weepfest. I guess there is some catharsis in that. But no resolution. She doesn’t have the magical step, apparently. I think if she did, she would give it to me. She asked me to name one thing I was grateful for at that moment in time, and right then, at the end of a long week, with things hanging over my head like guillotine blades, I struggled to find something that wasn’t an absence of something bad (I don’t have cancer…I’m grateful for that)…something that was actually a glass-half-full instead of just feeling empty.

In this conversation I had the other day with a self-professed Myers Briggs expert, she made me think about how I think…metacognition in teacher speak. I’ve said this before, that I wish I could get far enough out of my head so that I could get past this, but maybe this is part of why my artist brain is so good at what it intuitively does…I spend So Much time in my head with the art–drawing and interpreting and observing–that it’s almost impossible to get out when the brain is tying itself up in knots. When I am working on a big project that is taking up huge parts of my brain power, processing through images and compositions and colors, no one, including me, questions my interior focus. It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s how I function. The reason I was thinking of all this was because the Earth Stories quilts are shipping this weekend, and I had to iron, dehair, and label them…so while I was ironing, I thought again about using ink on the quilt…

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And I did. And no, it’s not in the catalog. I’m OK with that. It’s not a lot. It’s just enough. If I had been in a different mindset back in August/September, I would have handled the last stages of this quilt completely differently…there are things I would have done that would have extended the finish time by a month probably, inking and embroidery and maybe even beads, but I just couldn’t. I associate this quilt with the worst of my depression, with the three weeks of shock and the craziness after that. I did NOT want to spend more time with it then. So I found mistakes and problems when I was cleaning it up today…I fixed a few of them…but then I made more mistakes when I was trying to get it cleaned up…I actually ended up ripping out stitches in the background by accident in two different places. LAME. So I had to fix those.

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My bad. Not focusing enough. Not wanting to think too hard about this quilt and all it represents to me right now. It took me about three hours tonight to deal with the two quilts because of screw ups like that, but also because I had it all wrapped up and then remembered I needed to pack the small quilt with it…and then realized I was supposed to put labels on both of them. So I unwrapped and rewrapped about three times. Just inefficient and stupid.

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It’s so frustrating to be working with my brain when it’s this disconnected. But I remember the high level of focus I had when I was drawing this thing…it took over 22 hours of my Spring Break last year to draw it, and I had to literally rip it out of my head. I was never without that image in my head, building and rebuilding parts of it, revising the composition until it made sense. Same with picking the fabrics. So deep into the crevices that I am carrying the image in the front of my mind at all times, whether I’m in the classroom, at the gym, or out to dinner. It’s always there, niggling, engaging the deeper, intuitive parts of my brain into making it work.

And I don’t think any of that is bad. That is how I work. That is what makes me good at what I do. It’s also what makes it so freakin’ hard to get my brain OUT of shit like this, shit I can’t explain, shit that makes no sense, shit that makes me question my entire existence and future and past and every fucking thing. Shit that makes my sleep interrupted (even more than before). Shit that makes me cry at the drop of a hat, the drop of a word, the hint of any tiny bit of sad, stress, overwhelming emotion.

I can’t really expect my brain to treat this problem any differently than it does an artistic problem.

So. I guess we are working on that. I feel like the part of my brain that has the answer, the next step, the magical pill for the cure…it’s hiding around a corner…I come chasing through the hallway, racing after it, and it slips into a doorway that locks behind it, and I end up banging on the door, screaming until my throat is sore and my voice ragged, and I can hear its breathing, quiet and hidden, but it won’t answer, it won’t come out. It’s huddled in the corner, head on its arms, covering its eyes, hands covering its ears so it doesn’t have to listen to me. It’s processing.

I don’t know what the solution is.

Girlchild was playing like a beast last night for the time she was on the field…

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It seems strange to think that she will have back surgery in about 6 weeks, but there we are. She was back to normal today, helping in the kitchen, telling me it’s OK when I explained why I didn’t think the NYC trip could happen, that I just don’t have enough of a financial cushion for that, that we could reevaluate in summer, but that the money stuff just isn’t good at the moment. She said, “It’s OK, mommy. I understand.” And I told her I understood that it didn’t seem fair because her brother had three trips, but that I didn’t pay for all of it and my finances were better then, and now they’re just messed up, and I was really really sorry. Proof I guess that she is growing up, that she’s becoming the amazingly understanding adult I know she will end up being…probably too understanding.

Anyway. I spent all evening in my head telling my brain how stupid it was being. Not a good thing. Tomorrow I will try to erase some of that bad hinky stuff with a hike, and then hopefully I will get the next big chunk of financial aid hell done with and move on to something that feeds my soul or art brain or whatever that might bring me out and let me wander freely on the planet, instead of being kept in this sad dark room.


Holy Panic Attack, Batman…

I think today needs to be wadded up in a tiny ball and thrown in the garbage disposal. I had a list of things to do, and even finished some of them, but then the day conspired to pick me up and throw me into a blender. As Robin would say, Holy Teeth Grinding…in case you are Batman-deficient, here’s a great compilation of some of Robin’s exclamations of holiness…

My favorites? Holy Sudden Incapacitation and Holy Knit 1 Purl 2. I wonder if Robin knits?

I think stress started in last night, and I’m not sure why, except that there are a lot of deadlines pressing on me at the moment and not enough time. So I couldn’t fall asleep until after 2 AM sometime last night, and then I was awake again at 4. I think I slept a little between then and 7, but not a lot. The kids went back to school today, so maybe that was it…who knows. I vowed to stay in my pajamas (something I really haven’t been able to do all Winter Break) at least until the health coach called. I started stitching down the Celebrating Silver quilt…

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I really thought I was going to be able to get this done today. Ha! The universe looks down on me, puny and small, and steps on me. Seriously. I got about an hour in. I was hoping the health coach could help with the sleep stuff, but she says I’m already doing everything, although she pointed me towards aromatherapy, which I did once upon a time. I just went and checked the medicine cabinet (which is not actually a cabinet any more, just a hole in the wall between studs because the old cabinet’s glass was slipping out, so I just took the whole mess out before it killed someone, and I’ve never been able to find a replacement that wouldn’t require changing the hole size in one direction or eleven), but there’s nothing. It’s OK. I got a glass of wine instead…because it’s 12:20 AM and I am WIRED. Like I’m going to vibrate out of the room. Not good. Grape aromatherapy.

So at 10:30 or so, everything was still according to plan. I showered (I got to stay in my pjs for a little while…the simple pleasures) and got my list together, and went to the auto-part store (windshield wipers), the hardware store (lightbulbs and replacement keys and extension cords), and the grocery store (boychild has expressed a shampoo preference that is DIFFERENT than his sister’s for the first time in 18.013 years). I came back, changed the wiper blades in 14 seconds flat (it has taken me 46 years of practice to be able to do that), filled up the car with all the oil I had (it’s going in on Wednesday), installed the lightbulb, threw out the stomped-on extension cord, put the keys together for the girlchild (who has been complaining about not having her OWN car keys), and declared the kids’ bathroom a national, no, INTERNATIONAL disaster area (I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with them in the future…and I think I know what they will be doing this weekend, if I have to scream and throw cat turds at them until they do it).

All good. It still wasn’t even lunch time. I was doing well.

Yeah. Then I got an email about the journal for the Earth Stories project. Shit. Dammit. Fuck. I bought the journal two weeks ago. I started trying to find photos for it, but I had stopped filing photos properly last March (normal for me…I usually only clean them out about twice a year, when I have to), and honestly had put off dealing with it because going through photos was just too damn painful. Fuck. Cannot put this off any more. She wants it now. What she wants doesn’t exist. She’s perfectly within her rights to want it now…I said I would do it by early January. It is early January. I did not state which year, but I suspect that doesn’t matter. Unless I can manufacture a deadly illness or necessary surgery right now (not a joking matter), I’m stuck. So I started going through photos…I thought I was going to be able to do this whole Google Docs thing (trying to get used to it for school purposes) and maybe work on it at the soccer game on the iPad, but I’ll write more about all that when I write a good long horrible post about how NOT to make a journal after the fact.

Boychild arrived home, criticized my lunch fare, and I went off to get the girlchild from school and fill the gas tank. While I’m pulling up to the gas station, my cell phone rings from Upland, California. I don’t know anyone in Upland, California (OK, maybe I do, but I don’t KNOW that I know they’re in Upland). I’m going to ignore it (I am driving), but girlchild asks to answer it, and promptly uses goofy voice and tells them, Yes, She IS Kathy Nida. Oops. Then quickly hands the phone to me when she realizes that pretending to be me is a big mistake, because the universe is after me today and I just don’t know it yet.

Thus begins a strange conversation. It’s Road to California, an annual quilt show. They want to know if I’ve shipped my quilt. Um. No? I didn’t get in. Yes you did. I didn’t get an email. It’s in your spam folder. It wasn’t, by the way…I do check all my spam and it never came…now I could have apparently checked online to see if I got in, but it meant logging in to my Road account, not just looking at an online list, and that was early December and apparently it never crossed my mind…I just assumed because they said they would only send emails to accepted artists that I hadn’t been accepted. Luckily, they did call me and were still willing to have me ship the quilt, because it was due back on December 27 (oops). So I’m in Road. Which I guess means I’m going to Road. And they took the naked one! I was shocked. So one of my uteri will be in Ontario (not Upland), California…January 23-26. I’m not going to show you a picture of it, because if you’re at Road, it will be the ONLY quilt with a uterus that is at Road. Seriously. Wanna bet?

So I walked in the door with the girlchild and realized I had no boxes, drove to UPS while girlchild went to her soccer game, then back home, packed up the quilt, had to ship through Fed Ex, drove to Fed Ex and dropped it off, then drove back home because I had forgotten my tea (crucial for surviving January soccer games), then to the soccer game (I was only 11 minutes late). Watched the girlchild play, stitched some feet, no fucking way is my plan of finishing three blocks in two games going to work at all, because I am too slow. Whatever.

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Yes, we are playing midgets here (not really…and we’re not supposed to call them that…this young dear thing actually pulled my daughter down later in the game…at least I think it was her…it might have been one of the other midgets).

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It was late afternoon…hence the pretty light…but most of my pictures were fuzzy crap due to the declining light. I don’t know why I try.

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I especially like how everything is tinged with orange, their team color…probably there was a very pretty sunset going on behind me, but I was too busy freaking out and stitching bird feet. Stitching does actually calm me down. Imagine how messed up I’d be right now if I hadn’t done that. At one point tonight, I sat down with the last of the heart disease comics to grade, opened them up, brain vomited panic and anxiety all over the page, and I put them away again.

Ironic that, because if I don’t get through all the grading soon, there will be a whole ‘nother level of anxiety going on.

I need time, dammit Spock…TIME. Spock seems better for that request than Robin…Robin doesn’t seem capable of helping at all, except to make me laugh. Holy Inappropriate Comment, Batman. Holy Pointy Ears, Batman. I hate being anxious like this. On the other hand, I often am uber-efficient when I’m this stressed. Holy Adrenaline Rush, Batman.

Luckily dinner was in the crockpot (I did that in the morning too) when we got home, and then I spent two or three hours manhandling photos and Google Docs and finally giving up and importing into Word, which was bitchy in a different way. Am I done? Fuck no. Don’t talk to me.

Oh! And I cut up a Christmas tree in the middle of all that, with the boychild’s help. In the dark. With a saw. And tried to fix the oven using the weird MacGyver device the oven guy left me (I failed at this attempt). And exercised, and meditated (in the 20-30 seconds when we are allowed to let our minds wander wherever they like, my brain performed dangerous karate fight moves and beat the crap out of someone. It’s OK…he deserved it…and it made me giggle.). And then I made the mistake of looking at college financial aid stuff, which just makes my head spin, and they want everything done by February 15, and that includes tax forms and statements and all this crap that has to be up-, down-, and side-loaded in 14 different locations. I guess the only people that get financial aid are those who have stamina. I have stamina, dammit. I do.

No more quilt action happened today. I did copy the missing pieces from the drawing I was taping yesterday (Fed Ex is where I copy, so I had the presence of mind to bring the sketchbook with me when I shipped the quilt).

I do wonder if I missed some crucial email from Road? I searched all my folders, including spam and deleted items…I have the confirmation that I entered and the email they sent today, but nothing else. I could have sworn I saw a rejection email, but maybe not. I just don’t know. I sometimes feel like I’m going crazy with all this stuff…I can barely keep track of what I need to get done on a minute-by-minute basis, and then this stuff happens…makes me wonder if I’m all there. Where? There. Over THERE.

Anyway. I’m hoping tomorrow is better. I’ve made a to-do list already. It makes me feel better, more organized and calm, to have the list. I have timing issues tomorrow, but if I’m wide awake in the morning, then I will take advantage and do the gym early…I work better on the art stuff at night, and that will free up time for that. Presumably the exercise will get rid of some of this crazy anxiety too. Hell, some of this is probably hormonal (I just realized this…you’d think I would learn that any crazy seesawing from one mood to another is of course that stupid-ass estrogen fucking with my system again). Holy Uterine Involvement, Batman! Anyway, just be glad you don’t live with me at the moment, although it would be nice to have some calm influence who rubbed my feet and back and made me a bubble bath and a cocktail (I don’t actually drink those or sit in those, in either order) and told me everything would be all right…not that I’d believe them…I don’t think I’ll ever trust anyone who says that to me again. Sad but true. But someday. Maybe. Maybe I will be allowed to have that. Fucking universe. Go fuck with someone else. You’ve messed with me enough.

The universe says, Yeah, but you got into a show that you didn’t even know you got into. Isn’t that a good thing? Well, universe, wouldn’t it have been OK to tell me on the normal date and have me be able to plan ahead to ship and all that? Yes, yes it would. And then I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering how crazy I really am.

All right…it’s 1 AM and I’m still wired. Holy Melatonin, Batman (doesn’t work on me), what next? Read a boring book…breathe deep…maybe the quilt fairy will come in the night and finish my stitching, or even better! Maybe the financial aid/tax fairy will come and do all THAT for me. Now that would be a useful fairy. Don’t even ask where the depression was today…front and center…when I write about creating the journal.

Wishful Thinking

I get to milestones and they don’t register. Or they don’t register correctly. You finished a step in making a quilt! Cool! Yup. Not feeling it. It’s almost worse getting a step done…because then I think, wow, you don’t feel any better, any different. You are still sad, depressed, slogging through the days, taking the next step and the next one, waiting for something to make a difference, to make your heart show up, to make the feelings get out of the sad realm. But they don’t. It’s just the same.

I ironed today.

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Every tree needs lightning bolts.

In the long run, it doesn’t really matter that I ironed today. I also helped the boychild with his college apps; we got through the worst of it (well, he still has to write essays and ask for recommendations, so that might be the worst of it, and I have to pay for all of it, which also could be painful). I cleaned a bathroom. I grocery-shopped. I wrote a quilt statement. I did a bunch of stuff that needed doing. I worked out. I added a new bunch of exercises to my regimen, because if I’m going to be an antisocial, lonely old lady, I might as well be a strong, buff, antisocial, lonely old lady who does not have osteoporosis. None of that really mattered. I don’t know what matters.

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I found the eyelid, after I had cut another one. That whole pile is pieces that I’ve found after I cut another one, or pieces I had cut out twice, or pieces that were totally the wrong color. I don’t know what to do with them. It seems mean to throw them out simply because I fucked up when I cut them out.

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I’ve found that most TV shows right now rub me the wrong way. People are so shitty to each other in relationships that I can’t handle it; it makes me feel sick. So I’m watching X-Files. Mulder is kind of a jerk sometimes, but he’s well-meaning. I can handle shows from the 90s. Great. And Masterpiece Theater Mystery. That’s about it.

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I didn’t start ironing until after 9, I think. I don’t know where the day went. It just went.

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Once I got it all ironed together, I pulled it off the ironing sheets and rolled it up while I got the background ready to go, ironed it flat and laid it out on the floor.

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I laid out the base first…the tree is easier to put down once the main section is ironed flat.

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That’s most of it…missing two toenails, a fingernail, some drops of blood, a question mark, some dots over i’s, and a plug. I did get those on too, but didn’t manage a photo of that. You’ll see it again, once it’s stitched down. I’m hoping to do that tomorrow. It’s about 40″ wide x 50″ high. Something like that. She’s not happy, is she. I drew this back in June…before my life fell into a crack in the earth. I guess she knew what was coming. But she’s not crying…

I have to admit to a new emotion that’s showing up in meditation. Why do I have to admit to it? Because it’s scary. Admitting to it will hopefully make it less so. What emotion? Fear. Straight up. I’m scared of my future (or lack thereof), I’m scared of not feeling safe and comfortable…like…almost…ever. I’m just plain scared. I thought I had the future figured out. I knew shit would happen…it always does…but I thought I could handle it. I didn’t know then that everything that made me feel safe would just be gone. Without any input from me, without any chance to have a say or work on things…just gone. And I know that’s what happens when you put trust in other people, which we have to do to be in this world. OK, some people don’t…it’s true…but I don’t want to be one of those people…I’m already a bit of a hermit, and I know I could go further along that road, and I may very well wander down there for a good long time. It’s quiet, there are very few people, and I don’t have to deal with other people’s stupid shit affecting me.

But I don’t like being scared. No one does. We rush around when we’re anxious and scared and we try to control everything so we feel better, safer, and it doesn’t really work. It’s inside us and we have to work on the part inside us that reacts to things; that’s what causes the fear. It’s not the other people, the things…it’s us. So if I see scared in meditation and I feel scared in meditation (and elsewhere), I just have to face it and figure out how to make it feel safer INSIDE me. Because that’s where it lives.

Tonight’s meditation kept talking about my mental state…and I kept thinking, “like California?” A state as in a physical place with a flag and a state flower and state bird and state motto, “In nothing we trust,” and a state tree. A state of mind. A state of being. A state of matter. And then Mr. Meditation started talking about the blue sky, and that’s when I lost it…my state? The theory is that the blue sky is always there. It may be obstructed by clouds, sometimes light and feathery and easy to push through, and sometimes big and black and dark and thick…but if you just push through, you can see the blue sky. I don’t know how thick the layer of big black clouds is, but I can’t see the sky. I know it’s there, though, and that makes me sad…knowing it exists and I can’t see it, I can’t figure out how to get high enough to see the blue. It’s there though.

So yeah, that makes me cry. I’m fucking hopeless some days.

And during the 20 seconds when we’re meant to let the brain just do what it needs to do, and we sit back and observe and “note”…it’s screaming…full on screaming its head off…and I’m crying. That’s not stepping back. That’s not noting. That’s responding. That’s watching the movie and feeling it in your gut, your heart, where your heart used to be but where there’s a giant sucking hole now. That place.

Boychild sent me this link to the DSM-5 reviewed as a dystopian novel. It’s actually fairly amusing, especially when you know you’re experiencing a few of the things in there. I should just think of my life as a fucked-up dystopian novel, write it as a book, and make a couple million (someone’s debut novel just made them that amount…seriously? What am I doing wrong? Oh yeah. I’m not writing a book.).

I realized today that I had meant to ink the Earth Stories quilt, but then I forgot. Or something. My brain not being itself and all. So it’s photographed for the catalog already, but I didn’t ink it. So I was thinking…should I ink or should I not? It doesn’t ship until March or April of next year. I have time. How the fuck did I forget the inking? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. My brain, it wanders off and does things without telling me, and I don’t find out for days or weeks after. I could just leave it alone (the quilt, not my brain…my brain needs me to pay attention to it). Fuck. I don’t know. Does it matter if it’s different than the catalog? It probably won’t be hugely noticeable? I don’t know. I will have to keep thinking about it. Maybe I could think about that instead of all the angst my brain currently dwells upon.

Wishful thinking.