Thanks for Showing Me Your Swiss Army Knife*

My cat freaks me out. I’m sitting here, typing at (staring at?) the computer, and she’s sitting there watching me, and then all of a sudden, she snaps her head up toward the ceiling and is STARING, like there’s a demon punching through the ceiling, so I stop (immediately) what I’m doing and stare at whatever space of bumpy ceiling SHE is staring at…and I see nothing. All the hairs on the back of my neck are up, but…ghost? Bug? She’s just fucking with me? I just don’t know.

Yeah, like WTF is that, cat?

Right now, there’s a dog under my feet, trying to catch the cereal I drop. I do drop cereal. He’s not stupid. It’s a smart place to be. Not a very fulfilling life, if you ask me, but he does ask for (and get) lots of pets.

I’ve made this pattern of getting the hell off school campus at least once a week to take the dogs out. It’s so much easier when we get more daylight (I think we’re past 5:15 PM for sunset at this point, so that helps)…I’m glad we chose (well, I chose) this hike yesterday, because there was lots of water still. Straight in front of us is the path…underwater.

It’s OK…it doesn’t take much to go around it.

There was water everywhere…

Friday we had like 3/4s of an inch…plus more on Saturday and Monday. That’s a lot for us.

It was chilly here yesterday…in fact, I think it was warmer where the girlchild is in Boston than it was here.

Nice clear skies though…we were pushing sunset, as always.

We saw one baby coyote, giant ears, rushing toward a hiding spot. And the vernal pool was full.

Just a few weeks ago, it was totally empty. Or at least only a damp spot. Ah nature.

Then back to the house and a million tasks, including a dinner made by moi. I was surprisingly efficient (although I didn’t spell either of those two words correctly the first time…I’m tired.). I spent some time dealing with emails and a list of possible pieces for my upcoming solo show in Pittsburgh. Looking forward to that…and this guy, still needing pets.

Never-ending mopey furball. He’s sweet. When he’s not barking his mad little head off.

Oh yeah, I also set fire to a lot of things in science today…

There was a lot of squealing for that.

Well it’s finally time for quilting this beast. It won’t be fast or easy, but it’s fun.

I didn’t get very far…I only had about an hour and a bit. First I had to fight the thread a little bit. As always. Every time, the machine has to be set up slightly differently to work right. It’s a guessing game. Plus this thing is huge, so it has to be manhandled to quilt it. Anyway, I guess you know what I’ll be doing with the next 20 hours of my free time. I do need to get it done though. The next one doesn’t exist on paper yet and it’ll be due sooner than I like…and the one after it is soonish too, and I’ll be on Spring Break for part of it, freezing my ass off in some campsite.

I’m looking forward to that actually.

So I got Figure 1’s bottom half done, and part of the hand that crosses her from Figure 5…

And then I wandered over into Figure 2…

There was some logic to how I did the stitchdown, and I seem to be following that order for the quilting. I should think about quilting all the in-between spaces as I do the outlining…maybe admit now that I will be using the same color? Or not. Decisions.

Right now, the decision is to get my act together and go to work. And be a productive member of society. Or at least get some grading done. That would be good.

*Laurie Anderson, Let X=X

Your Brain Just Caught on Fire*

What pithy thoughts do I have for a Thursday? Why do the powers-that-be at certain social-media sites have to make life so difficult? I’ve spent more time in the last 5 days trying to make them all Get Along than I have sleeping I think. Ironic, since that’s what I do with kids all day long. Get Along Dammit. I made a kid cry yesterday. Well, that’s not true. The situation made him cry, and it was because of something he didn’t do, but I essentially called him on it, so he cried. It’s not the first time…one of the things I love about middle schoolers is that they straddle little kid and teenager in such an intriguing and (let’s be honest here) fully annoying way. But this one made me feel bad for a variety of reasons…and I asked the class to help me try to make him feel better, and they freakin’ rocked it. I love that. Their empathy is sometimes lacking…but sometimes it overflows and reminds you that they will all grow up to be adults and hopefully kind and loving. Ideally, they will also be able to step back a bit and not sob over scores on assignments…although sometimes I sob over their answers. So there’s that.

I got out of there fast, because sunset still comes early and I wanted to walk those dogs. I couldn’t do it on our normal day, Monday, due to the hellishly long staff meeting.

They like it. I like it. The boychild might even like it. Hard to say.

We had a few friends…

Still pushing the sunset window.

Those coyotes mostly ignored us, luckily.

Came home and gained a dog. The parentals are heading north to my bro and fam.

Making this household a little crazy for a while. We hid all the dog toys, and Katie promptly found two more. Then Calli had stashed one and brought it out too. Katie destroys toys. Plus the dogs fight over them. Three is a pack. Two is manageable. Still jealous, but manageable.

I brought home stuff to grade. I just refused to do it once I got home. Two brains at war. Here’s who won…

I finished Figure 5 and the head for Figure 4…

I’m always fascinated by the back, which gets sewn into the quilt, never to be seen again.

Six hours in. Am I halfway? I close my eyes and visualize the whole thing. Yeah, I think I am. Maybe more. Hugely behind on my grading though. What’s new? I just need progress. And that I have.

*SWMRS, April in Houston

‘Cause There’s Beauty in the Breakdown*

You’d think after a day off, I’d be all rested and stuff, but apparently not eating for the first 6 hours plus of the day throws my body off. It’s still complaining. It will get over it. I did manage 4 hours of ironing and a dog walk in between all the work stuff I did…I wrote sub plans for the two days I’ll be in Boston, I graded half of the videos I needed to watch, I set up at least one post for today, and I finished next week’s warmups (which I have to remember to post while I’m gone). A lot of remembering will need to happen while I’m gone. If I’m smart, I’m going to calendar that shit so I don’t forget. I can schedule things on Google Classroom, but only one class at a time, which is a pain. I might do that anyway, though, because I don’t trust the remembering part of my brain to do it on time. That would be disastrous. The sub would hate me.

So the ultrasound seemed to be a lot of Hold Your Breath and the nice radiology lady wishing my ribs were not where they actually were. I’m only a little bruised this morning. It’ll be fine. I figure they’ll try calling me at work tomorrow and we’ll play phone tag all day, and I won’t get a hold of the doctor until I’m boarding a plane. So there we are. The blood tests have ruled out some of the scarier diagnoses so far, so I’m still betting on an alien. It hurts in exactly the same place it did when I was really pregnant with the girlchild and she was using my organs as soccer balls. (No, I’m not pregnant. That’s not happening. But aliens might.). Anyway. Waiting sucks. As you all know.

So ironing…fitting the flesh pieces together. There isn’t much of this fabric left.

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Then after the ultrasound and FOOD and water, we took the dogs out. It gets dark so early…

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Where the sun is…that’s where Calli and the boychild are…beating me up the hill.

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Calli’s tongue hanging out all over the place…

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So we’re on the way back and there’s this hawk facing away from us, but I start talking to us and it turns its head all the way around to look at us. Piercingly. Thinking WTF is that woman doing.

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Talking to you. That’s what I’m doing. Pretty bird. I don’t think I knew they could do that with their heads, although it makes sense.

I came back, did some work stuff, alphabetized purple and white pieces of paper so I could grade that section of the National Park Project more easily. Then made it back in here for another 2 hours of ironing. I finished all the innards (mostly) before the ultrasound…so then I started on the water plumes that are all over. Mostly I just did the water bits though. There were lots of them…

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This is all the stuff that’s IN the water or ON the water (oil slick etc.) that I haven’t done. That’s tonight, I’m hoping, although it’s a lot to do in one night. Lots of fussy little details.

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Plastic bottles and bags and fish nets and fishing boats and I think there’s a Humboldt squid in there as well. So that’s not a small amount of things that are left. I know I laid out all the pieces through number 991. I know I ironed down all the way through the 700s, and then a goodly chunk of the 800s and 900s were water, so they’re done. That leaves maybe 100 pieces? So maybe I can do it tonight.

Here’s the chaotic pile of stuff I worked on yesterday, plus everything that’s ready to be cut out.

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Then I organized. Much better. Deep breath. I can find stuff again. More color now. You can almost see my left brain fighting with my right brain over this stuff. My left brain wants to go back and organize better by color. My right brain says there’s no point, because we’re going to pull a lot of them back out tonight and mess it up again.

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Hi Kitten. You’re in my chair.

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Like she cares.

Simba is with the boychild, at the ex’s house, so Satchemo was free to sleep in Simba’s bed. The crate is open…I try to remember to check for Satch before I put Simba in there at night…

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Apparently it’s the best bed ever.

OK, high-maintenance school stuff today, waiting on results, tired already. Need to pack, need to finish prep for being gone, need to finish ironing.

*Frou Frou, Let Go

Anchored Down in Anchorage*

Have you noticed that mornings are darker? Yes, winter, and yes, daylight savings time is coming (or NOT daylight savings time…I’m never really sure when we are in REAL time and when we are in FAKE time or what any of that means). So it’s harder for me to wake up in the dark and it’s harder to not trip over the dogs on the stroll down the hallway to the place where all the pet foods are (I have a train of furry beasts in the morning). It’s not a stroll…they are rushing toward the food bowls as if it’s the end of the world…except for Calli, who stops to scratch. Her skin is awful right now. Lots of medicated baths.

Sometimes (because I live in Southern California) I have to stop and think explicitly about what season it is. Although I’ve started wearing a sweater to school every morning, so it’s not early Fall or late Spring. I know, shut up. I got that. I like my weather mostly.

Yesterday afternoon was delightful for walking. The poison oak knows it is Fall…all of a sudden, it’s changing color rapidly. There’s poison oak in my newest quilt.

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It was sunny in the morning, but the afternoon was lovely and cloudy and a bit chill, but not really. There’s wind out here.

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I always wish I knew more about the rocks and formations around my home. Strange rock outcroppings abound.

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We went all the way out to the water bridge. It’s old. It’s protected.

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It’s somewhat dangerous looking. The mountain lion signs are still up.

The dogs got tired. Really, that’s the purpose…plus me getting exercise. Perhaps getting out into nature.

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Calli was certainly tired out.

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I ate. I graded. And then I traced the last 170 or so pieces.

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Grading seems a never-ending thing. I’m getting close to caught up, if I ignore the major unit being turned in on Thursday, plus a comic strip, and then another project due the following Monday. Because I’m crazy. But we were smart enough not to assign any additional homework for two weeks. Because then we’d have to grade it.

I finished tracing just before midnight (I started late). It took almost 12 hours and ended up being about 5 yards of Wonder Under.

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Usually it takes me an hour to cut out one yard…so that’s the next two or three nights, I think. Depending on other stuff. So ironing to fabric by the weekend? It means I need to go buy background fabric. Or look at what’s in my stash and see if there’s enough of anything that will work.

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On to the next phase of this one. Getting close to the fun phase. It’s not that tracing Wonder Under isn’t fun…it’s meditative trying to fit all the pieces in while tracing. But sometimes it’s boring or tiring, depending on how much standing I’ve been doing. Progress is good though. I need to finish this one in a little over a month, which I can easily do, except there’s some traveling in there too…so that’s a constraint. Anyway…it’s going to be an awesome quilt even if I don’t finish it within the deadline. So there’s that.

*Michelle Shocked, Anchorage

Brain Fuzz

I’m not finding any words in my head this morning. Part of it is that it’s early and I’m not functional yet. Another part is that my brain is drawing things out, testing out ideas, and that uses up a big chunk of available brainspace…apparently the part that comes up with words and coherent thoughts is a part of that. So I chug another large mouthful of tea, hoping my brain reappears sometime soon. Apparently the part that spells is here, because it’s correcting all the finger mistakes I’m making due to tiredness.

I have this one assignment that I’m having a hard time grading…it’s very draining and time-consuming, but there’s this one kid who keeps bugging me about when I’m going to grade it…it’s not like it will make or break him. I have to write a bunch of corrections when I grade them, so that’s why I avoid it. I’ll do it…it’s just taking me a while to get through it. I should just set a goal of a class worth of that every night until I’m done. I SHOULD. Or maybe just grade his so he’ll stop bugging me.

Walked the dogs. We haven’t been to this part for a while. There were signs up about a mountain lion sighting.

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Great. Well. Yeah, we hiked anyway.

I cooked dinner…and then worked on the binding for about 2 1/2 hours…

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While watching Dr. Who, amongst other things. Hooray for the female doctor. I still need to sew the sleeves on and then contact the photographer. Almost done.

Simba has been really cranky lately.

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Don’t know why.

I drew after that. The plan is to enlarge it today after school.

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Because I need to see the whole available space before I can do the rest. Makes sense. Maybe I can have some of my brain back once I’ve finished drawing. I will draw tonight, but I don’t think I’ll finish…but that’s OK. If I finish drawing by the weekend and start tracing, I should be OK. This one can’t be huge…big, but not huge. It would be nice to have my brain back before the weekend though.

OK, brain fuzz. Sheesh.

Make Good Choices

I’ve spent at least an hour in my head trying to figure out when to set up my classroom for tomorrow’s test. I need some of the materials on the desks for today, I have tutoring after school, and then chiropractor right after that. I guess it’s tomorrow morning. But that was the 4 AM brain. Like shut up, 4 AM brain. I could’ve figured that out today some time. I didn’t need to waste sleep time on that. Make good choices, man. Make good choices.

Speaking of good choices, I raced home from work and grabbed the dogs and the boychild and headed out. We have the outside edge of a tropical storm, was a hurricane, hanging around, making it muggy as shit and only 3 drops of rain are allowed to fall, which is crazy stupid. But the clouds look nice.

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We took yet another weird trail. Boychild doesn’t like to do the same path every time. He blames Simba. Maybe the dogs don’t either. They want different smells. Interestingly, if we’d done our normal path, we would have passed the coyote we saw later as well.

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Instead, we kamikazed up this hill…and picked up part of a different trail…

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But there he was, at the junction of the trail we’re normally on. I say he, like I did with the lizard, but maybe they’re both female. We just don’t know.

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It’s closer than I like being to them (I’m sure they’re closer than that on a regular basis, but somehow it’s better when you can’t see them watching you)…especially with the snack we call Simba. It’s easier when I’m not alone though. He stopped and stared at us a lot. I waved and yelled hi.

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Like you do. Hey Julie…does this belong out in the wild? There was more than one of them…the stem at back probably was the tall version before the flowers died. Lily-like.

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Probably doesn’t belong, but who knows. I’ve seen stranger things out there.

I came home and was tired…we did more than we usually do, and I think I was already done in before I started. Lab days with water! Take your life into your own hands. Boychild cooked dinner…’twas good. Then I should have graded some, but I was too tired. Eventually I found the energy to come in here and start quilting…

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But it took a long time to get the tension right, for some reason. I broke the thread like 4 times, re-threaded every time, changed out the needle, swore a bit, and finally got it functional…

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After fighting with it for so long, I didn’t have much patience or energy for continuing to fight the quilt around the machine. I know I got in a little more than an hour though, so that’s progress.

My trusty quilting companions…

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There was a cat in there too. And when I went into the other room, I had 4 out of the 5 with me…2 on the couch next to me. You cannot be alone in this house, not even in the bathroom.

Today is going to be a long day, but I’m hoping to get back in here and quilt some more. It’s honestly not very big, so it shouldn’t take very long. I’m not sure if I have thread for the background though. I should check that. Not right now, though. Right now, I need to get ready for work. Demo day…no down time. Fun stuff.

Just One More Peaceful Day*

I haven’t had time to draw in a while. I used to draw a lot more. I’d like to draw more. One I think I do draw is cover pages for science. I also draw when I have a specific piece or exhibit in mind. In science, every unit has a cover page that’s about the upcoming topic. It gives the kids a chance to sort of check out the subject matter, google a bunch of stuff about whatever we’re studying, and start to use some vocabulary words. For me, it’s a chance to draw and color for a good portion of the day. I even sit at their tables with them and color (I usually pick the most disruptive table, so there is a purpose to my madness). Yesterday was such a day…the beginning of Unit 2. I also got a bunch of grading done, so I don’t feel bad about taking a break to hang out and draw.

So the next unit is earth science…

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I illustrated some of the vocab words…and then I got to color.

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It just took 5 tries to get that picture to load. Internet, wifi, computer, whatever it really is, I’m about to scream. So many struggles. I know, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just frustrating.

When I got home from school, after hanging out at Michael’s and trying to find things that would fit in a graduated cylinder (don’t ask…it’s the life of a science teacher)…we took all three dogs out for a long tiring walk.

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At no point in time did my legs get excited about this walk. I was excited. I was breathing in the air…looking at the landscape, taking in the outdoor existence. All good. But my legs were like lumps of wood that I dragged along on the trip. Also, the puppy was like that. Uphill was torture for him. Apparently he spent 4 hours racing around in the morning and he was tired.

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So we made him more tired. All of them really, because then Calli basically collapsed at my feet for the next 4 hours. Right there. Not moving. So I cut stuff out for about 4 hours too.

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I just refused to do any schoolwork. Looking back on it, that was lame. But I did it. It’s done. It is what it is. Moving on.

At several points, I almost quit cutting because it’s not the most exciting thing in the world to do and sometimes those pieces are a pain in the butt to cut out. All the little tiny flesh pieces, for example, kind of drive me nuts. Yes, I know I drew them, but that doesn’t mean I like cutting them out. Not every part of the process is fun and games.

Anyway, I got down to this…

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And I’m looking at the clock, knowing I would have to be up a bit early this morning, and I’m thinking, ah, what the heck. Just finish tomorrow. Except I already know I have a meeting and probably really will have to grade something and I really should just do it. Well, you know me. I did just do it.

Here’s the whole quilt, ready to be ironed together. That’s about 8 hours of cutting…

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It doesn’t look like much. I don’t know if I’ll be able to start tonight…maybe a little bit? I have a meeting and I need to grade some stuff. It does feel like the grading never ends. In fact, I’m going to do some now. Before work. I think. And then hopefully I can get this ironed together by early next week. That’s the plan anyway.

*Staind, It’s Been Awhile