A Game with Added Reality*

So I’m trying to add the meditation back into my daily practice (I really need 2 or 3 more hours of awake time a day, and that’s problematic). I’m not sure it’s helping yet. Certainly my brain hasn’t seemed to shut the fuck up around bedtime since I’ve started…and yes, that’s WHY I started. Maybe it’s like anti-depressants…it takes two weeks to start working. Anyway, I’m paying for the not-sleep right now. Should be a good day. I’m setting fires all day in class. Actual fires. No biggie. I don’t need to be alert for that. It’ll be fine. (Fills jug with water for counter next to fire implements.) Should remember hair tie.

Things I have in my head from school: too much grading that is not done and time-consuming, one kid acting out and constantly angry and disruptive with no obvious solution, another kid very needy but trying mostly with lots of hand-holding when I have time which is not every day, about 5 kids who need parent-meeting follow-up but I haven’t found the time, one kid who needs all the text blown up to 18 pt or larger and shortened assignments, all the things I’ve probably forgotten that I’m supposed to do. Oh yeah, and the kid who hasn’t come back yet. Sigh. So there’s that.

Here’s a message from one of those kids though.

So you wonder how we stay in teaching. We aren’t saints. It’s this crazy shit.

After work, I kamikazed to some office park in the rain, with a rainbow stretching across the sky, after dealing with one really cranky kid and one kid who was trying to do his work in detention after school. I hate detention, but sometimes there are behaviors that need handling and that is one way to handle them. So I did it. And then went to a union training, where my daughter’s high-school English teacher sat behind me. Small world.

Then back home to grading and dinner and Katie the parents’ dog finally getting to see her family again. Oh wait, and listening to that fucktard that is our president. There was a lot of yelling at the television. The SIL even called, because she was in the car, yelling at the radio. Katie didn’t leave right away…this was after I cleaned the entryway floor so I could pinbaste that quilt, but it was wet out and the parents tracked mud in and so I spot-cleaned it. I kinda knew that would happen, but I didn’t want to do the whole floor that late, after they showed up. A trail of muddy footprints was easy enough to clean up. I don’t feel organized most days, but that was pretty organized thinking for the end of the day.

I had to finish piecing the back. I hate piecing, but I have all these long skinny pieces of stuff leftover from other quilt backgrounds, so I pieced the leftovers…

Part of trying to use up all the fabric…like that’s possible…or even a thing. I used 6 different fabrics…

And now there is not much left of any of them. Good. Goal reached. No new fabric, old stuff used up. I had this huge pile of stuff I use for backgrounds and now it is half the size. Much better.

And then I set to making this thing go together…

I would be hard-pressed to go much bigger…I could move the bench. I’ve done that before.

All laid out…

There’s always a cat somewhere around when I do this. In fact, the bathroom is just to the left. I went in there to pee and when I came out, he was sitting on it. Later he was out in the living room, because I made him go out there.

He was not happy about it. Ironic, since there’s a cat on the quilt right there. On the left. Not a real furry one who leaves bits all over it! This thing has enough fur on it already.

Pinbasting…still the fastest, easiest, least respiratory-offensive method to put these together.

Although I’m fairly sure the backing has got some issues. I don’t really care right now. It will be quilted to death. Everything will behave.

Or else be swallowed.

I have a title for this quilt somewhere. It’s something about swallowing. Nothing gross or sexual, nothing about food…this quilt is so NOT about food. It’s really my brain. Complicated thing, isn’t it? Anyway. It’s pinned. Ready for quilting. I have enough thread to start…I’ll probably run out at some point. So I wrote the color numbers down somewhere. I can start though. Tonight.

*Depeche Mode, Master and Servant

That’ll Do

Ah yes, dogs and rain. One dog doesn’t mind, trundles out in all weather, although needs a friend when it’s dark. She gets scared. The other one runs out, pees as fast as possible, sometimes still on the pavement, then yips to come back in and refuses to be toweled down. Kind of an asshole. The other hides when it’s raining, pretending he doesn’t really have to go out for hours on end, until he’s desperate. Totally an asshole. This morning, the good one, the one who doesn’t mind weather, had a poop fail. Gaack. My morning, nauseated. Oh well. I don’t really need to eat breakfast. Oh wait, yes I do. The little one, the one who hides, ran out and did his thing with no complaints. He must have been desperate. The other one, who’s leaving tonight (the cats will appreciate free reign over the house again…reign, not rein, right? In this case?), did a lot of barking and scratching at the door. The rain will stop soon and hopefully that will help.

Yesterday was a mess. The lab went well, although rushed because we had short periods. We’ll catch up today. I came home and went to the gym, which is good, but it kicked my butt for getting anything else done apparently. Well, not entirely true. I did a bunch of computer stuff, booked a hotel for our LA trip in May to see Amanda Palmer, excited about that. Sent the girlchild food money on her school account. Very exciting that. Sent out a bunch of emails about photos for an exhibit I need to put on a blog for an art group. Finished my book. Well, that was at the gym. I meditated. That was good. I might have fallen asleep quicker? Or that might just have been how tired I was from not sleeping the night before. Worried about a student. Can’t do anything about it, of course. I’ll worry until I know something, and the fun part about that is that I might never know. I still worry about this kid I had when I was a student teacher in 2001. Seriously. I wonder if she’s OK. Can’t remember her name, but I still wonder. Worry.

So did I make art? Well, sort of. I was trying to let my brain stop running like it was on fire, so I reconciled the daily calendar, which was a clusterfuck until around 10 PM…up until then, I had one thing crossed off and 72 things clamoring for my attention. I moved some stuff further off than today, talked to the guy about some things and moved them into a different list, and just plain old moved some to the weekend. Sigh. And then I drew. I knew I couldn’t make any progress on the quilt last night…not enough time or energy. I needed a good 2-hour block (maybe tonight?). So I drew a little picture…

Still working out the ideas for the next quilt…this drawing stuff helps quiet my brain down.

I wish I could sleep like this guy…

I don’t think he worked very hard yesterday, but here he is. He probably has fewer responsibilities.

OK. Well so yesterday wasn’t a great day for achievements. Today can be better. Just don’t think about the 2-hour workshop after school. Today I pinbaste. That’s my only goal. Well, and eat right, drink plenty of water when I have access to a bathroom (problematic), have healthy conversations with 12-year-olds, get some grading done, and drive safe. There we go. That’ll do.

There Is a House in New Orleans*

Another rainy morning. I might need to buy some real rain gear if this keeps up. I’m not quite ready mentally for this week. I did prep the science lab for today before I left Friday. All I have to do is pour the grape juice. I did the water and baking soda ahead of time, but thought the ants might have too much fun with the juice. I haven’t seen ants this year, except for the first day after they had all those teachers in our rooms, and they left their lunch remains in my trash cans…I know better than to do that. My school was built on an anthill.

As always, I got a bunch done this weekend, but not enough. C’est la vie. I do what I can.

I spent most of Saturday grading stuff…sitting in here with 2 out of the 3 dogs…

It wasn’t very exciting…but it rained a lot. Not as much as on Friday, despite the warnings, but enough.

A lovely view.

And eventually I went back to the stitchdown…

But I didn’t finish. I wanted to, but I was really tired. Sleep seemed like the best option. It was a good decision, because I got hardly any sleep last night. Brain won’t Shut Up.

Sunday was the same mix of errands and household/work tasks that always fill up my first official day of the week. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the dogs out today, so we went yesterday…it was gorgeous out (good choice).

Everything is green…except for the trees that haven’t come into leaf yet. The rain had moved this bridge…most of the dogs jumped across.

Calli just waded over. She likes water…

The boychild tried to move the bridge back, but it’s heavy and I couldn’t help because I was holding three dogs. We don’t usually see water here…

It’s nice to see it occasionally.

Water on the path, draining down into the creek.

Someday I will remember to put a towel in the car…

There was no escaping the mud…although this was one option…

There will be lots of fire danger this summer.

It was a beautiful day for a walk though…lots to smell and explore…

We were going to go up the hill instead of across the bridge, but the stream went across that path and there were no rocks big enough to cross…so this is the view down from the bridge.

There’s usually water there anyway, but not quite this much.

Katie enjoyed this random pool of water.

Apparently she is sort of a water dog. When she chooses…

Then there was this, coming back…listen carefully…

The babies talk…we could see them up on the slope. And then mom and dad answer from the stream bed directly across, right where we’d been before. I’m sure you can imagine that conversation. “I told you not to leave the den.” “Mom, you said to call if someone came near.” “They’re nowhere near you. Get back in the den.” “Moooommm.”

Fun stuff. The only dog that reacted to the coyotes though was the little one. The other two just stood there.

They were all tired last night…a good thing. I stitched during the post-dinner TV moments…and he slept.

Sunday’s project is moons…a place for some handwork to happen.

The beginning of that is making some scenes or places for the moons to occur. Embroidery to follow. Lots of it. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what actually happens. That’s what I wanted with this daily project…some projects getting done finally, and some things I’ve wanted to try getting tried. I get tied up in deadlines on the art quilts and I never get to do other stuff. So there are two projects in the rotation that will allow that.

I finally went in to do this…

The last hour and a half of stitchdown. Finally!

Kitten agrees.

Actually mostly she said Pet Me. Loudly and insistently. I did a lot of that.

Then I checked the back, looking for things I missed, like this.

Three snakes. All of them have two eyeballs on the front…only one had two eyeballs on the back. So I fixed that.

The back is pretty fascinating.

And soon to be covered up for good…

I started piecing the backing out of leftover bits from other quilt fronts. I need to use up stuff before buying more. I hate piecing big pieces, but I’ll survive. I didn’t finish though. Stayed up too late, because my brain was racing. Tried to slow it down. Hopefully tonight I’ll finish piecing it and be able to pinbaste. We’ll see if I have time. So far there are 5 different fabrics on the backing, and I’ll need at least one more. Which is fine. I’ve had this pile of leftover pieces just lying around for ages. This is good.

It took 9 1/2 hours to stitch it down…I think I guessed 10. Not bad. I suspect quilting will be over 20 hours, easily. Looking forward to it. This quilt is taking much longer than I expected.

OK, but before that, I’ve got an early meeting, I’m running labs, I have a shitload of grading still, and it’s still raining, I think. Fun stuff.

*The Animals, House of the Rising Sun

It’s All Possible Right Now

‘Tis Saturday morn and the wind comes and goes, some large droplets splash down between the tree branches, always hitting my glasses. Seriously, they never miss. I hear the sounds of a big dog slurping an entire water bowl up, which means she’ll need to pee soon, and the whisking of the last 4 eggs in the house. Boychild must be making breakfast. Note to self: buy more eggs. My breakfast? Triscuits and pub cheese with horseradish. I can’t be bothered to be more creative. No eggs too. My blood sugar is some weirdo anyway. It doesn’t behave the way it’s supposed to. At some point, I’ll have to go back to the doc to figure that out.

Yesterday was exhausting. I’m not sure why. Maybe just because it was Friday. I had to prep Monday’s lab ahead of time…probably better to be prepared anyway. This chemistry unit is high maintenance…the kids are engaged, fully, but it’s a mess to clean up and a pain to set up. We try not to do labs three days in a row…it’s too much. Put a weekend between them. Or a day of something else. That said, they did awesome with the Oobleck…very few issues. I’m glad.

I worked when I got home…got through one assignment and inputted about four. This is the weekend of work, for sure. I need to get closer to caught up. That’s the plan. It’s supposed to dump down rain, so that should help.

Grading happened on the couch with this little one grunting in his dreams…

The little gray one trying to climb into my lap or onto the computer…

And eventually settling down. Boychild fed me something that looked like it would be weird from the ingredients, but as always, was quite tasty. That’s when my blood sugar went whackadoodle though, by no fault of the meal…it was well below the carbs I should have been able to handle. So I got on the bike and continued to read my book for 45 minutes or so. After that, I was too damn tired to do any sewing. That’ll be later today.

I did draw though.

Because I didn’t want to feel like I hadn’t done anything dammit. I hate that feeling. I’m not going to have that feeling today. First I’m going to shower like I’m leaving the house. Then I’m putting my pajamas back on. Then I will grade stuff and prep for next week, followed by finishing the stitch down. I might venture out. You never know. It is supposed to rain a lot, but whatever. I need some plants. I might do that. I might even do another drawing. It’s all possible right now.

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

Working on Everything…

I think my brain just slipped into over-overdrive. It’s always sort of in overdrive anyway. Sometimes I wish I were sitting on a remote island beach somewhere or the deck of a cabin deep in the mountains, away from everyone, so that all I could do is just stare out, read my book, draw a little, maybe talk to one or two people (MAYBE) for a short time. But away from all the emails and computers and the house (which demands attention) and work and deadlines. Hmmm. I bet this is what some people do on vacation. I guess we do too…I just don’t get enough vacations. And not by myself! I really would like to do an artist’s residency somewhere remote some day. My own space where I can work and then in the evenings, maybe come together with other artists to eat dinner, but mostly just be in my space, go for walks, sit outside and stare at nature. Talk to myself more than I already do. Someday I will figure out how to do that and the rest of it too. Something has to give. Maybe this summer? Thinking about it.

I was alone in the house last night for a while, but it was after a long LOUD day (sometimes it’s just too loud at a middle school, you know? Mostly I can ignore it), so I just read. And then cooked. And then read some more. And tried to solve all these problems for my art groups, and wondered why some people are so argumentative (I’m probably one of those people). Or uncommunicative. Sigh. I have too much to do these days.

Yesterday’s sunset from the pet food store…

This was after I went to the warehouse store and the guy in line ahead of me asked why I was buying so much cornstarch. This is often a question I ask myself.

Anyway, eventually, after connecting with the one human who finally showed up here, I finally went and sewed. I should have gone earlier, in terms of completing art, but that’s OK.

I worked on stitching down the whole torso and all the arms (OK, there are only two) on Figure 5…

And I got about halfway through her head. That was after midnight…so only an hour in. Geez. Well. I should start earlier. I did grade things too…earlier. Forgot about that. So it’s not that I didn’t get a lot done…it’s that I didn’t get to do art a lot. Working on it. Working on everything. Honestly, that might be my mantra. After tonight, I want to feel like I have completed a significant amount of the stitchdown on this piece. There. It’s a goal.

High Life Filtered Through the Lo-Fi*

So I was entering a show last night, deciding what to submit, resizing photos, and picking details, and I realized how political or in-your-face some of my more recent quilts have been. Usually when I enter a show, I’ll put one or two of those pieces in, but then have a “safe” piece for the juror(s) to pick, just in case. They don’t always pick that one, which is nice…it’s how Rooted in America got into at least one show, for sure. I appreciate jurors willing to ignore possible controversies in honor of the message or the art. I didn’t do that for this show, though, and that’s OK. I really am OK with not getting in…even though I get cranky about it in the moment. I want my work to go where it’s appreciated. I don’t enjoy making the news cycle and/or twenty thousand people messaging me about why my work should or shouldn’t have been pulled from an exhibit. It irritates me that people are that narrow-minded, of course.

So this quilt is not political. It’s mental. OK, it’s about what goes on in our brains when we’re dealing with the world. In my world, I deal with about 140 OTHER people’s kids and all their stuff before I can deal with my own. Or sometimes at the same time as I deal with my own. Certainly some days it is easier than others…apparently my whole team was losing their shit on Friday, and I had a totally chill, mellow day. Might have been what I gave them to do that day, which was its own version of self care. Today though we are still doing a lab, which is usually pretty good, because they are engaged, although this one uses fire (controlled by me), and one of my guys might lose his mind today over that. We’ll see.

Anyway, it was a long day yesterday. Two-hour staff meetings suck. My brain turns off about halfway through, and sometimes earlier. It was also a difficult topic, although we skated over the worst of it and focused on what they did afterwards. Honestly, the most difficulty I had was when I realized I was that much older than everyone at the table…I actually was a working adult when Waco happened…no one else was. Sigh. But I find it’s easier if I draw through the long meetings, no matter what the topic is…so I did this.

Interesting. Keeps me from falling asleep anyway.

So I just had to get up and take a paper pattern away from the dog. She gets anxious in the morning for no apparent reason and wants to eat paper. It could be a book, a pattern, a napkin, piano music, or whatever (her favorite is pads of post-it notes). She’s annoying. She has a bone right in front of her. I fed her and petted her and discussed her life choices. Sigh.

So after the meeting, I came home and cooked…gonna have to rethink that meal in terms of blood sugar. So complicated some times. But I tried this, romesco. It was like a mellow broccoli.

Runs a bit toward cauliflower. Honestly, it looks cooler than it tastes. But it looks fascinating.

Then I entered the show, did some other stuff I needed to get done, and started stitch down…

I can’t really tell you how much I’ve gotten done in fractions or percentages. I have everything under the arm with the fishes done, on the right side…so the bottom half of Figure 1, Figure 2 mid-chest, and then one arm and wing of Figure 5. That doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well it’s not. That’s why. I didn’t have any issues with the machine last night…I just started late.

Tonight I’m going to need to work a little bit on school stuff, plus more errands. Last night, I had to go to the bank with a bag full of pennies, plus some cash for a down payment on a quilt, and final payment on another quilt. So I’m depositing this weird concoction of stuff, and one of my former students is training to work at my bank. So weird. I didn’t recognize her face (well, it once had hijab around it and now it doesn’t), but I did recognize the name. She remembered a detention for gum, but also remembered that I always give kids a chance to spit it out…they only get detention if they blow off my request. She laughed. So that’s OK. Anyway, that’s what I get for teaching where I live…these little moments of connection with kids now that they’re grownups and trying to figure out the adult world.

So there’s hope for them! OK, off to school and a long day, with stitching at the end of it though, so that’s cool.

*Foster the People, Worst Nights