Some Amazing Splinters

Cue music. I am deep in summer mode. I find it torturous to do mundane chores or errands. I just want to write and make art. I’ll leave for social events, because I know I’m deep in hermit mode, but it’s hard sometimes to walk away. Yesterday, though? Yesterday I needed a break. I have a drawing I started ages ago…

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April I think? And I enlarged it about 200% and then realized I had a whole ‘nother figure to draw and the piece could be up to 60″ square. I like big quilts. I like lots of detail. This was going to be my summer quilt, and yes, some other stuff jumped in front of it, but I delivered two quilts to the photographer today, and I’m feeling good! So yesterday, I pulled this one out…

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And laid it out. You can see I added quite a bit to the left, where the other figure will be, plus some space at the bottom for the legs to be finished, and some at the top, just in case. Now it looks tiny.

There is no bathtub in this one.

I probably spent a couple of hours on the first part of the drawing. So yesterday afternoon, I started on the knees and the rest of the legs.

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Then I penciled in a figure on the left and started deciding what she would really look like. I penciled in just general shapes…you can see some pencil of the torso.

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It’s a good thing I started in pencil, because the head was WAY too big and had to be redrawn like three times to get it to the right size.

This figure needs to be standing over the other figure, but it also needs different things on it, so I have to keep stopping and thinking instead of drawing. That’s how I know it’s time to take a break…I’ve been staring at the drawing for WAY too long and nothing’s getting drawn.

The photos get more difficult at this point…it’s really dark in there. But you can see I got most of the head and chest area done…

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One arm is done but needs decoration. The other arm is not done and I didn’t start the middle of the torso. There were just too many ideas in my head at that point, and I couldn’t focus. Why? Because I’d been working on it for two hours and 40 minutes. No small amount of time. And it’s not even halfway done, that second figure. Hmm. I’m hoping to finish tonight, maybe even number it. We’ll see.

My time totals rarely include drawing time, because I don’t usually keep track of that.

I tried to get a photo that shows the whole thing, but even brightened and put in black and white, it’s too hard to see. You can see the hips and legs coming down on the left.

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So it’s almost 6 PM and I have to cook dinner. Well, the pizza dough is coming to room temperature, so I have some time. But someone is hogging the television, and my brain needs TV light to distract me from the part of my brain that wants to censor the drawing. Actually, I’m watching Helix, which is not light enough unfortunately. I keep having to rewind to figure out the story, but it is growing on me. Some virus that’s carried in honey or some mother tree or something. It makes the men infertile. I’m not sure what it does to the women. Having just spent time reading the summaries, my confusion between bees and honey and apples and Mother Tree and the bleeding tree makes complete sense. There is no sense yet. I think I have 4 episodes to make sense of it all. That might be how long it takes me to finish this drawing.

I’ve also been writing. I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in an attempt to finish the sci fi novel I started last summer and wrote a giant chunk of over November. I’ve written about 5000 words, which isn’t great, but is better than I’d done so far this summer without motivation, and then I got asked to write another story, so I did that in the last two days, almost 5000 words there as well. That stuff takes time, for sure…as does writing here. But it’s all good. Writing clears my mind. Drawing does too, but in an entirely different way. I can have the drawing working in my head while I write, and a hand moves around, putting objects all over, trying them out, while the words spill out on the screen. Same as when I draw, while I’m moving the pen around on the paper, the story is writing itself, characters bouncing around, dying off, meeting others on the road, making decisions about plot while I draw.

My brain is truly split off in some amazing splinters.

To Write or Not to Write

For those who have been reading for long enough, you’ve seen my moods swing all over the map. I wrote out an entire year and a half of recovering from depression. Was I recovering? I think so. Is it recovering when it’s depression, or just reclaiming the self you were before, which doesn’t exist any more, because you went through whatever it was you went through? So surviving might be a better word. It’s like a tsunami: major damage in the beginning and then you rebuild and it takes time and everything looks a little different afterwards. It will never be the island town it was before. Mine was a tsunami anyway…a major unexpected change in my life that I apparently couldn’t process for a very long time. For some it’s maybe more like climate change, slow and deliberate and mostly out of your control, but inherently world-damaging.

And I know now that I didn’t cause the tsunami…and I’m the one who did the rebuilding. So I guess that’s useful information. And I know that my own health issues, whether hormones or thyroid or iron deficiency, didn’t help the post-tsunami destruction, and I still am dealing with some of those health issues, because you can’t run away from perimenopause and it fucks with a variety of body systems.

But I had many people tell me I was brave or thank me for writing about what I was going through, commiserating with me, telling me how they felt the same way.

But they couldn’t write about it.

I wrote myself out of that hole. I can’t live in my head with this stuff. It drags you so far down that it’s like there’s no way out at all or ever, and if I didn’t write, I don’t know that I would ever have gotten out of bed. Art helped too. So did having two kids who were standing around trying to figure out where their previous mom had gone and whether she would ever come back. I think some version of her did.

And I don’t want to go back there. But you can’t control all the physical things that affect depression and you certainly can’t control a ton of external things, so once you have been depressed like that (and here’s where I admit that although that was the worst I had ever experienced it, it certainly wasn’t the first time I had to seek help for that), then you are at a higher risk for experiencing it again. “Experiencing” it. Like it’s a roller coaster ride (it’s not). Surviving it. Having it wallop you in the face. Throw you down that hole again. Send the wolves after you. Rain on your parade…endlessly.

You can choose not to say anything to anyone. I think at some point it’s obvious to those who know you. Or maybe everyone.

Why write now? I’m teetering on the edge. I can’t even tell you all the things that have pushed me to that edge, although the biological shit is just fucking annoying. If I could control that stupid shit, I’d be a lot better off. But I can’t at the moment.

Know that I continue to make art…although last night, that consisted of sewing bindings, because honestly, after having been gone from the house for over 13 hours, I was mostly braindead. So my goal of an hour ironing pieces? Yeah. Didn’t happen. Because I didn’t have the brain power or the desire and I was in my head, racing around like a wounded dog, snapping at everything my brain tried to push at me to mollify me. This is when having deadlines and being a responsible artist (ha! Not an oxymoron) comes in useful. I have to finish this shit. I told people I would. I do what I say. So I have to do it. And I will.

And I’ll keep writing about it because it helps me. And maybe it helps you to know that a lot of art comes out of this need to heal oneself, to remove whatever is inside from festering and spill it out onto paper or onto the screen. Put it where it can’t hurt me any more.

I don’t know. Maybe I just write. And I would do it no matter what.

NaNoWriMo: Where I Wro Mo

It’s interesting to look at when and where I wrote for NaNoWriMo. I certainly got better at it as the month went on, and it’s a habit now, so I’m more likely to just DO it than I was before. I don’t have to write an entire scene to write. I can just write a little bit and then pick it up again later. It’s not like I really know what’s happening next most of the time anyway.

First of all, before I started writing this book back in June, I did write a lot. I wrote this damn blog. Almost every day for the last year and a half, three times a week before that. Mostly, I did it on the computer. I’m faster at typing on a computer than I am on any other device, and it has more capability, usually has a larger screen, etc. I had been known to write my blog on my iPad Mini AND on my phone, though, especially when traveling, but then photos become an issue. So this idea of writing while out of the house was not new to me.

So here’s where I wrote…

Saturday: In a plane from Houston, then in a tiny little lost terminal at LAX, all on an iPad Mini; then later, at my computer

Sunday: On a stationary bike (iPad), then on the computer

Monday: In a staff meeting (OK, let’s just admit that everything that wasn’t on my computer was on the iPad), on my computer, on the couch

Tuesday: On a stationary bike at the gym, at my computer

Wednesday: While on the phone, at my computer, on my iPad waiting for the girlchild to finish with my computer, while updating girlchild’s computer so she would stop using my computer (sense a pattern?)

Thursday through Sunday: On that computer, some days better than others (aka, I didn’t go anywhere that writing was acceptable)

I should explain that I did all of this in Google Docs, so I could access it anywhere. There are pros and cons to that, of course…one being when the file gets really large, it also gets cranky. I now have two files for this story: the first is the 36 pages I wrote over the summer and leading up to NaNoWriMo, and the second is the 74 pages I wrote this month. It doesn’t sound like much when you put it that way, eh? It’s OK. They’re single-spaced and I’m looking at word count more than pages. I’m kind of at the point where I think I’m going to start a third file…this one is getting too big as well. Some people have argued for other programs, but this worked well for what I needed. It was a pain in the butt if I needed to go back and find some detail, so I started another Doc that I called Characters, with a list of character names and traits, but it expanded to list the types of plants I was dealing with, locations of the labs (yup, my whole story takes place in a variety of science labs…and a jacuzzi). I’m not sure I would write any differently with a special program. It just might make editing easier.

Monday and Tuesday: On the iPad at the gym, at the computer

Wednesday: Wherever I could

Thursday: in professional development when my brain couldn’t take it any more (oh my god, shut up!), at the gym, on the bike, and then I couldn’t get it out of my head, so on the elliptical as well (that was a challenge)

Friday on a boring old computer

Saturday: In professional development, waiting for the speaker to finish, on a padded bench with Ruthie next to me. In between classes, sitting at high-school desks. On my computer. On my iPad. At the CUE!

Sunday through the following Thursday: mostly on the computer, sometimes on the iPad. I didn’t have anywhere I had to be where I could also write (not OK to write a book while in a parent meeting). Oh yeah, and I actually didn’t write on Thanksgiving. I had hit 50,000 words the night before, well, actually, at holy shit in the morning, so I felt OK with not writing then.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: on a soccer field x 3, on my computer also x 3; I had written on a soccer field before, so this was not new.

I sat there at yesterday’s game before it started and typed two huge paragraphs where one hybrid was trying to attack another and tranquilizer darts and all this, while listening to a bunch of parents yammer on about what colleges were courting their kid. And I have to say, I do feel like some sort of bizarre alien, writing a book while all that is going on, but I guess that’s nothing new. I do know I can write just about anywhere, so that’s a good thing. Before, I thought I had to be in the right mood and the muse had to be present, and no, fuck that. I can just write. I am the fucking muse. The story’s in my head. I just have to pull it out.

Good lesson learned. Now I just need to finish this book.




I’m a Weener…

Hey, so I’m not going to write a lot today because I’m tired and you know what? I’ve already written a lot today. When I finally decided (after two years of having nothing to write about, but WANTING to write) to try NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I’d have to cut back on the blog, but I didn’t. And I finished a major quilt at the same time. And I think I averaged over 5 hours of sleep a night (this is a vast improvement over last year at this time, trust me).

So in late May, this idea for a book started poking at me…a plant/animal hybrid. And what that would look like. And what might happen to it. And being able to make your own FOOD! (which only works if you expose yourself to the sun, I realized as I was writing). And I probably was watching WAY too much X-Files, because of course the government would be involved and not in a good way (I don’t really trust government, which is funny, because technically, as a teacher, I work for the government). The idea niggled and poked and prodded, and finally, sometime in June, I started writing. I wrote about 25,000 words during the summer. I wanted to do more than that. I had a plan of 10,000 words/week, which totally didn’t happen, and once school started…well, sheeet. I barely wrote at all.

So I made a plan, a goal, to do NaNoWriMo, which if you don’t know (and can’t use The Google) stands for National Novel Writing Month, taking place in November, wherein a writer makes a goal to write 50,000 words in a month. OK. I do that, and I almost have a completed book. Sci fi books are usually between 75,000 and 100,000 words. Plus I would need to edit, right? So if I did 50,000 words, I’d be pretty damn close to a full novel. And if I failed, hell, I would still have more words than I did before.

So I set out on November 1st to do the recommended 1667 words per day that gets you to 50K on time. And most days I did that and more. Mostly at night, after dinner, before art time. I had no outline, no plan. I have a Google doc with the original 25,000 words, another one with the words I wrote for this month, and a third one with all the character’s names and details, just so I can remember them without going back through the rest of the story. And I haven’t done that: gone back through. Occasionally I skim through for a specific detail, but I haven’t read the whole thing since August. The doc is called “justwrite” and that’s what I do. I just write. I read the last few sentences from the night/day before and I pick up from there. And a few times, I was so tired that when I read the two sentences from the night before, I didn’t even remember writing them. I think I wrote them with my eyes closed. Or trolls came in and wrote them for me after they carried me off and tucked me into bed.

And it still makes sense as a story. I think. I won’t know until I finish. So yeah. But I did finish the 50,000 words tonight. On November 26. And NaNoWriMo has a little video of some of their staff cheering for you once you validate the word count. And then they cheer again. And again. And again! Because you know why? It’s pretty fucking amazing that anyone would be able to write all those words in one month, a month where they worked their butt off, and went on 5 or 6 hikes, and flew back from Houston, and sat through staff meetings and IEPs and parent-teacher meetings and hours of professional development (seriously, this month, it was fucking hours). And graded papers. And made a piece of art, not a small one or an easy one, but a significant piece of large art. And wrote her blog almost every day. And fought mood swings and cranky uteri and lived in a house with a teenager. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: No Wonder My House Is Not Clean. Do not judge me. Look at what I DID do.

And still. I wrote. I wrote my heart out. My head. My brain. Vomited all over the screen, my fingers going tippity tappity as fast as lightning. My fingers knowing how the story went before my brain ever caught up.

Dammit. I earned this.


Look. I can do things. I can do cool things. And yes, I do have to keep telling myself that.


Sure. I’m going to keep writing this story until it’s done. It deserves to get itself the fuck out of my head. And then I’ll edit it. And the next story, which is already there, lurking, giggling, wanting to be written…I’ll start it too. Oh yeah, and I totally got the T-shirt.

All the words? They need to go somewhere. They can’t stay in my head.

Ever-Changing Mood

I hear the wind blowing. It’s blowing quite heavily at the moment. I considered sweeping leaves up in the driveway this afternoon, because trash pickup is tomorrow and I never finished from last time (weeks ago). Ran out of room in the green recycling bin. But then I thought, what’s the point? I had seen the wind advisory. I knew I’d have a million more leaves by the morning. Better to wait and do it later this week. I don’t like to waste energy on things that need to be done more than once in a short period of time. I don’t have much time.

I don’t know how to feel about today. I don’t know how to feel about most days. Those questions “How are you?” or “How’s [insert name of current project] coming along?” or “How was the hike?”…I don’t know how to answer those. The hike was good, because I was outside and the rocks were really cool, but the last two miles kicked my mental butt, and yet I kept moving, but I’m debating that 14-miler I signed up for, because I’m not sure I can hike that far. Is that what you wanted to hear? Or did you just want to hear “Fine. It was fine.” I can’t answer the “How are you?” at all. I don’t have the words. I could draw it, but we’d be here for a while and you’d be frustrated by my answer. The projects? They’re moving along. There’s nothing I really want to talk about in depth about any of them at the moment. I’m just progressing, moving forward, continuing the process. I don’t know.

NaNoWriMo, for example: I totally forgot to write yesterday. I wrote for a short period while waiting for something, I don’t even remember when, but I only did like 400 words. I’ve haven’t done that few words a day all month. But I was busy yesterday and I got into art-brain mode and I just plain forgot. So this morning, I wrote 2500+ to make up for it. I have a little over 4000 words to go to hit 50,000. And I figured out how to kill off one of the characters. While I was watching David Attenborough’s show Life in the Undergrowth (fascinating, by the way, and kinda creepy), he talked about how ants use formic acid to attack plants and predators, and I had a lightning bolt hit my brain. It’s gonna be SO COOL. OK. I know. This book, it’s just plain weird how it’s inhabited this part of my brain. It’s writing itself. It really is. By Thursday, I will have hit 50,000 words this month, which I think means the book will be at 75,000 words. And I’m in the rising climax part of the book or whatever it is when all the good stuff happens that makes your heart race. I know the book itself won’t be done on Thursday. My goal is the end of the year. Then edit its ass. Then start the next one by next November.

Meanwhile, a car had a brake issue, so it went to the mechanic, my body went to the doctor and we tried to diagnose all my frailties (elbow brace, toenail collection, weird exercises with soup cans and hammers, more blood, changing meds. Holy moly.). I picked up my quilt and the photos. Warned him there was another one coming in December. Heard the story of his dog and cats.

The hardest part…parts…it’s been parts…about this vacation have been my mood swings (down, down, down) and the girlchild’s moods. So moods. The theme for Thanksgiving this year is MOODS. And none of them particularly good. I say everything wrong. I do everything wrong. I get irritated by having to stand in line at the post office to sign for a shirt she ordered (my name on the package, so I have to sign for it, plus she’s not 18), and then she’s out to lunch and at a friend’s for hours, so she doesn’t clean, and because we’re down to one car, she’s texting me to hurry up while I’m in Target trying to do all my errands in one place (I failed at that, by the way). Big Fucking Sigh. This is not fun. I have been on the verge of tears (or just outright crying, let’s be honest) more times in the last few days than in the last month. OK. That might be a lie. It’s been an emotional month. Blame hormones. Blame my thyroid. Blame the fucking moon. I mean, how could they ever have looked at the moon and NOT seen that it was a sphere? I just don’t understand. It so obviously has the sun reflecting off of it in crescent stage. It’s such a beautifully awesome thing. And yet it’s obviously fucking with me.

See. This is how my mind works. It’s on a crazy train.

I guess the good thing is that I worked. I finished tracing all the Wonder Under, despite almost needing to walk out of the living room twice due to girlchild’s intolerance for ANYTHING or ANYONE. (I do live here. I do. I have rights. Inalienable rights.)

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It took almost 10 hours to trace this beast. Only 768 pieces, so you know the pile of men really did slow me down. It should have been 8 hours. Julie says I should copy the pile and color code the bodies. She may be right, but I feel like it’s time I don’t have. On the other hand, then I’ll waste the time trying to figure out what piece goes with what body. GAARHHH. Cannot Decide.

I also traced two more birds that were on order…

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I’m hoping to finish them by the end of the year as well. By the way, there are three birds that have not sold. I should put them in their own post. I’ll try to do that tomorrow.

And then I sat down and started cutting Wonder Under out.

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I only did it for an hour, because it was getting late. And some of it is releasing from the paper, which is always annoying. And I need to buy background fabric or decide if what I have in house will work, because inevitably, I will be ready to iron on Thursday and nothing will be open. Must Plan Ahead. And I have to clean house and straighten up my studio so I can tear it apart again, and now I have a window screen AND a screen door with issues, and for every one thing I solve or resolve, two more pop up in its place.

And dammit. I’m still depressed. That’s the only thing to call this blob in my head that keeps raining on my parade. That keeps dragging me into the mud. That keeps eating at my peace of mind. That won’t shut the fuck up and leave me alone.

Knowing that this is not how you want to be? It doesn’t really help make it stop. This war quilt I’m doing, women at war: it’s women at war with their own bodies, with failing uteri and thyroid glands, with fluctuating hormones and clogged ducts and irritated tendons and pus-filled pores; at war with their children and their parents, with people trying to push them into holes, into slots, into places they think you should fit, telling you what to do, how you’re doing it wrong, constantly getting at you; at war with men, the misguided, the nice-guy misogynists (so many of those), the crazies, the assholes, the arrogant, the self-centered, the clueless; at war with society, which is trying to control my parts, my mind, my place in the world. Nature vs nurture. There’s outliers and I guess I’m way the fuck out there. Like in outer space outlier. I’ve never wanted to be easily categorized or explained, but that makes it harder…to just be, honestly. Sometimes it just makes it harder to exist. I’m here because I want to be. I’m here because that’s where I belong. I never meant to be here by myself though. And it’s hard. It’s hard to deal with the girlchild’s drama without any support. I often just want to crawl into bed and never ever come out. Just put the pillow over my head and ignore all of it. Never fucking come out.

I don’t know how many times I have to scream “This is not where I want to be!” before someone hears me.

That’s why I keep these guys around, the furry ones, even though all they did today was sleep, bat at me with claws out, and vomit. I swear I cleaned up more vomit today than I did anything else. It’s just not right.

So this looks like a picture of the girlchild messing with her hair, but look closely.

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What is that in the back, in the corner of the couch?

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I do not know how to explain the dog.

Then this evening, the scary bitchy cat ventured out again, and this is the closest I’ve ever seen her to any living thing that was not human without her trying to kill it.

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It’s not even that cold tonight.

But I had both of them for a while…

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It’s hard to cut out Wonder Under with her on your lap, but again…she’s old and I feel sorry for her, so I tolerate a lot. Besides, she didn’t vomit today, so she’s on my good side.

Tomorrow I finish cutting out Wonder Under and hopefully start ironing to fabric. Dammit. That means I need a background. Aargh.

And the song the post title comes from…one of my favorite bands…

The Style Council. Weird-ass video. Great song.

Vacation…More Time to Work

So. I’m officially on vacation. I traced Wonder Under Friday night for a little while, but I was exhausted and went to bed early, because I had a long hike early Saturday morning. I get up earlier for hikes than I do for school. It’s a little crazy. But it was a good hike (post later) and we went out to eat afterwards, which I almost never do, because you lose the whole day. But I could afford to lose the whole day because I have a whole week of them off. Anyway. It was good. And I came home and tried to function, but the body and brain were old and tired. Eventually, after the second or third cup of tea and some reading of the book club selection that I had to be done with by today (there’s nothing like leaving it until the last minute), I got up and started tracing Wonder Under again…

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The fun part (wait, put “fun” in quotes) about tracing this section is that it’s a pile of bodies that are all overlapping, and although I might have tried to be logical about numbering them in the first place, that logic has now left the building, and I am often staring at the pile, trying to find the next piece in number order. Piece 225 took like 10 minutes to find. I don’t know what I was thinking. So the almost-200 pieces in the pile took forever to trace. But I wasn’t going to give up. I wanted it done, so that when I came back to tracing today, it would be straightforward and relatively easy. Nov 23 14 091 small

The thing is, that pile is gonna kick my ass when I have to pick fabrics out, because overlapping and random behind spaces and I don’t even know what parts go with what body in half of it. Yeah. Way to fuck with yourself, Kathryn. I guess I like a good challenge.

So I’m 4 hours into the tracing and only at piece 287 or so. Like I said, it was a bitch. I have about 5 hours left, I’m guessing, and I’d like to be done today. No really. I would. That might not be realistic though because I still have to go grocery shopping and to book club and to dinner at my parents’ house. Hmn. Are there 5 hours LEFT after all that? So much for vacations, right? That’s why you’re supposed to GO somewhere, so you can relax and stop doing all that other stuff. Then again, I don’t really do anything else right…why start with doing vacations right? It’s a stay-at-home vacation because I can’t afford anything else. I would have loved to have taken the girlchild to NYC, met the boychild there, hung out, got an AirBnB apartment, checked out the city. It would have been cool. It would have been $1500 I don’t have right now. Especially with college apps coming up again.

So we’re here in lovely San Diego, soccer tournament, practices, a couple of hikes, dinner with the close family on Tday. And lots of artmaking. So my plan is to have all the Wonder Under ironed to fabric in a week. Because then school starts back up again and that 3-week stretch notoriously kicks my butt. And then I have vacation again, but only about a week and a half before this next quilt has to be done. So yeah. I need to work hard. Like usual. Like what the fuck is new about that? This is my life. It’s a continuous hard-work endeavor. I’m not always entirely sure what I get out of that. People tell me the art is cool, amazing, etc., but then I just make more of it. I don’t know if there’s a reason for it, except that I’m incredibly unhappy when I don’t make it. And there’s enough of that feeling in my life…I don’t need to make more of it. There must be a better balance though.

I did take time out to finish the book for book club. It must have been cold last night because (1) I was wearing polar fleece in the house (lots of windows behind the light table) and (2) the bitchy old-lady cat was in the living room, curled up tight next to me.

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Which was fine. Notice the pile of dirty clothes on the floor? Girlchild has some cleaning to do. I’m tired of the slob factor. That’s one goal for this vacation…get the mess under control, at least enough to get me through December.

I wanted to show you where I normally write…

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Yup. The computer. The computer desk is a mess. The chair has been scratched all to hell by bitchy cat, who often is sitting on the chair (you can see the top of her head in the picture). Right now, she’s not, but that’s because morning winter sun is over THERE on the table, so she’s curled up over there. Thank god. I can actually sit properly. I’m over 42,000 words on the novel, and I will easily hit 50,000 by Thanksgiving. I’m hoping to keep the momentum going and get to the end, whatever that is, by the end of the year or earlier. I’ve already decided no sequel. So I’m writing it that way. I guess I always knew I would. I do have another book started in my head though. Different story, different characters, different location. Still sci-fi though. Not sure what’s up with that.

Here’s Luana Rubin’s review of the two SAQA exhibits at Houston this year…she mentions my piece.

Someday I’ll meet her in person and tell her how to pronounce my name. Or maybe you could do that for me.

Planning To Be Not Sick…

So the girlchild is sick. It’s two days until a week-long vacation, and I am surrounded by coughy, sneezy, leaves-her-used-tissues all over the house, which the dog then tries to eat, so I have to touch all of them to either throw them away or get them out of the dog’s mouth. And THEN. Then she drinks out of the milk jug, straight out of it, right in front of me, like she doesn’t even care that she’s bombarding ME with all those germs on levels that I don’t even need to consider. Her response? “Um. Sorry? We live together anyway.” She’s like the worst roommate ever. I come home and she’s already left for soccer, and all the clothes she’s worn are all over the floor, and when I come back from the gym, I find her smelly soccer socks, shoes, and shinguards sitting on the couch where I would like to sit and draw, and it reeks.

Bad roommate. Except she’s my blood. I did give her some grief yesterday when she finally came home, but she’s SIIICKKK. Sigh. I guess my plan for break is to be sick as well (pounding vitamins, washing hands as I speak). I don’t have time to be sick. I have two hikes to go on, 13,000 words to write, a quilt to get significantly started. I can’t be sick.

So there’s the drawing. I came home after delivering my quilt to the photographer and I was exhausted. So I tried to read, but fell asleep on the couch (probably I’m getting sick) and woke up to a cat lying on me. It’s a risk in this house. Happens all the time. I only had like 30 pages of my book left, so I finished it (It was good by the way…the last in Lev Grossman’s Magicians series). Then I started trying to draw, and here’s why I don’t keep track of time on the drawings. When it’s not going well, when I’m having a hard time getting it out of my head or solidifying it in there, I just stare at things…mostly at the paper, but also at the TV (Blacklist, James Spader is truly evil in this show, and yet not), or a cat. Or the white wall, annoyed by the fact that I haven’t finished doing things in here, like hanging art. So I did a lot of that. I have “four hours” into the drawing, but I’d bet that only half of that was actual pen or pencil moving on paper. And if you’re going to count the staring-at-the-paper minutes, you should also count the minutes when I’m thinking about the drawing when I don’t have a sketchbook in my lap, and that’s quite a few more hours. So yeah. Pointless measurement there. No real start and stop. Fluid.

But after I made dinner and girlchild finally showed up to eat (and sneeze and cough and moan and leave used Kleenex everywhere), I went and wrote some more story (she’s kidnapped! It happened early! I said 5 PM and then I kidnapped her early! Don’t ask. My brain does what it pleases.), and when I came back to the couch, the snotty thing had gone to bed (without even saying good night) and I was able to do a significant piece of the drawing. Because before that? I was just staring at the paper for a long time.

It is unfortunately not done. That said, I think it COULD be done with about 20 more minutes. I don’t HAVE 20 minutes before school though. And I was going to go copy it after school. SO. I could take it to school and instead of doing grades during prep, I could finish it. And then copy it after school. But I don’t like taking my sketchbook (the big one) to school. It’s just…it’s got stuff in it that the students would be shocked by, and it’s big and hard to hide, unlike the one in my bag. SO. I could just ditch out of school as soon as the bell rings, come home and finish it, and then go copy it. Probably means I’ll be putting it together at class, but I think I can do that. OR. I could stop writing this and go finish it, except mornings are not good drawing times for me. I don’t know why. My brain is primed for late night. Right now, I’m still trying to wake up. Apparently I can write half asleep but I can’t draw. Two different parts of the brain. The rambling wordy bit can vomit shit up all the time. The drawing part needs more caffeine. And wake time.

But this is where I’m at…

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Like I said, not much left. Trying to keep it simple so I can actually finish it in time. Yes, the DNA hand showed up again. So did the tree. I really like the pile of people, of MEN. Yup. Standing on Da Boyz. And there’s pencil between her legs because I’m not sure about that part, but it’s there to remind me to think about it. So I guess I really need to wait until the end of the day. Yup. Plus I’m going to have to add to the top and sides a bit so I can put more leaves in. But not much.

Another thing I’m doing, which I had heard about back in September or October, is Coursera. If you haven’t heard of it, they are college classes you can take for free (no credit) or for credit (pay!) that are offered on a wide variety of subjects and from a huge number of participants. A friend (Linda!) emailed me about one she thought I would like about how plants use their “senses.” It sounded interesting, so I signed up for this class taught by a professor at Tel Aviv University, and I’m about three weeks behind starting, but since I’m not taking it for credit (unlike some of the kids in there), I don’t care. I also don’t care that I’m not acing the quizzes, because I’m listening to his lectures while I’m writing the book. And when he says something really interesting or confusing, I flip to the tab running the video and I rewatch that section, and sometimes I take notes (right now, my post-it says “auxin” and “Barbara McClintock”), but mostly I’m just listening for stuff that I could use in the book or that might make some things make more sense. I’m still boggled by this article about plants that can “hear” caterpillars eating them and respond chemically. They recorded the sounds and played them near another plant and it responded in kind. This is awesome science, and helped me write the section where the plant talks to the main character. Yeah, my science is a little out there, but I don’t think it’s as out there as I originally thought.

Anyway. It’s interesting enough and I’ve done two weeks of work in two nights (well, I didn’t do it WELL. I got a D on the quiz, but whatevs. I’m not taking it for reals.).

So. Progress on all levels. And two more days of school to survive. If you’ve never been in a middle school the week before an upcoming vacation, even if it’s only a week off that’s coming up, it’s like there’s a full moon. They wig out all over the place and do amazingly stupid things, because they think it’s not going to follow them after break. Which is only a week long. I’m with them, though. I want to be on vacation too. I just don’t want to be SICK on vacation. Grr. More vitamins. More handwashing.

Yes. It DOES Sound Crazy.

Well, one thing I’ve got going for me right now is that there is no shortage of projects I’m supposed to be working on. In fact, there are four due within the next 2 1/2 months. Luckily, three of them are tiny, compared to what I normally do, and even the larger one can’t be TOO large. And it’s been in my head for a couple of months, so I actually think I can get it out fairly quickly. I did know that I would have to fit it all on one page. I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but it’s been hard for me to fit anything on a single page. Even those drawings that are mostly on one page seem to need something added once I enlarge it…which isn’t a problem. But when I know I need to make what is for me a smaller piece because the show has a lot of people and the gallery isn’t very big, it means I have to THINK about size. I don’t usually think about size.

So before I could even deal with the drawing last night, though, I had to get my hair cut, mostly because I couldn’t get a comb through the ends. I wanted to do it in October, but financially, October was a major issue. Timewise as well, so I finally got there yesterday. It’s silly, because I guess I could have chopped it all off myself, but Rebecca does a much better job (duh. She is trained.). I have learned over the years that there are I things I CAN do (like my own quilt photography), but it’s stupid when others can do it better and I can pay them a reasonable amount to do so. My photographer also…I gladly let him do what he’s good at, so I can do more of the stuff that I’m good at. And it’s remarkably silly how nice a good haircut feels. I don’t get a lot of the good feels.

By the time I finally got home (had to pick up ex-husband because his car is in the shop again), I was tired, but I forced myself to the gym. I wrote the novel on the bike; got about 450 words written in 25 minutes (so that’s 18 words a minute), which means I’ve spent over 55 hours writing this book so far. No wonder I don’t sleep. That’s not 55 hours this month…I started in June, but it is 30 hours so far this month, which is about an hour and 3/4 each day. Wow. Really? Someone check my math. I’m not meditating at the moment by the way. I often write, though, while I’m doing something else. But still, wow. I work full time as a teacher, I exercise, I cook real food, I apparently sleep, and I write almost 2 hours a day. Plus art.

So after all that and eating dinner, I wrote…see above…over 34,000 words and a step closer to the violence. It’s 1:15 PM in the afternoon of the day when all the shit hits the fan. Some shit just hit, but we don’t really know what it means yet, and when I say “we,” yes, I’m including me, because my brain hasn’t written that part yet. It will tonight. Seriously. I rarely know where I’m going with this story until I get there. I’m hoping it all holds together, but I realized last night that I had one character bifurcating in the story (no, she really can’t be in two places at once…it’s sci fi, but not THAT sci fi.), so I’m sure editing will need to tighten up some details.

Then I ironed the new quilt for the photographer and dehaired it and prepped it…

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I have to cover it so it doesn’t get more cat hair, but also because my car has dog hair in it from Calli riding in there, so I usually make a plastic bag covering. Yes, some people buy bags especially for this, but I’m not like that. Plus I spent all my money on my haircut (not really…but teenagers are really expensive). This morning I decided to roll it with the front out, because I know it will sit in the car all day, and I don’t want it to get wrinkled. I’ll drive it to him after school, he’ll take great pictures and charge me not very much at all, and I’ll happily go back and get it when he’s done. It’s like magic!

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And then I’ll spend the next two weeks trying to come up with a name for it, because it needs a fucking name and the one I came up with yesterday really does reference the Adam and Eve thing, and I don’t actually want to reference that…because that’s not what it’s about. It’s interesting that there is a reference to that story, but it’s not about that story.

And then at maybe 11:30 PM, I finally sat down in the living room (it took 10 minutes to find my sketchbook, which in itself is sad) and started drawing. I have to admit that I was tired at that point, and I kept trying to Google images that would help my brain, like “woman standing with gun belt” and “arms akimbo.” Seriously. That was a thing. I finally gave up (my internet was cranky) and just started drawing.

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I have to admit that I did a rough pencil sketch first of where things needed to go because they needed to fit on the page, and that’s one of my issues: fitting things on the page. And I’m not sure about either hand. But I can always redo those parts. And no, I didn’t get very far. I was tired. I actually went to bed at a reasonable hour. No, not really. But reasonable for me.

Oh yeah, and the total for the Quilt That Has No Name Yet was 101 hours and 33 minutes (yikes!). Not a small or easy beast, but a nice beast nonetheless.

Tonight? Finish the drawing, rush over to Fed Ex before they close so I can enlarge it, and come back number it, so I can start tracing at class tomorrow. Yes. It DOES sound crazy. Why do you ask?


Hey. Shhh. Over here. C’mere. Hey. (It’s done. The quilt. I finished it. Really. I did.)

Sigh. Started numbered the drawing September 6. That’s the first official time I take usually; sometimes I keep track of the taping, if it seems bad, but this one got taped and then drawn on the full-size, and I don’t keep track of drawing time. Finished November 17. I guess you could argue finished November 18, because it was after midnight, but I don’t consider it the next day until I’ve gone to sleep and woken up again. Completely arbitrary? Well yeah. I got a late start on the binding yesterday, because I had to meet the girlchild at the sports store to buy her soccer gear after school. I got home (completely exhausted by then) and decided (because I was braindead with exhaustion) that I should paint right away. Something about the paint drying before I started sewing and having more brain power then than later, for some quantity of “MORE”.

The real problem with the painting is that I have a ton of fabric paints, but most of them have dried up, being old, and I really should open every jar and toss anything that’s unusable. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t have been able to paint last night…so I didn’t.

I managed to mix something very close to the lighter color of the briefcase. Took me a while to get it, but I did.

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I never took a picture of the bleed through, which is too bad, because it was pretty bad there. Less so in other places. (Must train self to wash with Retayne) Just trust me…there was a swath of blue across the light brown…

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And now there isn’t. What a relief.

I used colored pencils and a little bit of paint on a couple other bits that had issues…

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But otherwise, I left it there to dry while I moved money and calculated college costs, then cooked dinner and texted the boychild back and forth for an hour. He has snow on and off and ice and cold and rain and cold. Frozen hair (he has a lot of hair). I send him videos of his cat being a brat and he sends pictures of puppies and kittens and long dense sentences out of his essays that I then have to try to make sense of out of context.

Then I wrote a few thousand words where my main character communes with her bad plant self.

And then I sewed binding, poking holes in my fingers again. I don’t do well with thimbles. Put them on and then avoid that finger. It’s like my brain thinks there’s something wrong with the thimbled finger and tries to protect it, so it uses another finger. I debated whether I could finish last night…I had one whole short side, most of a long side, and then two sleeves.

I had one of my trusty companions.

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There was another one, but she kept licking the stitching hand, so she got pushed off. I sewed for almost two hours and it was done. Please don’t ask when I went to sleep. It was entirely too late. It probably shows in my face today. But I’m done. Deep breath. I’ll have to total the hours later, because I have a parent meeting this morning. But the trimming and binding was almost 8 hours total and there was about an hour of painting and coloring. Not a small number of hours…and basically I did it in a little over 2 months. During the school year. Yup. Crazy. My hand is sore this morning from the sewing.

The next one? I only have 6 weeks. Ha! But I also have 3 weeks of vacation in that time, so I’m hoping that helps. And it needs to be smaller. So I should probably draw fewer pieces. I’m already at war in my head with this one (ironic, since it’s for a show about women and war). Drawing tonight hopefully. Also need to dehair and pack quilt for photographer…see, if you set up the photo appointment, then you HAVE to finish it. Minor issue: it has no name. I had one pop into my head just now, but I don’t know if I like it. And the boychild would argue it only deals with the traditional genders, which is true. I wasn’t having trans v cis issues, just the standard man v woman in society issues. There are two blogposts on this that I’ve been writing on and off for months. Maybe they will surface in the next week, along with my report from Houston. Maybe.

Philosophy on a Monday Morning…

There’s something about nearing the end of making a quilt that is sort of a letdown. You’ve spent all these hours, you’ve beat yourself up about not meeting this or that deadline that you arbitrarily set in your head, it’s been your life for months, and then…then it’s gone. It’s done. You’re done. It abandons you. It’s no longer the focus of your life. And if you don’t have another one, Right There, ready to take over the part of your mind that needs that level of distraction, of creativity, of something that gives you satisfaction in a world that is incredibly frustrating at the moment, then it can be depressing. And I think sometimes the brain needs to lie fallow a bit in between projects, not that I’ve let it do that in the last year, because for me, where I am, fallow means significant depression, falling into a nasty hole that I have to then drag myself back out of, and that happens even WHEN I’m creating. It’s worse when I’m not.

I have a project to start right now, though. It’s drawn in my head. It’s not on paper. I just emailed my photographer, so this current thing has to be done by Wednesday (I’m almost done with the binding, and then I will deal with the bleed). And I have quilt class on Thursday and I need something to take by then, so that means I have to draw the new one and copy it and tape it by Thursday after school. HA! Yeah. I know. But if you set crazy-ass deadlines like that, worst-case scenario you fail and you say, well, it was crazy anyway. But I’m behind where I wanted to be right now. I wanted the gender quilt done by Saturday. Now it’s Monday. That is obviously a giant fail (not). I’m doing OK. I’m a little worried about time, but I’ll figure it out.

After spending an entire weekend essentially working (second one in a row), I’m a little tense and cranky. I realize that. I don’t have a lot of outlets for that any more. I do stupid things to make myself feel better, like change the sheets on the bed to flannel (it’s getting cold), or throw out something someone gave me that I never liked but was useful, but hell, I really don’t like it and I don’t need it really, it’s just useful, and being raised to be somewhat of a hoarder is a difficult thing to break. But it’s gone now! Now if I could just get the rest of the crap under control. I read. I go to the gym. It’s not enough. It will have to do at the moment, though.

I went over 30,000 words on the novel (understand that I actually have over 56,000 words…but I started with a bunch written in the first place). I added an isolation tank last night. Who knew? I had to go Google them and how they worked, but the idea came to me from watching Fringe episodes. My brain is doing this, “What would you do if you needed to get this reaction?” thing, and it searches all the old databases in my head, and then I Google something like “What’s the name of that water tank that the doctor in Fringe used to use?” which is like the worst Google search ever in the world, but popped up exactly what I needed (previously known as sensory deprivation tanks). And then I was searching “epsom salts and plants,” which was another revelation. I love that the world we live in is so knowable on some levels, so searchable, even though it makes other parts of my life a pain in the ass (how easy it is for my students to contact me at all hours…the dating spreadsheets you now need to keep just to figure out if you want to date someone…the fact that you still have to pick up registered mail from the post office during their stupid hours because there’s no way to do that online).

Anyway. I’m managing things. There’s some magical thing that’s supposed to happen now where I have everything under reasonable control (ha!) and happiness just appears, like a leprechaun and his gold or a genie in a lamp. I think it’s some switch I’m supposed to pull inside my head, but I’m still looking for it. Still trying to get all the crap out from before…an analogy between my brain and my house. I don’t have the time or energy to get everything put back or dealt with from the remodeling over the summer; I can’t get my office clean all over, just 2-foot square at a time; the garage is a scary time warp that seems to breed bizarre half-broken items that I might need in the zombie apocalypse, and even if I don’t, I don’t have time to go through and figure it out right now. I’m not sure if the brain or the house comes first. Which can I get cleaned up for real? I do have time planned over break to deal with the house. If I knew how to do the brain part, I would…but I don’t. I don’t think I was built to just be content with my life. I think I was designed to ever be looking to change, adjust, make better, clean up, improve. I don’t know that I could do the art the way I do without that. Is the creative part of my brain, the part that’s always reflecting and searching and making and observing, is it why I can’t just sit back and say, OK, this is OK? This will do. Because it won’t. It’s not.

Philosophy on a Monday morning…always an issue.