Sunday Morning Coffee Pot Post

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Ugh, what an awful week the past week was. Back to work, bored out of my mind, no mental energy to do anything much when I got home at night other than numb my anxious mind with playing solitaire and watching TV. I spent time researching emigration to various countries, and reading advice from ex-pats online. At least I cooked two nights and got laundry done. Friday night and Saturday was fun, though.

So, my staycation. Yes. I got so revved up about purging the studio that I plunged into it and didn’t do much of anything else for the rest of the week! It was great, though. I doubled my goal of getting rid of five large boxes of stuff. Much of it went to Reconsidered Goods, some went to a teacher at Hirsch Wellness Network, and I’m still putting stuff to the side for Goodwill or wherever. I got all the cardboard boxes off the floor, condensed most of them into one or two boxes, and cleaned the floor and the rugs. It took so much more time that I thought it would, but it was totally worth taking the week off to do it. On the weekend, Sandy and I moved everything off the front porch and mopped and cleaned and repainted a chair and got rid of a lot of stuff that was cluttering it up. Bought new cushions for the swing and the wicker chairs. We found a wicker table at Reconsidered Goods that matches my mother’s wicker rocker perfectly! Pablocito had a couple of tough days because we consigned his wobbly cat perch to the garbage bin, but he seems to have adjusted now.

Because the state of North Carolina often gives its employees extra time off and small bonuses in lieu of adequate pay raises, I am rich in vacation time. For the most part, I love this. I spent years working at places that didn’t give sick time at all, maybe one week of vacation, or they required you to work so much that you couldn’t take it anyway. As I am looking retirement in the face, I can see that as far as my Social Security goes it would have been better to have the salary increases. Sandy and I are making a will, finally, in case that we both go at the same time, and considering our retirement options. Sandy is now on Medicare, and is going to try to wait until age 70 for his Social Security. I am considering taking my Social Security and 85% of my state pension at age 62, which is about five years from now. I can’t leave this job until I get to age 62, at least. Then I’ll look at my options. Sandy deserves to retire and perhaps we will emigrate. It would be best if we did it together. Maybe we will check out Portugal next year. Costa Rica? Sadly, I don’t think that we could afford Ireland. I’d prefer an English-speaking country, since I can barely make myself understood in English, much less other languages. I’ve taken French, Spanish, and Italian, and now I get them all mixed up and can’t even get my numbers right. I realize that we will probably end up here, but I’d like to have the option of leaving. I worry that by the time I am 62, no other countries will let us in, and who could blame them?

I think that the greatest and the worst thing about the staycation is that it showed me a little of what life might be like after retirement on a daily living scale. The difference being that Sandy would be at home all day, and we would probably eventually get on each other’s nerves. It would be nice to have the time and energy to keep this house clean and cook healthy meals, not to mention the studio time I’d have.

Physically, I am better. I saw a new chiropractor for twelve adjustments and there is a big difference in my neck and shoulders. My hips are still a problem, but much better. There really isn’t much more that can be done since arthritis is the ultimate cause and it can’t be reversed. But it can be managed a lot better than I’ve been doing, and I’m not taking nearly as much ibuprofen. There are exercises that I need to remember to do! I have switched over to taking turmeric and I’ll still see both my chiropractor and massage therapist once a month to keep me on track with my progress. My elbow and hands, well, I just have to take a lot of breaks.

Friday night we went to the Solstice celebration at Weatherspoon Art Museum, which is just a block from our house, and saw the exhibits and took a photo in the “photo booth.” There is a film showing there in one of the small galleries on the first floor, migration (empire) that is stunningly beautiful and I recommend it highly. I might go back and watch it again.

Summer Solstice photo booth

We went to the Greensboro Summer Solstice Festival on Saturday afternoon, which gets bigger and more spectacular every year. I didn’t have a good charge on my camera so I only took one photo – I think that this guy had the most impressive costume, although he had a lot of competition.

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And the Back Forty is in transition. I’ve transferred what lettuce seedlings I could find to the container on the front steps wall, and moved a few tomato seedlings back to where the Jacob’s Cattle beans were. Ground cherry plants have popped up randomly here and there and I’m happy to see them! The groundhog family (yes, I’m pretty sure I saw a baby) are in control. They finally pushed over the wire cage I had staked down over my broccoli in one of the planters and ate the rest of it. Also, carrot tops are gone. So I’m concentrating on tomatoes and herbs that they don’t like back there, like basil and mint. Nothing worked to deter them. The water jet spray, the repellent spray, the flashy hologram tapes hanging from the wire cages and fig tree and blueberry bush, all useless. I hope that I might at least get to eat some of my blueberries this year, but if I don’t, a friend is bringing me plenty from her yard. I don’t have the mental energy to trap them.

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Curiously, the tromboncino squashes are doing quite well in the shade. I suppose that their flowers will be eaten by Woody and company, so I’m not expecting any harvest.

The hugelkultur bed is full of flowers, most not in bloom yet. There are a few hollyhocks that I’ll likely need to move next year. We’ll see. I’ve been moving some plants from the south side of the front yard over to this area since they will probably get trampled when the arborist takes out the silver maple tree in a couple of weeks.

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I have a tiny Sugar Baby watermelon and a few ripe cherry tomatoes. It will have to do for now. There will be plenty of Roma and Principe Borghese tomatoes for sauce and drying later this year, and it’s almost time to dig up my red potatoes.

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Okay, enough blogging. Studio time.

Staycation week, day three

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What happened to Days One and Two? They went by in a flash and that’s okay.

Here’s the agenda for my art retreat/get shit done at home week. The idea is that I choose at least four of these every day to check off. The daily checkbox, in priority order:

  1. Get something done you’ve been putting off. (Monday it was going with Sandy to a will planning meeting at the credit union and sewing buttons on my favorite pair of shorts. Yesterday I dropped one of the cars off at the mechanic for an inspection and oil change.)
  2. Sort/purge/organize one box/drawer/pile. Goal: five paper shipping boxes of stuff out of the studio.
  3. One small area weeded or tended in the garden.
  4. Weave tapestry.
  5. Stitch on apron.
  6. Blog.

Today, I’ll probably clean and vacuum the front porch. We’ll see. Trying to stay off Facebook for the rest of the day.

So far I have not played with my apron, so I’d like to do that today, sitting on my clean porch. The weather is lovely this week. I was able to turn off the air conditioning and even give the fans a rest.

Yesterday, I spotted TWO groundhogs in the back yard! This wasn’t a big surprise, but I had not seen them at the same time before. So much for the water jet idea. They munched plants right around it. I don’t think that they are setting it off, although I hear it go off from time to time. They burrowed under a wire cage and ate the broccoli there, right in front of the motion sensor.

My thinking is that this needs to be a year of observation and reassessment of how to handle this. I’m not fond of the idea of trapping and relocating them, but that is still on the table. I’m watching what they like to eat the most – all varieties of greens, lamb’s quarters, broccoli, certain varieties of beans (Jacob’s Cattle and Cannellini), the cucumber vines, celery, the watermelon blossoms, rudbeckia and sunflowers. They also like the wild yam vines and violets, and I wish that they would chow down on only those. They are leaving alone, so far, the tomatoes, butterbeans, carrots, strawberries, pineberries, and herbs.

Now that there is a sunny forecast, I’m going to spray the repellent again. I also hung reflective hologram tape all over the place. I’m sure that the woodchucks think it is pretty, but maybe we’ll save some blueberries from the birds for ourselves this year. Other than that, I’m trying to let it go.

I enjoyed going through a box of fabric scraps and sorting and purging yesterday, and it makes me wants to do some more cloth strip weaving.

Blogging takes up a LOT of time so I’ll probably skip that for the next couple of days.

The tapestry diary is a scene from St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, where I went for the tapestry retreat. I’ve started it from the image in my head and will refer quickly to a photo later.

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On tap for later today, a massage and maybe a trip to the farmers’ market. Right now I’m listening to an audio panel about Enneagram types 8, 9, and 1. I’m a One, and I’ve been working with the Enneagram for about 12 years now. It makes more sense to me than any personality type system out there.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

This past weekend, Susanne and I went to a wonderful Zhen Xian Bao book class at Topsail Beach, NC, taught by Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller. The first day we spent natural dyeing with plant materials and indigo on paper and fabric. The next day was spent constructing the book, which is made with glue, scissors, and folding. The book structure is a traditional Chinese thread book made for the purpose of holding embroidery threads, needles, and the odd bits that might be kept for different projects. Ruth Smith researched this extensively and published books about it, and it is being taught by artists in the United States now. I took a class on this structure at Focus on Book Arts last summer, which I absolutely loved. Kim and Leslie put their own spin on it by adding more layers and the natural dye/shibori element. Of course, Leslie acknowledged the instruction of India Flint in her teaching of eco-printing techniques.

The big dilemma in making this book is that you have to sacrifice some images that you might love to be on the side that is glued down. The biggest one for me was the big box that makes the base and the cover. Both sides had their charms, but I had to pick one. The other can be seen on the bottom of the lowest box when the book is opened. I thought about embellishing the cover further, but I think that I will leave it alone other than brushing some Dorland’s wax medium on it to make it a little stronger and more weatherproof.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

above: unbundling, trying out cover sides and the finished cover

I added the 70% silk/30% cotton thread to every bundle. I now have some dark and bright indigo threads to add to my tapestry, once I get them untangled. One groups of the threads I laid inside a bundle made a portrait of two humans. Fortunately I was able to preserve this image in the bottom of one of the boxes near the top.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Update: I don’t do Pinterest too much – too overwhelming and I don’t need another rabbit hole. If you are into it, here’s a great board on the Zhen Xian Bao book structure.

Back Forty (and Front Forty) Update

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I think that I may be done with gardening for the weekend. Many of the unwanted plants (AKA weeds) have been pulled out, more seeds planted, general clean-up of wire cages and poles achieved, some plants and seedlings transferred from one area to another, and the bean trellises erected.

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Before and after

Most of the tobacco sticks I brought from the farm have rotted in the humidity of the garden, but I have saved long poles from tree trimming and house renovation. There are some squash, pumpkin, and watermelon plants in there. I hope that they have a fast growth spurt to get above the butterbeans!

The woodchuck knocked over one of the wire cages last night and ate my beet greens. I may have to set my water deterrent motion sensor lower. This is the first indication of damage since I set it up. There has been heavy rain so I’ll try spraying this small animal deterrent stuff again late this afternoon.

Little tomatoes are on the plants I purchased, and the Romas that I grew from seeds are doing well. I think that the Principe Borghese tomatoes will be healthy too, but I replanted them after killing the first batch. I don’t think that I will ever use peat pots again. These will go in the compost tumbler. The Sugar Baby watermelons have enjoyed the heavy rains and have flowers. So do the Jacob’s Cattle beans.

Pulled out what peas survived the woodchuck. I got to eat about five sugar snaps off the vines. I planted okra seeds where they were, and leaving the pineberries to spread out in that bed over the coming year. We tasted one pineberry each and they were tasty, but gone quickly. I guess I’ll decide after next year if they are worth the space devoted to them, and give them the benefit of the doubt since they were transplanted in late February.

I have decided to plant herbs in the hugelkultur bed near the front door. There will be flowers, mostly garden balsam. I believe one hollyhock has germinated so that may have to be transplanted to its own large space. Since the arborist wants to take the tree out on the south side of the house, I’ve been moving some of my plants to other places so that they don’t get trampled or smushed. So some peppermint, parsley, and a borage volunteer went in, and I planted more basil seed there and several other spots around. I think that I might be one of the few people on earth that has problems growing zucchini or basil. I’ve given up on zucchini, but I’ll never stop trying to grow basil.

Next weekend will be spent in Wilmington and Topsail Beach. Going to a Leslie Marsh book workshop and she will have an indigo vat. She says that if it is not tapped out we can dip a couple of small items/bundles, so I’m going to wait to weave on the silk tapestry until I get some indigo dyed thread to work into it.

After I wrote the blog post yesterday, Sandy volunteered to go with me to the opening reception of the Tapestry Weavers South show at Yadkin Cultural Arts Center in Yadkinville, North Carolina, about an hour’s drive from Greensboro, so I took some photos there. My phone’s battery was weak and some of the photos show it, but I’ll try to get a post up with those photos this week. It is not far off I-40 and the show will be up through July 28.

Tapestry diary progress

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I stopped weaving my tapestry diary near the end of March. It was not fun for me any more. I struggled to find anything I wanted to weave or represent and if I wove about my mood I reached for black and gray, then forced myself to pick up blue and purple and pink and green instead. Then I put down the yarn and walked away from it for two months. Art might be healing for some people, but when I am in a period of depression, I can’t do art. I don’t enjoy much of anything at all.

I threw all my energy toward getting better physically and getting my gardening back on track. I concentrated on fairly mindless things, like stitching around a pattern or bundling fabric with leaves to put into a natural dye pot. That took a lot of mental pushing, although I wasn’t trying for any specific results.

The tapestry retreat was coming up and I didn’t have any project to take with me. I made a design with a snail riding an albatross and decided to weave it on the warp on the other side of the loom that the tapestry diary was on. (This is not a bad idea: the snail and the albatross. I fantasized about weaving a tale about a world traveling snail and her companions who help her. After all, a snail can’t get a passport or buy a plane ticket. It still might happen, but on a different loom.)

I also took my small traveling loom with the seed of an idea to weave with the silk threads I’d recently dyed with my fabric. Suddenly that idea took off and I was in a flow state. I didn’t want to stop working on it. I left the big frame loom with the tapestry diary on it in my hotel room.

When the weavers began showing their work and talking about tapestry diaries, I admitted that I’d brought mine but had stopped weaving it. It was such an encouraging group that I brought it over and got lots of good feedback on how to get unstuck. The biggest question I needed to answer was (and is, to be honest) if I really wanted to continue or if I should let it go.

So, here is the decision: New rules. Most people don’t know this about me, but I have been obsessive-compulsive since early childhood. Most people think of the stereotypical clean freak Sheldon type and that is definitely not me. I am more of the kind that hoards things and has to have things in a certain order, plus some thought patterns and habits I don’t talk about. My ways of coping are better than they used to be. I don’t write about it – in fact, when I started writing this post four days ago, I got to this part and my system crashed. I hide my OCD very well and apparently my brain wants to keep it that way. So be it. I will let the brain have a partial win on this and won’t write the long post that I intended.

I write my own rules in my head for nearly everything, and I believe that limits are good for my art projects most of the time. Otherwise I can get overwhelmed and shut down. This time I got overwhelmed by my own rules.

So, new rules:

  • One tapestry entry per month. I pick a subject at the end of the month to represent that month. Anything I do around it is rules-free. My entry for April was woven at the end of May. I will weave an entry for May this month (during June). Likely having something to do with the tapestry retreat – maybe a palmetto tree or sunset. I’ll have the first week or so to percolate ideas and design and the rest of the month to weave it.
  • To keep it consistent, I’m still using the cotton and linen thrums, but I can go to my yarn stash if there is a color I want that isn’t in the thrum bag.
  • If I don’t like the way something turns out (i.e., the entry on Jan. 2 that was meant to represent a thermometer that instead looks like an erect white penis) I can take it out and reweave it.

I thought about weaving a tornado for April, given my focus so far on weather and mood, but chose to weave the new garden bed in the Back Forty instead. And yes, I did unweave the whole thing and rewove it. Good for me.

You know, on one hand, I think that it would be healing and valuable to others to share my mental illness experiences on my blog, and I’ve tried to do so over the years, based on some of the feedback I’ve gotten, especially in the early years when I suffered from agoraphobia and truly was turning my life around step by step, inch by inch. On the other hand, it is just too painful sometimes and I need to respect my inner child’s privacy on this point. Writing about depression is not so bad, but OCD is too much, apparently. That said, I am light years better that I was when I started writing this blog in 2005 and that’s some amazing progress.

The next post will be cheerier, I hope, but if I’m going to keep a personal journal, there needs to be some honesty lest people think that I am one of those incredible people that does it all. I don’t, believe me. I went to bed almost as soon as I got home from work Tuesday through Thursday. I live for the weekend, mostly because I can sleep as much as I need to and have the freedom to be alone. I have long periods of time when I feel like a normal person, and I search out companionship. The times when I feel weird and wish for solitude are not as often or as long.

Okay, time to get some house cleaning done.