2018 Wrap-up

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2018 had its charms. I was in much much better physical shape than in 2017 but spent about six months in a serious depression. I am starting out 2019 with much less physical and mental pain, and I have regained some lost hope.

In January I decided to weave a tapestry diary and I was really into it for about three months. It was bitter cold at this time last year and we got a lot of snow. I had to consolidate my two studios and focused on squeezing the stuff from my little corner in the Wharton St. house into my already overflowing living room studio at home. Also went to the Women’s March in Raleigh with my family. I thought a lot about this, which I’m thinking about again now.

Women's Rally on Raleigh

February was a very creative month. I participated in India Flint’s first online class, Bag Stories, which was a real joy. My WandRbeutel bag is falling apart now, but I can mend it and maybe I will make another. It is a great portable project. Seth Apter came to Greensboro and I took his 52 Card Pickup class – great fun. My books “Flow” and “First the Seed” were in an impressive Triangle Book Arts show called “Re(f)use” at Artspace in Raleigh.

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"Flow" top cover and three pages

I stitched a LOT in March. Rather obsessively, as I recall. Started India Flint’s Alchemist’s Apron class. Got serious about gardening again, transplanting my perennials from the Wharton St. garden and putting up a small greenhouse.

New greenhouse!

I got smart and lucky and hired a guy I met in the permaculture guild to redo my main garden area and dig up some unwanted shrubs and dig a hugelkultur bed at the end of my driveway in April. We went to Lake Waccamaw, where I gathered plant material to print and dye my apron and silk threads.

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Tapestry was the focus in May, when Sandy and I went to see the Tapestry Weavers South exhibition at the Folk Art Center in Asheville. We took the opportunity to go to a cheese festival too, YUM. Later that month I went to St. Simon’s Island in Georgia for a Tapestry Weavers South retreat. Groundhog woes in the garden.

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Susanne and I took an incredibly fun workshop from Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller at Topsail Beach in early June that combined botanical printing and natural dyeing on paper with the Zhen Xian Bao book structure. I took a week’s staycation to purge and organize the studio. Groundhog family wreaked havoc.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

July is bittersweet in retrospect. I spent the last week at Fred’s house at Lake Waccamaw. It was beautiful and we had a few friends visit. I stitched my hands into numbness so I got out the sewing machine and started working on the t-shirt quilt again.

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In August, we spent the money to cut down the silver maple, and much of it is in the same place the arborist left it to this day. I picked and dehydrated tomatoes every few days, and paid close attention to what the groundhogs ate and avoided in order to plan for this year.

September – OY. What a big month. Sandy and I took a big wonderful trip to Idaho and Wyoming. We went to Shoshone Falls, Minidoka National Historic Site, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Fossil Butte National Monument. Judy met us in Yellowstone and was our tour guide. While we were there, Hurricane Florence rolled in and flooded both family houses at Lake Waccamaw.

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In October I went to Talk Story in Connecticut for a long weekend to take a class from Sharon Payne Bolton and made a bunch of new friends. I also realized that I needed some help at home with my deepening depression and started seeing a therapist. I focused on mental healing and the t=shirt quilt, wove the last entry on the tapestry diary and let it go.

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tapestry diary 2018

Election and work anxiety made November tough. I got out my mother’s sewing machine and did what I could. Thanksgiving was spent at my sister’s rental house at Lake Waccamaw.

In December my depression lifted, this time for more than a week! Winter Storm Diego dumped a foot of snow on us. Work was better, politics became more optimistic, and we went to my sister’s rental house at the lake for Festivus. We have been at home since then and I finished the t-shirt quilt.

Ta Da! T-Shirt Quilt

Pretty much done. If you look closely you can see that the first panel I quilted had more quilting, then the second one less as my tension problems mounted on my sewing machine, and then the third panel I gave up other than sewing around the edges. I figure as I feel like it I will hand sew a few stitches in there now and then to tack that side down.

Now I get to go back to weaving.

I was a terrible person yesterday and forgot to call my aunt and my brother. Oh well.

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“I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel”

Party last night was great – we meant to stop in for one drink and ended up spending three hours and I made a new friend. I was shocked when I walked in the room and my arch-nemesis was sitting at the table. One of only two people I know that I despise. (I am not counting politicians and right wing nutjobs.) I nearly turned around and left. This is the only professor I ever had who was downright verbally abusive to me. However, she has no memory of me and was on good behavior so it worked out. She left after an hour and I could relax and eat the goodies and then it was a real “small world” evening with connections between people popping up all over the place.

Today I am meeting with the girls for the first time in a very long time. I need to get together a portable project. Maybe I should continue the Lake Waccamaw theme and work on this one. Yes.

Merry Christmas from the O’Neills!

Actually, we don’t really do Christmas in the good old Murican way any more. I’m much happier this way, and I think Sandy is too, as long as he gets to have Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law. We had a wonderful Festivus dinner with them at their rental house at Lake Waccamaw. Still too chilly to do any boat riding or pier sitting, but the sunset view was nice across the road. Lisa pinned Rascal on Christmas Eve morning so Festivus is officially over.

Today Sandy is working until 2, as he often does to let others have the morning off. He will be working the morning shift on New Year’s Day also, so I guess that means the Steampunk Ball in Saxapahaw is out for us this year, although he says he would deal with it if some friends decided to go. We enjoyed that last year.

We didn’t have a tree and I didn’t even bother to get the stockings or decorations out this year. Last year we strung up lights and two lighted Christmas balls on the front porch and never took them down, so I just plugged them in. Lights are my favorite part of Christmas anyway. I did not send cards. I am determined to unplug from the Christmas machine and do it in a non-commercial way. I am beginning to enjoy most Christmas music again, with the exception of very repetitive songs like Ring Christmas Bells and The Little Drummer Boy, which set my OCD a-twitchin’ and make me want to scream. I played bells in high school concert and marching bands and Christmas music is where I naturally got to shine. Sleigh Bells is one of my favorites because of this.

Being able to deal with holidays in my own way has been a key part of my mental health healing. It’s tough when your parents are gone or you have had other loss in your life. I’m not sure that you ever get over not having your parents during Christmas. I just saw a photo of Mama from Christmas five years ago in that house that a stranger calls home now and it was like a stab in the heart.

Anyway, I am nearly finished hand sewing the binding around the t-shirt quilt. I keep saying that it will be finished by this date or another, but I really think I will get it finished today. Then I will pull out all the quilting threads that are loopy or snarled and over time I will hand-quilt in those areas. I am very fond of this quilt. It is a nice weight and cozy. I doubt that I will ever do another one because ironing on all that interfacing was a big pain in the ass.

Once I finish that, I am busting out the big Macomber loom and warping it up. I’m also going to start back on the Cathedral tapestry. The tapestry diary is going to have to take a back seat, maybe for forever. It has negative connotations for me now. This tends to happen on the rare occasion that I weave a tapestry when I am severely depressed. If I manage to finish it, it is given away or rolled up and put in a closet. I was afraid that this might happen with the tapestry diary once I got my brain chemistry back in gear so I don’t see any point in finishing it now.

We have been invited to a Christmas party this afternoon at a retired history professor’s home, “to hang out with a diverse crowd for food and conversation.” I love this guy – he is known for showing up at music events all over the area and dancing by himself. So warping the loom may have to wait until tomorrow morning. I’m going to Susanne’s tomorrow afternoon for an afternoon doing creative stuff with the girls.

Then the rest of the week is gloriously free of any work, scheduling or obligation! I’ll do my annual yearly wrap-up blog post somewhere in there.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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Photo from last Sunday

It’s almost noon. There is still snow on the ground, whittled away by a steady light rain over the last 24 hours. Everything is soggy and muddy because there is nowhere for the water to go.

I ended up with two mandatory snow days, for which I can either take vacation time, make up within 90 days, or take unpaid leave. I grouch about this policy, but I realize that a lot of people don’t have these choices. Sandy worked from home both days, and I have the type of job that could easily be done from home, but that’s not an option any more. My guess is that the Republicans who came up with this suspected that us hourly employees would be faking it. There was a time when I didn’t get any sick time, one week of vacation a year, and no holidays. I’ve also been on salary or had a job where I was expected to work 50 hours a week. Now I get lots of leave in different forms, often in lieu of a decent salary raise, but with me, I love having the freedom of being able to have time off. I know a job with good benefits when I see one, having spent most of my working life without one.

The quince chutney ended up okay. It is very tart. I went off the recipe that I found, as usual, and added dried apples, cherries, raisins, orange zest, and orange juice. The quince flavor ended up being overwhelmed by the vinegar. I froze some and I’ll add some more sugar to try to tap down that tartness.

I had forgotten why I stopped cooking quinces and only bringing them in for the lovely smell. They are harder than a winter squash to peel and dice. They cook up very soft but have a bit of a gritty texture. After peeling and chopping three of them, my hands and arms were aching so I gave the rest away.

It sure was nice to work only three days, less really, since I went in late twice. I wrapped up one project and made good headway over the worst part of another. The department newsletter should come out next week and then I will have a long winter break until Jan. 2.

Monday I will be home for at least most of the day because the electricians are coming to do the repairs and prep work for our solar panel installation. We won’t be off-grid (I wish!) but on net-metering where our solar energy production runs the meter backwards and if we need more than we produce it will switch over to Duke Energy. At least I think that is how it will work. One of the good things about this is that we needed to upgrade the wiring in the attic badly. That work is being rolled into the financing and the rebate and tax credit totals we will get next year. That money is going straight back into the loan and I plan to pay it off before the interest rate kicks in (in 18 months).

The mortgage will be paid off in about two months!

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The Singer sewing machine…hoo boy. I was NOT PLEASED when I started it up again and had the same tension problems after having it cleaned and serviced. I refer to the manual now instead of winging it, because part of it was user error. I didn’t wind the bobbin correctly or get it in the case correctly. Once I corrected that, I thought that would do the trick, but no. The thread kept slipping off the tension spring, and I was threading it correctly. After I started sewing it would slip off again and I would have to re-thread to get it right. Finally, somehow I managed to get the thread crossed as it goes into the lever that moves the needle up and down. I was sick of rethreading that needle so I decided to try it anyway. To my great joy, that mistake is keeping the thread on the tension spring and I was able to sew the rest of the strips together! Now let’s see if it continues to work. I’m going to finish putting all the pieces of the t-shirt quilt together this weekend, and I have already started doing hand-sewing, cuddled up with it on the sofa watching Mr. Robot and the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

I am determined to finish this thing, get it out of my studio, and start weaving and bookbinding again.

As you can probably tell, I am in a much better mood that I have been in the past year. Let’s hope that lasts also!

Winter Storm Diego

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Click through if you’re interested in the video.

This is the quince tree in my next door neighbor’s yard. I’ve always gathered them, for the smell if nothing else, because nobody over there ever wanted them. I hope that will continue to be true once the new owners move in. Their contractor is talking about building an addition so it would be a shame if this old quince tree was cut down. It produced a bumper crop this year.

I’m going to make some quince chutney.

When I took this video an hour ago it had snowed eleven inches and it is still snowing, with wind. Icing on top expected tonight.

Finished “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty and starting on “Close Range” by Annie Proulx, one of my favorite writers. “What Alice Forgot” was pretty good. I was impatient with the first half. Everything came together and the characters became much more complex in the second half. I believe that was the point – how people see things differently from their own perspective, how people change in response to stress, how communication can break down when you’re too wrapped up in your own drama to understand that others are dealing with problems too. I’m childless by choice, so I didn’t relate to the whole infertility and busy soccer mom thing, but I did relate to how people deal with mental illness and grief on their own. I know how it is to lose a good friend. I know how it is to be dumped, or ignored because others are busy or don’t understand how to deal with you. I know how it is to be the person who dumps others because she can’t handle everything that is happening to herself and being with others is exhausting. So in the end, I recommend this book, even though I skipped parts of the first half.

Woodstove going, and we still have power.